Sunday, March 18, 2018

Where I've Been

No video today. Instead, I'm going to invite you to a couple blogs where I've been spending time this weekend.

I've raved about my friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley before. She's my roommate for mystery conferences and even in Paris. We're already planning Bouchercon in Dallas next year! She was kind enough to invite me to read on her blog, Meanderings and Muses. Kaye's doing a feature called "Inside My Book Fort" in which she reads favorite passages from books. I'm sharing an essay from one of my all-time favorite books. Stop by to see what it is!

With Kaye in Paris

I was also at Jungle Red Writers with several blogger friends, Dru Ann Love and Cathy Cole. Author Jenn McKinlay invited us to talk about the three books we're anticipating in 2018. Stop by for our lists, and the lists of several readers who commented.

Once in a while, it's fun to appear on someone else's blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Irish Pub by James Fennell & Turtle Bunbury

What better book for St. Patrick's Day than The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury?
Fennell is the photographer of this gorgeous book with 201 color illustrations. And, Bunbury is the historian and writer who tells the story of a representative thirty-nine pubs in Ireland.

To tell the story of Irish pubs, the pair traveled to over 700 pubs through all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Then, they picked a small group to "celebrate, and document, pubs that epitomize that essential charm of old Ireland." According to the authors, the oldest pubs in the book date to the 17th century, and some of the most recent were built in the late 1990s when the economy was exploding.

The authors break the book into three sections. "Urban Retreat" features the more metropolitan pubs from the 19th and twentieth centuries. The threatened pubs are the ones in the chapter "Rural Charm". These are the more traditional country pubs, closing at a rate of one per day as of 2008 when the book was published. Bunbury explains the economy, the ban on smoking in public places, and the crackdown on drinking and driving have all combined to hurt the traditional pubs. The final section features four pubs, "Contemporary Heritage". Those pubs, created more recently, in the authors' opinions, reflect the best of Irish tradition.

Dark wood, large or small pubs, former groceries, centers of music. In their books, the authors attempt to capture a disappearing Ireland. They make the comment "The upshot is that if you want to see what a traditional Irish bar looks like, you might have better luck in Chicago or Sydney than in Dublin, Galway or Tipperary." But, I think they've found some to write about and photograph. As I said when I reviewed Vanishing Ireland, Bunbury's words are pure poetry. The stories and pictures in this book are magic, capturing pubs that exemplify Ireland for some many of us.

James Fennell's website is Turtle Bunbury's website is There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Thames & Hudson, 2008. 9780500514283 (hardcover), 192p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Winners and Cozy Wedding Blues

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Kara M. from Adrian, MI won The Lost Order. Deanna S. of Carlisle, MA will receive Breaking Point. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries involving weddings. The first is Death, Taxes, and a Shot Gun Wedding by Diane Kelly. For IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway, this case is personal She and her soon-to-be-husband are preparing for their wedding day. But along with all the RSVP cards are a series of death threats from an unknown source. Tara has run across too many lawbreakers to narrow down the list of suspects.

Belfast McGrath is the chef at Shamrock Manor, her family's wedding center. Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon finds Bel helping with wedding planning while looking into a story from her own past. Bel has been unable to forget the long ago disappearance of her best friend, but a newspaper clipping sends Bel on a search. Amy Mitchell might still be alive.

Which wedding mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Those titles are long, so let's use the authors' names. Your subject line should read either "Win Kelly" or "Win McConnon." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 22 at 5 PM Ct. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Thursday, Thursday! I look forward to Thursday all week. I love to see what you're all reading.

I'm playing catch-up. I'm reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau because A Magical Match, the next one in her Witchcraft Mystery series, is out on April 3. Somehow I missed A Toxic Trousseau. It's a cozy mystery series featuring a witch who runs a vintage clothing shop in San Francisco. As much as I like Lily Ivory, I love her familiar, Oscar. When he's around other people, he takes the form of a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

What are you reading or listening to this week? We're interested!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

When Sandie Herron first started sending occasional reviews to Lesa's Book Critiques, we called it Sandie's Corner. Then, she switched to reviewing audio books for "Have You Heard?". Today, she has a book review for us, last year's Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle, now out in paperback. Thank you, Sandie.

Dead Cold Brew                                                                             

By Cleo Coyle (Alice Alfonsi & Marc Cerasini)
Berkley; Paperback reprint edition (March 6, 2018)

“Friendship has no legal status.”  Clare Cosi didn’t know what significance that statement would have when her boyfriend, New York City Detective Mike Quinn, pushed her back into the shadows of The Village Blend, the coffee shop Clare co-managed.  A sniper was taking shots at New York’s finest including Mike and his squad.  When one member of the squad was hit, Clare and Mike went to the hospital after the paramedics, and the nurse would talk to Mike as commanding officer, but she would tell Clare nothing since she was “just a friend.”  

Clare’s ex-husband Matt Allegro, also co-manager of The Village Blend, brought Clare a newspaper about all the recent cop shootings as well as news of a special opportunity.  Clare had recently created an exquisite coffee blend with the many kinds of coffee that Matt scouted around the globe.  Available on a limited basis, the Billionaire’s Blend held just the qualities the owners of the newly replicated Andrea Doria were seeking.  An exclusive blend was needed for her maiden voyage; could Clare do it?

While the cop shootings remain unsolved, Clare enticed Mike to an evening of sheer delight after a 36-hour shift.  She began to ask him to propose again while Mike began to break things off for a while to help her worry less.  She professed that she would only worry more.  What will they do now? 

In researching the possible Andrea Doria coffee blend, Clare went straight to a good source: Matt’s Italian godfather, Gus Campana, who was on the ship when it sank.  In today’s world Gus is a world-famous jeweler running his family business in the Diamond District of New York City.  It seemed odd that shortly after that visit, Matt received a summons to meet an attorney in the massive complex of vaults embedded in Manhattan’s bedrock underneath the Diamond District.  The summons was issued on behalf of Gus Campana and Silvio Allegro, Matt’s godfather and father. What could they have had in common that would bring this attorney, Matt, and Gus’ daughter Sophia together sixty years later in a tiny room of private safe-deposit boxes guarded by Lyons Global Security guards?

If you want to answer these questions and more, enjoy this 16th entry in the coffeehouse mystery series by Cleo Coyle, real-life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  I asked them the oft-asked question about a series – “Do I need to read them in order?”  Their answer is no.  They told me what this means to them:  “When we sit down to write a new Coffeehouse Mystery, we do our best to provide enough background on the characters and storylines to give longtime readers a quick refresher and new readers the chance to enjoy our work without feeling lost … anyone can feel comfortable picking up each book as standalone reads.”    I believe they do a beautiful job of this by writing an intriguing mystery with charming characters in a city large enough to house any number of stories.  I think this series has longevity because the authors make each entry a self-contained story but leave the long-term relationships flowing from book to book.  Each book carries a different theme while they all engage in a bit of social satire and have a biting sense of humor.  

We even get a clue what is coming up since for the first time, the paperback release of DEAD COLD BREW includes a bonus teaser of the first chapter from the 17th in the series – SHOT IN THE DARK due out April 17, 2018.  All I’m going to say is don’t miss it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness

I was hoping for a cookbook with recipes I could take to potlucks (carry-ins in southwestern Indiana).
Instead, I found a cookbook that made a number of changes to traditional recipes, so they weren't quite what I expected. But, I did enjoy the obituary clips and the stories in Perre Coleman Magness' The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist.

Magness' cookbook has an interesting format. Because it's supposed to feature comfort food to take when someone dies, or when someone needs carry-in food for sickness or birth, but mostly funeral food, the chapters are broken down into interesting titles. There's "The Great Awakening: Breakfast and Bread"; "The Pearly Gates: Starters and Snacks"; "The Eternal Garden: Fruit and Vegetables". "The Gospel Bird" has chicken recipes. "Crowning Glory" is meat. And, naturally, "The Sweet Hereafter" is desserts and sweets.

The author adapted recipes to fit her own tastes or to make them healthier. She also admits her cakes aren't quite what people would expect because she doesn't make the towering layer cakes expected by Southerners. But, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe for Divinity, a candy my grandmother used to make.

For me, the highlight of the cookbook were actually the anecdotes about food, and the obituary notes. Here's one from an obituary in Columbia, Tennessee. "(She) epitomized the Southernn Lady in her life's three ambitions. As a wife, her support was without limits. As a mother, her love was without condition. As a friend, her hospitality was without distinction."

What I was really looking for in The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, and failed to find, was what I see as comfort food. And, maybe my tastes are different than Magness' because I'm from the Midwest. But, I was also raised to take food to the recently bereaved, or to someone's house when they are sick. I just don't think this cookbook epitomized what I was thinking of when I read this quote. It's from Garden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead is No Excuse. "Nobody in the world eats better than the bereaved Southerner."

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist by Perre Coleman Magness. The Countryman Press, 2018. ISBN 9781682680384 (paperback), 174p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss

Although I guessed the killer within the first fifty pages of Kirsten Weiss' Deja Moo, the third in the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery series was worth reading. The likable team of sleuths, along with the paranormal museum added up to a fun story.

Maddie Koslowski's reliable truck broke down, so she didn't make it to the thirty-foot straw Christmas Cow display to help her mother guard it. She missed the four gingerbread men and Santa Claus who attacked the cow with flaming arrows. But, she and sexy police detective Jason Slate arrive in time to discover a body. The president of the San Benedetto Dairy Association is dead, with an arrow in his chest. And, Leo, Maddie's employee at the Paranormal Museum, filmed the entire event. It's too bad the killer was in costume.

With Maddie's mother in protective custody, it's up to her to ask enough questions to protect her mom and find a killer. But, it's the busy season at the museum with plenty of customers to see the haunted Christmas displays. That includes the haunted cowbells from Sweden that arrived when the Dairy Association and Ladies Aid brought the tradition of the Christmas Cow to the small community. Now, the town is in a panic, with stories of the "cursed" cowbells. Maddie's determined to protect her mother and save her museum's business. But, when Slate is injured, pushing Maddie out of the way when a car aims at her, it's up to Maddie and a small group of her mother's quirky friends to find out who is behind the rumors and a murder.

I loved Maddie, her mother, and the other characters in this humorous cozy. The confrontational ending was marvelous. My only problems with the book were probably ones of proofreading because I read an Advanced Reader's Copy. Several key points were missing in my copy, ones that were crucial to the story. It felt as if they had been overlooked in the editing process.

Despite the editing issues, Deja Moo is exactly was a cozy mystery should be, the story of a community split by a murder, and the amateur sleuths who work to restore that feeling of unity.

Kirsten Weiss' website is

Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738750361 (paperback), 360p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.