Guest Post + Review + Giveaway: On Thin Icing

Welcome to my tour stop for On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander! This is the third book in the Bakeshop Mystery series and released December 29th, 2015.  The tour runs from January 4 – 15 with reviews, guest posts, interviews and excerpts.  This is an adult cozy mystery from St. Martin’s Press.

I have previously reviewed Meet Your Baker (#1) and A Batter of Life and Death (#2).

cover - On Thin Icing 8-11-15Title:
 On Thin Icing
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: December 2015
Length: 304 pages
Series?: A Bakeshop Mystery #3
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

It’s the dead of winter in the sleepy town of Ashland, which means no tourists-and fewer customers-for Jules Capshaw and her bakery. But when she’s asked to cater an off-season retreat for the directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, business starts heating up…until Jules finds a dead body in the freezer.

Someone at the retreat has apparently iced the bartender, a well-known flirt with a legendary temper-that is, before a killer beat him to the punch. Then, from out of nowhere, Jules’s own ex-husband shows up at the shop-and soon becomes a suspect. With accusations piling up higher than the snow-and thicker than a chocolate mousse cake-Jules has to think outside the (recipe) box to find the real culprit…and make sure he gets his just desserts.

***** Excerpt*****

How do you keep ideas and plot lines fresh and new with writing a small-town cozy series?

Great question! Ask me again after a few more books and maybe I’ll change my answer. In all seriousness, one of the things that really appeals to me about writing a small-town cozy series is that I get to develop an entire cast of characters. The series has already become much more than just Jules’s (the heroine) story. Her team at Torte, the family bakeshop that she’s returned home to help run, are all an integral part of the plot. I’ve become attached to them—from her mom, Helen, to Andy the barista, to Lance, the overly dramatic artistic director, and her nemesis Richard Lord. It’s so much fun to chart out each character’s development. Over the course of the series we’re going to get to know them even more. Every time I sit down to work on a new book it feels like coming home. Sometimes I forget that the characters are figments of my imagination because they feel like old friends.

Ashland, Oregon is the perfect setting for the series because it is a small town with a vibrant community of artists, actors, playwrights, college students, retirees, and outdoor adventure lovers. It’s also a very eclectic town themed around the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with charming old world shops and restaurants. You might even think you’ve traveled back in time to Shakespeare’s England when walking around Ashland’s downtown plaza where storefronts are designed in Elizabethan architecture. The theater attracts visitors from all over the world, which is great because there are constantly new people arriving which means an ever-rotating supply murder suspects.

The other way I intend to keep the plot lines fresh is to send Jules out of town every once in a while. In On Thin Icing, the third book in the series, she’s been asked to cater a retreat at Lake of the Woods Resort, a high mountain lodge tucked into the Southern Cascade Mountains. Baking at altitude is going to test her culinary talents and give readers a taste of the gorgeous landscapes of the region and some delicious winter recipes for savory soups and hearty stews.

Since Jules spent ten years working as a pastry chef on a prestigious cruise line I think it will be natural for her to find her way back on the ship in a future book. I’m already dreaming about all the tropical desserts she can whip up while she sails under sunny skies!

Wishing you happy reading,


***** Review *****

The Skinny

Torte has shut down after the tourist season in Ashland, and when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival board of directors schedules a weekend retreat, Jules is asked to cater the getaway. This is just the kind of business Torte needs.

It would be the perfect weekend…except for the dead body in the marina freezer. Jules discovers the body and immediately calls Thomas and The Professor. She learns this is out of their jurisdiction, follows their directions, and spends the remote weekend with a killer.

With a kitchen to run, ovens that won’t heat properly, and the loss of power, Jules has her hands full. Add to it the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the crime scene, one ex-husband showing up and landing himself as a suspect, her best friend at odds with her, and avoiding a killer and it makes for one long weekend.

The Players

*There are many more characters in the book, however, I have cut down to include those most prominent in the book. For a fuller list of characters, visit my review of A Batter of Life and Death.

Jules – Jules is a young woman who has seen the sights of the world thanks to her profession as a cruise-line chef. It is also how she met her husband, Carlos, whom she has separated from. She returned home to take refuge in Ashalnd and Torte, the family owned bakery. whom is still out traversing the seas as she has quietly come to settle and take refuge in Ashland and Torte. She receives an amazing opportunity to cater a weekend getaway for the board of OSF.

Sterling – Torte’s newest employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He was “adopted” by the Capshaws and Torte earlier that summer. Sterling is working hard to change his life and has been invited to be the sous chef on the trip with Jules.

Carlos – The mysterious husband turns up in Ashland and is sent after Jules and Sterling to the retreat. He is very respectable and compassionate. He also diligently mentors Sterling both as a chef and as man. He does push Jules to face their issues and the reason why she left him and the cruise ship.

Lance – Lance is Ashalnd’s theater director, and has arranged for an OSF board meeting weekend retreat in a remote area. He is the classic man on the run who throws lavish parties. Naturally, he has a flair for the dramatic.

Whitney – Whitney has been hired as Lance’s assistant. She was recommended by Dean Barnes, and she is also his niece. She is a very nervous sort, and constantly running around with her tablet. She fears being fired due to all the mishaps of the trip.

Dean Barnes – The only board member who is singled out as a character. He is Whitney’s uncle and also the first board member to arrive at the retreat. He is the quintessential English chap, and very insistent upon things. He has a love of rifles and hunting, as was common in his English countryside.

Mercury – Mercury owns Lake of the Woods Lodge with her husband, who is not present during the book. She is completely spineless and lets people run all over her. In terms of managing the resort, she acts like she hasn’t got a clue. She’s also trying desperately to keep it afloat and have it making money. The resort has slowly started returning to what it used to be when Jules was a child.

Gavin – Gavin is the marina manager at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Interestingly, this has been his only job his entire life. He’s pretty much lived at Lake of the Woods Lodge since he was a young adult. He is highly trusted by Mercury and has some scuffles with Tony about work-related business. He also keeps to himself a lot.

Tony – Tony is the bartender at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Although he is the server of alcohol, he is also the number one consumer of it as well. He has a nasty temper and makes extremely inappropriate sexual innuendos and comments to any and all women (except Mercury).

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the Ashland’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” It is his norm to quote The Bard and other philosophical individuals. He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention. He poses a very important question to Jules about his relationship with her mother.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly has the highest regard for Jules. He comes running when Jules calls, and seeing Carlos face to face sets off some jealous overtones.

The Setting

Lake of the Woods sits almost five thousand feet above sea level. The lake was formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Getting to the high-altitude lodge was an adventure in itself. The most direct route from Ashland would take us on Dead Indian Road. The road cuts through the Siskiyou National Forest, twisting past sharp corners and down curves without a shoulder. Its name pays homage to the Native Americans who belongs to the land long before white settlers made their way west. I couldn’t help wonder as I navigated the dangerous road if there was more to its meaning.

Lake of the Woods Resort was originally built as a fishing retreat in the 1920s. At just under five thousand feet in elevation, the natural lake is a popular destination all year round. During the summer months vacationers swim off the lake’s shallow banks, fish for rainbow trout, and tool around on party boats. In the winter the lake freezes over, making it a prime location for ice-fishing.


I was home again, but I was an entirely different person.


“That’s cooking. Feel it. I always say to my new student chefs that food is love. You must infuse the food with love. You cook angry – the food, it will know.”


Had I really changed this much since I’d been home? I knew I was different, but having Carlos here made me feel like an entirely different person and the same all at once.


“Whoa. Slow down, Jules. A murder? Why are you calling me? Hang up and call the police.”

“You are the police, Thomas.”


Carlos says that food is love. I say it’s memory.


The Highs and Lows

  • + Sterling. The young man who recently has come into the Torte family is fantastic on this catering trip! Before he’s been kind of hit-and-miss as a character, but this is where he shines. He is installed as the sous chef and he rises to the task beautifully. He keeps Jules on level and is her spiritual guide at the retreat.
  • – Lance. Readers didn’t get to see a lot of Lance in this installment, which disappointed me because he is one of my favorites. He also was not knocking Jules over to be “in the know” about the murder. He had bigger fish to fry with the OSF board.
  • – Whitney. I don’t think the girl has got a clue. At all. She seems like an idiot. I hope Lance does fire her.
  • – Thomas. He was a complete jerk to Jules in this installment. Sterling pointed out the hot situation Jules was in between the two men in her life. For the first time in over six months, Thomas acts like he’s more than her friend and putting her in a very awkward position. He was a jerk to Jules over honing in on Carlos as the number one suspect.
  • – Carlos. Carlos pushes Jules when she is clearly overrun and busy with this catering gig in the wilds of Oregon. This was the worst and yet perfect time for him to approach Jules. Yet, he pushes Jules for answers when he isn’t ready to give her his own. It felt like he was swooping in to dazzle and charm her, with no real relationship meat behind the heat.
  • + The Professor. He is such a wise, thoughtful and kind man. Why can’t Thomas take some lessons from him? The Professor puts Jules en garde over his relationship with her mother, and it gets her pondering some serious things she’s never even asked her mother.
  • + Carlos. He is such a help to Jules and Sterling on the catering end. With the less than desirable circumstances, and especially during the loss of power, he helps out where he is needed and services Mercury’s guests well. He also takes Sterling under his wing and mentors him as a master chef, but also as a man.
  • + Reflection. Jules has a lot of thinking to do with Carlos at the resort, and pushing her for acceptance. She reflects a lot more in this installment than in previous ones about their life at sea, and their married life. She reminisces about how Carlos proposed, her wedding day, and that fateful day she left the ship. Jules has a lot of adult decisions to make.
  • – Blasé. No one really seemed overly concerned that there was a dead body in the marina freezer, they were trapped on this snowed-in mountainside, and the killer was among them. They all continue to go about their business like absolutely nothing has happened (with the exception of Jules). It was very disconcerting.
  • + Vivid Details. The descriptions are beautiful. Alexander really sets the scene and keeps it moving throughout the book without being too much or too little. The writing style is superb.

The Take-Away

The two things I loved most about this book were the scenery descriptions and Sterling. The descriptions are so beautiful and woven perfectly throughout. They are not overdone, but instead short quick snippets to set the scene. Sterling was an absolute doll in this installment. He kept Jules afloat in the kitchen, and also acted as her conscious when it came to Carlos and Thomas. He kindly pointed out the things she wanted to ignore, and has been for months. As Jules said, he is wise beyond his years.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I highly recommend buying this one!


***** About the Author *****

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


***** Giveaway *****

Triple chocolate cookie mix, Alpine spiced cider, Collection of Stash teas, Collection of gourmet hot chocolates, Oxford tea towel, Signed copy of On Thin Icing. US only. Ends Jan. 20, 2016.

Prizing provided by the author. Must be 13 or older and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.


Review + Giveaway: A Batter of Life and Death


I am delighted to be sharing a review of the second installment in the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander. The story of Jules continues, and today I also have an interview with the author! There is a sweet giveaway, but don’t forget to check out the other tour stops, too.

BATTER-182x300Title: A Batter of Life and Death
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2015
Length: 304 pages
Series?: A Bakeshop Mystery #2
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

Welcome to Torte–a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for…

It’s autumn in Ashland, Oregon–’tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte’s famous peach cobbler. It’s also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family’s beloved bake shop by competing in The Pastry Channel’s reality show, Take the Cake. The prize is $25,000. But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough. Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered–death by buttercream. What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set. Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why? Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

***** Review *****

The Skinny

This is the second installment in A Bakeshop Mystery series. Jules is still in her hometown of Ashland, where she and her mother operate the family bakeshop, Torte. It is a local hot spot and many secrets and stories are told within the walls of Torte.

Fall has approached Ashland, and Jules (and her mother) are thankful since the events of the summer can be put to rest. With the nip in the air brings Jules and Torte an opportunity to promote the bakeshop that can’t be turned down. Jules agrees to allow Torte to be used for on location filming for a pastry reality show in conjunction with Ashland’s world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and then gets offered the chance to be a contestant in the competition. The $25,000 prize money would definitely help out Torte, but Jules quickly learns that some would kill for that kind of dough.

For more background on the first book, Meet Your Baker, you can read my review here.

The Players

The Torte Crew:

My parents thought naming their only child after one of literature’s greatest heroines would ensure a life of passion. I’m not sure they thought it all the way through, though. My name set me up to be romantic. Really, Juliet Montague Capshaw? I didn’t have a chance. Ill-fated romance us literally my namesake.

Jules Capshaw- Jules is a young woman who has seen the sights of the world thanks to her profession as a cruise-line chef. It is also how she met her husband, Carlos, whom is still out traversing the seas as she has quietly come to settle and take refuge in Ashland and Torte. She is a fantastic pastry chef, and an easy person to get along with, but is finding it difficult with many of the show’s contestants. She also winds up unofficially investigating the murder.

Mom’s been serving up a selection of sweet and savory pastries with a side of love for nearly three decades.

Mom/Mrs. Capshaw – Jules’ mom is so incredibly wise and patient. She doesn’t pry or force Jules to share her thoughts as she journeys on this seemingly never-ending emotional roller coaster. She is supportive and loving, kindness itself, but never pushy. She is also dating The Professor.

His boyish good looks and easygoing attitude charmed a customer waiting for her drinks. Andy typically talks sports with customers, and likes to get their input on his latest coffee creations. His signature concoctions have become legendary around town and with tourists.

Andy – The “resident coffee geek and college student” who mans the front day-in and day-out. Andy has been with Torte for a while now, and suffered through the craziness of the summer, surviving unscathed. He is a very responsible young man who has a flair for new coffee creations.

Sterling’s dark hair, tattoos, and startlingly blue eyes tend to captivate customers, especially the female ones. He has just the right balance of an edge with a kind heart. The girls swoon over his sultry looks, but it’s a wasted effort. He only has eyes for Stephanie.

Sterling – Torte’s newest employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He was “adopted” by the Capshaws and Torte earlier in the summer. Sterling arrived in Ashland the same time as Jules did. Sterling is searching for a home, and has found a great place to thrive in Torte.

She has an innate skill and “the touch,” as Mom likes to say, when it comes to pastry. If I could only soften her up a little, it would make things so much easier.

Stephanie – She is a somewhat sullen girl, taking a different route than college. Stephanie is apprentice to Mrs. Capshaw and Jules. Orgininally stationed at the counter, it was soon clear that Stephanie lacked customer service skills.

Other Key Players:

He looks a lot like a professor with his tweed jackets and wire-framed glasses. 

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the town’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention. They have a sweet, budding romance.

With his boyish face and mischievous smile he could pass for someone much younger. Only his police uniform and sandy stubble gave away the fact that he wasn’t a teenager anymore.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man as detective-in-training, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly regards Jules in the highest regard. Perhaps he feels a bit (okay, a lot) guilty about what happened back then, but he is a quiet, hardworking young man…who can still get tongue tied. 🙂 And he attracts the ladies…

Lance was in the know. Lance served as the resident village gossip.

Lance – Such a hoot! Lance is the theater director, and works alongside the pastry channel producer to spotlight the OSF and the theater in the filming. He is the classic man on the run who throws lavish parties. The Black Swan Theater is his baby. Naturally, he has a flair for the dramatic. He also wants to be “in” on investigating with Jules.

Of course there are many other characters, with the arrival of the pastry reality TV show, including: Philip (Pastry Channel producer), Elliot (Take the Cake host), the show contestants who are quite extraordinary, and Torte’s rival and owner of the Merry Windsor Inn, Richard Lord.

I loved Jules in this book. I feel like I got to see much more into her as a person and her life. It’s as if the first book was our meeting her, with her guard still up and protecting herself, and now she’s relaxed a little and letting herself be herself.

First Impressions

I read the first in the series, so I already have a background in the characters, their lives and their relationships. For a short time (before reading the synopsis) I thought she might be going on an adventure to reunite with her husband.

After reading the synopsis, I thought, “How is Ellie going to pull off another murder in small town Ashland?” Well, she found a way!

Second Thoughts

As I swung open the front door, the familiar smell of rising yeast and espresso made me pause and take in a deep breath. Torte is the kind of place that lifts your mood. The space is inviting, with corrugated metal siding, royal teal and red accent colors, and concrete floors.

The Bakeshop Mysteries are set in Ashland, Oregon, home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), which is spear-headed by Lance, the theater director. Most of the scenes in the book take place inside of Torte, the Capshaw’s family-owned bakeshop, at the theater, or in Jules’ apartment.

Torte is such a special place for the town. It is where people come to congregate, gossip, indulge, share, and love. It is that one place that you can walk into, no matter who is present, and it feels like home-away-from-home when one of the Torte crew greets you.

The opening paragraph made me realize this book was not quite like the first one. Meet Your Baker barely scratched the surface of Jules, her mother, and Thomas. Now that it is fall, and things seem to be semi-permanent, there is more depth brought out in these characters, especially Jules.

They say that time heals a broken heart. I’ve noticed no one mentions exactly how much time it takes, though. A week? A month? A year? Having a solid number might have made me feel better, since my heart was mending slowly. 

I think we can all identify with this sentiment in one way or another, and despite spending all summer in Ashland revitalizing Torte, Jules is still battling her inner demons over separating from her husband.

Once I reached the Black Swan Theater, I peered inside. I was surprised to see that it was plunged in darkness. I must have beaten Philip here, I thought as I fumbled on the wall near the door to try and find a light switch. I found one and flipped on the overhead lights. 

Something felt off. I couldn’t exactly describe why, but the hairs on my arm stood and goose bumps started to form. 

You’re probably cold, Jules. It’s like a freezer in here, I told myself as I walked toward the kitchen. 

As I entered the fake kitchen, I did indeed drop my baking supplies – all over the floor. Flour and sugar exploded in the air. Eggs cracked on the floor. I was about to follow them. My body went limp at the sight. 

As the TV show is getting underway, the craziness that accompanies reality TV comes out in full force. Things are all set for the first day of filming – and the first contest – when the body of Chef Marco is discovered. Of course, it is Jules who once again discovers the body…and begins her own investigation into the murder. Was the prize money worth it? Who would have wanted Chef Marco dead? Everyone seems to have a motive.

The relationships between characters are brighter in this book. I found myself liking the locals more and more, and even some of the show contestants. It’s like you’ve known some of them your whole life.

Mom swatted me on the back with the broom. “Listen, young lady, I know that Doug doesn’t want either of us mixed up in this investigation.” 

I pretended to be injured from the broom. “Child abuse.” 

As the novel progresses, Jules discovers that everyone is keeping a secret they want no one to know. It quickly complicates Jules’ investigation. It seems Chef Marco had mad a lot of enemies in his life as a chef, and it is still catching up with him even in death.

While Jules is secretly sleuthing, competing in the show, helping others with their problems, and assuring her mother and Thomas that she is staying out of it, she is working through her own emotions over Carlos and Thomas. These moments of total nakedness where Jules bares her soul is captivating. She truly has come to a crossroads in her life.

I had so many favorite scenes in the book that it is hard to pick just one, or even two. The book is just too good for that! There were moments that really touched me – those when Jules opens herself up and allows readers insight into her heart. I felt as a person (and perhaps more so as a woman) I could identify with exactly how Jules felt from times in my life. Alexander has put into words what some struggle to figure out and say for years.

As with the first book, there is a collection of recipes in the back of this one. All of the wonderful things that Jules and others made in the book are there for the taking, complete with recipes! I think Amaretto Dream Cookies will be my favorite. 🙂

I’m not sure what the future holds for Jules, Thomas or Torte, but I am definitely on board to continue reading and following Jules on her journey. Plus, who could turn down these yummy recipes? 😉

***** About the Author *****

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****


The author will be giving away signed copy of Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, 1 pound coffee, Oregon Chai, Gourmet cupcake liners (US) to a winner of the below Rafflecopter.  The giveaway ends July 21st.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Review + Giveaway: You Can’t Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet


Welcome to my tour stop! I am happy to share an excerpt from the beginning of the book that kicks off the plot. I am also debuting a new structure to my reviews, so I’d love to hear what you think! To see what’s going on at the rest of the tour stops, visit the tour schedule.

ShagCarpetEbookCoverTitle: You Can’t Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet
Author: Juliette Harper
Publisher: Skye House Publishing
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 147 pages
Series?: A Study Club Mystery #1
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Wanda Jean Milton discovers her husband, local exterminator Hilton Milton, dead on her new shag carpet with an Old Hickory carving knife sticking out of his chest. Beside herself over how she’ll remove the stain, and grief-stricken over Hilton’s demise, Wanda Jean finds herself the prime suspect in the case. But she is also a member of “the” local Study Club, a bastion of independent Texas feminism 1960s style. Club President Clara Wyler has no intention of allowing a member to be a murder suspect during her administration. Aided by her younger sister and County Clerk, Mae Ella Gormley; Sugar Watson, the proprietress of Sugar’s Style and Spray; and Wilma Schneider, Army MASH veteran and local RN, the Club women set out to clear Wanda Jean’s name — never guessing the local dirt they’ll uncover in the process.

***** Excerpt *****

Sugar Watson took a long drag on her Camel and critically appraised the height of Clara Wyler’s black bouffant. “You want me to go a little higher, honey?” she asked, punctuating the question with a well-developed smoker’s cough. “If I rat it up real good, I can get you another 2 or 3 inches on top.”

Clara squinted at herself in the mirror. “I think I’m good, Sugar,” she said. “What with Wanda Jean finding Hilton dead in the living room, I don’t want to look insincere at Study Club.”

Sugar leaned in conspiratorially. “I know we don’t ever throw anybody out of the Study Club, but my Lord, what in the world are we gonna do if she really did kill him?”

Clara glanced around to confirm that all the other women in Sugar’s Style and Spray were safely tucked under the dryers. “Well, she called me herself to assure me that she didn’t do it,” Clara said. “She owned up to wanting to, but she didn’t do it.”

“Well, hell,” Sugar said, “we’ve all thought about killing our husbands. That’s just part of being married. But nobody’s ever walked in my house and found Slim laying there with an Old Hickory carving knife sticking out of his chest. What did Wanda Jean say about finding him?”

“She told me the first thing she thought about was how hard it was gonna be to get the blood out of that new shag carpet they put in last month,” Clara said. “You know they went with the deep pile.”

“I know,” Sugar said. “I looked at it too when T.J. put the ad in the paper, but my vacuum cleaner just won’t suck up dirt good enough for that. Is it a light carpet?”

“I didn’t think to ask her,” Clara said, unclipping the plastic cape around her neck and handing it to Sugar. “Anyway, she said she just stood there thinking about how you can’t get blood out of shag carpet. Then it dawned on her maybe she ought to check him for a pulse.”

“I hope it wasn’t a light carpet,” Sugar said, rearranging cans of Aqua Net on the counter. “Those boys from the ambulance service never think to wipe their feet before they go in to get a body. You should have seen the mess they made when Blake Trinkle died. They just ruined Maybelline’s carpet. She spent as much getting it cleaned as she did on the funeral.”

“That’s so inconsiderate,” Clara agreed. “People just don’t think. Now you’re not gonna be late this afternoon, are you?”

“Of course not,” Sugar said. “Flowers knows not to book me on the third Thursday at three. Study Club day is sacred.”

“Good, I have to go by the bakery and . . . ”

The look on Sugar’s face stopped Clara mid-sentence. “Good Lord, Sugar,” she said. “You look like you swallowed one of your Camels.”

“I think we’re gonna be one short for Club,” Sugar croaked. “Look.”

Clara glanced out the front window in time to see Sheriff Lester Harper helping a handcuffed Wanda Jean Milton out of the backseat of his car. “What is that man thinking!” she exclaimed. “Parading her in front of God and everybody on the courthouse square!”

*****Review *****

The Skinny

This book is a spin-off series of The Lockwood Legacy. It features who I called the “old ladies” in Alice’s Portrait. Even though The Lockwood Legacy was published first, this first installment in the Study Club actually happens at least four decades before the Lockwood girls return to their little Texas town.

The ladies – backbones of society, I suppose you could say – have formed a Study Club. It’s 1968. They really don’t study much except town events, as far as I could tell, but it sure does come in handy when one of their own is labeled a murderer.

These are some tough Texas gals, and they won’t stand for the arrest of Wanda Jean. Since the local law enforcement seems very lax in duties, the women take the investigation into their own hands and discover things about Hilton Milton’s life – and those he was involved with – that are getting really fishy.

Societal proprieties sometimes go by the wayside when you’re investigating a small town murder! More than one mystery is solved in this first installment of A Study Club Mystery series.

The Players

There was more than one women’s study club in town. But the Study Club gained its prominence based on the sheer reputation of the women who were its members and officers. 

The Study Club: There are other members, but these are the “driving force” to the selective group.
  • Clara Wyler – a rancher wife of 29; President of the Study Club; known to be strong-headed
  • Sugar Watson – owner of the local beauty salon, Sugar’s Style and Spray; in love with Camel cigarettes, Aqua Net and bouffants
  • Wilma Schneider – local town nurse; former MASH unit nurse in Korea; only single member of the Club
  • Mae Ella Gormley – Clara’s younger sister; County Clerk
Other Key Players:
  • Flowers Wilkes – Sugar’s mentor; does nails at the salon; unofficial member of the Club; reads people well
  • Wanda Jean Milton – wife of exterminator Hilton Milton; a housewife and Club member; prime suspect in her husband’s murder
  • Sheriff Lester Harper – leaves the vast majority of responsibilities to his deputy; can be found fishing every day of the week
  • Deputy Hank Howard – the sheriff’s protégé; head of the Hilton murder case; takes an incredible interest in his appearance
  • Maybelline Trinkle – sister of Wanda Jean; recently widowed

The book does not lack for humor. These women are hilarious and have no problem getting straight to the point. The relationships between the women are very tight knit and realistic. Each of the main women of the book, and even the secondary characters, are given a little spotlight at some point in the book in which backgrounds and particulars are given to readers.

“Okay, Ida Belle, how about you live it up and get a good red on your nails today?”

Ida Belle’s look of overt disapproval was answer enough. “Right,” Flowers said, “two coats of old lady pink coming up.”

My favorite character was Sugar. I feel like she gets the most face time in the book because so much of it is set in her salon. Sugar knows how to work people to the point of confessions with nowhere to escape. I mean, they’re stuck in a salon chair getting their hair ratted, with a haze of cigarette smoke hanging over them like a black cloud and a trigger-happy Sugar doling out Aqua Net like it’s ambrosia of the gods. Nobody wants to risk setting her hair aflame from Sugar’s dangling Camel cigarette!

First Impressions

At first I thought the book would be set following the events of The Lockwood Legacy series, and that the women would be a bunch of old biddy busybodies. Of course, they are the grapevine of the town, but not quite in the way I thought they’d be.

Second Thoughts

In a small Texas ranching community where the best price for an Angora goat at the auction ring constituted “big news,” the untimely demise of the local exterminator set tongues wagging. The event was compared to other historic tragedies and seemed to only pale in comparison to “when the Browning girl got killed in that wreck at Christmas time.”

My favorite scenes in the book where the ones when the women of the Club took it upon themselves to individually visit town citizens at the top of their suspect’s list. These women know how to use blackmail efficiently! There are so many town secrets that are revealed that these women keep quiet about. They conduct their business in style with a strong dose of Texan stubbornness. From reading The Lockwood Legacy books I already knew what was coming when Wilma had a private chit chat in the funeral home, but other suspects kept surprising the other Club officers when they did their individual investigations.

“Well, I will just be damned,” Sugar declared. “That man sure had a lot of secret friends.” 

“I assume you are speaking of my fellow horticulturist…”

Sugar sat back against the sofa cushions with a shocked expression. “I thought I knew everything that went on in this town,” she said, “and here I am find out there’s this whole…”

As you can tell, nothing is spared from discussion or dissection by the Club women, or in fact any of the characters. Despite being set in the late 1960s, where many issues were still taboo to discuss and were handled within the home, these things are not exempt to be brushed under the carpet. They are revealed within the context of the time period and West Texas location.

Clint never told Clara what to do and he was a good man, but what about women like Lura Belle Taylor? Why were people supposed to look the other way when a sorry son of a bitch was beating on his wife? Because you were supposed to tend to your own business? And she was getting what she deserved for marrying a piece of trash? The last line of thinking really set Clara off. No woman married a man thinking he was gonna hit her.

I think my absolute favorite scene was when Flowers and Wilma go sneaking around under a suspect’s window – knowing another of their suspects will show up and they hope to gather intel about Hilton’s murder – all planned out perfectly so that everyone will be glued to their TVs and the latest episode of Gunsmoke. I could not stop laughing about the women’s interactions, and especially about Wilma’s doggedness over Flowers’ cats. Serious cat lady right there.

After she signed off with Clara, Sugar placed a call to Wilma at Dr. Kitterell’s office. She listened to the whole recitation without comment and then said, “I survived the Korean War and you want me to risk getting shot skulking around people’s back yards?”

“Nobody’s gonna shoot us,” Flowers said into the receiver Sugar held out to her. “If we get caught, we can always just say one of my cats is missing and we’re looking for it.” 

“How many cats are you feeding now, Flowers?” Wilma asked. 

Flowers scowled at the phone. “Just 32. Why?” 

When she hung up, Flowers looked at her suspiciously. “Was Wilma talking bad about my cats?”

“Of course not,” Sugar said, occupying herself with a fresh Camel. “Nobody in their right mind would ever say anything bad about your cats.”

I had no clue who the murderer was, and I (like the Club), thought I knew exactly who it was, along with motive and all that jazz. Unfortunately, Hilton had his fingers in quite a few pies around town. I know that sounds bad, and it seemed bad in the book, until all was revealed by his customers, but that just left more loose ends to go following.

I’m a Texan, so I could easily identify with the women’s grab-the-bull-by-the-horns attitude. They had me laughing continuously, despite the fact that this is a murder mystery, and poor Wanda Jean just lost her husband, as did her sister Maybelline, for that matter. The women seemed more concerned with the bloodstain on her brand new, on-sale shag carpet for the longest.

This is just the first installment in the Study Club Mystery series, and I will definitely be reading more about these crazy women and their small town secrets in the second book, You Can’t Put a Corpse in a Parade. If you are looking for a break in your normal reading selections, or you just need a good laughing fit, I highly recommend!

***** About the Author *****

julietteJuliette Harper is the pen name used by the writing team of Patricia Pauletti and Rana K. Williamson. You Can’t Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet is the first installment of Harper’s debut cozy Study Club Mysteries, an hilariously funny look at the often absurd eccentricities of small town life. The second book, to be released in coming months, is called You Can’t Put a Corpse in a Parade.

The droll series, set in the 1960s, is a light-hearted spinoff of Harper’s Lockwood Legacy a nine-book chronicle of the lives of three sisters who inherit a ranch in Central Texas following their father’s suicide. Three of the novels are currently available: Langston’s Daughters, Baxter’s Draw, and Alice’s Portrait. The fourth book, Mandy’s Father, will appear in Summer 2015.

And don’t miss Harper’s first foray into the world of the supernatural, Descendants of the Rose, Book 1 in the Selby Jensen Paranormal Mystery series. The second Selby Jensen book, Lost in Room 636 is also scheduled for a Summer 2015 release.

Pauletti, an Easterner of Italian descent, is an accomplished musician with an eye for art and design. Williamson, a Texan, worked as a journalist and university history instructor before becoming a full-time freelance writer in 2002.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

One (1) winner gets a $50 Amazon Gift Card (INT), one (1) winner gets Langston’s Daughters, Baxter’s Draw and Alice’s Portrait in paperback (US) and one (1) winner gets Descendants of the Rose in paperback (US).

The giveaway ends June 29th.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Book Review: Enough Rope

Enough RopeTitle: Enough Rope
Author: P.L. Doss
Publisher: Mayfair Press
Release Date: October 2013
Length: 322 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Format: e-book
Source: The Editorial Department

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


During an early morning jog, Atlanta attorney Tom Halloran discovers the body of his friend and colleague, Elliot Carter, hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park. Even worse, the private and dignified Carter is grotesquely dressed in women’s clothes. Halloran is convinced that Elliot’s death is murder, not a tragic accident of autoerotic asphyxia-gone-wrong. 

But the medical examiner’s investigator, Hollis Joplin, is skeptical. He knows how difficult it would be to fake that kind of death, and he’s seen too much in his years on the Atlanta streets to be surprised by what people are capable of doing—to themselves or others. Then two more people die, and the clues lead back to a twenty-year-old kidnapping. 

The under-staffed Atlanta PD can’t give the case attention unless Carter’s death is ruled a homicide, so Joplin, with an eidetic memory that allows him to recall in three dimensions everything he’s seen, sets out to investigate it himself. Piece by piece, he and the relentless Halloran unravel a tale of greed, revenge, and family secrets—and put themselves right in the crosshairs of a calculating and ruthless killer.


I did it. I judged this book by its cover – P.L., get a snazzy cover! – and was I ever in for a surprise! From page one I got up in this mystery with Hollis Joplin and Tom Halloran. It seemed that with every page I turned the mystery of the murders became more complex and the plot thickened. I could not put this book down at all. Any spare moment I got, I was reading this book – even at stoplights to and from work. Sometimes I’d even avoid taking the highway and instead take the service road filled with lights just to get in a few more minutes of reading (thankfully it’s only a few exits to my house!).

When Hollis arrives at the scene of Elliot’s death he tells Halloran that no matter how well you think you know a person, you don’t know them all that well, which is the big idea that leads Halloran through most of the book.

The novel follows a few of the characters, primarily giving insight into the murders and furthering the development and formulation of solving the murders. The novel follows both Joplin and Halloran, and even for a brief moment the new pathologist intern Carrie, who works alongside Joplin’s best friend Jack, conducting autopsies. Halloran is out “playing detective” as Joplin calls it, and eventually shares all of his information with Joplin, but at one point he overplays his hand – and that’s when things start spiraling. Despite that, he and Joplin are in it together to solve the string of murders – and predicting who will be next.

Pictures from long ago resurface – pictures that Joplin’s Chief has seen before when working on a kidnapping twenty years ago, and pictures that Elliot Carter’s wife took to a private investigator. The pictures are an odd twist, but ultimately what helps both Joplin and Halloran put the pieces together.

Joplin and Halloran both set their sights on one particular suspect who is very close to Elliot’s wife. Then Halloran discovers a curve ball, and he and Joplin are left with two prime suspects, but they’ve got a hard judge who won’t grant a search warrant based on what they’ve got, so they riddle it out some more. This is when the two align exactly in concluding who the murderer is and determining the motive. Joplin figures it out first and decides to catch the murderer alone before he/she can strike again…except, he didn’t quite bargain for what he got. 

There is a definite focus on prestige, money, appearance and reputation in this book. There is a lot said about Elliot’s wife, Anne, and the circumstances of their marriage, birth of their only child, and recent separation. 

I thought I was figuring things out on my own, and knew who the killer was, but I was wrong. I never would have even suspected the killer, not in a million years.

This was a thrilling and wonderfully written murder mystery read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries.

About the Author

P.L. DossWhile completing a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice at Georgia State University, P.L. Doss served a graduate internship at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office. Assigned to the investigative division, she discovered how important the duties of the investigators were in helping the forensic pathologists determine the cause and manner of death. She was also able to observe the autopsies—an experience that proved to be invaluable in toughening her up for her career in law enforcement, first as a volunteer analyst in the Missing Children’s Information Center at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and then as a probation officer and supervisor of officers at the Georgia Department of Corrections. She currently lives in Atlanta.

Find the author: Goodreads

Book Review: The Stargazer

20487653Title: The Stargazer
Author: Michele Jaffe
Publisher: Diversion
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 374 pages
Series?: Arboretti Family Saga #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Thriller
Format: e-book
Source: Diversion Press

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The midnight shadows of Renaissance Venice conceal intrigue, romance…and murder.

Bianca Salva’s love of science has led her to defy the conventions of her day and illicitly practice medicine among the poor of Venice. She’s managed to keep her pass time a secret–until she is discovered over the lifeless body of a young courtesan, by the last person she’d ever want to see.

Ian Foscari, Conte d’Aosto, is known for being rich, handsome…and heartless. Finding Bianca over the dead body, he concludes she’s the murderer. Yet for reasons he cannot explain, her protests move him. He offers to give her one week to prove her innocence, but she’ll have to move into his house and be his prisoner. Her other option: the authorities and certain death.

Bianca has no choice but to agree to his maddening terms. She’s furious at having to cede her hard won freedom, and unprepared for the effect of his presence on her, for the longings he awakes in parts of her body she’s only studied in books. As Bianca struggles to focus on finding the killer, Ian fights his own battle between the undeniable attraction he feels for her and the painful scars of his past.

When their mutual attraction blazes to life, they are both dazzled by it’s force. Passion burns through their reserves, teaching them both to trust again. Love again. But this fragile alliance is soon tested. Lured into a web of scheming and betrayal, Bianca and Ian find themselves in a race against the clock to save their lives, their hearts, and the city of Venice itself.


This book is different in a lot of ways. First, the novel is set in Europe, which is different than my typical fare, but not unappealingly so. The focus of the novel is Bianca. She has essentially been shackled to her aunt and uncle since her father’s death. She practices medicine in a time when it was unseemly for a woman to do so. There are a few comments from her aunt throughout the book about how she has embarrassed the family because of her chosen occupation. This endeared her to me even more.

I think it is because someone hurt you once, and now you want to hurt someone. – Bianca

Bianca is a strong character: young, smart, kind, beautiful, talented, innocent, naive, strong, prideful. She ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time, and appears to be a murderer. Her discoverer, the Count, takes her prisoner for his own personal reasons. He does not want to believe Bianca a murderer, but he does not want to believe what she says either.

Women’s minds were so utterly devious that they could be trusted to think of anything that would contribute to the illusion of their innocence, to remove the burden of culpability from their narrow shoulders. He had learned that lesson well and would not – would not – be duped again. 

The Count is another character altogether. He is a cynic of everything, drowning his present life with his failures and losses of the past. He suspects everyone of something – most especially Bianca.Yet at times he can be very kind and thoughtful. He is an odd man haunted by his own demons – demons that he will give in to over the love of his own family, the Arboretti.

Now get back to your job, which is to make enough money so we all continue living like princes, and let us do the work of ogres. Doesn’t suit you at all. – Franscesco

The Arboretti are an interesting bunch. There are the two uncles who act like old biddies, trying to marry the Count off. They both come from the medical profession so this was an interesting quirk. They hover and coddle like no female character I’ve yet read.

Then there is the brother and the cousins. They each have their own famous – or infamous – ways about them, and they all love the ladies of the land, which is also the major focus of the novel in the context of Bianca’s work. Often she administers to the prostitutes and poor, and through this she has developed extensive connections that come back to benefit her in several ways throughout the novel. The Arboretti men are all protective and supportive of Bianca, welcoming her into the folds of their warm, friendly and humorous family.

What I was waiting for was how the novel would fall into place, how the plot would get moving, and Michelle Jaffe delivered! All I can say is the Arboretti are arms and weaponry dealers, and are much hated by quite a few, and there is an explosion – and missing items! Narrowing down the whodunit list – and finding the murderers – becomes increasingly complex…but there is a traitor in the midst!

This is a wonderful read. The characters are well-developed with their own individual strong suits and flaws. I felt that I became a part of the Arboretti family while reading this novel. The murder and Bianca’s commitment to solving it kept me going – along with the Arboretti’s arising business problems. I could not manage to put two and two together until it was almost staring me in the face. The novel is tied up nicely, with no loose ends that seem hasty or overdone, which is always a plus in my book. I am looking forward to reading the other Arboretti novels.

Photo-579-300x225About the Author

Michele is the author of the Bad Kitty series of YA books as well as thrillers and romances for adults. After getting her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she retired from academia and decided to become an FBI special agent or glamorous showgirl, but somehow instead ended up writing.  A native of Los Angeles, California, Michele and her sparkly shoes currently reside in New York City.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Valley of Vice

18815232Title: Valley of Vice
Author: Steve Garcia
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: August 2013
Length: 287 pages (paperback)
Series?: no?
Genre: Crime
Format: e-book
Source: agent

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


In Hollywood, it’s not just dreams that are easily snuffed out.

When a burned body is found on a studio lot, Detective Salvador Reyes and his partner Detective Philippa Wallace are on the scene. The mystery deepens when they identify the body as a felon named Bartholomew Pearl who should have been in jail for shooting a fellow detective. Then a city official, Theodor Simons, is found dead of an apparent suicide. 

Convinced the deaths are connected, and not everything is what it appears, Reyes and Wallace investigate. Their inquiries take a dangerous turn, pointing to someone in the police department itself. Soon it’s hard to know who is an enemy, and who is a friend.


WOW. I don’t know if I can write a review that does this book justice. Steve Garcia has written an amazing novel that will keep you on your toes. True, there’s not much in terms of character development because it is a crime novel, but the unraveling of the cases that Wallace and Reyes (and the rest of their comrades in blue) will leave you turning page after page after page to discover who is behind all of the murders.

Wallace’s husband works for the FID, and he has become extremely stressed from his work. Finally, one night he tells his wife that they are working on an investigation in two specific PD’s where they think there is a dirty cop. Wallace keeps this thought close, but as things start unraveling it becomes harder and harder to recognize who is truly the good guy, and who is out for himself. I thought several times I knew who the dirty cop was, but I was proven wrong. Very wrong. And this dirty cop? He’s also a raging psycho, but somehow keeps it under wraps while on duty.

Wallace and Reyes are thorough in their investigations into several murders. In fact, they are the first to determine that the first murder and suicide are linked – and that they were both indeed homicide cases. Since FID has stepped in and taken over, there’s little for Wallace and Reyes to actually investigate without overstepping their bounds, so they find ways around it…and as the murders start piling up, it complicates the investigations and adds more and more questions to the mix. All they need is to find a man named Duke, who’s name was left in the councilman’s schedule book. Looking for Duke seems to be a wild goose chase with no leads.

Meanwhile, another pair of partners are sent to work with vice on a male prostitution sting. It’s not the best of assignments, but it’s their job. While working and monitoring the streets, another murder happens just down the street at an infamous hotel known to benefit from the local prostitution.

The officer who went undercover as a male prostitute is the cop who actually ends up identifying the psycho, dirty cop after the FID has essentially given up their investigation and turned over their findings to Wallace and Reyes…but they may just be too late to stop the final hit on his list.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop, or work in that environment, but I do believe that Gracia has strongly captured this in his novel. The relationships between partners, and others in their workforce, seems to be spot-on and adds to each character and gives authenticity to the novel as a whole.

I would definitely recommend this read! It is a very well-spun and slightly chilling read. I will admit: I read the entire novel in two settings, it was that good.

Book Review: The Shadow Princess

MaryHartPerry_TheShadowPrincessTitle: The Shadow Princess
Author: Mary Hart Perry
Publisher: Diversion Books
Release Date: February 2014
Length:  pages
Series?: Yes
Genre: Romance
Format: e-book
Source: Diversion Books

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | NetGalleyAmazon | Barnes & Noble


To catch one of history’s most notorious killers, a princess risks losing her family, her life—and her heart…

London, 1888: A year after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee terror mounts in the city’s slums. A killer has butchered two prostitutes, the crimes brutal even by London’s hardened standards. Rumors of the murders reach Princess Vicky, daughter of Queen Victoria and grieving widow of the German Emperor Frederick III. When her niece Princess Maud visits, she brings with her even worse news–the Metropolitan Police have a suspect. It’s Vicky’s nephew, Crown Prince Eddy. Desperate to clear her family’s name, Vicky rushes back to England.

Detective Inspector Thomas Edmondson believes there is a royal cover-up behind the killings. He will stop at nothing to expose the truth and bring a murderer to justice before he can kill again. But when Vicky joins him in searching for the man who will become known as Jack the Ripper, neither of them foresee the overpowering attraction that will draw together the royal and the commoner—or the danger their love puts them in.


This novel was more than I expected. Somehow it this short historically-based novel, Mary Hart Perry covers a lot of ground.

It all revolves around Queen Victoria’s family. In this particular novel, the focus is primarily on Princess Vicky, Empress of Germany. Her niece shows up to Germany in tow with some very scandalous news: the English Crown Prince is under suspicion – for murder!

This novel delves into the division between classes, the differences between royalty and “commoners.” It is a topic that is generally considered in bad taste for the time, but comes up quite a bit from several characters. It is a blunt, honest and real look at how your “station” in life really was.

It also gives valid insight into the times in which these women lived, with London all but up in arms trying to aid in finding the fiend stalking the streets and striking fear in the heart of all. The sensational fear that struck London with the Whitechapel murders, commonly known to be done at the hand of Jack the Ripper, is not to be taken lightly – and indeed, Perry does this period in time justice. No one feels safe, even on their own street.

In stark contrast to the luxury and sedate lifestyle of royalty, Inspector Thomas Edmunson is working the beat, a “copper.” He grew up in the dredge of the low-life end of the city, and he swears he won’t go back to it. He has dedicated his life to helping the people, and he refusing to give that up, even at the suggestion from a royal. He is a working man, and quite intrigued by Vicky’s requests and offers in aiding the police in pursuit and investigation of Jack the Ripper.

Perry has starkly shown the contrast between the two classes, and yet these characters do not quite fit the exact stereotypes one would assume. She has brought each character to life with his or her own faults, fears and assumptions, and it all makes for a wild ride of a read!

MaryHartPerry_author photoAbout the Author

Mary Hart Perry lives in Washington DC with her husband and two feline writing partners, Tempest and Miranda. Author of over 40 novels, she’s written under her own and a variety of pen names that include Kathryn Johnson, Kathryn Jensen, KM Kimball and Nicole Davidson. She teaches fiction-writing workshops for the renowned Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2008, she founded Write by You, to coach other writers interested in reaching publication. She has been nominated for the prestigious Agatha Christy Award, and won the Heart of Excellence and Bookseller’s Best Awards (sponsored by the Romance Writers of America) in 2011.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Book Review: The 7th Day

18810289Title: The 7th Day 
Author: Nika Lubitsch
Release Date: August 2012
Length: 147 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Format: e-book
Source: author
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


Sybille and Michael are a happy couple, finally expecting their first baby. But then Michael disappears without a trace. Sybille finds herself in the middle of a living nightmare. When her husband is found, stabbed to death, there is one suspect only: his wife who is charged with murder. While listening to the witnesses´ testimonies in court, Sybille in her mind revisits her life with Michael. On day seven of the trial, suddenly the truth dawns on her. Now, she only has to find a way to prove it.This devious mystery is set in Berlin and at a secret place, which is so secret that some readers recognized it.


Some people are born victims. 

They are a power couple, a couple of means and privilege, and this trial will not escape anyone’s eye. She is famous for her journalist work, and her husband for his work as a business attorney.

The higher you climb, the farther you fall.

It’s true, Sybille is on trial for her husband’s murder. Yes, she thought about it before hand. Yes, she went to find him after his strange disappearance. Yes, she was going to give him a reckoning…

But she doesn’t remember any of it.

Today, they will try to prove that I planned to commit the crime. Of course, I did. I just didn’t get around to it. 

That’s of little consequence, though, as soon police find her with the bloody knife on her hotel nightstand – the very knife that brutally stabbed her husband. Of course she did it!

Sybille’s dear old friend, Ulli, is her defense attorney. He is very well known, and one of the best; her husband said so many times before his sudden disappearance. But Sybille and Ulli know each other besides Ulli sharing a business space with her late husband: they used to be lovers, before Michael came into the picture. In fact, Ulli is the very one who introduced Sybille to her husband. I found this very odd, and immediately thought there were all kinds of ways this trial could go wrong for Sybille, often referred to as Bille. I could not help but keep coming back to the term “jilted lover,” regardless of how Bille describes the ending of their relationship. I also thought this would be considered a conflict of interest, and Ulli should not be allowed to represent Bille, but that’s just my opinion.

The prosecution calls up every single witness that could remotely give any opinion or testimony about Sybille’s character: her former boss, her mother’s cleaning lady, various police officers and investigators, a psychiatrist, and lastly the waiter and all of the patrons but one who dined with Sybille in her hotel’s restaurant the night her husband was murdered. They paint a disparaging, ugly portrait of her. How funny one’s actions can be misrepresented.

Throughout Bille’s seven day trial, she shares her own narration from the courtroom of the goings-on of the trial, almost in journal entry form. Strangely though, she intersperses her own flashbacks of Ulli, his wife (who is Bille’s best friend from college), and her husband throughout various points in their relationships, and Bille is in no way to be taken as a Madonna for the sexual references and descriptions she makes of her relationship with Ulli so long ago. This part was difficult for me to wade through and separate at first, as I had no idea where this was leading, but after a time I got used to the style and technique that Lubitsch was using.

Also included with Sybille’s stream of consciousness of the trial and her past memories is the summary of the day’s trial by one of the local papers in an article, and they take Sybille for all she’s worth, make her out to be the most horrendous, using quotations out of context and applying sinister connotations to her actions.

This book shocked me in several ways, and it all comes about in the ending, which I can’t tell you about. 🙂 Suffice it to say that Sybille is indeed disgraced, but the ever-hungry journalists are dying for an inside scoop – and they get it. Sybille agrees to write her story for Cosmos magazine, in return for which they will not edit her writing, but they will also conduct their own investigation of her husband’s murder…

The novel includes Sybille’s installments of her story for Cosmos magazine, as well as a letter from her husband, and an installment from the writers of Cosmos about what they uncovered on this insane journey that Sybille sent them on to find out just what happened to her husband, and get the answers she so desperately needs. You will be shocked at what you find!

A very good read. I recommend to all who enjoy the thriller and mystery genre, as well as if you like a twist!

fd7a6b6e18960ad8956e17.L._V379018045_SX200_About the Author

Nika Lubitsch lives in Berlin, while her soul lives in Florida. Having been rejected by all German publishers, The 7th Day was at the top of the bestselling list only one week after its publication at Kindle, surpassing even „Shades of Grey“. The novel stayed number one in Germany for 100 days, making Nika Lubitsch the most successful KDP author of the year in 2012. The “Queen of E-Books”, as a major German magazine dubbed her, again landed a number one hit in the Kindle charts with her second mystery Das 5. Gebot (The Fifth Commandment). A major production company has already bought the film rights. The 7th Day is currently translated by publishers throughout the world. The manuscript also has been reviewed by Amazon crossing, but didn´t correspond with their “idea of what a best seller in English should be like.” However, a thumbs-down is the biggest motivation an author can get: Just you wait …

Find the author: Website| Facebook | Goodreads

Book Review: Stalking Sapphire

cover art

Stalking Sapphire by Mia Thompson (Diversion Books, 2013)

Genre: fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller, chick lit

Sapphire Dubois is not the typical Beverley Hills girl, but to all eyes she appears to be. She surrounds herself with people to fill her life and give her the look of the snobby, rich bitch. She detests having to date a douchebag, attending charity galas, going the the country club, seeing her mother’s infidelity and wearing $400 pajamas….OK, maybe not that last one.

It’s all a persona, because underneath it all Sapphire is an independent criminal detective. She operates on her own, does her research and leaves the bad guy (or girl, she doesn’t discriminate) in a bind and masks her voice as she calls the local police. She has solved six cases in the last two years that she’s been fighting crime, and semi-regularly visiting and confiding her side-work in a priest, Father O’Riley, at a Catholic church in San Diego.

Sapphire’s snobby friend, Chrissy, drags her to this charity event where she runs into newly promoted and transferred Detective Aston Ridder. He’s got a bum leg and got a demotion via promotion via transfer from downtown LA to picture-perfect Beverly Hills. He does his usual – takes Sapphire home, sleeps with her and then throws her out. Only, she gets the last laugh…

All the while, Sapphire keeps getting the feeling that someone is watching her – and then she knows for sure when a personal memento is stolen from her vehicle – parked right in front of the BHPD. And whoever it is wants Sapphire to pay – in blood.

Mystery Murder Man has Sapphire stumped, and he’s also sending her pieces of a missing girl. Sapphire’s onto Aston that he’s following/stalking her. It’s not clear to Detective Ridder, or even Sapphire, why Mystery Murder Man is sending Sapphire appendages of a certain middle-class girl, Shelly…until she shakes Aston, hotrods to San Diego, breaks into the McCormick house and discovers a brief entry in Shelly’s diary mentioning one Father O’Riley….

She’s also seeing her trainer show some feelings for her. She gets dumped by her boyfriend and she lashes out at Chrissy. Meanwhile, Aston’s having to fend off Sapphire’s mother, Vivienne, who uses men like tissues behind her elderly, disabled, nearly-vegetable husband that she overtly neglects. Talk about a viper! On top of it all, her friend and housekeeper Julia is engaged – which really shows the double sides of Sapphire.

For explicitly stating all she did in the beginning of the book about wanting to be different than all the other Beverly Hills rich women, she sure is acting like one of them with Julia. It’s strange to see such  jealously from a female character in this way, and especially cruel comments made directly to the reader about Julia’s choice…and then she blows up on him, insisting he’s the accomplice the first time she meets him! Needless to say, Sapphire is so bent on catching this serial killer that she’s not firing on all cylinders and is itching to capture him. Rushing leads to sloppiness.

The Mystery Murder Man is indeed only one person – and someone Sapphire knows! But the least-likely person she would suspect….

The book has a few light twists at the ending, but Sapphire showed some character development and is able to let Julia go, peacefully. She also confronts her mother about a question that’s been burning in her heart for her entire life – which was quite a surprise, as it never really came up at any time during the novel. Things are left unresolved between Sapphire and Aston, especially after her big announcement…and another crazy is on the loose – and he’s looking for Sapphire!

Book Review: Gabe’s Plan

Gabe’s Plan by Andrew Stock (Createspace, 2012)

Genre: fiction, suspense, criminal justice

cover art

A little bio about Andrew, per his Goodreads profile:

Andrew Stock is the co-screenwriter of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (Paramount, 2009). He has Ph.D. in Political Theory from the University of Colorado and a law degree from the University of Texas. He currently works as an attorney for a non-profit organization in North Platte, Nebraska, where he lives. Gabe’s Plan is his first novel.

*Let me preempt by saying I entered the Goodreads book give-away for Andrew’s book. He contacted me via Goodreads and offered to send me a free copy of the book if I’d be willing to write a review, which is no problem for me. I was pleasantly surprised and quite excited that an author sought me out since I’ve just embarked on this book blogging journey. However, Andrew’s kindness has no affect on the content or opinions of this review. Enjoy!

When I first saw the cover art, I was expecting a quant, heartwarming story of some fool man scheming up a romantic plan to win back his heartbroken woman…until I read the book synopsis. Holy Hera! I knew it would be a good read, with repressed lovers, mental health issues and vengeance at the core. I did feel the synopsis said a little too much, but I had a feeling Stock has some unsuspected twists up his sleeve.

Reading the first chapter, I wasn’t expecting quite the content it contained. Fair warning: this is most definitely NOT a “teen” (young adult) book. Expect derogatory, homophobic and sexual commentary like “pulling down panties and spreading”, “new swinging dick,” “fuck his drunk brains out” and blowing a wad. I feel like this is my somewhat douche-y brother talking. So if you are surprised or shocked by that type of language, you can take it in style or take offense – but I encourage you to keep reading.

“…on this painted sky morning, Gabe was certain the American people would wake up ready to send Bush back to Texas, where everything is bigger, including the size of the dipshit in its politics.”

Although the book starts off with Gabe casting his presidential election vote at his elementary school and knowing from the synopsis that he is the DA, I didn’t think there would be much of a political influence. I have to ask myself, Is this a little of the author’s barbing opinion coming out? I wasn’t sure, but I am a Texan born and bred, after all. In all seriousness, I often don’t agree with politics or politicians – no matter the party or the person. I believe in doing what is right, and what makes sense. And I have a sense of humor, and that’s how I read this part. So I’d advise taking this book with a little grain of salt if politics are not your cup of tea. Mmmm, salty tea…not so delish. Let’s make it sugar?

In all seriousness, after the flagrant political and douche bag comments, I was ready to chuck the book, but I pressed on. And then I was ready to give a very critical review of the political nature underlying the book. But…it grew on me. If you are ready to toss this book like I was, keep reading. You are indeed in for a treat.

The Main Players:

  • Gabe, an intelligent Iraqi war veteran with a limp (and the story spread all across his small hometown of Pine Springs, Colorado) is no newcomer to politics. Although he is the District Attorney, his father was the mayor of Pine Springs, and his brother is now the sheriff. Gabe has moved back into his childhood home with Mom after his father’s recent death. Unlike his sheriff brother, Gabe is pro-Kerry and hates Bush – who cost him his leg – with a passion. He often wishes his thoughts weren’t so trivial and normal, but more of Einstein quality.
  • Chad, arrogant, spoiled, 5-time big screen (and womanizing) movie star fresh to Pine Springs for some “R and R” at a whopping $15mil estate he bought (why not rent?) has his eye on local  Kaila, who just happens to be carrying the torch for someone else. Quite a challenge, Chaddie. Gabe sure has set Chad off in a fit – all because of Kaila. Let me say this: Chad is an egotistical jackass of a bully. I mean, the man greets his agent, “Hey fag.”
  • Kaila, 23-year-old movie-loving rasta barista, doesn’t want any of Chad because she’s on a mission: finally win over her childhood crush, Gabe, who dropped unmentioned (probably drug-related) charges against her – and she has a plan to get him.
  • Fred, Gabe’s sheriff brother, is pro-Bush and so naive. He’s not a good people-reader. Poor guy. But he is gung-hoe about his job – and seizes opportunities, albeit a little illegally.

Despite his womanizing ways, Chad is a “devout Republican and a big-time believer in the institution of monogamous heterosexual marriage.” He has no care for how his overt sexcapades can end up hurting his Hollywood image (or is that his image?) let alone a ton of women, but he cares for the sanctity of marriage. Seriously? What a contradiction! Chad’s “moral grounding” doesn’t hold much water.

My oldest brother, then 18, graduating basic training. Ft. Benning, GA | Oct. 2011.

Stock has set up a good foil here: Chad and Gabe are opposites. Gabe is an intelligent war veteran-turned-attorney. He is respectable (both in part from his war tour and his current DA job) and due to his position, beyond moral reproach. Chad on the other hand, is a glutton bully with ravishing sexual habits. He’s the kind of douche who will hog the sidewalk and make a gimp war veteran step off the path and into a puddle. This strikes a special cord in me, as the men in my family have all given up of their bodies and abilities to serve our country in almost every branch. Needless to say, I don’t see much growth for Chad. And Gabe’s the kind of guy who will say his peace, yet again be shoehorned because he’ll be late for his DA appointments. But one too many times and… just keep on smirking asshole.

Chad is most definitely threatened by Gabe – he uses multisyllabic words! With Chad and Gabe’s feud over Kaila, Chad may have more monetary influence, but Gabe has more power and the upper hand. I’m not sure that he loves, let alone likes Kaila overmuch, but he’s placing her in the hot seat to pursue his vengeance of Chad the Bully. I’m sure I’ve seen that episode of Cold Case Files; cop frames ex-lover’s paramour and takes him down – and despite my propriety for right and justice…in that sick and twisted way that is human nature, I get it. I really do. It’s relatable – no matter the situation. Someone consistently abuses their powers (whether supposed like Chad’s, or real like Gabe’s) at the expense of others, and karma’s a bitch of a payback.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, Gabe is caught in a love triangle…or square without one side – and it may just blow his case, which he claims is the “biggest criminal case of the 21st century,” and not just because his assistant wants to be “on Gabe faster than a coyote on a sack of cheeseburgers” to “fuck his drunk brains out.” Now, that made me laugh! But that quickly changed – and just as I predicted, Stock delivers a quite shocking twist, and then another when Gabe creates an imaginary friend, who just might ruin everything…

Archangel Gabriel, c. 13th century, Anonymous

Despite what the book synopsis says, I was surprised because it’s not so much Gabe pushing for this revenge as it is Kaila…and although Gabe is dealing with some, er, personal issues, he has visits from his hero, past president Abe Lincoln, and a very unlikely series of conversations ensue. I couldn’t help but notice Gabe’s hero of choice, Abe, is juxtaposed next to Gabe’s name after a particularly pivotal point in the book…and makes me think Gabe means Guilty Abe. I also found it interesting that Stock used the name Gabriel for the main character. We all know Gabriel served as a messenger between God and humans in Biblical times. Is this another manifestation of Gabe’s ego?

The time setting of the book is finally revealed in Chapter 9, when Gabe starts recording information about the trial for his next book at his book agent’s request. Although it’s not made clear how much time has passed, it doesn’t seem more than a short few months. His first entry is dated September 2005 after the preliminary hearing, yet at the beginning of the book Bush had just been re-elected, which would have been November 2004. The timing isn’t fully revealed, but it does take a while to get a case to trial.

I think Stock’s personal sense of humor can be found through Gabe’s writing: he juxtaposes Gabe’s free-writing of a college English class and bad grammar with an incredibly long and somewhat comical run-on sentence, like the awkward boy-next-door type. As an English minor, I can see irony, humor and reality of it.

And the humor continues…

And just as it is always darkest before the dawn, it is always quietest in a courtroom before a witness answers a question about where his penis had been. 

Actually, he probably loved his kids more than Gabe, but they were four and six-years-old and didn’t seem like real people yet – more like talking pets. 

Fight Club Pic 018
Norton and Pitt in Fight Club

As I read further into the last few chapters through the thick and heavy, I had an epiphany. Gabe and his imaginary friend remind me starkly of Edward Norton’s role as The Narrator and Brad Pitt’s role as Tyler Durden in Fight Club. I did an extensive writing project on this movie for my freshman English class, so I’m very familiar with the movie. If you’re not, I encourage you to watch it – a few times – after you’ve read Gabe’s Plan to see the connection. I don’t want to give it away and ruin the movie, or the book, for readers, but the closing photo is a hint.

There’s no neat way to wrap up this novel at the time immediately after the trial, so it surprised me that there was an epilogue. After Fred revealed some of his knowledge to brother Gabe earlier in the book, I was sure the closing arguments of the trial would be the ending of the book – clear cut, yet ambiguous.  (I know, what a paradox.) The epilogue is set right at Obama’s win over McCain in 2008, and Gabe has indeed become a great man. However, you’ll be surprised who he meets…and the outcome of a murder.