Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney (#1 Dewberry Farm Mysteries)


I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley.  This is the first in a brand new series. I had never read anything else by this author before reading this book, but I certainly will now! 

It did not take me long at all to become completely engrossed in this novel. There is a perfect balance with enough detail to make you feel like you are truly right there beside the characters, living the mystery along with them, but not giving so much detail that it becomes droll or overshadows the mystery. 

The main character is Lucy Resnick, who has recently realized her life's dream of purchasing the farm that her grandparents owned when Lucy was little. She's trying to make a living off of the land and just as she begins to feel like it could work, she's informed that the woman she bought the land from, Nettie Kocurek, has retained the mineral rights to the land (which Lucy was not made aware of) and has ordered a company to start drilling for oil! Things are made even worse when Nettie is found murdered at the Founder's Day Parade and Lucy becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her name, she begins her own investigation and ends up solving more than one mystery in the process.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end. There were multiple suspects who all had good motives to want Nettie dead. Figuring out whodunnit was no piece of cake, but there were certainly enough clues sprinkled along the way that it was very doable to solve before Lucy did. There were a couple of sub-plots that added to the suspense and danger as well. 

All of the characters had very clearly defined personalities, learning about the town of Buttercup was interesting, and the book was also very well edited. Oh and if that's not enough, there are some delicious sounding recipes in the back of the book too ;)

I'm pleased to give this book 5 stars; it truly deserves every one of them. I cannot wait to be back in Buttercup with Lucy and her friends again for the next mystery! 

To learn more about the author and/or her books, you can visit her website. Killer Jam goes on sale tomorrow, July 28th, on Amazon. It's available for Kindle, in paperback, and as an audiobook.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Blog Tour and Review: Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes by J.A. Lang

I'm honored and thrilled to be participating in this blog tour. Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes is the second book in the Chef Maurice series. My review of the first book, Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle, was one of my first posts on this blog and the only book to receive a 5 star review from me thus far!

The cozy mystery series that started it all for me was the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton, which also happens to be set in the Cotswolds. If you are a lover of M.C. Beaton, I believe you'll love J.A. Lang as well. Even though this was only the second book, it already felt like reconnecting with old friends, which is how a great read should feel, especially when it's a cozy.

In Wrath, Chef Maurice and his good friend Arthur are members of a newly formed Wine Appreciation Club and are invited to a wine tasting/dinner at the home of Sir William Burton-Trent. Much to everyone's surprise, before dinner can be served Sir William is found dead in his basement. As in the first book, PC Lucy is called in to investigate, but Chef Maurice, with the reluctant help of Arthur, end up doing some sleuthing of their own and ultimately Chef Maurice solves the mystery. 

There were two minor cons to this book; one was that, though it is a short read at 169 pages, it took about 30 pages to really get going. For a book of its length, I expected it to get into the action quickly and maintain that pace throughout the entire book. Secondly, the first book was really jam packed with laugh out loud humor. There was absolutely the same sense of humor in this book too, but not nearly as much of it. Obviously when you are writing or reading a series, not every book is going to be absolute perfection, plus every person has their own unique tastes and what I find less enjoyable, others may find more enjoyable.

I will say, once the investigation got going, the pace and the humor did pick up considerably and the last half of the book was noticeably better than the first half and I had trouble putting it down. There was a cute sub-plot involving Patrick and PC Lucy that added enjoyment without taking over the mystery. There were also some really fun elements to this particular plot, including hidden staircases, family secrets, and of course, lots of wine!

I admit, I guessed wrong as to who the murderer was. There were plenty of clues, but also a lot of red herrings! The red herrings definitely threw me off, but I did not mind. I enjoyed being surprised at who the culprit was at the end and I thought the ending was extremely well done.

 I give this book a 4 out of 5 and would definitely recommend it. If you'd like to learn more about J.A. Lang and/or her books, you can visit her website at Also, from now through July 30th, you can join her newsletter for a chance to win a signed copy of Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes ;)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Interview with Janet DeLee

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing off and on since I was nine years old. I wanted to be a full-time writer as an adult but it took me years to finally take a leap of faith, give up the day job, and commit to writing full-time. It was terrifying at first, but lining up with who I truly am feels wonderful.

Are any characters based on yourself or people you know?

The cat characters, Minnie and Sally, are somewhat similar to my pets, Maggie and Lucy, but let’s keep that our little secret because I don’t want to be sued.

Do you believe in the supernatural? Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

I believe that what we now call the supernatural will turn out to be quite physical and quantifiable. I think the indestructible energy of people is on a wavelength we can’t see, like radio waves or microwaves, but will eventually be discovered.

The new series I’ve started was conceived as a result of having some weird experiences; once at a French Quarter hotel in New Orleans, and another at a bed and breakfast in the Texas hill country, just to name a few. Ghosts sometimes act out around me. Why they get such a hoot out of rattling my cage I have no idea. This has been going on about fifteen years. Prior to that it was smooth sailing and I was blissfully unaware of any ghostly pranks or presences.

What made you decide to self-publish?

Because it took me so long to screw up the courage to take a leap of faith I knew if I faced a lot of rejection from publishers early on I might not be able to push on. Also, I liked the idea of owning the rights to my books, writing what I wanted when I wanted, and being my own boss. It’s my goal to be a best-selling, self-published author and join the growing ranks of other self-published authors who are achieving worldwide success.

What's the hardest thing about being self-published?

Getting comprehensive editing services at a price I can afford is tough. I can proof a book a hundred times and still miss something. It takes lots of eyes to find the errors and the costs really
add up. I cringe if I see errors missed after publishing but I’m determined to master it. The other equally difficult thing about being self-published is getting established by finding the
readers who would enjoy my stories. Thankfully, book blog reviewers have been enormously helpful with this. Blog reviewers are my heroes. I’m in awe of the contribution they are making in the world of literature.

What's the best thing about it?

Self-publishing is not only fostering a creative explosion, it’s creating a huge job market of related support industries, such as book editing, promotion, etc. Now that publishing is more accessible talented writers can get out into the world much faster. Book bloggers are on the cutting edge of discovering exciting new stories and writers. The new technology that allows self-publishing reduces the factors that limited the publishing industry for so long.

Do you write full time?

Yes. I tried for years to write after a long day at work and it was difficult and frustrating. Publish or perish, that’s now my motto.

Who's your favorite character to write and why?

I’m liking my new character, Lee Blanton. He is a nice guy, rugged and reasonably attractive, who survived a bad divorce and decided he had experienced his fair share of women and was through with romance. He didn’t realize what an irresistible challenge that is to women, and it’s fun to put him in situations where that is going on. As a vintage home restoration contractor he also has a problem with disruptive ghosts and there are all sorts of interesting reasons for that.

Vampires or werewolves?

Neither. I like ghosts, fewer limits as to what I can make them do.

If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for?

1. That every book I write will find the reader who will benefit from it the most.

2. That every person with a dormant dream will find the courage to pursue it.

3. That I could have a jetpack to tool around in whenever I go to Italy.

What does your writing process look like?

My left brain prefers to write an outline on a laptop, but my right brain finds this too confining and wants lots of room to spread out. The right brain doesn’t want to be confined to an outline or
linear order, but the left brain shudders at the thought of no structure and doing things out of order. The compromise they worked out is this: both sides collaborate on an outline with the right brain writing one sentence scenes, recording each on a single post-it note. The left brain then sticks the notes on a big empty wall, organizing them into a logical, sequential flow of chapters
until an outline is created.

When it’s time to flesh out the scenes in each chapter the laptop will be used if the left brain agrees to let the right brain write the scenes in whatever order it feels like on a given day. The left brain then takes the copy and lines it up into the proper chapters. The right brain is happy to use the laptop once the editing begins, but the left brain keeps a sharp lookout to ensure that if any spontaneous material shows up it continues to forward the story. This method allows both sides of my brain to do what they do best and work together in harmony.

Which authors inspire you?

Thomas Wolfe, Martha Beck, Anita Moorjani, Frances Mayes, Mark Twain (he will be the first person I look up after I die), Agatha Christie, Henry James, and Fannie Flagg.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never give up. Don’t listen to naysayers. Resist the impulse to tell your friends and family what you are doing, because they may be doubtful and advise you to play it safe and stay with the herd.
And if you do tell them, don’t let their comments or attitudes make you so doubtful that you betray yourself. Hang on!

BE YOURSELF. Do not write what you think is selling. Write what you would like to read and what is inside of you that must come out. Trust that you can find the readers who are looking for the
stories you want to tell. Trust that the more you write the better you will get. Give your readers everything you’ve got.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

My mission as a writer is to inspire my readers to pursue dormant dreams that they have kept hidden away for years.

You can connect with Janet at:

Review: Taking Leaps and Finding Ghosts by Janet DeLee

Books like this are one of the main reasons I started this blog. It amazes me the number of blogs that don't accept requests from self-published authors. In doing so, they miss out on rare gems such as this! Taking Leaps and Finding Ghosts isn't a cozy exactly, although it is a really light, relaxing read. It does have mystery, but it's also really inspirational and motivational. Although it ultimately is a ghost story, it's not done in a scary or horror-like way. There are parts that might give you goosebumps, but I wouldn't call it scary. Plus, the mystery is solved in a very heart-warming, emotional way. I don't want to give away too much so it's hard to go too in depth without revealing any spoilers ;)

I probably would put this book more in the women's fiction or inspirational genre versus the mystery category, but I really enjoyed it regardless. This was one of those books that got me hooked from the start and I had trouble putting it down. The story is told from different character's points of view for different chapters. That particular writing style doesn't always work, but in this book it works well. It really provides an in-depth view of the characters and their different personalities.

Ginny Lawther starts a group for people that have a goal they'd like to attain. Hilda, Lydia, Jerry, and Lee become members of the group. The five of them discuss what goals they are all working towards, and help motivate each other and keep each other on track to attain their goal. There are multiple goals in my life that I'd like to attain and some of the exercises the characters did in the book I think I'll try for myself.

My only criticism would be that I would have loved to have more focus on the mystery and have more mystery or suspense elements throughout the book instead of the majority of the mystery being concentrated towards the end.

There were two minor typos that I caught (one said off where it should have said of) but overall it was edited very well. Other than that, it was a great read and I'd love to see these characters again in other books! I'd give this book a 4.5 out of 5 and would definitely recommend it!

Taking Leaps and Finding Ghosts is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. If you'd like to learn more about Janet DeLee and/or her books, you can check out her Goodreads and her Amazon Author page.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: Fatal Reservations by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mystery #6)

Fatal Reservations (Key West Food Critic Mystery, #6) 

I received an advanced review copy of this book via a really cool Facebook group called Cozy Mystery Review Crew.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries and would like the opportunity to be a reviewer, I'd definitely suggest joining! There are a good number of books that have been distributed to reviewers already with more to come. You don't have to have a blog or anything either, just posting a review to Goodreads, B&N, or Amazon will fulfill your agreement :) 

Fatal Reservations is the 6th book in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries. I admit I have not read any of the previous books in this series, although I'd really like to. This book can function as a stand-alone mystery, although I did feel like I was probably missing some small details about the characters by having not read any of the previous books. I did not feel that there was anything major missing and it didn't inhibit my enjoyment of this book in any way though. 

Haley Snow is the main character and food critic and she lives in Key West, FL. I've never been there (and it'd probably be way too hot for me) but from the descriptions in this book it sounds like an amazing place! Haley's roommate is Miss Gloria, who is an older woman but is still very feisty and humorous. I absolutely love Miss Gloria and her relationship and the dynamic between her and Haley. I generally do not like massive amounts of detail, but I feel like this book struck a good balance of providing enough detail to make you really feel like you are in the story, while not going too overboard with it. I did feel that the beginning was a bit slow and it took me about 40 pages to really get into it. A little longer than I'd like but within reason considering how many characters were introduced in that time. 

There are some really great characters in this book, as well as plenty of mouth-watering descriptions of all kinds of food! I was very pleased to discover that there are recipes included in the back of the book :) Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I'd say it's a perfect read if you're looking to escape reality for a while and fully immerse yourself into the book, its scenery, and its characters. Just looking at the beautiful sunrise on the cover makes me feel relaxed. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars and would absolutely recommend it! 

Fatal Reservations goes on sale tomorrow, July 7th, and you can pre-order it today for $5.45. If you'd like to learn more about Lucy Burdette and/or her books, you can visit her website or her Facebook page.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Interview with James Raven

How long have you been writing? 

I started writing 20 years ago and had three books published in quick succession. But then I gave up for a long time to concentrate on my career in television. I started writing again about five years ago and since then I’ve had another five books published.

What made you want to write thrillers?

My late mother, bless her, was a big fan of Agatha Christie and the great Mickey Spillane. It was through her that I got hooked on thrillers and crime novels. I enjoy writing them because it’s so much fun to develop plots and create really nasty characters.

Is it emotionally difficult to write some of the more disturbing/graphic scenes? 

The more disturbing scenes can be a real challenge and you have to be careful not to go completely over the top. My publisher has on occasion asked me to rewrite sections that were deemed too shocking and graphic. However, I like my books to be realistic and hard-edged, so I try to strike an acceptable balance.

What genres do you like to read and/or who are some of your favorite authors?

I only ever read crime books. Top authors are James Patterson, Harlan Coben and Jane Casey.

Are any of your characters based on you or anyone you know?

I don’t base any of my characters on real people.

Which book did you enjoy writing the most and why?

The book I most enjoyed writing was Malicious. It’s set in Houston, where one of my three daughters lives. So it gave me a good excuse to spend time there. Also, it deals with the topical subject of web cam hacking. It’s been my most successful book so far and was an Amazon bestseller.

What does your writing process look like? 

I don’t work to a fixed regime. I always write first in longhand before transferring what I’ve written to the laptop. I do most of my writing in coffee shops rather than at home. For some reason I find that much easier.

If you could actually meet Jeff Temple, what would you do and/or ask him?

If I ever met Jeff Temple I would ask for his autograph. After all, I’m his number one fan!

What's the craziest thing anyone ever asked you about your books?

My book Random Targets is about a psycho sniper who shoots at drivers on Britain’s motorways, causing death and destruction on a massive scale. One reader called up to berate me for writing it. She asked me how I’d be able to live with myself if it gave someone the idea to actually do it! Needless to say I didn’t really have an answer.

Do you think you could actually solve a real life murder mystery? 

I doubt very much I’d be able to solve a real murder mystery. We writers make it look so easy but I know that’s far from true.

Is writing your only career? If not, what else do you do?

I now write full time. Until recently I ran my own TV production business making documentaries and sports programmes. Before that I was a television news producer. However, I am a part-time close-up magician.

If you had 24 hours left to live, how would you spend those hours?

I’d try to get my family together in one place and spend it with them.

What's your favorite food?

I’m addicted to cakes and chocolate. I also like French fries and chicken.

If you could pick an actor to play Jeff Temple in a movie, who would you pick and why?

David Tennant who appeared in Broadchurch.

Is there a particular time of day or place you prefer to write? 

In the mornings. That’s when I pop out to the coffee shops!

What would you do if you were the last person on earth?

Kill myself.

Chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate of course.

Salty or sweet?

The sweeter the better.

What's your favorite movie? Song?

Best movie: The Godfather. Best song: Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

If you wrote a book about your life, what would it be called? 


Is there anything else you want us to know? 

I’ve just discovered how to use Twitter so feel free to follow me on @JimRaven1 

Thanks for the fantastic interview James! If you'd like more info on James or his books, you can check out his website

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Dying Wish by James Raven (#4 in the Jeff Temple series)

Disclaimer: Let me start by saying that this book is definitely not a cozy! This is a hardcore thriller that contains disturbing elements such as rape and torture. There is also a good bit of cursing. So if you prefer to stay with more light-hearted reads, this one probably isn't for you. But if you, like myself, like a good thriller now and then and are not bothered by disturbing content or foul language, this could be a great choice for you :) 
Dying Wish is actually the fourth book in this series. I traditionally do not read a series out of order, but this sounded good and the author advised me that it can stand alone, so I figured I'd give it a shot and I'm glad I did. I can now confirm that yes, this book truly does read perfectly as a stand-alone. I have no idea which characters and/or plot-lines were or were not in the earlier books (though I can make a pretty good guess) but I did not in any way feel as if I was missing anything significant by not having read any of the earlier books. 
The writing is in UK English, not US English. So US readers may not be familiar with all of the terms and sayings used. I'm familiar with quite a few UK terms but some of these still threw me.

The main complaint I have about this book is that it starts off slow and does take a good 50+ pages to really pick up the pace. In the beginning, author Grant Mason realizes he's having a heart attack and asks his assistant to promise to burn down his house in the event of his death. His assistant thinks it's a bizarre request and instead of complying with the request, she asks Jeff Temple to go to Grant's house and investigate. This is a good start and it did draw me in enough to make me persevere until it really got going. However, in my personal opinion it could have been tightened up so that the pace picked up much quicker than it did.

Regardless, once it gets going, it gets going! There was one sub-plot involving Jeff and his girlfriend Angel, but aside from that it was almost exclusively Jeff and his team trying to figure out who Grant's accomplice was and catch him. Along the way there are a few suspects in the mix and for a while I truly had no clue which one, if any, was actually the bad guy. I did finally manage to put the breadcrumbs together and figure it out, but not until a few pages before Jeff figured it out himself, which I really liked. I also thought that the twist at the end was thoroughly plotted and brilliantly executed! I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but the end will probably blow your mind! 

So overall, I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a good thriller. Have patience with the slower-paced parts and you'll be rewarded once you get into the real meat of it.

Dying Wish can be found on Amazon UK and it's also being released for the US in September. It's available both as a Kindle edition and as a hardcover. To learn more about James Raven and/or his other books, you can visit his website.