Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sew What

I admire those people who can sew. While I consider myself creative, sewing is not one of my talents. I am certainly no seamstress. This lack of skill does not completely stop me, however. I have a sewing machine. It's a green Hello Kitty machine...that I've never used. Now I can't find the instructions. I sew everything I need to sew by hand. It takes me forever, it's not pretty, but fabric is held together by thread...well, embroidery floss. "What on earth does she sew?" I can hear you asking. Certainly not clothes! I make hammocks and tubes for my pet rats and fabric books. I admire those people that can sew-a friend of mine in England makes amazing plush creations. I also admire those fictional characters that sew. Believe it or not, sewing and other needlecrafts can be found in many cozy mysteries. I consider these mysteries a subgroup of the Crafting Cozy.

Melissa Bourbon writes the Magical Dressmaking Mysteries. Harlow Jane Cassidy, after working as a fashion designer in NYC,  moves back to small Texas town and opens a dressmaking shop when her great grandmother dies. There is a paranomal aspect to the series as well as we discover that all of the Cassidy women, descended from Butch Cassidy, have special gifts.

The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries by Elizabeth Lynn Casey introduces us to librarian Tori Sinclair who, in order to fit in, joins the sewing circle of her small South Carolina town. It helps that Tori is quite adept at sewing! Sewing tips are included in the books.

Betsy Devonshire owns Crewel World, a needlework shop in Minnesota in the Needlework Mysteries by Monica Ferris. The patrons here generally don't make clothes, but do other needlecrafts, such as counted cross stitch and crewel. Patterns from various needlecrafts are included.

If you're interested in quilting try the Benni Harper Mysteries by Earlene Fowler. Benni is the curator of a folk art museum in California. The titles in the series are the names of quilt patterns.

I love stuffed animals, so imagine my delight when I found the Bear Collector's Mysteries by John J. Lamb. Former homicide inspector Brad Lyon collects and creates teddy bears!

Even if you never pick up a needle and thread, be sure to pick up one of these sewing mysteries, you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Diva Cooks a Goose by Krista Davis. I discovered this wonderful series after a few books had already been published and I'm still behind. This entry, the 4th in the Domestic Diva Mystery Series, takes place at Christmastime. After a lovely Christmas Eve dinner Sophie gets a call from her brother. Someone broke into all the neighborhood houses and stole all of the Christmas presents and food. Recipes are included!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review - Death of a Neighborhood Witch by Laura Levine

If you enjoy laugh out loud mysteries with zany characters you'll love Death of a Neighborhood Witch, the latest Jaine Austen Mystery by Laura Levine. Jaine Austen is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles with her cat, Prozac. In this, the 11th book of the series, we get to meet more of Jaine's neighbors, including Eleanor Jenkins, better known as Cryptessa, the character she played in the one season sit-com I Married a Zombie. Cryptessa is the scourge of the neighborhood so it's little wonder that there are so many suspects in her murder. Since Jaine has helped solve so many murders already (which you can read about in each of her earlier books) she decides to help find the killer, especially since she is a prime suspect. Jaine has to deal with an ape suit, a Tummy Tucker, a decapitated Buddha, and a fight for romance along the way!

As in her previous books, the chapters are interspersed with e-mails Jaine received from her parents who live in Florida. These e-mails are a story unto themselves as her father gets himself into as much trouble as Jayne. In this outing he gets involved in a Halloween lawn decorating contest and you won't believe the consequences!

As wacky as things get in Jaine's world I can relate to her. While I may not wear elastic-waist pants, my size certainly has more than one digit and I enjoy soaking in a bubble bath, although I generally drink my wine beforehand! If you're looking for a light, easy read that'll make you laugh, you need look no further!

Death of a Neighborhood Witch  * * * *
The Jaine Austen Series               * * * * *

My rating system:
To me a 5 star book is an amazing read that swept me away and left me changed. A 4 star review is a great book that I really loved. 3 stars is still a solid good read, positive and enjoyable. Reviews will cease to be that positive at the 2 star rating-an OK book with serious flaws. And a 1 star-don't bother.

A 5 star series is a great series, one that consistently delights. The whole is often greater than it's parts, so you will see series ranked higher than individual books. A 4 star series is a solid series. You may not find greatness in a 3 star series, there may be some clunkers or some issues with characters, but on the whole there's some good reading. A 2 star rating for a series doesn't give me much hope and I probably won't ever rate a 1 star series as I need to have read at least 3 books in it-and I doubt I'd read more than 2!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Currently Reading...& Winner Announced!

I'm currently reading Death of a Neighborhood Witch by Laura Levine. This book is the 11th in the always funny Jaine Austen series. I've only read the first chapter and there's already been a death...and a burial...and lots of laughs. Like Jaine, I also buy Halloween candy with no intention of actually distributing any. Come on, admit it. I bet a lot of you do the same thing.

As for my most recent book tour, thanks to everyone who read Sunday's interview with Cindy Blackburn. And the winner of the Kindle edition of Playing with Poison, as chosen by, is #3. That's you Rosalee R. Please send your e-mail address to me at Katreader(at)hotmail(dot)com so that you can get your prize! Congratulations!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Champagne and Cue Balls

Welcome Cindy Blackburn, author of the Cue Ball Mysteries.

Kathy: I knew I liked  Jessie Hewitt once I saw that champagne was her drink of choice. I love champagne and drink it a lot. In fact my Facebook friends laugh at all my champagne statuses, "Cracking open a bottle of champagne", "Drinking champagne and eating snacks" etc. Do you like to drink the bubbly?

CB: Okay, yes. I do drink my share of bubbly. My favorite Friday night dinner is pepperoni pizza and champagne. But champagne goes with chocolate, too. And it’s nice with a cheese and crackers. Or with soup. Or with… Okay, yes. I do drink my share of bubbly.

Kathy: The Stone Fountain is Jessie's neighborhood bar. Is there a local watering hole you like to frequent?

CB: Nope. The only bar I frequent is at the back of my favorite Italian restaurant. Hubby and I have sipped many a bottle of bubbly waiting for a table and deciding between the eggplant parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs. Which brings us back to question one. Bubbly goes with spaghetti, too.

Kathy: Jessie Hewitt writes romance novels. Have you ever written in that genre? Are you a romance fan? 
CB: I don’t write romances per se, but there is a continuing romance going on in my series. I have a lot of good friends who are romance authors. Conversations with romance novelists can be…educational.

Kathy: Jessie happens to be a pool shark-are you? If so, where did you learn to play the game?

CB: I wish I could play pool—wouldn’t that be cool? But alas, I have no talent whatsoever. I didn’t know Jessie was a pool shark until I was writing that first scene at The Stone Fountain. And poof! Out came her cue stick!

Kathy: What first drew you to the cozy mystery?

CB: Stress drew me to cozies. Life is too stressful to read or write anything else. If I want intense realism, I can watch the news, right?

Kathy: Do you write any other genres?

CB: Please see above! Although I do enjoy writing silly poetry. Every Sunday I post an exceedingly awful and altogether embarrassing poem on my blog. No stress allowed. But guests are always welcome if anyone wants to take a stab at silliness.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

CB: Murder meets menopause. Take a guess which wins. The Cue Ball Mysteries have a lot of humor, a little romance, and far too much champagne. Oh, but I think we’ve already covered the champagne thing.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

CB: I love them all! But Jessie is threatening to go on strike if I don’t say her. Jessie Hewitt’s about my age. But she’s a little wiser, a lot braver, and owns way fancier lingerie.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

CB: The first sentence of Playing With Poison came to me in a fit of inspiration. I wrote that down and kept going. I had no idea about anything other than that first sentence.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

CB: I like to make people laugh. I thought my books could do that, but not if they remained trapped inside my computer.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

CB: Well, I like mysteries and humor. So how about Joan Hess and Spencer Quinn since they do both so well. And let’s add Barbara Pym for her sly, quiet humor, and Truman Capote for sheer style. I’d serve champagne.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

CB: I confess I do no read nearly enough. Writing takes time! But right now I’m beginning “A Spirited Gift” by Joyce and Jim Lavene. How they write together and stay happily married is beyond me!

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

CB: I teach Ancient and European history, so I love travelling to Europe whenever I can. I like walking and biking and kayaking. I spend an inordinate amount of time admiring my cat. I collect gargoyles.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

CB: Gee, Kathy, have you noticed how we keep ending up back at that first question? Champagne, Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream, milk for my coffee, and garlic for just about everything else.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

CB: Yes! I’m currently working on “Four Play,” the fourth book in the Cue Ball Mysteries series. Jessie’s in a slump and can’t shoot a decent game of pool anymore. Jessie’s in a slump and can’t write a decent sex scene anymore. Sorry, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how she solves her slumps, and solves the murder. And yes, of course there’s a murder!

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

CB: I get to make it all up.
This has been fun. Kathy! Thanks for the interview, which for some reason has left me extremely hungry and thirsty.

Want more Cindy Blackburn? You can find her at her website: 
Follow her on Twitter:  @cbmysteries
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This post is the final stop on the Cue Ball Mystery Book Tour sponsored by Cozy Mystery Book Reviews. Have you been reading and commenting at the other blogs on the tour? If you have, you just might win a Kindle copy of Playing With Poison. Be sure to leave a comment here for a chance to win!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Currently Reading...

I'm just about to finish Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones. I adore this series! Its genre is hard to classify. It's not a cozy mystery, but it is a mystery. Charley (short for Charlotte) Davidson is a private investigator. She's also the Grim Reaper. This book is part mystery, part romance, paranormal, and all fun!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Location, Location, Location

While characters and plot are of extreme importance in a mystery series, its location can often play an important role as well. The vibe of a book may change if the setting is set in a small town rather than a big city or is urban instead of rural.

A series may be set in a real location. The White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy, for example, are set in Washington DC while Betty Hechtman has a setting in Los Angeles, California; Tarzana to be more precise. Writers must be careful when using real locations. Inaccuracies in the setting may be picked up by readers familiar with the area. Artistic license aside, nothing annoys me more when I see glaring errors in book.

Some cities are characters unto themselves; San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York City are iconic places that bring their own style to the story when mysteries are set there. Juliet Blackwell brings the magic of San Fransisco to her Witchcraft Series. The vibe of New Orleans can be felt in the Piece of Cake Mysteries by Jacklyn Brady and Laura Childs' Scrapbooking Mysteries. You can feel the rush of New York City in Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries.

Some authors create fictional towns. In this way they can set the stage exactly as they need it, creating the perfect town for them. Oftentimes they will set this fictional town near real places-to add verisimilitude and pull interest for readers attracted to those real locations. Lorraine Bartlett's Victoria Square mysteries are set in McKinley Mill, New York. While you won't find this town on a map, it is based on a real town, and the books sometimes talk about the nearby real cities of Rochester and Buffalo.

Some authors use a variety of locations in a single series.The Passport to Peril series by Maddy Hunter features a travel organization-so each book goes on a trip. Changing settings like this also makes all the murders a little more plausible as well. We don't have to willingly suspend our disbelief as much. It's a bit more likely to stumble across murders worldwide than to have them all occur in your own small town backyard.

I enjoy settings both fictional and real. I love to read about places I've been...or wish to go... and I especially love books set in towns I know and love. What about you? Do you enjoy reading mysteries is settings you know, or do you prefer to explore the unknown?