Book Review: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

I’m on record as admitting that my favorite TV show of all-time is Gilmore Girls (#TeamLogan) and I’ve binge watched A Day in the Life twice (but only, after reading this book, did I get the Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall episode titles/order were based on Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend…don’t know how I missed that). I’m also a huge fan of Lauren Graham and loved her, and the rest of the ensemble cast, in Parenthood (which sadly never got the traction it deserved).

I’m telling you all this because as much as I wanted this book to be good, I was prepared for the worst. I don’t usually read books by celebrities, since most of them are what Graham’s literary agent calls “monkey doodles” and others are clearly ghost written.

This isn’t either. Instead, you can hear Graham’s voice shine through in every essay, and if she has a love affair with exclamation marks (something I, as well as Elmore Leonard, really hate), it’s a small thing. This isn’t a tell-all, it’s more of a “thanks for this great ride” told honestly and with liberal doses of humor and self-deprecation. You get the sense that you’d really like Lauren Graham if you met her in person.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Graham gives writing advice AND IT’S GREAT ADVICE! In fact, I intend to start the “Don Roos” method today and see where it takes me.

This is a quick read..I literally read it from cover to cover in two days, but that’s also because I found myself picking it up whenever I had a spare minute. Trust me, that doesn’t happen very often.

Is part of my love of this book because I’m a fan of Lauren Graham? Probably. But I was ready to be disappointed, and this book, just like the 4-part series, A Day in the Life, didn’t let me down. Instead it lifted me up, and somehow, somewhere along the way, it made me believe in myself again at a time when I needed it most. You can’t ask for more than that.

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New Release Mondays: 13 Claws by the Mesdames of Mayhem

The Mesdames of Mayhem are a collective of 16 crime fiction authors, most of whom have won or been short-listed for major awards: the Arthur Ellis, Edgar, Governor General, Derringer, Debut Dagger and Bony Pete. Their goal is to promote Canadian crime fiction, especially the work of women authors and their own work. Most are also members of both Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime. It’s my pleasure to introduce their latest collection of short crime fiction.

Author Name: Mesdames of Mayhem

Book Title: 13 Claws (Carrick Publishing)

Book Genre: Short crime fiction

Release Date: October 28, 2017

Synopsis: 17 fantastic tales (pun intended) by 15 authors featuring cats, dogs, dragons and snakes! With thrillers, cozies and mysteries of every variety, 13 Claws is sure to find a sweet spot with fans of crime fiction. Includes three stories by newcomers to the genre.

Excerpt: This year for the launch of 13 Claws tried something new. Each author read their favorite paragraph from their story: a terrific success with the audience. You may read the paragraphs on Rosemary McCracken’s blog, Moving Target here: https://rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/scratching-beneath-the-surface-of-13-claws/

Find out more about the Mesdames (including their true identities!) at  www.mesdamesofmayhem.com

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Do You Watch Christmas Movies?

I’ll admit it. I love those impossibly cheesy holiday movies, the cheesier the better. In fact, I have a Holiday Movie Rating System (HMRS) that goes something like this:

Paper-thin plot or wildly implausible plot: 5 points

Female lead is either widowed, divorced, recently broken up with fiancé  or can’t seem to find true love: 5 points

Male lead is fabulously rich: 5 points (bonus points if female lead isn’t aware of his money OR is not impressed by it)

Male lead seems nasty at first or has a not-so-hidden agenda: 5 points

Movie title sums up the entire plot line: 5 points

Ending is completely predictable from the opening credits: 10 BONUS points!

 

With this rating system in mind, here are a few of this year’s batch that I’ve watched so far, complete with links.

 

A Heavenly Christmas 

Coming Home for Christmas

Merry Me at Christmas

A Cinderella Christmas

A Bramble House Christmas

Now, if only I could find a way to write one of these… maybe I should put that on my to-do list for 2018. In the meantime, Happy Holiday Viewing!

New Release Mondays: A-LIST by D.P. Lyle

Author Name: D.P. Lyle

Book Title: A-LIST

Book Genre: Comedic Thriller

Release Date: December 12, 2017

Synopsis: Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole head to New Orleans after Nicole’s producer/uncle Charles Balfour’s mega-star, A-list actor Kirk Ford, awakens with a dead co-ed in his hotel bed. Worse, the girl is the niece of local mafioso Tony Guidry.

But something isn’t right. The facts don’t fit. Who would want Kristi Guidry dead, or Kirk framed? And why?

Nothing’s easy in the Big Easy.

Excerpt: I like a lot of things. My 1965 Mustang. Burgundy with black Pony interior. Captain Rocky’s Surf and Turf, my bar/restaurant that squats on the sand in Gulf Shores. Living on the Gulf Coast, where I’ve been most of my life. That’s pretty cool, too. And then there’s memories of a few epic games during my career as a major league pitcher for the Texas Rangers. That was me. Jake Longly. Baseball stud. Ninety-plus mile-an-hour fastballs with just enough tail to make batters whiff, corkscrewing themselves into the ground. But that was another life, long gone, blown away on a cold Cleveland night by a ripped rotator cuff. Few pitchers recover from that. I surely didn’t.

But right there at the top of my like list would be watching a gorgeous, nearly naked woman roll around on the floor. Well, not exactly rolling around. More like twisting, flexing, and stretching in a pilates or yoga or some such fashion. I never could keep all those straight. But whatever you call it, it surely looks better than six-count burpees.

The woman in question was Nicole Jemison. My latest girlfriend. I guess that’s what she was. Though we’d only known each other a few weeks, it seemed longer. Like we’d always been together. Sort of scary. Definitely not my norm, which was more or less hit and run. Yeah, I know, piggish, but at least I’m honest about it.

Anyone could see why I hung around with her. I mean, stunning didn’t quite cover it. That blonde hair, that perfect smile, and those eyes. Oh yeah. Bluer than blue. Deep, lively, and intelligent. And of course that body. Oh my.

Why she tolerated me was a whole different story. I could be a little difficult. According to her, anyway. My ex-wife Tammy would agree whole-heartedly, while adding a string of well-chosen expletives. Not undeserved, of course, but our experiment in marital harmony collapsed years ago. You’d think she would’ve mellowed by now, but Tammy didn’t do mellow.

I should probably be down there on the carpet with Nicole going through the same routine, but no way I could contort my body into some of the positions she adopted. Not now. Not even back when I was a young stud baseball player.

About the author:  D.P. Lyle is the Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Silver Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, Silver Falchion, and USA Today Best Book Award nominated author of both non-fiction and fiction (the Samantha Cody, Dub Walker, and Jake Longly thriller series and the Royal Pains media tie-in series). Along with Jan Burke, he is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio. He has served as story consultant to many novelists and the screenwriters of shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars. Find him at http://www.dplylemd.com.

Find out more about the book here! 

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My Publishing Journey: Audiobook News!

I’m beyond excited to announce that both my books are now available in audiobook format! Find them on Audible, Amazon and iTunes, and if you’re cozy with your local library, I would really appreciate it if you could spread the word (or let me know if your local library might be interested, and I’ll contact them directly).

Here’s a recap of both titles:

The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #1

Narrator: Suzanne T. Fortin

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th-century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery #1

Narrator: Claira Jordyn

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville – a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a 30-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

PS: If you’re an audiobook reviewer, I will happily email you a coupon code to download FREE the book(s) of your choice from Audible.com or Audible.co.uk (sorry, offer not available in Canada; it’s an Audible thing…) in exchange for an honest review. Contact me to arrange!

 

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Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book at Bouchercon Toronto. I’ll admit my first thought was “Please, not another book with girl or woman in the title.” Then I read the first chapter and I was hooked.
The woman in the window is Dr. Anna Fox, a psychologist with a serious drinking problem who also suffers from an acute case of agoraphobia. To pass the time, she spies on her neighbors, in much the same way Jimmy Stewart does in Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window. It’s not the only nod the author gives to Hitchcock: beyond the fact that her protagonist is a classic movie buff, the pacing of this suspenseful thriller pays homage to Hitchcock’s style (there are even a couple of MacGuffins).
The chapters are short, often no more than one or two pages, which makes for a quick read (I can read one more chapter before bed…maybe another…and another…). Each chapter represents a new day in the life of Dr. Anna Fox, gradually unraveling the reason for her downward spiral, and cleverly juxtaposed against her fascination with the Russell family across the way. The end result is a fast-paced psychological suspense thriller with a believable plot, plenty of twists and turns, and a satisfying end with a couple of surprises I didn’t see coming. One, in particular, I actually gave a little gasp. Love when that happens!
The Woman in the Window is scheduled for release in January 2018, with a major motion picture already in the works. Word has it several A-list actresses are vying for the role of Dr. Anna Fox. Kudos to A.J. Finn for a phenomenal debut novel.

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The Tulip Shirt Murders by Heather Weidner

It’s my absolute pleasure to showcase Heather Weidner’s latest release, and the second book in her Delanie Fitzgerald Mystery series. Heather is the force behind the multi-author blog, Pens, Paws, and Claws, of which I am one of the authors, and she’s also a very talented writer and gifted storyteller. 

Author Name: Heather Weidner

Book Title: The Tulip Shirt Murders

Book Genre: Mystery/Female Sleuth

Release Date: November 15, 2017

Synopsis: Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a music producer hires them to find out who is bootlegging his CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case.

Excerpt: Delanie Fitzgerald hopped on the stool at Lucille’s Lounge to get a better view of the guy she tailed. He leaned forward, inching closer to a raven-haired woman at the end of the bar. Delanie ordered a ginger ale and straightened her Lycra dress. The glances from the other male patrons let her know that it was the perfect outfit for this evening.

The man looked past his companion and stared at Delanie, who smiled and tossed her red curls over her shoulder. She sipped her drink and waited. The dark-haired woman moved on to talk to two guys at the pool table. The man picked up his drink and slid into the empty seat next to Delanie. That didn’t take long, she thought.

“Hey, there,” he said, moving in closer and brushing her shoulder with his.

“Hi,” she said as she pressed her lips together in a half-smile.

“I haven’t seen you in here before.”

“I’m new in town. And this looked like a fun place to spend a Saturday night. I didn’t want to stay home by myself.

“It’s a friendly place,” he said, signaling the bartender for a refill.

“I’ll be back in just a minute. Don’t go anywhere, and save my seat,” she said, winking at the forty-ish man next to her.

“Hurry back,” he said, leaning toward her.

A few minutes later, she pulled her barstool back. “Did you miss me?” A full drink greeted her on her return.

“Most certainly,” he said, scooting his barstool closer to hers.

“Thanks for the refill. I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Joey.”

“Well, hello, Joey. I’m Misti,” she said, sticking two fingers into her glass. When she pulled her hand back, the pearly white nail polish turned purple. She smiled and pretended to take a sip. “So, Joey, what do folks do for excitement around here in Mechanicsville? I’ve only been here a month or so. And I need some ideas for fun.”

He leaned toward her again. Any closer, and he’d be sitting in her lap. “I like to have a good time. We could go somewhere quiet and have our own party. And we could talk about other things we could do next weekend.”

About the author: Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Find her at www.heatherweidner.com.

Find the book on all the usual suspects, including Amazon.

 

Book Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

We were first introduced to Kate Waters in Fiona Barton’s excellent debut novel, The Widow, but I’m always a bit concerned when it comes to a second book, especially if I loved the first one. So often, book 2 just doesn’t hold up to the hype. Happily, that’s not the case with The Child. The main characters are back, as is Barton’s signature multi-POV style, as she tells the story of the skeleton of a baby found at a construction site.
Told from the perspective of four women and covering a timeline of several decades, the protagonist is Kate Waters, a journalist fighting to keep her newspaper job by looking for the next big story. Her boss isn’t convinced that a long-dead baby is the ticket (“Madonna’s veiny hands,” he tells her, “that’s all people want to read today. Celebrity news.”) Undeterred, Kate follows lead after tenuous lead, all the while training a recent grad, Joe Jackson, in “old fashioned reporting.”
As a mystery writer, I’m often disappointed when I see the ending coming midway through, or worse, feeling cheated at the end when the clues are unfair. Barton plays fair, and the ending comes as a satisfying surprise.
Fiona Barton is reportedly at work on her third book. I, for one, can’t wait to read it. Five stars.