Good morning! I apologize for being a bit late getting this up, but I’m happy to be a stop on the Great Escapes Blog Tour for Ink, Read, Dead by Joanna Campbell Slan! I love this series and it was nice to revisit this early case! Today we’re bringing you a character guest post and a review of the book!
On a sweltering day, ace scrapbooker Kiki Lowenstein has to cancel a crafting party when she discovers Marla Lever, their hostess, nearly dead of the heat. Not only is Marla seriously “under the weather,” she’s also a hoarder, and her home is a house of horrors, complete with a corpse in the cooler. Meanwhile, Detective Chad Detweiler works a cold case that involves women disappearing all over St. Louis. The attraction between Kiki and Detweiler heats to a red-hot fever pitch, but will it boil over and leave both of them feeling burned?
Character Guest Post
I never thought that having paper crafting events outside of the store was a good idea. (Underline ‘never,’ okay?) But my boss was determined for us to try this. Imagine my surprise when I discovered our hostess was a hoarder. A tidal wave of cats surged my way when I opened her front door. It was all I could do to keep them from spilling out into the yard. All sizes, ages, and colors of felines begged for my attention. Those poor creatures!
The fur babies were out of food. (Problem #1) And without litter boxes. (Problem #2 is, well, #2.) No wonder they were eager to escape!
My next surprise was even more upsetting. I called and called to our hostess. Eventually I found her in a back bedroom. She was close to death. I phoned 911 before leaving her bedside. Looked like heat exhaustion, but I’m not a doctor. The EMTs arrived and carried the pet owner away. Animal control came for the cats, most of which were malnourished and sick.
Just like that, I found myself involved in a mystery with no shortage of suspects. Someone had hoped our hostess would die. Given that many seniors had passed away because of the heat wave, hiding her death should have been easy. If we hadn’t stumbled on her, she wouldn’t have been found for days.
As it turns out, a lot of people wanted Marla dead.
But one person was determined to see that she had justice…me. You can read the whole story in INK, RED, DEAD.
INK, RED, DEAD can be read as a stand-alone, but it is part of a growing series of books. Readers call this: a fun cozy mystery, a good enjoyable read, a delightful story, plenty of suspects, (with a) great ending. Why not take a break from grim reality and peep into Kiki’s world?
Review – 4 out of 5 stars
As I said above, I love this series. It’s been a few years since I’d read this one, so I reread it for this blog post and review. The mystery is very intriguing and while I didn’t know who the villain was for sure until close to the end, there were a few other things I figured out earlier in the book.
I love Kiki, Anya, Dodie, Clancy, Detweiler, and the rest of the characters in this series! They’re well-rounded characters with interesting back stories. They’re interesting to read about. And the interpersonal relationships intertwine in a complicated way.
As the Character Guest Post said, you CAN read this as a standalone. However, the interpersonal relationships work better if you read the series from the beginning. You’ll understand more if you read it from the beginning. So pick up the prequel or the 1st book in the series today! What are you waiting for?
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Hello! Welcome to my stop on the Great Escapes Book Tour for Sleigh Bell Tower by James J. Cudney. This is the eighth book in the Braxton Campus Mystery series. I love this series and this new installment is just as brilliant and great as the rest of them!!
When Bell Towers decides to build their newest boutique hotel in Wharton County, Braxton establishes a hospitality program as part of their university expansion. Despite the Ingram and Lynch family ties to prominent citizens, a dispute over the proposed landsite pits citizens against each other.
One takes matters into their own hands and slays the hotel magnate during the campus holiday party. As the list of suspects increases, long-lost family members are anxious to keep their secrets from being revealed, complicating Sheriff Montague’s ability to determine the murderer’s true motive. Even Kellan is forced to cast doubt on his friends and colleagues when it becomes obvious someone he knows committed the ultimate crime.
April and Kellan are also celebrating their first Christmas and Hanukkah together, exchanging gifts based on the classic Twelve Days of Christmas song. While they trim the tree, light the menorah, and experience all the traditional holiday festivities with the kids, Nana D delivers her sarcastic brand of humor and endlessly tortures the town. Among Eleanor’s surprise news, Augie’s new girlfriend, and Myriam’s hilarious demands, Kellan’s dealing with unexpected holiday drama.
The poor guy simply wants to spend the merry season with his family before he’s forced to trek to Scotland to fulfill his promise to the late Constance Garibaldi. What kind of quest has the psychic sent him on now?
Review – 5 out of 5 stars!
Another spectacular installment in the Braxton Campus Mystery series! I love the series anyway and this installment did not disappoint at all!!
The plot was amazing. I totally did NOT see the villain as the villain. James did an amazing job with red herrings and providing plenty of viable suspects to choose from! So many different twists and turns in this plot – it kept me guessing right to the very end! It takes talent in writing to do that. Many authors make it too easy to guess the villain, even seasoned authors. I love it when I’m stumped all the way through! I also loved the side stories of Augie & Gia, April & Kellan’s 12 days of Christmas, etc. They add a lot of “flavor” to the story.
I love the characters in this series. Kellan, April, Myriam, Ursula, Augie, Emma, NanaD, Ulan, all of them. They’re well-rounded characters. They are funny and insightful and delightful to read about! Sometimes Myriam gets on my nerves with her straight-forward bullish tactics, but she’s growing on me. And Kellan’s growing more confidence to tell her no so it balances out!
All in all, a great new installment to the series! If you haven’t read this series before, you CAN read this as a stand-alone, but family and relationship dynamics would be better if you read from the start of the series, Academic Curveball. However you choose to do it, make sure this series is on your to-be-read list!!
About James J. Cudney
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media, hospitality, and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote short stories, poems, and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I committed to focusing my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing, and publishing.
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, mind, and body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels, and suspense thrillers. I conjure characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.
Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies, or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read two books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review, and post it on all my sites and platforms.
Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice, and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks,” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.
Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others, and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.
It’s springtime in Silver Hollow, Michigan, and Sasha is looking forward to the village’s inaugural Highland Fling weekend. Plans are underway for a Kilted 5K, athletic competitions, dancing, live music, and even a Hurl-the-Haggis contest. Meanwhile, Sasha’s staff is busy crafting custom teddy bears in kilts for the Silver Bear Shop’s vendor booth. But trouble’s brewing behind the scenes, as the obnoxious Teddy Hartman, former owner of a rival teddy bear company, sows seeds of discord about town, targeting Sasha’s family and their business.
Things go from plaid to worse when—just a week before the festival kicks-off—the disgruntled gossip is found murdered with an ax buried in his back. Sasha’s dad is arrested, since he’s a champion ax-thrower. But she doesn’t give a dram what it looks like—Sasha knows that despite the old business rivalry with Hartman, her father is innocent. So with a spot of help from her friends, Sasha must bag the real killer before her first Fling also becomes her last.
Review – 3.5 out of 5 stars
As much as I love this series and I love things about Scotland, including Highland Games, this book just wasn’t as good as others in the series in my opinion. It was still GOOD, but I felt it bogged down in the middle. It was well written other than the boggy parts.
I still love the characters. I’m excited for Sasha and Jay as they continue their relationship and life together. I love Sasha’s family and friends. I love the setting as I live near Ann Arbor and this city is kind of the combination of several cities in the area.
I still recommend this series and this installment was GOOD. I just didn’t think it was as great as some of the previous installments. It would help if you read the series from the beginning, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You can read this book as a stand-alone.
About Meg Macy
Award-winning mystery author Meg Macy lives in Southeast Michigan, close enough to Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and Dexter — the setting of her “Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear” cozy mysteries for Kensington. She is also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins mysteries; two books, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly and Get Me to the Grave On Time were Agatha Award finalists for Best Historical. Meg’s first published book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Best First Novel Spur Award from Western Writers of America. Meg loves reading historical and cozy mysteries, gardening, crafts, and watercolor painting.
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Hello! Here I am, very very late to the party. I was supposed to do this post LAST Monday and Sunday night my laptop wouldn’t cooperate and then I just forgot about it with the hustle and bustle of the week. 😦 😦 My apologies to the author!
About A Murder Yule Regret
A Murder Yule Regret (A Bread Shop Mystery) Cozy Mystery 7th in Series Publisher : Kensington Cozies (November 30, 2021) Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages ISBN-10 : 149673355X ISBN-13 : 978-1496733559 Digital ASIN : B08Y69YZKB
Freelance photographer and Yeast of Eden bakery assistant Ivy Culpepper has just scored the job of a lifetime shooting the Dickensian dress-up X-mas party thrown by It Girl film actress Eliza Fox . . . until an unwanted guest appears.
A holiday costume party in the sleepy coastal town of Santa Sofia could be just the boost Ivy needs for her fledgling photography business. At the party, Ivy enters a Victorian fantasy come to life, all courtesy of the fabulous Ms. Fox. Ivy gets to play shutterbug while hanging with Scrooge, Marley, the Cratchits, and more classic Dickens characters. But what begins as the best of times turns out to be the very worst for one of the party guests—a tabloid journalist with more enemies than Ebenezer himself.
When the man’s body is found sprawled across the jagged rocks below the house, the fingers begin pointing at Eliza. Meanwhile, Ivy gets roped into helping prove the starlet’s innocence. Her festive photos are now official evidence—and the Ghosts of Christmas Present could mean the party for Eliza is over, once and for all.
Review – 4 out of 5 stars
Before I get into my review in depth, I just wanted to say that I don’t give 5 stars very often. The book has to really go above and beyond in the storyline or in the way it touched me. 4 stars for me means I still really loved the book, it just didn’t quite hit the 5-star mark!
The book was great! It was one of the better installments in this series! I really enjoyed the storyline and the additional characters we met. There were PLENTY of red herrings in the story and it wasn’t until close to the end of the book that I put two and two together. I like the kind of mystery where I can’t solve it too easily. It makes it more fun!
The characters in this series are really well-rounded and in-depth characters. I like the characters. Characters are what make me come back to a series instead of being a one book and done read.
All in all a very fun new installment in the series. Of course series are always best when started from the beginning, but you can read this book as a stand-alone. A great start to my holiday cozy mysteries this year!
Author Interview with Winnie Archer
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Answer: I used to, but not anymore! I was a middle school teacher. Now I am fortunate to be able to write full-time. That being said, I’m a teacher at heart. Because of that, I created WriterSpark Writing Academy (you can find it on my website) and am in the process of launching the first course, 30 Days to Craft Your Novel. I am always busy!
Q2:Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Answer: I write daily, although I save the weekends for research and work on WriterSpark stuff. I aim for 2000-2500 words a day. Usually I get there.
I often use Brain FM while I’m writing. It’s a brain music app and it really does help me focus and stay in the zone!
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Answer: I fall somewhere in between on the plotting/pantsing spectrum. I generally have a broad overview of the story. I know who the victim is. I know a few possible scenarios for why the victim was killed. I generally know who the killer is, although sometimes that changes in the writing.
Once I start writing, my creative mind kicks into gear to fill in the nuances of the story.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Answer: Oh my gosh, I thought about throwing in the towel so many times! I started my first book in 2002 when my youngest son was born. I got many rejections back then (all via snail mail!). But I eventually signed with an agent (the same agent I still have), and in 2008, that book was published. A Murder Yule Regret is my 25th published book!
My passion for writing and my desire to share the stories in my head with others kept me going. I am a tenacious person, and I operate with the philosophy that I can do anything!
Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Answer: I have a pretty solid production plan. I generally write 2-3 books a year. I plot and plan, write, revise as I go, and again at the end, then off it goes to my editor. With her, we generally go through just one round of revisions.
With my Indie published series, my process is the same. The only difference is that I contract with an editor.
Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Answer: Sometimes there is real life inspiration for my villains! The plot in Death Gone a-Rye, in fact, was sort of ripped from the headlines of my life, and the villain was based on a real person. She was just as horrible in real life as she is in the book.
Generally, the villain evolves as the I create the actual crime/murder. From there, it falls into place.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Answer: My characters are sometimes influenced by character traits I observe in people I have met in real life. I pull bits and bops from real life, but in the end, my characters always evolve and become their own people.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Answer: Right now, I’m researching Tuatha Dé Danann, the supernatural race of gods and goddesses in Irish mythology. I’m writing about several of them in the context of my Book Magic mystery series, which is about a bibliomancer and a 2000 year old curse.I’m having so much fun creating the series arc using these people.
I can’t think beyond that because this is what I’m so wrapped up in at the moment!
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Answer: I’m really into memoirs and autobiographies lately! I’ve read (or listened to, because I love audio books!) Leah Remini’s Troublemaker, Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights, and I’m in the middle of Will Smith’s Will. Highly recommend all of them!
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Answer:Agatha Christie, for sure! I spent my childhood and young adulthood reading Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, and I graduated to Agatha Christie. These books and series were the beginning of my love of mysteries, which led to my writing of mysteries.
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please)
Answer: From my Bread Shop series, It would be a toss up between Olaya Solis and Penelope Branford. I want to be inspired by Mrs. Branford, who is spry and active and an inspiration to me. I want to be like her when I’m in my 80s. And Olaya is magical, and I’d love to have her teach me her traditional bread making techniques.
Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Answer:I do! I respond to 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, because I want to thank those people who really love my books.
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Greetings, friends! Today I’m hosting a spot on the Great Escapes Blog Tour for Fleece, Navi, Deadby Joanna Campbell Slan. I’m providing you with a guest post from the author and my review below that! I enjoy this series a lot and this latest installment did not disappoint!
In the third quarter of 2021, Etsy sales went up 12%. In this time of isolation, handmade items are more precious than ever. Knowing that your gift was crafted with love adds a special quality to any item, a humanity that’s almost tangible. In my humble opinion, we could all use a deeper connection to other people right now, especially as we are coming out of a pandemic that has forced us to view others as sources of viral danger.
My protagonist, Kiki Lowenstein, is a big believer in handmade presents. As the owner of Time in a Bottle, Kiki makes her living by encouraging people to explore crafting. I agree with Kiki, that handcrafted items are the best of all gifts. There are so many different reasons.
A handmade gift shows attention to detail: I know that when I am creating, I must pay attention to every decision, every motion, and every effort or my end product will suffer. My full devotion must be focused on getting things “just right,” or the final result won’t meet my standards.
Handmade gifts are typically planned for in advance. Anything handmade must be sourced, designed, created, and executed by a person. More than likely you must join a queue and wait your turn to have your gift made. If it is true that “it’s the thought that counts,” then a handmade gift should always count for more.
A handmade gift can often be personalized. That means that it can perfectly match the recipient’s needs. Whether you choose a favorite color or add initials or even an image, your gift pays homage to how unique the recipient is.
Handmade gifts are imperfect. To me, that’s not a flaw. That’s a sign that they were touched by humanity. Persian rug makers have a saying, “Only God is perfect.” In some ways, imperfections are the awkward proof that an item was made by a real person.
There’s a sense of the maker that comes with everything handmade. Somewhere, someone labored to create the gift you thoughtfully chose. Perhaps they put their kids to bed before bending their heads over their creations. Maybe they listened to music. In any case, they touched the article with their own hands. Perhaps they even designed the project themselves. Certainly, they chose the supplies.
These are only a few of the reasons that we all love handmade gifts. In the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, her patrons often make presents for other people. Their efforts mean that Kiki’s shop, Time in a Bottle, is alive with creativity, love, and friendship. I think that’s one reason people are giving Fleece, Navi, Dead: Book #16 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series a five-star rating.
Review – 5 out of 5 stars
As I said above, I really enjoy this series and this latest installment did not disappoint at ALL. I love Kiki, Detweiler, Clancy, Anya, and the rest of the cast. In this book, we get introduced to Wendy and to Nona and the other Miss Fits. The characters in this series are all very well-rounded and in-depth characters. I love reading a series because you get to know more and more about the characters with every book.
The plot line was great. While we knew who the villain was, the climax of the book was still surprising and exciting! I actually loved that this book was more than just a murder to be solved. It was a refreshing change from your basic murder-based cozy!
All in all, I really enjoyed this latest installment of Kiki and the rest of the gang. I highly recommend all the books in this series. Each can be read as a stand-alone, but of course it’s fun to read them in order too! The first book is Paper, Scissors, Dead. Either way you choose – run out and grab this series!!!
Thank you for joining me today for this tour! I apologize it was not up sooner. I had a death in the family over the weekend and everything in my brain went out the window. If you wish to visit other spots on the tour or need information on other Great Escapes Blog Tours – please click on the banner below.