Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene–and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father. It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet. Time’s running out in this deadly cat-and-mouse game in Cat Got Your Secrets, the delightfully funny third novel in Julie Chase’s Kitty Couture mystery series, perfect for “all those feline fanciers who love to read Rita Mae Brown” (Suspense Magazine).
I loved this newest installment of the Kitty Couture mysteries. Lacy still gets me a little riled sometimes when she does stupid things without thinking, but she’s gotten at least a little better at that than she was before. Not much, but a little.
While it was true that we had a murder in this one, the blackmail was really the intriguing part of the mystery. The story moved along at a decent pace and stayed on track nicely.
I look forward to seeing what else Lacy gets into in further installments in the series!
** Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC I received. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **
About the Author
Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. Learn more about Julie Anne Lindsey here.
Thanks for joining me today for a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Cat Got Your Secrets. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click the banner below. The banner will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of participants!
Today, I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril, the first in a new series by J.A. Hennrikus. There will also be an interview with the author after my review!
When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company. For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crimes and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director.
But when her best friend is arrested for killing his father, the rich and powerful Peter Whitehall, no one is looking for another suspect. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a killer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband gets on the suspect list and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.
This was an absolutely delightful book! It didn’t quite have the pizzazz I look for to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a solid 4.5 in my opinion.
The characters in this series are great. There was only once where the main character did something absolutely stupid and unsafe. The rest of the time she was well-behaved. Obviously there are some risks in trying to solve a mystery, it just bugs me when the heroine goes off and does stupid stuff or disregards all thoughts of safety. The side characters were fun too. Everyone was well-developed and complex.
The plot line moved along quite well. I’d say steady-fast. It wasn’t so fast that you couldn’t keep up, but it definitely moved along. I had absolutely no idea who the villain was until it was revealed. Honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar, so that was a great twist for me.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next installment whenever that might be!
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I run an arts service organization for the New England theater community called StageSource (www.StageSource.org). I’ve worked in arts management for my entire career, and really love what I do. The work I am doing now is particularly rewarding, because it is a behind the scenes organization that supports the entire community.
I also teach arts management classes, which I also enjoy. It is a challenge keeping everything in the air, but worth it.
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I really, really try to carve out time every day, but that isn’t always possible. Usually I do marathon days on the weekends. When I write, I try and get a scene done, so the word count can vary. I need background noise while I write. I usually have a show on that I’ve seen before, so I don’t pay attention but the voices are with me. MIDSOMER MURDERS is my current writing companion.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am a plotter. A serious plotter. I start with characters, and an idea for the overall story. Then I write it down, and keep writing down the barebones until there is a frame for the entire story. Then I write it all down on plot cards, and use dramatic structure to make sure it will work.
Do characters hijack my stories? Yes, and I love that. I have characters that were supposed to be in one book, and they end up being series regulars. If a character hijacks the story too much, I make a note of it. That character obviously wants their own story, and isn’t good about sharing.
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Years ago I joined Sisters In Crime, and that made all the difference in my writing life. Not only did I meet people who understood my journey, I took classes to hone my craft, went to conferences to build my network, and made friends. Wonderful friends, including my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors (WickedCozyAuthors.com): Barbara Ross, Sherry Harris, Liz Mugavero aka Cate Conte, Jessica Estaveo aka Jessie Crockett aka Jessica Ellicott, and Edith Maxwell aka Maddie Day.
A CHRISTMAS PERIL was the first book I tried to sell. I’d written other books, but they are in drawers, and they will stay there. I got lovely rejections for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, but didn’t find an agent or a publisher. Then I was offered the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. The idea came from an editor, and I “auditioned” to write the series. The third book, CHIME AND PUNISHMENT, just came out. With that track record, I wrote a proposal for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, and very happily for me, Midnight Ink bought the series. Proving the adage, dreams do come true, but sometimes the path isn’t a straight one.
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I plot very heavily, and that helps me with a fairly polished first draft. I do a read through, and then send it out to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. He gets it back to me with notes. Then I do at least two more deep edits on the book
Usually, I have been in a writing loop where one draft bleeds into another. For the manuscript I just turned in, I gave it a chance to “rest”, and that made all the difference. I am trying to incorporate more rest periods in my writing, which is tough given that I write two books a year.
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Working in theater has been a gift to me for regarding characters. Every actor will tell you that they have to find something redeeming about their characters in order to play them. Villains don’t think that they are villains.
In mysteries, villains are driven to commit a crime, and usually they can justify that. I will confess, when I first wrote A CHRISTMAS PERIL I had another villain in mind, but after I worked on it for a while I realized I had the wrong killer.
Most of my characters, including my villains, have parts of people I know in them. The villains? I’ll never tell.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Between borrowing names and creating characters, there is a lot of my real life that shows up in my fiction. Happily, so far, it has worked out. I am also very fortunate in that I know and work with a lot of people, so there is a lot to draw from. Usually, it is a quirk, or a trait, or an experience that I borrow.
I was once in a very volatile meeting, and I kept my cool throughout. A colleague followed me into my office, and demanded to know how I always kept so calm. I told her that I plotted a murder during the meeting, and that helped. Then I smiled, so she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t, of course.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: What an interesting question! I think about that. I have friends who write historical fiction, and I applaud them their research and attention to detail. I don’t think I could do it.
I do think about non-fiction, and some of the extraordinary women who we don’t know enough about. I’m not sure I would write about a specific woman as much as I would write about a time. We are coming up to the centennial of white women getting the right to vote in the United States. (It took women of color longer.) That subject fascinates me.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am on a summer reading binge of Louise Penny, and I am enjoying it tremendously. I had never read her before, so I have catching up to do!
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: My life or my writing? My writing has been influenced by Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth George and others. Specific books? If you could see my triple shelved bookshelves, you’d know I can’t answer that question, at least not easily!
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I would spend the day with Sully. We’d go to the Beef and Ale, have burgers and fries, and a good local brew. I hope we’d have charming actors like Steward Tracy joining us. Then we’d go back over, and watch rehearsal for a while. We’d end up back at her carriage house, drinking wine and talking about the show.
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?
Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Again, my theater life helps me with this a bit. I don’t seek reviews out. If I happen upon one, I may read it, but I likely won’t. Reviews are useful when they are constructive, but “like” or “don’t like” are matters of opinion. The reviews that matter to me are the reviews I get from my editors, and folks who read my manuscripts, because I can still change the work. Once it is published, there’s nothing I can do.
The only way I engage with reviewers is to thank them. It is a lot of work, and a service to authors and readers.
A huge thank you to J.A. Hennrikus for being willing to answer my questions! Thanks for joining me today on the latest stop of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where you will find a list of participants and links to their blogs.
When a medical helicopter is blasted out of the sky, a dying tycoon’s hope for a heart transplant is dashed. But that’s just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree that leaves Afton Tangler, family liaison officer, and the Minneapolis PD reeling. Vicious crime boss Mom Chao Cherry has sworn to avenge her husband’s death and recover her stolen narcotics – and nothing can stop her.
This was definitely a non-cozy mystery and definitely suspenseful, but I’m not sure I’d consider it a thriller. It didn’t really have the fast-paced story line that I’m used to having in a thriller. It moved along steadily, it just didn’t seem as fast-paced as most thrillers I’ve read. Overall, it’s a good book, but it wasn’t real fast-paced (tho’ it wasn’t slow either) and I felt the ending was a bit anti-climatic, which is why I only gave it a 4-star rating.
This is my first book in the series and I will be going back to read the first one in the series at some point. I enjoyed the characters a lot. Max and Afton seem to play off of each other well as far as figuring things out. Technically, Afton’s not supposed to be doing that type of police work as she’s not officially an officer, but they work really well together so Max lets her tag along a lot more than he’s “supposed” to. They’re both well-rounded and developed characters. I think the more the series progresses, the more complexity we’ll see in them.
The plot line definitely was interesting! I was not at all bored reading this book which is a definite plus. It moves along steadily and has some sub-plots going on to help keep it moving along, but as I stated above, I felt the ending was a bit anti-climatic for the suspense level throughout the book. I don’t want to spoil it though.
Overall, this is a well-written, good book and I would recommend it as a suspense novel if you’re at all interested in that genre. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your opinion on the ending!
About the Author
Gerry Schmitt is the author of the just-released novel Shadow Girl, the second book in her Afton Tangler Thriller series. Under the pen name Laura Childs, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In Gerry’s previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show.
Before I get on to the questions, I just wanted to say “Thank you!” to Ms. Schmitt for being willing to answer my questions! It’s always a thrill to me when authors agree to answer the questions I send out, whether through a blog tour or not!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: Nope. I sold my ad agency to my business partner 14 years ago and never looked back. I’ve always been a professional writer, so switching to novel writing was very natural to me.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write sporadically?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: I write every day, all day. I currently write 4 different series, the Afton Tangler Thrillers under my own name, and the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries under the pen name Laura Childs. So writing every day (and many evenings) is what it takes to get all this accomplished!
Q3:When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” your stories or do you feel like you’re in control?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: Since I always begin my books with an 80 to 100 page outline, I always remain in total control. Also, since my books are all continuing series, I pretty much know what I need to do with my characters – how far I can push them or subject them to stress.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world?
Ms. Schmitt’s response:I had a dear friend who put me in touch with mystery great Mary Higgins Clark. Mary invited me to the Mystery Writers of American Symposium in New York and was kind enough to introduce me to several editors and agents. My career took off with zero rejections, thank goodness.
Q5: How many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: Since I start with a tight outline, I really don’t do revisions as such. I begin my outline on a large sheet of paper and plug in all my actions, characters, and turning points. I transfer that to my computer and run the outline up to about 100 pages. When it feels right, I go back to chapter one and write my book straight through. Once I’m finished, I set the book aside for a couple of weeks, then I go through it 2 or 3 more times to punch it up. You know, there hasn’t been a thing written that couldn’t use a little punching up. And, yes, my Penguin Random House team takes over from there.
Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: For me, the easiest character to write is a villain. You can make them evil, conniving, greedy, angry, arrogant . . . all the sociopathic things that most people are not. And think about it, aren’t villains kind of fun? Think Hannibal Lecter. Or the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood. See what I mean?
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, etc. show up in your work?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: Not yet. But if they misbehave, you never know . . .
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical, who would you write about?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: Coco Chanel. A claw-her-way-to-the-top orphan turned dressmaker who, at age 64, took a Nazi lover during World War II. Coco famously bragged: “When a woman my age has a chance to take a lover, she does not ask to see his passport.” Now that’s some kind of crazy!
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: I loved Golden Prey by John Sandford, The Girls by Emma Cline, and Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich.
Q10: What books have influenced your life most?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: I’d have to say the Nancy Drew books I read as a kid. They just knocked me out and made me yearn to become a mystery writer. I mean, The Inn of the TwistedCandles or The Tolling Bell! How can you resist books like that?
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book(s), who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: I’d probably spend the day with Theodosia from the Tea Shop Mysteries. She could give me tea making tips. Lord knows, I could use some!
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?
Ms. Schmitt’s response: To be honest, the only reviews I really look at are the ones that run in Publisher’s Weekly and major newspapers, and those tend to be quite favorable. I suppose there are occasional bad reviews on Amazon, but for goodness sake, people are entitled to their opinion. I’m certainly not wild about every book I read. And some books are so abysmal I don’t bother finishing them!
Thank you again to Ms. Schmitt for being willing to answer all my questions and with some great answers! That wraps up my stop on the blog tour. If you’d like to visit other sites on the blog tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page with the list of blogs that will be featuring Ms. Schmitt’s book!
Twenty-something Kailyn Wilde has learned to embrace her unpredictable life as a descendant of small-town New Camel’s most magickal family. She just didn’t expect to inherit her mother and grandmother’s centuries-old shop, Abracadabra, so suddenly. The surprises keep coming when Kailyn goes to finalize the estate at the local attorney’s office—and stumbles over the body of her best friend Elise’s husband . . .
As a brash detective casts the blame on Elise, Kailyn summons her deepest powers to find answers and start an investigation of her own. What with running a business, perfecting ancient spells, and keeping up with an uninvited guest of fabled origins, Kailyn has her hands full. But with the help of her uncanny black cat Sashkatu and her muumuu-clad Aunt Tilly, she’s closing in on a killer—who will do anything to make sure she never tests her supernatural skills again!
While this is definitely a decent start to this new series, Magick & Mayhem, almost didn’t make the cut for me. I found it to be very disjointed and confusing at the beginning. However, I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first half, which redeemed it a bit.
The characters are definitely interesting. Kailyn’s certainly fun and inquisitive. Aunt Tilly & Merlin add some extra spice to the group. They’re fairly well-rounded characters, though it didn’t really seem like it at first. At first, they simply seemed all over the place and not developed at all. I’m not a fan of the heroine who decides that she must poke her nose in when she really doesn’t have that much of a reason. I can see where Kailyn thinks she has a reason, but honestly, until her friend is actually arrested, it seems pretty flimsy at best.
The descriptions of the settings were okay, but not great. I had a hard time imagining many of the settings, including Kailyn’s shop and house. It would’ve helped to have a little more detail there.
The story line… thankfully it got better as the book went on. The first half of the book, I was very confused by the secondary plot and found that getting in the way of the main plot line. The longer the book went on, however, the better the two plot lines merged and successfully played off of each other. I also did not know who the villain was until it was revealed. I was off on the wrong track completely.
Normally, when I’m reading a new book, I give the book 50-100 pages to reel me in (depending on the length of the book). However, when I’m reading a book for review, I don’t do that for the most part (there has been one exception to that). In this instance, I’m glad I didn’t stop reading because it did get better the longer it went on and by the end of the book I actually found myself enjoying it!
I do recommend this book, mostly because it gives a decent introduction to the characters that we’re sure to see in the future. I do plan to give the series another try when the second book comes out in November. I’m hoping that the writing style of that book will be more like the second half of this one when everything was starting to finally gel together.
*** Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***
About the Author
I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to put letters together to form words. From that day forward, writing has been a part of my life whether it was my first attempt at a novel in seventh grade or the little plays I wrote for my friends to perform for neighbors and family. After college, when I was busy teaching French and Spanish to high school students, I was also writing poetry — some of it in French.
After several years, I left teaching to be a full-time mom, and when my two children started school, I went back to writing. To my delight I found that the muse was still there, still waiting patiently for me to come around. My first novel, Ghostfire, was published at that time. It went on to be condensed in Redbook magazine (the first paperback original the magazine had ever condensed.) Then came The God Children and The Portal. Redbook also published my first short story, which was subsequently sold to several foreign magazines. With two great kids, a golden retriever and a loving, supportive husband (whom I’d met at the beach when I was fourteen — but that’s a story for another day), I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be in my life. But fate had another plan for me, and it went by the name of “breast cancer.”
Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was that the cancer was discovered at such an early stage, but at the time it was all very overwhelming. Once I was back on my feet, I wanted to help other women who were newly diagnosed, worried and afraid. I became a Reach to Recovery volunteer for the American Cancer Society and went on to run the program for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. A number of years later, with the help of my surgical oncologist and two other volunteers, I started Lean On Me, a nonprofit organization that provides peer support and information to breast cancer patients. When Lean On Me celebrated its tenth anniversary it no longer required as much of my time, and I once again found myself free to pursue my first love — writing.
Thanks for joining me today on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Magick & Mayhem! Click on the banner below to go to the main tour page where you can find information about all the stops on the tour!
This picture book for older readers tells the story of how the racism protest song “Strange Fruit” came into being in 1939. This is also the story of two outsiders – Billie Holiday, a young black woman raised in poverty, and Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants – whose combined talents created a truly unforgettable song. (Source: Goodreads)
The first thing you notice in this book are the illustrations. They are vibrant and seemingly leap from the pages. They’re sort of brash and crazy, but they’re absolutely beautiful and just right for this book. I’m not sure of the medium. They appear to be either oil paint or pastels. Perhaps even oil pastels. Whatever was used, the broad strokes and vibrant colors combine just perfectly.
The story line of the book is well told and moves along at a decent pace. The prose is well written and it’s definitely a story that deserves to be, even needs to be told. It’s not a real nice story as far as “happy ever after” and making you smile all the way through, but it’s a needed story and a well written one. It will make you think. It may cause difficult discussions between you and any children you read it with, but it’s an important story to tell and an important piece of history (and unfortunately, to a point, part of current events as well) that needs to be discussed.
The only reason this picture book did not get 5 stars from me is because I felt that at times, the text was difficult to read because of the vibrant illustrations and the small font used. Now, I did read this book as an eBook and not in print format. Perhaps it is easier to read the text in the print format. Other than that small issue, this book is phenomenal and I highly recommend it to everyone. Those who are fans of Billie Holiday will certainly appreciate it, but I believe that it’s a great book for everyone, not just those who are fans.
*** I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***
About the Author and Illustrator
Gary Golio is an artist and acclaimed picture book author. His Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow was a New York Times bestseller.
Charlotte Riley-Webb, a professional visual artist with a career that spans more than 40 years, resides in the Atlanta area.