The Convenient Cadaver – REVIEW & INTERVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars

Today I’m happy to be presenting a review of The Convenient Cadaver, the first book in the Grandma Bertha Solving Murders series by Matt Ferraz. This was a delightful read and I’m glad that Matt contacted me and asked me if I would read and review it!

Book Cover: Grandma Bertha Solving Murders: The Convenient Cadaver - Setting is a bedroom or living room - blue striped wallpaper and hardwood floors - wooden cabinet and an elderly woman sitting in an overstuffed chair knitting

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Synopsis

When Grandma Bertha moved to her son’s place, she brought along three dogs, several cases of beer and many, many horror film DVDs. While her daughter-in-law insists on the idea of sending Grandma Bertha to a retirement home, a dead girl appears near the house, shot three times in the back. Many years ago, Grandma Bertha let a murderer escape for not trusting in her own detective abilities. Now, armed with her wit and wisdom, she decides to solve that crime before the police. Could this crazy dog lady be a threat to a cold-blooded killer? And for how long can the family stand that situation?

Review

This was an absolutely delightful read! While it lacked that little extra pizzazz I like to bump it up to a 5-star read, it’s a very strong 4.5-star read!

I’m already completely in love with Grandma Bertha as a character. She’s smart, witty, a huge smart ass, and funny. The more we learn about her and her past, the more I love her. The rest of the characters in the book were well-developed. I do not like Lydia. I tried and tried to put myself in her shoes, but I just couldn’t do it. However, I also think that to a point, we’re not supposed to like her and Mr. Ferraz makes her difficult and demanding and easy not to like so I’d say that’s a success!

The plot line moves along at a decent pace. I never felt that it was too slow. While I successfully guessed part of the ending, there was part that was also a surprise to me. I don’t want to give it away tho’ so I’m not going to say anymore about that.

The setting descriptions were great. A great balance of just enough that I could imagine things easily and not too much.

I think what I loved most about this book was not just the mystery, which was interesting, but the fact that Grandma Bertha just is who she is. She doesn’t hide her true form.  She’s just herself even tho’ that makes Lydia and Todd frustrated with her. She’s not afraid to be her own person. Since that’s something I struggle with from time to time, it really resonated with me in this story.

I highly recommend this new cozy mystery and series. I’m excitedly awaiting the second book in the series!

Interview with Matt Ferraz

 

1) 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?

I teach English to Brazilian kids in my hometown, and have plans to become a university lecturer. I actually took a masters in the UK, but have to validate it on Brazil to be able to pursue my academic career. But I like what I’m doing now, it’s more interesting than sitting in an office filling paperwork.


2) 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?

Setting an aim is important to me, and I always do that, no matter what I’m writing. The Convenient Cadaver was written on a rush, because I was on the UK taking my masters and couldn’t afford flying home during the holidays. So I just wrote like crazy, always following a schedule. It works well for me.

Music doesn’t bother me that much, but I hate people chatting around me when I’m writing. I think it’s less because of the distraction, and more for knowing that they don’t respect my work enough to be quiet when I’m working, or at least go talk somewhere else.


3) Do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

A bit of both. When I start a book, I still don’t know the characters well enough to know how they are going to turn out. Some authors write profiles of their characters before they even start writing the book – I could never do that! It’d be like writing a symphony on the sheets without actually listening to its sound. What I do is I write about fifteen thousand words and only then start to outline. By then I know what I want to do with each character.


4) 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?

Fun fact: I got traditionally published in the UK and in Italy, but never in my home country Brazil. The closer I got was a publishing house that took two years to read my manuscript and then asked for 14.000 reais (around 4.300 dollars) out of my pocket to publish it!

My novel Killing Dr. Watson was released in 2016 by MX Publishing, an amazing British company that only deals with Sherlock Holmes-related books. Since my novel was built around Holmes fandom, they took me and did a great job with my book. While in the UK, I took a workshop about Amazon self-pubilshing and decided to try that with The Convenient Cadaver.

Thoughts of quitting? Not really. Writing is too deep inside me, and I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes I wish I was an engineer or an attorney so I could make more money than I do today, but I’d still be writing.


5) 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?

I revise the first draft about three times before giving it to my best beta reader: my fiancée Alana. Then I need to have it edited and proofread – which is crucial, for I’m writing in a second tongue. I have a wonderful editor, Makenzi Crouch, who does that for me.

Line of blue, red, and green sharpened pencils
© Graphic Garden

6) 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?

How to answer this without spoiling the ending? Let’s say I don’t like villains who do bad stuff just because they’re evil. My villains are people who have qualities, but that are put in a situation where they have to do evil things.


7) Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Grandma Bertha is actually a composition of my two grandmothers and my friend Silvia. From my Grandma Edite, I took the whole situation of having an older relative living in one’s house, and how that can be difficult but also nice and funny. The tender relationship between Grandma Bertha and her grandson is taken from me and my Grandma Eva. And from Silvia, who sadly passed away before she could read the book, I took the part of an old lady who loves beer, dogs and horror movies.


8) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

My dissertation was about the life of a Russian painter named Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who escaped Russia during the February Revolution and became a painter for hire in the United States. She did the final portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – he had a stroke posing for her and died shortly after! I have a ton of material on Elizabeth, and hope to write a book on her one day.


9) What are some great books you’ve read recently?

I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie this year, specially the Miss Marple novels. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side and The Moving Finger are my favorites. I also read Colm Toibin’s amazing novel Brooklyn, which became a great movie with the talented Saoirse Ronan.


10) What books have influenced your life the most?

Stephen King’s books have always been very important to me. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be a writer today. Books like IT and Four Seasons made me realize that being a writer was not only a possibility, but a beautiful thing to aspire. Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile was also a landmark for me – the first novel for grown-ups I ever read. And we had a series of books in Brazil named Coleção Vagalume (Firefly Collection) which I devoured when I was a kid. They had everything, from adventure to sci-fi, mystery and even political thriller for young teens!

Line of blue, red, and green sharpened pencils
© Graphic Garden

11) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day? 

I’d like to spend some time with Lydia, Grandma Bertha’s daughter in law, sit down with her and listen to what she had to say. My readers usually think Lydia is a pain, but I think she’s going through a lot of pressure and could use a friend.


12) 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?

I read them very quickly, and usually just once. It’s enough for me to see something that needs to be improved on the next one, and also what I have done right so far.


13) Do you have any hobbies? What are they?

Not really hobbies, but I do have a ton of obsessions. They come and go. I do have a collection of porcelain penguins, if that counts.

 


14) Do you like to travel? What has been your favorite location so far?

I’ve never been much of a traveler, but I did some trips while I was living in the UK. The coolest place I’ve ever been, by far, was Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town, where I went to watch Hamlet on the stage. That was a blast! I had plans to visit the locations where the Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford were shot, but that didn’t work out. But now that I’m back in Brazil, there’s no shortage of beautiful places to go!

Blog Tour – Magick & Mayhem – REVIEW

Large Banner: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Presents Magick & Mayhem by Sharon Pape, May 1-May 14, 2017 - includes a picture of the author and the cover of the book.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Today, I’m happy to bring you a spot in the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Magick & Mayhem, the first book in the Abracadabra Mystery series by Sharon Pape. It’s a decent start to a new series.

Book Cover: Magick & Mayhem: An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape - dark aqua background - large black cat with green eyes outlined with a city inside the body with yellow letters for the title.

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Synopsis

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!

Review

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

Author Sharon Pape - Older caucasian woman with auburn hair, wide eyes with no glasses, and a smile wearing a dark grey or black jacket.

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.

Author Links

Webpage – Facebook –  Pinterest – Twitter

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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!

Medium Banner: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Presents: Magick & Mayhem by Sharon Pape - May 1-May 14, 2017 - includes the cover of the book

Terror in Taffeta – REVIEW

3.5 out of 5 stars

Today, I’m reviewing Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper. Terror in Taffeta is the first book in the Destination Weddings series. It’s a solid beginning to the series and I’m looking forward to reading more from the author.

A mystery: Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper - book cover has blue background with stylized flowers and Day of the Dead skulls. There's a bride holding a bouquet with a few petals dropping

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Brief Synopsis

Wedding planner Kelsey McKenna is just a few hours away from wrapping up her latest job: a destination wedding in the charming, colonial Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. The reception is all set up, the tequila donkey is waiting outside, and the bride and groom are standing on the altar, pledging their eternal love. But just as the priest is about to pronounce them husband and wife, one of the bridesmaids upstages the couple by collapsing into a floral arrangement. Worst of all, Kelsey discovers that she hasn’t just fainted – she’s dead. The demanding mother of the bride, Mrs. Abernathy, insists Kelsey not tell the wedding party; she paid for a wedding after all, not a funeral.

Losing a bridesmaid is bad enough, but when the bride’s sister is arrested for murder, Mrs. Abernathy demands that Kelsey fix the matter at once. And although she’s pretty sure investigating a murder isn’t in her contract, crossing the well-connected mother of the bride could be a career-killer. Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey must deal with stubborn detectives, another dead body, and a rekindled romance in this smart, funny cozy debut perfect for fans of Carolyn Haines.

Mexican Day of the dead sugar skull with hot pink, neon blue, and orange flowersLine of sand, cactus & sunshineMexican Day of the dead sugar skull with hot pink, neon blue, and orange flowers
Sun/Cactus line © Country Clipart by Lisa

Review

For the most part, I enjoyed this book.

As far as the characters go, I liked Kelsey’s character a lot and Brody, her friend and often the photographer for the weddings she plans/coordinates. They’re both complex characters, though we haven’t perhaps seen all of their complexity yet given the fact that this is book one in the series!  The mother of the bride on the other hand, I just want to slap silly. Some of that I believe is by design. She’s supposed to be obnoxious and overbearing. However, there were times when she seemed a bit over the top to me and I really just wanted to give her a “Gibbs’ slap” (NCIS) to the back of the head!

I enjoyed the Mexican setting. I perhaps would’ve liked a little bit more description of the setting and the foods they were eating, but it wasn’t like it was overly sparse. It’s actually rare for me to say there’s not enough setting description, but I felt like that quite often in this book. I just couldn’t quite get the scenes to be vivid in my imagination as I usually can.

The story line, in my opinion, moved just a bit too slowly. Now that I’ve finished the book, I see why a particular character was so important, but up until the end of the book I just kept thinking, “What the heck has this character have to do with anything?!”. I was tempted to skip to the end a couple of times, but I managed to resist the temptation.

Overall, I did enjoy the story. I’m looking forward to reading the second one in the series, Dying on the Vine. I’ll be hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for it on March 28th!

** I received an ARC of this title from the author. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **

Teddy bear couple with hugging with hearts surrounding them  Stylized word   lovecl9
All three images are © Graphic Garden

About the Author

Author, Marla Cooper - Middle-aged white woman with reddish brown short hair, oval shaped face, no glasses, wearing a sleeveless navy blouse with white dotsMARLA COOPER is the author of the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat.