Welcome to another day and another tour! I love doing these Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours! They expose me to great authors and new series. Today’s tour is for Vangie Vale and the Strangled Strudel, the third book in the The Matchbaker Mysteries by R.L. Syme. I had mixed feelings about this book, which I’ll share below the guest post that R. L. Syme generously provided me! Enjoy!
R.L. Syme’s Guest Post
On Facebook, I have a wonderful group of Vangie’s friends who all congregate with me to talk about the books and our lives. We occasionally talk about Vangie, and as I was preparing for this book tour, I asked them if they had any topics for me to talk about in my guest posts. I borrowed some of their questions to write about. Here are some of the ones they posted.
* Why can’t Vangie and the sheriff get along…?
I wondered if this would be a popular question, among the fans of the books. Vangie and Malcolm have sort of a love/hate relationship in the first three books, but there are definitely a swath of fans who are rooting for them to get past their differences and start a romantic relationship.
And I don’t blame them one bit. Malcolm is a hottie.
But of course, so is Derek. Her current boyfriend.
But let me take a serious stab at answering this question. I want to be honest in that Malcolm’s issues are just as much at play here as Vangie’s. In fact, maybe even more so. I think Vangie is curious about her neighbor, the Sheriff, and she finds him interesting. She finally feels like they are friends. But Malcolm is not a church guy, and he specifically has issues with pastors. You’ll find out more about those issues later. For Vangie’s part, though, she’s dating Derek.
* Where did she get her quirky charm?
That is a great question. I feel like it’s a combination of using sarcasm to deal with the difficult things in her life, and her personality making her different. She has a quick mind, too, so she does find herself speaking quickly, because she’s thinking quickly. That’s probably what I would attribute it to.
* What was her relationship with her mother like?
This is a great question. She lost her mother when she was a teenager, so she did have several years with her. But she had a solid relationship with her mom. She and Priscilla were both close with their mother, and it was part of what made the girls so close as they got older. She’s not very close with Laura—the woman her father married a few years after her mother died—and she doesn’t consider Laura to really be her stepmother, since Laura didn’t really raise her. But she’s glad her dad is happy.
These were great questions. It was a lot of fun seeing what Vangie’s fans wanted to know about her.
Thank you to R.L. Syme for providing me with the guest post for today! Here’s information about the book followed by my review!
You could call it the straw that broke the camel’s back but it was more like a Montana forest timber.
Just when Vangie Vale’s life was getting back to normal after a murder that rocked her little Rocky Mountain tourist town, she found herself in the middle of another murder… as the chief suspect.
Vangie stood shocked on the side of the curb as the sheriff stretched yellow crime scene tape around the front of her new bakery. Wouldn’t this make a lovely headline in next week’s paper: Local Baker Kills Parishioner With Pudding. Vangie’s road back to good graces as a part-time pastor was bumpy enough already. This would be a roadblock. Can’t have that.
4.0 out of 5 stars.
As I said above, I had mixed feelings about this book. I like Vangie as a character. I like Derek and I really love Malcolm. But Vangie’s tendency to be impulsive and not THINK when she goes to investigate drives me batty. I’ve read through all three books in this series hoping that over time she’d learn to at least stop to THINK before she rushes headfirst into danger, but so far she hasn’t.
The book is well-written and the plot line was great. I had no real ideas about who had done the crime until it was revealed at the end. Ms. Syme did a really great job with the villain. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not easy to write the type of villain that she had in this story and Ms. Syme did a fantastic job with it.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue with the series at this point. But I don’t want to dissuade my readers from it because it IS well-written and the characters are great. I just hate heroines who don’t think before rushing into danger. That’s my personal preference and has no bearing on my rating of the writing. If that type of heroine doesn’t bother you, then I recommend this series highly!
Thanks for joining me today! If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below to visit the main tour page!
Welcome! Today, I’m hosting a stop on another Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. Today’s tour is for Murder on the Toy Town Express, the 2nd in the Vintage Toyshop Mystery series by Barbara Early. I found it to be a delightfully fun read! Stay tuned after my review for an interview with the author!
Liz McCall has come to love running her father’s vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she’s all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend. The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers. But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.
What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister. Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she’s shocked to learn her father may have been the intended target.
The trouble train is barreling down and Liz may have just bought herself a first class ticket in Murder on the Toy Town Express, Barbara Early’s delightful second installment in her Vintage Toyshop mysteries.
This was a delightful Christmas read! I love model trains to begin with, so I was looking forward to reading this one. I was not disappointed. 🙂 I have not read the first book in the series, but I did not have any trouble following the story line or knowing who each of the characters were.
I enjoyed our main characters. Liz is a great heroine. She does take some risks, but they’re calculated and she at least attempts to take someone with her to help with safety, even if that doesn’t always work as well as she hopes. I like both Ken and Jack. We’ll see down the line who ends up being the winner of Liz’s affections.
I enjoyed the setting and the descriptions very much. My best friend lives in Buffalo, NY, so I’m somewhat familiar with the area. It was nice to visit the area in the book and know about some of the places and things they were talking about.
The plot line moved along at a steady pace and while I wondered about the villain, I wasn’t positive about them until just before it was revealed.
All in all, it was a fun book to read and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series!
First, I’d like to say thank you to Ms. Early for being willing to answer my questions!
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. Early’s Answer: I’m happy to saw I don’t have a day job, which is good because I’ve grown accustomed to working in my pajamas, and some employers frown on that. I do, however have four cats who think I’m their bondservant, so…
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. Early’s Answer: I tend to write in 1000 word spurts. By the end of 1000 words, my brain needs a break. Depending on how close I am to a deadline, I might repeat that process one, two, or more times. I can have music in the background, as long as it’s soft and instrumental, but I don’t need it to write. As to whether I write every day, ideally I would, but real life has a nasty habit of intervening.
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?
Ms. Early’s Answer: I like to think I use a mix of the two. I definitely outline the mystery plot carefully. I can’t imagine making sure all the clues were buried and all the elements in place—and in the proper order—without one. There’s a certain cadence I want to achieve, and a balance of mystery, excitement, and humor that I feel help keep a story moving along.
I do, on the other hand, leave certain elements open for the characters to “decide” on their own. Any romantic subplots, for instance. In those cases, my outline might tell me who’s in a scene, but instead of trying to cram words into their mouths, I try to predict how they would respond and what they would say when put into that situation. They’ve surprised me more than once!
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. Early’s Answer: My journey may be a little different from many other writers. I didn’t initially set out to be a writer. It started out as a fun diversion for me, but the more I did it, the more interested (and maybe a little obsessed) I became in the process and in finding ways to improve my writing. I’d heard, of course, that it can be incredibly hard to be published, so instead of making that my goal, I decided just to keep working, keep improving, and see how far it would take me. I learned something through every setback, though honestly, I didn’t have a lot of rejections.
There’s not anything about the writing process that made me want to give up before I got published. The business aspects of being a professional writer, however, are a whole different set of skills and provide a new set of frustrations, and I will admit being tempted to quit since I’ve been published. Not sure those characters in my head will let me, though, and usually a box of shiny new books, a letter from a reader, or a kind review will shake me out of the idea.
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. Early’s Answer: I go through so many revisions, I’m not sure I can count them all. Before the book gets to editors, I have a critique group that works through some chapters, although there’s never enough time to finish the whole book. (Which is my sneaky way of ensuring at least six sales, since they all want to know how it ends!) I have a few beta readers I can call on, and my husband is kind enough to go through my books several times as well, at various stages of the process.
Ideally, I do like to let a manuscript rest after finishing the draft. Deadlines don’t always allow for that.
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. Early’s Answer: This might sound unsettling, but I don’t know that killers are all that much different from any other character—or from you and me. An example I like to use is Sheriff Andy Taylor—from the old television show. One could hardly find a more friendly and innocuous fellow. When I teach a workshop on creating villains, I ask the class if they can imagine any situation in which he would become a killer. They think for a good while, then hands start going up. Yes, if anyone touched Opie or Aunt Bee, he’d be on them in a shot.
So in creating a villain, I create a character, then imagine what back story or pressing circumstance would lend a strong enough motive to this—otherwise normal—person to kill. I actually think cozy mysteries lend themselves to the most chilling villains, in that they’re not some predictable psycho stalker with pictures all over his wall, but a neighbor or colleague. They’re, as Mr. Rogers would say, the people in your neighborhood.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Early’s Answer: It’s almost impossible to create a fictional character out of thin air. What we know about people is all derived from those we meet. That being said, I try to borrow elements of different people and mix and match them to create something new. (Kind of like those old books with the cut pages, where you could get the head of one character, the torso of another, and the legs of a third.) I’ll also sometimes name a character after someone, especially if they ask nicely and it seems to fit the character, but that’s not to imply it is that person. Just namesakes.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Early’s Answer: That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I have an answer to that one. I started out writing fan fiction for Monk, and he was a lot of fun to write. Would I go back? Not sure. I think I’m having too much fun creating new people.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Early’s Answer: I recently finished Rhys Bowen’s On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service. Up next is Laura Levine’s newest Jaine Austen book.
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Early’s Answer: In my entire life? I’d probably say the Bible and Nancy Drew.
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. Early’s Answer: I’d be playing board games with Liz McCall. Seems she and I share that common interest. (Valerie’s Note: Me too!!!)
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?
I peek at reviews. I don’t always read them. I generally don’t respond, and NEVER to a bad review. I’ve made tweaks based on well-thought-out critical reviews—for example, someone said they loved the two older ladies in Death of a Toy Soldier and hoped they would be back. I hadn’t intended to return them, but I added them into a short scene in the second book, and brought them back into the third.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a truly negative review that held anything learnable. Much of what they say is subjective. What one reader hated, others loved, so you can’t please everyone.
Thank you again, Ms. Early, for agreeing to answer my questions today! Thank you to my wonderful readers for stopping by today and reading today’s review and post! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below to visit the main tour page with a list of tour participants!
Hello! Today I’m honored to bring you a stop along the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for the book The Connecticut Corpse Caper by Tyler Colins. Not only will I be featuring a review of the book, but I will also be presenting an interview with the author, Tyler Colins!
The antics of seven inheritance recipients during a week-long stay at a haunted Connecticut estate are detailed by Jill Jocasta Fonne. The will of a deceased relative, wacky Aunt Mat, stipulates that if anyone leaves early, his or her share will be divided among those remaining. As it happens, one does leave permanently when he dies hours after arrival. Disappearing corpses, hidden passageways, and ghoulish pranks have Jill and best friends, Rey and Linda, seeking clues as to the person responsible for the mysterious goings-on. Others soon join in the sleuthing, and the bumbling and stumbling-and mayhem-begin.
The Connecticut Corpse Caper is the first book in the new Triple Threat Mystery series by Tyler Colins. It’s a good, solid start to the series.
I like the three main characters in this series, though in this first book, they were just three of several viable murder suspects and potential victims. I think Rey, Jill, and Linda will make an excellent private investigative team and I look forward to reading more about them. I did know who the villain was fairly early on – or at least one of them. It was nice to get to see that I was right in the end, though.
This book really needed the more in-depth style of setting descriptions and Ms. Colins delivered beautifully. There was only one time I was a little confused about which secret passageway led to which room, but for the most part, Ms. Colins’ descriptions made it easy to follow.
I felt the plot line dragged a bit here and there, but it wasn’t horrible. It was, however, part of the reason I only gave the book 4 stars instead of 5. All in all it was a decent start to the series and I do look forward to reading more from this author.
*** Thank you to Tyler Colins for an ARC of this title. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own. ***
Interview with Tyler Colins
First, let me say a huge “Thank You!” to Ms. Colins for being willing to answer my questions. Enjoy!
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 work in HR, handling contractors. To be perfectly frank, I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t not enjoy it. It’s not very challenging, but it has its moments; I do learn new things, which is great. And I’m very grateful that it pays the bills.
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?
I try to write a little every morning before the work day begins and either aim for a scene or a revision/edit of a previously written scene. Little bothers me when I’m writing (I can usually tune things/people out).
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?
I never have an outline because I know it will never be adhered to, but I always have an all-encompassing idea/image in mind. My characters have definitely (!) hijacked many scenes—in fact, some have even rewritten them. <LOL>
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?
I broke in by e-publishing. The traditional route seemed limited. Rejections from publishers and agents were growing wearisome (and they don’t do much for the ego, I must say). I’m no James Joyce, but my writing isn’t bad, either. I believe I have [good/fun] stories to tell. . . . No! I’ve never thought about quitting—ever. I’ve been writing since I was twelve and it’s who I am. To stay hopeful and focused, I keep the faith and tell myself that if it’s meant to be, it will happen. Everything has its time. Patience and perseverance—and belief—are musts.
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?
Many! It’s the editor in me; a scene, a book, has to feel right and everything has to tie logically together. Yes, I have set aside books . . . and I’m glad I have. They now serve as fodder for new ones. And one I put in a drawer nearly two decades ago (my, time does fly), I am now revising and placing on Wattpad in weekly installments.
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?
For The Connecticut Corpse Caper, the villain came easily. The book had been written as an ode to all those wonderful, fun/funny B&W mystery movies I’d grown up with. I applied some typical villain traits, but the characters really “created” themselves.
Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
All my characters are truly fictional. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been inclined or inspired to develop one based on someone I know.
If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
A great question! Wow. I suppose I’d like to write about a pirate, a real or fictitious one. They’ve always intrigued me, rogues that they can be.
What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Given my full-time job, and taking care of Mom, and trying to get my own books written, I find it very difficult to read any these days (and I was always an avid reader). The last one I read, though, was by Janet Evanovich. I thoroughly enjoy her Stephanie Plum series; the characters and situations are crazy-funny.
What books have influenced your life the most?
In terms of my writing, I’d have to (again) say that Nancy Drew put the mystery-solving bug in me at a very young age. I always wanted to be a detective like her, and now, I guess I am. J
If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Another great question! I’d probably want to spend the day with Rey; she’s brash and melodramatic, and isn’t scared to say what’s on her mind. She’s also willing to do whatever is necessary to get a job done, even if it means some B&E. I think I’d like to do something totally “girly”, something I don’t normally do, and that would be spending an afternoon at the mall with her (that gal is one heckuva shopper).
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’ve only had one so far, but I’ve not really put myself out there yet. I’m trying to get a blog going (that’s a story in itself) and make a Facebook page related to my Triple Threat Investigation Agency private eyes less static. I have so much to learn, though, and time is so limited. But it will come. And, hopefully, so will the reviews—be they good or bad.
Once again, I’m very thankful that Ms. Colins was willing to answer my questions! I hope you all enjoyed today’s stop on the tour. To get a list of tour participants, click on the banner below.
October in Cascade Springs means tourists are pouring in for the annual Food and Wine Festival, and Daisy hopes to draw those crowds to the store. She asks Violet and the local writing group, the Red Inkers, to give a reading of the works of Edgar Allan Poe on the shop’s front porch to entertain the revelers. Everyone eagerly agrees.
Yet their enthusiasm is soon extinguished when Violet discovers one of the writers dead in the shop moments before the event. After the shop magically tells Violet she’ll need to rely on Poe’s works to solve the murder, she enlists the help of her trusty tuxedo cat, Emerson, and the shop’s crow, Faulkner. But they must act fast before someone else’s heart beats nevermore… (Source: Goodreads)
I definitely enjoyed this book better than the first one in the series. We get to know the characters a little better and I’m liking Violet more and more. This time around it’s the Food and Wine festival along with the murder of one of their writing group members. While the victim was not well liked in town, Violet still feels for her as no one deserves to die like that.
Through the use of Poe’s works of literary prose, the bookshop seems to be telling Violet to look for someone hiding in plain sight. I totally didn’t see the villain coming until the very end when they reveal themselves (I don’t want to give it away!). It was a complete surprise to me and I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes dynamics among the main characters in the next book.
I have my personal favorite out of the two suitors that Violet has and I’ve enjoyed the interactions in this one as they seem to be going his way. Woo hoo! But then again, something at the end of the book (again, no spoilers!) makes me think that she won’t end up choosing him. Boo. 😦
All in all it’s a fun read and I look forward to reading more in the series!
About the Author
Amanda Flower, an Agatha-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Amanda is an adult services librarian for a public library near Cleveland. She also writes mysteries as USA Today bestselling author Isabella Alan. (Source: Goodreads)
Today, I’m super excited to bring to you the latest stop for Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs! I love the Tea Shop mysteries and look forward to the newest one every spring. This one didn’t disappoint, either!
When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.
But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.
The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse…
5 out of 5 stars.
I think this is one of my favorites of the Tea Shop series so far! I really enjoyed this one. The mystery itself was great. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until very close to the end where it was revealed. Plus, this time around we had a new method and a new way of delivering that method. Sometimes having the victim shot or stabbed gets a little old, so this one was a refreshing change.
I absolutely love the characters in this series. Reading about Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley is like visiting with old friends. Their characters are so well-rounded, developed, and complex. It’s a pleasure visiting them in each book and getting to know them just that little bit more. It’s a pleasure to see how their relationships with each other and with others in the community grow and develop.
I love all the descriptions of Charleston. I’ve never been there but with as many of these books I’ve read, I feel like I have. I can easily visualize all the alleys and cemeteries and old mansions that are there. I feel like if I ever make it down there to visit, I’m going to feel right at home! It takes a skilled author to do that without boring the reader with the descriptions. Ms. Childs’ does this excellently.
The pace of these books has always been good and this one is no exception. It was never boring and kept moving along at a good clip, but yet not too fast that you couldn’t keep up.
This is a great installment in the Tea Shop Mystery series and I highly recommend it! Pick it up and enjoy! If you’ve never read the series, you don’t have to know the back story to enjoy this one, but I highly recommend the rest of the series as well!
** I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions expressed are my own. **
About the Author
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund-raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.
Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:
The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.
The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!
The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.