Gizzy’s Roundup of Ghosts, Murder and Magical Cats

Published July 17, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

gizzy

Giz and I would like to dedicate this post to our good friend, Melissa over at Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and Meows. She’s been in our thoughts since she lost her beloved kitty and co-blogger Truffles. We hope that these books will lift her spirits as she’s grieving over both of her precious tortie kitties who recently crossed over the rainbow bridge.

Read on if you’re a fan of cozy mysteries filled with magical crime-solving felines, hot detectives and fearless sleuths!

If You’ve Got it, Haunt it by Rose Pressey 

20949514I’m a huge fan of the Crimes of Fashion mystery series starring Lacy Smithsonian, and amateur sleuth and vintage fashion maven. Throughout this book I kept thinking, wow Lacey and Cookie would be an amazing crime-solving duo! They both solve mysteries with fashion clues and adore all things vintage. I had a great time following Cookie as she hunted down the murderer of the town socialite Charlotte Meadows. In this first installment of Pressey’s Haunted Vintage Mystery Series, Cookie discovers her ghost-whispering gift (or curse, however you want to look at it). With the ghost of Charlotte Meadows constantly pestering her to find the killer,  she has no other choice but to solve the case. As she chases down leads, she must skirt around a sexy detective who’s constantly asking how she knows certain facts about the crime scene that only the murderer would know. Not only is she getting inside knowledge from the murder victim, she’s also getting some valuable clues from her magical cat who knows how to communicate with humans with a Ouija board. How cool is that?!?

Caught Dead Handed by Carol J Perry 

19083257I was going to save this one for Halloween, but couldn’t resist diving into it! The setting couldn’t be more perfect for fans of Hocus Pocus. Oh how I would love to visit Salem during the fall. Lucky for me, I can travel vicariously through Perry’s books. There’s murder, witchcraft, a tubby crime-solving cat, and even a smidge of romance. The mystery begins when Lee Barret returns to her hometown to take on a job as a reporter for the local news station. She doesn’t really need the money, but she’s desperate to occupy her time as she grieves over her dead husband. Turns out, the news station already gave the job to somebody else, but they had a sudden opening when somebody knocked off their late night call-in psychic host. With no other prospects in sight, Lee reluctantly accepts the job as a TV charlatan and soon finds out that she might not be so phony after all. With her newly discovered crystal ball-reading talents, she soon finds herself embroiled in a murky world of witchcraft, cat burglars, and arson! Trust me, this is one whirlwind of a mystery that will keep you reading until the witching hour!

Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs 

21456951I stumbled across this one in my freebies and cheapies email from Barnes & Noble. For less than a buck, I got to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and join a bookstore owner-turned amateur sleuth as she and her magical kitty tracked down the murderer of the town librarian. Now that’s what I call cheap entertainment! This is a solid little cozy that is sure to win over fans of Lorna Barrett’s Booktown Mystery Series. My only gripe is that the writing could’ve been tightened up, but that won’t stop me from picking up the second book in this charming series.

 

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Published July 12, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

11228115_702423596553110_601395082403558625_nWhenever I’m in the mood for something light and fun, I’ll pick up one of Laura McNeill’s books. Sometimes I wonder if she and my other favorite light romance author Lisa Wingate are secret cousins. I can always feel my blood pressure dip down a few notches when I read their tender tales filled with love, hope and small Southern town charm.  This book, however, had the opposite effect.

I figured this would be another easy breezy beach read, so I took it along on my trip to the Texas coast. Two hours after cracking it open at the pool, I found myself shouting “Just two more chapters!” when my husband came to retrieve me for dinner.  Needless to say, it’s a pretty fast read.

The genius of the story is that it’s narrated by several characters who are in the throes of the world’s worst custody battle: Ava, the wronged, tormented wife; Mitchell, the Machiavellian child-stealing husband; and Jack, the little boy caught in the middle.  There’s also a few other narratives thrown in the chaos including Ava’s lawyer, Mitchell’s concerned housekeeper and a very perceptive child psychiatrist.

The ebb and flow of the multiple narratives really moved the story along at lightning speed. I was constantly chasing that dangling carrot as the story flitted from one character’s perspective to the next. I grew to hate Mitchell more and more with every chapter as he continued to torment and sabotage his wife. The angrier I got, the faster I zipped through the pages until poor Ava could finally get some justice.

Laura clearly did her research on all that bureaucratic nonsense that goes down in custody battles. It’s amazing how people can be so easily stripped of their fundamental rights when they’re dealing with evil manipulators who know just how to play the game.

Lucky for Ava, she found herself a hot motorcycle-riding lawyer. Together, they hunted down the missing pieces of Mitchell’s mysterious life—and boy did they come across some doozies! It was fun watching them unravel the mystery and build up some serious ammunition for taking that repugnant man down piece by piece.

At first, I was a little angry with Ava for marrying such a bastard and letting him stomp all over her. But when I learned about her backstory, it all kind of made sense. Anyone who had to grow up with such an overbearing witch of a mother gets my sympathies.

As you can see this is a very character-driven book—and the author does a remarkable job bringing their personalities to life. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good suspense novel that moves along at a supersonic clip. Now as books like Girl on a Train and Gone Girl are making big waves with the masses, Lauren timed this book just right.

Jessica’s Cranky Corner: Fourth of July Fizzles

Published July 5, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

I’m seriously striking out on beach reads this year.  Not one—but two—of the Fourth of July-themed books I selected on Audible turned out to be major turkeys.  You know that feeling when you light up a cheap sparkler expecting to see a glorious nimbus of glittery light, only to find that you got a big fat, fizzled-out dud? Well that pretty much sums up my disappointment with these cozy mysteries. Here’s hoping that my bad luck streak is over and that my next post will be filled with some fabulous summertime reads!

Dead White and Blue by Carolyn Hart

15808349In a word, this book is tedious. The constant questioning, the massive list of suspects, the never-ending red herrings—everything about this book exhausted me. I don’t understand what happened here. I have always loved the Death on Demand mystery series. I love that the amateur sleuth runs a mystery book store in a quaint little tourist town, and that she’s married to a handsome private eye. Her old biddy sidekicks are always a little annoying, but in this book they’re downright intolerable. Thankfully they were on a cruise and only popped up here and there via Skype. The Agatha Christie-esque plots always keep me guessing, but there were WAY too many pieces in this jigsaw puzzle.  There were SO many characters and they were all equally despicable. Lock them all up in jail for all I care!  Seriously, the author should’ve drawn up a character map so I could keep up with the tangled web of twisted townies.  Aside from the jumbled mess of suspects, the story is all work and no play. I found myself constantly pleading with Annie and Max to take a breather from their quest here and there. Go build a sandcastle, host a book signing party, drink some wine and watch the sunset—just take a break for Pete’s sake and let the reader come up for air! Keeping up with the herky jerky lines of inquiry just felt like work, work, work. At the end of the day, I just want to kick up my feet and enjoy a light mystery with cute kitties and hot detectives. But hey, if you enjoy formulaic math problems with factors and square roots coming out of the yin yang, this might be your cup of tea.

All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco

17381897This review might be just a little unfair on account of the fact that I returned this sucker after suffering through the first few chapters. It was just way too slapstick silly for my taste, which is really a shame considering that Mackinac Island the perfect setting for a cozy fudge-filled mystery. So why did I hit the return button so early in the game? Well you might think I’m a sourpuss, but I just can’t deal with over-the-top silly hijinks. My funny bone was not tickled when the mentally-challenged police dispatcher could not comprehend the words: “I found a dead body in my house.” When the hilarity of the dispatcher’s stupidity caused the caller to shake uncontrollably in laughter, I realized that there was no way I could ever connect with the story or the ridiculous characters. If I want a corkscrew comedy, I’ll watch Blazing Saddles. But when it comes to mysteries, there needs to be some sort of grounding in reality. Scooby Doo is a rare exception. What happened after the inept dispatcher eventually connected the dots and sent out a unit to inspect the crime scene? I’ll never know. Nor will I care. Thankfully, Audible immediately restores my precious monthly credits when I accidentally buy a book without doing some homework. A word to the wise: Always read the first chapter before taking the plunge.

A Q&A with Dr. Eve Shvidler, Author of ‘Burning the Short White Coat’

Published June 21, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

Adobe Photoshop PDFDo you love those medical dramas filled with McSteamy and McDreamy men walking around in tight jeans and white coats? Or are you a Mr. Big kind of girl? Well then, you’re in for a treat. In Burning the Short White Coat, Dr. Eve Shvidler gives readers an inside look into the world of a young budding doctor looking for love in the dizzying, sleep-deprived world of med school.

Read on to learn more about Dr. Shvidler’s debut novel—and how some of her own personal and professional experiences shaped the plot. 

What made you decide to write this book?

I wrote my book during medical school. I was amazed by everything that we were learning and experiencing and I wanted to capture that in real time.

At the same time, as single women, my friends and I really struggled to figure out how to navigate the singles scene. Sometimes we were crushed, other times emboldened and often placed in comical situations. I wanted to capture that dichotomy – the serious professional student and the single twenty-something looking for love.

How can readers relate to Elle Gallagher?

She’s just a regular single woman looking for love and somehow dating all the wrong people. Anyone who’s spent more than a minute in the singles scene can probably relate.

If you could take any of your characters out to lunch, who would it be and why?

First choice: Samy. He always gave the best advice. He was eight years ahead of Elle in his career. I’d be curious how he feels about his career now.

Second choice: James Ruhl. I’d be curious as to how he turned out after he got older and balder.

Did any of Elle’s experiences stem from your own journey through medical school?

Absolutely. In the interest in protecting patient confidentiality, patient stories were changed around and tweaked, but they are inspired by real experiences. The dating/singles scene stories resonate from experiences my friends and I had.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

First and foremost, I want readers to have fun and enjoy the book. It is mostly meant to provide some easy reading and entertainment. Believe it or not, medical school was a blast. Despite some of the difficult times and the hard lessons, it was one of the best times of my life.

But, if there was one point I hope readers come away with, it’s a better understanding of how much we go through in the process of becoming doctors. We have to make difficult choices. We are very unsophisticated in our understanding of the human body. It takes time and repetition to make a good doctor. Elle isn’t there yet. Not even close.

What’s next?

I’m about a quarter of the way into the sequel. Elle’s adventures certainly did not end in St. Louis. She still has four years of residency in Los Angeles. In the mean time, I also have a day job that I love and will continue doing.

More about the Author: Dr. Eve Shvidler wrote Burning the Short White Coat while still single and in her medical school and residency training. She is now a practicing physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She is married, and they have three children.

 

Gizzy’s pick: Neighing with Fire by Kathryn O’Sullivan

Published May 31, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

10982781_681149715347165_297454266350883030_nIt isn’t summertime without a new installment from the Colleen McCabe mystery series! Set in a tranquil coastal town where wild horses run free and dead bodies pop up from underneath the sand, how could I ask for a better beach read?

23014755In this much-anticipated third installment, the mystery begins when a hurricane swoops into town, unearthing a carefully buried dead man from underneath a boardwalk. Turns out, it’s just some random dude with no personal connections to anyone in town. When an arsonist starts running amok, Colleen—the local fire chief—must piece together the clues before the whole town goes up in smoke.

Can we just pause for a moment and reflect on how awesome it is that our leading lady is the head honcho of a firehouse? She’s not the queen of a quilting bee, or an owner of a scrapbook shop. Nope, this red-headed sleuth is out there saving lives and delegating orders to an all-male team of firefighters. You go girl!

With some help from her trusty sidekicks, she pieces together the clues that all seem to lead to the town’s wealthy developer, Pinky Salvatore.  In true Murder She Wrote fashion, Pinky becomes the prime suspect after he has a heated confrontation with a soon-to-be dead man. But why would Pinky—the town’s beloved benefactor—burn a man to death in one of his own properties? What motive would he have for killing a virtual stranger?

Nope, I don’t buy it. Neither does Colleen, who may or may not be crushing on Pinky. You see, despite her budding romance with the town sheriff, Bill Dorman, there seems to be a spark –pun intended—between those two. As her romance fires up with Bill, she’s also feeling a pull toward the flirtatious Italian stallion. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bill is sweet and all, but I’m really rooting for the dark horse waiting in the wings. I’m hoping that in the near future, wild horses won’t keep those two from giving into their desires. Oh how I love a good pun!

I did some goggling and decided that this will be my beach house in Corolla.

I did some goggling and decided that this will be my beach house in Corolla.

As I write this with my little gray cat in my lap, I should note that this book is a surefire (oops, another pun!) hit for animal rescue enthusiasts. There’s a slew of loveable characters who are putting their lives at risk to save endangered birds and horses.  And, of course, Colleen has a couple four-legged partners in crime: a border collie named Sparky, and a feisty kitty named Smoky. Notice a theme here with the names?

Pea_Island-Corolla_10-2-08_0240 If you love a good light-hearted mystery with romantic tension, beautiful scenery and eccentric, animal-loving characters, this mystery series is for you! With so many suspects to choose from, I enjoyed playing the guessing game until the very last chapter. I always get fooled by those darn red herrings!

CeeCee’s Roundup of Murder, Mayhem and Four-Legged Sleuths

Published May 24, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

UntitledLast night we had the mother of all thunderstorms—the perfect setting for a riveting whodunit! While the shingles were blowing off the roof and my poor doggie was shivering in the closet, I was busy wrapping up the last final chapters of my Chet and Bernie mystery. If you’re in the mood for a good mystery that’s light on the mind-numbing procedural stuff and heavy on cute animals and sassy amateur sleuths, this reading roundup is for you!

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

teagarden_book_a_pAfter watching the Hallmark channel movie—starring none other than Candace Cameron as Aurora (aka Ro) Teagarden—I had to check out this series to see how it compares to the made-for-TV train wreck. I mean, how can the mastermind behind the True Blood series have anything to do with such a snore fest filled with cardboard cutout characters and inane dialogue? Sadly, the literary version is just as disappointing. It has all the annoying tropes that run rampant in the cozy genre: the overbearing, meddling mother, the bossy best friend, the fashionably-challenged leading lady. Seriously, why do so many cozy mystery characters have to dress like lunch ladies? Is this a way to make them more likeable and relatable to the readers? What does that say about cozy mystery fans? What really bothered me about Candace Cameron’s role is that she looked like she stepped right out of the pages of an Anthropologie catalogue, yet people kept nagging her to dress better. And what’s up with those crazy long hair extensions? In the book, the drab librarian has a head of frizzy brown hair. It made no sense that the TV version looks like a freakin Pantene commercial. Although I do have to hand it to Candace, that girl sure has come a long way since Full House. I would love to get her beauty secrets!

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

16130393Oh my gawsh! How can I even articulate my complete and total adoration for this detective series? It’s told through the eyes of a big, goofy dog named Chet (aka “Chet the Jet”) who chases down perps and solves crimes with his human partner. I know what you’re thinking. A dog narrating the whole book? That’s got to get old real quick. Well think again! The story moves along at a rapid pace through Chet’s narrative. You see, dogs pick up on a lot of things that human can’t see, smell or hear. With his acute senses, Chet can give the readers some clues that Bernie won’t pick up on until the bad guys start closing in on them. This time, they’re solving a mystery in the Louisiana swamplands—my favorite kind of setting! What starts out as a simple missing persons case soon leads to a tangled web of drug dealers, biker gangs, Big Oil, and one mean-ass alligator named Iko. I love this series for two reasons: the top-notch mystery, and Chet’s unwavering love for Bernie. He is 100 percent devoted to his disheveled Hawaiian shirt-wearing human. In Chet’s eyes, Bernie is pure perfection…well except for when a woman crosses his path. I’d like to think this is how dogs really perceive their humans. The way they look up at us with those adoring eyes, how could they not?

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

20575402As with the first book in this new series, the story begins with a most peculiar catastrophe. A gang of masked bandits raid a bakery and make off with 90 pounds of cream cheese. What in the world?! The plot thickens when Daisy’s emotionally fragile employee stabs one of the robbers to death in self-defense. Turns out, he’s just some random dude with no connection to the town whatsoever. In a rural Virginia hamlet devoid of useful law enforcement, Daisy has no other choice but to solve the mystery of the stolen cream cheese on her own. When she’s not piecing together clues, she’s busy at the bakery attending to a big crowd of strangers who’re in town for a geocacher hunt. With so many strangers thrown into the mix, how will she ever narrow down the suspects list? What would a bunch of nerdy geocacher’s want with a mountain of cream cheese? With some help from a rather handsome geocacher, who’s also a hot history professor, she hunts down some leads that all seem to point to an underground moonshine ring. And as the romance heats up between her and the professor, she also starts to feel a gravitational pull toward Rick Balsam, the local moonshine-brewing bad boy. Uh oh, I smell trouble!

As I expected, this mystery series just keep getting better and better. If you’re a sucker for an atmospheric whodunit with feisty female sleuths and steamy romantic tension, this one’s for you! Oh and did I mention that there’s also a crime-solving kitty named Blot? Now that’s the cream cheese icing on the cake!

Happy Motherless Day

Published May 10, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

17bees_xlarge1There seems to be no other Hallmark holiday like Valentine’s Day that stirs up such widespread contention among the zillions of people who have zero cause to celebrate.  All the heart-shaped chocolate boxes and jewelry commercials are cruel reminders that they got gypped in the love department. Well that’s exactly how I feel when Mother’s Day rears its ugly head.  The good news, however, is that I get to spend the day lounging around with a good book instead of being smooshed inside a crowded restaurant eating overpriced brunch.  Ha! Take that, Mother’s Day revelers!

So for those of you who enjoy a good book about resourceful women who found their way in the world just fine without a mother, this reading roundup is for you. And hey, on the bright side, all that money you’d be spending on wilting tulips and sappy cards can go toward books. That ought to take the sting out of it, right?

Disclaimer: There are many wonderful, loving mothers out there who deserve to be spoiled on this day. Kudos to them and their lucky children.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

37435Break out that box of tissues! This one’s a tear-jerker. If you feel that you don’t need to read the book because you already saw the movie, think again. The prose, the poetic symbolism, the summertime Southern setting—everything about this book makes my soul sing! Lily’s inner turmoil took me to a familiar place that I’ve locked away, causing stubborn tears rising to the surface for the first time in years. It’s hard to articulate how I felt reading this book. Let’s see…how should I put this? Back when I experienced Disneyland for the first time as a kid, I was blown away by the lights, the sounds, the magic–the bigness of it all. It was like venturing into a whole new vibrant world that I never wanted to leave. Well that’s how I felt on an emotional level while reading Lily’s inner dialogue. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s the truth!   I rooted for her as she found love with her newfound mother figures and came to terms with her abandonment issues. It’s not just one story about Lily’s journey of self-discovery, it’s also a story about standing up for what’s right, demanding justice and equality, and carving a path for yourself in defiance of oppression.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

savingceeceehoneycuttNot since The Secret Life of Bees has a book touched that sweet spot in my heart that yearns for a good ol’ tear-jerking Southern drama.  I instantly fell in love with little CeeCee, a 12-year-old girl who lost her mentally ill mother and found solace in a new tribe of strong Southern women. Like Opal in Because of Win Dixie, CeeCee listens to other people’s lives and provides her own bits of wisdom through hopeful wonder and dead-on honesty. This is an inspiring coming-of-age journey filled with hope, redemption and the divine power of women. Oh how I wish I could spend an afternoon sipping iced tea with this sweet girl and her sisterhood of surrogate mothers in Aunt Tootie’s antebellum mansion…sigh. Go here for my review.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

32234Like listening to the perfect sad song on a bad day, this book has somewhat of a cathartic effect. Anyone who has grown up in a loveless household will identify with Astrid’s struggle. But ultimately this is a story about survival. Let’s face it; a lot of us get the short hand of the stick when it comes to parents. But once we get out from under their thumb, we have the freedom to chart our own destiny.  Astrid’s journey – from a naïve young girl, to a hardened foster kid, to a hopeful young artist –  is a tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit. Go here for my review.

 

 

Made in the USA by Billie Letts

2240527This heart-wrenching story of survival revolves around two orphans, Lutie and Fate, who  hit the road in their dead guardian’s rusted-out Pontiac in search of their estranged father. On their journey, they encounter the darkest side of humanity in a soulless city filled with rapists, murderers, robbers and pimps. When the kids hit rock bottom, their mysterious protector, Juan Vargas, swoops in and brings them into the fold at his family-owned circus in rural Oklahoma.  Away from the harsh city streets, they develop relationships with an eclectic cast of circus performers and slowly but surely come into their own.   Much like her bestselling hit Where the Heart Is, this heartwarming tale explores the depths of family ties, the agony of unexpected loss and the resilience of the human spirit. I recommend this book to anyone who likes feisty female protagonists and rags-to-riches endings. Go here for my review.

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