Enjoy some Mayhem & Magic!

Our blog is meant to evoke fun with the magic of myths, folklore, movies and the mayhem of murder and madness. We have to keep it interesting so if you like different genres of movies and books then you're at the right blog. Our authors are a wide range of experts and our readers know what is top of the line in their favorite genres. Sometimes we post recipes that might be fun to try if a culinary author has one in her book that we think is especially yummy or one that Terri and I have created and want to share with you. Enjoy Guest Blogger Alice Duncan's monthly muse on her books and writing mysteries.

Plus you won't want to miss our book reviews, author interviews or our guest bloggers. So grab your favorite beverage then join us for some magic and mayhem! The good news is that you don't have to leave the house or your comfy chair. We have something for everyone's taste and every month we have a different topic for our bloggers: ones we feel that might be useful in your own writing and reader points of view. Not to mention, life in general. So join us and be sure to have a notebook handy as your to-be-read pile will grow as you add books, recipes, movies and t.v. series you won't want to miss. Not to mention folktales, myths or ideas you may wish to explore. Be careful what you wish for because on mayhemandmagic2 you just might find it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders by Kevin Sullivan

In the 1970s, Richard Chase's murders terrorized Sacramento.  They were brutal, gruesome and random.  The only thing they had in common was a VERY small geographic region.  

Mr. Chase was clearly delusional and drank the blood of some of his victims (hence the moniker of 'Vampire'). 

 The most interesting question I found while reading the book, is how clearly the definition of mental illness versus LEGAL insanity played out in his case.  It was well researched and presented and a very interesting read.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top Ten lists and Happy Holidays

Good Morning,

I wanted to start my top ten list early instead of waiting for January. At least my top 3 authors and books. Max McCoy gets top honors for his historical mystery seasons. I can't remember any titles this morning which tells you about my week. 

However moving right along Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues Of Christmas takes top honors for her Royal Spyness Christmas Mystery in her series. 

Third place goes to the book The Yard and I mean this book takes place a year after Jack The Ripper did his wicked serial killer ways. Now there is the Murder Squad of Scotland Yard.

After these comes a few more books that I can honestly say I love. Victoria Abbott has a series to die for and all the books (which is two out of three) I have read makes me wish I had written this series. The Sayers Swindle was wonderful as wa The Christie Caper. I want to buy and review The Wolfe Widow. 

This leads me to Leigh Perry's A Skeleton In The Family Series. Now I have to thank Leigh for writing this series as it got me back into writing a cozy series of my own. I think her real name is Toni P. Kelner but I am not sure as the name on this series is Leigh Perry. 

Last but not least this morning is Forget Me Knot it is a quilting mystery series by Mary Marks. 

Now the rest of my list will have to wait until I can find details on the other books. BUT this is a start if you are looking for the perfect books for mystery readers.

Now Terri and I have next week off so I am not sure how often we will blog. However I will be around for the next week and after.

I am so sorry I haven't been blogging lately but I've been sick with pneumonia and am just now getting over it. I am sooo much better that I will say I am well but don't want to jinx it. LOL

Our holiday ought to be as usual interesting. We are leaving earlier tan expected and coming home earlier than expected.

I love and thank all of our readers and followers.

LET your star shine bright. Please tell us when you have time what books have been fun for you to read?



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: The Thames Torso Murders by MJ Trow

  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wharncliffe (August 24, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091WB4ZI

The interesting thing about these murders is very few people even know about them. The Ripper crimes totally obscured any coverage or interest. Yet they really are just as gruesome if not more so, since only parts of dismembered bodies were found and most have not been identified.

MJ Trow has written some very excellent books on the subject of the Ripper and I was curious to see how he presented this. I was put off a bit by the VERY detailed history of the Thames and its London districts. Too much - information overload. And yet, probably very useful in a deeper understanding of some facets of the case. (Not to mention all the references remind me of current Sherlock locations....)

The sad thing is that most of the historical documents and information has been lost (more so than even the Ripper case) so even with the obviously painstaking research done here, it will not be possible to really know much more about this series of murders.

But it is interesting and it also tells us about another serial murder loose in London during Victorian times, overlapping with the Ripper's crimes.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Holiady Book Shopping

I hope your holiday shopping leaves everyone with some down time to read. Also don't forget to add book books for the readers in your family.

Okay speaking of books. Last night I made a trek to the public library and here are the books and author I brought home with me.

First is Carolyn Hart's GHOST GONE WILD( A Bailey Ruth Evans Ghost Novel), 

Then is, 

A LACK OF TEMPERANCE (A HATTIE DAVISH MYSTERY) by Anna Loan Wilsey. This is a a new to me author and series. I got mine in large type hardback. It of course is an historical mystery series. It is set in Eureka Springs Arkansas in 1892.
Hattie is a traveling secretary and when she arrives to he new job she finds that her employer has disappeared.

Next up is M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin Mystery Series. THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN
Well, with this title I had to check the book out. I have read this series. Some of the books I like. Some... well... not so much. I will get back to you.

Last is Sall Goldenbaum's latest:  Angora Alibi(A seaside knitters Mystery). 

Okay that was all o the library books...

Now while in Kansas City last week I picked up Mrs. Jeffries The MERRY GENTLEMEN (A Christmas Mystery) and his is an historical series set in London by Emily Brightwell.  

 I also picked up Leigh Perry's A Family Skeleton Mystery (this is also a series. The book I picked is THE SKELETON TAKES A BOW.
Now I love this series and the skeleton is named Sid. LOL

Lastly, while at the grocery store last night, they had in paperback CHRISTMAS CAROL MURDER by Leslie Meir. So I bought it.

Will you have a Christmas wish list of books this season?


Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan


November, 2014, wasn’t a month of great joy in this house. Well, the dogs remained happy and contented all month long, but I lost two very dear friends in November, and I resent it like fire.

Yes, I know that once you’re here, there’s only one way out, and we’re all going to die one day. However, when my dear friend, Sara Hoge, died in the early part of the month, her passing hurt. Heck, I even made a flying trip (literally) to California in order to attend her memorial service at the glorious Neighborhood Church in Pasadena. Sara’s last remaining brother was there, and so were her three daughters and all of their children (they’re all grown-ups. Funny how that happens). Anyway, it was great to see everyone, including both of my daughters and my younger grandson Riki. Riki and I pretty much ate our way through Pasadena. I stayed with another great friend, Barbara Masters, and I’d forgotten how much fun we used to have together. So even though the occasion for getting together was solemn, the trip was a huge success. This, in spite of arriving at the Hollywood-Burbank Bob Hope Airport at 9:30 p.m. and having to drive from there in a rental car to Altadena, CA, and Barbara’s house. On the freeway. In the dark.

It’s been sixteen or seventeen years since I’ve driven on an L.A. freeway at night. Trust me when I tell you that FAR more people live in Southern California than live in Southeastern New Mexico. The rental guy talked me into getting a GPS device for the car, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for that, because the GPS lady, Ms. Ratchett (I’d just read a Jeanne Glidewell book in which the GPS lady was Ms. Ratchett, so it came naturally) directed me to Barbara’s house perfectly. I was terrified the whole way there (all those headlights; sheesh!) but she didn’t miss a tip or a turn. Whew!

Later on in the month, a sadder death occurred, mainly because the dead guy, a wonderful man named Steven Dierks, was only sixty years old. He’d recovered from a battle with stomach cancer and he and his wife Kate were blissfully looking for houses to buy so they could get away from the New Jersey town in which they lived. Then, out of the blue, Steve was diagnosed with stage-four renal-cell cancer. Steve and Kate went through four months of hell only to be told on a Friday that he was cancer-free. Then he died Saturday night. Not fair. I don’t approve.

I met Kate and Steve through dog rescue. They were into Sheltie rescue, kind of like I’m into Dachshund rescue. They’d driven through Roswell (which very few people ever do, because Roswell isn’t on the way to anywhere), noticed a scruffy little terrier mix at the Roswell Humane Society, and fell in love with her. They left her there, but kept in touch with the RHS folks. Finally, the little doggie’s time was up. Carole Rogers, the RHS kennel manager, called to ask me if I’d be willing to foster a terrier until transport could be arranged to get the pup to Kate and Steve in New Jersey. What the heck. So I fostered the dog who eventually came to be called Bridey until Steve could make arrangements to fly to the Albuquerque Sun Port to pick her us. My wonderful neighbors, Barry and Ann Lasky, drove Bridey to Steve, and Steve (after trying and failing to put a diaper on Bridey) put her in a little crate, and flew her home to New Jersey under the seat in front of him on the airplane. And now Steve is gone, and Bridey, Kate, and Harper (Bridey’s Sheltie sister) are left to mourn.

There are aspects of life of which I just don’t approve, and this is one of the biggest. Phooey.

I’ll be giving away advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Thanksgiving Angels some time after the first of the year (because I’m going on a planned trip to Southern California for Christmas and won’t be home until after the beginning of 2015). If you’d like to enter, just send me your name and home address at: alice@aliceduncan.net  I’ll drop your name into my winner-picking wiener dog’s special contest doggie dish, and Bam-Bam (my winner-picking wiener dog) will select winners when the time comes.

Also, please feel free to visit my web site at www.aliceduncan.net and my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Isis by Douglas Glegg

Iris and her brothers move with their mother to their Grandfather's old house in Cornwall.  There, they find old tombs with ancient legends attached to them of those who have called back the dead.

Iris is fascinated and inspired as well by the myth of Isis and Osiris and is in a local play about the same.  But when tragedy strikes, her love for her brother makes her do a very foolish thing.

Sad and atmospheric, with wonderful illustrations.


The Legend of Isis and Osiris is fascinating.  There are many versions but the consistent parts are that the gods Isis and Osiris were siblings and married in the ancient Egyptian tradition.  When their brother Set kills Osiris, Isis goes back and retrieves his body parts (he has been dismembered and the parts scattered) all but one.  She uses magic to conceive a child, Horus.  Horus will eventually overthrow Set who took over the throne after he killed Osiris, and restore balance to Egypt's lands.


In the book, Iris is inspired by this story and the Legend of the Cornish Weeping Woman which was told to her by the house's Caretaker, Old Marsh.  

Is is really a good idea to try and cheat death?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: The Yard by Alex Grecian

Title: The YARD

Author: Alex Grecian

When I write my yearly top ten books that I love...The YARD will be among the ten.

This book takes place in Victorian London right after Jack The Ripper conveys his message of terror.

Now there has been  murder squad formed by Scotland Yard. Walter Day heads the murder squad and the first order of business is one of their own has  been murdered and left in a trunk for dead. One by one murders happen and people disappear. With the help of forensic pathologist Dr. Kingsley, the two men hunt clue-by-clue and take London apart to find who is murdering their own and many more.

I loved this book. While there are some unsettling moments they are well worth the bile in the stomach. It has to be in this historical cozy in order for us to understand the what, when, where and why of the story.

From page one you are drawn into the story and the characters.

A side note (I loved the dancing man), don't miss this moving and extremely riveting mystery. ********** ten stars.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Ebola The Natural and Human History of A Deadly Virus - David Quammen and A Lot to say about the true FACTS about Ebola

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 3, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00O3GS0FE

This book is mostly excerpts from the author's book Spillover (which I have in my TBR pile pending still).  It has been updated in light of current events.  It is an incredibly educational and informative book about Ebola, its history and what is known about the disease.  it is an excellent resource for those who want to get to the truth of all these fear-ridden headlines in the news right now.  I have read many of the source materials the author used, and found this to be a well thought out and put together presentation and summation of what we really need to know on the subject.  And the best part, is that the author presents the information in a readable and understandable way.  HIGHLY recommend.

Some of the facts and my thoughts in this time of Media-Induced FEAR:

Ebola has been around since 1976 where two outbreaks occurred in the Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Formerly Zaire).  Since that time, as of today's date - 6,599 deaths have been reported per the website below:

Chronology of Ebola Virus Disease outbreaks, 1976-2014

In 38 years, that is an average of 173.66 deaths per year.  Now I am not saying that is good or okay, but compared to the Flu, or Malaria or even rotavirus (which killed kids in the midwest this year in the US) which kills about 1/2 Million children every year, it is still not the killer the media makes it out to be.

Why the big deal?

Well - it is SCARY!  

The GROSSness factor and the high lethality rate for those who do get it make it terrifying - the stuff of nightmares.  

But the way to put fear into perspective is to examine the facts:

The high lethality rate in Africa is due to a number of factors:

  • Misdiagnosis - When you go to the doctor, they need to examine the most likely causes.  In Africa, there are quite a few to examine - Malaria being incredibly common and having many similar symptoms.  You never look for the exotic at first, you look for the most likely.  You eliminate the most likely, then look further. Unless there is an outbreak, it is not your first thought.
  • An outbreak starts with exposure to the reservoir (the animal, insect, plant or whatever that harbors the virus naturally and does not get sick from it).  In the case of Ebola it is unknown, but bats are suspected.  All other cases result from contact with the bodily fluids of the sick individual (OR as frequently occurs, Gorillas and Chimpanzees also get infected and die from Ebola).  These first cases are in rural areas where medical care is not necessarily equipped to handle a disease such as Ebola.  So the disease starts in these rural areas, where family and friends care for the victims without appropriate facilities or barrier nursing supplies and procedures to reduce exposure.  So they get infected, and then those who care for them get infected, and so on.
  • Burial practices - Family members or friends wash the body in preparation for burial.  That means they are washing bodily fluids infectious with the virus and exposing themselves to it.  
                   Look at your hands - do you have any scratches or torn cuticles or any other breaks in the skin on them?  I can see several on mine at the moment.  The virus could get into any of those.  And that is only the ones I see - many are too small for that.  Then you have to wonder about the hands of those rural peoples, working the land and what their hands are like...

               Another thing that is a practice in African countries is kissing the corpse to say goodbye.  Many do it here as well.  But think of all the virus in that corpse and see how it can spread...

  • Slow response to outbreaks - these are rural areas, with rough roads or dirt trails.  They are not experts in medicine or the spread of disease.  By the time an outbreak is occurring and someone notifies someone and it makes its way up the chain to the right person to get an appropriate response - how many are already infected?  The current outbreak was well underway before appropriate response teams arrived and by then, it needed more than they could provide.
  • Superstition -  Many still believe that sorcerers cause this disease or that the government or medical workers or those trying to help are the cause of it.  They hide from those who come to help.  They shun the sick.
  • Political instability -  Coups, rebels, wars -- the continent has been rife with them for years.  Often it is difficult to get to infected areas as a result.
  • And the outbreaks are all over -- the borders are not secured very well.  It is hard to predict.  And it isn't just in Central Africa anymore.

So that said - why am I talking about all this?  Well - I have been fascinated by epidemiology and infectious diseases and reading on the subject for over 20 years.  Many of the source books, Quammen lists in his book are ones I have read.  that's another reason I loved his book - it is incredibly well-researched.

Now -- for the facts about the disease itself.  People have visions of bleeding eyes, organs turning to mush and big pools of blood.  Uhmmmm - NO.  A lot of that was inspired by Richard Preston's The Hot Zone.  Which is a really good read by the way - he just liked to embellish for dramatic effect IMHO.  And it IS labeled as FICTION BTW.

So - the disease itself was originally called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.  That name has since been changed to Ebola Virus Disease since in over 50% of the cases - there is no hemorrhaging.
There are five known types:
  1. Ebola Virus (Originated in Zaire) and that seems to be the most prevalent and the one that is currently spreading now.
  2. Sudan Virus (Originally occurred about the same time as the original outbreak in the Congo/Zaire)
  3. Reston Virus (Occurred in monkeys in a Quarantine Facility in Reston Virginia and did not make humans sick - this was Chronicled in The Hot Zone)
  4. Tai Forest (Originally occurred in Cote' de Ivoire)
  5. Bundibugyo (Originally occurred in Uganda)
Now the symptoms:
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Weakness
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Pink Eye
  • Diarrhea
Symptoms that SOMETIMES occur:
  • Chest Pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • bloody gums
  • bloody stools
  • bloody needle prick sites
  • inability to urinate
  • rash
  • hiccups
The signs that the patient will likely die:
  • rapid breathing
  • urine retention
  • hiccups
(NOT the ones you would think)

So my message to you -- educate yourself before you let the Media increase your fears.  Educate others.  And read this or a similar book to get the truth and maybe we can get the current MAYHEM under control.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Review - Laurie Anderson Concert @ Birchmere

I had been looking forward to this for quite a while.  My friend Andrea and I originally got tickets when she was supposed to come earlier this year but the show was canceled.  So, this time around I was glad it finally happened.

I have loved her music since Big Science when I was in college.  For my college Modern Dance class, we even choreographed a very interesting dance to her song Walking and Falling.  Costumes, music, movement all intertwined to tell a story of soul searching and our place in the universe.  I think she might have appreciated it.  Of course, it was recorded on VHS back then and is long gone.  Sad.  We did get an A+ and the comment from the rest of the class when we were done was - "Well, that was Modern..."  We found that amusing.  Another interesting this is that another group in the class did their dance to O, Superman.  So she obviously was connecting with a lot of us then.

And why not?  She is a remarkable innovator with music and performance art.  Her show was an experience in sound and light.  Everything intensifying the experience of the song.  A sensory experience as well as a thinking one.  Her songs always make me think I know where she is going, but I rarely do.  that surprise factor increases the fun and often makes me think outside the lines - and isn't that a fabulous thing?

I missed concerts in the past for one reason or another, but I was so glad to finally make it.  So, Andrea and I got there a bit early.  We reminisced and got into a very interesting conversation about fiction, novels and spoilers that will be told in another blog.  Andrea had seen her perform before at the Lisner.  She even had her own story to tell from that - involving t-shirt swapping.  But that is her story to tell.  

So, the lights went down and the experience began.  New songs - none of my favorites from back in the day (a tiny disappointment) but off we went.  My favorite song was one about a dog, a buzzard, 9/11 and shifting perspectives.  It was magical - as I had expected and I loved every moment of it.  Thank you Laurie for the stories you tell and the way you tell them!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

INSPIRATION (and stuff like that)

I sold my very first book, One Bright Morning, in January of 1994. That was a Big Thrill. Unfortunately, even though I’ve had more than fifty books published since then, everything’s gone downhill from there.

Well… maybe not everything. There have been a few bright spots along the way. The first one came shortly after the publication of that first book, One Bright Morning, when a bookstore owner in Nebraska (whose name I’ve managed to forget) wrote to tell me she’d named her newborn palomino colt (or do you call newborn horses foals? Well, never mind) Maggie Bright, after the heroine of the book. Therefore, somewhere in Nebraska there’s now a twenty-year-old palomino horsey named Maggie Bright, and my character was the inspiration for her name. I tell you, that note made me cry. Actually, thinking about it made me teary-eyed for years.

Plod forward twenty years, and there have been some ups along the writing road, but not a whole slew of them. This may partly be because I’m the George C. Scott of writing contests and don’t believe you can truly judge the worth of one book over another unless you’re talking grammar and punctuation, word usage and imagery, and stuff like that. Besides, I write funny stuff. It’s usually dark stuff that wins awards.

Very well. Confession time here. The main reason I never enter contests is ’cause I’m poor as a church mouse and have a whole bunch of dogs to feed. One tiny bright spot in an otherwise colorless career was winning the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award (for mystery/suspense) in 2012 for Mercy Allcutt’s rousing adventure, Fallen Angels. The glow fades slightly when I admit I entered the contest because the mere thought of New Mexico as a literary state makes me chortle inside. And sometimes even outside. That, and the fact I had a few extra bucks lying around that the dogs didn’t consume in one way or another.

However, in recent months, something really quite nice happened as a direct result of my books. A woman named Julie Turjoman e-mailed me a while back to ask if I’d mind if she used a character from one of my cozy historical mystery series as a model for a hat in the book she was then writing, A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders. Her book would feature knitted creations appropriate for the Roaring Twenties, when the books are set. Would I mind? Was she kidding me? Naturally, I gave her my wholehearted permission.

And you know what? She actually did it! A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders is now in print, and she used Mercedes “Mercy” Louise Allcutt (from my “Angels” books, including the aforementioned Fallen Angels) as a model for the following stunning creations:

Julie was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, and it’s truly wonderful. I recommend everyone who knits (or even those who, like me, don’t) go out and buy one or two (or three or four, because, after all, we all have relatives and friends) copies. Here’s a link: http://www.julieturjoman.com/a-head-for-trouble-2/

Of course, you can find my books on-line, too, if you’re interested. They’re all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and/or Smashwords (if you have a Nook, Kobi, or whatever). In fact, here’s the cover art for my next Mercy book, Thanksgiving Angels, which will be published in April of 2015.

I’ll be giving away advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Thanksgiving Angels at the end of November. If you’d like to enter, just send me your name and home address at: alice@aliceduncan.net  I’ll drop your name into my winner-picking wiener dog’s special contest doggie dish, and Bam-Bam (my winner-picking wiener dog) will select winners at month’s end.

Also, please feel free to visit my web site at www.aliceduncan.net and my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thank you!