Monday, March 23, 2009

Review - Louisiana Bigshot by Julie Smith

AUTHOR: Julie Smith
Publisher: TOR Mystery
Genre: Series Mystery

Day or night New Orleans is a happening place, but when you're a P.I. in New Orleans there is no such thing of having seen it all, there is always more crime, perverts, drug addicts, voodoo, and creative characters so true to form that no decent author would dare try to convince their readers it is real, but in fact truth is always more interesting than fiction.
Talba Wallis, might be considered a character by some but more to the point she is in the P.I. business and whether she is on the computer checking out the background of a cheating husband or out tracking a killer there is one thing for sure, Talba is always ready for the unexpected and she is never disappointed.
When her friend Babalu Maya gets murdered, Talba wants to know why but when she tries to check into Babalu's past she comes up blank. So she starts with the present boyfriend, which leads her to Babalu's other friends and eventually she learns that Babalu has a family but it's the family from hell. Babalu also has an exhusband worth forgetting about starting with abusive and ending with drugs and drinking himself to death.
With each deadly step she takes she soon figures out that being black, a woman and a P.I in Babalu's hometown of Clayton, Louisiana just might get you killed. There is however a thing or two that Talba learns which is more scary than the local law enforcement. The first is ....that there is a man in she shadows that Babalu was afraid of whom is very well connected and Talba wants to know just how connected he is to Babalu's death. The other thing is that when Babalu was in school she was badly beaten and cut up it was this situation that made the whole town clam up about Babalu, it was also when Babalu left home never to return. She really only kept in contact with one sister and the rest of the family she wanted to put as much distance from as possible.
Babalu has bettered herself in more ways than one and while she had her secrets she had begun to live her life on her own terms. Babalu is actually not her real name, her real name she left in Clayton and when her body is returned there to be buried and for services it's Talba who thinks some of the people attending are just a little off, and when the minister preaches the sermon he does about Babalu and her life it's him that Talba wants to send to meet Jesus.
This is a dark and deadly story with a lot of plot twists but it's the characters that will send a chill up your spine long before the last page is read. I loved this book for it's depth and dark twists and what a page turner it is, fear is a strong emotion and be prepared to become emotionally involved in this mystery.
Pamela James Reviewer

An Interview with Joanna Campbell Slan

M&M: Joanna, tell us about your writing schedule.

I work full-time writing and promoting my work. Some days I spend more time promoting, and others I spend most of the day working on new books, series ideas, or articles. It varies, unfortunately. I say “unfortunately” because I tend to feel depressed when I don’t get my real work done. That is, when I have to do everything other than work on stories! Most days I’m in my office working from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The only breaks I take are to eat and to let the dogs out. At night I often work on art for my online magazine, and when I read, usually it’s research. I work every day of the week. On weekends and evenings, I often do presentations. I haven’t taken a weekend off in months. I don’t intend to, either. I’m too happy doing what I’m doing.

M&M: For you what is the best part of writing a series?

Definitely I love revisiting the characters. I like them, and I enjoy seeing their lives grow and change.

M&M: Tell us about PAPER, SCISSORS DEATH, and how long you have been a scrapbooker?

Paper, Scissors, Death is the story of a young mom, Kiki Lowenstein. Her comfortable life turns upside-down when her husband, George, is found naked and dead in a hotel room. The autopsy says he died of natural causes, but she refuses to believe it. Then his business partner claims George “borrowed” a half a million dollars in company money. Kiki is forced to sell everything she owns to repay the debt. She takes a job at a scrapbook store to support herself and her eleven-year-old daughter, Anya. Kiki vows to bring George’s killer to justice. She’s not worried about the killer targeting her because she’s a mom, and everyone knows moms are invisible—right?

With the help of dashing Detective Chad Detweiler, her best friend and former cleaning lady Mert, and her new boss Dodie, Kiki discovers her husband had a tawdry secret life—a shadow world that quickly threatens her and her daughter’s happiness. When George’s mistress is murdered, Kiki becomes the prime suspect.

The book is funny like Janet Evanovich, romantic like Nora Roberts, and full of the joy of women’s friendships like Debbie Macomber.

I’ve been involved with crafts my whole life, but I started scrapbooking seriously in 1997 before the publication of my first non-fiction, “how to” book on the subject, Scrapbook Storytelling. I’ve written six other books on the subject since then.

M&M: Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was that advice?

Gosh, so many people have influenced me. Early on, Elaine Viets read something I wrote for a critique session at SleuthFest. She told me my characters were unusually well-developed and not to give up. That meant a lot to me. It’s not always the advice; sometimes it’s the timing. Elaine encouraged me at a critical time. Decades ago, Marilyn Moats Kennedy, the career strategist, and I were talking at a conference. Marilyn said, “You think like a writer.” That was the first time anyone had noticed how I process information. These small affirmations keep you going when you feel overwhelmed.

M&M: What is your favorite movie, dessert, meal, and place to travel?

My favorite movies (can’t pick one) are Starman and Michael. My favorite dessert is tiramisu. My favorite meal…hmmm…if it slows down, I’ll eat it, so that’s pretty difficult to say. As far as travel goes, I’m game to head anywhere, anytime. I have lots of stamps in my passport, and I hope to get lots more. I’ve been to Egypt , China , Korea , Japan , Australia , Austria , Germany , Italy , Spain , Wales , Scotland , Ireland , England (lived there for a year), Canada , Belize , Mexico , Aruba, St. Thomas , St. Croix, and Bermuda . Next Christmas, we’re planning to go to Africa with a woman who raised lion cubs. How cool is that?

M&M: What are some of the books you like to read?

My favorite books are Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn , and Rebecca. I love reading mysteries, but I also enjoy other genres.

M&M: Are you part of a blog and if so where can we read it?

I blog at on Mondays, at my own blog several times a week. You can also follow me on Twitter at

M&M: Tell us about book signings and the life of a mystery author.

I like to roam around the bookstore and greet people. I tell them about my book. I ask them what they are reading. It’s a super way to meet folks and learn about their tastes. As for the life of a mystery author, it’s like having a wonderful magic wand. I can “kill” anyone who irritates me…on paper. I can name characters for people I love. I can have another dog, Gracie the Great Dane, on paper. It’s just a perfect existence.

M&M: What advice do you have for the novice mystery writer?

Be willing to re-write. Learn to step back and see your work as a whole. Some folks only edit for punctuation or grammar, and that isn’t good enough. You need to watch for saggy middles. (Don’t we all?) You also need to make sure your characters are properly motivated. And you need to mix it up. The reader should get tons of surprises. Any scene that doesn’t change up the action is probably unnecessary.

Also, speak your dialogue out loud and you’ll know if it sounds realistic or not. That works amazingly well.

M&M: Tell us what you are currently writing.

If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Whooo-ha-ha! Let’s just say, I’m having fun doing the research. I recently turned in Book #3 and the synopsis for Book #4 in the Kiki Lowenstein series. So I’m trying my hand at other ideas. Stay tuned.

M&M: How do you destress and relax ?

I take yoga classes. They are hard for me, because I chipped a bone in my hand chasing one of my dogs down the hill behind my house. (Now I just lie to the dogs and say, “Want to go for a ride?” I feel a little guilty, so after I lie, I put them in the car and we drive around the block. That satisfies my conscience, and they feel good, too. I can tell.) Still, yoga bring me a sense of connectedness and stillness that I haven’t found anywhere else. I also like coloring. One study found that people’s blood pressure dropped when they colored with crayons. I don’t necessarily use crayons, but I do find coloring with pencils and markers relaxing. Maybe it’s from sniffing the fumes. Who knows?

M&M: Lastly but never least...leave us with some writing words of wisdom.

If you don’t love your characters, no one else will. You have to be willing to put 100% of yourself on every page. You can’t lie. You can’t “phone this in.” You have to live and breathe through the words you write. There can’t be a veil between you and your reader. Your voice is clear when you are authentic.

How do you learn to do this? By writing a lot. By writing all sorts of things. By being willing to erase what you’ve done and start over at every turn. And if you are lucky enough to get published, you have to be willing to work hard to sell your own books. That’s your job, not the publisher’s. Your name is on the cover. Being an author is an incredible privilege. I work hard every day, and I mean every day, to be worthy of my readers.

Thank you, Pamela, for the opportunity to share.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Publisher: Signet Mystery
Genre: Mystery series

Desiree Shapiro is a pleasingly plump P.I. and she has a big heart to match her plus size body. Business has a little slow but when Evelyn Cowin tries to hire Desiree she doesn't want to take the case. Not because she doesn't need the nice sized retainer, not because she is lazy but because it involves a dead ten year old girl. Evelyn's grandaughter and Desiree doesn't think she can help the elderly Cowin woman because as the death is explained to Desiree she think the police and family are right that Catherine Cowin died of natural causes.
Evcelyn persists and finally Desiree caves in and thinks maybe if she checks out a few things that the grieving grandmother will drop the murder plot and get on with her life.
Instead Desiree ends up with more questions than she receives answers to and she then one small out of place thing convinces her that murder is exactly what happened to Catherine Cowin. Now proving the who and why might just take more than milk and cookies or even Chinese Food, still if there is one thing that Desiree is good at it's getting a whiff on murder and like anyone with a heart as big as hers she isn't about to stop until someone pays for killing Catherine Cowin, the thing is there is this nephew that would stand out on anyone's suspect list, and Catherine's mother doesn't think her mother-inlaw knows what she is talking about when it concerns her daughter's murder and having lost her husband two years earlier she has enough grief to deal with, and of course the household seems to have fallen apart.
As the plot unfolds and we get to know the characters there seems to be a common thread of jealously and it becomes more apparant than ever to Desiree that Catherine had to die. This sickening revelation is what turns Desiree from sad and afraid of the truth to angry and wanting justice served.
MURDER CAN STUNT YOUR GROWTH by Selma Eichler is one of the best books in this series and this series is good, no better than good it's all the a top list series with a delighful, spunky, real woman heroine that know how to take a big bite out of life, love and murder.
Pamela James

Dead and Gone by Dorothy Simpson REVIEW

Publisher: Worldwide Library
Genre: English Puzzler (Inspector Luke Thanet Mystery)

Something went terribly wrong at the innocent dinner party hosted by Ralph and Vriginia Mintar. All seemed normal enough but after dinner when it was time to clean up is when Virginia Mintar disappeared. One minute she was in the kitchen filling the dishwasher and the next her family and guests were on the hunt for her.
The next morning her body is found in the garden well of the estate and it's soon established that this is cold blooded murder. Insector Thanet has his own concerns as his daughter is in the hospital and the news is not good. Mostly because she has had a difficult pregnancy and his wife Joan and him are very worried about their daughter and soon to be grandchild. Still Inspector Thanet has a job to do but when he tries to learn about Vriginia it soon become apparent that family secrets are the ties that bind this family.
Ralph is a prominent lawyer with close ties to higher ups. For one thing a daughter disappeared four years earlier and no one has ever heard from Caroline again, this really did break her mother's heart, but Virginia had a reputation with lovers, and among the Mintar family of being a difficult and unseemly woman.
Soon Thanet learns that Virginia had not liked her daughter's choice in a husband to be but didn't object openly to their engagement being announced at the dinner party. For one thing she had already lost one daughter who never returned home she wasn't about to lose another. Then there is the mother-inlaw who did not like Virginia and wasn't all that upset she was missing. Husband Ralph seems to be having difficulty being completely honest with Thanet and of course the new neighbors that were over all of the time seemed to be hiding something from the good Inspector. Thanet's assistant Lineham is just as put out with this case as every time they try to find out the truth someone else seems to be lying as this case becomes more and more disturbing.
When the truth emerges and all comes to light it still makes every reader want to sleep with the lights on and never even entertain the thought of ever having another dinner party.
DEAD And GONE by Dorothy Simpson, is a classic english puzzler with an first rate plot. If the suspense doesn't kill you the ending very well might. Tightly woven, and wonderfully executed this mystery is sure to be a classic.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Genre: Series Mystery

Hannah Swensen's mother has a Regency Novel soon to be released so of course there must be a book launch party. This has Hannah busy trying to create great Regency Recipes and losing enough pounds to fit into the Regency Dresses Hannah decides it's time for a regular workout routine and she knows just the slave driver. Her sister Andrea so it's no surprise that Hannah is staying away from chocolate and trying to not have a nervous breakdown. Things seem to be shaping up nicely until Hannah finds the one woman she can't stand in all of Lake Eden floating in the health club jacuzzi and along with Ronni Ward, are Hannah's Cream Puffs, to add to the crime it's the other angle of Hannah's love triangle who bought the cream puffs. Her very own Detective Mike Kingston, may have had an affair with Ronni Ward who is deader than Hannah's promise to lay off the sweets.
Norman the other part in the triangle has promised to help Hannah find the killer since Mike can't work this case, and neither can Hannah's brother-inlaw Bill who also knew Ronni Ward and Hannah's other sister Michelle has a boyfriend on the force too and he also must recuse himself from the investigation. They all need Hannah to solve the crime and each person has advice on how the crime should be solved.
Ronni was no angel but she didn't derserve this death and dessert scene. With nothing to lose but pounds and dignity Hannah sets out to solve the crime, one crumb and clue at a time.
With so little time and so many demands she soon learns the meaning of betrayal, secrets, friendship and chocolate. CREAM PUFF MURDER is a delicous treat for anyone who likes sweets, and a bittersweet murder.Joanne Fluke has created the perfect recipe for murder and mayhem. She has also included some wonderful recipes and let's not forget that this culinary crime writer knows her way around a bakery

Too Pretty To Die - REVIEW

Genre: Series Mystery
Publisher: Avon

Instead of 'Tupperware Parties' the rage in Dallas smong the elite society is something called "pretty parties" of course these parties are about gossip and beauty tip but lately it's more about botox injections and staying young. Andy Kendrick despises all this unnatural beauty and attending this party as a favor to her friend Janet should who is a society reporter should have called them even in the friendship favor markers. However coulds, shoulda and woulda's don't apply here because Andy get caught in the crossfire. I don't mean gossip I mean an actual pissed off beauty queen, with a loaded gun and a bad botox job and she is aiming to shoot one Dr. Sonja Madhavi, the woman who wronged her by botching the botox on her face. The face that millions see every night, the face that is scarred for liefe the face that has seen better days and fears better days are behind her.
Andy ,calms down Miranda, take this drunken woman home, she calls her mother from Miranda's place and while Miranda is passed out on the fashionable sofa, Andy tells her mother she is going home and will check on Miranda, in the morning. However Janet, smells a jusicy story and Miranda did mention something about telling all on everyone.
When Miranda is found dead the next morning and Andy realizes she is the only one besides the killer to have seen Miranda alive, she is sick, heartsick since Miranda used to part of Andy's childhood and although they moved in different directions their mother's are the best of friends. Her mother wants the killer found and has taken matters into her own well manicured hands, while not dirtying them one bit she is using her finger to point out to Andy that she expects her to help find the killer.
Janet decides to investigate and there are rumors of sex parties and when Miranda's laptop disappears, Janet decides to use Andy as bait and has her cleaned up, made up and ready for action. I'm not talking street walker as Andy is too high class for that but I am talking all made up to find a killer and with a body to die for Andy only hopes it won't come to kill or be killed.
TOO PRETTY TO DIE by Susan McBride, is not a cinderella story, but is instead a definite must-read. Especially if you have one of those friends who always needs a favor and you're never too sure how far to go to help a friend. Well you might want to read this book instead of a Nancy Drew book because this book will definitely wipe the slate clean on that question.**********
Pamela James Reviewer

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: One Bad Apple by Sheila Connelly

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN-10: 0425223043
Meg loses her job as a Banker in Boston and decides to fix up her mom's house for resale in a small town and clear her head and figure out what she wants to do. Of course the work is much more than she expected and things are complicated when her ex shows up on her doorsteps and later dead in her septic tank.
I really enjoyed Meg and the setting for this book. I started out with 3 suspects and was not surprised at the guilty party, just saddened. I look forward to more in the series and mroe wodnerful apple recipes! LOL

Review: Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell

Maeve Malloy is a lawyer who has had struggles with drinking, done a stint in rehab and trying to prove herself again as a lawyer.  She is...