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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lies a River Deep by Vera Jane Cook

General Fiction / Women's Fiction
Date Published: March 1, 2012

 In the summer of 1962, at a high school graduation party, Bessie Day Hardy is victim to a brutal crime. Fifty years later, the consequences of that horrific night will transition into unforeseen events that will shatter her serene and uncomplicated life.
It was a day like any other. Days have a sameness, even new, they offer little beyond weather changes and sudden deaths.
“And how are you today?” Bessie asked, showing a smile that age had not yet dulled. She’d always been cute because of it. Sixty years ago, or more, she was the little girl whose cheeks you pinched, and though she was old now, she still wore her hair in curls; silver grey undulations that framed her face and brought out a blithe desire in others to pinch where her dimples dipped, even to kiss her there unabashedly.
Grey looked up and nodded. “Same,” he said.
The air was damp with April moisture as Bessie Day Hardy wrapped her scarf closer to her neck and shivered. Air that hung heavy like wet clothes caught flapping in the rain made it hard to breathe. The scarf had been a gift in a white torn box, under red Santa Claus wrapping, from the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Apostle Christmas party, just last year. The lime green and
caramel colored wool that she loved to feel against her lips, an anonymous kindness from someone who had written: Bless you and have a very Merry Christmas. Someone, she imagined with fresh white skin, pearl teeth and eyes that sparkled blue in daylight, light as the sea, but darkened with the night, turning cenereal behind the shadows of dusk.
“We ever going to see the sun again?” She sighed. A wind kicked around the corner and her body felt the chill, enemy winds that carried the threat of sodden attacks to bones too brittle to fight. Later, she would feel the ache and she would rub her muscles more for the distraction than the release of pain.
“If we live long enough,” Grey said.
Bessie chuckled. Living long wasn’t the blessing it used to be. Aging was in the way. Couldn’t leave a person alone, had to show up and make her breath short, expose every damn vein in her body and give her the unsightly imprint of impending death. Nobody wants to look at mortality too closely and aging people carry its threat, vulnerably apparent; the weight of its nearness is a
monster in the wings where heaven is a nebulous and cracked mirror; don’t look into it, the young whisper: don’t look yet.
But the old were once young. Bessie Day Hardy still carried the traces of adolescent giddiness in the creases of her lips and her middle-aged ardor for Chauncey Hardy still glinted in her eyes at the memory of his smooth hands in hers, and his fine soft hair against her breast. His step was lively. She could hear it, sometimes, when the house was quiet. Chauncey’s step on the stairs, in the kitchen, on the bedroom floor.
Damn house was quiet now, even her cat walked too softly to hear.

What I have to say:

This book was a little hard to get into at first, but picked up towards the end.  It was well written with a good plot and well rounded characters. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
Vera Jane Cook

Pharaoh's Star is Vera Jane Cook's most recent release. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was Vera Jane’s second southern fiction novel and was a finalist in the ForeWord book of the Year Awards for 2012 and received a five star ForeWord Clarion review, as well as an Eric Hoffer honorable mention award for ebook fiction in 2013. Dancing Backward in Paradise also received a 5 Star Clarion ForeWord review and an Eric Hoffer notable new fiction award in 2006, as well as the Indie Excellence Award in 2006. Also by Vera Jane Cook: Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow, Marybeth, Hollister& Jane and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem. Her next novel, Pleasant Day will be published in 2015 by Moonshine Cove Press.



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Friday, December 12, 2014

Coming to Rosemont by Barbara Hinske

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly drawn winner will receive a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Forensic accountant Maggie Martin survives the sudden death of her husband, the charismatic President of Windsor College, only to uncover the secrets of his carefully-concealed double life. Dealing with the financial and emotional wreckage left in Paul’s wake, she is stunned to learn he inherited an estate known as Rosemont in the seemingly-serene Midwestern town of Westbury. Why had he never told her?

Maggie travels to Westbury for the stated purpose of listing Rosemont for immediate sale, but what she really seeks are answers to her all-consuming questions about her sham of a marriage; her sham of a life. She never anticipated the seductive charm of Rosemont. Throwing her trademark caution to the wind, and over the objections of her opinionated grown children, she pulls up stakes and moves halfway across the country, determined to make a fresh start in Westbury. Behind closed doors, however, lurks a cadre of evildoers, playing with multiple wild cards of fraud, embezzlement and arson.

With a quiet, orderly – and distinctively solitary – life in mind, Maggie is instead thrown headlong into a crusade against political corruption, where defeat and retreat are not an option. Still bearing the scars of betrayal, will she find joy, romance and possibility in Westbury?

This fast-paced, smart novel has enough twists and turns to make the reader want to buckle in!

Enjoy an excerpt:

Maggie dropped to her knees and threw her arms around the squirming dog. “You don’t know how much I appreciate being able to have Eve with me tonight,” she beamed up at John. “My flight was delayed and I had a Chatty-Cathy car rental agent. I drove like a maniac to get here. I’m really very grateful you waited. The lot was empty and I thought that I was too late.”

“It was no trouble. I was catching up on paperwork,” John assured her. “I live on the other side of the Square and walk to work, weather permitting. I usually stop at one of the restaurants on the way home for dinner.”

“Are you done? Would you like a lift home?”

John knew an opportunity when he saw one. “I just need to lock up,” he said. “Are you hungry? Or are you full of delicious airline food,” he mocked. When she shook her head and indicated that she was, indeed, starved, he proposed that the three of them walk over to Pete’s for dinner. They could leave her car at the Hospital and she could drop him off at his house after dinner.

What I Have to Say:

This was a book that once I started, I didn't want to put down.  I literally fell in love with the characters and the town of Westbury.  This seems like a great place to live, but it is a little dangerous as well, as there are some corrupt people in office in this town that Maggie and her friends need to unseat.  This was a book that was well written, it had a great protagonist in Maggie, it was set in a great location, it had a great plot, it had a little romance, but was not graphic at all and wasn't sappy.  It also had a great dog in which I loved.  This book left off with a cliffhanger that was very well written, because I can't wait to pick up the next book in this series and find out what happens with Maggie and her friends.  I don't usually give stars or anything like that, but this book was way beyond a five star read!  Great job Barbara!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Author:

Barbara Hinske is a practicing attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. She has two grown children with her exceedingly kind and good second husband, who died of cancer in 2006. Lucky in love, Barb married another exceptional man and father of two in 2010, and they live in their own Rosemont with two adorable and spoiled dogs.






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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When Chicks Hatch by Heather Randall

ASIN: B00OZQP3OS| List Price: $2.99 kindle (on Amazon) or $10 print (on author website)|Format: Softcover or Kindle |
Jennifer and Nicky collaborate on the most important production of their lives.
Sidney battles to reconcile her self-centered past with her unexpected future.
Alexis faces grief and rejection as she works to resurrect her marriage.
Kristen has lost faith that her dreams of love and family will ever materialize.
Five fragile women face the most challenging days of their lives. Love, friendship, and long-held perceptions of what life holds for them are tested as each woman is confronted by her own personal struggles. Their lives become unavoidably intertwined as they intersect with God, faith, and hope.

What I Have to Say:

This is a quick read that is also entertaining.  It is well written and has a great message.  This is a great first novel by Heather Randall.  It deals with issues in the world today, but in a way that is Godly and not judgemental.  This book will give you hope that God is in control and has a better plan for our lives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Author BIO:

Heather Randall began her writing career with baby steps, literally. In 2003 she started blogging about her mommy adventures and connecting with like-minded women online. During this time she was also preparing the final bits of a novel that had been written with pen and paper. A friend typed it all up properly for her and, at last, in 2011 When Chicks Hatch was published.
In 2013 He paved the way for her to purchase Christian Women Affiliate. 

She now serves as the CEO of Christian Women Affiliate, LLC and all of its divisions including the CWA Radio Network and The CWA Review Crew. She especially enjoys serving fellow writers through her company. Heather still leaves time for God to fill her up with stories and she is currently working on a second novel.

Heather's hobbies include spending time with family, writing, reading, creating and trading mail art, homeschooling and blogging. Heather and her husband, four children, Mom, three cats, a dog, and a frog all reside in Oklahoma. 

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette, Review and Giveaway

Death With All the Trimmings: A Key West Food Critic Mystery
Series: Key West Food Critic (Book 5)
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Obsidian(December 2, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-0451465900

The only snow in Key West this Christmas is Hayley Snow, food critic for Key Zest magazine, who is not getting time off for the holiday…or time off from murder.
It may be Christmastime, but thoughts of peace on earth, good will toward men, don’t seem to extend to the restaurant biz. Hayley has been assigned to interview Edel Waugh, chef/owner of Key West’s hottest new restaurant. But off the record, Edel reveals someone’s sabotaging her kitchen and asks Hayley to investigate.
Things heat up fast when the restaurant is set on fire—and a body is discovered in the charred wreckage. Is someone out to destroy the chef’s business—or actually kill her? Amid holiday festivities like the lighted boat parade and visiting relatives who stir up mixed emotions, Hayley needs to smoke out an arsonist and a killer who may turn up the heat on her next…

My Review:

This was a great cozy that kept my attention throughout ant kept me entertained.  I really like the character of Hayley Snow, she seems to be a down-to-earth person that I can relate too.  She also has a knack for sticking her nose into things that she shouldn't.  She has to figure out a mystery and try to keep her job all at the same time, but is it possible that the two situations have more to do with each other than what Hayley first thought?  This is a great cozy to start off your holiday reading if you haven't started it yet, wouldn't Christmas in Key West be great?

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

About This Author
Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, including DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, as well as the advice column mysteries and the golf lover’s mysteries, written as Roberta Isleib. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.
Author Links
Facebook page:
Goodreads page:
Pinterest page:
And Two group blogs:
Mystery Lovers Kitchen:
Jungle Red Writers:
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Murder the Tey Way by Marilyn Levinson

Murder the Tey Way
by Marilyn Levinson
  • Cozy Mystery – 300 pages
The sequel to Murder a la Christie.
Professor Lexie Driscoll is leading a Golden Age of Mystery book club discussion of Josephine Tey’s novels, when her sister arrives in a state of agitation. The sisters aren’t close, and Lexie wonders why Gayle has driven from Utah to Long Island to stay with her. The following morning, Gayle awakens Lexie to say there’s a dead man lying in her backyard. Gayle confesses she’s on the run because she witnessed a murder and the murderer is out to get her. Gayle takes off after begging Lexie not to tell the police she’s been there. This presents a problem because Lexie’s boyfriend, homicide detective Brian Donovan, is initially put in charge of the investigation. The murder victim turns out to be a minor criminal suspected of having burgled several homes in the area. Lexie wonders if her sister killed the man, believing he was sent to kill her.
Lexie and her friend Joy Lincoln, a former FBI agent and now a stay-at-home mom, soon discover that all of the book club members either have secrets or are in situations involving the wrong side of the law. An older couple, Marge and Evan Billings, are at the mercy of the criminals they’ve hired to extricate their young granddaughter from Peru. Tim Draigon has lost his attorney’s license for illegal activities. He and Sadie Lu, a guidance counselor, owe money and have borrowed large sums from money lenders connected to the murdered man. Lexie’s neighbors, the Roberts sisters, are strange birds. Corinne dominates her slow sister, Felicity, and berates Lexie whenever she comes to Felicity’s aid. And who is this Johnny Scarvino Felicity fears? Another club member is murdered, one is knocked unconscious, and old and new secrets impact the lives of the members of the book club. Lexie must find the murderer before more lives are destroyed.
My Review:
This is a book that will keep you guessing till the very end.  I have never read any of Josephine Tey's novels and have never really heard of her till not, but the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club was reading one of her mysteries when Lexie has to solve a mystery of her own.  So she uses some of Josephine's tactics to help her solve the crime.  Lexie has a lot of weeding out of suspects to contend with in this book, but alas, Lexie comes through.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. 
About This Author
 A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for kids.
Her latest mystery, Murder a la Christie, is out with Oak Tree Press. Untreed Reads has brought out new e-editions of her Twin Lakes mysteries: A Murderer Among Us, awarded a Suspense Magazine Best Indie, and Murder in the Air. Uncial Press e-publishes her ghost mystery, Giving Up the Ghost, and her romantic suspense, Dangerous Relations. All of Marilyn’s mysteries take place on Long Island, where she lives.
Her books for young readers include No Boys Allowed; Rufus and Magic Run Amok, which was awarded a Children’s Choice; Getting Back to Normal, & And Don’t Bring Jeremy.
Marilyn loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her granddaughter, Olivia, on FaceTime. She is co-founder and past president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime.
 Author Links
Blog: Makeminemystery the first and third Monday of every month.
Purchase Links:
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Murder for a Rainy Day by Teresa Trent

Murder For A Rainy Day
by Teresa Trent
• Series: Pecan Bayou #6
• Cozy Mystery
  Murder for a Rainy Day
Animal rustling is alive and well in the sleepy little town of Pecan Bayou, Texas–but with a particularly peculiar spin. Only the fake livestock seem to be at risk. First, cowboy legend Charlie Loper’s larger-than-life fiberglass horse disappears from the town square, but before the police can get any solid leads, the cow in front of the local steak house gets pinched.
Betsy Livingston Fitzpatrick, local helpful hints columnist for the Pecan Bayou Gazette, is trying keep her mind off of being nine months pregnant in the blistering Texas summer heat. Troubled by haunting dreams, she pursues the odd animal thefts in a case that soon turns into murder. As Betsy closes in on the killer, a hurricane is headed straight for the Gulf Coast sending spin-off storms and tornadoes to the little town of Pecan Bayou.
“Hunker down” with Betsy and the lovable characters of Pecan Bayou in the latest Betsy Livingston mystery from cozy author Teresa Trent. Recipes and helpful hints included.

My Review:

This is the sixth book in this series, and Betsey seems to always get herself in a pickle, and this time she is pregnant!  This was an entertaining read, as are all of Teresa's Pecan Bayou Series books.  Teresa is an excellent writer who blends humor with a great mystery.  And she includes some really helpful hints and recipes in the back of the books.  If you are looking for a fast entertaining read, that will keep you guessing, then this is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

About This Author
 Teresa Trent writes her Pecan Bayou Mystery Series from Houston, Texas.  With a father in the army, her family moved often finally settling in Colorado.  Living in Texas for the last 19 years she loves the people and even the weather.  Murder for a Rainy Day includes a hurricane, and having endured Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Rita with her family, Teresa would much rather write about them than evacuate from them.   Teresa includes Danny, a character with Down Syndrome in her Pecan Bayou family and in real life is the mother of an adult son with Down Syndrome/PDD.  Creating the character of Danny and all of the other inhabitants of Pecan Bayou has been a joy for her.  This book is the last one in the Pecan Bayou Series taking Betsy from single mom to mother of three.  Teresa is now working on her next series that will take place in the Piney Woods of Texas.
 Author Links:
Twitter: @ttrent_cozymys

Purchase Link
Pecan Bayou Series by Teresa Trent

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Honeysuckle Bride by Tara Randel Book Blast and Giveaway

One part happiness. Two parts love.

Relocating to the coast of Florida after becoming guardian of her best friend’s twin daughters could be the best move LA celebrity chef Jenna Monroe ever made. This is her chance to create a stable, loving home − something she never had. But can she be the mother the girls need?

Wyatt Hamilton thinks she can. The rugged charter boat captain, who came home to Cypress Pointe still grieving the death of his son, has faith in her. But the feelings he awakens in Jenna both exhilarate and frighten her. Because Wyatt no longer believes in forever... Unless she can convince him otherwise.


“Jenna, some advice?”

She faced him. “Please.”

“Keep loving them, just the way you are. They’ll always remember your love.”

Her throat went dry as tears misted in her eyes. “I can do that.”

He reached out to run a finger over her cheek, catching a single teardrop as it escaped. His gaze held hers, dark and mysterious in the dim light.

“Then you’re miles ahead.”

Jenna stared into Wyatt’s eyes, splayed her hand over his steady heartbeat. The foyer suddenly seemed cramped. The air heated. They stood toe-to-toe, so close, she could feel his soft breath on her skin. His firm fingers circled her arms, drew her closer. He lowered his head, but neither of them made the next move. Unable to stand the suspense any longer, she stood on tiptoes to brush her lips over his.

How right this felt. A deep part of her connected with him on a level she’d never experienced with any other man. Her heart expanded. For a guy who claimed he didn’t get emotionally involved, his kisses said otherwise. There wasn’t anything more involved than sharing a toe-curling kiss.

Gently breaking the connection, Jenna took a step back,  her skin cooling at the loss of Wyatt’s warmth.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Tara Randel is the author of 10 books. She has enjoyed a lifelong love of reading, especially romance and mystery genres, so it didn't come as a surprise when she began writing with the dream of becoming published. Family values, mystery and, of course, love and romance are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Tara lives on the West Coast of Florida, where gorgeous sunsets inspire the creation of heartwarming stories, filled with love, laughter and the occasional mystery.

You can find out more about Tara at her website,

Tara at Harlequin:

Buy Links:

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Emma Blooms at Last by Naomi King

Romance is in the air during the fall wedding season in the Amish community of Cedar Creek. But while one loving couple prepares to tie the knot, Amanda and Wyman Brubaker’s large family faces a threat from outside their happy circle…and must learn to pull together.
Recently wed Amanda and Wyman Brubaker are thrilled that their children from previous marriages have blended together to form a strong family. But when the construction of Wyman’s new grain elevator is delayed, making the project more expensive than anticipated, Amanda’s determination to rally the kids into taking on work to improve the family’s finances comes into conflict with Wyman’s sense of responsibility as head of the household….
Meanwhile, as James Graber and Abby Lambright prepare for their long-awaited nuptials, folks gather from far and wide. Amanda’s nephew Jerome has long been smitten with James’s sister Emma and wants to seize this chance to woo her. But Emma’s been burned once and is twice shy of trusting the fun-loving, never-serious Jerome. As Emma and Jerome struggle to understand each other, and find the courage to make a leap of faith, the Brubakers face a bigger challenge than they first anticipated and begin to discover just what it means to fight…the Amish way.
My Review:

This was another wonderful story by Naomi King.  Naomi is such a great writer that she makes you feel like you know the characters.  I really connected with the character, Emma.  I also like how Naomi keeps the characters from previous books in front burner storylines in each book.  It is nice to read about a caring community of people.  Great job Naomi.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Naomi King writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her Home at Cedar Creek/One Big Happy Family series. Like her series heroine, Abby Lambright, Naomi considers it her personal mission to be a listener—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls—and to share her hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and frugality are hallmarks of her lifestyle: like Abby, she made her wedding dress and the one her mom wore, too! She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, Naomi loves to travel, try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Naomi, whose real name is Charlotte Hubbard, now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie, Ramona.

Excerpt Five:


“Shall we get some lunch?” Jerome asked when they were seated in the rig. “There’s a vintage-style diner just down the road—”


“Or we could go back to Cedar Creek,” Emma remarked in a hopeful tone. “Between what Mamm and I fixed and what Amanda brought, there’s plenty enough for us to join them.”


Jerome smiled. “But you’ve spent your morning with me and saved me from making a lot of mistakes,” he said gently. “I’d like to treat you to a meal you didn’t have to cook yourself. Will that be all right?”


Emma smiled as the color rose in her cheeks. “Well, since you put it that way . . .”


He was thankful that once they were seated in a red leatherette booth with a chrome-edged table between them and a miniature jukebox on the wall, Emma took off her black coat and bonnet. In her honey-gold cape dress and a cream-colored apron that fastened behind her neck, she looked much more attractive and . . . inviting.


Jerome was pleased when she ordered a patty melt with fries and a side of tomato soup. At least she wasn’t going to be finicky about her food, like some girls were. After he ordered the blue-plate special, which was meat loaf, he tapped on the wall-mounted juke box. “Pick a song, Emma. We can listen while we wait for our lunch.”


As she flipped through the selections, Jerome fished out a quarter and put it in the slot. “F six,” she murmured.


In a few moments, “See You Later, Alligator,” filled the small diner. As Emma tapped her fingers on the tabletop, keeping time to the old rock-and-roll song, she looked as happy as Jerome had ever seen her. At last, he’d found something they both enjoyed, even if the church didn’t allow them to play such music at home.


“Dat took James and Abby and me to a horse auction once, when we were around ten or eleven,” she recounted. “We ate lunch at a place similar to this one, and Dat played this record on the jukebox—and it’s stuck with us ever since. Even on days when he can’t recall what he ate for breakfast, he knows every word to this song.”


“It’s a snappy tune,” Jerome agreed, tapping his toes. Just for fun, he wanted to catch Emma’s feet between his and give them a quick squeeze, but he thought better of it. “It’s nice to have that memory from when your dat was younger and stronger. My mamm and dat died when our house burned to the ground, when I was just ten.”


Emma’s eyes widened. “And how was it that you didn’t—I mean—”


The concern on her face coaxed Jerome to grasp her hand. “I was staying overnight at a cousin’s house,” he replied. “The firemen said the old furnace exploded, and because the house was built of very dry wood they’d saved from a barn they’d torn down, my folks were gone before they knew what hit them. That’s when Aunt Amanda and Uncle Atlee took me in—and probably why I get such a kick out of your dat.”


“You didn’t lose any brothers or sisters, I hope?” Emma murmured. “If something happened to James, I’m not sure I could bear it.”


Jerome felt comforted by her concern, even if the accident happened more than half his lifetime ago. “No, it seems they broke the mold when they made me,” he said with a chuckle.


For a moment, Emma’s gaze lingered on his. Such an unusual shade of brown her eyes were, similar to a mixture of honey and cinnamon. Too soon, she eased her hand away. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. “That was a horrible thing to endure when you were so young.”



One Big Happy Family, Book 2

NAL Trade (November 4, 2014)

ISBN-13: 9780451417886 •• ISBN-10: 0451417887


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Mrs Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death


Publisher: Alibi (November 18, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Move over, Miss Marple—Mark Reutlinger’s charming cozy debut introduces readers to the unforgettable amateur sleuth Rose Kaplan and her loyal sidekick, Ida.
Everyone knows that Rose Kaplan makes the best matzoh ball soup around—she’s a regular matzoh ball maven—so it’s no surprise at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors when, once again, Mrs. K wins the honor of preparing the beloved dish for the Home’s seder on the first night of Passover.
But when Bertha Finkelstein is discovered facedown in her bowl of soup, her death puts a bit of a pall on the rest of the seder. And things go really meshugge when it comes out that Bertha choked on a diamond earring earlier stolen from resident Daisy Goldfarb. Suddenly Mrs. K is the prime suspect in the police investigation of both theft and murder. Oy vey—it’s a recipe for disaster, unless Rose and her dear friend Ida can summon up the chutzpah to face down the police and solve the mystery themselves.
Advance praise for Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
“Is there kosher food in jail? These two heroines have gotten themselves in quite a pickle! Well, it’s a matzoh ball mess, really. Too deliciously funny!”—Rita Mae Brown, bestselling author of Nine Lives to Die
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My Review:
This was a charming little read.  It got kind of distracting because the narrator, Ida, kept getting off track and got her and Mrs. Kaplan mixed up in the problems of the other residents of Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors.  This isn't the first book I have read with a Jewish protagonist, but it is the first that was really authentic.  If you are looking for a quick, lite-hearted read, then this is the book for you. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
About Mark ReutlingerMark Reutlinger is the author of the novel Made in China and a professor of law emeritus at Seattle University. Born in San Francisco, Mark graduated from UC Berkeley and now lives with his wife, Analee, in University Place, Washington.

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Guest Post:

Where I Get My Characters


I am fond of saying that my novels develop as they go, like a living being growing in ways I cannot always predict. Some aspects of a novel are well-planned, while others are as much a surprise to me as they would be to anyone else. My characters within a novel are created in the same way. As I find I need a role filled, I find a character, either in my memory or in my imagination, to fit that role.


In Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death, for example, I knew from the outset that the two principal characters would be older Jewish women living in a retirement home. The two women were definitely patterned after, or more accurately are an amalgam of, many such people I have known in my life, from my and my wife’s grandmothers to the residents of various retirement homes I have had occasion to visit. (My and my wife’s parents spent many years in such facilities.) They are, in other words, drawn from real life, from my memory of people I have known well or been acquainted with. Even their names are from my experience: I believe Mrs. Kaplan was (subconsciously) named after Leo Rosten’s wonderful character Hyman Kaplan, whose exploits my wife’s mother used to read aloud to us, complete with accent. As for Ida Berkowitz, the narrator of the story, I had an aunt named Ida and it just seemed right for her.


On the other hand, some of my characters are created from whole cloth, specially designed to fit the role I have planned for them. I have told the story elsewhere of how Linda Chambers, the female protagonist in my political thriller Made in China, came to be co-starred with Jack Conway, the male protagonist: I wrote her in with a minor part and unexpectedly liked her so much I made her a principal character, with traits suited to her new role. Linda is an example of a character who is not patterned after or a composite of anyone I actually know or have met, although she is someone I would like to know. She is beautiful, intelligent, and resourceful, but also a bit silly at times, with a good sense of humor. She has human failings and weaknesses, of course, but on balance she is one of the strongest characters I have come across in my mental dramatis personae. That’s because I created her that way.


I think a mix of characters one takes from real life and others wholly a product of one’s imagination makes for interesting and well-rounded fiction. Characters based on real people in a writer’s life can be lovingly described and filled out with ready-made features—physical, mental, and emotional, but too many “familiar” characters might tend to confine a writer to actions and characteristics that in fact define those real people; at least one might be reluctant to assign them roles completely foreign to their models. Wholly fictional characters, on the other hand, give a writer freedom to mold them in whatever way seems best at the time, with no feeling of incongruity. They lack the familiarity and realism of those representing a living person, but that in turn opens them to an infinite variety of descriptions.


Linda Chambers, meet Rose Kaplan. I’m confident you two will get along famously.