Book Review of The Darling Dahlias and The Unlucky Clover By Susan Wittig Albert

Ready for a trip? Order a copy of   The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover         Travel back in time to the days of the depression when times were tough but never boring.

I’m so thankful that Susan Wittig Albert decided to write another “Darling Dahlias” mystery, in response to reader requests. I really would love to see a couple more in the series.

Set in the South – “Darling” Alabama during the Depression of the 1930’s, (1934, this edition) the series serves as a historical record of the culture of the time, in addition to being a light and entertaining collection of mystery stories.

This particular story includes details of automobiles of the era, and the business of moonshine making. Moonshine manufacturing was just one of the enterprises people pursued in an attempt to make a living in lean times. In 1934, prohibition had been repealed, but moonshining was still illegal. The author includes a few details of the differnces in moonshine making in various areas of the country. In the deep south, it seems, the shine was shipped fresh. Packed as soon as it was prepared, makers would load it in a fast car then rush it off to the nearest big city for sale.

The New Deal, FDR’s plan to improve the lives of the public, was coming to fruition in this story. The CCC Camp, just outside of the town of Darling, provided jobs for some. The Writer’s Program was beginning to take shape.

Liz Lacy is my favorite character, of course, since she’s an aspiring writer. Liz’s day job, one she enjoys, is the position of secretary to the town’s lawyer, Mr. Mosely. Liz learns of The Writer’s Program – put together to offer writers, educators, and artists an ability to make a living at a time when these types of jobs were hard to come by. Liz’s employer didn’t know how he could function without Liz, but his income was as uncertain as any, so he wasn’t sure he could keep her on. The program thus holds her interest.

Liz faces other dilemmas concerning Grady Alexander, her former beau who took up with a teenager he had to marry as she became pregnant. His young wife suffered a premature death due to cancer. He is now pursuing Liz, realizing not only that he still loves her, but that he needs a wife to assist him in raising Grady junior. She loves living on her own in her cute little cottage, and writing in her spare time, so is unsure what the right thing to do may be.

Amid the difficulties of the lives of all the Dahlia ladies, a suspicious death occurs. A man whose wife is about to divorce him, meets his demise in an accident which must be investigated. His death could also affect the fate of some of the town’s businesses. Additionally, the man was a member of the Lucky Four Clovers Barbershop Quartet. The group was, at the time, preparing for a major competition.

My mother told many tales of happenings during depression days. The Darling Dahlia series takes me back to the times of her stories. Though there was nearly no spending money, people seemed to have a better sense of style and culture then than today. They enjoyed celebrations with friends and neighbors. More people raised their own chickens and had gardens, so food was available to many. (Some great pie recipes are included in this title. Ones you won’t easily find in today’s cookbooks.)

For all the difficulties, and the war that followed, overall the country came out of the struggle stronger, more prosperous. Business and industry leaders shared the wealth with workers when times improved. We can hope that a similar outcome will follow today’s culture changes that seem to leave so many behind.

Once again I highly recommend  The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover, and hope that Susan Wittig Albert will create a couple more works in the series, taking us at least up to the beginning of “The War”.

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Pick Your Poison – The Mystery Writer’s Dilemma

Since I began to compose my own mysteries, the biggest struggle seems to be how to kill someone. Maybe it just doesn’t come naturally to me to think of killing someone.

These days, I wouldn’t wish pain upon even my worst “enemies”.

But I have come to love my cozies, the lighthearted mysteries that entertain and comfort me in spite of the misfortune of the murder victims as they are violently attacked, or ingest toxic substances.

So, in my “spare” time, I try to come up with believable, yet unpredictable plots. Research into ways to kill someone can be quite troubling, though. Some poisons that were readily available in earlier times have become regulated today, but still, a good number of drugs, plants and household products could still be accessed by someone plotting a murder, or hopefully, only a good story. Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons (Howdunit Series) is a classic for mystery writers seeking toxic products for plots.

I’m still not sure how someone who grows more peace loving with age has become enamored of reading and now writing cozy mysteries.

I do know I was never a fan of most fiction,  the plots seemed either too boring or too filled with human drama. Then I discovered cozies. Cozy writers seem to enjoy the same aspects of life that I do. Many focus upon pets, gardening, and generally living a modest but pleasurable lifestyle. While they’re upset by murders, they seem to accept them as an unpleasant but inevitable part of life.

Of course, historical mysteries are still may favorite to write. I think they can be every bit as intriguing as stories involving current era fatalities. One of these days, Black Cats, Schemes, and Childhood Dreams, or a short story of mine may see the light of publication, when I deem them to be ready for public reading.

Book Review of The Vineyard Victims a Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby

Blush

The first blush of spring is upon the hills on this slightly chill morning in mid-March. A great day to head outside with a good book if one dons a jacket and finds a spot in the sun. Crocus and snowdrops are up and a faint tint of green shines through the few spots of snow that linger in shady spots along the roadsides.

I highly recommend The Vineyard Victims: A Wine Country Mystery (Wine Country Mysteries) for a first spring read!

There’s a great lesson to be learned from this work of fiction-

Lucie Montgomery, owner of a winery founded by her family amid the lovely landscapes of Virginia experiences a bit of déjà vu as a car driven by a publicly prominent friend plows into the same pillar at the end of her estate’s lane that was the impact point of an accident she experienced ten years before.

The details behind this accident are gradually unearthed as Lucie launches an investigation into the puzzling request Jamie, the accident victim, makes of her just before the car catches fire and consumes his life.

A number of people Lucie knows are discovered to be involved in the events of another era that provoked the current situation leading to the fatal accident.

Quinn, the estate’s wine-maker, who now is engaged to Lucie, is supportive throughout the story. Those who have read the earlier works in the series know of the long winding road they followed before coming together as readers hoped they would.

Things became a bit unbelievable at the point where the answer to the mystery was revealed, but that’s really the only flaw I saw in the story.

I actually didn’t want the book to end, but loved the conclusion when Lucie learned a lesson we all should remember. It seems fate brought a few strange factors together to teach her. Synchronicities this intricately entwined are rare, but can be realities.

A book of inspiration as well as entertainment.  To view more, click the link below: 

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Book Review of Crazy Like a Fox by Rita Mae Brown

Branch

Crazy Like a Fox: A Novel (“Sister” Jane)

The Foxhunting Mystery Series with Sister Jane, represented by this current review is just one branch on the talent tree of Rita Mae Brown.

Her early life works featured varied themes, I’ve not explored all of those.

Her later life series’ focused on the intelligence and wonder of companion animals and wild creatures  ( a theme after my own heart)- her cat Sneaky Pie offering inspiration and writing her own series based upon the life of Mary Minor, postmistress of Crozet Virginia at the start of the series.

This series featuring two and four footed members of The Jefferson Hunt Club is a favorite of mine also.

Ms. Brown branched out on a limb for a time with a shorter series set in the west, which I believe featured a canine, but didn’t hold my interest very well.

Sneaky Pie and The Hunt Group have kept me captivated for decades:

Here are my thoughts on Crazy Like a Fox, incidentally, Ms. Brown is a Master of Foxhounds and Hunstman herself, so her technical details come firsthand:

The plot was a bit predictable, I feel, based upon the fact that I figured out who the “ghost” was quite before the conclusion, something unusual for me. A couple of not so subtle clues gave it away fairly early in the story.

Still, it was an enjoyable tale for those of us fans of Rita Mae, and her foxhunting themed series. Characterization was a bit complex but crafty, and there is a handy guide to human, canine, equine, and wildlife players of the plot.

The mystery involves the disappearance of a cow-horn from a museum of foxhunting, the appearance of an echo to the going home horn blow of Shaker Crown, huntsman of the Jefferson Hunt Club, at the end of each hunt, and reported sightings/conversations with the ghost of a man who hunted with a local club in the early to mid-twentieth century.

I believe that’s all I should reveal about the story. Though more simplistic in plot than most of Rita Mae’s books, it was a relaxing read featuring hounds, hunting, human foibles and failings, and the intelligence and good manners of horses, dogs, foxes, and generally all creatures great and small.

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Dial Meow for Murder – a book for lovers of eclectic characters, pets and all that accompanies the Halloween Season.

a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/premonition/”>Premonition

via Daily Prompt: Premonition

I actually have experienced a few premonitions during my lifetime, a couple of them coming as dreams revealing scenes and details I could never have known might happen, but that did in fact come to fruition. The dreams seemed different from “normal” ones. I sensed that they had meaning, though I was in denial until the events occurred. So I’m a true believer that there is a lot about the universe that we don’t know.

I have a strong desire to make sense of everything, but the world from our perspective doesn’t seem to make much sense, so faith and trust are necessities. From that point of view, I value my unexplained experiences, as they are proof that there’s something beyond the physical world with all it’s flaws.

I have a premonition today, well, really a reality based prediction that those of you who are interested in the spirit of the Halloween season, parties, costumes, and pets, will love the book I was planning to review today.

So, here’s the review. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps click the link to order a copy, and let me know in the comments section if you have had premonitions that came true too:

Book Review of Dial Meow for Murder – A Lucky Paws Pet Sitting Mystery by Bethany Blake

Dial Meow for Murder (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)

I’ll have to read the first in the series, Death by Chocolate Lab, now that I’ve become a fan of Daphne and Socrates, oh, and Tinkleston too, the crazy little kitten Daphne just adopted after the death of his owner. Socrates, the basset hound is Daphne’s sidekick and protector. Daphne has her own pet sitting business, though she doesn’t seem to do that job too much in this book. She’s too busy creating costumes, celebrating at Halloween events and solving murders.

A casual romance/friendship is featured, as is a drama concerning the large home of a lady who passed away, which was for sale by Daphne’s mother’s real estate company at the time of the death of the owner.

Daphne’s sister Piper is a veterinarian. Both young ladies are animal lovers so cute pets permeate the tale. Fund raising for pet rescue organizations is a prime pastime for the interesting cast of characters.

I liked how everything turned out in the end, the several plots coming together pretty seamlessly. Well, one character I really liked is leaving Sylvan Creek (PA), which made me a bit sad, but it’s probably a good thing for that character. I’m not sure what the title has to do with the story, but I do like the take on the vintage film “Dial M for Murder”.

A recommended read for those who love pets, and the lovely season of Autumn, and Halloween.

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On Blogging: Is it Just My Imagination . . .

Imagination

via Daily Prompt: Imagination

or does regular blogging really help build writing skills and spur imaginative ideas for more blogs? When first blogging, I wondered how I would find enough material for ongoing articles. I imagined each post would require major research and much editing.

Since I’ve been publishing posts on a regular basis, I find myself writing, and typing, much faster, with fewer obvious errors. I have running lists in my pocket, purse, and by my bedside of new topics I’d like to research or simply post my opinion about.

It seems amazing how much more I’ve actually accomplished in my personal life too, since blogging more. It seems I’ve found my passion, and pursuing it doesn’t drain my energy as much as wondering what my passion really was for most of my life. I’ve learned a lot about various topics over the years, well actually decades, I must admit: dog behavior and competitive obedience trials, gardening, home arts, environmental issues, wellness and fitness, and of course, the passion behind this particular blog, reading  – about everything- but especially cozies. So, there’s a wide range of topics to choose from.

The writing adage – write about what you know is so true. Writing about what I know was the key to triggering my imagination, enabling me to begin composing fiction too, a few years ago, something I thought I could never do, and it’s the obvious key to blogging.

Start with what you know, and imagination will lead you to share your thoughts in a new way. Once you’re on that trail, you tap into that creative chain of consciousness, becoming in-spirit (inspired), putting things on paper before they’ve even entered your mind. You type faster and more efficiently, with less errors. Your confidence increases.

For years I fought my inclination to write, feeling I lacked training to accomplish anything worth while, that I was wasting my time. Once I got over my sense of denial, I learned I could create compositions that some would want to read.

I’m still far from being a greatly skilled writer, but blogging is making me a better one, I believe.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss”, to achieve success. That’s as true for blogging as it is for any pursuit. The more we blog, the better we can become. So, to all beginning bloggers and to veterans too:

“Keep Calm and Blog On”.

P. S. Since The Daily Post requires working quickly to post the same day, it’s a great way to build experience and trigger one’s instinctive imagination.

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Book Review of Glow of Death, a Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery – By Jane K. Cleland

Cats, Books, Mystery Books,

Lecture
via Daily Prompt: Lecture

Perhaps I should attend a lecture on the proper way to review books – learning from the experiences of others is a valued way to improve one’s own talents. But just now I’m too busy reading books I love and hoping to share them with others who like the same kind of cozies I do. – In addition to my other personal and professional responsibilities.

So I hope that readers are ok for now with the fact that I share my honest impression of books with you- my online friends, in the same natural manner I would use with “in person” friends.

So here’s my review of  Glow of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries): My latest favorite from Jane K. Cleland, set in my very favorite place to visit in person, Southern Coastal New England:

It took me a while to read this one. A bit longer than most cozies, it seems, but the plot held the reader’s interest the entire time.

A complex winding plot with some unexpected suspense at the end.   I must admit I got a little lost for a time, keeping track of characters and plot twists, but that was okay.

A tiffany lamp was the star of the story. I learned some details of how to tell a real one from a reproduction, but it does require an expert to be sure. If an item has enough value, people will find a way to accurately make copies.

This one was stolen, replaced with a fake, and Josie was challenged with finding the real one, and finding the murderer of the lady with whom she had met to appraise the lamp. Well, maybe. That’s all I’m saying

I learned a bit about tomato cultivation, as a side character did nothing but tend to her plants it seemed, each time Josie passed her home. It seemed a bit repetitive, but I would love the meet the character in person, very pleasant and a great sense of style.

Josie finds romance with her cop boyfriend who’s out of town assignment finally comes to an end and they can spend more time together. And Hank, the watch cat of Prescott Antiques gains a new friend.

If you find antiques fascinating, love cats, and the New England Coast, and appreciate an assortment of interesting characters, all entwined into a detailed plot you will enjoy this story.

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Ornaments of Death by Jane K. Cleland

Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries)

This book has been around awhile, but especially at the Holidays, it’s always great to revisit favorite stories. And favorite places too. Rocky Point is a fictional town in the real setting of Seacoast Region New Hampshire.

Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire towns and beaches have been the setting for many of my New England escapes, and I love them dearly.

In this story, a visit from a newly discovered distant relative is in order for Josie Prescott, owner of Prescott’s Antiques a prestigious auction house. His visit coinsides with the holiday party planning of Josie and her small trusted staff.

The suspenseful events regarding the theft of an antique, the disappearance of her newfound family member and the interest added by Hank, Josie’s captivating cat make for a memorable holiday season.

To learn more about this book, click the link below:

Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries)

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