Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron - #review #interview #giveaway

Check in for some Southern hospitality in Plantation Shudders, the Cajun Country series debut from Ellen Byron.

It’s the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family’s plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival–elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other–one from very unnatural causes– Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.

With the help of Bo Durant, the town’s handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives? Decades-old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron’s charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.



I like the element of the supernatural in Plantation Shudders.  And yes, that is the correct spelling, because the author refers to the shudders you get when a cold chill runs up your spine, and not the window decor when using the term.  You see, when you get the shudders, that means something bad is going to happen.  And in my book, a older couple who keel over after supper is definitely in 'minus' side of the day's events.

I'm feeling like it would be hard to have to turn the family home into a B&B.  Granted, many of the larger homes and estates have really too much room for one family, but you'd always have to be on your best behavior with guests coming and going at all hours.  But times are tough all over and it's not only the working class feeling the pinch.

The sheriff did not impress me much.  It's great that Ms. Byron writes unlikeable characters so well.  I get it that he is from a rival old family in the area, but if he draws out the investigation to force the Crozats into losing money (as they generously offered to either have their guests transferred to another accommodation or to let them stay on where they were for free), then it's time for johnny law to step down and let someone who can keep their business and personal lives separate.

Once the older couple, who were not whom they claimed to be, met their maker, the other guests' facades started falling faster than the leaves in autumn.  Most or all of them had something to hide.  Of course, this is not a bad thing in a murder mystery, because it leaves lots of suspects to sort through.  If everyone knew whodunit right from the start, it would make for some very short books!

The setting was wonderfully written by Ms. Byron.  I could feel the history and the danger of the old plantation and area seeping into my bones.  It's going to be fun watching Maggie and Bo 'dance' around each other in a kind of Cajun "West Side Story", as the Crozats and Durants are rival families.

All in all, Plantation Shudders is a wonderful debut novel!  Makes me want to go to Louisiana, check in at the Crozat's B&B (or something similar) in time to sit on the porch reading the follow-up novel and sip sweet tea!



Byron is a native New Yorker who loves the rain, lives in bone-dry Los Angeles, and spends lots of time writing about Louisiana. She attributes this obsession to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. Her debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, launches on August 11th.  Her TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots.  She’s written over 200 magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning, Graceland.  She is also the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. She’s the proud mom of a fifteen year-old daughter and two very spoiled rescue dogs.



Do you like one style of writing (fiction, playwrighting, television, magazines) more than the others?  If so, which one and why?
I actually don’t have a favorite. I like to go back and forth because if I do one style too much, I risk burning myself out. I’m really loving writing fiction right now. But I’ve also been doing a lot of guest blogging, and it’s really fun to come up with a short, entertaining piece. It provides a nice balance with the fiction.
So, your debut novel.  Excited?!?!?!
Sooooooooo excited!!! I am having the time of my life. One of the biggest thrills is hearing from people who’ve responded to the book. I feel like I’ve been welcomed into a wonderful new world of authors and readers.
Love the 'breed names' you've come up with for your family's pets.  Can you tell us a little more about them?
There’s this wonderful rescue in Beverly Hills called The Amanda Foundation. We had a rescue basset hound for years that we adopted from Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California, but when our daughter was seven, she asked for “a pet that moves.” (Anyone who’s ever parented a basset hound will be laughing right now!) We went to Amanda, met with three dogs, and Eliza fell in love with Wiley, a fifteen pound mutt who’s got lots of Corgi in him, as well as other breeds (hence our calling him a “corgi-jack-huahua”).Then two years ago, we went back Amanda to get Wiley a friend. Pogo ( a ten-pound Chihuahua and terrier mix of some kind – hence my calling him a “cherrier”) had been surrendered by a heartbroken family that was no longer allowed to keep him where they lived, and Amanda promised they’d find a good home for him. The minute we expressed interest, they were all over us! His name was Snoopy, but he jumps up and down like a Pogo Stick, so our daughter renamed him Pogo. And get this: a couple of weeks ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a teenage girl. I messaged her to find out how we know each other, because she didn’t look familiar. And she wrote back, “We were Pogo’s first family. I just wanted to see how he was doing.” Tears! I sent her pictures, of course.

Here are our boys. (And me in jammies holding the TV remote!)

What made you decide to have a go at writing books after all your other writing experiences?
I’ve always loved reading mysteries. A good friend started a writers group and since I was feeling the aforementioned burn-out from writing for TV, I thought I’d try my hand at a mystery. My first manuscript, You Can Never Be Too Thin or Too Dead, won a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant from the Malice Domestic Conference. While I was hunting for an agent and then waiting for that to sell, I wrote Plantation Shudders. Good thing, too, because You Can Never Be Too Thin or Too Dead is still looking for a home. ￿
Has "Graceland" ever been performed at its namesake?
No, not that I know of. But it did get the seal of approval from whatever executive board runs the place. They certainly should like it; it’s basically a mash note to Elvis. BTW, I wrote the play because I didn’t understand the devotion his fans showed him. It seemed, well, fanatical. But writing the play turned me into an Elvis fan, albeit a low-key one.
If money was no object, where would you live?
I’m originally from New York, and my fantasy has always been a Central Park West apartment with a giant terrace and view of Central Park. I’d also have a place in Louisiana, somewhere in Cajun Country, and a vacation house on Bantam Lake in Connecticut. My family had a cottage there for 36 years, but we had to sell it after my dad passed away. I still miss it terribly. 
If you could invite any writer from history to a meal and conversation, whom would you invite and what would you discuss?
Emily Bronte. I’m obsessed with Wuthering Heights, and the Bronte family. Number one on my bucket list is eventually visiting Haworth in England and the Bronte Parsonage. I’d pick her brain about her life and every detail that inspired the world and characters in the book. But having read many biographies of the family, I get the impression she was very reserved and not too communicative, so I’d really have to work at getting information out of her. 
Any idea how many instalments there will be to the Cajun Country Mystery series?
As many as my publisher will allow me to do! I just turned in the manuscript for book two, Body on the Bayou, and I’m super excited about it. My fingers are crossed that I soon get a deal for additional books because I’m really attached to my characters and to Pelican, Louisiana, the fictional village where they live.
Tell us what the future holds for Ellen Byron, writer?
Hopefully a lot more books in the Cajun Country series! I’m also attending conferences like Bouchercon, where I’ll appear on a panel and at the New Author Breakfast. And my television writing partner and I are working on an animated series, as well as a pilot for a cable station. 
If you went to talk to your daughter's school class about being a writer, what would you tell them?
I’d tell them that if you want to pursue a writing career, you must be passionate about it, because it can be a tough road. You hear “no” and “pass” a lot, and it can wear you down. You have to trust your own talent and absolutely adore doing it. I love to write. Love it, whether it’s a play, a TV show, a magazine article, a book, a blog – or a Question and Answer interview! ;-)

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(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.) 

#Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the earth—in this magical novel about the power of talent to change our lives.

In Mitch Albom's epic new novel, the voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, Frankie Presto, a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, Frankie is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six magical strings.

But Frankie's talent is touched by the gods, and it weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. Along the way, Frankie influences many artists: he translates for Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.

Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people's futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell.

With its Forrest Gump–like journey through the music world, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is a classic in the making. A lifelong musician himself, Mitch Albom delivers an unforgettable story. "Everyone joins a band in this life," he observes, be it through music, family, friends, or lovers. And those connections change the world.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Prince of Prigs by Anthony Anglorus - #review

The union of England and Scotland under one crown is not even a half century old, and the Parliamentarians already threaten the very fabric of the nation. These are the adventures of highwayman Capt. James Hind who, in Robin Hood fashion, steals from the Roundheads to help fund the royalist cause. When Cromwell comes to power, James, the Prince of Prigs, must be careful whom among his treacherous “friends” he trusts.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

#Review: Burdin's End by Alexander Nader

Ty Burdin, the retired demon hunter who just can’t stay retired.

In the final installment of the Beasts of Burdin trilogy Ty has found himself roped into working for the Agency, a top secret organization with the sole purpose of eliminating all demon activity, yet again. Demon hunting is a full time job, but luckily Ty has managed to work his way down to a ‘consulting’ position in the Agency after a few disagreements and a couple dead superiors.

Ty’s part-time position becomes far more hands on as the demon activity in his region cranks up to eleven. Demons are crawling out of peoples’ minds and into the real world at an alarming rate and it’s up to Ty, once again, to step in and save the day. First step: get over last night’s hangover.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Blog Ahead Challenge 2015 Sign-up

Blog Ahead 2015

The next two sections are taken lock, stock and barrel from Caffeinated Book Reviewer since I am signing up only on the start date for the challenge and am trying to get this post up asap.  And I want to thank Ms. Caffeine and and Ms Herding Cats and Burning Soup for hosting this challenge!

Blog Ahead 2015
  • Purpose: Increase the number of scheduled blog posts you have ready to publish by 31 posts during the month of October. (You can set your own goal) All post will be scheduled from November 1st or later.
  • Who Can Join: Any blogger or author can join. Brand new, been around for years.Blogger, WordPress or other platform. Any heat level, genre or theme, etc. If you blog…you’re welcome to join!
  • Types of Posts that Count: Any finished posts count! Meme, review, guest post, interview, discussion. Top Ten Posts, Favorites posts, Shopping Guide Posts, Cooking posts, pet posts, photo posts, etc. Posts do NOT have to be book related.
  • Required: The post must be complete and scheduled from November 1, 2015 onward. (So not just blurb, buy links, etc for a review post. The review needs to be complete for the post to count.)
  • Create a blog post to keep track of your goals! Declare your intentions, so that others can cheer you on and help motivate you. Be sure to link back to to this post or our blogs.
  • Spread the Word–invite your friends/fellow bloggers!
  • Use hashtag #BlogAhead2015 to share your progress, connect with others and uplift. (optional)
  • Join the FB group! Need to squee about your progress or get a little moral support? We’re here! We’ll have tips and suggestions to help motivate you. Join: Blog Ahead Group Any problems joining? Email Me (optional)
  • Grab the Button and declare your intentions!

 OK.  This is me again, on the back porch.  I'm doing this challenge because I would LOVE to be ahead by a month's worth of posts!  I've usually got a couple scheduled posts ready to go, but more of this definitely sounds better.  And, we are going to Texas for at least a week around Thanksgiving, so it would help not to have to be making posts from the road.

So, my goal is 31 posts dated November 1, 2015, or later.

I've got 7 draft posts going as we write, but of course, draft is not the same as scheduled.  Most of these are book review posts and some I have not yet received the books, so those will have to wait until I do a bit of reading.

Since I only found out about this challenge (where the heck have I been?) within the last hour, I don't really know specifically what kind of posts will comprise my 31, but they will be by majority book reviews...maybe a couple of interviews or guests posts.  And since I'm in my pre-birthday reflective period (my birthday is tomorrow...OMG now I feel old! *lol*), I'm sure there will be some posts about what I've decided to work on in my life over the next year.

Heading out to spread the word, join the FB group and get a laundry out of the dryer!


Question:  Is posting ahead (scheduling posts) something you do already or something you would like to do?  Or are you a 'pantser', which is to say fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants and do you work better planning a basic structure and then writing posts as you go?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#Review: A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd takes readers on a trip to Ian Rutledge's past, with the story of the last case the Scotland Yard detective tackles before he goes off to fight in World War I. New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd takes readers into Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge's past-to his perplexing final case before the outbreak of World War I.

On a fine summer's day in June, 1914, Ian Rutledge pays little notice to the assassination of an archduke in Sarajevo. An Inspector at Scotland Yard, he is planning to propose to the woman whom he deeply loves, despite intimations from friends and family that she may not be the wisest choice.

To the north on this warm and gentle day, another man in love-a Scottish Highlander-shows his own dear girl the house he will build for her in September.

While back in England, a son awaits the undertaker in the wake of his widowed mother's death. This death will set off a series of murders across England, seemingly unconnected, that Rutledge will race to solve in the weeks before the fateful declaration in August that will forever transform his world. As the clouds of war gather on the horizon, all of Britain wonders and waits. With every moment at stake, Rutledge sets out to right a wrong-an odyssey that will eventually force him to choose between the Yard and his country, between love and duty, and between honor and truth.



Normally, I like to start at the beginning of a series.  Notwithstanding that this the 17th (that's seventeenth) Ian Rutledge novel, it can be argued that it is indeed 'the beginning' of the series, as the action predates the other novels by several years.

The feeling of the Britons at the beginning of what was to become WWI reminds me of the scene from GWTW where the Southerners learn that war is to be declared against the northern states.  All we're more civilized and will whip those other people in a matter of months or weeks.  Didn't work out that way, neither for England in 1914, nor the American South in 1861.

Rutledge is focused on his duties as an Inspector for Scotland Yard.  I almost said 'singularly focused', but then he was considering marriage at the beginning of A Fine Summer's Day.  Not having the foresight (or is it hindsight in this case) to know what happened in the subsequent adventures, I would have liked to shake him by the shoulders and have him think a little more before he asked Jean for her hand.  If that many people he trusted were not in favor of the engagement, I would have said he should have put a little more thought into it.

The villain in the piece reminds me somewhat of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, with a few differences.  Henry was not an educated man, nor was he wealthy or for all I know particularly intelligent.  But he had the focus and intensity to achieve nearly all of his objectives, staying one step of even Rutledge.  That's no dishonor to him, though, because the rest of the local and federal LEO's were more than a few steps behind.

I do have one small question about the introduction of Hamish's character in this book.  He definitely figures in the rest of the series, but here it seems he is just dropped in front of us with little explanation and then disappears until the end of the book.  (Not that I mind a Scotsman clad in kilt being dropped in front of me, mind you.)

But where do we draw the line between duty and justice?  Not an easy question to answer, for us or Rutledge.  Certainly the man who kept the silver item, which started the whole nasty sequence of events should not have kept it unless he was willing to pay for it.  Just because he was of a higher social class than the craftsman does not excuse being a thief (and I'm using the 'intent to deprive' definition of thievery).  But the courts back then would just as soon hang an innocent workman than embarrass the aristocracy.  Yes, I'm probably overdoing that one a little bit, but it seems to be the case sometimes.

In the end, justice takes precedence over duty.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

A Fine Summer's Day was a compelling and suspenseful read and a wonderful introduction to Todd's  "Rutledge Mysteries".  I would think any fan of the series would be thrilled with this prequel addition.  If you are a series newbie, like myself, the progressive action in the book is a breathtaking thrill ride.

But now I have a problem.  I've been trying to whittle down my TBR (to be read) list and the 17 other installments of the Ian Rutledge Mysteries series just pumped my numbers back up again.  After this sample taste, I want to read all of them!



Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don’t ask.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.


(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Silver Tongue by AshleyRose Sullivan - #review

The Colonies lost the Revolutionary War. Now it’s 1839 and the North American continent is divided into three territories: New Britannia, Nueva Espana, and Nouvelle France where seventeen-year-old Claire Poissant lives.

Claire has a magical way with words—literally. But a mystical power of persuasion isn’t the only thing that makes her different. Half-French and half-Indian, Claire doesn’t feel at home in either world. Maybe that’s why she’s bonded so tightly with her fellow outcasts and best friends: Phileas, a young man whose towering intellect and sexuality have always made him the target of bullies, and Sam, a descendant of George Washington who shares the disgraced general’s terrible, secret curse.

But when Sam’s family is murdered, these bonds are tested and Claire’s special ability is strained to its limits as the three hunt the men responsible into dangerous lands. Along the way they cross paths with P.T. Barnum, William Frankenstein and other characters from both history and fantasy as they learn the hard way that man is often the most horrific monster and that growing up sometimes means learning to let go of the things you hold most dear.