Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: Mystery

Advertising copywriter Leigh Koslow doesn’t pack heat–just a few extra pounds. And she doesn’t go looking for trouble. When she moved into her cousin Cara’s refurbished Victorian house, she wasn’t planning on discovering a corpse–certainly not one that had been embalmed ten years before. But as anyone in the small Pittsburgh borough of Avalon could tell her, her cousin’s house has a history attached. A history dating back to two mysterious deaths in the summer of 1949. Someone wants Leigh and Cara out of the house–someone who has something to hide. But that someone doesn’t know Leigh’s impetuous cousin, and when Cara digs her heels in, Leigh looks to her old college chum, local policewoman Maura Polanski, for help. But the answers the trio find only point to more questions. Were the scandalous deaths of fifty years ago really an accident and a suicide? Or were they murder? The nearer the women get to the truth, the more desperate someone becomes. Because some secrets are better off kept. Especially when they hit close to home!

Sissy:  We decided to do a new thing this Friday–revisit some previously reviewed favorite authors and tell you what else they have for you to read!  Because if you’re like me, when you read a good book you want to read everything else that author has written.  I remember when Agatha Christie died in 1976 (zip it, Bubby, I know what you want to say) and I felt so sad that re would be no more books in her own beloved yet specific style.  We originally reviewed Long Time Coming by Edie Claire in February of 2013, and thought you might like to know about her Leigh Koslow series.  There are nine books in the series so far, and the latest just came out this month.  Never Buried is the first book in the series.

Bubby:  You’ve got to love a story that starts off with a dapperly dressed dead man in the backyard hammock!  I may never be able to nap in my hammock again!  I loved all the twists and turns in this wonderfully written cozy mystery.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Leigh and her cousin Cara, even though I have to admit I wasn’t too fond of Cara’s husband Gil.

Sissy:  Since when were you ever in a hammock?  And what’s wrong with Gil?

Bubby:  I’ve spent many happy hours in hammocks, thank you very much, and hope to install one in my current backyard soon.

Sissy: Your imaginary hammock?  And you don’t have any trees from which to suspend it.  But,  first thing when you get some trees and a hammock, I am going to install a surprise there for you!

Bubby:  I guess they didn’t have hammocks with their own frames back in your day….like 1976.  And I do have trees.  Very small trees.  And there’s nothing wrong with Gil, except that he is overbearing and ever protective and thinks that money can solve all problems.

Sissy:  Anyway, the thing about Never Buried by Edie Claire is that it starts off with a wallop and careens crazily from caper to caper in a most entertaining fashion.  Bet you’ll never guess “who done it” or why or even how until it all shakes out at the end.  4 pasty, corpse-like bubbles from the geriatric!

Bubby:  Great story.  I fully intend to get the rest of the series immediately.  I might even let Sissy borrow them if she’s nice.  4 bubbles from me too.

Click HERE to buy Never Buried by Edie Claire from Amazon.com

© 2014 Bubble Bath Books

 

 

 

 


Former TV celebrity host Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house, on an isolated country estate, Honeychurch Hall, several hundred miles from London. When Kat arrives at the house, she discovers that Iris has yet another surprise in store. Iris has been writing in secret for years and reluctantly reveals that she’s actually Krystalle Storm, the famous bestselling author of steamy bodice-rippers. The gentry upstairs and those below stairs at Honeychurch Hall regard the newcomers with suspicion and distrust. When the nanny goes missing, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead, and Iris is accused of the murder, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all and wonders if she is—indeed—guilty. Although the six hundred year old estate has endured wars, corruption and Royal favors, it’s the scandals, secrets and lies of the last few decades that must remain buried at all costs. (From Netgalley.com)

Sissy: I really liked this book but I had some issues with it. I liked the setting, the backstory of the main character, Kat, all the secrets and intrigues and the hidden life of Kat’s mother Iris. My issues were that the story jumps around all over the place and I had a hard time keeping it all straight and I couldn’t visualize Honeychurch Estate and really needed a map.

Bubby: I’d like to blame your “issues” on your advanced age and senility, but I can’t. I happen to agree with you on all points. I have to say, however, that the plot is really excellent and the characters are so much fun that I enjoyed Murder At Honeychurch Hall anyway. I loved Iris. She is a total nutcase. Sissy, can’t you just picture our mother hiding in the back bedroom writing romance novels when no one was looking? I swear, I want to be Iris when I grow up. Irascible, eccentric and a famous writer who lives on an estate in England. Perfect.

Sissy: I don’t know about Mom writing “bodice rippers” but I certainly would get a kick out of finding out that she had a secret life while pretending to fit into the role of devoted wife and mother. One of my favorite things in this book was how Iris took every situation and tried to turn it into a scene for her book, much to Kat’s chagrin.

Bubby: Hey, maybe that’s what we should do. Our kids and their romantic issues and trials – suddenly become fodder for a best-selling novel. I can see it!

Sissy: My kids wouldn’t mind. They’d just say, “Hand over the money, Mom!” Back to the book, though. One thing that makes it interesting is that you never quite know who you like and who you can trust amongst the characters. Sometimes you think they are guilty or just unsavory people but then they’ll do something to change your mind and you never know until the end how it’s all going to shake out.

Bubby: As I’ve said before, I can often predict “whodunnit” by the middle of the book. Not this time. I had no idea until the bitter end, when suddenly all the tangled threads of the story came together and it finally all made sense. There was a total ah-ha moment for me at the end there. I still want to know more about Kat – her life as a tv star before the time period of this book and what’s going to happen with her now – and more about Iris’s strange and wonderful childhood, of which we only get a little glimpse.

Sissy: Ah, yes. Gypsies and traveling boxing troupes. Illicit relations between the upstairs and the downstairs –our author, Ms. Dennison has plumbed the depths of her imagination nicely. The one character I hated throughout the whole book was David, Kat’s married boyfriend. The outcome of that relationship our resident Miss Marple, aka Bubby, could see coming a mile away.

Bubby: Seriously? Does any intelligent woman really think that the married man she’s sleeping with is going to actually leave his wife and children and comfortable situation to be with her? Really? It’s like the biggest cliche out there. And yet it still happens every day. Wise up, women of the world! If he’s married, he’s not available! Even if he thinks he is.

Sissy: Well, to sum up, this is a highly imaginative (albeit somewhat confusing) mystery romp. If Ms. Dennison would provide an illustrated map of the grounds and a chart of relationships, perhaps my feeble mind could grasp it better. Nonetheless, I would love to read more about Kat and the indomitable Iris. 3.5 bubbles.

Bubby: A fun mystery read. 3.5 bubbles from me too.

Click HERE to buy Murder At Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

We received this title from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.


Interior Decorator Madison Night has modeled her life after Doris Day’s character in Pillow Talk, but when a killer targets women dressed like the bubbly actress, Madison’s signature sixties style places her in the middle of a homicide investigation.

The local detective connects the new crimes to a twenty-year old cold case, and Madison’s long-trusted contractor emerges as the leading suspect. As the body count piles up like a stack of plush pillows, Madison uncovers a Soviet spy, a campaign to destroy all Doris Day movies, and six minutes of film that will change her life forever.

Bubby: When I was little (and not so little) I used to watch old Doris Day movies on TCM with my mom. Pillow Talk was always one of our favorites. Not as good as The Pajama Game but wildly entertaining all the same. I never had the desire to model my own personal style after Doris Day, though, unlike our main character Madison. She seems a little “stuck in the 60’s” to me. She owns an interior design store called Mad for Mod that’s all mid-century stuff and she drives a vintage car and dresses in vintage clothes. I get the appeal but I think Madison is so entrenched in the lifestyle that it’s actually holding her back from progressing in her life.

Sissy: I personally think that everything about the 60’s should stay in the 60’s. Since I was actually alive then, I can bear witness that all the furniture and clothing and hairstyles were hideous. Howsomeever, Madison sounds like she does the 60’s well and she’s cute and fun. If there are people out there who actually want to design their houses in mid-century style (because they have no taste) then more power to them. This was a very fun cozy mystery romp. Plenty of the requisite dead bodies (only people we didn’t care about, mind you), nice little secrets and twists and a satisfying love triangle.

Bubby: My favorite characters in Pillow Stalk were the elderly swimming friends. Madison swims regularly at a community pool that is frequented by old geezers (one of whom has “roaming hands” if you know what I mean). The descriptions of these seniors are just hilarious. I have made it my new goal in life to be an elderly swimmer – just so I can wear a bathing cap with pink rubber flowers on it. Pretty sure Sissy has one that I can borrow.

Sissy: Don’t be jealous of my pink flowered swimming cap. One day you’ll be as cool as me. The thing I liked most about Pillow Stalk was that I could not figure out who the perpetrator was until I was told at the very end. Also it was very fast paced and all the Doris Day movie references are great fun. I can’t wait to read book number two, That Touch of Ink. Warning: after hearing all the descriptions of Madison’s cute 60’s clothes and how cute she always looks, you may be tempted to go try on some 60’s couture. Do not do it. No one looks good in 60’s clothing unless they are built like Twiggy.

Bubby: Who’s Twiggy?

Sissy: Put down those white vinyl boots, Bubby!

Bubby: Pillow Stalk is a fun, quick moving, keep-you-guessing mystery that I really enjoyed. 3.75 bubbles.

Sissy: Fun and retro groovy. 3.75 cool cat bubbles for me.

Click HERE to buy Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

We were given a copy of this title by Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.


When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies. Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And—perhaps of the most lasting importance—could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love? (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: I will admit right off the bat that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Shannon Hale’s books. The Princess Academy books? Love them. Books of Bayern? Not so much. Austenland, the companion book to Midnight in Austenland seems to fall between these two categories for me. I really wanted to love it. I did love parts of it. Overall, though, I found myself a bit dissatisfied. But then I saw the movie. And it was rollicking good fun. So I decided to give Midnight in Austenland a try. At worst, it would still be an enjoyable, clean, decent read. But it was so much more than that. It was hilariously funny in bits and deeply romantic in other bits and I so connected with Charlotte.

Sissy: Well, I do not have a love/hate relationship with Shannon Hale’s books. I have loved all of them (with the exception of The Actor and The Housewife which did not fully satisfy me). When I saw the movie Austenland, I had only read the first book and so I thought that they changed a lot. But I see that Midnight in Austenland, which was written before the movie came out, is a lot more like the movie. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that I loved the movie Austenland so much that I went back 4 times and dragged every female friend I owned to it. So you can guess how I feel about Midnight in Austenland. Shannon Hale is to writing as Bill Murray is to comedy.

Bubby: Bill Murray? Really? How old are you, anyway? Maybe Tina Fey? Or Jimmy Fallon? Welcome to 2014, Sissy.

Sissy: Well I may be older than dirt and Shannon Hale but she actually refers to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day as “delightful” and can “make her laugh” in the very book we are reviewing right now. I am sorry that your short-term memory is so poor. So much poorer than mine that you didn’t recall that.

Bubby: I recalled fine. I was just trying to make your image more hip and current.

Sissy: It’s hip to be square. I think Shannon Hale is delightful and she makes me laugh. I laughed out loud when Charlotte follows her daughter’s boyfriend and is caught hiding in the bushes outside his cousin’s house and again when she explains to her Austenland hostess Mrs. Wattlesbrook how her husband has died in a “gruesome and exceedingly painful demise” (her husband is now her ex, after she caught him cheating with some young thing).

Bubby: I laughed out loud at those bits too. It’s rare that my favorite character in a story is the main character – I usually enjoy the quirky side characters more – but in this case, Charlotte felt like an old friend with whom I was reconnecting. She tends to let her imagination run away with her – when things take a decidedly scary turn, she lays in bed, searching the shadows and jumping at every noise. I do that when my husband is out-of-town or working late – often mistaking the shadowy outline of the vacuum for a rapist or murderer intent on ravaging my household while we sleep. Mayhap both Charlotte and I are just a touch overdramatic!

Sissy: There are two other things that I really liked. One, how in between scenes at Austenland, Hale inserts little paragraphs from Charlotte’s past giving us insight into what makes Charlotte the way she is now. Two, how Charlotte has conversations with her “inner thoughts” …

Bubby: I almost wrote “inner thighs” there. I don’t know why because that would have been awkward. I think I need medical assistance…

Sissy: Imagine having a conversation with one’s inner thighs. Hmmm. Anyway, that is the kind of borderline irreverence that makes Shannon Hale a lovely author and Midnight in Austenland a thoroughly entertaining read.

Bubby: One of my favorite of those conversations is this: “This scarcely qualified as a secret room-more of a secret hole, or nook, or niche even, perhaps a cavity or alcove… Come up with synonyms all you want, said her Inner Thoughts. It’s not distracting me from the fact that you’re stupid.” Just a sampling of the deliciousness you’ll find in Midnight in Austenland. 4.5 bubbles.

Sissy: Delightfully clever. Delectably romantic. Wonderfully witty. 4.5 quaint and corseted bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Midnight in Austenland at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


Laura Shumway couldn’t say why she’d agreed to go on the class reunion trip to Italy. Maybe it was to take stock of her life, or maybe it was just to catch up with old friends, take in the sights, and relax in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Either way, she knew she’d discover a lot on the trip, about both herself and her former classmates. What she didn’t expect to discover was the dead body of esteemed professor Anthony Gilbert. (From Amazon.com)

Sissy: In an effort to get far away from young adult fantasy for a bit, we read this lovely novel about middle-aged women. Yay! Because middle-aged women rock!

Bubby: I wouldn’t know anything about this “middle-age” you speak of. I am still in the full blush of youth, personally.

Sissy: You’re still in the midst of a dream world, apparently. But anyway, the story is set in Italy where a group of 40 former college classmates have gone for a tour/vacation organized by two of the women who have family there.  First of all, Connolly’s descriptions of the various parts of Italy they visited are fantastic and made me want to go there immediately!  Secondly, I want to eat all the food they ate.  Because the characters are middle-aged women, they have the wisdom to fully enjoy things and not be worried about impressing boys, eating “the wrong thing,” or maintaining their size 2.  So they happily indulge in the well described fresh Italian cuisine and gelato while their visual senses are tantalized by the abundant art and history. Seriously, I am getting my passport updated.

Bubby: As I recall, you have ALREADY gone to Italy once. Did the Vatican and the whole nine yards. Therefore, if anyone gets to go somewhere it should be me. Poor, untraveled me. I think my favorite aspect of this whole novel is that it is based on an actual “Tour of Italy” that Connolly went on not long ago. There really were 40 women from Wellesley, Connolly’s alma mater, and they really did go to the locations mentioned. Everything is just as it really happened with the exception, of course, of the murder. Maybe if Sissy and I are ever to write that novel we keep thinking about, we need to go on an extended vacation to get the juices going!

Sissy: I guess I have kicked your butt in traveling but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more, more, MORE!! And then there’s the murder. No one deserves to be murdered more than Professor Sleazebag, the slimy user, philanderer and plagiarist. Not that I am condoning murder. The fact that male professors got away with that sort of thing back in the day just makes my blood boil. I think we should hang them all by their tes-

Bubby: Sissy! This is a family blog! You stop that right now. Not that I don’t agree with you but we can’t be vigilantes! I never had a professor like Professor Gilbert, but I did have one who liked to make pointed comments about the “endowments” (or lack thereof) of the various women in his classes. I was quite thrilled when he was “advised to retire” the following year. Our main character, Laura and her vacation roommate Cynthia team up to use their specialized skills in solving the murder before it ruins everyone’s delicious vacation. Turns out that they both may have careers that are a bit jucier than they seem at first – but no spoilers! You’ll have to read Reunion With Death to figure it all out.

Sissy: Delectable mystery in a delightful setting. 4 bubbles from me.

Bubby: I concur with my beautiful and intelligent middle-aged sister. 4 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Reunion with Death by Sheila Connolly at Amazon.com

We were given a copy of Reunion with Death by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

© Bubble Bath Books 2014


Jenny Kramer knows she isn’t normal. After all, not everybody can see the past lives of people around them. When she befriends Ben Daulton, resident new boy, the pair stumble on an old music box with instructions for “mesmerization” and discover they may have more in common than they thought. Like a past life. Using the instructions in the music box, Ben and Jenny share a dream that transports them to Romanov Russia and leads them to believe they have been there together before. But they weren’t alone. Nikolai, the mysterious young man Jenny has been seeing in her own dreams was there, too. When Nikolai appears next door, Jenny is forced to acknowledge that he has travelled through time and space to find her. Doing so means he has defied the laws of time, and the Order, an ominous organization tasked with keeping people in the correct time, is determined to send him back. While Ben, Jenny and Nikolai race against the clock – and the Order – Jenny and Nikolai discover a link that joins them in life – and beyond death. (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: Endless is a little gem of deliciousness. I just ate this one up. We’ve got death-defying romance, time and space transcending romance, great characters, magic, an evil organization and ties to Romanov Russia. Pretty much perfection in all of its 384 pages.

Sissy: Is it possible to have a love so great that it spans centuries and even lives? A love so powerful that the lovers will break the rules of time and the universe to recapture it?  The story of Endless answers that question with a resounding “yes!” (cue swells and violins).  I, on the other hand, sometimes wanted to say “oh shut up and get over yourselves–you’re just dumb teenagers, and whaddya even know about love?”  Oh jaded readers out there like me, let it go!  Grab onto the possibilities and the magic,  and free yourselves from the disheartening ruins of reality!

Bubby: Well then. Guess Sissy liked it too. I love when I finish a book and my immediate thought is “when is the sequel coming out?!?!” as happened with Endless. Unfortunately, Endless was just barely published so we’ll have to wait for a bit, I’m afraid. As I am sure you know by now, character development is a big deal for me and this story delivered, big time. We have growth, change, acceptance, the whole nine yards here.

Sissy: I really enjoyed the connection to Czarist Russia here, where finally the female protagonist is NOT Anastasia, but rather her sister Maria. The theme was a little more moody and melancholy than I like but the story was engaging enough that when I reached the end, I fell face-forward on my bed with a protesting oomph because there has to be another book. Soon. Maybe next year it will come out and maybe I will remember what the first one was about. Doubtful, since I can’t remember what I did last Tuesday.

Bubby: Never fear, dear sister. I am here for you. (Last Tuesday you were blogging with me at your house. See?) This is one series I won’t lose track of, guaranteed. I am a sucker for a strong romantic male lead, in this case, Nikolai. I mean, really. Who can resist a man who falls through time to be with his one true love? And he’s cute. And his name is Nikolai. And I bet he has an accent. Totally irresistible. Excuse me whilst I swoon for a moment.

Sissy: Glasnost! Stop swooning, Bubby, it’s pathetic. Pardon my bleak attitude – it’s the overcast weather and the fact that I’m not getting enough circulation in my toes. I really did enjoy Endless. It is a captivating and entrancing romance/mystery. It will paint pictures on your mindscape and cause you to gaze with dark-eyed longing at your significant other. 4 deep and dreamy bubbles from me.

Bubby: I can’t wait for the next installment from Amanda Gray (which is actually a pseudonym for two unnamed authors . . .so curious!) so that I can see how these star-crossed lovers turn out! 4 bubbles from me too.

Click HERE to buy Endless by Amanda Gray at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


A charming romantic comedy about a hard-up single mum inheriting a stately home – and a host of headaches – The perfect novel for curling up with during the long winter nights.Sophy Winter is not your typical Lady of the Manor….When she unexpectedly inherits Winter’s End – a crumbling mansion in the beautiful Lancashire countryside – it seems like all Sophy’s prayers have been answered. She eagerly swaps life as an impoverished housekeeper in favour of her own team of staff.But Sophy quickly realises the challenge on her hands – the house is decrepit and its eccentric inhabitants are a nightmare. And once it is discovered that Winter’s End played host to a young Shakespeare, the entire village of Sticklepond becomes curious about Sophy’s plans, especially charming Jack Lewis. But is he really smitten by Sophy…or her newly-acquired cash?Meanwhile, Sophy’s gorgeous head gardener Seth is the strong and silent type. But does his passion bloom for anything beyond the horticultural?As Sophy gets to grips with squabbling relatives, collapsing buildings and the ghostly presence of one of her ancestors, she wonders if Winter’s End is not so much a gift from the gods as a mixed blessing…A charming romantic comedy! (From Goodreads.com)

Bubby: I dated a guy like Jack Lewis once. Briefly. Very briefly. Reminds me of a quote from the play I saw the other night – Prince Charming talking to his princess ( in Into The Woods): “I was raised to be charming. Not sincere.” Just a slick-talking guy with shiny teeth and good hair. No substance.

Sissy: But almost leaves a slime trail behind him. Every time Sophy talked about being attracted to Jack, I wanted to scream, “No! NO! Step away from the slimeball!” Too many times in the past was I initially deceived by a pretty face.

Bubby: Mr. Sissy has a very pretty face.

Sissy: Yes, however there is gold on the inside of Mr. Sissy. Now this is not your usual fairytale where poor girl inherits a fortune and a mansion. Sophy’s inheritance comes with a lot of trouble attached and I admired how hard of a worker and how undeterred by problems she was.

Bubby: She got the mansion. Too bad there was no fortune to go along with. At least not in cash. There is, however, a legend that somewhere lost in the walls of Winter’s End is a treasure of immense proportions. And there is. But I can’t talk about it. Sissy would smack me for being a spoiler!

Sissy: I would never smack you! (Unless it was vitally necessary to your maturation process . . .) At the beginning of every chapter there is a quote from the journal of Alys Bezzard, Sophy’s ancestress. So as Sophy’s story unfolds, the last bit of Alys’ life is revealed as well, and it is full of intrigue and sadness.  A Winter’s Tale is a contemporary fiction/mystery/romance, but it is also salted with scrumptious bits of historic witchiness and magic.

Bubby: I am pretty sure I have achieved all the maturation that I’m going to get, Sissy. No smacking required. There’s nothing I like better than a little magic sprinkled in with a touch of romance. Makes me happy. I hadn’t read Trisha Ashley before and I was so happy to have discovered her. Sometimes when I find an author that is new to me I go on a bit of a buying binge and purchase two or three (or more) of their novels and read them all at once. I did this with Trisha Ashley and loved them all.

Sissy: So annoying when Bubby buys e-books that can’t be lent to me, so I always encourage her to buy the more expensive hard bound books. A win-win for me and the author! Now back to A Winter’s Tale. Sophy’s Great-Aunt Hebe is a curmudgeon, possibly because of her name. I would be a curmudgeon if my name was Hebe. My favorite quote of the book comes from her when she says,”What are you bellowing for? You sound like a cross between the Last Trump and a cow in labor!” I can’t wait to use that on one of my loved ones.

Bubby: Sounds like something you’d say. If you are looking for a light and fluffly dose of British-ness, A Winter’s Tale (or for that matter, any other book by Trisha Ashley) is the book for you. 4 bubbles.

Sissy: Seth, the head Gardener, is  hot and broody. Therefore, you should read this book. 4 bubbles from me as well.

Click HERE to buy A Winter’s Tale by Trisha Ashley from Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


After losing her husband, five children, housekeeper, and beautiful home in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Rachel Blackwood rebuilt her home, and later died there, having been driven mad with grief.
In present-day Texas, Claire, the grand niece of Rachel’s caretaker, has inherited the house and wants to turn it into a bed and breakfast. But she is concerned that it’s haunted, so she calls in her friend Ruby—who has the gift of extrasensory perception—to check it out. While Ruby is ghost-hunting, China Bayles walks into a storm of trouble in nearby Pecan Springs. A half hour before she is to make her nightly deposit, the Pecan Springs bank is robbed and a teller is shot and killed. Before she can discover the identity of the killers, China follows Ruby to the Blackwood house to discuss urgent business. As she is drawn into the mystery of the haunted house, China opens the door on some very real danger… (synopsis from Publishers Weekly)
Sissy: I’ve read books from this series before from time to time and I picked this new one up at the library and was really surprised how quickly I got back into the series and how engrossing the story was.
Bubby: I am pretty sure I read the first or second in the series ages ago but I can tell you that you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series or characters to enjoy Widow’s Tears. It works quite well as a stand-alone novel.
Sissy: Susan Wittig Albert is a great storyteller. She took a headline from a 100-year-old catastrophe and wove it into a modern-day tale. The main character of the series, China Bayles, appears in this book but it is really a story about her best friend and business partner Ruby.
Bubby: I had never heard of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 until this book. Did you know that it is the deadliest natural disaster in US History? Check out http://www.gthcenter.org/exhibits/storms/index.html for photos of the aftermath. I enjoyed the fiction part of the story but I found myself fascinated by the Galveston Storm – so much so that Sissy and I have just spent the last 30 minutes looking at the pictures.
Sissy: I love it when a writer takes an actual historic event and weaves in some fictional characters to make a new story. This story also has a modern-day murder mystery as well as a downright spooky ghost story. I found myself reading the scary parts while I was alone in my house and I had to keep telling myself that I was a grown woman and it was just a story and I didn’t need to keep checking the hallways!
Bubby: I know what you mean! I had to huddle under a blanket because I was cold (even though it’s super hot outside) and was listening for thunder and watching for lightning out my window (even though it was a clear, blue sky day) – waiting for the floodwaters to rise, even though I live on a hill in the mountains!
Sissy: Ruby is the perfect person for this ghostly adventure because she is what you might call “a sensitive”. She has consistently tried to deny this gift but finally in this book (which is at least #21 in the series), she makes use of her full psychic powers. Ruby is also big-busted and attracts men like flies to honey, so in this sense she reminds me of myself.
Bubby: Oh, yes, you buxom sweet thing, you. I think that perhaps you are a little psychic too.
Sissy: Definitely psychic.
Bubby: Or is it psycho? I can never keep those two straight . . .
Sissy: Courtesy laugh in your general direction.
Bubby: At any rate, Widow’s Tears was a fantastic read that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I am feeling the need now to go back and check out the rest of the series. My only issue with these books is the fact that they can definitely be classified as “cozy mysteries” and that’s ok as long as Sissy picks them. But when I pick them, then they are somehow unsuitable. Not that I have an issue with this or anything.
Sissy: These are definitely NOT cozy mysteries. They are too sinister and the writing has too much depth and mastery foor that classification. I can intuitively tell you what is and what is not a cozy mystery.
Bubby: Hmmm. Let’s see – small group of characters living in a small town where large amounts of people are murdered randomly and bodies (as well as perpetrators) are found by one of said small group of characters. Repeatedly. Pretty sure that was Sissy’s main issue with cozies. Therefore, these qualify.
Sissy: Sometimes you just have to go with the more mature and wise viewpoint that comes with living one’s life on the psychic wavelength. Don’t fight it, Bubby. Just go with my intuition. Plus, none of our characters found the dead body or had anything to do with it in this story. Plus, there’s the Galveston hurricane angle.
Bubby: I was speaking of the series as a whole, not just this book. But whatever. I have learned that sometimes it’s just easier to let Sissy win – otherwise she pouts and moans and I have to placate her with chocolate. Read the book. It’s a good one. I give it 4 bubbles.
Sissy: I give it 4.25 bubbles for excellent writing and ghostiness and historiosity.
Click HERE to buy Widow’s Tears at Amazon.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013
 
 

After having been missing for two years, Abigail Sutton’s beloved husband is found dead, having fallen prey to a carjacking.   Abigail has suffered so much that she see’s no other alternative but to hit the road in search of a new life.  In the small town of Spookie she finds and buys a fixer-upper house that has been empty since the death of its previous owner, Edna Summers. For the first time in a long while Abigail begins to feel peace and make new friends.  However, the old house she has chosen seems to have chosen her to solve its thirty year old mysteries.  As the evidence unfolds, Abigail has to decide what is more important to her:  keeping safe, or laying to rest the unhappy ghosts of the past.

Bubby: This was a creepy little story! I guess I should have seen that coming, seeing as how it’s set in a town named “Spookie.”  I really feel bad for the heroine of this story, Abigail. Can you even imagine? Her husband goes out on an errand one day and never comes home. And it takes two years for him to be found and give her closure.  And then, as if she hasn’t had enough, she moves into a house with a mystery attached – and that mystery turns out to be a tragedy.

Sissy: I can’t imagine going through what Abigail did. And then going to this new old house and finding scraps of paper left by two missing children would just cap it all for me. I’d probably just go check myself into the nearest loony bin. But not her! She is much braver than I and does her best to see justice done.

Bubby: I had a hard time reading the parts of the book that described the little notes left by the children. They were mistreated to such an awful extent. I have no sympathy or mercy in my soul for those who abuse children. I hope that God has a lovely little corner of hell set aside just for them. And a lovely little corner of heaven set aside for the children.

Sissy: This is a bit of a dark mystery but it also has a light romance and the small-town friendliness of a cozy mystery, which balances out the darker bits. This is the first book that I’ve read by Kathryn Meyer Griffith and in looking at her other titles, this may be the LEAST dark of her stories. Some of them look pretty scary.

Bubby: I am so going to read Don’t Look Back, Agnes – just because I love the title. And because I want to sit on my couch yelling “NO! Agnes! Don’t do it, Agnes!” just to irritate my children.

Sissy: Me too. Her latest book is a vampire story (Human No Longer) that has the tagline “sometimes a mother’s love is stronger than blood”.

Bubby: My love for my children is stronger than blood. Chocolate, maybe not. But definitely stronger than blood.

Sissy: Yes, well, I was going to say (about that title and tagline) how shuddersome is that?! But then I remembered my own plotline for the zombie novel I’m going to write and it sounds eerily familiar. Kathryn Meyer Griffith and I should chat.

Bubby: Sure. Drop her an email. I’m sure you’ll be having lunch together and swapping story ideas right away!

Sissy: So, back to our present story. You end up suspecting everyone, even the people you desperately don’t want to be guilty and the ending is completely satisfying. This is a good little mystery, probably best read on a dark and stormy day, but good enough for anytime really.

Bubby: My only issue with the ending is that the series continues. I would have loved for this to be a stand-alone novel. It was all wrapped up so nicely that I don’t really feel the need for any more books but maybe I should read the next one (All Things Slip Away) before I make a judgement. On a side note, the author tells the story of this book’s publishing history on her Amazon.com page. Really interesting .

Sissy: This book was originally published in 2003 and after going through a lot of crap from the original publisher, it is finally available for a great price as a self-published ebook at Amazon.com. Well worth a read. I give it 4 bubbles.

Bubby: A nice introduction to the work of Kathryn Meyer Griffiths. 3 3/4 bubbles from me.

Click HERE to purchase Scraps of Paper by Kathryn Meyer Griffith at Amazon.com


Lacy Steele has moved back home and into Grandma’s house. She has no job, no friends and no fiance – since her sister stole him. When someone she loves is accused of murder, Lacy decides she won’t give up until the real murderer is found. As she digs deeper into the case, she finds out alarming family secrets. Add to that her growing attractions to both football star turned cop Jason and newcomer Tosh, Lacy is in over her head.

Sissy:  Bubby was skeptical when I told her to read this book.  Actually she was rude and sarcastic, bringing up my past dissing of cozy murder series’, and I had to say to her, “forget the past, forget the unreality of the same person constantly finding dead bodies in their small town, just read the book because it is good, and stop disrespecting your elder.”  Bubby quieted down and read the book.  Then she texted me something like “you are a bad influence.”  I didn’t know which of the many possibilities she was referring to, but when asked, she replied “ I am addicted.  I read all the books in the series.”  I gloated.

Bubby: Fabulous books. My teenage daughter and I positively devoured them. Am I glad that Sissy found them? Absolutely. Do I think this absolves her from her cozy murder mystery bashing of the past? Not in the least. Double standard, anyone? I guess I will let it go, just this once. But only because I am so glad to have found an author as entertaining as Vanessa Gray Bartal. A few weeks ago on American Idol (yes, I’m addicted to that, too) the song category was “songs you wished you had written”. Morning Cup of Murder is the book that I wish I had written. It’s jaw-breakingly hilarious, sarcastic and has a great plot.

Sissy:  Our heroine, Lacy Steele, is a former brace-faced band geek who has blossomed into a lovely woman.  That she doesn’t realize how attractive she is makes her all the more endearing.  She is smart but dorky, beautiful and curvy but uncoordinated, and reminds me of my sister, Bubby.

Bubby: Aww, Sissy, thanks! I think you are dorky and uncoordinated too!

Sissy: Fie!  I am so coordinated it’s sick!

Bubby: Whatever, Sissy. Anyway. I know that there are people out there that dream about going back to their hometown and showing all their old high school nemisis how wonderful they turned out and all. I am not one of these – and neither is Lacy. Going back home was never in her plans. Of course, having her sister steal her fiance wasn’t in her plans either. She loved the big city life of New York and having to fit back into a small town where EVERYONE knows your business is difficult at best for her. To add insult to injury, she has to move in with Grandma – a wonderful woman who loves and nurtures her family with large doses of sugar and butter. I can relate!

Sissy:  There are 4 more books in this series (Building Blocks of Murder, A Family Case of Murder, Arch Enemy of Murder, and Class Reunion of Murder), and all are worth a read.  There is also a Christmas novella, Christmas Steele, which I haven’t read yet but Bubby says was a little slice of Lacy Steele fun.  The author, Vanessa Gray Bartal, is self-published and has written over 50 books. Again, I ask what is wrong with those publishing companies?  Am I missing something?  They could do with more books like this and less smut fest fare like 50 Shades of Grey.   I will be trying her other books, count on it!  I will suspend my intellectual block about cozy mysteries for this one author!  One time only!  Unless I change my mind!

Bubby: I agree with Sissy – publishers take note! Vanessa Gray Bartal needs a contract and a large advance immediately! Maybe Sissy and I should form our own publishing firm and snatch up all these gems. Wish I could! In Morning Cup of Murder, our delightful heroine Lacy forms two connections right off the bat. One with new-to-town pastor Tosh and another with former high school football star Jason, whom she has known since a little before forever. The interplay between these three characters is nothing less than brilliant. So much fun to read. I wanted to climb into the book and be friends with these people, just so that I could be a part of their conversations!

Sissy:  Wait!  We could call our publishing company Bubble Bath Books!  I could get a face-lift and be on the Ellen show! As for climbing into the book and being friends with the characters–well, they are well-formed, but I think Bubby needs some therapy and face-time with real people.  Its healthier.

Bubby: Just going to ignore that one, Sissy. Yep. Ignoring you. La La La La La I can’t hear you La La La La . . .

Sissy:  Like I said…therapy.

Bubby: Still ignoring you . . .I highly recommend that all our readers put down whatever they are doing and rush to purchase Morning Cup of Murder. (It’s only 99 cents at Amazon. Totally a bargain!) And then buy everything else in the series. Loved them all. 4 ½ bubbles.

Sissy:  Great book, fun series, remember who found ’em first.  4 bubbles.

Click HERE to buy Morning Cup of Murder at Amazon.com.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013