Friday, December 19, 2014

Drinks with Reads: Wine and Book Pairings

Odd Bins and Gone Reading has come up with this delicious infographic pairing wines with well-known books. What do you think about their selections - are they the best grapes for the book, or off the vine? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Book Cover Crafts

One of our favorite things to craft with is print outs from our favorite book covers. So for our third Thursday in December of crafty recaps, let's revisit our book cover creations. And we're giving away a set of Pulp Fiction cover cards (non-holiday edition, not pictured). 

To enter just comment section below. US residents only. and tell us what you'd like to see Mystery Playground cover more of next year. 

One of the beautiful things about all of these crafts is that not only can you use any photo of a book cover, you can use any photo. If you see something you like, click on the name and it will take you to the directions. 

Thank you for reading Mystery Playground.

Book Cover Wine Charms

Book Cover Bracelet

Pulp Fiction Pendant

Book Cover Coasters

Book Cover Cards (see photo above)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gifts for the Mystery Lover

Looking for that last minute gift for the Mystery lover? We've got some good idea and some whacky ideas below. We'll leave it to you to sort out which one is which... Happy Holidays! 

The Entire Poirot TV Series Starring David Suchet

Available in DVD or BlueRay, you can get the entire Poirot series including the last five episodes just released this year. The website says it's 86 hours of Poirot programming. 

SOHO International Crime Club

In this revamp of a book of the month club you get more than just the one book, you get: 

—1 book per month, starting at $9.99
—50% off selected backlist titles
—Complimentary Soho Crime swag
—Free shipping in U.S.
—Members’ discount on every product in the Soho Store

They even tell you which titles you get. You can get more details or sign up at SoHoCrime

Sherlock Wallpaper Shoes
These shoes are made by an artist on Etsy.  These are pretty cool even if a non-Sherlock fan has no clue what they are. 

The Key
Or you can get a key to 221b Baker Street. 

Scooby Doo Watch
Another shop over on Etsy offers custom made Scooby Doo watches. The Mystery Machine version in the middle is my favorite of the three. 

A Book, Any Book
Paperback books make great stocking stuffers and Kerry Hammond has lots of suggestions for you here. I also like Well Read, Then Dead, the first book in a new series by Terrie Farley Moran. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Tea Reviews

Tea and mysteries go together like, well tea and books. With so many specialty Christmas teas out there to drink while reading mysteries, it's very hard to choose what exactly put into your cup. That's why I've picked my favorite Christmas teas to share. Let's count them down in reverse order...

5) Numi Holiday Chai - This is an organic black tea is blended with spices - cinnamon, cardamom, anise and ginger. The flavor is light and you can drink this flavored tea with foods and it isn't overpowering. This is my favorite holiday breakfast time tea because of the caffeine and the subtle taste. That being said, the subtly makes it seem less special and more of an everyday tea. 

Here is my cat Barnum deciding which tea she would like me to drink. 

4) Dream By the Fire - Made by the Republic of Tea, this vanilla flavored tea has light hints of cinnamon. It doesn't have caffeine and like any of the dessert type teas - because of the vanilla, I prefer to drink it by itself. It comes in a tin separately or in the Christmas gift tin with the Peppermint Bark and Comfort and Joy teas. The three teas in one gives you a chance to taste all three teas.

3) Comfort and Joy - A black tea brewed with spices and fruit, this smells like those clove ornaments we used to make with oranges when I was a kid. You can definitely taste the fruit and I do find it truly comforting. Since it has caffeine, I prefer to drink it in the afternoon, but the taste is too strong for me to drink with food. This is my favorite of the three teas in the Republic of Tea Christmas tin. 

4) Peppermint Bark - This is a green rooibus tea with peppermint, vanilla and cocoa. It has all the scent of peppermint bark and none of the calories. I could pipe the scent all through my house it's so good. The taste is more subtle than the scent, which is good. It's an herb tea, so it doesn't have caffeine, which is excellent because I consider it a dessert substitute. 

1) Downton Abbey Christmas Tea - This is my favorite of all the Christmas teas we tried and not just because Mrs. Hughes comes to your house to serve it (she doesn't, but wouldn't it be wonderful if she did?) It's a black tea with hints of cloves, licorice root, apple bits and cinnamon. It has caffeine. This is a limited edition tea that you can get at Cost Plus World Market or on the Republic of Tea website. 

What's your favorite holiday inspired tea? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Major Crimes Facebook Chat with Phillip Keene, Ralph Gifford, Carson Moore & James Duff

Phillip Keene who plays Buzz joined co-creator and executive producer James Duff and writers Ralph Gifford and Carson Moore for tonight's Major Crimes Facebook chat. 

What did we learn tonight?

  • Sanchez may get a love interest next year and in two weeks the episode we will see some of his personal life. 
  • Phillip Keene thinks the show should be renamed, "Buzz Crimes." I think he's been hanging around Provenza too much.
  • Phillip's Twitter ID is: @phillipkeene. He likes to know where everyone is watching the show from
  • Next week's episode features a Santa flash mob. It really doesn't get better than that.

One of the best questions was about Sharon and Andy from Alona Arcari:

James Duff Ilona Arcari asks if Tony and Sharon are officially in "a relationship." Of course, they are. They are in a boss/subordinate relationship, they are in a detective and detective relationship.

Ilona Arcari hahaha I meant in ROMANTIC relationship but I deserved that! haha 

James Duff We will have to see. Sharon just figured out a couple of things last week.

James Duff She doesn't know what to make of it.

James Duff But further than that...

The rest of the recap is below. As usual, I've removed any references to this specific episode that may be construed as a spoiler. Because of the volume of questions, only James Duff's answers are included. He restates the questions in his answers so you can track all of the action. 

James Duff Special Guest chatters with us here tonight are the writers of tonight's episode, Ralph Gifford & Carson Moore. And Phillip P. Keene, who plays Buzz, just stepped into the office (by mistake) and we are not letting him leave!

James Duff And then, of course, there's me!

James Duff Carson and Ralph, the writers of the show tonight, were really excited to work with the FORCE OF NATURE we call Stacey K. Black, who also directed the episode of The Closer in which Mary was nominated for an Emmy.

James Duff Bill N asks how we manage to inject so much humor in a crime show. The truth is, if you go to crime scenes, the people who do this for a living participate in a lot of dark humor.
James Duff There is no other way to get through the darkness which we must travel without a little light.

James Duff Murder is the darkness. Humor is the light.

James Duff Katie Bartz Photography asks if the infamous Stroh will return? Yes, he will!

James Duff He's in the winter finale!

James Duff And Carson and Ralph wrote the episode he appears in!

James Duff Jeanette N says Buzz is easily her favorite character and wants to see more of him. Also she asks about returning characters from SOB.

James Duff Phillip says thank you! And he agrees: he is the best character on the show and can't think why he doesn't have more scenes!

James Duff Why isn't it called Buzz Crimes?

James Duff And we will see more of our SOB characters, starting tonight!

James Duff Fritz is back as Deputy Chief Fritz Howard.

James Duff And, happily, in our last two episodes, our favorite SWAT characters make it back.

James Duff And in our finale, Commander McGinnis and City Attorney Gloria Linn put in an appearance.

James Duff Tonight, of course, we say hello again to Judge Richwood, played with genius authenticity by Steve Tom.
James Duff Evelyn David says she is rewatching her favorite scene from last week, which would be Andy, Sharon, Rusty and Andy's daughter in the condo. We love that moment, too! Tony and Mary were great together, and Graham was sly and charming and Torrey did a great job as Flynn's daughter.

James Duff Faylee James says her cable has been out for three hours.

James Duff Carson and Ralph are horrified and are on their way over to fix it.

James Duff They will there between the hours of 2 and 7 the day after Christmas.

James Duff @Katie B asks if we have to worry about any team casualties. There might be an unexpected resignation tonight.

James Duff Yes. There could be an unexpected resignation. The papers are ready.

James Duff Ralphie and Carson are both happy with the way the first act turned out. They're seeing it for the first time tonight, with all of you.

James Duff Ralph, I mean.

James Duff Just want to say, Stacey K. Black directs with real √©lan

James Duff Thad A asks if there is any truth to the rumor that we may have a spinoff of Major Crimes with Jon Tenney and Malcom-Jamal Warner. Yes, there is a little truth to that rumor.

James Duff But it is not written in stone!

James Duff Of course, the whole cable business is undergoing tremendous change. We are lucky to be here with our characters on Major Crimes for so long.

James Duff Kathy G mentions that Phillip P. Keene is a wonderful dinner party. And she should know! Kathy, we love you and miss you!

James Duff Lorraine B asks if Sanchez will get a love interest. Very probably. We are doing a lot with Sanchez next year. And in two weeks, we are diving very deeply into his personal life!

James Duff Ilona Arcari asks if next year we'll ever see any more of Provenza's ex-wives. Oh. Maybe!

James Duff No, but next week you will see her both her biological children together with Rusty for the first time.

James Duff Along with a Santa Flash mob dancing to Johnny Mathis singing, "We Need a Little Christmas."

James Duff And yes, Jack deliberately mispronounces Sharon's name. It annoys her.

James Duff And it annoys the editors, too!

James Duff For those of us asking about Alice, or who have been asking about Alice, we will get to her next year.

James Duff But we don't want to give away how.

James Duff We have a plan for Alice that Carson cooked up!

James Duff Oh, did I mention Tom Berenger was in the episode tonight?

James Duff @EvelynDavid points out it's the first time Rusty has ever called Sharon, Mom.

James Duff Yes, it is.

James Duff And it was to avoid talking about himself.

James Duff Paize B asks if Sharon could be made a Commander, or if there is still a promotional freeze in the LAPD. We could see a promotion! That is a distinct possibility!

James Duff -Jackie C also asks if Sharon can be promoted. Ralph and Carson are suggesting yes. Phillip is suggesting yes. I don't know.

James Duff Benjamin S asks if Nadine will return as DDA Rios. Yes. She is in our last two episodes this winter. 

James Duff And she rocks!

James Duff Deborah Lacy asks us what our favorite episode is this season. I liked 305, where Dr. Joe and Rusty framed the episode, and Rusty shared his big secret with the squad. Phillip likes the one you're watching. So far, we are only mentioning episodes written by Ralph and Carson. I'm sure that's coincidental.

 James Duff Honestly, I think we had a pretty decent summer  of good shows. And I really loved our winter premiere.
James Duff Next week, for example, Christmas figures largely. But the crime is really interesting, too. It's a difficult balance to strike.

James Duff We try to have more personal stories in the winter, and delve more deeply into the character's personal lives and feelings. It's a different tone.

James Duff  They tried to put Phillip in a jacket and he said he was fine with a L.A. sweater.

James Duff They all say it was really, really hot outside, and even though it's a Christmas episode, we shot it in September and it was maybe the hottest day of the year.
James Duff Ralph and Carson were there when the car was burned up and Phillip came the next day.

James Duff Phillip says it most definitely is him.

James Duff @ToddH asks if there is any consensus on the show about whether Phillip or Jonathan DelArco is cuter.

James Duff And Jack Raydor is about to be very surprising, ladies and gentlemen.

James Duff We didn't!

James Duff And Carson and Ralph are anxious to watch the end of the end of their episode and hope we didn't screw it up for them.

James Duff I don't use Twitter that much myself...

James Duff Phillip says he would really like to know where everyone is watching from and you can follow him @phillipkeene on Twitter.

To read a pre-season interviews with James Duff and crew, click herehere and hereYou can read last week's recap here

Crime & Beyond Book Club: John Grisham and Sycamore Row

Crime & Beyond met this month to discuss Sycamore Row by John Grisham. (You can see a Q&A with John Grisham from an earlier post right here on Mystery Playground.) This book is the long awaited sequel to A Time to Kill and features the return of lawyer Jake Brigance. Jake is the Ford County, Mississippi lawyer who defended Carl Lee Hailey against a charge of murder in A Time to Kill, which was made into a movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock. (Many of us had a hard time not picturing McConaughey as we read.)

It’s the 1980s, only a few years after the Hailey trial, and racial tension is still high in the south. Jake opens his mail one morning and finds a letter from a man named Seth Hubbard. Seth was dying of lung cancer and rather than let it take him, he hung himself from a Sycamore tree on his property. Before he did that, he wrote the letter to Jake, which included a handwritten will that he asked Jake to defend. The new will leaves his entire fortune—in the range of 20+ million—to his black housekeeper Lettie. He disinherits his kids and grandkids, and the only other bequest is 5% to a long lost brother.

Jake begins the process of defending the handwritten will, relishing the thrill that goes along with a trial like this. Seth’s family claims that the chemotherapy and drugs muddled Seth’s mind and that the old will leaving his fortune to them should be upheld. The letter Seth wrote Jake tells him to defend the will at all costs, a task that he takes on willingly. He knows he has his work cut out for him and that it won’t be easy to get a Ford County jury to agree that Seth was in his right mind when he left millions of dollars to a black woman, but Jake has swayed juries before. While the trial is underway, he has an investigator searching for Seth’s brother, to try and determine if he’s still alive, and if so, if he can shed any light on Seth’s motivations.

My book club really enjoyed the book. If I had to choose whether the book was character driven or plot driven, I would be hard pressed to pick one. I think it was really both. Grisham is a master storyteller and most of us were hooked until the end. Jake is a wonderful character and for those of us who remember reading A Time to Kill, it was great to revisit some of the other supporting characters from that book as they made another appearance. My favorite was Sheriff Ozzie. 

The action takes place primarily in the courtroom, so if you are a fan of legal mysteries, you will love this book. The stakes aren’t as high as murder, but this doesn’t lower the tension or the bias that Jake is up against as he defends a will that could make Lettie the richest black woman in Ford County. As the trial progressed, some of the readers had a hard time choosing sides, so this tells you that there are a few twists and turns. Also, several of us listened to the audio version of the book. I was one of them and I thought that the reader did a great job. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shadow of a Doubt by Nancy Silverman Cole

Nancy Cole Silverman is here today on Mystery Playground to tell us about her new book, Shadow of a Doubt. 

"Good morning. Boy, you are harder to catch than a rabbit on roller skates."   
"I had to hand it to the anonymous caller on the other end of the line, she was better than most and I almost hated to hang-up on her.  Almost, I say, because I did. But, not without wondering just who she was and what had happened in her life that caused her to now be dialing for someone’s dollars just to make ends meet.  If I thought about it, the woman on the other end of the line was probably no different than thousands of others of us in transition, and this outward bound call campaign she’d been hired to do was but a temporary stop until she was able to find something better.  At least, I hoped so."
 The fact of the matter is, more and more of us find ourselves in transitional jobs.  Some of us because it’s a matter of what we do until the market clears up, or because we’re in school, or retired, forced out of a job, or maybe, just plain desperate.  My character, Carol Childs, in Shadow of Doubt, considers her recent gig at the radio station where she worked as a sales person, a transitional role until she could land a job as a reporter.  Until then, everything else was just a means to a end.  

Carol is a woman of many talents.  She’s a single, middle-aged mom, a semi-empty nester, a college graduate with an unused degree in journalism and a desire to try her hand at a second career as a reporter.  And like anyone who’s ever tried to reinvent themselves she has her fair share of naysayers, starting with her young, upstart of a boss, and boy wonder, Tyler Hunt, who considers her the world’s oldest cub reporter.

What she needs is a good story.  And when her next door neighbor comes knocking on her door to tell her that her famed Hollywood aunt has died – the night after the big Silver Screen Awards Show - she knows this is her chance.

But reinvention comes with its challenges. 

The facts she uncovers aren’t pointing to an anonymous murderer, but to her friend and neighbor.  Her desire to succeed is tested by the fact that the case she is reporting on not only concerns the death of a top Hollywood agent and the aunt of her next door neighbor, but also that of two other senior ranking agents within the same agency.  The FBI is called in.  Product tampering is suspected and Carol suddenly finds herself in the middle of a serial murder case with her FBI boyfriend investigating one side, while she investigates the other.  And when a Hollywood psychic befriends her, predicting more deaths and asking for her help, Carol realizes she must do more than just report the facts. Meanwhile as the facts start to stack up against her friend, one of the station’s on-air personalities makes a rush to judgment condemning her friend and neighbor as not only a murderer, but a cold hearted serial killer.

Like a rabbit on roller skates, Carol’s got to move quickly to keep the court of public opinion from judging her friend before the case can be brought to trial.