Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: A Ghostly Murder

A Ghostly Murder by Tonya Kappes, published by William Morrow and released in paperback on September 29th. This is the fourth book in the Ghostly Southern Mystery Cozy series. I read the previous book and was anxious for the next installment of this fun, lighthearted series. If you are looking for a good story to take your mind off your troubles, definitely pick a book from this series. Often I found myself laughing out loud. 

Mamie Sue Preston, one of the richest people in Sleepy Hollow is Emma Lee Raines' newest client. She hires Emma to solve her murder but more importantly to get her teeth back. You see Mamie is a ghost who only Emma can see since she is a Betweener meaning she helps ghosts solve their murders and cross over to the other side. Mamie was a hypochondriac and even on her tombstone it reads "I told you I was sick". While Emma is investigating Mamie's life and death, she ends up with another ghostly client. 

What is so great in these books is since only Emma can see the ghosts, she ends up appearing to talk to herself often in public. This leads most to think she is crazy with a case of the "funeral trauma" as the Doc calls it. 

The writing is vivid and descriptive and I could just picture the town and it's inhabitants as I was reading. This series reminds me of Charlaine Harris and the Sookie Stackhouse novels. What I enjoy is each book has a different ghost or ghosts and can be read as a standalone. Tonya, the author, does an excellent job of giving readers enough information in each book. Sleepy Hollow has wonderfully believable characters and it is a pleasure to revisit them book after book. The town is filled with awesome places - The Higher Grounds Cafe, Eternal Slumber Funeral Home and Pose and Relax Yoga Studio. I look forward to going back to Sleepy Hollow to hear about the next ghost client Emma encounters. 

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. This review is fair and independent. 

You can read an excerpt of one of the earlier books in this series here

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Super Cool Zipper Pouches

Kerry Hammond is here today to tell us about a great new gift idea for bibliophiles.

I have a confession to make. Are you ready for it? I am an organization freak. If you know me you’re saying, “well yeah, no kidding.” If you don’t know me, then you probably don’t care. My love of organization makes me actually look forward to a weekend where I’ve scheduled a closet cleaning. I know, it’s sad, but oh so fun. And very rewarding.

One of my organizational techniques includes my little zipper pouches. Why have piles of documents or magazine articles lying around when you can put them in these handy dandy zipper pouches?

You can use these for toiletries or other items too, so they double as travel bags. Again, if you know me, you know I love this idea.

Many of the ones I’ve collected are made of a durable rip proof type of material, which is wonderful because they last forever. They come decorated in lots of retro prints like old fashioned cameras, telephones, and airmail envelopes.

I have even collected library pouches, decorated like a library index/catalog cards. 

For the mystery lover, there is even an evidence pouch.

They make great gifts for bibliophiles.....I'm just sayin'

Friday, October 2, 2015

Jewish Noir & The Very Dark Egg Cream

Kenneth Wishnia, editor of Jewish Noir, and Meryl Zegarek have joined forces to bring us the perfect drink for Jewish Noir, Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds. Read on...

Description of book: 
Jewish Noir edited by Kenneth Wishnia is a collection of new stories by some of the best-known crime writers examining the re-emergence of noir in our culture, with a Jewish point of view. This unique collection has stories by Jewish literary and genre writers including award-winning authors such as Marge Piercy, Harlan Ellison, S.J. Rozan, Nancy Richler, Moe Prager (Reed Farrel Coleman), Wendy Hornsby, Charles Ardai and Kenneth Wishnia. The stories range from noirish literary to pulpier crime stories and examine a myriad of issues. There are also a few stories by non-Jewish writers, illustrating that you don't need to be Jewish to write Jewish Noir.  And you don't need to be Jewish to appreciate our drink. 

Why pair this drink and this book:
The stories in this collection explore the question of how Jewish identity produces a particular tendency toward the cynical voice of noir. What could be more Jewish than the egg cream, a creation of NYC’s Jewish immigrant with a shady history. Brooklyn candy store owner Louis Auster is commonly cited as the inventor of the egg cream.  It is said he created it in the late 1890s and would go to great lengths to make the chocolate syrup in the back of his store with the windows blacked out. He even took his secret recipe to the grave! His drink had neither cream nor eggs, and it was an instant hit; on a hot day his shop could sell 3,000 to thirsty customers.

But as with many things Jewish, and noir, there is another side to the story.

Retired professor of sociology Daniel Bell disputes this claim, and argues that his Uncle Hymie invented the egg cream in the 1920s at his candy store on the Lower East Side, and he used both cream and eggs in it, but dropped those ingredients during the Depression to lower the price. 

Whoever invented the egg cream, it remains a cherished drink. We have added chocolate vodka to our version, making it dark and ultimately more devious. 

Fill a tall glass with 1/3 cup of Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup (of if you can't find U-Bet any quality chocolate syrup)
Add 1/4 cup milk  
Add seltzer to fill the glass to the top
Add one shot of chocolate vodka
Garnish with whipped cream and sprinkles
Stir right before drinking.

Enjoy with a straw, always. Unless you want a white mustache!

(photo above taken by MZPR)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Severed Head Baked Apples with Oat Brains

This is the second in our series of Halloween themed treats. Last week we melted chocolate for all sorts of fabulous chocolate covered cookies and lollypops. And this week were making Severed Head Baked Apples with Oat Brains. 

Materials & Ingredients:
There are a few tools that will make this project a little easier:
  • An Apple peeler, you could use a knife but you will take more apple and chances are it won't be as round.
  • An Apple coring tool, (its the one at the top of the photo below)
  • A melon baller
  • A dull knife
  • a glass baking dish or a little casserole dish. 
And here are the ingredients:
  • Four Apples
  • Four pats of butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • A cup of oats
  • A sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Apple juice 

Step One:
Preheat the oven to 350. Peel and core your apples. You may want to just eat the peels, they make a great snack. 

Step Two:
Now you are ready to carve a face in your apples. You can use the top of the apple peeler or the dull knife. You don't need a sharp knife and they can slip while your working. It's best to hold the apple in one hand while you carve. If you carve your face higher on the apple, it will be easier to see when served.

Step Three:
Add your ingredients. Put your apples in your glass pan. Fill the bottom with your oats. Sprinkle Brown sugar over the oats. Put a half a pat of butter in each apple and spread the rest around over the oats. Sprinkle cinnamon over the oats and the tops of the apples. 

Step Three:
Bake for ten minutes and then open the oven and swirls the oats around so they don't get too brown. Then put the apples back in the oven until brown - 5-10 more minutes. 

Step Four:
Take them out of the oven and spoon the oats into the middle of the apple. Make sure some spill out. Those are your oat brains. You can stop right here and serve if you want or... You can add craisins in the eye sockets. 

Come back next week when we make Crime Scene cupcakes. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Sharon Long is here to review Kristi Belcamino's latest novel, Blessed are Those Who Mourn...

Blessed are Those Who Mourn is the fourth book in the Gabriella Giovanni Mystery series by Kristi Belcamino. This book published by Witness Impulse for William Morrow was released today. I was intrigued by the title and curious to read this book. I am happy to report, this mystery thriller did not disappoint. 

Gabriella, a crime reporter, her detective boyfriend, Donovan, and their daughter Grace are enjoying an evening at the beach waiting for the sunset. Gabriella has gone to the car for a jacket as it is getting cold. As she is walking back, she sees a man close to Grace and finds herself frozen in place due to panic. Donovan is on his phone and does not see as the man starts to grab his daughter's arm. The man looks at Gabriella and their eyes meet. Donovan questions the man about what he is doing and his response is Grace is so cute and he is sorry. The man leaves after more questions and Gabriella is still shaken as something about him did not seem right.   

No sunset tonight as Donovan tells her there has been a murder of a girl on the banks of Roe Island. They quickly leave and drop Grace off at her grandmother's house. Once at the crime scene, Donovan becomes the detective and Gabriella the reporter. She is standing with the other reporters but gets bored and begins walking. Gabriella sees a piece of paper and picks it up realizing it is a bible verse. Now she is really starting to shake thinking that he is back. The man who kidnaped and later murdered her seven-year-old sister 25 years ago. That killer used this same verse for his first victim. The story quickly moves to more murders and more danger, even life and death, for Gabriella and her family. 

I was drawn into the story immediately wanting to also know if the killer had returned. The idea of bible verses at murder scenes, I found to be brilliant. I really enjoyed Gabriella because she is a strong woman who does not back down in a fight. San Francisco and the surrounding beaches are a perfect backdrop for the story. I also enjoyed Gabriella's big Italian family and their love for each other. This story evokes strong emotions in the characters and the reader as I could clearly relate to the anguish both past and present. The plot is fast paced and extremely realistic. Again this is the fourth book in this series which is one where it is not necessary to read the previous books. This is the first I have read and did not feel like I was missing any information. Now I am going back to read the other three in the series for my own pleasure and enjoyment.

This book was provided by the publisher to Mystery Playground. The review is fair and independent. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review: Blood Red by Wendy Corsi Staub

Kerry Hammond is here today reviewing Wendy Corsi Staub's new book, Blood Red. Don't you just love the title? 

Blood Red by Wendy Corsi Staub is Book One in the exciting new Mundy’s Landing Trilogy. It came out today, September 29 in Mass Market Paperback by William Morrow publishers. Wendy is a New York Times Bestselling author who has written more than 80 novels. With her celebrated and lengthy career, I’m not sure how I missed reading her for so long, but I’m glad I finally made the discovery. The synopsis I saw describing Blood Red sounded so dark and disturbing that I was immediately drawn in, and I knew I had to read it.

Mundy’s Landing is a picturesque town in New York State’s Hudson Valley. We learn, however, that the town hasn’t always been idyllic. As the residents set out to celebrate the 350 year anniversary, we learn that there was a disturbing incident of cannibalism when the town was first settled. More recently, albeit 100 years ago, a string of murders horrified the town. To this day, the crimes have gone unsolved, but the locals have never forgotten. Mundy’s Landing even hosts a convention each year where attendees try to solve the cold case known as the Sleeping Beauty Murders. My kind of town, I have to say.
Rowan Mundy is a teacher at the local elementary school. She moved back to her childhood home town with her family to live a peaceful life. Her last name is no coincidence, her husband is related to the founding family of the town. One day Rowan receives a package. What she finds inside takes her back to an event in her past she thought was behind her. The event is a secret she has kept all this time, one that only one other person should know. If that person sent it, it’s a sick joke. If it was sent by someone else, the thought is even more disturbing. Rowen sets out to find out who knows her secret, and the impact to her family if it comes to light. All the while, a psychotic killer known to us only as Casey, is slowly headed toward town, killing young female redheads on the way.

At the end of each chapter the author inserts a newspaper article from the Mundy’s Landing Tribune Archives. These date from 1916 to present day and the reader is able to learn more about the history and charm of the town, as well as additional clues to the events that are unfolding present day.  We also get glimpses into Casey’s story during the occasional chapters from the murderer’s point of view.

The book was intriguingly well-written. The way the author unwound the story piece by piece kept me glued to the book. Don’t be put off by the fact that you know the killer’s name from the beginning. The who and why are the important pieces to the puzzle, and those aren’t easily figured out. The characters actions, and the consequences they faced because of them, really made me think. I turned the last page and the events haunted me for days afterward. It’s the sign of a good book when it takes you days to get it out of your system. 

The next in the trilogy is called Blue Moon, and is due out in the Summer of 2016.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.