Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Crime Cocktails - Part Two - Books

Happy Halloween 

This is the second part of our two-part series matching Halloween crime fiction with drinks. You can see part one here

• Juliet Blackwell’s The Witchcraft Mysteries from Secondhand Spirits to In a Witchs Wardrobe.
The Books: Lily Ivory run her vintage clothing shop in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood while practicing a little magic on the side. Lily solves murders, casts spells, and vanquishes a demon or two all with the help of her familiar, Oscar, who takes the form of a pig.
The Drinks: “Lily & Oscar’s Hex Stopping Potion” – Three parts cranberry juice, a shot of vodka, and a splash of blood orange liqueur.  Stir three times and drop in a generous teaspoon of cherry Pop Rocks right before serving for that extra magic. For those who prefer beer, there’s always Wychcraft from Wychwood Brewery.
Poirot drinks
• Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party

The Book: A thirteen-year-old girl announces at a Halloween party that she witnessed a murder. Then she herself is found dead. Hercule Poirot is on the scene to discover if there has been one murder or two. This story was also immortalized in aMystery! episode staring David Suchet.
The Drink: “Poirot Pumpkin Coffee” – Make your favorite coffee. Pour over ice wait until cool. Add a shot of Pumpkin Pie Cream liqueur. We melted white chocolate, poured it onto wax paper, and let it harden to create the ghosts you see in the photo.
 Sybelle and the Seven Ravens: A Sweet Zombie Fairy Tale by Clare Curtis
The Book: A reimagining of the Grimm fairy tale, The Seven Ravens, with a zombie twist for children and adults alike. Sybelle must save her brothers from her own mistake by becoming a zombie, endangering her own future with her one true love.
The Drink: “The Corpse Reviver #2” – No, we didn’t make this one up because it is just perfect the way it is. You can find the recipe here. Other zombie options include: Zombie Zin from the Chateau Diana Winery for the adults, or blood orange soda for the little brain eaters (both available at World Market).
Frankenstein drinks
Go Green!
• Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

The Book: The classic differs widely from the endless Frankenstein derivative movies, cartoons and stories. If you haven’t read this book, you don’t really know Frankenstein.
The Drink: “The Bubbling Cocktail” – A mixture of blended kiwi, mint, and sugar, this drink looks like the perfect science experiment. Martha Stewart has exact details on how to make this drink in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions here. This drink was so perfect, we kept it exactly as we found it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Crime Cocktails - Part One: TV Shows

The Castle Vampire Weekend drink
Recipe for a vampish weekend.
Halloween is almost here. Some friends and I decided we needed to create, borrow, and adapt beverages for our favorite Halloween crime classics. We got together to mix and test the drinks below. So grab a cocktail shaker and your favorite Halloween crime fiction novel or DVD and let’s get started.

• Castle: “Vampire Weekend”
The Episode: Beckett and Castle find themselves trying to solve the murder of a man killed with a wooden stake who hung out in the “vampire underworld” while trying to decide what to wear to a Halloween party.
The Drink: “The Castletini” – Three parts champagne, one part cranberry juice, and a splash of blood orange liqueur. This drink is really well suited for any episode of Castle. You can also have a glass of Vampire merlot (available from World Market).

• NCIS: “Chimera”
The Episode: In Greek mythology a Chimera (pronounced Ki-mera) is a monster with the head of a goat, the body of a lion, and a dragon’s tail. When Gibbs and the team head for a ship, called Chimera, they find that the crew has disappeared, except for the dead body of one crewman.
The Drink: “The Chimera” – Two parts whiskey; one part blood orange juice, a tablespoon of sugar (a Halloween version of the whiskey sour). True Gibbs fans may want to have a steaming mug of black coffee instead.
• Bones: “Mummy in the Maze”
The Episode: Temperance Brennan and Seely Booth investigate the discovery of two dead women found disguised as mummies, one in a Halloween maze, the other in a haunted fun house. Dressed as Wonder Woman and a nerdy scientist they have to work quickly to prevent the death of a third woman.
The Drink: “I Want My Mummy” – Three parts ginger ale, one part cranberry juice and a splash of pomegranate liqueur for just a little kick.
True Blood shots
• Any Episode of True Blood
The Episodes: The show follows the adventures of telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse as she fights vampires and werewolves. It is based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris.
The Drink: “The Blood Shot” – Two ounces vodka, one ounce cassis liqueur, and one ounce cold water. Wax fangs optional.

Come back tomorrow for Halloween books and matching cocktails. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seattle's EMP Museum: Horror Exhibit

I recently visited a fun exhibit at Seattle's Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, called Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film. It was full of movie and TV props, mini movie pods for film clips and even had it's own scream booth. Here are a few photos from the exhibit, but this is only a small piece of a much larger exhibit. If you are a horror movie fan, it's well worth a visit. 

Here's Gill Man mask from the movie, The Creature From the Black Lagoon

Here's the lovely Xenomorph alien from Alien. I definitely don't want to invite him over for dinner. 

Here's Buffy the Vampire Slayer's favorite weapon, Mr. Pointy. 

Loved this special effects control board. 

From Shaun of the Dead

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Idea Kernel Behind JUST ONE EVIL ACT

Last week we caught up with author Elizabeth George on tour for her new novel, JUST ONE EVIL ACT. She shared how she generated the kernel of idea for the book from the now famous Amanda Knox case. Don't worry, there are no book spoilers here. While George got the idea from the Amanda Knox case, her book isn't about that case. 

What George learned by reading up on the Amanda Knox case is that in Italy the case Prosecutor runs the police investigation. So that means, the prosecutor can send the police force out to gather evidence that fits his or her hypothesis, rather than just following the evidence where ever that leads. Not only that, she learned that there is no freedom of the press in Italy. If a journalists writes something a prosecutor doesn't like about a case, they can be held in defamation. This naturally changes how journalists report on crimes. 

She also did research on the power of the British tabloids in influencing a story of this kind and the types of rumor and innuendo they picked up without bothering to ground any of it to facts. This led her to add a tabloid journalist to her mix of characters for the book. 

I'm a big Elizabeth George fan. I have all of her books and most of them are signed. When I recommend George, I suggest that people start with the first Inspector Lynley mystery, A Great Deliverance. What I was reminded of during this signing is that George's forth book, A Suitable Vengeance, does start out in the timeline before A Great Deliverance. What I didn't know is that George wrote it before A Great Deliverance but it wasn't published until afterwards. George still suggested readers start with A Great Deliverance so I will stick with that recommendation.

You can read a review of JUST ONE EVIL ACT here. If you want to read more about why I love George's books, go here. For a story about another Elizabeth George book signing years ago, go here. If you want to learn more about A Great Deliverance and would like a fabulous recipe for mint ginger team to go with it, click here

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fun Halloween Party Food

World Market has some fun Halloween party food items worth checking out. I love the Zombie cupcake kit. You can check out their Halloween themed wines here

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Peter James, DEAD MAN'S TIME

Dead Man's Time, a Roy Grace novel by Peter JamesDead Man’s Time by Peter James is the ninth procedural featuring Brighton's Detective Superintendent Roy Grace,  who confronts a case spanning nations and generations (available October 15, 2013).
Dead Man’s Time starts in 1922 New York, when we see a little boy lose his parents to murder. This same little boy gets shipped off to Ireland to be cared for by his aunt, but not before a mysterious stranger arrives at the dock with a valuable watch that belonged to the boy’s dead father. That’s our tie in to the book’s title: Dead Man’s Time. Without going into to too much detail, I will say that the 1922 story line dovetails nicely with the crime happening in the story in the present day in a very interesting way.
Then, we fast forward to the present day, where we have a particularly nasty career criminal by the name of Amis Smallbone (love that name) preparing to make our hero, Detective Superintendent Grace pay dearly for doing his job and putting Smallbone in jail years ago. This character is richly rendered and jumps off the page. Here’s a little peek into Amis Smallbone’s revenge-getting thought process, one that also enables him to avoid taking any responsibility for his own life:
Of course, Grace hadn’t been a Detective Superintendent back then: just a jumped-up, newly promoted Inspector who had picked on him, targeted him, fitted him up, twisted the evidence, been oh so clever, so fucking smug. It was Grace’s persecution that had condemned him, now, to this cruddy rented flat, with its shoddy furniture, no-smoking signs on the walls in each room, and having to report and bloody kowtow to a Probation Officer regularly.
He put the paper down, stood up a little unsteadily, and carried his glass over to the dank-smelling kitchenette, popping some ice cubes out of the fridge-freezer into his glass. It was just gone midday, and he was thinking hard. Thinking how much pleasure he was going to get from hurting Roy Grace. It was the one thing that sustained him right now. The rest of the nation had Olympic fever—the games were starting in a month’s time. But he didn’t give a toss about them; getting even with Roy Grace was all he cared about.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Favorite Autographed Books: Suspicion of Innocence by Barbara Parker

Today guest blogger Rebecca Lugones tells us about the time she met Barbara Parker. 

It was the very first time I went to the Sleuthfest Mystery Writing Conference. As I inched my way through the line to get an autograph from the author of Suspicion of Innocence, Barbara Parker, I debated whether or not to tell her the truth about her book. 

The moment arrived and I blurted it out. 

“I loved your book, but many of the Spanish phrases in your book are incorrect.”

There.  I had said it.  I couldn’t let her publish any more books with these errors. Silence. She stared at me.  Was she going to throw her book at my head?

“But I used native speakers!” she protested.

“That doesn’t mean they can write it correctly or that they are saying it right.  I speak Spanish but I when I found the errors, I checked with more than one person who does translations for a living.”

Then she asked me how to say eagle in Spanish. Seriously, how often does one use the word eagle even in English?  I shrugged my shoulders and then she said, “aguila.”  

She signed my book and I went on my merry way with a clear conscious.  

Then I looked at the inscription,

To Rebecca Lugones:
Who has the eye of an aguila. Best of luck with your writing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cider Sangria & NEVER GO BACK

Today Kim Hammond serves up Cider Sangria and a review of the latest Lee Child novel. Pull up a chair, and fill your glass...

Fall is upon us, and in some parts of the country that means cooler weather and the leaves turning. It’s a great time of year to break out a cozy blanket, a good book, and park your posterior on the couch while the leaves of yellow, burnt orange and deep red are quietly falling to the ground outside.

Fall also makes me think of pumpkins, apple picking and cider. So my drink for this post is a cider sangria. I’ve been told you can drink this warm or cold, but I made mine to be chilled, and I made a double batch because I was trying it out on a group of unsuspecting friends.

Here’s what you need:
One bottle of red wine - I typically don’t drink red. I am a sweet white wine kind of gal, and the more I thought about it, I don’t see why you couldn’t use a moscato or reisling with this recipe and I’m going to try that next time.
1 cup cider
Ground cinnamon
1 apple
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

Pour the bottle of wine in a pitcher. Add the cider. Chop up the apple into small pieces (you can use more than one apple) and add it to the mix. In a small bowl mix ¼ cup very hot tap water with ¼ cup honey. Stir until the honey is completely dissolved. Add the mixture to the pitcher and stir. 

Add 2 dashes cinnamon and chill. I added ice to the glasses before pouring. I was a little hesitant with using the cinnamon but the hint of it in the taste was delicious, but don’t overdo it. The sangria was a hit and I will definitely make it again.

I have read all of Lee Child’s books. I have this Thor-esqe image of Jack Reacher in my head as I read, as I am sure many other fans do. Never go Back is Lee’s newest edition to the Reacher saga. In a prior book, the current CO of the 110th MP, Major Susan Turner, helps Reacher out and he decides he likes her voice and would like to meet her.  She currently holds the position he used to, using the same office he once sat in.

In typically Reacher fashion, he spends weeks hitching rides across the country from South Dakota to just outside of Washington, D.C. to meet the woman behind the voice. Only when he arrives Major Turner is gone, and in her office is a light Colonel who tells Reacher he is being called back to duty, effective immediately, to face charges of murder for something that happened 16 years ago. Reacher is threatened and told to run, which is not in his makeup, so of course, he stays to fight and clear his name. I almost feel bad for the bad guys….almost.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Loving The Blacklist

My favorite new show of the fall season is clearly NBC and James Spader's, The Blacklist (10 pm Mondays). The premise is that a Whitey Bulger type criminal named Raymond "Red" Reddington (played by Spader) turns himself in supposedly to help the FBI catch criminals. One of his demands to the FBI in return for his help is that he wants to work with a particular agent, Elizabeth Keene (playde by Megan Boone). She doesn't appear at least on the outset to have a connection with him, although Reddington enjoys dropping hints without confirming anything. Reddington has no problem killing, double crossing and for some reason protecting Elizabeth while they are on missions.  

The show reminds me of Alias in that you're never really sure who's bad and who's good and if for some reason you do figure it out, it won't matter because they'll change sides in the next three minutes. The plots are well developed and Spader lends a certain charm and sense of humor to his bad guy who may have turned good, but may not. 

Every week the show gets better and better. 

You can catch up on all of the episodes so far this season here

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Lisa Scottoline's ACCUSED

In the 14th book in this series, Lisa Scottoline returns in ACCUSED to focus on Mary DiNunzio as she not only makes partner in the firm, she also gets engaged. One of the two she's not super happy about, but I'll let you figure out which one when you read the book. 

In this book a thirteen year-old girl, Allegra, hires Mary to help her find her older sister's real killer, despite the fact that a man was convicted based on his confession. Allegra believes that this man is innocent, but doesn't have the evidence to prove it. 

Mary has her hands full since the girls parents don't want the investigation to continue and everyone is worried about Allegra digging into the murder of her elder sister. Allegra was only eight years old when it happened, so how will Mary figure out whether what the girl remembers is true or not. 

While reading the book I had moments of difficulty because the concept of a 13 year old trying to solve her own sister's murder was so rough to think about. Scottoline helps us read through this toughness by comic relief through Mary DiNunzio's family and Mary's commonality with Allegra of having also lost someone she loved to murder. 

The plot is not one that I have read before and the book moves fast. I kept turning the pages and turning the pages. Mary's point of view and internal monologue takes the story to the next level,
"She knew she should be happy, but she wasn't, then she felt guilt for not being happy, making a club sandwich of guilt." 
Mary's family's antics also add a necessary lightness to the book, especially any time the "The Tonys" are involved in the investigation.

I love this series and was glad to get back to it. If you have never read Lisa Scottoline's book, you may want to start with the first book, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, and read the whole series. Otherwise pick up ACCUSED. You'll be turning the pages in no time. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lyndee Walker and BURIED LEADS

Today cozy mystery author LynDee Walker guest blogs about her new book, Buried Leads, and the top five funniest news stories she ever covered while she worked as a reporter. LynDee is giving away a fun gift bag including a $25 gift certificate to your favorite bookstore. All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter give away box at the end of this post. LynDee is also giving a second prize Swag Bag out to one lucky person who comments on today's guest post below.

Browsing the Mystery shelves at your local bookshop, you’ll find everything from gritty thrillers with explicit crime scene descriptions to cozies featuring crime-solving cats and bakery owners as sleuths. 

I read (and love) a little of everything. But when I sit down to write, mixing the thriller elements with the fun parts of the cozy world is usually what turns up on the page.

My main character is a reporter (I was, too, before I was a mom), so she has a good reason to stick her nose into crime. And she gets in plenty of trouble doing it. But she’s a journalist, not a cop. She loves her impractical shoes, has a sexy Mafia boss for a friend, and uses people and questions to find her answers. 

She’s also funny. I like weaving comic relief into serious scenes, giving readers a fun escape instead of just a straight mystery. I wrote enough depressing true crime stuff in my reporting days, so with my fiction, I try to blend some levity into that world. 

All that got me thinking about the top five funniest news stories I ever covered. Even when you work the crime beat in real life, humor crosses your desk once in a while.

1) The abandoned casket: that’s the kind of police report that makes you snort coffee. Which hurts (I know because I did it that day). I snatched up the phone and called the PD, and the public information officer chuckled through the whole story. A junkyard owner on the edge of town came into work to find a real-life-honest-to-goodness casket blocking the yard’s driveway. He was pretty indignant about the police asking him what was in there. The officer who came out to open it found it full of scrap metal. But I still wonder sometimes why the heck someone had it to get rid of in the first place.

2) The church lady/truck driver standoff in the strip club parking lot. Enough said.

3) The literal cop: one particularly arid summer, the lake in the middle of down dried up to the point that every boat in the marina was sitting in dirt and grass, the waterline having receded hundreds of yards out into the lake bed. So far, in fact, that the owner of the marina stood on his dock waving toward the dam on the other side of the lake and said “Look at that. You could drive a car off my boat ramp all the way to the dam.” 

It was a great quote, and I used it in my story.

One of the officers at the local PD took him literally, and caused quite a stir when he got his squad car stuck in mud that had been under thirty feet of water for about half a century in an effort to test the theory.

4) The open window: I happened to be in a city budget hearing where the police chief was grilled over a bill for a new automatic window for a squad car. His explanation was great: in the middle of a rare Texas ice storm, one of his officers was called out to help a citizen with something (ten years and three kids later, I can’t remember what). Taking care not to fall on the ice as he got out of the car, the officer forgot his keys. They got locked in the car, which he didn’t realize until he came back outside. His phone, computer, and radio were all in the cruiser, so he busted the driver’s side window out. When he got in the car, he noticed that the passenger side window was open.

5) The body in the trunk: This one’s not silly-funny, but odd-coincidence funny. It started off sad, with a young woman’s body found in the trunk of an abandoned car. When the police got to the bottom of it, they found that she’d overdosed on drugs and her companions stuffed her in the trunk, parked the car on a quiet street, and walked away (I know. What is the matter with people?) rather than call 911. Except they abandoned the car in front of a retired homicide detective’s house. He recognized the smell and alerted the local PD in time for them to get fingerprint evidence that led them to solve the case.
Nichelle gets to explore some of these in her adventures, to keep the stories balanced. The abandoned casket is in FRONT PAGE FATALITY (which is on sale until midnight tonight for 99 cents in all ebook formats) and there are a few fun asides in my new novel, BURIED LEADS, too. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today, and happy reading.

When an Armani-clad corpse turns up in the woods, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke smells a scoop. A little digging, and Nichelle uncovers a web of corruption that stretches all the way to Washington, D.C. Politics. Murder. And a dead lobbyist. It’s everything Nichelle’s ever dreamed of.

The cops are playing it close, the feds even closer, and Nichelle’s afraid her boss will assign the story to the political desk any day. Richmond’s new ATF SuperCop makes an arrest before she can say “Louboutin,” but Nichelle’s gut says he’s got the wrong guy.

Her sexy Mafia boss friend warns her off the case, her TV rival is hot on her designer heels, an ambitious copy editor wants her beat, and victims are piling up faster than she can track them down. As Nichelle zeroes in on the truth, it’ll take some fancy footwork to nab this headline before the killer nabs her.

About LynDee Walker

LynDee Walker grew up in the land of stifling heat and amazing food most people call Texas, and wanted to be Lois Lane from the time she could say the words “press conference.” An award-winning journalist, she traded cops and deadlines for burp cloths and onesies when her oldest child was born. Writing the Headlines in Heels mysteries gives her the best of both worlds. Her debut novel, Front Page Fatality (A Nichelle Clarke Headlines in Heels Mystery), is an amazon new humor #1 bestseller. LynDee adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel. You can visit her online at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Perfect Halloween Wine

World Market has a really fun selection of Halloween wines -- ranging from Dia De Los Merlot to Poizin. I have no idea if they taste good, but the labels are hilarious. If you don't see anything you like here you can always check out The Criminal Wine

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Villains Take Over Disneyland

Here's a little video from the Disney Villains to get you in the mood for Halloween. They are all up to no good. Love the photo of Jafar on top of Space Mountain and of course I love anything with Hook and Smee. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Favorite Autographed Books: Happy Birthday from Elizabeth George

Almost all book lovers I know have a wonderful secret hoard of autographed books. So this fall we are featuring a series of guest blogs about those books and the stories behind them. Today our secret autograph guest post is from Nancy Keith Kelly, a marketing guru in the Silicon Valley. 

My mom was the one who introduced me to the wonderful books written Elizabeth George, featuring Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. We both shared a love of mystery and thriller novels and also the physical books themselves. If I found one I loved, I couldn't wait to send it to her. But she was the one who found Elizabeth George.  

The first George book I read was Missing Joseph. I was hooked instantly. I kept reading and reading. My mom knew I loved hardback books. For my birthday in 1997, Deception on His Mind arrived by mail with the most wonderful inscription:

To Nancy -
Happy Birthday from your mom and the author. 

It was such a surprise.

My favorite part of the story is as the inscription was being written, Elizabeth asked my mom where I lived. When she told her, she smiled and as it turns out, she grew up in the same city where I now live as an adult.  It's just insanely cool. It is a very special birthday present that I will always treasure.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

All Hallows Read

It's time again for All Hallows Read. Started by Neil Gaiman, All Hallows Read is to encourage people to give away scary books on Halloween.

In case you are looking for some inspiration of scary books to give away here are some suggestions:

1) Night Film by Marisha Pessl -  The beautiful young daughter of a famous underground horror film producer is found dead. It looks like a suicide, but her actions before her death indicate otherwise. For a journalist named Scott McGrath who's career was materially damaged by reporting on her father's activities in the past, the search for what really happened to Ashley Cordova becomes an all consuming investigation for him. You can read my review here.

2) The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury (suggested last year by Jeff Baker
Here's the description from Booklist: "A fast-moving, eerie...tale set on Halloween night. Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin's. Enhanced by appropriately haunting black-and-white drawings."--Booklist

3) Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George. A mother kidnaps her little girl away from her biological father who has little legal standing. Detective Sargent Barbara Havers and Inspector Thomas Lynley help track her down. 

Last year I suggested that people give away:

1) The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by Theodore Roszak - Much has been written about the weak women in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This book turns the original monster classic on it's head and tells a different story by from the point of view of the woman who married Dr. Frankenstein (the creator, not the monster). It's engrossing. It's also ironic that although this tale is told from the point of view of a woman, it was written by a man, and the original work by Mary Shelley is the other way around.

2) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - The story starts in 1972 when a young girl finds an antique book and a pile of decaying letters that start her on a chase after the history of Vlad the Impaler. She learns that her family has been caught up in this quest and now it's up to her. This is a brilliant thriller that keeps your heart racing and your eyes reading.

3) The Awareness and Deadly Other Tales by Terrie Farley Moran - This collection of short stories yields one surprise after another. My favorite is the title story where justice is meted in a supernatural way. (The author also has a short story in the current issue of Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, called Jake Says Hello.)

4)  Game of Thrones by George RR Martin - Even after watching the HBO series first, I couldn't put this book down and I pretty much knew what was going to happen. This story brings some serious drama and besides, 'Winter is Coming'.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

American Horror Story: Coven

Today guest blogger, Mia Gianotti Bard, talks about how she's hooked by American Horror Story: Coven after just a few episodes. She gives us enough information to get us caught up and tidbits about the real Madame Delphine LaLaurie. After you finish her post here, you might want to visit her blog, Target Addict, where she talks about deals at the store, Target.

I'm not your typical demographic for "American Horror Story". As someone who watches horror movies with one eye closed, it's a genre I usually avoid.  But I was drawn to season three - dubbed "Coven" - for both the historical significance and the geographic location.

First off, it's set in New Orleans - one of my favorite cities - and many scenes are actually shot on location there (unlike past seasons which were all shot on set). Second, the premiere episode opened with always-awesome Kathy Bates playing Madame Delphine LaLaurie, an actual historical figure. I visited LaLaurie's former residence in New Orleans and took the midnight tour. I didn't sleep that night.  

The episode opens in the year 1834, and Madame LaLaurie is shown hosting a dinner party for some high-society types in her lovely NOLA home. Keep in mind that New Orleans at this time period was a large and prosperous city, with a majority of white French speakers in addition to a large faction of African Americans - some free citizens, some slaves. We quickly establish that the Madame is trying to introduce her daughters to some wealthy prospective male suitors; her two older daughters seem to receptive to the idea, while the youngest one is a wiseass over the situation.

Flash forward to later that evening - after the dinner party is done - and Madame is shown in her boudoir brushing "restorative blood" on her face as some sort of gory facial ritual in the hope of "younger, firmer skin". This is the first sign Madame isn't of sane mind, and there are plenty more to come. Her husband bursts in to alert her that their youngest daughter (the wiseass) was caught in a "compromising position" with their house slave. The slave denies ever laying a hand on her, and sadly is merely a pawn in the bratty daughter's game to get under her mother's skin. Despite his protests that Miss Wiseass came on to him (and not the other way around) Mommy Dearest has her guards force the slave up to her attic of horrors, and that's where the story gets gruesome (and partially historically accurate).

We immediately see several imprisoned slaves, with evidence of unspeakable torture covering their scarred and mutilated faces and limbs. But for the poor slave soul who had the misfortune of being conned by her youngest daughter, Madame had a special punishment in mind. Talking to him as he was tied up, she explained how much she loved the Greek myths as a little girl, as they were filled with "wonderful miraculous creatures." Then from out of the shadows, she beckons a little slave boy to bring her a severed, hollowed out bull's head - complete with horns - which she placed on the man's head like a Halloween mask, turning him into a mythical minotaur.

The show then turned to their present-day storyline, which I won't elaborate on here. Let's just say that with the name "Coven", you can assume witchcraft and spells are involved. But later the episode returns to the 1830's, and we see a non-slave voodoo priestess (played by Angela Bassett) visit the Madame to offer her a love potion to recapture her husband's heart (as he seems to have a wandering eye for younger women). Now why the Madame - who seems like a smart cookie - would fall for some random woman peddling a magic elixir is unclear. But unbeknown to Madame, this particular gal happens to be betrothed to Minotaur-man... so of course, the potion is actually a poison, and Madame chokes to her death. Or does she? Like the real Madame LaLaurie, her fate is unclear; Delphine LaLaurie was believed to have died in France in 1842, but that fact has never been 100% substantiated.

To follow the continued (albeit partially fictionalized) adventures of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, watch "American Horror Story: Coven" on Wednesday nights on FX.

Jessica Lange is also in Coven

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Library & Book Inspired Purses from Kate Spade

Kate Spade's new fall line includes a few library and book inspired items that are just great. Above we have a library card catalogue shopper and below is a redesigned book cover for The Portrait of a Lady clutch. Love the colors. 

Here's a handbag modeled after a card catalogue drawer. You can switch out the name in the card catalogue, currently Austin - Bronte, for any author names you would like. 

Love this library card iPhone case.

The handle on this little clutch is precious. 

You can find more book inspired handbags here

Monday, October 14, 2013

Crime & Beyond Book Club: Harlan Coben's SIX YEARS

Kerry Hammond reports back from the latest meeting of the Crime & Beyond Book Club. This month's pick was SIX YEARS by Harlan Coben. 

The Crime & Beyond book of the month for September 2013 was Six Years by Harlan Coben. The club has read several Coben books in the past, and they always provide a lot of discussion points and usually a few tricky plot twists to talk about. Six Years was no different, and brought out a record number of club members for the discussion. It can be hard to reign in 18 people, but we did just fine.

The ratings for the book were mostly in the 6-9 range, with a lot of 7s and 8s. A lot of people really liked the book, were very entertained, and found it to be believable. Some of the praise resulted from the whole plot concept and unraveling of the mystery, as well as the humor the author always manages to provide in his books.

On the other side of the coin, other members found the story a bit contrived and Jake extremely sappy. They felt that a couple of the surprises were thrown in to ease the plot along, rather than because they were a normal progression of the events that were taking place.

Let’s talk about the plot first. A few points were taken away by some members for the backstory that was eventually revealed (specifics have been removed for spoiler content). Then there was the issue of Jake’s pursuit of Natalie, who was the love of his life, even though he only knew her for a short time. I wasn’t the only one who went with the fact that Jake never got over Natalie and had good reason to pursue her after he saw Todd’s obit. Many of us found that to be entirely plausible. In addition, we liked the twist at the end where you found out why Natalie was running.

I always find it interesting to hear one member say they like the book for a specific reason, and then have another member say they didn’t like it for that exact specific reason. Readers are as diverse as the books we read, and I am thankful that writers continue to provide us with stories that some will love and some will hate—but that all provide good discussion content.

Lastly, some additional Harlan news was provided. He is going to write a Young Adult book featuring Myron Bolitar’s nephew, Mickey. There is a trailer for the book on Harlan’s website. Also, Six Years is going to be made into a movie. You’ll never guess who is going to play Jake...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: JUST ONE EVIL ACT by Elizabeth George

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George is the seventeenth installment of the Inspector Lynley series (available October 15, 2013).
Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant  Barbara Havers are back in the latest novel by Elizabeth GeorgeJust One Evil Act. This book is set both in London and in Italy, which adds a fun new dimension to the book.
In Just One Evil Act, we get a great mix of my favorite regular characters from Elizabeth George’s previous novels. Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers returns at her poorly dressed but obstinate best.  Inspector Thomas Lynley has regained his footing although he is a much-changed man.  One of the main reasons I love this series is the relationship between the police detective earl and his very common sergeant. 
We also see the return of Barbara’s favorite neighbors – Talmullah Azhar and his daughter, Haddiyah. The book gets rolling immediately when little Haddiyah is snatched away by her mother and taken away from Azhar.  Of course, Barbara involves herself in the investigation, although Azhar was not named on Haddiyah’s birth certificate and has therefore has no legal standing as her parent.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Halloween Bling

There's just something about orange and black jewelry that gets me in the mood for Halloween. Like the beautiful bracelet above from Tierney Mystery Jewelry. 

Or this Dracula pin for the vampire lover in your life, also from Tierney. 

Pumpkin earrings from Stone Horse Designs:

With the right costume, this poison vial from SpacePearls would be perfect: