Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Fun With Cozy Mysteries

Summer is a great time to relax at the beach or in the backyard with a cold refreshing drink and a cozy murder mystery. Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian have a number of new releases this month that fits that bill perfectly including several new series.

HEARSE AND BUGGY by Laura Bradford

9780425251317A new series set in Heavenly, PA, Amish country finds protagonist Claire Weatherly fleeing her stressful lifestyle for a slower pace. She settles in by opening an Amish specialty shop called Heavenly Treasures.

Slowly she begins to make friends among the locals including Esther, a young Amish woman, who is helping out in her shop. Then tragedy strikes - the former shop owner, the unlikable Walter Snow, is murdered and Esther’s beau becomes a suspect. Claire has to find answers and the real killer for Esther’s sake.

The investigating officer is Detective Jakob Fisher, but he’s unable to get the locals to cooperate with him. Jakob left his Amish upbringing and Heavenly as a teenager. It appears Claire is his only hope. Can the two of them uncover the truth before Claire’s peaceful refuge is lost?

A great new series with well-developed characters, intriguing twists and a delightful setting.

Laura Bradford is the pseudonym for author Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Her website is

Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford, An Amish Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2012, ISBN: 978-0425251317, Paperback, 288 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

9780425251348A returning favorite of mine is protagonist Sophie Winston and her ongoing problems with her neighbor, Natasha, who also just happens to be her ex-husband‘s girlfriend.

Determined not to be a garden-variety diva, Natasha cultivates a plan to shine on television—using Sophie’s backyard. As the cast and crew of the makeover show Tear It Up With Troy bulldoze through her backyard—and vacation—Sophie retreats to her perennial boyfriend Wolf’s to replace a dead rose bush. But her tender deed goes awry when she digs up a purse belonging to Wolf’s missing wife.

As speculations sprout, Wolf bolts, and then a body crops up in a garden. Is Wolf’s thorny past raising a dead head? This is one case the domestic diva can’t let wither on the vine.

Davis keeps you guessing with twists and turns while blending in a touch of humor as her well-thought out characters interact. To add to the delight, she includes yummy recipes and entertaining tips from Sophie and Natasha.

This is the sixth installment in the Domestic Diva Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. The other books in the series include: THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME (October 2008), THE DIVA TAKES THE CAKE (June 2009), THE DIVA PAINTS THE TOWN (February 2010), THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE (December 2010), and THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE (September 2011).

Author Krista Davis’ website is and she also blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen.

The Diva Digs Up The Dirt by Krista Davis, A Domestic Diva Mystery, @2012, ISBN: 978-0425251348, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

9780425251324It’s fun going back to Threadville, PA, where crafts are king and you never know what will happen next.

Darlene Coddlefield, the winner of a national sewing competition, has come to Willow Vanderling’s embroidery shop, In Stitches, to be presented with a top-of-the-line Chandler Champion sewing and embroidery machine as her prize. But Darlene’s triumph is short-lived after she’s found dead under her sewing table, apparently crushed by the heavy machine.

It soon becomes clear that this was no freak accident. Who had it in for Darlene Coddlefield? The long string of suspects includes Darlene’s fire chief husband. So Willow and her best friend, Haylee, become volunteer firefighters to uncover the truth. But when a second sewing machine sparks trouble, the friends realize they may have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Bolin has created a cast of characters that you can’t help but love. You don’t have to be a seamstress to enjoy the book, but it may make you want to take up a needle and thread. The book also includes an original machine embroidery project with tips.

This is the second installment in the Treadville Mystery series, but is a stand alone book. The first book in the series is DIRE THREADS (June 2011).

Author Janet Bolin’s website is

Threaded For Trouble by Janet Bolin, A Threadville Mystery, @2012, ISBN: 978-0425251324, Paperback, 320 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

9780425251393It’s always a delight to visit with protagonist Grace Wheaton, curator and manager of the Marshfield Manor. She has her hands full with the estate, but somehow always manages to get involved in a murder to two.

When Grace’s former professor calls to warn her that there have been a rash of thefts at various historical sites, Grace isn’t surprised—because Marshfield Manor has been targeted, too. She wonders if it has something to do with the film crew roaming the grounds, digitally immortalizing the manor, but then she gets distracted by an incident much more dire: the shooting of one guest and the murder of another.

Grace does her best not to go looking for trouble, but with a murderer on the loose, she can’t seem to leave the dirty work to the cops—especially since the killer still seems to be lurking around town, waiting to finish the job of making Grace history.

Hyzy has a way with characters. Grace is a protagonist that is strong, sensitive and a lot of fun. The host of supporting characters add another layer to that fun making for a delightful read with just the right amount of suspense until the end. 

This is the third installment in the Manor House Mystery series, but is a stand along read. The previous installments include: GRACE UNDER PRESSURE (June 2010) and GRACE INTERRUPTED (June 2011).

Author Julie Hyzy’s website is

Grace Among Thieves by Julie Hyzy, A Manor House Mystery, @2012, ISBN: 978-0425251393, Paperback, 288 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy a good cozy murder mystery in the summer, winter or anytime? Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great Thursday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Annajane Hudgens is a protagonist you want to take hold of and shake the living daylights out of for acting the way she does. She’s also the protagonist you want to hug and comfort because you know you’d probably do the same thing she does if you were in her shoes.

Author Mary Kay Andrews brings the charm of a small Southern town to life in her latest release, SPRING FEVER. She also has the details down pat when it comes to the quirks, disadvantages and hilarity of a small town where gossip travels faster than the speed of light.

Narrator Kathleen McInerney brings Annajane and the other characters to life with a pleasant Southern flare. She gives each one their own unique voice with her distinct flawless delivery.

Annajane is attending her ex-husband Mason Bayless’ wedding to Celia Wakefield as a final act that she’s over him and moving on. Just as the bride makes her way down the aisle, her ex’s young daughter Sophie becomes ill.

Is it a sign? Annajane still loves Mason and it seems he still cares for her. Can they get past old memories and problems, as well as a gold-digging fiancée?

Andrews has created a typical small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone. She also gives a look at how a small town is effective when the family-owned major industry is threatened by a corporate takeover. Passcoe, N.C., may soon lose it’s lifeline - Quixie cherry soft drink. Her characters are lovable and realistic. She even has you feeling sorry for Celia for just a bit.

SPRING FEVER is fun and entertaining. It’s filled with laughter, love, family loyalty, hurt, secrets, deception, and hope. It’s a perfect read/listen for the summer. An added bonus is an interview with Andrews at the end of the audio.

Author Mary Kay Andrews’ website is

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews, Performed by Kathleen McInerney, Macmillan Audio, @2012, ISBN: 978-1427221667, 12 Discs, Listening Time: 14 Hours 

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy stories with a small town flavor? Remember June is National Audio Month, be sure to listen to an audio book. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

61280ZCgeZL._SS500_When I recently had the opportunity to review the audio version of Deborah Crombie’s NO MARK UPON HER, I was delighted. My interest in the story had been peaked earlier by a review friend and fellow blogger Harvee @ Book Dilettante had posted.

Rebecca Meredith, a high ranking Met detective, is an accomplished rower training for the Olympics. Taking her shell out one evening, Becca doesn’t return. The next day her body is found tangled in debris along the Thames.

A member of the rescue team that finds Becca’s body has a personal connection to her. When an attempt is made on his life, officers begin to wonder what exactly Becca was involved in and how many people are connected.

Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is faced with solving the crime, catching the killer, and not ruffling political feathers all with a few days. His wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, is scheduled to return to work and he will become a stay-at-home father for a time.

Author Deborah Crombie gives vivid descriptions of the setting, placing the reader/listener among the sights of England and on the Thames with the rowers. Her details about rowing, as well as the care and training of rescue dogs may seem a little much at first, but adds another layer to the story. It gives the story depth and a deeper look at the drive behind Becca.

As the search for the killer unfolds, Crombie also gives an at-home look at the investigating officers. While the personal issues of juggling a job and raising a family aren’t critical to the crime story, it does show the impact one has on the other (job verses family). When a possible connection ties back to Kincaid’s wife, the plot takes a sinister and disturbing turn.

NO MARK UPON HER is suspenseful with a growing list of murder suspects. Just as you’re convicted you know who the killer is, another suspect is introduced more plausible than the last.

Narrator Gerald Doyle gives a wonderful performance bringing the story to life. His English accent adds to his flawless delivery. His distinct vocalization gives each character their own unique voice. His cadence is pleasant, yet urgent when necessary and comforting when mother and child are speaking.

NO MARK UPON HER is the 14th installment in the Duncan Kincaid-Gemma James Crime Novel series, but is a stand alone book. There are references to prior cases, but readers/listeners aren’t left in the dark.

Suspenseful and intriguing with touches of family life while keeping you guessing, NO MARK UPON HER is that and much more. 

Author Deborah Crombie’s website is

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie, A Duncan Kincaid-Gemma James Crime Novel, Performed by Gerald Doyle, Harper Audio, @2012, ISBN: 978-0062208910, Unabridged. Digital Download, Listening Time: 12 Hours 23 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy crime stories that also blend in family life of the investigators? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Author Rosemary Harris: Kill Your Darlings

I’m delighted to welcome author Rosemary Harris back to Thoughts in Progress. SLUGFEST, the latest installment in her Dirty Business Mystery series, is now available in paperback.

Rosemary joins us to talk about having to cut away parts of one’s story in ‘Kill Your Darlings.’

We've all heard that expression a thousand times. Don't fall in love with your own words to the point where you have a hard time cutting, if cut you must. It isn't ordinarily an issue for me since I tend to write light (short) and add layers with each successive draft.

But the term took on a new meaning for me as I started writing SLUGFEST, the fourth title in my Dirty Business mystery series. Set at the Philadelphia Flower Show I had unknowingly been doing research for the previous ten years, long before I had any notion of writing a book. I'd been a volunteer there for years and had lived in Philly for a while. 

Slugfest pbThe book was supposed to have been the second title in the series but a chance meeting at Malice Domestic with legendary editor Ruth Cavin changed my mind. She was not my editor but it would have been foolish of me to ignore the free advice of one of the most esteemed editors in the business. She told me not to take my heroine on the road in the second book. I considered it for about thirty seconds and decided she was right. I pushed the book to the back burner.

After the third book I decided it was safe for Paula Holliday to leave the confines of the fictional town I'd created for her. And I was hoping to have her rub shoulders with a better class of bad guy.

I unearthed my research, started to work on my outline and very soon I hit another snag. Every mystery I'd written had victims. And killers. And jerks and the occasional dopey crook. If I set the book at the Philadelphia Flower Show, wouldn't I run the risk of offending some people I liked? What if I killed off someone who was - unbeknownst to me - beloved at the show? (I did come up with two characters who were remarkably like two of the real life participants at the show.) But I loved the story. I didn't want to shelve it. 

So I shelved the research. Gone were all the wonderful Philly details. No cheese steaks, no Theatre of Living Arts, no South Street. No chocolate factory at the Rittenhouse hotel, no chase scene around the Liberty Bell. And worst of all, no coattail marketing to coincide with the show. I killed my darlings. A lot of them. (Dare I say I weeded them out?) And in their place sprouted The Big Apple Flower Show set in hard-to-offend-anyone New York where Paula could find any number of lowlifes and perpetrators.

Rosemary, thanks for returning to Thoughts and sharing your take on killing your darlings. I’m sure all your research won’t be a waste. You’ll find a perfect story for it that will work well without offending anyone while delighting readers.

Now a bit of background on Rosemary. She was born in Brooklyn, New York and now lives in Fairfield County, CT. Her first book PUSHING UP DAISIES was nominated for both the Anthony and the Agatha for Best First Novel. Her latest book SLUGFEST (now in paperback on Amazon ) is set at a legendary flower show where more than just the plants are dying.

She is past president of MWA's NY Chapter and SINC's New England Chapter. In her spare time she volunteers at Habitat for Humanity and with her husband and the help of many generous friends she has helped to build a library in central Tanzania. 

Rosemary blogs at with Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Rhys Bowen, Jan Brogan, Lucy Burdette, Deborah Crombie and Julia Spencer Fleming. Visit her at and Facebook at

Here the book trailer for the first book in Rosemary’s series, PUSHING UP DAISIES, for your enjoyment.

If you’re a writer, is it hard for you to cut words from your story? What about just writing letters or in a journal, is it hard to trim down what you’ve written? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Monday.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jasmine Nights Author Julia Gregson Talks About Writing

From Julia Gregson, the international bestselling author of EAST OF THE SUN, comes JASMINE NIGHTS, a powerful novel of love, adventure, beauty and danger.  

Spanning the globe from England to Egypt to Turkey, this mesmerizing World War II tale is filled with exotic sights and sounds - the North African desert, the Bosphorus at night, the pyramids at Giza, the Nile, sonorous jazz standards and haunting Turkish folk songs. This passionate story, focuses on a young singer, Saba Tarcan, who travels to North Africa to entertain the troops during World War II and while there finds herself torn between duty and desire.

Author Julia Gregson joins us today to answers some questions about her book and her writing. Since this story focuses on a singer who becomes a spy and women’s efforts during World War II, I was interesting in Julia’s research and an true stories of heroines she might know of.

Mason - What type of research did you do to give JASMINE NIGHTS the depth it has?

Julia - Doing the research for JASMINE NIGHTS was incredibly interesting. For me, it’s a very necessary part of the process- time to dream and well as time to nail down the sort details that make the book authentic.

First, I went to Egypt, and took a 1930’s Paddle steamer up the Nile , an incredible journey: on the river banks, you see everyday life drifting by you: farmers watering their crops, families having dinner together on the river bank, donkeys being fed. And every day we stopped off at some extraordinary temple or Pharaoh’s tomb such as The Valley of Kings or Tutankhamun’s tomb, full of strange animals and statues and gold. What is remarkable is that due to the atmospheric conditions inside the tombs, the colors of the friezes are so vivid and so bright, that they could have been painted yesterday. In Cairo, I hung out in coffee shops, souks and explored the places such as Shepheard’s Hotel and the Gazira Club where the British might have drunk, or met friends, or made love during the war.  

Next,  I went to Istanbul : one strand of my story is that Saba, my heroine, goes to sing and spy there. 

Jasmine Nights Final CoverIn Istanbul, I hung out with a Turkish singer, Sema, who is famous there for singing forties songs. I  went to her concerts, and we had a fascinating dinner together in a Russian restaurant. I wanted to find out if the training and the approach of a Middle Eastern singer was very different, and it was. Before Kemal Attarturk, the great  Turkish reformer, it was uncommon for a girl to sing in public and considered forward, even immodest. Sema says she once used to sing with her hands clamped to her side for fear of looking as though she was trying to entice the men in her audience. 

In Istanbul, I had a wonderful time exploring the Bosphorus by boat, and in town, poking around the covered market, where you can buy everything from gorgeous rugs, to rip off designer bags to authentic antique Faberge eggs.  

Mason - Was any or all of Saba's adventure as a singer/spy based on true accounts of espionage during World War II?

Julia - Yes, some years ago, I read a biography of Josephine Baker, the American born singer and dancer who performed in Paris as ‘The Black Venus.’ Baker, who was  so gorgeous she was said to have received 1,500 marriage proposals, also worked undercover for the French Resistance.  

Her undercover work included smuggling secret messages written on her sheet music.  She became a sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was later named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Government during World War 11. When I started to dig around I found many other instances of female entertainers who had become spies, for  instance, the famous Egyptian belly dancer, Hekmet Fahmy, who spied against the British from a houseboat on the Nile, and   Edith Piaf, who did undercover work in France.  Freya Stark, the famous travel writer,  spoke fluent Arabic, and  did important intelligence work in Cairo.

Mason - How would you say working women today compare to the working women during World War II?

Julia - Massive changes have taken place. Today’s women regard work as a right as well as an economic necessity. During the war they were grudgingly allowed into the workforce, simply because there was not a man around to take their place. Many men felt threatened by this, and resented it, and expected women to return to the kitchen and the nursery when the war was over, but the genie was out of the bottle. Many women, such as my mother, who served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the war, found they liked to work, it made life more interesting, more fun, it felt good to earn your own money. It was a huge turning point.  

Mason - Is there any advice you've been given that you pass along to writers just beginning?

Julia - I would say, read a lot, write a lot. When you’re writing your first draft, avoid the knife of perfection, just try to get it out. Be patient. I have on my wall at home  a quote from the marvelous Isak Dinesan: ‘I write every day without hope and without fear.’ Also, a certain peasant like doggedness is helpful, you need practice and I  think in this X Factor world we live in, its a mistake to expect instant results too. When the work is done, (in my case I would never show very early drafts) one or   two close, intelligent and funny friends you can show it too are a vital necessity.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

Julia - My new book is set in South India and in Oxfordshire called THE SETTLEMENT It’s not a sequel to EAST OF THE SUN, but some of the same characters appear. I’m exploring the idea of mentors and the pain and gain of leaving them. Also the life of a half caste girl in India. Hoping to be off to Kerala in South India soon! watch this space.

Julia, thanks so much for guest blogging and sharing this information. It’s interesting learning how women played such important roles in the war.

Now a bit about Julia. She has led a remarkable life. Before becoming a writer she worked as a jillaroo in the Australian outback, then an encounter with Mick Jagger on the set of Ned Kelly led her into journalism.  

She traveled extensively as a foreign correspondent and interviewed Muhammad Ali, Buzz Aldrin, Hollywood stars, president’s wives and even several  notorious criminals. With the publication of EAST OF THE SUN in 2009, Julia established herself as an internationally bestselling author. She lives in the UK, with her husband producer/writer/agent, Richard Gregson.

For more on Julia and her writing, visit her website at

Here’s a brief synopsis of JASMINE NIGHTS:
When Dom, a young fighter pilot, follows Saba to Cairo, the difficulties of combining their two intense lives are compounded. Dom, addicted to flying, refuses to stay grounded, while Saba embraces her new liberties and blossoms in her new life on the stage and the road. 

Because of her Turkish background and unique position as a performer, Saba is asked by the Secret Service to take part in a covert mission, as many singers were during World War II.
She is sent to Istanbul to spy on a Turkish impresario and his associates. But it’s a mission that will jeopardize not only her own safety, but also the love of her life when she is forced to conceal her activities from Dom. 
Here is what some are saying about JASMINE NIGHTS:
“For a history lesson on WWII, watch Ken Burns’ The War. For romance and intrigue, with the conflict providing the perfect excuse to set a story in exotic locales like Cairo, Gregson delivers in spades”Booklist 
“An exciting, richly presented novel of mystery and romance… Historically accurate, beautifully written, JASMINE NIGHTS is a terrific story with unforgettable characters set in a dangerous, but exciting time.”Romance Reviews Today 
“Fans will want a sequel.” – Kirkus 
“This steamy, sweeping historical draws readers into the seductive world of WWII Egypt… Gregson’s latest (after Band of Angels) displays the author’s command of wartime fiction. Saba is a modern woman struggling with old-fashioned ideas and Dom is a surprisingly complex hero. Seen through their eyes, the wartime Middle East is a heady, intoxicating place and readers will be swept away by the lush prose.”Publisher’s Weekly

Do you enjoy plots that share a bit of true-life with them? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have a great Thursday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Giveaway Of This Bright River by Patrick Somerville

9780316129312_388X586THE CRADLE author Patrick Somerville returns with a poignant, hilarious, and surprising look at reunited families, dark pasts, love, and righting mistakes in his latest novel, THIS BRIGHT RIVER.

Thanks to Anna and the good folks at Little, Brown and Company, I have 3 copies of THIS BRIGHT RIVER to giveaway. Check the end of the post for the guidelines.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THIS BRIGHT RIVER:
A compelling story of young love and old secrets

Lauren Sheehan's career in medicine came to a halt after a chain of violent events abroad. Now she's back in the safest place she knows - St. Helens, Wisconsin-cut off from career, friendship, and romance.

Ben Hanson's aimless young life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but a surprising offer from his father draws him home for what looks like his final second chance. In Wisconsin, he finds his family fractured, still unable to face the truth behind his troubled cousin's death a decade earlier.

As Lauren cautiously expands her horizons and Ben wrestles with his regrets and mistakes, their paths intersect. Could each be exactly what the other needs? Or the last thing in the world either one can handle?

The weight of secrets, the price of success, and the cost of love all linger at the heart of this surprising, unsettling, deeply satisfying novel. Rich with the dark humor and piercing intelligence that made THE CRADLE so beloved, THIS BRIGHT RIVER confirms Somerville's status as one of the most engaging and daring young writers at work today.

Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA from Cornell University. He is the author of the story collections TROUBLE and THE UNIVERSE IN MINIATURE IN MINIATURE, and the novel THE CRADLE

He lives with his wife and son in Chicago, where he teaches creative writing at Northwestern University. For more on Somerville and his writing, check out his website, find him on Facebook, visit his author’s page on Facebook, and look for him on Twitter.

Here’s a book trailer on THIS BRIGHT RIVER for your entertainment.

Now for the giveaway guidelines. To enter, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win This Bright River.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Canadian residents have to include their telephone number. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance at 1 of 3 copies of THIS BRIGHT RIVER (ISBN: 9780316129312), a 464-page hardcover book, will be 8 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, July 7.

Do you enjoy stories were families are reunited? Does it make it more intriguing if there are dark secrets that come to light? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Remember to send me an email for a chance to win a copy of THIS BRIGHT RIVER.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Author Elin Hilderbrand’s Tour And Giveaway

It’s fun to participate in blog tours and today Thoughts is a stop on author Elin Hilderbrand’s intriguing blog tour with a chance to win a copy of her latest fun release, SUMMERLAND.

Elin joins us today to talk about the ‘Musings on an American Summer.’ An intriguing aspect of the post is that she began the talk with My Friend Amy on Friday, June 15, and concludes it here today. Here’s Elin:

Once again I had an endless string of sultry days where I would ride my bike to the beach and stop at the fish store on the way home to buy oysters and mussels, and swordfish to grill for dinner. I had a boyfriend who would pick me up in his Jeep and take me out to the west end of the island to watch the sunset. I never wanted that summer to end.

But as we all know, summer always ends. August draws to a close, the crowds thin after Labor Day, people start thinking about work and back-to-school and football tailgates. After two idyllic years on Nantucket, I headed out to the University of Iowa to attend the prestigious and competitive Writers Workshop. I wanted to be a novelist, and Iowa was the best graduate fiction writing program in the country.  

9780316099837_1681X2544What I didn't anticipate was how difficult I would find living in the Midwest. I was separated not only from my new husband (for I had married the boyfriend with the Jeep), but also from the ocean and the island I had fallen in love with.    

I was miserable at Iowa. I cried non-stop, I was a regular at the free therapy sessions on campus, I spent thousands of dollars I didn't have on my long-distance phone bill and plane trips back east. But then, at some point, I had a revelation. I would write about Nantucket, and writing about the place that had become so dear to me would be my catharsis. In the spring of 1997, I started my first novel, THE BEACH CLUB.

In the intervening years, I have written eleven novels, all of them set on Nantucket. They have been called "beach books," and "great summer reads." At first, I bristled at the designation. After all, each novel is a creation of mine, no less precious than a child, and I strove to make them meaningful and relevant, and to create characters that people would remember long after they put the book down. However, what I have learned is that my most important character is the island itself, Nantucket. (And indeed, in my new novel, SUMMERLAND, "Nantucket" is an actual character, speaking out as a Greek chorus might.)  

summerland175x350I have found that what my readers love the most is what I, too, would have loved if I had read these novels, say, during my sad, difficult 17 summer. My novels capture the essence of an American summer. I like to think that even my readers who are riding the subway to work on Wall Street, or who are forced to seek summer solace in the air-conditioned shopping mall, still get to experience that golden feeling one gets while lying on the beach without a care in the world. They get to experience a little piece of American Summer.

Elin, thanks for making Thoughts a part of your tour. I enjoyed your musings and your novels do capture the essence of an American summer.

Thanks to Elin and Anna at Little, Brown and Company, I have 3 copies of SUMMERLAND to giveaway. To enter this giveaway, send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win SUMMERLAND.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. In addition, Canadian residents have to include their telephone number. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 3 copies of SUMMERLAND (ISBN: 978-0316099837), a 400-page hardcover book, is 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, July 6.

Here’s a brief synopsis of SUMMERLAND:
A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. But what begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver of the car, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny's boyfriend Jake and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt - but the emotional damage is overwhelming, and questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.

As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents - secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow, new love can still take flight.

Now for a bit about Elin. She lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. 

Elin is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa. She is a sports enthusiast, avid fan of Bruce Springsteen, Veuve Clicquot, and four-inch heels. She sits on the Board of Directors at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club and Nantucket Little League. Her resting pulse is 65.

For more on Elin and her writing, find her on Facebook and Twitter, visit her on Pinterest, and check out the On-Going Elin Hilderbrand Summer Essentials Giveaway for the month - grand prize includes signature sunglasses, Switchflops, wine glasses, and beauty products, plus Elin Hilderbrand books.

To read an excerpt of SUMMERLAND, click here.

Do you enjoy books with summertime as the theme? Do you enjoy books about summer places that you can escape to no matter the season? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Remember to send an e-mail for a chance to win a copy of SUMMERLAND and stop by My Friend Amy to read the first part of Elin’s post.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson

9780425251300Everything seems to be coming up roses for Camellia ‘Cam’ Harris until a dead body is discovered causing a lot of thorns in her side.

Cam has gotten Garden Delights, a premier national magazine for garden lovers, to feature a Roanoke garden. They’ve selected the spectacular garden of Neil Patrick, the founder of the Roanoke Garden Society, and his lovely wife, Evangeline, a former Miss Virginia. To top it off, world-famous photographer Jean Jacques Georges will be taking the photographs. Meanwhile, Cam’s sister Petunia is catering the big affair celebrating the magazine coverage.

As it turns out, Jean Jacques Georges is more of a snob than a pleasure to be around. He insults and upsets a number of guests at the welcoming party. The next morning his body is found among the azaleas and the list of suspects quite interesting. However, Cam’s brother-in-law Nick is on the top of the list and it’s up to her to find the killer before the entire event turns to compost.

The cast of characters are well defined and a nice mix of personalities in THE AZALEA ASSAULT. Cam is likeable as the protagonist. She’s well-rounded in her interaction with the other characters. She’s the kind of friend you’d want in a bind or to be with on a fun outing.

Author Alyse Carlson does well in bringing a touch of Southern charm to the story. She draws you in with the easy-going conversation-style writing and holds you spellbound as she weaves in just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The story’s pace is smooth and relaxing with moments of suspense.

A glass of sweet ice tea and THE AZALEA ASSAULT are the perfect match for an evening of summer reading on the veranda.

This is the first installment in Carlson’s Garden Society Mystery series. The book contains an added bonus at the back, a sneak preview of the next installment - THE BEGONIA BRIBE, coming soon from Berkley Prime Crime.

Alyse Carlson is the pseudonym for Hart Johnson. The author blogs at Confessions of a Watery Tart
The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson, A Garden Society Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime, @2012, ISBN: 978-0425251300, Paperback, 304 Pages   

FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy a mystery that keeps you guessing until the every end? Do you prefer to know who is the killer is half way through and try to figure out how he’ll be caught? Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Salon: Celebrating A Birthday With A Giveaway

As we settle back today to relax duringteapot Sunday Salon and discuss the books we’ve enjoyed, there’s a bit of mystery and a giveaway I’d like to share with you. So refill your cup with your favorite brew, get comfortable and let’s talk about a disappearance that happened a long time ago.

Tomorrow - Monday, June 18 - marks what would have been the 111th birthday of Her Imperial Highness Anastasia Romanov. Even now in 2012, one of the greatest mysteries has been the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia, the last of four daughters born to the Tsar Nikolas and his wife Alexandra. After the tragic execution of the Russian Royal family in 1918, officials were never able to recover the remains of Anastasia. 

151003534Tales of her supposed escape from Russia have gripped thousands for decades, fueling speculation that a daughter of Russia’s last sovereign ruler survived the revolution that destroyed her immediate family.

Thanks to Julie and the wonderful folks at Sourcebooks, I have one copy of THE LAST ROMANOV by Dora Levy Mossanen to giveaway in honor of the lost Duchess. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. For a chance to win this copy, just comment on this post by 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, June 22. Be sure to leave your email address, if it’s not included in your profile.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE LAST ROMANOV:
In a time of Rasputin’s magic and Romanov mystery, a young girl finds herself at the heart of the royal family.

She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majesty. Yet, decades later, her time spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything?

If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past-maybe she can hold on to the love she found. Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, THE LAST ROMANOV is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood. 
Born in Israel and raised in Iran, Dora Levy Mossanen fled to the United States at the onset of the Islamic Revolution. She is the recipient of the San Diego Editor's Choice award and the author of Harem and the international bestseller Courtesan, which have both been translated into numerous languages. 

She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and a graduate of the USC masters of professional writing program. She lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Have you previously read about Anastasia and the mystery surrounding her? What do you think happened to her? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win the copy of THE LAST ROMANOV. Have a wonderful Sunday and remember to share a book with a friend.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

The Last BoyfriendAuthor Nora Roberts continues her Inn Boonsboro Trilogy with THE LAST BOYFRIEND and the story just gets better.

The Montgomery brothers - Beckett, Ryder and Owen - are working hard to open their inn on schedule. THE LAST BOYFRIEND focuses on Owen, the organizer of the three brothers. He helps run the family’s construction business with schedules and spreadsheets.

Across the street Avery MacTavish watches the inn come to life from her pizza business. She and her dad are friends with the Montgomery family, in fact - Owen was her first boyfriend.

As the finishing touches come together for the inn, Owen and Avery find themselves together more. Old feelings awake in both and they soon discover they are drawn to each other.

With the inn ghost up to her usual tricks, along with a request, the inn opens on schedule. Then a face from the past returns to cause problems for the MacTavish and Montgomery families, but love is stronger than fear.

Narrator MaCleod Andrews does an excellent job bringing this story to life. His distinct vocalization of each character will have you believing there’s more than one person narrating. He gives a flawless delivery. His easy-going voice pulls you in and holds you spellbound until the end.

The inn, as well as the town of Boonsboro, is described in vivid and gorgeous details casting them as characters in the story. Roberts’ eye for details places the reader/listener in the setting with her characters.

THE LAST BOYFRIEND can be read/listened to as a stand alone book, but for the full story be sure to pickup the first installment in the series, THE NEXT ALWAYS. While this story ends with a few things not yet quiet settled, you know all will be revealed in the next installment, THE PERFECT HOPE, slated for release in November.

Author Nora Robers’ website is

The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts, Book Two of The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, Performed by MaCleod Andrews, Brilliance Audio, @2012, ISBN: 978-1455806935, 9 Discs, Listening Time: 10 Hours 45 Minutes

FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Do you enjoy books where parts of the storyline are continued from one book to the next? Had you rather a storyline be finalized in the book you’re reading/listening to? Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great Saturday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chocolate, Writing, And Emma’s Scavenger Hunt

I’m delighted to be a part of author Steena Holmes WOW Blog Tour as she promotes her new heart wrenching release, FINDING EMMA. To add to the excitement, Steena and Robyn at WOW have come up with a fun Book-Tour-Carnival adventure with great prizes that ties in with the book. In addition to that, I have a copy of FINDING EMMA to giveaway with today’s post.

Here’s a brief synopsis of FINDING EMMA:
Megan sees her daughter Emma everywhere. She’s the little girl standing in the supermarket, the child waiting for the swings at the playground, the girl with ice cream dripping down her face. But it’s never Emma. 

Because Emma’s been missing for two years. 

Unable to handle the constant heartache of all the false sightings, Megan’s husband threatens to walk away unless Megan can agree to accept Emma is gone. Megan’s life and marriage is crumbling all around her and she realizes she may have to do the thing she dreads most: move on. 
When Megan takes a photo of a little girl with an elderly couple at the town fair, she believes it to be her missing daughter. Unable to let go, she sets in motion a sequence of events that could destroy both families’ lives.

First let me tell you about the adventure - a scavenger hunt, then Steena will talk about chocolate and writing, and then the guidelines for entering the book giveaway.

Emma is having a scavenger hunt at the carnival--and she has left clues here and on the other blogs she has been visiting and will visit with Steena’s tour. Within each guest post and book review there is a hidden word. The hidden word is something you would find at a fair or carnival. Each blog participating in the tour is listed on Steena’s Scavenger Hunt page and all contest entries are made there. 

To participate in the hunt, just find the word hidden in each day's post and enter it at Steena's website. Each entry is another ticket to win. In addition, Steena has set up a Carnival board at Pinterest which not only serves for offering clues to the word of the day but encourages others to pin their favorite carnival pics. For additional details on the hunt and prizes, drop by The Muffin
The prizes are as follows:
* First Prize - work with a Bestselling Author.
* The Grande Prize winner will help create a character for Steena’s next book!
* Second and third prize winners will each receive a signed copy of FINDING EMMA and a special pewter angel figurine from The Missing Children’s Society of Canada, an organization dedicated to bringing children home.
Now let’s join Steena as she talks about why chocolate and writing go hand and hand.

SteenaHolmes_FindingEmma_800pxChocolate and writing. Two of my favorite passions. They consume me some days, and avoid me most days and yet I continually find myself falling in love daily with these to things.

Why? Because they go hand in hand so well together. Like a pair of your favorite slippers or a comfy worn sweater. 

I have a little secret. When I’m stuck at a part in my scene where I can’t find the words to adequately describe the range of emotions that should be expressed - I reach into a box that I keep close to my desk and pull out a piece of chocolate. 

Now - I have several small pieces that are individually wrapped in this box - but they are all different. Some are milk chocolate, some are dark. Some have a slight flavor while the odd one might have nuts or caramel. I never peak though while reaching into this box. I’ll close my eyes and unwrap the decadent morsel and then place it on my tongue. 

It’s hard - but I don’t bite down on it. Rather, I let it melt away, savoring all the sensations - like the chocolate as it melts and coats my tongue, like the aroma that overwhelms me and leaves me wanting more, or like the way I feel - in that moment...

I use that chocolate - the way it tastes, feels and how I react to it - to help me with my scene. It’s my trigger point for unlocking the words within my soul. 

For me, chocolate and writing go hand in hand - but for you - maybe it’s music and writing, or story boards and writing, or blissful silence ... You get the picture. It’s important to find something, whether it’s a book full of sayings, a picture, a song, an item...that can help you to focus on the emotions in your story and enlarge it so that its breathtaking, heart wrenching, soul searching or even tear jerking. Call it a muse if you like. But I’m sure you have it and if you don’t - why not find one?
And good luck!

Steena, thanks for being here today and sharing these thoughts on writing. I love how you use chocolate to overcome a problem when writing. I’d say a piece of chocolate enjoyed in the manner you described could help with a lot of daily problems.

Now for a bit about Steena. She is a woman who believes that 'in the end, all things the passions of your heart'. Steena's life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. Add some chocolate into the mix and she's living the good life. She took those passions and made them a dream come true by pouring her heart into each of her stories.  

Proceeds from each copy of FINDING EMMA will be donated to The Missing Children's Society of Canada - an organization dedicated to reuniting families. Visit for more information.   

For more on Steena and her writing, visit her website at

Okay, the guidelines for the giveaway. I have one copy (PDF or mobi/Kindle) to give to a lucky visitor who comments on this post by 8 p.m. Friday, June 22. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment, if it’s not included in your profile.

Do you think chocolate is a good cure for a lot that ails you? Have you found the hidden word for the scavenger hunt? Remember, you can visit Steena’s Carnival board at Pinterest for a clue. Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have a great day, check out the other clues and good luck with the hunt.