Reading Round-Up: June Edition

It seemed like June was gone in a flash (flood–we had lots of rain), but I did manage to get a lot of reading done during the month. That is, a lot for me.

The first book I read was Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths. This was a little different from the mysteries I usually read, but I enjoyed it. It’s told from three different points of view and that kept things interesting. It was cool to see the same events from the perspectives of three characters. There are also a ton of references to other works of literature–some I knew and some I didn’t. When it’s all boiled down, the book is a murder mystery. There are some supernatural elements, which I don’t love, but I was glad the killer was a real flesh-and-blood person (and not some apparition).

Next up was The Tulip Shirt Murders by Heather Weidner. This was a great mystery, with some elements I didn’t know much about (think flea markets and roller derbies), so I learned something in the process! It features a female private investigator, which I loved, and her computer-savvy sidekick. There are a variety of red herrings, but our intrepid heroine figures things out in the end.

The Merlon Murders by Victoria Benchley is the first book in a two-book series (read: it ends in a cliffhanger, so be ready to scoop up the second book and start reading right away!) featuring a corporate investigator, Duncan, who travels to Scotland from London to check out the mystery surrounding the death of a man who left behind a fortune, an estate, and lots of questions. This book is like taking a vacation in Scotland–from the rugged mountains to the quaint villages to the culture and the food, it’s a delight for all the senses.

I also read The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald. It has recipes AGG readers will remember from the books, like raspberry cordial and gingersnaps, and they’re easy to make. The book was geared to young cooks more than I expected, but it was still a fun, easy read.

Marilyn Meredith’s Spirit Wind is the continuation of the Tempe Crabtree mysteries, and like all the others, this doesn’t disappoint. There are Native American legends and spirits, a real-life murder, and someone who doesn’t want any of it uncovered. The book is a quick read and I learned a lot about Tehachapi, an area of California that was home to the Kawaiisu tribe of Native Americans.

Last, but certainly not least, was Robert Germaux’s More Grammar Sex, a fabulous book of essays about everything from vacation after retirement to baseball to his car’s GPS system. This was an easy-to-read book of common sense things that makes an afternoon spent reading on the patio (on one of the few days when it didn’t rain) very pleasant.

What have you been reading? I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time,

Amy

Happy Birthday, Dead, White, and Blue!

The day is here: the release of Dead, White, and Blue! Many of you have pre-ordered it and it should already be on your ereaders. If you ordered a paperback, it’s on its way if it isn’t there already! And if you get my newsletter, you’ll be receiving an email remarkably like this post…

Here’s what the book is about:

Summer is getting hotter in Juniper Junction, Colorado.

There’s a firebug on the loose, the townspeople are nervous, and Lilly Carlsen, single mom to two teenagers, has even more to worry about. She’s in charge of the Independence Day celebration, her mother’s mental health is declining, and her son is getting ready to leave for college.

But things are about to get even hotter: when a bistro owner dies at the celebration and Lilly’s best friend is charged with murder, events start hitting close to home. It’s up to Lilly to help clear her friend’s name while at the same time dealing her mom’s worsening forgetfulness as well as a coming-of-age issue under her own roof.

If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, here’s where to go to snag your own:

Amazon

Nook, iTunes, Kobo

Many thanks if you’ve already bought the book. And please remember, reviews are so important to authors. Please leave a review of every book you read!!

And if you’re on Facebook, head over to Cozy Town Sleuths here and if you haven’t joined, ask to join. I’m going to be taking readers on a virtual tour of Juniper Junction until Friday!

Until next time,

Amy

Guest Blog: Robert Germaux

Today on Reade and Write I have a special guest: author Robert Germaux, who is celebrating the release of his new book, More Grammar Sex, by sharing some essays from the book (I’m told the book is not about sex!). He’s also offering free review copies to anyone interested in reading and (hopefully) reviewing his book. Take it away, Bob!

Robins and Me: The Never-Ending Story by Author Robert Germaux

My wife and I moved into our new home in a suburb of Pittsburgh in June of 1994, and early on we were delighted to see that there was a robin’s nest sitting atop one of the pillars supporting our deck. I thought it was kind of cool having some avian neighbors. Every day I’d go out and kneel down to peer through the wooden slats to keep track of the three light blue eggs that eventually appeared. Cynthia grew up in Kutztown, a semi-rural community in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, so she saw animals on a fairly regular basis. I, on the other hand, was a city boy through and through, so this was my first up-close-and-personal exposure to actual wildlife, unless you count all the episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that I watched, which you probably don’t. Anyway, I was pretty excited about my new flock of little friends. And I was especially thrilled the day I saw that the babies were beginning to emerge. Soon after that, we had a nest full of miniature robins, constantly craning their necks up as mom and dad arrived with their daily meals of worms, insects and the occasional berry. It was as though I was tuning in to my own personal episode of Wild Kingdom every day. I even named the robins. Since I had no idea how to determine the gender of a bird, I just went with Harry, Tina and Elliott. Cute, huh?

And then the little suckers learned to fly.

Apparently, newly-fledged robins can’t fly very far, just about five feet, which turns out to be the exact distance from their nest to the top of the railing on our deck. For the next couple of weeks, the three little robins spent most of their time perched on that railing, doing what came naturally after a hefty meal of worms and whatnot. In short, my cute little birdies had been transformed into big-time poop-producing machines, and our beautiful new deck soon became almost unusable. You for sure weren’t going to lean on that railing and admire the sunset.

Let’s back up here a minute. Birds relieve themselves on the windshield of our car all the time, but that’s different. That’s out on the highways and byways, but our deck? I mean, I don’t have to take this crap from no robin. As the guys in the NBA say about opposing teams coming in to try to beat them in their arena, not in my house.

There wasn’t much I could do that first summer. Cynthia and I just had to live with it, spending a lot of time hosing off our deck any time we wanted to enjoy a meal out there. But the following year, I was ready. As soon as I saw the beginnings of a nest, I immediately knocked it off its perch with an old broom handle. My reasoning was that the robins would simply build the nest elsewhere, but I underestimated their affinity for our deck, or their persistence, or their stubbornness, or whatever. Who knows what goes on inside those tiny brains? Instead of building elsewhere, they kept trying to build in the same old location. As soon as I’d knock one nest down, another one would appear.

Apparently, robins can build nests, like, really fast. (When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who was a science teacher, Jack said, “They’re birds, Bob. What else do they have to do?”) The only adjustment they made was to shift to one of the other open spaces right beneath our deck. There were a total of five places suitable for nest-building, and one morning when I checked, there were the beginnings of four new nests. That’s when it got personal. It was time to bring out the big guns. Well, the big jugs of water. A colleague of mine at work had suggested I fill those spaces with containers of water. I discovered that the gallon size did a nice job of blocking access to the areas, and just like that, problem solved.

As I write this, it’s late March, and many years have passed since that summer of ’94. The cast of characters has changed considerably. Obviously, I’m the sole remaining combatant from that initial skirmish, but each spring brings a new flock of potential poop machines, many, if not most, probably descendants of that first wave over two decades ago. There’s a part of me that admires their determination, but there’s a larger part of me that doesn’t want bird crap all over our deck. So I am ever vigilant. Right now, I’m looking out at a small gathering of robins in our back yard. To the untrained eye, they might appear to be simply hopping around out there, but I know better. Slowly but surely, the red-breasted beasts are edging closer to our house, and one of them in particular is definitely eye-balling the deck.

He looks a lot like Elliott.

 

ABOUT ROBERT GERMAUX

Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to almost anything about distant and exotic places. I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, but the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English.

I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, my wife Cynthia’s idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including “Hard Court” and the recently released “In the Eye.” I also wrote “Small Talk” and “One by One,” both featuring Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes.

Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write “The Backup Husband,” the plotline of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game.

I then tried my hand at writing humorous essays, which resulted in “Grammar Sex (and other stuff)” and its sequel, “More Grammar Sex.” Coming soon is “Small Bytes,” the first Jeremy Barnes novel, to be followed by two other JB mysteries, “Leaving the LAW” and “Speak Softly.”

I love interacting with my readers and getting their input on my stories and characters. Please feel free to contact me via my website roberttgermaux.wordpress.com or his Amazon Author Page.

Thanks so much for being here today, Bob. I, for one, would love to review your new book. Let me know if you’re interested, and readers, I hope you’ll consider reading and reviewing Bob’s new book, too. Let him know in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: CeeCee James

Today I welcome CeeCee James, USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series. She’s here today to talk about her Flamingo Realty Mysteries and, in particular, Duplex Double Trouble. Glad you’re here, CeeCee!

Tell me about your new book.

This whole series has been incredible to write. It’s called The Flamingo Realty Mysteries, and the running story is about Stella O’Neil, who returns to her home state to try and reunite her family of stubborn men. She never expected the personal growth she would go through herself. Each story builds on the next, woven in super fun murder mysteries that she always seems caught in. The newest is called Duplex Double Trouble and I honestly love it. Stella is my hero!

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone who loves a good clean mystery with some humor, crazy clues, and a dead guy!

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I chose Pennsylvania because one of the characters is in another series, The Baker Street cozy mysteries. That’s Stella’s home town that she returns to!

Interesting! I saw the covers and I assumed Florida. But Pennsylvania is near me, so that’s cool!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

The hardest thing is to make sure there are enough clues without giving too much away. ❤

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

If it were made into a movie I’d freak out so much I probably wouldn’t care!

Have you written any other books?

Yes! This is number 25!

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a few critique partners I really adore. They help me keep the story in line.

Do you write every day?

Yes!

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I have so many favorite authors! Terry Pratchett, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lucy Maud Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King, James Herriot and Neil Gaiman just to name a few. I read all sorts of genres.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Right now, Hawaii!

I’m with you there.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Do it for yourself. Get that first draft done and save the editing for the second time through. Advice is good, but trust your own gut as well.

What is your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie is the Lord of the Rings series. Why? Because Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and I love the series. But the books weren’t something my husband could get into. So when the movies came out, we could finally discuss it. Loved that!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Ohhh such a good question. I’d tell myself that you’re going to be okay. Keep looking up.

Describe yourself in three words.

Loyal, Hobbity (in the ‘I really really like my home’ way, not the ‘hairy feet’ way), and Creative

Where can readers connect with you?

Find me on Facebook! Or my Amazon Author page!

Where can readers find your books?

https://www.amazon.com/CeeCee-James/e/B00IJNN6LA

Thank you so much! This was so fun!!

Thanks for visiting, CeeCee! I enjoyed having you here.

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for June

I’m writing this on a perfect June day, with the windows open and the temperatures in the high 60s. And, as usual, my thoughts are turning toward dinner.

I’m sharing three dinner recipes with you this month: a vegetarian dish, a grilled pork tenderloin, and a big salad.

* * *

Red Thai Veggie Curry

1 T. coconut oil (olive oil can be substituted)

small onion, chopped

1 T. fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

2 T. Thai red curry paste

1 can (14 oz.) regular coconut milk

1/2 c. water

1/2 T. brown sugar

1 T. soy sauce

1 T. rice vinegar

sliced fresh basil

Melt coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add peppers, carrots, and zucchini; cook for about 5 minutes. Add curry paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add coconut milk, water, and sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are cooked to your preference.

Remove curry from heat and stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Serve over rice and garnish with basil.

* * *

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

1/2 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

6 T. soy sauce

4 T. toasted sesame oil

2 T. fresh grated ginger

1 pkg. pork tenderloin (1-2 pounds)

In a large gallon-sized zip-top bag, combine all ingredients. Squish it around to coat the pork and refrigerate for 6-24 hours, turning occasionally if possible.

Preheat grill to medium-high and discard marinade. Grill tenderloins over indirect heat for 20-35 minutes or until thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloins reaches 145 degrees F. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

* * *

Greek Salad

Salad:

1 head Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 large cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped

1 medium red onion

1 yellow pepper, sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 c. Kalamata olives, halved

3/4 c. feta cheese

salami, thinly sliced, optional

Dressing:

6 T. olive oil

2 T. red wine vinegar

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1 t. dried oregano

2 t. fresh parsley, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. If you want a heartier dinner, add the salami (coarsely chopped deli ham is also a good choice).

In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients. Just before serving, pour over salad and toss gently to coat.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy