Reading Round-Up: October Edition

It’s been a couple weeks since I spoke to you last because I’ve had some major problems accessing this blog. But thanks to my son and my husband, I finally got back into it so I can keep posting.

I read some great books since my last Round-Up, and a few of them were perfect for spooky Halloween reading! Let’s start at the beginning.

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First up was Summoning the Winds by Cynthia Raleigh. This story, about a witch living in a Connecticut village early in colonial times, was a page-turner. Here’s the review I posted on Goodreads and Amazon:

“I think this is the first book I’ve ever read about witches (Hamlet doesn’t count). And I LOVED it. The research, the pacing, the writing, the twists and turns–all of it was masterful and fascinating. The author takes the notion of witch trials and turns it on its head with this tale of a real witch in colonial Connecticut.
Yarrow, the main character and a young adult orphan, is spunky and smart, and she uses her quick wit to advantage when danger threatens her and her sister. The story delves into the murky world of spells and hexes, and the author describes sorcery in a way that makes it both believable and understandable. You can feel the storms conjured by the witch, and you can see her when…well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out for yourself.”

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Switching gears, the next book I read was The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Here’s my review of the classic noir mystery:

“I’ve been wanting to read this classic detective novel for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint. The societal attitudes evident from the text are definitely out of date, but the story itself is a primer in how to write great detective fiction with a message. The characters were well-drawn and Sam Spade is a highly-flawed main character. You can’t help rooting for him, though, because he’s on side of justice (even if his method of reaching it is slightly Machiavellian).”

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A different type of mystery, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary by Elaine Faber was an enjoyable story that took me into a sub-genre I don’t normally read. Let me explain via my review.

“This is the fourth book in the Black Cat series. I have never read a book where the reader is given access to the thoughts and words passing between two felines, but I found the idea really intriguing. These particular felines become the catalyst (see what I did there? Catalyst? Haha!) for Kimberlee, a bookshop owner, to take a second look at a diary she receives one day in a shipment of books. The diary belonged to a WWII American soldier, and as its story unfolds, Kimberlee learns of a possible treasure and a long-lost frienship. But there’s more to Black Cat’s story than the diary–there’s present-day vandalism, possible murder charges for someone close to the kitties, and a dispute about the ownership of a valuable property.

I would recommend this mystery to anyone who loves cats and anyone looking for a clean story with plenty of twists. One note–I wished I had read the other three books in the Black Cat series before beginning with this one because I missed some of the history that had passed in Black Cat’s feline and people families. I recommend starting with Book One, Black Cat’s Legacy.”

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Next up: another cat book, Molly Finds Her Purr by Pamela Wight. This story may look and read like a children’s book, but the message in it is ageless and timeless. With beautiful illustrations by Shelley A. Steinle and Wight’s lyrical language, this book was one that would be perfect for a baby shower gift. Or a baby gift. Or any gift. Here’s my review:

“A beautiful book with a beautiful lesson for both kids and adults. When Molly can’t find her purr, she goes in search of a friend who can help her. After she is turned away by another cat, a small dog, and a group of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, she finally finds a friend to listen to her. That friend invites other friends, who… Well, you’ll just have to read the book to discover the lovely ending for yourself.”

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And then for something completely different, I read No Friend but the Mountains by Behrooz Boochani. A Kurdish-Iranian journalist, Boochani fled the fighting in the Middle East and ended up as a refugee in Australia, whereupon he was sent to Manus Prison with a large number of other male refugees. If you’ve never heard of Manus Prison, it’s a hell on earth on the island of Papua New Guinea. It is notorious for maltreatment of refugees and harsh, practically unlive-able, conditions. The author wrote the book in a series of encrypted WhatsApp messages in Farsi and it has been translated into English. Here’s my review:

“A gut-wrenching look at life inside a refugee camp, or prison, on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea. The most fascinating part of the book is that it was written by an inmate who was inside the prison at the time of writing. At times poignantly funny, at times horrifying, at times eliciting even a boredom that excellently illustrates the boredom that must plague the prisoners behind the fence, the book gives much food for thought for societies today that wrestle with the influx of refugees to their shores. The book certainly gives a harsh lesson in how NOT to treat people By taking away the prisoners’ access to basic human necessities, by fostering a community built on fear and unpredictability, and by showing a shocking lack of empathy, the Australian government’s egregious treatment of the refugees is a history lesson the rest of the world cannot ignore.”

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And last, but certainly not least, I read Corvus Hall by Bibianna Krall. It’s the first book in the Irish Phantom Series, and I’m looking forward to more. It’s a gorgeous work of Gothic fiction and one I have recommended to others already. Here’s my review:

“This book has everything I was looking for in a work of classic Gothic fiction. There’s a haunted Irish estate, a family curse, ravens, ghosts, and plenty of spine-tingling suspense. The writing is fascinating: at times terse and urgent, at other times beautiful and descriptive, but always appropriate to the action. The main character, Mary, is a study in the importance of listening to one’s inner voices while at the same time understanding that certain actions are inevitable. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story!

What I found the most fascinating about the book, and the part that gave me the most delightful chills, was the author’s descriptions of a real-life trip to Ireland and the experiences that prompted her to write this story.

Highly recommended to any Gothic fiction fans!”

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What have you been reading? Care to share in the comments?

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Amy Metz

Today I welcome Amy Metz back to Reade and Write! It’s been a while since she was last here (in fact, it’s been since 2016! Here’s the post.), but I’m thrilled that she has a new book coming out and I wanted to share it with everyone!

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, Liars and Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction.

Thank you! There are several liars in book five but the biggest is Virgil Pepper, a mayoral candidate who tries to woo Caledonia and every other woman in town. The reader finds out early in the book that he’s the murder victim, but the book goes back six months to tell what led up to his demise. There are a lot of suspects, a bunch of liars, and a few lunatics in the book.

People who have read the other four books in the Goose Pimple Junction series will know the stories are funny, smart, fantastic mysteries. For readers who aren’t familiar with the series, can you give a quick synopsis of each book?

Aww . . . thanks! Well, let’s see . . . Murder & Mayhem is about a 75-year-old cold case that newcomer, Tess, and her love interest, Jackson, attempt to solve.

Heroes & Hooligans features Lenny, a philanderer husband of Martha Maye. Following her divorce, she begins a budding romance with Johnny, the new police chief. Lenny and his brother are a couple of hooligans and Johnny is a hero.

Short & Tall Tales is a novella and short story compilation that gives some background information on some of the main characters.

And Rogues & Rascals is about two women—Caledonia, a Southern belle in a troubled marriage, and Wynona, a wannabe assassin—who prove that you can’t keep a strong woman down.

Pick one character from Liars and Lunatics and tell us more about him or her—preferably something that’s not in the book!

Virgil Pepper is based on a liar and a lunatic I knew in my personal life. There really are narcissists like Virgil in the real world, and I got quite an education and a lot of material from one in particular, much like Caledonia does in the book. Ironically, he used to tell me I should kill off my next fictional murder victim with a tennis racket. I took too much pleasure in doing just that to Virgil.

What was the hardest thing about writing Liars and Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction?

The middle part. I didn’t have trouble with the beginning and ending, but I was stuck for a long time on the middle. And often, once the middle part is resolved, it changes the beginning or ending. I listen to my characters’ voices in my head and try to stay out of their way.

Is Goose Pimple Junction based on a real place? If so, tell us about it. Did you stick close to the original in the story? Have you made changes to fit your story?

The town of Goose Pimple Junction in my head is loosely based on a small town in Alabama and the town of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. I’ve tried to stick to the original, but in this last book, I expanded the scope to a side street. Up until book five, most of the action has taken place on Main Street or in a neighborhood or the outskirts of town. I had fun adding Honeysuckle Street and the shops on that street in Liars & Lunatics.

What’s next for you?

Good question. I’m trying to decide whether to continue this series or do something new. While I’m deciding that, I think I’ll get back to work on a thriller I started several years ago called Wax Man.

What’s your favorite way to promote your books?

Blogs like yours! I’m very thankful for you giving me the opportunity. I just wish more book blogs would help out indie authors.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

I like the second round of writing when I have the base of the story down and I can go back and add dialogue and details. My least favorite is that darn middle part of the story. I always have trouble with that. How much detail do I include? Which scenes will be entertaining but also advance the story? Which ones are unnecessary and I should delete? How do the characters go about discovering the identity of the killer? What sideline stories will add to the book? And often the question ‘What do the characters want to happen next?’ is the hardest thing to flesh out.

 

Your covers are some of my favorites. I love the artwork. Can you tell us a little about the artist and how you came to choose that particular person?

Thank you! All five books are done by different artists. I commissioned Karen Mathison Schmidt for book one, and with just a little description from me, she nailed the Goose Pimple Junction in my mind.

For the second book, I wanted a Southern house for the cover, and I went searching online. John Charles Gibbs’ “Southern Home” was the exact house I had in my mind.

For book three, I found a painting of Ezzie, the basset hound in all five books, on Etsy by Anne Rackley Berenbrok.

I discovered the painting “Rainy Day” by “Emerico” Imre Tóth online and liked it so much I not only asked to use it on the cover, I incorporated it into a scene in the book.

And for book 5, I found artist Tamara Višković on Fiverr.

Now for some fun rapid-fire questions:

Coffee, tea, or some other beverage? Sweet tea with lemon.

Early bird, night owl, or something in between? Usually night owl.

Snacks: sweet or salty? Definitely sweet.

Favorite season? Fall.

Favorite color? Coral.

Thanks so much, Amy! You’re a peach.

And thank you, Amy, for being my guest today! Best wishes on the new release. I’ve got my copy!

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LIARS & LUNATICS IN GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION

It’s election season, and there’s a new candidate in town. Virgil Pepper is determined

to take the job from Goose Pimple Junction’s long-time mayor. Virgil is a charming and

charismatic candidate but someone who will say anything (and mean none of it)

to get what he wants. Three things top his list: to become mayor, to acquire Jackson

Wright’s land, and to make Caledonia Culpepper one of his many conquests.

 

Wynona Baxter is back, and she’s a new woman. Now Daisy has a new identity, new life,

and new business-ironically named Killer Cupcakes. But the town soon finds out that

isn’t the only kind of killer in town. Book five of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series

combines political hijinks, delicious cupcakes, Goose Juice moonshine, the ups and downs

of finding true love, and, of course, murder.

 

It is said that “It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only

variable is about what.” Lying in politics, lying for personal and professional gain,

lying about an identity . . . What are the folks of Goose Pimple Junction willing to

lie for . . . and what are they willing to die for?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WMZV27F

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About the author:

Amy Metz is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. She is a former first grade teacher and the mother of two grown sons. When not writing, enjoying her family, or surfing Pinterest and Facebook, Amy can usually be found with a mixing spoon, camera, or book in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. Amy loves unique Southern phrases, cupcakes, and a good mystery. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Find out more at https://www.authoramymetz.com/

Connect with Amy here:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Amazon

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for October

It’s officially fall and despite what the thermometer says, I know cooler weather is coming. (It’s supposed to be almost 90F here tomorrow…ugh.)

Fall is my favorite season for lots of reasons, but food is one of them. I love using apples and apple cider, pears, Brussels sprouts, squash, parsnips, and broccoli when I cook, and this is the best time of year to enjoy them at their finest.

The recipes I’m going to share this month are a simple side dish, a pasta dish, and a quick bread. Let’s cook!

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Cheesy Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is one I made up, so the measurements are approximations. It’s easy, though, so you can tweak it to your tastes.

1 c. Brussels sprouts (I use frozen because they’re smaller than fresh), thawed if frozen

1 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

1/4 t. salt

1 palmful grated Parmesan cheese

If you use frozen Brussels sprouts, pat them dry with paper towels once they’re thawed. If using fresh, just wash them.

Halve the Brussels sprouts.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan, cut-side down. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for about 4 minutes, without flipping the sprouts, until the cut sides are beginning to brown. You’ll have to check them, since cooking times vary depending upon the size of your sprouts.

Flip the sprouts and continue cooking until they are browned all over. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the cheese starts to melt and stick to the sprouts. The cheese should start to become golden. Serve immediately.

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Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes EVER. Everyone likes it and it’s crazy easy to make.

1 lb. your favorite pasta or 18 oz. cheese tortellini
1 T. butter
1 sm. shallot, finely chopped
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve some of the pasta water (about 1/2 cup) before draining.
While the pasta cooks, heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cream; bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low; simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and cook until thick, about 1 more minute. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve sauce over pasta and wait for the compliments to roll in.
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Apple Bread
1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. peeled, cored apples, finely chopped
2 T. buttermilk
2 c. flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/3 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, opt.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift dry ingredients (I use a whisk) and add to the butter mixture alternately with apples and buttermilk. Fold in nuts, if using. Pour into greased bread pan (regular size) and let stand for 20 minutes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. It’s best to wait until the next day to slice and eat the bread, but if you can’t wait that long, I completely understand.
Enjoy!
Until next time,
Amy
P.S. Remember that I’m always open to printing recipes from readers! If you’d like to submit a recipe, just email me at amymreadeauthor@gmail.com.
P.P.S. I know the spacing in this post is off, but I don’t have the hours upon hours it was taking to fix it. Sorry about that!