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Slay in Character–mystery at a writers’ retreat

Slay in Character

Slay in Character

There are a few cozy mystery writers that just get it right every time, and Lynn Cahoon is one of them. The Cat Latimer Mystery Series features Cat Latimer, an author and former professor, who has a large Victorian home in Warm Springs, Colorado. There she monthly holds weeklong writers’ retreats. In Slay in Character, the guests are historical romance authors from a writing group in Connecticut, joined by Jessi, a student from the local college. On their visit to a neighboring ghost town, a murder is uncovered and it is just the first of many misadventures that appear to focus on Jessi. The older women take Jessi under their wing and they, along with Cat, her uncle Pete who is the local police chief, her boyfriend Seth, and Shauna, her friend and chef, try to discover who is targeting Jessi.

These women know how to eat! I think I gained ten pounds just reading about all the sweet treats provided at the retreat in addition to lunches and dinners at restaurants. It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at a writers’ retreat. Cat has established a schedule involving speakers, outings, and lots of time for writing, which is, of course, the central part of their efforts. Cat is always looking for new ideas to improve her program and encourage return visits. The notion that main characters who are editors or writers are difficult to make interesting is put to rest in this cozy mystery where there is plenty of action. The plot twists in this book will keep you glued to the pages and wanting more. I did not guess the identity of the murderer, but his motivation ties it all together in the end. Lynn Cahoon has three series going. I can’t wait to read her next book, regardless of which series inspires her imagination.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

  2. Recipe for Blueberry Coffee Cake included.

Publication:   November 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Joseph John smiled, and Cat realized the guy could sell ice water to people in a snowstorm.

The act had been foolhardy and dangerous. something she wouldn’t have even let her fictional character perform because of fear of being labeled Too Stupid to Live.

“Writing is less about inspiration and more about perspiration. You have to work to get the words down, they just don’t magically appear on the page.”

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Crime and Punctuation–super senior

Crime and Punctuation

by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime and PunctuationCrime and Punctuation features a retired Language Arts (English) teacher who decides to take up editing to fund the remodeling of the 110 year old home she lived in until she was seventeen. At age sixty-eight, newly widowed, Mikki returns from Maine to Lenape Hollow in New York’s Catskills and purchases the three story home of her childhood which has not been maintained properly.

Although Mikki intends for her business to mainly come through online sources, she is approached shortly after opening her enterprise by Tiffany, a young, enthusiastic, and well-funded new author. Mikki accepts her as a client and three days later there is a murder.

Lenape Hollow is a small town where news travels fast. Mikki finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that involves old friends and enemies and brings up long forgotten memories. Tiffany’s book is fiction, but it is based on Mafia activity in the 1930’s. Her husband and his associates have been involved in some shady deals in the past and may be the models for some of the book’s unsavory characters. Crime and Punctuation is a good mystery with lots of suspects. It is not difficult to figure out who the murderer is, but it is fascinating to watch it play out. The book is well-paced and the main character Mikki is an interesting and likable character. Her honesty in her introspection is refreshing and not belabored. Mikki’s age is certainly older than the typical cozy mystery heroine, but that fact provides a different perspective that is interesting.

I have always enjoyed language, word study, and even grammar. Fresh out of college, I taught middle and high school English for a year while waiting for an elementary teaching position to open up. I was excited to teach, enjoyed the subject matter, and particularly related to the twelfth graders ready to embark on their next adventure in life. So in Mikki I find a kindred spirit with her references to the Oxford comma. Its use in Tiffany’s manuscript actually helped solve the case. On the other hand, I don’t think a reader needs to be obsessive about grammar to appreciate this latest mystery by Kaitlyn Dunnett.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I can dress in my best, freshly pressed and pristine, and within five minutes, I look as if I’ve slept in my clothes. Don’t even talk to me about scarves! No matter how I tie them, they just hang there, limp and unflattering, feedbag instead of fashionable.

Thunderclouds scudded into Van Heusen’s face so fast that I expected it to start raining at any moment. My uneasiness about being alone with him returned just as quickly.

“Excuse me. Is Mr. Onslow available?” The redhead looked up, mouth opening in a startled, lipstick-circled O and heavily mascaraed eyes widening. I wondered if my question had been too complicated for her.

Fatality by Firelight–writers’ retreat, readers’ delight

Fatality by Firelight

by Lynn Cahoon

fatality-by-firelightFatality by Firelight, the second book in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, is appealing in so many ways, but primarily because it is an all round good mystery with twists and turns and abundant surprises. I had many interruptions during my reading of this book, but I was always anxious to return to the story and I always remembered where I had left off. Both signs of a good book.

The main character is Catherine (Cat) Latimer, a young, widowed, former professor.  Her ex-husband’s apparent betrayal and death form an underlying mystery that ties in with strange current occurrences. Other important folks you’ll meet are Shauna, Cat’s longtime friend turned business partner and chef for the retreat, and Seth, Cat’s high school sweetheart who has entered her life again and also has a major role in the writers’ retreat.

The book deviates from a typical cozy in two ways. Although Cat does want to solve the mysteries that present themselves to her, that is not her main mission in life. She is a writer and tries to pay for upkeep on a Victorian mansion she inherited by hosting a weeklong writers’ retreat once a month. The other deviation is the male romantic interest in the book. Usually that role is filled by some type of legal professional–a sheriff, detective, private investigator, etc. No so in Fatality by Fire. There are attractive men in her life, but her legal connection comes in the form of her Uncle Pete, a likable and supportive college town police chief.

I recommend this book for its plot with mysteries on two levels, its snowy Colorado setting, some quirky characters who attend the retreat, and its writer’s theme which is appealing to readers. Fatality by Firelight delivers an interesting story, a strong female lead, and a dose of humor as a bonus.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Second book in series, but worked well as a standalone

Publication:   February 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines: 

No matter what kind of turmoil Cat was experiencing in her real life, typically writing made her forget everything and concentrate of the story.

[talking about a writer’s retreat] …the magic is in the process, not the accommodations or the distance you travel from home.

Okay, so this was all conjecture, but that was her job. As a fiction writer, she filled in holes, and this story had more holes than a pasta strainer.

“Well, you know what they say: if it doesn’t kill you, and you’re an author, you use it in a book.”

How Do You Prefer to Write?

editingWhen you write a blog entry, do you go straight to the keyboard or do you put it down on paper first? If the latter, where do you do your editing?

I’m curious if recording your thoughts is affected by age.  I would think that digital natives (those who grew up with computers in the home) might be more likely to compose directly on the computer.  Research shows that people who take notes, in a meeting or in class, directly on the computer retain less than those who use longhand. I have not seen research on how computer versus manuscript affects original writing. If you do other writing (i.e. professional documents, short stories, books), do you approach that writing differently?

If you would like to weigh in on this topic, to avoid revealing your age, just say whether you are a digital native or not and how you prefer to write.  If you want to give more details, go for it!

I am not a digital native. I did get in on personal computers with the Apple IIe and have always had some kind of computer ever since.  I was an elementary school tech teacher for 14 years out of my 34 years of teaching.  I write my blog entries in a notebook and do first editing there as well. This preliminary editing can vary from changing a few words to a major rewrite. My final editing is done on the computer and does not usually involve major changes (i.e. the thinking has already mainly occurred and what’s left is grammar, flow, and typographical errors.  When I wrote professional documents for work, I composed most of them on the computer and I am not sure why. Currently my only writing in retirement is blogging and informal digital communication which is, of course, written directly into whatever app I am using.

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