Monday, January 8, 2018

Aloha to Victoria Abbott and THE CHRISTIE CURSE (Book Collector Mystery Series)

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In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared—making headlines across the world—only to show up eleven days later at a spa under an assumed name. During those eleven days, did she have time to write a play? 

Jordan Kelly needs a new job and a new place to live. She’s back in Harrison Falls, New York, living with her not so law-abiding uncles, in debt thanks to a credit card–stealing ex and pending grad school loans.


Enter the perfect job, a research position that includes room and board, which will allow her to spend her days hunting down rare mysteries for an avid book collector. There’s just one problem: her employer, Vera Van Alst—the most hated citizen of Harrison Falls.


Jordan’s first assignment is to track down a rumored Agatha Christie play. It seems easy enough, but Jordan soon finds out that her predecessor was killed while looking for it, and there is still someone out there willing to murder to keep the play out of Vera’s hands. Jordan’s new job is good…but is it worth her life?


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Very few of us are what we seem. - Agatha Christie

THE CHRISTIE CURSE, Book 1 in the series, introduces us to Jordan Kelly Bingham, a resourceful twenty something looking for a respectable job.  She finds such job - with room and board - with Harrison Fall's resident grump, Vera Van Alst.  While her vintage mansion crumbles around her, Vera collects first editions from her favorite mystery authors. She tasks Jordan to procure a copy of the Christie's "lost play" .... and Jordan turns to her not-so-respectable uncles for assistance.  As Jordan hunts for the lost play, she learns that not all of the players in the rare book business are who they seem to be.

Abbott creates a cast of characters who are entertaining and intriguing - a research assistant with gusto, a male librarian on speed dial, an Italian cook with endless energy, several uncles with unlimited resources, and a mysterious cop with a killer smile. Abbott incorporates the Dame's plot devices into THE CHRISTIE CURSE as a tribute to her. THE CHRISTIE CURSE kept my attention throughout its 304 pages.  I was curious enough to find more books in the series.

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Jordan works hard to improve Vera Van Alst’s collection of classic detective stories. So when Chadwick Kauffman—heir to the Kauffman fortune—offers a very good price on a fine collection of Ngaio Marsh first editions owned by his recently deceased stepfather, she is thrilled to meet with him at his fabled summer estate, Summerlea.

The next day, Jordan and Vera are shocked to read that Chadwick has died in a fall from the grand staircase at Summerlea. But when the picture in the paper is of a different man, it becomes clear that the ladies are victims of a scam. And they’ll have to unmask the imposter fast, because someone is trying to frame them for murder…

THE MARSH MADNESS is Book 4 in the series (I did not find Books 2 and 3 at the used book store). The same characters welcomed me back to the cozy (but chaotic) world of Jordan Bingham as she balances her "respectable" job while relying upon her "questionable" uncles for assistance.  In THE MARSH MADNESS, Jordan finds herself on the opposite side of the law - and her police boyfriend - as she tries to clear her name in the suspicious death of an reclusive millionaire. 

THE MARSH MADNESS delivered more laugh out loud moments as Jordan morphed into Stephanie Plum meets James Bond - one scene involves her cop boyfriend chasing her with only a towel after he stepped out of the shower to find her hiding in his house.  Jordan has gained more confidence in herself while she finds it easier to blur the lines between "being above board" and "bending the rules."  The cherry on top - Jordan shares her love for Ngaio Marsh books, making them a part of the plot in unexpected places.  The villain is not who I expected. 

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On a getaway to the City by the Bay, book collector Jordan Bingham becomes entangled in a mystery with more twists than Lombard Street...

Jordan has been able to swing a romantic trip to San Francisco with Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker on one condition—she must return with a rare copy of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest for her irascible employer, Vera Van Alst. For his own part, Smiley is full of surprises. He’s a Dashiell devotee himself—excited to be in the city of Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes like Sam Spade and the Continental Op—and also announces he plans to visit his previously unmentioned estranged grandmother, who lives in an old Victorian on Telegraph Hill.

But the trip goes downhill fast when Jordan is pushed from a cable car and barely escapes death. And when a dark sedan tries to run the couple down, it’s clear someone’s after them—but who? Just like in Hammett’s world, nothing is quite what is seems...


THE HAMMETT HEX is Book 5 in the series, picking up shortly where Book 4 ended.  Jordan and Smiley escape to the City by the Bay only to find themselves embroiled in a series of near escapes - are they trapped in a Dashiell Hammett novel?  Nothing stops them from fulfilling Smiley's secondary purpose of visiting San Francisco - reuniting with his estranged grandmother.  Yet that simple meeting leads to more chaos for Jordan and Smiley.  Why does trouble come her way every time she procures rare editions? 

Jordan demonstrates that she is more than capable of taking care of herself while dodging villains. She relies on the Kelly Family motto - make do with what is handy.  Her antics leads to laughs as well as endearing her to me.  I rooted for her through thick and thin. 

I did not want THE HAMMETT HEX to end. Now I have to find Books 2 and 3 in this series ... and hope Victoria Abbott continues to publish the adventures of Jordan, Smiley, and the Kelly Uncles!

The House on Telegraph Hill (link)

I am giving away book swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Have you visited San Francisco?  If yes, what was your favorite thing about the City by the Bay - view, food, experience?  If no, what would you want to do?

I have not visited San Fran yet .... I would like to ride a cable car!


2. Comments are open through Wednesday, January 31, 10 pm in Baltimore. 

3. I'll post the winner on Thursday, February 1.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Aloha to Nora Charles and DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW

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Nestled between fast track Ft. Lauderdale and nouveau riche Boca Raton, the once sleepy beach town of Palmetto is plagued by progress. The latest news has Ocean Vista condo board president Stella Sajak and other residents in an uproar. Developers plan to raze the property and put up a glitzy resort. But when Stella says she’ll go to City Hall and fight this to the death, no one thinks to take her statement literally.

And when Kate begins to investigate the murder, she discovers that this little corner of the sunshine state is cursed with corruption, unsavory characters, and a very dark cloud overhead.

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Every drop in the ocean counts. - Yoko Ono

I found Nora Charles' DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW at a used book store before my trip to Florida.  Published in 2004, it is the first book in Senior Sleuth Mystery series.  Given I grew up in Miami, I enjoy reading novels set in South Florida. The story opens with Kate Kennedy lamenting the death of her husband, a retired NYPD officer.  He died shortly after they signed for their new home in the Ocean Vista condo building overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  I almost gave up as Kate was drowning in her grief.  Then the pace picked up with the murder .... and Kate's sister in law, Marlene, engages in senior antics.  Kate and Marlene become Ocean Vista's version of Lucy and Ethel as they investigate the murder.  

DEATH OF AN OCEAN VIEW is only 198 pages - a quick read that produced many chuckles as Marlene reeks havoc on the retirement community while Kate acts as the level headed sleuth.  In the end, Nora Charles' created memorable characters to cherish.  Her dry wit is the cherry on top.

I was intrigued to read more books in the series ....

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He forecasts the weather on TV to the delight of his many fans. But the residents of Ocean Vista Condominiums are less fond of Uncle Weatherwise—the newest arrival at the condo—especially when a hurricane that he predicted would bypass Palmetto Beach instead heads straight for their town.

The morning after a frantic evacuation, Kate is blown away when she stumbles upon the corpse of Uncle Weatherwise, with a sharpened weather vane pointed in the direction of his heart. Suddenly Kate’s neighbors are her suspects, from a retired Rockette to a former federal prosecutor to a man dressed mysteriously in crisply pressed pajamas. And before she knows it, Kate is hot on a trail of clues that may lead back to the Cold War.


HURRICANE HOMICIDE (aka DEATH STORMS THE SHORE) is Book 4 in the series. Nora Charles turns up the cloak and dagger with flashbacks to the Cold War. The memorable characters continued to entertain as I pieced together how the Red Scare of the 1950s could still impact lives in their twilight years.  Nora Charles accurately portrays the chaos of hurricane evacuations - something I remember vividly from my childhood in Miami and college life in Tampa.  

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Tired of college, Kate Kennedy’s granddaughter, Katharine, drops out and heads for Florida, landing in the apartment of Kate’s best friend. In her quest for a new life, she takes up with a gang of surfers that go by the name “The Four Boardsmen of the Apocalypse.”

But catching waves can be a dangerous pastime. When Katharine’s surfer crush is killed in a shark attack, foul play is suspected, especially by the police. Fingers are pointing at Katharine—including, to Kate’s disappointment, those of her friend Detective Nick Carbone. It’s up to Kate to prove her beloved granddaughter’s innocence or else Katharine’s “new life” will be spent behind bars.

DEATH RIDES THE SURF is Book 5 in the series. Kate's impish granddaughter Katharine, creates waves in Ocean Vista as she follows her heart to a group of disreputable surfers.  As Kate walks the fine line of offering support while encouraging Katharine to act responsible, Marlene breaks the ice for the dynamic duo solve the mystery with a little help from Casablanca.

I am now on the hunt for the two books I missed in this series!

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I am giving away swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment about where you would like to retire - beach? mountains? countryside?

You know my answer .... Hawaii!  Even if we landed in the middle of Oahu, in the pineapple fields, I would be happy!

2. Comments are open through Wednesday, January 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Thursday, February 1.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

December Winners

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We have winners from December's posts:

- Kate Sparks 
- Gretchen
- Big Jimbo (perhaps our first male winner)
- Susan P.
- Catslady
- Debby

Winners, please claim your prize by sending your mailing address to sos.aloha@yahoo.com.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Getting ready for the Wise men and camels of Epiphany on January 6 .... 

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Aloha to Cathy Maxwell and IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU - Release Day Celebration!

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Greetings from Florida!  I have limited access to the Internet .... but I wanted to celebrate with my good friend Cathy Maxwell on the release of IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU, Book 1 in her new series, The Spinster Heiresses:

Once upon a time there were three young ladies, who, despite their fortunes, had been on the marriage mart a bit too long. They were known as “the Spinster Heiresses” . . .

He’s inherited a title, but not a penny to speak of, so the Earl of Rochdale knows he must find a wife—preferably one tolerably pretty and good-tempered, but definitely wealthy, and who will exchange her fortune for his family name.

His choice: Leonie Charnock, one of the season’s “Spinster Heiresses.” Years before, the earl had saved the dark-eyed beauty’s reputation and she is still breathtakingly lovely, leading Rochdale to hope that their marriage will be more than in name only.

However, Leonie doesn’t want to be anyone’s wife. Nearly destroyed by the secrets in her past, Leonie agrees to their union with one condition: there will be a wedding but no bedding. But it’s a condition the new Countess Rochdale isn’t sure even she can keep.


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Born in Olathe, Kansas, Cathy Maxwell once called Virginia home, noting she is "a Virginian by choice, but a Kansan by nature." She is now learning how to be a Texan and feels like Austin is the perfect place for her to hone her cowboy skills. She worked in television news and spent six years in the Navy, including a stint in the Pentagon. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, and Virginia Romance Writers and she is a frequent speaker at writers' conferences, libraries and special events. You can always reach Cathy at cathymaxwell.com

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I am currently reading ... and loving ... IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU - review to come next week!  I am giving away Florida swag to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment for your plans for New Year's Eve ... or New Year's Day!  My family will be traveling home to Maryland on New Year's Eve ... I look forward to my cats!

2. Comments are open through Sunday, December 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Monday, January 1.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Coming in April 2018 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Aloha to Kate Dyer-Seely and IN CAVE DANGER (Pacific Northwest Mystery) - Book Review


On an expedition into Oregon's Lava River Cave, outdoor journalist Meg Reed stumbles across a body buried way more than six feet under . . .

A debate is raging over the use of public lands, and to cover the story for Northwest Extreme magazine, Meg joins a congressman and several others on a subterranean adventure--despite her intense claustrophobia. The thoughts of cave-ins and cougars are unnerving, but at least it's a distraction from her other anxieties, like her best friend's departure for Italy, her boss's plan to sell the company, and the ongoing questions about her father's suspicious death. But in the chilly darkness of the volcanic rock, she discovers a Forest Service employee, stabbed with a trowel. Now Meg will need to do some in-depth investigating or the truth may never come to the surface . . . 


Kate Dyer-Seeley writes the Pacific Northwest Mystery Series for Kensington Publishing, featuring a young journalist, Meg Reed, who bills herself as an intrepid adventurer in order to land a gig writing for Northwest Extreme. Only Meg’s idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte.

Kate lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and son, where you can find her hitting the trail, at an artisan coffee shop, or at her favorite pub. Better yet—all three.

Learn more about Kate and her books at katedyerseeley.com.

Thurston Lava Tube near Kilauea, Hawaii

What fresh Hell awaits! 
- Frasier 

When Meg Reed graduated with a journalism degree, job prospects were slim pickings.  She convinced the owner of Northwest Exposure, a high adventure magazine, that she could tackle each assignment with gusto.  Yet each gig required her to face a personal fear.  IN CAVE DANGER, Book 5 in the Pacific Northwest Mystery series, Meg signs up for a tour of a lava cave despite her fear of small spaces.  Just as the tour descends into the tunnels, she stumbles across the dead body of a forest ranger.   

IN CAVE DANGER tackles the timely debate of public lands - should the land be preserved for posterity or opened for recreation?  The murdered ranger was an outspoken advocate for preservation thus Meg suspects a local rancher of foul play. As she launches her own investigation of the ranger's death, she finds herself embroiled in a larger mystery that involves her father, a legendary journalist who was run down while investigating the meth trade.  This larger mystery has been the overarching story line since SCENE OF THE CRIME, Book 1 in the series.  I felt the meth trade overshadowed the "mystery of the week" thus shortchanging Meg's sleuthing around the lava cave and high desert.  Yet Dyer Seeley was able to wrap up both mysteries in this series finale while staying true to Meg's character.

IN CAVE DANGER followed previous books in detailing the great outdoors in the Pacific Northwest which fuels the high adventure industry.  I enjoyed learning about the Lava River Cave and the Oregon High Desert - who knew Mother Nature was so creative?  I also appreciated Seely Dyer including the emerging culture of Bend, Oregon, along the Deschutes River - what's not to love about fresh air, majestic scenery, and indie pubs?
I purchased IN CAVE DANGER since I enjoyed previous books in the series.

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My family found a lava tube under tree roots along 
the Road to Hana on Maui 

I am giving away "high adventure" swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment about the Pacific Northwest - have you explored its natural resources?  Or enjoyed it unique culture?

During my first assignment in the Air Force, I often traveled from home outside Boston to Seattle to meet with the Boeing Company.  I often stayed the weekend to soak up the local sights, including the Seattle Underground Tour (link).

2. Comments are open through Sunday, December 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Monday, January 1.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hawaii Five O (H5O) Double Header - TV Review

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Last night CBS broadcast offered a double header for Hawaii Five O:

I ka wa ma mua, I ka wa ma hope (S8 Ep10)

When Danny is shot while quarantined in the hospital with McGarrett, Tani and Junior, he's left unconscious and clinging to life, imagining a future for everyone in Five-0. (TV-14 V)

The title translates as "The Future is in the Past".  From the previous episode, Steve, Danny, Tani, and Junior were exposed to a biological weapon, landing them in quarantine for six days.  Hours before their release, an unknown villain enters their isolation unit and shoots Danny.  As the team performs life saving medical treatment, Danny dreams of the future, including:

- walking his daughter, Grace, down the aisle

- his son, Charlie, graduating from the Honolulu Police Academy

- spending his golden years with McGarrett; see image below with the actors transformed into senior citizens.

This episode was predictable yet entertaining.  


Oni kalalea ke ku a ka la'au loa (S8 Ep11)

It's Christmas Eve and Danny tells Charlie a bedtime story about a recent Five-0 case involving bad Santas and a holiday miracle. 

The title translates as "A Tall Tree Stands Above the Others".  Let me amend that to read "Several Tall Trees Stand Above the Others". While Danny recovers from his gunshot wound, he and Charlie prepare for Santa's visit on Christmas Eve. As Danny tucks Charlie in bed, he shares a different kind of bed time story in which "angels" help the H5O team.  

Two villains, dressed as Santa bell ringers, blow up an armored truck for its cash deposits.  As the Santas escape into a local mall, the H5O team respond to the situation.  Meanwhile, Junior is driving a group of Wounded Warriors to a holiday event when he hears the call.  He responds accordingly with his "brothers in arm" in tow.  Each Wounded Warrior offers a unique skill set to assist the team as they empty the mall and apprehend the bad Santas.  

Scott Caan stands out as he delivers fatherly love and Steve-induced-sarcasm in telling the story to Charlie.  Likewise, I commend H5O for including wounded warriors in the plot. In fact, real life wounded warrior Jason Redman landed a guest role.  From People Magazine (link),

“I cast Jason based on a recommendation by Gary Sinise,” he (Executive Producer Peter Lenkov) tells PEOPLE. “I had told Gary that I was looking for some real deal vets that have inspiring stories for an upcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0 and he delivered with Jason, who did a really great job.”

This episode is now my favorite for the season.

Watch both episodes on CBS.com.


I am giving away a swag pack to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment about Christmas traditions - what is your favorite?  

H5O ends with Steve letting himself into Danny's house while Danny is tucking Charlie into bed.  Steve then eats the cookies Danny baked for Santa.  Classic Steve!

2. Comments are open through Sunday, December 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Monday, January 1.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

National Ugly Sweater Day


Tomorrow, December 15, is National Ugly Sweater Day .... who makes up these holidays?  Perhaps the producers of Bridget Jones' Diary.  Early in the film, Bridget returns home for her mother's annual curry buffet only to meet a childhood friend, Mark Darcy, in an ugly sweater he received from his own mother.  Then again, Bridget's own mother asked her to wear the ghastly "wallpaper" outfit. 


In fact, the Brits celebrate Christmas Jumper Day on December 15, too - jumper is their word for a pullover sweater.  Alas, we all have ugly sweaters hidden in the back of our closets.  So now is the time to pull them out.  From the website Time and Date (link), 

How to Celebrate?

Take that ugly sweater out and wear it in public, chances are, you won’t be the only one wearing the Rudolph sweater grandma made for you ten years ago.

Don’t have an ugly sweater? Make one of your own. Bedazzle an old or thrifted sweater, add embroidered holiday motifs and some sequins, and voila, you are ready for Ugly Sweater Day.

Host an ugly sweater party. Have your guests contribute to charity and hold an ugly sweater competition. The person flaunting the ugliest sweater goes home with the top prize.

Let's get in a festive mood - tell me about your holiday traditions, including those that are religious, secular, or wacky.  One randomly selected commenter wins a swag pack.  Comments are open through Sunday, December 31, 2017, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Monday, January 1, 2018.

Mahalo,

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City