Sunday, May 26, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THE GOSSIPING GOURMET, by Martin Brown

Free ebook from Kindle.

Part of my "homework" to try my hand at writing cozies is, of course, to read gobs of them. This is one of them.

A Murder in Marin mystery -- the book, and subsequent books in the series, are set in the San Francisco, Marin, Sausalito area, with a close-knit (dare I say cannibalistic?) social group.

This is one of those mysteries where you're almost chanting under your breath, "Get on with it. Kill the creepazoid!"

The gossiping gourmet of the title is an arrogant jerk who knows how to play with all the society dames and manipulate everyone, to essentially commit murder through gossip. He's out to get anyone who doesn't kowtow to him and recognize what a wonderful person he is -- and when a newcomer to the community is offered a prestigious position that he wanted for himself (why didn't he just SAY he wanted it, instead of waiting for people to beg him to take the position?), he waits for the perfect opportunity to set about destroying him. And the self-important movers-and-shakers are his eager dupes.

So when he ends up dead, naturally his latest flaying victim is the first suspect. But of course ... well, I'm not going to give away who really "dun" it, but it's someone you'd never suspect. Of course.

Much thanks to the author for teaching me a great deal about interaction between characters and creating the perfect storm within which a murder takes place!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: THIS TIME TOGETHER, Laughter and Reflection, by Carol Burnett

What a lot of fun!!!

Audiobook from Audible.

Brought up great memories of watching the Carol Burnett show when we were kids. That was our regularly scheduled show on Saturday night -- and the other nights of the week, when the network moved them around. We followed faithfully.

This memoir, written and narrated by Carol Burnett, was great fun and far too short.

Very timely, too. I had just finished listening to it a few days before news came of the death of Tim Conway (Cleveland, Ohio native!), who was a beloved, incredibly talented and funny regular on the show.

I loved listening to how she got her start, her childhood, the chances she took, the funny mishaps and meetings with famous people along the way. Even TV stars get starstruck and suffer foot-in-mouth disease when meeting other famous people!

Thanks for the memories and the laughter, Carol.

Friday, May 17, 2019


The whole mess started with...a mess. A bunch of idiots (seniors) decided the lake that had taken over the Commons would make a perfect football field. Mud football is the sport for real men, supposedly.

Real men didn't believe in avoiding hundred-year-old trees.

I was heading to the cafeteria for lunch with Tonia and Lynn and a couple girls from the basement. We heard the shouting and stopped to watch the battle of mudmen. I didn't even know Andy was playing. Any sensible person would have been catching the last half hour of lunch and maybe studying.

Then again, these were senior boys. Proof that testosterone caused brain damage.

I heard my name. Honestly, even in a Christian college, how many Eves could there be? I turned, and there was this muddy figure waving at me and jumping up and down, holding the ball. At least, I assumed that dripping glob in his hands was the ball.

Tonia laughed. "That can't be Andy!"

I had my doubts, until he pulled off his stocking cap, revealing semi-clean blond hair. He waved the hat, spattering mud in every direction, and shouted for me to stay and watch.

"No way," one of the basement girls said. "There's Tim McCarr!" She shrieked and ran. We all ran.

Tim McCarr made the Incredible Hulk look like a featherweight. Plowing through mud and water, he churned up a wake the Loch Ness Monster would have envied. Waves swamped the sidewalk as McCarr headed straight for us.

Some guys shouted for him to leave us alone. Andy led the charge of five guys headed on a collision course to stop McCarr. When they hit him en masse, they changed his direction and went rolling and sliding through the mud and water.

The whole ugly, tumbling knot of them hit probably the biggest tree in the entire county, sitting in the corner of the crisscross of sidewalks through the Commons. Naturally, Andy was the point of impact.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


"What do you do, Eve? What's your major?" Pastor Tom asked.

"She's only a sophomore. She's still too busy getting her requirements out of the way," Mrs. Carleone said, with a little laugh, as if Pastor Tom had wasted his breath asking.

"Eve is majoring in administration," Andy said. "She's been doing summer camps and kids' crusades and snow camps for Allen Michaels since -- what? -- middle school?"

That grin on his face made me think he was proud of me. The next astonishing deduction was that to be proud of me, he had to feel...possessive?

Tonia and I later discussed the whole weird day. She theorized Mrs. Carleone was either trying to condition me to brainless slavery or scare me away. Why would she try to scare me away when I wasn't interested in Andy, and he certainly hadn't expressed that kind of long-term interest in me?

Back to lunch: Ginger said it sounded like I had a full-time ministry waiting for me when I graduated. Mrs. Carleone countered with the old "Not if she gets married" line. So dummy me, I had to blurt that I had no boyfriend, no plans for marriage, and all signs indicated God wanted me to stay single.

"I've never had a date in my whole life," I added.

"What do you call this?" Pastor Tom gestured at Andy and me on one side of the table.

"Church isn't a date. And I thought the whole team was coming today."

Andy snorted. His face got red. "My fault," he said, when his mother demanded an explanation. "You should have seen the look on Eve's face when she came out to my car and saw we were all alone. Sorry -- guess I forgot to tell you it was just going to be us."

"I think that's charming." Mrs. Carleone smiled, her first genuine, warm expression all day. Probably because she realized I had no plans to drag Andy to the altar.

At that point, all I wanted was a silent ride back to school. The day couldn't get any worse.

I was wrong.

Monday, May 13, 2019


I always hated those novels where the girl suffered through half the book and then found out the problem between her and the hero was all a misunderstanding. She should have just asked the guy in chapter two what was going on.

So after trying not to stew about that mystery all day, I ran into Andy in the cafeteria line at dinner. I figured, get it over with quickly. After all, it wasn't like we were together in any way, shape or form.

When I asked him if he went into the annex to avoid everybody else, Andy gave me a crooked grin, like a bad little boy caught making a mess. A bad little boy who knew he would be forgiven because he was so cute.

For about two seconds, I wanted to punch his lights out.

"If you didn't want to be seen with me, you could have just let me sit down first, and then sat somewhere else at the table." I turned to walk away. No way did I want him to see me cry. Not that I was about to cry. But why risk it?

Andy stepped in front of me to stop me. "What makes you think I don't want to be seen with you?"

"We could have sat with the team and got some work done."

"Yeah, but don't you get sick of living and breathing and eating Spiritual Emphasis Week?"

"It's fun."

"For you, maybe. Sometimes I just want it to be us having breakfast. Got me?"

The Hallelujah Chorus went off in my head, but I had enough self-control to keep my face calm and say I was sorry. We got into line for dinner. I knew something good had happened, but the breeze from something passing right over my head was strong enough to be felt.

"Hey, Eve." He leaned in so close I caught a whiff of his spicy aftershave. He grinned. "Rewind the tape. What'd I just say?"

"You need a break from working on Spiritual Emphasis Week." All I could do was mirror his grin as we moved up in line.

Andy wanted to be with me.

We ate dinner with Mike, Tyrone and Amira. It was nice, once I remembered to breathe. Just a bunch of college kids. Mike had work-study at the Playhouse fall semester, and he had been helping me collect all the props for SEW. Tyrone was this unwashed art geek who hung out with the theater students. He did most of the talking because nobody could stop Tyrone talking. We sort of slipped comments about SEW in among his rambling discourse. Amira was there because she was in love with Mike. He didn't know it, because he only saw her as a friend. At least he was nice to her. When I was relatively sane, I knew that was all I had with Andy.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: DISPATCHER, by John Scalzi

An Audible Original

My only other experience with John Scalzi's work is the Star Trek parody REDSHIRTS.

This one takes place in a near-future Earth, where something has happened -- no one knows how or why or even has all the rules figured out -- and now nearly everyone who is murdered ... comes back. A few seconds after death, the body just vanishes, and the dead person is "reset" to several hours before death, in his or her own bed at home.

So now there are Dispatchers: people trained and working for the government, required by insurance companies and working with disaster crews and sometimes the shady side of society. Dispatchers essentially kill someone who has been horribly injured and is near death, to "reset" the victim and erase the damage. You can imagine how that puts a crimp in the activities of murderers and muggers and organized crime ...

This audiobook is narrated by Zachary Quinto (new Spock!). With just slight shifts of voice, he portrays all the characters in the story of a Dispatcher with a really tricky, possibly dangerous problem: a fellow Dispatcher has vanished, after a failed dispatch. Meaning the dead person didn't come back. Why? And where is the other Dispatcher, if he hasn't been killed?

I don't usually go in for dark, but ... whew! I recommend it, even with the rough language. Yeah, you'd cuss for a while after you got thrown down an elevator shaft, just to get you out of a building without being seen.

Friday, May 10, 2019


With my luck, I figured Tonia had already arrived, moved in, and run off to the picnic. I ran through my list of options as I staggered up the stairs to my dorm room. Maybe now was the time to hit the grocery store. I could stock our refrigerator and reward myself for working on a day I had planned to be lazy. I quickly discovered Tonia had arrived and left a note on the bed, commanding me to join her for dinner at the Grease Pit.

Funny how fast I could run when I was weak with hunger.

I found Tonia at a table where she could see the door, snarfing a rack of ribs and a double helping of coleslaw. She could get away with that kind of eating since she had been born skinny as a rake and stayed that way no matter what she ate. If I didn't love her so much, I would have hated her. She gave me a big barbecue sauce grin when I waved and ran for the counter to order.

Tonia was the coolest girl I'd ever met. She had a talent for making odds and ends from the Salvation Army store look like the latest fashions. She saw no need to crush her internal organs to wear something currently "in" or make herself look three sizes smaller. She had the gift of looking equally as elegant in an oversized camouflage jacket as she did in the red silk Mandarin-style dress she wore to church. She had a coffee-and-cream complexion, and didn't wear a speck of makeup.

Today she had her hair in a dozen braids, all wound with ribbons in graduating shades, so it went from red on her left ear, through purple and blue, to orange on her right ear. A walking rainbow. She wore enough bracelets to sound like a junk truck when she moved.

Knowing Tonia's eating habits, I ordered a peanut butter malt ice cream swirler along with my dinner. I got it in front of her just as she turned to look for me. All she got out was "Hey, E--" then looked down and saw that jumbo-sized cup. She snorted and gave me a cocked eyebrow look Spock would have envied as I slid into the seat opposite her.

 "So, you learned to read minds over the summer?" she asked in a fake, nasal Bronx accent.

"If only. That would sure help me pass my tests." I saluted her with my sandwich and took a bite.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Eve chose ministry over marriage, thanks to: 

Andy, her college sweetheart with a domineering mother, and vague plans for their future.

(She bought the dress for Andy, but it didn't suit him any more than it suited her.)

Charles, who she didn’t even know she was dating on the rebound. 

Mason, the loony who "bought" her from her bully cousin. 

Nathan, the ex-Marine who started out pretending to be her boyfriend just to "protect" her from an unwanted suitor.

(Or at least, she thought she didn't want him...)

Real love didn't come back into her life until AFTER she decided to finally sell the dress, and let go of that particular dream. 

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Monday, May 6, 2019


Now available from Mt. Zion Ridge Press

In print and ebook
At all major online outlets

This one is part romance, party chic-lit, part snark, part comedy in places and part ... well, I can't say semi-autobiographical, because that kind of indicates at least half of it is real.

And it isn't.

Yes, I have a wedding dress in my attic, unused, bought for a wedding that never took place, after I broke up with my college boyfriend/fiance.
Yes, there was a guy who broke up with me because he claimed I was trying to "convert" him. Umm, I'm totally against missionary dating, if you know what I mean!
Yes, the chairs were "kidnapped" and held for ransom on my college campus -- but they were stolen from the cafeteria and the payment was Iowa pork chops for dinner -- in the story, the chairs were stolen from the chapel and the ransom demand was pizza.
Yes, gerbils were dropped by garbage bag parachutes through a hole in the ceiling in the middle of a college chapel.

Everything else, in Eve's story of all her disaster relationships and trying several times to get rid of a dress she was never going to use ... is entirely fictional!

Follow THIS LINK for ebook purchases or THIS LINK to go to the Mt. Zion Ridge Press website.

Or you can buy the paper edition from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

More about this book later in the week!!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Off the Bookshelf: WISHES AND WELLINGTONS, by Julie Berry

An Audible Original

And a thoroughly logical response to the story-generating question: What if .....

This time, the question is what would YOU do if you managed to get hold of a genii and were granted 3 wishes.

And you were stuck in a stodgy, repressive boarding school in the Victorian era and you were the ultimate tomboy and the rich, spoiled brats were the headmistress' pets and you were constantly getting in trouble for sticking up for yourself? And an orphan boy in the horrible government school next door knew you found a genii, and he was trying to steal it for himself? And the genii was an arrogant, misogynistic jerk who insulted you every time he opened his mouth? And to make matters worse, his feelings were hurt because his current "lamp" was a sardine tin -- and he smelled of rotten sardines every time he appeared?


Maeve Merritt has her work cut out for her, but she is up for the challenge. Every time she turns around, an obstacle gets thrown in her path -- or at her head. She has a few terrifying setbacks. And then the biggest snot at the school finds out about the genii and tells her robber baron father, who will stop at nothing to get the genii for himself.

I truly hope that there are more adventures of Maeve and Tommy and Alice after this one, because I want to hear more! Especially if the same narrator reads the next ones. Fun!