Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

The Chocolatier’s Wife/The Chocolatier’s Ghost

Happy Thursday, Squiders! (I’m actually writing this at the beginning of July, so this shall be my farthest scheduled post of all time, ahahaha–I hope everything works!) Today I’m pleased to be the final stop for the tour for The Chocolatier’s Wife and The Chocolatier’s Ghost, two fantasy mystery books by Cindy Lynn Speer.

BLURB:

The Chocolatier’s Wife: ROMANCE, MAGIC, MYSTERY…. AND CHOCOLATE

A truly original, spellbinding love story, featuring vivid characters in a highly realistic historical setting.

When Tasmin’s bethrothed, William, is accused of murder, she gathers her wind sprites and rushes to his home town to investigate. She doesn’t have a shred of doubt about his innocence. But as she settles in his chocolate shop, she finds more in store than she bargained for. Facing suspicious townsfolk, gossiping neighbors, and William’s own family, who all resent her kind – the sorcerer folk from the North — she must also learn to tell friend from foe, and fast. For the real killer is still on the loose – and he is intent on ruining William’s family at all cost.

The Chocolatier’s Ghost: Married to her soul mate, the chocolatier William, Tasmin should not have to worry about anything at all. But when her happily ever after is interrupted by the disappearance of the town’s wise woman, she rushes in to investigate. Faced with dangers, dead bodies, and more mysterious disappearances, Tasmin and William must act fast to save their town and themselves – especially when Tasmin starts to be haunted by a most unwelcome ghost from her past…literally.

The Chocolatier’s Ghost is an enchanting sequel to Cindy Lynn Speer’s bestselling romantic mystery, The Chocolatier’s Wife.

EXCERPT:

Time was, in the kingdom of Berengeny, that no one picked their spouses. No one courted—not officially, at any rate—and no one married in a moment’s foolish passion. It was the charge of the town Wise Woman, who would fill her spell bowl with clear, pure water; a little salt; and the essence of roses, and rosemary, and sage. Next, she would prick the finger of the newborn child and let his or her blood drip into the potion. If a face showed in the waters, then it was known that the best possible mate (they never said true love, for that was the stuff of foolish fancy) had been born, and the Wise Woman could then tell where the future spouse lived, and arrangements were made.

For the parents of William of the House of Almsley, this process would turn out to be less than pleasant.

The first year that the baby William’s finger was pricked and nothing showed, the Wise Woman said, “Fear not, a wife is often younger than the husband.”

The second, third, and even fifth year she said much the same.

But you see, since the spell was meant to choose the best match—not the true love—of the heart the blood in the bowl belonged to, this did not mean, as years passed, that the boy was special. It meant that he would be impossible to live with.

On his seventh birthday, it seemed everyone had quite forgotten all about visiting the Wise Woman until William, who knew this of long habit to be a major part of his day–along with cake, a new toy, and a new set of clothes–tugged on his mother’s skirt and asked when they were going. She stared at him a long moment, tea cup in hand, before sighing and calling for the carriage. She didn’t even bother to change into formal clothes this time, and the Wise Woman seemed surprised to see them at all. “Well, we might as well try while you’re here,” she said, her voice obviously doubtful.

William obediently held out the ring finger on his left hand and watched as the blood dripped into the bowl. “She has dark brown eyes,” William observed, “and some hair already.” He shrugged, and looked at the two women. “I suppose she’ll do. I’m just glad ‘tis over, and that I can go on with my life.”

“For you, perhaps,” his mother said, thinking of what she would now have to accomplish.

“Do not fret, mother, I shall write a letter to the little girl. Not that she can read it, anyway.” He petted his mother’s arm. He was a sweet boy, but he was always charging forward, never worrying about feelings.

The Wise Woman rolled out an elegantly painted silk map of the kingdom and all its regions, his mother smoothed the fabric across the table, and then the Wise Woman dipped a brass weight into the bowl. Henriette, William’s mother, placed her hands on William’s shoulders as the Wise Woman held the weight, suspended, over the map.

Henriette held her breath, waiting to see where it would land. Andrew, her younger son, had his intended living just down the street, which was quite convenient. At least they knew what they were getting into immediately.

The plumb-bob made huge circles around the map, spinning and spinning as the Wise Woman recited the words over and over. It stopped, stiffly pointing toward the North.

“Tarnia? Not possible, nor even probable. You must try again!”

For once, William’s mother wasn’t being stubbornly demanding. Tarnia, a place of cruel and wild magic, was the last place from whence one would wish a bride. They did not have Wise Women there, for anyone could perform spells. The Hags of the North ate their dead and sent the harsh winter wind to ravage the crops of the people of the South. Five hundred years ago, the North and the South had fought a bitter war over a cause no one could quite remember, only that it had been a brutal thing, and that many had died, and it led to the South losing most of its magic. Though the war was long over and the two supposedly united again, memory lingered. “I have cast it twice.” The Wise Woman chewed her lower lip, but therewas naught else she could do.

“Not Tarnia, please?” Henriette, usually a rather fierce and cold woman, begged.

“I am afraid so.” The Wise Woman began cleaning up; her shoulders set a little lower. “I am sorry.”

William, staring out the window at the children playing outside, couldn’t care less. What did it matter where anyone was from? She was a baby, and babies didn’t cause that much trouble.

“Only you, William,” his mother said, shaking her head. “Why can you not do anything normal?”

This was to be the tenor of most of their conversations throughout their lives.

BIO:

Cindy Lynn Speer has been writing since she was 13.  She has Blue Moon and Unbalanced published by Zumaya.  Her other works, including The Chocolatier’s Wife (recently out in an illustrated hardcover to celebrate its 10th anniversary) and the Chocolatier’s Ghost, as well as the short story anthology Wishes and Sorrows.  When she is not writing she is either practicing historical swordsmanship, sewing, or pretending she can garden.  She also loves road trips and seeing nature.  Her secret side hobby is to write really boring bios about herself.  You can find out more about her at http://www.cindylynnspeer.com, or look for her on Facebook (Cindy Lynn Speer) and Twitter (cindylynnspeer).

( Amazon Author Page )

GUEST POST:

As part of the tour, I’ve asked Cindy to put together a short post about where she gets her ideas. Take it away, Cindy!

~*~*~*~*~*~

Where do ideas come from?

The most important thing is to feed your muse.  Ideas are everywhere, but they need time to develop…and you need to feed yourself so that ideas have things to grab onto and add to themselves.  You may have this image in your head of a slave, who is lead to his freedom by a shape shifter who takes the form of a peahen.  (I do, I play with this story a lot, off and on.)  My problem is that I have not read enough…what would life be like for a black man of the time in the North?  What would induce him to go back — the woman wants him to, to free her husband, who lives inside the plantation house in a gilded cage.  I need to read to get his voice in my head, watch movies, look at pictures.  Then I will be able to take a wonderful idea and turn it into a great story.

For me, ideas are a combination of cool things coming together and things I would like to read.  Worlds I want to travel, people I want to spend time with.  You cannot draw anything from an empty well, so you should read, guilt free, widely.  Does it take time from when you should be writing?  Yes.  But if you are having a hard time putting ideas to paper because when you look inside your head and there’s nothing there to pull from, then maybe this is what you need to do.  Read things outside of your genre.  Read nonfiction that could be related to things you would like to write.  Go to museums, online and off, and explore their collections.  Look at the photos, the paintings, and tell yourself stories.  Throw your favorite TV or Movie characters in weird situations while you are sitting at a red light or waiting at check out.

Tell yourself stories as often as you can.  It does not matter if you can write them down or not, just letting your mind doodle, resting yourself from the everyday cares will strengthen you and help a lot.

As part of the tour, Cindy is giving away a $50 Amazon or B&N gift card. To enter, click the link below!

Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Library Book Sale Finds: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

Good afternoon, Squiders! Been a while since we’ve done one of these, hasn’t it? My archives tell me last June. In case you were wondering, I’m still working on the stack of books from the library book sales in summer 2015. (We didn’t go to any last summer, which is probably for the best. I think I still have over a dozen.)

You know, I picked up all these lovely science fiction and fantasy books, yet I keep reading the non-scifi/fantasy ones. (Okay, well, I have done seven of these–this is the eighth–and three were scifi/fantasy, so not always.) Admittedly, I just finished a 600-page fantasy novel (American Gods) which probably had a fairly major impact on the decision, which came down to “not fantasy, not huge.”

(And now I have Wintersong back from the library, so I’m back into another fat fantasy novel. Just a two-day mystery cleanser in the middle.)

On to it!

Title: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1951

Pros: Great mystery, excellent use of misdirection
Cons: Weak, uninteresting beginning, too many characters?

I think I’m out of mysteries from the book sales with this one, though I do have several mythology collections and a book by Edith Wharton, so I can procrastinate on the scifi/fantasy for a bit longer if I’d like.

This is a Poirot novel! I’ve never read one before. I am familiar with Hercule Poirot, of course, because my family watched Masterpiece Mystery on PBS religiously when I was younger. It’s a far cry from the Miss Marple books, as it is in Poirot’s viewpoint (though it does occasionally stray into others) and also has a bit of a weird structure to it.

The book opens with the wrap-up of the trial for the murder of Mrs. McGinty, a charwoman (or cleaning lady) who was seemingly done in because she kept her savings under her floorboards and everyone in town knew it. The case has been rather clean and obvious, and Poirot took no note of the murder at the time because he found it boring. However, the superintendent of the police for the case, having worked with Poirot on a previous case, comes to him and tells Poirot that though he gathered the evidence, he can’t help but think that they’ve convicted the wrong person. He has nothing concrete to go on except his experience as a police officer. Poirot agrees to look into as a favor to a friend.

I found the first couple of chapters pretty dull. The book opens with an older Poirot wandering about being sad about the fact that he can’t eat constantly. Even once the potential mystery is introduced, the book still takes a few chapters to actually get into the act of mystery solving. For a while there, I actually considered putting the book down, which you know I rarely do.

Fortunately, for both me and the book, the pace picked up and got quite interesting after that point. Mrs. Christie throws in a good half dozen potential culprits and expertly keeps your attention off the real one. If I have one complaint, it’s maybe that she had too many suspicious personages in the end, because I’m pretty sure it’s never explained why–oh. No, never mind, I just figured it out. Nothing to see here.

I went to a mystery panel at a writing conference once, and one of the panelist said that you couldn’t know who did it, as the author, until you were most of the way done, because otherwise you’d  subconsciously write in too many clues that would point readers to the killer too early. So you have to write the book as if they all did it, so there’s enough red herrings and clues for any number of people. This book feels like it was written like that.

Anyway! I enjoyed it. I read the whole thing in two days, which I haven’t done in a while. So I’d recommend it, if you like classic mysteries and/or Poirot and/or Agatha Christie and/or if you’re looking to get into reading mysteries, which I also highly recommend.

(I use them as a brain cleanser.)

Read Mrs. McGinty’s Dead? Thoughts on Agatha Christie or Poirot in general?

Library Book Sale Finds: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Most of what we grabbed at the library book sales this summer were scifi and fantasy, but I love a good mystery and so I ended up with a fair amount of those as well. And I love Agatha Christie, but somehow seem to keep reading the same books over and over (accidentally).

This is the first of the Miss Marple novels, none of which I’ve managed to read before, though I have read the short story collections a few times. Or so I assume, because that’s what the front of the book said. Also, randomly, I went and saw Curtains at a local theater last Thursday night, and they referenced Murder at the Vicarage during it, which was a bit of an odd coincidence.

Title: Murder at the Vicarage
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1930

Pros: Very classic murder story with interesting twist
Cons: Feels a little old-school and dated at points, which is perhaps to be expected

Wikipedia tells me that it was not particularly well received upon publication, but I liked it.

Anyway! The book is from the vicar’s point of view, which I find is generally the case with the Miss Marple stories. I mean, not necessarily from the vicar’s, but not from Miss Marple’s. Which I guess is somewhat common–none of the Sherlock Holmes stories are from Holmes’ point of view. Obviously the idea is that it’s more interesting to be the outside observer. Anyway.

Universally despised Colonel Protheroe is murdered in the vicar’s study. Hence the title! And, of course, since everybody hates him literally anybody could have done it, though the vicar knows a secret about some of his parishioners which gives them a strong motive. And the book is perhaps more interesting from the vicar’s point of view, because he is at the center of the whole thing, and his insider knowledge as vicar gives him insights into people that others wouldn’t necessarily have. And so he spends more time wondering whether various people are capable of the crime, and it reads very authentically, as well as serving to throw the reader off.

The solution is a twist on a rather common mystery trope, which was a nice touch.

Miss Marple is probably one of the most recognizable mystery protagonists, so it was interesting to read the first book with her in it. As I said, I’ve previously read the short stories, and I used to watch the TV show (or was it merely part of PBS’ Mystery! series?) with my grandmother (a mystery enthusiast) back in the day, so it’s interesting to see the “beginning.” (Some of the short stories predate the novel.)

If you like mysteries, Christie, and/or Miss Marple, I’d give it a read. Why not? It is interesting to note that the character is not in its final stage as of yet, and that Miss Marple is different in later stories.

Familiarity Breeds Like (and Eventually Hate)

You know when you hear a song on the radio and it’s not really amazing, but you listen to it anyway because it’s too much work to change the station? And as time goes on, you hear it more and more, and at some point you find yourself singing along, enjoying every minute of it.

And then, eventually, it reaches over-played hell and you think you might set something on fire if you have to listen to that same damn song over yet again.

While music is the most obvious example, this cycle repeats itself for every medium. Let’s look at it from a reading standpoint. You pick up a new genre. You think it’s pretty good. Not amazing, maybe, but pretty good. There’s something that resonates.

The next step? You seek out similar books. That cozy mystery really got the ol’ thinker going, so you search out more cozy mysteries. That epic fantasy – wow. What will those crazy speculative fiction writers come up with next? Or that romance you found where the main conflict is not that the two main characters spend the entire book thinking that the other hates them because they can’t hold a conversation?

You get my point.

Someone old and dead (Socrates, maybe?) once said that every story in the world has already been written. It’s not that hard to find variations on something you like. Sure, there may be the rare gem out there that stands alone, but even then there may be less shining knock-offs that scratches where it itches.

But eventually? Burnout. You’ve got the mysteries solved before the first chapter is over. The old boy meets girl story has you yawning, and if you see one more elf – especially one that distrusts dwarves – you may scream.

And then you move on to something new.

But the good news? Usually a little time away from something you used to love is all it takes to rekindle your interest again. And then you’ll be back to your favorite genre, and singing along in the car.

Why Genre is Like Root Beer

When my sister and I were little, whenever we went out to a restaurant where you could get your own soda, we would mix a variety of them together.  Sometimes it tasted good, sometimes it tasted horrific, but what remained true, no matter what, was that if you added root beer, the whole thing would taste like root beer.  It didn’t matter how many other kinds you put in, or how little root beer was actually added, it was root beer.

(I swear this is not totally random.  I had root beer with lunch.)

Genre is like root beer.  I think we can all agree that most genre stories are not wholly a single genre.  Romance subplots are found all over the place.  A story can have a murder or a car chase without being a mystery or a thriller.  Something can be set in the past without necessarily being historical.  Heck, even speculative fiction elements like ghosts crossover into other stories.

Last year, I read Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie and Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters within a few weeks of each other.  Fast Women was categorized as a romance, and Crocodile on the Sandbank was a mystery, but if anything, I would have reversed the two.  Both stories have a female protagonist, a main mystery plotline, and a strong romance subplot.  So what pushed one into romance and one into mystery?

Every story has a root beer – a genre, that once it’s added, no matter what other elements are also included, overrides everything else to be That Genre.  I think sometimes it’s arbitrary.  Sometimes, perhaps it is a marketing decision. 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the root beer is.  We’ve got dozens of sub and cross genres popping up these days, but they’ve still got to be shelved somewhere.  I think we can all agree that a story with elves would have a hard time marketing itself as anything other than fantasy, no matter how small a part they play.  Something with aliens is going to be slotted as science fiction.  But what do you do with a story that’s based in the real world, with love and mystery and a hint of the supernatural?  Where’s the root beer in that?

I’m currently working on a story where I’ve yet to identify my root beer.  I’m calling it a scifi mystery in my head.  Yeah, I know.  Good luck pitching that when the time comes.  What do you consider an Absolute when it comes to determining genre?  What do you think about sub/cross genre specifications?

What did I read in 2010?

In 2009 I started keeping track of what books I read, what genres they were, and what I thought about them.  I have weird bouts of organization like that.  2009 was so much fun that I repeated it for 2010 and intend to do the same in 2011.

I thought you might find this information interesting.  I also have weird bouts of egotism.

Total Books Read 2010: 51
Change from 2009: -5

Of those:
17 were Fantasy
7 were Mystery
7 were Science Fiction
4 were Thrillers
4 were Nonfiction
3 were Romance
2 were Historical Fiction
2 were General Literature
1 was Horror
1 was Steampunk
1 was Young Adult
1 was Graphic Novel
1 was Satire

Genres that went up/were added: Science Fiction, Nonfiction, Thriller, Steampunk, Young Adult, Satire, Graphic Novel
Genres that went down/were removed: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, General Literature, Horror, Epic Poetry, Humor, Adventure

The biggest trend I noticed is that I read a lot more science fiction this year, so it took numbers away from fantasy and mystery which tend to be my main reading genres.

35 Books were mine (9 were Kindle e-books)
14 were from the Library
2 were borrowed from Friends/Family

Average Rating: 3.31 (out of 5)

Top Rated: (Ignoring Agnes and the Hitman and Howl’s Moving Castle which were rereads)
Hound of the Baskervilles (5)
Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre (4.5)
Stories of Your Life and Others (4)
Crocodile on the Sandbank (4)
The War of the Worlds (4)
Leviathan (4)
The Book of Lost Things (4)