A Spoonful of Murder

A Spoonful of Murder: A Soup Lover’s Mysteryspoonful of murder

Author: Connie Archer

Paperback: 304 pages (also available in ebook format)

Publisher: Berkley Books (August 7, 2012)


Winter is big business in small-town Snowflake, Vermont. Tourists arrive to hit the ski slopes–and what could be more satisfying after a chilly day of carving powder than a steaming bowl of soup?

When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents’ soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it’s time to take stock of her life. Should she sell her parents’ house or move in herself? Does she really want to run a restaurant business? And what about her grandfather Jack, who seems to be showing signs of Alzheimer’s?

But her life decisions are moved to the back burner after an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop. and Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police. As suspicion and speculations snowball, Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist–and landed her chef in the soup…

Recipes included!


We’ve been dealing with subzero temperatures outside of my front door so any book that talks about soup is perfect. A Spoonful of Murder is the first in Connie Archer’s soup series so there was a bit of introducing the characters and their relationships to main character (soup restaurant owner and amateur sleuth Lucky Jamieson). But once we get to the murder the fun really starts. Archer does a good job of showing us several characters that Lucky (and readers) will consider as possible murderers. Then she turns the tables and suddenly the most unlikely people seem to be the ones who did the evil deed! I look forward to Archer further developing this soup of characters. My only complaint was that it took us too long to get to the murder. I know, how ghoulish of me! But I like to dive right into the action.

I came late to the party! Even though this is a review of the first book in the Soup Lover’s Mystery series Archer is releasing book four today! Check out her blog tour stops here — maybe you’ll find a chance to win a free copy of Book #4 Ladle to the Grave.

Paris with Cara Black

I had never heard of Soho Press (shame on me!) until I attended a writer’s conference and met the exuberant Juliet Grames, associate publisher. Even if you never picked up a mystery in your life, after ten minutes with Juliet you would be promising to read Soho’s entire backlist. Soho specializes in mysteries set in other countries (two of my favorite things) and Juliet kindly gave me Cara Black’s Murder in the Palais Royal and I’ve acquired a few more since then. Champ4

Author Cara Black loves Paris so much she has set over a dozen murder mysteries in notable parts of  the City of Lights. To celebrate the release of her latest book in the Aimee Leduc series Murder on the Champ de Mars, Soho Press, Politics and Prose bookstore and Black are sponsoring a contest for one of her readers to win a guided trip to Paris. With one of the best guides ever — Cara Black herself!  Check out some details about this dream trip. The trip is from October 24 to October 31 and the winner will be announced on May 20.

There are three ways to enter: buy a print copy, buy an ebook or get an entry blank at a participating library or bookstore (check out the list here). Need to catch up on the Aimee Leduc series before reading Murder on the Champ de Mars? You can download a FREE copy of The Aimee Leduc Companion which will bring you up to speed.

Word Freak

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble PlayerswordFreak

Author: Stefan Fastis

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Penguin Books (July 30, 2002)


Scrabble may be truly called America’s game. But for every group of “living-room players” there is someone who is “at one with the board.” In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few, exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life-playing competitively in tournaments across the country. It is also the story of how the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful, challenging, and beloved game it is today. Along the way, Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert. More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players, Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance, memory, language, competition, and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us all.


I thought chess champs were crazy! I didn’t even know they had complimentary eccentrics in the world of Scrabble. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a competitive Scrabble world. Work Freak is for a very specific audience. Scrabble lovers (living room and competitive — and yes, they are practically two different games), word lovers, eccentric/obsessive lovers. And you have to have a bit of interest in history since the roots of Scrabble reach back into 40s and the games it’s compared to reach back centuries.

This book isn’t arranged in chronological order so in one chapter Stefan may be talking about reaching the 1700 level and in the next chapter he’ll be back to a tournament where he hits rock bottom. So, it is easy to become confused about what happens when. Also, it’s tough to pigeonhole. Is it a memoir about Stefan’s crazy obsession with words and becoming a Scrabble champion or is it about the convoluted history of the game of Scrabble as well as the present day Scrabble champs? A little of both, if you ask me.

At some points I wanted to slap author Stefan Fastis (sorry, Stefan) as well as a few other Scrabble champs and tell them to “get a life” — a life that doesn’t involve Scrabble. At other times I was fascinated that these people exist. This book is about a board game – a board game! – so at times it plods a bit. I mean, how fast can you move along a board game tournament? Personally, I found the invention, complicated evolution and sale of the game through the years more enthralling than the eccentrics that have now made Scrabble the focus of their lives.

But is you want a peek at people with one overwhelming purpose for their life or get a few amazing words for your next living room Scrabble game (qat — use your Q when you don’t have a U) try Word Freak.

Readers Write

The Sun is a fabulous magazine to set your imagination on fire. It’s a combination of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry and photography. If you’d like a complimentary one-year subscription, enter your writing in the Readers Write section of the magazine. Typed and double-spaced please. You can send brief nonfiction pieces (you can opt to have it published without your name if you prefer) to Readers Write, The Sun, 107 N. Roberson St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516. The upcoming themes and deadlines are:

Making Ends Meet                                            March 1

Noise                                                                    April 1

Saying No                                                            May 1

Flying                                                                   June 1

Being Single                                                        July 1

Breakfast                                                             August 1

Tethered by Letters Contests

If you have an interesting short story, poem or piece of flash fiction hanging around, I have a great incentive to “set it free”. Tethered by Letters is having their writing contests for the Fall 2015 issue of their journal. So why not give it a try?

Tethered by Letters’ Winter Literary Contests We are currently accepting submissions for our short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (max of three pages per poem). TBL strives to publish writers with engaging stories, vivid characters, and fresh writing styles. All winners will be published in Tethered by Letters’ Fall 2015 Quarterly Journal. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 (USDA) for the short story winner, $150 (USDA) for the flash fiction winner, and $150 (USDA) for the poetry winner. Winners will be announced publicly after April 1st. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Good luck to all our authors!

Deadline: February 28, 2015

Prize: $500 for Short Story, $150 for Flash Fiction, $150 for Poetry

Entry Fee: $15 per Short Story; $7 per Flash Fiction OR $15 for three Flash Fictions; $7 per poem OR $15 for three poems

Contact Info: Joe Reinis, jreinis@tetheredbyletters.com



Tethered by Letters’ Winter Short Story Contest

We are currently accepting short stories of any genre ranging from 1,000 to 7,500 words. The short story contest winner will be published as the featured short story in the Fall 2015 Quarterly Journal. Five finalists will be considered for subsequent quarterly journal publications or a TBL monthly feature. Each finalist will also receive free professional edits on their submission. International submissions welcome.

Deadline: February 28, 2015

Prize: $500 and publication in the quarterly journal

Entry Fee: $15 per entry

Contact Info: Joe Reinis, jreinis@tetheredbyletters.com


Tethered by Letters’ Winter Flash Fiction Contest

We are currently accepting flash fiction submissions of 55, 250, or 500 words in length. The flash fiction contest winner will be published as the featured flash fiction in the Fall 2015 Quarterly Journal. Three finalists will be considered for subsequent quarterly journal publications or a TBL monthly feature. Each finalist will also receive free professional edits on their submission. International submissions welcome.

Deadline: February 28, 2015

Prize: $150 and publication in the quarterly journal

Entry Fee: $7 per entry OR $15 for three entries

Contact Info: Joe Reinis, jreinis@tetheredbyletters.com


Tethered by Letters’ Winter Poetry Contest

We are currently accepting poetry submissions of all genres and styles—from traditional form to free verse. Length requirements are no more than three pages per poem, single-spaced with double spacing between stanzas. The poetry contest winner will be published as the featured poem in the Fall 2015 Quarterly Journal. Three finalists will be considered for subsequent quarterly journal publications or a TBL monthly poetry feature. Each finalist will also receive free professional edits on their submission. International submissions welcome.

Deadline: February 28, 2015

Prize: $150 and publication in the quarterly journal

Entry Fee: $7 per entry OR $15 for three entries

Contact Info: Joe Reinis, jreinis@tetheredbyletters.com

The Magician’s Daughter: A Valentine Hill Mystery

The Magician’s Daughter

Author: Judith Janeway

Paperback: 227 pages

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (Feb. 10, 2014)


Magician Valentine Hill always introduces her act by announcing “Reality is an illusion. Illusion is reality, and nothing is what it seems.” When Valentine is reunited with her grifter mother, “nothing is what it seems” becomes true in real life. A wealthy socialite turns out to be a ruthless criminal, a car mechanic a psycho killer, and a cab driver a seductive gangster. When an FBI agent who’d befriended her is killed, Valentine takes on the hated role of a con artist to get evidence to put the criminals away. Will her skills as a magician prove enough to help her maintain the illusion?


If your entire life has been a series of lies passed off as the truth, what could be a better career choice than a magician — blurring the line between lies and truth. Valentine is a Vegas magician’s assistant who spends her time off as a sidewalk magician. For Valentine, her life is relatively umcomplicated until two events happen that turn her whole life upside down: a supposed friend steals all of her money except for $42 and a she meets a man who claims to know her long lost mother (who, as a con artist, is a special sort of magician). Of course, everyone in The Magician’s Daughter is a magician of sorts…usually in pretending to be one thing while in truth they are something quite different.

Author Judith Janeway does a fine job of creating characters that are larger than life. They are memorable and make you want to keep coming back for more. Of course the plot twists are at times hard to believe…but that’s part of the fun, right? If you’d like an “OMG, I didn’t see that coming” type of story, The Magician’s Daughter is the book for you.

A Month of Letters

Did NANO wear you out? How about a writing challenge that’s more lightweight but fun for you and others? And your family won’t have to eat takeout for supper for 30 days straight! February is A Month of Letters. The challenge is to send something through the mail each day in February (actually only 23 days because the post is closed on Sundays…well, really only 20 days since we missed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week –my bad).

This is great challenge for me because each day after work when I schlep through the door with my purse, tote, lunchbox and assorted other things the first words out of my mouth to my son are invariably “Did you get the mail?” I think this is a holdover from the days when I had to wait for editors to write me letters telling me they wanted me to write an article (yes, I’m a dinosaur). He always says yes — he has to pass the mailbox when he gets off the bus. then I say “Any fun mail?” Fun mail. We don’t get a lot of that, do we? Sure, Christmas time, birthdays…but just on a normal Thursday?

I sent my first letter out this morning. I cut out a multitude of snowflakes and sent them to my daughter at college. Now what will I give the mailman tomorrow? Hmmm. I think a real letter to my godmother who I haven’t seen in ages. What next? Letters to the editor. Postcards. How about some gushy “I never do this” fan mail to my favorite author?

What about you? Who would you send your letters to?

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Darkest Place Horror Contest

What a place to share your writing and get feedback from other writers? Check out Inkitt, a new writers sharing platform. Inkitt is divided into a several genres: action, adventure, children, drama, fantasy, horror, humor, mystery, poetry, romance, sci fi and thriller. It’s a great way to get critques, especially if you live in a spot that doesn’t have a large writing community. And who knows, maybe agents and publishers will drop by, read your piece and think, “I want to see more”.

Inkitt is also sponsoring a writing contest starting today : The “Darkest Place” Horror Contest. The themes is “You are in the darkest place in the world.” — interpret that how you will. So, can you take readers to the darkest place in your world? I’ve read a few of the entries already up. Super creepy. You can spread the word about this contest by tweeting #darkestplace and follow them @Inkitt.

Word count: Up to 10,000 words

Entry: Work must be posted on the Inkitt contest page

Deadline: February 28

Entry Fee: FREE, authors retain all rights to submitted work

1st Prize $25 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook, custom cover design for the Inkitt story of their choice (created by Inkitt’s designer).
2nd Prize $20 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.
3rd Prize Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.
The top 10% entries get a horror badge on their Inkitt profile.

Ryder: American Treasure

I have to admit, an author who reads “a book or so” a week and is horrified by the thought that if he lives to be 200 he’ll only read 10,000 books is a reader after my own heart. Ryder: American Treasure is the second in a trilogy but I had no trouble following the storyline (of course now I  want to read Book 1 — Ryder!

Ryder: American Treasure — An Ayesha Ryder Novel

Author: Nick Pengelley

Ebook: 264 pages

Publisher: Alibi (January 20, 2015)


During of the War of 1812, British troops ransacked the White House and made off with valuables that were never returned. Two centuries later, a British curator finds a vital clue to the long-vanished loot. Within hours, the curator is assassinated—and Ayesha Ryder, a Palestinian-born antiquities expert, is expertly framed for his murder.

Who could be behind such a conspiracy? And why do they want Ryder out of the way? To find out, she picks up a trail leading from a mysterious nineteenth-century letter to the upcoming presidential election. As Ryder dodges killers in the shadow of hidden alliances, sexual blackmail, and international power plays, she finds that all roads lead to the Middle East, where a fragile peace agreement threatens to unravel . . . and another mystery begs to be discovered.

Ryder’s rarefied academic career and her violent past are about to collide. And her only hope of survival is to confront a powerful secret agent who has been waiting for one thing: the chance to kill Ayesha Ryder with his own two hands.


I remember seeing Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark one summer…I had wanted to see something else but it was sold out so it was Indiana Jones or nothing. Fast forward 23 years to National Treasure. Again, not my first pick. I ended up loving both movies. The idea of meshing history, mystery and adventure appeals to me. If you like that combo, you will love the Ayesha Ryder series. But this is no female Indiana Jones or Ben Gates…Ayesha has a dark past that haunts her. None of the goofy humor shared by Jones and Gates.

True, this book does have some intellectual puzzles you can solve along with heroine Ayesha — in fact author Nick Pengelley has ignited an interest in Lawrence of Arabia after I read about his contribution to the mystery Ayesha is unraveling. But what will take your breath away are the fight scenes. You can almost hear the thuds and feel the pain. Pengelley does a good job of balancing the intellectual and the physical. These two polar opposites seem to represent the two sides of Ayesha and both help give readers an insight into her past.

I also enjoyed getting whiplash from a few “I did NOT see that coming” moments. And I also look forward to getting my hands on the other two Ryder books: Ryder and Ryder: Bird of Prey.

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur: Book Two – The Chronicles of the Stone

Author: Fiona Ingram

Paperback: 378 pages (also available as an e-book)

Publisher: Biblio Publishing (October 1, 2014)


Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur.

However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped.


I have been waiting for the second Chronicles of the Stone book forever and it was worth the wait. Just as good as the Secret of the Sacred Scarab (maybe better since Ingram added a girl adventurer!). This book is just the right mix of history, adventure, creepiness, and plain old kid arguing and getting in trouble. I felt like on every page there was something to appeal to each of my senses. Ingram isn’t just a visual writer, she also gives you hints of how things sound, smell, feel (OK, not too much taste but there was a lot of tea). She truly makes the adventure come alive.

I think Grades 4 through 6 will enjoy reading this book (and checking out the illustrations and maps) but I believe it would also make an ideal read aloud book for the whole family. I think everyone from too young to read to Grandma will get a kick out of The Search for the Sword of Excalibur. Now, you have to figure out who has the best English accent and they can be the designated reader for your family.

The first book in the Chronicles of the Stone series is The Secret of the Sacred Scarab (you can also get The Young Explorer’s Companion to The Secret of the Sacred Scarab — great bonus info and activities for teachers). Fiona Ingram has also written two books about dogs if your young reader enjoy canines more than ancient cultures.