Sunday, March 31, 2019

Designs On Murder by Gayle Trent - Book Review

Designs on Murder: A Ghostly Fashionista Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Grace Abraham Publishing 

26 March 2019
Print Length: 229 pages

Amanda Tucker is excited about opening her fashion design studio in Shops On Main, a charming old building in historic Abingdon, Virginia. She didn't realize a ghost came with the property! But soon Maxine "Max" Englebright, a young woman who died in 1930, isn't the only dead person at the retail complex. Mark Tinsley, a web designer with a know-it-all attitude who also rented space at Shops On Main, is shot in his office.

Amanda is afraid that one of her new "friends" and fellow small business owners is his killer, and Max is encouraging her to solve Mark's murder a la Nancy Drew. Easy for Max to want to investigate--the ghostly fashionista can't end up the killer's next victim!

Book Review by Nadaness In Motion

Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson is the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Amanda decides to go on a hunch and start her fashion business in Shops on Main, a building housing several other small businesses. There she discovers her ability to see the place's resident ghost, Maxine "Max" Englebright.

Soon after she settles in, Amanda is confronted by the death of one of the shop owners in the building, Mark the web designer. Meanwhile, Max decides that she and Amanda should take up the task of solving Mark's murder. Despite thinking that this is a crazy idea, the reader can see that Amanda has already been curiously asking questions to uncover more about Mark and possibly his killer.

"I heard [Mark] on the phone a day or two before he was killed telling someone that he was about to get an influx of cash."

We also learn that Mark had a mystery girlfriend. Soon after the murder, one of the shop owners, Janice, claims her shop was broken into, adding to the mystery and the possibility that Mark's killer was still looking for something he couldn't find with Mark.

"Gee, that was awkward," she said. "I was sure you knew."
"That I'm a ghost."

I loved the cast of characters. Max is smart and hilarious; she constantly lightens the mood and puts Amanda in embarrassing situations. With Max's presence, Amanda finds a friend and becomes attached to the place. Amanda teaches Max how to use her tablet and downloads books and movies for her to read while the shop is closed. I loved their relationship.

"The big difference between you, me, and the old lady in the book is that fictional characters don't get killed for sticking their noses into other peoples' business."

I also liked Amanda's friendly and loving grandfather, who, when Max was not around, brainstormed with her about suspects and ideas. There are lots of other likeable characters in Shops on Main, many of which I expect to appear in later books.

Designs on Murder is narrated from Amanda's first person perspective. There is also lots of conversation, making the pace quite quick and enjoyable.

"Max fanned her face with both hands. 'That man was looking at the small of your back the way a child looks at a chocolate cake.'"

We also get some mystery around Max's death in the 1930's as well as a possible relation between Max's family and Amanda's. Later, a psychic, brought in by Mark's mother, says she could feel Max's presence in Shops on Main, noting that the person – that is Max – may have fallen ill or have been poisoned.

"I can tell you one thing. Your son died because of someone else's secret. But that secret will soon be revealed."

I disliked that Amanda had to often repeat herself when she retelling certain events to her grandfather or other characters. I thought these could just be mentioned in narration rather than half long quotes in the book.

Apart from that, I think Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson is a five-star humour-filled read with loveable characters. I'd definitely pick up the following books in the series.

Overall rating: 5 stars

Keep up with the rest of the tour via Escape with Dolly Cas.

Update: This post originally included giveaways, which have ended have been removed for space (and to avoid endless scrolling!)

Update 2: Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson has made it to Nadaness In Motion's Top Books of 2019!

About the Author
Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. Gayle has also written as Amanda Lee and Gayle Trent. As Amanda Lee, she wrote the Embroidery Mystery series, and as Gayle Trent, she writes the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series.
Going forward, Gayle intends to keep her writing until the Gayle Leeson name. She has a series of women's fiction novellas set in a shopping mall that has been converted to include micro-apartments (the Kinsey Falls series) and has just begun this new cozy series, the Ghostly Fashionista Mystery series.
Another Down South Cafe novel is slated for release in August with book two in the Ghostly Fashionista series scheduled for October.

Connect with the Author by signing up for her Newsletter or via her Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, BookBub, and Amazon.
Purchase Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson via Amazon

Keep up with the rest of the blog tour for Designs on Murder below through more book reviews, author and character interviews, guest posts, spotlights, and giveaways.

25 March– A Wytch's Book Review Blog - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW & T's Stuff – SPOTLIGHT
26 March– Cozy Up With Kathy - REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW & StoreyBook Reviews - REVIEW
27 March – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY & Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
28 March – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST
29 March – Teresa Trent Author Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW & Books Direct – GUEST POST
31 March Nadaness In Motion - REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY & Mallory Heart's Cozies – REVIEW
1 April – Laura`s Interests - REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
2 April – Books a Plenty Book Reviews - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
3 April – Baroness' Book Trove - REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
4 April – Moonlight Rendezvous - REVIEW, GUEST POST & Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT
5 April – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
6 April – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT & REVIEWS at I'm All About Books and Melina's Book Blog

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Why I fear reading self-help books by Nada Adel Sobhi

For a long while, I've wanted to read self-help and development books, particularly those on the writing craft. BUT I had a problem. And because of it, I kept postponing reading those books.

Eventually, I picked up one and then the other. Two years later, and not as many books as I would have liked done, I still have that fear.

So what is it?

Well… it's not just one problem. They're several and all linked together.

Self-help books contain lots of information and that freaks me out.

For starters, my memory isn't as good as I would have liked it to be. It's a little better than Dory's in Finding Nemo, but close enough, especially when it comes to things I 'really' need to remember. Even back in school, I couldn't get high grades in certain subjects because I couldn't memorise stuff.

Even if my memory were good – I won't say impeccable - it's hard to remember everything you read.

When you read fiction, you don't have to remember "everything." You can read 300 or 500 pages and come out with a plot, characters, a few events, and some ideas. Even if you forget that you read a novel, nothing happens, since you're often reading for your own leisure or for fun. But when you read a self-help book, for me, the situation is different.

I want to read this or that book so I can apply the content to my daily life or to my writing, or both.

The multitude of information simply scares me. How on earth would I remember all of this? And how would I begin to apply it if I can't remember it?


As I started reading, I realised that unless I had a photographic memory, I would never be able to remember everything and most likely a lot of people won't either.

So, I've resigned myself to the fact that there is no way what I read would stick, whether I read the book once or several times even.

Instead, I'll:

-        highlight the bits I think are important (and use different colours)
-    write notes whenever and where I need. These should help me remember what I was thinking when I read that particular comment or idea.
-   add bookmarks in places where I've written down notes or highlighted something important so I'd know where to go when I need something specific.

-       "maybe" write a summary and/or book review that can help as well. 

Another important thing I learnt is that with books on the writing craft, don't try to read more than a few pages in one sitting. You'll end up with a headache and whatever little might stick in your mind, won't.

I love to constantly develop myself but let's face it, being surrounded by a tonne of knowledge can be scary. So, baby steps and trying to avoid perfection are key. Something I'm trying to remind myself, while also making progress.

If this isn't enough, I'll be starting a new project - well actually job - that heavily relies on self-help books! Talk about facing one's fears, right? 

Below are some self-help writing-related books I've read

Currently reading and to-read

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner  
How to Write Your Book in a Flash by Dan Janal
The Emotion Thesaurus: Second Edition by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Friday, March 15, 2019

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison - Book Review

Book: TwoSpells
Author: Mark Morrison
Publication date: 21 February 2018
No. of pages:

Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures.

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway.

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated.

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

Book Review by Nadaness In Motion

I've been delaying the writing of this review for some time now, a few months actually. But here goes…

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison is a bit of an odd fantasy middle grade novel. Sarah and Jon are twins visiting their strange grandparents. Their mother leaves shortly after they arrive and the grandparents begin telling a tale that sounds like a bed-time story rather than "history." The events and the way they were told aren't believable.

I have mixed thoughts about TwoSpells. On one hand, the pace was really quick but the action and the magic itself took a while to occur. Until half of the book, no real magic had taken place and the reader is unsure how exactly Jon and Sarah are special. True, their mother has many secrets of her own but how are they special? What are their abilities? And, until the end of the book it's not clear what those abilities are.

Was reading while waiting for a doctor's appointment. Photo by Nadaness In Motion

I felt that the author was trying to cram too many genres together; fantasy with a bit of science fiction and some steampunk. I think it was too much and it didn't help me visualise a few scenes. It also stretched some scenes more than necessary.

However, the interesting part is that they visit a library where readers can join the characters within the books they're reading, provided that they don't alter the events of the book. The parts Jon and Sarah experience entering a book for the first time and their do's and don'ts was fun to read.

"To leave the story, simply open the book to any point in the story and begin reading backward. Finally, the most important rule of all: you are witness only. Do not participate. Do not attempt to change the story. You may end up trapped in there-or worse."

Overall, I think TwoSpells could be a good book but it needs a lot of work. Some comments or quotes that came in the end should have been made at the beginning. Things need to be clearer about Sarah, Jon and their strange but magical family. How does that magic work in this world… among other things.

Overall rating for TwoSpells: 2 stars

Note: I received a free copy of TwoSpells from its author Mark Morrison in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Broken Bone China - Interview with Laura Childs

Broken Bone China
(A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs

Broken Bone China (A Tea Shop Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
20th in Series
Publisher: Berkley 
Publication date: 5 March 2019
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0451489632
ISBN-13: 978-0451489630

Theodosia Browning serves tea and solves crimes in Charleston, a city steeped in tradition and treachery in the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs.

It is Sunday afternoon, and Theodosia and Drayton are catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally. The view aloft is not only stunning, they are also surrounded by a dozen other colorful hot-air balloons. But as the sky turns gray and the clouds start to boil up, a strange object zooms out of nowhere. It is a drone, and it appears to be buzzing around the balloons, checking them out.

As Theodosia and Drayton watch, the drone, hovering like some angry, mechanized insect, deliberately crashes into the balloon next to them. An enormous, fiery explosion erupts, and everyone watches in horror as the balloon plummets to the earth, killing all three of its passengers.

Sirens scream, first responders arrive, and Theodosia is interviewed by the police. During the interview she learns that one of the downed occupants was Don Kingsley, the CEO of a local software company, SyncSoft. Not only do the police suspect Kingsley as the primary target, they learn that he possessed a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag that several people were rabidly bidding on.

Intrigued, Theodosia begins her own investigation. Was it the CEO's soon-to-be ex-wife, who is restoring an enormous mansion at no expense? The CEO's personal assistant, who also functioned as curator of his prized collection of Americana? Two rival antiques' dealers known for dirty dealing? Or was the killer the fiancée of one of Theodosia's dear friends, who turns out to be an employee—and whistle-blower—at SyncSoft?


Exclusive Interview with Laura Childs by Nadaness In Motion

Nadaness In Motion: Having written 20 books in the Tea Shop Mystery series, what has been your favorite thing about the books and/or writing process?
Laura Childs: The absolute coolest thing is that I’ve never run out of ideas. There are so many delicious ways to kill someone that I’m always anxious to start the next book. I also love developing a “theme” I can carry through the entire book. It can be something like wine tasting or Halloween or a hurricane – a kind of hook that weaves its way through your storyline.

Nadaness In Motion: How many years have elapsed between book 1 and book 20?
Laura Childs: It’s been 19 years and book 20 has just come out. I’m also halfway finished with book 21 and have notes for book 22.

Nadaness In Motion: How many books do you write per year?
Laura Childs: It varies between 1 and 4 books. Last year was a super busy writing year with 4 books, this year I’m slacking off and writing 2 books.

Nadaness In Motion: Has your writing process changed over the years? For example, have you picked up new hacks that have helped you write better or faster?
Laura Childs: I think I write better and faster because I’m doing it constantly. The imagination is a powerful muscle and the more you bend and stretch it, the more flexible and responsive it becomes. The other thing I do is read constantly – sometimes 3 books a week. It’s amazing what you can learn (plotting, pacing, twists, etc.) by studying other writers!

Nadaness In Motion: Has your former role as CEO and Creative Director of a marketing firm helped you with your books? How so?
Laura Childs: I’m lucky in that I developed the skill to be creative on demand, despite the pressure of tight deadlines. I also have a distinct knack for knowing what appeals to an audience. And I’m pretty darn good at figuring out how to market a product – even when it is my own.

Nadaness In Motion: Since your books can be read as standalones, what aspects do you have to remind your readers of between books?
Laura Childs: Actually, not that much. I do a bit of backgrounding on the main characters, of course. Then I re-introduce some of the secondary characters and then quickly move on to following up with hints or suspicious that I planted in the previous book.

Nadaness In Motion: When you’re not writing or researching something for your books, what would you be doing?
Laura Childs: Traveling, shopping, having lunch with friends. But please realize, I usually write six days a week.

Nadaness In Motion: If you could pick up only one of your series to be made into a TV series, which would it be – and why?
Laura Childs: My Tea Shop Mysteries have already been optioned twice for TV (I’m still waiting), so I think the Scrapbooking Mysteries would be perfect. Since they’re set in New Orleans, the plots could be quite exciting (Mardi Gras, bayous, vampires!) and I’m positive the camera would love the city’s spooky, ethereal atmosphere.

Nadaness In Motion: Apart from book tours, what else do you do to market your books?
Laura Childs: My rule of thumb is that an author needs to do at least 50 different things to publicize a book. My publisher handles about a dozen things (ARCs, contests, press releases, Book Bub, interviews, etc.), so that leaves me doing blog tours, guest posts, Q&A’s, library visits, bookstore visits, book club talks, presentations to librarian groups, web contests, public relations, media relations, industry book show appearances, running print ads and radio spots, promos on, Bookclubbing, Facebook posts, Facebook ads, Bookmovement, DearReader, Kindle Nation, and a whole bunch of other things. It’s exhausting – it almost kills you – but it works.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes on Laura Childs’s newest mystery Broken Bone China.

After catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally, tea shop maven Theodosia and her tea sommelier Drayton bask in a hot air balloon ride. But as the skies darken, a rogue drone buzzes in and strikes a nearby balloon, causing an enormous, fiery explosion. People are dead and one of them is Don Kingsley, software bigwig and owner of a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag.

As Kingsley’s widow presses Theodosia for help, suspects abound in the form of rival antiques dealers, museum representatives, and private collectors. Five million dollars is also missing from the software firm and the fiancé of Angie Congdon (Theodosia’s dear friend and B and B owner) also becomes a prime suspect.

In the midst of all this drama, Theodosia still has to charm her tea shop guests, manage the photo shoot at Drayton’s historic home, and pull off a Beaux Arts Tea, her most elaborate tea party yet. In the tradition of all Laura Childs’s previous New York Times bestselling thriller-cozies (thrillzies!), Broken Bone China delivers a breakneck pace, heart-warming moments, and recipes that include Eggnog Scones, Strawberry Butter, Banana Pudding Pie, Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms, and Sea Scallops with Brown Butter.

2020 Update:
In March 2020, I had the pleasure of - finally - reading one of Laura Childs' books, namely book 21 in the Tea Shop Mystery Series, Lavender Blue Murder.

About the Author:
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop MysteriesScrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.
Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:
The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.
The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!
The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Connect with Laura Childs via her Website and Facebook.

Purchase Links

Amazon B&N Kobo Google Play

Keep up with the rest of the tour, including reviews, more interviews, guest posts, and spotlights!

5 March - The Avid Reader – Book Review & Mysteries with Character – Author Interview 
6 March - Reading Authors – Book Review & fundinmental – Spotlight
7 March - A Holland Reads – Book Review & Babs Book Bistro – Spotlight 
March– My Journey Back-The Journey Back & A Wytch's Book Review Blog – Book Reviews
March – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – Book Review Celticlady's Reviews – Spotlight
10 March - Cozy Up With Kathy - Book Review StoreyBook Reviews – Spotlight
11 March – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – Spotlight A Chick Who Reads – Book Review
12 March – Nadaness In Motion – Author Interview & I'm Into Books – Spotlight
13 March – The Book Diva's Reads – Spotlight Valerie's Musings – Book Review
14 March – The Book's the Thing – Book Review + Guest Post  & Ruff Drafts – Spotlight
15 March Community Bookstop – Book Review View from the Birdhouse – Spotlight
16 March– Here's How It Happened - Book Review & Brooke Blogs – Guest Post 
17 March - A Blue Million Books – Author Interview & Laura’s Interests – Book Review
18 March – Melina's Book Blog & Lisa Ks Book Review Book Reviews & The Montana Bookaholic – Guest Post