Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Blackfriar Murders, A Cosy Mystery Series: Book One: At the Bottom of the Stairs by M’Lissa Moorecroft

The Blackfriar Murders, A Cosy Mystery Series: Book One: At the Bottom of the Stairs
By: M'Lissa Moorecroft

Published: January 2016
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle for PC
Genre: Mystery, Short Story 

Rating: 2.5/5

I was sent a copy of At the Bottom of the Stairs by M’Lissa Moorecroft from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Outside the small coastal town of Black Rock, California sits an old converted mansion, which is now home to a cast of colorful characters from a variety of different backgrounds. Each tenant has their own secrets and know very little about each other. That is except for the building gossip, who just happens to die after a fall down the stairs.

I was intrigued by the synopsis of At the Bottom of the Stairs, due in part to the mysterious mention of the Blackfriar tenants wanting to escape their past lives. At less than 60 pages, this short story was chalk full of the character descriptions and their backstories.

The introduction gave a list that almost read like a play. In fact the idea for At the Bottom of the Stairs could easily be turned into, just that; a play.

The setting and the mystery kept my attention, but I felt the need for some editing and refinement kept me from enjoying it even more. Also due in part to the immense amount of character development, I felt the story could have been much longer. However this is only the beginning of M’Lissa Moorecroft’s series about the Blackfriar tenants. 

M’Lissa Moorecroft’s Blackfriar Mystery Series include:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Guest Post: Author Carl Schmidt & "Dead Down East" Book Spotlight

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Carl Schmidt to Melissa Lee's Many Reads. He will be sharing his thoughts on "Writing with Humor". Also be sure to check out his mystery novel "Dead Down East".

Writing With Humor(by Carl Schmidt)

Humor involves surprise and misdirection, and requires that the reader, or the listener, not take things too seriously. Consider the third verse in Bob Dylan’s song, “Memphis Blues” for example:

Mona tried to tell me
Stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine
An' I said, ‘Oh, I didn't know that,’
But then again, there's only one I've met
An' he just smoked my eyelids
An' punched my cigarette

At this point in the song, Dylan doesn’t wait for you to get the joke; he charges into the chorus, “Oh, Mama…” while his droll juxtaposition of “eyelids” and “cigarette” is just beginning to take shape in your mind. This sudden change of direction makes the refrain even wittier.
Many of us think of intelligence as the comprehension of truth and beauty, and that mirth lies in some separate region. I don’t. Humor expands the intellect, making it more complete and satisfying. Intelligence without humor is like a fine meal without wine, dessert or espresso.
In his poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats penned the famous line:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

To which I reply, “Without humour, ye be living in a wasteland.”

When writing fiction in the first person, internal dialogue reveals the inner workings of the protagonist’s mind and is a great place to inject comedy into the narrative.
Jesse Thorpe is the narrator/private detective of my mystery novel, Dead Down East. Jesse has a cheeky sense of humor, which he allows to leak out now and again, not just because he likes to have fun, but also to maintain calm when things get perilous. The first really dicey moment for him occurs in the middle of chapter four, as he is trying to worm his way through an FBI roadblock. In the first draft, I had chosen that moment to insert a rather lengthy internal monologue, to expose the witty side of Jesse’s nature. I was having so much fun with it that by the time I was done, it was almost fifteen hundred words long. And while I liked the tension it created by suspending the dramatic moment in mid-air—for several pages—eventually I decided that it would be more effective as a prologue for the book. This way, on the very first page, the reader gets a preview of the inner workings of Jesse’s mind, a snapshot of his modus operandi and a quick peak at his girlfriend.
What follows are the first two paragraphs of that prologue. I hope it serves to demonstrate the use of humor in writing, and, most of all, I hope it tickles your funny bone.

Apologies and compliments are two remarkably effective devices for disarming adversaries in life and hecklers in bars. If you consider the socially adept people you know, you’ll see that they use these two conversational tools frequently and with ease. I remember the first time it fully dawned on me how valuable they could be.
Angele and I had been dating for a couple of weeks. Our next planned event was scheduled for Saturday night. So I was a bit surprised when she arrived unexpectedly at my place on Tuesday evening. I guess she decided that there was something that couldn’t wait until the weekend. The moment she walked through the front door, I began to suspect what that “something” was. She had a gleam in her eyes that seared me from the inside of my nimble imagination right down to my insteps. I surmised that she was either ovulating, or she had a sudden urge for a tour of the Thorpe habitat. I began to mentally review the floor plan of the house. “Now, where is my bedroom?” I thought. “I know it was here this morning.”

Carl Schmidt  (Author of Dead Down East)

Carl Schmidt graduated from Denver University with a degree in mathematics and physics. As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow he studied mathematics at Brown University.

Carl lived and traveled widely throughout Asia for seven years, including two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and five years in Japan, where he taught English.

Carl has spent dozens of summers in Maine, on lakes and in the woods. He chose it as the setting for this novel because he loves its rugged natural beauty and the charming idiosyncrasies of Mainers. He has also written and recorded three musical albums. This, along with his formal education, proved invaluable when molding the persona and voice of Jesse Thorpe, the narrator of Dead Down East, and endowing him with both a creative eye for detail and a sense of humor.

Dead Down East is the first novel in the Jesse Thorpe Mystery Series, which includes A Priestly Affair and Redbone.  In 2001, New Falcon Press published his non-fictional book, A Recipe for Bliss: Kriya Yoga for a New Millennium.

Currently, he is a freelance writer living in Sedona, Arizona with his lovely wife, Holly, and their faithful German shorthaired pointer, Alize.


Dead Down East (by Carl Schmidt) 

Dead Down East, a fictional murder mystery, is both detective noir and smart screwball comedy rolled into one. Jesse Thorpe, a young private investigator operating out of Augusta, Maine, receives a mysterious phone call from a former client, Cynthia Dumais.  She begs to be rescued from an island south of Brunswick, within a mile of where William Lavoilette, the governor or Maine, was assassinated the night before. She insists that her life is in danger, but is unwilling to provide any further information. Reluctantly, Jesse goes to fetch her.

Within a week, Jesse has three separate clients, each with his, or her, own desperate need to have the murder solved. He assembles a motley team of compadres, including rock band members, a tie-dye psychic and his rousing girlfriend, Angele Boucher, to help him with the case. While the FBI and the Maine State Police investigate political motives, Jesse looks for the woman—Cherchez la Femme—as the trail draws him through the lives, and DNA, of the governor’s former mistresses.

Fresh, witty and loaded with eccentric characters, this first novel in the Jesse Thorpe Mystery Series is both clever and stylish. It’s an old-school private eye tale with inventive twists and local charm. If you enjoy a well-crafted and zesty narrative, lively banter, or take pleasure in the company of Mainers, you’ll love Dead Down East.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Guest Post: Viv Newman "The Forgotten Women of the First War"

Today (November 11th) is Remembrance Day here in Canada. As we pause to remember all the soldiers who fought for our freedom, it is important to also honor the women who gave up their lives as well. 

Please welcome author Viv Newman to Melissa Lee's Many Reads.. I hope you all find her post as fascinating to read as I did. 

Thank you so much Melissa for inviting me to post about “The Forgotten Women of the First World War”.

‘She Knew the Meaning of Sacrifice’
“Armistice Day”, “Remembrance Sunday”, the traditional days when we remember The Fallen.  But how many of us pause to wonder about the women who perished in The Great War?  When researching We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War, I was amazed to discover that between 1914 and 1918 around 2,000 women from Allied countries died due to their war service.  Here are the stories of just three of them.

In 1915, New Zealand Army Staff Nurse Margaret Rogers, wrote home to her father, “There is no romance about war; it spells suffering, hunger, filth”.  She was one of 36 professional nurses about to set sail from Alexandria in Egypt to Salonika (now Thessalonika) with British and New Zealand soldiers on H.T. Marquette.  At 9.15 am on 23rd October 1915, a torpedo hit Marquette; as a troopship, she was a legitimate target for enemy action.  She sank within ten minutes.  When after upwards of eight hours in the sea, the few survivors were rescued, it was obvious that the New Zealand Nursing service had received a significant blow.  Weighed down by their voluminous uniforms, nine nurses had perished; Acting Matron Cameron, had suffered what today’s newspapers would call ‘life-changing injuries’.  She never worked again.  Of the nurses who drowned that October morning, only one body was identifiable thanks to her watch.  The case was engraved ‘Margaret Rogers’.  The names of Marquette victims and the many other New Zealand nurses who served their country with pride and devotion in far-flung corners of the globe, are remembered in the Christ Church Nurses’ Memorial Chapel - which has withstood two demolition attempts and an earthquake.  The names of those whom it commemorates ‘liveth for ever more’.

Canadian Army Nursing Service nurse Agnes Forneri arrived in England in April 1917, her head held high, her heart full of sorrow.  The previous month her brother Lieutenant David had been killed in action at Vimy.  Now more determined than ever to serve Canadian soldiers, Agnes spent several months on the Western Front during the terrible Battle of Passchendaele.  In January 1918, she was invalided back to England suffering from ‘ptomaine poisoning and bronchitis’, aggravated by ‘active service conditions.’  She returned to duty at No.12 Canadian General Hospital in Bramshott, before she was fully fit.  She collapsed in April 1918 with a violent stomach haemorrhage, dying a week later.  The stated cause of her death was ‘multiple peptic ulcers’.  However, it is probable that, like other nurses including American Helen Fairchild, exposure to poison gas contributed to her death.  Buried with full military honours, one journalist felt ‘it is most fitting that our dear Canadian sisters should be buried like soldiers and in a soldier’s grave, for they are indeed as brave and true as any soldier.’  She lies with fellow Canadian service personnel at Bramshott Churchyard in Southern England, one of the 977 foreign nurses who had travelled from the four corners of the earth to war-torn France and lost their lives through their actions.  These nurses’ sacrifices are commemorated on an ornate memorial in the French city of Reims.  Passers-by who visit the memorial are requested to pause and ‘Remember Them’ – not only on Armistice Day but throughout the year.

New Zealander Margaret and Canadian Agnes perished far from home.  Belgian shop assistant Gabrielle Petit died in her native city – although it was one that by 1916 she barely recognized for Brussels was occupied by Germany.  Twenty-one-year-old Gabrielle was one of the most accomplished spies working behind enemy lines – she saw herself as a soldier in the Allied cause.  Having undergone espionage training in London, once back in Brussels, she created her own cell and network and supplied meticulous vital information on trains, troop movements and armaments.  The British authorities saw her as one of their most reliable agents.

Gabrielle Petit
postcard author’s own collection
Very aware of the dangers she faced, Gabrielle claimed that ‘If I die in service,’ my death will be ‘like a soldier’s’.  For several months she passed undetected until the German occupiers became increasingly suspicious of this seemingly simple shop assistant.  They watched her every move.  Having successfully evaded capture on one occasion, on 20 January 1916, her luck gave out.  Betrayed, arrested and tried, she was sentenced to ‘Death by Firing Squad’.  On 1 April 1916, handcuffed to the execution post, she proudly mocked her assembled executioners, ‘You will see that a young Belgian woman knows how to die. (Vous allez voir comment une jeune fille belge sait mourir.’)  Seconds later, she lay dead.  Most of Brussels, let alone the outside world, oblivious to her fate. 

Yet, recognition finally came.  Post war, her body was exhumed and re-buried in an elaborate ceremony and, in 1923 a memorial was unveiled at Place Saint-Jean in Brussels.  But the statue is not the representation of a martyred victim (which the city had commissioned) nor even heroine but that of a defiant ‘ordinary’ woman who, like all the women who gave their lives in the service of their country, accepted that her own life, when weighed against her nation’s cause, counted for little. 

As we remember The Fallen, this Armistice Day, let us also honour Margaret, Agnes and Gabrielle and indeed all the women of the Great War who ‘knew the meaning of sacrifice’.  Their lives, deaths and war stories are retold, many for the first time, in We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War (Pen and Sword).  Available from Amazon.  Visit to learn more about women in The Great War.

Viv has three books in publication about women in the Great War – and a fourth on the way for late 2017.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Wrap-up: November 5, 2016

Hello everyone,

Did you all have a good Halloween? It was pretty uneventful on my end. We don't get any trick or treaters here but we always have candy on hand just in case. Who am I trying to kid? We buy the candy to eat ourselves, haha.

I was surprised to hear from my friends and family who did give out candy, that numbers were way down compared to other years. I remember when I was younger the streets would be streaming with kids in costumes and at some houses there would be lineups at the doors.

My Reading Progress
I am happy to report that I am slowly catching up with my reading. I started and completed another book this past week..

 At the Bottom of the Stairs is a short story that is part of a mystery series. My review will be up later this month.

Currently Reading
Next up on on my TBR pile.. 

I started to read this book a couple of months ago, but the file expired before I could finish it. Then I was sent a physical copy from TLC Book Tours. I'm looking forward to getting back into this one as I was really enjoying it.

On the Blog
I have a two different guest posts from authors coming up within the next few weeks. Be sure to check back for those.


Hosted by: Book Date

Thursday, November 3, 2016

TLC Book Tour: Book Review: The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel

The Whiskey Sea
By: Ann Howard Creel 

Published: August 2016
Published By: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

I was sent a copy of The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel by the publisher via the TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review. 

Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea. The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water. When Silver sells his fishing boat to WWI veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda, she’s outraged. But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won’t have to marry. 
Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic’s wages won’t support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor. Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work—and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who’s in it just for fun.
As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground—and to a love that will sustain her?

The Prohibition era is a time I find fascinating and have enjoyed several movies and television shows set during those years. When I saw that this was the setting for The Whiskey Sea, I jumped at the chance to join in on the book tour.

During a time when a woman’s place was said to be in the home, our main character Frieda broke conventions to become a boat mechanic, in order to support her younger sister and adoptive father. This would lead her down the path towards the dangerous job of rum running.

I expected a story with a lot of excitement and danger, however it focused more on Frieda’s moral compass and romantic interest. It moved along a bit too slowly for my liking and I had a hard time connecting with the main character.

Although The Whiskey Sea might not have been the right book for me, I would recommend it to those who enjoy slower paced historical fiction.