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Book Review: Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

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Mardi Gras Murder (Cajun Country Mystery, #4)Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really excited to read Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron after winning a copy via a cozy mystery review group I belong to. I was so excited that I ordered the first three books in the Cajun Country series to catch up and read them all last month. Finally… today I cracked open the fresh hard cover release of this fourth wonderful gem and finished it moments ago. Dinner doesn’t need to be cooked for another 30 minutes so it’s time to write a review! All I can say is Byron knows how to pull in her readers with a fury and passion. Loved it… 5 stars all the way!

In this caper, our wonderful heroine, Maggie, found the body in the bayou behind her plantation home three weeks before the book started. And it wasn’t someone she’d ever met before — hooray, the poor girl got a break… except she can’t keep herself from investigating it. This time I blame it entirely on Gran’ who gets sick and convinces Maggie to take her place as a judge in the Miss Pelican contest (okay, a slightly different name but I prefer this one!). After a minor confrontation with another judge, Maggie finds him dead in his car. Throw in some baby drama, a mysterious painting pointing to a hidden treasure, curious genealogical history, and a beauty contest like no other, and we’ve got a fantastic novel.

Maggie’s truly become one of my favorite amateur sleuths. She’s smart and risky but not stupid and dangerous. She’s loving but not overly sweet. She’s intellectual but makes a fool of herself. I kinda wanna meet her in real life… wait, is this Ellen Byron? Hmmm… I might have to become an amateur sleuth and investigate for myself. (Don’t worry, I’m not gonna go stalk anyone!) This series has so much potential, but I’m actually a bit upset and just realized it right now. This book isn’t officially available for purchase until 11/26/18 which means the next one likely one be available until November 2019. What? I have to wait a year to read the next caper… ugh, gonna go sulk!

Psst… Ellen B – if you happen to read this, can I be a beta reader for your next book? PLEASE!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron

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A Cajun Christmas Killing (Cajun Country Mystery #3)A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m thrilled to be caught up on the Cajun Country Mystery series by Ellen Byron. I won the 4th book in a contest and will be reading it next month, but beforehand I had to read the first three. I just finished A Cajun Christmas Killing and absolutely loved it. Byron is top-notch when it comes to this genre, and I’ve read hundreds of books to know what I’m talking about!

Maggie’s family’s b&b is in trouble again. Luckily no one’s died on her property, but one of her guests dies on the family plantation that they sold a few years earlier. Will they ever get a break? A ruthless NYC businessman with a penchant for annoying people turns up stabbed to death. Was it his disinterested wife? A loving step-brother? An ex? A nephew? A business partner? Or someone with a different connection who wanted him gone for treachery in the past? It’s convoluted but that’s always the best kind of mystery. Throw in Christmas bonfires, Maggie’s romance with Bo, her ex-bf returning much to her chagrin, and a proposal from someone new, and she’s gonna be grilled herself.

Byron creates superb characters. They leap off the page and demand to be heard. Sometimes you love them, other times you want to strangle them. But you will always feel something for them. The pages turn themselves, it’s so easy and natural. Rarely if ever do I find a dull scene or anything transitory. Everything has a purpose whether it’s about the main mystery or the progression of the core character set. I am so excited to start the next one in the series for my review group. If you’ve never sampled this series, it’s a must read!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron

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Body on the Bayou (Cajun Country Mystery, #2)Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

After devouring the first book in the Cajun Country Mystery cozy series by Ellen Byron, I had to jump on the second, Body on the Bayou. It’s quickly becoming one of my new favorites series, and I definitely recommend it for other cozy mystery fans. Set in Louisiana on a plantation home converted into a B&B, the charming setting and characters truly invoke a wonderful southern atmosphere while sharing and spreading great history and relationships among the town of Pelican.

In this caper, Maggie is forced into serving as the maid of honor for a rival-turned-friend (Vanessa) from the last book. She and the groom’s family have been at odds for 150 years due to a curse one of them brewed up. When Vanessa’s extended family comes into town, she sticks them on Maggie as part of the responsibilities for the maid of honor. Unfortunately, a few of them turn up dead! Maggie tries to solve the case, grows more attracted to the new detective Bo, and determines who she really wants to be. Will she be able to help bring a long-lost family member back to the fold? Or will she get caught up in the downside of a wedding not meant to happen easily?

Byron is a talented writer with tons of humor ingested into dialog and narrative. It sometimes crosses the line into witty or stomach-cramping clearly showing great range in how to keep your readers invested and entertained. The pages are easy to follow, I digested this one in under 3 hours. It’s got 4.5 stars from me… the only reason I didn’t give it a full five was parts of the story were a little forced — nonetheless, it made for fantastic reading and shouldn’t worry anyone. This is a very solid series. I can’t wait to devour the next one in a week as I try to catch up on this awesome cast of characters so I can read the ARC for the latest one next month.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

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Plantation Shudders (Cajun Country Mystery, #1)Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Earlier this week, I was selected to receive a copy of the fourth book in this series. I had been meaning to try the series for a while, but couldn’t get out of the TBR slump. Since I prefer reading books in order when they’re part of a series, I had to order the first three and finish them before I needed to review the latest one. I picked this up yesterday and finished it within three hours. It’s a quick-n-easy read but full of wonderful characters, descriptions and scenes. I highly recommend the series and will definitely keep reading the rest.

Maggie split with her boyfriend of 6 years after running a successful business in NYC together. He finally proposed [to another girl!] and took the company away from Maggie, so she went home to Louisiana to figure out her next steps. Her family (parents and grandmother) run a B&B out of their plantation home– the nicest but also one of the last still standing. There is a long-time rivalry between her family and another, and unfortunately, the Chief of Police belongs to that other family. Oops, poor Maggie’s gonna have quite an uphill battle if she keeps getting pulled into the role of an amateur sleuth. When the detective on the case retires, a new one from a larger town in the state arrives to takeover… but he’s related to the Chief, part of the family who has a grudge against her, and is a smoldering man she dreams about. The series has a perfect setup and backdrop, and then in this initial book, several guests die while staying at the B&B. How are they connected? Who’s the murderer? And what’s the history that’s got someone all shook up to cause the ‘plantation shudders?’

Byron excels at creating ambiance. You can tell from her word choice and style that she’s been to Louisiana and experienced the culture. I researched her a bit and now understand her fascination with everything Cajun. My other half is from LA, so I’m very familiar with all Byron’s described, and she lives in NYC and writes for TV. We have lots of stuff in common, so it’s no wonder I adored this first book. It has everything I want in a cozy from humor to emotion, sarcasm to educational tidbits. The characters made me happy and angry, everything is believable, and I really felt a strong connection with the way the story unfolded. I can’t wait to read the next one this weekend!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

365 Challenge: Day 197 – Estate

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Estate: A ‘few’ pictures of the Biltmore Estate from yesterday’s tours in Asheville, Nort Carolina

bilt

Ryder is on vacation in NYC. He sends me pictures and videos each day of his walks, playtime and morning treats. He wanted to tell you all that he’s very happy and wishes he was on the trip with me. He’ll return for his own posts next week. As for the Dads, we spent most of Saturday and Sunday touring the Biltmore Estate. I could generate tons of posts from this part of the trip, and I may do a few special ones upon returning; however, for now, it’s just the pictures from the basic tour. I went on an Upstairs/Downstairs Tour which shows you everything basically comparing it to Downton Abbey. I then took the Roof Top tour which shows you all the inner workings of the estate’s technology, construction and rooftop peaks. Yes, I was all over the roof and thru crawl way spaces and attics. And the final tour was in an outdoor vehicle all over the grounds. More to come, but enjoy the pics from today’s general tour of America’s largest privately owned estate home.

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About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

365 Challenge: Day 196 – Country (Top 10)

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Country: (a) the third entry in the list series for Jay’s favorite pastimes, (b) a part of the US that is beautiful to visit

country.jpg

Sunday posts, the end of each week, have become a theme on This-Is-My-Truth-Now, organized by groups of five (5) focused on interesting things about my life. I’m continuing the trend of the seventh day, ending the week on Sunday, as a list (we know I love them) that provides more in depth knowledge about me.

  • Weeks 1 – 5: Primary ethnicity groups and nationalities
  • Weeks 6 – 10: A to Z Favorites
  • Weeks 11 – 15: Colors with an important meaning
  • Weeks 16 – 20: Cities I’ve lived
  • Weeks 21 – 25: Jobs I’ve held

The current set of 5 Sundays covers the top 10 countries Jay has visited or researched extensively and would like to visit or live in; however, since I’m on a vacation and unable to post a lot, this is just a brief list and some pictures of the ‘country’ trip to Asheville, North Carolina. The ‘Top 10’ list for countries listed below, other than the USA, come from places I’ve either been and loved, or I know I want to I want to visit, as potential options for the future as a home or extended vacation. There are tons of other ones that I think would be cool, but these all have a special place in my heart, e.g. ancestry, things to do, culture or historical educational review:

  1. Canada
  2. Spain
  3. England
  4. Argentina
  5. France
  6. Scotland
  7. Ireland
  8. Australia
  9. Germany
  10. Italy

Below are all the pictures from today’s drive between Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. It includes a few pictures from the Great Smoky Mountains, Cherokee Indian Nation properties and the views from the hotel where I am staying on the Biltmore property. More to come this week when I share all the pictures from the Biltmore House and grounds.

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About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

365 Challenge: Day 72 – American

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American: originating or coming from the United States of America (USA)

As I wandered the apartment this morning, prepping for an interview and thinking about the 365 daily post, the word American popped into my head. In the first five weeks of the challenge, I choose the primary ethnicity groups that made up who I am.  I suddenly realized I never spoke about being an American. But what exactly does that mean and how has it changed over the last ~ 250 years. Two key things to clarify before I start babbling: (1) I am not political and (2) This will not be a “rah-rah” post about the greatness of my country — not because it isn’t, but because that’s not the type of blog I would post, given I’m more the kind of person who asks questions rather than provides answers. Back to the topic at hand…

Over the last ~250 years since America was created in the late 18th century, people have defined themselves as American based on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I agree with all of those beliefs, and I am proud and grateful for all of the liberties we have; however, what does it mean to be an American in today’s society? I believe it’s changed over the years, based on how we’ve grown as people and as a country. Not so much as in “How do other countries view us?” as that would be getting political, which I won’t do on a blog. But… what do you think of when you say “I am an American.” For me, a few key “normal every day” things come to mind… and I mean this seriously, not as a joke:

  • Apple Pie

  • Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

  • Hollywood

  • Stock Market

  • Tipping

  • Convenience

convnient.jpg

There are tons of other things I could have added, some judgmental and some humble, but I am not going for a controversial post… I’m going for the casual feel of “oh, yeah, that just feels American to me.”

  1. Apple Pie
    • There is the saying “as American as apple pie,” which is a well-known quote.
    • There’s the movie “American Pie,” which provides a pretty strong commentary on what it’s like growing up in American high schools and colleges.
    • Towns fight over the best way to make apple pie: type of crust, covered or uncovered, which apples, sweet or fruity…
    • I enjoy apple pie, but it wouldn’t be my first dessert. Desserts in my world require chocolate.
    • I don’t think I represent America well, when it comes to apple pie.
  2. Hot Dogs & Hamburgers
    • Quintessential BBQ food, especially on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
    • Have been turned into a gourmet food in some places, i.e. how many different ways can you re-invent this staple of the “American diet.”
    • I won’t eat hot dogs as I’m not a fan of mystery meat, even when it’s “all beef.”
    • I’ll have a hamburger every once in a while, but I much prefer filet mignon or steak tartare. I’m obnoxious, I know.
  3. Hollywood
    • Included because it’s where everyone goes and talks about, when it comes to entertainment.
    • From Old Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s to today’s super-idolized gossip and drama, it’s been a staple defining the country for an entire century.
    • Everyone talks about TV/Film Hollywood stars; it’s the go-to conversation more than books, plays, sports… it’s a universal standard for things to talk about.
    • I enjoy films and TV shows. I talk about them. But I’m more apt to talk about books. I don’t follow or track celebrities, nor do I care if I pass one on the street. It’s a secondary thing in my life, not a driver.
  4. Stock Market
    • Driven the world’s economical impacts for many years. I’m not saying it’s the only driver, but it’s been an influential piece for nearly two centuries.
    • It’s on the news every day, especially lately!
    • It’s used as a way to judge “how the world is doing” instead of looking at how people treat one another.
    • I know a little bit about it. I invest in it. I check a few key numbers each day, but that’s more because I like watching counts go up/down and measuring numbers from day to day, regardless of if it’s the stock market or the weather.
  5. Tipping
    • The US seems to have its own tipping standards, and the rest of the world is not a fan of how it works here.
    • In all my 40 years, I still struggle with understanding exactly when to tip and when not to, i.e. maintenance in my building, deliveries, services. I probably over-tip as a result, but it’s painful even for Americans!
    • I always thought 15% to 20% was the scale. 15% if it was so-so, 20% if it was stellar. Now, I see 22.5%, 25% and 30% on receipts, taxi screens, etc. So confusing!
    • My standard now is 20% for 8 out of 10 occasions. If I had a problem with the service, I’ll drop it to 15%. If it was awesome, I’ll leave 25%.
  6. Convenience
    • In the past, it feels like the motto was either “Work hard and you’ll achieve your goals,” or “Nothing worth having is easy.” Or some paraphrasing around those messages.
    • Now, it feels like the focus is “How can we get something done quicker, faster, cheaper?” Certainly has been prevalent in history before, but now… with technology, it’s all about pushing the envelope even more.
    • Everything is being designed to accomplish more in as little time or space as possible
      • On one hand, this is great if we are saving our environment or resources.
      • It’s exhausting us and causing more illness.
    • I feel like people often think “they take it easy in America” when it comes to just doing or saying whatever we want. I would agree we are definitely all about the convenience, but at the same time, we take the worst vacations (meaning we work the entire time, and there’s little work-life balance).
    • Me personally… eh, I tend to try to do as much as possible in as little as possible time, so I probably fit this one fairly well.

So…. 6 things I think of when I hear the word “American.” All non-political and non-controversial. I’m not focusing on the land of the free… all important stuff, but I purely wanted a reflective moment, not an argumentative one.

How about you? What other attributes do you think are American? Which of these do you fit in? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve noted?

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.