Review-Assaulted Caramel: An Amish Candy Shop Mystery #1 by Amanda Flower

Assaulted Caramel

Book Info

Title: Assaulted Caramel

Series: Book One in the Amish Candy Shop series

Author: Amanda Flower

Published by: Kensington Books. Mass market edition. 329 pages.

Genre: Fiction, Cozy Mystery

The Book-Assaulted Caramel

Baily King lives in New York City and is up for promotion to head chocolatier at world famous JP Chocolates. But she returns home to Harvest, Ohio, a fictional town set in Ohio’s Amish country, when she receives word from her grandmother, Clara King, that Bailey’s grandfather, Jebediah King, is in poor health. Baily, though not Amish herself, is close to her Amish grandparents, especially her grandfather. He is the reason she is a chocolatier; as co-owner of Swissmen’s Sweets candy shop with her grandmother, Bailey learned about candy-making during summers spent in Ohio.

But what was initially planned as a short visit home turns into a murder investigation when Baily finds Tyson Colton, a greedy developer who had been unsuccessfully pressuring Jebediah King to sell his shop, dead in Swissmen’s Sweets kitchen with Jeb King’s candy knife buried in Colton’s chest.

Bailey can’t leave Harvest; the sheriff considers her a prime suspect in Colton’s murder. His order to stay puts her promotion at JP Chocolates at risk since she may not be back in New York City in time for the announcement. Also, the continual stress isn’t good for her grandfather’s health, so Bailey decides to help, in her own way, the sheriff department’s investigation. As a result, she keeps running into Deputy Aiden Brody and must constantly remind herself Eric Sharp, a well-known chef back in New York, is her boyfriend.

Assaulted Caramel is the first book in award-winning author Amanda Flower’s latest series, the Amish Candy Shop mysteries. Assaulted Caramel is a cozy mystery with plenty of red herrings to keep a reader guessing and humor to keep the chuckles coming throughout the book. I’m not a cozy mystery fan, unless it is one of Flower’s books, then I can’t get my hands on the latest book fast enough. Chapter One of the next book in the series, Lethal Licorice, is included at the end of Assaulted Caramel.

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On Backstory-“The Highwayman” by Craig Johnson

The Highwayman

By Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson is one of my favorite authors. He writes the Western/mystery series Longmire and has just released The Highwayman, the latest book in the series.

The Backstory

The Highwayman is a ghost story, and the idea for the book came from a conversation Johnson had with a buddy who is also a Wyoming Highway Patrolman. They were discussing a favorite part of the state, The Wind River Scenic Byway, and the patrolman mentioned how it used to be called “no-man’s land” by the old-timers because the granite cliffs blocked radio transmissions. And so the book was born. Read more on the novella’s backstory here

My Backstory with Longmire

I was introduced to the Longmire books through the TV show Longmire, which currently airs on Netflix (with season 5 scheduled to air this fall—September, maybe?). What draws me into Johnson’s books (and the TV series) are the characters, especially the friendship between Walt Longmire and his boyhood friend Henry Standing Bear. Their relationship spans decades—a rarity in our world—and for Henry and Walt, it is a relationship worth fighting for. After reading the first book in the series, I ordered the box set. Patience isn’t one of my virtues; when done with one, I wanted to start right into the next. I also should add, I ordered the books after reading several at the library. I wanted my own. 🙂
I also enjoy the humor Johnson brings to his writing, as well as the way he integrates the Wyoming landscape into his work. The novels are written in first person, in Walt’s point of view. Added bonus—newsletter subscribers get a brand new story in the inboxes on Christmas morning. 🙂 Johnson’s next novel, *An Obvious Fact” is available for pre-order; check out his website under the “Books” menu.

Outside Story

Craig Johson’s website
Twitter

Related to the television series:
Longmire Posse on Twitter

Longmire Posse on Facebook

Buried Gold

Buried Gold
by Cheryl Russell

The mound of dirt blankets the pine box that’s planted deep in the Kansas prairie, and the smell of still-damp earth carries past me on the wind. The townsfolk are gone now, leaving me alone with rows of tombstones. I leave the solitary spot where I’d watched the living give up the dead to the earth.

As I walk, I feel like I’m back in the river bottom with mud sucking at my boots. But it isn’t mire that pulls at me, threatening to halt my steps, but the loss of something I’ll never have again. I turn up my coat collar against the bitter November wind, but it doesn’t do any good. The wind cuts through me and binds with the coldness that has entombed my heart. Not even a coat made out of the thickest buffalo hide will thaw the ice buried deep within a man.

Shadows stretch across the graves as the sun slips away; telling me the train arrives soon. Not much time for me to do what I’d come to do. The wind bites harder as I make my way through the small graveyard. Shadows obscure the markers, making it harder to read what’s carved into the stone.

Weather has yet to erase the names and dates, making those buried here no more than a memory. Her father and brother were up all night, to get her marker ready for today. Their work stands all over this small patch of ground, touchstones for those left behind.

I feel the slab’s coldness through my thick gloves. I pull them off and trace the dates on the headstone, numbers so new that dust from the carving still rests in the curves. They say a lot, those dates, but they also don’t say enough. For anyone taking the time to stop, they’ll know she was born May 23, 1900, in the season before the heat of the Kansas sun baked the prairie brown; when wildflowers were still new; while the calves still frolicked in the fields. They’ll also know she was only eighteen when she died here, in November, when the dead grass rasps in the wind, wildflowers long gone, and cattle slaughtered for winter supplies. But they won’t know the laughter and the life behind the name chiseled in the slab Elizabeth Grace Murphy. But I remember the laughter that chased away my gloom, the life that gave mine meaning when others proclaimed I had none.

My earliest memory is Lizzie chasing me after I’d swiped her doll. It wasn’t nothing more than a corn cob, wearing a scrap for clothing, but I’d sorely underestimated Lizzie’s attachment to that dried piece of vegetation, a mistake I was wise enough not to repeat. But it was the start of a good friendship.

Both Lizzie and I are…were…misfits in our small town, she for missing an arm and me for being mixed blood. But I took no notice of her stump and she never put me down for my dark eyes and dark skin in a town full of blue-eyed blondes. School was only bearable because she was there, my friend, us against the schoolyard world. Summers, when we were done with our farm chores, we’d go swimming in the creek or fishing in the pond. Berry-picking when the berries were ripe. I’d help her with her buckets when they were full, which was often. Lizzie could pick berries with one hand faster than most people worked with both. We spent winters skating at the frozen-over swimming hole, building snowmen under her direction, defending her against the Bloughers boys’ snowballs. Younger than me by three years, Lizzie taught me how to live. But not anymore. The influenza claimed my Lizzie one day ago, just liked it claimed the Shultz’s new baby, Ivan Durr’s wife, and left the seven Sleutz children without their mama. I’m here to tell my Lizzie goodbye. I can’t live here without her, facing the scorn of those who refuse to accept me as I am.

The shadows are deeper now, the farthest stones hard to see. The train will be here soon, and I need to be on it when it goes. I don’t know where I’m heading, because I’m lost without her, the one who’ll hold my heart until I see her again on the other side.

I pull a small cloth from a pocket inside my coat, a place of safekeeping for a moment that will never come, for her or another. The wrapping falls away, and in the fading light I trace the gold band.

The train’s faint whistle as it approaches town says it’s time to re-wrap the ring. Unfastening my coat and squatting down, I thrust my hand deep into the soft earth that surrounds the headstone. It’s hard to dig a hole with fingers stiffened by the cold, but I do and place the ring inside. No need to take it with me, for Lizzie’s it was and will always be. Death snatched away the chance to ask her and those precious words will never be spoken to another. I tamp the earth back into place. Before I stand, I touch

the spot above her heart, my fingerprints in the dust my final goodbye.

The train squeals to a stop at the station. I stand and turn away, not caring that my coat is open to the wind, my hands numb with the cold. Nothing matters, as I leave in the dead earth the only reason I ever had to live.

More on Literary Citizenship

 

photo from LoriAMay.com

photo from LoriAMay.com

The Write Crowd Literary Citizenship & the Writing Life by Lori A. May is a fantastic resource for those interested in promoting all things reading and writing–in becoming a (better) literary citizen.

The phrase “literary citizenship” may appear to be new, but as May points out in her book, it “is anything but” new. Authors, by the nature of their work, are solitary, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Writers need other writers to share the hardships and successes, but writers also need readers. It’s a partnership—without one, the other wouldn’t exist.

So what are ways to promote this relationship? The benefits of reading and writing are numerous and important; ongoing research continues to point this out. May’s short—less than 200 pages—is a trove of ideas for literary citizenship.

This books includes everyone, no matter how much—or how little—time one has to devote to this important role. As writers, our writing time limited, and must be protected, an idea reiterated several time in May’s book. For some reason, even though I’ve heard the same, when I read the same idea in The Write Crowd, it finally clicked—I have permission to guard my writing time. (How I’m going to do that is another topic unto itself.)

What I really liked about May’s book is the variety of ways she gives for literary citizenship, including those of us living in more rural areas, without easy access to readings and activities that gravitate toward larger population centers.

This blog—no matter how sporadic—is practicing literary citizenship, by highlighting another author’s work. Blogging is something I can work into my schedule; traveling hours to hear an author reading—not so much.

I’m also an extreme introvert, with a teaching job I love, but which saps me of energy by the end of the week, so becoming involved with a lot of other people also isn’t a viable option for me right now. I also live in a smaller town. For me, the most helpful chapter (and I can take away something of value from all of the chapters) is Chapter 4 and the “Creating Connections Online” section. I am a writer, but I am a reader first and connecting with like-minded readers can be just as difficult as connecting with writers. In the book, May writes about author Matt Bell. He posts his reading lists online as a way to find like-minded readers, drawing attention to authors and books not necessarily in the mainstream—his “tastes run toward the unconventional and indie presses” (48).

The internet works for me on several different fronts. It allows me to control the time factor—post a blog or not (granted, this goes against the advice for building an audience, but oh well), tweet or retweet about authors and/or books I’m interested in promoting, sharing local events are ways “to feel a part of the global literary conversation” (49). May goes on to say: “The time commitment is variable and customizable too. Sharing news and links through social media takes little time and effort. Yet, there are countless opportunities for focusing a bit more time in shining the spotlight on others” (49-50). And for me, that is what literary citizenship is about—highlighting the works of others, without the expectation of receiving anything in return. And that is fine by me.

If you are interested in ways to promote literary citizenship, then buy May’s book (another way to promote literary citizenship) and discover for yourself what you can do to highlight the books and authors you love, bring reading and writing to those with less resources, and making society a bit better or everyone.

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May, Lori A. The Write Crowd Literary Citizenship & the Writing Life. New York:Bloomsbury Press. 2015. Print.