Thursday 28 February 2019

The Chalkboard Outlines Mysteries by Kelley Kaye

Book 1

Death by Diploma

Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends.

Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest.

As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.


A clever 'who dunit' with quirky characters and quick, smart dialogue.

I loved the humour running through the book especially in relation to school and the different <i> kinds </i>  of teachers there are in the profession.  The observational comments made by Emma and Leslie about their colleagues really made me laugh out loud. It was so spot on!

The main characters in the book are lively and relatable. Emma and Leslie just clicked as friends from the first page and their chemistry was completely believable. Hunter and Emma's first interactions were very cute and funny. I couldn't help but smile all the way through their first meetings. I can't wait to see more of how that romance develops.

The mystery itself was very cleverly written. The red herrings had me distracted and completely clueless right to the end when I inevitably had that 'duh' moment. Why didn't I see that coming?! 

I experienced a broad range of emotions whilst reading this book. Although the story was very humorous it was also sad and poignant especially in relation to the victim and his lost opportunity at love. 

I really liked that there were literary quotes sprinkled throughout the story. It brought back great memories of when I studied Shakespeare as an undergraduate.

This was an excellent introduction to the series and I can't wait to read more.

Book 2                  Poison by Punctuation

High school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.

Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.

Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.


The Chalkboard Outlines is proving to be my newest favourite cozy mystery series.

There are so many things about this story that I just loved. The character development is brilliant. Leslie and Emma are so funny as best friends and they are just great together as partners in solving crime. They make the perfect partnership.
Hunter is still a cute character but I couldn't help but really like Will the doctor as well. It's always good to a have a gorgeous doctor on speed dial and a well written love triangle can be lots of fun. I hope Will becomes a permanent part of the crime solving gang. He is more useful than Hunter in that regard and he's a vital source of information in the absence of a nice police detective. 

Poison by Punctuation is choc full of suspenseful and exciting scenes. I couldn't put it down.

Both books are available now in paperback, digital and audio.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Author spotlight: Kelley Kaye

This week I am featuring author Kelley Kaye, Kelley Kay Bowles. She is the author of the brilliant Chalkboard Outlines mystery series and YA novel 'Down in the Belly of the Whale.' 
About the Author

Kelley Kaye lives in sunny California. She taught high school English and Drama for twenty years, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. She is married to, what sounds like, the perfect man. He cooks!!
And she has two wonderful sons.

Kelley kindly took the time to provide me with the following interview.

What has been your biggest adjustment going from teaching to writing?
Going from teaching to writing has been an unbelievable adjustment in a couple of ways, both wonderful and difficult ways. I didn’t get to write too much when I first moved to San Diego, but that’s because I was gifted with this amazing opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years here, which I NEVER thought would happen in a two-teacher family. My sons were going on three and five when we arrived, and while my oldest got to start in a transitional half-day kindergarten right away, my youngest and I got to explore San Diego. We went to the library and local parks and activities, and I am immeasurably grateful. But what I noticed then, and continue to adjust to now that I’m at home writing while the boys are at school, is how difficult it is to not interact with other adults in a meaningful way. I took adult conversations for granted, for sure, even conversations with my teenaged students had a different ambience than time with a three-year-old, or now, time with just me. Well. I do converse with myself, but my answers are never as interesting as the ones I hear from others. My schedule is really busy, but I still plan a once-a-month coffee and a once-a-month lunch date with two of my friends here, just to keep myself sane.
And on that note, here’s the second biggest adjustment—scheduling. As a teacher, my life was laid out for me minute-by-minute and keeping my organization productive was tricky, but a writing schedule is tricky in a whole ‘nother way. I have all these stories in my head, and I know I have to work on marketing and spotlighting and looking for reviews and all of the minutiae which is mostly the responsibility of the writer in the 21st century, and still I want to have huge chunks of time devoted to the writing itself. It’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media, even though I’m doing it for the purpose of my job. I have a schedule on the wall of my “office” AKA a chair in the corner of my bedroom, laying out sections of time every day to write articles (I work for a local community magazine here in San Diego), check Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, Linkedin, post on all of those sites and interact with people on all of those sites, and write a blog for my website. I also interact with other authors from my publishing houses, RedAdept Publishing, and Aionios Books, and they provide a lot of knowledge and support. Which is great, because I’m still feeling new to this and I really know nothing. Then, of course, the rest of the day (well, until 3:30 when the boys come home) I am working on a novel or nonfiction project. Right now I’m trying to find an agent for a nonfiction self-help memoir (yes, you’re right, a nonexistent genre. For now.) called The A or B Principle, and then I need to finish Book #3 of the Chalkboard Outlines series (working title Strangled by Simile). Then I have to COMPLETELY overhaul the first story in a Paranormal YA trilogy. I get to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from having editors for Chalkboard Outlines and Down in the Belly of the Whale to existing books I’ve written and books I’m writing now. I have a lot of stuff to do! So it’s amazing to be able to schedule myself in whatever way I want, but also overwhelming to have so much to do and only myself to make it happen. Maybe someone in my house should start handing out detention.

What did you learn about writing from your years of grading high school essays?

I think more than what I learned about writing from all my years of grading essays is what I learned about people from those years in the classroom. Teaching is a study in human dynamics, and teaching English even more so—because analyzing literature helps students recognize themselves and think about their place in the community and the world at large.
My almost 20 years of teaching gave me countless experiences to draw from in my future 50 or more years as a writer, and I’m ridiculously grateful for those, too.

What — and who — do you think people here will recognize in your book?

The school is definitely based on Fruita Monument high school, from the colors to the mascot. I had to change the layout in some ways, though, to make some of the scenes work better. The teacher’s lounge and main office remained pretty true to the way I remember it…haven’t been back there for five years, but you will see it the way I experienced it. Nathan Farrar, the principal in the book, was inspired by Mark Zipse, my favorite principal of all time. Although there are only two main character elements I borrowed from Mark: 1) Nathan skateboards all over the campus of Pinewood High school, which Mark really did when I was in high school and he was Assistant Principal. When he became Principal I guess he had to stop. and 2) Nathan doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is something I always loved about Mark and cherish in any bosses or supervisors I’ve ever had. It is a characteristic I try to practice, myself, which is a good thing for me to keep aspiring to because now I am my own boss. The other characters within the story are amalgamations of me and all my friends, and friends, if you see a personal idiosyncrasy you recognize, well…

The teachers in your book deal with some pretty pushy parents. Any war stories you’d like to share?

Um. No, thank you. Dalton Trumbo I am not. Suffice it to say all teachers have dealt with parents who don’t understand most adolescents will lie to keep themselves out of trouble at least once in their lives, even their own children. There is Teenager Truth, and then there is Actual Truth, and the gap between them can be yawning. Most parents, though, are just trying to do what’s best for their kids. As are most teachers!

What was your thought process behind choosing to have your protagonist to be from the South?

What an excellent question. I wish I could say it came from a specific thought process, because maybe that would make me sound deeper or more profound than I actually am. Really, I knew I wanted Emma to travel a long way to start over after her cheating husband. I took students to England one year on a student travel program (this is the way teachers can afford to travel), and my roommate was a teacher from Holly Hill, South Carolina. I liked her and I liked the name of the town, and I guess I’m partial to the idea of Emma being ‘a delicate Southern flower’ in some respects, who is coming to realize her own personal strength. Plus I’m always about using the cards you are dealt, and Emma uses her Southernness with great success, to question suspects or maybe just to flirt.

Shakespeare references are a continuing thread in the book, and a bonding point between two teachers. Why did you select this narrative advice?

Shakespeare, in my opinion, knew more about human nature than…anyone, really. It’s turning out to be a wonderful element for cozy mystery amateur sleuths who have more than a passing knowledge of him and his themes—the ladies can tap into his vast understanding of humanity when they’re searching for a killer.

What’s the advice you got during the writing and editing of your book?

Before I’d even started the book, I read a Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar series) mystery called Drop Shot. I loved it so much and I really wanted to do something like it, so I emailed him and asked him for advice. He actually wrote right back and gave me some, which I used when I started writing the book. Then my publisher, RedAdept, gave me a Content Editor and a Line Editor! I learned so much through this process, especially about paying attention not only to the words themselves, but to how they can and might be received and perceived by my readers. It was a humongous eye-opener for me. RedAdept is an independent publisher, and they are very thorough and detail-oriented. My editors both really liked my story and the characters within it, and they worked with me for several months to help make it the best it could be. I hope to apply what I’ve learned to all the projects I’m working on now.

This is presented as the first in a series. Have you completed subsequent books or where are you at in this process?

I actually got the name of the series trademarked, which makes me feel so ‘big time. Chalkboard Outlines® Book Two came out last April. I’m 50,000 words into book 3. And like I said earlier, I still want to finish the first draft of the memoir. Humorous. Self-help. Groundbreaking new genre. Woot woot

What else would you like to add?

I grew up in Western Colorado and then taught there for sixteen years. The place and its people mean so much to me, but I’ve been living with MS for the past 25 years, and the temperature extremes were always a major stressor in my life—the high desert hots and colds were no Bueno, and don’t even get me started on swamp coolers. The move to San Diego not only provided me with a more temperate climate and better health, but also the opportunity to stay at home with my awesome little boys and be a WRITER! The life change was arduous and initially very stressful, but so worth it. It’s turned me into one of those annoying proselytizers always trumpeting the value of risk-taking and following your dreams. But do it. Take the risk, and follow your dreams. I’m not expecting to be the next Stephen King, but I am raising sons (a long-standing, almost unrealized dream which is another article altogether) and telling stories that hopefully people will want to read, and life is great!

Watch a book trailer for 'Poison by Punctuation.'

What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

My Amazon author page:

Friday 22 February 2019

Winged Passion (Heaven's Heart Series #3) by Amanda Pillar (2019)

Once an angel, now a blood slave.

Seraphina would do anything to protect her fellow Darts—even become a blood slave. But can an angel survive living in the depths of Hell, surrounded by demonic killers?

Trick’s entire life is a lie, which is exactly how he likes it. Ruler of the Halcyon Guild, he is one of the most powerful demons in Hell. But for the first time in centuries, he’s been outwitted—and by a damned angel.

His bad luck doesn’t end there. Hades has a mission for the guild: one only Trick and Seraphina can complete. The catch— they have to complete it within a week or their lives will be forfeit.

Can Seraphina and Trick set aside centuries of prejudice and work together, or will their pride see them both destroyed?

The Heaven's Heart series goes from strength to strength. 

This installment was more fun and lighthearted in tone. The witty banter and innocent moments between Trick and Serpephina made their story very sweet and charming.

Trick's character surprised me. I hadn't expected him to turn out to be such a good soul. He was the perfect antidote to Serpehina's horrible ex and I was gratified to see how that particular story arc unfolded in the end.

I loved the idea of mythical, magical artefacts and having to track them down. It made for high adventure with lots of magic and disappearing tricks.  

This was a great read, highly addictive and unputdownable.

I can't wait for the next adventure!

Winged Passion is available now.

Amazon  Book Depository 

Sunday 10 February 2019

Mr. Hunt, I Presume: A Playful Brides Story (10.5) by Valerie Bowman (2019)

The Playful Brides novels are:

“Wholly satisfying.”—USA Today

“Smart and sensual.”—RT Book Reviews

“Delicious.” —Kirkus Reviews

He never forgot her…
When General Collin Hunt is ordered to take a much-needed holiday, he resigns himself to rest and recreation at his brother's country estate. But when the only woman he ever loved—and selflessly gave up—shows up as his sister-in-law's governess, his carefully ordered life is turned inside out.

She'll never forgive him…

When Erienne Stone defied her family and fled her life of privilege, she never expected to be reunited with the man who'd abandoned her more than a decade before. But Lucy, Duchess of Claringdon, is a hard woman to say no to, even when Erienne's heart is in danger of breaking all over again.

A meddling matchmaker may be the key to their second chance…

After a decade of pain and heartache, can two star-crossed lovers trust the truth in their own hearts?

The perfect romantic read for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

This is a lovely second chance romance made more enjoyable by the fact that it's a short novel and it's not dragged out unnecessarily with misunderstandings and crossed wires. Collin and Erienne have a long awaited chance at reconciling and they take it thanks to the match making machinations of Lucy.
This was a quick romantic read and a lovely addition to a popular series.

Book 11 'No Other Duke But You' will be published in April.

Sunday 3 February 2019

The Wire Recorder by Thomas A. Levitt (2017)

Sophie Hearn grew up hearing about the House Un-American Activities Committee's 1951 campaign to root out Communists in the film industry. Her father’s impassioned testimony in defense of the First Amendment—and his refusal to answer questions about his political associations—left him blacklisted for years, destroying his promising screenwriting career and putting his family on the edge of financial ruin.
The shadow of the blacklist follows Sophie through college and into adulthood, affecting her politics, her career ambitions, and her relationships. But it’s not until she reunites with Steve Elwood, a long-lost childhood friend, that she’s forced to face the full impact of her family’s past.

About the Author:
As a result of the courageous stand his parents took against the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, Tom grew up in the shadow of the infamous Hollywood blacklist.
He caught the writing bug early on from his parents, but, aware of the odds against making a living writing, Tom initially took up teaching as a “day job” – which turned into a rewarding career in itself. For thirty-three years he taught elementary, middle, junior high, and high school in some of Los Angeles’ toughest neighbourhoods. After retiring in 2008, he began working seriously on the novel he’d conceived decades earlier, based loosely on his and his parents’ experiences before, during, and after the blacklist, and into which he was now able to incorporate his teaching experiences. In the summer of 2017, at age 70, Tom finally completed his historical romance: The Wire Recorder.

Sample Chapter:

Things had gone well for Larry Hearn after the war. His screenwriting career had taken off faster than he’d expected, and by 1951 Hollywood seemed to be smiling on him. But trouble was in the air. The House Un-American Activities Committee was on its way to Los Angeles to identify Communists in the film industry, and one by one, the subpoenas flew out and found their marks.
“This is it,” Larry said. “They’re really going to get us now.”
Yes, he and Ruth had been in the Party along with many of their friends. They’d both joined as college students in New York City, she at Juilliard, he at the Columbia School of Journalism. It was the middle of the Great Depression, and it had seemed obvious to them, and to countless other young intellectuals, that capitalism was a failed system that had collapsed under the weight of its collective greed. They had continued as members after moving to Hollywood, but by then the revolutionary fervor of the ‘thirties had begun to dissipate. None of the leftist groups Larry and Ruth had been involved with after the war were more than discussion forums, little collections of armchair idealists no more likely to influence the content of motion pictures than to overthrow the United States government.
Well before the start of the HUAC hearings, the Hearns had begun to drift away.  
“I’m sick of all this idealization of the Soviet Union,” Larry said one night as they drove home from a meeting. “I can guarantee you the Soviet Union is no utopia, no matter what they want us to think. No country can be that perfect. Especially if it’s run by rigid ideologues like those guys tonight.”
“I know,” Ruth said. “But I’m not going to quit. Are you?”
I don’t know.”
“Look, there are some jerks in the Party, like those guys tonight, but where would we be today without it? No unions in Hollywood … the Sleepy Lagoon boys would still be in prison … ”
“You know what? You know what makes me want to stay in? It’s all this shit that’s going on right now. All the pressure.”
“I know. I feel the same way.”
“Nobody’s going to strong-arm me into changing my politics. Not HUAC, not McCarthy, not the studios … and not the goddamn guilds that are marching in step with the studios like a bunch of fucking sheep.”
Two weeks later, Larry got his subpoena.
Larry had, of course, no intention of cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Along with his friends, he planned to invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to disclose his “subversive” affiliations, denying the committee grounds to make him bear witness against others. But though there was never any doubt as to that choice, his gut tightened as his appearance date drew near and the reality of standing up to a panel of U.S. congressmen loomed large. Excellent writer though he was, Larry was neither skilled nor schooled in the art of public speaking, and his worry centered more on his possible ineloquence under pressure than on the virtual certainty that the studios would blacklist him. As he listened to the radio newscasts of the HUAC hearings, he paid close attention to the unyielding words of the other “unfriendly witnesses”—many of them close friends of his—and measured their effect, asking himself if he could be as articulate as the best of them in the face of authority at its most hostile and frightening. Whatever the scenario, he intended to emerge with his dignity intact.
Then he got a brilliant idea.
He dug the now-little-used wire recorder out from the clutter of his study and carried it into the living room, cleared away some knickknacks from the table next to the old Philco radio (for which he’d finally bought the replacement tubes) and set the machine beside it. He found the special cord the salesman had given him and, carefully following the instructions that had come with it, soldered the stripped-and-tinned nibs at one end to the radio’s innards. After inserting the plug at the other end into the recorder’s microphone receptacle, he was ready to record his compatriots’ words of resistance as they came over the radio waves each day.
He recorded all of them, resisters and cooperators alike, applauding the defiant ones and spitting curses at the name-naming sycophants.
Again and again he replayed the oratory of the better-spoken non-cooperators, taking notes, studying every nuance of rhetoric, ruminating over how his own voice of protest might emerge when it came time to make his stand.
The night before his appearance, Larry decided he wanted his own testimony to be recorded as well. Ruth had planned on attending the hearing to lend him moral support, but Sophie was home from nursery school with a sore throat.
“Why do you want to record yourself?” Ruth said.
“To play it for Sophie when she’s old enough to understand. Of course, that’s assuming I do well. If I don’t do well … if I sound timid … stumble over my words … I’ll erase the recording.”
“You’ll do just fine. But I can’t imagine wanting to hear yourself talk. No matter how well you do. And I have no idea how to operate that damn thing.”
“It’s simple. I’ll have it all set up. All you have to do is turn a lever when you hear them call me.”
Larry’s careful preparation paid off. He did well.

After he had declined to answer the first two questions about his political affiliations, one of the questioning congressmen said to him: “Mr. Hearn, as I am sure you are aware, it is the purpose of this committee to investigate and expose Communist influence in the motion picture industry. I should think that a person with your distinguished and valorous record of service to your country would wish to help this committee defend those same ideals which you and so many others fought to preserve. Am I correct in making this assumption?”
Larry’s voice was strong and clear as he spoke, trying not to look at all the cameras and microphones pointed at him. “I am indeed interested in defending the ideals on which this country was founded … and therefore am vigorously opposed to, and deeply repelled by, the activities of this committee—”
“Mr. Hearn,” the congressman said, trying to cut him off.
“… which have made a mockery of the United States Constitution and the American tradition”—feeling his voice start to quaver, he took a mid-sentence breath—“of freedom of speech and freedom of thought … and attempted to stifle those freedoms—”
“Mr. Hearn—” The congressman rapped his gavel three times.
“… by creating a climate of fear and hysteria”—he took another deep breath as the cameramen’s flashbulbs popped around him—“which is what this committee plainly thrives on.”
“Mr. Hearn,” the congressman said, “you are entitled, in this great and free nation of ours, to hold whatever opinion you will with regard to this committee and its work. If, however, you are truly interested in preserving the right of free political expression in this country, then I should think you would want to help us expose those individuals who are bent on destroying that freedom.”
Larry took another breath. “I believe the greatest threat to freedom in this country today is the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the self-glorifying, publicity-seeking witch hunt it’s carrying on in the guise of a legitimate investigation.”
Ignoring Larry’s denunciation, the congressman asked him about his
membership in the Communist Party. Another quizzed him about his involvement with organizations, committees and causes suspected of being Communist fronts. Listening at home as the reels of the wire recorder spun, Ruth heard him repeatedly invoke the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer one after another of their queries.
She had tried to get Sophie to stay in her room, but her daughter came out into the kitchen just in time to be confused by the sound of her father’s voice.
“Is that Daddy?”
“Yes, sweetie, that’s your daddy.”
“Why is he on the radio?”
“Someday you’ll be old enough to understand … and you’ll be very proud of him.”
Everyone knew the blacklist was real—though the studios denied its existence—but always there was the nagging if irrational question for those affected by it: Is it really just because of the blacklist that I’m no longer getting work? If I were the writer I thought I was, wouldn’t they still want me, blacklist or no blacklist?
For the first few months after the studio work dried up, Larry tried to see his unemployment as a gift of time, time to work on the projects he’d been toying with since his pre-Hollywood days: plays, short stories, perhaps even a novel. But all he could think about was his present situation, which might someday be a rich source of material but was too immediate to write about now. He spent hour after hour slumped at his desk, alternately looking at the light filtering in through the blinds and staring at the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter.
When the reality hit that he could no longer support his family as a writer, Larry sought other employment. He worked as a part-time assistant in a film lab, sold encyclopedias, graded papers for correspondence courses. He tried his hand at commercial photography, using a Rolleiflex camera he’d bought before the blacklist, but he lacked a “good eye” and failed at it.
Ruth’s contribution, besides giving her husband the emotional support he was desperate for, was to teach private piano lessons. Early in the blacklist period she had contemplated applying for a position teaching music in the Los Angeles public schools, but dropped the idea when she heard that teachers were being fired because their husbands had been tarred by the HUAC investigations.
Larry and Ruth worked together in every way they could to keep the family from going under. They scrimped each month to keep up the mortgage payments so that there would be a house for Sophie to grow up in. They struggled, and they survived.

Title: The Wire Recorder
Author: Thomas A. Levitt
Publisher: Thomas A. Levitt
Publication Date: November 8th, 2017
Page Count: 312
Book Numbers:
ISBN 13 - 978-0997310702

Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Barnes & Noble

Social Media:
Facebook –
Goodreads –
Amazon –
Author Website –