Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Death of a Falcon: A Muirteach MacPhee Mystery by Susan McDuffie

Book Synopsis
Scotland, 1375: Muirteach MacPhee and his wife Mariota visit Edinburgh Castle, assisting the Lord of the Isles in his negotiations with King Robert II. A trading vessel arrives at the nearby port of Leith from the far away Norse settlement in Greenland. The ship brings unexpected diversion and carries coveted wares: gyrfalcons, unicorn’s horns, and fine furs. Both King Robert and the Lord of the Isles desire the rare birds, easily worth a king’s ransom.

Muirteach and Mariota, unaccustomed to the sophistication of castle life, initially find pleasure in the heady and flirtatious glamor of the royal court. Then sudden and unexpected cruelty, followed by the senseless death of a beautiful young girl, plunge the couple into a murky sea of alliances and intrigue that stretches from Scotland across the icy western ocean to the far northern lands of the Norse, leaving trails of treachery and murder in its wake.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Author Bio
A fan of historical fiction since childhood, Susan McDuffie spent such vast amounts of time reading stories set in the past that she wondered if she had mistakenly been born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by family stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lords of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides, and her initial visit to Colonsay and the Oronsay Priory ruins planted the seeds for her medieval mysteries. Those seeds have grown into the Muirteach MacPhee mysteries, set in medieval Scotland during the Celtic Lordship of the Isles. The series includes A MASS FOR THE DEAD, THE FAERIE HILLS (2011 New Mexico Book Awards “Best Historical Novel”), THE STUDY OF MURDER (New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards Finalist 2014), and THE DEATH OF A FALCON. Susan frequently presents at workshops and conferences and regularly reviews historical fiction books for the Historical Novel Society’s “Historical Novels Review.

Susan lives in New Mexico and shares her life with a Native American artist and four cosseted cats. She enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. Susan loves to hear from readers and can be contacted via Facebook or through her website.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 paperback copies & 5 eBooks of The Death of a Falcon!   To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 11th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to US residents only. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

Death of a Falcon 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Dear Friends,

I am happy to be back to talk about another favorite dog movie this week.  One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a movie my Momma has loved since childhood, and we have the DVD here, so it is one of my favorites too!

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is the story of Pongo and Perdita, a Dalmatian couple who have 15 puppies!   They are living happily with their people, Roger and Anita, until a frightening villain named Cruella de Vil decides to steal the puppies for fur coats!   After a long chase, the puppies do find their way back home and they have a happy reunion with their family.  They bring along 84 other puppies that were also being held by Cruella.  Roger and Anita decide to buy a farm so they can keep all 99 puppies -- which makes 101 Dalmatians along with Pongo and Perdita.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a 1961 Disney movie.  It was based on the children's  book The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.  (Momma recommends the book as well!)  Dodie Smith enjoyed the movie adaptation and said that she thought it improved upon her original story!  The movie was both a box office and critical success.  When it was released, this was the top grossing animated movie to date.

Some trivia about this movie:

Author Dodie Smith actually had a Dalmatian dog who had 15 puppies!  That was her inspiration for the original book.  She also owned a Dalmatian named Pongo.

The dogs in the movie have deeper voices than their owners so they are seen as having more power.

Some of the dog sounds in the movie are provided by Clarence Nash, who was the voice of Donald Duck.

A new type of animation involving Xerox was used in this movie, and it helped give the movie its distinctive look.

Several characters from Lady and the Tramp make cameo appearances in this movie. Jock is seen barking through a drainpipe to a dog in an upstairs apartment.  Peg and her bulldog friend are seen in a pet store.  Lady and the Tramp are seen during the Twilight Barking scene.

The boy puppies wear red collars and the girls wear blue.  This is also true of Pongo and Perdita.

Cruella de Vil was inspired by actress Tallulah Bankhead.  Old time character actress Mary Wickes provided a live reference for Cruella de Vil.

Author Dodie Smith said her favorite scene in the movie was the one near the beginning where Pongo is stretching out by a window.

This is one of the only Disney movies to feature cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking.

This was the first animated Disney movie in a contemporary setting.

Here is the movie trailer:

The Twilight Barking is my favorite scene in the movie.  This is how the dogs communicate at twilight, by barking to one another to spread the news.  I often try to do this with friends in my neighborhood.  My dear Momma says she likes the Twilight Bark more in the movie than in real life.  When you watch this scene, be sure to look for the characters from Lady and the Tramp!

Have you seen One Hundred and One Dalmatians?   I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review and Giveaway - The House on Harbor Hill by Shelly Stratton

Book Synopsis
Set in the past and present, The House on Harbor Hill is a murder mystery that tackles the issues of racial prejudice and spousal abuse in the lives of two very different women…

She’s generous, kind, and compassionate–yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she’s come or how many she’s helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband’s mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets–and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.

Tracey won’t say where she’s from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was–and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah’s handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey’s worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore–and at last learn how to truly be free . . .

Resonant, moving, and unforgettable, The House on Harbor Hill paints an unforgettable portrait of two women struggling to forgive themselves, take a chance on change, and challenge each other to finally live.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The House on Harbor Hill tells two stories.  Delilah Gray lives in a beautiful and mysterious beach house in Camden Beach, Maryland.  Her personal background leads her to help young women who are escaping abusive marriages.  That is how she meets Tracey Walters.  Tracey is a young mother with a little boy and a baby girl.  She comes to Harbor Hill to stay with Delilah.  While she is there, rebuilding her life, she also meets Harbor Hill's handsome caretaker, who is wrestling with memories of his own past.

This is such a unique book!   It is a dual storyline, told in the present and also in 1968, so there is an element of historical fiction.  It is women's fiction, but it also is a mystery, as the pasts of Delilah and revealed bit by bit.  There is a mystery in Delilah's past that she has struggled with her whole adult life, and she is able to solve that mystery at last.

The 1968 period details were particularly well done and the story of racial prejudice was powerful and moving.  Shelly Stratton does a wonderful job at evoking a time and place.  I could visualize Harbor Hill and Camden Beach from her descriptions in this book.

The characters, though, are the real stars.  Delilah is one of my favorite characters that I have met through reading this year.  She is warm and vulnerable, but also so strong and compassionate.  What she does for Tracey, and what she has done for many other women in trouble, is a real gift.

I loved the storytelling and the way the narrative revealed itself in bits here and there as the reader learns about the past, and especially Delilah's story and the mystery of what happened the fateful night that changed her life.

I recommend The House on Harbor Hill for fans of women's fiction, mysteries, and historical fiction.  It is a beautifully told and engrossing read.

Author Bio
Shelly Stratton is an award-winning journalist who earned her degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Another Woman’s Man, her novel written under the pseudonym Shelly Ellis, was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award. A film buff and amateur painter, she lives with her husband not far from Washington, D.C. Visit her online at

Connect with Shelly

Website | Facebook | Twitter

One lucky reader will win a copy of The House On Harbor Hill.  Giveaway is for the U.S. only and ends at midnight on April 27.  Winner will be contacted by email and will need to respond within 48 hours or another name will be drawn.  Good luck!

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - The Silver Gun (An Art Deco Mystery) by L.A. Chandlar

Book Synopsis
New York City, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Big Apple is defiantly striving toward an era infused with art, architecture, and economic progress under the dynamic Mayor La Guardia. But those in City Hall know that tumultuous times can inspire both optimism and deadly danger . . .

It’s been six months since Lane Sanders was appointed Mayor Fiorello “Fio” La Guardia’s new personal aide, and the twenty-three-year-old is sprinting in her Mary Janes to match her boss’s pace. Despite dealing with vitriol from the Tammany Hall political machine and managing endless revitalization efforts, Fio hasn’t slowed down a bit during his years in office. And luckily for Lane, his unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction from the childhood memories that haunt her dreams—and the silver gun she’ll never forget.

When Lane gets attacked and threatened by an assailant tied to one of most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. The corrupt city officials seem to be using Lane as a pawn against Fio for disgracing their party in the prior election. But why was the assailant wielding the exact same gun from her nightmares?

Balancing a clandestine love affair and a mounting list of suspects, Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network—before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history . . .

Author Bio
L.A. Chandler is the author of the Art Deco Mystery Series with Kensington Publishing featuring Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and a fresh take on the innovation and liveliness of 1930s New York City. Her debut novel, The Silver Gun released August 29, 2017, and the sequel, The Gold Pawn, will release September 25th, 2018. Laurie has been living and writing in New York City for 16 years and has been speaking for a wide variety of audiences for over 20 years including a women’s group with the United Nations. Her talks range from NYC history, the psychology of creativity, and the history of holiday traditions. Laurie has also worked in PR for General Motors, writes and fund-raises for a global nonprofit is the mother of two boys, and has toured the nation managing a rock band.

Author Links
Social Media Quick Link to all my social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,  YouTube, and Newsletter):
YouTube for Behind the Scenes Tours:

Purchase Links
Amazon     B&N     Kobo      Google Play    BookBub

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Dear Abby - Famous Movie Dogs: Toto from The Wizard of Oz

Dear Friends,

I'm back to continue our chat about movie dogs.   This week my post is all about Toto, the cute little terrier dog from The Wizard of Oz.  This is one of my Momma's favorite lifelong movies, so I have seen it many times with her.

Toto was a female Cairn terrier.  She was born during the Great Depression in 1933.  Her original owners were a young couple who did not train her properly.  She had potty accidents and they looked for another home for her.  (Momma said that sadly this happens a lot in rescue.)  They found Carl Spitz, a famous dog trainer.  He worked training  Terry and found she was very smart.  That is how her movie career began!  Her movies included Bright Eyes (with Shirley Temple), The Women, and Tortilla Flat

Of course, Terry's most famous movie was The Wizard of Oz.  She was seriously injured during the filming of this movie when one of the palace guards stepped on her and broke her foot.  She went to stay at Judy Garland's home to recuperate, and they developed such a strong bond that Judy wanted to adopt her.  (Terry's person, Carl Spitz, said no.)

A little more trivia about Terry in The Wizard of Oz:

She was afraid of the wind machines used in the movie.

Terry made $125 a week - more than the Munchkins!

She attended the movie premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  

After this movie, Terry changed her name to Toto officially.

She passed away in 1945 and was buried at Carl Spitz's ranch.  Her grave was destroyed when the Ventura Freeway was built, but she now has a memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

There is a book about Terry called I, Toto:  The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll.  My Momma has a copy of this book here, but she has not read it (yet!).

Here is a little short video about Terry as Toto.  It is narrated by Angela Lansbury.  I enjoyed it and think you might like it too.

I would love to hear your Wizard of Oz memories!  Did you grow up watching this movie?


Abby xoxoxo