Posted in Cruisin Thru Cozies E-Book Challenge Literary Escapes Reviews 2015

Review – Sweetheart Deal by Linda Joffe Hull

sweetheart dealSweetheart Deal
(A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery)

Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Setting – Mexico
Midnight Ink (November 8, 2015)
Paperback: 312 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738734910
E-Book ASIN: B016NABPUE
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Now the star of her own reality show, The Family Frugalicious, Maddie Michaels heads south of the border with her family to cover bargain destination weddings at a swank, but budget friendly, Mexican resort. Things get a little too real when timeshare sales manager Alejandro Espinoza makes a play for Maddie one evening and ends up floating dead in the pool the next. Was it an accident or a preplanned part of the Mrs. Frugalicious storyline?

When the show’s producers extend the trip so she, her all-but-ex Frank, and the kids can investigate—not to mention get enough footage for a two-part, Emmy-worthy episode—Maddie fears she’s in way more agua caliente than she ever bargained for.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

This is a hard review for me to write. I really enjoyed the first 2 books in this story, Eternally 21 and Black Thursday. This one just really missed the mark for me.

Mrs. Frugalicious, Maddie, and her family now have their own reality show. The episode they are filming in Mexico is of the producer’s destination wedding, basically one big commercial for the resort and it’s timeshares. After Maddie meets with the timeshare manager they start to exchange secret messages. They set up a time to meet and when Maddie arrives she finds the man doing the dead man’s float in the pool, but he’s really dead. Maddie and the kids extend their stay to investigate the accident which Maddie thinks may have been set up my the show’s director. Of course the reality show continues to accumulate footage for a special episode. Would they really murder someone for ratings?

Again this story is probably better in print and hopefully fixed digitally. (I read an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley.) It was a very frustrating read because the shopping hints and tips fell right in the middle of the paragraphs. That and the cue cards Maddie and others have to read while filming really slowed the flow of action throughout the story. It seemed the tips were more important than the mystery.

I really didn’t like the characters this time either. They seemed to be all over the place and didn’t engage me as a reader.  By the time the actual murder took place I was already disconnected and it was hard to stay tuned into the story. I truly didn’t like that Maddie didn’t even seem tuned in herself. Things were happened behind her back that just felt wrong. I found myself almost skimming the text rather than fully reading it. I just wanted it to be over.

I did finish the book but it was a chore. There are some helpful hints throughout the story. I would recommend that maybe in future installments this information be at the end of the book so the author focuses on the story content first and make is easier for the reader to enjoy.

should have stayed home  2 STARFISHDollycas

Links to my reviews from other books in this series:

Eternally 21   Black Thursday

To find out more about Linda and her books visit her webpage here. You can also be her Fan on GoodReads. Follow her on Twitter and Follow her on Facebook.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Cozy Wednesday Giveaways Guest Posts Reviews 2014

Cozy Wednesday with Linda Joffe Hull – Author of Black Thursday (Giveaway too!)

cozy wednesday 2013 640Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!

I am happy to welcome Linda Joffe Hull today as my guest!

Lin 42

On the Journey with Mrs. Frugalicious

Hi, it’s Linda Joffe Hull here, author of ETERNALLY 21 and the newly released BLACK THURSDAY, the first two titles in the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series. I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to Cozy Wednesdays at Escape with Dollycas!

We all know that mystery readers are a clever group. By definition, the whole experience of reading crime fiction revolves around looking for clues planted by the author to figure out whodunit, hopefully before the end of the book. As a writer, it’s my job to make sure that’s not an easy task. When I came up with the idea for my series, my more seasoned mystery writer friends warned me to be sure I plotted out not only the details for each murder, but the overarching story for the series as a whole. Otherwise, I would hear about plot holes and errors from, and I quote, “a bunch of really smart readers who get your story better than you do.”

And then I chanced upon the Venn diagram below:

AuthorMeaning

ETERNALLY 21

Daunted to say the least, I did tons of research to make sure my story would be as accurate as possible. I plotted, planned, outlined, and voilá (eventually that is) ETERNALLY 21, the first book in my series, was born.

Maddie Michaels, my protagonist, is a formerly well-heeled housewife, whose husband, TV financial guru, Frank “Finance” Michaels, has lost all of their money in a Ponzi scheme. To make ends meet, she not only becomes a coupon clipper, but starts a blog called Mrsfrugalicious.com to share her tips with others who love to bargain shop. The blog goes viral, but Maddie can’t let anyone know she is Mrs. Frugalicious or Frank will lose his job. While shopping at her local mall, Maddie witnesses the death of an unpleasant store manager and finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation where the suspects range from the food court servers to a husband-and wife team with a wandering monkey, to the prime suspect– Maddie herself. She has to take matters into her own hands in order to clear her name and solve the murder.

Seeing as my contract was for three books, I decided that Maddie, along with couponing, crime solving, and dealing with the daily dilemmas of raising teenagers, needed a bigger overarching problem that could stretch through the series. Specifically, she suspects that her husband, Frank, is a philanderer.

BLACK THURSDAYI won’t give things away entirely, but in book two, BLACK THURSDAY Maddie has been revealed as Mrs. Frugalicious. That’s the least of her issues, though. It’s Thanksgiving, and Frank has invited his entire family to spend the holidays trying to talk Maddie out of divorcing him after his exploits in book one. Anxious to get out of the house, Maddie accepts an offer to bargain shop on camera during the Black Thursday shopping frenzy. In the midst of the commotion, a pallet of toasters falls on one unlucky shopper and kills her. Maddie soon discovers that the victim was none other than CC, her online heckler, and that the ‘accident’ was, in fact, murder.

ETERNALLY 21 came out to positive reviews and a notable lack of emails criticizing my methods of murder, sleuthing techniques, or other possible freshman mistakes. The good comments gave me a boost that helped me finish BLACK THURSDAY and turn the manuscript into my publisher.

I was well into book three, tentatively titled SWEETHEART DEAL, when the advance reviews for BLACK  THURSDAY began to appear. The story is actually an ideal fit for this blog as Maddie, who has transitioned from a popular blogger into the reality TV star of “The Family Frugalicious” finds herself down in Mexico at a fabulous resort investigating the vexing world of timeshares and, of course, murder.

The feedback for BLACK THURSDAY was positive and encouraging once again. This time, however, two separate reviewers leveled a similar observation. One of them said, “I really liked this book, even if I didn’t agree with some of the things going on. For one thing, I personally don’t believe every man cheats.”

My first and second thought were WHAT???

As the author, I’ve never, ever thought such a thing. In fact, the message I was trying to convey over the course of the series was that Maddie, as a loyal wife and mother, when faced with personal lemons makes lemonade. More important, Maddie, as a character, evolves from a plucky housewife into a strong empowered lady. The confusion, I believed, came from Maddie’s over-the-top, wacky mother-in-law who makes the comment while admitting her son has acted like a dog. She also encourages Maddie to make him pay, literally, for the rest of the marriage in the form of apology gifts.

So, here I am halfway done with book three. Maddie still has a secret–she and Frank are married in name only and only for the sake of their TV show. Never mind I’ve gone and killed off a handsome, sweet-talking, south-of-the border lothario, who, is, in fact, a married man.

Really? Did I really do that again?

While my motivation for making him married was to provide a very likely suspect (his wife), I couldn’t exactly continue to weave such a plot point in the book. Not without more well-placed and legitimate comments, that is…

So, I owe a debt of gratitude to modern technology and a thank you to some astute early readers for helping me clarify the overarching story in the Mrs. Frugalicious series. The inadvertent message I never, ever meant to convey has now been edited out of book three.

Writing in the modern age truly is a group effort!

~Linda

To find out more about Linda and her books visit her webpage here. You can also be her Fan on GoodReads. Follow her on Twitter and Follow her on Facebook.

BLACK THURSDAYBlack Thursday
(A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery)

2nd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Published by MIDNIGHT INK (October 8, 2014)
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738734903
E-Book File Size: 2286 KB
ASIN: B00MMMCQS8
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A bad deal for Mrs. Frugalicious  

When Maddie Michaels, AKA Mrs. Frugalicious, is invited to take a local news crew with her on a Black Friday shopping expedition, she’s excited to show viewers at home how to score the season’s best savings. Despite a negative comment from Contrary Claire— the sole naysayer in her growing Frugarmy—Maddie is hopeful her first TV appearance will be a bargain-savvy success.

But Black Friday eve takes a bleak turn when a shopper is crushed beneath a pallet of toasters. After learning that the victim could be Contrary Claire, it becomes clear that Claire has made more than one enemy. Maddie finds herself dealing once again with a murder investigation. Will she catch the killer before someone else is slashed like a sale price?

Includes couponing tips!

Dollycas’s Thoughts

I fell for Maddie in Eternally 21. A wife and mother trying to clean up a huge mess her husband is responsible for in a very creative way, blogging as Mrs. Frugalicious. What a wonderful protagonist!

Frank is trying to make amends but I don’t think Maddie is buying what he is selling. Her teenage sons are fantastic. Now that their mother’s secret is out they are super supportive even trying to help her with her site and helping her find her cyber enemy Contrary Clare.

On the other hand I hated most of Frank’s family, just as the author intended. I wouldn’t put murder past a couple of them. Yes, they say they are trying to support her but descending upon her house at the busiest time of the year for a shopping expert is just not cool, but again Maddie handles it all. She is even trying to clip the culprit that set that pallet of toasters in motion but let’s face it she would have done anything to get away from those people. But I think the search ended up much more than she bargained for…

I really enjoyed this story. Linda Joffe Hull has let these characters continue to grow and brought back some very special characters from the first story for a very surprising event.

She has also written quite a mystery. It may have you thinking twice as you head out for the holiday sales this year and looking up much more often as you shop those big box stores.

I also love and appreciate all the tips she provides about sales, shopping and coupons throughout the book.

My only complaint is with the e-copy formatting which is not the author’s fault and since I am reviewing from an uncorrected proof I am sure the problem was fixed in the final edition. Tips like this are easy to put at the top or bottom of a printed page but when you take it digital wonky things can happen, like these tips landing in the middle of a paragraph, which messes with the rhythm of the story.

A marvelous mystery to pick up and enjoy now so you are ready to shop and save this holiday season!

 

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

 

Thanks to the people at Midnight Ink  I have 1 copy to give away!
Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Linda for 5 Bonus Entries!

Pin this giveaway to Pinterest for 3 Bonus Entries.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End October 22, 2014 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

Click Here For Entry Form

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in E-Book Challenge Giveaways Reviews 2013

Review & Giveaway – Eternally 21 by Linda Joffe Hull

Eternally 21Eternally 21 (A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery)
New Series
Cozy Mystery
Midnight Ink (June 8, 2013)
An Imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
Cover Illustration by Carolyn Hurter
Cover Design by Lisa Novak
Trade Paperback: 360 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738734897
E-Book File Size: 833 KB
ASIN: B00CS73GEK
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Coupon-clipping Mrs. Frugalicious gets more than she bargained for…

When Mr. Frank “Finance” Michaels trusts the wrong person with his nest egg, he falls prey to a monumental Ponzi scheme, think Bernie Madoff, his wife Maddie steps in to do everything she can to keep up appearances with their social class. Mrs. Frugalicious was born as Maddie started a blog and website for bargain hunters complete with paid advertisers. That with her frugal shopping is keeping her family afloat.

While out researching “frugasm”-worthy deals on holiday shopping for teens, she hits the mall. She finds a bunch of bargains at Eternally 21. Taking notes and lining up her purchases draws the interest of the store manager, Laila DeSimone. Laila thinks Maddie is the shoplifter the mall management has alerted them to watch for and quickly calls security. She is hauled away until she makes the security officer to understand she didn’t steal anything! When Maddie returns to the store to make her purchases her day goes from bad to worse when the manager “expires” right in front of her and the police tag her their prime suspect. Can she save herself? It’s going to take more than a double off coupon!

Dollycas’s Thoughts
What a fun debut!!

Who doesn’t want to save money? Add a murder to the shopping trip and some colorful characters and you have the start of a wonderful mystery.

Maddie is working so hard to keep her family’s head above water with two growing teenage boys and husband that can’t seem to realize the financial disaster he has created. He has a financial program that airs on the local channel and his viewers can’t find out the enormous mistake he made. Especially now that he is being courted by a network that wants to take his show national. He continues to spend, spend, spend while Maddie is clipping coupons and hitting the stores on triple coupon days. Readers will love Maddie!

The author has created a great group of primary characters and surrounded them with a very interesting group of supporting characters, both human and animal. She has put them into fantastic situations that will not only test you to figure out whodunit but will have you chuckling out loud as Maddie goes in circles trying to track down the killer herself.

The only thing I didn’t like in the writing was Maddie having a conversation with herself planning out what she was going to say to someone in advance of having the actual conversion. She did this a few times and it really detracted with the flow of the story.

Linda Joffe Hull is off to a good start with this series. A solid mystery that includes money saving advice we can all use. Looking forward to the next spree with Mrs. Frugalicious.
just you and a friend
4 STARFISH

Dollycas
Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

About This Author
Linda Joffe Hull (Denver, CO) is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, where she has served in a variety of positions, including President, Treasurer, and Conference Chair. Visit her online at LindaJoffeHull.com.
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Would you like to win a copy of this wonderful book?

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Thanks to the people at Book World
I have 1 copy to giveaway!!

U.S. and CANADIAN RESIDENTS
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End June 27, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Eternally 212013EbookChallengereadalattechallenge_zps01d248d0