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October 2015

The Frank Renzi Series by Susan Fleet

Today I am very happy to feature a Crime, Mystery and Thriller Series by Susan Fleet. Susan has recently released the sixth book in The Frank Renzi Series. She has also written Dark Deeds and Dark Deeds Volume 2, which I have not read; this post will specifically highlight The Frank Renzi Series.

I have been enjoying this series for several years and was thrilled when Book 6 was released! I absolutely loved it.

About The Author: Written with Permission from Susan Fleet
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There is so much to say about Susan Fleet, so I am going to share a little and include a link to her website. Please take the time to look it over.

Midway through her successful career as a professional trumpeter, Susan Fleet discovered her dark side and began writing crime fiction. New Orleans is the setting for her award-winning Frank Renzi crime thrillers: Absolution, Diva, Natalie’s Revenge, Jackpot, Natalie’s Art and most recently, Missing.

Susan lived in New Orleans for nine years and now divides her time between the Big Easy and Boston. Visit her website and send her an email. She’d love to hear from you!

Susan Fleet Website

Susan is a talented musician and has a passion for promoting talented women musicians. While teaching at Brown University and Berklee College of Music, she created a course about female musicians, jazz and classical. You can read about them in the archives at Susan’s website.
And when you read this series and you just happen to fall in love with Frank Renzi you don’t want to miss RENZI’S RANTS! NOPD Detective Frank Renzi rants about whatever is on his mind! I personally love getting to know the characters in the books I read.
So let’s talk about the books

Susan’s first award-winning mystery! Absolution  – A serial killer preys on young women in New Orleans. Some of the darkest secrets reside in a parish church. Is the killer a priest?

Susan takes on some of the very things we are seeing today, police corruption, racial tension and religious conflicts. She has done a great job of building the characters, adding lots of twists to the plot, keeping the reader guessing and turning pages until the very end. Definitely a 5-star read!

Next we have Diva – Here Susan introduces her well-known love for music, adding murder, sexual obsession, kidnapping and blackmail, all in New Orleans. The beautiful, talented and ambitious, Belinda, (a flutist) wants to be a star. But fame can be dangerous. Someone is stalking her. Her manager suddenly dies. Was he murdered? Maybe, but murder may not be the worst thing Belinda has to face!

This story puts its reader right in the midst of New Orleans with the well-developed characters and fast paced writing. A real page turner, but you may want to go slow and enjoy it right through till the end.

Number 3 in the series – Natalie’s Revenge1988: Ten-year-old Natalie is devastated when police find her mother beaten to death in a New Orleans hotel. Natalie wants revenge. Her hunt for the killer takes her from dancing in New York City strip clubs to working as a call girl in Paris and back to the Big Easy, with a gun. 2008: NOPD Detective Frank Renzi investigates the murder of a VIP businessman in a French Quarter hotel. Is it revenge for the 1988 murder? Renzi pursues the elusive Natalie. Is she the killer? Don’t miss the exciting showdown between Natalie (armed, dangerous and determined) and Frank Renzi.

I have to say that this one put me on the edge of my seat. I happen to love stories about revenge. That may tell a tale about me! Hmm! In this plot, Frank Renzi is looking at two murders, however, they are 20 years apart. How will he handle that? Every so often when we are reading a crime mystery, we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy or gal in this case. This is one of those times, even though you know Renzi needs to catch her, part of you wants her to get away. Does she or doesn’t she? Pick up a copy of Natalie’s Revenge, you won’t be disappointed.

Jackpot, Book 4 in the series. No guessing here, we have a compulsive gambler. He wins a big jackpot and his problems are over; Or are they? Jackpot is actually a prequel to the earlier Detective Renzi books. It takes place in Boston in 2000, before Renzi relocated to New Orleans. Here we find many lottery winners and many murders! Would that be a serial killer? I think so! Again, the plot has lots of twists and turns, and I would venture to say that this one is one of my favorite Frank Renzi stories. We learn a lot about Frank throughout the series, but this one being a prequel gives us a little more about his pre-New Orleans days. He is definitely an interesting character.

Guess who is back? Natalie’s Art – Book 5 in the series. Art Heists, Murder and Revenge! In 1990, two robbers stole paintings worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Twenty years later, a ruthless man plans to steal several more. He forces Natalie to help him, but after the heist he intends to kill her. Not only that, NOPD Detective Frank Renzi is hot on her trail. Will Natalie escape? Again you don’t want to miss the explosive showdown between Frank and Natalie.

Here we go, we have a sequel to Natalie’s Revenge. Don’t you just love sequels? And this one takes off from page one. Natalie’s character is so well developed in both Natalie’s Revenge and Natalie’s Art. As a reader, it is hard to not root for her. And of course, she is a criminal folks so we also need to root for  Detective Renzi.  Who will it be? Mystery, suspense, thriller, this one has it all. Definitely a page turner from beginning to end. This is a must read!

Just released: Missing – Book 6. Again we get Kidnapping, murder, and revenge! Donna and Hunter Gates appear to be the perfect power couple. He’s a wealthy New Orleans City Councilman. She’s a popular news anchor for a local TV station. One night when Hunter comes home, Donna and their two small children are gone. He asks NOPD Detective Frank Renzi to find them. Renzi soon uncovers a tangled web of lies. Donna and Hunter both have dark secrets; secrets they will do anything to hide. Renzi fears Donna may already be dead. A ransom demand raises more questions. Is this a kidnapping? A cover-up for murder? Payback for past misdeeds? When one hostage is found brutally murdered, Renzi must unravel the Gates family secrets and find the killer before it’s too late.

So, I stated that Jackpot was one of my favorites in this series. Well, after reading Missing, I have a new favorite. I have to say that Susan has outdone herself on this one. This is a real page turner and kept me up all night reading! Missing has it all… Murder, revenge, infidelity… Lots of twists, and a plot that was not predictable. And once again you may find yourself rooting for one of the bad guys. You do not have to read the entire series to enjoy this one because it stands on its own. However, if you haven’t read the others, you may want to go back and do so.

I want to thank Susan Fleet for allowing me to feature her books on my blog, and I am hoping that I have piqued enough interest  to send my friends over to amazon to pick up one or more of these books! And don’t forget to check out her website, Susan is really interesting!

As Always, “Live, Love, Laugh….. and by all means…. READ!

Sharon

 

 

 

 

 

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies and Some Baking Tips To Make Them Perfect

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would create a list of baking tips. When I was a young mom, I would always start baking right after Halloween, mostly because I would run out of time if I didn’t start early. It was great having cookies in the freezer whenever I needed them for a party, a school function, or last minute arrival of guests. Also, if you live in a colder climate, baking cookies warms the house up very quickly. 🙂

Today, I find myself looking things up as I bake and maybe it would be nice to have some of those things close by. What did we do before the internet?

Tip 1: Create a conversion chart. Print it on either photo paper or cardstock. Attach it to your refrigerator or stove with a magnetic.

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Tip 2: When making sugar cookies start with a basic recipe: Bake, freeze and then when needed, pull them out and decorate. Lots of fun for adults and kids. There are tons of recipes online. the following recipe is one that I found interesting. I haven’t tried it yet, but adding sour cream to the mix makes me think that they will not be dry and crumbly. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Please Share!

Soft Chewy Sugar Cookies:

Yield 40 Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

 

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 cups flour

 

Cream the butter and the sugar together.

Add the sour cream.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, mixing gently until you have a soft dough.

Chill for about 1 hour.

Roll out on a lightly floured board. These cookies rise a lot, so keep that in mind when rolling out the dough.

Cut out shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 9-10 minutes. The cookies should not brown and will firm up after cooling.

Decorate with your favorite frosting, glace, or colored sugar.

Tip 3: Use flour on utensils to keep dough from sticking: Dip the cookie cutters, and dust the spatula before transferring uncooked dough to a sheet. Rolling dough between two sheets of floured parchment will keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.

Tip 4: Measure the flour accurately. If the flour gets packed, you will end up with too much flour and a dry cookie. Some folks find that using a cake/pastry flour works better.

Tip 5: Mix the sugar and butter until fluffy; Use completely softened butter; (some like margarine, personally I prefer butter).

Tip 6: Be careful not to overmix after adding butter and sugar to your dry ingredients.

Tip 7: If you want a chewy cookie, bake for less time. All ovens vary! Start with the lowest number of minutes in the recipe. 

Tip 8: Use only unsalted butter. And this is true for all baking, otherwise your baked goods will be too salty.

Tip 9: Sprinkling your cookies with powdered sugar versus frosting will make them less sweet. If you don’t have powdered sugar, try microwaving granulated sugar. It turns into powdered sugar very quickly. 

Tip 10: When freezing your cookies spread them out in your freezer bag or slightly freeze before placing them in a bag to keep them from sticking together. Freeze them in bags of one dozen. A dozen is plenty to take to most gatherings. 

Personally, I am not a very good baker, I prefer to cook. However, the kids prefer to bake, so I am always looking for easy to bake desserts. Please feel free to leave me some suggestions, and share my post with your friends.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to:

Live, Love, Laugh and by all means Read!

Sharon

Off to San Antonio, Texas

As I prepare my travel plans, I thought I would stop and think about the summer that I have enjoyed. When someone asks me where I am from, I usually laugh and say “everywhere”! Born and raised in Kingston, NY, I was given the opportunity to relocate with the company that I worked for. Although it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make, I made it rather quickly. I asked myself two questions. What were my career opportunities if I stay and what opportunities will my three sons have? Packing up my home and moving to Atlanta, Georgia was the best decision I have ever made. And yes, I was sad to leave my family and friends, but I had to think about what I could give my boys. I remember when we were leaving New York, I thought it would be really nice if we ended up in Tampa, Florida where I could eventually retire. (no I don’t have psychic powers or do I?). Six years later we moved the finance department to Tampa, Florida. Two of my sons were grown at this point so moving to Tampa was a little more difficult. However, I didn’t feel like I was in a position to give up my years of service and my retirement package, so after a family meeting, off to Florida I went with my youngest son in tow. For the next 15 years, living in Florida was everything I hoped it would be. TA-DA, retirement, April 2011. With my sons scattered about, I decided to live near my youngest son who just gave me my first granddaughter. Sierra Vista, Arizona. Wow, what a change in climate. Did I love yet another change? You bet I did. Of course, I knew this was temporary because my son is in the military. It was a wonderful three years and my second granddaughter was born while I lived there.

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After three years in Arizona, my son and his family were off to upstate New York, and this is a place where I just cannot live in the winter. I opted to join my first two sons in Texas. Hence, I spend my winters in Texas and my summers in upstate New York. And yes, I absolutely love it!

What I really intended to write about when I started this post was my summer here in upstate New York. So, here it is; It started with a very long drive from San Antonio, Texas to Kingston, New York. Here I visited with my sister and her family. The week-long visit had me reminiscing about old times with lots and lots of throwback Thursday pictures. A few drives through the city had me thinking about the good old days and concluding that I wouldn’t change a thing with regard to the direction my life has taken me.

Off to Philadelphia, New York… What a beautiful Upstate NY area. Beautiful weather (most of the time), The St Lawrence River, and the beautiful Thousand Islands. Lots of Camping in Central New York. And wineries… lots and lots of wineries. And yes my friends quite a few trips to the library. My girls already love reading, and this makes me very happy. The Fall brings festivals, Pumpkin Patches, and Apple Orchards… I really dislike leaving my girls. But, on November 1, I will be heading southwest for a warmer climate where I will spend the winter and early spring with my two sons and family in San Antonio, Texas.

So what have you done this summer or early fall?

Please enjoy a few of the many pictures I took this summer!

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  Boldt Castle

DSC06787 St Lawrence River

11988452_10204957926564271_4386424382114980229_nRoswell P. Flower Memorial Library and my Sophia

DSC07008Madelynn and Sophia at the Cream Cheese Festival

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Madelynn and I

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Sophia and I

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Riverwalk, Watertown, NY

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Ashokan Reservoir

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Roosevelt Estate, Hyde Park, NY

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Petting Zoo, Evans Mills, NY

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St Lawrence River, Clayton, NY

Thanks for stopping By and As Always,

Live, Love, Laugh, and by all means…. READ!

Sharon

Norman Rockwell

One of my Favorite Artists: Or is he an Illustrator? I will say both!
Those who have been to my home already know that one of my favorite artists/illustrators is Norman Rockwell. I can’t imagine anyone who does not love his work. How I feel about his work is pretty much summed up in his Quote. “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” The simplicity is what I love best. And I believe that life is as simple or as complicated as we choose to make it. Norman Rockwell brought current issues to the forefront so beautifully.  I hope you enjoy this post.

A Brief Biography – Courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum.

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Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.

Rockwell found success early. He painted his first commission of four Christmas cards before his sixteenth birthday. While still in his teens, he was hired as art director of Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America, and began a successful freelance career illustrating a variety of young people’s publications.

At age 21, Rockwell’s family moved to New Rochelle, New York, a community whose residents included such famous illustrators as J.C. and Frank Leyendecker and Howard Chandler Christy. There, Rockwell set up a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe and produced work for such magazines as Life, Literary Digest, and Country Gentleman. In 1916, the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post, the magazine considered by Rockwell to be the “greatest show window in America.” Over the next 47 years, another 321 Rockwell covers would appear on the cover of the Post. Also in 1916, Rockwell married Irene O’Connor; they divorced in 1930.

The 1930s and 1940s are generally considered to be the most fruitful decades of Rockwell’s career. In 1930, he married Mary Barstow, a schoolteacher, and the couple had three sons, Jarvis, Thomas, and Peter. The family moved to Arlington, Vermont, in 1939, and Rockwell’s work began to reflect small-town American life.

In 1943, inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms paintings. They were reproduced in four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post with essays by contemporary writers. Rockwell’s interpretations of Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear proved to be enormously popular. The works toured the United States in an exhibition that was jointly sponsored by the Post and the U.S. Treasury Department and, through the sale of war bonds, raised more than $130 million for the war effort.

Although the Four Freedoms series was a great success, 1943 also brought Rockwell an enormous loss. A fire destroyed his Arlington studio as well as numerous paintings and his collection of historical costumes and props.

In 1953, the Rockwell family moved from Arlington, Vermont, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Six years later, Mary Barstow Rockwell died unexpectedly. In collaboration with his son Thomas, Rockwell published his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, in 1960. The Saturday Evening Post carried excerpts from the best-selling book in eight consecutive issues, with Rockwell’s Triple Self-Portrait on the cover of the first.

In 1961, Rockwell married Molly Punderson, a retired teacher. Two years later, he ended his 47-year association with The Saturday Evening Post and began to work for Look magazine. During his 10-year association with Look, Rockwell painted pictures illustrating some of his deepest concerns and interests, including civil rights, America’s war on poverty, and the exploration of space.

In 1973, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his artistic legacy by placing his works in the custodianship of the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical Society, later to become Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. The trust now forms the core of the Museum’s permanent collections. In 1976, in failing health, Rockwell became concerned about the future of his studio. He arranged to have his studio and its contents added to the trust. In 1977, Rockwell received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2008, Rockwell was named the official state artist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, thanks to a dedicated effort from students in Berkshire County, where Rockwell lived for the last 25 years of his life.

Do you have a favorite artist or maybe a favorite Norman Rockwell Print? Please share!

Photos courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum

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The “Four Freedoms” gallery at Norman Rockwell Museum. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved.

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Norman Rockwell Museum (interior). Photo by Jeremy Clowe. ©Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

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Norman Rockwell Museum (interior). Photo by Art Evans. ©Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved

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Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge studio (interior). Photo by Jeremy Clowe. ©Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

Please take some time to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum Website (link below). It is an awesome site.

Norman Rockwell Museum Website

As always, remember to:

Live, Love, Laugh and by all means…..READ!

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