Please join the Chicks in welcoming fab cozy author Libby Klein, who pens the Poppy McAllister Mysteries! The next entry in the series, MIDNIGHT SNACKS ARE MURDER, will be released July 31!
The Life and Trials of the Gluten Free
Gluten. Very few people know what it is. You can’t see it or taste it, but you can feel the effects of it. As a baker, I’m very aware of what gluten does to food. Sometimes you want to develop a lot of it. Like when you’re making French bread and you want it to be crusty on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Sometimes you want to be very careful not to develop it. Like when you’re making a light as air cake and you want a buttery moist crumb instead of a dense brick. Most people live their lives and never ask what gluten is until some annoying granola crunchy hipster comes along and ruins dinner for everyone announcing they’re gluten free now. That’s me.
The day the doctor told me I had an autoimmune disease and had to go gluten free, I left her office and went to McDonalds and bought a double cheeseburger, fries, and an apple pie. Then I went to a pizza place and ordered a pizza. Just so you know, this level of gluttony is unusual for me. Unless PMS is involved and at least then I space it out better.
My first stage of going gluten free was to completely fritz out and pretend I didn’t know what the doctor was talking about. Lalalalala “Gluten? What’s gluten? This isn’t gluten it’s toast.” Before long I became very aware that I had made a horrible mistake. It may have been the Jabba the Hut body double in the mirror or the fact that even my yoga pants were straining to contain the effects of my choices.
So, in my second stage of going gluten free I decided to go scorched earth. I cut out all gluten completely. I didn’t even want to see gluten in my periphery. I wouldn’t eat baked goods for the rest of my life. A person can survive on just meat and vegetables, right? I mean do I really need bagels and cookies?
Sixteen hours later my third stage of going gluten free kicked in. That’s the stage where I ransack the gluten free aisle of the grocery store in my pajamas with a crazed look on my face, a cart full of boxes that make empty promises, and I’m elbow deep in a bag of Tate’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies. (Which are delicious by the way!) Now I’m open to anything. Crackers made out of bird seed? I don’t care, I’ll try them! Cupcakes made out of bean flour? That sounds disgusting. I’ll take all three flavors.
Be careful though, sometimes marketing people try to trick you. “Gluten Free Tilapia!” Okay. Now the only way raw, 1-ingredient tilapia would ever have gluten in it is if you were fishing with donuts as bait and let him get a good bite before reeling him in. (Which would be only fair – I mean, come on! You’re gonna eat him.)
Of course, on the flip side there are some things that you’d never expect to contain gluten that sneak up on you and whack you on the butt. Things like ice cream, chocolate bars, roasted nuts and French fries. (McDonald’s French fries have 17 ingredients and one of them is gluten. I’m convinced two others are spite and vindictiveness.) I’ve tried to order a steak only to find out it contained gluten because it was marinated in beer. Burgers that were soaked in Worchester sauce, and chicken that was brushed with soy sauce. It’s meat. That’s just wrong. But I bet it was tasty! Of course, I’ll never know. I had a salad. I’m fine.
Stage four involves reading all the labels and annoying everyone with your 60 Minutes expose style interview. “Does that have gluten in it? Are you sure? How do you know?” This stage is why so few people want to eat with someone who has gone gluten free.
Stage five, which comes moments after stage four, is being annoyed by the blank stare and lack of confidence that can only mean the person you’re interrogating has no idea what gluten is. “Uhhhhh…..nooooo? Probably not.” You’re gonna guess? That’s good. It’s just my body wracked in pain later if you’re wrong. No big deal, I can chance it. I’m fine.
Eating out is a minefield. I was once denied frozen yogurt when I said I was gluten free because it had dairy in it and “dairy has gluten.” Um, NO. It doesn’t. And I’ve been assured that there was absolutely NO gluten in my “gluten free” food. None. Not at all. We checked and it’s safe. And when the swelling and itching started I discovered that my dish had wheat, bread crumbs, soy sauce and flour. But the word “gluten” was nowhere on the label so they thought it would be okay. Hey, It’s all right. I get it. You go get some more training and I’ll spend the week in the bathroom. Maybe you can send someone over later to hold my hair while I throw up. Do you happen to have a Benadryl for the ride home? I’m fine.
Other restaurants are more vigilant. Like the time I ordered an Asian Chicken Salad and told them I was gluten free so leave off the wontons. When it arrived, not only were there no won tons, there were no peppers, no cucumbers, no peanuts, no onions, no dressing, and no sesame seeds. All I had was a bowl of iceberg lettuce and a grilled chicken breast. They had even picked the carrot slivers out of the lettuce. I do appreciate the vigilance, but now I have a bowl of sadness.
Over the years that I’ve been gluten free I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but I still make mistakes. Just tonight I had barbecue sauce. It was a popular gourmet brand that I bought from the gluten free section of the grocery store. There was a label on the grocery store shelf highlighting GLUTEN FREE. Sweet! Then why am I itching so bad? After an inspection of the ingredients, the bottle contains soy sauce which is made from wheat. I took a special gluten pill that should help. After all, I didn’t have that much. The itching will eventually stop. I’m fine.
The cornerstone of the gluten free market is bread. Or should I say, toast. Because toasting is the secret to gluten free bread. Toasting is the magical process that makes gluten free bread more believable. The first gluten free bread I had years ago was a rice flour loaf that was so dense and stiff it fell apart at the first bite. You could have used it to patch a hole in the drywall. It was hard and sour, and I considered giving the gluten free life up altogether. Who needs a thyroid and working intestines? Don’t they have pills for that now? And what’s with the giant hole in every loaf? Does gluten act as putty to fill the holes in tastier bread? Is that where all the happiness leaked out? You need to sacrifice one piece of bread for every two slices to plug the hole or your peanut butter will just squish out in your lap.
Thank goodness I can bake. I can make you just about anything gluten free and you’d never know it. Okay, sometimes you’ll know. Especially if you have it at the same time as the normal version of it. That’s a big part of going gluten free. Don’t eat the Tastycake and the gluten free cupcake at the same time. If you go without cake long enough, you’ll work up enough appreciation to enjoy what seems like a very dense kinda heavy cupcake. Try to focus on the frosting.
In a stunning coincidence, my protagonist Poppy McAllister is also gluten free due to an autoimmune disease. I mean, what are the odds of it happening to both of us?! She works part time baking gluten free goodies for the local coffee shop and she includes some of her recipes in the back of each mystery. Not only does writing gluten free recipes keep me from lusting after donuts and cupcakes I can’t have, (when I’m writing anyway) I get to share some really yummy recipes with my readers. The only things I’ve haven’t been able to reproduce gluten free are yeast raised donuts, and croissants. And I’m still working on both. Stay tuned!
Say hello to Libby Klein
Meow, my guest today is author Libby Klein!
Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.
Hi and welcome Libby! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Cape May, NJ, but now I live in Northern Virginia. My friends call me the cat whisperer because stray cats will come out of the shadows and run up to me for pets when I’m around. I love travel, coffee, chocolate and all things fluffy. Except for squirrels. Squirrels freak me out. I was a stay at home mom and ran a daycare for many years. I only started writing about five years ago, and Class Reunions Are Murder is my first published novel.
Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
I appreciate every single comment and review you leave for me. There are a bajillion books out there, yet you chose to read mine. I hope you love Poppy and Aunt Ginny as much as I do, and I hope we put a little joy in your day.
Please tell us about your newest release
Midnight Snacks Are Murder releases July 31, 2018. Someone goes on a rampage and breaks into neighbor’s houses leaving a wake of chaos. If you find it half as hilarious as I do you’re in for a treat.
Which is your favorite minor character and why?
One of my favorites is Figaro. He’s based on a combination of my two cats – both of whom aren’t with me anymore. Figaro is a black smoke Persian with bright orange eyes, and he has a few quirks. He flops over without warning and lands with a thud. Many times, people think he’s sick or hurt but its just one of those things he does. He always seems to know what Poppy is feeling, and he finds a way to get his point across. I love writing Figaro because it gives me a chance to bring my boys back and remember all of their little antics.
What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?
Poppy is very snarky. It’s her go-to response and defense mechanism for dealing with the world around her. Most of her inner monologue is very dry and deadpan because it’s everyone else who’s crazy and she’s the straight man.
Tell us something funny about one of your characters.
Figaro thinks every story is about him and he doesn’t get enough page time.
One of your characters is going on a shopping spree. Where does he/she go and what does he/she buy?
Aunt Ginny’s dream shopping spree would be at a flea market or the dollar store. She is all about quantity and deals. She might not have a need for Happy New Year 2006 paper plates, but at fifty cents for twelve you never know when they’ll come in handy.
Your character is at a bookstore. Which section is he/she shopping in? What book is in his/her hand right now?
Poppy would be in the romance section, and she’d have a novel about second chances at love or rewriting your life. She’d be a big far of the time travel trope because she has spent so much time fantasizing about what her life could have been with different choices.
I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
If you make lasagna and jelly doughnuts Poppy will think she’s died and gone to heaven. But then she’d need a fistful of pills and a couple of weeks to recover because she can’t eat any of that. If you want her to not get sick, she loves street tacos wrapped in paleo tortillas and gluten free brownies.
Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)
If you like a dry, serious cozy that focuses on hardcore mystery without any local color or side plots – this book is NOT for you. Midnight Snacks is fun and funny and everything you want a lighthearted escape from reality to be – with a good mystery. Character development and theme are very important to me so expect to see growth from book to book.
What is the hardest part of writing in your opinion?
Getting started. Not just with a new book, but every day getting started. I find a million things to do “first.”
Can you tell us some of your latest news?
My publisher has recently contracted me for 2 more books. The Poppy McAllister Mysteries will have at least 5 books.
If you were in the witness protection program, what would you choose as a career?
I’d work in a bookstore putting the books in order on the shelf.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I am a big outliner! I know every major point that’s going to happen from A to Z. But within those points, characters take on a life of their own and I pants my way through each scene. Sometimes I end up with scenes and chapters I had never outlined because the characters tell me things I didn’t know when I started.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?www.libbykleinbooks.com All my social media links are there too.
Please share a few favorite lines or one paragraph from MIDNIGHT SNACKS.
“I don’t control the owls!” You’ll see. 😊
Pepsi or Coke? Vitamin Water XXX
Favorite kind of chocolate? The one in front of me as long as its not wrapped around bugs or something weird. Fancy truffles like Godiva probably edge out most candy bars, but sometimes you just want a Hershey bar.
Cats or dogs? Cats! (ROCCO: YAY!!!!)
Do you read more than you write? Not anymore. Deadlines.
Favorite movie? The Princess Bride.
Favorite book to movie? The Life of Pi
Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! ;)Romance – Jude Deveraux. Fantasy – Jasper Fforde. YA – Eoin Colfer. Cozy Mystery – I have made far too many friends who are brilliant mystery writers to be able to narrow this list down.
Hardback/Paperback or eReader? From the Library – hardback. For the beach – paperback. For a vacation where I don’t want to pack 10 books for the airplane – eReader. For long car trips and marathon cooking sessions – Audiobooks.
Do you own a laptop or desktop computer? I have a tech company – We have at least one of everything.
Thanks for a great interview, Libby!
Today I have something special for you all. I recently read Class Reunions Are Murder and Midnight Snacks Are Murder by Libby Klein, two cozy mysteries. So today you’re getting a double review + a Q&A with Libby, and to make things even better you’ll find a giveaway for both Libby’s first book Class Reunions Are Murder and an ARC of her upcoming book Midnight Snacks Are Murder at the end of this post! I hope you’ll love this extra long post and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think in the comments.
Review: Class Reunions Are Murder
Title: Class Reunions Are Murder
Author: Libby Klein
Series: A Poppy McAllister mystery
Started reading: 05/05/2018
Finished reading: 12/05/2018
Poppy McAllister gets roped into going to her class reunion, and facing off her bullies after 25 years. Needless to say she doesn’t really want to go. In the end she goes to support her best friend, and aside from some minor hiccups it all goes well. That is until the former head cheerleader is found murdered next to Poppy’s old locker. Suddenly Poppy finds herself the main suspect in a murder case and trying to prove she’s innocent.
Before I start the actual Review you all should know this was my first ever cozy mystery. I’ve always been hesitant to read cozy mysteries because for some reason I thought they were boring and for old people. It’s also about as far as you can get from my usual YA fantasy. Turns out I really loved this cozy mystery and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, this book is super funny and brilliantly written. The plot is well thought out and doesn’t have any plot holes, which is great because I really hate when that happens. It’s quite easy to follow but is written in a way that keeps you curious and reading. It didn’t give away to much of the end throughout the book but instead kept you sitting at the edge of your seat towards the ending.
As for the characters, they really make you feel as if you’ve known them for all your life. especially because we’ve probably all known people like them. Then you have the main character Poppy. I think this is the most relatable character of all time. The whole book long I kept feeling like hey, this is me. We’ve all definitely had a moment in life where all we wanted to do was hang around in front of the T.V. all day and eat junk.
All in all, I’m very glad I got out of my comfort zone and a big thumbs-up for Libby who gave me what I didn’t know until I read it.
Review: Midnight Snacks Are Murder
Title: Midnight Snacks Are Murder
Author: Libby Klein
Series: A Poppy McAllister mystery
Started reading: 12/05/2018
Finished reading: 14/05/2018
Poppy is at it again but this time it’s aunt Ginny that’s the suspect in a murder case. So Poppy try to prove her aunt’s innocence while opening up a B&B, doing her baking for Gia, dealing with her mother-in-law and stopping aunt Ginny from terrorizing the town. It all proves to be a real challenge.
The first book was really great and the second is even better. I love it for all the same reasons as the first. It has a good plot without any plot holes. The sense of humor Libby writes with is amazing, it actually made me laugh out loud several times. All the while still keeping it so super relatable.
And then I loved it some more. We got to know a few characters a lot better in this second novel. I’ll start it off with Gia because OMG, where can I get me one? I adore Gia, I really do. He makes me fangirl in the worst possible way. He’s fun, charming and super sweet to top it off. I can’t wait to see where this is going to go in the next books. #TeamGiaAllTheWay
Okay, to be fair I love Tim too, but he’s a bit too goody-goody and forgiving for me, and I just like Gia better. He’s still an awesome character though but I really feel as if he should be the best friend who’s always there to fall back on when you need him.
However, of all characters, I love aunt Ginny the most! She’s such a riot and keeps surprising me with what she gets up to. You’ll never know what to expect with her. She also makes me hopeful for a future in which old people don’t just sit around and be grumpy all day but actually go out and live. But most of all I just laughed my ass off with the crazy things she does.
In short: you should all buy these books, you won’t regret it! I, for one, can’t wait for the next one to come out.
Q&A with Libby Klein
Who is Libby Klein?
I rolled up on the beach in Cape May as a child and got stuck there for nearly a decade. I spent many years working on an escape plan, and when I was old enough to drive I made a fast getaway. I still go back every summer to eat cheese steaks and frozen custard with crunch coat. I’m an avid coffee drinker, a lover of huge fluffy cats, and all manner of decadent baking. I love afternoon tea, the theater, 70s and 80s rock, and laying on the beach reading romance novels and cozy mysteries. I’m terribly sarcastic, and full of food issues, including gluten intolerance, which is sad for me because I LOVE toast.
Which author do you look up to?
I’m really short so I look up to all of them. I enjoy reading Jude Deveraux, Jasper Fforde, Ann B. Ross, and Lemony Snicket. All very different genres but so much fun to read. I also love a wide variety of mystery authors, many of whom I’m honored to call my friends.
Which book did you really enjoy?
The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket. When I worked in a bookstore, I would show prospective YA buyers a copy. If they didn’t get why that title was funny I led them to the easy read section.
You write cozy mysteries, why did you choose this genre?
I love cozies because you get so many genres rolled into one. You have a murder mystery, a cast of quirky characters. A little romance, a little humor, some baking, and recipes. Cozies are FUN! There is enough violence and sadness in the world today. I wanted to write something that would bring joy and happiness into people’s lives and leave them feeling good instead of afraid to leave their house at night.
What do you love about Cozy mysteries?
My favorite cozies are funny and have some romance to them. I love that they’re clean and you can read them with your teenaged daughter and your grandmother and not have to feel awkward about anything. And I’m a sucker for a story with a cat. For some reason cozies and cats go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
What problems come up when writing, and how do you fix them?
Sometimes I forget to eat. Or feed the cat. Or make dinner. My husband is usually on top of the food situation to remedy things quickly. Then there are times I forget what I said in previous books and I have to go back and search for what color eyes did I say someone had, or where did I say they lived. And I’m always editing my scenes to make sure they’re filled with enough drama, action or humor. Thankfully I have some fantastic readers who see the manuscript before I turn it in to the publisher. They give me great feedback for what might not be working as well as it could be.
How do you get every plot to fit together so nicely?
There is a lot of coffee, and charts and diagrams, then a nap, and more coffee. A lot of my plot lines are mapped out from the beginning, but some things come out later as I write and I have to go backwards and plant clues that weren’t there before.
The main character, Poppy, follows a paleo diet. Do You follow it yourself?
Um…. well…. I’m supposed to. I have an autoimmune disease so I’m gluten free and grain free 99.9% of the time, but I’ve had a hard time breaking up with dairy. I’ve changed my number several times but dairy keeps calling me and hanging up. I could live on fruit and cheese and be very happy for the rest of my life. I won’t be able to breathe, but breathing is overrated when pizza is on the line.
Did you come up with the recipes in the book yourself?
My version of enchiladas is made up, but I didn’t make up coconut tortillas or guacamole – although I wish I made up guacamole. That stuff is awesome! I’ve made up the recipes in Midnight Snacks Are Murder, and most of the things Poppy makes in the coffee shop. Sometimes Poppy makes up something for the coffee shop, then I have to figure out how to create a recipe to go along with the story.
Do you have any good advise for people who struggle with self-esteem issues like Poppy does?
I have spent so much of my life apologizing for my size and hiding from people because I was afraid of what they would think about me, and at the end of the day I’m the only one who missed out. People are busy obsessing about their own flaws. They might see me and think or say something mean for a moment, but they’re way to shallow to stay focused on anyone but themselves for long. Think about everyone you admire, and love, and look up to. What do you think about them? How much of your opinion is based on their looks? We don’t love people because they are skinny or pretty or muscular. We love them for their kindness, their wisdom, their sense of humor. And people will love us for the same reason. We can say terrible things to ourselves; we are our own bullies. We need to stop the self-abuse and find something positive to say about ourselves. Love yourself and be happy.
I love aunt Ginny. How did you come up with her character? Is she based on someone you know?
Aunt Ginny is based on my grandmother who passed away some years ago. I have so much fun writing about her antics although she would call me “some kind of nut” for the situations I put her in. Aunt Ginny was a hell-raiser in real life, so her character is very true to her inspiration. Writing about her is a way to bring her back to me.
If you had a chance to sit down and talk to any of your characters and ask then a question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d sit down with Barbie and ask her why she was so hurtful. Why are bullies mean? What makes them lash out? I tried to fight back once and said something mean to a girl who had been bullying me. She started to cry. I felt terrible and I learned that being a bully was not for me. I don’t like to see people hurt, and I can’t understand what is going on in the mind of someone who does.
Can you tell us a little about your upcoming books?
Midnight Snacks Are Murder comes out on July 31st. Restaurant Weeks Are Murder comes out in March 2019. Poppy gets signed up for a local chef competition where temperatures run hotter than the deep fryer!
Now the part you’re probably all excited for, the giveaway!
First I’d like to give a big thank you to Libby who has made this all possible. You’re the best Libby!
What can you win?
By entering this give away you can win a copy of Class Reunions Are Murder and an ARC copy of Libby’s upcoming book Midnight Snacks Are Murder.
Who can enter?
- You have to be at least 18 or have permission from a guardian to give us your shipping address.
- The giveaway is open worldwide so anyone can enter
What do you have to do to win?
When does it start?
When does it end?
June 20th a winner will be announced at 8 P.M. my time (GMT+1)
How does it work?
june 20th a random winner will be drawn out off all the people who liked both Libby’s and my facebook fan pages. The winner will be posted on facebook and has to send me a message within 24 hours of being announced winner in order to claim his/her prize. If the winner fails to do this a new winner will be drawn.
The only thing worse than going to your twenty-fifth high school reunion is going a pathetic failure. I’m a stay at home cat mom, who’s sixty pounds overweight, and I just ate a can of Duncan Hines chocolate frosting for breakfast. I haven’t been out of the house since my late husband’s funeral a few months ago so I haven’t had to put on pants in a really long time. That’ll teach the UPS driver to require a signature. Fortunately, my black smoke Persian Figaro enjoys our life on the sectional sofa living on microwave pot pies and raspberry Zingers. Who needs friends when you have Cupcake Wars?
Apparently, Sawyer does. She’s been my best friend since grade school – no offence Fig. Sawyer didn’t run for her life to escape beach Hell like I did. She stayed in Cape May and got married and divorced. Of course, she’s gorgeous and has a body to die for so living in a resort town that worships the bikini suits her.
She called me a little while ago complaining about these cheerleaders who made our lives miserable all through high school. Ah yeah, Sawyer – I know. That’s why my favorite food group is crème filling. I’m trying to forget. Sawyer has the flagrant boldness that comes from being a size five, so she wants to go to the reunion and face off against the bullies. I’m like, fine. Have fun with that. You do you. Only her misery wants my company and she’s not afraid to use the BFF card.
That’s why I’m currently wired on espresso and throwing t-shirts and slim fast bars into a suitcase. I have a four-hour road trip to the Jersey shore with a howling cat ahead of me. A very old, extremely cantankerous, and possibly senile Great Aunt Ginny waiting to chew me out for not coming home sooner. And an 80’s themed reunion to get in, get out, and get over as quick as possible. And. . . I still need to find pants.
This is gonna be a disaster. But at least I won’t run into the one that got away.
AUTHOR Q&A FT @LIBBYKLEINBOOKS | CLASS REUNIONS ARE MURDER + PRINT COPY #GIVEAWAY | GREAT ESCAPES BOOK TOURS PRESENTS #COZYMYSTERY
Posted by: Mayor Sonni
Class Reunions Are Murder (A Poppy McAllister Mystery) by Libby Klein is on virtual book tour. The cozy mystery stops at Readeropolis today with an author interview. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win the giveaway and follow the book tour (for other dates see the bottom of the post).
Author Interview with Libby Klein
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favorite character in Class Reunions is Barbie. She’s a bully who only cares about her own happiness, and she’ll step on whoever she has to in order to be on top. We’ve all known a Barbie and the pain they can inflict. Those childhood bullies can leave scars that last a lifetime.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and multiple food allergies. Changing my diet was hard because it had been focused solely on weight loss for over thirty years. Now my focus had to change to healing and avoiding foods I reacted to. I’ve had to adopt the Paleo diet for my health. Only I am so susceptible to the power of suggestion that when I read a cozy that takes place in a pie shop I find myself eating pie. If it’s in a bakery, Here I am making cookies. Every time I read a new book, I would sabotage myself. I thought, if only there was a cozy that encouraged me to eat healthy and do yoga every day, maybe I’d have more success with it. Writing Poppy is my inspiration to stay healthy.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
What can we expect from you in the future?
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Tell your friends and leave me good reviews.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Teresa Trent Blog
Class Reunions Are Murder (A Poppy McAllister Mystery)
by Libby Klein
Have you ever attended a class reunion and notice how not only do people not look the way they did in high school, but they vaguely resemble that Facebook photo? Today we have a great cozy mystery, Class Reunions Are Murder. Not only that, but I got an exclusive interview with Poppy McCallister who will give us the skinny on her class reunion experience. Maybe I shouldn’t have said skinny. Any girl whose special talent is sniffing out flavors in a Whitman Sampler–needs to come sit next to me! Love it.
Don’t forget to look for the Prize Guy. Enter for the chance to win a print copy of Class Reunions Are Murder!
And now…here’s Poppy
Please tell us about your latest adventure.
I was coerced into attending my twenty-fifth high school reunion at the Jersey shore by my life-long best friend, Sawyer to face off against the cheerleading bullies who made our lives miserable all through high school. One of those bullies ended up dead – through no fault of my own – and I had the misfortune of finding the body. Now guess who was voted most likely to kill a cheerleader. Yep, yours truly. Man, I just wanted to go home to Virginia, my sectional sofa, and my tubes of cookie dough. Instead, I got stuck in beach hell trying to wriggle out of the clutches of a vindictive cop and prove my innocence.
Do you have any friends/sidekicks helping you out?
I have plenty of friends and sidekicks. I’m not sure how much help they always are. Figaro is my black smoke Persian and he has a way of being a pest in just the right moment. We live with my Great Aunt Ginny. If getting into trouble were an Olympic sport, she’d have all the medals, but she’s sharp as a razor clam and misses nothing. Then there’s Sawyer, she’s my ride or die. We grew up together. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Sawyer, and that’s how I got into this mess at the reunion.
Do you have any special skills to fight crime?
My special skills involve being able to deduce what filling is in a chocolate from the Whitman’s Sampler on sight, and my ability to sense when a coffee shop is nearby. I’m not trying to fight crime, I’m trying to fly under the radar and stay out of trouble. But I do have a way of reading people – an intuition if you will – that helps me detect lies and guilt. Aunt Ginny says I’m just overly suspicious.
Are you a full-time detective or do you do something else?
I’m a full-time couch potato. My husband passed a few months ago and I’m still trying to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve been slogging through life with all the motivation of a manatee. There are some dreams and aspirations I’d still like to see realized in my life. It seems I have my work cut out for me.
What are you most frightened of in this story?
Running into my ex-boyfriend at the reunion and him seeing I’ve chunked out since high school.
Is there anything funny that happens to you or another character in this story?
If there was such a thing as karma, what in the world did I do to deserve the feathery nightmare I had to wear to see people who hadn’t had the chance to judge me for twenty years?
If I were to choose an actor or actress to play your part in a movie, who would that be? Do you see any other characters in your story as actors or actresses that our readers might know?
I imagine myself being played by Julianne Moore or Debra Messing. Stop laughing Aunt Ginny. Aunt Ginny would be supremely lucky to be played by Carol Burnett.
Do you have other mysteries you would like to tell us about? Is this the first book in the series, or have you cracked a few other cases?
Class Reunions is the first in a series. More hijinks are soon to come.
Do you have any final words you would like to leave with our readers?
If you ever get a piece of monogrammed stationary requesting a private meeting with an old enemy at your high school reunion – don’t hesitate. Run over it with the car, tear it into a million pieces, and set it on fire immediately!
Let’s give your author a chance to speak. Anything you would like to add?
Thank you so much for reading the adventures of Poppy, Figaro, and Aunt Ginny. Drop me a line through my website or social media. I’d love to hear from you.
I met Libby at a Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime meeting last fall and was delighted to hear about her new series, the Poppy McAllister Mystery series, from Kensington. The first book, Class Reunions Are Murder, came out on January 30, 2018. Libby is giving away a copy of the book to a commenter! Please join me in welcoming, Libby!
I grew up in south Jersey. Exit Zero. Technically the Villas which would have been like exit two, but they didn’t make an exit two because no one wants to go to the Villas. I lived down the street from a seemingly defunct button factory. It was apparently in operation until recently, but we never saw anyone there. No cars, no people. It’s like there were secret underground tunnels that only night workers knew about. In a word – creepy.
The Villas was not exactly a hotbed of activity since it was mostly populated by summer homes and settlers who had arrived on the Mayflower. Most of Cape May County was deserted in the off season. If my dad passed more than four cars during his fifteen-minute drive home from work he was like, “Whoa! What’s with all the traffic!” Then he complained that rush hour was out of control.
When most people refer to New Jersey as the armpit of New York, they mean north Jersey. In south Jersey you’re the armpit of Philly. Yoose eat your cheese steaks and Italian hoagies and root for the Flyers and the Eagles or you’re a mook. Everyone knows it.
My high school was small, my graduating class had roughly 200 students, and I had to walk four blocks to catch the bus – which I think constitutes child abuse in today’s society. After school activities were very popular because there was literally nothing else to do other than going to the mall. And by mall, I mean the tiny little strip of about fifteen shops in Rio Grande with the K-mart, two screen movie theater and Rick’s Pizza.
When I was a kid this was a huge culture shock for me. I came from the urban sprawl of the suburbs just outside of Washington DC. We had high rise apartments, public transportation, and a different nationality of restaurant on every corner. New Jersey was cornfields and asparagus farms. You rode your bike to the deli to get your mom capicola and provolone and the good hoagie rolls because she bought tomatoes at the farm stand on the way home from work. You can’t have a good hoagie without the good hoagie rolls.
In the summer, the population of Cape May exploded from four thousand residents to forty-thousand shoobies. Shoobies are what we call the tourists who wear socks with their sandals and order everything on the side when they know they’re gonna eat it anyway. You want to be known as a shoobie all you gotta do is order a “steak and cheese” or a “sub.” We’ll still sell it to you, but now it comes with a side of disdain. You gotta learn the language if you don’t wanna be a mook.
Our little two-lane roads get so clogged with shoobies it takes forever to go a couple blocks. They descend upon the beaches and bed and breakfasts in a clash of humanity fighting for a blanket sized patch of sand to call their own. They come to rent bicycles and beach chairs, line up for miles to buy water ice and frozen custard with rainbow jimmies. They loll about in the Atlantic Ocean, basking in the blistering sun under the constant rumble of single prop planes pulling banners that advertise everything from Reef and Beef Happy Hour to Marry Me Tina.
Growing up in a resort beach town means you’re the one who works those pancake breakfast shifts before going to your booth on the boardwalk. Your nights are spent trying to cajole shoobies into three for a dollar balloon darts and water gun horse races under the constant drone of “Watch the Tram Car Please.” You gotta mind your Ps and Qs because your tenth-grade science teacher is making the funnel cakes next door.
Everyone works as much as possible in the summer because they gotta make the money last all year. Your uncle works on the fishing boats at the crack of dawn to bring in tonight’s clams casino while grandma chambermaids for tips, so she can blow it all in Atlantic City on her day off. Your teachers don’t got time to put together lesson plans the last few weeks of the school year. They’re too tired from bartending now that the clubs are open. No one’s complaining.
Some people say there’s a rudeness here, a brusque attitude common to south Jersey. Maybe it’s the Philly influence. Maybe it’s the rampant humidity or the mosquitoes the size of salt water taffy. Maybe they’re just tired from working two jobs on their feet all day so they can have the luxury of heat this winter and they don’t got time for no shoobie funnel cake emergency. Whatever it is, they don’t mean anything by it. Once you get to know them, they’ll give you the shirt off their back. Just be aware that the shirt will probably say “Welcome to New Jersey. Now go home.”
Monday, January 8, 2018
A MUST READ Class Reunions Are Murder by LIbby Klein…
I finished Class Reunions Are Murder by LIbby Klein late Thursday night. I started it Wednesday night and at midnight my son came out of his room and said “just how long is that chapter?” when I sat down at 8:30 to read it, I said I would be in to say good night to him after I finished the chapter I was reading, apparently he had been waiting a good long while… I did not want to put this book down. Each time I picked it up and got interrupted, I found I kept wanting to run grab the book and hide, sometimes adulting is really hard…
CLASS REUNIONS ARE MURDER, the first book in the brand new Poppy McAllister Mystery series by Libby Klein, is sure to be a mega-hit! From the beginning, I was drawn into the story and the life of the protagonist, Poppy McAllister. Like a favorite dessert, I wanted to gobble the book up all at once in one sitting but real life sometimes doesn’t allow that so I had to put it down frequently. However, those interludes allowed me to savor every delicious word and scene in the story, making my reading time all the more meaningful and enjoyable. Ms. Klein has created a compelling character in Poppy, who is struggling with grief caused by widowhood. Despite her loss, Poppy’s dialog and introspection is humorous and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Poppy starts out being an insecure pushover, bullied by her former mother-in-law and walked over by everyone else. Her journey back to her hometown to visit her Aunt Ginny and attend (unwillingly) her class reunion is the catalyst for Poppy’s transformation. Ms. Klein accurately captures the angst of the insecurities of high school, with the descriptions of interaction between students: the popular kids, the mean girls, the nerds, those trying to just get through without being noticed. Yet through it all, the author writes with a witty sense of humor that truly adds to the entertainment of this engaging read.
Of course amazing characters need a terrific plot and Ms. Klein delivers. The pace is steady and the murder mystery well thought out. Almost the entire student body attending the class reunion are suspects, Poppy included, when one of the mean girls from their class is murdered during the party. The author also weaves in another layer of mystery surrounding Poppy’s Aunt Ginny and why she’s being harassed by social services. It brings to light the tragic situations surrounding senior citizens and how often they are targeted for defrauding. As I read, I had to cheer for Aunt Ginny and her spunky, free spirit. She is a delightful sidekick for Poppy. The various threads of plot, suspects, and subplots are all nicely wrapped up in an exciting, suspenseful conclusion. I am counting down the days until the next installment in this terrific new series!
In the book Aunt Ginny sets Poppy up with a holistic doctor who convinces her to go gluten-free and try to give the Paleo diet a try. As difficult as it is for Poppy to adhere to the diet, she does find great relief from several physical discomforts when she eats within the guidelines. In researching the author for this post, I found that she suffers from an autoimmune disease and as such eats a gluten-free diet. I discovered several years ago that I must also follow a strict gluten-free diet so I was very happy to find that Ms. Klein provides several gluten-free recipes at the back of the book. They all look quite delicious but I was especially drawn to the Paleo Strawberry Vanilla Muffins. I don’t often make baked goods for myself, so it was a treat being able to eat something I made. The muffins are quite flavorful and the lemon zest adds a nice zing to the strawberries. The texture is nice and moist but I did notice that after a couple of days the leftover muffins turned crumbly… which isn’t unusual for gluten-free products. I’ve included a tip to combat that in the recipe below. The topping, oh my! I loved the nice crunch of toasted almonds and the coconut sugar added just enough sweetness. In the book Poppy also makes these muffins substituting blueberries for strawberries and I will certainly be giving that variation a try!