March 31, 2014

DEATH ON EAT STREET by J.J. Cook - Review, Author Interview and a Giveaway

Description:  Zoe Chase always wanted to own her own restaurant—but first, she’ll have to serve up a heaping helping of meals on wheels, with a side of mystery.

When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama. Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned. 

My Thoughts on Death on Eat Street

This is my first book by author J.J. Cook (the pen name of husband and wife authors Jim and Joyce Lavene) and it was a fun escape into the world of Zoe, food trucks, biscuits and big boned cats.

I liked Zoe right away because she could be me.  She could be any of us and that made her entirely relatable.  She gives up her safe and secure job to do what she really loves and if that isn't what most of us dream of, I don't know what is. 

Reading of her trial and error with her Biscuit Bowl food truck had me chuckling and feeling as though I was there alongside her.  I wanted her to be successful - - damn the competition and damn her parents' opinions - - and I guarantee that you will too.

I think this is where J.J. Cook excels - - the character depictions.  We are lucky to have such a likable and spunky character as Zoe but we also get Ollie, the oversize and dependable friend of Zoe's with his own questionable past, Delia, the hardworking but down on her luck gal who was involved with the victim and Miguel, the handsome attorney who started out defending Zoe and makes her cheating ex look like last week's lunch plate.  Let's not forget the feisty and fickle Creme Brulee, Zoe's big boned feline companion who accompanies Zoe in her food truck and who doles out friendly love bites.

Oh, and there is a murder mystery thrown in.  Terry from Terry's Tacky Tacos (don't you love the name?) is Zoe's competition and he's found dead in her food truck.  To top that off, there is an important item missing and everyone seems to be on the hunt not only to find the item but who killed Terry.  Was he killed over this item?  Will Zoe make the food truck and diner a success?  Will she fall for Miguel? 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mobile with Zoe and her biscuit bowls (be prepared for hunger pangs while reading) and I know you will too.  The mystery was satisfying, all the characters were a hoot and I'm now looking at food trucks in my area in a whole new light. 

On a completely superficial and shallow note, don't you just love the cover?  I do.  It speaks to me - - the colors are fantastic and you see the food truck, the umbrellas and Creme Brulee . . . all vital to this book.

If you're looking for a rollicking good time, a clean read with some mystery and some wonderful recipes thrown in for your enjoyment, pick up Death on Eat Street.  It's a first class dish and the start to a brand new series.  Recommended reading at its finest.

With thanks to J.J. Cook and Lori Caswell at Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour. 


Author Website

Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

FTC Disclosure:  Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.


A big welcome to authors Joyce and Jim Lavene, who pen cozy mysteries under the name of J.J. Cook.

Writing as a team must have its challenges.  What is the best part of being a writing duo and what is the hardest part?

The best part of writing together is the together part. We have always loved doing things together, and the writing is no exception. We ran an office supply business together for 15 years before we started writing. The hardest part is making sure each of us is really saying what we think, and not just what we think the other person wants to hear.

What author or authors influenced each of you and helped shape your writing career?
Jim: I have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy from Andrea Norton, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey.

Joyce: I love Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Barbara Hambly, Tanith Lee

What is the best piece of advice you can give a novice writer?

Keep trying. The more you write, the better you write. Don’t give up. Learn to take criticism.

How do you get your story ideas?
We get a lot of ideas from looking around and reading everything. Sometimes it’s just passing a fire station, like we did with our Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries. With Biscuit Bowl, the idea came from our daughter who thought it would be a fun book.

Do you have any unusual quirks or peculiarities that are a necessity in order to write?
Just being a writer is quirky and peculiar. Imagination is important, and being willing to see every point of view – even from people you don’t like.

What’s a normal day in the life of Joyce and Jim Lavene?
We get up, eat let the dog out, feed the cats, eat breakfast. We watch news and weather while we answer email on our recumbent bike. Then we have lattes, (Jim is our barista) and talk over where the story we’re working on is going that day. Then we write for two hours and take a 15 minute break. We come back and write again for another couple of hours. Usually we average about 5,000 words a day, five days a week now that we write full-time. We try to be off nights and weekends with our family. We also babysit three grandchildren for a couple of hours every afternoon while we do promo work (which is never ending).

What was your favorite part of writing Death on Eat Street?
The food! Without a doubt. It was fun researching the food, and the food trucks. Our cat, Quincy, really liked the new cat, Crème Brulee, and could empathize with his plight. Quincy is a little ‘big boned’ too, and doesn’t like to do anything more than he has to.

Was there a special reason you chose Mobile, Alabama as the setting for Zoe and her biscuit bowls?
Jim is from Mobile, and still has some family there. We were down there for the Azalea Festival a few years ago, and thought it would be  a great place to set a story.  You know  there is a Mardis Gras book coming in that series, right?

A few random questions . . .
The book currently on your nightstand is . . .

Jim: Forgotten Planet, Murray Leinster
Joyce: Re-reading Frankenstein after seeing the movie.
If you could time travel to one place it would be . . .

Jim: Woodstock. I missed it.
Joyce: ancient Greece. I’d like to be a priestess of Delphi.

The actor/actress who could best portray you is . . .
Jim: the one with the freckles

Joyce:  the one with the curly hair
If you were a character in Clue, you would be . . .

Jim: Colonel Mustard
Joyce: the butler

Next up for you is . . .
We have a new Peggy Lee Garden Mystery out in May, Lethal Lily, The Horses of Christmas Past is the new book in our Missing Pieces Mysteries coming in August, and also under our name, Spell Booked, book 1 in the new Retired Witch’s Spellbook Mysteries coming in December. Under another name, Ellie Grant, we have Murderous Mince in our pie shop mysteries with Simon and Schuster.

Finally, what one word do you think best describes Death on Eat Street? 
FUN Food! Wait! That’s two words. Sorry.

Thank you. Joyce and Jim, for taking the time to sit down with Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Best of luck with Death on Eat Street!
Thanks for having us here!

To win a copy of J.J. Cook's Death on Eat Street, click on the Rafflecopter widget below and enter by letting me know what you would do career-wise if you could do anything you wanted, regardless of education and/or economy. (Me?  I would have my very own little bookstore!)  Good luck!  U.S. entries only please.

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