All posts by Amy Caudill

About Amy Caudill

I am a a writer and dreamer of different worlds, who dabbles in paranormal and science fiction, a fan girl at heart who loves books and movies in equal measure. Join me as I explore and sample some of the best in media available as well as some original writing.

She Has A Name (Guest Post)

Hello, everyone.  Today I am introducing my daughter, Heather, who would like to share with you some information about a service organization she volunteers with that helps victims of human trafficking.  Take it away Heather!

Hello everyone!  My name is Heather, and I volunteer with a local anti-human trafficking organization in central Ohio called She Has A Name (SHAN).  I’m here today to give you an quick introduction about the major social justice issue of human trafficking.

A definition of human trafficking according to SHAN:

“This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.  In general, human trafficking is a form of slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.”

As mentioned above, this is a form of modern-day slavery, and is also one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world.  There are 2 main reasons people are trafficked: sex and labor.  People are forced to do these things against their will, all for someone to gain a profit.

And the truth is anyone from anyone demographic in any country can be affected.  There are tens of millions of people being exploited worldwide, usually having their vulnerabilities used against them.  No one is perfectly safe from being a victim, although some people at more at risk than others, but there can be ways to lower the risk as well.

This organization does its job to spread awareness and conducts quarterly anti-human trafficking trainings (for general information) and trauma responsive care trainings (for how to interact with survivors), but there are a plethora of organizations helping to spread awareness and take care of survivors at every stage of their journey.

Heather at SHAN
Heather and one of her fellow volunteers taking a break at a function for SHAN.

Ways you can combat labor trafficking:

Consume consciously and shop ethically, sustainably, and organically.  Research companies and products before you support them.  One of my favorite things to do is go thrift shopping; you can find some amazing finds for a great deal by recycling clothes.  Also, you can help by advocating and raising awareness about this issue.

Ways you can combat sex trafficking:

Educate yourself.  Sex trafficking can commonly be seen in the form of pornography or prostitution.  If you see something, report it.  You could save a life or help end the suffering of another human being.

I strongly encouraging every single one of you to take a step towards eliminating human trafficking.  If everyone contributes, we can slowly but surely make a huge impact.  And don’t worry about doing this perfectly all at once; it takes small, committed steps to make lifestyle changes to help make the world a better place.  So go ahead, research organizations, companies, and products and see how you can make a change today.

If you suspect trafficking or see anything out of place, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text BEFREE to 233733.

*factual information obtained from She Has A Name

For more information or resources, go to: https://shehasaname.org/

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A Taste of Spring

Warmer temperatures and the arrival of early blooms leave me eager for the first trip of the season to our nearby Farmer’s Market, where the freshest produce, locally grown, is sold by the crate and pound, and with a little extra effort can be prepped to provide my family with delicious dishes all year round.

I’m planning to pull out the last of last season’s blueberries later today that I washed, froze and placed in freezer bags in two cup amounts, to add to a spring/summer dish that has become one of my family’s favorites.  I’ll want the space in my freezer for my next trip to the market, but really any day of the week and any reason is a good excuse to make this delicious dessert.

Why don’t you try it for yourself, with whatever fruit you have available, or can pick up at the grocery store if you don’t have a farmer’s market at hand?

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Hot and bubbly, fresh from the oven; an afternoon well spent in the making!

Berry Crisp

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

5 cups of fresh or frozen berries, any combination of blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup cold butter or margarine

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit). Grease a 8-inch square or 2 quart glass dish with baking spray
  • In a 3-quart sauce pan, mix granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add berries and lemon juice; toss until evenly coated.  Heat to boiling over medium-low heat.  Boil 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.  Spoon berry mixture into baking dish.
  • In large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle over berries.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Mixture will thicken if allowed to cool slightly.  Tastes best served warm, with ice cream as desired.

 

I hope you all enjoy this little recipe, and have a great week!

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1) by

Theodora Goss (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review :

Mary Jekyll, soon after the death of her mother, receives from the latter’s lawyer a number of papers belonging to her father, who died under mysterious circumstances when she was a child, as well as details of a bank account making payments on behalf of someone named Hyde.  Mary recognizes the name as one of her father’s former employees, who was accused of murder and disappeared around the time of her father’s death.

Suddenly left destitute, she takes the information to Sherlock Holmes hoping to claim a reward for the capture of the elusive Hyde. What she finds instead is a previously unknown half-sister, along with more questions about her late father’s involvement with a group called the Société des Alchimistes, or the Alchemist’s Society, that conducted sinister experiments in the name of science.

As she investigates, both on her own and with Holmes, she begins to gather a most unlikely group of acquaintances; young women who, like herself, are the daughters, and sometimes test subjects, of this group of mad scientists.  In addition to Diana Hyde, the fourteen year old wild child; there is Beatrice Rappaccinni, whose breath is literally poisonous; Catherine Moreau, a young woman who began life as a puma; and Justine Frankenstein, the incredibly strong but gentle giant of a woman.   Together these young women will face dangers that would have most men quaking in fear, and ultimately form an alliance of their own, The Athena Club.

The author of this book used a most interesting device, of having the “characters” chime in from time to time, helping with the narration and arguing how best to tell the story.  I found it rather humorous, having various characters argue with Catherine, the supposed writer, but these interruptions assisted in further developing the relationships between the various cast, and bringing to light the story that was being told as if it happened in their not-too-distant past.

This book did contain quite a bit of world-building, as this is the first book in a series, but what a world!  Each character, a “self-proclaimed” monster, tells her own story of her father’s experiments which led to her own creation.  The setup of all these backstories, however, prove to be integral to the plot of both the book and the series, as much information is uncovered that leads to the circumstances of the “current” murders, taking place in White Chapel, a.k.a. Jack the Ripper.  The resolution of the Ripper cases are somewhat secondary to the plot, though, as the ladies and Sherlock agree, the “stranger than fiction” crimes cannot be shared with the public, for the danger it would present to the group.

Though there are elements of the paranormal in this novel, and despite the players, this is not a horror story, but rather chronicles the beginning of a most unusual “club,” the victims and survivors, even if they themselves and others might call them monsters.  I award this book four stars, and would recommend it to any readers who love strong female characters, especially those from the Victorian era, as well as fans of Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries, paranormal stories, and urban fantasy.

 

A Spring Ramble

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From humble beginnings, come auspicious beauties like these tulip buds.  Photo by flora.cyclam on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Dear Readers,

Spring is now officially a week old though you’d be hard pressed to tell from the temperature fluctuations we’ve had this past week-up to the forties and fifties(Fahrenheit) during the day and down into the twenties at night!

From where I sit to write, if I squint, I can just make out the azaleas and the Japanese maple in our front yard that are just beginning to bud, though it will be a bit longer before the walnut tree in the back shows any sign of life.  I’ve taken time this week to observe our yard and a few planters that weathered the winter where the little shoots of greenery are pushing through, heralding the imminent arrival of spring flowers.  As the temperatures creep up, I will need to clear the last of the dead leaves out of my flower beds so the new life will be able to spread and take hold.

It’s time to prepare for the robin that each year comes calling by pecking on our front window all hours of the day and night, and sometimes even nesting in the wreath I place on the front door.  A couple of years ago, we purchased a “scare-owl” just to discourage the persistent fowl from leaving droppings all over the sides of my husband’s car, where he (the robin) apparently frequently perches to talk to the birds he sees in the side mirrors.  A pity our birdie doesn’t just choose to visit the backyard instead, where I have a nice feeder set up next to the deck!

I need to move the larger planters to a new spot this year, one that’s less shady, so the neighbor’s pine tree doesn’t drown them in needles, and get some new chairs for our screened porch, and scrub the cushions for the deck furniture, and …There is so much to be done, but the joy that comes with the new season, and the warmth of the sun and the prospect of new life encourages me to keep going, knowing that the effort will be worthwhile when we can enjoy sitting outside to eat the dinner my husband cooks on the grill.

As I write this, I’ve already begun to plan out the menu for our Easter dinner, which we will share with family, even if we have to take our meal on the road to see some of them this year!  Easter is a time when we tend to indulge a bit, so the chocolates I’ve already purchased are carefully hidden to ensure they last until the actual event.

The warming temperatures and the promise of good weather, after a very wet and cold winter, fill me with joy, and I look forward to spending more time outside, taking walks, working in the garden, and just enjoying nature.  I hope you all get the chance to do the same.  Happy Spring!

Amy

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Waking the Dead

Waking the Dead by Heather Graham
Waking the Dead (Cafferty and Quinn, #2) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

What evil could possibly be hidden in a recently-recovered painting done by an obscure artist, whose major claim to fame, besides the work of art, was that he was friends with the likes of poet Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein?

Lovers and occasional colleagues Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn must answer this question when a series of heinous murders follows the sale, and delivery, of Ghosts in the Mind to a wealthy widow in New Orleans.  Quinn, called to the scene by his former partner on NOLA’s police force, Larue, investigates the murders, while Danni examines a copy of the painting at a local gallery.  Neither wants to believe that the infamous artwork is haunted, but both history and recent events tell tales of death following the painting in its wake.

As the death toll rises, Danni and Quinn lead an unusual team to the source-the location where Henry Sebastian Hubert painted the original work, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in an effort to exorcise the evil manifesting on the streets.  The society widow, a coroner, a parish priest, a voodoo priestess, and couple of Danni’s employees join together in a quest into the heart of darkness, and a crypt that has been untouched for 200 years.

This particular novel, the second in the Cafferty and Quinn series, has a wide-ranging plot that includes eleven possible killers that are no longer among the living, as well as several suspects, and a couple of not-suspected individuals, who may or may not have committed some of the murders.

My only issue with the plot was the first scene on the castle grounds, which was a very close match to Natasha’s (the voodoo priestess) earlier ominous vision of what Danni might face.  The problem I saw was that none of the characters acknowledged or appeared to recognize the similarities to the vision, which turned out to be disappointingly very anti-climactic, because its resolution did not stop the “evil.”  However, the finale to the plot was very satisfying; as Danni discovers the identity of a villain that in life was a virtual puppet master who lured people into carrying out horrible deeds, a legacy he continued after his death, and a heartbreaking betrayal leads to the identity of the living murderer.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars and recommend it to any fans of paranormal romantic mysteries, as well as fans of Heather Graham’s other series.

 

 

 

The New Hero on the Block: A Review of Captain Marvel

Move over boys, there’s plenty of room in this galaxy for the fiercest female superhero to appear in many years.  Captain Marvel, the latest addition to the Marvel universe saga, hit theaters last week and the title character, played by Brie Larson, lives up to the moniker.

This movie is set mostly in 1995, which means chronologically it predates the events presented in any of the other Marvel movie storylines except for the one detailing the origins of Captain America.  A much younger (thanks to CGI) Nick Fury is already in place as the head of SHEILD, but the organization has not yet developed its mandate to stop alien threats, mostly because it is not yet aware of their existence.

Fury, accompanied by “the new guy” Phil Coulson, is unprepared for his first encounter with the green-skinned alien shapeshifters called The Skrull, but he is smart enough to recognize that there’s more than meets the eye to the mysterious young woman who claims to be hunting them as a member of the Kree defense force.  Ready or not, Earth is about to become a battle ground between these two alien races, both previously introduced in other Marvel movies.

What follows is a story of loss, betrayal, and battles both on land and in space as Carol “Vers” Danvers has to piece together lost memories to determine who she really is, and which side in a galactic war is actually a threat to not only humanity, but the galaxy at large.  The powers she acquires, and the ease with which she wields them, prove her to be more than a match for any of the previously shown Marvel heroes or villains.

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and Lashana Lynch as fellow pilot Maria Rambeau in a scene from the new movie.  From imbd.com

This movie seemingly attempts to raise the quota of female characters in the Marvel franchise.  In addition to a female lead with mind-blowing abilities, there are also featured two hardcore female test pilots, a (deceased) female scientist who was actually an undercover Kree agent, a female supreme being of the Kree race, and a female Kree warrior for Carol to face off against.  Despite the occasional estrogen overload, though, the central story is more about overcoming limits and finding the hero inside one’s self.

Spoilers: those invested in the Marvel universe will be very interested in the fine details scattered about the movie, including; the true story about how Fury lost his eye, the origin of the name “Avengers,” and the fate of the Tesseract after it was sunk in the ocean during Captain America and before it appeared in the desert in Thor.

I loved this new version of Captain Marvel, and am now even more pumped for the conclusion to the Marvel epic, Avengers: Endgame, which is coming in April.  Captain Marvel is currently showing at a theater near you.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Fool Moon

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

  

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s very own modern day wizard, is back, in a sequel where his enemies outnumber his allies.  Harry is in hot water with the police and officially under scrutiny by FBI Agent Denton due to unfortunate rumors he’s in league with local crime boss Johnny Marcone following the events of the first book in the series, Storm Front.  He’s also on the outs with the women in his life, Lt. Karrin Murphy, his girlfriend, Arcane reporter Susan Rodriguez, and his former apprentice Kim, all because he’s trying too hard to protect them from the chaos that is his life.

A series of grisly murders committed around consecutive full moons lead a suspicious Lt. Murphy to seek Harry’s help; could werewolves be involved?  The case proves more complicated as multiple types of “weres” start coming out of the woodwork, leading to an epic battle inside the headquarters of Police Special Investigations.  With lycanthropes, loup-garou, hexenwulfen, and true werewolves running around Chicago, Harry has his hands full.

As the body count rises, Harry is not sure who’s bad, who’s good, who’s innocent, and if the killings are the result of “animal” instincts, or if someone is using the cursed as a smoke screen for pre-mediated murder.

Will he continue to blame himself for those who are injured or killed simply by being close to him, or will he learn to trust and accept help from his friends?   Ultimately, Harry finds himself in a battle against his own darkest instincts, with the lives of his friends, and the true nature of humanity at stake.

I read a couple of Jim Butcher’s books last year after being introduced to the series in a book club, and decided I enjoyed them enough to read the entire series in order.  Fool Moon is one of the best I’ve read to date, and I award it five stars, with recommendations to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, paranormal stories, and crime dramas with a side of romance.

 

 

Strong Leading Female Characters

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I can never get enough of strong female characters, whether in books, movies, or on TV. Thanks to James J. Cudney from This is My Truth Now for this post highlighting four such heroines in fiction, with excerpts chosen by their authors. Check out their books online, or in your nearest bookstore!

This Is My Truth Now

I’m excited to share a video about 4 fantastic books I’ve read… all centered around strong female leading characters… check it out!

https://videopress.com/embed/eZlWVDM7

Leading female characters are a force to be reckoned with! They present the kind of strength and dynamics that are both admired and envied. I love to completely bury myself in books where the story lines are driven by headstrong and capable women! It’s empowering, uplifting, and admirable to say the least! Today, a few fellow Creativia authors and I would like to present a sample of our own books that feature STRONG LEADING FEMALE CHARACTERS! Enjoy, and click-through the links for more!

Main Graffic with all our books (image)

1st Stop: WATCHING GLASS SHATTER, by James J. Cudney

Purchase HERE:

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Direct Book Quote:

** As she left the bedroom, Olivia ignored the dirty cup still sitting on Ben’s nightstand, its importance far less than anything else in her life these days…

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews : 206 Bones

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
206 Bones (Temperance Brennan, #12) by

Kathy Reichs (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Feb 19, 2019

This latest installment into Cathy Reichs’ “Bones” series features Dr. Temperance Brennan facing accusations of impropriety in a recent case.   Brennan and Quebec Detective Andrew Ryan travel to The Windy City during a snow storm to address these unfounded charges, and uncover hints of an enemy determined to hurt Brennan’s reputation, but the why and who remain unknown for the majority of the novel.

Those familiar with the author’s work will recognize Dr. “Tempe” Brennan as the same feisty, brilliant, brave and compassionate forensic anthropologist from the hit TV show Bones. Though the locales and supporting cast of characters changed for the show, Tempe is the same passionate soul who will let nothing stop her from finding justice for those who land on her autopsy table.

Dr. Brennan and Det. Ryan are soon back in Quebec, working on multiple cases both together and separately.  Tempe clashes with a new addition to the staff of the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Medecine Legale, a Dr. Miranda Briel, a pathologist with delusions of ability in forensic anthropology.  Briel seems to deliberately attempt to undermine her colleagues to advance her own career.  How far Briel is willing to go to further her ambitions, Tempe will unfortunately discover, in a nearly fatal encounter.

While I’ve long been a fan of Reichs’ work, 206 Bones has to contain far more of the dry procedural stuff commonly found in her novels- cataloging bones of a found skeleton, detailing street maps of Chicago, Quebec, etc., as the characters travel, not to mention the different “tells” that can help identify bones and teeth of a particular specimen.

What keeps the entire story from being mundane, though, is the fact that it is actually being told in flashback, with “flashes” forward interspersed between other chapters detailing the life-or-death climax Tempe has found herself in; how she arrived in this predicament is the true focus of the plot, with “hold your breath” suspense as to if she will somehow miraculously escape and survive.

206 Bones is the twelfth book in the author’s series, and while it is not the best I’ve read, it still has plenty of appeal from a series of murders that may or may not be related, and drama from both interoffice interactions with Tempe’s colleagues and her former lover in Ryan.  I give this book 3.5 stars and recommend Reich’s work to those readers interested in police procedurals, detective stories, and cozy mysteries.

A Supernatural Love Story: The Shape of Water: A Movie Review

Over the past weekend the hubby and I found time to sit down and relax with a movie, not realizing at first how appropriate this supernatural fantasy would be for the coming Valentine’s Day week.

What followed was an amazing, mesmerizing tale featuring on two main characters, played by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, both of whom are mute, isolated in their own way, and yet are almost instantly drawn to each other in a way that defies logic or conventional interpretations of love.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
A most unusual love story, from the 2017 Oscar-winning movie.  Image from imbd.com

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a cleaner at OCCAM Aerospace Research Center in 1962 Baltimore, who is present when Doug Jones’ character is brought in as a specimen referred to as “The Asset.”  The government and military forces running the facility are desperate to “get ahead” of the Soviets in the space race, and believe they can do so by studying, and eventually dissecting, an amphibious man captured from South America.  Coincidentally or not, “The Asset” has a very similar look, and is played by the same actor, who played Abe Sapien in another del Toro film, Hellboy.

The director of the facility, Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, has tortured The Asset, who is response has bitten off two of Strickland’s fingers; even knowing this Elisa doesn’t fear him, instead she spends her lunch breaks visiting him.  The amphibious man and the cleaning lady bond over hard-boiled eggs, music, and sign language, and when Elisa overhears plans to terminate her friend, immediately plans to free him.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
The start of friendship, or true love?  Image from imbd.com

Elisa finds allies in her cleaning partner, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her neighbor Giles (Richard Genkins), and strangely a Soviet spy (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose love of science outweighs his loyalty to his native country.

Freed from the facility in a daring escape, The Asset goes home with Elisa, where she tends his injuries, and is drawn ever closer to her, as he shares with her and Giles abilities that defy explanation, and create a deep bond between them.  They know their time together is to be short though, because when the rains overflow the canal in Boston harbor, The Asset will finally be able to flee to the sea, and safety, from Strickland who is still hunting him.

The action sequences are well-done, the visuals are spectacular, and the surprisingly sweet and romantic turns of the plot are very well done.  Of course, I am not alone in my opinions: The Shape of Water won Oscars in 2018 for both Best Picture and Best Director.  There was also a book, written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus, of which publication followed the movie (in 2018) but from all sources is not merely a movie novelization, rather a much more in-depth exploration of the story as conceived by Kraus.

I think this movie, which has been called an adult fairy tale, is a perfect romantic story for those who don’t mind a little fantasy with their romance.  Check it out this week on Redbox or HBO, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!