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.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Suddenly Psychic

Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth   Hunter

Suddenly Psychic (Glimmer Lake, #1)
by Elizabeth Hunter (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

From Elizabeth Hunter, the author who made elemental vampires cool and believable, comes a new series featuring three women who, having survived a near-death experience, discover they have developed paranormal abilities.

One of the trio sees ghosts, one has prophetic dreams, and the third receives visions when she touches objects or people.  The three women, all in their mid-forties, that’s right, they’re not following the usual teenage trope, have to cope with the sudden onset of powers while dealing with ordinary, normal life things.

Robin is a mother of teenagers whose life and marriage is in a rut, and cannot imagine telling her husband about her new gift.  Monica, the receptor of dreams, is grieving over the recent death of her husband, and coping with children of her own. Val, a divorcee and single mom, runs a business but cannot touch her customers without triggering a vision.

When Robin begins to suspect there is a link from one of her “spectral visitors” to her elderly grandmother, the three women come together to solve a seventy-year old murder mystery.  Along the way, they work on their issues, personally and as a group.  They also explore their gifts in an attempt to understand and control them.

I have to say I love the premise of this series. The fact that three middle-aged women are dealing with this gives this series a different slant than if these books were designed for young adults.  That being said, after some initial disbelief/denial, the three seem to accept their plight fairly easily.  Okay, Val struggles the most, but none of them consult any experts-medical, theological, etc., to try and figure out why this is happening to them.  By the end of the story, they manage to cast out an evil ghost with only information found on the Internet. 

I would have liked to see them struggle a little more, have a steeper learning curve maybe?  Perhaps that will occur in later books, because as I mentioned, this is the first of series, the second, My Semi-Psychic Life, having just been released a few months ago.

Overall, the book was very enjoyable and I would recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and paranormal mysteries and award it four stars.

A Moment of Beauty

A simple thing of beauty.

A few days ago, my daughter bought a pack of sparklers to share following a family celebration held on a warm evening in our backyard.  She insisted I take one in hand which she then lit for me, and watched as I held it on our deck in the near dark.  I was hesitant, only because I had never actually held one before.  But when my sweet daughter offered, I couldn’t refuse.

I had never held a sparkler in my hand before.  I’m a grown woman, just turned forty-nine, for the first and only time, thank you, but I have always harbored a small fear of those tiny sparks of fire, undoubtedly left over from childhood.  My parents, bless them, were like many, slightly overprotective, and instilled in me a heavy dose of caution in respect to campfires, matches, and by extension, fireworks.

Oh we used to go to the city shows when I was little.  I remember sitting on the tailgate of our pickup truck or standing on a hill or in a parking lot, wherever we could find the best spot to see the fireworks shows the city would produce.  I would stay close to my parents, ears firmly covered with my hands, while we watched and oohed and aahed at the vivid colors on display.

Later, I recall watching firework celebrations with my own kids, though larger crowds in our adopted home city often made actually getting to a show and finding room to watch more awkward or problematic.  We did manage though a few trips to see fireworks from the Reds stadium downtown, and once on a memorable family vacation to Florida.

I stood and watched that little sparkler as the long stick burst into crackling flashes, a ball of light similar to the head of a dandelion, ready to be released into the wind.  I held on tight to the end as it burned down, a personal firework at close range, though without the bright colors and loud boom that accompanies the larger ones.

How could something so beautiful, so innocent, hold so much secret meaning.  Though it lasted only a few moments, that ephemeral flare was a reminder that life is fleeting, and deserves our full attention.  We should make the most of the time we have; as families, as communities, as human beings.

In this day and age, fear and uncertainty are plagues that haunt us all.  It is more important than ever that we take the time to see beauty, to enjoy the little moments, to share in new experiences when we have the opportunity.  We need to live in the moment, like most of us have always aspired to do anyway.

I have you have some special moments of your own as we move into this weekend, a special holiday for those of us in the U.S., as we celebrate Independence Day on Friday.  Make the most of it!

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death in the Clouds

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12)by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review 

When I did a post last week about the celebrated author Agatha Christie I had not yet had the leisure to finish reading this lesser-known entry in her vast body of work.

 To be honest, when I read the first couple of chapters, I was afraid that this would be a more modern retelling of The Murder on the Orient Express, one of my favorites, as it entails a murder committed on an airplane mid-flight in a cabin full of people.  Luckily, the superficial resemblance to that other story ended quickly, as Hercule Poirot, the private detective, is both a witness, and (to some) a possible suspect in the case!

The victim is a “money-lender” a famed character in Paris who uses blackmail material as collateral for her loans.  Who out of the passengers would benefit from her death?  The case is complicated when the victim’s staff, following her pre-stated instructions, burns all the evidence of her clients’ misdeeds.

Poirot, assisted by detectives in both France and England, interviews witnesses and seeks clues that involve passengers from numerous walks of life, with more than a couple of hints of new romance blossoming out of the tragic event on the otherwise routine flight from Paris to London.

As usual, Christie wove a tale with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, with a pace just fast enough to maintain interest but not get the reader helplessly lost. I was actually able to anticipate one or two small clues before they were revealed, but the major villain was still a complete surprise. 

The uniqueness of the methodology of the murderer was notable; as a blow-dart gun, a wasp and snake poison were, and still are, unusual elements in a murder of any sort, especially on a luxury flight.  Perhaps this is why the writers of Doctor Who chose to utilize this story, among others, when they did an episode that featured the real-life disappearance of the author among mysterious circumstances.

Overall, a very good story, and as usual, a stand-alone, so new readers to the author will not be lost.  I have to give this one five stars for originality, plot, well-developed major and secondary characters, and a slightly humorous but absorbing murder case.

100 Years of Stories-Agatha Christie

Who doesn’t love a great mystery? This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the “Queen of Mystery’s” first novel, A Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I reviewed last year (see my review here. ) While the bestselling author of all time is no longer with us, her stories survive and even thrive, as reprints, as well as inspirations for movies and televison shows.

Even those who have never read her novels have most likely heard of The Murder on the Orient Express, which was last made into a movie in 2017, and the official author’s website contains a listing of many current and classic productions based on her amazing work.

Born in England in 1890, the daughter of an English mother and an American father, the young Agatha Miller was an avid reader who created imaginary characters and wrote poetry even as a child. By age eighteen she was writing short stories, but did not begin writing detective fiction until World War I, when her husband, Archie Christie, was posted to the War Office in London.

In the 1920s she became a sensational news story for her personal life as she disappeared for several days soon after Archie asked for a divorce. When she was later found, she claimed no knowledge of where she’d been or even her identity for a time. She eventually recovered but that event was never successfully explained, though much has been speculated. That particular time in her life was even made into an episode of the BBC show Dr. Who, which features the author and includes elements form several of her books.

The late authoress was known for writing intriguing characters, including a number of heroic and intelligent female detectives and adventuresses, most notably Miss Marple and Tuppence Beresford.

I myself have read numerous of her books, and have reviewed several of them on my Goodreads site.

A Quick and Easy Summer Dessert

Hello everyone! For the past week we’ve been enjoying summer weather in the Midwest-temperatures soaring into the high eighties and low nineties, interspersed with pop-up showers that go as quickly as they come about!

To combat the heat, I created this really simple dessert recipe, which my daughter liked so much she demanded I write it down, so now I’m sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Amy

Mixed Berry Trifle

Ingredients:

16 oz. frozen pound cake, thawed

3 cups berries, (I use a mixture of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries)

1 4 oz. pkg instant cheesecake flavor pudding

Milk

8 oz. container frozen non-dairy topping, thawed

Directions:

  • Slice thawed pound cake into cubes, layer one third into glass trifle bowl or other large bowl.
  • Spread one third berries over cake. 
  • Beat pudding mix with milk according to package directions, spoon one third over cake and berries.
  •  Repeat layers with rest of cake, fruit, and pudding. 
  • Top with Cool Whip, and chill for at least 30 minutes to one hour before serving. 
  • Refrigerate leftovers.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Small Favor

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review: 

Harry Dresden, Chicago-land wizard and Warden of the White Council, was forced to make a deal with the devil (a.k.a. Queen Mab, of the Winter Sidhe,) in a previous book, Summer Knight, and now she’s come to collect her due. 

The Small Favor she wants is not exactly small, though.  Johnny Marcone, the head mobster of Chicago, and a new signatory of the Unseelie Accords, a sort of Geneva Convention between magical races, has been kidnapped by a group of Fallen Angels who possess humans by means of a silver coin and turn them into monsters.  Harry has dealt with the Denarians before and barely survived.  Now a whole gang of them is back, and the lives of everyone Harry knows is at stake.

Small Favor is not quite a typical example of The Dresden Files to date.  Harry is not hired by a client to solve a mystery that relates to a supernatural event, unless of course you count his working for Queen Mab to find a kidnapped mobster, and then a little girl who possesses the collective knowledge of the human race is kidnapped as well.  Instead, the story is much broader and farther reaching, while expanding Butcher’s universe and continuing the development of his cast of characters.

The battles just keep getting bigger as more dangerous foes and friends come to play, and this time it’s Fallen Angels against the Knights of God, the Wizards of the White Council, Sgt. Murphy of Chicago PD, and elements of Marcone’s criminal empire.  With so much at risk, Harry could use some straight answers, but all he gets is more questions, like why Mab cares about the fate of a mortal mobster in the first place?

While the present tension and action is quite enough of a story for one book, there are hints that there is much more below the surface than the author is revealing in this novel.  Towards the end of the story, Harry is introduced to an actual Archangel, though he is unaware of this at the time, who says that he is impressed with Harry’s work.  Is this foreshadowing for the rest of the series?  Will there be other angels or even higher powers mentioned in future stories? 

Jim Butcher has woven another involving tale that leaves the reader hungry for more.  The action scenes take up a good portion of this book, but they are well-paced, and there is plenty of room left for the “hocus pocus,” witty banter, moral dilemmas, and romantic angst that are such a part of the series.  I have to give this one five stars, and set my sights on the next book in the series.

Happy Memorial Day!

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

This Monday, May 25th, marks the U.S. holiday of Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor our veterans, especially those who have given their lives in service to their country.   This day also marks the “unofficial” start to summer, and gives many an excuse to gather with friends and family, picnic, have a day off from work, and just enjoy the weather and the day.

When I was growing up, much of Memorial weekend was spent travelling to family cemeteries and “decorating” graves with flowers, either plastic, fresh cut, or in pots.  (This weekend also marked the official “proper” date where it was acceptable to begin wearing white pants and shoes, though that little fashion rule has been greatly relaxed since!)

Of course, this year is a little different.  Many of the usual celebrations are cancelled this year, and many of the services honoring veterans; i.e. parades, speeches, ceremonial laying of flowers and flags; are being done as closed, recorded events that will be televised for the public later.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

While we are dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still ways to honor our fallen veterans and have an enjoyable holiday.  We can still visit cemeteries, as long as we follow social distancing.  A number of communities are having virtual events where we can watch and participate.  Naturally, of course, we can still cookout, overeat, and play with sparklers and roast marshmallows in the comfort of our backyards.

My workplace, which has been open without stop during the current crisis, is closed for the day, and I may actually find time to put my feet up while the guys man the smoker.   When I started writing this, I had a berry cobbler in the oven, and spent much of yesterday prepping food, so it will be good to relax.  I’ve already begun pulling patriotic decorations out of their storage bins in the basement, and the house will be festive with red, white, and blue from now until after Independence Day. 

While things are a little different this year, I like to think we’re starting to get back to normal, or at least, the new normal.  While we cautiously wear masks whenever we go out now, at least we can go out and run errands, even visit a restaurant.  And this holiday gives us just a little bit more “normal” to celebrate, and enjoy.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Leia: Princess of Alderaan

Leia by Claudia Gray

Leia: Princess of Alderaan (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, #3)
by Claudia Gray (Goodreads Author)

Author Claudia Gray brings us the definitive back story of the future general of the Rebellion herself, beginning with a teenage princess on the doomed planet of Alderaan. 

I don’t often read Young Adult novels, but this one had much to offer to even adults, as it allowed the reader to explore a world we barely get to see in the first trilogy of movies, before it is utterly destroyed on film.  It also allowed for an in-depth introduction to Leia’s parents, her father Bail, who we see briefly in the prequels, and her mother Breha, who is given only the barest of mentions but whose life inspired so much of the character and attitude of our favorite princess.

The story begins when Leia is sixteen and struggling with normal adolescent woes while also preparing to officially be named crown princess and learning the trade of politics as an apprentice legislator of the Imperial Senate.  Leia makes friends, and even finds love, but all the while her reactions must be tempered and tainted by the whiff of rebellion against an evil emperor, and her parents may be involved!

Leia must decide if she will stand up for what she believes, and learn to accept the consequences, if her parents will allow her to know their secrets, and she can convince them she is mature enough to be a part of their plans.  At the same time, Leia comes under scrutiny from another Imperial official, Grand Moff Tarkin himself, and must find a way to allay his suspicions and save the rebellion from destruction before it even gets off the ground.

A very good story, with easy language (for a younger audience), so despite its four hundred plus pages is a quick read.  I give it four stars, and recommend it to fans of Star Wars, science fiction, and stories with girl heroines.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Broken Heart Attack

Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney

Broken Heart Attack (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2)
by James J. Cudney (Goodreads Author)

This second book in the author’s Braxton Campus Mysteries series begins just a week after the first book left off.  Kellan has a lot of stressful things happening in his life; he is contending with a new job, a vicious new boss, a cross-country move with his six-year-old daughter, and the reappearance of his supposedly dead wife.  He doesn’t need to add helping his seventy-plus-year-old grandmother run for mayor, a possible murder investigation where the victim literally falls over on him and multiple run-ins with the local sheriff who seemingly has it out for him.

  Unfortunately for Kellan but fortunately for the plot, his grandmother, who was a good friend of the victim, doesn’t give him a choice about investigating.  Soon Kellan will be involved in the affairs of a wealthy but scandalous family, all while dodging “enforcers” sent by his Mafioso mother-in-law.  It’s going to be a fast-paced ride!

The subplot adds to the drama of the investigation and speaks of Kellan’s mind state as he begins his investigation, encouraged and goaded by Nana D and her septuagenarian/ political campaign club.  As we learned in the last book, Kellan‘s wife, whom he thought long dead, is actually alive, thanks to her parents who head a mafia family and who faked her death to save her from their rival crime syndicates.

 In this sequel, Francesca, and her parents, wants Kellan to join her in hiding, leaving behind his family and the new life he’s trying to build for himself and Emma, the couple’s daughter.  Does Kellan still love his wife, who allowed him to mourn for her; and is that enough reason to turn Emma’s life upside down; not to mention would he ever see his own family again? Kellan faces an impossible choice, but once he’s made it, will everyone be able to live happily ever after?

This massive novel, nearly 500 pages, contains a complex cast of characters/relationships for our main protagonist, as well as an absorbing mystery with a number of potential culprits as there are several potentials with motive and opportunity.  However, the true criminal is hiding in the background, and is not truly revealed till near the end.  While the mystery is absorbing, and easily fits the mold of the “cozy mystery” genre, the subplot provides a tantalizing cliffhanger to end the book and entice the reader to reach for the next volume.

I award this story four and a half stars, for its compelling story that though a bit meandering in the beginning hits its stride and becomes fast-paced about halfway through.  I would recommend this book to any fan of the genre, as well as mystery lovers in general.

Living in Dangerous Times

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The world is a scary place right now.  Of course, the world has always been a place that contains untold dangers, we are just acutely aware of them right now.

This has become a world where we are all a little more, or a lot more, cautious about our next door neighbors, or the person next to us in line at the grocery store. We are all a little more meticulous about cleaning anything that could have been breathed, sneezed, or coughed on by anyone, family or otherwise.

  I am lucky to still have my job, but there are measures and safeguards that have been put into place that would have been unthinkable only a short time ago.  For instance, everyone, guests and customers, are expected to wear face masks, for their own safety as well as that of everyone else in the building.  Naturally some people do not like this fact; after all, who really wants to wear a mask?  The fact remains, this requirement was put into effect based on guidelines from the CDC.

In Ohio, we are finally going to see the first of regular businesses open next week, though the governor is planning to all things to resume in stages.  All we can do right now is keep going, and hold out hope that a cure is found, that no new cases or deaths are reported, and that things slowly go back to normal.

Still, not everything is all bad.  Perhaps you’ve been able to use this enforced time at home to finish some of the projects on your to-do list or reconnect with your family.  Maybe you’ve re-instituted family game night or family movie night.  We’ve made time for picnics in local parks, and simple activities such as shared conversations while cooking, tending the garden, and venturing out for drive-through.

My husband and I have even found time to binge watch a couple of new shows we’ve haven’t seen before-Westworld, Season3, which is available from HBO or the app and is simply amazing.  It takes the premise of the Michael Crichton book and the 1970s movie but completely reimagines it in a way that questions whether artificial intelligence can be just as real or valid as human life. 

We’re also watching Penny Dreadful on Netflix, a show that originally appeared on Showtime and features a cast of assorted odd characters in Victorian England that reminds me of one of my old favorite movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, except this show has the potential to be much darker.

While there are a lot of scary things going on, and unpleasantness surrounding being “encouraged” to stay home, I urge you to  look for the good in the situation.  now is the time to think about our priorities, about what we want to do when life is back to “normal,” whatever that means.

 I hope you find a way to brighten your day, and an early Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there!

Amy