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 : Blood Rites

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

This latest adventure involving Chicago’s only consulting wizard begins with a typically unexpected situation- Harry is running from a winged monkey throwing flaming excrement at him while carrying a box of puppies- and this is only the opening scene.

Harry Dresden is quickly assisted by Thomas, a White Court energy vampire who wants Harry to do him a favor in return.  Naturally, Harry’s protective nature leads him to agreeing, and soon is on his way to meet Arturo Genosa, an erotic film producer who is under a curse that is killing all the women around him.

The source of this malocchio “evil eye” is elusive; all Harry really knows is that it is driven by vengeful hatred, and there are plenty of suspects surrounding the strangely affable porn maker.

Of course, Harry has more than one scary situation to deal with- a war that he accidentally started with the vampires of the Red Court has attracted the attention of a powerful Black Court vampire who is also a wizard, and who has it in for Harry.  Harry is forced to form an assault squad, consisting of himself, Lieutenant Murphy, a mercenary named Kincaid, and his old mentor Ebenezar McCoy to attempt to take out the Black Court vampires and their thralls before the citizens of Chicago become a feast for the most dangerous of the undead.

All the while, the conspirators who created the curse on Genosa are waiting in the wings, to unleash their final assault on Harry and his newly-discovered half-brother, as revenge against Harry’s mother, who died giving birth to Harry.  If they all survive, Harry will have something he’s only dreamed about his entire life, an actual family.

Author Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series is well-known for its deep plots, outrageous battles, and tantalizing glimpse into the paranormal, but readers can also be delighted in the growth of the characters as the series progresses.  Having been previously introduced to the series by means of an anthology, I am reading through the novels in order and am continuously amazed how much detail and thought are placed into the development and continuation of plot and character development as the series ensues.

Harry Dresden, a wizard with enormous power and potential, is showed as a flawed individual with emotional issues, insecurities, and doubts- in short, a human being that the reader can sympathize with while also cheering him on as he battles the supernatural and struggles with day-to-day living.

In my opinion, The Dresden Files keeps getting better and I award Blood Rites a well-earned five stars.

 

 

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Life in the Digital Age

This past week while I was attempting to de-clutter my house as part of decorating for fall/Halloween, I pulled out a magazine holder from an over-stuffed bookcase and discovered some very old magazines.  I know I held onto these with the intention of referring to them again, but instead they were stored away and forgotten.

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Just a small sample of the magazines I had put away and forgotten.

Nowadays, while I still have paper cookbooks and print magazines and resources for decorating, gardening, etc., more often I go to trusted sites online instead of dragging out the books and magazines.  After all, the latest research, trends, and ideas are easily accessed there without having to dig through stacks and shelves of paper and remembering exactly where a reference is located.  Many times I can find the same information that is in my magazines, on a corresponding website with the same name.

While I still enjoy holding a print magazine in my hands so I can enjoy the glossy pictures, I have let my print subscriptions lapse, because, though I can always pick up the latest issue, eventually, they too will be dated and dusty.

What does this imply for the future of print issues, for myself, and the world in general?  In this digital age, more and more people are turning to digital subscriptions for their favorite newspapers, magazines, and of course, books.  While this is definitely better for the environment, the impersonal feeling of holding a tablet and turning pages by a swipe of the finger is completely different than sitting down with a print magazine or book in hand, especially when one is reading for pleasure.

women typing on the notebook
News, resources, and entertainment are only a few clicks away online.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I am by no means ready to give up the print books I own, but I tend to acquire just as many e-books these days as print ones, if only to conserve storage space around my home.  Periodicals, though, I have decided I can enjoy and then recycle without remorse, but rather content about the fact I am helping preserve the environment.  After all, the information is still available, online, whenever I need it again.

I can enjoy the best of both worlds- the pleasure of reading books and the occasional print magazines, with the convenience of access to digital publications. And getting rid of some of those excess paper magazines just frees up space on my bookshelves.

Which do you prefer, print or digital magazines and books?  Or do you prefer a combination of the two, like me?

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Academic Curveball

Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney
Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)by

James J. Cudney (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Kellan Ayrwick, a television executive, changes careers, and his address, in the first book of this series by author James P. Cudney.

The story begins as Kellan makes a trip home to Braxton, Pennsylvania, for his father’s retirement as President of Braxton College.  Kellan is also doing double duty- the party coincides with the meeting he’s arranged for a source on the true-crime drama Dark Reality, of which he is assistant producer.  Unfortunately, his meeting with his “source” never happens, as the dead body of Professor Abbey Monroe is found by a family friend during the party.

Kellan is ever-more deeply involved in the investigation into Monroe’s death, as well as the politics concerning a change in leadership for the school, the power plays and underhanded dealings of the Board in regards to scholarship and the athletic departments, and even a potential romance between Kellan and one old friend, as well as his sister Eleanor and another old friend.   Somehow Kellan must balance all of these complicated relationships while exercising his investigative journalism aspirations to appease his boss back in Los Angeles.

Even if I didn’t know that this was the first book in a series, the author did leave numerous hints throughout the text that Kellan wanted to make a more permanent move to Braxton, such as 1) his dissatisfaction with his boss, Derek, over lack of proper recognition for all his hard work; 2) the cajoling, encouragement, and guilt-trips laid by various members of his family; 3) and his own stated desires to renew his relationships with family members, such as Eleanor and Nana D, and his former close friends Connor and Maggie.  All of these led me, as the reader, to believe that events would eventually shape to allow Kellan to come home for good.

While the story contains multiple subplots and a large number of characters, I found the overall storyline drew me in and the mystery absorbing.  The eventual homecoming of Kellan may have been predictable, but the climax and resulting conclusion of the story were not.  The plot contained a number of surprises-the identity of the killer, the identity of the new President of Wharton-among them, along with a twist at the end I didn’t even imagine coming!

In short, this book, of the “cozy mystery” style, contains a dash of action, plenty of suspense, and enough twists and turns to hook me and award this book five stars.  I will definitely be checking out more books in this new series, and recommend it to readers.

Fall Baking: Pumpkin Bread

I’m sorry friends that this is coming out so late this week, but I can honestly say I’ve had my hands full lately.   Between my “day job,” some projects we’re doing around the house, and getting the garden set back to rights after the long dry spell through July and September I have barely had a moment to breathe, much less write!

Luckily, some of our projects are coming to an end, just in time to herald the beginning of  Autumn.  While it officially starts early next week ( on my son’s birthday this year) we are already seeing signs of it’s imminent arrival.  The temperatures still soar into the eighties during the day, but those days are already growing noticeably shorter, and it is easy to allow my thoughts to turn to preparations for fall-decorating with mums and pumpkins, a few scarecrows, and perhaps a witch or skeleton or two; and fall baking.

I love the sights and smells of autumn, especially in all the apple and pumpkin recipes that are so seasonal this time of year.  To that end I decided to share one of my favorite recipes for pumpkin bread.  I know, a quick Internet search can yield dozens of such recipes, but this is a tried and true version that I’ve made and shared multiple times, and is very good served warm with butter for brunch or with coffee on a crisp Autumn morning.  I hope you enjoy it!

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I can’t wait to share this homemade treat with my family!

Pumpkin Bread 

1 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup raisins

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, oil and water.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just moistened.  Fold in the nuts and raisins.

Pour into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Haunted Be the Holidays

Haunted Be the Holidays by Heather Graham
Haunted Be the Holidays (1001 Dark Nights #91; Krewe of Hunters)by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

This novella addition to author Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series features a disturbed would-be performer that focuses his vengeance on an unknowing rival whose only crime is her relationship to the man the criminal hoped to impress.

Haunted be the Holidays brings back a number of past “Krewe” members and recounts the further adventures of the author’s ever-expanding universe.  While this novella will have significant appeal to those who have followed the series from the beginning, reading of prior books is not strictly necessary to enjoy this one.

Krewe book alums Brodie and Dakota “Cody” are settling into their new life in Washington D.C., where Cody has accepted an active role in the productions of the historic Global Tower Theatre, now owned by Adam Harrison and ran by the spouses and partners of Krewe members.  Unfortunately, a street performer whose mask resembles that of a character in a play Cody is performing in sends Cody’s senses on alert.  What threat could a simple mask hold?  When the first body appears, disguised as a vampire and lying dead in a fake “cemetery” on Halloween, Cody, Brodie, and the rest of the Krewe will have to find out.

Though the basis for the plot includes a twisted failed actor who is seeking revenge for perceived slights, those details are not revealed till near the end of the story.  What precede it are a quest for the identity of the killer, research into the history of the theatre, and a search for any ties to Cody, who is threatened on-stage by a drugged performer.

However, the author merely implies that the killer may be descended from an illegitimate child of an historic pirate that once owned the Globe Tower, without tying that directly into the plot, as would typically happen in a Graham story.  To me, this loose plot point seems like a missed opportunity.  Instead, the killer just “happens” to choose the theatre for his finale, simply because his chosen victim is working there.

Luckily, the story’s climax makes up any weak points in the plot with a grand performance, literally, on center stage that includes a life-and-death struggle with the assistance of four benevolent ghosts.

I give this e-book four stars, and recommend it not just to fans of Graham’s books, but any who are interested in paranormal romantic mystery stories.

Happy Labor Day!

photo of fireworks display
All across the country, many cities will be having their last, and most spectacular fireworks shows of the year this weekend.  Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Today is the day we Americans celebrate the national holiday Labor Day, the official celebration of laborers and the collective power of unions, and the unofficial end of summer.

Many Americans use Labor Day as the excuse to hold one last barbecue, or go on one last camping or fishing trip, or just plan a picnic and a trip to the nearest firework show.   My family plans to grill out at home this year, and just enjoy a day off from jobs and normal responsibilities.

While many employers are giving their employees a much-deserved break, just as many companies will be promoting wares and holding massive sales to attract consumers.  I need a new stove, so perhaps I will venture out later myself.

While the official beginning of autumn is still a few weeks away, most school children have just or will be starting back to school this week, and kids and adults alike have fall on their minds.  What that means to individuals varies, though many focus on the beginning of football season, and getting ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, I will think about taking down the red-white-and-blue decorations I’ve had out around the house since Memorial Day, and pulling out my own stashes of orange candles and harvest decorations.  September is still warm here, though the nights have cooled down into the sixties and even fifties a few times, and the garden, which was so dry and wilting in the August heat, is coming back to life.

Fall and Halloween decorations have already made appearances in many stores, and fall flowers like chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbages are ready to take home and plant in gardens that will very soon be festooned with pumpkins and gourds off all types, dried cornstalks, and bales of hay.  Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I look forward to the colors, the scents of fall baking, and the cooler temperatures.

However, all of that can wait till tomorrow.  Today is about relaxing, and spending time with family, and eating some good food, preferably outdoors.

I hope you and yours have a very Happy Labor Day!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Verses for the Dead

Verses for the Dead by Douglas Preston
Verses for the Dead (Pendergast, #18) by

Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author),
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

A killer who writes poetry and leaves “presents” of his victims’ hearts on the graves of suicides brings FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast to Miami, but with a handicap to his usual methodology.  Pendergast’s tendencies to ignore procedure and go rogue have led the new Assistant Director of the New York office, Pickett, to assign loner Pendergast a partner.

Agent Coldmoon, a capable agent with issues of his own, has secret orders to try and prevent Pendergast from deviating from FBI procedure, but finds instead that he agrees with his new partner’s more outlandish methods and theories, especially when they begin producing results.

Mr. Brokenhearts, the serial killer’s non de plume, leads the agents on a merry chase through several states as the agents try to find connections between the current victims and the older deaths, which are proven to not be suicides after all but murders, before the murderer can strike again.

Old fans of the series will be bemused and delighted to be introduced to the brother of NY Times crime reporter Bill Smithback, Roger, a local reporter who seems determined to follow in his brother’s footsteps when he recognizes Pendergast at a crime scene.  Bill Smithback was a friend of Pendergast who became involved with and even assisted the agent on several cases, in a number of different books in the series, before his murder during an investigation.  Roger’s character plays a minor role in this book, but his appearance raises the question; will he appear again?

Verses for the Dead will delight readers with a dramatic climax that includes a battle through a swamp swarming with alligators, and a surprising twist to the serial killer’s story that appears in a late chapter.  The action doesn’t stop till the very last page, and leads to a satisfying conclusion.

While this particular volume contains only the barest hints of the paranormal as is present in several of the other books in this series, I’m happy to see that eighteen books in, with several spinoffs, the authors are still producing storylines and characters that are exciting, entertaining, and completely fresh with each new novel.  I award this book five stars and recommend it to fans of detectives and heroes ranging from Sherlock Holmes to Jason Bourne.

A Holiday to Remember

Hello everyone!  I’m back from a much-needed and very pleasant vacation with my family.  I thought I’d share a few photos taken on our extended holiday through South Carolina.

We started our vacation by heading to Folly Island outside of Charleston, South Carolina, where we shared a beach house with my husband’s family.  Here are some shots of our home-away-from home.

This sign was one of the first things to greet us.  I loved the walking directions to places all over the globe.

Here is another image from the front of the beach house.  We enjoyed the rental of Shell House and may return again some day.

Local art adorned the beach house outside and in, and helped the place feel really inviting.
More artwork hanging on the walls of Shell House, made of locally collected shells.

Of course we didn’t spend all our time inside this lovely house.  We were only 1/4 of the mile from the beach!  We did take the time to explore the town of Folly Island and visit some of the local attractions, like this very impressive restaurant only a short walk away.

This is from the inside of Wiki Wiki, one of the more colorful local restaurants on the island.

Here are some shots of the beach itself.  The first night we arrived was luckily not part of the busy season (as many schools were already back in session) and the beach was very quiet after five p.m.

First views of the beach off Folly Island, South Carolina.
Folly Island is well established as a spot for fishing and water sports, as well as having a scenic and busy pier area with restaurants and multiple hotels.

We didn’t spend all our time hanging out at the beach either.  Nearby Charleston includes many historic sites, including horse-drawn carriage tours and visits by ferry to Fort Sumter National Monument.

Our ride for the day, Otis.
The best way to see Charleston is by horse-drawn carriage, where I took this picture of historic Circular Church.

 

Ft. Sumter, the place where the first shots of the (American) Civil War were fired.

I hope you like seeing a small sampling of my vacation photos, and that you all are inspired to plan your own getaways in the near future!  Summer will be over before very long, so make the most of it!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death Masks

Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

In an opening scene far-removed from the norm for The Dresden Files book series, Harry is making a guest appearance on a local talk show, discussing paranormal lore.  While for fans of the series it may seem that Harry has lost his mind, he actually is participating in a clandestine meeting with a spiritual consultant, the authentic kind.

However, Harry is blind sighted by another guest on the show, Paola Ortega, posing as a Professor who debunks supernatural “incidents,” though Harry knows this person is in reality far different than what he appears to be.  Ortega is a noble member of the vampire’s Red Court, and his real purpose for the deception is to issue a challenge to a duel with Harry, to end the war between the vampires and the White Council of Wizards.

Adding to this dangerous situation, a Vatican representative is in Chicago to hire Harry to investigate the local occult community for a stolen artifact.  Father Vincent doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal, but he will go to any lengths to recover the Shroud of Turin, which he sees as only a historical relic.

Harry, however, knows the artifact is far more than just that, and also how dangerous such a thing can be in the wrong hands.  If certain groups, all whom are clamoring for Harry’s attention, get hold of the Shroud, it could mean the end of the world.  Between the impending duel with the vampire, a group of Fallen Angels whose servants can assume the form of monsters and friends alike, and the attentions of the local mafia headed by Marcone, Harry has a full plate.  Luckily he has God’s Knights of the Cross on his side.

Like the opening, the ending of this book leaves Harry in an unusual position, as he becomes just like the Lady of the Lake, holding a sword he is duty-bound to pass onto a worthy individual, as soon as he finds them.

I am amazed at how author Jim Butcher continues to keep this series fresh, with new ideas, new monsters, and creative new encounters with the supernatural, all while strengthening the relationships between existing and recurring characters.  His battles are vivid scenes that can thrill the reader, while at the same time Harry’s doubts and vulnerabilities make him seem all the more human.

Butcher continues the formula that is one part detective story, one part romance, and one part paranormal adventure, in a tale that will delight readers old and new alike.  I award Death Masks five stars, and look forward to the next book in the series, to see what happens with the continuing arc in the plot, but also for what Butcher comes up with next.