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.

Thanksgiving 2020

What if today we were grateful for Everything", Charlie Brown and Snoopy | Snoopy  quotes, Gratitude quotes, Inspirational quotes
What ‘s really important.

This week we celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving, a traditional festival of the harvest going back to the 1600s.  This year, though it is especially difficult for many to remember what we have to be thankful for, when we are faced with a pandemic that robs us of health and life, and forces us into isolation away from friends and families to protect ourselves.

For my family, my daughter doesn’t have enough leave time to join us this year (she’s serving in the Air Force), but my husband and son will be here, and at some point we’ll contact the extended family digitally.

Very few of us are not affected in some way by the current crisis, but what we should try to remember is that this day, Thanksgiving, is not about our problems, but the blessings we have been given.

The early settlers, most notably the ones who settled Plymouth in early 1620, went through a great deal of hardship-starvation, disease, and death, not to mention complete isolation from everything they had known in Europe-before they invited their neighbors for that defining harvest celebration.  However, they persevered.  They survived, they continued, and they prospered.  

We, their heirs to this dream we all share, can do the same.  We can endure: we can outlast this crisis: we can triumph again.    Hopefully by this time next year, this illness will be beaten back and the fear and isolation will be a distant memory.  For now, we go on as best we can, and find new ways to make this holiday memorable, even with the necessary limitations place upon us.

Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you all!  Keep safe, and be strong. 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Murder in an Irish Village

Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor

Murder in an Irish Village (An Irish Village Mystery, #1) by Carlene O’Connor (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

When Siobhan O’Sullivan witnesses a suspicious conversation between a family friend and the brother of the man who caused her parents death, she had no way of knowing the next time she saw Niall he would be sitting in her family’s bistro, with a pair of scissors in his chest.

This first book in the An Irish Village Mystery cozy mystery series takes place in Kilbane, Ireland.  The story focuses on Siobhan, the second oldest of six children, dubbed by townsfolk as “The Irish Brady Bunch,” as she tries to solve a murder and save her brother and her family business, all while flirting with the local garda (police officer) Macdara Flannery.

I had a little difficulty getting into the story at first because the author jumped right into the action, and gave explanations/descriptions of characters as she went, which is not really a bad thing, but I felt a little lost for the first third of the book.  I will say kudos to Carlene O’Connor for including a glossary of the most common pronunciations and colloquial terms; this was really invaluable for someone who is not up on Irish terms.

As the story continues, the reader really is able to identify more with the protagonist, a young woman who gave up her dream of going to college in a larger city in order to help her older brother James care for their younger siblings in the wake of their parents’ tragic death a year before the action takes place.

At first the reader is left wondering why the troublesome Niall keeps bringing up the accident that sent his brother to prison and caused the death of the O’Sullivan parents.  Does he really have proof his brother was innocent, or is he just trying to extort money from anyone vulnerable in town?  His murder, near the beginning of the story, leaves many questions that seemingly cannot be answered fast enough to keep James from being accused of the crime, so naturally Siobhan has to help, despite the direct orders of Garda Flannery.

The reader is witness to conflict between the siblings, multiple romantic possibilities for Siobhan, and a number of humorous situations where the siblings play amateur detective and narrowly avoid getting into trouble for their efforts.  All in all, this book had a well-developed plot and entertaining characters.  After the confusing intro, the story really settled into a focus on Siobhan, as she tried to balance caring for the children, running the bistro, and searching for clues without offending her neighbors or angering the handsome detective. 

Overall, I think this book established a great basis for a cozy mystery series, with plenty of secondary characters and a beautiful locale to further plots.  I give it four stars and would recommend it to any fan of cozy mysteries

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Happy Veteran’s Day!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today we in the USA celebrate our veterans, past and present. Today we remember the sacrifices they, and their families have made, to keep us safe, to protect our borders, to prevent incursions from terrorists, and to keep the peace.

A number of members of my extended family have been part of this important group of our citizenry, including my daughter (currently serving in the Air Force,) as well as my husband, father-in-law, stepfather, and several uncles (all former members of the armed forces.)

I am sure you will join me in thanking them for their service, especially those on duty in the current environment of global crisis and political upheaval. May God keep them safe, whether they are serving inside the borders of the US or on foreign soil, and bring them home safely again.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Ghost Story

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

At the end of the last book, Changes, in The Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden was shot and then fell into Lake Michigan; so he’s dead now, right?  Except his idea of the afterlife never included being shown into a police station in the world” in-between” and meeting Karrin Murphy’s late father, a former Chicago cop. 

Jack Murphy delivers some surprising news: Harry’s stuck in between life and death because some unnamed semi-divine being interfered with his death, three of his friends are in mortal danger if he doesn’t find a way to help them, and he needs to identify his killer if he wants to be able to move on.  And oh, magic doesn’t work the same way here, so it looks like wizard/private investigator Harry Dresden is going to have to solve this case without his powers, without his body, and without being able to communicate with almost everyone he knows.

Fortunately, Harry knows or rather knew, an ectomancer, a person with latent magical ability who can see and talk with ghosts.  Unfortunately, Mortimer Lindquist has a negative impression of Harry because of the danger the late wizard brought into his life while he was still alive.  Persuading Mort to help is hard.  What is even harder is convincing his friends that Harry is actually his own spirit and not a supernatural shapeshifter wearing his face (it’s happened before in this universe.)

Just when Harry has most of them believing, Mort is kidnapped by the evil spirit of a sorceress Harry defeated years before and who wants to use Mort as a stepping stone to acquire a new body for herself.  Harry will not all of his friends and allies, living and dead, to prevent the sorceress from escaping death to rein havoc on the world.

It is interesting to note how author Jim Butcher writes Harry’s change in perspective.  Now that he’s dead, he has time to reflect on his life; his choices, his achievements, and his failures.  They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but what can Harry do about his past now that he’s dead?  Or is he really?  The other spirits say that Harry is different, he’s dead but not, but exactly what is going on there is a secret the author keeps until the very last chapter, which ingeniously draws other past characters and situations from the larger universe in to set the course for the rest of the series, or at least the next book.

This thirteenth book in the series by author Jim Butcher is full of surprises.  While there is plenty of action, much of the story revolves around solving the mystery at the end of the last book as well as dealing with the consequences of Harry’s absence from being Chicago’s protector from supernatural incursions.  This is one book where I feel the reader will really miss a lot of key points if this is there first venture into this universe.  Still, the story is solid and keeps the reader in suspense and guessing outcomes until the very end, so I give it 4.5 stars and would recommend it, and the series to readers of paranormal and urban fantasy books.

A Different Halloween Celebration

Contemplating keeping your little ghouls and goblins home this year?  It’s hard to imagine simple things like trick-or-treating in a world where we all wear masks outside the front door everyday just to stay healthy. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t make the most of the holiday.

If you’re planning on staying home for Halloween this year, your family can still enjoy the night with a few simple at-home ideas.

Deck out your space.  If you don’t plan to go outside, bring your carved pumpkins and dangling bats inside.  Dress the room where you plan to spend the evening with candles and black cats, skulls, and anything spooky; either store bought or homemade with the kids.  Turn down the lighting and pull up a playlist of haunting tunes to set the mood.

Let the kids dress up (and join them if you dare.)  Costumes can be fun anytime, and you don’t have to worry about your little princess or pirate being too cold indoors if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

You can make the best of the holiday by spending it together, no matter what you do! Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Plan a scary menu.  Easy-to-make snacks like these can add to the party atmosphere, and there are countless recipes available with a simple search.  Don’t forget to include candy!

These Cresent Mummy Dogs were always favorites at my house: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/crescent-mummy-dogs/d52a57d7-ab8a-4a1c-8dae-f9f90d03b912

So were these Spider Cookies: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/spooky-spider-cookies/eb21cebc-c130-4715-aa3f-0e607aea3d27

Bring on the entertainment.  When your little goblins are ready to settle down, consider putting on a not-too-scary movie for them to watch.  Here are a few favorites of my family.  (You can always watch something scarier after the little ones are in bed if you wish.)

Ichabod and Mr. Toad-this cartoon classic from 1949 is one I grew up watching every year with my family, and shared with my own children.  This double feature has a group of madcap animals in a grand adventure, followed by a light-hearted but still spooky version of Washington Irving’s classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  While there are chilling moments, the animation should not be too scary for children over 7 or 8.  This is currently available on Disney plus.

The Witches.  The original 1990 movie based on a book by Roald Dahl focuses on a young boy who accidentally spies on a convention of witches and overhears plans to turn every child in England into mice.  Angelica Houston plays the head witch in this movie which features Jim Henson monsters and is available on Netflix.

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Hocus Pocus.  This movie from 1993, also available on Disney plus, features three witches who are accidentally brought to life in their Salem home, now a museum. They proceed to craft a plot to harvest the life essence out of children to seal their return.  The three who resurrected them must find a way to stop them before dawn following Halloween night.

Monster House.  In this 2006 movie, available on Hulu, three children must battle against disbelieving adults as well as an evil house that is possessed by an evil spirit to save the lives of unwitting trick-or-treaters who dare to knock on its door.

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Whatever you choose to do, be safe and have a great night!  Happy Halloween!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : A Horribly Haunted Halloween

A Horribly Haunted Halloween by Heather Graham

A Horribly Haunted Halloween
by Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

I picked up this short e-book from one of my favorite authors because I wanted to something a little lighter between the 500-600 page tomes I have been reading of late, and since I have read many of the previous series, I thought it would be enjoyable.

I was both right and wrong.  This novella takes place in the Krewe of Hunters series about a group of FBI agents who have the ability to see and interact with ghosts which assists them on their cases.  Since I have read several other books in this series, I had no problem with the continuity, even though I have not read several of the intervening stories. 

I was pleased to see the development of the characters of Angela Hawkins and Jackson Crow, series regulars who have been around since the early days of the series, and who have married, and now have two children, one through adoption, and one by birth, as they continue their work.

I also enjoyed the premise of the story, that of a serial killer who disguises the bodies of his victims as Halloween decorations, and even enjoyed the mentions the author made about the current crisis facing the world, as characters are noted to be wearing masks in public.

However, the story was really not well-developed.  There were a couple of inconsistencies in the plot, revolving around the antagonist’s motivation and endgame, as well as errors in spelling that seemed as though the book was rushed to publication.  The ending of the story also presented a problem to me, because though the climax was good, the falling action was “told” and not “shown,” something I would not expect in a well-developed story by a very successful author. 

As I don’t consider this book up to the usual standards, I am only giving it three stars.  It still is a fun read for those looking for a quick, spooky Halloween story for the season, but it is definitely not the best example of this author’s work.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Changes

Changes by Jim Butcher

Changes (The Dresden Files, #12) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

This explosive twelfth book in The Dresden Files series begins as Harry’s lost love, Susan, returns from self-exile to deliver the news that first, Harry’s a father, and second, that the daughter they had together has been kidnapped.

While I have read this particular volume in the past, I have been faithfully going through the series in order this year, and so I picked up a number of points and details that would have been lost on me before.

As readers of the series would know, the former reporter for the tabloid Midwestern Arcane was caught and turned into a half vampire years earlier when following Harry into a dangerous situation.  After, she left Chicago, and Harry, to join a South American group of individuals, like herself, who managed to resist the bloodlust that would complete their transformations into full vampires.

Before Susan and Harry can attempt to sort through their issues, they have to locate their daughter, Maggie, who has been taken by the Red Court vampires, to be used as a human sacrifice in a blood ritual that could have devastating consequences.  A timely visit from Harry’s godmother, a faery of the Winter Court, grants Harry a piece of his mother’s legacy just in time to help locate Maggie and provide a means of travelling across continents in a very short time.

When the White Council appears not ready to intervene, desperation leads Harry to seek assistance from the least likely of allies; Johnnie Marcone, and Queen Mab of Winter included.

In a series replete with epic climatic battles, this book stands out because the stakes, the assembled cast, and the overwhelming odds still fail to prepare the reader for the surprising revelations in this ultimate battle of good vs. evil in Butcher’s universe.  Following the conclusion with a stunning last-page murder is almost over the top and makes this reader wonder why? How? Who? And when can I get a copy of the next book in the series?

I would recommend this book to any reader of paranormal, urban and fantasy stories, as well as those who enjoy action and epic stories.  While reading prior books in the series is not necessary for enjoyment, there are a number of details the casual reader may overlook, such as the long-standing relationships Harry has with a number of recurring characters and the lore Butcher has specifically developed for this vast universe. I award this latest effort five stars and plan to read the rest of the series, including books #16 and 17 that were just released, as soon as I have time.

Series Review: Penny Dreadful

Where is the Cast of "Penny Dreadful" Today?
The main cast of Penny Dreadful are most series about their mission.

If you’re looking for something different to watch through the witching season, check out Penny Dreadful, currently available on Netflix.  Only three seasons long, this series, which was originally produced for Showtime, takes its title from a style of 19th century British sensational literature known for fanciful and lurid plots.

Join the ensemble cast of misfits from all walks of Victorian society as they uncover the mysteries behind the disappearance of one’s daughter, and the secrets of a group of hunters who only come out at night.  The group will face horrors and trials as they encounter supernatural events that come straight from the classic literary monsters that originated in the era.

Penny Dreadful Sequel Cast Adds Original Series Actor Rory Kinnear – /Film
Who is the real monster, Dr. Frankenstein or his creation?

Over the subsequent episodes, we are introduced to Mina Harker’s father, played by Timothy Dalton; Dr. Frankenstein and his “children, played principally by Rory Kinnear and Billie Piper;” Dorian Grey; Dr. Jekyll; a clairvoyant woman who is stalked by the devil, played by Eva Green; a werewolf or two; and a band of witches.

As the series continues, the audience is treated to a set of divergent plots that sometimes only include a few of the players at a time, with story lines that lead to further development of character, and events that when allowed to converge later, bring the whole cast together for an exciting conclusion.  This is especially notable in the final season, where half the cast were situated in America for half of the episodes, only returning to England at the dire urging of one newer character that portended a climatic and dangerous outcome if they did not swiftly stop it.

While the characters are exciting enough, the focus is not on the “monsters” themselves, but the true nature of good and evil.  The series as it continues, illustrates the point that human nature means we all have the potential to be either good or bad, depending on the choices we make.  Perhaps tellingly, sometimes the “monsters” are more human, more compassionate than their creators in this psychological thriller.

This show, which originally aired in 2014, also recently spawned a short-lived “sequel” called Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which focused more on Mexican supernatural myths and was centered in 1930s San Francisco.

Penny Dreadful is an excellent choice for viewers who love classic movie monsters, Victorian-era thrillers, and those who just want good scare as Halloween is just around the corner.  Check it out!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Speaking in Bones

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

Speaking in Bones (Temperance Brennan, #18) by Kathy Reichs (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

When Dr. Temperance Brennan is accosted in her office by a web sleuth who claims to have proof a missing teen was tortured and possibly murdered in a horrifying manner, the forensic anthropologist is drawn in to a case with more twists and turns than seems possible.

This 18th book in Kathy Reich’s series involves genetic defects, exorcism, the power of belief, religious fanaticism, and disturbing psychological disorders for a wild ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains and rural North Carolina.

The first lead, given and guarded stringently by the hostile amateur web sleuth Hazel Strike leads to dismembered body parts found at different times and different locations, all at overlooks to Brown Mountain, a site known in local lore as a place of mysterious happenings. 

Hazel apparently feels betrayed when Tempe brings in local law enforcement on the search, and takes off, taking her hoarded evidence with her.  The next time Tempe sees her is on a slab in the coroner’s office, leading Tempe to feel guilty over her missed calls and suspicious of Hazel’s rivals on various web sleuthing sites.

The plot grows ever thicker as Tempe, along with local cops and deputies from jurisdictions where Hazel’s body and the various dismembered pieces are found investigate the motives of various people in the missing teens’ lives, as now a possible boyfriend has joined the ranks of the lost.  How these two are connected, and exactly who the body parts belong to, make up a very exciting chase.

The only issue I had with this story is the local lore of Brown Mountain was brought up in such a way that it looked like the author was going to have it figure prominently in the story.  However, at the end, though that topic was addressed once more, it was as an aside, and didn’t play a significant part in the plot or even have any real meaning for the story.  While it is an interesting tidbit, it was one “red herring” that I was disappointed led to nothing.

Overall, this story was thrilling and contained even more convoluted turns than usual with a Kathy Reichs book.  I admit I did not expect the climax in the least, and was kept guessing up until the very last chapter.  I award this book 4.5 stars, and recommend it to fans of forensic thrillers, mysteries, and anyone who loved the television show based on Reich’s work, Bones.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Warlock Holmes – The Finality Problem

Warlock Holmes - The Finality Problem by G.S. Denning

Warlock Holmes – The Finality Problem by G.S. Denning
Amy Caudill‘s review

This paranormal, comic tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original characters includes a simple-minded yet incredibly powerful mage in Warlock Holmes, a John Watson that is the real deductive genius behind the duo’s adventures, and a cast of assorted supernatural sidekicks and baddies. 

Picking up where the last book left off, the fifth volume of the spoof series, Warlock Holmes: The Finality Problem, finds Watson ensconced with the wife Holmes selected to be soul-bonded to him and banned from helping Holmes for his own safety.   Off course, a little thing like not being able to find 221B Baker Street is not going to keep Watson out of trouble for long. 

After all, Watson has become so accustomed to the supernatural world that it seeks him out in his own home; it is invited to his wife’s parties, and seeks his council.  Naturally Groggson and Lestrade need Watson as well, and only Warlock’s insistence and vanishing spells can keep them away for so long. 

In tribute to the original books, Watson and Holmes are reunited just in time for Holmes to make a fateful visit to Reichenbach Falls, but the book ends on a, pardon the pun, cliffhanger, as the greatest of evil spirits are released with no Warlock to stop them.  (Thus Watson’s fatalistic retelling of events as if the world is about to end.  He believes it to be true.)

I’ve read every book in this series so far, and I have greatly enjoyed every minute of them.  As a fan of Sherlock Holmes and paranormal stories, I love the mash-up Denning has created, and am impressed with how he’s largely stayed true to the style and time of the original work, while inserting his own tweaks and complicated plots that link each story with the next and prior volumes.  While there are countless imitators of Conan Doyle out there, this author has managed to put and keep an original spin on the series that adds elements of horror, humor, and potential world-altering events.

I award this book five stars and wait to see if Warlock Holmes, like his namesake, will rise again in another book.