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.

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!

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My Vacation is Calling Me

sea fashion beach sand

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I just wanted to let you all know I’ll be away for the next week for some much-needed relaxation, rest, and reconnection with my family as we travel to sandy beaches and gorgeous mountains in South Carolina and Tennessee.  I’ll catch up with you next week!

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death Masks

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

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
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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.

Top Reasons to Watch-Stranger Things

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Many of you have heard of this popular show, available on Netflix, about the strange happenings in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and the group comprised of mostly kids and teens who find themselves in the perilous position of saving the world from a hostile takeover from another dimension.

Now currently in its third season, Stranger Things has attracted a wide audience, and inspired merchandise ranging from books and tee-shirts to coffee mugs and Funko Pops.  Why are we so taken with this show?

Science fiction and fantasy combined.  The characters are regularly pitted against creatures from the “Upside Down,” an alternate reality that first appears to be an invention of Will, the would-be comic book artist, and which would easily fit into a sci-fi or horror movie.  With the exception of Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, the team are not equipped with superpowers or special weapons.  This group of underdogs uses their brains, their friendships, and their luck to battle things the government won’t acknowledge or can’t handle. (At least until it comes to the cleanup and the obligatory non-disclosure agreement.)

I love the 80’s culture.  Stranger Things takes place in the 1980s in the states, and embraces this, in all its glory. Big hair, shoulder pads, legwarmers, and popular movie/TV references abound, as does the music, from groups like Huey Lewis and the News and Wham.

Lucas waxes poetic about New Coke in one episode, which also features a reference to Chief Hopper as Magnum P.I.  A Russian assassin, Grigori, appears in the latest season that bears a certain resemblance, and attitude, comparable to The Terminator.  Add in government cover-ups, Russian sleeper agents, and conspiracy theories that are not just theories and you have the plot of the perfect 80’s show, but with writing and special effects that demonstrate modern tech.

Nerd Love.  The “core” group of friends embrace their intelligence and differences freely. Dustin compliments Erica on her math skills “You’re a nerd!”  They spend their free time playing Dungeons and Dragons, and use their knowledge of these games to theorize about the denizens of the Upside Down, and even to name the creatures from there-the Demogorgan, the Mind Flayer.  They use their connections with the audio visual club to help uncover vital details and ham radio equipment to communicate with each other, long before cell phones are common.

In the second season, the core group of boys-Dustin, Mike, Will, and Lucas- go to school dressed as The Ghostbusters for Halloween. Little do they know, but those costumes will soon become strangely appropriate.

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Hardcore Females.  While not all the heroic characters in this ensemble are female, there are plenty of girls in this equal opportunity action series to please even the pickiest of viewers.  Of course there’s Eleven, the preteen telekinetic who’s something of a superhero despite having spent most of her life confined to a laboratory, but she’s hardly the only female character that stands out in the lineup.

New character Robin, the nerdy ice cream server, uses her gift of languages to decipher hidden Russian codes and help veterans Steve and Dustin infiltrate a hidden Russian base under the mall.

Nancy, the teenage angst-star from previous seasons, has evolved into a Nancy Drew-esque would-be reporter who chases down the truth, even at the cost of her job and in pursuit of rapid mutating rats.

Joyce, the mother character played by Winona Ryder, has proven over and over that she pulls no punches when it comes to protecting her children or doing what is right.  This season alone, we see her wielding shotguns, chasing after Russian spies, and yelling at both clandestine government agencies and conspiracy-theorists alike to accomplish her goals.

Beat the boredom of summer reruns on cable and check out this amazing show on Netflix!

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1) by

Douglas Smith (Illustrator)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

What to say about the book that spawned an award-winning musical by bestselling author Gregory Maguire?  I had meant to read Wicked for years, but I finally found time to sit down and conquer this 500-page tome over the last week.

This very adult re-telling of the classic Wizard of Oz story goes into a great deal of behind-the-scenes action and into the minds of multiple players to rend far more detail into the world of Oz and its denizens than ever hinted at in the original story by Frank L. Baum.  Each section of the book contains enough detail and depth of storylines to form a separate volume of a series, but the author grants us the entire tale in one massive hardcover.

Maguire goes into detail about the origin of the “witches,” their backgrounds, and motivations, painting a picture of three-dimensional characters that are far more than mere bad guys, enough so, that when we are finally introduced to Dorothy in the very last section, we are able to feel sympathy, if not outrage, of the witch sisters’ plights.

While this story contains a great deal of political and religious debate, developing a complex world for the fabled land, the author uses a folk tale format for much of the story that entertains the reader and utterly ensnares them in his creation.

Witness the birth of Elphaba, the Munchkinlander afflicted from birth with green skin, and Galinda, the spoiled, vain Gilikinese maiden who are thrown together in the most unexpected of ways, to become rivals, friends, and finally stand on the opposite sides of the story.  Witness also Elphaba’s sister, sheltered and crippled, who rises to leadership in a revolt only to become a hapless victim of natural disaster.

The author leads the reader to question who actually is good and who is evil in the story?  Surely those labels are contrary and interchangeable at points, as the nature of beloved and not-so-beloved characters from witch, to wizard, to loyal or rebel citizenry are questioned.  The arrival of a small girl from Kansas just may be the powder keg that sparks the change of everything.

This is a story well worth the read, and easily earns five stars for fans of paranormal, fantasy, and modern retellings of childhood classics.

Interesting Myths and Facts about the Moon

This coming Saturday marks the fiftieth anniversary of the one of the most iconic events of the twentieth century- the lunar landing of the Apollo 11, where the American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon.  This amazing feat was an incredible testament to human ingenuity, determination, and willingness to reach for seemingly impossible dreams.

astronaut standing beside american flag on the moon
Saturday, July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Long before this event, humans have been fascinated by our closest neighbor in the sky, and have used it as a source of inspiration and superstition.  Here are a few of the more interesting stories our ancestors have told to explain the existence of this celestial body:

  • Many cultures worshipped the moon as a goddess. The Greeks and Romans even had three separate goddesses to describe the phases of the moon; Artemis as the new moon, Selene as the full moon, and Hecate as the dark side of the moon.
  • The ancient Chinese explained lunar eclipses as being caused by an enormous dragon that swallowed the sun, and so they made as much noise as possible to scare the dragon away.
  • Multiple cultures have told stories about the “man in the moon.”   Most of these variations say that he was put there as punishment for stealing, some even for the attempted theft of the moon itself.
  • The moon’s phases have historically been linked with madness, and the word “lunatic” comes from this belief. Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder believed that a full moon affected the water in a person’s brain, causing irrational behavior or insanity.
  • Our modern holiday Easter is actually calculated by the moon.  We celebrate on the first Sunday following the first Saturday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  This tradition has its roots in archetypal symbols involving femininity, fertility, rebirth and the lunar cycle.

    sky space moon astronomy
    Our closest neighbor in the sky.  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And a few interesting facts:

  • Humans have attempted to track the phases of the moon for at least 13,000 years, based on an eagle bone artifact found in France that appears to have been used as a counting stick.
  • The oldest known map of the moon was found carved into a rock in a prehistoric tomb in Knowth, County Meath, in Ireland.  It is estimated to be about 5000 years old.
  • A full day on the moon, from one sunrise to the next, lasts an average of twenty-nine Earth days.
  • Common cell phones today are 400 times more powerful than the computers used to guide humans to the moon in the 1960s and 70s.
  • There is an Outer Space Treaty in affect that gives the moon the same jurisdiction as international waters.  The treaty allows the moon to be used for peaceful purposes by all nations, and prohibits military bases and weapons of mass destruction from being placed on the moon.

For more interesting facts about the moon, you can find plenty of resources such as this one.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Michael’s Blood

Michael's Blood by S.S. Bazinet
Michael’s Blood (The Vampire Reclamation Project, #1) by

S.S. Bazinet (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review -Four stars to Michael’s Blood

 

This interesting but confusing book is the first in a series about redemption, specifically, that of a reluctant vampire named Arel.  Arel’s guardian angel, Michael, is attempting to heal Arel of his curse, but to do so, his charge must be willing to face the demons of his past lives, learn to forgive himself and accept that he is worthy of love.

How do you cure vampirism?  Apparently by feeding said vampire Michael’s angelic blood.  This intervention sets off a process that nearly kills Michael multiple times as it begins to transform him.

Arel doesn’t make it easy for Michael; he’s arrogant, demanding, and needy in turn, not to mention depressed and sometimes suicidal.  He stubbornly refuses Michael’s help over and over again until he is rendered unable to cope anymore.  Still Michael, with true angelic grace, is there for Arel time and time again, picking him up and caring for him till he’s ready to stand on his own two feet again.

Everything changes when Arel meets a group of people who are as drawn to him as he is to them.  Each of these flawed, but giving individuals figured prominently somewhere in Arel’s past lives, and as they become aware of their past relationships, struggle to integrate those old emotions and knowledge into this new life where they are all intertwined again.

While on the surface this story involves a number of different factors- i.e. vampires, angelic guardians, past life regression, the underlying plot is really a study of the human condition, equally parts uplifting and heart wrenching, until the conclusion which ends on a high note, save for an ominous message from someone in Arel’s vampiric past, thus setting up a cliffhanger for the next book in the series, William’s Blood.

I picked up this book as part of the author’s recent promotional giveaway, and shelved on my TBR list for a time.  I finally decided to sit down and read it this past week, and I’m not sorry that I did, because despite the surprising mix of genres, the book is very moving and uplifting, as this extraordinary group of individuals, both human and angelic, face everyday crises and come out the stronger for it.  The overall message of faith and hope is inspiring, and I recommend this series to any who need a little encouragement or who simply like a good read.

Happy Independence Day!

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Happy Fourth of July!  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tomorrow is officially the day we celebrate our Independence in the United States, but the festivities have already started!  (In my neighborhood, we’ve been hearing firecrackers go off in the evening all week!)

On this most important of national holidays, we recognize that our country, despite our differences, our problems, and our political debates, we all share a core of ideals and values.  We acknowledge that though we are far from perfect, we still have such potential, along with the freedom to choose our own destinies.

Tomorrow, and this week, is the perfect time to set aside our petty arguments and embrace that which makes us all Americans.  Take a moment to remember that we have servicemen and women overseas even now, sacrificing to keep our values and our safety intact.

white and red flag
Happy Independence Day! Photo by Aaron Schwartz on Pexels.com

However you choose to celebrate, by going out to one of the many parades or fireworks shows around the nation, or by just staying home and grilling out in the backyard, I hope this Fourth is your best yet!

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Sign of the Nine

The Sign of the Nine by G.S. Denning
The Sign of the Nine (Warlock Holmes #4) by

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Amy Caudill‘s review

This fourth volume of the adventures of Warlock Holmes is the broadest sweeping narrative yet.  Out-maneuvering Pinkerton detectives, overcoming Italian Mafioso’s, and uncovering folktale selkies, are just some of the encounters depicted in this paranormal spoof of Arthur Conan Doyle’s illustrious detective stories.

Our story begins as John Watson and Warlock Holmes reverse their characters more than usual for this author’s version of the famous duo.  Watson, determined to find Moriarty and Adler, begins experimenting with introducing a 7% solution of mummified Persian sorcerer into his blood stream in hopes of inducing prophetic dreams.

Watson’s “dream sequences” populate every other story in this anthology of linked narratives, as Watson poisons his body and gains Holmes’ suspicions, under a drug-induced hallucinated state that shows him truths about Moriarty’s past.  Watson’s addiction leads to an even greater role reversal for the master of deduction (Watson) and the bumbling sorcerer (Holmes) who is forced for once to be the responsible one, and attempt to save Watson’s life and soul in the process.

But how does Warlock manage to accomplish such a task with his limited understanding of humanity and human interactions?  Holmes decides Watson needs a love interest of course.  And naturally he chooses the latest damsel in distress to cross their paths, Mary Morstan.  It doesn’t matter that Watson is not the least bit interested in her, not to Holmes. Because he has determined Mary will be John’s salvation, through a magical intervention that rocks the conclusion to this anthology.

G.S. Denning takes these well-beloved characters and molds them to fit perfectly into the new scenarios he has devised, while retaining enough of the original source material that they remain recognizable to fans of Conan Doyle. The author manages to seamlessly insert his own dramatic and paranormally influenced-material into the 1890’s vernacular, while his creations are at home discussing subjects of magic, sorcery, necromancy, and fairy tales.

While G. S. Denning is hardly the first author to imitate, or reimagine, the writings of the classic author, this book and the series are both a humorous and entertaining tribute, one I would recommend to any fans of either Sherlock Holmes or paranormal mysteries.   I award The Sign of Nine five stars.  I’m sad I have to wait almost another year for the next volume in the series.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Summer Knight

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

  

Summer Knight opens as Harry Dresden’s life is falling apart.  Reeling from the consequences of the last volume, (Grave Peril, which takes place some nine months before,) Harry is ignoring everything and everyone else in his life in his ill-fated attempt to find a cure for his love.  Susan Rodriquez was infected by a vampire’s venom, and one moment of weakness is all it would take for her to give into the blood lust and turns into a creature of the night.

Unfortunately, the world waits for no wizard, and the events taking place in the Nevernever and spilling out into the mortal world will soon distract Harry from his quest.  The debt Harry owes to his faerie godmother Leanansidhe has been sold to the Winter Queen, Mab, who wants Harry to investigate the murder of the Knight of the Summer Queen.

Meanwhile, the Red Vampire Court is after Harry’s blood and the White Council of Wizards may just be willing to sacrifice him to keep the peace.  Harry has both allies and enemies on the council, and is quickly running out of time to appease them.  The only chance the wizards have of avoiding all-out war with the vampires is for Harry to solve Mab’s case, earning safe passage through the Nevernever into the vampire’s territory, and doing so before Winter and Summer start a war of their own that could literally end the world.

This novel, fourth in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, plunges the reader into a much wider world of paranormal politics and intrigue than is seen in previous volumes.  The epic battle in the clouds above Chicago reminds me of scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, while the camaraderie between Harry and the Alphas, the pack of werewolf-shifters he befriended in Fool Moon, is reminiscent of other epic tales like Lord of the Rings.

I award Summer Knight five stars, and recommend it and the series to any fans of paranormal detective stories, and fans of adventure epics.