Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Weakest Lynx

Weakest Lynx by Fiona Quinn
Weakest Lynx (Lynx #1) by

Fiona Quinn (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Lexi Sobado has lived an interesting life.  Only twenty, she is a Kung Fu master and has trained with police officers, spy masters, and master chefs.  She can shoot a bullseye, beat trained operatives on an obstacle course, and still appear as sweet and innocent as the girl next door.  She also has gifts that insure her life will never be the “normal” she craves.

Lexi is great at solving puzzles.  Her mentor, Spyder McGraw, a legend at the shadowy government agency Iniquus, trained her in secret to find connections no one else can.  But when Lexi is being hunted by a cruel, obsessive man she calls Stalker, Spyder is off on a secret mission and Lexi must turn to others for help.  She has attracted the attention of a very dangerous psychopathic drug addict who has already murdered six girls, and Lexi is his latest chosen victim.

While this story is definitely a thriller with a heroine who has paranormal abilities, I found myself caught up more by the lead character’s backstory than the plot itself.  For all Lexi’s gifts, she is honestly trying to create an ordinary life.  She spends her time, when she’s not being stalked or helping the Iniquus team sent to protect her, getting to know her neighbors and turning a fixer upper into a home to share with her husband Angel when he returns from Afghanistan.

Lexi’s desire to have a normal life helps make her character more appealing, more vulnerable, than the mysterious and gifted psychic undercover operative who is her alter ego, Alex.  Fiona Quinn managed to instill her heroine with a multi-faceted personality, while still writing a story that will appeal to both spy enthusiasts and paranormal romance fans.

I award this novel five stars and would recommend it to a large body of readers.

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I Need a Vacation! Helpful Planning Tips

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Someone is more than ready for a vacation!  Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

As more and more of my colleagues talk about the plans they have made for vacations this year, or actually have already taken time away from work, I long to head out for some “time off” of my own.  Where to go?  What to see?  Decisions, decisions.  As I buckle down to make my own plans, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped guide me in the past

Consider your group.

Do you have young children that will be going on vacation with you?  Teenagers? Elderly parents?  Every aspect from your trip needs to keep your company in mind, from travel method to accommodations to planned activities.  Tailor your plans to find something everyone can enjoy, whether that be a trip to the beach or mountains, or a road trip with numerous stops along the way.  Remember that some members of your group will tire easily, or need snacks, or distractions along the way- you know who these are!

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What is your ideal vacation?  Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Consider a “destination vacation.”

There are various places that offer all-inclusive packages, from theme parks that include transport to/from the airport, as well as meal plans and shuttle services; to cruises that offer a variety of on-board and site-seeing tours; to resorts that feature water parks, spas, and quality restaurants on the premises.  This type of vacation means you can book and pay for almost your entire trip in advance, and spend less time on the road and more time having fun!  Plus, there are trips of this type to meet almost every budget.  It’s easy to find good deals on vacation packages to destinations like Florida here

Staycations can work-really!

If you have no desire to spend your free time in an airport or on the road, or if you only have a short break from jobs and other commitments, a staycation could be your best bet.  The key to enjoying this type of holiday is that you absolutely must remember you’re on vacation, and actually taking a break.  No fair checking in with work or completing that household project you’ve been planning to get done!

Play tourist in your home town.  Do the fun and interesting things you’ve always meant to do, like trying a new restaurant, or visiting the aquarium or museum, that you keep postponing until “you have time.”  Take a day trip to a nearby attraction, something you can enjoy in one day, and still be home to sleep in your own bed.  Turn off social media, and pretend that you’re far off the grid.

Hopefully very soon my husband and I will settle on some plans for a vacation,; I think he is just as ready for one as I am!  Until then, I hope you all enjoy the warmer weather, and get to plan a trip of your own!

Amy

What Being a Mother Means to Me

happy mothers day card beside pen macaroons flowers and box near coffee cup with saucer
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

When I decided to write a post about Mother’s Day, which is this coming Sunday, May 12th, I had a lot of possible directions to take.  I could have made a list of gift ideas, or written about how time spent together is more valuable, or even quoted numerous authorities on motherhood, family, and love.  However, since I am blessed to be a mother of two myself, these choices seemed a little too self-serving.

Instead, I decided to share some of my feelings about being a mother.  I became a mother for the first time when I was only twenty.  I was not really prepared to take on such responsibility, but then again, who is at any age?  The learning curve was steep with my son, though I did my best, and I like to think I did not do a terrible job.  Four years later we welcomed my daughter to our home.  In some ways it was easier the second time round, as we already knew some of what to expect, but then again, no two children are alike.

As my children grew I began to see them more and more as distinct individuals, each with their own unique personalities, though they inherited plenty of traits from their father and me.  (Sorry about that, kids.)

I learned early on that it doesn’t make sense to dwell on ideals-what I’d like the children to do or be, but it’s far more important to see what and who they truly are, while still rooting for them to reach their farthest potential.  My kids have grown up to be independent, responsible adults, and I like to think I helped them best along the way by teaching them to make their own choices, and accepting the consequences.

I know that being a mother doesn’t stop at a certain age or point of development-I still worry about their safety, their happiness, their future.  I want the best for them, and would do anything I could to give them that.  Mothers love fiercely, completely, and protectively.  I think if my children were in danger I could perform heroic deeds to keep them safe, though I am hardly brave or strong as a person.

Being a mother is a lifetime conviction, and no other vocation is as devoted, as stressful, or as blessed.  It is a calling that it not for everyone, certainly, but it comes with endless rewards for those who accept the challenge.

To all those readers who are, or plan to be, mothers out there, I wish you a Very Happy Mother’s Day!

P.S.  My all-time favorite gifts from my children for Mother’s Day were the hand-written cards and poems I received when they were young, some of which are still hanging framed on my bedroom walls today, and the breakfasts that were lovingly cooked by teenaged hands years later.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Grave Peril

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Misdirection, a ghost with the power to cause and control nightmares, and attacks from multiple factions in the supernatural world makes this third installment of The Dresden Files the most exciting adventure yet.

Something has stirred up the ghostly denizens of Chicago, leading to frenzied attacks on unsuspecting living residents.  Harry Dresden, modern day wizard, with the help of Michael, one of God’s Knights of the Sword, is working overtime to put out supernatural fires and save innocent lives from assaults the average citizen can’t even see.

When a mysterious entity, dubbed “The Nightmare,” is able to enter homes uninvited and undetected, against all rules of the paranormal, Harry has more suspects than answers.  Something is attacking Harry’s friends, and Harry himself, and the clues lead to a sorcerer named Kravos whom Harry and Co.  defeated months ago.  Only Kravos is locked up by the Chicago PD, or is he?

While all this is happening, Harry is also on the radar of a major player in the vampire court, Bianca, and in trouble with his faerie godmother, Lea, over a bargain he made in a life-or-death situation.  Plus, when the Nightmare attacked him, it stole a large chunk of his magical power and gained the ability to impersonate him.   Harry may be in more trouble than he can handle this time.

I’ve read several of Jim Butcher’s novels and collections in the past, but this is the first time I have read through the series in order.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how the relationships between different characters, especially that of Harry and Susan, have developed, and already am aware of a major upheaval coming for them in future books.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how Harry’s relationships with other characters, friends and enemies, continues to change, as many of the major baddies/allies/rival powers survived to come after Harry again.

Overall, this book is the best of the series to-date, and a good choice for any reader who wants their paranormal detective story with a side of mayhem and romance.  I give Grave Peril five stars and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

 

Happy Earth Day!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  I spent my weekend catching up with family, relaxing, and eating far too much food!

Today is worldwide Earth Day.  While this is not a holiday from school or work it has a very important function; Earth Day is a day set aside each year to raise awareness about our most important resource-the planet we all call home.  This year, The Earth Day Network is focusing on the preservation of endangered species.

Deforestation, pollution, climate change, and unsustainable agriculture are all contributing to the destruction of native plant and wildlife populations.  For more information on what species are in danger see the link here:Fact Sheet: Global Species Decline

What can we do to help?  Simple things, such as recycling, planting trees, and supporting the efforts of global organizations such as The Earth Day Network can truly make a difference, and help to save our world.

For more information about this organization and what its goals mean for each of us, visit their website here: Earth Day 2019

Let’s all do what we can to make a difference!

She Has A Name (Guest Post)

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

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

A definition of human trafficking according to SHAN:

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

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

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

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

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

Ways you can combat labor trafficking:

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

Ways you can combat sex trafficking:

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

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

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

*factual information obtained from She Has A Name

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

A Taste of Spring

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

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

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

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

Berry Crisp

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

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

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup cold butter or margarine

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

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

 

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

Amy

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

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

Theodora Goss (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review :

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Spring Ramble

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Waking the Dead

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

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

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

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

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

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

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

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