This post was so lovely I just had to share- thank you Donna Cameron for showing us the way:

There’s a commemorative day, week, or month for nearly everything: iguana awareness, kiwi fruit, be nice to New Jersey, toasted marshmallows (all actual commemoratives). As a rule, I ignore such days, excepting National Ice Cream Cone Day, July 21, because, well . . . ice cream. One other day I like to observe is coming […]

via World Kindness Day is Wednesday, November 13 — A Year of Living Kindly

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Here Comes The Witch

Here Comes The Witch by Ani Gonzalez
Here Comes The Witch (Main Street Witches, #1)by

Ani Gonzalez (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

What do you get when you cross a New York jewelry designer, whose ancestors were famed for making elixirs and casting curses, with a contractor from a small Southern town, noted for its haunted houses and paranormal events?  Apparently, a cozy mystery with paranormal elements that includes a vengeful ghost and a chance for romance and a new life.

The first book in Ani Gonzalez’s Main Street Witches series features a business deal garnered between Liam Hagen and Kat Santelli Ramos to end the curse placed on the historic Hagen House so Liam can sell it, sharing the profits with Kat whose dream is to open her own jewelry store.  The catch is, the only way to end the curse, according to local santerra guru and neighborhood exorcist Yolanda is for Liam and Kat to marry, and live in the haunted house together.

While navigating the rocky road of “marrying” a complete stranger, Kat and Liam also have to deal with the local paranormal/ghost hunter crew filming their every move, and a ghost/spirit/curse that is reluctant to dissipate.   Kat will also have to accept that her ancestors were witches, and like it or not, she has inherited their gifts, which she will need to learn about if the curse is to be truly ended.

This was the first book I’ve read by the author, and I was fascinated by the fact that she has already created a rich backstory that includes a number of colorful residents of Banshee Creek and a complete history of multiple paranormal entities.  Her background characters seem well-developed, but are only utilized as comic relief or scene fillers.  I hope that future volumes will include more of this potential entertaining ensemble cast.  The plot contains multiple twists on the way to a resolution I was able to predict about ¾ of the way through, but still contained a well-written climax, and a satisfying resolution.

This series seems to take witchcraft, magic, ghosts, poltergeists, and the like as accepted truths, but doesn’t delve too deeply into the scare factor.  The result is a light-hearted romantic comedy with a spook factor that is eerie but not too terribly scary.  This book, and presumably series, is perfect for those readers who want a taste of the paranormal without being scared out of their minds.

I award this novel four stars, and recommend it to readers of the paranormal, and cozy mysteries, who are interested in a heroine/romantic protagonist who also possesses magical powers.

 

 

 

 

Signs that you’re not ready for Halloween:

I apologize that my posts have come at an erratic pace lately, but life is a bit chaotic at the moment, and I’ve been trying to clear some things up.  I hope I can get back to a regular day of posting soon or at least by the end of the holidays.   Meanwhile, I put together this list of issues that I’ve experienced, (not all at once, thankfully) and hope that some of you will be able to relate.  Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

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Photo by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.com

Signs that you’re not ready for Halloween:

  • You arrive at work, and discover, in place of your expected coworkers, there is a dragon, a puppy, a kitten angel, and half a dozen assorted cats plus a few adults dressed as Disney characters.  Oops, you forgot that today was the costume contest.
  • Your spouse/kids/dog found your hidden stash of Reese’s Cups that you were saving for trick-or-treaters (honestly!) again.
  • You’ve lost your head, that is, the life-like skull that was part of last year’s graveyard display on your front lawn.  You don’t have time to look for another one, and they’re out of stock on Amazon.  Oh, well, you will just have to scatter the bones further and maybe carve an extra pumpkin?
pumpkin display
Welcome one and all! Wait, I’m not ready yet!  Photo by Artie Siegel on Pexels.com
  • It’s nine p.m. and your teenager informs you that they need a costume for a party they were invited to two weeks ago, which takes place tomorrow.  Also, they need a ride and snacks to satisfy a crowd of ravenous teens.
  • You visit your favorite craft store that had Halloween decorations on sale last week, and find nothing there now but aisle after aisle of Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations.  Really Halloween isn’t over yet!
  • You send your spouse to the store for milk, and he comes back with donuts, more candy, and a giant inflatable coffin, but no milk.
  • You make it to the grocery store and the candy aisle looks like a warzone, or perhaps a tornado blew through.  There are Snickers and Hershey bars on the floor and half of the bins are empty, and you really don’t want to know what that trampled mess on the floor used to be.  Also, they’re all out of Halloween Oreos.
  • You see a group of costumed children going down the street but they bypass your house, then you realize you forgot to turn on the porch lights, and consider chasing after them.  How else are you going to get rid of that ten pound bag of candy you managed to order at the last minute?

 

Here’s hoping that everyone out there has a stress-free and safe Halloween this year!

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula by

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Since Halloween is less than two weeks away, I decided there was no better time to read one of the original classics that helped spawn the entire genre of horror literature- Bram Stoker’s vision of Dracula.

 The author’s work, originally published in 1897, relied heavily on local superstition as the author created a series of characters that represented archetypes of good and evil in a battle of supremacy.  So chilling were the characters and scenes designed for this classic, that it has been imitated and referenced in countless plays, movies, and television series and books today.

As told through a collection of journal entries made from different points of view, added to by “newspaper clippings” and eyewitness accounts, the story from the first page reads like a dry and rambling travelogue, but the reader is quickly drawn in as each successive entry gives clues to the dawning realization that circumstances are far from normal.

Johnathan Harker, a name that will be familiar to any who have read or seen any version of the story of Dracula, is a new solicitor whose current assignment is to travel to Transylvania to deliver papers to the Count, whose has just purchased a property in London with the intention of relocating to Britain.  Johnathan through observation and accident discovers clues about the Count’s true nature and is imprisoned in the castle, left to his fate amongst three female vampires when Dracula leaves for London.

Johnathan escapes, and manages to return to England separately, but very ill with “brain fever,” in reality a state of shock and denial, for what he has learned.  Mina Murray, his fiancée, is summoned to his side to tend to him, and leaves her friend Lucy, whom she had been caring for, in the care of Dr. Seward and Professor Van Helsing.

Lucy has exhibited symptoms of an illness, including severe and recurrent loss of blood and sleep-walking, which defies conventional explanation.  It is only when Van Helsing begins to put together clues from Lucy’s dreams, with accounts from the Harkers’ experiences, unusual behavior from one of Dr. Seward’s patients at the asylum, and reports of inexplicable events around London, that he begins to realize the truth.

The quest to stop the vampire will lead the company on a perilous adventure through graveyards, abandoned churches, and finally on a journey back to the Count’s lair in Transylvania to save the soul of his latest victim.

This novel, though written more than one hundred years ago, still contains the power to terrify readers today.  The language, though somewhat affected by the vernacular of the time, is not difficult to follow, and the essence of the story is so chilling that it is no wonder it has become a classic that is much imitated today.  The original version of Dracula deserves five stars for its timeless appeal to readers of the horror and paranormal genres.  Give it a read!

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Blood Rites

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

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
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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.

 

 

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)
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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)
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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!