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Monday, January 4, 2021

Review - Devils and Details

This series has a unique premise that keeps me coming back for more.  I reviewed the first in the series, Death and Relaxation (click here).  Now to see what I thought of the second in the series.

Author: Devon Monk

Copyright: August 2016 (Old House Press) 308 pgs

Series: 2nd in Ordinary Magic Mysteries

Sensuality: Moderate, some steam

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Police Procedural

Main Characters: Police Chief Delaney Reed

Setting: Modern day, beach town of Ordinary Oregon

Obtained Through: Library

Book Blurb: "Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea...

Police Chief Delaney Reed is good at keeping secrets for the beach town of Ordinary Oregon–just ask the vacationing gods or supernatural creatures who live there.

But with the first annual Cake and Skate fundraiser coming up, the only secret Delaney really wants to know is how to stop the unseasonable rain storms. When all the god powers are stolen, a vampire is murdered, and her childhood crush turns out to be keeping deadly secrets of his own, rainy days are the least of her worries.

Hunting a murderer, outsmarting a know-it-all god, and uncovering an ancient vampire’s terrifying past isn’t how she planned to spend her summer. But then again, neither is 
falling back in love with the one man she should never trust."

Delaney is trying to fill her deceased father's shoes as the chief of police, while still grieving his sudden death.  She is reliable and overworked.  Sister Jean has the intuition ability, sensing when something bad is approaching but sadly doesn't 
get details with it.  She is a bit more adventurous than her two other sisters, dying her hair various colors. She handles calls for the police station.  Sister Myra has great timing, always showing up where and when she is needed and is calm and collected. She handles forensics for the small police station.  Ryder Bailey, Delaney's teen heart-throb is working at the station too and he seems to also answer to somebody else.

Ordinary is a beach town that gets the usual tourists plus various mythical gods wanting a vacation from their duties.  This is a creative concept and Ordinary has the beach town problems (spring break parties) plus the less mundane.  Nicely done.

The main plot starting out is the stolen god powers, which isn't an easy nor simple task to pull off, yet finding the culprit is a nightmare.  Then a local vampire is murdered and the two cases don't seem related, so Delaney has two major investigations at one time.  Then what may seem like a subplot regarding her romantic interest keeping who he works for a secret starts to become a bigger deal.  You could say there is a lot going on. 

The climax of the three plots happens at different times, which definitely kept me flipping the pages.  The god powers climax I can't say much about to avoid a spoiler, but it is interesting.  The revealing of Ryder Bailey's secret adds a significant complication to Delaney's job and life.  As for who killed the vampire... well that is a bombshell that will have repercussions into the next book.

This second entry in the Ordinary Magic series continues to set a high bar.  This is a fun and captivating book with twists and turns without being so strangely paranormal you can't relate to it.  

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I would appreciate if you would do me the honor of your vote for the cover of my thriller, The Society, on AllAuthor.    
  
  
AllAuthor

Cover of the Month

The Society (Elizabeth Grant Thrillers Book 1)

Hey Everyone,
I’m excited to tell you that my book has been nominated for the "Cover of the Month" contest on AllAuthor.com. This will help me a lot if I could see some votes coming in, so please remember to vote my book.
Vote Now »
Thanks,
Avery Daniels



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Monday, December 28, 2020

New Year, New You!




2020 is on the way out, let's welcome 2021 properly!

I don't know if the propensity to make resolutions for the coming year is a world wide phenomenon or just wide spread in the US.  In either case, each January first we "resolve" to change something in our lives, often more than one thing. But let's face it, 2020 was a rough year all the way around, so let's not start the new year setting ourselves up for failure.  Here is a list of the common resolutions we predictably make each year.

TOP 10 RESOLUTIONS
Exercise
Quit smoking
lose weight
quit drinking
enjoy life more
more family time
get out of debt
learn something new
help others
get organized

I would like to suggest something different and I hope this gives you some inspiration or a new perspective.

Pick only one thing and instead of it being a major resolution, make it a micro change in your life and live this day-to-day.

For instance, rather than the overarching and sometimes overwhelming Lose Weight, how about drink 60 ounces of water a day or do ten minutes on the elliptical 3-5 days a week.  Micro change is the idea of changing one smaller thing within the big picture.  A large component to this is to forgive yourself if you slip up and start again the next day.   This has proven to help people meet those bigger goals when it is simplified into a smaller task.  You gain a sense of accomplishment and build your confidence that you can make this work.

If you have a daily schedule, write it in ahead of time with encouraging words to make it a priority.  You can encourage yourself, not discourage or beat yourself up.  Become your own cheerleader.  This isn't about changing your entire lifestyle all at once, but changing one small behavior at a time.  Plan ahead for everything you will need to be serious about this goal so you aren't procrastinating.  Don't get down on yourself if you slip up (it's bound to happen), just believe in yourself and do your best to set yourself up for success going forward.

Another important aspect is to learn from the outgoing year.  I offer a few journaling prompts to help give 2020 a send off so we can mentally start on the new year without the baggage.  I have been doing this for the last five years and I believe it really aids looking ahead with a positive mindset.  Journal your answers to these questions:

  • What dreams came true in 2020?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • I know myself more now because... ?
  • Even though it was hard to go through, I learned a lot from _______.
  • 2020 led me to ___________________ ?
  • I was transformed by ___________________?
  • I let go of ___________________.
  • I am proud of myself for ___________________.
  • The incredible thing I discovered about myself is _______________.
  • Habits I want to stop ___________________.
  • I am happy because ___________________.
  • Write a page of gratitude, you can do it.
  • Rant page: What do you need to write, journal, or rant about in order for you to clear your life of 2020 ___________________?
     
I will be journaling my responses to these questions on New Year's Eve.  My micro goal is to consistently write each day.  Some days maybe more overall words written than others, but if I write everyday, then I will complete more books this year.  Excellent.  I don't even have a set number of words, just write everyday. 

I hope this micro-goal setting inspires you and gives you a new perspective on goal setting.  Make it a small goal, not an entire lifestyle change.  

May this new year be a blessing to us all.

Here is a short video on Auld Lang Syne: what it means and where we got it from.



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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review - A Royal Affair

"It's refreshing to see believable female friends in a historical mystery...Fans of period mysteries by authors such as Ashley Weaver and Deanna Raybourn will appreciate this gutsy duo."  -- "Library Journal"

This is the second in this new historical mystery.  I started with the debut, The Right Sort of Man (review: click here).  I think the second book doesn't disappoint. 

Author:
Allison Montclair

Copyright: July 2020 (Minotaur) 326 pgs

Series: 2nd in Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries

Sensuality: mild references

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge owners of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau

Setting: 1946, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "More goes wrong than could be imagined when Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau are unexpectedly engaged to dig into the past of a suitor of a royal princess.

In London 1946, The Right Sort Marriage Bureau is just beginning to take off and the proprietors, Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, are in need of a bigger office and a secretary to handle the growing demand. Unfortunately, they don't yet have the necessary means. So when a woman arrives—a cousin of Gwen's—with an interesting and quite remunerative proposition, the two of them are all ears.

The cousin, one Lady Matheson, works for the Queen in "some capacity" and is in need of some discreet investigation. It seems that the Princess Elizabeth has developed feelings for a dashing Greek prince and a blackmail note has arrived, alluding to some potentially damaging information about said prince. Wanting to keep this out of the palace gossip circles, but also needing to find out what skeletons might lurk in the prince's closet, the palace has quietly turned to Gwen and Iris. Without causing a stir, the two of them must now find out what secrets lurk in the prince's past, before his engagement to the future Queen of England is announced. And there's more at stake than the future of the Empire —there is their potential new office that lies in the balance."

Miss Iris Sparks is single with a highly classified background in the war, probably spying. She seems fearless, relying upon her "unique skill set".  Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge is still grieving her husband's death, but doing better than she had when she was institutionalized by her inlaws for a breakdown during her grief, when they also took custody of her son. 
Iris has a new boyfriend that is on the wrong side of the law and I wonder how long that will last.  Sally is their hired muscle and assistant who writes plays.  I think his character is refreshing and want more.

Post war London is the backdrop and serves well without taking the spotlight.  The plot may have started out as a blackmail case but is revealed as far more as it twists and turns. Iris and Gwen untangle layers of subterfuge.  It took a few chapters to really unfold, but once it did I simply couldn't put it down.

The confrontation is a grand affair with plenty of drama, just superlative.  The wrap up is short but leaves you wanting the next book.

Iris and Gwen cement their friendship further in more than just intrigue, but in emotional growth as well. This is a beautiful example of women in healthy friendships that don't revolve around discussing men, but rather the realities of life.
The hallmark of this series is the snarky banter between Iris and Gwen that is on full display in this novel.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short talk after the first book came out.  Enjoy.  https://youtu.be/U9TMhPWfm3A





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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Review - Killing Trail

Apparently fans of Nevada Barr and C.J. Box will love this explosive debut.  "This suspenseful series kick-off introduces small-town Colorado's best crime-fighting duo, Mattie Cobb and her police dog partner, Robo"  This is a new for me series although it was published several years ago, so lets see how I felt about this debut.

Author: Margaret Mizushima

Copyright: December 2011 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries

Sensuality: clinical death of a teen, drug mules

Mystery Sub-genre: Police Procedural

Main Characters: Officer Mattie Cobb and pollice dog partner, Robo, 

Setting: Modern day, Timber Creek, Colorado

Obtained Through: Library Find

Book Blurb: "When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole's daughter, who knows more than she's saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn't careful, she and Robo could be next. Suspenseful and smart, Killing Trail is a gripping read that will have readers clamoring for more Mattie and Robo for years to come. " 

Mattie Cobb comes with wounds having grown up in foster care. Thus she trusts her dog partner, Robo, more than any human. She is the only female deputy, and she also won a cross country endurance test to be Robo's handler. She is all business and doesn't have much of a soft side except towards Robo. She may not be for everyone, but I think she makes an interesting lead.  Robo is a star.  He is well trained, works hard and plays hard, and is loyal to Mattie without question.  

Cole Walker is recently separated and a work-a-holic veterinarian who could be a romantic interest for Mattie. But he needs to grieve before he is ready IMHO.  Detective Stella LoSasso arrives to handle the investigation and becomes a temporary mentor as she works with Mattie.  Sheriff Abraham McCoy is a mountain of a man who sees Mattie's potential and encourages her.  Chief Deputy Brody has never forgiven Mattie for winning the endurance test and being Robo's handler, thus he makes her life difficult at every opportunity.
Mama T is Mattie's foster mom and a great character I want to seem more of in future novels.  And then there is Rainbow, the hippy-raised dispatcher who is the optimist continually trying to make friends with Mattie.

Timber Creek is a smallish town developing a bigger town's drug problems. It sits in the middle of the majestic Rocky Mountains which are well described to place the reader in the splendor. Thus providing the ugly side hiding within the beauty. Well done.

I liked this police procedural more than I usually do the subgenre.  It is well balanced with Robo and the scenes from the Veterinarian's point of view to keep it from being the gritty big city style. The plot shows the struggle to fight the creeping of drugs into the community without being completely jaded. I devoured the book so the pacing kept me glued to the pages.

The climax was a nail biting suspenseful confrontation where Mattie learns to fully trust Robo and he delivers. The killer wasn't entirely a surprise, but wasn't my top choice so, that was well done.  The wrapup sets up for ongoing adventures.

I liked that the romance is a slow burn since both Mattie and Cole have some serious baggage to deal with. I absolutely love Robo and how he is portrayed. Mattie could have been a dark character, but she is evened out with moments of growth and the character has tremendous potential.  I also love that Rainbow and Detective Stella LoSasso are supportive women for Mattie, fantastic touch. 

The opening is my favorite for its humor:
     "Pulling her cruiser up to a stop sign, Mattie stole a quick glance.  Born in Russia, he was a handsome guy: straight black hair, intense brown eyes, and white teeth that flashed when he grinned.  Large and muscular, strong and rugged, he was the only one in the department who could outrun her in cross-country foot race.
     In addition to all that, he could sniff out a missing person.
     He was Timber Creek County's new police service dog, a German shepherd name Robo."

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 



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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Time to Practice Self Care


With winter weather settling in and more safe-at-home time, let's practice self care more.

With the whole Covid pandemic hitting the world a sucker punch, this has been a stressful year.  Now the big holiday is baring down on us and it can be overwhelming and even depressing for many.  I know I need to be more mindful and nurture myself, and I doubt I am the only one. So let's take a breath and focus on self care.
 
This isn't a complete list by any means, but it is a list of things to do to stay positive and emotionally well.
  • Eat regular healthy meals, don't skip meals
  • Go on a social media fast for 24 hours (no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.)
  • Meditate or do deep breathing for 15 minutes
  • Light a fragrant candle in a scent that makes you smile (safety precautions with fire, of course)
  • Write a gratitude list - weekly and post it on your bathroom mirror. This is very helpful.
  • Have a dance party in your living room, even if it is by yourself

    via GIPHY

  • Exercise, dance, run in place, do squats, get moving daily
  • Practice yoga or Tai Chi
  • Write letters or send New Years cards
  • Zoom, skype, or facetime with a friend at least once a week, twice if possible
  • Weather permitting, get outside, take a walk in nature
  • via GIPHY

  • Pamper yourself with an at-home-spa-day (soak in a tub - bubbles, candles, and music optional, manicure/pedicure, dye/highlight hair etc.)
  • via GIPHY

  • Spend quality time with a pet, cuddle and play with your fur babies
  • Read that book you've been wanting to
  • via GIPHY

  • Watch only movies that make you laugh out loud (suggestions for you 30 Best Comedy movies or  50 Comedies). 
  • via GIPHY

  • Do some art: an adult coloring page, card making, scrapbooking, paint, draw, photography - something creative.
  • via GIPHY

  • Put on some calming music and drink some herbal tea
  • via GIPHY

  • Bonus task: Write yourself a care note where you remind yourself of your best qualities
  • If you need to talk to somebody and you don't feel comfortable with anybody you know, try one of these online therapist services (click here).
  • Warning: alcohol is a depressant, so if you are feeling sad or lonely avoid booze since it will just make you feel worse.

Most of all, know that you aren't in this alone and you matter.  There are people who care about you and we will all get through this.  



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