Last Tuesday Book Round-Up

I’m happy to report that I was able to get more reading done in May than I did in April. As of writing this post, I’ve finished six books so far this month and I may be able to squeeze in one more. Here’s the round-up:

Eighteen Months by Glenn McGoldrick is a short story I first heard about on Twitter. This was the first story I’ve read by this author, and I thought it was thoughtfully written and full of darkness. I can’t tell you much without giving the story away, but if you like suspense, this is a good one to check out.

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert was the sequel to Moloka’i. You have to know a little bit about Moloka’i in order to understand what’s happening in the sequel.

The island of Moloka’i in Hawaii was widely known as a leper colony where people were sent decades ago to remove them from the general population. Moloka’i is the heart-wrenching, beautifully-written story of a woman who grew up on the island. As an adult, she gives birth to a baby girl and she and the baby’s father are forced to give up their daughter a day after her birth. Daughter of Moloka’i is the story of that little girl.

Moloka’i is an incredible novel and it was going to be pretty hard to beat it, or even match it. In my opinion, Daughter of Moloka’i doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but it’s still a great book and well worth reading.

Desperate Deeds by Patricia Gligor is the third book in the Malone Mystery series. In this book, Ann Kern has to deal with her husband’s unemployment, the possibility he’s drinking again, the aftermath of her mother-in-law’s death, starting a new business, and the most unthinkable thing of all, her son going missing. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“This was the fourth book I have read by Patricia Gligor, and as always, she has crafted a story that is full of characters who could be your next-door neighbors. The book draws the reader in with the promise of suspense, and there is plenty of it in this book. Following the twists and turns is fun, and I was sure I knew what would happen on more than one occasion. I was wrong, which thrilled me! Looking forward to Malone Mystery #4.”

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque is a book that you certainly don’t need to read if you have a newsletter, but if you do, get it, read it, and keep it for future reference. I’m in the process of changing how my newsletter is discovered by readers and I’m already implementing some of the changes the book suggests. I’m very excited about it!

A friend suggested that I read Thief of Corinth and I’m glad I did. It was an interesting story about corruption in the ancient city of Corinth and how a young girl and her father face choices they must make in the face of adversity. The main character, Ariadne, is complex and, at times, misguided and angry. Watching her grow and learn about this new system of beliefs called Christianity is uplifting and inspiring.

Organized for Homicide by Ritter Ames is a great cozy mystery full of twists, turns, and…organizing advice. When two women take on the job of organizing a cross-country move for a recently-divorced father of three and at least two of his children, they’ve got their hands full. And when the ex-wife shows up dead, there are suspects aplenty, beginning with the eldest child of the couple. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the friendship between Kate and Meg, two of the main characters. The mystery was intriguing, with enough red herrings, suspects, and twists to please any discerning mystery lover. Highly recommend!”

So, readers, what are you reading these days? Please share!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. Have you seen my new book cover? Dead, White, and Blue, Book 2 in the Juniper Junction Mystery series, will be available for pre-order soon! If this is your first time seeing it, join my newsletter by clicking here! You’ll be among the first to see my cover reveals.

What do you think??

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Today on Reade and Write I welcome Carolyn Ridder Aspenson to the hot seat. She’s here to talk about her newest release, Get Up and Ghost. Welcome, Carolyn!

Tell me about your new book.

I just published the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Get Up and Ghost is a psychic medium mystery about a woman who works for the historical society in a small North Georgia town called Castleberry. She falls down the last part of the stairs at work, bumps her head and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. She doesn’t realize it at first, but it becomes fairly obvious quickly. When a local resident is murdered, and she’s the last one to see him alive, she’s determined to prove her innocence, with the help of a long-dead woman from the town, who’s also in need of her help.

 

Who is the audience for the book?

This is a cozy, so it’s clean — no sex, no swearing, no death on the page. The main character is a mother in her mid-forties and recently divorced, with two senior aged friends and a younger coworker, so I feel like I’ve hit a lot of the variants for different types of women.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I live in the southern part of North Georgia, and I know this area well. The town is fictional, but I modeled it after a few local towns nearby to give it a traditional small town, North Georgia appeal. Since I’ve lived here for 23 years, I have a fairly decent handle on the area, and have incorporated some of the local flare and stories into this first book, and the second one I’m working on for the series. Each of the ‘haunting’ type stories (the ghosts of time past) will have a bit of truth to them for the area. Well, truth in the sense that it’s a story from here, though I’m not sure the ghosts are actually real. I’ve yet to see any, though I’ve certainly looked!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Two things tie as the hardest part. First and foremost, I have another mystery series (it’s NOT a cozy by definition at all) with a psychic medium. I needed to make the character unique, and the storyline different. That character does make an appearance though, because she’s from an area close by. I also have another cozy series in a similar area, so I had to keep them different also. They are similar in some ways because there are two older women characters, but they are different types of older characters, and the main character is different. I’m hoping they will all be unique in their own ways.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. I’m still getting to know them all. I do feel like one of the older women is a bit similar to Betty White’s character on “Golden Girls,” but I think Betty’s retired by now! I’d definitely go with a Hallmark actress, because this series has that appeal, other than the paranormal element. I could see Erin Krakow as the lead. I think the two older women would be well played by someone like Sissy Spacek. Wouldn’t that be great to have someone of that caliber in a movie about my book? Gosh, I’d be so excited!

Have you written any other books?

I have, I think, 21 books out now. Some are novellas, but I’ve got about that many published. I’ve got my Angela Panther Mystery series, which is not the cozy mysteries, and then the Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy series. I also have a few romances, but those weren’t my thing. I guess I’m not very romantic! I’ve also done a great deal of ghost writing, but those books are all business and nonfiction.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a partner that I swap books with and we help each other, but other than that, no. I’ve found everyone has their own unique writing style, and I don’t like to infringe on that.

Do you write every day?

Since I’m now completely self-published (I was traditional for a while, but no longer) I consider this a business and treat it as such. I write for about 5 hours a day at this point and handle other business related things for an hour or so also.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I’m such a book snob! It’s a horrible thing. I grew up reading mysteries from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to more intense thrillers by Jonathan Kellerman and the like. Hands down, my favorite writer is Robert B. Parker. The Spenser series is my favorite series. When Mr. Parker died, I cried. I am also a big fan of Robert Crais, and I love the Elvis Cole books so much.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Back in time. I’d like to go back fifteen years to when my parents were both here and healthy and spend more time with them.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think the same thing most people would. Write every single day. Learn the craft and do what you can to improve. Hire an editor. Writing a novel isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn to make it something others want to read. Learn that ever-changing element.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have two. I love “Shawshank Redemption” because the friendship theme is astounding. I recently found out that Mr. King wrote that, (Yes, I live under a rock) and I was shocked! It’s not his typical book at all, but it was so good.

My second favorite is “When Harry Met Sally.” I just loved the concept of that and Billy Crystal? He was the perfect pick for that lead. I loved that story.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Care less about what other people think sooner.

Describe yourself in three words.

Wife. Mother. Friend.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

Nope!

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor

My website is carolynridderaspenson.com where you can access my newsletter. I send it out once a week.

And I am also on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carolynridderaspenson/.

I’m not a Twitter gal. I’m Italian. I need more than a few characters to say my thoughts.

Where can readers find your books?

Right now I’m primarily on Amazon, but Get Up and Ghost is on Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for a limited time. It just released there today!

The Lily Sprayberry Cozy Mystery Boxed Set (books 1-3) are at books2read.com/u/49oGEX.

Congratulations on your new release! Thanks for visiting. 

Until next time,

Amy

 

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up and Barbara Vey Recap

I just got home a few hours ago from the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend (BVW19) and I am exhausted and still over the moon! The trip took a little longer than we planned, so when we pulled into Harrisburg, PA, at 2:30 this morning, we stopped and slept at a Hampton Inn for six hours before getting back on the road.

What an incredible experience BVW19 was! From the moment we arrived on Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning at 11:00, I was busy with events every waking minute. My favorites were the Saturday luncheon and the Sunday breakfast because I got to meet with readers in a small group. What a treat it was to spend the weekend with so many people who are passionate about books. I’d like to thank Barbara Vey and her team for the endless amount of hard work they put it to make the event so memorable and fun, and I’d also like to thank the readers for showing up and being so supportive and eager to learn about new-to-them authors. And don’t even get me started on meeting Meg Tilly, the keynote speaker and an acclaimed writer/actress/screenwriter/producer. It took me two full days to get up the courage to talk to her, but it made my day when I finally did.

I’ll be posting photos from the event on my Facebook page, so be sure to check them out!

I find that April tends to be a very busy month. For that reason, I didn’t get as much reading done as I had hoped. I finished three books, and I loved all of them. I know, I sound like a broken record, but I seem to have a knack for picking out great books.

Deadly Southern Charm, edited by Mary Burton and Mary Miley, is an anthology of short stories set in the South and featuring strong Southern women. If you read this book, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love it. Full disclosure, I am friends with several of the authors, but I would love this book no matter what. Here’s my Amazon review:

“This was a spooky, fun, and thoroughly Southern collection of mysteries. Each one was so unique and so different from all the others that every time I should have closed the book and gone to bed, I would say to myself, “Just one more story.” So I lost a lot of sleep thanks to Deadly Southern Charm, and I’d do it again because it’s so much fun to read. Kudos to all the authors for such great writing.”

A Dangerous Mourning and Defend and Betray, books 2 and 3 in the William Monk mystery series by Anne Perry, were fabulous. A Dangerous Mourning had an ending that caught me off guard, but I realized after some thought that the ending was the only one possible. Defend and Betray deals with a pretty tough topic, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it once I figured out what was happening. But I did, and I ended up giving both books 5 stars. They’re completely different from each other, which is a hallmark of a great mystery writer.

I’m off to clean out my email and get some sleep!

Until next time,

Amy

Author Interview: Cindy Davis

Today I welcome author Cindy Davis to Reade and Write. I met Cindy on Twitter and was drawn first to the descriptions of her mysteries. As I learned more about her, I found that she also writes non-fiction books on topics ranging from self-editing to online dating to small dog breeding and more. She is originally from New Hampshire, but now enjoys living in Florida. So let’s get started.

Tell me about your mystery books.

A Little Murder is the first of my 6-book series set at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Angie Deacon is a high-maintenance ER nurse who buys a day of fishing for her husband’s birthday. A murder on the boat causes her to learn things about herself that were probably better off not brought out in the open.

Who is the audience for the series?

I write very complex plots with lots of twists and turns, so people who enjoy that sort of thing like my stories. I’ve never had anyone say they knew whodunit. Well, except that one person who said they knew on the first page, which was impossible because the murderer didn’t show up that early.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I lived in New Hampshire at the time. I loved the Lakes Region with its beautiful scenery and small town charm. The setting provided many unique places to set murders. When I say that in mixed company (authors and regular people) I get a mixture of reactions. I was on the craft fair circuit and spent a lot of time there.

What was the hardest thing about writing the A Little Murder?

Deciding to add a police detective. When I set up the series, I determined it would be different from mysteries you buy at the bookstores—the books where you can tell the killer by page 5. I didn’t want police or a detective because they appear in all the stories. But by the time the murder happened in A Little Murder, I’d realized I needed someone to play off Angie—someone who could provide her with legitimate information by which to solve crimes. Detective Colby Jarvis was born. He’s a bit overweight and balding, a widower who works to keep from having to think about his life.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

I can’t really answer this because I don’t watch television and I see very few movies. Although I always envisioned Cameron Diaz as Angie. FYI, the series is currently with a scriptwriter for submission to TV.

Have you written any other books?

I have a three-book cozy mystery series which features two thoroughly opposite women Phoebe (don’t call me that unless you have a death wish) Smith & (ex-Susie Homemaker) Westen Hughes. They are high-end insurance investigators. I developed this series to get away from murder mysteries and have some fun. I also have two stand-alone mysteries and two women’s fiction. See links below.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I belonged to a writers group for more than ten years. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing development. We ended up being good friends. The group only disbanded because three of us moved away. The right group can provide mentoring, education, and lifelong friendships.

Do you write every day?

Pretty much. I’m also an editor and sometimes my day job gets in the way. I’m currently working in a whole new genre—New Age. The first book is co-authored with my husband and is with our agent now.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I don’t really have a favorite genre. I enjoy any book that’s well written. Consequently, I have a number of favorite authors. A British author from the 70s, Ruth Rendell does amazing development. Ken Follett and James Michener feature amazing plots. Sandra Brown’s mysteries and Melinda Leigh’s emotion. I especially enjoyed Gone with the Wind because it incorporated adventure, history, romance, and even humor.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Rick and I have a ginormous bucket list. We’re going to Macchu Picchu, Peru, in December. Book three in the New Age trilogy will be set there, so it’s as much research as fun. We’re checking prices to Italy right now. Since I’ve already been there, I think my biggest bucket list item is to ride the Orient Express.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Two things. Never think you’re done learning. Keep striving to improve your writing skills. And second, get your book edited. Not by an English teacher. I know I’ll take some flack for this and I agree that teachers are awesome for punctuation and grammar, but they aren’t trained in story development or the fine-tuning it takes to bring your story to the next level—things like filter words, head hopping, and show don’t tell.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I stopped watching television and movies many years ago but I guess I’d say Romancing the Stone with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. I liked the quirky humor and adventurous, unique plot.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Gosh, so many things. I guess I’ll stick with the topic of writing and say I wish I’d started honing my craft earlier in my life.

Describe yourself in three words.

Youthful, curious, sarcastic.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

Where I met my husband: Match.com. LOL. Just kidding, but I always like to talk about that. But no, your questions really made me think.

Where can readers connect with you?

I hang out on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are on Amazon and my website.

Thanks so much for having me here. It was great fun.

And thank you, Cindy. It was lovely having you here. 

Until next time,

Amy

The 12 Slays of Christmas is Here!

Today’s the day–The 12 Slays of Christmas is live!

Thanks to everyone who has preordered the set and to everyone who plans to order it. We’re very excited to be donating all the proceeds from the sale of the set to pets displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, you can click this link and it’ll take you to our website, where you can click to order the set for 99¢ on your ereader of choice.

Anyone who gets my newsletter will find this post redundant–I’m too tired at this point to come up with something sparkly and new!

I’ll be back here next Tuesday with a recap of a chocolate tasting I attended last weekend, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Amy

Book Lovers’ Tag

 

photo courtesy of ulleo/pixabay

Waaay back in October author and blogger Diana Peach published a blog called “A Book Lover’s Tag” (you can read it here) and I’ve been eager to play the game. Below is a list of questions in the game of Book Lover’s Tag. I encourage you to consider yourself tagged if you want to play! Just leave your responses in the comments below. And, like Diana, I will compile a list of favorite books and post it at a later date. Enjoy!

Do you have a specific place for reading?

No. I will read anywhere and everywhere. I’ve read in doctors’ offices, hospitals, schools, cars, buses, my bed, my couch, my desk, the patio, the beach, the pool, other people’s houses, parking lots, libraries, and the list goes on and on. You get the point.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Yes! I use anything at hand, whether it’s a bookmark or any piece of paper. I’ve also been known to use candy wrappers, nail files, my Kindle, ribbon, pens, etc.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Not usually. I don’t want to get drips or spills on what I’m reading.

Music or tv while reading?

No! The only time I can tolerate that is when I’m in the car (as a passenger, not the driver!) and the rest of the occupants vote for music. Even then, I can only read magazines, not books.

One book at a time or several?

Several. Usually three.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I prefer to read at home, but I’ll read anywhere.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently, unless I’m reading non-fiction and it’s something I need to remember.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t bear to wait to see what happens next.

Break the spine or keep it like new?

I would love to keep my books like new, but I always end up breaking the spine. Well-used books are well-loved books.

Do you write in books?

Not usually.

What books are you reading now?

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, Fifty Shades of Cabernet (a mystery anthology), and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

What is your childhood favorite book?

That depends on what part of childhood you’re talking about. By the time I was eight I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries and I remember those very fondly. I also loved The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What is your all-time favorite book?

I would say it’s a three-way tie: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. And, of course, I love anything by Phyllis Whitney (my favorite is Black Amber) and M.C. Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series.

Tag, you’re it!

Until next time,

Amy

Reader Spotlight: Angela Holland

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As promised, this week I am featuring another reader here on Reade and Write. Welcome, Angela Holland!

How often do you read?

Every day.

What is the name of the last book you finished?

Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund.

What are you reading now?

A Carol Christmas by Sheila Roberts.

What is your preferred genre?

Historical Fiction but I also enjoy cozy mysteries, romance and biographies.

How often do you venture outside your preferred genre?

Often.

What was the last book you read outside your preferred genre?

I am reading one now that is not historical fiction.

Are you in a book club?

Yes.

If so, what book did your club read last?

Sting by Sandra Brown

Where do you obtain most of the books you read- from a bookstore, online, the library, borrowed from a friend, etc.?

From Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

How do you decide which books to read?

First my genre and then by subject.

What is in your To-Be-Read pile?

I have many books in my TBR I am working my way through: Patience Griffin’s Quilts and Kilts Series as well as Laura Childs’s Tea Shop Mystery Series. 

Do you pay attention to especially bad reviews of books when deciding whether to buy or read them?

No. It seems that is people don’t like things, then I tend to like them.

Lots of people don’t have a favorite book for a variety of reasons. Do you have a favorite? What is it?

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon is one of my favorites.

Where is your favorite reading spot?

Anywhere and everywhere.

Anything else you want me to know?

I have loved reading since I was little girl and never leave home without a book.

Thank you, Angela! I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your reading habits!

Until next time,

Amy

Reader Spotlight: Fiona McVie

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In the second installment of my Reader Spotlight series, I’d like to introduce everyone to Fiona McVie, probably the most prolific author interviewer I’ve ever known! Fiona lives in Scotland and has an impressive portfolio of interviews on her website and Facebook page. Welcome, Fiona!

How often do you read?

I read every day, I always take a book when travelling on the bus to work or train to the city.

 

What is the name of the last book you finished?

Gabriel by M.A Abraham

 

What are you reading now?

Marious’ Story by M.A Abraham and Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts.

 

What is your preferred genre?

I read all genre as long as the book is well written I will read it.

 

Are you in a book club?

No.

 

Where do you obtain most of the books you read- from a bookstore, online, the library, borrowed from a friend, etc.?

I buy my books from book shops, supermarkets and Amazon.

 

How do you decide which books to read?
Cover most times.

 

What is in your To-Be-Read pile?
Too many to count I have over 200 on my wish list at Amazon and slowly buying a few each month.

 

Do you pay attention to especially bad reviews of books when deciding whether to buy or read them?

No everyone has a different thought about a book. One person might hate it while another will love the book. I make up my own mind.

 

Lots of people don’t have a favorite book for a variety of reasons. Do you have a favorite? What is it?

I don’t have any favorite book. I like so far all the books I have brought over the years.

 

Where is your favorite reading spot?
Nope I read anywhere: bus, train, bed, on a hill.

 

Anything else you want me to know?

I love reading so much I started a blog where I interview authors. You can check it out here: www.authorsinterviews.wordpress.com. I also write poems. Here are 2 of my poems:
Hero

You are my hero, Dad
You’re my secure foundation.
When I think of you, I’m filled with love
And fond appreciation.
You make me feel protected;
I’m sheltered by your care.
You’re always my true friend; and Dad,
When I need you, you’re always there.
You have a place of honor
Deep within my heart.
You’ve been my superhero, Dad,
Right from the very start.

2ed of June 1940 to 31st of December 1991 RIP

 
My little angel above
My little angel above
My heart sinks when I think
That God took you away from me
At 12 hours old

He must have something special for you
As it is just the good he takes
And I know your dad
Will look after you up there

I know you are looking down on me
On your angel cloud
But it does not stop me
Being heartbroken

John-Andrew 24/12/1980 – 25/121980

 

Those are beautiful. Thanks for being on Reade and Write, Fiona.

Until next week,

Amy

Back to School

It’s that time of year again…back to school! Millions of kids all over the country are feeling apprehensive, excited, nervous, and keyed up over starting new classes, meeting new teachers, and seeing all their friends again. My kids are no exception. Two of them are starting new schools (high school and middle school), and the third is starting the downhill journey to the end of high school.

Millions of parents all over the country are feeling apprehensive, excited, nervous, and keyed up, too, but for different reasons. They’re thinking the same things that parents think every year: where did the summer go? Will the kids like their teachers? How can school supplies cost so much?

I have mixed feelings when the kids go back to school. Part of me is glad to get my schedule back; I can work in silence and get a lot more writing done. The house is finally clean. But I always end up wishing we had done more over the summer. I wish we had taken that bike trip to Delaware and I wish we had gone to the botanical garden that’s nearby. We’re still planning on going to both those places, but it will be in the fall. And the fall calendar is already filling up quickly.

This year has me thinking about back-to-schools of the past. I know I’m revealing my age here, but I remember when school shopping was done once a year, in August. Our family would pile into the car and drive 75 miles to the nearest shopping mall for a very long day of picking out the clothes that would take us through the school year. Corduroys? Check. Blouses? Check. Jacket for spring and fall? Check. Dress? Check. We got shoes, too, and an ice cream cone if we were good. And we weren’t alone. Families everywhere were making that same trip, buying clothes and shoes that would last the kids all year, and getting ice cream as a reward for behaving.

There was always something very exciting about getting school supplies, too. But back then school supplies were very different from the ones we buy today. We needed notebooks and folders back then, plus one blue pen, one black pen, and a few pencils. Some kids even got Trapper Keepers. Now we need nylon book covers (remember when book covers were made at home out of paper bags? We could decorate them however we wanted!), folders in five different colors, six glue sticks no matter what grade the child is in, 4 packs of Post-It notes, binders varying in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches depending upon the class, a flash drive, an obscenely expensive calculator, crayons, colored markers, colored pencils, composition notebooks, and an exhaustive arm-length list of a gazillion other things that we never used to need. I’ll never forget the year my son had to send in 96 sharpened pencils on the first day of school.

Really? 96?

And school is different now, too. Very different. Just today my oldest child was telling me that the hardest part of the PSAT she took last year was writing the no-cheating pledge in cursive. She said the kids needed extra time to write the pledge because none of them knew cursive writing. I think that’s a shame, because cursive writing is so much more beautiful than printing in the hands of someone who knows how to do it correctly. And the stuff my kids are reading in English? I read some of it and it makes my blood run cold. Whatever happened to Charles Dickens? Whatever happened to Thomas Hardy? Right now my daughter is in the dining room reading a story that has a horrific amount of violence in it, a book that is required reading for AP English. I don’t know how she’s able to get through it. She reads passages to me and they make me sick.

But kids are learning so much more than I used to learn in school, too. One of my kids is taking a class in art appreciation this year. That wasn’t an option for me until I went to college. And two of them will be taking their standardized state tests online this year, if I understand it correctly. My girls are taking classes that were never available to me in high school, and they know so much more than I did at their ages. I’m very impressed. My son, too, is much further ahead of where I was in sixth grade. He knows more about computers than I’ll ever know. I was a senior in high school when I first tried coding, and I’ve not done any since then. I have a feeling he’ll be writing computer code before he finishes middle school.

So back-to-school is bittersweet. It reminds me every year that time marches on whether I’m ready for it or not, and that things are always changing. Sometimes the change is for the better, sometimes not. And someday my own kids will reminisce about their back-to-school days with a mixture of happiness and sadness, just like me.

Ode to the Cookbook

Before I begin, I’d like to thank everyone who has purchased my book, either in paperback or ebook form. It’s getting some really nice reviews online, and I appreciate each and every one of you. And if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, please consider putting up a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are greatly appreciated by all authors!

This week I am blogging about a subject near and dear to my heart: cooking. Specifically, cookbooks and how much I love them.

There are certain people in my family (they know who they are) who read cookbooks like novels, and I am proud to count myself among them. (Incidentally, my family is also made up of fabulous cooks, and I get my love of cooking from them. Note that I didn’t say I am a fabulous cook myself, but I do love the process). I like to curl up with a good cookbook just like many other people do with thrillers and romances. I love those books, too, but there’s just something about cookbooks that is different from any other type of reading.

Whenever I eat a meal at home by myself, there is always a cookbook or a cooking magazine next to me. When I need to take a break from writing or editing or research, I reach for a cookbook. Sometimes I’ll read a cookbook before I go to sleep at night.

Just today, my husband was trying to have a conversation with me while I perused the pages of a cookbook devoted entirely to macadamia nuts. I have casserole cookbooks, dessert cookbooks, an ahi tuna cookbook, a Halloween cookbook, a million Christmas cookbooks, and even a butter cookbook. I also have countless regular cookbooks- you know, the ones with thousands of recipes of every variety. Think Better Homes and Gardens with the red-and-white checkered binder. One of the things I love to do is to find new recipes for my weekly menu. If nothing in my millions of recipes sounds good at the moment I make my grocery list, I go with one of the tried-and-true favorites, like tacos or Greek chicken salad, but I do like to try something new as often as I can.

Cooking is how I relax. It’s how I show people I love them. I love to cook for friends and family; I cook as often as I can for people who have been sick and for mission groups that come to my church.

My favorite thing to cook, unfortunately, is dessert. I love making anything sweet. Luckily for me, my husband does not love dessert, so I don’t make it all the time. If I did, we’d all be fifty pounds heavier. The kids love it when I make dessert, though, so I do try to have it once in a while.

If any of you have visited my website, you’ll see that I have a section devoted to wines that I enjoy. The truth is that I also wanted to include a section devoted to the meals that my characters eat. My first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, has lots of meals in it. My hope was to include recipes for all the dishes I named in the book, but in the end I decided that I didn’t have the time to make up and test the recipes for those meals. My second book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, has food in it, too, but not as much as in the first book. And I can’t wait to start writing my third book. I don’t have a name for it yet, but the main character is a personal chef in Hawaii. That’s right- a book that combines two of my great loves- Hawaii and food!

One of my favorite cookbooks (don’t laugh) is Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs. It’s full of recipes from the various Disney properties. It’s got everything in it from Coconut Curried Chicken Stew from Boma-Flavors of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to Fantasia Cheesecake from Plaza Inn on Main Street, USA, to Grapefruit Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from the Hollywood Brown Derby. But my hands-down favorite is Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup from Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT. My son, whose normal response to my home-cooked meals is “I hate chicken” or “can I just have cereal?” begs for this cheese soup all year long. Fortunately for our waistlines, I only make it in the fall.

There’s a movie out right now called “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” I can’t wait to see it. I don’t go to the movies often, but this is one I want to see in the theater rather than waiting for its release on DVD. It’s about a family from India that wants to open a restaurant in a small town in France. It’s actually based on a book of the same name by Richard Morais, and I may just have to read the book first.

So what’s on the menu at your house this week? Got any good recipes that you’d like to share?

Until next week,

Amy