NaNoWriMo 2015

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I was going to wait and announce this next week, but I’m too excited! NaNoWriMo starts in a week and I can’t wait!

You have heard me talk about National Novel Writing Month when I participated in the Camp Sessions last summer. The main event starts on November 1st and thousand of writers strive to write 50,000 words in one month. Check out the website for more info.

This will be my third year participating and my first year winning! I have worked on the same comedic diesel punk space opera (gotta love that label) I have been working on for three years….long story. But third time is a charm and I’m finishing this novel!

I recommend NaNoWriMo to all writers! It is such a wonderful community, both online and off, and I love the local writers I have met each November!

Who else is writing this November? Feel free to add me as a writing buddy and good luck to all my fellow NaNoers!

Lindsay

A Time to Live

A Time to Live

by Jonas Lee

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Carter Gabel had to overcome a lot in the last year, and time travel as a side effect of his “genetic disease” was only the beginning. He’s lost his mother, reunited with his estranged father, crippled a city and destroyed his school. If he thought he could fade into the sunset, Carter has another thing coming.

A terrorist group known as Pirates has infiltrated his hometown to overthrow the Program designed to monitor those with potentially harmful abilities. Carter is a teenager, but he’s forced back into the mix as his grandson, David, has been put into a coma. He will have to try and stay out of sight as much as possible and work with new Eventuals along the way in order to stop the Pirates from turning Lincoln Square into a ghost town.

First I have to let y’all know that Jonas Lee is one awesome dude! He writes fun, action packed young adult novels and is a co-host for the web series, Cross-country Nerds. Plus he’s an amazingly patient friend who has waited far too long for this review! 

A Time to Live is the second novel in The Legend of Carter Gabel series. Be sure to check out my review of the first novel, A Time to Reapbefore continuing. Gifted teens Carter and Mo are listed as dead and are in hiding while they wait for the effects of the Pemberton explosion to die down.  But, they receive news that their grandson, David, is under a mysterious illness and learn of the destruction caused by a terrorist group known as The Pirates. The dynamic duo are back for a fight!

Jonas Lee is a master of snarky characters! Carter and I could definitely be friends with his sharp whit and love for pop culture. It’s the characters that keep me coming back to these novels. The core characters are well developed and have plenty of flaws melded in with their good points. They are characters you find yourself rooting for and I love the team Carter develops.

The plot is twisted and intricate. We learn more about the Carter’s world and I was happy to finally learn what caused the genetic mutation we see throughout the story. I like that we are introduced to a larger ‘playing field’ in A Time to Live. We went from Carter destroying the Academy to learning about the various resistant movements against the Program. I’m excited to learn even more in the next book!

First person POV is one of my favorite and least favorite aspects of A Time to Live. I love hearing Carter’s inner monologue. He’s hilarious and his observations push the story along. But, first person makes it difficult to provide setting. I wish there was more world building. More descriptions of the technology and environment. More history lessons on Carter’s world. I keep forgetting that A Time to Live is set in the future. Small details, such as the phone watches, are a quick reminder but I’d like to see more. But, Jonas’ writing just keeps getting better and better, so I’m excited to read the next installment!

There is only one thing that irks me about A Time to Live. I am not a fan of how Mo channels important info to Carter while the rest of the group has to stand around and wait. I get their connection but I would be so pissed if I was in the group watching them silently plan. I like their quiet personal convos but not when it deals with big plot points. That’s if for complaints. 

I definitely recommend this series! It’s fun, snarky, and different…all good points in my opinion! Plus, take some time to check out all of Jonas’ other activities!

Lindsay 

Halloween Decorations

[originally posted on LBoitnott]

I love Halloween! The ghost stories, witches, and monsters spark my imagination. We are drawn to haunted houses and horror movies so we can revel in surviving the scary. Halloween is just fun and my decorations come out every October 1st.

My mom also loves Halloween and I grew up with some pretty epic Halloween decorations. We lived on a cattle ranch and one year my mom decided to make a hay-bale spider. She spray painted a round bale black, added long black legs, and gruesome teeth. From that horrible mouth dangled a pair of torn jeans and dusty old cowboy boots. IT WAS AWESOME! And it will always be a favorite.

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I share my mom’s love of Halloween decorations and went nuts when we moved in to our house a few years ago. I had plans to transform our house into something out of a horror movie but I was a broke college student. Most of my decor was homemade. Thankfully, Pinterest has spurred on the DIY movement and provided plenty of inspiration. My house is covered in these homemade pieces and have become personal favorites of mine, and many of my friends.

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My sweet family contributes to my stash and eventually my home will look haunted! For now I enjoy my spooky decor and the ghoulish homes emerging throughout the neighborhood.

Please share your favorite Halloween decorations! Do you have any fond childhood Halloween decor stories?

Happy Halloween!

Lindsay

Hexes and Hemlines

Hexes and Hemlines

by Juliet Blackwell

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With her vintage clothing store taking off, Lily Ivory is finding that life in San Francisco suits her just fine. But her ability to sense vibrations from the past, so useful in locating secondhand gems, has landed her in the middle of a new mystery…

Lily gets called away from Aunt Cora’s Closet when the police need a witch’s take on a strange case. Malachi Zazi was stabbed to death in his apartment, under a ladder, surrounded by the number thirteen, a broken mirror, and a black cat—superstitions that the victim, as head of a rationalist society, was devoted to discrediting.

When the police identify a suspect from the Serpentarian Society, Lily is shocked to learn it’s someone she knows. But with bad luck plaguing all its members, she begins to wonder if there’s more at work than mere coincidence. And while there aren’t many clues from the crime scene, Lily finds evidence of dark witchcraft and a hex on her friend’s doorstep. With her friend’s safety at stake, Lily is determined to use magic to find the murderer before everyone’s luck runs out…

Hexes and Hemlines is the third book in Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery series. This novel finds Lily consulting on a murder investigation that involves bad luck charms and a witchy cleansing.

Hexes and Hemlines is my least favorite of the series so far, but I still enjoy it for a number of reasons. Namely, Lily finally gets a backbone when it comes to Max and Aidan. She walks out on Aidan when he demands, without explanation, that she stop investigating Malachi Zazi’s murder. FINALLY! We also see Lily develop healthier friendships with both Inspector Carlos and Sailor the psychic. Both, in their own odd ways, allow Lily the chance to be herself. Carlos helps build her confidence by asking for her help and taking her advice. Sailor just accepts Lily as the sweet nosey witch we all love. Sailor is my favorite part of Hexes and Hemlines. Yes he may be working for Aidan but he can’t help liking Lily. We get to learn more of his backstory and see him grudgingly turn in to Lily’s friend.

The convoluted and just odd storyline is the main reason Hexes and Hemlines is my least favorite of the first three books. The story is rather complex and developed rather well but it’s almost too much for a cozy mystery. There were a few times where I found myself asking “wait…what?” Blackwell did a good job tying everything together but the short mystery platform left her revelations feeling abrupt. It is also much darker than the last two books which can be off putting. Just remember these points when reading Hexes and Hemlines and you won’t be thrown off as I was.

I’m going to refrain from whining about Max and Aidan because both have only become more annoying and controlling in book 3. The good thing is that Lily is FINALLY standing up for herself. She doesn’t let Aidan control her magic and she doesn’t let Max push her in to hiding her witchy side.

Pick up Hexes and Hemlines! You’ll enjoy the side story of Oscar and the black cat! Plus, the new stubborn Lily is just fun! What witchy books are you reading this week?

Lindsay

Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming

Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming

by Kathleen Bacus

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WHAT DO YOU CALL A BLONDE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET?

LAST YEAR’S HIDE ‘N’ SEEK CHAMP

It’s autumn in the heartland, when football rules and homecoming royalty reigns–and full moons don’t just mean a passing high school varsity bus. But this year, Tressa Jayne Turner can’t seem to get into the ‘spirit’ of the season. Our intrepid young reporter is trying to recover from a ten day run at the State Fair. After being stalked by a psycho dunk-tank clown, all she wants is a slower pace, some candy corn, popcorn balls, and caramel apples–and a serious story she can sniff out on her own.

And guess what. She’s in luck! Eccentric and reclusive bestselling writer Elizabeth Courtney Howard is coming to little ol’ Grandville to conduct some family business and finish her latest book. So, what’s stopping Tressa from getting the goods on the mysterious mystery author–besides a blackmailing six-foot-two-inch homecoming queen candidate with all the charm of Frankenstien in taffeta, a rival reporter out to scoop the competition, a seance-hosting roommate who happens to be her grandmother, and a Natural Resources Ranger-type who could make a nun reconsider her vows? Only the fact that the skeletons to uncover are all in a closet in Haunted Holloway Hall–a house only Norman Bates could love.

I found Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun for my Nook for super cheap a few years back. I didn’t get around to reading it, which is unfortunately an all too common occurrence, until this year. When looking at Bacus’ website I realized the story had been republished under a new name and with new cover art. I am not a fan of the current cover art because it leaves the novel feeling super low budget. But I do like the new name! Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming just fits.

I’m glad I finally read Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming because I absolutely loved the quirky characters. Tressa Jayne and I share a similar smart a#* sense of humor and love for all things snack food. I love the relationship she shares with her hellion of a grandma and the reluctant friendship she develops with the towering Shelby Lynn. The characters are well developed and the storyline is intriguing. Yes, I figured out what was happening with reclusive writer Elizabeth Courtney Howard early on but I’m ok with that when reading a cozy mystery. The characters, humor, and small town setting are what make this book worth the read!

Now the characters might be a miss for you because they are all pretty quirky. I definitely do no recommend Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming for those wanting a serious read. This is not the book for you. Each character can be a little over the top and most people will quickly tire of Tressa Jayne’s obsession with food. Plus, the alliterating nicknames can get old…Hellion Hannah, Jolting Joe, etc. I even got a little sick of it. My only real complaint is the novel needed one good last edit before being published. There were a number of sentences that were poorly structured and characters repeated themselves multiple times. Shelby Lynn threatening to take her story to the other newspaper every few pages was annoying. 

There were a number of grammatical and format errors. Words appeared twice or were sometimes missing all together. The formatting was all off. Of course this was just my copy, so hopefully the glitches have been fixed with the republication. I have a number of self published friends and I’ve heard how frustrating it is to format for ebook. So just know there may be formatting errors.

Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming made me laugh and that’s what I needed! It is book 3 in the series but you do not have to read the first two to enjoy this one. However, I’ll probably read the rest of the series because I loved the characters so much! Have you read anything by Kathleen Bacus? Share your thoughts!

Lindsay

If Walls Could Talk

If Walls Could Talk

by Juliet Blackwell

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Melanie Turner has made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But now her reputation may be on the line.

At her newest project, a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel is visited by the ghost of a colleague who recently met a bad end with power tools. Mel hopes that by nailing the killer, she can rid herself of the ghostly presence of the murdered man-and not end up a construction casualty herself…

If Walls Could Talk is the first in a different  cozy mystery series by Juliet Blackwell. The Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries follows ex-cultural anthropologist turned contractor, Mel, who loves restoring antique homes. Plus, it has a hunky crush, a few murders, and the ability to talk to ghosts. Not a bad cozy-mystery idea if you ask me.

If Walls Could Talk is right up my alley with my archaeology and historic preservation background but I’m not sure I’ll be picking up the next book in the series. This novel was not as well developed as the Witchcraft Mystery series. The best word to describe it is abrupt. Spoilers ahead folks.

Bam: Mel witnesses a murder. Bam: Mel runs in to her old crush that she hasn’t seen for ten years and immediately has an argument. Bam: Mel sees a ghost. Bam: Mel spends the night with a charming photographer she doesn’t trust. Bam: Mel learns that both she and her mom could talk to ghost so she’s now totally ok with it.

The plot and character relationships were well thought out but the prose just didn’t flow. It was a little off putting and it made it difficult to be become invested in the characters. The story is just rushed which left the relationships feeling two dimensional. Plus, no one would spend the entire time freaking out about seeing a ghost and then just be totally cool with it in the end.

I did like Mel and the relationship she has with her father and ex-stepson. I think the series has some potential because the characters are fun and the haunted antique house setting is interesting.

Have you read this cozy-mystery series? What do you think of the haunted home renovation idea?

Lindsay

Halloween Movies

(Originally posted on Lboitott)

Have I told you how much I love Halloween and October?! Oh, yeah. I may have mentioned something last week. 😀 There will be a post each week outlining my favorite things about this month!

HALLOWEEN MOVIES

I definitely prefer TV shows over movies, but a substantial stack of of Halloweeny movies emerge from my shelves each October. I rarely watch anything gory and scary so most of the films lean towards family friendly. Of course so does most of my movie collections. Here are the four main styles:

DISNEY: I love me some Disney movies! I own every Halloweentown movie ever made and will be marathoning them next weekend. Also included in this list is a number of horribly corny Disney channel movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the Winnie the Pooh and Alvin and the Chipmunks Halloween specials from my childhood.

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CLASSICS: These are the classic Halloween movies that Mike doesn’t really get excited about watching with me but still get watched anyways. Hocus Pocus, The Addams Family, Practical Magic, and Casper. (All 90s girls had a crush on Casper)

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OBSCURE: I bet few of you have actually seen these movies. Many are embarrassingly cheesy but I keep watching them just the same. They include The Initiation of Sarah, Nancy Drew, Ghost Ship and The Skeleton Key.

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MIKE APPROVED: Mike tolerates my love of Halloween movies, but he is not a fan of most. He does, however, approve of a few which include Beetlejuice, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and the Ghost Busters movies. The good thing is that I love these movies too!

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So what movies are you binge watching this month? Do you only watch them during October? Or do you watch them all year long? Share your favorites. Happy Halloween!

Lindsay

A Cast-off Coven

A Cast-off Coven

by Juliet Blackwell

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Students are spooked at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts, and Lily is called in to search for possible paranormal activity. In return she’s been promised a trunkful of Victorian-era clothes recently discovered in a school storage closet.

But Lily finds something else: the body of a wealthy patron of the school. In between running the store and seeing her new boyfriend, Max—a “mythbuster” who is uncomfortable with her witchcraft—she uses her sleuthing skills to try to solve the murder. Soon Lily senses something from the school’s vintage clothes, but it’s not the smell of mothballs—it’s the unmistakable aura of evil intent.

Lily banished La Llorona and life at Aunt Cora’s Closet has returned to normal. But Maya’s art school is haunted and Lily agrees to check it out in exchange for some antique dresses. She soon learns there is more than ghosts haunting the school and Lily is, once again, determined to banish dark spirits.

I always enjoy A Cast-off Coven because of the art school setting. Blackwell’s descriptions have me enthralled with the school and I wish the place was real! The building is gorgeous and historic, plus I like how the students are free to move around the campus and interact with a variety of mediums. The mystery is interesting as Lily must deal with a suicidal ghost and a lusty demon which takes her outside of her witchy brewing comforts. I love the dancing dresses inspired by Lily’s sex magic and the mysterious closet full of clothing. And I am a sucker for the creepy music box. I did craved more on the history of the clothes and the women who owned them. I’m a historian so I know that you rarely find those details in real life, but this is a cozy mystery. I want to know more! 

Readers are also introduced to a number of new interesting characters. There are a handful of artists but I quickly tired of the broody students and teachers. I did, however, enjoy Luc who is the gorgeous sculpture instructor and also happens to be the brother of hunky Max Carmichael, Lily’s crush. Her association with Luc causes some hard feelings between Lily and Max. We finally meet Sailor, a moody reluctant psychic who is my favorite character of the series! He is in debt to Aidan and is loaned out to help Lily in the battle. Plus we get to spend time with the Maya, Bronwyn, and Herve from Secondhand Spirits

The main men have not improved since Secondhand Spirits. In fact they have only gotten worse. Aidan is still annoyingly mysterious and demanding. It’s just hard for me to like a guy who tries to control everyone he meets. And I was sick of Max by the end of the book. He gets all aggressive and demanding with Lily after learning she was at the art school the night of the murder. He’s territorial when any other man is around her. He beats up Sailor but won’t say why. Lily has to find out about his past from other people and then has to push Max to open up at the end of the book. Plus, he refuses to accept Lily’s witchiness despite witnessing her bind the demon. I’m ok with the sexual tension between the two of them but it just seems like a failed relationship from the beginning. They do not have enough in common to keep them together.

I still enjoyed A Cast-off Coven and recommend it for paranormal cozy-mystery readers not wanting a fun steamy romance. I enjoyed it! Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Secondhand Spirits

Secondhand Spirits

by Juilet Blackwell

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Lily Ivory is not your average witch. Her spell-casting powers tend to draw mischievous spirits while keeping normal humans at a distance. But now her vintage clothing store could give her a chance to make friends in San Francisco….

Lily hopes for a normal life when she opens Aunt Cora’s Closet. With her magical knack for vintage fashion -she can sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry—her store becomes a big hit.

But when a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area, Lily may be the only one who can unravel the crime. She tries to keep her identity a secret while investigating, but it’s not easy—especially under the spells of sexy “mythbuster” Max Carmichael and powerful witch Aidan Rhodes. Will Lily’s witchy ways be forced out of the closet?

I found Secondhand Spirits on audiobook in the local library a few years ago. It was October and I was in desperate need of a lighthearted paranormal mystery to get through my last fall semester. Secondhand Spirits fit the bill and I managed to read most of the series in the following months. I’ve been craving spooky cozy mysteries again and decided it was time to revisit and share Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries.

I’m going to start off with all the reasons I enjoy this story. I like Lily Ivory. I enjoy her sweet southern ways and how she is kind to everyone she meets despite being a social outcast for most of her life. I like that she has somehow stumbled on such great, even if somewhat odd, friends in Bronwyn and Maya. I wish I could check out Aunt Cora’s Closet and the Haight-Ashbury district because Blackwell’s descriptions are tantalizing and I have no problem visualizing Lily’s world. I even like Lily’s sarcastic goblin/potbelly pig familiar, Oscar.

But, the one point that keeps me coming back to the story is the spirit Lily must battle, La Llorona. La Llorona has been one of my favorite ghost stories since I first heard it in a high school Spanish class. Don’t ask me why, because it’s kinda a depressing ghost story. La Llorona is doomed to haunt the water searching for her lost children. The children she drowned upon learning of their father’s infidelity. (Watch the pilot episode of Supernatural if you want another great take of La Llorona!) Blackwell’s mix of La Llorona, voodoo, and Lily’s earthy brewing had me hooked!

Now for my eh thoughts. I am not of a fan of the two lead men introduced in to Lily’s life. The story opens with Aidan Rhodes, male witch, barging in to her store, placing a charm on the occupants, and gifting Lily with Oscar. We learn that Aidan is an associate of Lily’s dark magic wielding father and isn’t to be trusted. And yet, Lily still takes in Oscar despite suspecting that he is a spy for Aidan. Wait…what?!? Plus, Lily seems to find, and fall for, the one man in the Bay Area who despises everything about witchcraft. I get that Max Carmichael is one sexy hunk but…WHY?!? Both Max and Aidan have their good qualities but were demanding and controlling overall. I was not vested in her relationship with either man.

I still enjoy Secondhand Spirits despite my dislike ofMax and Aidan. I definitely recommend if you are looking for something light and witchy. Lily is more like a regular human than she knows. She routinely makes spur of the moment and somewhat bad decisions but she does everything with kind intentions. I like her. Has anyone else stumbled up this series?

Lindsay

What to Expect – OCTOBER

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My favorite month of the year has arrived and you should see all the reviews that await you! MWAHAHAHA! (cue the creepy music…)

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So what can you expect this month? Lots and lots of paranormal cozy mysteries. What can I say? I love mysteries involving ghosts and witches.

I plan on reviewing Juliet Blackwell’s entire Withcraft Mystery series, which follows the adventures of sweet witch, Lily Ivory and her potbelly pig/goblin, Oscar.

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The third installment of Jackie Smith’s Cemetery Tours series comes out this month and you will see a review! I’m looking forward to After Death. Ghost hunting and a circus….oooooo!

Also, I will be reviewing one non paranormal novel this month: Jones Lee’s A Time to Live. This amazing friend has been beyond patient while waiting for this review and I’m excited to talk about the crazy adventures of snarky Carter Gabel!

So grad a pumpkin spice latte and your favorite candy because it is going to be a fun month!

Lindsay