Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Cynde's "What's-Up-Wednesday" Book Review!"

In case you haven't already heard, I have decided that as a special treat for you, my readers, I will be reviewing the entire, amazing "Cynthia's Attic Series", books one through four, followed by an exciting interview with the author, the awe-inspiring Mary Cunningham.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

First, I'll begin by reviewing the number one book in the series, which is entitled, "Cynthia's Attic: The Missing Locket":

The Synopsis:

"Magical costumes, disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques–what more could two, adventurous, young girls ask for?

Best friends, Cynthia and Gus as she prefers to be called, are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli.” They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort.

In trying to escape the “boring summer” of 1964, the adventurous twelve-year-old girls stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations.

They discover its mystical qualities when they are swept into the trunk and whisked back to 1914, literally into the lives of their twelve-year-old grandmothers, Clara and Bess. The mystery of a missing family locket is revealed. Their quest takes numerous twists and turns, including a life-and-death struggle on a large steamship traveling from England to America.

Along with perilous escapades, they make important, sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history–for the better–along the way."

My Review:

This is the first book in a series of four (so far) exciting stories that are told through the voice of the tomboyish character of Gus (Augusta Lee). Gus and her "girlie-girl" best friend, Cynthia, are exact opposites, but they are also as close as sisters. They have made the discovery that they can travel through time via an old trunk that they found in Cynthia's attic and by doing so, they are having the most delightful adventures with some of Cynthia's ancestors.

In this particular story, these two 12-year-old girls must solve a mystery involving a locket that was lost fifty years earlier when their grandmothers were also 12-year-old best friends. Furthermore, they must also solve the mystery of the disappearance of Cynthia's great-great Aunt Isabelle, who was the original owner of the locket in the first place. They are exciting and sometimes hair-raising adventures as Gus and Cynthia use their wits and humor to solve these mysteries and fix things in their own special ways.

Even though this is supposed to be a children's book series, trust me when I tell you that anyone of any age would enjoy this book (above infants, of course). I'm a little over fifty myself, and I couldn't put this book down, it was so exciting! I loved the characters--they were well-rounded, believable and I actually cared about what happened to them. The story was thrilling and playful, plus you can tell that every step was carefully planned out in advance. I can't wait to read the next book! Ms. Cunningham is a brilliant and thoughtful writer.

My Rating: (poor, fair, good, great, or excellent)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would highly recommend it to both children and adults alike, and I assure you that neither age group would be disappointed in the least. I'm so glad that I have all four of these books; that way I can read one right after the other. Don't miss out on reading this fabulous story--you should go out and buy it today!

I give this book an absolute rating of: EXCELLENT! Well done, Mary!

To learn more about Mary Cunningham, visit her at her website here.

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may the Lord bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Black History Month!"

In 1926, a historian by the name of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who was a Harvard Ph.D., initiated
"Negro History Week" for the purpose of celebrating Black History. Dr. Woodson specifically chose the second week of February because the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were both included within that week. In the 1976 Bicentennial (200th birthday) of the U.S.A., the week-long observance was extended so that there would be enough time for all the celebratory programs and activities.

Another very important day in Black History is Juneteenth Day (also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day) and it is celebrated on the 19th of June, each year. That day is in recognition of the June 19, 1865 anniversary of the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in Texas; the Civil War had already ended two months prior to that, and Gen. Gordon Granger took 2,000 Union troops with him to Galveston, Texas to enforce the freeing of the slaves. On Jan. 1, 1980, Juneteenth was declared an official holiday in Texas and this uplifting celebration of freedom is continuing to gain in popularity around the U.S.A.

In celebration of Black History Month, Lee Verday, owner of the blog, By Pen or by Sword is having a contest and the winner will be awarded two nice prizes. The find out the details, visit his blog by clicking here.

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may the Lord bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Cynde's "What's-Up-Wednesday"Guest Author Interview!"

I’d like to welcome Kathryn Casey, author of the blockbuster fiction mystery novels, “SINGULARITY” and “BLOOD LINES”, as well as several non-fiction, award-winning, true crime novels, to my blog.

C: Welcome, Kathryn. It’s an honor to have you here.

K: Thank you so much, Cynde. It’s my pleasure.

C: I know that a lot of my readers are very curious about you, so if you wouldn’t mind, I have a few questions that I’d like to ask, so that we can all get to know you a little better. Is that alright with you?

K: It sure is.

C: Great, then let’s get started:

C: When the name “Kathryn Casey” is mentioned, most people would associate you with your award-winning, true crime novels. What inspired you to finally “take the plunge” and try your hand at writing your first work of fiction, “SINGULARITY”?

K: True crime is frustrating. I interview dozens and dozens of people, a hundred or more for each book, but I rarely know what happens at the most important moment, when the crime actual occurs. You see, if I’m writing about a case, it’s probably a murder case. There are most often only two people who know the truth about that last moment: the victim and the killer. Unfortunately, the victims aren’t alive to be interviewed. And, this is shocking I know, but the killers don’t always tell the truth. So, I ultimately have a good sense of what happened and why, but I don’t conclusively know.
That can be frustrating. So at some point I thought, you know, if I wrote fiction, I’d know everything, because all the details would come out of my imagination. So, that’s what I did. I made it all up, using much of what I’ve experienced over my career as a crime writer. And it’s been very freeing, a lot of fun.

C: When you wrote “SINGULARITY” and “BLOOD LINES”, what technique did you use? In other words, did you use an outline or did you just start writing and figure it out as you went along?

K: With both the novels and the third novel in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, THE KILLING STORM, coming out in November 2010, I had the basic concepts in my head along with some of the major plot points, but I didn’t have anything resembling an outline. I sat down at the computer, typed Chapter One, and I was on my way.

C: Your writing has been compared to that of award-winning novelist Patricia Cornwell. Do you envision yourself being able to build a multi-novel series around your “Sarah Armstrong” character that could have the same endurance as Patricia Cornwell’s “Scarpetta” character?

K: I, of course, hope this will be a long series. Sarah is a multi-dimensional character. She’s a Texas Ranger/profiler/investigator, but she’s also the single mom of Maggie, age 11 in the first book. Sarah is the daughter of Nora, a sometimes opinionated sixty three year old who bakes cakes for fancy restaurants and boards horses. They’re a family with a home, the Rocking Horse ranch. When I invented Sarah, I invented her world. Many of the reviews have remarked that the characters in this series are remarkable for their depth, that they’re changing in the first two books. There’s more development in the third book. I’m hoping there’ll be more books in the series, so I get to spend more time in Sarah’s world. But three is a good start, a very good start.

C: Have you ever considered collaborating with another author on writing a novel? If so, who would it be, and if not, why not?

K: If the right opportunity presented itself, I might, but it would have to be something I considered at the time. I have no plans to collaborate.

C: Would you please describe for us one of your typical writing days, from start to finish?

K: When I’m into the writing mode, I get up about seven, have coffee and a slice of toast with peanut butter, and then sit down at my computer. Except for bathroom and stretch breaks and lunch, I’m there for the duration of the day, until I hear the garage door open announcing that my husband is home from the office. If I get stuck, can’t figure out what to do next, I take the dog for a walk. Fresh air and a bit of relaxation can open up creative channels. It’s a great way to get moving again.

C: What do you think would be the most valuable pieces of advice that anyone could pass on to someone struggling to become a published writer?

K: To realize that along with talent, the most important trait is determination. You have to truly want to write. It’s a tough business for most of us to break into, so be patient and focused, and don’t worry if your first attempts are rejected. I once had a file filled with rejection slips for short stories I sent to magazines. My favorite was from the New Yorker. Most were standard, pre-printed rejection letters, but at the bottom of that particular one someone wrote: “Keep trying.” Wonderful advice.

C: Thanks a lot for visiting us today, Kathryn! I had a great time and I'm sure my readers enjoyed your great answers to my questions. I hope you'll come back and visit us when your new book, the next one in this series, "THE KILLING STORM" comes out in the fall, so we can see what the latest news is with you.

If anyone wants to learn more about Kathryn Casey and the other books that she has written, please feel free to visit her amazing website by clicking here.

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may the Lord bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!

Be on the lookout next for:

  • A book review of "Cynthia's Attic: The Missing Locket" written by Mary Cunningham.

  • A book review of "Cynthia's Attic: The Magic Medallion" written by Mary Cunningham.

  • A book review of "Cynthia's Attic: Curse of the Bayou" written by Mary Cunningham.

  • A book review of "Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle" written by Mary Cunningham.

  • An interview with Mary Cunningham, who wrote the delightful "CYNTHIA'S ATTIC SERIES"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Cynde's "Terrific-Tuesday" Book Review!"

I've been looking forward to posting this review of "BLOOD LINES", Kathryn Casey's second fiction novel, and the sequel to her blockbuster fiction debut entitled "SINGULARITY". In fact, I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice before I even started to write the review, and I can tell you that I don't normally do that. So here goes:

The Synopsis:

"Readers loved Sarah Armstrong, the feisty and vulnerable profiler in Kathryn Casey's mystery, "Singularity". She's back in this second book in the series with her hands full with two cases at once: A persistent and potentially lethal stalker pursues pop mega-star Cassidy Collins, and a high-energy Houston businesswoman is found dead in her house.

Though the businesswoman's death is being called a suicide, when Sarah is shown photographs of the scene, something seems off. It looks too perfect, almost staged, and Billie Cox apparently had every reason to live. The victim's sister is convinced Billie was murdered and urges Sarah to take a closer look. During her investigation, Sarah uncovers a multimillion-dollar scam and traces a trail of greed to Billie's murderer.

Meanwhile, teenage idol Cassidy receives threatening e-mails and text messages and hears creepy whispers over her headset at performances. Cassie's next performance is at a Houston rodeo, for which her handlers request extra security. Sarah once again teams up with FBI agent David Garrity, and together they plot to outwit and capture the stalker, but at the concert the unthinkable happens. . ."

My Review:

It's always harder to begin a sequel than it is to begin a fresh series, in my opinion, because you have to be careful not to give away what happened in the prior novel, in case the reader hasn't read it, yet you also need to give enough background with the new novel to recap so that the two will flow together smoothly...and I believe that Kathryn has done that beautifully with "BLOOD LINES".

As you may recall, Sarah, her daughter, Maggie, and her mother, had a horrendous time in "SINGULARITY". They were all in danger and it was a hair-raising adventure for all of them. Sarah was also dating and embarking on what could be the beginning of a serious relationship with FBI profiler David Garrity and we had no idea where that would be going.

So when we start out with the opening of this story, Sarah has been on extended leave, and has been working from home, mostly half days. For some unknown reason, her relationship with David Garrity has totally cooled, but we don't know why, nor does she.

Her boss wants her to come back full-time, but she needs to make sure that Maggie and her mom are ready for that. And as usual, she will be working more than one case at a time, both of which are very high profile and will be time-consuming and difficult to solve (which makes it fun for us!) It looks as if everyone (well, almost everyone) is doing well, and they want to move on, because Sarah's mom is dating, (how cool is that!) and Maggie thinks her mom should go back to work full-time. The only thing we don't know is: what happened with David?

Now on to the cases that Sarah has to solve:

First there is Cassidy Collins, the pop super-star teenaged singer, who started out poor, living in a trailer and tried to run away from those meager beginnings. Now she has a stalker who feels that she must feel too good for him, and he wants to teach her a lesson, but what's the lesson?

Next, there is the rich businesswoman whose sister insists that she did not committ suicide, and she claims that her sister is trying to provide clues to her murder from beyond the grave by contacting her! Will the clues really lead to the killer and is she really contacting her sister from the afterlife?

And don't you want to know why David Garritty just up and stopped calling on Sarah when things were going so well?

My Rating:

I thought that this book was excellent! I enjoyed the action, the story line, the seamless way in which she incorporated the previous novel's information into the beginning, and it sure was a fun and exciting ride!

Kathryn Casey is without a doubt a master of fiction as well as non-fiction. She is just an excellent story-teller...period. So, go out and buy this book, fast. If you don't, you'll be missing out on a great story. I can't wait until the next one, entitled "THE KILLING STORM" comes out in the fall of this year.

If you want to learn more about Kathryn Casey, visit her website here.

Also...please be sure to watch for:
my interview with the Kathryn Casey coming tomorrow!

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may the Lord bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!