Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Books of December

December is a busy month, but there's always time to read! Here are the great books I read this month.




Jenny Lundquist was an author whose books I read while I was waiting for my first book to come out. I love her writing, so I was counting the days until her November 29th release. Especially when I saw this gorgeous cover!



The Charming Life of Izzy Malone focuses on Izzy, a sixth grader who is at that awkward age where she isn't quite sure where she belongs. Making matters worse, she has a prodigy sister who seems to be perfect and a mom who is running for mayor. Jenny's writing took me right back to that age and the panicked frustration I felt when I thought nothing I could do would make grown-ups see me as the unique, creative person I was. This is a book that will help the many tweens who feel that way see that they aren't alone. Izzy makes the perfect middle grade heroine--quirky and filled with angst, but strong and spunky. You can't help but root for her!

Kristin Smith is another longtime blogging friend and she's celebrating her first book!!! I was so excited when I opened this book on my Kindle, and now I get to tell you about it.



Catalyst depicts a very realistic future in which genetic modification has taken over. The main character, Sienna, is forced to engage in criminal behavior after her father dies suddenly. When she learns her father's death wasn't an accident, her motives change. Kristin's version of the future is all too real...eventually people likely will choose their children's characteristics, thanks to science. But she also packs plenty of action scenes into the book that keep you turning the pages until the very end.

If I'm solely judging a book by its cover, I'm likely going to go for pink and cartoony. Or glittery and colorful. I think those are the hazards of being a children's author! So when I saw the cover for my next December read, I knew I was in for a wild ride.



Hell Comes to Hogtown by C.D. Gallant-King focuses on the death of the prime minister's wife and two guys who are pulled into the drama by accident. C.D. has a humorous, immensely likable writing voice that makes every scene more interesting. When you add in the action and drama of a comic book shop employee on the run with his wrestler friend (yes, you read that correctly!), you have a book that you won't be able to put down. 

Ayla Hashway is a new voice in the writing world. She's only NINE YEARS OLD!!! I'm sure many of us can say we wish we'd started writing and publishing books at nine. Imagine how successful we'd be by now!



In The Secret Sister, a 12-year-old girl named Olivia and her younger brother Max are preparing to go on vacation to Abura. Why Abura? A mysterious woman randomly walked up to her, handed her a brochure, and told her she should go there. It was only the first of several strange events for Olivia and Max. In addition to their exciting trip, the two also have to solve a mystery involving their mom. I can't emphasize enough how amazed I was that a nine-year-old wrote this book! It was engaging and fun and very readable. I think everyone should give Ayla's first book a read. (Pssst: It's free!!!)

And last...but so not least...is this contemporary romance from Jennifer Lane. Have I mentioned lately how much I love contemporary romances? I couldn't wait to dive into this one!



Spiked is a new adult romance told from two perspectives: the son of the U.S. President and an aspiring Olympic swimmer. It's also the third in a series, but it stands on its own, so you don't have to read the other two first. When the female protagonist, Jessica, is raped at a college party (very early in the book), she has some serious healing to do. As you can imagine, this book tackles some heavy issues, but the author does so in a compassionate, healing way that has you falling in love with both characters. This is like no other new adult romance you've read!

What are you reading now?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mystery Monday: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



Every Monday, I'm presenting a new mystery. Some have been solved...some remain unsolved to this day. 

The number of airplanes that have disappeared over the vast ocean is astounding. Each time, it feels like something out of a paranormal novel. You want there to be some mythical explanation. You at least want to imagine the passengers are having a good time on a desert island somewhere.



Unfortunately, we all know things can go wrong with airplanes. When it happens over land, we have a crash scene. When it happens somewhere over the ocean, the debris may never, ever be found.



On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing at 12:41 a.m. Less than an hour later, the plane's onboard communication system lost contact. The last words from the co-pilot came just a few minutes prior to that: "Good night Malaysian three seven zero."



The plane, 12 crew members, and the 227 passengers on board were never seen again.



On military radar, the flight was seen veering from its course, heading west across the Malay Peninsula.



Some debris from the plane washed up in the Indian Ocean, making its fate pretty clear. But one thing that remains a mystery is why?



Recent reports say there was a power failure on the aircraft, citing the failure of the satellite data unit (SDU). Although the SDU rebooted after the auxiliary power kicked on, some experts believe the loss of electrical power could have left the pilots unable to maneuver the aircraft. This could support the theory that a fire broke out on board. This fire suppression bottle washed up on Maldives Beach:



One journalist theorizes the pilot was in the restroom when an explosive decompression in the cockpit sucked the air out of the jet's cabin. She also believes there was a problem with the plane's oxygen system, leaving the less experienced co-pilot unable to think clearly enough to turn things around.


The co-pilot and pilot

Some experts point to fuel starvation, which happens when a blockage doesn't allow fuel to reach the engine. If both engines burned out at once, the plane would have begun a rapid descent toward the water below.



What do you think happened to Flight MH370?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stop Talking and Listen!

I'm on a seemingly endless hunt for a hairstylist. Since I've moved, I've yet to find that connection. Oh, sure, they can cut hair in that way most stylists seem to do these days.



Talent with a pair of scissors is important. But there's something more I'm looking for. I want that connection that you get with a stylist. You know, the one that makes going to the salon something like this:



I've now been to three separate stylists and guess the one thing they have in common. They all asked not a single question about me.



"What did you talk about?" my mom asked. That's a good question. Thinking back, it was mostly small talk about the local community, the other customers who have been in, and their own lives. I realized, though, that I didn't ask them questions about their family. Mostly because...




It just seems alarming to me that not a single stylist so far has actually wanted to get to know me. It seems most of them are disinterested altogether. I want that bond, but when they couldn't even tell you my name five seconds after I walked out of there, it feels a bit like I was just a number.



It's not just the hair salon, either. It seems everywhere you go, people just want to talk about themselves. And I have a very, very low tolerance for listening to it.



How do you get out of boring conversations? Does it matter to you if your service providers make conversation or is "comfortable silence" fine?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cover Reveal: Abducted Life by Patricia Josephine

Patricia Lynne always has some of the most interesting blog posts. When she isn't entertaining the blogosphere, she's hard at work on her next novel. Today, I'm showing off her latest cover, which instantly makes me want to learn more about it!




Blurb:

Savannah Janowitz’s perfect life was destroyed the night she and her boyfriend vanished without a trace. When she reappears a year later––alone––she’s a shell of her former self. Robbed of her popularity and her boyfriend, she has no memory of what happened to her. Savannah struggles to move forward as strange, new abilities manifest.

Evan Sullivan never gave extra-terrestrials much thought until the night he and Savannah were abducted. While Savannah’s memory was wiped clean, he remembers every horrific detail. Constantly reminded of the experiments that made him less than human, Evan hides in the shadows and watches Savannah rebuild her life without him.

But neither can let the other go. When their paths cross, Savannah and Evan finally see a glimmer of their old lives return. As they face what happened to them, they soon discover they aren’t safe. There’s more to fear than what’s hiding in the stars.

Find the book on Goodreads.

Bio:


When Patricia Josephine isn't writing, she is watching Doctor Who or reading about serial killers. It is her dream to one day have what resembles a petting zoo. She is also an avid knitter. One can never have too much yarn! She also writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.



Links:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mystery Monday: Mitrice Richardson

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



Every Monday, I'm presenting a new mystery. Some have been solved...some remain unsolved to this day. 

Today's mystery was requested by the lovely Military Wife. (Her blog is a blast, if you don't already read it!) It surrounds the mystery of the sudden disappearance of this woman:




24-year-old Mitrice Richardson was a beauty queen and recent college graduate, having earned her degree in psychology. On September 17, 2009, she was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu when she inexplicably stopped at a popular coastal restaurant.



Her behavior throughout her time at Geoffrey's was bizarre, to say the least. It started with the valet, who came back from parking a car to find her car empty. Mitrice was in the valet's car, going through his CD collection. She spoke in full sentences, but used words that didn't make sense within those sentences. She left his car and went into the restaurant.



Inside the restaurant, she asked for a table, where she ordered a cocktail and a $65 steak.



She suddenly asked to join a large party seated nearby. Once at the table, she began rambling about astrological signs and telling people her mom was Mother Earth. After the party was gone, she tried to leave without paying, at which point she casually admitted she couldn't pay. She had the restaurant call her great-grandmother, who offered to give her credit card number over the phone. They wouldn't take it, telling her she would have to show up in person. 



Even though staff members offered to pitch in and pay her bill, the restaurant owner decided to call the police, perhaps because of her erratic behavior. Maybe it seemed she'd be safer in police custody than out on her own...



The police gave her a sobriety test and determined she was sober. Going through her car, they found some marijuana, which she admitted was hers, and arrested her for "defrauding an innkeeper" and possession of marijuana (a misdemeanor). This is her mugshot:



Soon after, Mitrice's mom found out about the incident and called the restaurant. They told her what happened. She called the sheriff's department and was assured that they would have Mitrice call when she got there. They never did. Her mom had a young child sleeping at home and couldn't leave.



After booking her, they released her at 12:30 a.m. with no car and no way to get home. They said they had "no reason to hold her" and she showed no signs of incapacitation.



Later that morning, a resident in Monte Nido, California (six miles from the station) called to say he'd found a young woman sitting in his back yard. When he asked if she was okay, she said she was just resting. When he looked out another window, she was gone. Her description fit Mitrice's. That was the only known sighting of her. 



Search dogs picked up her scent there and followed it to a nearby home. It faded there. They found footprints that appeared to be from her sneakers and determined that the wearer of those shoes was first walking, then running. The shoeprints disappeared suddenly.



Eleven months later, Mitrice's body was found in a creek bed near a ranch that is reportedly a pornography production location. Rocks nearby had graffiti that had recently been sprayed on them. The graffiti depicted naked drawings of an African-American woman. Her body was found in Monte Nido--the same community where the sighting had occurred.



To this day, the case has never been solved. The family has filed several lawsuits. More importantly, though, the state attorney general's office has opened an investigation into the handling of the case.



What do you think happened to Mitrice Richardson?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mystery Monday: The Yogurt Shop Murders

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



Every Monday, I'm presenting a new mystery. Some have been solved...some remain unsolved to this day. 

In the 80s and 90s, our country managed to convince itself that "fat" made us fat. So businesses came out with fat-free and low-fat products that were loaded with sugar and calories. One product of the fat-free craze was frozen yogurt. Yummy yogurt was everywhere:



In Austin, Texas, yogurt was served in franchise stores known as I Can't Believe It's Yogurt (ICBY). On the night of December 6, 1991, two girls were working at the ICBY on West Anderson Lane.


Photo credit: AP

Seventeen-year-olds Jennifer Harbison and Eliza Thomas were working the counter that night. Jennifer's 15-year-old sister, Sarah, was hanging out at the shop with her 13-year-old friend, Amy Ayers. They were catching a ride home with Jennifer after hanging out at the nearby mall.




Just before the store's 11 p.m. closing time, a couple came in. Jennifer and Eliza waited on them. There were only two other customers in the store--both were men. They didn't appear to be eating yogurt and they were quiet, seeming to pay more attention to the girls than each other. When the couple left around 11 p.m., the two men were still in the shop.



Just before midnight, a police officer spotted smoke coming from I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. Assuming the shop was empty, firefighters put out the fire, only finding the bodies of the four girls once the fire was out.


Layout of the yogurt shop, including where the bodies were found

Four men were eventually arrested for the murders and two served time. But their convictions were overturned due to evolving DNA technology. Evidence found on one of the girls did not belong to any of the four suspects.




Although police can't identify who committed the crime, they do believe they know what happened. All of the tables in the restaurant had chairs on top of them but the booth where the two mystery men were spotted. That booth was also the only one in which the napkin holder had not been refilled (part of closing activities).


Evidence photo showing the booth where the two men
sat on the night of the murders. Photo source: The Austin Chronicle

An unopened Coke can was found on the counter near the cash register. Experts speculate that the girls were closing up when one of the two men came to the register and asked for a Coke. The employee leaned over to get it and when she stood up, she likely had a gun pointed at her. The men bound the girls with their own clothes, assaulted them, and killed them before setting the shop on fire.



There have been many suspects over the years, but it's hard to shake the very detailed confession given by Michael Scott, one of the above men who served time for the murders, even if it was coerced out of him. While he was wrong on a few of the facts, he was disturbingly accurate in most of what he told the police. Could someone else have been involved that he didn't name? Or maybe the DNA evidence itself was faulty.

I just want to give a special shout-out to this book, which helped me research this story. If you want to read more about the yogurt shop murders (including Michael Scott's eerie confession), I highly recommend this book. It's available on Amazon.



Still need Christmas gifts for the young people on your list? I'll be signing copies of my books for my online friends on December 19th. Order by December 16th, specify what names you'd like them signed to, and Parnassus will ship them directly to you!!! Click here to go to the site. (There are also a ton of other great signed books you can order from there.)


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

IWSG: Where Will We Be in Five Years?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. If you haven't yet, join in. You'll be glad you did!



Each month we have a question. This month's question is:

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

This month's question is quite a challenge. Of course, when every novelist imagines five years into the future, we dream of big success. Maybe a movie based on one of our books or a few weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.



But in reality, I think many of us just want our books to be read. We work hard to put words onto the page and we hope someone, somewhere reads what we write and connects with it.



This year has been an amazing one for me. I spent my time in schools, telling children about my books.



I worked with a group of writer friends to create a great book...



AND I saw my freelance writing work appear on NYPost.com, Mental Floss, The Week, and a handful of other great sites.




Personally, I've come to a bit of a crossroads in my freelance writing career. In five years, I hope to have many more middle-grade and chapter books on the shelves. But my super-secret behind-the-scenes content writing pays better than some of the above-mentioned websites, as glamorous as they may be. Glamour is overrated.



The exception is the writing I do that helps me reach possible readers. I have an upcoming piece in this magazine:




As well as this magazine:



I may never be famous enough to make the cover, but more bylines like that will make me plenty happy! Besides, fame is HIGHLY overrated.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

P.S.: Autographed books make great Christmas gifts!!! I'll be signing copies of my books for my online friends on December 19th. Order by December 16th, specify what names you'd like them signed to, and Parnassus will ship them directly to you!!! Click here to go to the site. (There are also a ton of other great signed books you can order from there.)