Friday, February 24, 2017

Best Books of February

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to tell you all about the great books I read this month.

The first book I read this month was from one of my favorite Aladdin M!x authors, Rachele Alpine. When you look at this cover, you can't help but get excited about looking beyond it to see the story inside.

You Throw Like a Girl tackles the pressure young girls feel to fit a certain "type." Gabby has a mom who was a former beauty queen and a dad who was a local baseball legend. Gabby gravitated toward her father's pastime, taking up softball. But when her dad leaves the country and she heads to her grandmother's house for the summer, she finds herself pushed into the pageant world while also pretending to be a boy to get onto the only youth softball team in town. I had so much fun reading this book, but I also think it has a great message for young girls who might not be sure where they fit in the whole tomboy vs. girly-girl scheme of things.

Next up is a book by an author I always enjoy hanging out with at various author events. Rae Ann Parker is a fellow Nashvillian and an all-around great person. She's also a mega-talented author. I had the opportunity to get an autographed copy of her first book and I couldn't wait to read it!

The Devil's Backbone takes us down the Natchez Trace, a 440-mile road that runs through Mississippi and Tennessee. The main character, David, is on the trip with his father as part of a learning type of punishment after David takes the blame for something his friend did. During the trip, David makes a friend who happens to be the ghost of a boy who died hundreds of years ago. The history of the area is carefully woven into the story, keeping it interesting and entertaining while also helping the reader learn. A great read for tweens, teens, AND adults!

Next up this month is a bestseller. Like every bestseller I read these days, it was a recommendation from Stephen King. (Tip: if you follow him on Twitter, he drops occasional recommendations in between complaints about our President.)

Behind Her Eyes is one of those "I don't know what's going on but I know something bad is going to happen, so I'm going to read the next 400 pages to find out" kind of psychological thrillers. In other words, every book that's a huge hit these days. Which, as it turns out, is my kind of book because I can't get enough! On the surface, it's a love triangle between a husband, a wife, and his mistress--only his wife and his mistress are BFFs. Everyone's talking about "the ending" of this book but it's really that this book is just super-twisty. And I can't tell you more without killing the fun of that. So I'll just say, if you like Gone Girl-Six Years twisty novels, this is the book for you.

This month I also read Patricia Josephine's latest book, which you probably read all about if you spent any time in the blogosphere!

Abducted Life tells the story of a couple who survived an alien abduction but must now deal with the aftermath. Without giving too much away, that aftermath is something that keeps the two of them apart despite the fact that they seem very much in love. That part of the story is heart-wrenching, but Patricia sets up characters you can't help but cheer on as they battle even more adversity.

My next book is something that is likely to help all my writer friends out there. If you have trouble coming up with blog topics or writing exercises, give Tyrean Martinson's latest book a try.

5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Write!: 25 Speculative Fiction Writing Prompts is written specifically for speculative fiction writers. There are 25 writing prompts, each with its own unique theme. Some of the prompts are just book titles and some are much longer premises. Honestly, I wanted to read most of the stories, so if any of you want to tackle some of these, be sure to do so on your blog so we can enjoy the results!

What was the best book you read this month?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mystery Monday: Diane Schuler

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

***Warning: Today's mystery involves the deaths of children.***

Today's story starts and ends on the same day: July 26, 2009. It began at 9:30 a.m., when Diane Schuler left the campground where she'd spent a relaxing weekend. In the van with her were her two children, ages 2 and 5, and her brother's three daughters, ages 5, 7, and 8.

Her husband, Daniel, left the campground around the same time. The drive home should have taken only 35 minutes. She drove a 2003 red Ford Windstar, which looked something like this:

Soon after leaving the campground, Diane stopped at McDonald's for breakfast. The cashier at McDonald's recalled Diane and said everything seemed normal. The police confiscated video footage with a timestamp that verified she was inside the restaurant around 10:00 a.m. They confirmed there were no obvious signs anything was wrong in the footage.

At 10:46, Diane was caught on surveillance video at a nearby Sonoco. She parked at a pump and went inside.

Image credit: There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

Although there's no audio on the footage, the clerk said she asked for pain reliever after not being able to find it in the aisles. There were no indications anything was wrong in the Sonoco footage, either.

Image credit: There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

Soon after she left the station, drivers reported seeing her driving aggressively. She was tailgating, honking at other drivers, and weaving in and out of lanes. At approximately 11:45, a driver reported seeing her at the side of the road. She appeared to be sick.

Diane and one of her nieces

Around 1 p.m., Diane called her brother (and the father of the three girls in the car with her) to say they were delayed. He later said she didn't sound like herself. He spoke to one of his daughters, who said, "There's something wrong with Aunt Diane." She said her aunt was having trouble seeing and speaking incoherently.

Diane's nieces

All further calls went to voicemail. Her phone was later found on a barrier. For reasons unknown, she stopped and set it on a guardrail just after the Tapan Zee Bridge tolls. Soon after, she got off the highway, veering from the route that would have taken her home.

Tappan Zee Tolls

At 1:33 p.m., 911 began getting calls about a van going the wrong way on the exit ramp. The van traveled 1.7 miles on that ramp before colliding with a Chevy Trailblazer. Diane was reported as driving as though nobody else was on the road, staring straight head without flinching as cars honked, flashed their lights, and drove off the road to avoid hitting her. The occupants of the Trailblazer (81-year-old Michael Bastardi, his 49-year-old son Guy, and their friend, 74-year-old Dan Longo) were killed. Everyone in Diane's vehicle was killed except her son. He suffered injuries but he recovered.

Diane's blood alcohol level was found to be 0.19. At the scene of the accident, witnesses confiscated a large, smashed, empty bottle of Vodka.

The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08. At 0.19, a person is said to be impaired in the following ways:

In addition to the blood alcohol level, approximately six grams of alcohol were found in her stomach that had not yet been absorbed into her blood. She also had THC in her bloodstream and doctors said she could have smoked marijuana as recently as 15 minutes before the accident.

Diane's husband still insists drinking and smoking marijuana is not like her. He questions the autopsy results and believes she suffered some sort of stroke, despite the autopsy showing no signs of that. Whatever happened, though, Diane Schuler's decisions that day led to the deaths of four children and three adults. This photo of the children was taken at camp the day before the accident.

What do you think was going on with Diane Schuler on July 26, 2009?