Maybe if I cradle myself in this rocking chair, back and forth, and tell myself that I am the first and best Audrina, I will capture her special gifts. My hollow brain will fill with her memories and then my family will love me like they loved her. These thoughts aren’t my own, but of the main character in My Sweet Audrina, written by the master of frightening family sagas: V. C. Andrews.

My V.C. Andrews shelf

My V.C. Andrews shelf

My Sweet Audrina is the latest V.C. Andrews novel to be transformed into film. In January 2014, the Lifetime channel aired a new version of Flowers in the Attic, the first novel in the Dollanganger series, and I couldn’t wait to watch it. I put it on my calendar and set my DVR, even though I watched it while it recorded. Three more movies in the series followed.

When I first learned that these movies were being filmed, I was ecstatic. These were books that I have loved and read over and over for years and finally, they were coming to life on screen. Characters whose voices I’ve only heard in my head would now have a face. V.C. Andrews fans have heard this all before: some company is considering producing a movie or a series based on her novels, but the project is never picked up. There have so many rumors and failed attempts in the past.

I can see why. Her work isn’t your standard horror fiction. Each novel features strong women that find their own way, their own destinies, despite the obstacles. There are family secrets and devastating truths, betrayal, and more often than not — forbidden family relationships (you know, the “I” word).

My Sweet Audrina is one of the more twisted tales, one that never fails to give me nightmares whenever I re-read it. Andrews’ first standalone novel is a concentrated version of her series. Audrina is a little girl that yearns to become like her older sister, the first and best Audrina, the one who mysteriously died in the woods just outside her house, nine years earlier. The “second and worst” Audrina is forced into a rocking chair every night by her grieving father, who wants her to capture the gifts that her dead sister no longer needs. She is isolated in a home where all the clocks are set at different times, there are no current magazines or calendars and when each day seems like a week has gone by. There’s something suspicious going on and Audrina is determined to uncover the secret.

The cast of characters includes: Audrina’s mother, Aunt Ellsbeth and her illegitimate daughter, Vera, and the tenants, a former championship figure skater turned amputee and her hardworking son.

According to The Complete V.C. Andrews, the latest news is that My Sweet Audrina is in the editing stage. Lifetime might air the movie as early as this fall! It’s a good time to be a V.C. Andrews fan.

Meet Johanna Morrigan: 14 and English, with her family dependent on the benefits. Johanna is just trying to find herself. Who is she? Goth? Poet? Everyday teenager growing up in the 1990s? Aware that she is an overweight, loser bookworm from an uncultured, working-class town, Johanna is ready to change all that. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran is about Johanna’s transition from friend-less virgin to sex goddess and ultimate rock and roll critic.

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Grab yourself a nice hot drink, a blanket, and make yourself cozy because you’re going to want to read this mystery in one sitting.

Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James is the story of two prominent, elderly sisters in the small town of Athena, Mississippi. The sisters are cat-sitting a Maine Coon, affectionately named Diesel, for their librarian friend, Charlie Harris, when they receive an unexpected visitor. Their afternoon turns to chaos when old acquaintance, Rosabelle Sultan, barges in, hysterical that someone is trying to kill her, and not just anyone, but a member of her own family.

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In his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman discussed that there wasn’t a difference in what he read, whether books were considered good or bad. To him, there were no bad books or stories, just stories that he liked. I want to agree with Mr. Gaiman, however, there are some books I just can’t get through. It’s not the length of the book that prevents me from finishing the story, but the content.

My bookshelf contains a balance of classic American and British Literature (stories published from the regency period through the early 1960s) and Gothic family sagas, young adult, and an undeniable amount of books with or about cats. Below is a list of books that will not be taking up space on my bookshelves.

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I may have been overambitious setting such a high standard for myself. In my first blog post, Wednesday Weekend,  I discussed my goal to read 50 books by the end of the year. It’s been nearly four months since I challenged myself (on January 7, 2015) and I am progressing steadily, but according to, I am falling behind.

goodreads graph

I was on a steady reading route until I started reading books I didn’t enjoy.

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“There’s a hamburger head shark!”

This shout came from a child in awe and surprise as he watched a hammerhead shark swish its body and swim around the giant tank.

I was on the second floor of the Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Below me, a group of children and adults lined the floors sitting crossed-legged, ready for the feeding. After a disappointing visit to the Slough and not seeing a single ray, I was ready to see some sea animals.  Here at the Open Sea Exhibit stingrays, tuna and sharks were hanging out together.


It was Monday and not all of the animals in the exhibit get fed everyday, so only the turtles and the sardines were dining today. A sea turtle munched on some lettuce and bell peppers at the top of the tank. A school of shiny sardines whirled up from the narrow bottom of the pool to get their share of fish flakes. However, the sardines weren’t the only hungry fish in the tank that day. The Mahi Mahi snapped at the tornado-like school in an attempt to secure a snack. How do all these animals co-exist and not eat the wrong food? The presenter explained that the animals at this exhibit have been “target trained” to recognize a specific visual whenever their food is coming, essentially a “visual dinner bell.”

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For our first wedding anniversary (03/14/2015), Joey and I decided to celebrate by going on a short vacation. Since I’m still not back at work full-time, we didn’t feel right splurging on going somewhere exotic, international, or, really, anywhere that needed a plane ticket to get there. Instead, we chose a destination that would take less than a day of driving: a road trip to Monterey, CA, one of my favorite places to visit. Monterey is very exciting for literature nerds like myself, but our first stop on our vacation was actually 50 miles outside of the city at Pinnacles National Park.


Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Day 1: Pinnacles National Park

My first visit to Pinnacles was in 2012, when the national park was still only a national monument. We visited the west side then, the less popular side of the park. It was also July, so that may have added to the emptiness of the park. Then, Joey and I climbed through pitch-black caves, the only light we had came from a cheap LED flashlight I kept in the car for emergencies. The caves inside were cool, but the air outside was overwhelming and the heat made our already out-of-shape bodies struggle through the hike. This time, we visited the eastern side of the park. I anticipated more of the same cave climbs, but was disappointed.


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Do you love coffee, cats, or mysteries?  Would you like to learn more about a mystery featuring cats named after wines with lots of detective work done at a coffee shop? If yes, read on. If no, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse (A Cats in Trouble Mystery #1) by Leann Sweeney wasn’t the exact novel I was looking for when I browsed the Mystery section, but my first thought after reading the title was, “Oh no, a cat is in trouble? I must read this and find out if he is OK.” Warning – If you weren’t already drinking a coffee, this cozy will have you craving one before you or anyone else solves this mystery. So grab your latte and read on about one of the most caffeine-suggestive cozy mysteries.

Jillian Hart, a recent widow living in a small town in South Carolina, returns home from a quilter’s convention and discovers her house vandalized and her purebred cat, Syrah, is missing. Is he hiding or did someone steal him? The question transforms Jillian from quiet quilter to amateur investigator. She is your standard, lovable, crazy cat lady who lives with three purebred cats rescued from Hurricane Katrina: Syrah, the loveable Abyssinian, Chablis, a cat allergic to humans, and Merlot, a hefty Maine Coon.

I know, I promised coffee.

Where else does Jillian look for clues to find her missing cat, but Belle’s Beans, the local java hot spot in her small town. Here she meets neighbors, faces off with frenemies and yes, orders lots of coffee. The bold beverage powers her through amazing detective work, like put together a cat flyer that has already run through the shredder and sorting through old missing cat flyers at the local hoarder’s place of residence. In a town where posting flyers is not allowed, Jillian must do some real investigating to find out where her lost cat is hiding. It’s a good thing Jillian isn’t working alone. Alongside her in this investigations is Candace, a young police officer trying to solve this mystery and convince the force that it’s time to modernize their outdated technology.

Fueled by hot coffee, Jillian doesn’t rest until she has been reunited with her feline friend. But that’s only half the whodunit because in search for Syrah, a corpse has been discovered. Are these crimes related?Jillian will need more clues, so it’s back to Belle’s Beans. Does Jillian’s crime solving lead her to the killer or just make the police suspect her of the crime? To process these questions and decide who is guilty or not, you’re going to need another latte.

The story is a balance of coffee and cats. Jillian has a “cat-cam” installed at her place so she can watch her feline children anytime she is away from the house, and like the crazy cat lady she is, that’s about every time she needs to refill her mug. There’s also some kitty cuteness in the way Chablis spends have the book in a benadryl-infused haze, falling asleep just about anywhere.

Overall, The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse is cheesy and predictable, and honestly, by the number of times this book mentions sipping coffee, ordering coffee or brewing a pot at home, you would think this book was promotional material for the coffee industry. The numerous visits to Belle’s Beans made me crave a latte every few pages. The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse is a fun read with the essentials for this cozy lover: cats, coffee and a murder mystery. The cat lover in you will want to read this book, but first, you’ll probably need a refill on that cup of Joe.


Cost: $0.00 at my local library.

Drink of choice: Caramel Macchiato.

I spent my youth reading V.C. Andrews novels – family saga gothic fiction with dark secrets and twisted mysteries. Last November I was looking for a change in novels, something more my age. I was having difficulty trying to focus in on the exact genre I was yearning to read. I browsed the “Mystery” section at, but everything seemed way too violent, sexy or supernatural. My husband suggested Stuart Woods, but he didn’t sound that appealing, I wanted something more Nancy Drew.  I wanted a mystery that I could solve, something fun, that would make me laugh, but still keep me engaged until the unveiling at the end. Then I discovered that there is a name for such a genre: Cozy Mystery.

What is a cozy mystery? I think of it as a light-hearted mystery with a happy ending, nothing too obscene or grotesque. There is most likely a murder, an unknown killer, and maybe even an innocent person accused. These novels are more Hallmark Channel than Investigation Discovery or Cloo. Like a PG movie for those of us not interested in the details of a predictable sex scene or a violent, gory murder.

Goodreads describes a cozy mystery as, “Cozies very rarely focus on sex, profanity or violence. The murders take place off stage, and are often relatively bloodless (e.g. poisoning, while sexual activity (if any) between characters is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed.” And that’s exactly what I wanted.

I plan on reviewing some cozy mysteries soon. Grab a blanket and make yourself some hot tea, because you’ll want to snuggle right up with these page-turners.

Drink of choice: Earl Grey tea

There was time now. Books lined the shelves where I ran my finger over the authors’ names. Other stacks of books surrounded me as I browsed the shelves: Gorey, Steinbeck, Wilde. There was time. No, I didn’t survive a nuclear attack, and I’m not the only living person on earth, and my glasses are in perfect, unbroken condition. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that sometime in the past three weeks I had wandered into the Twilight Zone.

Three weeks earlier, my place of employment laid off about a third of its employees, while the remaining 19 of us had our hours cut. These employees were people that I had worked closely with for more than six years, talented people, some employed before me. My elected furlough day is Wednesday. Everyday Wednesday, as my colleagues punch in, I lay in bed and think about how I want to spend my day off –alone. Reduced hours meant that I had to rethink my spending, my routine, my time. There was time. Time for me to cry and mope and drink away my lost hours? Maybe. Or was this the universe giving me an opportunity?

The one thing to know about me is that I like books. Love books. OK, books are my whole life. I like the smell of the aged pages, the loud crack of the spine, unique binding and the texture of the cover. Every bibliophile can attest to that. If I could, I would probably spend my whole paycheck on books and coffee.

In 2011, I challenged myself to read 50 books by the end of the year. I wanted to read one book a week, but allowed myself an extra two weeks for books that might take a little longer to read. I didn’t make it to 50, I probably read about 30. I knew it was a huge undertaking, but it was one that filled my life with a productive and exciting goal.

On January 7, 2015, I challenged myself again to read 50 books by the end of the year. Maybe this time around I will complete my goal and read 50 books, maybe I only read 25, but whatever it is, I know that there is no better way to spend my Wednesdays off than with a good book. There was one more issue to resolve. Reduced hours also meant a reduced book budget, so it was off to the Public Library for some rentals.

Books of Choice this visit: The Cat, The Quilt and The Corpse by Leann Sweeney, The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas, and Classified as Murder, A Cat in the Stacks Mystery by Miranda James.

Drink of choice: Tazo Passion tea.