On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in The Rains County Leader on February 20, 2018:

RVNewer readers may not be aware that several years ago I wrote a memoir about Alzheimer’s caregiving. It was structured around a seven-week, sixteen state motor home trip we took with my parents, both of who suffered from some kind of dementia. In one of the early chapters, I shared the difficulties of getting ready for the trip. Following is a paragraph about getting Mom and Dad’s clothes ready to go: Read the rest of this entry »

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Cover

About the book:

 Four women meet at a Manchester university party in 1975 and become close friends. Over the following thirty years, their lives are shaped by their childhoods, their relationships with men, and the backdrop of rapid changes in society for women.

When one of the four, Linda Hammond, is found dead, suspicion falls on her use of Svelta, a widely prescribed slimming drug linked to numerous deaths. Also in the frame of suspicion is an eminent cardiologist who arranged an illegal abortion for Linda when he was a medical student, the knowledge of which could finish his career.

Concerns about the high number of deaths amongst Svelta users are picked up by two investigative journalists. They uncover the manipulation of the clinical trial data on which the drug was licensed and the readiness of Sipher Pharmaceutical to rebut any concern over the drug’s safety.

Linda’s death dramatically changes all the women’s lives, laying bare deceit, a lack of personal integrity and corporate greed.

My review – 3.5 of 5 stars:

 A Slim Chance by Elizabeth Harrison was an enjoyable story, but it was too much – too many main characters, too many story lines, too many social issues. After the opening scene in which one of the main characters dies, the story flashes back thirty years to when four young women meet. For the next several chapters, the women get to know each other and form lifelong friendships. This part of the story was well done. I had difficulty finding a place to stop and looked forward to returning to my Kindle. As the women left college and entered the real world, however, their lives diverged and so did their stories.

The author dealt with many important women’s issues like abortion, abuse of several kinds, self esteem and body image, and drug addiction to name a few. They also dealt with corporate misconduct, especially in the drug industry. While all of these issues need to be exposed, I felt that since so many were covered in one story, none of them was handled as effectively as they might have been if only one or two had been the focus. There were also several passages, especially those related to the corporate misconduct, where the author’s voice switched from story-telling to lecturing.

I would recommend this book to readers who can focus on the story rather than the short-comings in the telling of it. A strong developmental editor could do a lot to pull A Slim Chance up to a four-star or even a five-star rating.

 About the author:

 HeadShotLiz Buxton and Dee Harrison (Elizabeth Harrison) have been friends since the age of five. From a shared background of school, marriage, children, and then divorce, they have gone on to pursue quite different careers and lifestyles, but have always kept in touch.
Dee has worked in IT and built two successful software companies. Liz has had a freelance career as a Furniture Designer to the manufacturing industry as well as training as a Yachtmaster and living on a sailing boat for five years.

This is their first novel together.

 Buy the book at Amazon 

Cover Peete and Repeat

About the book:

A biking and camping trip to southeastern Minnesota turns into double trouble for Frannie Shoemaker and her friends as she deals with a canoeing mishap and a couple of bodies. Strange happenings in the campground, the nearby nature learning center, and an old power plant complicate the suspect pool and Frannie tries to stay out of it–really–but what can she do? After all, she is only curious, but sometimes it isn’t just cats who have trouble with that!

My review:

This may be my favorite Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mystery so far. It’s hard to decide because they are all entertaining while being very different. In Peete and Repeat, the Shoemakers and friends meet identical twins and unintentionally, as usual, become involved in a love/hate triangle and a double homicide. To complicate matters, Frannie injures herself and somehow manages to become the target of a rather inept ring of drug traffickers.

As usual, Karen Musser Nortman manages to create the relaxed atmosphere of a camping vacation while still building the tension of whatever crime in progress Frannie has stumbled into. Each book introduces new characters, whether it’s grandchildren or more of the Shoemakers’ camping friends – and all of them, even the annoying ones, are multi-faceted and likeable.

Peete and Repeat is the last in the Camping Can Be Murder Boxed Set. I need to check and see what predicaments Frannie gets herself into next.

About the author:

Head Shot Karen Musser NortmanKaren Musser Nortman, after previous incarnations as a secondary social studies teacher (22 years) and a test developer (18 years), returned to her childhood dream of writing a novel. Bats and Bones, a cozy mystery, came out of numerous ’round the campfire’ discussions, making up answers to questions raised by the peephole glimpses one gets into the lives of fellow campers. Where did those people disappear to for the last two days? What kinds of bones are in this fire pit? Why is that woman wearing heels to the shower house?

Karen and her husband Butch originally tent camped when their children were young and switched to a travel trailer when sleeping on the ground lost its romantic adventure. They take frequent weekend jaunts with friends to parks in Iowa and surrounding states, plus occasional longer trips. Entertainment on these trips has ranged from geocaching and hiking/biking to barbecue contests, balloon fests, and buck skinners’ rendezvous. Frannie and Larry will no doubt check out some of these options on their future adventures.

Karen has three children and eight grandchildren. She also loves reading, gardening, and knitting, and can recite the 99 counties of Iowa in alphabetical order.

Visit her website at www.karenmussernortman.com
Buy the book on Amazon 

Or buy it with two other Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries in the Camping Can Be Murder Boxed Set HERE 

Blessings,

Linda

Cover The Blue Coyote

About the book:

Frannie and Larry Shoemaker love taking their grandchildren, Sabet and Joe, camping with them. But at Bluffs State Park, Frannie finds herself worrying more than usual about their safety, and when another young girl disappears from the campground in broad daylight, her fears increase. The fun of a bike ride, a flea market, marshmallow guns, and a storyteller are quickly overshadowed. Accusations against Larry and her add to the cloud over their heads. Frannie begins to puzzle out the mystery: Are the itinerant road workers as much of a threat as Frannie thinks? What about the lone woman camper who also disappears? Or is the girl’s deadbeat dad behind it all?

My review:

After reading The Blue Coyote, another Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mystery and the second in the Camping Can Be Murder Boxed Set, I feel like I know the Shoemakers, their grandchildren, and their friends personally. That’s why I was so incensed when Larry became the prime suspect in a campground kidnapping. Frannie was even more infuriated, though, as the authorities seemed to focus on her husband while the missing child and her own grandchildren remained in danger and the real culprit remained at large. In spite of many warnings to stay out of it, she put on her amateur sleuth hat and went to work.

Even for the reader who is not a regular cozy mystery fan, Frannie’s adventures are lively and exciting enough for an enjoyable weekend in the recliner or maybe even in a camp chair around the fire pit. Karen Nortman’s descriptions of the camping experience and the surrounding countryside are realistic enough to make the reader want to pack the RV and hit the open road – as long as there are no villains waiting at the campground. An added bonus is the vivid description of the sumptuous meals she and her friends share around the campfire and the recipes and camping tips at the end of each book. As for me, two Frannie Shoemaker stories were enough to make me a fan, and I can’t wait to begin reading the next one.

About the author:

Head Shot Karen Musser NortmanKaren Musser Nortman, after previous incarnations as a secondary social studies teacher (22 years) and a test developer (18 years), returned to her childhood dream of writing a novel. Bats and Bones, a cozy mystery, came out of numerous ’round the campfire’ discussions, making up answers to questions raised by the peephole glimpses one gets into the lives of fellow campers. Where did those people disappear to for the last two days? What kinds of bones are in this fire pit? Why is that woman wearing heels to the shower house?

Karen and her husband Butch originally tent camped when their children were young and switched to a travel trailer when sleeping on the ground lost its romantic adventure. They take frequent weekend jaunts with friends to parks in Iowa and surrounding states, plus occasional longer trips. Entertainment on these trips has ranged from geocaching and hiking/biking to barbecue contests, balloon fests, and buck skinners’ rendezvous. Frannie and Larry will no doubt check out some of these options on their future adventures.

Karen has three children and eight grandchildren. She also loves reading, gardening, and knitting, and can recite the 99 counties of Iowa in alphabetical order.

Visit her website at www.karenmussernortman.com
Buy the book on Amazon 

Or buy it with two other Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries in the Camping Can Be Murder Boxed Set HERE 

Blessings,

Linda

Cover Bats and Bones

About the book:

Camping can be murder. Oh, sure, on the one hand there’s the stunning scenery, socializing with old friends and new acquaintances, amazing food cooked outside, and so on. But what if a dead body turns up on one of your hikes-for-fun-and fitness?

Frannie and Larry Shoemaker, retired baby boomers, are looking forward to a relaxing Fourth of July weekend with friends in beautiful Bat Cave State Park. They begin the weekend with a wonderful meal and some laughs over the antics of nearby novice campers. But when someone kills the campground host and Frannie’s group discovers the body, their favorite getaway becomes a quasi-prison, and the eccentricities often seen in a campground are viewed as suspicious behavior. A severe weather threat and the possibility that the murderer could be either a campground resident or an intruder from the outside compounds the danger. Frannie, while naturally curious, is warned off by her retired-cop husband, but still stumbles on information making her a target of the killer. At the same time, Frannie is working through the recent loss of her mother and an uncomfortable relationship with one of her own camping group.

My review:

I have been a mystery lover since I first discovered Agatha Christie in the Weekly Reader Book Club at school. After finishing the exploits of Mrs. Marple and Hercule Poirot, I moved on to tougher detectives like Parker’s Jesse Stone, Patterson’s Alex Cross, or Baldacci’s team of King and Maxwell. But after reading Bats and Bones by Karen Musser Nortman, I may become a cozy mystery fan all over again.

The first book in the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries Series immediately drew me in. My husband and I fell in love with the RV lifestyle shortly after we retired, and we have met many campers like the Shoemakers and their friends who are easy-going, fun-loving, gregarious, and all around nice people. The scenarios in Bats and Bones were reminiscent of many of our camping trips – minus the dead bodies, of course.

Karen Nortman’s writing style captures the laid back atmosphere of the campground while still building the tension as the plot thickens and Frannie becomes involved in spite of her best efforts to heed the warnings of her husband Larry and local law enforcement. Nortman’s characters are well developed and likeable – except for the bad guys. She offers a reading experience that’s fun, engaging, and flinch free, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

About the author:

Head Shot Karen Musser NortmanKaren Musser Nortman, after previous incarnations as a secondary social studies teacher (22 years) and a test developer (18 years), returned to her childhood dream of writing a novel. Bats and Bones, a cozy mystery, came out of numerous ’round the campfire’ discussions, making up answers to questions raised by the peephole glimpses one gets into the lives of fellow campers. Where did those people disappear to for the last two days? What kinds of bones are in this fire pit? Why is that woman wearing heels to the shower house?

Karen and her husband Butch originally tent camped when their children were young and switched to a travel trailer when sleeping on the ground lost its romantic adventure. They take frequent weekend jaunts with friends to parks in Iowa and surrounding states, plus occasional longer trips. Entertainment on these trips has ranged from geocaching and hiking/biking to barbecue contests, balloon fests, and buck skinners’ rendezvous. Frannie and Larry will no doubt check out some of these options on their future adventures.

Karen has three children and eight grandchildren. She also loves reading, gardening, and knitting, and can recite the 99 counties of Iowa in alphabetical order.

Visit her website at www.karenmussernortman.com
Buy the Bats and Bones HERE 

Or buy it with two other Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries in the Camping Can Be Murder Boxed Set HERE 

Blessings,

Linda

Published in the Rains County Leader on February 13, 2018:

Redneck Tupperware 2The first time I remember hearing the term Redneck Tupperware was at Home Group. Every Friday night a group from our church meets for dinner, fellowship, and Bible study. Everyone brings a dish or two, and there’s usually quite a bit leftover which we share with anyone who wants to take some home. Most of us don’t have the foresight to bring our own to-go containers, but our hostess is very generous. The night I first heard the term, she pointed to a cabinet under the island where we serve the food and said, “There’s lots of Redneck Tupperware in there. Help yourself.” I smiled when I saw a large collection of empty plastic tubs that had once held whipped topping, butter spread, lunch meat, and other foods stacked in a fabric cube storage bin. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank you to Fiona Mcvie for inviting me to her website for a chat. Check it out. She asked some very interesting questions, and you might learn some things about me you didn’t know.
Blessings,
Linda

authorsinterviews

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

Hi, Fiona. Thank you so much for inviting me to talk with you and your readers today. My name is Linda Brendle, and I’m 70 years old.

Fiona: Where are you from?

I was born in a tiny West Texas town called Merkel. Many years later my husband and I retired to another tiny town in East Texas. In between, I lived in the Dallas and Tampa Bay areas.

Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).

The primary thing that defines me is my Christian faith. Beyond that, I attended the University of North Texas and Dallas Baptist University over a period of 30 years and finally earned my BAS in management and psychology in 1998…

View original post 1,737 more words

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