For the Love of the Cozy Mystery

 

Ever since I started playing “Criminal Case” on my iPad, I have been intrigued by solving mysteries. Many top mystery books though involve a lot of gore and violence which doesn’t really appeal to me. My mom was the one to suggest reading what is referred to as “cozy mysteries” to me. Cozy mysteries are mystery novels that are not as intense in tone as regular mystery novels and have very little violence and gory scenes.

I started reading cozy mysteries last month and ever since I have been hooked on them. Some authors I would recommend for starting out are Lois Lavrisa, Joanne Fluke, and Gina LaManna. These are all authors whose books I have read and really enjoyed. The characters are very relatable and they are fast-paced books with unique settings and often a lighthearted tone to them.

What has allowed me to open up to cozy mysteries is the fact that lately I have been in a bit of a reading rut. It has been difficult to find books that I can really get swept away in and until last month I wasn’t reading books as frequently as I used to. Now that I have a new found love for cozy mysteries I am reading more and enjoy discussing these books with my mom.

Why would I recommend cozy mysteries over more mainstream mystery novels? There is simply too much drama in the world today and a cozy mystery allows you to get away from all the tension and intensity and soak up a book that doesn’t have too much of that. Now don’t get me wrong—mainstream mysteries are still good books but I just can’t seem to attach myself to them as easily as I do to cozy mysteries.

The next time you visit your local bookstore or library I would suggest venturing over to the mystery section and consider checking out a cozy mystery. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

The Discovery

In early 2010 my mom was doing some research online and found out about a learning disability called nonverbal learning disability. Many of the traits that individuals with this disability had were similar to those that I possessed. For example, those with NLD are often very black and white and literal in thinking which is definitely me and have poor spatial sense which is me to a tee. They can be prone to anxiety and depression due to difficulties with the subtle nuances of social communication such as nonverbal communication, body language, and social cues.

Her doctor recommended that I consult a neuropsychologist so off we went to seek answers. My entire medical history was laid out before this doctor and an appointment was made for a neuropsychological evaluation. At about the time of my evaluation I had just turned twenty which was a sad but also exciting milestone. Anyway, the evaluation was an all-day session from 10-4, and my evaluator was surprised at my verbal abilities (another classic sign of NLD—our verbal intelligence is often much stronger than our spatial intelligence.) It would be another week or so before we went back to the neuropsychologist’s office where I was formally diagnosed with NLD. It felt great to have a name for at least part of the disabilities that I had.

Now that I knew I had NLD, I started joining groups dedicated to helping individuals with NLD on Facebook as well as some email lists. I wanted to learn as much as I could about NLD and the more I found out the more I realized just how much in common I had with other individuals with this learning disability. It was the first time I was able to talk to other people who had struggled with same of the issues I’d had throughout my life. I had always felt different from others my age and now I was beginning to think that my social issues stemmed from my NLD.

My NLD has impacted my life in a variety of ways. It has affected my social skills and my ability to get around independently due to my very poor spatial abilities. I have been fortunate to have a great support system in my family and they have helped me to improve both socially and spatially. I used to get lost on the campus of the community college I attended all the time but when I transferred to a nearby university I was able to figure out the campus in a week due to the cognitive therapy I had that summer.

Can I say that life has always been easy with NLD? No, I can’t honestly say that. I can admit though that it does not define who I am as a person. I have transcended my disability and become an advocate for others with NLD through my Facebook page and have managed to maintain a part-time job at a major local department store for almost eight years. That truly is something to celebrate and I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support and guidance of my family.

Finding a Community

“Why fit in when you can stand out?” is a quote that I feel can clearly resonate with other writers. Throughout history, writers have not always fit into the mainstream of society but that only strengthens their abilities to write. For some it is the sole reason that they write—to find an outlet where they can convey how they feel about their status in society.
Writing can seem like the most solitary of experiences at first. You can be sitting at your desk in your bedroom furiously scribbling down your thoughts in a notebook or scrambling to find anything that can be written on when you just have to get down what’s on your mind. The location doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you are alone in your writing process. This can be a source of frustration for many writers. They need to feel like they have someone they can share their writing with, someone else who can understand what they’re trying to express.
Once you have found someone who will collaborate with you in the writing process, it feels like a weight has been lifted. Suddenly there is someone out there who is going to help you on your journey of developing your writing. I have had numerous occasions throughout my life where I have been able to share my writing with others and learn how to improve my writing through their feedback. This feedback has helped transform me into the writer that I am today.
Finding a community is crucial for anyone who truly wishes to evolve as a writer and be able to have their own metamorphosis. At first it is difficult to have your writing evaluated by others but eventually you realize how beneficial it is. It enables you to develop a stronger sense of your voice and allow others to have a greater understanding of you as a writer.
Writing can be a transformative experience but you cannot allow yourself to be isolated as a writer. You have to find ways to share your writing and let others help show you just how powerful a writer you can be. I also experience reluctance about sharing my writing with others but I have found that the feedback I receive only helps me to blossom as a writer. You can learn from courses such as this how to enhance your writing abilities and enable your writing to have a personal impact in the lives of others.
As a writer you are constantly learning how to share your insights on life and the world around you and showing how you fit into society. You can learn from the experiences of others and empathize with their triumphs and failures. Once you are a writer, you become a lifelong student as you never stop learning how to improve and why your writing matters to others.
Reading is the best way to learn as a writer. You can read about a writer’s personal writing process and gain valuable insight into how you can change your own writing process. You can be impacted by the way someone writes and adapt your writing so that it meshes with that writer’s style of writing. You can even learn how someone from a different culture than yours identifies as a writer and what influences them to write.
Writing really takes you on a journey and can connect you to a community. This community will support you in your endeavors, provide constructive criticism on your writing, and help you reach your potential as a writer. Once you have found your writing community you may no longer feel like an outsider. Instead you have become part of a larger community that will inspire you, motivate you, and encourage you to do your best work.

“Cool Kids”

I heard this song back in April and I could instantly relate to it. When I was in high school and in my early years of college I was desperately trying to fit in not realizing that it was okay to just be myself and stand out. I didn’t choose my friends carefully. Now that I’m older I have started to accept myself more and not worry as much about fitting in with the crowd. I have met some great people in the last couple of years who like me for me and don’t want to try to change me into someone that I’m not.

Listen to the song here:
http://www.mtv.com/videos/echosmith/944110/cool-kids.jhtml

The Dark Side of Marriage

When you get married, you should feel like you know the person that you’re married to. Sometimes though they have a dark side that makes you question who you really got married to in the first place. This is precisely what occurs in “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, a psychological novel that takes you inside a marriage that appears to be perfect but has been rapidly unraveling for awhile.

Nick and Amy Dunne seemed to be the perfect couple even though she seems to put more into the marriage that he does. She even goes so far as to plan romantic treasure hunts for their anniversaries with clues that he is never quite able to decipher. On the day of their fifth anniversary a new more sinister treasure hunt is revealed after Amy’s mysterious disappearance. The question is though–did something happen to her or did she leave on her own? This mystery is investigated throughout the course of the novel with Nick engaging in behavior that is often inappropriate such as seeming to flirt with another woman on television and hiring a top lawyer even though he seemingly had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Flynn crafts an intriguing and fast-paced novel that makes you question the actions of Amy and Nick and leaves you wondering if either of them can really be trusted. It delves into the darker side of marriage when you begin to lose trust in your partner and wonder if maybe your partner is the one you were supposed to end up with in the first place. If you enjoy psychology and a good mystery “Gone Girl” is the book for you. It may leave you asking questions about your own relationships.

Back to School Books

The beginning of September means it’s time to go back to school and there’s no better way than reading books about going back to school. These books should get you back to feeling like you’re at school again.

1. Looking for Alaska-John Green–In this John Printz Award winner, Miles Halter heads off to Culver Creek Boarding School to get away from his ordinary life at home and meets the beautiful but mysterious Alaska Young. She gets him involved in school pranks, the social life of the school, and certainly turns his life around forever. When she dies in a tragic car accident, he and his friends work at unraveling the circumstances of her death. This is truly a great book that will stay with you long after you read the last page.

2. Gossip Girl series-Cecily von Ziegesar-In this series set in Manhattan’s exclusive all-girls and all-boys private schools, the characters engage in sex for the first time, smoke, try drugs, and engage in the social life of the Upper East Side. If you’re into the lifestyles of the upper class, then these books are for you.

3. The Sixth Form-Tom Dolby-In this book set in a Massachusetts prep school, Ethan Whitley leaves his California home to attend Berkley Academy. He wants to find out more about himself. He becomes involved with the seductive and mysterious Hannah McClellan, one of the teachers at the school. Becoming involved with her means trips to her house where he can drink wine and try to learn more about her complicated past. This is a book worth reading if you’re into books about sef-discovery and forbidden relationships.

On the Road to San Antonio

This past week I went on vacation  to San Antonio, Texas for five days of fun and relaxation. It was a great vacation with plenty of good memories to share and interesting places I visited that are definitely worthy places to recommend. So without further ado, this is my vacation to San Antonio.

Last Saturday I arrived in San Antonio at around 2 in the afternoon and headed to the Embassy Suites Downtown-Riverwalk which offers guests amenities such as a free continental breakfast buffet in the morning, a pool and hot tub, and an exercise room. After settling in I headed out to walk five blocks to the Alamo. The Alamo is a piece of history worth admiring not just for the architecture but also for what is inside. Inside the Alamo you can read the names of the men who died trying to defend the Alamo and see the rooms where the women and children were hidden along with weapons from the battle of the Alamo. After checking out the Alamo and the beautiful garden in the complex I walked one block to the Rivercenter Mall which features over 60 typical mall stores and gives visitors the opportunity to go on a river barge where a guide discusses the history of the Riverwalk and places along the Riverwalk that could be explored.  The Riverwalk is 8 miles of restaurants, shops, and museums and is something that every visitor to San Antonio should explore.

On Sunday I went to Sea World San Antonio. I recommend getting to Sea World around the time the park opens at 10 just to try to beat the heat. The park features exciting rides, such as the Great White roller coaster; a children’s area called Sesame Street’s Bay of Play; animal areas such as Penguin Encounter and a tank with harbor seals and sea lions; and shows featuring animals such as sea lions, dolphins, and whales. Eventually I got too hot and headed back to the hotel.

On Monday I took a scenic drive along Highway 16 to see Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Bandera is quite a small town and is home to only 957 residents. In the Bandera area are antique stores, Western-themed stores, and restaurants. I went to an antique store that featured many interesting items and a nearby guest ranch where I went horseback riding for the first time. I also drove through the larger town of Boerne which has natural caverns such as the Natural Bridge Caverns.

On Tuesday I went to the San Antonio Zoo, one of the top zoos in the country. The zoo is quite large but beautiful with both indoor and outdoor areas such as the Reptile House, an aviary, a butterfly garden, and African areas with hippos, gazelles, and zebras. The zoo is located in Breckenridge Park, which is also home to the Japanese Tea Garden. Later in the day I went to the San Antonio Museum of Art which is home to collections of Latin American art, modern art, Asian art, Greek and Roman art, and ancient sculptures. These two places were two of the major highlights of the vacation because I loved seeing the different animals in the zoo and of course admiring the sculptures and artwork in the art museum.

On Wednesday I first explored La Villita, an historic arts village that features different stores and art galleries including stores devoted to beads and jewelry, a clothing store, and a cafe. It was a beautiful area that was interesting to browse and see different pieces of jewelry, clothing, and things you could only find in Texas. I also took a long drive to Fredericksburg, an area known for its German heritage and is home to a large Oktoberfest celebration. Fredericksburg is not only known for its history though. It is also the  home to great shopping along Main Street and side streets. Featuring restaurants and several stores including stores with dog apparel and toys, boutiques, candy stores, a general store, and a music shop, it is an area where you could perhaps spend hours shopping.

What was great about my vacation is that I ventured beyond San Antonio to other nearby towns where I could see places like the Texas Hill Country which shows just how beautiful Texas really is. It was hot, but with periods in air conditioning it was certainly manageable. Going to Texas was an amazing experience and one I definitely recommend.

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