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[I’ve been down in London helping out with Grandchild #1 while her parents prepare for the arrival of Grandchild #2. It reminded me of this blast from my own past…] Image credit: AndisBilderwerkstatt for Creative Commons/Pixabay

I heard that a recent scientific survey showed readers find women’s magazines damaging to their self-esteem. Women who took the survey reported that when they compared themselves to the models in the magazines—young girls with bigger incomes, sex lives, and breasts—they got depressed. (Oddly enough, researchers did not find any self-esteem problems among readers of men’s magazines when they viewed the models’ accomplishments…)

[Image credit: The Society Pages]

Why do women’s magazines continue to sell? One theory is women buy them because we like feeling depressed. So for entertainment and light reading, will we reach for the magazine featuring the size-12 mom modeling the latest minivan? Not on your Cosmo! We’ll grab the one with the size-0 girl in the latex mini-skirt and see-through blouse even though the only six women who could successfully wear such outfits are teenagers with eating disorders who live in communities with lax indecent exposure statues. (This is especially true if the magazine also has articles on how to lose forty pounds by Thursday and a test to see if your inner child is trying to break up your relationship by calling your partner’s inner child a dumb doo-doo-head.)

But I have another theory about why we buy magazines. Magazine articles have checklists. Clearly, the secret to success in any endeavor from planning your grocery list to planning your life is the right checklist. I’ll bet when Julius Caesar was laying out his military campaigns, he opened his current issue of Legionnaire Illustratus to the checklist that said:

  1. ____ Come.
  2. ____ See.
  3. ____ Conquer. [Of course, it’s important to get the right checklist. Caesar could have used one which included the following:]
  4. ____ Avoid Egyptian queens.
  5. ____Beware the ides of March.

When I was expecting my first child, I figured the first step was to get the proper checklist. I pictured these checklists as having only a few choices, such as:

  1. ____ Decide whether to have “natural” or “unnatural” childbirth.**
  2. ____ Choose birth announcements.

**As far as I could tell, “unnatural” childbirth was what our parents did. The dads chain-smoked in the waiting room until it was time to hand out cigars, while the moms were knocked out until it was time to get their hair done. In “natural” childbirth, however, we breathe and eventually somebody asks us if we want to look at the placenta, a sight which lends a certain appeal to chain-smoking and a total anesthetic.

But as I soon discovered, there was a “natural” childbirth checklist for every lifestyle.

From urban sophisticate—

  1. ____ Choose video equipment and film team for baby’s delivery.
  2. ____ Choose designer for baby’s nursery.
  3. ____ Choose financial adviser for baby’s stock portfolio.

To alternative lifestyle—

  1. ____ Choose hot tub, midwife, and guests for undewater birth.
  2. ____ Choose recipe for placenta stew. (I swear on my Birkenstocks this is a true thing.)
  3. ____ Choose channeler to reveal baby’s past lives.

When I found out my daughter was expecting GC#2, I decided to see what current checklists had to offer. But to my dismay, they included a lot of perfectly useless advice about choosing insurance, doctor, budgets, etc. So as a public service, I’m presenting:

BARB’S FIRST TRIMESTER CHECKLIST

  1. ____ Schedule doctor’s appointments for first thing in the morning. You will have just thrown up and the weight the nurse announces to every listener in a three-block radius will be a little lower.
  2. ____ Break the news to family and friends. (The element of surprise is no longer considered socially correct: “Abigail Madison, future member of the Harvard Class of 2040, will be delivered in 8 months at 11:55 A.M. on November 4, and will weigh 6 lbs.-8 ozs.)
  3. ____ Review budget. Babies need not be expensive. Other people’s babies, that is. Just getting your baby home from the hospital will require all the money you’ve been saving for home improvements, vacations, and that new car. But don’t worry, you won’t have time to work on the house, you’ll be too tired for a vacation, and the new car would only get filled with Cheerios and cracker crumbs anyway…
  4. ____ Good nutrition. Research now tells us that cravings during pregnancy can be your body’s way of signalling a nutritional need or shortage. For example, my own body must have been signaling a grease shortage, because I spent the first three months of pregnancy needing fried chicken. Although I never even liked it before, I would find myself in the Chez Drumstick at 9 a.m., screaming at the counter staff, “What do you mean the fried chicken isn’t ready yet? It’s on your menu, isn’t it? Do we have to discuss this with the Consumer Fraud Division?”
  5. ____ Sleep. Get it while you can. After the baby is born, you can look back and remember what it felt like.

Marcia Banks, the protagonist of Kassandra Lamb’s Marcia Banks and Buddy series has no intention of ever needing a pregnancy checklist. Her aversion to having a baby extends to refusing to accept her boyfriend’s proposal of marriage. All those people who keep trying to kill her don’t help either. Please see my review below for the latest release, Patches In The Rye.

 


Blurb: Patches In The Rye by Kassandra Lamb

 
 
Nothing about her new client is what service dog trainer Marcia Banks expected—from the posh house that says family money to his paranoid preoccupation with his sister’s love life—but when he dangles a thousand dollar retainer under her nose, she can’t resist his request to play private detective.
 
In between training sessions with her client’s new service dog, Marcia learns the sister’s boyfriend has a sketchy past. He seems to have turned over a new leaf, but as she digs deeper, more disturbing and confusing questions arise. How is a disastrous frat party five years ago linked to blackmail, prostitutes, and murder today? And who is behind the wheel of the black SUV that keeps trying to turn Marcia and her canine companion Buddy into roadkill?
 
Marcia can’t let it go, not when there are innocents at risk who are depending on her to find the truth. But the deepest, darkest truth is one she wishes she never uncovered.
 
Available Now for $0.99 for a limited time!
 
 

 


4 gold starMy Review: 4 out of 5 stars for Patches In The Rye by Kassandra Lamb

 

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer who now spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The portal to that universe (i.e., her computer) is located in northern Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
She’s the author of the Kate Huntington mysteries, the Kate on Vacation novellas and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries. She has also written a short guidebook for new authors, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book. Connect with her at http://kassandralamb.com, visit her blog at http://misteriopress.com or catch up with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kassandralambauthor/).

One of the absolute delights of a new release in a favorite series is watching the backstory develop and change, especially if the protagonist grows along with it. In Kassandra Lamb’s Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, the Marcia we met in the first book was healing from a disastrous marriage, determined to maintain emotional distance from everyone except her beloved rescue dog Buddy.

Instead all of Marcia’s love and devotion goes to the service dogs she trains to support disabled veterans. But with each new book in the series, Marcia finds that her relationship with Buddy expands to allow her quirky Florida neighbors to become her friends, and handsome Sheriff Will to offer even more challenges to Marcia’s fear of intimacy and commitment, at least when it comes to marriage and especially to Will’s desire for a family.

As Patches In The Rye opens, Marcia has come a long way. She’s built up her service dog training business, even though several of her disabled clients have also involved her in mysteries, often at personal risk. Sheriff Will is now Detective Will, having moved next door to Marcia and traded his Sheriff position for a role in a nearby city police department. Even more importantly, Marcia has allowed Will into her heart and her life, although she still finds it emotionally devastating to consider marriage or children.

But bills are piling up, dog training doesn’t pay enough, and Marcia reluctantly thinks about other careers. When a client offers her a significant amount of money to investigate his younger sister’s boyfriend, Marcia starts to wonder if a professional PI career might not be the answer to her career woes. Or, as Marcia puts it, “If danger was bent on finding me anyway, then I was going to make it pay!”

Meanwhile, troubles also plague Marcia’s circle of friends who have become her chosen family, as she tries to mentor a young friend who wants to become a dog trainer, help her struggling little town find ways to survive, and especially as she worries about her pregnant best friend who is facing racially-motivated abuse.

As Marcia continues to investigate, not only is she the target of assault and murder attempts, but she has to face her growing dislike for her client, Roger, for whom she’s training the lovable Patches as a service dog (and who is also paying her to be an amateur private investigator). In addition, she questions her commitment to Will, and her guilt at allowing him to be the one who has made all the sacrifices for their relationship.

All threads begin to point to a fraternity party five years earlier, one which ended in rape, drugs, arrest, and eventual blackmail. What really happened? Each step closer to the truth puts Marcia and her beloved Buddy into greater danger, as well as threatening her dog training career and her relationship with Will.

Even as a cozy mystery with an amateur detective and her adorable sidekick, Patches In The Rye tackles serious issues from child abuse to rape, prostitution, and addiction. Luckily for the reader, these are balanced by the character-driven plot as Marcia and her eccentric circle of friends continue to grow and develop their unique personalities with author Kassandra Lamb’s trademark combination of humor and the insights of her decades of experience as a therapist and college professor.

As I’ve said before, this cozy mystery series lacks knitting, cats, and cupcakes. With a rural Florida setting filled with characters like Marcia’s neighbor Edna, the muumuu-wearing octogenarian and unofficial town leader, Marcia’s character doesn’t so much develop, as it’s dragged kicking and screaming into friendship and even love. But that doesn’t mean author Kassandra Lamb hasn’t ticked off all the cozy-mystery tropes. As an amateur detective, Marcia needs two things: a sidekick, and a police contact. In her case, however, her sidekick has four paws and a tail, while her police contact is the former sheriff turned police detective, Will, who is interested in maintaining very close contact.

As with the previous books in the series, in terms of plot and pacing, the author plays fair with her readers. We get to know the clues, and often can put them together more quickly than the too-close-to-the-action Marcia. Unlike most cozy mysteries, some of the violence takes place onstage. There’s blood, and danger, and a few genuinely scary scenes. There’s also the growing romantic relationship between Marcia and a determined Will.

If you haven’t read any of this series, you are in for a summer treat. With special pricing and a new release, Patches In The Rye and the earlier books in the series would make a terrific summer vacation read. After all…adorable dogs, murder, and fried gator bits—what’s not to love?

 

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