Book Review: Murder on the First Day of Christmas


It’s not very common to find novels that take place in Birmingham, Alabama.  And of the ones that do, there aren’t a lot of mysteries.  Author Billie Thomas (under use of a pen name, itself adding to the mystery) sets out to remedy this with Murder on the First Day of Christmas, the first in a series of Chloe Carstairs mysteries.

Bringing murder and intrigue to the Magic City, Thomas crafts a comical Christmas who-done-it where the Birmingham elite spend their holidays trying outdo each other by having the biggest party, spreading the most gossip, and making each other the likeliest suspects for two high-profile murders.  

With Chloe Carstairs, Thomas gives us a lead character so likable and identifiable that you feel like you’re reading the adventures of a close friend.  Like many in their thirties, her personal life hasn’t quite panned out like she planned, and her views on dating, relationships, and self esteem make her feel real as she remains ultimately optimistic despite several lessons in humility (occasionally involving underwear).

The mystery is fun, surprising, and well-crafted.  The story takes the reader through various somewhat fictional pitstops around the city of Birmingham, providing a look at the city that non-natives may not have anticipated.  As characters and motives are investigated and uncovered respectively, the story unfolds at an even and enjoyable pace.

But the heart of the novel lies with the mother/daughter relationship between Chloe and Amanda.  The two make a great comedic duo as they partner in both decorating and sleuthing.  Thomas gives the pair a very touching balance of tension, support, and love that feels very genuine.  Chloe’s father and sister also fill out the family dynamic, and as no one in the family hesitates to speak their mind or argue when they feel it’s necessary, the unit doesn’t fall into the trap of feeling like too perfect of a family for reality.  This is a family that loves each other, and continues to do so through life’s bumps, bruises, and missteps.  

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Well, the End WAS Nigh…

As a kid, I stumbled onto a Nostradamus book my older brother had bought. At 11 or 12 years old, this really messed with my head. I used to think about what it would be like if the world were completely destroyed: no life, no sound, no planets, no lights…just darkness. This thought depressed me endlessly and gave me an overall horrible feeling.

As I got older, I found prophecies and psychic visions to be a bit less than credible, and well, often somewhat silly. I never gave much thought to the notion that the end of the Mayan calendar (today) would bring the end of the world. But I do have to admit that knowing this day is passing by and this idea is being left behind unfulfilled does bring that bit of child left within me just a touch of relief.

Pip seems a little more relaxed as well.

Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas


There really aren’t enough Christmas horror movies. It’s fun to break out classics like Black Christmas and Silent Night Deadly Night, but it’s also a good time to imagine favorite regular horror movies and creepy classics with a Christmas twist. Thanks to Chloe Carstairs, we have just that chance!

“What if…” Movies reimagined for another time & place on the Behance Network


These are amazing! Very cool idea.

On 2011…

This year saw some really big changes for me.

  • The theatre – At the end of last year, I wrote about being introduced back into theatre after a very lengthy hiatus.  I was very fortunate this year to have the opportunity to continue acting in several wonderful shows.  It’s been amazing to have a creative outlet, and to have such talented people to work with and learn from.  Best of all, it’s an amazing community to be a part of, and I’ve met many wonderful people and made some really great friends.  This has been such a positive addition to my life, and I’ve been thrilled to be so involved with it.
  • The education – This year, I finally started college.  I’ve worked full-time ever since I graduated high school, and was always hesitant to take on college classes on top of working 40+ hours per week.  But after realizing I’d made it about as far as I can make it in my job without a degree, I bit the bullet and enrolled at UAB.  It’s been a challenge managing the schedule and homework, but I’ve done very well in my classes so far, and it feels good to know that I’m working toward something.  Best of all, I’m studying a field that will help me to progress in my current job and also give me flexibility for other opportunities, and I’m studying theatre as well.
  • The music – Spotify totally changed the way I listen to music this year.  I love having access to so much music, so you never feel like it’s a risk to try something new and different.  I became a fan to great new bands like Dry the River, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Lana Del Rey, while getting reacquainted with Bon Iver and TV On the Radio.  I also got the chance to see Ra Ra Riot, Pepper Rabbit, and Casio Kids play live in town.

Work, school, and theatre took up most of my time, so I didn’t have much time for vacation or a personal life, but with all of the opportunities I’ve had and things I’ve accomplished over the year, I can’t say I have any regrets.  I’m definitely cooking up some exciting new things for 2012, so stay tuned! (photo credit to Steven Ross)


???Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” Acoustic??????

More Vampire Weekend. Cool acoustic performance of A-Punk

???Suuns – Up Past the Nursery???

This looks like it was pretty fun to shoot.