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Friday, January 8, 2021


Mystery and children’s book author Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. She writes the Cassandra Sato Mysteries, featuring a sign language interpreter and is also the author of children’s picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog, which have quickly become popular with children, parents, and educators for promoting inclusive conversations about children with differences. Learn more about Kelly and her books at her website.

Happy New Year!


Here in Nebraska we had a large snowstorm after Christmas, complete with icy, windy conditions. My husband finally got to break in the shiny, new snowblower ignored in our garage since the unseasonably warm winter of 2019. I watched him gleefully clearing the driveway while I sat inside sipping hot cocoa and admiring the glistening tree branches. 


The beautiful snowfall reminded me of the beginning chapters of Dead of Winter Break, the latest Cassandra Sato mystery. In the first two books of the series, Cassandra’s predicament as a fish out of water helped readers relate to her difficulties moving from Hawai’i to her new home in Nebraska. 


I’ve moved many times, and I’ve noticed that it helps to bring your old routine with you when adjusting to a new home. For Cassandra, one non-negotiable aspect of her daily schedule is waking early and doing a simple stretching and yoga session. It starts her day in a focused mindset and strengthens her body for her challenging job as a college administrator.


Cassandra Sato isn’t much like me in real life, although she has some of my snarky humor and experiences. Before Covid, I was an avid yoga enthusiast. I’m not especially bendy or well-balanced, but I love the core strength and meditative aspects. 


With all the stress in her life during her first semester at Morton College, Cassandra needed her yoga practice now more than ever. Even if your life isn’t as complicated as hers, you might enjoy trying a yoga session to help you hit your new year’s fitness goals. 


My preference is attending in-person yoga classes at my local health club where I can follow along to the instructor’s soothing voice and upbeat music playlist. Now that everyone is mostly working out at home, I follow an old Rodney Yee DVD. He also has a complete library of YouTube videos at different skill levels. Nearly all of them feature him on the beach with ocean waves in the background that make me feel like I’m in tropical Hawai’i instead of arctic Nebraska.


Another resource you might try is a website called Do Yoga With Me. You can choose your level, beginner to advanced or choose which part of your body you want to focus on. How much time do you have? There are 600 workouts from 10 minutes to more than an hour available with twenty-seven different instructors. My favorite teachers are David Procyshyn, Fiji McAlphine, and Tracey Noseworthy. Amazingly, this wonderful site is FREE to use. Another great thing about yoga is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to begin. You can use a belt, towel, and pillow for props in some of the videos.  


Like I mentioned, the challenges confronting Cassandra in Dead of Winter Break disrupted her plans for a quiet, restful winter break between semesters. She looked forward to organizing her closet like a Pinterest post, updating her kitchen by stripping the fifty-year-old floral wallpaper, and adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls. 


Readers of the first two books knows that life at Morton College hasn’t gone according to Cassandra’s plans all semester. The holiday break is no exception.


Winter in the Midwest isn’t for wimps, and Cassandra quickly learns what it feels like to shovel snow off her driveway. She has a new dog, Murphy—her first pet ever—and housebreaking him is not going well. Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it a burglary gone wrong. All of these changes push Cassandra to her limits. 


By the end of the holidays, Cassandra has to decide the depths of her commitment to her long-term career goals and balancing those with a healthier home life. Can an orphaned dog worm his way into her heart? 


If you, like Cassandra, find yourself looking for rest and relaxation this year, I hope you’ll check out my yoga recommendations. Then treat yourself to a cup of hot cocoa and pick up a good mystery like Dead of Winter Break.


Here’s wishing you a safe, happy 2021! 


Disclaimer: If you’ve never done yoga or are under the care of a physician, you should check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.


Dead of Winter Break 

A Cassandra Sato Mystery, Book 3


It’s beginning to look a lot like murder . . .

And Cassandra is knee deep in . . .



Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it burglary gone wrong. But when the killer comes after her, it’s going to take more than a pair of furry boots to keep the smart, witty Morton College administrator, Cassandra Sato, out of the deep . . .



Her first Christmas in Nebraska could be her last unless her friends help unravel the mystery and housebreak her dog.


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Kelly Brakenhoff said...

Thank you for having me Anastasia!


Always a pleasure, Kelly!