Thoughts on STEEPED IN SECRETS

Howdy, howdy! How was everyone’s Thanksgiving (or Thursday)? We had a nice, quiet one with yummy food and the company wasn’t too bad. We’ve mostly been lazy since then. Shame on us. But I’m here to review a book, not ramble about watching tv. Yes, that means this is the last Wednesday of November! I decided to request a new cozy mystery for this month because I was too lazy to look for something else. Luckily, Steeped in Secrets, the first Crystals and CuriosiTEAS mystery by Lauren Elliott, was available. It was released from Kensington Books on November 29th. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for allowing me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover that’s pretty relevant to the story.

Steeped in Secrets follows Shay Myers as she returns home broke and baffled. After her husband swindles her out of everything she’s built for herself, Shay discovers she’s inherited an old tea shop and more from a woman she barely knew as a child. With no alternative, Shay goes to see what she’s gotten herself into. But a dead body on the greenhouse roof throws even more turmoil into her life. There’s a dog and a hot ex-cop turned pub owner and friends from childhood being far too shifty and family secrets to spice up the plot even more.

Plot wise, it’s not bad, but it could’ve been better. There’s really only one person the baddie could’ve been, which I was fine with. I don’t mind an obvious villain as long as the story is good. But it was one of those things where he randomly shows up and has little to nothing to do until poof! He’s evil! That was disappointing. Plus, his whole background story is convoluted and comes out of nowhere. It’s like the first three quarters of the book were leading somewhere a little more mundane and believable, but someone said that was boring, so instead of rewriting the whole thing to weave everything together, the author just chopped the ending off and added this one. It just didn’t feel natural.

The characters, on the other hand, were fabulous. I enjoyed Shay as a lead and her reactions to everything were mostly relatable or at least believable. Her whole mottle monster thing when she was embarrassed or whatever was adorable. I still find Liam a little creepy. But that’s mostly because I find all super extroverted people creepy. There’s no way I would let a dude I just met come and go from my house as he pleases. I don’t care how helpful and hot he is. Learn to knock, my dude. And Tassi was a cute character with a lot of potential. Everyone else is still pretty flat, but hopefully they’ll grow in future book. Oh, and I adored the dog as usual.

Me to Liam.

I thought the writing itself was nice. It flowed well and made for a quick read. I’m hoping to learn more about tea and crystals in future books, but I also don’t want to be inundated with information. It has the potential to be annoying and infodump-y, but this particular book didn’t overdo it.

Ultimately, I thought Steeped in Secrets could use some work. But I liked the characters enough that I’ll probably check out the next one just to see if the plot’s better.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. The series has potential if the plots get better, but based strictly on this story, I don’t strongly recommend it. If you’re into cozies and hints of supernatural stuff, go for it. If not, save your money.

Movies and TV

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Are you ready for turkey day (or just Thursday depending on where you are)? It’s going to be another small one this year with the lady across the street as well as my minion and one of his spawn (if they show up on time. If either of you are reading this, here’s an additional reminder that dinner is at 4). But I’m not here to yammer about Thanksgiving! It’s time for another number. Jenae (hugs, sis!) picked number 8. So far, we’ve covered 13 (you can find the prompt list there), 7, and 2. Numbers 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 are all going to be answered in the coming weeks. There are a few left, so feel free to pick one and let me know. Today’s prompt: Tell me which book had the best movie or show adaptation. Yikes.

I’m not really qualified to answer this one. I mean, I watch a lot of stuff based on books, like most of the cozy mystery stuff and British mysteries. Midsomer Murders, Shetland, Vera just to name a few. The shows are great. Are they good adaptations? I have no clue. I’ve yet to read any of the books they’re based on. And the shows that I should have some experience with the accompanying books, I either haven’t read or read so long ago that I remember nothing. I vaguely remember reading an Agatha Christie book featuring Poirot, but have no clue if the series with David Suchet did it justice. It probably did because it was a good series, but I don’t really know. Shame on me for not reading more.

And if we’re talking movies, I’m even worse because I don’t watch many. Sure, I could talk about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit (none of which were super great, though LotR was by far the best of these). That’s about it, though. Oh! Coraline was a pretty good adaptation. It held the creepy air of the book. So that was fun. But mostly I can’t think of movies based on books that I’ve actually read the book version of. I don’t know if I should read more mainstream stuff or what.

Manga to anime is a little better for me. I love both of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, but prefer Brotherhood as an adaptation. The original is wonderful and I’ve watched it so many times, but it was created alongside the manga and when it reached the end of what was available in the manga, it took a turn and became its own story. Brotherhood follows the manga more closely. Sailor Moon is another one where I prefer the newer releases as adaptations, but still love the original anime for what it was. The original used the manga as a guide, but there was a lot of padding and fluff added in. I love it, though. Cardcaptor Sakura was a fun adaptation too. And please be aware that I’m not talking about the old Americanized versions of SM (with the creepy cousins thing because cousins who flirted with and blushed at each other was somehow less disturbing to kids than lesbians) and CCS (with the random blushing between dudes because they were “jealous” of each other or some similar BS and totally not crushing on each other). Those were awful. But anyway, my knowledge of adaptations is weak even with manga/anime.

Best cousins ever.

I admit it. I’m not a movie or TV buff. I’m not even good about reading things that are popular enough to be turned into movies or shows. Oh well. What are some of your favorite adaptations? Did you see the movie/show first or read the book first? As always, feel free to leave your questions or comments here or on my social media pages!

What Book Scarred Me As A Child

Hello, hello! How’s everything going on this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are pretty good. Can’t complain, though I usually do. Anyway, it’s time for another one of those pick a number things. This week is 2, courtesy of the fab Derek! I’ve done 13 (you can find the prompt list there) and 7. Numbers 8, 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 have all been claimed, but feel free to pick one of the remaining numbers. Today’s prompt is “tell me which book had a profound effect on you as a kid.” Honestly, most of you probably already know the answer.

I don’t remember being much of a reader as a kid. I read what I was told to read for school, but never had much fun with it. There were two “book report” projects I remember from elementary school where we got to pick our own books from the school library. For one, I chose The Séance by Joan Lowery Nixon. I don’t remember the story itself, but it was my first locked door mystery and I vaguely remember loving it. It was a little advanced for my age at the time (it’s recommended for 12 years and up and I was like 8 or 9), but my teacher and parents didn’t say anything, so murder and mysteries kind of became my go-to at an early age. But still, it wasn’t enough to get me hooked on reading.

The other book from elementary school was Ransom by Lois Duncan. It actually had a cripple dude who wasn’t useless or inspo-pornified. Of course, back then, I didn’t know what inspo-porn really was and I didn’t care that he was cripple. I just liked him because he was the angsty loner guy and I already had the beginnings of a type (which eventually transformed into my love of fictional psychopaths). But it was about a busload of kids getting kidnapped. I loved it. And it wasn’t enough to stoke my love of reading either.

It wasn’t until 1999 (I was 13) that I really got into reading. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King had just come out and Dad plopped it down in front of me and said to try it. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to get me into reading (even The Hobbit had failed to interest me until later), but it was the one that worked. There was creepy stuff and normal stuff and it wasn’t super scary, but it was something that could happen and that made it awesome (yeah, I was a weird kid). I tore through so many Stephen King books after that. I remember sitting in the library/game area one evening during a hospital stay reading the uncut version of The Stand (I brought it from home, it wasn’t actually in a children’s hospital library) and a nurse came in making idle chit-chat while checking on me. The look of horror on her face when I showed her what I was reading (she didn’t like “scary” books) was priceless. It was my first time seeing a grown person get freaked out over a book. She just didn’t understand why I wanted to read scary things. It was hilarious. But yeah. My early reading habits were strange.

Anyway, I still wasn’t a constant reader after that. I’d go through periods where I would read everything until I burnt myself out, then I wouldn’t read for months. It went on like that until Stonecoast, actually. Ever since then, I’ve learned to read a couple of chapters every day so I don’t burn myself out. And I don’t scold myself if I miss a day or two here and there. But if a book grabs me, I don’t deny myself a good binge either. But I digress. This is all just a big ramble about having to find my way into reading. It didn’t come naturally to me. And it took a while to find the right fit. But that’s okay. What about you? What book(s) had the biggest impact on you when you were young? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Stuck on Repeat

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing this Wednesday? Things here are about the same as usual. It’s time for all of those yearly meetings, so people know we’re still alive and I’m still cripple and poor (the government has to check, I guess). But half of those are still virtual, so that’s good. Anyway, if you read last week’s post, you know I’m doing one of those pick a number things. This week’s pick is courtesy of the beautiful Roxie with number 7! I’ve done 13 (you can find the prompt list there). And 2, 8, 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 have all been claimed. Feel free to pick one of the remaining numbers. But let’s get back on topic. The prompt is “Tell me which book you’ve re-read the most times.” That’s a hard one…

The thing is, I don’t re-read things very often. I don’t have comfort books that I keep returning to time and again. When I do re-read something, it’s usually for a reason. Like, if it’s a series and a new book is coming out after a couple of years. But even then, I’ll try reading the new book first and seeing what I remember. If I can’t remember certain things, Google is my friend. If I remember little to nothing, then I will read the other books again. Don’t get me wrong. I have a huge list of books I want to re-read, but there are just so many new books and books that are new to me. There’s not enough time.

I’ve read the Harry Potter books three times all the way through and Lord of the Rings twice that I remember. I believe I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon three times as well. But I’m a super slow reader (I get through 35 books a year if I push it), so if I do read things repeatedly, it’s usually short stories or poems. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Gilman) or “A Rose for Emily” (Faulkner). My favorite poetry collections are Cruelty by Ai (which I’ve read at least five times) and The Wild Iris by Louise Glück (also read four or five times). And I won’t list the individual poems I go back to all the time.

Now, if you count manga and the like, I’ve re-read way too much stuff. I go back to Kaori Yuki’s stuff more than I should probably say. Angel Sanctuary and Boy’s Next Door are my favorites. They’re disturbing and entirely fucked up, but I love them. BND was the first story I read that told you from the very beginning what the ending was and still managed to make me an emotional wreck by the time we got to the end. No, I don’t recommend it to everyone because of all of the content warnings it should have, but if you’re already a dark, twisted soul… go find it. Same with Angel Sanctuary, but for very different content warnings. I could also list some more normal things like Sailor Moon and Fullmetal Alchemist, but it probably won’t help you think better of me at this point. I like weird stuff. This is why I don’t include manga and manhwa on my GoodReads profile very often.

There you go. The stuff I re-read. It’s usually weird or would freak people out. Sorry, not sorry. What about you? Do you re-read soft and cuddly comfort books? Or do you prefer re-reading things that rip your heart out and wreak havoc on your soul? Or something in between? As always, feel free to leave your comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

Home Away From Home

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday? It’s the first week of November. Can you believe that? Thanksgiving will be tomorrow, Christmas next week, and 2023 the day after that. At least that’s how it feels. Another year slipping by. But that’s okay! We’re not here to be all maudlin just because time’s a jerk. We’re here today to ramble about bookish things! I found another one of those pick a number things, so that’s what I’ll be blogging about for the foreseeable future. I only posted the request for numbers between 1 and 15 a few minutes ago, so I’ve only got 13 and 7 so far, but I’m sure at least a couple of more people will choose something. You can choose too by commenting here or on my social media profiles or telling me or carrier pigeon. Whatever. The first picture will be the prompts. It’s from national book lovers day (I’m late, I know), so you may have seen it already. Anyway, the lovely Ana chose 13, so I will be rambling about books that make me want to live in fictional worlds!

Which book made me want to live in a fictional world? Most of them? People usually say Narnia, Hogwarts, or Middle Earth and I can’t exactly argue. I know it’s a problematic world (it always was, even before JK went off the deep end), but I would’ve been down for Hogwarts as a kid. Magic provides a lot of work arounds to being cripple. It would’ve been great. Middle Earth would’ve been cool too. Who doesn’t want to live with elves? At least as a kid. Now, I’d be a hobbit all the way. Never have to leave the shire? Live quietly? PO-TAY-TOES! I am so there. Narnia, on the other hand, never appealed to me. Even as a kid. It was a fun story, but I never wanted to join in.

I’m trying really hard to think of worlds I wanted to join when I was younger, but considering I mostly read Stephen King… no thanks. I was perfectly happy watching those stories from the outside. And now that I’m older (read that as ancient), mostly of the fictional places that I want to live are idyllic small town USA spots or tiny English villages. Both of which are hotbeds of murder with some nosey chick who solves all the crimes before the police. I’d gladly be a background character in one of those worlds.

Mostly, I’m into worlds that are only slightly different from the one we live in. A medieval adventure sounds great, but even if I weren’t cripple, I wouldn’t survive a week. I’d eat the wrong berries or mushrooms and die. And a future world? Probably dead within a week as well. Not sure how it would happen, but it would. I love reading about those worlds, but nah.

What about you? What fictional worlds did you want to live in growing up? What about now? As always, feel free to leave your questions or comments or whatever here or on my social media pages! And pick a number. Since I’ve been writing this post, we’re up to 13, 7, 2, 8, 3, and 10!

Thoughts on A DOOMFUL OF SUGAR

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are about the same as normal lately. But it’s the last Wednesday of October, so at least I have something to ramble about. It’s book review time! I was boring and went back to my comfort zone this month with the first installment of a new cozy mystery series. A Doomful of Sugar by Catherine Bruns was released yesterday (the 25th) from Poisoned Pen Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

A Doomful of Sugar follows Leila Khoury as she returns home in the wake of her father’s unsolved murder only to discover that he’s left her the family maple business. As any daddy’s girl would, not only does she accept the challenge of the farm, but she also takes it upon herself to solve the murder, no matter who she has to risk alienating along the way. Toss in a hot new employee that may just be a murderer, an overbearing mother, a brother with a chip on his shoulder, and a bestie that supports all the shenanigans and you’ve got yourself a cozy mystery.

Honestly, the plot is pretty standard. The big bad sticks out way too much from the get-go, then kind of fades into the background until a little bit before the big reveal. I mean, why else would Leila’s dad do what he did? Super obvious, but fine. I was willing to believe it without much thought. The twist was where the story lost me. It was also really heavy handed, which is probably why it felt like more of an ‘ugh’ moment than an ‘aha’ moment. It just wasn’t particularly necessary and felt like a leap. It might just be a me thing, but it made the ending too convoluted.

As far as the characters go, I was mostly unimpressed. I think Leila was supposed to be quirky and headstrong and someone who jumps into things without thinking, but she’s kind of a douchenozzle. She insults people all of the time and they magically forgive her. When she isn’t being rude, she’s accusing people of murder with zero evidence beyond the fact that they exist. And, of course, according to her, everyone else is always judging and being mean to her. I liked her mother and Noah. They were the only reasonable adults in this book. Everyone else ranged from flat and stereotypical to immature and annoying.

The writing itself was okay and made for a quick read despite my lack of motivation to finish this one. And there was maple syrup in it, so at least there’s that.

Ultimately, I didn’t care for A Doomful of Sugar. It’s not going on my list of cozies to keep up with and didn’t spark an interest other series by Bruns.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. One and a half is more accurate. Mostly because it wasn’t my thing, but other people seem to like it. If you enjoy immature characters and an easily decipherable plot, go for it. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

I Didn’t Plan to Take a Day Off…

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Things are annoying here. Spent too many hours trying to set up something that should’ve taken two minutes. And it’s still not working. It’s a Z-Wave outlet thing and it wouldn’t work in my room, so we moved it around. Finally got it paired in the dining room, but it takes like 15 minutes for SmartThings to register when it switches on or off. That’s no good. Plus, we still need to get it to work in my room. But it was time wasted and it was annoying and now I don’t feel like writing a blog post. Sorry, not sorry. Here’s something pretty from Yuumei to appease the Interwebz gods/goddesses.

10 Books/Series

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this delightful Wednesday? Things here have been weirdly social lately. The Minion and various members of his family have come over a few times to help Dad with stuff. Another family friend is due to drop by tomorrow. And our neighbors have been weirdly neighborly. So that’s been interesting. Anyway, I can’t think of anything to ramble about and Facebook memories have recently reminded me of that trend of listing 10 books that have stuck with you that went around a few years ago. I thought I had done a post like that on here, but I can’t find it (though I didn’t look that hard), so I’m just going to list 10 books/series that have stuck with me. No explanations. Just books.

1. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King.

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

3. Angel Sanctuary by Kaori Yuki.

4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

6. Ransom by Lois Duncan. The original version, not the crappy modernized version where they completely ruin the plot with mentions of cell phones and email.

7. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

8. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.

9. Cruelty by Ai.

10. The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck.

What books have stuck with you? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!

You Can Be Jealous: Food Edition

Howdy, howdy! Welcome to October. How’s everyone doing? Things here are quiet for the most part. My minion rescued Dad when his truck broke down (and of course it was the one time Dad had forgotten to take his phone), but even that wasn’t all that exciting. Anyway, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve done a food post, but that’s because we haven’t been anywhere. Stupid plague. So, I decided to brag on some of the stuff Dad’s been cooking lately. I have no pics because I never think about making Dad take any. But you can still be jealous without them. It’s okay.

1. Pastrami. It starts as a brisket and over about two weeks, it magically transforms into pastrami. Okay, it’s not magic. Dad knows what he’s doing. I only know the basics. It has to cure in some kind of solution for a while, then gets coated in a bunch of yumminess, and eventually gets smoked for a really long time. It’s delicious. Pastrami on rye with some mustard and maybe a little provolone. Mmm… my second favorite thing ever. Sorry, pastrami. I don’t think anything will ever top lasagna. But you’re a very close second.

2. Brisket. Dad can’t smoke just one thing when it’s going to take 18ish hours anyway, so when he made the pastrami last time, he also smoked some brisket. It’s soft and juicy with little pockets of melty fat. There’s a nice crust too. We had it with a salad and Dad made hash with some of it for breakfast. We’ve got some saved (and pastrami too) for future meals. He always makes enough to portion it out and freeze for later.

3. A ham. A bone in ham, but it wasn’t spiral sliced this time. Dad smoked it to imbue it with more flavor goodness. It was surprisingly soft (we ended up with a different brand than usual) and juicy and actually tasted like ham. It was good. There were grilled ham on rye with cheddar and mustard sandwiches. But the best part about a ham is yet to come. Beans. Pintos with lots of meat and sausage and general goodness on corn chips with some cheese and crema (Mexican or Salvadoran sour cream depending on what we have. It’s a whole delicious thing. And yes. A lot of the ham will end up frozen.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things. And I haven’t really touched much on breakfast (sausage gravy, home fries, scrambles with various goodies). But food is not lacking just because we aren’t trying new restaurants. I have Dad. Who needs other chefs? Be jealous. It’s okay.

What kinds of goodies have you been enjoying lately? Anything you’re craving? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOE

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday. Things are good here. The weather is slowly veering away from heat. We’re below 90 this week! Well, we’re supposed to be I think our highest high is supposed to be 89, so we could make it into the 90s. But I’m just rambling. It’s the last Wednesday of September, so it’s book review time! This month, I decided to go with a corny romance. I was hoping for something Halloween-y, but settled for Christmas since that’s all I could find. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss was released yesterday (the 27th) from G.P Putnam’s Sons. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute and matches the story.

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe follows Elinor “Nory” Noel, who runs a secondhand bookshop, as she spends a week with old friends from the posh private school she was a scholarship student at. The reunion brings a host of good memories mingled with a couple of particularly bad ones she would rather forget, but she pushes through in order to be supportive of her friends’ upcoming wedding. It helps when she meets Isaac, an old foe of her friend group, and he turns out to be not half bad (and still stupidly handsome). As the week passes and feelings grow, Nory and Isaac both have some major decisions to make if they want to keep things going.

I admit that romance isn’t my usual genre to read, but of the ones I have, this one pretty much fits the mold. Though, there’s a lot going on here. Most romance I’ve read has two or three subplots going on, but this one has at least six. It’s a lot and a couple of the plotlines feel thin, but it’s handled well for the most part. And it helps that the characters are all interesting enough that I didn’t mind following those subplots. There aren’t many places that drag since something is always happening to someone. So, that’s good.

I really only have two complaints about this book. The first is that all important first kiss scene. The payoff for all of the prolonged will-they/won’t-they bullshit. Of course they will. And the reader will get to be the creepy stalker who watches the sparks fly. I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask out of a romance. But it happens off the page with only a passing mention. Wtf? Sure, we get to see the second kiss, which is supposedly just as good, but it’s not the same. I was so disappointed.

The second complaint has to do with that last big fight scene. You know the one. Every romance has one. When the relationship doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. Well, I didn’t mind the scene, but Isaac’s reaction felt far more stereotypical than true to the character he was built to be. I can understand him kicking Guy out, but he would’ve heard Nory out. If he had kicked her out after discovering she was doing something he’d repeatedly told her he wasn’t ready for, I would’ve understood that and believed it. Kicking her and Guy out just felt like something they throw in to cause friction. It was forced. So, the whole pining thing for the last quarter of the book was just annoying instead of heart wrenching.

As far as the writing goes, it was actually a quick, fun read. The plot was a little dense, but mostly worked. The characters were fun and mostly interesting. It was cute and Christmasy and well written.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. Romance isn’t my favorite genre unless I’m in a particular mood, so I probably won’t go looking for more work by Bayliss, but I won’t avoid it either.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. I had fun with it and definitely recommend it if you’re into corny romance, but it’s not something I’d recommend to everyone.