Another Impromptu Day Off

Howdy, howdy! I know I’ve written some short posts, but I haven’t actually skipped a blog day since August 2020. So, since I feel blah and can’t think of anything to write about, I’m just going to skip this week. I’ll be back with a book review next Wednesday. Hopefully May will be better for blogging. Here’s something pretty for the hell of it.

By: Yuumei

Poetry Month Again

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what to blog about, but absolutely nothing is coming to me. I doubt you want another post about Mardi so soon. She’s doing good. Things are quiet. Dad’s redoing some stuff in the kitchen (pics when he’s done). It’s gloomy and there are some storms supposedly heading this way. And I’m super tired for no reason. Even my Pepsi isn’t helping. Anyway, I realized it’s April, which means it’s poetry month. Instead of rambling about nothing, I thought I would share one of my favorite Poe poems.

The Sleeper

By: Edgar Allan Poe

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!—and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

Oh, lady bright! can it be right—
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop—
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully—so fearfully—
Above the closed and fringéd lid
’Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold—
Some vault that oft hath flung its black
And wingéd pannels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls
Of her grand family funerals—

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portals she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone—
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.

Introducing Mardi!

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Welcome to April! Yesterday, we had a new addition to the family. So, this is just a quick post to introduce her. This little girl came into the Mesquite Animal Shelter last week and a friend of ours reached out to see if we would be interested in adopting her in the event her owners didn’t show up. She’s well groomed and has a nifty little dye job, so we figured the owners would be looking. Apparently not. This is Mardi (because of the Mardi Gras dye job) and she now has her furever home. She’s a little nervous, but super friendly and sweet. I think she’ll settle in comfortably and end up just as spoiled as the rest of our pups were. Thank you again to Mary (our friend who gave us the heads up).

Thoughts on CHEDDAR OFF DEAD

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Allergies are kicking my ass, but otherwise things are okay. I’ve been on a music kick. It’s about the only thing I can focus on with my sinuses throbbing. But enough complaining (maybe). It’s the last Wednesday of the month! That means it’s book review time. I went back to the safety of a cozy mystery this month. Cheddar Off Dead is the first in Korina Moss’s Cheese Shop mystery series. It was released yesterday (the 29th) by St. Martin’s Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do the thing!

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

Cheddar Off Dead follows Willa Bauer, cheesemonger and owner of Yarrow Glen’s newest shop, Curds and Whey. A cheese shop. She’s new to town and inexperienced when it comes to putting down roots and making lasting friendships. It doesn’t help that a well-known (and severely disliked) critic is murdered outside her shop with a custom cheese knife she had planned to give out at an event. Not trusting the detective, Willa feels compelled to clear her name before any lasting damage can be done to her reputation. The problem? Her investigation means potentially alienating the handful of people she’s started bonding with, including the attractive mead maker across the street.

Let’s start with the plot. Instead of our heroine returning home after a bad breakup, she decides to start over in a new town. There’s still a bad breakup, but it’s unclear how recent it was. A lot of her past is unclear timeline-wise. Anyway, her newness doesn’t stop Willa from finding the best friend who encourages her shenanigans. There are two potential love interests. Future love triangles? Probably, but I doubt it’ll be the fun kind. Of course there’s an overprotective detective. Plenty of red herrings. I admit I didn’t catch onto the murderer until later, mostly because we don’t learn anything about them until pretty much everyone else is ruled out. I honestly felt a little cheated by that, but this isn’t the first cozy to do it that way. I’m just glad it wasn’t a random person who only got mentioned once. They’re there throughout the book, just not really expanded on until super late. So, standard cozy fare with a couple of little twists.

The pacing was off. The first third was beyond slow. Like, if I had been reading it for fun, I probably would’ve given up after three chapters. It was that slow. But it picked up after a while. I think when the cheese talk finally ran its course, everything smoothed out. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about cheese, but when it’s not even interesting facts, it gets boring. But less is more. The first third of the novel was like cheese info dumps. Later on, there was still a bunch of cheese talk, but it was spread out in a way that felt natural.

Most of the characters were likeable. Willa occasionally annoyed me, but that’s just because she’s a busybody. That’s why most cozy mystery heroines annoy me. Otherwise, she was fine. I preferred Baz, Archie, and Mrs. Schultz. I would’ve loved to learn more about them. Detective Heath was a little flat, but he has potential. Same with Roman. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m saying this because I love cheese, but there could’ve been a bigger focus on character development and less on cheese.

The writing was fine. Like I said, the pacing was off and the characters were flat. But the actual words were fine. Nothing memorable. I finished it about a week ago and am already forgetting most of it. Ah well.

Ultimately, I was just meh about Cheddar Off Dead. If I come across the next book, I’ll pick it up to see if it’s any better, but I doubt I’ll actively look for it.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Two and a half, really. If you’re super into cheese and enjoy average cozies, pick it up. But you’re not missing anything if you don’t.

Abyss for Sale

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Things here are quiet and lazy. The past couple of days have been gloomy. Just generally blah. The severe weather stayed away from us, so that’s always good. But I have no idea what to ramble about. I have a tendency to mention wandering off into an abyss on Facebook when I have nothing else to do, so last week, a friend said one of my blog posts should be about my abyss, but written like one of those descriptions on Zillow (a real estate thingie). So, this’ll be a shorter post (Zillow descriptions are only 250 words? Ugh), but challenge accepted.

But first, did I show you my new glasses? Okay, now back to the description.

Here we go:

Luxurious, low maintenance abyss available for anyone seeking a secluded getaway from the hustle and bustle of life. The open floor plan allows for easy access to each feature even in the complete darkness of the void. Includes wide open space to flail around on the hardwood floors while reliving every cringe moment you’ve ever had. The standard box of doom has recently been renovated into a walk in closet of doom, perfect for plotting or simply screaming into the dark. The single bedroom offers room for a king sized bed and small sitting area, so you can decide where to lounge while staring vacantly into nothingness. An en suite offers both a jacuzzi tub and a walk in shower, so you can soak your troubles away while dwelling on that time the waiter said “enjoy your food” and you answered “you too” or stand under the scorching water to contemplate similarly important things in life. No need for a sauna as the abyss’s proximity to Hades means it easily maintains a toasty and oddly humid 106 degrees. The lack of a kitchen isn’t for everyone, but who are you kidding? You’re just going to order something in anyway. No yard means no need to spend time outside doing things like yardwork or talking to the neighbors. All of this could be yours for the low, low price of… if you have to ask, you can’t afford it! Call to schedule a private tour today.

It’s an abyss. What did you expect?

And I came in at 245 words. But seriously. This is my abyss and you can’t have it. Back to our regularly scheduled book review next week!

Fashion

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? Are you recovering from the time change? I’m not. I’m still tired and keep thinking it’s earlier than it really is. I wish they’d just pick a thing and stick with it. Ugh. But anyway, I have nothing to ramble about, so I thought I’d share some pretty clothes that have caught my eye recently. Don’t worry. I won’t be ditching my jeans and henleys/tees for this stuff. None of it would actually look good on me and some of it would probably stab me in the face if I even tried it (you’ll see what I mean). I just like looking.

1. Going back to 1992 with Dior’s Palladium Dress. It was the basis for Princess Serenity’s dress in Sailor moon. Who doesn’t want to be a princess? But it is pretty and simple and I could probably actually wear something like this. I would. But I also probably wouldn’t because I’m weird and feel stupid and self conscious in dresses.

2. Let’s go back even further to 1897 with this tea gown from House of Worth. Because apparently tea was a super fancy occasion? I don’t know. But the blue on the green is absolutely gorgeous. It was made for a Countess Greffulhe. Supposedly, she was partial to green because it contrasted so nicely with her auburn hair. She sounds kind of extra and I’m okay with that.

3. How about some pirate stuff? This one is from Silver Leaf Costumes. It’s my favorite combination of colors! I know this type of thing can get super elaborate and I love it when it does, but if I ever got into it, I’d probably stick to the simpler side. I haven’t worn a corset in years, though. But I sure do like seeing other people wear them. Gah, I miss renfests and conventions. Covid ruins everything. One day, I’ll be able to people watch again.

4. Dark couture? Kind of steampunk? Love the dark steampunk vibes Lucardis Feist created here. I told my friend we should get this pair and have a date night. She could wear the dress and I’d wear the suit. I am aware that it’s part of the wedding collection, but I don’t think her husband would approve of a wedding, so just a fancy date night! She’s into it, but unfortunately we’re poor and live too far away from each other to make it a reality. But yes. I would rock a suit.

5. These gorgeous designs by Firefly Path were inspired by the Unseelie and Seelie faerie courts. I definitely gravitate toward the Unseelie design, but you see what I mean by face stabby. Even if my head were straight, I’d probably still stab myself in the face multiple times with the branches. But they’re both fabulous and I love them even if I couldn’t actually wear them.

I could go on forever with my weird fashion tastes, but I won’t. Wouldn’t want to bore you. What kind of clothing do you like? Do you wear it or are you more into looking? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

Escaping Reality

Hello, hello! How’s everything going? Hard to believe we’re already this far into March. It actually feels like a super busy month and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because it’s the Jailbird’s (my oldest sister) birthday, so I had to do a couple of extra things for her instead of forgetting she exists like I usually do (yes, I’m a horrible sister, but I’m okay with that). Going to pick up new glasses today. But otherwise, it’s just my usual schedule. I don’t know why I feel overwhelmed. All I want to do is escape into a fantasy world. So, since I have nothing else to ramble about, let’s talk about methods of escape!

This! This is why everything is overwhelming right now.

1. Music. I went from barely listening during the day for months to blasting it just about every time I’m in the house alone. I’ve been on a Beatles, Kansas, Queen, and Buck-Tick kick lately. It’s weird because I only like two Kansas songs and a handful of Queen songs (gasp! Blasphemy, I know. Sorry Freddie). Oh, and like everyone else my age and younger, I’ve been obsessive about the Encanto soundtrack. It helps that I usually play mindless games while listening to music as loud as it will go. I can just listen and sing along and not think about anything in particular. It’s nice.

2. Reading. I actually found another series to be obsessed with already (but Simon and Baz are still my current favorite boys). The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black. I’ve had book one (The Cruel Prince) sitting in my TBR pile for like two years now, so I decided to give it a try. I figured I’d read it and move on to something else I owned, but no. I had to buy the next two books in the series and binge them. I’m currently halfway through book two (The Wicked King) and not regretting my choice to spend money at all, which is weird. And apparently there are at least two other books that are connected to the series that I will eventually talk myself into buying. Reading is an expensive habit.

3. Beta reading. It’s technically reading, but I get to be useful (I hope). What’s beta reading? It’s when you read a friend’s (or however you’re related) manuscript and offer feedback. So, not only do I get to read an awesome story, I get to offer encouragement and advice on how to make the story stronger. It’s a really helpful thing for me because 1) I get to feel like I’m actually useful to someone (you know who you are) and 2) it gets me into a revision mindset, so it’s easier to come at my own work with the editor scissors. But mostly, I get to escape into a cool story.

4. Staring into space. I basically just tell myself stories when this happens. Or I relive stupid moments that I’d rather not think about. My brain is an asshole sometimes. This usually happens while I’m trying to fall asleep or if I’m watching TV and can’t get into the show. I find it happening more often lately, but I try to shake it off. Meh.

Definitely the fourth one.

Anyhoo, how’s it going by you? How are you coping with the state of the world? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

R.I.P. Ed Baker

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Welcome to March. Are you ready for this month? I’m not, but that’s okay. Today, I just wanted to take some time to say a quick goodbye.

When I was little, I was a beggar for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Okay, that’s not what they called us, but that was our job. They had a bunch of “ambassadors” (me and other kids) whose job it was to look cute and get people to donate money to MDA for research and equipment and stuff to help people with disabilities. It was a great program when I was kid. Now, it’s more research oriented, but back then it was all about the families and helping people in need. It helped me and my parents a lot with equipment that we couldn’t afford at a time when insurance wasn’t an option for us. But I digress. MDA also introduced us to some really interesting people.

Dad, me, and Ed at Texas de Brazil in 2017.

One of those people was Ed Baker. He passed away due to Covid a few days ago. We weren’t super close, but he was one of those people who just felt like a friend no matter how often or sparingly we talked to him. He always had kind words for us and amusing stories. Whether from his days with the Jerry Lewis telethon or whatever travels he had been on, he always seemed to have a never ending number of anecdotes and memories to share. And share he did. Aside from being an amazing human being, he was also a photographer. He gifted me a picture of a torii (Japanese gate) outside a shrine from a trip he took to Japan. It’s hanging on my wall and is one of my favorite things. With the pandemic, we weren’t able to meet up with him for dinner or anything. And we didn’t reach out nearly as much as we should’ve. But Dad and I will miss Ed.

I suppose we’ll just have to get that Indian food we’ve been promising each other for years now in the next life. Rest easy, Ed.

Thoughts on THE CICADA TREE

Howdy, howdy! I hope everyone is doing okay as February comes to a close. It’s been a strange month where each day bleeds into the next without warning, but at the same time, it feels like the month is dragging. No idea why. Anyway, it’s book review time. I stepped outside my comfort zone a little bit this time with an historical fiction book. The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney was released yesterday (the 22nd) from Moonshine Cove Publishing. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

Nice cover.

The Cicada Tree follows Analeise Newell, an 11-year-old who is trying to navigate life in 1956 Georgia. Emotions run high as she struggles to figure out how everything she loves fits together: her friendship with Etta Mae, her crush on Abel Darlington, and her newfound obsession with the Mayfields. As Analeise digs into her obsession, she finds more darkness than she bargains for in that Mayfield shine she’s so attracted to. It’s all set against the backdrop of summer in Georgia when the whine of the cicadas can either lull you to sleep or drive you crazy.

I’ll be honest, this book wasn’t for me. I’m all for southern gothic and blending supernatural into regular fiction, but something about this book kept me from getting into it. I think it’s because the ages of the characters just didn’t feel right. Analeise and the rest of the kids all seemed more like teenagers than 11-year-olds. I’d go as young as 14, but honestly I kept thinking they were closer to 16 or so. Yes, I realize that younger kids can be stupidly vicious too, but the vocabulary and most of the actions just felt older. There were a few scenes where I thought “okay, these are younger kids,” but they were few and far between.

The fact that the book was written in first person from Analeise’s perspective didn’t help with the age issue. If we’re that close to a character, I expect the narrative voice to fit the age of the character, but it didn’t. Maybe the story is being told from grown-Analeise’s perspective. If that’s the case, fine. But there was nothing to suggest that in the book. At least not the version I had access to. I saw somewhere that the final version is supposed to have an epilogue, so maybe it becomes clearer in there.

Actually, an epilogue would be really helpful because the ending left things super vague and not even in a “create your own ending” kind of way. It was completely unsatisfying. Like, I might look for it at my library just to see if anything is cleared up in the final version. I’m not tempted enough to buy it, but I’ll definitely check the library system for it.

The writing itself was a little purple for me. It wasn’t bad by any means, just a tad overly descriptive for my tastes. And I normally talk about the characters, but I had zero sympathy for any of them, except maybe Abel. He was an okay kid. Etta Mae was too angelic. Everyone else was too selfish for me to get behind.

Ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of The Cicada Tree. Maybe I’ll like it a little better if I see the epilogue, but I doubt it. There was too much I didn’t care for. If I come across something else by Gwaltney, I’d look at it because the writing was okay, but I won’t be searching for anything.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. If you’re into southern gothic and are interested in the premise, give it a shot. If not, you’re not missing anything.

Thoughts on BRIGHT RUINED THINGS

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this bright and beautiful day? I know you’re all probably giving me a weird look because it’s not the last Wednesday of the month, but somehow I ended up with two books to review this time. It happens. This one was actually due out last year, but got pushed back, so yeah. An extra review! Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is heavily influenced (but I wouldn’t call it a retelling) by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was released February 15th from Wednesday Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press). 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!

Nice cover.

Bright Ruined Things follows Mae, an orphan who has spent her entire life on the Prosper’s island, as she struggles to find her place in the world. Not being a true part of the family, she has no claim to the island once she comes of age. But all she’s ever wanted was to belong. And to learn magic. However, the Prospers hide dark secrets that Mae isn’t counting on. What happens when she begins to unravel the lies? Is all of the beauty and wealth worth it? Mae will have to decide for herself.

So, this is a YA (young adult) fantasy. There’s magic and death and betrayal and secrets and love and all of that good stuff. It sounded fun, but I didn’t have high hopes for it going in. It started a little slow, but the momentum picked up a lot after the first few chapters and I ended up really enjoying it. A lot of it was predictable, but there were enough twists to keep me entertained. I had the basics of the plot figured out early on, but I wasn’t entirely sure of the “how” of everything, so that helped keep my interest going.

Mostly though, I loved the characters. I was team Ivo from the get-go. Screw everyone else. I’d read an entire book just about him. Mae was interesting and relatable until she decided to go rogue and stab everyone in the back. I get it as a plot device, but it felt forced and out of character for her. Coco and Miles were both great in their own ways even though they acted like dipshits for a while. But it was in character for them and they grew into decent people, so I forgave them. And I know I shouldn’t say it, but I actually liked Alasdair. He was a complete and utter douchenozzle, but he owned it. Never tried to be something he wasn’t. I appreciate that.

Really, my only complaint with this story was the very end. I don’t care for vague endings unless I know a second book is coming. Is he there? Isn’t he? It’s all up to the reader’s imagination! Ooo… no. If I wanted to write an ending to someone’s story, I’d go finish one of the three I’m currently working on. Just let me know if the dude gets the ending he deserves. But that’s just me. Some people like that vague maybe/maybe not stuff. I’m just hoping it’s bait for a second book.

The writing itself was nice. Things flowed pretty well and all of the pertinent information felt like it was spread out naturally in the story. At least I don’t recall any huge infodumps, so that’s always good. It ended up being a quick and fun read.

Ultimately, Bright Ruined Things was great. I had way more fun with it than I was expecting to, anyway. If there’s a follow up, I’ll definitely pick it up. And if I come across Cohoe’s other work, I’ll be sure to take a peek.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely recommend picking it up if you’re into YA fantasy. Even if you’re not, it’s still worth a look.