Sunday, October 31, 2021

Thought Corner: Halloween Art #2


Breana’s comments: Hello, hi, and welcome to the second and last part of the ultra-mini art challenge Adri and I are doing in the month of October. It’s also the 31st. So, Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a good day, and now on to today’s theme.

Today’s prompt: Pumpkin (or Jack-O-Lantern), jelly bean, and or sour gummy worm dinner


Breana’s comments: I knew what I wanted to do the second we decided on this one. My inspiration for it was a steak dinner. I wanted to incorporate all three options onto the platter. My two favorite shades of blue colored pencils also make an appearance on this one.


Adri’s comments:
I think I was hungry when we did this one. My first thought was stuffed bell peppers and canned cranberry sauce. So, for dinner I chose Jelly bean stuffed pumpkin with a side of gummy worms and sour gummy worm sauce. I wanted this to be murkier and somewhat moody, so I planned to mix colors with gray. But, in the end, I ended up with something brighter. And yes, more gold acrylic.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Review: Dark Waters by Katherine Arden

Title: Dark Waters
Series: Small Spaces #3
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; August 10, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces and Dead Voices.

Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he'll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they've steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie's dad and Coco's mom plan a "fun" boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven't had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn't just any island though. It's hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won't survive long.


After rereading the first two books in the series, I was more than ready to dive into Dark Waters. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, and it more than lives up to the hype.

Dark Waters felt much shorter than the previous books in the series, but it does a lot with the space it had.

It’s now spring in East Evansburg, and the trio—Ollie, Brian, and Coco—set out for a weekend on a boat. The weather was rainy but described as being sunny at points. It’s spring, unlike the brisk fall in Small Spaces and the isolation of the winter scenery of Dead Voices. So, it seemed to be the perfect setup for a fun time, but it quickly spiraled into another entertaining but firmly haunting adventure.

The characters, as always, are good. The friendship that I liked so much from Dead Voices seemed to be almost strained. There was trust, but there was also the addition of secrets. Ollie, for one thing, felt far more distant than before.

Dark Waters also takes a look at some of the other characters from the series that didn’t have a prominent role in Dead Voices. The Smiling Man remains devious and dangerous, and Dark Waters shined a light on the way the terrifying “games”—and the people who play them, willingly or not—have also impacted others. It was kind of like a ripple effect: toss a stone in a lake and see how far little waves go. The games are kind of like that, but the consequences have much higher costs.

That is to say: the story was good. The stakes have never been higher, and the ending was probably the biggest cliffhanger of the series by far. I won’t say anything more on it, but I need the next book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

ARC Review: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico

Title: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder
Series: Catering Hall Mystery #3
Author: Maria DiRico
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Kensington Publishing; October 26, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Astoria, Queens, is decorated within an inch of its life for the Christmas season, and Mia Carina is juggling her job at the Belle View catering hall with a case of murder...

Mia's busy with a full schedule of events at the family business--among them an over-the-top Nativity-themed first birthday party and a Sweet Sixteen for a teen drama queen. But her personal life is even more challenging. Her estranged mother has returned--and her lifelong friend Jamie has discovered a shocking secret about his past. He's so angry that he starts hanging out with Lorenzo, who claims to be his long-lost brother--even after it becomes clear that Lorenzo's story is as fake as a plastic Christmas tree. Then a body turns up among the elves in a Santa's-workshop lawn display, and amateur sleuth Mia has a buffet of suspects to choose from. Amid the holiday celebrations, she intends to find out who's the guilty party...

After a recent DNF, I was looking for a different cozy mystery to read—and to get back on track with—and so I settled on It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico. It’s a little earlier than I would typically pick up a holiday themed book (which I’m more inclined to do during November and December), but after reading the synopsis I couldn’t resist. This is the third book in the Catering Hall series, and it turned out to be the perfect combination of whodunit murder mystery, family drama, and holiday mayhem.

Right from the beginning, DiRico set up a festive atmosphere with descriptions of the snow and the holiday decorations—alongside the sometimes heated competition between the different blocks and neighbors, to see who has the best light display. I enjoyed the urban setting, as well as the catering hall end of the story. That is to say: the book was just good. The buildup to the introduction of the mystery has to be one of my favorites. The main players were tactfully introduced alongside the opening conflict and reoccurring characters in the series. And, overall, it was done well. Coupled with the sleuthing portions of the story and the amount of high stakes action, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder had plenty to offer.

Beside the holiday festivities and overall mystery, the other highlights were the characters. They were exceptionally good, and there were a lot of big personalities. One of my favorite aspects of the story was the emphasis on family, in particular Mia and her relatives. They were well-written, and despite their faults and disagreements, there was no question about the close bond they shared. I could also say the same about the secondary characters. They were just as great as Mia, and for a few of them they often felt like extended members of the MCs family.

So while it’s not quite the winter holiday rush just yet, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder was an excellent story and great preamble to the upcoming season’s offerings on the cozy mystery front.

About the author...
Maria DiRico (the pen name of award-winning author Ellen Byron) was born in Queens, New York, and raised in Queens and Westchester County. She is first-generation Italian American on her mother’s side. On her father’s side, her grandfather was a low-level Jewish mobster who disappeared in 1933 under mysterious circumstances. While growing up in Queens, Maria/Ellen's cousins ran the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls. As Ellen Byron, her Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Her new Catering Hall Mystery series, written as Maria DiRico, launched with Here Comes the Body, and was inspired by her real life. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Kensington Publishing) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, October 25, 2021

Music Monday Halloween Edition: Qveen Herby, Alewya, Teezo Touchdown, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Whodini, Christina Aguilera, and Fifth Harmony

 

Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: It's October 25th. So it's time for the Halloween edition of Music Monday! Today, my co-bloggers and I are talking about the music we've been listening to at the height of spooky season.

My picks this week come from Qveen Herby's Halloqveen EP. I initially knew nothing about its release, but it was a welcome surprise since I'm always looking for more Halloween themed music to add to my playlist. The first is Bats in the Belfry. And my second pick is Abracadabra.


Adri: I decided to pick my favorite newer music video that has a darker atmosphere. And that is Spirit_X by Alewya.


The video for my second pick isn't dark. I'm not sure if I can say creepy even. Maybe a little unsettling. I love his voice though. It's I'm Just Fan by Teezo Touchdown.


Andrea: My picks for this week's Music Monday Halloween Party are A Nightmare On My Street by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Haunted House of Rock by Whodini, Haunted Heart by Christina Aguilera, and I'm In Love With A Monster by Fifth Harmony. Enjoy the party. Also, have an amazing and safe Halloween!




Halloween is right around the corner. What spooky music are you listening to this week?

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Friday 56 (208) & Book Beginnings: Dark Waters by Katherine Arden

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


Synopsis from Goodreads...
New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces and Dead Voices.

Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he'll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they've steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie's dad and Coco's mom plan a "fun" boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven't had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn't just any island though. It's hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won't survive long.



Beginning: "Spring in East Evansburg, and the rain poured down like someone had turned on a hose in the sky."

56: "In the second of confusion that followed, they heard Mr. Dimmond's voice from he wheel."


Comments: This is a series that keeps getting better and better. Dark Waters was just good. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Thought Corner: Dead Voices by Katherine Arden (Reread)

Why hello there. It’s October 20th, and today I’m continuing my reread of the first two books of the Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden. The goal is to refresh my memory of the books before reading Dark Waters, the third installment of the series.

I had a great reading experience with my Small Spaces reread—which I detailed HERE—and was eager to dive into the second book.

A bit of history…

I read Dead Voices not long after Small Spaces, as I started the series a few months shy of when the second book was due to release. As a consequence, I read them both in 2019, and I did go and check my Goodreads to be sure I had the dates right. Of the two, I recalled the least about Dead Voices. I knew it was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and that it had something to do with a mountain, and an isolated ski resort during a winter storm. It was definitely time for a reread.

The rundown…

Small Spaces ends at a place of so much potential. This was due to a couple of unresolved mysteries and an offhanded comment made by the smiling man. And Dead Voices is a fitting sequel for it. The perspective branches out beyond just Ollie’s, to Coco’s too, though the trio is together again and headed off to a vacation at a ski resort on Mount Hemlock that’s yet to open to the public. It’s the perfect sort of isolated set up to get the story rolling toward the inevitably creepy adventure later on. It was all thanks to a bit of luck (?) on Ollie’s dad’s part, though given the context of the series, coincidences are suspicious.

Since this was the second book, there was less time spent introducing the characters, though the story does do a little recap of the events of Small Spaces in an abbreviated fashion. I would still read the books in order though. And getting the second perspective afforded another look at the story outside of Ollie’s view of it, as well as more information about Coco. There was more about her fears and her hobbies and other interests.

Much like Small Spaces, I came away with a greater appreciation for the story, the characters, and the detailed world. It felt lived in, with its own stories within the story—think urban legends, local ghost stories, and unsolved disappearances—that were wrapped up with the clues about the history of the area and the ski resort.

A highlight of the book was the friendship between Ollie, Coco, and Brian. It was a bond that was tested. But there was never any doubt that the three were great friends. They trusted each other. And they often tended to try and stick together to solve their problems, which was just great to see.

Let’s get spooky…

Whether it’s just an ordinary place filled with interesting items, or a bona fide haunting, I love a good house story. These stories can include other places besides homes, of course. But some of my favorites centered on the people while also exploring the places as their own sort of characters—as well as sometimes unraveling a mystery of what haunts the walls. The ski resort finds itself somewhere in there with its long and tragic history. Its story—and that of the people who once and currently know it—was just as relevant as that of Ollie, Coco, and Brian.

Games really took a high stakes and terrifying twist in Dead Voices, where being too trusting and ignoring or misinterpreting warnings could have consequences. It was like a game of chess at times, with the trio having to trust in their skills and in each other. It was far from fun for the characters, but it was such a good story.

In conclusion…

I’m glad I did this reread. I’m prepared for Dark Waters, and I look forward to reading it soon. Until then, happy reading!


Monday, October 18, 2021

Music Monday (177): Kim Petras, India Arie, Leela James

  Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I really like this song by Kim Petras. It's called Future Starts Now. Give it a listen! 


Andrea: Hi All! This week I'm listening to Ready For LoveSteady Love by India Arie and Fall For You by Leela James.




As always, have an amazing week!


What are you listening to this week?



Sunday, October 17, 2021

Thought Corner: I Watched Nightbooks (2021)

Released on September 15, 2021, Nightbooks (Netflix, 2021), is a dark fantasy film that follows Alex Mosher (played by Winslow Fegley), after he inadvertently finds himself trapped in the apartment of a witch and forced to tell scary stories each night. It was a race against time. It was an interesting set up, and I approached the movie with an open mind, since I wasn’t familiar with the book it’s based on. But I was really excited for it, based on the trailer.

I really enjoyed this movie, I was surprised by the direction they went with it. Much of what Alex’s day-to-day life was like was a mystery. It was due to the start of the movie. In the beginning, we don’t spend much time with Alex or his parents in his ordinary environment. Instead, Nightbooks offers up a small but tantalizing offering, enough to get the viewer interested in what could have possibly happened to cause Alex to tear posters from his walls and shove books into his backpack before leaving in a hurry. The questions of “why” is part of what propels the narrative forward and provided another mystery outside of the apartment and the witch.

From there, the most threatening and magical aspects of Nightbooks were quick to be known. Characters introductions were sort of brief, but it was well acted. Natacha, the witch, is played by Krysten Ritter. She was menacing, and her motivation was largely unknown for a long time. Given that the setting was limited to the confines of the apartment’s many but strange rooms, there was only one other prominent character besides the cat. Yazmin, played by Lidya Jewett, was a highlight of Nightbooks.

The movie had a far moodier atmosphere and more horror/jump scare instances than I thought it would have. There was danger, but despite the brooding tone, there was still an element of whimsy and a lot of Grimm’s Fairy Tales references. I also enjoyed how the movie told stories within the story, the titular Nightbooks. Those scenes were fantastic.

The ending, while a satisfying conclusion for Alex and Yazmin, ultimately leaves room for another movie. I would definitely watch it.

All-in-all, Nightbooks was a fun film. It had the kind of spooky viewing experience perfect for October. And if you saw Netflix’s A Babysitters Guide to Monster Hunting, released October of 2020, then this one is a must watch.


Check out the Nightbooks trailer...
 


Friday, October 15, 2021

The Friday 56 (207) & Book Beginnings: Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


Synopsis from Goodreads...
Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie's watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE. With Mr. Voland's help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted. Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.


Beginning: "Snow and road salt flew up from their tires as they got on the highway heading north."

56: "Mr. Adler popped back in from the kitchen. A few yards away, Mrs. Wilson and Coco's mom were attacking the fireplace with mops and shovels and buckets."


Comments: I'm done with my reread of Small Spaces and Dead Voices, and I'm excited to finally start Dark Waters. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Thought Corner: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (Reread)


Dark Waters was finally released in August. It’s been a few years since I read the first two books, and to prepare for it, I decided to do a reread of Small Spaces and Dead Voices. I figured there was no better time to do it than in October.

A bit of history…

When I picked up the series, I originally read them from the library. It’s been one of my backburner goals to add to my collection of Arden books, and since I liked the series so much, I knew I would eventually end up with copies for my shelf. I didn’t get around to it until August of 2021. But better late than never, right? So it’s been quite some time since I read Small Spaces.

The rundown…


Small Spaces is one of my favorite books, and I wanted to see if my memory of what the story was is actually how it reads. I remember having a lukewarm reaction to the first few chapters. However, upon my reread, I have a much better appreciation for the characters and details. I also noticed how atmospheric the story is. The October scenery in the town, Evansburg, fit well with the earlier chapters, which—initially—seemed quite ordinary, if not a touch eerie with the title incorporated into a warning for Olivia “Ollie” Adler.

In the beginning, Ollie comes off as kind of brash, but I get what’s being portrayed here. I picked up on all the little clues sprinkled in about her character (some of which I missed or just forgot about), and I found her actions—like quitting her clubs and pulling away from people who were just trying to reach out to her—to be refreshingly frank for such a tough topic, but handled in a way that would fit for the target audience. There’s so much I could say about Ollie, but since it’s not alluded to in the synopsis, it would be massive spoiler.

Let’s get spooky….

One of the places where Small Spaces shines is how it creates its own local legends, and ties them into the current spooky happening in the story. Arden submersed the characters in situations where the past (which couldn’t rest both literally and figuratively) and the present collided. The story within the story, also titled Small Spaces, almost acted like a bridge. It was part memoir and part cautionary tale, which also contained some of the much needed answers to the big mystery of the book.

The scares are unique, to say the least. “The world behind the mist,” with the smiling man and his scarecrows, could be downright terrifying. And one of the best parts was how Ollie, Coco, and Brian navigated these challenges while having to face their own fears during a seemingly impossible situation.

In conclusion…

Small Spaces is still one of my favorite stories, and it’s a great read for this time of year. I came away from my second foray into this story with a greater appreciation for it. And now, I’m looking forward to my reread of Dead Voices. Until next time, happy reading!



Monday, October 11, 2021

Music Monday (176): Mariah the Scientist, Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Elton John, & Dua Lipa

 Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I've been listening to music by Mariah the Scientist. One of my favorite songs is All For Me.


Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to some new music by familiar artists. I was surprised to find that The Temptations who are known for hits such as My Girl  (Lyric video featured below) & Papa Was A Rolling Stone are celebrating their 60th anniversary. I'm so excited that The Temptations have teamed up with Smokey Robinson to bring us their new song, Is It Gonna Be Yes or No. Elton John known for  a host of great songs including  I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues also has new music on the Horizon.  Elton John  & Dua Lipa's new release is Cold Heart (PNAU Remix). I love the sound of  both groups' collaborations and would love to know your thoughts below. As Always, thanks for visiting Our Thoughts Precisely. Have an amazing week!






What are you listening to this week?



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