Monday, January 31, 2022
Friday, January 28, 2022
Welcome to the first “I Listened To” post of 2022. Today, I’m going to delve into my thoughts about Tierra Whack’s most recent music, a series of Eps with three songs each that were released in December 2021. They’re called Rap?, Pop?, and R&B?.
Tierra Whack is one of those artists that I return to time and time again. Her music is always so creative, and her vocals are a distinctive part of what makes her work so memorable. So once I started listening to the Eps, I went through all three in one sitting.
Rap?, Pop?, and R&B? have all the characteristics—in sound and stylish vibe—of what I’ve come to expect from Whack’s music. Here though, that sound was mixed with the influence of the genre associated with the Ep titles. Some of my top favorite songs from them include: Millions, Stand Up, Body of Water, and Heaven.
All in all, in terms of music, this was a great way to start the year. And I’m excited to see what the rest of 2022 has in store.
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Author: Janice Hallett
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Mystery; Thriller
Publisher/Publication Date: Atria Books; January 25, 2022
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Synopsis from Goodreads...
This murder mystery follows a community rallying around a sick child—but when escalating lies lead to a dead body, everyone is a suspect.
The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals for an Arthur Miller play, when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Haywood and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their fellow castmates rally to raise the money to give her a chance at survival. But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. New actress Sam, a former NGO worker, raises doubts. But are her suspicions justified? Or does she have a history with the doctor involved? As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head the night of the dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that a killer may still be on the loose.
A wholly modern take on the epistolary novel, The Appeal is a debut perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Lucy Foley.
When I got approved for The Appeal by Janice Hallett, I’ll admit, I could barely contain my excitement. With its epistolary form, it’s one of my most anticipated mystery/thriller releases of 2022. The Appeal was a page turner, and I enjoyed so much about this story. It had a cast of thoroughly unlikable characters, but it was the kind of story that made me want to read till the end. The driving force behind it, for me, was to see who did what, who knew, and when they knew it. The reveal was a big one. And Hallett excelled at laying down the clues, telling us who the players were, and how it all happened.
The Appeal tells the story of a mystery centered on a sick child and a family’s desperate race against time to fundraise enough to obtain an unapproved treatment that could help her condition. It’s centered on a local theater group called The Fairway Players and the people most closely associated with their latest production. The further I got in the story, the more it was apparent that there was something darker lurking under what first appeared to be a warm, welcoming, and sunshiny community. It was beyond just cattiness and friendly competition between friends, family, and new acquaintances. The theater group was built around one family, the Haywoods, and their cliquish social circle. It was cut-throat, and you were either in or out. It was to the point where fundraising for a good cause seemed to become a competition between who could be the most supportive for the Haywoods as well as getting the best number of donations for the appeal.
Since it’s told in the form of letters, newspaper clippings, emails, and text messages among others, it reads like a case study because it technically is. It’s pretty clear that the above mentioned things were assembled prior to the start, and I actually like the occasional story that gets told in this manner. I did get more of a mystery than the high tension of a thriller—due to the messages offering a limited view of the characters—but the story was interesting. My favorite bits were in the later half where there was more of Olufemi Hassan and Charlotte Holroyd’s comments regarding the case.
All that to say, The Appeal was an excellent mystery.
A former magazine editor and award-winning journalist, Janice has written speeches and articles for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. In screenwriting, Janice's first feature film RETREAT was released by Sony Pictures (co-written and directed by Carl Tibbetts) which starred Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell. Janice’s stage plays have been performed at Theatre503, The White Bear, Hen & Chickens and TheatreN16. She was also one of six female playwrights selected by All The Rage Theatre for its Seize The Stage festival at Rich Mix. Her play NETHERBARD has twice been performed by Budding Rose Productions. Janice has had television scripts in development with Slim Film & TV and with Retort (part of FreemantleMedia). Her sitcom TWO LADIES was performed at the Museum of Comedy in June 2019. Janice was selected for the Triforce Creative Network year-long mentoring scheme and featured on the BBC New Talent Hotlist. She won Best New Screenplay in the 2014 British Independent Film Festival.
Janice's debut novel, THE APPEAL, published by Viper (Serpent's Tail) in January 2021.
Monday, January 24, 2022
Friday, January 21, 2022
Welcome. Today, I want to talk about my most anticipated books and music of 2022, as well as some of the other titles I want to get to before the year is over.
The middle grade horror include: Empty Smiles by Katherine Arden, Camp Scare by Delilah S. Dawson, and The Girl in the Lake by India Hill Brown. Other books: A Thousand Steps into Night by Tracie Chee, The Couple At Number 9 by Clair Douglas, the next volume of The Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, and The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah. The classic I want to read this year is The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The series I want to finish in 2022 are The Folk of the Air by Holly Black and Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizal.
There are a couple of albums I’m waiting for this year. Some of the ones I’ve included here have already come out, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet.
In January: Icy Season by Saweetie (January 7), Caprisongs by FKA Twigs (January 14), The Gods We Can Touch by Aurora (January 21), and Motordrome by MO (January 28).
In March: Crash by Charli XCX (March 18).
Other releases with details to come: Kimbra’s fourth album, album by Kim Petras, Rina Sawayama's 2nd album.
So that’s what I’m currently waiting for this year. And, as always, this list will evolve as the year goes on. What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
My break from blogging is over. I hope everyone had a great New Year. I enjoyed my time off, but I’m ready to try and get back into the swing of things. Posts will be kind of sporadic for a few weeks, and Short Stories is still on hold this month while I prepare February’s edition. So I thought I would start the year with a chatty catchup type of thing, which I rarely do on the blog.
Over my break, I did a lot less reading than I thought I would. Instead, I spent way too much time making miniature clay animals (many hedgehogs, two penguins, a possum, an owl, and all the other ones I haven’t had the chance to paint yet). I originally started the project with the intention of making Christmas gifts (and those ones aren’t pictured here), and I discovered that I really like making tiny animals. The process was time consuming, and so it remains an ongoing activity on my end. I also made some ornaments based off of a DIY project I saw in a Michaels newsletter in early December.
I didn’t try many new recipes this year. Although, Emmymade, a Youtube channel I follow, made a master cookie recipe. You can find the video HERE. Master Cookie recipes have been on my baking list for the longest time. And, during December, I wanted to make some thumbprint cookies. I figured it was a good time (and a good excuse) to see whether or not I liked the way the base dough baked.
It’s a fantastic cookie on its own, but with the jam it was absolute delicious. The texture is crisp on the outside but soft on the inside, and the taste is lightly sweet and reminded me of a very rich shortbread cookie.
As mentioned on the recipe, there are other flavor combinations for this dough: peanut butter, chocolate, etc. I eventually want to try them all.
As I mentioned above, I did very little reading. But I did get to Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, two books that were delightful reads for vastly different reason. I recommend both.
Animal Crossing New Horizons. There's so much to do in the game with the 2.0 update and the Happy Home Paradise DLC. I'm having way too much fun decorating houses, but as I told Adri before the Animal Crossing Nintendo Direct, I had my fingers crossed that Happy Home Decorator would be ported for the Switch in some form. I literally got what I wished for.
So, I’m back, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead. Up next, I’ll do my most anticipated 2022 books and music. So, keep an eye out for that. Happy reading!
Monday, January 17, 2022
Friday, January 14, 2022
Author: Sue Lynn Tan
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Voyager January 11, 2022
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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor's son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
From the second I heard about Daughter of the Moon Goddess, I knew it was going to be a book I was definitely going to read. I’m not overly familiar with the legend of Chang’e, but I do love stories that take myths/folklore/history and retell or give an alternative look at them in interesting ways.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess was as excellent a story as I thought it would be. There was a lot going on in this book: romance, action, and a desperate and also deeply personal quest. It was hopeful but also bittersweet at times with secrets and betrayal seemingly hidden everywhere. And what a marvelous story it was!
Xingyin is the daughter of the Moon Goddess. She was sheltered from the world beyond the moon, and that wasn’t without good reason either. With the way the story was told, as the reader, I was dropped into the world alongside the character as she embarked on her journey. There was no easy way for her, and the task ahead of her seemed almost impossible to accomplish under the circumstances. I admired Xingyin’s determination and her compassion—which were often tested—as she navigated a world filled with incredibly powerful immortals and the dangerous conflicts that arose between them.
The characters, by and large, were one of my favorite aspects about the story. I enjoyed reading about the hard-won bonds that Xingyin forged with the secondary characters, which heightened the impact—the gravity—of certain scenes. Tan did not hold back with the emotional punches, and I couldn’t help but hope everything would work out for my favorite characters. I was very invested in the story, and I couldn’t get to the end fast enough.
The setting was also really good. The places were detailed: plenty of intricate and vivid descriptions of food, dress, and history.
I had so much fun reading Daughter of the Moon Goddess. It’s the first of a duology, so I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Sue Lynn Tan writes fantasy inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with as a child. Born in Malaysia, she studied in London and France, before settling in Hong Kong with her family. Her love for stories began with a gift from her father, her first compilation of fairytales from around the world. After devouring every fable she could find in the library, she discovered fantasy books – spending much of her childhood lost in magical worlds. When not writing or reading, she enjoys exploring the hills and reservoirs of Hong Kong, the temples, beaches and narrow winding streets here. Her debut, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, will be published by Harper Voyager in early 2022, with a sequel to come. It is an enchanting fantasy of love and family, immortals and magic – inspired by the beloved Chinese legend of Chang’e flying to the moon upon taking the elixir of immortality.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Series: A Magical Bookshop Mystery #5
Author: Amanda Flower
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Crooked Lane Books; January 11, 2022
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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Christmas is coming to the Western New York village of Cascade Springs, and so is the long-awaited wedding of Charming Books proprietor Violet Waverly and police chief David Rainwater. Grandma Daisy and Violet's best friend, Sadie, go all out to make the nuptials the event of the season--whether Violet likes it or not. But the reception becomes memorable for all the wrong reasons when a woman's dead body floats by on the frigid Niagara River. Violet is shocked to recognize the deceased as a mysterious woman who visited Charming Books two days before the wedding, toting a rare first edition of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Well aware that a mint condition copy could be worth more than $14,000, Violet told the woman she would have to have the book appraised before she could consider buying it. Most displeased, the woman tucked the precious tome under her arm and stormed out of the shop. Now she's dead, and an enigmatic message scrawled in pen upon her palm reads, "They stole my book." It's a confounding case, indeed. But fortunately, Violet can draw on the resources of her bookshop's magical consciousness, which communicates clues to Violet via quotes from Walden. With Emerson the tuxedo cat and Faulkner the crow at her side, Violet sets out to recover the priceless book by solving a murder most transcendental.
From the handful of cozy mysteries I’ve read this year, usually the story gives our intrepid sleuths some time to breath before—or at least during—their big wedding day. Not so in the case of Crimes and Covers by Amanda Flower. Amidst the wedding joy, an incident that first appeared to be an accident unfolded into a perplexing mystery concerning a signed first edition of Walden by Henry Thoreau.
There was a lot I liked about the story. The sleuthing aspects were good, considering how unusual the case initially appeared to be. I really didn’t know for a while, since the clues supported each scenario. Was it an accident? Or was it something more nefarious? With a book that was worth as much as the copy of Walden was, the list of possibilities was long.
Cascade Springs was yet another small town with a close-knit community. Since the story was set around Christmas, the setting was wintery, though I wouldn’t call this a holiday book. The holiday season was just in the background for much of the story. The focus remained on the mystery and books.
The characters were pretty good here too. I liked Violet’s determination to figure out what happened, as well as her sense of duty toward Charming Books and its tree. The shop was part of her family’s history, and with their care, the place developed an “essence.” I adored the magical aspects of the story, since it deviated a little from what I’ve come across before—with the bookstore being magical rather than Violet. Plus, there was a cat with a habit of escaping the store and a crow that liked to make literary quotes. I have to say that I enjoyed their antics, for the sometimes comedic moments that came from of it.
All-in-all, Crimes and Covers was a great story.
Amanda Flower, a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. In addition to being an author, Amanda is librarian in Northeast Ohio.