Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween & #Peachtober 2023!

It’s October 31st. So first and foremost, Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a great day. Now onto the bulk of today’s post.

Last year, I did an art challenge on Instagram through the month of October. However, this year I decided to change the way I participated in #Peachtober. I did do most of the 2023 prompt list. The main change was I didn’t post to social media and instead focused on making a single piece of art. So, for today’s Halloween post, I’m going to delve into my process. For the prompt list and the specifics about the materials I used see the notes section at the bottom of the post.

Some sketches (Right and left image)….

When the prompt list was released, I immediately started sketching and thinking about what medium I wanted to use. Last year, I went with colored pencil (Prismacolor Premier); this time I wasn’t as sure and considered acrylic paint—one of my favorite mediums—or a combination of markers and colored pencil. That, like my original idea, changed as I hammered out the details of what I was going to be doing.

Another sketch (Image on the right)….

So, what was I planning? Well my initial idea was a series of bottles for each prompt, but that was when I thought I would post almost every day to social media. Even during the early stages of developing that idea, the more I sketched the more my original train of thought turned toward what would eventually be my main source of inspiration: cabinets of curiosities. Not the Netflix TV show, but the actual concept of the thing. It allowed me to also incorporate (and organize) elements of my initial idea—with the various jars, bottles, and displays. Principally it gave me better direction with how I wanted to arrange everything on the page, especially as I moved farther from separate pieces and toward a single painting.

Here’s what the piece ended up looking like….

Painting process was pretty straight forward and took about four dedicated sessions across as many days. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result.

So, once again, Happy Halloween and thanks for reading!

List of materials used:
  • Canson Watercolor Paper 9in x12in; 140 lb/300g
  • Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paint
  • Sketchbook
  • 0.7mm mechanical pencil
#Peachtober2023 Prompt List created by @furrylittlepeach **(The crossed out prompts are ones I decided to skip, simply because I couldn’t find a way to work them into the painting in a way I liked.)**
1.Bee / 2.Cosmos/  3.Sweet/ 4.Grub/ 5.Sprig/ 6.Eye/ 7.Crater
8.Dream/ 9.Blue/ 10.Citrus/ 11.Pencil/ 12.Nest/ 13.Ship/ 14.Garden 
15.Weather/ 16.Sidekick/ 17.Blush/ 18.Snooze/ 19.Candle/ 20.Bulb/ 21.Slingshot
22.Tunnel/ 23.Message/ 24.Wand/ 25.Coral/ 26.Ladybug/ 27.Pond/ 28.Chomp
29.Float/ 30.Moss/ 31.Spooky

Combined prompts: Float & Spooky; Tunnel and Grub; Garden & Ladybug; Nest & Blue 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Music Monday Halloween Edition: The Dickies, Allie X, Kris Bowers, Calmed by Nature...


  • 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 that time of year again, the thirtieth of October, so it's time for our annual Halloween Edition of Music Monday! My pick is Magoomba by The Dickies. Youtube finally added the bands music from Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and this song feels fitting with its clown/circus theme.  

My second pick is Black Eye by Allie X. It was released earlier this month, and I love the whole vibe of it--including the visuals for the music video.

Adri: My pick today is this Halloween Party Ambience... video by Calmed by Nature. It's quickly become my favorite. 

Andrea: This week I'm listening to Don't Leave After Midnight and Grim Grinning Ghosts (Dance Party) by Kris Bowers. I discovered both songs when I watched Haunted Mansion 2023, and I thought these songs were fitting for the season. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

What are you going to be listening to on Halloween?

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Short Stories I Read In September

It’s the twenty-ninth of October. So it’s time to talk about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in September.

Simmered in Their Wealth Like the Richest of Sauces by Jo Miles (Lightspeed Magazine; September 2023; Issue 160)

Simmered in Their Wealth Like the Richest of Sauces by Jo Miles is the kind of fantasy story with a somewhat nested narrative that was also heavy with social commentary. Told from the perspective of a dragon, the subject was capitalism with a focus on the greed of the rich. It was essentially epitomized by the character named Dennis Knight, who had seemingly done everything—from game hunting, to deep sea diving, and even space flight. But this was a story about greed, he wanted more and more and more, and you can pretty much guess what kind of consequences are going to happen. But, generally, this was a good story and one I enjoyed. The choice of narrator was excellent, especially with the dragon’s analogies about Dennis Knight and how greed is greed no matter if it’s the medieval age or the present.

The Tale of Clancy the Scrivener by Ramsey Shehadeh (Tor.com; September 20, 2023)

The next one I checked out was The Tale of Clancy the Scrivener by Ramsey Shehadeh, a short story set in a post-apocalyptic society with a touch of horror via a plague with strange (almost fantasy-esque) effects. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything from this particular genre, but I enjoyed so much about it. The narrator was the titular Clancy. I liked his perspective for his frequent moments of reminiscing—about a world lost to the apocalypse—as well as his job at the scriptorium and his interactions with Pricilla, an orphan. The society he lived in was a strict and relatively dangerous one—i.e. the harsh punishment for infractions and what was expected to be recorded by the scribes and what was to be excluded—which is fairly typical for dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories. However, I liked the author’s approach to it. And what was a highlight was how much of the story was permeated by this a strange and horrifying atmosphere, between moments that felt very day-to-day with pop culture references.

**From time to time, I’m going to include what I’ve read from The Book of Witches edited by Jonathan Strahan and illustrated by Alyssa Winans. As a disclaimer: I won a hardcover of the book from the publisher, but this in no way affects my views about the stories.**

Met Swallow by Cassandra Khaw (The Book of Witches
 edited by Jonathan Strahan and illustrated by Alyssa Winans)

I’ve seen Cassandra Khaw’s writings around for some years now, but I never got to those stories. So when I saw Met Swallow in the table of contents, I was very excited to see what it would be like. Met Swallow is a horror-tinged short story about a fox inhabiting the skin (and the life) of a deceased witch named Amaranth. This was quite an intense little tale with a number of smart reveals and details about the life the fox had stepped into. From the beginning to the very last word, there was an underlying horror to the whole thing. All-in-all, it was a very good story.

The Nine Jars of Nukulu by Tobi Ogundiran (The Book of Witches edited by Jonathan Strahan and illustrated by Alyssa Winans )

I liked The Nine Jars of Nukulu just as much as Met Swallow. This one also had some horror imagery. At its core, though, it was a about a father and daughter as well as about the lengths someone would go to obtain power regardless of who was betrayed or hurt in the process. Sura’s perspective was full of moments of unease, and the ending brought a satisfying conclusion to the various aspects of The Nine Jars of Nukulu.

From around the web…

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Fatal Folio by Elizabeth Penney

Title: The Fatal Folio
Series: The Cambridge Bookshop Series #3
Author: Elizabeth Penney
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Paperbacks; October 24, 2023

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
In the third in Elizabeth Penney's delightful Cambridge Bookshop series, The Fatal Folio, Molly Kimball is learning that every killer has a story…

After moving to Cambridge, England, Molly Kimball has found a lot to love, including—of course—her family’s ancestral bookshop, Thomas Marlowe-Manuscripts and Folios. And though she’s not quite ready to use the “L” word when it comes to her boyfriend Kieran, she’s definitely fallen for his intimidating family’s library. His family is paying her handsomely for an updated catalog when Molly discovers the original manuscript of a Gothic novel, A Fatal Folio by the pseudonymous Selwyn Scott. Kieran’s cousin Oliver, a professor specializing in Gothic literature, is eager to publish a paper on the mystery—especially because a troublesome student, Thad, is threatening to file a complaint against him and prevent his long-awaited promotion. On Guy Fawkes Night, Molly, Kieran, and her friends set out to enjoy the costumes, fireworks, and fun—at least until a stray firework starts a panic, and the group stumbles upon a prone body, their face covered by a mask. It’s Thad, and he’s been stabbed to death. It soon becomes clear Oliver isn’t the only one with a motive, and Molly must once again put on a few masks of her own to sleuth out Thad’s killer, prove Oliver’s innocence, and discover what Selwyn’s novel might have to do with this most atmospheric mystery…

Some of my favorite cozy mysteries lately are from Elizabeth Penney’s The Cambridge Bookshop series. With a wonderful cast, plenty of literary themes (I mean a large part of the setting is in a bookshop after all), adorable cats, and a story-within-a-story, this series has always had plenty to offer. The same goes for the latest installment called The Fatal Folio.

I had a great time delving into this latest adventure with Molly, her family, her friends, and the new characters as well.

The mystery gets off to a running start with the death of a student from a nearby college. There were plenty of suspects, and each of them had a legitimate motive and the potential means to commit the crime. The set up was pretty solid, and I liked the steady progression of the mystery as it happened alongside a series of gothic literature themed events.

There was some progression with the relationships in the series. There were some steps backward, but it was offset by communication, especially between Molly and Kieran.

The build up to the reveals was quite detailed. It took its time getting there, but I honestly didn’t mind it. Part of the reason was The Fatal Folio, the titular book featured prominently in this mystery. There were plenty of pages dedicated to recounting its story in full, and, honestly, those were some of my favorite scenes in the book. So I was pretty invested in Molly’s sleuthing as well as the story she was reading. However, my only little disappointment was how quickly everything was wrapped up. Other than that, the ultimate explanation was a relatively good conclusion to all that had happened.

Overall, this was another good addition to the series. If you’ve read Chapter and Curse and its sequel, A Treacherous Tale, then I highly recommend The Fatal Folio too.

About the author....
Elizabeth Penney lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where she pens novels and tries to grow things. Elements that often appear in her novels include vintage summer cottages, past/present mysteries, and the arts. After spending early years in England and France, she grew up in Maine, settings that are reflected in her books. Elizabeth is the author of the Apron Shop Series and Cambridge Bookshop Series from St. Martin's as well as over twenty novels, short stories, and hundreds of business articles. A former consultant and nonprofit executive, she holds a BS and an MBA. She's also written screenplays with her musician husband. She loves walking in the woods, kayaking on quiet ponds, trying new recipes, and feeding family and friends.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (St. Martin's Paperbacks) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Music Monday (260): Florence + The Machine, Cirque du Soleil, Johnny Nash


  • 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: My pick today is one of my all-time favorite songs. It's called Howl by Florence + The Machine.

Adri: I'm going to pivot a little bit from my usual. I am listening to Best of Singing from Cirque du Soleil. It's from a few years ago, but it's a nice compilation.

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

What I've Been Listening To: September 2023

September was a busy month for music, at least on my end, with some of my most anticipated albums and Eps of 2023 being released.

I have been waiting for Going…Going…GONE!, an EP by Hemlocke Springs, and I’m so happy that it’s finally here. Released on September 29th, it was some of the last music I was anticipating for the month. Hemlocke Springs does the awkward black girl style so well with catchy earworms like the viral hit Girlfriend, followed by other songs like Haevun. And while Stranger Danger! and Sever The Blight aren’t on the EP, the music video for POS has references to Hemlocke Springs’ other music videos—like the plushy and outfits from Girlfriend and the paper bag character from Stranger Danger!. It was a neat little detail that sort of tied everything together. Going…Going…GONE! did exactly what I was hoping it would do and delivered a seven track EP filled with quirky and fun music.

Tension (Deluxe), Kylie Minogue’s sixteenth studio album, was one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I liked it. It felt like a sequel (or continuation) to her 2020 release Disco, but Tension still had its own thing going for it with plenty of catchy songs on its tracklist. I mean, it’s Kylie Minogue + disco/pop music, and that’s always a good combination. 

Some of the singles that have made it onto my playlist are:
  • Van Gogh by METTE
  • Pacer by Doechii
  • SZA’s acoustic version of Snooze
  • Jersey by Baby Tate
So that’s about everything I was listening to in September. If you have any recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Music Monday (259): Hemlocke Springs, Dana Dane


  • 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 feel like my pick for this week is the opposite of what you'd expect for October, but I really like it. Give a listen to Hemlocke Springs' Heavun!

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Nightmares by Dana Dane. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Friday 56 (241) & Book Beginnings: A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

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...
Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. She’s had no choice. Since childhood, she’s been haunted by visions of the Fairy King. She’s found solace only in the pages of Angharad - author Emrys Myrddin’s beloved epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, and then destroys him. Effy’s tattered, dog-eared copy is all that’s keeping her afloat through her stifling first term at Llyr’s prestigious architecture college. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to design the late author’s house, Effy feels certain this is her destiny. But Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task: a musty, decrepit estate on the brink of crumbling into a hungry sea. And when Effy arrives, she finds she isn’t the only one who’s made a temporary home there. Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar, is studying Myrddin’s papers and is determined to prove her favorite author is a fraud. As the two rival students investigate the reclusive author’s legacy, piecing together clues through his letters, books, and diaries, they discover that the house’s foundation isn’t the only thing that can’t be trusted. There are dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspiring against them - and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

Beginning: "The poster was frayed and tattered as a page torn from someone's favorite book."

56: "It was an understatement, but she figured there would be plenty of time for gushing praise."

Comments: I read A Study in Drowning as an ARC and reviewed it last month HERE. I loved the story enough to get a physical edition to have on my shelf. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Bittersweet in the Hollow by Kate Pearsall

Title: Bittersweet in the Hollow
Series: Bittersweet in the Hollow #1
Author: Kate Pearsall
Source/Format: Bookishfirst; Paperback ARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers;
 October 10, 2023

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
In this beautifully dark and enthralling YA, four sisters with unusual talents investigate a mysterious disappearance in their secluded Appalachian town. For fans of House of Hollow and Wilder Girls! 
In rural Caball Hollow, surrounded by the vast National Forest, the James women serve up more than fried green tomatoes at the Harvest Moon diner, where the family recipes are not the only secrets. Like her sisters, Linden was born with an unusual ability. She can taste what others are feeling, but this so-called gift soured her relationship with the vexingly attractive Cole Spencer one fateful night a year ago . . . A night when Linden vanished into the depths of the Forest and returned with no memories of what happened, just a litany of questions--and a haze of nightmares that suggest there's more to her story than simply getting lost. Now, during the hottest summer on record, another girl in town is gone, and the similarities to last year's events are striking. Except, this time the missing girl doesn't make it home, and when her body is discovered, the scene unmistakably spells murder. As tempers boil over, Linden enlists the help of her sisters to find what's hiding in the forest . . . before it finds her. But as she starts digging for truth--about the Moth-Winged Man rumored to haunt the Hollow, about her bitter rift with Cole, and even about her family--she must question if some secrets are best left buried.

Some books are exactly what I’m looking for, and it only took a few pages into the Bookish First excerpt of Kate Pearsall’s Bittersweet in the Hollow for me to know that I was likely going to love the story. And I had so much fun reading it!

Linden James comes from a family with a storied history involving the town of Caball Hollow, and their magic was as much a part of the local lore as was the stories about the infamous Moth-Winged Man. The terror of the woods was an issue close to Linden, and, even though she couldn’t recall much of what happened when she disappeared, I picked up on an underlining feeling that the fear and danger remained in spite of it.

The magic was on the softer side. It existed, and that’s really all there was to it. But it was also very fitting for the overall atmosphere of the story. It had its consequences, both expected and unintended, and it tied in with the personal stakes and secrets, especially in the James’ family. Ultimately, I liked how Pearsall wove the gifts the sisters had into the story as well as how it was sometimes a point of contention. In Linden’s case, there was some bitterness involved, but that tied right back to the theme of self-acceptance present in the background.

Caball Hollow was a rural town, and I loved what Pearsall did with it. I easily got invested with putting together all the clues about the local legends. It was relatively detailed and was a constant source of entertainment.

There was some romance present, but it didn’t overwhelm the rest of the story. In fact, a healthy amount of time was spent devoted to the mysteries. There was one that was recent—concerning what really happened to Linden—and another that spanned decades. Part of the fun was seeing how the many ends of the plot would eventually connect, and it led to some really great reveals. It wasn’t too much sleuthing, like what you’d find in a cozy mystery, but Pearsall struck a good balance between building the folklore and magic with the instances of when the characters theorized and took investigative action. And, like the magic, every decision had its own pitfalls. Rumors spread fast, which only added more fuel to the fire and raised the potential for personal consequences for Linden, her family, and others. The book was an experience, and I loved every second of it.

So with endearing characters, magic, and mystery, Bittersweet in the Hollow is easily one of my favorite reads of the year.
About the author....
Kate Pearsall developed a love for storytelling at a young age, often spinning tales of magical worlds and exciting adventures with her sisters. When she’s not writing, she can be found willfully indulging her curiosity by disappearing into museums, exploring new places, and becoming deeply submerged into obscure topics that inevitably make their way into future work.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers) via Bookish First in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Music Monday (258): Hayley Kiyoko, Lion Babe


  • 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: One of the songs on my October playlist is Demons by Hayley Kiyoko. It's been some time since I last checked out Kiyoko's music, which is how I initially missed Demons.

Adri: This week I'm listening to Love Another Time (Extended Mix 1) by Lion Babe. I'm happy they released an extended mix because 2:26 was too short.

What are you listening to this week?

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