Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Short Stories I Read In October

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

The Locked Coffin: A Judge Dee Mystery by Lavie Tidhar (; October 25, 2023)

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up with the Judge Dee stories lately. But in October I was in the mood for something with vampires and, as it happens, a new Judge Dee story was released. I enjoyed this latest installment! The dynamic between the judge and Jonathan remains an endless source of entertainment. As for the case, this one had another castle but also a locked-room aspect to the mystery. Or should I say, as the title says, a “locked coffin mystery?” The world of Tidhar’s vampires remains fascinating and totally vicious in a myriad of ways, and there is never a shortage of suspects. That remains true here. And the twists—including the one that ultimately resolved the mystery of The Locked Coffin—usually play into the complicated nature and the interpersonal relationships of the vampires Judge Dee and Jonathan encounter. Overall, if you’ve enjoyed Judge Dee stories in the past, then I recommend this one as well.

What You Are and the Wolf by Jae Steinbacher (Lightspeed Magazine; October 2023; Issue 161)

The second story I checked out in October was Jae Steinbacher’s What You Are and the Wolf, and I liked it. This one is essentially a loose retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf, the red cloak, and visits to the grandmother’s house. That was combined with some social commentary and what was effectively a coming-of-age narrative set within a dark fairy tale.

From around the web…

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Witchwood Knot by Olivia Atwater

Title: The Witchwood Knot
Series: Victorian Faerie Tales #1
Author: Olivia Atwater
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Romance; Gothic
Publisher/Publication Date: Starwatch Press; November 28, 2023

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Olivia Atwater returns to the world of Half a Soul with “a sharp and beautiful gothic romance” (Alix E. Harrow). Dive into The Witchwood Knot, and enjoy a dark faerie tale set in a magical version of Victorian England.

The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back. Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries—which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself. Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realize, however, and full of otherworldly dangers. As Winnie delves deeper into the other side of the house, she enlists the aid of its dark and dubious faerie butler, Mr Quincy, who hides several awful secrets behind his charming smile. Winnie hopes to make her way to the center of the Witchwood Knot through wit and cleverness… but when all of her usual tricks fail, who will she dare to trust?

I have, of course, heard of Atwater’s other series, namely because of Half a Soul. While that book is still on my TBR list, I didn’t hesitate to request The Witchwood Knot, which was set in the same world. It promised to be a dark fairy tale with aspects of gothic fiction and romance, which is pretty in-line with some of my favorite books recently—i.e A Study in Drowning. And I liked The Witchwood Knot for what it was.

This was a relatively dark story, particularly when it delved into themes of trauma and harassment. This was something alluded to fairly early, particularly in relation to the backstory of the MC, Winifred Hall, as she became more and more immersed in the mysteries and the general strangeness of Witchwood Manor.

Generally speaking, I liked the cast of characters here. The ghost cat was an MVP, and I loved every scene he was in. Mr Quincy was an enigmatic presence, and I liked how Atwater portrayed his incongruous nature. Winifred was an easy favorite. She was resilient, confident, and relatively resourceful. And her quest—both to further her own aims and fulfil the terms of her employment—made her a relatively dynamic character.

The romance was on the subtler side for much of the story. There was a host of issues for Winifred to navigate—and her personal motivation influenced much of her early actions within the context of the plot—so her focus was, understandably, elsewhere.  There was a gradual build toward it, though. I just wish there had been more scenes of them exploring the depths of this burgeoning relationship. And I say this because, in the end, they were two very interesting characters, and I wanted more from that end of the story.

The best part for me, though, was the fantasy adventure. The setting was suitably creepy with plenty of hidden corners and an almost maze-like quality. That, when combined with the overarching mystery concerning the house’s creation and the current troubles surrounding it, gave a sense of intrigue that kept the story moving at a good pace.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a spinoff of another series. I personally don’t care about reading spoilers for the other books, but it’s something to think about when going into The Witchwood Knot.

Overall, The Witchwood Knot was good, and I had a lot of fun with it.
About the author....
Olivia Atwater writes whimsical historical fantasy with a hint of satire. She lives in Montreal, Quebec with her fantastic, prose-inspiring husband and her two cats. When she told her second-grade history teacher that she wanted to work with history someday, she is fairly certain this isn't what either party had in mind. She has been, at various times, a historical re-enactor, a professional witch at a metaphysical supply store, a web developer, and a vending machine repairperson.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Starwatch Press) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Music Monday (265): Samara Joy, Kaskade, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Leona Lewis


  • 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 Lush Life by Samara Joy. I love her style, and I love that it's jazz. 

Adri: My pick today: Still Still Still by Kaskade. I came across it while attempting to search for Holiday/Christmas House music...(I can only dream). 

Andrea: Hi all! I'm still excited for the holiday season. This week I'm listening to Kiss Me It's Christmas by Leona Lewis and When Christmas Comes by Mariah Carey and John Legend. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Break Notice


I'm taking a brief break from the blog. I'll be back next week with more posts. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, November 20, 2023

Music Monday (263): Aurora, Dax with Darius Rucker


  • 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 this week is Aurora's new song. It was released on November seventh, and it's already on my playlist. It's called Your Blood, and I love everything about it.

Andrea: Hi all! I can't believe it's almost nearing the end of November. Where did the year go? Anyway, this week I'm listening to To Be A Man (Remix) by Dax featuring Darius Rucker. I hope you enjoy. Also, I hope you have an amazing week! 

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, November 17, 2023

What I've Been Watching

October is one of my busiest viewing months, or, well, the whole holiday season is. I blame it on the seasonal shows, new seasons, and old favorites that I like to rewatch as the year winds down. Stuff I’ve written about before like The House With a Clock in Its Walls and Hocus Pocus, among many others. I won’t be recapping my experience with those, and instead I’m going to focus on what’s relatively new on my end….

One of my most anticipated films of the year was Barbie, and I’ve finally watched it. I had an incredible amount of fun with this film. I enjoyed the humor as well as how great the performances were. Margot Robbie was the perfect choice for Stereotypical Barbie, and the same can be said about Ken and the rest of the casting too. In general, though, the overall story was great. It had its silly lighthearted moments, but it was balanced with some serious themes and tense moments, as Barbie went through an existential crisis. If you haven’t already watched it, then I highly recommend it.

Another movie I checked out was The Portable Door. I know this one is based on a book, which I haven’t read. That, however, didn’t deter me from watching the movie anyway. It was a fun and campy magic-tinged adventure with the classic heroes journey at its heart. Overall, it was pretty good and, if there’s ever a sequel, I would watch it.

Out of the majority of Disney’s 2023 releases, The Haunted Mansion was at the top of my list, right behind the live action The Little Mermaid. I actually like the 2003 film and, for so many years, it’s been a staple on my annual October viewing list. So I was very-very excited that another version was going to be released, especially since it featured the Hatbox Ghost. I like this one too. It had its funny moments, but it was also surprisingly heartwarming by the end of it. The design of the titular (and very) haunted mansion was eye catching, and I liked how reminiscent it was of the actual ride. It also worked well as an obstacle the characters had to navigate alongside the ghosts. I have a feeling that this one is going to be another October staple.

And last but certainly not least was one of my most anticipated second seasons of the year: SurrealEstate. I loved the first season, but it was open-ended leaving the future of the characters—and The Roman Agency—uncertain. So I was glad when I heard the series would be continued this year and right on time for October. It’s still airing as of when this post was written but, so far, the second season has been a true delight. It’s creepy and eerie in the right way, with great filming, effects, and ghost designs. The cast puts on a great performance as a charismatic team that’s (mild spoiler) hit a rough patch after experiencing an abrupt shake-up in their dynamic. Though the storytelling is episodic, there is an overarching plotline happening alongside each self-contained narrative. I, for one, am looking forward to the rest of the season, particularly for how some of the interpersonal issues and other mysteries will be resolved.

So that’s a pretty good idea of what I was watching through the month of October. Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

Title: The King of Elfland's Daughter
Series: n/a
Author: Lord Dunsany
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy; Classic
Publisher/Publication Date: Originally published in 1924

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Synopsis from Goodreads...
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland's Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the "happily ever after."

Earlier this year, I read a book called Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. A pre-Tolkien fantasy classic released in 1926 about the capital of a small fictional country—the titular Lud-in-the-Mist—with a curious history (and potential present) involving fairies. One of the books that I saw that was often compared to and recommended with Lud-in-the-Mist was Lord Dunsany’s 1924 fantasy story, The King of Elfland’s Daughter. And now, having read it for myself, I can say they’re vastly different stories but good for what they are, respectively.

Instead of fairies here, though, there are elves at the focal point as well as other recognizable character types: witches, trolls, unicorns, and willow-the-wisps. The magic was very it-just-exists-deal-with-it, which worked well when contrasting the differences between Elfland and Erl. Besides the vastly differing way time affected each place, the former was touched by a strange and also eerie perfection coupled with something a little dangerous and enigmatic, which was a feeling that never abated. But it was something I liked about the story.

Besides the fantastical aspects, The King of Elfland’s Daughter is a relatively layered story that, at times, felt like a cautionary tale about being mindful about what one wishes for. The parliament of Erl wanted a magic lord, heedless of the time it would take and the potential consequences that would arise from it. Just like how in a lot of fairy tale type stories, there’s always a lesson to be learned in making careless bargains. The initial request was phrased like a simple task, but it could also occupy the role of a bargain, since the substance of the story eventually followed a lot of the same pathways.

I also liked how interpersonal the story was with exploring Alveric’s relationship with Lirazel; how his unwillingness—at first—to meet his wife halfway when it came to beliefs, was one of the turning points that influenced the rest of the story.

If there is something to note, while I enjoyed the story, one thing to keep in mind when approaching it is the fact that there is animal death on page. One character is essentially a hunter, and some parts were detailed.

Besides that, I enjoyed The King of Elfland’s Daughter.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Music Monday (262): Qveen Herby, BRELAND, Atjazz, Mr J


  • 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 On God by Qveen Herby. It's one of my favorite songs by this artists, particularly because of the beat. It's very catchy.

Adri: My pick this week is one I have on repeat. And that song is Together by Atjazz featuring Mr J.

Andrea: Hi all! It's never too early for Christmas music. Check out The Christmas Audio by BRELAND. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Friday 56 (242) & Book Beginnings: The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

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...
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland's Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the "happily ever after."

Beginning: "In their ruddy jackets of leather that reached to their knees the men of Erl appeared before their lord, the stately white-haired man in his long red room."

56: "And quiet and lonely the great wood loomed round him while he waited for Oth to return."

Comments: The King of Elfland's Daughter is one of the fantasy classics I've wanted to read for a while now, and I'm glad I can finally mark it off my TBR list. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Lover by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Lover
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Horror; Romance; Short Story
Publisher/Publication Date: Amazon Original Stories; November 1, 2023


Synopsis from Goodreads...
During a brutal winter, a young woman longing for love finds more than she expected in the woods, in this wickedly sensuous short story by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic.

Judith knows her sister, Alice, is the pretty one—but that doesn’t stop her from wishing for love. When a handsome and gentlemanly hunter appears in their village, seeking lodging from the cold, she believes her lover has finally arrived. He does, indeed, choose to stay—but as Alice’s husband, not her own. When another stranger comes out of the woods, looking every bit a vagrant, he offers Judith something mysterious and enticingly strange. Against reason and decency, she welcomes both men into her life, in different ways. As forbidden longings ensnare each of them, an unrelenting winter storm and an evasive wolf on the prowl have everyone on edge…and ravenous. By spring thaw, will any of their hungers be satisfied?

A few months ago, I read Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel, Silver Nitrate. Now, you know, around Our Thoughts Precisely, this is a favorite author. So when I saw The Lover come up for review, I decided to give it a go too.

The Lover is a loose retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the second one I’ve read by the time I’m writing this (the other is for this month’s Short Stories). This story adopted key parts of the tale, but it was also doing its own thing with them. In general, it had the feel of a fairy tale, but a darker one. The substance of the story had betrayal and morally complex—if not gray—characters who don’t always do the right thing.

As I’ve said before, Moreno-Garcia is very good with creating characters. So even in a story as short as The Lover, they seemed to pop off the page with how detailed they were. Judith’s voice was particularly distinct. She was the narrator, so getting her inner thoughts revealed early on her growing discontent with the monotonous nature of her every day and the unfair treatment toward her by her sister. Bad decisions were inevitably made. Judith was especially prone to seeing and hearing what she wanted, particularly when one of the men—who was mentioned in the synopsis—is involved.

But the story was an interesting one, and I wanted to see how the scenario would end. And, oh boy, it does! The ending is probably one of the most satisfying parts of The Lover, and it’s one of the areas where the harsh nature of the story shone through the most. And I loved it!

My only detraction is that I wish the story had had even a little more room to breathe. But that’s just a personal aside, since I wouldn’t have minded sticking around for a longer story about these characters.

Otherwise, The Lover is another good story from Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
About the author....
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu's Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Amazon Original Stories) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Music Monday (261): Caroline Polachek and Beyoncé


  • 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'm currently listening to more of Caroline Polachek's music. I definitely have some favorite songs so far. One of them is her latest single, Dang, which I was listening to almost on repeat since it came out about two to three weeks ago, in October. The beat is fun. 

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Irreplaceable by Beyoncé. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, November 3, 2023

2023 Candy Corn Finds

Happy Halloween!* It’s actually been a few years since I tried to find some of Brach’s candy corn flavors. So I did just that! This year’s flavors include the ones I typically see like Original, Mellowcreme Pumpkins, Autumn Mix, etc. But I wanted (what I assume to be) the special ones: Fall Festival and Mellowcreme Caramel Apples.

The first one I had was Fall Festival. I was excited to try it, but I was side-eying Kettle Corn. Overall, the bag was just okay.

As figured, my least favorite was Kettle Corn. On one hand, it tasted like oil/butter with a hint of salt. On the other hand, it was like soggy popcorn. I tried so many times to like it, but I couldn’t. The first taste brought back memories of a butter jelly bean I disliked. I did wonder if I would have liked this now if liked that jelly bean then.

Anyway, next are the flavors that I found just okay. Strawberry funnel cake tasted just like the name. I’d even say, oddly, fried. Caramel Apple was nice, but I liked the caramel and apple separate. 

Then there’s Cotton Candy, which was another memory jogger. At first, I didn’t like them as much as my co-blogger did. Initially I thought it was more like mild cough syrup, but I gave it a few more tries. Then I thought it tasted like mild dum-dums lollipops (of the same flavor) than actual cotton candy. After that it wasn’t so bad. 

Last are my favorites from this mix: Lemonade Shake-Up and Lemon-Lime Snowcone. Lemonade Shake-Up was lemony, mellow, and enjoyable. But honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. Lemon-Lime Snowcone had a really nice flavor, and was another one that kind of tasted like its name. I thought this was the best flavor in the entire bag.


Since I was a little disappointed, I went searching for Mellowcreme Caramel Apples. When I found it, I also picked up a bag of original while I was at it.

If you’ve seen my first Candy Corn post, you probably know that Green apple alone is a favorite of mine. With the addition of caramel it was pretty good too. In comparison with Green Apple, I’d say Red Apple has a more natural (an artificial one, of course) flavor. I found it pleasant. And I liked it more than the one in Fall Festival.


This year, obviously, I preferred the Caramel Apples and Original flavors. Although I found Fall Festival to be average, there were some interesting and nice flavors. On the plus side, I loved the packaging art.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

*This was first posted on Toile, Think, Go.*

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