October Bookviews // Glass Slippers, Towers and Hellish Libraries? Okay!

I’ve purchased an absurd amount of books these last two months. Just today I picked up ten from Goodwill! Do I have problems? If I’ve got a problem, then I think you, my fellow book lover, may have just as much a problem as I do. That’s just all in good fun, of course! As such, there are a few new genres to add to these Bookviews – thrillers, romances and mysteries. Will any of them be represented in October’s list? Let’s take a look!

As always, I’ll pull six titles from this site’s On My Bookshelf page: three from What I’ve Read, two from Upcoming Reads, and one from that dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. From What I’ve Read, you can expect my final thoughts on plot, character development, and a star rating. From Upcoming Reads, my expectations or hopes for the book. And perhaps even a prediction or two. Finally, from the DNFs, what made me close the cover for good and if I’ll ever attempt to read it again.

The First Section: What I’ve Read

SHARD OF GLASS
by Emily Deady

Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Series: Fairy Tale Romances
Pub. Year: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thoroughly enjoyed SHARD OF GLASS, a Cinderella retelling that follows MC Ashlin as she navigates her new existence.

It was incredibly refreshing having a female lead not named Ella, Elle, or some other form of Cinderella.

Deady’s reimagining also includes a whole new magic realm, one I really appreciate. Not everything, or everyone, needs magic to survive in Ashlin’s world. Not everyone can wield it, either.

Emily Deady
Author of magic, royalty and fairy tales.

IN THE SHADOW OF CROFT TOWERS
by Abigail Wilson

Genre: Historical, Adventure
Series: none
Pub. Year: 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ahhhh adventure novels. My favorite things! It’s funny – some reviews said it has too much adventure, but I think they’re wrong.

Sybil and Sinclair are the perfect main characters for this particular story. I really do think that Miss Wilson thought of these MCs before the plot, but everything comes together in a neat little package.

I already have two other books of hers on standby: MIDNIGHT ON THE RIVER GREY and MASQUERADE AT MIDDLECREST ABBEY.

Abigail Wilson
Author of Regencies, deception and strong MCs.

DREAMER OF BRIARFELL
by Lucy Tempest

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Fairytales of Folkshore Book 7
Pub. Year: 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Yet another fairy tale retelling. Sorry not sorry. I love the, okay? DREAMER OF BRIARFELL is Book 7 in Tempest’s Fairytales of Folkshore series but can be read as a separate tale.

Princess Fairuza is this tale’s “sleeping beauty,” and her rescuer isn’t what you’d expect. Tempest twists in Robin’s character in a way you may not see coming.

With nods to Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty, fairy tale lovers will surely enjoy this. (This book reminds me of Jessica Day George’s TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES retelling, and I’m not mad at that at all!)

Yes, I know this is out-of-order, but I plan on reading the whole series by the end of the year, or at the beginning of 2021. I don’t often read fantasy, but I really liked DREAMER OF BRIARFELL.

Lucy Tempest
Author of faeries, hope and compatible MCs.

The Second Section: My Upcoming Reads

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

FEAR ON THE PHANTOM SPECIAL
by Edward Marston (Keith Miles)

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Thriller
Series: The Railway Detective Series, Book 17
Pub. Year: 2020

Considering my family’s love affair with trains and trolleys, I wanted to read this the moment I saw it on NetGalley. Disclaimer: while I initially received this as an advanced ARC copy, I never got around to reading it before its publication.

Synopsis: Halloween, 1861. A special train with two carriages steams across the Lake District at night on its way to a place notorious for its record of supernatural incidents. Most of those on board have been fortified by alcohol so the mood is boisterous. Without warning the lamp goes out in the last compartment of the second carriage, plunging it into darkness. When the train reaches the end of the line, the passengers pour out on to the station platform. There are almost sixty of them in all, laughing and jostling, but the prevailing excitement is shattered by a cry for help – someone is missing.
Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Leeming are called in to investigate this peculiar occurrence. With some believing the missing man is the victim of a ghost said to haunt the site and no discernible trace of the man anywhere to be seen, this will prove to be a puzzling case indeed for the Railway Detective.

Edward Marston
Author of trains, biographies and thrills.

THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN
by AJ Hackwith

Genre: Fantasy
Series: A Novel From Hell’s Library, Book 1
Pub. Year: 2019

This book caught my eye while my family and I were on vacation last month for my birthday. I normally don’t do “underworld” type stories, but I do love a good book-within-a-book trope.

Synopsis: Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing– a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.

AJ Hackwith
Author of fantasy, libraries, and imagination.

The Third Section: What I Did Not Finish

THE HAUNTED KNIGHT OF LADY CANTERLY
by Patricia Haverton

Genre: Historical Regency, Romance
Series: none
Pub. Year: 2019

As much as I thoroughly enjoyed two books read previously – THE LOST COUNTESS THAT COUNTED THE STARS and THROUGH THE EYES OF A BLIND DUCHESS – I found I couldn’t quite get on board with this.

Call me shallow if you like, but I’ve yet to find a way to enjoy a book with more than three point of views. By the time I stopped reading this, we’d reached four, and one that made it seem like we were getting a fifth.

In all honesty, with all the POVs, it made me wonder whose story was being told. THE LOST COUNTESS THAT COUNTED THE STARS’ tale was solid from the very beginning. I couldn’t do all the POV jumping with this.

However, I really like Haverton’s style, so I’m definitely willing to try another story.

Patricia Haverton
Author of dukes, lords, and ladies.

The Alphabet Book Tag // A to Z, Literally!

Hello again fellow book lovers! As 2020 creeps ever closer to 2021, I’ve tried to stay off social media and slow down with blogging. In theory, this break was to encourage work on my novel series and curb procrastination.

Let’s just say I failed. Miserably.

The internet’s full of different types of Book Tags. Today’s blog post was inspired by one of my favorite YouTube channels, one Mrs. Jessica Braun. I’ve watched her videos for years, and a previous video of hers also inspired my Bookviews posts:

June ~ August ~ September

Jessica’s YouTube video was all about her favorite makeup products from different companies. I’ll embed it below if you’d like to give it a watch! But right after that will be my alphabetized list of books I’ve read between 2019 and 2020!

*note: none of the links are affiliate links. I shared just in case you wanted to read.

And now, the Books!

A: An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Synopsis: Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa’s long-lost friend, Keturah, who disappeared from the settlement years earlier.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when circumstances force Clay’s hand–and heart–the stage is set for one very private and one very public reckoning.

Intense, evocative, and laced with intricate historical details that bring the past to life, An Uncommon Woman will transport you to the picturesque and dangerous western Virginia mountains of 1770.

B: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Synopsis: Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in appearance, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must travel to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father insists that he will not let her go, but she responds, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

C: Captured by a Highland Pirate by Lydia Kendall

Synopsis: Losing her husband was Grace Smith’s greatest sorrow in life. That, and trying to avoid betrothals to men she would never love, to save her life. Until a mysterious Highlander rescues her from damnation.

Alec MacNeil’s only love in life is the sea. A notorious pirate all across Scotland, he never keeps a penny he steals for himself. On his mission to steal the Viscount of Fortershire’s wealth, he ends up stealing something more: the heart of a beautiful Sassenach.

However, their dreams for a shared future are crushed when a letter arrives. A letter that not only calls for Alec to honor an old agreement for marriage but also gives him an ultimatum: his life or his entire clan. His home is under siege and the attackers won’t settle for anything less than killing everyone Alec loves.

D: Dreamer of Briarfell by Lucy Tempest

Synopsis: Sleeping Beauty meets Robin Hood. Her soul will be lost forever, unless she wins the love of the noblest of men. Cursed in her cradle by a vengeful fairy queen, Princess Fairuza of Arbore thought her fate was secure in the hands of her betrothed — until he chose another as his bride.

After the last attempt to find another prince to save her fails, Fairuza’s world fades to black, and she awakens in a castle, unseen and unheard by all—then a thief breaks in, and sees her. But Robin Hood is no prince charming, and he’s leaving for Faerie, to save Maid Marian from the Wild Hunt. Seizing her last chance to find royals who can break her curse, she joins him and his Merry Men.

Once in Faerie, the Summer King puts them through deadly trials, in exchange for his hand and help. But as they struggle to survive, Fairuza begins to fade. The longer her soul remains detached from her body, the sooner their tie will be severed. As her time runs out, she finds herself falling in love with Robin, despite knowing that this would doom her forever…

E: Elite by Carrie Arrow

Both the book and synopsis are no longer available on Amazon

F: Forest of Firelight by Shari L. Tapscott

Synopsis: After the sudden death of her brother, Princess Amalia is charged with what feels like an impossible task—she must choose the next king. Youthful thoughts of love are pushed aside as she accepts her fate, setting upon a quest throughout the kingdom to find a man worthy of her father’s throne.

Little does Amalia know, someone has already set his sights on her.

Rhys is a man of secrets, and his mission is simple: befriend the princess of Renove. Coax her to trust him, convince her to follow him. Betray her when it’s time.

All goes according to plan until Rhys meets the princess. Amalia is a disaster. Never has he met someone so drawn to trouble. Never has he met someone so irritatingly likable. He’s not allowed to fall for her.

She could never entrust him with a crown. But, unbeknownst to them, their unlikely partnership might be the key to saving their entire world from a darkness that’s slowly creeping from the wounded earth that separates one kingdom from the next.

G: Gangs and Outlaws of Western Pennsylvania by Thomas White and Michael Hassett

Synopsis: The region played reluctant host to the likes of the infamous Biddle Boys, who escaped Allegheny County Jail by romancing the warden’s wife, and the Cooley Gang, which held Fayette County in its violent grip at the close of the nineteenth century. Then there was Pennsylvania’s own Bonnie and Clyde–Irene and Glenn–whose murderous misadventures earned the “trigger blonde” and her beau the electric chair in 1931. From the perilous train tracks of Erie to the gritty streets of Pittsburgh, authors Thomas White and Michael Hassett trace the dark history of the crooks, murderers and outlaws who both terrorized and fascinated the citizenry of western Pennsylvania.

H: The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordman

Synopsis: Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

I: Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges by Todd Wilson and Helen Wilson

Synopsis: Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges,” and what remarkable bridges they are! The area’s challenging topography of deep ravines and mighty rivers – the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio – set the stage for engineers, architects, and contractors to conquer the terrain with a variety of distinctive spans. Many were designed to be beautiful as well as functional. While other cities may have one signature bridge, Pittsburgh has such a wide variety that no single bridge can represent it.

J: The Jewels of Halstead Manor by Kasey Stockton

Synopsis: When a cryptic invitation brings Giulia Pepper to her uncle’s remote estate in Devon, she arrives in dire need of a benefactor, only to discover that her uncle never sent her any invitation—nor does he want her there. Forced into a corner, Giulia must contrive a way to convince him to allow her to remain, just long enough to figure out where to go next.

Nicholas never asked for an earldom, but when an aged lord arrives at his door and tells Nicholas that he is next in line for the title, he willingly goes to Halstead Manor to learn the role. But someone isn’t pleased with the heir, and after a gunshot wound in the arm, Nicholas must discover who is out to get him.

When Giulia stumbles—literally—over a fallen man on the lane to Halstead, she has her answer: she can stay at Halstead and nurse her uncle’s heir back to health. But as mystery builds and danger mounts, will Giulia and Nicholas be able to solve the puzzle before the Earl forces Giulia to leave for good? And furthermore, can they manage to work together without losing their hearts in the process?

K: Killing Kate by Alex Lake

Synopsis: A serial killer is stalking your home town. He has a type: all his victims look the same. And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her home town – and his victims all look like her. It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

L: The Lost Countess That Counted The Stars by Patricia Haverton

Synopsis: Merial Hanraham has no recollection of who she is. Found unconscious in a dinghy with nothing but a mysterious coffer, she is taken on board by a crew of British sailors heading to England.

Christopher Buckthorn, son of the Duke of Heyerdahl and proud captain of the “Valkyrie”, never expected to find a woman with no memories floating in the middle of the ocean. Especially not one as stunning as Merial.

Amidst old superstitions turning the crew against her and pirates constantly on their tail, Merial and Christopher must piece together the fragments of her returning memories.

And the key to the truth might just lie in a riddle carved on the mysterious coffer; a single word to unveil not only Merial’s true identity but also the name of the person hunting her…

M: Maiden in the Tower by Heidi Kimball

Synopsis: Lisette Hunt has been hidden away her entire life, with nothing but a large window up in the cottage turret to give her a glimpse of the outside world. Until Gerry Worthington stumbles into her garden in search of his runaway dog. 

As a second son, Gerry has never seen the need to take life too seriously. Less than pleased with his frivolity, his mother orders him to marry a woman of means and banishes him to his family’s small, rundown estate. Unfortunately, innocent and penniless Lisette is the very opposite of what he needs.

But Gerry cannot resist the mystery surrounding Lisette, and soon he can no longer resist Lisette and her endearing peculiarity. As Gerry slowly opens Lisette’s eyes to a larger world, she begins to open her heart to him. However, when Gerry uncovers the truth about who Lisette really is, it may cost them a chance at happiness together.

N: Neverland Falling by Brittany Fitcher (did not fully finish, but it’s the only one that began with an N!)

Synopsis: Wendy’s parents have finally chosen her prospective husband, and her world is falling apart. So when the mysterious, handsome Peter invites Wendy and her little brothers to run away to a place called Neverland, she accepts.

At first, Neverland is more wonderful than anything Wendy could have imagined. So are the variety of interesting characters who live there, from the Lost Boys to the mermaids to the fae to the misunderstood privateer, Captain Jay. But as time rolls on, Wendy realizes that growing up might not be so bad…if she had the right person to do it with. The only problem is that in Neverland, growing up is forbidden. And the farther she gets from childhood, the more she endangers them all.

Unfortunately, when the fae decide she’s gone too far, both Peter and Wendy must decide where their love and loyalty lie and how far they’re willing to chase it. For if they’re not careful, Neverland and everyone in it will fall.

O: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Grey

Synopsis: The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook presents over 100 recipes that showcase the cookery and customs of the Crawley household—from upstairs dinner party centerpieces to downstairs puddings and pies—and bring an authentic slice of Downton Abbey to modern kitchens and Downton fans. 

Whether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. Food historian Annie Gray gives a rich and fascinating insight into the background of the dishes that were popular between 1912 and 1926, when Downton Abbey is set —a period of tremendous change and conflict, as well as culinary development.

With a foreword by Gareth Neame, executive producer and co-creator of Downton Abbey, and featuring over 100 stunning color photographs, The Downton Abbey Cookbook also includes a special section on hosting Downton-themed dinner parties and presents stills from across the TV series as well as the latest film. Notes on the etiquette and customs of the times, quotes from the characters, and descriptions of the scenes in which the foods appear provide vivid context for the dishes.

The recipes are grouped by occasion, which include breakfast; luncheons and suppers; afternoon tea and garden parties; picnics, shoots and race meets; festivities; upstairs dinner; downstairs dinner; downstairs supper and tea; and the still room.

P: Pittsburgh’s Streamlined Trolleys by Kenneth C. Springirth

Synopsis: Pittsburgh Streamlined Trolleys covers the history of the trolley car system that once had the third largest fleet of Presidents’ Conference Committee trolley cars in North America. Pittsburgh Railways Company was very innovative and constantly made design improvements in its trolley cars. This led to increased ridership, as these streamlined trolleys were quiet, fast, and had comfortable seating. With the increased use of automobiles, ridership declined. After the Port Authority of Allegheny County took over Pittsburgh Railways, most of the trolley routes were abandoned. However, a number of trolleys were refurbished with paint schemes that included psychedelic commercial advertising and community messages. The last runs of these trolleys occurred in 1999, and new light rail vehicles are now in service.

Q: The Fire Queen by Emily R. King (the only Q!)

Synopsis: Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over. A warlord has invaded the imperial city, and now she’s in exile. But she isn’t alone. Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

But as Kalinda’s tournament strengths are once again challenged, so too is her relationship with Deven. While Deven fears her powers, Ashwin reveres them—as well as the courageous woman who wields them. Kalinda comes to regard Ashwin as the only man who can repair a warring world and finds herself torn between her allegiance to Deven and a newly found respect for the young prince.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

R: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

Synopsis: Living in London’s poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she’s offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship’s surgeon, he’s in charge of the passengers’ welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

S: Shard of Glass by Emily Deady

Synopsis: Once she was a noblewoman. Now she is a palace servant. Ashlin never pictured herself scrubbing floors. But with the family savings depleted and her stepmother crippled by grief, Ashlin selflessly takes a job at the royal palace. She can pursue her dreams of becoming a seamstress someday in the future.

However, as she forms an unlikely friendship with the prince, she learns that the future may not be so certain. Wielders of a powerful magic threaten their small coastal kingdom and Prince Onric does not believe that their defenses will hold. 

As Ashlin navigates growing feelings for the charming prince, she realizes that her unique skills could help save the kingdom. But can she trust the charming prince or he is merely exploiting her selfless nature? 

Shard of Glass is a fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Discover a world where heroines can be both powerful and worthy of protection. If you love sweet romance, a little bit of magic, and heart-melting conversations, then this story was written for you.

T: Through The Eyes Of A Blind Duchess by Patricia Haverton

Synopsis: Locked away in her family’s estate for more than two decades, Aurelia Blackmore has resigned herself to a life of exile. Blinded in the same fire that killed her mother when she was young, marriage is not even a thought for her. Until the day her father announces her engagement to a man she has never met.

Donovan Harding, the Duke of Oakhampton, has suffered many losses, with his wife and his fortune sacrificed on the altar of an illness. With no good options left, he must marry again. But his new bride’s secret might be more than he can handle.

Tied together by the strings of his son’s violin, their marriage is a precarious one. When a fire claims her childhood home and a constable brings news of a murder, the strings begin to unravel. A familiar voice, awakening memories of her past, threatens to tear away all that she loves, just as it had the fateful night she lost her vision and her mother.

U: The Unlikely Chaperone by Dorothy Mack

Synopsis: At twenty-eight, Alexandra Farrish has no hopes of marrying. However, she vows to shepherd her beautiful but prickly younger sister, Didi, through a London season to help her secure a perfect match.

As expected, Didi soon becomes one of the season’s greatest successes, and even captures the interest of the Marquess of Malvern — one of London’s most eligible bachelors.

As one of the Farrish family’s most frequent visitors, the handsome marquess seems to be on the brink of making Didi an offer.

But as Alexandra spends more and more time in the company of their new friend, she begins to question her own feelings…

V: The Victorian Book of Cakes by T. Percy Lewis and A.G. Bromley

Synopsis: A treasure from the past, this book was originally published at the turn of the last century, during the heyday of cake-making, designed to be the standard work on cakes and confectionery. There are recipes for all kinds of traditional Victorian cakes, biscuits and cookies, petits fours, shortbreads, pound and slab cakes, gingerbreads, marzipan and nougat, as well as a multitude of fillings, icings and frostings. With notes on adapting the recipes for the modern kitchen, this nostalgic book will enchant all cake-makers.

W: A Worthy Rebel by Jody Hedlund

Synopsis: While fleeing an arranged betrothal to a heartless lord, Lady Isabelle becomes injured and lost. Rescued by a young peasant man, she hides her identity as a noblewoman for fear of reprisal from the peasants who are bitter and angry toward the nobility.

Cole Warwick cannot turn his back on a person in need and soon finds himself falling for Izzy, the gentle and beautiful runaway who is mending in his cottage. As the leader of an imminent uprising against the nobility, he tries to resist his growing feelings for Izzy to protect her from the dangerous life he’s chosen. But the longer she stays, the more he hopes she’ll never leave.When Izzy’s true identity is revealed, Cole feels betrayed.

With the rebellion underway, can Cole forgive Izzy and find a way to save her from an unhappy marriage? Or will he and his peasant army be destroyed before he has the chance to fight for the people and the woman he loves?

X: –

Y: –

Z: –

Whew! That was time consuming but a lot of fun! Can you tell I’ve got some very specific book interests? I love fairy tale retellings, some mystery and true crime, historical fiction, Regencies, romances, young adult, new adult and adult stories.

2020’s not over yet, so there’s still time to find some books with titles that begin with an x, y or z. I still think the list turned out pretty well. All titles were taken from the On My Bookshelf page here on my website.

Are you a book blogger? Or have an editing or authoring website? I challenge you to make your own list! Can you tell I’m a sucker for the classic damsel in distress trope?

Ten Days // Ten Books

Guess what? I’m on vacation! Since my trip to DC and the Library of Congress was cancelled earlier this year (which would’ve been an amazing trip, by the way), my family and I have decided to visit a town much closer to home for my birthday week.

Call me crazy if you like, but I’ve decided to try reading ten books in the ten days I’ve got off work for this trip. I may be a slow writer, but I’m most definitely a fast reader. Time, however, has gotten in the way of my ability to read down my pile.

I decided to give myself this challenge: ten days of vacation + ten books = ten more adventures I’ve yet to go on! Yesterday’s book, sadly, fell short of my expectations and I had to move it to the DNF (did not finish) list. I gave it more time than I should, hoping beyond hope that maybe some adventure would be included. That did not end up being the case.

So here are the ten books I’ll attempt to read while on vacation this week:

Saturday, Sept. 19

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Unfortunately I had to add INHERITING TROUBLE by Wendy May Andrews to my “Did Not Finish” list. As much as I want to get into Regencies, many of them are Romances, and I just haven’t found the right ones to fall in love with yet.

Sunday, Sept. 20

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m switching gears to read the next book in The Riven Kingdoms series by Shari L. Tapscott. I immediately wanted to know what happened to the two MCs when I finished Book One, not knowing then it’s part of a series.

Monday, Sept. 21

*This title has been added to my DNF list.

NEVERLAND FALLING by Brittany Fichter is the newest addition to my reading list, and I’m always game for a new fairy tale retelling. This one caught my eye because it’s based on Peter Pan, and I don’t read many of those.

Tuesday, Sept. 22

Okay, I lied. A MIDWINTER’S WEDDING by Melanie Cellier is the newest book to my list (having just added it because, well, book distractions). Cellier’s books are hit or miss for me, and I hope this is a hit!

Wednesday, Sept. 23

I got this title last year when I tried doing NetGalley (such a stressful place), but I’ve wanted to read this since then. So I kept it. Wednesday will be MURDER AT KENSINGTON PALACE by Andrea Penrose day!

Thursday, Sept. 24

I love KM Shea’s fairy tale retellings! I was sad when her series ended, but have been meaning to dive into her other series. So I’ll continue my read through of her stories with THE PRINCE’S BARGAIN, the third book in her Elves of Lessa series.

Friday, Sept. 25

A LADY MOST DANGEROUS by Caroline Hanson is next on the agenda for Friday, September 25th. I hope to at least start reading it, because we may go Cosmic Bowling that night! I’m quite ready for some time hopping shenanigans with this one.

Saturday, Sept. 26

To be completely honest, I’m not sure which book comes first, the previously mentioned one or A LADY OUT OF TIME, also by Caroline Hanson. I’ll figure it out when the, ahem, time comes!

Sunday, Sept. 27 (aka my birthday!)

From time travel to even more royalty vs. the lower class, I’m ready to read MAGICAL MISPERCEPTION by Suzanne Rogers. However unsure I am if this is a retelling or not, I know for a fact I’m looking forward to this story.

Monday, Sept. 28

It looks as though I’ll end my vacation with another Tapscott title – PIPPA OF LAURAMORE. I purchased this before SEA OF STARLIGHT, so I don’t know what’s taken me so long to read it. Better late than never, they say!

That’s a lot of variety, isn’t it? And a lot of books! Because I haven’t really been in a good state of mind to write as of late, I debated long and hard over if I should take my laptop on vacation with me or not. I think all I want are a few books, a notepad and no internet.

What are your reading goals for the week?

September Bookviews // Queens, Brides and New Releases, Please!

2020 is The Lost Year. July didn’t even register in my mind until it was August, so I missed that Bookviews post. I bet any money (below five bucks) that we’re going to see an uptick in doomsday books come out within the next couple of years. Regardless, let’s take a look at my Bookviews for my birthday month. The month of September. Bookviews for August 2020! (Here’s the Bookview post for June).

I’ll pull six titles from this site’s On My Bookshelf page: three from What I’ve Read, two from Upcoming Reads, and one from that dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. From What I’ve Read, you can expect my final thoughts on plot, character development, and a star rating. From Upcoming Reads, my expectations or hopes for the book. And perhaps even a prediction or two. Finally, from the DNFs, what made me close the cover for good and if I’ll ever attempt to read it again.

The First Section: What I’ve Read

ALMOST A BRIDE by Jody Hedlund

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Bride Ships Series, Book No. 4
Pub. Year: 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I fell in love with The Bride Ships Series first with A RELUCTANT BRIDE, book one. Not many series can grab and hold me throughout the journey. While I thoroughly enjoyed this now completed series, there are a few things I wish were different about ALMOST A BRIDE.

As my Bookviews are meant to be “speed reviews,” I’ll say only this: While Kate’s initially introduced in Book One, as all the ladies sailing for Vancouver are, I do wish she was developed a bit more in her own story, and was a bit “flighty” for a main character. It felt more like Zeke’s story than Kate’s. These reasons are why I give ALMOST A BRIDE four out of five stars.

Jody’s Genres:
-Historical Fiction
-Historical Romance

Jody Hedlund
Author of royalty, knights and cowboys.

AN UNCOMMON WOMAN by Laura Frantz

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: none
Pub. Year: 2020

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In AN UNCOMMON WOMAN, Frantz doesn’t shy away from tackling social issues present in the 1770s. It seems I agree with several other reviews online, that the pacing is a bit slow and action rushed. However, the world building cannot be denied. Frantz absolutely knows the land and her chosen era. Because the action in the opening scene set such a high expectation that wasn’t followed through (for me) until later on, I give AN UNCOMMON WOMAN 3.5 stars.

Laura’s Genres:
-Christian Fiction
-Historical Romance

Laura Frantz
Author of brides, hearts and history.

THE VICTORIAN BOOK OF CAKES
by T. Percy Lewis and A.G. Bromley

Genre: Cookbook
Series: none
Pub. Year: 1991

Rating: 5 out of 5.

With a forward by cookbook connoisseur Nicholas Lodge, THE VICTORIAN BOOK OF CAKES was purchased with one sole purpose in mind: historical research. I always enjoyed history class as a student, but they rarely dove into this kind of detail. As a kid, I craved further studies on things such as these.

Part of the Amazon description states: a classic Victorian book reissued for the modern reader. While many of the recipes are perhaps a bit too technical for an amateur baker such as myself, its pages are threaded with additional tidbits of information on pastry-making machinery and traditionally used techniques. Because of the aforementioned, THE VICTORIAN BOOK OF CAKES has earned itself a five out of five star rating.

Unfortunately, I was unable to dig up any biographies on Lewis or Bromley.

T. Percy Lewis

A.G. Bromley

The Second Section: My Upcoming Reads

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

SEA OF STARLIGHT by Shari L. Tapscott

Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Riven Kingdoms, Book Two
Pub. Year: 2020

I’m so happy this book’s finally out! It’s about time too, because I’ve wanted to include SEA OF STARLIGHT in a Bookviews post since I read its predecessor, FOREST OF FIRELIGHT. I don’t preorder books often. When I do, it’s usually because it’s book two or three of a series I fell immediately in love with. I can count those series on one hand. I’m picky about my books, okay?

As such, I really hope Book 2 continues on in the same manner as its predecessor. With two more novels to go (both not yet released), no one yet knows. Unless they’re already written and betas have their hands on them.

Shari’s Genres:
-Fantasies
-Contemporaries

Shari L. Tapscott
Author of kingdoms, magic and relationships.

THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Historical fiction
Series: none
Pub. Year: 2015

I’ve come across Gregory’s historicals before but didn’t buy one until this year. My recent interest in London’s ancient royalty rekindled my need to read THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN. This novel is the eleventh of fifteen in her The Plantagenet and Tudor novels (meanwhile I can barely finish writing one!).

While she does have more modern set novels, I do believe she prefers the earlier centuries. If I enjoy THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN, I foresee closing out 2020 with all the rest of her stories.

Philippa’s Genres:
-History

Philippa Gregory
Author of history, princesses, and Tudors.

I’ve fallen down the historical fiction rabbit hole again and I can’t get out. No, not can’t.
I won’t get out. My reading habits expanded in 2020 to include other eras other than Victorian.

The Third Section: What I Did Not Finish

There were none I couldn’t finish this time around, and that’s a good thing!
There were, however, some I couldn’t start due to exhaustion from work.
But that’s a blog post for another day.

Here are some books recently purchased,
or downloaded via Kindle Unlimited:

THE KING’S CURSE by Philippa Gregory
THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS by Pam Jenoff
A HEART IN THE BALANCE by LG Rollins (Unlimited)
THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE by Dorothy Mack (Unlimited)

Well? What do you guys think? I hope you had fun reading through these titles and my thoughts on them. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

June
August

The Character Arcs in Star Trek Deep Space Nine

With all this new Star Trek coming out (Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks), I thought it high time to revive a blog series I’d forgotten about. Earlier this year, I analyzed the cast of Star Trek Voyager and assigned each member of the main crew their arc. Today, I’m going to take a look at the very large cast of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and give myself more work by analyzing not only their arcs, but which change best suits them, or if they’re round or flat characters.

Deep Space Nine had an absolutely huge recurring cast of secondary characters, so I’m sticking to a list of just twelve. I’m not even including anyone from the series’ Mirror Universe or the Dominion, as there just isn’t enough source material to work with. The twelve I’ll analyze in today’s post are the core characters the series’ used the most. If there is a cross next to an actor’s name, it means they have passed on into Paradise.

A Quick Review of Character Changes and Arcs

*In this section I refer to Meg LaTorre’s iWriterly blog post on the Types of Character Arcs in fiction,
as well as several resources on KM Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors website.
If I use a different resource I’ll include a separate hyperlink.

01


Positive Change

Normally used for the heroes in the story. The characters with this change type often struggle more when faced with difficult choices or internal conflict. They want to become a better person.

02


Negative Change

While this type of change is often used for “villains,” other characters can have negative plot lines which will not land them on the truly evil side of things.

03


Flat Characters

No matter the choices these characters make, they basically stay where they started at the very beginning. Sometimes they’ll change. Usually not.

04


Round Characters

To directly quote Judy Blume’s Masterclass on the matter: “Round characters are fully realized characters that come into conflict with each other […] spurring character development.”

05


The Change Arc

Whether this character’s change is immediate or over the course of time (or both), protagonists usually have these arcs. To quote LaTorre, “This change is radical.”

06


The Growth Arc

Characters within the growth arc has more internal change than outward change. Change still happens, but not as radical as the aforementioned arc. They’ll grow as a person regardless of external circumstances.

07


The Shift Arc

According to LaTorre via Reedsy, ““The protagonist changes his perspective, learns different skills, or gains a different role. The end result is not ‘better’ or more than the starting point, just different.”

08


The Fall Arc

Fall arcs can apply to both protagonists and antagonists. This change often results in a decrepit state of mind, death, true villainy, etc. Or even a fall from grace.

Check out this post over on KM Weiland’s blog concerning large casts of characters.
There she explains how a balance of the above changes and arcs can greatly benefit a story.

Now that all that’s out of the way, here are



Linked character names will take you to Memory Alpha,
a website dedicated to fandoms and detailed pages about characters, shows, etc.
Linked actor names will take you to their IMDB pages,
should you wish to learn more about either!

Captain Benjamin Sisko
The Change Arc

Captain Benjamin Sisko was portrayed by Avery Brooks

From the very first episode, Benjamin Sisko and his son, Jake, are thrust into an intense period of change. It propels the entire series forward, and many aspects connect the Sisko family to the people of Bajor. You could say that Sisko’s path very much mimics that of the Bajorans.

The Bajoran home world has just come out of a fifty year occupation by the Cardassians. Sisko must not only bridge a broken peoples’ relationship with the rest of the galaxy, but somehow promise them there is hope for a brighter future.

Change follows Sisko all the way to the final episode. But I refuse to include any spoilers here. This series has one of the most emotional conclusions I’ve ever seen. Avery Brooks poured his entire heart and soul into Sisko, and it’s evident in his arc.

Jake: “…He insisted that she cut up his food for him.
He was treating her like she was some kind of slave.”
Sisko: “It sounds like he’s acting like a Ferengi to me.”

source

Constable Odo
The Shift Arc

Constable Odo was portrayed by Rene Auberjonois

Odo, the station’s constable. Odo, the enigma. Odo, the only one of his kind on Deep Space Nine.

For much of Odo’s arc, he’s searching for his origins but he’s sure of who he is as an individual. Then how, pray, does Odo end up in the negative change arc?

Sometimes what we seek isn’t what we’re meant to find. Or what we wanted to find. Odo’s story is one with many layers, but was it better at the beginning or at the end?

Odo: “Where’s the Changeling? I lost him in the conduits.”
O’Brien: “We haven’t seen him.”
(another Odo emerges from another access port)
Changeling/Odo: “Wait. It’s me, Odo.”
O’Brien(looks at both Odo’s) “You don’t say.”

source

Dr. Julian Bashir
The Growth Arc

Doctor Julian Bashir was portrayed by Alexander Siddig

Stay with me on this one. I’ll not deny that Dr. Bashir had some amazing character moments and difficult choices he had to make throughout the series, including defying orders on several occasions.

Due to some behind-the-scenes tension, Bashir wasn’t developed as well as Sisko or Dax. It’s a well known fact among long time Trek fans that Season Four is when Bashir really begins to shine.

Even with all the writers’ issues with the Bashir character arc, Siddig did an amazing job portraying one of my first television crushes.

Kai Winn: “There is more at stake than one man’s life.”
Bashir: “One man’s life is all I’m concerned with at the moment.”

source

Chief Miles Edward O’Brien
The Shift Arc

Colm Meany reprised the role from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Colm Meany wasn’t sure about reprising O’Brien on another series, but I’m sure glad he did! Because of this O’Brien became an integral character on DS9. Grandfathered in, if you will.

We saw some of his development on Next Gen, but he was more of a secondary character there. Watching the Chief’s growth from Next Gen to the end of DS9 was, and still is, such a joy.

One of the most serious episodes in all of Trek involves O’Brien. If you’re already a fan, you know precisely the one I speak of. It only affirms Trek’s relevancy to what 2020’s brought us. And it O’Brien’s arc shows us that humans in the 24th century will struggle with and overcome the same things we do today.

“It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became, because of you.”
– O’Brien to Glinn Daro

source

Major Kira Nerys
The Growth Arc

Major Kira Nerys was played by Nana Visitor

Major Kira Nerys, very set in her ways when it comes to what she believes, is still willing to accept into her life new relationships, new thoughts and takes on whatever the universe throws at her with strength and grace.

The Round character type suits Kira the most. As she’s Bajoran, she’s just as passionate about her faith and her politics as Cardassians are about order and conquest. Kira’s passion is what draws people of all races to her, and thus needs to change and grow in order to survive.

“If you want to change the government, Minister Jaro, you vote to change it.
You don’t sneak up from behind it with a dagger.”
– Kira to Jaro

source

Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax
The Change Arc

The Dax Symbiont’s eighth host was played by Terry Farrell

Confession: I had a hard time pinpointing Dax’s character arc. And even now I’m still unsure if I made the right choice. Dax, the symbiont within its host of Jadzia (read up on Trill physiology here), has already given Jadzia eight life times’ worth of experiences by the time her character’s introduced in Episode One.

As such, I do believe her character was thought out long before they cast Farrell into the roll. Round in that she knows firmly who she is even with the memories of so many lifetimes inside her.

Even so, Dax still manages to experience much change. Her change isn’t as integral to DS9s timeline as Sisko’s, but their arcs compliment one another well.

Dax: “The Korvat colony. First day of negotiations, I walked out on you, right in the middle of that long-winded speech of yours. You should have seen the look on your face. Nobody had ever had the kajunpak’t to show their back to the great Kang before Curzon did.”
Kang: “I almost killed Curzon that day.”

source

Lt. Commander Worf
The Shift Arc

Michael Dorn also reprised his role from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Because he previously appeared on Next Gen with Chief O’Brien, Worf is quite the Round character. Much of his character’s already developed, so if you really want to get the full Worf experience in, watch all of that series first.

That’s why Worf has the Shift Arc in DS9. We see him learning new skills, learning how to deal with different situations, and how he’s able to hold fast to his heritage in a place he’s never felt quite comfortable in.

If you thought Worf already had quite the role in TNG, just you wait!

Worf: “Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.”
Kira: “I don’t think I’ll ever understand Klingons.”
O’Brien: “Don’t worry about it, Major. Nobody Does. It’s the way they like it.”

source

Quark
The Shift Arc

Quark was portrayed by Armin Shimerman

Whether you want to believe a Ferengi can change or not, Quark falls under the Shift Arc category. Two of my absolute favorite DS9 episodes are completely Ferengi-centric: “Little Green Men” and “The Magnificent Ferengi.”

Even with those two fantastic episodes, and other times Quark shines in episodes like “Business As Usual” and “Profit and Lace,” Quark ends up exactly where he began.

As a Ferengi, Quark was raised with an intense need to earn profit. The entire population within the Ferengi alliance, after all, knows the Rules of Acquisition by heart.

For Quark, even with all his aspirations and more deals gone wrong over those gone right, his character ends with some negative changes.

Quark: “You practically begged me to stay,
which was against my better judgement, but I did!”
Sisko: “I didn’t beg you, I blackmailed you.”

source

Rom
The Shift Arc

Max Grodenchik portrayed Rom

Max Grodenchik has said that Rom was supposed to be just a guest on DS9. While it’s true he’s not in the opening credits, both he and Nog really should’ve been.

Rom is not your typical Ferengi. He’s often criticized by members of his own race, or mocked by others, for being too influenced by “hoomans.”

Rom’s arc connects him to several story threads, and he takes it all on in, well, in Rom’s own way. And Rom’s own way is exactly what’s so endearing about him.

Even when he’s plotting against Quark – because he is, after all, still a Ferengi. A Ferengi with a finish you’ll never see coming.

Rom: “I’m going back to Quark! At least then I’ll be cheated by family!”

source

Nog
The Shift Arc

Nog was portrayed by Aron Eisenberg

Nog, influenced by his friendship with the Sisko family, begins to desire something more than what his society expects of him. There’s so much backstory with Nog and the man who portrays him that it could be its own separate blog post.

Because of those desires, he’s met with some tough resistance from those who can’t believe a Ferengi would want something more than profit. He wants to join Starfleet.

Nog’s journey from childhood to trusted member of the crew is a great reason families should watch DS9. For a secondary character, that’s not too shabby if you ask me.

Jake: “I- I- I made other plans!”
Nog: “What could be more important than dom-jot?”
Jake: “I have a date.”
Nog: “Ohhh. We-ell. That’s different.”

source

Gul Dukat
The Fall Arc

Gul Dukat was played by Mark Alaimo

What can I say about Gul Dukat that won’t spoil anything for you? For the character that he is, he’s one of the most developed I’ve ever seen in a Star Trek series. Next would have to be Commander Worf.

Dukat’s journey is one filled with challenge after challenge. He falls from grace, reclaims his place and falls again. Does this give him some form of Cardassian inferiority complex?

Let’s just say that Dukat is the polar opposite of DS9s resident Cardassian, Garak. While their race, as a whole, is ambitious, confident and efficient, this combination of traits feed both Dukat’s ego and his downfall.

Kira: “Why is it when you smile I want to leave the room?”
Dukat: “I suppose it’s because of my overwhelming charm.”

source

Kai Winn Adami
The Fall Arc

Kai Winn was played by Louise Fletcher

Speaking of ego, Winn Adami likes to begin many of her statements with the “I.” I’ll not hide my feelings about this particular character: Adami is a snake, and I’m sure she’ll not appreciate my use of her given name here.

Adami not only qualify for the Fall Arc, she’s a rather flat character as well. Her wants are singular. And, irony of ironies, she’s openly bitter about her circumstances.

Is that bitterness warranted? Is it self-imposed or was it fed by the Bajoran thirst for freedom from the Cardassian Occupation? I guess you’ll just have to watch and decide for yourself.

Kai Winn: “I was chosen by the Prophets to lead our people into a new era. I know that! But I was not meant to be in a room with a Cardassian, debating legalisms and diplomatic nuances.”

source

“But Leigh! You left out Ezri Dax. Jake Sisko. Garak. Weyoun. Keiko and Molly and Kirayoshi O’Brien. Not to mention Liquidator Brunt, Quark’s cousin Gala, Moogie, the Grand Nagus, Damar, Leeta-“

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Deep Space Nine has one of, if not the largest pools of secondary characters I’ve ever seen in a series. And, whether you like my analysis or not, those folks are secondary characters.

While Jake Sisko did indeed grow up on the show (figuratively and literally), there really aren’t enough Jake-centered episodes fully round out his character. I should hope that even Jake Sisko himself, the captain’s son turned author, would agree with that conclusion. In conclusion: his is a flat character arc.

As for the others, some I’d love to see come back if Deep Space Nine were ever revived. But without Odo or Nog (rest in Paradise, Rene and Aron), as well as certain characters written off the show, I don’t foresee that happening any time soon.

For now, don’t let my analysis of these characters dissuade you from watching Deep Space Nine. Sandwiched between The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager, the writers for DS9 were able to explore a different kind of frontier.

“Very well written and insightful. Writing is definitely your strong suit!” -Greg

The Gilded Conspiracy // Prologue and Part One Now Live

Evenin’ all! I hope you’re having a great start to your weekend. Does it feel like Autumn where you are? It’s certainly beginning to here in Pennsylvania and I can’t wait for my birthday weekend trip to Johnstown in September.

If you didn’t already know, I recently launched a new website for short stories. It’s called The Power of Histfic. There I can share any story my brain concocts as I work on Project Firedamp. Everyone needs a creative outlet, right?

And who knows? Maybe other writers can join in on the historical fun over there as well. For now, the Prologue and Part 1 for my first ever web series are both LIVE and ready to be read. I invite you to hop on over and give them a read. I’d also love constructive feedback as well. Behold: The Gilded Conspiracy! A story set in 1853 London. Click the image below to read.

What I Bought From the Kawaii Pen Shop.

A couple of months ago I put up a post titled Seven Online Stationary Shops I Need to Buy From ASAP.

The lessons learned during this particular experience were many, though it should’ve been a simpler process.

Before we get into all that, let’s take a look at what I purchased. I had a difficult time sifting through the site’s offerings, so I made a mental note: only buy a little, at first. $46 + some change later, here’s what I chose.

Kawaii Pendant Gel Ink Pen. The charm’s what drew me to this piece. It reminded me of the Japanese manga Sailor Moon. A loose reminder, but a reminder nonetheless. After owning this pen for two weeks it stopped writing. Not only that, it stopped writing and leaked a big puddle onto my desk. Price: $2.59 + one desk.

Kawaii Pendant Gel Ink Pen
Gel Ink Stain on my desk…

Sweet Pocky Pens

Sweet Pocky Pens. If you’re unfamiliar with this sweet, Pocky is a stick shaped biscuit treat first developed in 1971 Japan. Since its inception many versions of the chocolate covered treat have hit the market and can now be found in many popular North American retailers. So I really liked the look of these pens, and have to remind myself to not take a bite out of them! While they’re aesthetically pleasing, I’ve yet to find a good way to hold them. However, I do appreciate the fact the pens’ manufacturer flattened one side of it so the design would always face up. Price for two: $4.98.

My Neighbor Totoro Gel Ink Pen. As much as I adore Studio Ghibli, I did not like this pen. The Totoro top is a thin, rubbery piece of felt, and it stopped writing just like the pendant pen. I’m just grateful it didn’t also leak all over my desk. Price: $2.39.

Japanese Pattern Washi Tapes

KOKUYO Dot Liner Applicator + Bear Hug Correction Tape. When I’ve the time for it, I love crafting. Making cards, stationary pages and more. I really like how the dot liner is re-loadable. Most American versions of double-sided tape dispensers are one time use tools. This brings me to the correction tape applicator. Its adorable design made me buy it. I didn’t need it, but I wanted it. Dot Liner: $3.99. Bear Hug: $2.99.

Macaron Galaxy, Japanese Patterns, and Slim Washi Tapes. So far, these items are the only things to perform as they should. The Japanese Patterns tapes were a bit tricky to use as the sticky side is adhered to paper rather than just the other side of the roll. The stars tapes, both the gold and aqua silver rolls, are gorgeous. Price for all washi tapes: $17.47

Totoro Plastic “Stickers” and Thin Washi Tapes

Kawaii Totoro Plastic Stickers and Kanahei Bunny Stickers. As a kid I was a sucker for stickers. Even now, if I see cute stickers, I have to at least drool over them before convincing myself I really don’t need a sticker collection. I’m glad I picked up the bunny stickers – my seven year old niece will love them. But the Totoros? They’re not stickers at all. Plastic, yes. But there’s nothing sticky about them. They’re merely plastic cut outs of the characters, and I can still use the Dot Liner to apply them to my next letter. Price of Totoro “stickers:” $3.99. Price of bunny stickers: $3.59.


I placed my order on July 31st, they acknowledged it June 1st, and shipped it June 2nd. When did the package actually arrive? August 4th. It took two months to receive it. I’m most mad at myself because I knew, before deciding to place an order, that they’re based out of Hong Kong. The day it appeared in my mailbox I was going to file a dispute for the transaction to get my money back. Moral of the story: Never shop online during a pandemic unless what you’re shopping for is absolutely necessary.

Was this purchase worth the money? I’m sorry to say, but no. Some of it wasn’t worth the money nor the time it took to arrive. Just because something’s labeled “kawaii,” that doesn’t mean it’s reliable or practical. The experience only confirmed what I needed it to: online shopping isn’t everything. Do I trust the Kawaii Pen Shop? Nothing’s happened to my bank account since then, so I trust them for that. What I do not trust the quality of their products. Still, if you’d like to check them out for yourself, here are their links:

What I Watch When I’m Not Writing.

The answer: very little, in fact. Way back in April, at the very beginning of all things pandemic and everyone else was binging their entire Netflix list, I conducted a month long experiment and unplugged my television. For science. Five months later it’s still unplugged, and I haven’t seen a single political ad this whole year. The result: a much happier existence. I really do suggest you give it a try.

However, every once in a while I crave some mindless entertainment. While I’ve read down my TBR book pile and bought even more than I can handle in a year, I needed to add back in a healthy mix of other kinds of media. As such, here’s what I watch when I’m not writing. Or trying to write. Or practicing deep procrastination from writing!

YouTube

For a long while I unsubscribed from all the channels I was watching the past two years. Some of them no longer posted content, and others no longer piqued my interest. Last night I whittled down the my current list from over fifteen to six. Here they are.

Kittisaurus

Kittisaurus and her ten (yes, ten) cats brings me so much joy. A YouTuber out of South Korea, Claire, Lulu, Momo, TT, DD, LaLa, CoCo, ChuChu, Nana, Toto and DoDo will most certainly brighten up your day. However, Claire recently got back ownership of her original channel, CreamHeroes. While I’m really happy she was able to accomplish that, I’m still nervous to resub. (If you know anything about YouTube politics, you get what I mean). So here’s a couple videos from her Kittisaurus channel for you to enjoy.

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Korean! She’s got such a large, international fan base that she’s been working on her English skills.

Royalty Soaps

I love Katie’s soaps. Having watched her channel grow over the past several years, it’s now incredibly difficult placing orders on her soap release days. But that’s a fantastic problem to have – for Katie! She’s a small business based out of Texas and basically her whole family’s involved in the process. (Process. Cold processed soap. See what I did there? hehe). While I prefer low-top soaps over the ones with high piles of “soap frosting,” I bought a high top grapefruit soap earlier this year and was sad when it was gone. If you prefer using bars of soap over liquid, consider supporting Katie’s Royalty Soaps. If you can’t seem to get your hands on her bars, look into Ophelia’s Soapery.

Binging With Babish

I found this channel a month ago. I don’t even know why I started watching it. All I know is I’ll never make a good 95% of the recipes he recreates from television shows and film. Of the five percent left, I *may* actually attempt an alcohol free version of the cheese fondue video below. I bought one of those electric fondue pots last year, and I own several old school fondue cookbooks from the 1970s. Oooh – I may just have to for my birthday coming up next month!

Kimono Mom

Kimono Mom’s the most recent channel I’ve subscribed to within the last few weeks. Moe cooks Japanese cuisine with her adorable daughter, Sutan. I’ve always wanted to try making more types of food, and I love this channel’s simplicity. In fact, I’m going to try making tonkatsu later this week. The closest Asian market that I know of here in Pittsburgh is about twenty minutes away on a good driving day. I don’t know if they’re currently open for business, but I’m going to try looking for ingredients to make dashi, and that coveted Japanese mayo!

Tonkatsu reminds me of the German dish schnitzle, which is also a breaded cutlet.

Jessica Braun

I’ve watched Jessica Braun for years. And I do mean years. From the floor of her bedroom to her wedding to the birth of her adorable Gigi, it’s been a privilege to watch her little family grow. If you like all things Disney, her husband’s a travel agent and they often vlog their trips (when there’s not a pandemic going on, of course). If you like a more down-to-earth YouTube channel experience, give Jessica Braun’s channel a try.

Alexandria Ryan

Alex’s channel is one of those channels I unsub from only to come back a month later. I don’t know why I just don’t let the link sit in my subs list. To quote Alex, “Anywho…” This channel’s specialty lies in subscription box unboxings. If you ever think about getting one, she may have a review of it already. Boxes aren’t as big as they once were, but I could be wrong. The only box I purchase is FabFitFun. That’s mostly because of their options and quality, add-on specials, and ease of cancellation.

Netflix

I have a rule of thumb with Netflix – never have more than five shows in your Watch Later list. Right before I unplugged my TV, I pushed my way through a list twenty titles deep. By the end, instead of entertained, I was disappointed in myself for some of the choices I make in life. Okay, let’s not get philosophical here. Here’s what’s currently on my Watch Later list:

Star Trek

Some people binge watch FRIENDS. Others The Office, and still others Seinfeld. Then there’s the generation that adores shows like Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and the newest version of Sabrina. Whatever your favorite genre may be, mine will always, always be Star Trek.

This month’s series is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’ve yet to dip my toes into Discovery or Picard, as its the classics I love. One of these days I really should see what all the talk’s about.

It takes me about a month to get through a Star Trek series, and I can’t watch them out of order. The only one I also can’t get into is The Original Series. I do, of course, understand its significance and place in pop culture history.

If you doubt my love for Trek, just read these blog posts of mine:

The Character Arcs in Star Trek Voyager
The Dream That Star Trek Gave Me
Five Disease Filled Star Trek Voyager Episodes
Five Favorite Childhood Books

Black

Another Netflix habit I have is rewatching old Korean dramas I absolutely adore. I normally don’t go for dramas with older cast members, as I prefer more light-hearted series. But Black’s dark nature rekindled my love for its genre (think Japan’s Ghost Hunt anime, Supernatural, and S. Korea’s Bring It On, Ghost [oml Taecyeon’s my weakness).

Last month I watched Oh My Ghost again. I really want to rewatch the Taiwanese and Japanese versions once more, but that’s a lot of TV. For now, I’ll stick with the Korean mystical thriller, Black.

Cast:
1. Song Seung-heon
2. Go Ara
3. El Lee
4. Jo Jae-yoon
5. Kim Dong-jun
6. Kim Won-hae
7. Choi Myung-bin
8. Lee Hyo-Je
9. Kim Hyeong-min
10. Kim Jae-young

Cursed

Cursed is one of those shows with such mixed reviews I hesitate to watch.

I’ve also been so busy as of late that I really need to set aside time to sit down and pay attention to something brand new. I think that’s why I enjoy having old shows on in the background, so I can still work without having to stop and watch.

Yes, this includes Korean dramas like Black.

I’m drawn to anything with swords. Think Lord of the Rings, Legend of the Seeker and that one episode of Firefly where Mal is challenged to a duel. Okay, looks like I’m giving Cursed a chance.

NiNoKuni

Every so often I’ll hop on the anime train. I can only handle it in small chunks. As a kid I loved Sailor Moon and watched Inuyasha during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming. I also absolutely love Sword Art Online, Clannad, Mary and the Witch’s Flower and A Silent Voice.

This past week I finished A Whisker Away, Ouran High School Host Club (again), and Toradora. That’s a lot of television for someone who’s unplugged her actual tv!

NiNoKuni‘s a film along the same line as A.I.C.O. Incarnate, another post-apocalyptic Netflix original. The similar concept drew me to add it to my list, and I can’t wait to dive in.

I do appreciate how one kid in the poster kinda reminds me of Haku from Spirited Away:


So how’s that for an impromptu blog post? I suppose the other reason I wanted to share these titles is to remind you that you don’t always need to be writing. It’s perfectly okay, normal, natural to take a break. In fact, breaks are necessary for your mental health. Don’t be afraid to indulge in a favorite YouTube video or Netflix flick. They’re a great stress reliever and frees up those neurons so they can plan out your next great scene. Give yourself a break and do something freeing today.

August Bookviews // Islands, Recipes and Devil Fires Indeed

Well, it looks like I completely forgot to do Bookviews for July. July didn’t even register in my mind until it was August. The number of books I read also dropped dramatically, but more writing’s happened and that’s taken priority. I’d still like to share my Bookviews for August 2020! (Here’s the Bookview post for June).

The format these sections is as follows. I’ll pull six titles from this site’s On My Bookshelf page: three from What I’ve Read, two from Upcoming Reads, and one from that dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. From What I’ve Read, you can expect my final thoughts on plot, character development, and a star rating. From Upcoming Reads, my expectations or hopes for the book. And perhaps even a prediction or two. Finally, from the DNFs, what made me close the cover for good and if I’ll ever attempt to read it again.

The First Section: What I’ve Read

SAVING MISS EVERLY
by Sally Britton

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July’s and August’s reads all have one thing in common: I wanted Regency. While I wanted gritty, adventurous Regencies, many that piqued my interest were the sweet romance variety.

That’s what I appreciated about SAVING MISS EVERLY. It’s unique setting felt very much like LOST (minus the airplanes) x CAST AWAY and I’m not mad at that at all.

With that being said, I did feel like there were one too many characters. I also felt that several of the characters’ reactions to situations were blown out of proportion. This could be an 1814 vs 2020 disconnect.

If you like uncertainty, adventure, islands (definitely a summer read), and romance, then give SAVING MISS EVERLY a try.

Sally’s Links

ALLEGHENY CITY: A HISTORY OF PITTSBURGH’S NORTH SIDE
by Dan Rooney and Carol Peterson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you’re from Pittsburgh, or even familiar with the National Football League at all, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Dan Rooney. Naturally, a book published by such an iconic man as Mr. Rooney would make headline news for weeks on end.

My church, located on Pittsburgh’s North Side, was formed in 1992 when two churches came together in one building we still call home. I never knew the historical significance of our location until I began my research journey in 2016.

Since then I’ve poured over maps and my fascination grew for things that used to be in my own city. I’m sad for not picking this up sooner. Even if you don’t read this book, consider looking into your own town’s history. There’s informational gems there you may never otherwise discover!

News Article Links

STORING UP TROUBLE
by Jen Turano

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is one book I’m glad I bought in paperback and not Kindle. If you want romance, and you want adventure, then STORING UP TROUBLE should definitely be your next read.

I was actually really happy to find a book set in my own manuscript’s time frame, as many things mentioned throughout her story matched with what I know from research.

What I didn’t realize when I picked this up is that it’s part of the American Heiresses series. It can be read as a standalone. That being said, I could easily devour all of Turano’s stories, just like I do those by Melanie Dickerson.

Jen’s Links

The Second Section: My Upcoming Reads

THE UNOFFICIAL DOWNTON ABBEY COOKBOOK
by Emily Ansara Baines

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

Would you believe me if I told you I’ve never seen any part of the Downton Abbey television series?

Then why did I buy THE UNOFFICIAL DOWNTON ABBEY COOKBOOK? The answer is simple. Research.

I wondered: how old could some of the recipes be? Would they be at least reminiscent of dishes served in late Victoria?

So it’s time to learn how to cook again. For science.

Emily’s Links

A LADY OUT OF TIME
by Caroline Harris

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

The Lake House. A Wrinkle in Time. The Time Traveler’s Wife. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. What do all these stories have in common? Time travel.

It’s a trope that’s been used time and time again (see what I did there?), but what’s important is the author’s ability to control it. That’s what I’m most anxious to see in A LADY OUT OF TIME.

Caroline’s Links

The Third Section: What I Did Not Finish

THE DEVIL’S FIRE
by Matt Tomerlin

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Oh boy. Where do I even begin with THE DEVIL’S FIRE? No book I’ve ever attempted to read made me madder than this one.

Now here’s the trouble I face. Do I write a scathing review or do I suggest you buy it and attempt reading such an necessarily violent, misogynistic tale yourself? Part of a trilogy (the first book), I honestly don’t see how this was published.

Whoops – did I say that last bit aloud?

I’m mad at this book all over again.

Matt’s Links

Well? What do you guys think? I hope you had fun reading through these titles and my thoughts on them. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Announcement // A New Site For Short Stories

Good evening, everyone! I just wanted to take a moment to put up a quick announcement for an exciting new venture I began earlier this evening.

For a long while now I’ve wanted to share some short stories with you. The last time I tried to write such things was two years ago and I never finished them.

One of my personal goals for 2020 is to practice bravery. I felt brave when I opened my first ever credit card, I felt brave when I had to “adult” and correspond with both AAA and PennDOT over issues with my car (and resolved them), and I felt brave when I posted made the very first post live for THE GILDED CONSPIRACY over on my brand new website, The Power of Histfic.

So I invite you to follow the adventures of Lady Irene Washburn in a Victorian web series over on thepowerofhistfic.com. I can only hope you enjoy the story!