Book Review

30 Years of Reading

Yesterday was my 30th birthday, and to celebrate, I wanted to share my top 5 favorite books of all time with you!

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First up is The Elegence of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I love this part of the description on Goodreads: “A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.” That definitely sums it up. I loved the explorations of art and philosophy in this book as well as the unlikely friendships and beautiful descriptions.

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Next is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is absolutely my favorite classic. Jane is my favorite literary heroine. Even though I read this one differently than I did when I was younger (Mr. Rochester no longer feels like a romantic hero to me), I still love Jane and her fearlessness and recklessness as she forges her own path in the world and overcomes the odds stacked against her.

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Third is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, described by some as the adult version of Twilight. When I first read this book, I had some issues with it (Matthew’s possessiveness), but it became clear that I couldn’t stop talking about it. Since then, I’ve probably read it five more times and have fallen in love with this story of witches and vampires. I love the science and history described in the series – it really sets this apart from the rest of the romantic fantasy out there.

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Next is Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. When I first read this one, I couldn’t put it down. I was obsessed with the exploration of motherhood and the way the mystery unfolded. To this day, it’s one of the books I recommend most when I’m working at the library. It’s fast-paced and easy to discuss, which makes it perfect for book clubs. I’ve read all of Moriarty’s books and this is hands down my favorite.

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And lastly, there is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The descriptions of nature in this book are truly unparalleled, but I was also instantly drawn into the story about Kya. I loved the way the story unfolded, and I constantly recommend this one at the library as well. This was the rare book where I felt sad when it was over because I’d never be able to read it for the first time again. Still, I’ve enjoyed many subsequent readings.

What are some books that have stayed with you over the years? I would love to know! Feel free to send me recommendations in the comments section!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

Personal, Update

What I’ve Been Up to in 2021

I have not done a great job at blogging in 2021. It’s honestly always been a struggle. I thrive more behind the scenes, writing and creating in private. But I still want to update occasionally so that I can stay accountable and build connections with other writers and artists.

Below is an abstract sunset landscape that I recently painted. Painting is a passion of mine, but even though I’ve sold some work and was featured in a gallery last year, it’s also something I’m deeply insecure about. I know art is subjective, and I know that it’s something I love to do, but it’s also something I long to keep hidden from the world out of fear of rejection. So, posting this and the other paintings on my website cause me anxiety, but it feels important to continue trying to share. I’m also excited about participating in another Inktober on Instagram in October, so I’ve been practicing more ink sketches.

This year has been more about poetry than prose. I’ve felt very inspired by nature and have spent a lot of time hiking and reflecting, and these themes have factored into my painting and poetry a lot. While I’m still working on novel #2, a poetry collection may be debuting sooner rather than later. And speaking of poetry, Ephemeral Elegies is still going strong with over 33,000 views in under 2 years. I’ve loved connecting with other poets and providing a platform for new and emerging voices. We’re always looking for new submissions too!

One of the main reasons I’ve been reflecting a lot this year is because I’m turning 30 at the end of this month! This has been an interesting decade filled with lots of highs and lows. I’ve learned and grown; loved and lost; created and reinvented. It was a time of change, and now I’m entering this next chapter of life ready to see what’s going to happen next. But before I get there, I did set a goal for myself of doing something I never thought I’d be able to do: run a half-marathon. I’ve been doing some charity 10Ks to prepare and I’m so ready for my birthday race to benefit Autism Speaks.

I wish I had more exciting things to share, but even small victories during a global pandemic feel more meaningful right now, so hopefully this post wasn’t too boring. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share what you’ve been up to this year in the comments section!

-Tiffany

Movie Review

Happy Friday the 13th: Free Horror Crossword

One of my favorite hobbies is doing crossword puzzles. They’re a lot of fun, but they also keep the mind sharp. I’ve tried my hand at creating some crossword puzzles, and while I’m still learning a lot, I wanted to make one to celebrate Friday the 13th. I published it on Eclipse Crossword, so if you want to give it a try, it is available here! It should be pretty easy for the average horror movie lover!

Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili on Pexels.com

If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it goes! Was it too easy? Too hard? Too niche? Feedback is more than welcome in the comments.

And now, in honor of Friday the 13th, I’d like to list all 12 Friday the 13th movies in order from greatest to worst (in my humble and possibly controversial opinion):

  • Friday the 13th Part 2
  • Friday the 13th Part III
  • Friday the 13th (1980)
  • Freddy vs. Jason
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  • Friday the 13th (2009)
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
  • Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
  • Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
  • Jason X
  • Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

I do feel like quite the expert since I just spent the last week binge-watching the franchise! If you’re a fan, I’d definitely recommend the documentary Crystal Lake Memories – it is long (like 6 hours and 40 minutes) but a lot of fun with tons of interviews and interesting trivia.

It makes me wonder when/if the 13th movie will emerge on the scene. I definitely have a great idea for the next movie, so maybe I’ll have to find a way to get to Paramount!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Series Review: Ruth Galloway Mysteries

I’m absolutely a series binger when it comes to books. When I stumble upon a series that I love, I typically will read them one after the other until I either finish or tire of them. Recently, I fell in love with the Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths. These books feature Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, who frequently helps the Norfolk police solve murders (both past and present!)

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The series starts with The Crossing Places, where Ruth is tasked with helping the police in a decade-old case when a new girl goes missing in an eerily similar way. These are pretty standard detective stories. Ruth is an expert in her field, and she teams up with Detective Harry Nelson to show how the past can continue informing the present.

The plots themselves are very fresh and interesting. A lot of the details rely on forensic science, historical references, and obscure literary references. There’s a lot of danger, and while these are not overly gory or scary, they’re also definitely not cozy.

I think what I like most, though, is the personal drama. A lot of the characters make bad or dramatic decisions, and while their personal lives are not necessarily believable, they are super interesting. This aspect probably won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like balancing a tense mystery with a dash of soap opera, you might want to give this series a try!

Currently, there are 13 books in this series with another one slated to come out next year. I’ve read 12 (still waiting for my library copy of the latest one to arrive!) and I’m still excited about this series. Not all of the mysteries are winners, but the vast majority are. They don’t feel formulaic, and they’re pretty quick reads too.

Have you read this series? Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comment series!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

beauty

Best Affordable Lipstick – Almay Lip Vibes

I am a huge fan of lipstick. While I’ve been diligent about mask-wearing during the pandemic, I have really missed wearing lipstick, and I’m looking forward to being able to wear it more often again. Recently, I was at Walgreens and noticed a sale on Almay Lip Vibes. I loved the cute cardboard tubes with vibrant colors inside and out and decided to give them a try!

I bought two shades with different finishes. First off is Be Strong, a beautiful neutral mauve with a cream finish. The second is Treat Yourself, a true red with a matte finish. When not on sale, these retail for $8 a piece. While the finish was different, the experience with both shades was largely the same: they go on so easily and are both opaque from the first swipe. I was impressed by how even the color was and how easy the application was, especially for a red drugstore lipstick. Both shades felt pretty creamy, although the matte finish was noticeably less shiny than the other one. Still, while most matte lipsticks feel a bit drying, this one did not! That’s a huge plus in my book.

When it comes to lasting power, this is a good product. It will last for hours if you don’t eat or drink much. You’ll definitely need to reapply after a meal, but at least eating doesn’t make the lipstick move much or get messy. I would absolutely recommend these to anyone who wants an affordable lipstick! I’m thrilled with the shades I got too – I love a bold red lip that stays put without mess or drying out the lips and the mauve is both super pretty and neutral enough to go with pretty much any look. I plan to buy every shade in this collection that isn’t brownish or autumnal (since my skin tone is quite cool and would look washed out by those shades).

Have you tried these yet or do you have a go-to affordable lip product? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

XO Tiffany

Movie Review

Movie Review: Things Heard & Seen (2021)

I’m a sucker for horror movies that are polarizing audiences, so when I heard about the new Netflix movie, “Things Heard & Seen” I had to see what all the fuss was about for myself!

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First, the IMBD Description: “An artist relocates to the Hudson Valley and begins to suspect that her marriage has a sinister darkness, one that rivals her new home’s history.”

I must say, I was a little daunted by the fact that the movie is 2 hours long. Since horror and suspense are difficult things to maintain, I prefer these types of movies when they’re on the shorter side (ideally 80-90 minutes), but this one did not drag at all for me. I was fully entranced by the careful character studies in this film – no one is quite what they seem and each character (except perhaps the villain) is painted in a way that shows a lot of depth.

The setting was perfect – a haunted house that seemed to serve as a metaphor for the protagonist’s own unsettled feelings.

I wouldn’t say that this one is scary. It feels more like an artful mystery which analyzes gender roles and toxic relationships. Amanda Seyfried does a great job as the main character with understated loneliness and repression. James Norton is also fantastic at playing her husband and foil, a man whose secrets and darkness seem boundless by the end.

To avoid giving too much away, I will say that this one has a weird ending that leaves a bit to the imagination. For those who have read the novel the movie is based on (All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage) the ending is a bit different from its source material. In fact, this is a rare occasion where I think I actually enjoyed the movie more than the book!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this movie to people who like character-driven psychological suspense. Horror purists might find it a bit too mellow, and action-lovers may find it too leisurely paced.

Fashion, Personal

On Personal Style and Being Too Much

Buckle up, my friends – it’s story time! I wanted to use today’s post to touch on a topic that’s important to me (and most people): personal style! No matter if you love everything that sparkles or prefer an array of neutral shades, the most important thing about fashion is remaining authentic to who you are.

My story begins in junior high and high school when I attended a private school with a strict dress code. I was just entering the world of fashion, religiously pouring over each month’s issue of Vogue, so I found our strict uniform of blue polos and plaid skirts to be repressive. It wasn’t that I longed to be different. It’s just that I already knew I was different and wanted to embrace that. I wanted to wear things that reflected how I felt inside – and baby, that meant couture! That’s right, I was the weirdo who paired a classic school uniform with high heels, a floor-length black fur coat, and enough costume jewelry to make it appear that I was already on my third divorce.

You’re probably wondering how people responded to my sense of style. In truth, I don’t remember much because I was so busy daydreaming about what it would be like to work for Vogue and live in New York City and attend galas every night.

Now that I’m nearing age 30, a lot has changed and a lot hasn’t. I’m not Anna Wintour’s protege, but I am a freelance writer who still loves beauty and fashion. My sense of style is still dramatic, but perhaps it’s been tamed just a bit. The sparkles haven’t dulled; they’re just used more sparingly. I think the biggest difference is that I’m now more aware of other people and their opinions. I’ve noticed that I’m frequently accused of being, “too much,” in a lot of ways: too loud, too large, too sparkly, too accessorized, too talkative, too direct, too colorful, too shallow, too serious, too materialistic.

Case in point – do you see the beautifully large white bag in the picture of this post? I love this purse! I bought it on Amazon because it reminded me of a classic Hermes Birkin bag, and I know I’ll never be able to afford even a used Birkin on Poshmark. I couldn’t wait to show it off! I bought it in white because I loved how it would stand out (even though, I am very clumsy and often don’t buy white things since I’m prone to instantly spilling coffee on them – but the red wouldn’t go with as many outfits, so I picked the white!) I was casually seeing a guy at the time, and he had already accused me of being “too much.” I wasn’t relaxed enough; it was weird that I was always so put together; it was a red flag that I seemed so materialistic. Anyway, I truly didn’t think he’d have a strong opinion about the purse, but then I was told that it was nearing a line of being so ostentatious that he’d be embarrassed being seen with me. Needless to say, I picked the bag over the boy right away.

I guess I say all of this in case someone reading this has also felt their style or personality was, “too much.” I see you – and I like you! The world needs your flair for the dramatic, your bold opinions, your sky-high stilettos, the way you light up the room when you walk in. Let’s never apologize for embracing who we truly are.

Thanks for reading!

XO Tiffany

beauty

Scents for All Seasons

I’ve decided it’s time to return to my roots. No, I don’t mean I’m going to stop dying my hair. Rather, I want to return to beauty and fashion blogging. Instead of setting up a separate space for these reviews, I’m going to just incorporate this part of myself here on my website. So, in addition to more book and movie reviews, stay tuned for reviews about products I want to recommend. First up, I want to share my perfume collection with you.

Just like each season of the year evokes a different scent, so do we tend to gravitate towards different scents for each season of our lives. I’ve come a long way since my high school days of drenching myself in Lucky You, that ubiquitous pink bottle found in every drug store. Yet, I still tend to pick floral scents. I select my perfume each morning based on how I’m feeling that day or how I want to feel for the rest of the day. Because of this, I don’t tend to box my scents in and only wear warm scents in autumn and cool scents in spring. Here are my top 5 favorite scents right now:

Chanel – CoCo Mademoiselle

Scent Type: warm floral with orange, patchouli, and Turkish rose

Don’t be fooled by the orange and patchouli, this scent is neither citrusy or matronly. As my all-time favorite scent, I wear CoCo Mademoiselle when I want to feel feminine and a tad seductive. The warm floral scent almost smells like a French garden mixed with caramel. It evokes sophistication and elegance and always makes me feel grounded and confident.

Yves Saint Laurent – Black Opium

Scent Type: warm and sweet with black coffee, white flowers, and vanilla

Black opium is both warm and spicy. It’s a great evening scent when you’re out on the town. The spice smells sultry while the sweetness balances out the scent with a dash of youthful playfulness.

Dior – Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet

Scent Type: fruity floral with Damascus rose, peony, and white musk

I love this floral twist on the original Miss Dior. It’s a great, light scent that always makes me think of spring and summer. I wear it when I want to feel fun and flirty.

Gucci – Guilty

Scent Type: warm floral with mandora and pink pepper

This was my first “adult” fragrant which I purchased as an undergrad. It made me feel strong, powerful, and ready to face the world of exams, job interviews, and giving expert presentations. It still has a special place in my heart and I wear it on days when things are serious and I need a boost of confidence.

Dolce & Gabbana – The Only One

Scent Type: warm and sweet with citrus, violet, and coffee

This is the latest perfume I’ve been trying after receiving a sample coffret. I love how balanced it is with being a bit spicy, a bit sweet, and a bit floral. It’s a very feminine fragrance, but I don’t yet have a go-to reason to pick this one other than enjoying the scent.

So, now you know all about my fragrance collection! What about you? Do you have a scent that evokes something special each time you grab it? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

XO Tiffany

Book Review

The Mysteries of 2021

Winter is finally over! 2021 has been a weird year so far – too much snow, an ongoing pandemic, and a lot of time to pause and reflect on what is important and what is not. I haven’t been blogging/writing/publishing as much during the winter season, which seems apt. It’s an icy time of hibernation for a lot of creatures. But now spring is here and with it comes renewal and the light of hope for better times to come.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

So, while I don’t have a lot to share regarding new projects, I thought I’d share some books I’ve read this winter that were the most enjoyable. They’re all mysteries since that’s definitely what I’ve been gravitating towards. All of the descriptions have been taken from Goodreads:

  • The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: A killer who targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on them before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician – a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them. But as homicide detective Thomas Moore and his partner Jane Rizzoli begin their investigation, they make a startling discovery. Closely linked to these killings is Catherine Cordell, a beautiful doctor with a mysterious past. Two years ago she was subjected to a horrifying rape and shot her attacker dead. Now the man she believes she killed seems to be stalking her once again, and this time he knows exactly where to find her…
  • A Hex for Danger by Esme Addison: The annual Mermaid Festival is the setting for Esme Addison’s sunny-yet-sinister second Enchanted Bay mystery, perfect for fans of Heather Blake and Bailey Cates. The small town of Bellamy Bay has its share of skeletons in its closet, but it isn’t used to bodies turning up in the local history museum. After all, this coastal North Carolina town is much like any other…except, of course, for the mermaids. Helping to run the family business, an herbal apothecary while keeping her supernatural secret hidden is no easy feat for water witch Aleksandra Daniels. But somehow she’s still found time to help her friend Celeste, who has her own Caribbean mermaid heritage plan the annual Mermaid Festival. As fun-seekers throng the beaches, Alex gets to know and is intrigued by renowned artist Neve Ryland, who’s in town to decorate the local park with a mermaid-themed mural. Celeste, however, is less enamored with the artist, as Neve has been spending entirely too much one-on-one time with her boyfriend Jasper, director of Bellamy Bay’s history museum. Then, a reception for Neve ends abruptly when the artist is found dead in his office.The police investigation nets Celeste who asks Alex to find the true culprit. With the help of her magically-inclined aunt and cousins, Alex dives in to clear her friends name. But there was more to Neve Ryland than met the eye…and Alex fears she may be in way too deep. Will she catch the crook or be next on the hook?
  • The Black Echo by Michael Connelly: For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal…because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat” who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit. Pitted against enemies inside his own department and forced to make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, Bosch goes on the hunt for a killer whose true face will shock him.
  • Classified as Murder by Miranda James: Aging eccentric James Delacorte asks Charlie the librarian to do an inventory of his rare book collection—but the job goes from tedious to terrifying when James turns up dead. Relying on his cat Diesel to paw around for clues, Charlie has to catch the killer before another victim checks out.
  • Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell: Four women with nothing in common, united only in death. Four brutalized victims of a brilliant monster – a “Mr. Nobody”, moving undetected through a paralyzed city, leaving behind a gruesome trail of carnage . . . but few clues. With skilled hands, an unerring eye, and the latest advances in forensic research, an unrelenting female medical examiner – Kay Scarpetta – is determined to unmask a maniac. But someone is trying to sabotage Kay’s investigation from the inside. And worse yet, someone wants her dead . . .

What have you been reading this winter? Has it been a time of slow growth and reflection for you too? Feel free to let me know in the comment section.

Thanks for reading and happy spring,

Tiffany

Personal

2020 – A Year in Review

Good Riddance, 2020! This has been the weirdest year, and I’m sure we’re all happy to put it behind us. Still, while it’s easy to sort of marinate in the awfulness of 2020, I wanted to reflect on some of the better moments too. Here are some good/productive things I can still be proud of from this year:

Suburban Secrets

At least the pandemic gave me enough free time to finish up my debut novel: Suburban Secrets. This mystery has been a project I’ve worked on since grad school, so it was nice to finally see it through.

Other Published Works:

I didn’t submit quite as much as I’d have liked to this year, but I did have a few smaller things published as well:

“The Monster Within” (Dreaming in Fiction – October 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“Horoscopes for the Unbalanced Libra” (Ephemeral Elegies – September 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“Spare Parts” (Ephemeral Elegies – August 2020) [As Aurora Bishop]

“New Life” (Inwood Indiana – Fallow Ground)

“American Exodus” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“The World Ablaze” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“Welcome to 2020” (SOS Art Cincinnati – For a Better World 2020)

“Dancing in the Dark” (Writing in a Woman’s Voice – February 2020)

“The Vanishing Act” (Down in the Dirt Magazine – February 2020)

Artwork:

I wanted to make it a priority to focus on my artwork this year, and while I didn’t do nearly as much as I expected, there were still a few nice moments. I was able to complete Inktober on Instagram. I had a painting purchased as artwork for a mental health journal, and I had two paintings featured in a local art show.

Transitioning to Publisher:

This year also marked the debut of my two literary journals: Ephemeral Elegies and Dreaming in Fiction. It’s been such a great experience meeting and supporting other authors from around the globe. I can’t wait to feature more writing in 2021.

Well, I guess 2020 wasn’t so bad after all. Still, I’m looking forward to a 2021 filled with health, happiness, and (hopefully) new adventures!

What are you most proud of this year? Please, let me know in the comment section so I can celebrate with you!

-Tiffany