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

Book Review

Best Books of 2020

What a weird year this has been! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to never repeat a year such as this one. Thankfully, though, I did have a lot of time to read this year (both new books and some re-reads of favorites!) Here are the best books I read (or re-read) this year:

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

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Goodreads Description: Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here too. . . but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the highest aspiration he can imagine for a Chinatown denizen. Or is it? After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family, and what that means for him, in today’s America.

My Thoughts: This book was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award this year. It is one of the most unique books I’ve read. Partially in second person and partially written with script-esque dialogue, this is a strange but engrossing reading experience all about the harmful impact of internalizing and externalizing stereotypes.

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

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Goodreads Description: Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India

My Thoughts: This one was very difficult to read but I couldn’t put it down. The raw, vulnerable honesty was such a necessary addition to the wider societal conversations about domestic violence.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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Goodreads Description: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

My Thoughts: This was a really fun book! It is an exciting mystery combined with a lot of interesting character development. I loved the exploration of the female friendships.

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

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Goodreads Description: Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dune fields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

My Thoughts: This was the best poetry collection I read this year. The poems were exquisite and showed a lot of range when it comes to both theme and emotion. I can’t wait to read more from this poet!

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

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Goodreads Description: Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous. When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York. Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists.

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating memoir about a woman who was conned by someone who she thought was one of her best friends. I remembered hearing about Anna Delvey’s trial a while back, and I really enjoyed learning more about this case. I think two tv shows about this are currently in-development, and I’ll absolutely be watching those too!

Did you have more time to read in 2020? What are your top picks for this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Movie Review

Best Holiday Movies

Christmas is coming! But there’s still time to watch a few holiday movies or read a fun Christmas mystery. Here are my top favorite Christmas movies:

Krampus (2015)

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IMDB Description: A boy who has a bad Christmas accidentally summons a festive demon to his family home.

My thoughts: I love the folklore surrounding Krampus, and while this movie does not stay true to the details of that folklore, it absolutely captivates the spirit of the holiday. This is a fun but slightly dark holiday movie.

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

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IMDB Description: Astonished to find the Beast has a deep-seeded hatred for the Christmas season, Belle endeavors to change his mind on the matter. 

My Thoughts: This sequel to Beauty and the Beast actually takes place in the middle of the first movie’s story. Still, it’s a really fun and festive movie that fills me with nostalgia.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

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IMDB Description: A grumpy hermit hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.

My Thoughts: This one is obviously a classic for a reason. I definitely think it is the best version of this story!

The Ref (1994)

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IMDB Description: A cat burglar is forced to take a bickering, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve.

My Thoughts: This movie is absolutely hilarious! Anyone who has ever dreaded holiday family drama will be sure to relate to and enjoy this one.

Home Alone (1990)

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IMDB Description: An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

My Thoughts: Another classic that takes me back to childhood! This one is fun to watch at any time of year.

What have you been watching this holiday season? Have you been reaching for nostalgia, gravitating towards the Hallmark channel, or avoiding Christmas altogether? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Best Christmas Mysteries

‘Tis the season for holiday reading! There’s less than two weeks until Christmas, and if you’re in quarantine or avoiding social things due to the pandemic, why not spend the extra time curled up with a cozy Christmas-themed murder mystery? Here are some of my top picks:

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton

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Goodreads Description: Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: the upcoming Christmas festivities and her ex, James Lacey. This year she is sure that if she invites James to a really splendid, old-fashioned Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log.
When a wealthy widow hires Agatha because she’s convinced a member of her family is trying to kill her, Agatha is intrigued—especially when the widow drops dead after high tea at the manor house. Who in this rather sterile house, complete with fake family portraits, could have hated the old lady enough to poison her?
Agatha sets out to find the murderer, all the while managing a pretty, teenage trainee who makes her feel old and planning for a picture-perfect Christmas, with James, all the trimmings, and perhaps even snow.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

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Goodreads Description: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig. So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead.  On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third.  Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

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Goodreads Description: It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce – an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving – is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

A Little Yuletide Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

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Goodreads Description: Jessica Fletcher is planning to spend a cozy Christmas in Cabot Cove. But when Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, there will be no peace on earth until his killer is found. Snooping into the small town’s past for a motive, Jessica is determined to deliver the killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream—her own…

Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke

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Goodreads Description:

Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer. From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I know it’s been unusual and perhaps a little lonely for many of us, but there’s still a lot of Christmas magic all around. Do you have a great Christmas book you’ve read this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Personal

Happy Birthday Ephemeral Elegies!

Today marks the one year anniversary of me purchasing the domain for Ephemeral Elegies and hatching an idea that has really blossomed this year! Over the past year, this humble poetry journal has had 136 posts with 21,887 views. It’s been an honor to work with so many talented poets from all over the globe – highlighting diverse voices and experiences.

So what’s coming next in 2021? Hopefully, a lot more poetry! We are currently open for submissions for 2021. Posts go live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so there are many opportunities to highlight new and emerging poets. Have you spent your quarantine putting your emotions down on paper? I’d love to receive some confessional poetry about how 2020 has impacted your lives and emotions.

Thanks for considering!

XO -Tiffany

Update

New COVID-19 Painting

I don’t know about you, but when I think back a few months to March, I’m pained at the memory of naively thinking everyone would have to just quarantine for 2 weeks and then the world would go back to normal. Now, here we are, 5 months later, and everything is still crazy. Though some businesses and workplaces are slowly opening back up, everyone seems to still be on edge. It seems like almost everyone is scared or angry or a fun combination of both, which honestly makes me want to dig in and keep quarantining until it’s all over.

Yesterday, I thought I’d play around with paint again as a way to help me process what I’m feeling. I expected the result to be a variety of grey shades mixed with blotches of darkness, which is pretty typical for me. But for some reason, I kept grabbing more and more color. I realized that while my emotions are a bit chaotic and are overlapping in strange ways, this is still an exciting new season for me. I’ve been letting go of things and people that no longer fit in my life, and in some ways, the pandemic has been a bit cleansing. It’s allowed me to spend a lot of alone time with myself where I’ve been learning who I am without worrying about the performance version of me that the world has been seeing. I am so ready for the pandemic to be over so that I can start to emerge more authentically, and I wanted to share yesterday’s painting since it reminded me of this future.

 

Personal, Update

Suburban Secrets Publication Day!

Surprise! The publication day of Suburban Secrets has been moved up to today!

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Suburban Secrets is available on Amazon for $2.99 (or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber!)

Here’s the description from Amazon: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”

If that sounds like it might be something that would interest you, I hope you’ll consider getting a copy!

Thanks for reading.

Tiffany

Personal, Update

Suburban Secrets – Now Available to Pre-Order!

It’s official – Suburban Secrets, my debut mystery novel, will be available on August 16th! You can pre-order it on Amazon if you’d like a copy!

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I’d love to share a bit about this experience. This project began in grad school and was born out of my love of mystery and my fear of motherhood. I think that being a parent is probably the hardest job in the world, so I really wanted to explore that throughout this mystery. Full disclosure: I am not a parent, so this is very much my way of experiencing something I’ve really only observed.

Here’s the Amazon description of the book: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”

I hope you’ll consider getting a copy if this sounds intriguing to you!

Thanks for reading.

Tiffany