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!)
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 A lot of the details rely on forensic science, historical references, and obscure literary references.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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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:
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!
‘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
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
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
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
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
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!