Book Review

Review: “Tomb of Gods” by Brian Moreland

While I haven’t been particularly eager to read horror with all that’s going on in the world, I did receive a copy of Brian Moreland’s new novel Tomb of Gods from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was immediately curious about it because of my deep-rooted love of Egyptian mythology, so I figured it was worth the risk of more nightmares in order to delve into that world for 288 pages.

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Overall, I give this one 5 out of 5 stars! It’s rare that a book sucks me in and refuses to let me go. From the moment I started reading, I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. While the first few chapters are a slower introduction to the situation and characters, this one quickly turns into a high-octane race of an adventure. There were major Indiana Jones vibes during a lot of the novel, so I can only hope that someday this will be optioned into a movie!

As far as the characters go, they were very well-drawn. The protagonist Imogene is complicated and interesting, and as the novel progresses, we learn a lot about the things that haunt her and the rest of the characters. While I don’t want to risk giving too much of the plot away, I will say that I liked how each character had their own baggage that had to be addressed in one way or another throughout the course of the story. However, Imogene was the very heart of the story for me, and I felt good about rooting for her during this adventure.

Plot-wise, there are plenty of twists and turns. If you’re a fan of mythology like I am, then you will enjoy the various ways that Ancient Egyptian beliefs and culture play out. What starts out as a classic archaeological excavation story quickly turns into something much more sinister and complex.

I’m not sure what more I can say without risking oversharing plot details! This is one where you don’t want any spoilers for sure. It’s a fun and creepy adventure jam-packed with interesting characters and extremely creative events. If you’re a fan of horror, Ancient Egypt, and/or the Indiana Jones films, you’ll definitely want to check this one out!

Thanks for reading,
Tiffany

Book Review

Cozies in Quarantine

It’s no secret that I love a good cozy mystery! They’re usually fun, fast reads with an idyllic setting and a quirky cast of characters. Even though the main character is typically solving a murder, there’s usually nothing vulgar or gory in the descriptions and the reader always knows there will be a happy ending. In these scary and uncertain times, I’ve been reading cozy mysteries mostly for that guaranteed happy ending as well as the brief escape from reality. So, I wanted to share my top cozy mystery suggestions for this continued quarantine/pandemic time:

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Title: The Quiche of Death

Series: Agatha Raisin

Author: M.C. Beaton

The Agatha Raisin cozies are probably my favorite (especially the audiobooks read by Penelope Keith!) Agatha is a bit unlikable but in a funny and endearing way. I love following her antics just as much as exploring the murder mysteries in this series. Also, the Cotswolds is an amazing setting – each book make me want to move to a cozy village in the English countryside!

 

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Title: Books Can Be Deceiving

Series: Library Lovers Mysteries

Author Jenn McKinlay

This book features library director Lindsey who has to clear the good name of her children’s librarian who is accused of murder. This was the first cozy series I started reading (right after college) and it’s still going strong. The coastal small town setting is super charming, and I love the romantic story elements too. Plus, this one feels extra special to me since I also work in a public library!

 

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Title: Brownies and Broomsticks

Series: Magical Bakery Mysteries

Author: Bailey Cates

In this series, protagonist and baker Katie moves to Savannah to help with her aunt’s bakery and discovers she comes from a magical family. I love the blend of magical elements and baking – plus, this series has a love triangle that actually intrigued me instead of irritating me. The world-building in this series is great, and I have enjoyed learning more about the magic right alongside Katie as she’s exploring her heritage. Of course, Katie is always solving murders too!

 

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Title: Murder, She Knit

Series: Knit & Nibble Mysteries

Author: Peggy Ehrhart

This knitting-themed cozy series is another fun addition. When the newest member of Pamela’s knitting circle is found dead and impaled with a knitting needle, Pamela has to solve the murder. This one has a slower pace, but I have definitely still enjoyed the series – in fact, the slower pace makes it feel extra cozy. I like that Pamela is an older protagonist who still seems very believable. Plus, I enjoy the descriptions of yarn and knitting since it’s a hobby of mine too!

 

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Title: Her Royal Spyness

Series: Her Royal Spyness

Author: Rhys Bowen

Georgie is one of my favorite protagonists! In this historical cozy series, Georgie is related to royalty but is far enough removed from the crown that she struggles to have money. So, she puts her ingenuity to the test and ends up solving a bunch of murders (and making a living while she’s at it). Georgie is both spunky and kind-hearted, and I adore the rest of the cast of characters in this series, especially the mysterious Darcy, Georgie’s genial grandfather, and Georgie’s flamboyant best friend Belinda.

 

I hope you enjoy these cozies if you decide to give them a try! What have you been reading during the pandemic? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Quarantine Book Recommendations

During this time of global fear and uncertainty, I’ve been escaping back into familiar fictional worlds. Reading has always been one of my favorite coping mechanisms, and so I wanted to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying during this time of quarantine (a lot of them are rereads of books I own because I love them so much).

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – This is probably my favorite book of all time. It seems like each time I reread it, the experience is different but equally rich. This books covers a wide range of topics: philosophy, classism, cultural appreciation, and unlikely friendships.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Scarlet O’Hara is unlikeable but in such a realistic, interesting way. I’ve enjoyed rereading this tale of hardship and growing up, even when you don’t want to.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – While certainly not uplifting, I did enjoy exploring this book again. It’s a hard read since it’s about a school shooter, but it delves into nature vs. nurture in such a fascinating way.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – This is such a fun journey about both motherhood and childhood. There are some really zany characters that create a lot of humor in this one.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Even though I read it for the first time just last year, I knew I wanted to reread this one. It was just as great the second time with its themes of love, loss, and murder as well as its rich setting.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This is a magical realism romance that is so well-realized. I’ve read it multiple times now and look forward to each reread.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – I’m a huge fan of this franchise, especially the movies. The book is just as fun (though some of the characters are drawn much differently). I always enjoy rereading this harrowing adventure.

What have you been reading during this coronavirus epidemic? Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Book Review

Top 7 Horror Novels for Halloween

Halloween is nearly upon us! I can’t believe that this time next week, my apartment will be decorated for Christmas (don’t judge me!) Anyway, Halloween isn’t until Thursday so you definitely still have time to squeeze in another horror novel. Here are my top 7 suggestions for what you should read next!

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1.The Shining by Stephen King – This is one I read pretty much every Halloween. I’m a huge fan of both the book and movie (I even have an Overlook Hotel keychain!) This is some great horror that truly balances plot and character development. It’s atmospheric – the hotel almost seems like its own character. Overall, it’s just a really fun read! 

2.We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – This is a heavy one filled with realistic horrors. There’s some amazing psychology to unpack in this book that really questions the nature vs. nurture argument for what happens when children do unbelievably evil things.

3.Dracula by Bram Stoker – This is another one I tend to read every year. While not the first vampire novel, it is for sure one of the most famous of the vampire classics. I like the epistolary style and the gothic vibes. There’s a reason this one inspired so many retellings.

4.House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty – Elizabeth Bathory, one of history’s most prolific female serial killers, is at the heart of this novel. I thought this was a fun exploration of both history and a modern mystery. It’s fast-paced and super creepy!

5.The Ruins by Scott B. Smith – While killer plants in the Mexican jungle seems like a cheesy plot, I actually loved this book. It’s fascinating and delves into more psychological aspects of the characters than I was expecting. I couldn’t put this one down!

6.The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – I actually HATE zombies (they just typically bore me) but I adored this book. It was such a unique addition to the super tired and overdone zombie subgenre. I’m really glad I gave it a chance.

7.Help for the Haunted by John Searles – This is more mystery than horror but it has enough paranormal stuff that I feel comfortable including it on the list. It definitely has spooky moments but the driving force really is the mystery of the protagonist’s parents deaths.

What’s your favorite horror novel? Be sure to let me know in the comments section – and while you’re there, tell me what costume you’ll be rocking this year!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Every so often, a book comes along that haunts me long after the last page. As a voracious reader, I feel like it takes a lot to impress me, but I recently had the opportunity to read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and I was absolutely blown away!

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I can confidently say that this book is one that I’ll have to reread multiple times. At it’s heart, this is a character-driven narrative about a girl who grows up in near-isolation in a marsh. But it’s so much more than that. This close character study is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale mixed with a love story entangled within a murder mystery. Here’s a breakdown of the major elements:

Character – Kya is a dynamic character. Watching her grow up on these pages was amazing. The characterization was heartfelt and I shared in her joys and sorrows. The way the author builds this empathy was fantastic and allowed the character-building to be a main driving force in this story.

Plot – While a secondary characteristic, there was still enough plot that this book didn’t feel aimless. The murder mystery in the story is not a typical whodunnit that builds escalating suspense, but it does provide a needed structure. Since the book jumps around between time periods, it also acts as an anchor to the “present.”

Writing Style – Owens’ writing style is hauntingly beautiful. Her lyrical words and expert metaphors made me want to reread sentences over again and continually experience the poetic beauty of her prose. While also a research scientist, this is Owens’ first novel, and her love of nature is absolutely evident. Her descriptions of the setting make it come alive as if it is a character in its own rights.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I’ve already purchased two copies because I want to lend them out to everyone I know. If you’re in a book club, this would also be a great (easy to discuss) selection.

Have you read this one? If so, please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Book Review

Book Review: Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien

I love a good cozy mystery series, and Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop series is quickly soaring to the top of my list of favorites. I was recently able to read Murder Lo Mein, the third installment in this series.

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In this book, the protagonist Lana Lee continues to work in her family shop while also stumbling across a murder intertwined with a local noodle competition. While the general plot is a familiar one for a cozy mystery, what sets this one apart is its humor. These books are just so funny, and I love that the protagonist is in her 20s and is Chinese-American, which is a refreshing change for the genre.

Sure, the mystery plays out like most cozies do, but the heart of the story is really the continuing dynamic between Lana Lee and her family. Her relationship with her parents is complicated and believable. I also love the progression of her relationship with Detective Adam Trudeau. Overall, this has been a great mystery series that I highly recommend to people who love cozy mysteries! Just know that you’ll also develop a huge craving for noodles while you read this one!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: Beginner Chunky Knitting Patterns

While I love knitting and helping run Warm Up Ohio, the local chapter of Warm Up America, I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to follow most patterns. I gravitate towards simple knitting projects because I love the meditative repetition. Also, I like to to multitask and knit while I’m watching TV, which really only works for basic patterns that require minimal counting. Because of this, I was super excited to read Beginner Chunky Knitting Patterns: 14 easy to knit patterns for women, babies, and the home.

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This book was written by Gina Michele, whose website has long been one of my favorite resources for craft ideas! This e-book is also a great resource. I love the variety of patterns here. Plus, they really are all for beginners. They’re easy to follow and knit up quickly since they use chunkier yarn and bigger needles. This is a fantastic book for those who are still learning to follow knitting patterns. I highly recommend both this book and Gina’s website! I’ve so enjoyed following her life journey with her blog (and it’s even inspired me to give a few vegan recipes a try!)

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Book Review

Book Review: Pet Sematary

I recently saw some previews for the new film adaptation of Pet Sematary and it made me realize I had never actually read it. I have a huge amount of respect for Stephen King and all that he’s done for the horror genre, but his writing style isn’t always my favorite, especially in his longer, more recent books. Still, since this one is Classic King, I thought I’d give it a try before seeing the movie!

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I truly believe that this is one of King’s best! It doesn’t quite reach the level of my top three favorite King stories: It, The Shining, and ‘Salem’s Lot – but it was still a very enjoyable reading experience. Generally, the premise is about a young family that moves to a small town shrouded in local legend about a Native American cemetery with powers to raise the dead. I’ll avoid giving too many details because I abhor spoilers.

Overall, this novel proves that King is a master of suspense and foreshadowing. Coming in at about 400 pages, this book was much longer than it needed to be (which is another trademark of Stephen King), yet just when the story was seeming to drag too much, hints of future horror were dropped in expert fashion. It was absolutely enough to keep the momentum and intrigue.

I was surprised at how long the buildup took before we got to the crux of the story. Much of the beginning half is devoted to intricate character development, which I did like (but which I know many will not). When we finally get to the story’s climax, the rest of the book felt rushed compared to the slow pacing of the beginning, but it still left me with that great eerie feeling long after the last page. Now, I’m super excited to see the two film adaptations as I know this plot really lends itself to a more visual medium!

I definitely recommend this one to readers looking for Classic King nostalgia (before his books became all 600+ pages) and to those who like moderately frightening horror with strong character development!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

Personal, Update

Where I’ve Been/Where I’m Going

The most discouraging thing about writing is the feeling that my productivity needs to be consistent. I look at writers who are churning out at least a book a year, and I wonder “What’s wrong with me? I can’t even blog regularly anymore.” I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I’m just not the type of person who can always be productive because periodically I have periods of depression that require me to take a step back and recharge and hibernate. That’s where I’ve been this year so far – recharging, rediscovering, relearning. If you would like to learn more about how this feels, or if this is something you go through as well and you want to read something you can relate to, I would absolutely recommend the upcoming book The Radiant Midnight: Depression, Grace, and the Gifts of a Dark Place by Melissa Maimone. This book comes out April 2nd and offers a realistic insider’s perspective on depression.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m happy to say that, for now at least, things are feeling better. I’m starting to feel creative again, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. I’ve started writing fiction again, and I’m even sending out some short works. In fact, one of my stories “Appendix A” has been accepted for publication in Clever Magazine. I have a lot of things I need to work on both personally and professionally, but I can feel myself moving forward and that’s been really relieving.

So, where am I going? Forward into the unknown.

I’m going to try to blog more regularly. I plan on posting movie and book reviews soon. I want to continue writing and submitting short stories to journals. Maybe I’ll even pick up the novel and the screenplay I started last year. But I know better than to make lofty promises or outrageous goals, so all of this is going to go at whatever pace I can reasonably muster each day.

Thank you for following reading and following along on this journey!

-Tiffany Renee Harmon

 

Book Review

My Favorite Horror Novels

Halloween is about a month away. To celebrate, I’ll be doing a “31 Days of Halloween” series where I talk about my 31 favorite Halloween movies. Since that’s going to be taking up all of October, I thought I’d end September with mentioning some of my favorite horror novels:

 

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‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

This is King’s take on vampires, and it’s for sure one of his best works. I love that he took the traditional vampire mythos and allusions to Dracula while still putting his original spin on it. It feels very familiar to those who like classic vampires, but there’s still a whole second layer.

 

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Ring by Koji Suzuki

It’s commonly known that the Ring movie franchise was inspired by the Japanese movie, but that movie was actually inspired by a book series! This is the first in an excellent series of Japanese horror novels (which deviate quite a bit from the films). I just couldn’t put them down.

 

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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

While this may not traditionally be considered horror, it talks about a realistic horror: school shootings. This is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, and it deals a lot with the psychology of evil, specifically nature versus nurture.

 

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The Ruins by Scott Smith

In this unique horror story, some vacationers encounter killer plants in the Mexican jungle. Yes, I admit that that sounds ridiculous, but this was actually a super interesting book about much more than external horror. It had a surprising amount of character development too.

 

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Help for the Haunted by John Searles

This book is classified as both mystery and horror. It’s about a girl named Sylvie whose parents were traveling paranormal investigators who helped spirits cross over. After their deaths, Sylvie copes with their loss as well as the loss of her own childhood. As she tries to come to terms with everything that has happened, she must discover whether her parents were truly gifted or were just clever con artists. Is she being haunted by something otherworldly or hunted by someone very much alive?

 

Well, I’ll be back tomorrow with the start of “31 Days of Halloween” so stay tuned for more spooky recommendations!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany