Book Review: Silhouettes of Stardust

I’ve been trying to read more poetry lately, so when a friend of mine told me that she had written a collection of poems with original art, I knew I needed to check it out. Once I read it, I knew that I needed to review it. It was really good, and I’m not just saying that because I know the author.

Firstly, here is the author website: Shield Maiden.Β 

Okay, here we go. This is an illustrated poetry collection, which is awesome. The author, Katrina Daroff, not only wrote the poetry inside this collection, but she also did all the artwork. This collection is just beautiful. I love the way that the poems are formatted, the way that the art fits each poem, and the paintings themselves. Daroff uses a mix of bright and dark colors, depending on the painting, but she also does something else. The paintings look layered, with figures cut out of a poem and placed on the background. To me, this makes the painting even more like a poem. I also love the ways that the paintings are sized, allowing the reader to examine each one closely.


As far as formatting goes, the poems themselves are arranged in interesting ways, depending on the poem. For example, in “L’esprit de Escalier,” or the Spirit of the Staircase, the poem is formatted like a set of stairs. This looks wonderful, and I love it. It also gives each poem a unique look.

The poems themselves are beautiful, with topics that range from love, loss, and memory. The idea, on the back, is that we are more than just carbon, and this comes through in this wonderful collection. Each poem is lyrical and wonderful. They are not afraid to dive deep into emotions that we, as people, often don’t talk about. Daroff takes these things and gives them voice, offering us all a way to say things that we might not have the words for.

Personally, my favorite poems are “What Souls Are Made Of,” “Lost Keys,” “The Whales,” and “She is the Ocean Parts 1 and 2.” Each poem is paired with a wonderful painting, and to me, these are the ones that I related to the most. But that is part of the beauty of “Silhouettes of Stardust;” there is a poem for everyone.

If I had to give this collection a rating, I would say that it’s definitely a 5 Star Collection. This is because of the combination of the art, the formatting, and the poems themselves, a raw and wonderful collection that allows us all to access things in our own hearts that can simmer below the surface.

If you are looking for a new and wonderful poetry collection,Β  check out “Silhouettes of Stardust” by Katrina J. Daroff, currently available onΒ Amazon!


New Books!

Hello all!

I’ve been getting back into writing these last few years, and I have some exciting news! This month, I have three books that are coming out. Two are released already, the third comes out on Halloween.

First, “Tall Ship Sailing for Landlubbers.” This is a collection of short and humorous essays about my time on the sailing vessel, the Hawaiian Chieftain. It comes complete with color photos, so that’s awesome! The book is currently available on Amazon as a paperback and as an eBook. This weekend, the eBook will be available at a lower price, so check that out!

Second, “Nameless.” “Nameless” is a coming of age story with knitting magic, a quest, an ancient evil, a smart cougar, a little fox with nine tails, and a heroine who is looking for her name. This is one that I’m really excited about, because I had this idea way back when I was thirteen, and I’m almost thirty-one. It’s a story I’ve been thinking about for a while. Honestly, I’m really excited about this one, guys!

Here is the blurb from the back: “In a world where people choose their names for themselves, one young woman realizes that she does not know her name. She sets off on a quest to find her name, a quest that will take her across the world and beyond. With an unknown menace lurking, a large cat by her side, and her knitting magic, Nameless will search for the answer to the question she most wants to know, “What is my name?”

“Nameless” is currently available on Amazon as an eBook and as a paperback.

Finally, on Halloween, my novella, “The Aida Loop,” will be released. This is a mystery/horror, and my homage to the found-footage genre. I was going for a “Dracula” feel, at least in writing style. There are three stories. One is the story of Jill and Bran, two young detectives, looking to solve two local mysteries, the abandoned Harris House and Spotlight Drama Camp. Another is the story of Anna, a girl trying to follow her love of performing while also searching for the truth about what happened to her grandmother, who never sings if she can avoid it. And finally, there is Alexandra, the story that the others are searching for.

From the back: “‘Grandmother has a lovely voice, but I only ever hear her sing in church.’ Why, Anna wondered in her diary, is that? So she sets out to find the secrets in her family’s past and learns about her grandmother’s time at Camp Spotlight, with unforeseen consequences.

Years later, everyone knows that the Harris House holds a secret, a secret related to the abandoned Spotlight Drama Camp. Ten-year old Bran and his best friend Jill are mystery fanatics, and one day they decide to solve the mystery in their own neighborhood. In the attic of the Harris House, they find a box, simply labeled, “Aida.”

Inside, they find the journals of Anna and her grandmother, Alexandra. While reading, they uncover a secret darker and more sinister than they could ever have imagined, the secret of the Aida Loop.”

“The Aida Loop” will be available as a paperback and as an eBook on October 31st.

A Book Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

This book inspired me to get back on Goodreads, because I enjoyed it that much and really wanted to share my thoughts on it with everyone.

horrorstorSo, first of all, my Goodreads rating was a 4 out of 5 stars, and here is, basically, that review:

“This book was a lot of fun. Half horror parody and half generally atmospheric and scary horror, it was just what I was hoping. Sure, there were some gross and frightening moments, but the formatting is clever and the characters are compelling… This reminds me of Jasper Fforde and Stephen King, and I mean that as a compliment.”

Horrorstor is just a lot of fun. From the moment I opened the package and saw the glossy cover, the way everything is laid out to look like an IKEA catalog, I knew that I would enjoy the novel. Then I discovered that there were ads, an order form, AND a map inside that lovely catalog-like cover. I would give it three stars on the design alone. Luckily, the rest of the novel is just as good.

horrorstor 2

We follow Amy, an Orsk employee who really dislikes her current job. She wants to go back to her old location and get away from the boss who she thinks hates her, Basil. Basil is obsessed with doing things the “Orsk Way,” which makes Amy batty. But mysterious things are happening at Orsk when the store is shut down, so Basil, Amy, and Ruth Anne (a sweet and wonderful character) decide to stay in the store overnight to see what they can learn.

A mysterious homeless man, two employees on the hunt for a ghost, a man who just wants to make sure his store is in order, and two woman who just want to keep their jobs are going to get more than they bargained for in Horrorstor!

I loved several things about this story. First, each of the characters seems realistic. I can imagine meeting all of them at a real superstore. Amy, Ruth Anne, Trinity, Matt, and Basil all play off of each other in an organic and realistic way. They don’t always get along, but they are willing to fight for each other. Although we follow Amy and are in her head, the other characters are just as important to the story.

horrorstorThe other thing that I really enjoyed were all the jokes about retail. There were things in the novel that are just funnier if a person has ever worked in retail or in HR, and for me, who has done both, I got those jokes. I also loved the horror genre jokes. When someone suggests that they split up, someone else points out just how stupid of an idea that is, to go off on their own. I really loved that,. Also, the reveal of what was happening and why felt like it was earned. Looking back, the whole story just built up, giving up information about each situation as we need it.

An Amazon blurb said that this book is similar to Zombieland, and I can see it. There is the same sense of horror, while also trying to keep it fun. This novel hits all of the horror tropes, but it never feels like Hendrix was just trying to tick off the right boxes. The idea of an IKEA (or an ORSK, which is basically IKEA), that is also haunted was fresh and original and, again, a whole lot of fun. I absolutely love the haunted house genre, so this felt like a very creative variation on that story.

If you like horror parody and don’t mind some gross and violent moments, if you have worked retail or HR, been lost in an IKEA, or if you enjoyed Zombieland, I would highly recommend Horrorstor. It’s certainly a story that I see myself rereading in the future. But not right before going to IKEA.

(Images from Amazon or Goodreads).

Thoughts on September

September is a month that just feels busy to me. I’m a teacher, so after three months of prepping for the coming year, September is THE TIME. In September, after three months of lesson planning and taking classes to make me a better teacher, I finally get to use the things I’ve been working on.

September is awesome. I’m in my classroom almost every day again and the leaves are starting to change color. I get to meet a new crop of students and see the old ones again, and it’s wonderful.

This September, I started a new job, one as a youth leader at my church. I’m excited, because it was certainly something that I felt called to do. I had to laugh, though, because I never wanted to work as a pastor or a teacher. Now I’m a teacher and a youth leader. I think God chuckles at the direction my life has taken.

I’m still writing, both freelance things and my own books, and have high hopes to publish coming up here soon. September is a busy month, but it is also usually a good month. Despite fires and penny-pinching, it seems like something exciting is always happening.

Which reminds me, I have a few exciting books that I’ve read recently to talk about in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

The Fairy Tale Book Tag

Here is another tag from Booktube. This one is all about Fairy Tales, which I love. I love to read them, watch them, write them, and make fun of them. So, here we go! Sorry, but not sorry πŸ™‚

1. What is your favorite fairy tale?
It changes, but it’s been “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” for a while now. “Tam Lin” is another favorite. And “The Snow Queen.” Now I’m done. My family is Swedish and Scottish, so this makes sense. They’re all stories about kick-ass heroines who save the day and go on quests.

2. What is your favorite retelling of that story?
This has to go to “East” by Edith Pattou, a retelling of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” It’s written in four different points of view and is just an amazing retelling. Highly recommended.

3. What is your favorite retelling of a different fairy tale?
I am very fond of “Beauty” by Robin McKinley (Beauty and the Beast) and “Ella Enchanted” (Cinderella) by Gail Carson Levine.

4. What kind of retelling do you prefer (steampunk, futuristic, ect)?
When it comes to types of retellings, I don’t care as long as it’s done well. I love futuristic, steampunk, alternative universes, gender-bent, all of them!

5. What two fairy tales would you combine for a kick-ass retelling?
I can’t tell you that, since one of the books I’m working on is a retelling that combines two fairy tales. However, I recently read “Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge, and while it is a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, there is a bit of “Tam Lin” sprinkled in there. It was the kick-ass combination that I didn’t know I needed.

6. What retelling is on your TBR that you would like to read soon?
My TBR is sadly empty of fairy tale retellings right now. There’s a lot of Stephen King and some classics, but that’s it. Any recommendations?

7. What was the last retelling you finished?
Other than “Cruel Beauty,” I recently read “Sweet Black Waves” by Kristina Perez, a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Isolde. I also read “My Plain Jane,” a retelling of “Jane Eyre” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and then I reread “East” by Edith Pattou (for the millionth time).

8. What fairy tale have you not read a retelling of but would like to?
I have not read a straight retelling of “Tam Lin” that I have enjoyed. I’ve read it with other fairy tales, like “Cruel Beauty,” but I want a retelling of just “Tam Lin.” I think it is a fantastic story and one that could be an amazing longer story. Plus, I have Scottish heritage, so there is that.

9. What is one retelling you are currently anticipating coming out?
To be honest, there aren’t any that I’m looking forward to particularly. I mean, there are sequels and I know that other retellings are probably coming out soon. I will probably love all of the ones that I read, but I don’t have any particular ones.

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

I find these a lot of fun, so here is another tag that I saw on Booktube and really enjoyed. This is the Unpopular Opinions Book Tag. Enjoy!

1. A popular book or series that you didn’t like.
Personally, I loved “The Infernal Devices” by Cassandra Clare, but I was not a fan of “The Mortal Instruments.” I read the first book and didn’t hate it, but it was not my favorite. I might pick it up someday, but I’m in no rush.

2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love.
Honestly, every series I like is either really popular or really obscure. I know, I’m that person. I just read what interests me. Maybe the “Stalking Jack the Ripper” series by Kerri Maniscalco? It seems to be a little under the radar, which is a shame, because it is delightful.

3. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did not want them to end up (warn for spoilers) or an OTP you don’t like.
I’m going to be honest, I’m usually pretty good at picking out the “right” choice for a love triangle. There are a few that I did not get right, though. I thought Sookie and Eric would end up together in “The Southern Vampire Mysteries,” I was a big Gale fan in “The Hunger Games” (but I understood why she ended up with Peeta-who I also liked), and I wanted Emma to end up with Neal in “Once Upon a Time.” In my mind, those are the actual endings of “Once Upon a Time” and “The Southern Vampire Mysteries.”

4. A popular book genre that you hardly reach for.
I hardly ever reach for contemporary fiction. The advantage of having a subscription to Owl Crate is that they send me a new YA novel every month, and sometimes, it’s a YA Contemporary. And of course I read them. So it’s making me grow as a reader.

5. A popular book or beloved character that you do not like.
Both of them have seen less love recently, but I have to admit that I do not care for Albus Dumbledore or Severus Snape. I understand why they are the way they are, but I don’t like it. As a teacher, Snape is an insult to the profession (he is Neville’s worst fear and he bullies his students). He is also creepy and horrible. Dumbledore left Harry in an abusive situation for years, and kept the truth from him.

6. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.
I read and enjoyed “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black, and I loved “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” but other books by Holly Black seem to elude me. I think I’m just reading them at the wrong time or in the wrong mood. I’ll try again later, because she writes the kind of books that, by all accounts, I should just LOVE.

7. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing (lost princess, corrupt ruler, love triangles, ect)
I love the lost princess and corrupt ruler tropes; they are fun to read and fun to write! The one I’m sick of is the love triangle. There are some books that can do love triangles really well, but still. Why can’t we have a book where the characters are either happily single or happily together? I mean, geesh. Sometimes, the love triangles just drag on for way to long (for example, The Selection Series had a sensible love triangle, but it should have ended way before it did).

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.
I haven’t read “The Throne of Glass Series” by Sarah J. Maas, and I don’t think that I will. I read a bit of the blurb and it wasn’t really my thing. I don’t know why, it just didn’t catch my attention.

9. The saying goes “the book is always better than the movie,” but what TV show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?
That would have to be “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The book was written by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, and on the surface, it seems like a wonderful book. But I grew up watching the movie, staring Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howe, and although the book had bank robbers and explosions, there were no musical numbers. Since “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is one of my favorite movies of all time, I should have expected this when I read the book.

Some Summers are for Adventuring…

…other summers are for getting your life together.

Last summer, I desperately needed an adventure. I had finished my first year of teaching, part of which was spent while moving, and I needed to get away. So, I loaded up my car and went on adventures. Traveling to Montana, I learned about effectively tying archaeology with education.

I volunteered for my favorite tall ships twice, once as a painter for a day. The second time, I was power-sanding the hull for a week. But I also went to weddings, saw dear friends I hadn’t seen in too long, went to museums, and took several road trips.

I needed that. I needed to go out and explore, to learn and to be, to read books by the ocean and play with power tools.

This summer was different. I stayed home. To be fair, I had a few small adventures with my family, but for the most part, I stayed put. And it was also just what I needed.

When I moved here to start teaching, it was sudden. My house has never been organized the way I want it, because I just haven’t had the time. This summer, I was finally able to finish unpacking. I bought new bookshelves and reorganized my living room. Finally, my house is a place I really like. It’s cozy, comforting, and, most importantly, ME. I call it Crickhollow (Frodo’s house in LOTR when he moves to Buckland. Yeah, I’m a nerd).

Since I stayed home, I started working on my lessons after a two week break and refined them little by little over June and July. There was time to get involved in volunteering as an adviser for the local Robotics Club, joining local organizations, starting new jobs (in addition to teaching), writing a novella and two short story collections, and volunteering at my local museum. There was still a lot that happened this summer, and it has been good (though it’s not over yet)!

Some summers, you need to take an adventure. Some summers are for staying home and finally unpacking; getting your life in order. Next summer, maybe I’ll take an adventure. A small one πŸ™‚

But now, my house is a safe, cozy refuge.

The Coffee and Books Book Tag

Like I said last time, I really enjoy booktube. Here is another tag that I really enjoyed and wanted to try.

1. Black. Name a series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans.
I feel like “The Dark is Rising Sequence” fits this. I love this series, and it tends to be popular with the serious King Arthur crowd, a rather hardcore group of fans.

2. Peppermint Mocha. Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.
It might just be me, but I think that “The Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis get more popular during the winter. Especially “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” At least, that’s when I reread them.

3. Hot Chocolate. What is your favorite children’s book?
Is “The Hobbit” a children’s book? That is one of my favorite books EVER. If it isn’t, then I’ll go with “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a beautiful story (and the movie is also fantastic, though the ending is very different).

4. Double shot of espresso. Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. It’s an addictive series of awesomeness that kept me engaged and enthralled.

5. Starbucks. Name a book you see everywhere.
I see “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare absolutely everywhere.

6. The hipster coffee shop. Give a book by an indie author a shout out.
I haven’t read it yet, and it might not even qualify, but this is my list, so… I’m going with “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston. I read “Heart of Iron” by Poston, and loved her writing style and the way she crafted her world. I also love the descriptions of “Geekerella.” It looks hilarious.

7. Oops! I accidentally got decaf. Name a book you were expecting more from.
I read “Named of the Dragon” by Susanna Kearsley after reading and adoring several of her other books. This was totally my fault; I was expecting something different. I still enjoyed it, but it’s not my favorite of her books.

8. Perfect Blend. Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying.
For this one, I have to go with “The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien. That ending is the textbook definition of bittersweet, but the characters and their interactions make it ultimately a very satisfying conclusion.

Halloween in July

And now for something completely different! Two things. Firstly, I sure write a lot of modern poetry for someone who hates it so much. Secondly, I love booktube.

I find booktube fascinating. There are tons of people there who read books and then talk about them. I get new book recommendations and hear people’s candid thoughts on them. Sometimes, people talk about their reading struggles, and sometimes people just gush over the books that they love. I enjoy having it play in the background, because I love books.

Sometimes, there are book tags, where people talk about their favorite books that fit a certain thing. One that I saw recently was “Halloween in July.” This was done by the vloggers on the channels Aimee Reads, Pages and Pens, and HardbackHoarder. There were others, I’m sure, those are just the ones I saw.

I thought I’d try this whole Book Tag thing out. So, here we go. Disclaimer, although I read a ton of Stephen King and my writing tends to be scary, I’m kind of a wuss.

1. What book gave you the creeps?
This one definitely has to be “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury. It’s got everything that I want in a scary story, compelling characters, mystery, and a mysterious carnival. There are wishes and dreams and horror. Also, Ray Bradbury writes with a wonderful poetry to his words. It’s like you’re there, which is almost creepier.

2. What book gives you the best Halloween vibes?
This might be cheating, but I’m going with “The Halloween Tree,” by Ray Bradbury. It’s a journey through time and space, learning about the symbols and traditions of Halloween. The whole thing happens while some children are trying to find and save their friend Pip.

3. What’s your favorite vampire book?
I feel like this one should be “Dracula,” but honestly, it’s not. I’m going to go with “‘Salem’s Lot,” by Stephen King, where vampires move into a small New England town. Things go the way you’d expect. It’s creepy and horrifying, and reminds me why vampires are not fun. Part of me enjoys the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlene Harris (not the whole series, just the first nine), but “‘Salem’s Lot” is just so good. King has a mastery in horror; taking the nightmares of all of us and putting it into words. And I kind of love it.

4. What book scared you so much that you had to sleep with the lights on?
Personally, this has never happened to me, but there is a book that I stopped reading. This was “The Dark Half,” by Stephen King. It’s about a writer and his pen name, but someone with the pen name, and the author’s DNA, starts committing murders. It’s been a while since I read it, but that was the gist. I remember thinking it sounded like “Jekyll and Hyde,” but with a modern twist. It was, but so much worse. This is one of five books that I have never finished in my life, and the only one that I didn’t quit out of boredom.

5. What’s your favorite book about witches?
I’m cheating with this one, but… my favorite book about witches is my book πŸ™‚ If all goes according to plan, it’s coming out in October. Details coming soon!

6. What’s your favorite book about goblins?
I don’t think I’ve read anything about goblins, so I’m changing this one to my favorite book about werewolves. This also happens to be one of my other favorite books about vampires! Of course, I mean “The Parasol Protectorate” by Gail Carriger. It’s a steampunk supernatural series and it is amazing. Carriger is a funny and witty author, and this comes across in her fantastic characters. Characters include several werewolf packs, multiple vampire hives, humans, ghosts, and Alexia, a person whose touch cancels out supernatural powers. “The Custard Protocol” follows the next generation, and is also wonderful.

7. What’s your favorite book about ghosts?
I really enjoyed “My Plain Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. It’s “Jane Eyre” meets “Ghostbusters,” and I loved every minute of it. But then, there is also “The Shining” by Stephen King. Like most book by Stephen King, it’s just so good!

8. What’s your favorite book about demons?
This is a short story, “Children of the Corn,” by Stephen King. The story is in the collection called “Night Shift.” It’s a creepy story about children who go nuts and kill of all the adults in town, and any who visit the town. The whole story is creepy. Also, the story is much better than any film adaptation of the story. Maybe “The Shining” could fit here too? Honestly, I’m just a big fan of haunted house stories.

9. What book do I wish was scarier than it was?
I was surprised by the slow build-up of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” but I might have to go with “The Jewel of the Seven Stars” by Bram Stoker. It’s the story that all the mummy stories are based on. I love the Boris Karloff film (and the first two Sommers films. Don’t judge me), so I was expecting a bit more of the mummy. I wanted the book to keep going for a couple hundred pages after it was done. I think that’s where the scary would have come in.

10. What’s your favorite book that takes place in October?
For October books, I’m thinking of “The Mark of the Midnight Manzallia” by Lauren Willig, the tenth book in her Pink Carnation Series. It’s another chapter in this saga about English spies during the Napoleonic Wars. The story is fun, funny, and full of surprises.

Thoughts on Anxiety

I have anxiety. Anxiety, OCD, and depression. The three things work together to create a cycle of ick, and making each other worse in many ways. I have always been a nervous worrier, and now I take medication for that. I also see a therapist once a month, to give me some help in keeping things in order, mentally speaking. It’s a chemical imbalance in my brain, but for years I didn’t do anything about it.

I am also a Christian. I grew up hearing people say that anxiety is a lack of trust in God. Not from my parents, but from the church. Basically, if I trusted God enough, I wouldn’t be stressed. I would be able to just go with the flow.

Shockingly, this idea never made this Christian less anxious. It only made me feel guilty. I trust God; I am willing to move on His word and follow His call.

So why do I need to check the door three times and make sure the volume is set in increments of five?

There is a trend in the church to misunderstand anxiety.

“It’s not real,” people tell me. “Just suck it up.” Or, “Just pray harder.” But mental illness is real, and it needs to be talked about. It’s not a lack of faith. It’s a chemical imbalance. It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust God. God knows my heart, and He knows my mind. He brought me here, and loves me. God loves all of me, including my anxiety and OCD. He loves me on the good days and the bad days. I believe that He uses doctors to me, and people like me, the medication that helps fix that chemical imbalance.

God speaks to me in the midst of each breakdown, reminding me that He’s there. I rely on God, but that doesn’t mean that He didn’t also give my doctors discernment when it came to my prescription.

As much as I hate them all, my anxiety, OCD, and depression each allow me to connect with people. Sometimes, I think we forget that while God uses our flaws, the things we hide, and our issues for His glory, that not all of those struggles are visible. Sometimes, a testimony is a “thrilling” tale of struggling with addiction or a long journey back to God; sometimes it’s a walk with God, dealing with struggles that no one else can see. And some people may need to hear those stories.

My struggles are not visible, but they are there. God and I are working on it, with the help of medication and doctors. Why would God not use those things to work a healing? I believe that He does, and maybe speaking about being a Christian with anxiety will give someone else comfort, somehow.

I am a broken, beloved, strong Child of God. My anxiety and OCD do not define me, but they are a part of me, the messy human who is deeply loved by the King of Kings.