Mice are the Worst

My house has a mouse problem. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. I was born and raised in the woods, and the best way to deal with mice is to let the cat deal with it. Basically, doing nothing but letting nature do it’s thing.

However, I rent my house and I am not allowed to have a cat. My landlady is allergic and when she started renting out the house, she had to do a lot of work to get the cat smell out of the house. So, no cats.

In an effort to beat the furry little monsters, I had traps set up. But alas, the mice were too smart for that. Soon, they began an all out war, pooping all over my kitchen and living room. One day, I found mouse poop on top of the faucet. I had set a washcloth on top of the faucet to use for washing dishes, and the mice pooped on it!

It was war.

My parents discovered that someone had made an electronic mouse repellent thing. These sends out electronic beeps that mice hate and this drives them out of the house. I got one of these, and soon, with a last defiant poop on my couch, the mice were exiled from my home.

But the problem with battery-operated things is that, eventually, the battery will run out. That happened to me. Slowly, I began finding mouse poop in my kitchen again. Nothing obvious, but it was present.

Then, one day, it happened. I was sitting on my couch, eating dinner (because I can) when I saw a brown shape whiz past me. I had to pause. That couldn’t have been what I thought it was, right?

It was. I know this because, two minutes later, it happened again. Another little brown blur raced from under my couch to the shelves under my TV. Freaked out now, I lifted my feet off the floor and tucked them under myself. Then, I went back to my dinner.

Several moments passed. I did not look at the place where I suspected mice were hiding. But then, I looked up to see the strangest thing. A little mouse face was staring at me. Peeking out from behind the shelf, it stepped out and began inching closer and closer to me. It never took it’s eyes off of me as it moved, slowly, ever so slowly towards me.

“Can we be friends?” It seemed to say. Or, probably more accurately, “Can I have some food, please?”

I stared at the mouse (who I instantly named Basil. It was involuntary. A mouse who is too smart for traps and is virtually fearless? What other name could it have? It was an accident) and he stared right back. On his hind legs, Basil inched forward.

After what seemed like much longer than it was, I leaned forward and let out a hiss. As any adult would. My goal was to sound like a cat, and it apparently worked. Basil dropped back to all fours and quickly vanished behind the TV shelf.

I won that round, but every five minutes I saw a little brown face peering at me, like Basil couldn’t wait for me to be out of there so he could investigate for crumbs.

The next day, I replaced the battery in my mouse repeller. For my troubles, I found new mouse poops on my coffee table. I cleaned it up and meowed in triumph. The next day, I found only one mouse poop pellet there, but I saw Basil. He was running from under my couch to my TV shelf.

I hope that he is being driven out and this is Basil’s last stand, because I am tired of cleaning up mouse poop and wondering if he is crawling over me when I sleep. Or just watching me, with his bright little mouse eyes. I don’t mind sharing my house with mice, as long as they don’t poop in my kitchen! Or mess with any of the upstairs floor.

When I get a dog, it’s going to have to be a mouser.

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Book Review: The Company of Death

I received a free ARC of “The Company of Death” by Elisa Hansen, aka, Maven of the Eventide and I’m excited to share my thoughts on it with you all today. Firstly, Elisa is a YouTube creator of Vampire Reviews, and her commentary on all things vampire is funny, thoughtful, and worth a watch. This is her first novel, and it is well-worth a read, though now  I find myself having to wait impatiently for the sequel!

I don’t want to spoil the novel, so I’m going to try to be a little vague here. If it sounds at all interesting, however, check this book out!

“The Company of Death” is a story of a post-apocalyptic world where zombies roam the land, looking for tasty humans to devour. For protection, many humans have joined communes. These humans are willing food, or blood slaves, for the vampires who travel with them. Other humans are searching for a cure for being undead, killing the zombies who plague their lands, and freeing the vampire’s blood slaves. One such human is Emily, who has an extreme hatred for vampires.

After a battle goes badly, Emily is determined to not become one of the undead. However, although he shows up to collect her, Death has lost his power and can’t actually reap her soul. Now she is caught as one of the undead, the very creature she sought to destroy. Death has shown up to claim her, but Time steals his horse. This means that, until things are put right and he has his horse back, no one can die.

Death’s siblings, Pestilence, War, and Famine (the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse), are all thrilled by this change. Now, they can keep their victims forever. As a result of this, they refuse to help Death retrieve his horse. Emily soon finds herself journeying with Death, on a mission to find his horse. Soon they are headed East, towards the only hope for a cure and Death’s horse.

Besides Emily and Death, other characters who join this post-apocalyptic road trip include Scott, who is also trying to get to New York, and Carol, an android who is keeping him safe on his journey across what was once the United States. Then there is Lief, a vampire who has mysterious motives all his own. Like Carol, Scott, and Emily, there is more to Lief than is at first obvious.

I thought that Death was a fantastic character. I liked everyone else (most of the time), but I loved Death. He was frustrating, just like any immortal, magical being who suddenly lost their magic would be, and that is part of his charm. I found him funny, especially once he got more comfortable around Emily. Their interactions were always fun. Death also has a great motivation; he needs to save the world!

This story has a very diverse cast of characters, not only in species but also in race and sexuality. I found this to be only logical, since the survivors of a terrible event will band together, regardless of their differences. In Emily’s team at the beginning of the novel, they all need to rely on each other, and each death weighs down on the survivors.

Hansen has created a fantastic world here. She is also the kind of writer that is able to tell me enough to get by, while saving some details for the rest of the story.  It never feels like information is being thrown at you; you gradually piece together information as you read (which I enjoy). Most of this is learned in the first few chapters, when we are getting to know Emily and her team.

“The Company of Death” is a fantastic road-trip story with characters who have plenty of reasons to hate and fear each other. Despite that, to get where they need to go safely, they have to band together. This makes for an entertaining journey that kept me hooked until the end of the novel.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, road-trip stories, or tales of zombies, vampires, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, “The Company of Death” might be just the book for you. The stakes are high, but the humor is wonderful and the characters are compelling. I am excited to see how the rest of the Immortal Journey Trilogy goes. One thing is for sure, it’ll be a darn good time.

“The Company of Death” will be released as a paperback, hardback, and ebook (Amazon) on January 17th, 2019. It was published through Falstaff Publishing and is available on Amazon.

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. 

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.

sos

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,  check out “Silhouettes of Stardust” by Katrina J. Daroff, currently available on 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 🙂

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 🙂

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.