leather snow home

kickoff - murder she barked

You know what, I hate intros, let's just skip this part. It's summer reading time! And I'm gonna post about it.

I'm starting a little late this year, and I was originally planning for my kickoff post to be a brief review of the video games that made me late, but as I was working on it I realized I wanted to put more work into it than I felt like actually doing at the time. Plus it probably makes more sense for the first summer reading post to, y'know, actually be about reading. I might post it later.

I'm kicking things off with Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis. Yesterday I was only able to get 35 accumulated minutes of reading time in, but I got to chapter seven. I think that sounds like a lot more than it is, because the chapters in this book are really short. Murder, She Barked has 46 chapters though it's roughly the same length as your typical cozy. In contrast, The Big Chili, a book with basically the same amount of pages, has 20 chapters. I think the short chapters might be making the book feel a bit slower than it actually is.

The plot so far is that Holly Miller got a call that something has happened to her grandma, so she borrows her boyfriend's car to drive to The Sugar Maple Inn in Wagtail, Virginia where grandma works and lives. Along the way she picks up a stray dog & sees some explosions on the drive up. When she gets there, she finds out that at some point the small-town inn had become a top-tier pet-friendly resort, and also a guy is dead.

So we're about to start chapter seven, which Feels like a lot, but we still don't know what's up with grandma. She's clearly sick, or maybe fell, but no one will actually just tell Holly what happened or what's wrong, and she's not really that insistent on asking. It honestly feels really weird. If you're willing to drive several hours to see your grandma about anything other than a funeral, I assume you must like her to some extent, but Holly just doesn't exhibit a matching level of urgency here. Also, it's kind of a red flag in a mystery series when your lead doesn't seem that driven to gather information.

The dog also doesn't have a name yet. Like, c'mon, at least give them a nickname or something in the meantime.

So that was yesterday. Gonna try and get a lot more reading in today. Keeping this entry short so I can get right to it.

I also don't like conclusions. Let's skip that too.

murder she barked 2: 2bark 2woof

Got in 1h and 46m in yesterday, just a hair over triple Tuesday's time! Feeling pretty happy about that. I hope to do even more today.

Of course I stopped right before chapter seven, the one where we finally get the grandma reveal. She twisted her ankle during an incident where her employee Sven was run over and killed. Then chapter 8 is where we start to get the juicy shit regarding the murder case.

Holly is an interesting character. She's very perceptive and curious regarding the murders (which, to be clear, I am quite glad about) but doesn't apply that same curiousness to her personal life. There's the grandma stuff I already mentioned, and a later incident where her boyfriend proposes to her over text. She never really questions him about that or confronts him about it. They eventually have one conversation that references getting married in a roundabout way, but Holly refuses to address the text directly.

The dog gets a name! In chapter 20. After getting lost in chapter 10 and not returning until chapter 20. Her name is Trixie.

I'm really tired of cozy mystery protagonists who worry about their weight. Even putting diet culture stuff aside, half of the joy of reading cozy mysteries is reading about people making and eating delicious food. Just enjoy it! Because I can't, because the food isn't real.

I googled the name of one of the cats to see if it meant anything and it turns out there's a whole wiki for these books??? I mean, it's a long running book series, so it makes sense, but it's not something I was expecting from a cozy mystery series. More cozies should have wikis tbh.

I googled the name of one of the cats to see if it meant anything and it turns out there's a whole wiki for these books??? I mean, it's a long running book series, so it makes sense, but it's not something I was expecting from a cozy mystery series. More cozies should have wikis tbh.

Somewhere in town there's a store called "Au Bone Pain." I imagine this would read differently with accent marks, but as it is, wow. Would love to go the bone pain store.

I feel like we should maybe talk about how Oma is basically gentrifying the neighborhood. The pet paradise is nice, but it seems to kinda suck for some of the people who already lived in Wagtail. It's explicitly stated that land prices have skyrocketed since her pet resort became a big deal. There's a bar called Hair of the Dog that routinely gets noise complaints from locals, but they say they can't move the bar a little outside of town because cars aren't allowed in town and people don't want to walk that far to go to the bar. We've gotten occasional references to one family that's pretty impoverished and struggling and the boom in business doesn't seem to have done much for them at all.

Hoping to finish the book today. I think what I plan to do is in between books post little interludes about whatever. The first would obviously be that game review post I mentioned. I also want to do one about the various reading challenges I'm doing. So. Things to look forward to.

murder she barked 3: the barkening

Finished the book, reading for 1 hour and 44 minutes. I started way late today, but I did manage to get all of the reading done in mostly one sitting, which is an improvement.

Overall the book was fine. The mystery was engaging, if a little convoluted. The theme was fine, the characters were mostly fine. Solid 3 stars. But god this girl's personal life and the way she handles it makes my stomach hurt.

The boyfriend rescinds his proposal over text and she doesn't confront him! They do kinda get interrupted by Holmes showing up but there was still time to say something, like come on! Eventually they talk about it and apparently Kim snuck into his phone and sent that text, not him, but they finally talk about the original proposal text and break up anyway. Later Holly suspects Kim of stealing her dog. She confronts her once, then searches her golf cart for proof, finds it, but doesn't confront her again with the evidence or really say anything about it? Though admittedly I thought the twist would be that Boyfriend had tried to steal Trixie. He didn't like the dog, was really insistent on Holly moving in, and mentioned multiple times his building didn't allow pets. With the information we had at the time it would have made more sense for him to try to get the dog out of the way.

The inconsistencies with the way she handles certain things was interesting at first, but the more stuff comes up the more it just feels contrived, like she's specifically not talking to people about certain things so it can come up later.

On top of that, it turns out the whole reason Holly came to Wagtail was a ruse! Oma did twist her ankle in the incident that killed Sven, but that wasn't why she had Rose make that vague worrying call. It was a plot cooked up by her and Rose to get Holly to dump her boyfriend and get her together with Holmes, who was also already seeing someone! Just uggghhhhh.

Also I can't fucking stand Aunt Birdie. There are certain tropes I am deeply allergic to, and one is asshole relatives who won't go away.

Will I read the next one? Honestly, I wasn't planning on it (unless Aunt Birdie was the victim) until I looked it up the second book. Of course it's Halloween themed, and of course it's about a murder that happens while the ghost hunter TV show is investigating. I basically have to read it. At least Boyfriend is out of the way so that can't stress me out any more.

Oh yeah, I didn't mention the supernatural elements at all. Mostly because I wasn't sure if they were real or if they would get debunked? I didn't want to like, hype them up or point them out as strange if we got to the end and found out they were all pieces of the murder plot. Ultimately one of them does, but there are a lot of other mentions of side ghosts that don't get addressed. So yeah, as of book one apparently the town of Wagtail is not only a pet paradise but also moderately haunted. Cool. Also there's a character who psychically communicates with animals. She's great.

Well, anyway. Gonna go work on that game review post I promised & think about what I'm picking up next.

a brief review of the games

that made me late

I was a little late starting with summer reading this year, because right before my partner gave me the O.K. to splurge a little bit and get some video games since some stuff was on sale. Here's a quick review of all of them.


Dredge is pretty good, I liked it a lot. It wasn't very scary, though, which was a little disappointing. I was expecting a bit more horror elements given what I'd heard about the game. Most of the threats are either pretty easy to avoid or are too annoying to be scary. I think the only exception is the Night Angler; while it's still pretty easy to avoid, it hanging out right by the starting area in mostly open water adds a bit of much-needed fear-factor. You see it clearly in the distance and think, "oh shit." It's the only thing that spooked me, at least. There are large sections of open ocean where there's just nothing there that could have really benefitted from having some monsters thrown in them. Maybe the map should have just been smaller? Maybe it's just not targeted at my specific flavor of thalassophobia. It's more of a depth thing for me? I gotta really see how deep stuff is to get creeped out. There's one monster that's pretty far down, but it doesn't drag you down or anything, and again, it's easy to avoid. I did like how it handled having 2 endings. I really hate having to replay a game to see other endings, even with games I like, so it was really nice that they made it so convenient to get both on one save.

Bones Café

A bit like Overcooked, but spooky-themed and more chill. You can play alone or with some friends. I was going into the demo expecting basically Overcooked but you could automate some stuff with skeletons, which generally accurate. I wasn't expecting it to also be one of those kill-your-customers-for-ingredients horror games. I don't necessarily mind, but I did come out of the demo a little worried since it focused more on the KYC bits than the skeletons, which I never saw & had to check the reviews to make sure it was a feature. Turns out I just didn't kill enough people, because that's how you get your skeletons. Overall I like the gameplay a lot. My main issue is the difficulty spike between 2 and 3 chairs. You can control the number of chairs you have at tables to control the number of customers, but it doesn't feel gradual. At 2 chairs you only ever have 1 customer at a time and you have to wait an annoying amount of time before another comes in after they leave. At 3 chairs you pretty much always have 2-3 people seated at a time and it feels way more hectic.


When Peglin is good, it's really good. When it's bad… oof. I think my main issue with Peglin is ultimately how bad it feels to lose, which is a bit of a bad sign since roguelikes are all about losing. In Slay the Spire & Ratropolis, two other roguelikes I play consistently, losing is fine because there's also permanent progression. Yes, the run is over, but you gain xp to unlock new cards, new relics, new characters. You lose but you don't fail. Peglin doesn't really have any permanent progression right now. Your first run will roughly be the same as your 1,000th. There are other characters you can unlock, but the requirements for unlocking them are ridiculously high & you really have to have RNG on your side. It's still in early access, so there's time for stuff to change, and I hope it does. They recently dropped an update that adds more possible relics and makes the balls that give you ballwork give a little more. From what I've tried the new stuff is pretty helpful, so I'm tentatively optimistic. In between drafts of this I was actually able to finally clear the cave boss to unlock custom mode and the crucibal modes. I think custom mode really improves the game. Even though it disables achievements and character unlocks (unlike Slay the Spire which, if I recall correctly, still lets you get xp) being able to change up your run is a huge breath of fresh air. I think gating it off behind beating the main game is not the best idea given the other issues with the game but I'll take it.

Garden Galaxy

An adorable little idle game that I've had on in the background while I read. It's a bit of a rough start, but once you get enough stuff to start getting an idea of how you want to map things out it's really nice. You have an area out in the void. Visitor spirit thingies come to visit you. They give you coins, you put coins in the pot, it spits out items, different coins give you different items. I was originally a little annoyed that there wasn't enough beach stuff. There are a couple items that would go really well with my beach area but not enough to make it look really nice. Then I checked the dev's Twitter and oh, look, they're working on a beach set. 10/10 game. I'd still like a little bit more spooky stuff, but if we don't get anymore it's fine. There is a small witchy set that's pretty cute. And before you ask, there are no microtransactions.

Research Story

I want to like the game a lot more than I do. There's a lot of frustrating elements here that get on my nerves. It's a Harvest Moon-esque game where the main gimmick is that you're a researcher who's studying the local plants and animals. And to be clear, I do mean Harvest Moon and not Stardew Valley. This game carries a fair amount of the annoying Harvest Moon baggage that Stardew Valley politely got rid of, and the new mechanics feel very… in flavor, we'll say. If you go into it expecting it to play like Stardew Valley you might have a bit of a rough time. Admittedly part of the problems I've had with it are ultimately my fault for not reading certain in-game tips but that doesn't make it less annoying. It's to the point where I'm considering having one save file that's the test file for failing and fucking up and a separate file for playing correctly based on what I've learned.

Feeding Frenzy

I got this for nostalgia reasons. I played the demo for the first one a lot when I was a kid but never tried the second one. It's still close enough to the first game (which was sadly not on steam) that it scratched that particular itch. It's pretty basic, but a good time. Eat fish smaller than you, avoid fish bigger than you. Also there's an alien who is Causing Problems by Doing Something. I finished the game and I'm still not entirely sure what's going on. Some of the later levels get really annoying but the game is fairly forgiving; it's easy to get extra lives, and you have continues on top of that, and also you can start a new game at the same level you died at. I actually kinda don't get what the point of a game over is in the first place. Like why is it not just all continues if it's essentially the same? Is it points? Do people care about points?

A Castle Full of Cats

It's a hidden object game, it's spooky, it's got cats in it. That's pretty much all you need to know. It's pretty short and I'm used to hidden object games that have a lot more puzzle elements outside of the HO gameplay, but it's nice for what it is.

in my restless dreams i see that book

So back to reading. Though technically I didn't stop. I meant to take the weekend off, until I realized that it would mean I'd lose my steak on the site I've been reading on. I quickly picked out a new book and made sure to do a little bit of reading.

The book I picked was Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I've kinda had a bit of a one-sided beef with Thoreau regarding this book, or rather the experiment it documents, though I hadn't read the book yet. It started when I found out his mom did his laundry while he was out living his ~solitary lifestyle.~ It grew as I heard more quotes from the novel particularly regarding how during this excursion he'd had more visitors than he'd ever had in his life.

I grew up in a pretty isolated environment, not by choice, and honestly it kinda fucked me up. So seeing this dude touted for his grand isolation experiment while hearing about he very much was not isolated at all hit a very particular nerve.

Generally, the more I heard from Walden the more I disliked Thoreau, but the more I heard the more I also got the impression that maybe isolation was not the goal of the experiment, that perhaps those painting it as one had missed the larger point. So I resolved to read Walden myself, eventually, to get to the truth of the matter. If I'm going to call Thoreau a little bitch boy, I want to be able to look him in the eye while I do it.

Eventually is today. Well, this past weekend.

I started the book and immediately ran into a small problem. The book reads like it was written in the 1800s, because it was. I'm kinda struggling to understand the text a bit. I can't quite explain it, but there's just something about the way older books are written that I really struggle with. Like, I certainly know what all of these words mean individually, but for some reason when you put them in this order I don't quite understand it. So I've also set aside time to try and find annotated versions and study guides to cross-reference while I read so I can actually grasp what I'm reading.

As far as total reading time so far, I haven't got much. I set a timer for 10 minutes each day to make sure I got in a minimum amount of reading time. Only on Friday did I read past the timer. The other days I started too late and was just too tired to do any more. Yesterday, too, I had to use the 10 minute time for the same reason. So about 50 minutes total. I plan to try to get back into the regular habit today.

This might be a book I have to take breaks from, just because of the amount of outside work involved in reading it. We'll see how things work out. Also, I've read for almost an hour, but it doesn't feel like I've made almost an hour's worth of progress. Hell, I might just start over.

I feel like I've made this long enough, and I haven't really read enough of the book to really make a full post, so I'll just sign off for now. Wish me luck.

he who is not bold enough to

be stared at from across walden pond is not

bold enough to stare into it himself

I did in fact restart the book. Did 53 minutes of reading. Technically I wanted to stop a bit sooner but I was kinda determined to at least get to 50 like I had before. I'm getting frustrated with the book, though not for the reasons I had initially anticipated.

First thing, oof. A lot of casual anti-indigenous racism. Thoreau constantly calls various native peoples "savages" even as he praises them. I get it, it's a book from the 1800s, people were like that, but it's still gross. And it's especially rich coming from a guy who was a pretty big abolitionist, and earlier in this very same book(!) said:

It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.

And you can't extend that train of thought far enough to stop calling native peoples savages? Little bitch boy behavior, pure and simple.

Thoreau is just… so close to getting it. He's correctly identified several issues with society but comes to the wrong conclusion. He talks about how people are stuck spending their whole lives constantly laboring:

Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance—which his growth requires—who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

He talks about the cost of housing & renting:

You could sit up as late as you pleased, and, whenever you got up, go abroad without any landlord or house-lord dogging you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not have frozen to death in such a box as this. I am far from jesting.... in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax for this outside garment of all, become indispensable summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live. I do not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiring compared with owning, but it is evident that the savage owns his shelter because it costs so little, while the civilized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford to hire. But, answers one, by merely paying this tax the poor civilized man secures an abode which is a palace compared with the savage’s. An annual rent of from twenty-five to a hundred dollars, these are the country rates, entitles him to the benefit of the improvements of centuries, spacious apartments, clean paint and paper, Rumford fireplace, back plastering, Venetian blinds, copper pump, spring lock, a commodious cellar, and many other things. But how happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, who has them not, is rich as a savage? If it is asserted that civilization is a real advance in the condition of man,—and I think that it is, though only the wise improve their advantages,—it must be shown that it has produced better dwellings without making them more costly; and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. An average house in this neighborhood costs perhaps eight hundred dollars, and to lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years of the laborer’s life, even if he is not encumbered with a family;—estimating the pecuniary value of every man’s labor at one dollar a day, for if some receive more, others receive less;—so that he must have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam will be earned. If we suppose him to pay a rent instead, this is but a doubtful choice of evils. Would the savage have been wise to exchange his wigwam for a palace on these terms?

And instead of like, seeing the actual problem, money & capitalism, the placement of profit above all else, the inherent cruelty in charging people to live, he instead decides that maybe everybody should just want less out of life.

And if the civilized man’s pursuits are no worthier than the savage’s, if he is employed the greater part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries and comforts merely, why should he have a better dwelling than the former?

The premise of his experiment is essentially that he's gonna go out in the woods and live as simply as possible off the land and maybe by just wanting and having less stuff he might be happier or something. So like, less Into the Wild and more Stardew Valley, a cottagecore girly before cottagecore girlies were cool.

And it's just ugh, dude. You're so close! You're SO close! It's like that old joke about how if you wanna know how a ghost feels, listen to a podcast where the hosts don't know a random bit of trivia that you do.

But this is barely chapter one, so maybe the experiment changes him. But this was also written after the fact, when he's had time to think about things, so who knows. Well, people who've read it know.

Anyways, did you know Thoreau hated old people? Right after that prejudice quote he goes on the whole "old people suck" rant.

What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned any thing of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any thing to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.

I was not expecting it at all and it caught me off guard. It was honestly kinda funny.

There's a bit of the book where he talks about clothing. Overall I get the sentiment and agree that there's generally an issue with people dressing solely for status. These days we have a lot of issues with pollution from fast fashion, and with trends moving faster than ever, tons of clothes bought and dumped in rapid succession. However I think sometimes when we have these discussions regarding fashion ("we" being society at large, not specifically Thoreau) there tends to be an unfortunate conflation between "dressing Nice so other people will think you're trendy" and "dressing nice for you, because you want to look nice." I tend to be wary of any discussion of fashion because I worry it will end up in a place of blanket condemnation, where anyone who's ever spent more than a few minutes thinking about what they want to wear for the day & tries to take a certain amount of pride in their appearance is put on the same level as chronically wasteful influencers who post massive weekly clothing hauls. Henry seems to acknowledge a certain amount of nuance here, saying "every day our garments become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer’s character, until we hesitate to lay them aside, without such delay and medical appliances and some such solemnity even as our bodies," which is appreciated, but it's a bit hard to tell how far that nuance extends.

I'm taking a break. I need to read something shorter & fun in-between sessions. I'll be reading something else today.

I haven't even finished Economy yet. Good god.

vinyl's back (and so am i)

I haven't posted for a few days, not because I haven't been reading but because I just didn't really feel like it. I'm trying to keep this from feeling too much like Work, and that means taking breaks when I need them.

While I was gone, I just took a bit of time for myself. I read some poetry by a local author, and started a new cozy. I read about 22 minutes of Vinyl Resting Place on Thursday, then I finished on Friday over about 3 hours. That's the book I wanna talk about today, because it was pretty good!

Vinyl Resting Place is about 3 sisters who start a coffee shop/record store, but someone is killed in their storage closet during their grand opening party. Their uncle is the main suspect and he gets arrested. The trio decide to investigate the crime to prove their uncle is innocent. As an added wrinkle, the girls put the shop as collateral for bail, but then their uncle disappears. If they don't find him in time, they lose the store.

This book was a lot more modern than cozies I'm used to, and it was really refreshing! Social media is referenced in a way that comes off as really natural. It's a lot more explicitly diverse than a lot of cozies I've read. It's not just automatically assumed most or every character is white, with race only specified if it's a person of color; character's races are pretty much all treated the same way.

I really like the three main characters, Juni, Tansy, and Maggie. I like that they all kinda help out in their own ways, though I do wish Maggie and Tansy had more to do outside of Juni. It's from Juni's POV, so it's understandable, but it would make the mystery-solving feel even more like a group effort, which is something I really like in cozies.

The mystery was fun, though it did feel a little scattered at points. There are 2 mysteries going on, the murder and finding the uncle, which are kinda connected but not really, so you can really only look into one at a time, and at times it feels like the murder investigation falls by the wayside. There are points where even the main characetr admits she hasn't really been focusing on the murder victim.

There was one part about the ending that bothered me. It's revealed that apparently the MC's mom just had a picture of the murder happening the whole time? I generally don't like easy clues like this to begin with, but throwing this detail in at the end feels like it really undermines the investigative work that's been going on in the book. And how long was she holding on to this information? When did she notice? When did she report this? We don't know, it all happens off screen.

The book didn't include any recipes or anything at the end. I do like having fun stuff at the end, but ultimately I think it's fine to not have anything. I've seen some cozies that struggle to find things to go in the back matter so they just throw some things into the story for the sake of it, so it's probably better to just skip it rather than try and force it for genre conventions. However, there are a lot of fancy coffee drinks mentioned, it might have been cool to know how to make those, even if they might require equipment most people might not have.

I'll definitely be reading the sequel at some point. I also want to try the author's other series, if only because the second one is called No Memes of Escape.

popcorn horror

Finished Creepshow vol. 1 last night, and it was alright. I think the main problem with it is that each story is just too short; they really don't have a lot of room to breathe and some stories handle this better than others. I will say though that none of these stories felt out of place; there was nothing here that stood out as not really fitting the Creepshow vibe.

"Take One" is a pretty simple story that doesn't clash with the length issue too much. This one gave off Trick R Treat vibes along with Creepshow, which was neat.

"Shingo" had a pretty cliché plot but is overall fine. I'm just very tired of "oh look, the children's mascot is EVIL!!!" stories. They're just too overplayed at this point. It has the very rare happy ending which I think works for this one.

"The Gorgahmorahh Tree" suffers the most from its shortness. I legitimately have no idea what's going on in this story? Like, was the tree possessing her? Was it just feeding off bad vibes? Why did she say "they don't love you, only I love you"? Did her parents get eaten by the tree or something? What is even happening.

"Creator's Rites" is simple but kinda cute.

"Hair" is pretty good. I think out of all of the stories here, this one works the best at the length it is. It feels complete. Could you make it something longer? Absolutely, but it still works just fine as-is.

"The Bridge" is there. It's a "look at this influencer who sucks and then dies" story.

"Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are" had such a good premise. Your typical "vampires are killing people and only the kids take it seriously, so the kids have to take down the vampires" story, except it goes horribly wrong because it's vampires versus literal children. But then it basically ends on a fat joke? What a waste.

"La Mascara de la Muerte" is an evil mask story, but applied to the world of women's lucha libre. It's alright.

The more I think about it, "Thirst Trap" is stupid. It has an interesting premise, as far as obnoxious "vanity bad" stories go, but the ending is real fucking stupid. So Parker has a demon attached to his phone, and as long as he feeds the demon by taking selfies he gets to stay young forever. He has a one-night stand with a guy but the guy ends up taking the demon phone by mistake. So Parker goes running to the other guy's place, but by the time he gets there he's an old guy again, and they have this really drawn out back and forth of "gimme the phone" "no" "I'm gonna die" "I don't know you old man" and then the demon kills Parker. Like. Come on. What did you think was gonna happen. He's obviously not gonna recognize you. Why would you not just lie. Why would you not hand the other guy his phone so he could see there had been a mistake.

I'm not saying characters in horror can never make bad decisions. What I am saying is that horror is much more effective when protagonists do everything right but still get fucked over in the end. When it comes to horror derived from bad decisions, it's too easy to wave it away as "that could never be me, because I have more than one braincell and I would simply Not Make The Bad Choice."

"Husk" is top-tier. I fucking love Husk. I want a feature-length Husk movie. A girl straining under the pressure and expectations of Southern high-society femininity finds out she's actually a cicada, bursts from her human form and starts eating people? Beautiful. Love it. It's so goblincore. It's so transgender. 10/10. Talk about going out with a bang.

the library maenad

Yesterday was the roughest reading day so far. I only got 5 minutes in. I'm frustrated. It wasn't because I was busy, it was because I was fighting with myself.

It's simple really. I didn't want to read this particular book. How did this ruin my entire day? Let's break it down.

I was sick of the string of 10-minute days and wanted to commit substantial time to reading, possibly even finish a book in one day like Vinyl Resting Place. I had a book picked out, It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake, and was gonna blast through as much of it as possible before I had to go out later in the day.

How did that work out? I put off things I wanted to do for the sake of the thing that I felt I had to do, but I didn't want to do the thing I had to do, so I just. Basically did nothing. This lasted until I got the message that plans had been cancelled, and then continued. For the rest of the day. It finally got so late in the day that I had to do some reading or lose my streak. I got a few pages in before finally admitting to myself I didn't want to read the book at all.

I'm sure It Takes a Witch is perfectly fine. I'm sure if the synopsis calls to you you'll probably have an okay time. But it doesn't call to me, so why did I get this? Why did I pick it at all?

A small detail I forgot to mention: this was a library book.

Something happens to me when I enter a library. As I traverse the stacks, I enter into this feral frenzy and start grabbing books left and right. I take the briefest look at the synopsis, if I even look at all, and convince myself that yes, this books sounds great, and I will totally 100% read this. It's not until I get home and calm down from the free book high that I realize a lot of what I picked out is stuff I don't actually have any real interest in when I think about it.

Thankfully this kind of thing doesn't happen at bookstores; my financial anxiety tends to counteract it. But at the library (or a sufficiently cheap used book sale), I get so caught up in Book Excitement that I can't think clearly. If I'd had a level-head at the library, I'd have realized that hey, It Takes a Witch is focused on witches who use wish-granting magic, a kind of magic that I have never liked and am not interested in, so this book probably isn't for me.

And even though I, on a certain level, realized this, I still wasted basically my entire day trying to force myself to read it. It didn’t have to be this way. I could have been doing literally anything else. Like reading.

ADHD's a hell of a thing. I've been at it long enough that I generally understand my particular quirks, and I think that's ultimately what made yesterday so frustrating. I know this kind of tactic doesn't work for me. I know at this point that I actually get more done when I make little compromises with myself. Fuck, it's how I've kept the reading streak going this long. I know that trying to force myself to do things in this way just makes it take longer to actually get anything done.

But I did it anyway, and now the day is gone, and I'm just. Really annoyed. All I can do is learn from this and try again later.

I reviewed my stack again. Other books I'm weeding, if you're curious:

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham. I don't like zombie books, why did I grab this?

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet. I somehow convinced myself this was the first in the series after getting kinda confused trying to figure out which book was first just by browsing. But like, I could have just checked. I had my phone, I could have looked it up and found the answer in literal seconds. Also, this series isn't even very spooky from what I can tell, they just have really cool spooky titles, which is a huge let down.

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams. This series just seems a little somber compared to what I normally read. I'm not really in the mood for that sort of thing right now.

And again, I'm sure all these books are fine, just. Not for me.

the root reading experience

Yesterday was unfortunately another 10-minute day but Sunday was interesting. Cumulatively, I got over an hour's worth of reading done across more than four books.

I had plans to go over to a friend's place for a board game day. I didn't know what time I'd be back, so I made sure to get at least 10 minutes of my current book in before I left. Said book is Shady Hollow by Juneau Black. It's a cozy mystery set in a village full of woodland creatures. I can see how other people may not vibe with it, but I think it's lovely so far. I heavily debated taking it with me, because I know that sometimes in between turns or games I sit out of I end up just dicking around on my phone, and it would probably be a good idea to turn that time into reading time. I ultimately decided not to bring it, which was a mistake.

We started with Root, which is a game where each player is a different faction of woodland creatures vying for control of the forest. It also has a very long wait between turns. It would have gone perfectly with Shady Hollow, but of course I didn't bring it, and my library didn't have an ebook available. So I ended up bouncing between a few books. The main was Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw. I really liked the bits that were focused on establishing the setting and premise, but I wasn't really vibing with the stuff related to the overall plot, so I ended up moving on from it and trying to find something else, which did not work out well. I tried a bunch of things but nothing else was really clicking for me.

In between turns, I got an hour's worth of reading time in. That's not the total wait time between turns; there were turns where I was eating, talking to people, and bumbling around looking for books.

In case you were wondering, I was playing as the Lizard Cultists, and we got our shit kicked in by the Lord of the Hundreds.

I'll probably keep reading Strange Practice, at least for a little while longer, but I definitely wanna focus on Shady Hollow first. And I will definitely be getting Shady Hollow done soon because the Garden Galaxy update just hit! We got the beach set AND a new pond set! I'm very excited!

resting under the shady hollow

I meant to get this written and posted yesterday, but I couldn't focus long enough to get it written. I've had more focus problems than usual the past few days, which is very annoying.

Though it took longer than I wanted it to, I did finish Shady Hollow by Juneau Black. It was a nice book, which I enjoyed greatly. It may not be the pun-titled, hobby-filled book a lot of people think of when they think of cozy mysteries, but the vibes and plot beats are there, and it's probably the coziest cozy I've ever read.

Shady Hollow takes place in, you guessed it, Shady Hollow, a village of woodland creatures. All is well until Otto the toad is murdered. The town reporter, Vera, goes looking for the truth.

I liked how this book handled the tone. When people focus on talking animals, there's a tendency to either make the story either too cute & cartoony or go over-the-top grimdark. I think Shady Hollow is cute, but it doesn't come off as too much to me, and while there are darker topics here it's not any darker than your standard cozy.

The mystery isn't that deep or complex, which I can see as a downside for some people, but it didn't really bother me. Odd as it may sound, I don't necessarily read cozies for the mysteries. Having a good mystery definitely helps, and an otherwise fine cozy can be dragged to hell by a bad mystery, but there are other things I like about the genre. I like the details. All the descriptions of food and places and hobbies that would probably be considered unimportant in another genre, stuff you might have to cut for one reason or another, are integral parts of the genre. For example, a several page scene where two characters cook and serve dinner together might be seen as a cute bonding moment or a spot for good character development, but not necessarily crucial to the plot as a whole; in a cozy that kind of scene is critical, not just for character work, but for the sheer act of cooking itself. It's a scene for establishing vibes, a scene for the author to show how much they (or at least the POV character) love this particular thing, and maybe inspire you to love it too.

By virtue of the place & characters themselves serving as the series hook, every scene is, in a sense, that scene. It can be a bit of a double-edged sword though. In other cozies it's easier to look past a less-than-stellar gimmick if the mystery is really good because the gimmick isn't so all-encompassing, but with this one if you can't buy into the hook there's not a lot for you here.

Something this book did differently from a lot of cozies that I enjoy is that it occasionally focused on characters other than our main characters. I usually see either first-person point of view or third-person limited solely to our main character, but in Shady Hollow the narrator pulls back to focus on other characters at points.

While I liked most things about this book, I didn't really like the romance. For one, it just kinda happened? I don't really get why these two characters are romantically interested in each other. Second, it's between the main character and a cop, a trope I dislike.

I understand the trope in most books. Most cozies have to figure out a way for our main character to investigate without getting arrested themselves, as well as a way for them to gain access to things the police would know that they would not otherwise share with the public. A lot of authors take the easy way out and just make one of the cops a love interest. I don't like it, but I get it. I understand he's a plot device (and it is almost always woman MC + cop boyfriend, because these books tend to be painfully straight), and I can tolerate it to a certain extent.

However, the plot device cop boyfriend is entirely unnecessary in this book. It already establishes that the chief of police is scared and has no idea what he's doing. It would be very easy to have him just pawn the actual detective work off on Vera the way he does on the deputy. Plus, the deputy doesn't really add a whole lot to the investigation. His biggest contributions are rescuing Vera from danger and calling in the medical examiner to determine the cause of death, both things the chief could have also done.

Regardless, overall I liked it. It was nice.

gender. it's kinda hard

I've been too busy reading to post much, which I'll take as a good thing. This does however mean that I'm a few book recaps behind. Recently (by which I mean a while ago), I finished Gender Failure by Rae Spoons and Ivan E. Coyote, a book by two nonbinary people discussing some of their experiences with gender. I do read things other than cozies, ya know.

Here's the thing. I tried to write a "good" post about this book. I tried to write something beautiful and profound and thought-provoking or whatever and it just didn't work out. I failed, as it were.

So, long story short, the book is good. It's a valuable insight into some nonbinary people's perspectives. Ivan has some very poignant thoughts on the way the medical system treats trans people, particularly nonbinary people, along with the experience of no longer being a butch lesbian but not being a trans man either. Rae discusses how they tried being both binary genders and failed to measure up to how society dictates these genders should be, before renouncing the binary system of gender all together, and finding a sort of liberation in it, despite struggling with people not understanding. There's a lot I resonated with and some stuff I didn't. It's hard to say too much about it without getting really specific, which isn't something I necessarily want to do. To really talk in-depth about it I feel like I would inevitably have to mention my AGAB, which I prefer not to disclose if I can help it.

I tend to find it hard to discuss books regarding transness, because a good chunk of my experiences with them come from how it makes me reflect on my own experiences and how I feel about those reflections rather than what's in the book itself. It ends up being not so much a review of the book, but a review of the things the book made me feel and think about. That doesn't necessarily feel fair. But at the same time, isn't that kinda the point of books like this? To make you think and feel? Isn't the book's ability to make the reader think and feel an important consideration?


be my ghost is mostly ghostly

Be My Ghost by Carol J. Perry was a good time, but was it a good mystery?

Be My Ghost is about Maureen Doherty, a woman who inherits a Florida in from a woman she's never met. The inheritance couldn't have come at a better time since the sportwear store she worked at has just gone out of business. She packs her stuff & her dog and heads down to Florida, but when she gets there she learns that the inn is haunted. [] is thus tasked with figuring out how to make the inn profitable, along with finding out who poisoned a famous ghosthunter who was staying there.

I feel like I enjoyed it more for the aspects outside the mystery; the mystery seemed to just kinda happen in the background? Or at least was more of a background element than I'm used to. Like, I had a good time reading about all the bits and pieces of getting the inn to a better place financially, and the subplot with the office suite ghost. You could cut the murder entirely and I still would have enjoyed it, but the fact that you could cut the murder does bother me just a little.

One big positive I'm happy to report: no plot device cop boyfriend! In general I really like the way the interfacing with the justice system is handled. Most of the time Maureen passes along what information she does get to her lawyer, who handles getting it to the cops. Utilizing the lawyer like this isn't something I've seen too often. It was really refreshing, and I hope this continues throughout the series.

Another interesting thing is that there's an overarching mystery in addition to the main plot. We don't find out in this book why Maureen inherited the in. Cozies tend to be pretty self-contained, with not much book-to-book progression outside of the romance plots. It's always neat when there's more stuff tying the books together.

Despite everything I liked about it, it had one big flaw. The book wasn't proofread well enough. There are a lot of issues, particularly regarding dialogue tags, particularly in the back half. Some of them are minor mistakes, like not spacing things correctly, but there's one piece of dialogue that isn't in quotations at all. There's a stray "s" floating around in one of the sentences. It's really disappointing to see obvious mistakes like this fall through the cracks. It's not the author's fault; the publisher's job is to have editors and proofreaders go over the work authors submit to make sure it's polished up and mechanically sound. It's unfortunate this book didn't get the extra look-through it needed.

Overall I found this book rather charming. It may not necessarily fit my criteria for a good mystery, but it is a good book and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

shifting priorities

Remember when this was just meant to be a daily log of what I'm reading and for how long? That was a while ago, wasn't it?

Now I'm doing write-ups for the books I'm reading, and I'm behind.

I think that's okay. I think it's okay for projects to evolve like this, as long as I'm still happy with the work. Am I still happy with it? I think so.

But am I sure?

It feels like the blogs have shifted more to reviews, and when it comes to reviews I feel the need to hold myself to a higher standard. I was able give myself leeway to relax by using the blog format. As we creep closer to review territory, I worry more and more about making "good" content.

I want to let go of that feeling, but I also care about my writing. I care about what people think of it.

I'll keep writing my posts for right now, but it remains to be seen where I'll go after the end of the month.

Fun fact: I had an entire post written that is redundant now because I took too long to post it lol. It feels kinda bad to throw out something so long, but it'd be inauthentic to post it at this point.

i can't think of a clever title right now

The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb is about Teddy Bentley, a zoo keeper at the Gunn Zoo. A dead man is found in the enclosure of an anteater she looks after, but it turns out the anteater didn't kill him, he was murdered. After one of her fellow keepers is accused of the crime, she becomes determined to solve the case.

The book is good, but god is it stressful. At a certain point this tight ball of anxiety formed in the pit of my stomach and didn't let up until the audiobook stopped. I was riveted, certainly, but I did not feel good while reading it (er, listening to it).

The main culprit is the long workplace sexual harassment subplot. The zoo director, Barry, had been lowkey creepy to Teddy for some time, and a point Teddy feels like she should humor his advances for a bit to help the anteater. The anteater was moved from its enclosure to a holding pen after the murder and has been kept there for some time. She's clearly stressed, which isn't healthy for the animal, especially considering she's pregnant & close to giving birth, and zoo animals sometimes have a tendency to kill their newborns when too stressed. Barry refuses to allow the anteater back into the enclosure essentially because he's an asshole and doesn't like animals.

Without going into too much detail, Teddy agrees to go to dinner with him, he gets drunk and behaves inappropriately towards her. Going forward, he escalates romantic overtures toward her at work, and Teddy feels she can't outright refuse him because he'll take it out on the anteater, and spends much of the time blaming herself because she humored him in the first place. This escalates into an incident where he is physically violent towards her, though thankfully there are several witnesses who arrive just in time to witness the event and prevent it from escalating any further.

Part of the reason I read cozies so much is because they tend to veer away from this particular kind of content. I can generally handle a lot in fiction, but sexual violence is one of my lines. I love horror, for example, but every time a woman's in danger I end up on edge because "how far is this going to go?" I'm extremely grateful that nowadays it's a lot easier to look up a book and find out if it has any potentially triggering content in it, but it can still be pretty hard to track down specifics outside of "warning: this book mentions X." Does this happen to the point of view character? How graphic is it? In the cases of things like transphobia, are other characters being transphobic to a trans character, or is the narrative itself being transphobic to a trans character? What's the framing of it? I generally find those specifics pretty necessary to determining the intensity and what kind of headspace I need to be in to read it.

There's also a very tense animal violence scene where some wolves get into a life-or-death fight that the zookeepers have to try to break up.

Despite the various uncomfortable parts, I did enjoy it. I really liked the zoo setting and I wish there were more cozies set in and around zoos. I liked the subplot about Teddy's dad. I loved Zorah. It was generally a good time outside of The Anxiety.


Sooo I haven't posted in a bit.

Firstly, I've been busy. A couple of things have happened. I got back into crochet. I'd taken a pretty long break and put all my projects on hold but I had the urge to get back into it. I managed to get some new stuff done and I'm almost finished with a project I've had on hold for a long time. I've also been experimenting with writing tabletop rpgs. Nothing I can show off yet, just screwing around.

Despite all that, I maintained an over 60 day streak! I hit some other goals that I set too. Overall I'm really happy with what I managed to do and really glad I did this.

Another reason I stopped posting as much was, I think, because of the format shift. Once it got to a point where I could be behind on posts I was kinda doomed. What worked about the early posts was that because they were just "what I read yesterday," I couldn't really get behind. Once I shifted to writing up specific books as I finished them, I ended up giving myself a bunch of fake rules to follow which wasn't good for putting out consistent work (treating it like work didn't help either). Plus, as I mentioned in my last post, the shift from in-the-moment commentary to what felt more like reviews also came with an extra tension due to my own quality standards. There's a difference between how I would casually commentate on a book and how I would review a book, and when my commentary started to look a bit more like reviews I got really stressed out. Like, I enjoy what I've written and having wrote it, but there's also this embarrassment, this feeling of "please don't think my writing is like this all the time, I can be professional, I swear," lurking underneath.

Will I post the remaining bits of commentary & interludes I have written? If people ask for it, sure. Otherwise I'm not sure.

I'm also deleteing some of the landing pages. No actual posts will be deleted, just structural pages.