Laudna – Witchy & Creepy – Critical Role Campaign #3

My husband commented the other day about how the only thing I watch now is Critical Role. He’s right. I haven’t found a TV show that has captured my interest. I tried watching True Detective on HBO max, but I quit watching halfway through. With Critical Role, I’m watching campaign #1 and campaign #3 at the same time, which takes up most of my time. One standout character from campaign #3 is Laudna played by Marisha Ray. I wanted to share how I feel about Laudna and how much I adore her.

Laudna’s look – Critical Role Wiki.

Laudna is a gothic, creepy witch who seems like a sweetheart deep down. She’s close to Imogen (played by Laura Bailey) and it seems like Laudna is Imogen’s confidant. When Marisha described her look, it reminded me of Enchantress from the 2016 Suicide Squad movie except less smoky. Laudna is dressed in red and her gray, ashy skin seems pale and sickly. She’s a Warlock Sorcerer interested in death and decay. I like the creepy aesthetic of Laudna as I think it hasn’t been explored in any of the characters from Critical Role thus far. (As a side note, I haven’t watched campaign #2 yet, so there might be characters similar to Laudna that I haven’t been exposed to).

I like how Laudna has links back to the previous campaigns for Critical Role. Laudna is from Whitestone which is Percy’s hometown from Vox Machina. Laudna mentions how when she was young, the DeRolo family was killed, and the Briarwoods took over. This was a big arc in Vox Machina. I’m curious as to how Laudna leans. Was she involved in the Briarwood rebellion? Was she associated with the Briarwoods? I’m intrigued as to what Laudna’s true origin story will be.

I’m happy for Marisha as it seems like Laudna has become a fan favorite from the beginning. Marisha has been roleplaying characters from both of their campaigns. Keyleth, Marisha’s character from Campaign #1, received a lot of hatred based on the decisions Keyleth would make. Keyleth’s persona is that she’s inexperienced and a bit immature which didn’t resonate with some fans of Critical Role. Marisha discussed this on her Between The Sheets interview which I will link down below. Based on watching campaign #3 so far, it seems like Marisha is genuinely having fun and enjoying playing Laudna. The fans also enjoy Laudna and some of the fan art that’s been released on Twitter is so good.

It’s been a blast being able to watch a Critical Role campaign live. I came into Critical Role late, so I have been playing catch-up. While the episodes air on Thursdays, I wait till Monday to watch because I can’t stay up that late on Thursday nights to watch the full episode. I’m excited to see how campaign #3 plays out and how Laudna plays a role in the group.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

CW: Sexual Assault, Suicide. (I do not discuss this in detail, this serves as a CW for the book itself)

Horror is a genre I want to read more of, but I haven’t found my go-to author in the genre. Stephen King is the only horror author I can name which means I’m still on the periphery of horror books. I have seen Grady Hendrix’s name floating around the Booktube space specifically The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. I had this on my radar, so when October rolled around, I wanted to make sure this was on my list. I finished The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires last weekend and it was a wild ride.

Patricia Campbell lives a mundane life as a stay-at-home mom. She cleans, cooks, and routinely discusses True Crime books at her book club. Patricia invites their new neighbor to her book club to help introduce him to their community. As Patricia starts to get to know her neighbor, strange events happen in their town. Patricia starts to suspect this neighbor as being a drug dealer, but maybe he’s something more. In a town over, missing kids are dying in strange ways which leads Patricia to conclude that this neighbor could possibly be a vampire. How will Patricia convince her book club that Dracula is a few houses over?

I liked how The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was filled with irony. At the women’s book club, they talk about why people don’t say anything when a strange man moves to town who seems a bit off i.e. Ted Bundy, yet Patricia has to convince everyone that this man is no good. I feel for Patricia at times because she is often gaslit and told that she’s overthinking things. Patricia’s husband, Carter, doesn’t support her and often makes horrible statements in a nonchalant way. Patricia along with Mrs. Greene were two characters I thoroughly enjoyed reading about.

I do want to be up-front, there were several horrific and grotesque scenes in this book. I went into reading this book not expecting as much horror as there was. If it helps, I have attached my Goodreads review where I put these scenes under spoiler tags to determine if this book will work for you. These scenes involve rats, insects, and a disturbing sexual assault. I did mention the content warning already to make this clear.

My main critique of the book was that all the women seemed to blend together. Patricia stood out to me along with Mrs. Greene, otherwise, the other women seemed to sound the same. I wish there was something about each of the women that I could remember. I do think this was intentional by Hendrix as these women were all stay-at-home moms.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was a horrific, Vampire-hunting book that fits perfectly into my Spooky TBR. I rated The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires four stars on Goodreads, although I was debating between a four or five star rating. As mentioned, I do want to read more horror, so if anyone has any author suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.

Controllers & Coffee – BizarreBrunette Gaming Update #1

I wanted to create a new series on BizarreBrunette that serves as a gaming update. I can talk about what I’m currently playing, if I played any new board games recently or if I have any new roleplaying stories to talk about. Gaming is a big hobby of mine and now that the wedding and our mini-moon trip are over, I have free time to devote to gaming. I didn’t know what to call this, so I ended up naming this “Controllers & Coffee” I found this fitting because I usually write my posts while drinking my morning coffee. I may end up changing the title as I continue this series, but for now, this will stick. I have five categories in this update, they are as follows: Consoles, PC, Board games, Roleplaying, and Miscellaneous. I feel these sections encompass my gaming interests, however, these are subject to change if I find I’m missing something. Let’s get into the latest “Controllers & Coffee” gaming update.

Consoles

I’m currently playing through Lego Harry Potter. I finally 100% Years 1-4, so I have moved on to Years 5-7. I went through a gaming slump, and Lego Harry Potter pulled me out. Playing through a Lego game has been stress relieving. If I had a tough day at work, I can play through a game that doesn’t require my whole attention span. It’s worked for me and I plan on unlocking all the trophies in Years 5-7 as well before moving onto the next game on my PS4.

Originally, I said I would play Far Cry 5 next. However, I saw an advertisement for Square Enix’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game. The reviews have been excellent. I’m skeptical because Marvel’s Avenger’s was mediocre. I’m a sucker for Superhero games, so Square Enix drew me in. I’m planning on playing through Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy followed by Far Cry 5.

Finally, I bought Super Mario 3D World Bowser’s Fury. I wanted to get back into playing my Nintendo Switch, so I figured a new game would help. I have been taking a break from Animal Crossing as it got a bit too repetitive. I want to get back into it, but I still need a break. Super Mario 3D World has been a blast, especially due to utilizing the cat power-up.

PC

I had been playing the older Nancy Drew PC games. The last two Nancy Drew games were more frustrating to get through, so I ended up staying away from them. The Nancy Drew games are older and as such some of the graphics could be updated. In one game, I was lost in a series of underground corridors and each corridor looked exactly the same. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the end. I do want to go back to the Nancy Drew games, but not right now.

In Minnesota, we recently had our first snowfall. In Winter, I find myself gravitating towards playing Sims. While everyone is playing Sims 4, I’m still playing through Sims 3. I missed out on Sims 3 as most of the expansions released while I was in college. I like how Sims 3 has achievements, so it allows me to come up with my own Sims challenge to keep me entertained. I have one challenge of having one Sim completing all six degrees, while another Sim is trying to become a celebrity psychic from the Supernatural expansion. Setting challenges makes playing the Sims more upbeat and less mundane.

Board Games

I don’t have any new updates as far as board games. The last board gaming event was when I cracked open Mysterium. I hope to schedule a board gaming day sometime soon.

Roleplaying

Currently, I’m not in any active campaigns. I did join a Vampire the Masquerade campaign in summer, but due to wedding-related planning, I had to miss several sessions. The DM was understanding. In my absence, I found the other players in the campaign didn’t show any interest in continuing, so the DM told me the campaign was permanently on-hold. Roleplaying can be challenging to schedule, so I understand that this can sometimes happen. I’m optimistic in finding a new campaign to join.

Next year, my goal is to gather my friends into creating a campaign. In 2019, we were roleplaying at least once a month which got disrupted with the Covid pandemic. I want to pick up a 5e rulebook and teach myself how to DM.

To keep my love of roleplaying alive, I have been watching the first campaign of Critical Role while also watching the new episodes of their third campaign. I discussed this already, but I also purchased tickets to the NADDPOD live show in January next year.

Miscellaneous

The newest Magic: the Gathering set Crimson Vow is out. This set is centered on Innistrad, a spookier Magic: the Gathering plane. In Magic, the worlds are described as planes and each set takes place on one of these planes. The lore behind Crimson Vow features a Vampire wedding, so many of the creature cards in this set will be Vampires. I will forever be a casual Magic player. I don’t see myself entering tournaments as I’m not competitive enough to do well. I do find myself gravitating towards Magic: The Gathering Arena as it’s easy to play and I don’t have to deal with any negative players. I’m not sure if I will get back to in-person pre-releases as my experiences have been a mix of positive and negative in-person gameplay. I’m going to try and play Crimson Vow on Arena.

For “Controllers & Coffee” I want to write a post at least once a month or ideally every other week. Gaming is a hobby I put on the backburner, but now I want to get back into regular gaming. I’m looking forward to what games I can play through from now until the end of the year.

Incorporating Wigs into Cosplay

I started cosplaying in 2013 when I attended my first convention. Me and my friend thrifted overalls for a Mario & Luigi cosplay. My interest in cosplay developed since then as I have cosplayed Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, the Punisher, along with a variety of other characters. I set two personal rules for cosplay. The first rule I had was to wear comfortable shoes. I have no problems wearing heels for a nice dinner where I know I won’t have to walk too far. At a convention, I know that I walk everywhere, so I will not wear uncomfortable shoes and be miserable the entire time I’m there. The second rule was to never wear wigs. I figured wigs were itchy and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. Recently, I started wearing wigs for certain events and I realized I was wrong. I wasn’t itchy or uncomfortable, and I loved how wearing a wig elevated my cosplay. I wanted to talk about my experience with wigs.

My first experience wearing a wig was for a friend’s birthday party. She was hosting a color party where each person would be assigned a color and had to wear that entire color. I told my friend to give me the color no one wanted because I wanted a challenge. The color I was assigned was orange. I ended up finding a short orange bob wig on Amazon and paired that with orange tights, an orange crop top, and orange shorts. Included in my wig were various wig caps to ensure that my hair was put up and out of the way. The wig I bought fit my head perfectly, and I didn’t have a problem getting the wig on my head and staying on. Unfortunately, I ended up throwing the wig out because I think someone spilled a drink on it? It smelled like booze, sweat, and it was clear some of the hair fell out through the night.

Besides the orange wig, I ended up renting Halloween costumes this year since I didn’t have time to plan out my costumes. I used Royal Fashions Costume Emporium to portray both Alice in Wonderland and Daenerys. Both costumes utilized the same blonde wig. Similar to my orange wig experience, I loved this wig. I felt sassier portraying Daenerys and part of the reason the look came together was because of the wig. The more I incorporated wigs into my cosplay or costuming, the more I became a part of that character. I slowly started to realize how wrong I was about wigs.

I’m still new when it comes to wearing wigs, so I find I’m still learning how to care for a wig to ensure it lasts longer. I found in both experiences I had, it’s important to find a wig that fits. This is an obvious statement, but it’s still important. If the wig is too small, it won’t fit and that can lead to excess rubbing. Additionally, I think wearing a wig cap is crucial. This keeps the hair in place and prevents any itchiness. Both of these statements may come across as being unhelpful, although coming from someone who didn’t like wearing wigs, I found that this helped me in overcoming these negative pre-conceived notions I had towards wigs.

For my future cosplays, I plan on ensuring I have a wig to match if that’s necessary. I have a long orange wig hanging near my closet that I still have to use. I want to make a Keyleth cosplay from Critical Role or use it for a future Starfire cosplay. I’m excited to start incorporating wigs into my cosplays!

Hiking Hills in San Fran

My “mini-moon” series is coming to an end. My first post was focused on the day trip to Disney, my second post was dedicated to LA, and now I’m writing about visiting San Francisco. While planning this trip, I didn’t know much about San Fran. I knew the Golden Gate Bridge was in San Fran, and there were hilly streets, but that was about it. My husband was adamant about spending a majority of our trip in San Fran and I was okay with that. Exploring San Fran was one of the highlights of our trip.

One of the first impressions that I had about San Fran was how walkable of a city it was. Me and my husband walked to a different coffee shop every day to get breakfast and relax before beginning our day. Our first day in San Fran included walking to the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building is a historic building in San Fran right along the pier. Inside, there were various coffee shops, cafes, and a bookstore. After the Ferry Building, we took an uber to see the houses in Full House. I never got into watching Full House when it aired in the 90s, so while I liked seeing the houses, I wasn’t blown away either. The houses themselves are neat because it fits into San Fran’s aesthetic with the hills and the houses planted on them. Now that I have seen them, I wouldn’t go see them again.

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is going to a local comicbook store and/or game store. After seeing the houses, we walked to a nearby comic book store with a neighboring game store. Comix Experience was the comic book store we visited. It was small shop with a surprisingly big selection of graphic novels. There was a labeled section for comics written by women along with a LGBTQIA+ section. I ended up purchasing the first volume of The Weatherman which I had my eye on for a while. After stopping by Comix Experience, we went to Gamescape which was right next door. This was a game store with a huge board game selection and specialized table for painting minis. I was running out of room in my suitcase, so I only purchased dice. Supporting local stores is incredibly important to me, so I wanted to make a purchase at both stores.

As we explored the various parts of San Fran, we stumbled upon a small museum highlighting cartoons. The Cartoon Art Museum is located near Fisherman’s Wharf and highlights the history of animation and comic art. While me and my husband were there, they had an exhibit about the history of Wonder Woman. There were several older Wonder Woman comics on display along with a prop from the Wonder Woman films. After pursuing the museum, me and my husband made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is massive and it’s incredible that it has existed for so long. We walked the 1.7 miles on the bridge before finally settling on having a celebratory beer at a brewery.

On our final day in San Fran, my husband wanted to go to Alcatraz. Alcatraz is on an island, so we had to purchase our exhibit tickets which included the ferry to get there. Alcatraz was an infamous prison until it was shut down by Robert F. Kennedy in the 60’s because it was too expensive to maintain. Since then, Alcatraz has been historically restored and has become an exhibit to explore. When me and my husband arrived, we were handed a remote that had an audio tour. The audio tour was well worth it. It was easy to follow, and highlighted the experience of both the prisoners and the wardens. Visiting Alcatraz is something I would recommend while visiting San Fran.

I’m glad that me and my husband were able to go on a trip to celebrate our marriage. Europe is still the long-term honeymoon trip, although California allowed us to get away and became our first trip as a married couple. If you have ever been to LA, San Fran or California in general, I’d love to know how your trip went and what your thoughts were about these cities. Feel free to leave a comment down below.

Seeing NADDPOD Live

One of my geeky interests is D&D/roleplaying. I talk about Critical Role frequently as I’m trying to get caught up on both campaigns plus watching campaign three as each episode is transferred onto Youtube. The original D&D podcast I listened to was Not Another D&D Podcast abbreviated NADDPOD I started listening to NADDPOD in 2018 and I loved the show. One memory I have of attending Gen Con in 2019 was listening to NADDPOD as I drove to Indianapolis.

NADDPOD will do live shows in various big US cities such as Boston or New York. In their live show announcements, the midwest is skipped. In NADDPOD’s recent announcement, not only was Chicago on their list but Minneapolis as well. I was pumped! I never thought I would be able to go to one of their live shows, so I instantly pre-bought tickets. I was talking to my husband about this because I was so happy that NADDPOD would be in Minneapolis. My husband asked if I was going with anyone else. I wasn’t because none of my friends were listening to NADDPOD (at least that I know of). My husband as sweet as he is agreed to go with me, so I didn’t have to go myself. As a disclaimer, I think we should normalize doing activities alone. I have no shame in going to a show or a movie by myself, so I was all on board with attending the NADDPOD show by myself. It’s nice that my husband is coming with me, but I would have gone regardless.

I’m debating between wearing my Moonshine Cybin t-shirt or trying to put together a makeshift cosplay of her character. Her character is a woodsy elf druid wearing overalls and living her best life in nature. I do have overalls I could wear and I could buy some leafy hair accessories to add to the look. I have time to figure this out.

I’m so excited about the live show! I’m currently re-listening to the Bahumia campaign which was the first campaign they aired. I’m not sure how far I will get because of working from home, I listen to podcasts less. However, I will still make it a priority now that seeing them live is a reality for me. Time to start counting down the days until the show!

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Romance books are a hit or a miss for me. A five-star romance book has to have great characters, a romance I genuinely root for, and keeps me engaged throughout the whole book. The Love Hypothesis interested me because of the mix of academia, STEM, and many reviewers saying this reminded them of Adam Driver. I graduated with a degree in science and before switching my major, I started with a degree in biology. The Love Hypothesis carried a lot of nostalgia for me because I felt myself reminiscing on my years in college where science was my life. The Love Hypothesis was hands down one of my favorite romance books I have read to date and might be the best book I read in 2021.

Olive Smith is a studious Ph.D. candidate focusing on Pancreatic cancer research. In between her studies, Olive relies on her best friend, Ahn to help keep her grounded. Ahn is dating Olive’s ex-boyfriend Jeremy although Ahn feels bad about this. For Olive to convince Ahn that she’s over Jeremy, Olive fake dates Dr. Adam Carlsen, one of the most hated professors on campus. As Olive and Adam become close, Olive starts to realize that she’s truly fallen for him.

The characters in The Love Hypothesis were fun to follow. Starting with Olive, I found myself rooting for her from the beginning. As someone who’s also had a loved one die of Pancreatic cancer, I could empathize with Olive and why she chose this particular area to study. Olive is a pumpkin spice latte-loving science nerd who wants to make a difference in the world, and I felt that. Ahn as Olive’s best friend was another character I loved reading about. There are passages mentioned where Ahn has created women’s STEM groups on campus to help women wanting to go into STEM. If there was ever a solo book featuring Ahn released by the author, Ali Hazelwood, I would be all over it. Besides Ahn, Malcolm is Olive’s other friend who is studying science. Malcolm becomes the voice of reason for Olive and helps her as she navigates her relationship with Adam.

Speaking of Adam, the romance between Olive and Adam was not only convincing but they genuinely were made for each other. I enjoyed the sexier scenes between Olive and Adam as I felt they had great chemistry together. I also thought that there were real stakes in this relationship. In any romance book, a couple is tested by some big event leading to them breaking up. In this book, I felt Olive had real stakes as to how she wanted to move forward with her relationship with Adam. As I read through this book, I was angry at what Olive had been through. I’m glad Olive and Adam got together and the way everything concluded was satisfying.

The Love Hypothesis lived up to the hype. As I read the book, I found myself not wanting to stop reading. This is one of the romance books I will set as an example of what a five-star romance book looks like. Olive and Adam are my romance book OTP. (One True Pairing).

Oh Hey LA!

Happy Monday! Before too much time passes, I wanted to write the second post in my “mini-moon” California trip series. My first post was about my trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. As someone who has never been to any of the Disney parks, I had a blast. Before visiting Disney, me and my husband took some time to explore LA and the surrounding areas.

When me and my husband landed in LA, I made a comment about how I didn’t realize LA was surrounded by mountains. That sounds like such something silly thing to say, but I genuinely was surprised. It makes sense considering the Hollywood sign is elevated. As me and my husband landed, we navigated to our hotel. The first place me and my husband visited was In-N-Out burger near Hollywood Blvd. I have never been to In-N-Out, so I never understood all the hype. In-N-Out was delicious! I never knew Banana peppers could appear on a burger. I’m a big fan. I will say I think the fries were okay, it was the burger that solidified In-N-Out’s status for me.

As we finished lunch, we took some time to wander Hollywood Blvd. Wandering through Hollywood Blvd was okay. Seeing the Hollywood stars were fine, but I found a lot of the stars were dirty, so they became hard to read. Additionally, it was extremely bright outside, so I found myself staring at the stars trying to read them. One highlight of Hollywood Blvd was the Funko Pop store. Me and my husband had a lot of fun roaming the store and taking pictures with the lifesize figures.

One place that my husband wanted to go see was the Griffith Observatory. It’s an observatory high above downtown LA and it’s a great place to take photos. The view was well worth the drive and the Uber cost to get there. Me and my husband took many photos and selfies with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Besides downtown LA, me and my husband took a trip to Santa Monica. Santa Monica was one of my favorite places to visit while staying in LA. Santa Monica pier is right along the Pacific Ocean and there’s so much to see. Me and my husband walked along the pier including taking a pit stop to drink some fruity cocktails. As me and my husband walked along the beach, I felt we could truly experience the California culture. There were skate parks everywhere, surfers carrying their surfboards, and street performers selling art or dancing to music. We took some time to watch the skateboarders and saw a kid who couldn’t have been older than six years old skating around. Santa Monica is easily a place I would love to come back to.

I’m glad I was able to visit LA and the surrounding cities. I will say, I enjoyed the surrounding cities more than LA itself. I do think part of that is because we visited more tourist spots in LA versus trying to find areas that were where more locals would hang out or recommend. If I were ever to go back, I’d like to stay in Santa Monica or not right in the heart of LA. My next post will be summarizing San Francisco and it will be the final post in my California “mini-moon” post series.

No Time To Die (2021)

No Time to Die was one of the movies I was most looking forward to. With the pandemic, the release for No Time to Die kept getting pushed back until finally, it was released this year. The release of No Time to Die is a big deal as this is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film. It’s a much easier transition for the next Bond actor if the last film ends on a high note. I enjoyed No Time to Die as I thought it took the franchise in a different direction and explored Bond in a way that the other films have not.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on vacation with his beautiful partner, Madeleine Swann (played by Lea Seydoux). As Bond is going to visit Vesper’s grave, he’s attacked by Spectre. As he and Madeleine flee, Bond is under the impression that Madeleine betrayed him. As such, Bond leaves her. Five years later, Bond is retired. He is approached by Felix Leiter (played by Jeffrey Wright) who is wanting Bond’s help to find an MI6 scientist who aided in creating a biological weapon. Bond is swayed into helping and ends up reconnecting with Madeleine under extreme circumstances.

One major highlight of the film is the appearance of Paloma (played by Ana de Armas). She is in the movie for a short time and I think her appearance is incredibly important. The Bond films are notorious for killing women in violent ways especially once these women sleep with Bond. With Paloma, she’s introduced and helps Bond, and once her role is done, she is on her way. She’s still alive and doesn’t suffer. This was something I loved. It also leaves the door open for Paloma to come back in another film with a different Bond actor.

Besides the women, the Bond films are known for classic villains. In No Time to Die, the villain Safin (played by Rami Malek) was seeking revenge against Spectre for the murder of his family. When I heard about Malek’s casting in this film, I was excited. There are certain types of Bond villains. There are the villains who pose a physical threat to Bond. An example would be Jaws although he may be considered a henchman, not a villain. Some villains are more of a psychological threat to Bond. I think of Raoul Silva from Skyfall to fit this category. I would rank Safin into this category as well.

The main critique I had for this film was the run time. No Time To Die is 163 minutes or 2 hours and 43 minutes. I find it difficult to keep my attention if a movie is longer than 2 1/2 hours. While watching No Time to Die, it didn’t feel long. However, I think this easily could have been made into a 2 1/2 hour movie.

No Time to Die was an entertaining and fitting end to what Craig brought to the role. I will miss Daniel Craig in the role as I think he took Bond in a different direction than the other actors did. One of the things I enjoy about the Bond franchise is each actor’s unique take on the character. It makes me excited for the future Bond films and to see who is willing to take up the mantle of Bond especially because they will have big shoes to fill.

If you’re curious, I did include a couple of paragraphs summarizing some major spoilers from No Time to Die. Feel free to read at your own risk.

SPOILERS DOWN BELOW

I can’t write a review about No Time to Die without revealing some spoilers. The biggest spoiler of them all was killing off Bond. Bond is trapped in Safin’s lair as he doesn’t have time to escape the island before the missile strike happens. Additionally, Safin gave Bond the nanobots specifically to kill Madeleine and Bond’s daughter, Mathilde. There was no way I was expecting this to happen. Bond died!?!?! I thought this was a shocking yet fitting end to Craig’s tenure as the character. He lost his first love Vesper, and now he dies saving his second love, Madeleine. I know some Bond fans were disappointed by his death, but I figure in the next film, Bond will be cast as the new 007 to take over Craig’s spot. Plus each Bond actor is treated so differently, so I don’t think it will be a problem for the next Bond movie.

I loved how Bond ended up having a daughter. The character of James Bond is depressing in the sense that he doesn’t have a family and his entire focus goes into his job. Craig brought some humanity back into Bond and while Bond is still a flawed character, he’s grown so much as a person throughout the films.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Happy Halloween! It’s funny how one day has so much anticipation that builds and then it’s over fairly quickly. I decided to post a book review of a dark academia thriller I read recently, The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. This book wasn’t featured on my “Spooky TBR” post I published this month. Whenever I travel, I like to bring along my kindle as I don’t like the idea of physical books taking up precious packing space. My Spooky TBR was all the physical books I wanted to read, and The Maidens was a book I purchased for my kindle. Therefore, I ended up reading The Maidens and putting aside my physical Spooky TBR pile for now.

The Maidens piqued my interest as it seemed to combine dark academia, mystery, and greek mythology into one book. When I was debating which books to load on my kindle, The Maidens was the first book that came to mind. The Maidens was a book I enjoyed reading, however, the big twist, in the end, didn’t work for me. I’m a bit underwhelmed because I was highly anticipating this and I felt the story fell flat.

Mariana Andros is a skilled psychotherapist whose grief of losing her partner, Sebastian, has pulled her down. As she moves about her day, she is alerted to murder at her niece’s college campus which also happens to be Mariana’s alma mater, Cambridge. Zoe, Mariana’s niece, teams up with Mariana to help investigate the murder. Intertwined with the murder case is a college professor, Edward Fosca, who has a special group of students called the Maidens. Mariana is determined to find evidence that Fosca was the one who killed the girls. As Mariana digs deeper, she realizes there’s a lot more at stake than just the murdered girls.

As mentioned, I liked the mentioning of various greek tragedies and mythology. Fosca is a professor who specializes in this area of study, so it made sense why various greek mythology tragedies were mentioned. I also thought Michaelides does a great job at illustrating the setting of the book. I could imagine Mariana in a fashionable trenchcoat wandering around a gloomy campus and interacting with the students as she goes. Speaking of Mariana, I liked her as the main protagonist. I was rooting for her and I could emphasize with her grief.

The story and the ultimate twist didn’t work for me. I won’t discuss spoilers, but if you’re curious, I wrote about the spoiler in my Goodreads review hidden under spoiler tags. The twist in my opinion felt a bit out there. As I read other reviews on Goodreads, I can now envision the instances in the book that led to this twist. The reason the twist didn’t work for me was because of how heavily it impacted Mariana. I loved Mariana as a character and I thought the twist cheapened her back story. Besides the twist, I found it extremely hard to believe that Mariana was the only one who noticed Fosca’s creepy behavior. If this were in real life, everyone would think Fosca was a huge creep, yet Mariana spent a majority of the book convincing others of this.

Overall, I’m glad I spent the time reading the Maidens, however, it ended up being a letdown for me. I thought this would easily be one of my favorite books I read in 2021, but this wasn’t the case. If you have read The Maidens, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.