Archive for January, 2020


Hey, all, just a brief check in before the main event. My stop is fairly early on the blog tour, so it is definitely worth it to stop in and see what other folks are hosting. I’ll include the schedule again in the week’s House Keeping post. For now though, I have an excerpt for you all. Enjoy!

The Cellist's Notebook cover

Nana Rose’s house sat upon a hill, with a river at the bottom, trees down along the paddock and a rugged stony road leading to the door. It was miles from anywhere and, in the summer, the front door was permanently open welcoming any number of visitors, cats, birds and wildlife into the hall. The herb garden, pungent with dill and sage was overgrown and as wild as the meadows above the house. The Peters family travelled every year to see Nana but it was Emily who always insisted on staying the whole summer long whilst everyone else wanted to jet off to somewhere hot or exotic sounding. For Emily, seeing the paddock from the main road, was just the first hint of adventures to come and she was brimming with excitement for what lay ahead.

It was the first day of the summer holidays. As always, ten year old Emily had her rucksack packed the night before. She had her hair brush sticking out of the top of the ruck sack so that it was handy to brush her long brown hair whenever she wanted to. Her full water bottle was neatly tucked into the side pocket ready for the journey ahead. Emily’s sister Lizzie however, who was five years older, was sitting on the floor in her bedroom with what appeared to be her entire wardrobe piled high around her wondering what to pack.

‘Do you need a hand?’ Emily asked standing at the door.

‘I think I do,’ Lizzie sighed.

Emily started to extract various items of clothing from the ring around Lizzie. ‘It’s a French exchange you are going on in Paris Lizzie so I’m thinking where will you be going and what will you be doing?’ She held up a dress, ‘Louvre,’ a pair of jeans, ‘Eiffel Tower,’ a pale blue skirt, ‘evening restaurant.’ This process continued amidst lots of giggling and in no time at all, Lizzie’s suitcase was full, zipped and secured with a shiny pink padlock attached. Both girls headed downstairs with their luggage to the front door where their Dad was already packing up the car.

As the car headed off down the road, Lizzie sat in the back seat and texted Lucille in Paris. Lucille was to be her French host in Paris, and the two had been pen-friends for over a year now. ‘I am on my way. I’m so excited. See you soon.’ Helped along with a snooze, the journey to Nana’s house seemed to go quickly despite the detour to the airport to drop off Lizzie.

Kittie Lambton 3

Kittie Lambton was born in 1975 in Norfolk, England. She is a cellist, and has been providing music tuition for over fifteen years. She is an advocate for all children being able to learn musical instruments from a young age. Her early learning of the cello with her cello tutor in Norwich, Norfolk has created warm memories that inspired the writing of this book. Kittie enjoys exploring the science behind how music can evoke and improve memory and the importance of music in our everyday lives. She was recently awarded second place in the Westgate on Sea Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2019.

Author Site    Goodreads     Amazon     Twitter     Instagram

Night, 72nd of Spring, Year 256

It would seem that our scouting party made a fantastic impression on the cult of Gugu Dulum. We rushed in to help when Chonck rang the bell, signaling that they were in trouble. The stench so unholy terrible that it took the elf and Azurei to their knees momentarily. It was nearly as bad as the time Chonck mistook the Inn’s window for a latrine.

Apparently the cult is dedicated to “destroying beautiful things” and a powerful demon called Gugu Dulum. After a great deal of conversation in which the frog demon that seems to be their leader all but pulled examples from our scouts and made attempts at drawing examples from the rest of us, all of us except Azurei were invited to join the cult. Eclair, Chonck, and the elf all readily joined, drinking the frog demon’s blood.

It seems almost sad, the elf told the cultists that she never had anywhere to belong and yet she seemed to do everything she could since arriving at Caskfire to avoid belonging. I wonder if this would have turned out the same if, instead of choosing to be brash and rude and to complain about the work we were asked to do, she had made attempts to be welcome at Caskfire. If she did more to socialize with the rest of the party or to interact with the dwarves of Caskfire? Too late to go back on that now I suppose.

More importantly, when I asked the frog demon about finding Eebaku’s true name he told us we would need to venture further into the vault. According to him thirty-four years ago the cult was attempting to summon Gugu Dulum into this plane of existence when they were interrupted by a band of adventurers. The summoning failed, adding to the chaos and mostly closing the portal. It would seem that they are still working on recovering from this “adventurers incident” and that the area we need to go through if we want to find the stone with Eebaku’s true name is full of demons that have wondered through the shrunken portal. He says these demons are not nearly as civilized as the cultists.

Hopefully they are not as aggressive as the frog demon has made them out to be or are at least comparatively weak due to coming through a lessened portal. Not that we can count on either of those things. There is also little we can do to prepare for a big fight if it comes to that. Too far away from the Mountain Home to return and restock. Too dangerous to forge ahead without a good night’s sleep.

The frog demon’s story about an “adventurers incident” makes me wonder about several things though. It seems to coincidental. Thirty-four years ago a party of adventurers interrupts the summoning of a mightily powerful demon, leaving the portal mostly closed. Thirty-four years ago mom’s party fought a cult in these caves and returned to the Mountain Home with baby me. Clearly the two are different sides of the same event, but what really happened. The king of the Goblins claims that I am his child. I had assumed until now that he was the big demon being worshiped by the cult here. Has he just taken the chance to make more of himself in the intervening years? Why have a baby at a demon summoning? Was I meant to be sacrificed as part of the summoning? Or to become a shell for Gugu Dulum? What happened here back then? So many questions.

I do not know how well I will sleep tonight.

I’m doing something a little different this time, but I’ve been excited to talk about this thing for months. I’ll be doing a second Dice Charger review after the final Kickstarter edition is released as well as some comparisons between this version and the final version. This one’s thanks to Q-Workshop for inviting me to their Early Adopters program and shipping out both the charger and a sampling of their dice to go with it. Enjoy!

Early Adopter Dice Charger 1

Full disclosure as we start out, I absolutely love anything that brings novelty to my game table. More so when the novelty is benign or also excites the folks I’m playing with. Something like glow in the dark dice falls under that combination of novelty and non-distracting fun. Or it would if I had a good place to leave them to soak up light. Q-Workshop’s Dice Charger skips the need for setting dice out to “charge” by shining black lights on them as you shake them in the dice cup, resulting in the glow effect activating after just a few seconds of shaking and exposure.

Early Adopter Dice Charger 2

The Dice Charger itself is made of leather and held together with clear plastic cord. The lighting rig fits tightly in the cap and is held in place by tension, so it’s easy enough to remove but will not fall out on its own. My particular Early Adopters Dice Charger is from a second or third iteration of them so it has a couple of the improvements that Kickstarter backers had requested, importantly this means that it has an on/off switch to prevent the batteries from burning out.

Early Adopter Dice Charger 4

The black lights act very quickly, all of the dice I tested glowed quite brightly after five to ten seconds of shaking. The effect does not last a particularly long amount of time, I think most of my tests glowed for between ten and fifteen minutes, though as this is a dice cup it seems reasonable to figure that the glow in the dark effect fading quickly would be less noticeable during a longer session of game play.

I tested several sets of dice, both the assorted and the set of Q-Workshop’s Classic RPG set that were provided, as well as two sets of Chessex Nebula dice, and a set of Metalic Dice Games’ Mini GLOW dice. They all lit up quite well, though I feel I did not catch the Chessex dice at their best angles. It does seem that the Dice Charger works a little better, or at least in a shorter time, with dice that have glow in the dark inking rather than dice that are made with glow in the dark plastics. I found it quite acceptable for both though.

Which brings me to the last bit here. I admit, my impressions of Q-Workshop’s Dice Charger are a bit skewed by how much I’ve been looking forward to trying it out, but it works great even discounting that. I really like the idea of something like this even as it doesn’t have a huge amount of utility in the space my current game group meets. Though even as I say that I’m really looking forward to using it to help with future dice reviews, since sunlight is a little hard to come by around here. So, the Early Adopter edition of the Dice Charger gets a five out of five for me. It looks good, it does what it’s supposed to, and it resulted in at least two people in my Friday night group nearly blinding themselves playing with it, so the novelty score is through the roof.

I will take a moment to note, now that the review itself is done, there will be some visual differences between the Early Adopter and the Final versions of the Dice Charger. The Kickstarter did not reach the stretch goal to unlock black leather as an option, so all Final version Dice Chargers will either be white leather or a synthetic plastic option of some stripe. The finished edition will also have some differences in the imprinted design.

House Keeping 1/28/20

I’m running a little late this week. Head ache last night and a weird touch of exhaustion back on Sunday did me in.

To work through that, I’m either going to double up on posts tomorrow and have both the weekly dice review and the book review go up on the same day or, and I think I’m leaning more towards this one, I’m going to post the dice review tomorrow and have my book review go live on Saturday. I’m not as far into the book I wanted to review this week as I would like to be, so postponing the review seems pretty reasonable. Plus I’m really excited for the dice review and want it to have a day all to itself.

Beyond that, I have a “Sunshine’s Journals” post ready to go and my stop on the The Cellist’s Notebook blog tour on Friday.

Before I get into the sign out rigamarole, I have a nifty thing related to my Dice Envy link. Here a couple days ago I got the opportunity to offer you all a coupon code for 10% off your dice order, just use the code Tympest10 at check out. I’ll also be adjusting the Support the Bookshelf page to account for the coupon as well.

So then, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Positive feed back is always amazing. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a Ko-fi. In either and any case, have a great rest of the week!

Hey all, I’m a little later getting this up than I really would have liked, but I’m here now and we’re going to get this show on a roll. There’s a blog tour starting today for Kittie Lambton’s The Cellist’s Notebook. My stop is coming up on Friday, but definitely stop by the the other stops to see what they have going on.

The Cellists' Notebook Banner2

The Cellist’s Notebook is a charming, life-affirming tale of discovery surrounding an old family mystery. A young girl’s curiosity, her love of a little melody and the beauty of a cello evokes memories long forgotten.

Set in the present day, ten-year-old Emily Peters is spending the summer with her Nana Rose, a retired piano teacher, in rural Cumbria whilst Emily’s sister Lizzie travels to Paris for a French exchange.  When Emily notices an old photograph of a cellist dating back to the Second World War and discovers cellos and an old music manuscript in the attic, her Nana tells of the touching and compelling story of her brother Leni, a linguist, cellist and music composer, whose disappearance was marked ‘ultimate fate unknown’ following World War II.

Emily’s love of the unfinished cello melody, found in her Great Uncle Leni’s music notebook, evokes memories for her Nana Rose and Emily returns to Norfolk with a passion to play the cello and a determination to learn the long-lost melody. A series of events unfold that change the life of Emily and her family forever.

Kittie Lambton 3

Author Information

Kittie Lambton was born in 1975 in Norfolk, England. She is a cellist, and has been providing music tuition for over fifteen years. She is an advocate for all children being able to learn musical instruments from a young age. Her early learning of the cello with her cello tutor in Norwich, Norfolk has created warm memories that inspired the writing of this book. Kittie enjoys exploring the science behind how music can evoke and improve memory and the importance of music in our everyday lives. She was recently awarded second place in the Westgate on Sea Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2019.

Amazon   Goodreads   Instagram   Author Website   Twitter

Guest Post:Sharlene Almond

Hi all, today I’ve got a guest post from Sharlene Almond, author of Initiated to Kill, about the minds of serial killers and some of the commonalities that criminologists have found between them. Enjoy!

Initiated to Kill cover

Delving into the Criminal Mind – What we can Learn from Historical Serial Killers.

Who would have thought we would be living in a world in which we have grown rather fascinated with the workings of the criminal mind. With TV shows that delve into criminal profiling, movies and books exploring the depravity of a serial killer.

Criminology and Criminal Profiling is fast becoming a sought-out degree. Even the knowing the basics on Criminology can help a writer better understand why their antagonist and protagonist is doing what they are doing.

So, come with me and explore the sadistic minds of serial killers.

The Importance of a Childhood, and the Affect on the Brain.

As much as we might want to deny it, childhood can have a huge impact on the brain. The idea nature vs. nurture is something we struggle with explaining, especially when it comes to psychopathy.

After all, is it possible for a baby to be a psychopath? Or is there something absent in the brain, which is then triggered by trauma?

It is important to realize that a person’s interactions “shape the structural and organizational characteristics of our brain.” (Nancy Darling, Ph.D.)

Parenting affects the cortisol and alpha amylase levels in our brain. When children are in an environment that encourages positive responses and communications when feeling unresponsive to feelings, as opposed to encouraging negative responses through the exposure to violence, teaches the child that it is normal to react in a violent way in order to get what you want.

He believed even his parents feared him, which he relished all the more. His sometimes-tender self would suddenly change like a storm blackening the sky. His fits of rage caused people to scurry, delighting him, their terror—his drug.” (Initiated to Kill)

Children learn from the experiences they are exposed to the most. In the early years of their life, their main exposure is from their parents.

However, there are some children with underdeveloped or stunted amygdala, resulting in the areas of their brain connected with empathy, pain and fear to not develop effectively.

Psychopathy may be able to be recognized as early as around two years old. The benefit of recognizing and admitting the potential of certain children lacking empathy, means that those that surround them can help the children experience interactions which help to educate the child on the different responses for the different situations they come across.

Who is capable of being a Serial Killer?

“He would make friends easily; they seemed to flock to his charming and energetic self. But he got bored easily, so when they no longer amused him, he would just vanish, pretending they never existed.” (Initiated to Kill)

Serial killers don’t necessarily walk around appearing as though they are about to commit murder. Instead, many of them may appear ‘normal’. However, there can be some indicators that could cause a person to be more likely to commit vicious acts, and with other triggers, could be a violent combination.

Extreme antisocial behavior, voyeurism (watching a person in private setting), enjoys setting fires, and torturing or killing animals may lead to more serious acts of violence.

Other factors may be less noticeable. Some study results have suggested that male serial killers may have extremely high levels of testosterone.

Another genetic factor could be that they have abnormal levels of the brain chemical dopamine – which is responsible for motivation and pleasure.

Those with lower levels of dopamine require greater stimulation to achieve pleasure.

Do You See Them Coming?

No. Although, there are some traits that could indicate criminal tendencies, many proclaim how shocked they are when they discover who is behind sadistic acts.

Ted Bundy was considered a charming man, volunteering for the suicide hotline, and a college graduate. However, underneath that superficial exterior hid a psychopath that killed at least 36 women.

H.H Holmes was a well-known pharmacist that had a torture dungeon in his basement.

John Wayne Gacy was a shoe salesman, entertained children as a clown, and active in his community. However, was a serial killer of young men.

Richard Angelo, a volunteer fire fighter, respected nurse and an Eagle Scout. He was so obsessed with being a hero he would poison patients so he could revive them.

Philip Maroff, eventually known as the Craigslist Killer was a member of the National Honor Society, promising student, and part of the youth court in school.

The Taunting’s of a Serial Killer.

There is one part of the ‘murder game’ many killers cannot resist, and that is to taunt police or victims, show how clever they are, mock them, dare them to catch them if they can.

The Zodiac killer would mock the police for not deciphering his code. In 2018, his mocking finally caught up to him, and Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer was finally caught. It is believed he put in practice before the big events by breaking into people’s homes to steal a personal item, or leave something behind.

Of course, one of the most notorious killers to taunt police, and still to this day not yet be fully identified is Jack the Ripper. He would go into great detail of what he did to his victims, and send it personally to the Police Commissioner.

 Dear Boss,

“‘So now they say I am a Yid when will they lern Dear old Boss! You an me know the truth don’t we. Lusk can look forever hell never find me but I am rite under his nose all the time. I watch them looking for me an it gives me fits ha ha I love my work an I shant stop until I get buckled and even then watch out for your old pal Jacky

Catch me if you can Jack the Ripper

Sorry about the blood still messy from the last one. What a pretty necklace I gave her.”’” (Initiated to Kill)

The Happy Face killer become unhappy with the lack of attention he was getting with his killings, so he started writing letters to local media detailing his crimes and signing them with a happy face.

Taking on Different Personas

Serial killers could be considered some of the best actors, having to put on a fake mask for society, while their inner depths are raging with violent emotions.

Juana Barraza was considered Mexico’s first female serial killer, and often thought to have been a man for her physical strength and build. She would favor disguises like a nurse’s uniform to allow herself to get into older people’s homes, or would wear a pink Power Ranger costume.

The Phantom Killer, known for the white mask with cutout holes for his eyes and mouth would target couples in Lovers Lanes after dusk.

It could be considered strategic for killers to wear costumes to reduce the risk of any eyewitnesses recognizing them, or it may play into their role to become a different person once they have that disguise on.

James Eagan Holmes become known for his murdering spree, but more for is so-called fascination with the Joker from the Batman movies. At a midnight screening of the Dark Knight Rises, James shot 12 people at a movie theatre dressed as the Joker, dying his hair to look like him.

Other killers have keepsakes to use after their crimes to relive it.

Although wearing actual costumes during crimes isn’t all that common, serial killers tend to play with numerous roles to hide who they are, or to get a victim’s guard down.

Which could be why so many people are creeped out by clowns…

There is a theory to why there were so many different suspects in Jack the Ripper killings. One theory is that he dressed up in different costumes to throw off the scent and purposefully implicate others in the killings.

He acted, he played, and he enjoyed fooling people.

“Visiting the Red Cross, asking for military uniforms. Walking along the streets dressed in something different every time. Wearing a moustache or hat to disguise the color of his hair. He enjoyed fooling people, and he did just that. No one suspected who he really was, what he was really doing.” (Initiated to Kill)

The Urge to Continue Despite the Risk

One could say that killing may be like a drug, the high is addictive, the adrenaline pumping through the veins, the intense need for more, exposing the person to engage in more risky behavior to feed their addiction.

Serial killers are intent on self-preservation. Just like those that engage in behaviors to relieve stress, so to do serial killers.

Ted Bundy claimed he ‘craved’ killings as it helped him concentrate.

Israel Keyes was addicted to the thrill of the hunt.

“Elizabeth Wettlaufer… described a pressure that would build up before each murder and stated she started killing people to relieve anxiety.” (Joni E Johnston Psy.D)

Perhaps it is the boost of dopamine that occurs, resulting in feelings of pleasure. The more they do, the more they crave, the harder it is to stop, the greater the risk, the greater the rush.

What Happens if they are Never Caught?

The brain is capable of desensitization. Whether it is from external triggers like abuse, or intentional desensitization by continually exposing oneself to what they fear, confidence in what they are capable of doing can grow. Especially when they keep getting away with it.

“There is no help, no cure, except death or being caught and put away… When this monster enter my brain I will never know… I can’t stop it, so the monster goes on…” (Dennis Rader, BTK Stranger)

The BTK Strangler killed multiple people in the 70s. Thirty years later, supposedly, he contacted the Wichita police again. Sending photographs of a murder in 1986, which had never been solved.

Thankfully, it would seem that finally this deprived psychopath was finally caught in 2005. Dennis Rader terrorized Kansas’s neighborhoods, which sent a flurry of home security systems to be installed. What could not have been foreseen was that Dennis Rader was the one installing these cameras, enabling him to become familiar with his victims’ surroundings.

So, what are the motives behind serial murders?

It is believed that one major motivation for serial killers is to seek that ultimate thrill. Serial killers like the Zodiac killer are motivated through the adrenaline rush of stalking their prey.

While others love the control they can exert over their victims, like Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz ‘Son of Sam’.

Another factor to keep in mind is that even when sexual assault occurs, it does not mean they are doing it for sexual gratification, rather, it tends to be the use of acts to control and humiliate their victims.

Ted Bundy would fantasize about killing; however, initially found the first act so terrifying and nerve wracking that he thought he would never do it again.

Brenda Spencer was an interesting case of a problem sixteen year old obsessed over violent films, and had been involved with drugs and petty theft. Owning a BB gun she would kill birds and break windows. However, when her father gave her a real gun, her psychopathic tendencies came to the forefront.

Setting herself up at Cleveland Elementary School, she went on a 20 minute shooting spree, killing two adults, and wounding nine children.

Even though she seemed to love the spotlight, her claimed motive for what she did shocked all – “I just don’t like Mondays… I did it because it’s a way to cheer the day up. No body likes Mondays…” (Brenda Spencer)

How to Use Profiling in Writing?

So, why do we want to know all this? Well, for authors, especially for those that write mysteries or thrillers, to have some understanding of the psyche of the killer helps to bring the person to life.

A vivid picture is created, the person feels real, their actions feel real, and they slowly progress through the story.

The antagonist, in my opinion, is just as important as the protagonist. They are two opposing forces that eventually have to collide. And, I guess, what makes it even more interesting, is that for some antagonists, you can almost feel sorry for them, can almost understand how they became who they are. And perhaps that is why criminal profiling is so fascinating – to learn what we may be capable of.

To read more about Jack the Ripper and a present-day killer, you can find my historical/present day psychological thriller here.

Sharlene Almond author pic

Author Bio:

I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my partner and two Jack Russell’s (my babies). Historical based movies and documentaries are some of the useful tools to give me ideas for my next books. I have a diploma in Body Language and Criminology, enabling me to understand and portray my main character – Annabella.

At 32 years old, I also have diplomas in Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Freelance Journalism, Editing and Proofreading and Naturopathic Nutrition. These qualifications give me the ability to better understand the human mind, writing about it in a manner my readers can understand and connect with.

Currently, I am studying to specialize in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, and Medicinal Cannabis.

Author Website  Amazon Author Page  Twitter  Facebook  Pintrest  Goodreads  Instagram

72nd of Spring, Year 256

It seems that strange occurrences land together anymore. After a full week of travel and no notable troubles we came across tremendous amounts of recently churned dirt that seemed connected to something that I could only describe as a massive fin a couple of hills away from us. I can only compare it to the creatures that dogged our ship once when mom took me with her on a guild job, sharks she called them. This fin reminded me of theirs only many many times larger.

Somehow Azurei and I were the only ones to notice it at first. Though once we directed the rest of the party’s attention to it no one could quite decide how to continue. None of us quite knew what it was or what it might do if it somehow noticed us.

Eventually Chonck simply picked the wagon up with one hand and Bearrender with the other and proceeded to, as best I could tell, tip toe past the thing and onto undisturbed ground. I do not know what being, divine, infernal, or otherwise, wanted us past the beast so much that that worked, but it did work. Chonck set both the wagon and the dire boar down as lightly as if neither weighed anything.

Shortly after we found a sign advertising some kind of weekly temple meeting, likely demonic given our location and that the sign was written in infernal. With Chonck pulling the wagon it seemed likely that we could make it to the temple, to the old strong hold, in time to arrive during the meeting.

We managed to fit the wagon above the temple entrance and tuck Bearrender away where he should be safe.

After a good deal of discussion it was agreed that Eclair had the best chances of getting in unnoticed and back out again. She was just meant to listen in and come back to report what was happening. Unfortunately, Chonck got it in his head that she needed protecting and decided that he would accompany her.

Instead of sneaking in they will go in as travelers who happened upon the sign and decided to investigate. If anything happens Chonck will use the bell he bought when we were stocking up to signal the rest of us to come in and save them.

I will write more later in the day. For now I need to ready my gear just in case they need rescuing.

So, here’s a review where I dip my toe in a setting that I know not a ton about. I feel like the book stands well enough on its own to be enjoyable even if you aren’t super familiar with the rest of the Star Wars extended universe. This has sort of inspired another thing I want to talk about. For now though, enjoy!

Star Wars Queen's Shadow cover

On the last day of her rule Queen Amidala stayed ensconced with her handmaidens and trusted guards, relaxing on the one day she could before trying to build a life as Padmé Naberrie. A life she would have to put off building once the new Queen asked her to continue serving Naboo. The planet needed a new representative in the Galactic Senate, who could be a better fit? Who else loves Naboo and its people well enough to fight for them? And so Padmé agrees to take up the mantle of senator, to remain Amidala for as long as she is needed. A senator needs to be a much different person than a queen though, Padmé and her handmaidens will need to figure out what that means if she is going to navigate the Galactic Senate.

I confess, I started E. K. Johnson’s Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow because I wanted something science fiction but with little to no narrative consequence. So a book focused on a character who, while I’m certain other aspects of her personal arc have been covered on other books, by definition cannot be allowed to do anything that would have consequences for the greater Star Wars narrative seemed like it would fit the bill pretty well. The blurb suggested that it would be mostly character work, something that sounded really good honestly. It was pretty well exactly what I was looking for.

As much as this is a book about Padmé, and her change over from Queen to senator, it’s also very much about her world and the people she surrounds herself with. Early on each of Padmé’s handmaidens get a fair amount of focus all the better to drive home how close they all are and how much they care about Naboo, how idealistic Naboo’s culture is even after the Trade Federation’s attack. It gets the reader attached to everything Padmé is about to leave behind. Gives a taste of her relationships and the rules she’s lived by before leading into a place where those relationships and rules are not nearly as effective as they had been at home, are in fact detrimental in some ways. I adored that. Having the protagonist not only very clearly relying on others, but having that be a core feature of how she is able to accomplish things and adapt is something that I had not really realized that I miss in a fair number of other books. Because Padmé’s handmaidens are more than just her staff, she trusts them with her life and there’s this support structure there. Especially with Sabé, Padmé’s best friend and bodyguard and body double, very nearly the deuteragonist in some places where she acts as an agent outside of the happenings directly in the Galactic Senate.

I found myself wanting to see more of the handmaiden characters as the book went on and focused more on Senator Amidala. I find myself wanting to see more of them having finished the book, it left me curious about how they would deal with the Empire but not doubting for a moment that each of them would rebel in her own way be that art or politics, providing space for those displaced or fighting directly. I want to know where they went from the last chapter of Queen’s Shadow and where that took them.

That also leads me to one of the only issues I had with Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow.  The ending, specifically the epilogue, just completely took me out of it. The final chapter wrapped things up on a low note but left the reader with a sense of hope. Padmé and her team are going to keep fighting for what’s good and right in the galaxy.  The Epilogue shattered that in a way that starts off beautifully mirroring the first chapter but that also feels unnecessary and almost mean spirited in how it deals with some of the characters. It took me from knowing that cannon will still happen with everything that implies and hammered it in like a crooked nail in an otherwise fantastically built piece. It killed the sense of hope that the final chapter ended on and that’s what I find myself coming back to over and over like a missing tooth. The death of hope and how very out of place it feels in the context of the rest of the book.

That’s my only big issue and, aside from a couple of odd romance-ish moments that felt a little out of place, I think it was my only real issue. If not for the epilogue Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow would be a five out of five for me. It leaves me wanting more from the characters and I am definitely planning on looking for more of E. K. Johnson’s work. So, all told Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow earns a four out of five.

House Keeping 1/21/20

Not much to talk about this week.

I have something exciting coming up for the dice review next Monday. I’ve been waiting on this thing to arrive for awhile and I am really excited to test it out a bunch and show it to you all.

Planning on having a book review ready for you all Wednesday. I’ve got a couple I’m working on, so it’s mostly down to deciding which I want to focus on and getting that one finished and polished up. It’s been nice to get back into it. I forget how many ideas I bounce around while working on these.

And there will, of course, be a “Sunshine’s Journals” post on Thursday. We’re getting closer and closer to the end of things and I’m still not quite sure what the DM has in plan for our intrepid party.

There’s also going to be a really interesting guest post on Friday. Definitely worth giving a read.

Got some life stuff coming up soon. It’s in planning stages now, but I want to try and get a little bit of a cushion worked up before it hits so that there are as few hiccups as possible here. How many times have I said that? I’m in a pretty good place for it just now, I’m just going to have to keep working steadily on the things I have partially finished now. Should be doable, but if it doesn’t work out I will keep you all up to date as best I can.

Which leaves us at the usual.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I enjoy seeing it when people enjoy the stuff I write here. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. If you aren’t a fan of that and were planning on dice shopping any way, you can also follow this link to Dice Envy or this link to Skullsplitter Dice, both places have some really cool stuff. Regardless and in any case, have a great rest of the week!

Celestine Dice

New week, new dice review, and this is a set that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while. So, thanks to Dice Envy, here is their Celestine Dice. Enjoy!

Celestine 1

This set is one of those instances where I really dig each part individually. The soft clear pink of the acrylic is a nice color, readily complemented by both the gold leaf and the pink micro glitter. The gold leaf is a really cool idea for an inclusion and the way it settles through the acrylic gives the dice a nifty effect that is only enhanced by the micro glitter. Even the inking being gold complements the pink of the acrylic and offers a good visual follow through to the gold leaf.

The inking is, as usual with Dice Envy, well done with no notable thin spots on my set. The only issue I have with the inking is a largely personal one. Because the inking is gold and the dice have gold leaf scattered through them some of the sides where the gold leaf has settled can be a little hard to read from the table. It isn’t a really big deal, but if I was going to use them as my main dice for a campaign I would probably either use a dice tray and keep them close or consider re-inking them. Possibly just re-inking the sides that I was having trouble with, because that could also be used to good effect.

Celestine 2

Also as expected, the dice roll well and do not seem to have favorite numbers. Considering the gold leaf inclusions and some of their crinkly shapes, this impressed me a good deal more than usual.

The Celestine set is something of an oddity, being a nine die set rather than the seven or eleven that seem to be standard. Part of this is likely due to the inclusion of the extra large 33mm d20 which I admittedly have a fair amount of affection for, so it isn’t like I’m missing there being more d6. I like the chonky dice, it’s fun to fiddle with.

Celestine 3

Which brings us to the last bit. I like these dice, not unexpected, they’re sparkly and visually interesting. I do wish that it was a little easier to read all of their sides, but that’s an easy fix. And the extra large d20 just makes me kind of happy. So I feel like the Celestine dice earn a four out of five.

The more I play with them the more I want to use them for a character that’s just Sailor Moon but in D&D, maybe some kind of celestial warlock bound to the long dead Queen of the Moon or something to that effect. I would have to think about it. Think about it and probably home brew some stuff for how her patron would even work.