Dec 31, 2015

Review: Veil Between Worlds by Sally Dubats

I've read a few witchy books this year, although I haven't written a proper review for most of them. I had lots of thoughts about Sally Dubats' YA novel, "Veil Between Worlds," however, so I decided to write a review as part of the 2015 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Warning: Spoilers ahead, and discussion of potentially triggery material near the end of the review.

Veil Between Worlds by Sally Dubats (Book 1 in The Grimoire Chronicles)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

“We’ll have to make her death look like an accident.”

Cassie’s neighbors have secrets -- and she is one of them.

17-year-old Cassie is a Witch who caught the eye of her mysterious new neighbors. They’re elegant and deadly, and renovating an abandoned resort to open a school for gifted teens. Cassie is the only one who knows the whereabouts of their missing and gorgeous son, Trenton. The problem is that he's not in this dimension, and the mysterious neighbors have given Cassie an ultimatum: Find Trenton or die.

Witchcraft is second nature to Cassie, but protection charms and Drink and Know spells create a world Cassie never dreamed of, a world where Love and Disaster are intimate partners, and Cassie finds out who - and what - Trenton really is.

First in “The Grimoire Chronicles” series, “Veil Between Worlds” is a paranormal fantasy novel that you’ll never forget! If you love paranormal romance, urban fantasy, Witches and Wicca, ghost stories, paranormal mystery, paranormal horror, and action, “The Grimoire Chronicles” is definitely for you!

Let's start with my favorite part of this book, which is the discussion of the Craft. I thought it was really beautiful and full of lots of good Truth with a capital T. There were also some very interesting insights into how astral travel works and how to protect yourself while doing so, as well what divine possession feels like.

One of my favorite scenes was where Cassie helps Violet cross over, with the help of the God & Goddess. I admit I got quite teary eyed at how beautifully that scene was described. I don't think I'll ever look at a candle lit on Samhain the same way again.
I liked that she used an often-overlooked mythological creature -- the Sirens -- instead of overused creatures like vampires, werewolves, etc. that so many paranormal YA books do.  It gave the story a fresh feeling.  I finished the book wanting to know more about this world she was starting to build with this book, particularly about the Sirens and their place in the world.

I got angry that the Sirens kept erasing people's memories, especially at the end. The Sirens are seriously paranoid to an unhealthy degree, but it almost seemed like Dubats felt they were in the right to erase people's memories. (Obviously, I think it's unethical for them to do so). Holly and Laine had these powerful, transformative experiences on the astral, and it was all erased because Sirens were involved. These characters deserve to remember being spoken to by the Goddess on the astral and finding their own power. For their sakes I am pissed off that they've been robbed of that experience!

My one major problem with this book is the relationship between Cassie & Trenton. It is deeply unhealthy. When they first meet, he energetically assaults her. Then she starts stalking him and his family on the physical and astral plane because she wants to find him and understand what happened when he assaulted her and what he really is. And then suddenly they're a "match" and are completely in love with one another??! No way. Oh, and then at the end he erased all those memories so that she wouldn't even remember the assault, stalking, his crazy ex-girlfriend/not-match, etc., and they could start from scratch - why yes, let's start our relationship based on a big fat lie! That is some really messed up and unhealthy shit right there.

I'm still not sure if I want to keep reading the rest of the series. The lovely stuff about witchcraft and the gods kind of makes me want to, despite the problematic Trenton/Cassie relationship.

This review and others can also be found on my Goodreads profile: View all my reviews

Dec 3, 2015

Remembering my Ancestors by Sharing Their Stories

When I first accepted Gwynn ap Nudd as my patron deity and took his mark, he had one condition for me: "You must work with the dead."

Gwyn ap Nudd, Welsh god of the Underworld and Lord of the Dead
Illustration by Yuri Leitch
This made sense to me, as he is the Welsh god of the Underworld and leader of the Wild Hunt at Samhain.  He has also made it clear to me that he is titled Lord of the Dead, though I don't believe that title is found in what little written mythology there is.  He didn't provide me with any explanation or further details on what working with the dead meant for me, though.

That was a number of years ago.  He had largely remained silent on the matter - I assumed I wasn't ready to take on the responsibilities of the task, particularly in the time after I was forced from my coven and needed a significant amount of fallow time with my spirituality.

This autumn, I felt a growing pull to start collecting the stories and photos of my family, namely those who had passed.  As I approached Samhain I came to understand that this is the beginning of my obligation to Gwynn - my work with the dead starts with my family, telling their stories to keep their memory alive.

Because what is remembered, lives.

I started with a request in a private Facebook group for my father's side of the family, and have begun saving digital copies of the stories and photos I've collected so far.  While I was at my parents' for Thanksgiving, I also scanned a number of documents they had, including a family tree that goes back to my 3-times great-grandparents!

This is probably going to be a multi-year project, and I'm kind of excited about that.  I'm looking forward to seeing what other interesting stories and revelations about my family I discover along the way.  Maybe I'll even take a trip to research my family's lineage!  (Or maybe I've been watching too much Who Do You Think You Are? and am overconfident in my ability to afford such a trip!)

I'm not sure what I'll do with the findings - perhaps an ebook to give to my family, or maybe even a fancy website?  So many possibilities!

Have you done any research into your family's lineage or stories?  What revelatory discoveries did you make?

Nov 17, 2015

A Cozy Bowl of Daal

Cozy bowl of Yellow Gram Daal over basmati rice

Now that winter is starting to set in and it's getting colder out, it seems like the perfect time to share one of my favorite warm-you-up recipes, yellow gram daal.

One of my college roommates introduced me to the deliciousness of Nepalese-style daal, and would often make a big pot of it to share when she found out how much I enjoyed it.  When I moved away I got her recipe for yellow gram daal, which is what she made most often and is adapted from The Joys of Nepalese Cooking by Indra Majupuria.  After making it a few times I bought a used and (strangely bound) copy on Amazon so I could try other Nepalese recipes - but the yellow gram daal is still my favorite.

I should make it clear that my recipe is adapted from what is found in this book and probably shouldn't be viewed as traditional Nepalese food, though I did try to stay true to the overall flavor palette (maybe we can call it Nepalese-inspired?)  Some ingredients are easier for me to get than others, so I've substituted a few items (olive oil for ghiu, for example).  I also made a few additions like carrots, spinach, and cayenne for my own tastes.  

The original recipe calls for mung daal, also called mungiko or moong daal.  (Daal, or dal, can be translated as "lentils" or "split beans.")  Mung daal is a yellowish daal that looks like tiny yellow split peas when removed from the green husks.  You can find it in Indian or Asian markets.  I rarely find myself in one of these stores, so I usually substitute masoor daal, which are shelled red lentils that I can easily get at Whole Foods.

Check out this article on Indiaphile if you want to learn more about the different types of daal and see what they look like.

Masoor daal (red lentils)

Yellow Gram Daal

1 cup mung daal or masoor daal

4-5 cups of water (add more or less depending on desired thickness)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped - or more to taste

2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped - or more to taste

1/2 tsp cumin seeds or cumin powder

~t tsp coriander powder

Optional: dash or two of cayenne powder for more heat,

Optional: handful of frozen chopped spinach and/or finely chopped carrots

Rinse the daal to get off all the saponins (soap-like compounds) and soak for at least an 1 hour.  Drain.  Hint: Mung and masoor lentils are tiny!  Use a colander with a fine mesh when you're rinsing and draining them.

Then, boil the daal in the water with salt and turmeric until it becomes tender and falls apart, becoming thoroughly mixed with the water.

thoroughly cooked masoor daal in a pot

Meanwhile heat the oil and fry the onions until they turn clear.  Add the garlic and ginger when the onions are about halfway done, and fry until the onions turn clear and the ginger and garlic become golden.  Add the cumin and coriander and fry for a few seconds.

onions, ginger, and garlic in a frying pan

onions, ginger, and garlic in a frying pan

Then add all of this to the pot of daal, stir, cover, and let it simmer for awhile (at least 10-15 minutes).  If you are adding cayenne, carrot, and/or spinach, add this to the pot now and cook for at least 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Serve hot.  I usually serve over basmati rice or with toasted pita bread, but you can also eat it plain like a soup.

basmati rice in a bowl

Makes about 4-5 servings.  Enjoy, and stay warm this winter!

Cozy bowl of yellow gram daal, ready to enjoy!  Yum!

Oct 5, 2015

"Live" Tweeting The Craft

A couple weeks ago I saw "The Craft" was randomly on TV.  I hadn't seen it in many years and decided it was time to re-watch it.  And then on a whim I started tweeting.

I couldn't resist sharing my insights - and also my lolz - with you all.  So, enjoy!

Sep 28, 2015

Wedding Photo "Outtakes"

Because we are silly and ridiculous and just all around weirdos, our photographer Tanya got a number of photos of either Jack or I (or both) being silly at each other.

Enjoy our goofiness!

An silly family tradition from my Dad's side.  Every time there's a family get-together, there's at least one photo involving bunny ears.

I have no recollection of what he said, but this sums up so many of our interactions perfectly ;)

How many times a day do I make this face at him?

The wind gusted so hard I almost lost my scarf and parasol!

"Give us a kiss..."

And finally, my favorite outtake from the day...


In case you missed it, you can see my post with my favorite not-silly photos (there's lots of schmoopiness), and read my post about our elopement here.

Sep 24, 2015

4 Tools for Self Love

Kelly Ann over at The Four Queens has declared this September as "Self-Love September."  I love that idea and I've been really inspired by all the vlogs about self-love she's been posting over on her YouTube channel.  I want to better embrace self-love in my own life - I think I do an okay job sometimes, but I know I am as guilty as the next person of being unnecessarily down on myself.

So in the spirit of Self-Love September, I wanted to share a few of the self-love tools I use in my life.

Create a Self-Love Mantra
A couple of winters ago I was going through a particularly rough time.  I had just lost my paternal grandmother, and I had gone through an extremely difficult break-up and was feeling guilty about it.  On top of that, I was also feeling guilty and confused when, in the wake of this break-up, I started developing feelings for someone else.

In a fit of inspiration one day, I wrote a mantra for myself that has greatly defined how I approach self-love:

I am on my personal journey to ecstasy.

I wrote this mantra to remind myself that I am not responsible for other people's happiness, only my own.  That I will communicate with my friends and partners with openness, honesty, and compassion about my needs and limits, and that I trust them to do the same.  That I am allowed to have a relationship that fits where I am emotionally, mentally, and physically, and not just one that fits where my partner is in those respects.  

And most importantly, I wrote it to remind myself that I deserve to be happy, and to love and be loved.

I think a self-love mantra is a great tool for empowering yourself, to love who you are and what you want out of life, and to embrace being loved by others.  If you don't already have one, give it a go and write your own, or feel free to borrow mine.

Find a Crystal that Helps with Love
Way back when I was a baby pagan in college, one of the first crystals I bought for myself was a small, 4-ish-sided piece of rose quartz.  Rose quartz is a really good crystal for love, especially fostering love.  This piece has always particularly spoken to me of love for myself.  I usually keep it on my altar or in an easy-to-reach place underneath so that I can hold it when I'm dealing with things like self-doubt.  Sometimes I use it in mini crystal grids for self-healing and empowerment, like this one:

Other crystals that can be good for self love include sunstone, carnelian, citrine, and danburite.  A quick online search reveals there are many more that can potentially help with self love, self acceptance, self esteem, and clearing of self doubts.  I would also suggest handling your own crystals (if you have any) and asking them if they can help with self love.

Make Silly Faces in the Mirror
Lately, I've been having a lot of difficult days where self-love is hard.  So I've taken to making silly, ridiculous faces at myself in the mirror.  Being silly at myself adds that little bit of joy to my day, and reminds me not to take these hard days (or myself) too seriously.  I also like the self-love aspect of knowing that I am good at making lots of different silly faces!

I am completely ridiculous and I know it.  Might as well embrace it! ;)

Use Your Love Languages to Express Self-Love
By far, my favorite tool - and the one that helps me the most - is using my love languages to express self-love.  If you're not familiar with the concept, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book describing the five love languages that humans use to receive and express love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.  For me, I feel I best express love with acts of service - specifically, preparing and serving food for loved ones - and also with physical touch like hugs, kisses, snuggles, and skritches.

So how does this translate to self-love?  I'll cook myself a delicious meal that makes me feel comforted - maybe a tasty and spicy stir-fry, or a cozy bowl of da'al.  Or if I'm feeling more physical, I'll snuggle up with a soft blanket and a book, or take a hot bath (it's like being gently snuggled by water!).  

Tempeh stir fry!  Om nom nom.

If your love language is quality time, make a date with yourself - treat yourself to a delicious meal at a restaurant, or spend a nice evening alone watching a favorite movie.  If your love language is gifts, try making yourself a gift, or even buying yourself something fun or nice - just be careful about this one, because you don't want retail therapy to become a burden on your budget.  Or maybe you best express love with words of affirmation - remind yourself every day that you are awesome, or try writing a self-love mantra like I talk about above.

What are your favorite tools to help you embrace self-love?

Sep 20, 2015

Wrap Up for Fall Bloggiesta 2015

What a weekend!  I feel like Bloggiesta has really flown by, but considering I lost pretty much all of today to a migraine, I got much more done this weekend than I thought I would.  High-five me!  Here's how I did with my to-do list:
  • Participate in at least 1 mini-challenge Clean up my blog roll on Feedly - it's getting out of control! - Done!  I combined these two items as part of the Blogroll Overhall mini-challenge.  Since I don't keep a blogroll on my sidebar anymore, I cleaned up my Feedly blog roll instead.  There were a lot of blogs that no longer update, and some that had been taken offline.  With a few exceptions, anything that hasn't been updated in the last year or so got removed.
  • Participate in at least 1 Twitter chat - Done!  I participated in Friday's Twitter chat about interactions.  It was very engaging, and left me inspired to not be afraid to seek interactions with my readers beyond comments.
  • Finish and schedule my post (posts?) about tools for self-love - Done!  The post is scheduled to go up next Thursday.
  • Write and schedule another Witchy Pinterest Finds post - I wasn't feeling particularly inspired by anything I've seen on Pinterest lately, so I decided to put this one off for a few weeks and see what comes up as Halloween/Samhain gets closer.
  • Read and comment on other folks' Bloggiesta posts - Done!  I've really enjoyed visiting so many folks' blogs, and whenever I tried to leave comments with substance whenever possible.

BONUS to-do items!  Because I finished most of my to-do list, and felt inspired to work on other things, I also did the following:
  • Write up a post with my favorite photos from our wedding - I wrote and posted this yesterday, you can see it here.
  • Write up a post with my favorite "outtake" photos from our wedding - It's scheduled to go up on the 28th.  
If you're new around here, I would love it if you gave my blog and/or social media a follow.  Here's a few ways to follow me (all of these are also found in my sidebar):

follow us in feedly

Colleen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Stormy Heart on Pinterest

Sep 19, 2015

Our Wedding Photos!

Not long after I woke up today, I realized that today it's been exactly 6 months since Jack and I tied the knot.  Wow!  Happy half-anniversary, my love!!

I never did share our wedding photos on here, so I decided today was an excellent day to share some of my favorites.  Our photographer was my dear friend Tanya Kang, who I've known since college.  You can see more photos from our day over at Tanya's website.

I love how gleeful I look in this photo, and our officiant smiling in the background.  I was fully expecting waterworks because I'm a crybaby, but surprisingly, I didn't cry at all that day.

It was rather chilly that day, so in pretty much all of our photos outside I was wrapped up in a scarf.  It was insufficiently warm, but so much nicer looking than my bulky winter coat!

We found a comic book shop whilewalking through downtown Annapolis.  I squeed over the mini Gojira in the window.  There was also a really cool mock-up of the Infinity Gauntlet

Duckies down at the harbor!  I couldn't stop giggling because I quacked at them and they would quack back.

 Hot chocolate / coffee break at Starbucks to warm up!

I hope you enjoyed these photos!  I'll be posting some of our sillier "outtakes" later on.  And if you're new here or weren't already aware, yes we eloped - it was just us, the Anne Arundel County clerk, and Tanya.  Feel free to pop over to my post from earlier this year to read about our elopement.

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