Serena’s Review: “Silence Fallen”

30687916Book: “Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs

Publishing Info: Ace Books, March 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: e-galley from NetGalley

Book Description: Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

Review: The tenth book in the Mercy Thompson series sees our intrepid heroine off on her own, kidnapped to another country. While the series is beginning to show its age, I still very much enjoy these characters, and choosing to set the story in a new location added a new dimension to a familiar story.

Mercy Thompson remains my one of two favorite urban fantasy heroines (right up there with Kate Daniels), and, as the series has progressed, she has been the primary draw for my returning to the series. As I mentioned earlier, this is the 10th book, and with a long-running series like this, its not surprising that story arcs can begin to feel familiar and the cast of characters begins to be unmanageably large. Briggs uses a clever trick to side-step both of these issues by setting this book in Europe after Mercy is kidnapped by a powerful Italian vampire. Suddenly we’re in a new location and the cast of characters involved is greatly reduced to only Mercy herself and Adam and the select few others he brings along on his “rescue” mission (the term “rescue” always requires quotes when it comes to Mercy as she is typically as capable of getting herself out of trouble as she is at getting herself into it, though she gets a pass on that last part in this one as her kidnapping was clearly not of her own volition). We’ve had a few other books where we’ve swapped viewpoints between Mercy and Adam, and here that format is utilized once again.

Mercy’s storyline is fairly straight forward. Escape her kidnappers, travel across Europe, somehow land in even more hot water, and learn more about her shapeshifter heritage and how her unique powers to see and talk with ghosts could mean even more than she had previously known. The first bit is pretty par for the course. At this point there really isn’t much tension that can be built around Mercy’s original dilemma. We’ve seen her kidnapped or in the clutches of a much more powerful being one too many times to be really intimidated by this setting, and, smartly, Briggs moves past this fairly quickly.

One of the remaining mysteries in this series is Mercy’s background as a child of Coyote, a powerful Native American spirit, and what gifts this has bestowed upon her. My favorite parts of this story revolved around the added depth that was given to this topic and the introduction of a much more vast and expansive history for Coyote’s influence and work in the greater world. Briggs also introduced a new creature with the Golem of Prague, a powerful being whose mysteries Mercy must unlock to save herself and the city.

Adam’s storyline was much more…political. While I enjoyed seeing a few of my favorite characters back (Stephan has been absent quite a lot in the last several books), it was also disappointing to find that much of his story arc ultimately served very little purpose. The larger dynamics that take place within the vampire seethes worldwide was interesting, but Briggs sets up the Italian vampire lord as one of the most powerful supernatural beings in the world and then…it all kind of comes to nothing? There were a few exciting moments, but much of this arc was taken up with carefully worded negotiations and power plays, but very little action. And in the end, the reader is kind of left wondering what was the point of it all?

There was also a neat twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming. However, it also threw a few things into question. Adam’s perspective makes up half of the story, and we know that he would be informed of this particular secret, but when we’re reading his earlier sections, it reads as if he is unaware of this. I know that this is to keep the reader in the dark, but it doesn’t ring true that Adam would think/act this way knowing the truth that we later find out. When it was revealed, I found it to be very jarring and had to go back and re-read several section to both now further appreciate what was going on and to confirm that yes, it was weird that this was written this way in the first place given Adam’s knowledge of it the whole time. This seems like a small quibble for what was actually a very neat reveal. But I wish there had been a way to neaten it up so that that same fun reveal wasn’t undercut by what had come before.

Ultimately, I very much enjoyed Mercy’s story line, but I was left underwhelmed by Adam’s. I still loved reading chapters from his perspective, but the arc he was given wasn’t strong. For an Alpha werewolf, he was given very little actual action, and the end results of his storyline didn’t feel worth the time it was given throughout the book. In the end, I’m not quite sure why it was even necessary to split this book into two parts. The ending would have needed to be changed, but it feels like very little tweaking would have been necessary to focus this story in on the more interesting arc and do away with the overly extended political maneuvering all together. Especially given that, by the end, things simply felt re-set and I was still left questioning the point of it all.

Rating 6: The original strengths of these books (its main characters) are still going strong, but the series is beginning to fray at the edges.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Silence Fallen” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Bad Bitches of Urban Fantasy “ and “Native American Paranormal.”

Find “Silence Fallen” at your library using WorldCat!

Previous reviewed: “Mercy Thompson series review” and “Fire Touched”

Kate’s Review: “Final Girls”

32994321Book: “Final Girls” by Mira Grant

Publishing Info: Subterranean Press, April 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description: What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears?

Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole lives—while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But…can real change come so easily?

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival.

Review: First and foremost, I want to extend a thank you to NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

I quite enjoy the “Newsflesh” Trilogy by Mira Grant. For one, it has zombies, which is almost always going to be something of a plus for me when it comes to my horror novels. But it’s also a pretty unique and tech based take of life after the zombie plague. So when Serena sent me some information about a new short story of Grant’s, called “Final Girls”, I was immediately intrigued. Grant likes to take common tropes and give them a tech-y spin. While sometimes I’m a little skeptical of short stories, just because so much has to be crammed into them in a smaller amount of pages to really pull them off, I had faith that Grant could do it. And she didn’t disappoint.

Even though this is a shorter piece, Grant did a really good job of describing the place and time without any of it feeling rushed. The time frame is kind of vague, but we do know that technology allows us to fall into a holodeck-like virtual reality where we can work through various emotional hang ups or relationships. The science is kept nondescript enough not to be bogged down by the science that may or may not ever come to fruition in this world, but it is detailed enough that it seems like it could feasibly happen in the nearish future. She also did a good job of establishing the main characters and their motivations, so I was never questioning why they did the things that they did. I could understand why Dr. Webb is so invested in her invention, and why she would have her whole faith in it and never question how it could go wrong. She is both brilliant and arrogant, cold yet empathetic. Esther, too, is someone whose motivations we can understand, even if her background is presented quickly and never hammered at over and over again. I think that the weakest characterization was that of the mysterious ‘assassin’ character, who drives the conflict of the story with her dangerous meddling. I understand why she would be doing the things she’s doing, but I think that had we explored more about the people who hired her, maybe I would have been more fully invested in her. As she was, she was just kind of the cold badass character. It works well in this story, though, so I can’t really complain about it too much.

I also liked the moral and ethical implications and questions this book raised. There are so many grey areas within the scientific world, and how far we can push experiments without treading on the rights of human and animal subjects. Even if there wasn’t a psychopathic assassin messing up a program and making it super dangerous (due to the stress levels and possibility to be scared to death), how ethical is it to put people in a terribly stressful situation in the name of therapy and relationship healing?

Also…. Zombies.

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My reaction to a well done zombie story. (source)

While sure, it may seem a bit old hat to bring zombies into this story given the “Newsflesh” series and everything, Grant is just so good at it that I don’t really mind. I’m not sick of zombies yet, so when this was the simulation I just grinned and leaned back, ready to enjoy it.

It’s a bit more than the usual zombie story, and “Final Girls” was a quick and engaging story that built up the suspense and delivered on the chills. But it also goes beyond the usual fare, and brings up good points about the responsibilities of science. It was a fun little read and I recommend it to zombie fans to be certain!

Rating 8: A quick paced and creepy little horror novella that raises questions about ethics and professional responsibility.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Final Girls” is a fairly new novella and isn’t on many lists yet. But I think that it would fit in on “Awesome Technothrillers and Sci-Fi”, and “Zombies Plus: Unconventional Zombie Novels”.

Find “Final Girls” at your library using WorldCat!

Not Just Books: April 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks:

FNV_box_art_(US)Video Game: “Fallout: New Vegas”
My husband and I both succumbed to a terrible cold last week and what better to get you through enforced couch time than a post apocalyptic, rather out dated, video game? We are still hold outs on the Xbox One, so our options for game play are stuck a bit in the past. However, as a fan of the “Fallout” series as a whole, I was excited to try out this game. While it is clear that this is a “.5” type game (not given the entire “Fallout” treatment of the full, numbered games in the series), the storyline was very compelling and the open world style was as fun to explore as ever.  If you’re a fan of Bethesda games and are looking for less of a commitment than some of the larger games out there, this is definitely worth checking out!

250px-survivor34logo

TV Show: “Survivor: Game Changers”

I warned you that my reality tv watching would make another appearance, and here we are! I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve watched every season of “Survivor.” The combination of the interesting physical challenges and the complex interpersonal strategy that make up this show has continuously drawn me in year after year. This season is notable for bringing back a few of my favorite players like Aubry (completely and utterly robbed of a win in her season due to bitter jury syndrome) and Malcom (a great player, but likely to never win as he is seen as too much of a threat to ever make it through).

MV5BMjE1ODgwOTkzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDcwMTg5MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Trailer: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Most importantly…does Chris Hemsworth rock the new hair cut or what? The “Thor” series as a whole has been probably the weaker movies for me in the Marvel line up. I enjoy the character very much, but he is at his best when playing off other characters, which can make his own movies a bit challenging. However, this trailer looks awesome. I’m a big fan of the director, Taika Waititi, having loved both “What We Do in the Shadows” and the more recent “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” Both of those movies are about as far from a comic book blockbuster movie as you can get, so I’m excited to see what new take he can bring to this movie and the genre. At this point, I feel like audiences are going through a bit of “super hero exhaustion,” so a breath of fresh air to the Marvel universe is much needed, and hopefully this movie will bring just that!

Kate’s Picks:

myfavoritemurderPodcast: “My Favorite Murder”

No one is going to be surprised that I am not only a horror and thriller fan, but also a huge true crime buff. And while my fascination with murder has always been side-eyed by many people around me, my friend and fellow murder ‘enthusiast’ Amanda told me to try out the podcast “My Favorite Murder,” by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark! Karen and Georgia are two women living in the Valley who are obsessed with true crime, and every episode they come with an oral history of a murder case, and banter the only way two close lady friends can. Also, there’s a cat named Elvis who is basically their mascot. It’s dark subject matter, but I love this show because they are both really funny while maintaining the right levels of interest and horror at the awfulness. So fellow ‘murderinos’, check this out!

mv5bmzk1nzi1odg3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm0mzc4mti-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Trailer: “It”

Okay, so as much as I do really enjoy the original TV miniseries “It”, I never found it terribly scary. Tim Curry is awesome, but I was never really too terrified by him. I also think that the book is a work of sheer genius, and absolutely horrifying. So when I heard that they were making a movie of it, I was kind of skeptical. I felt it didn’t have the Tim Curry Factor, and the original book is so hard to do justice to. But then I saw the trailer, and my God. My jaw dropped and I watched it over and over again. The book about a murderous entity in small town Maine, and the kids who come together to fight it, may have just been given a worthy adaptation that captures just how scary Pennywise and Derry, Maine are supposed to be. And I cannot WAIT to see it.


hq720TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

IT’S BACK, HUNTYS!!!! My favorite reality competition of all time and one of my favorite TV shows on the air at the moment, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”!! I’ve been addicted to this show since season 4, and now we’re on season 9 as RuPaul brings us a bunch of amazing drag queens competing for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar! The talent of all these drag queens when it comes to performance, design, make-up, and fashion consistently boggles my mind, and the over the top self awareness that RuPaul presents in every episode is a hoot and a treat. There are also moments of awareness building and activism seen on this show as well, as GLBT issues are not shied away from in conversation. If you want to make your life just a little more fabulous, this is what you should be watching.

Serena’s Review: “The Beast is an Animal”

29522966Book: “The Beast is an Animal” by Peternelle van Arsdale

Publishing Info: Margaret K. McElderry Books, February 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

Review: I am going to start this review by talking about the cover, because it is rare that I see a cover that so perfectly sets up the atmosphere of the book. Dark, yet beautiful. Indistinct, yet you feel drawn in, almost against your will. The tall dark trees, shadows, and bright red flowers all spark instinctive warning symbols in your head and that looming shape in the middle….is it a person? A creature? Or simply a strangely shaped tree stump? Whoever came up with this art design in the publishing house should be awarded major points for exactly matching book art to its source. Like this cover, “The Beast is an Animal” was beautiful, and terrifying, and I couldn’t look away.

At its core, this is a book about fear and about the horrors that a simple emotion can inflict on an individual, a family, and an entire community. Neighbors, always on the look out for witches to blame for poor weather, poor crops, posed almost a greater danger than the dark, looming forest around which many small communities exist. It is into this world that Angelina and Benedicta are born, twin sisters whose looks, down to unique birthmarks, exactly mirror the other. After a poor farming season, they, and their mother, are blamed and banished to live in the woods, and a husband/father who should have been their protector slinks away to begin his life again with a new, fresh-faced woman. Their mother doesn’t flourish. Angelina and Benedicta do, slowly being eaten away with bitterness and anger at the fear that lead to their banishment. And thus, two monsters are born.

After all of this set up, we meet Alys, our main character who throughout the book also struggles with the fear of “otherness” that floats around her. After her whole town is destroyed by the souleaters, excepting all of the children under 15, she and her fellow orphans go to live in a new town. While they do take the children in, this new community is even more stifled, building walls around their small town and forcing the children to guard it every night, all night.

We watch this story unfold over three periods of Alys’s life. First, when she is 7 and her town falls to the souleaters. Second, when she is 12 and begins to suspect that she has more in common with the souleaters and the mysterious Beast that haunts the woods. And finally, at age 15 when she must confront both the truth about herself, and the darkness that is growing in the heart of the woods.

What I loved about this book was how it plays with the topic of fear and bad/good. Are Angelina/Benedicta evil? Or were the “normal folk” who banished them? Where does the Beast fall on this spectrum? What about the community that takes in the children? While the supernatural elements were scary in their own right, it was the oppressive fear of the people themselves that made the book truly creepy. Alys, and the medicine woman who adopts her in the new town, are constantly on the look out for any hint that they are beginning to fall under suspicion for being different. The devices and tortures used against these supposed “witches” were more terrifying than the supernatural souleaters if only because we know from history that these things existed.

As I said in the beginning, what makes this story truly compelling is the atmospheric tone of the writing. It feels like a new fairytale, containing not only the darker elements that are typical to original fairytales, but also reads with a lyrical flow, combining beautiful imagery with poignant insights into the deep tragedy at the heart of the story.

Alys is a strong protagonist around which to center this story. However, Mother, the woman who adopts Alys in the new community, was the breakout character for me. She doesn’t have a lot of page time, but she provides a window into a world, and life, that Alys is trying to avoid. Mother is a midwife whose skills are depended on, but who must also constantly hide what she is doing and how she is doing it for fear that she would be labeled a witch. Her own personal tragedies, as well, must be similarly hidden. When Alys first meets her, she dislikes her, noting that she is cold and unemotional. But as the story goes on, we see that this is a coping mechanism and self-preservation tactic from a woman who has devoted herself to aiding a community of people who would as soon see her burned at the slightest sign of strangeness.

Like I said, the supernatural elements were very creepy (much more than I expected and in some ways this might have been a more “Kate book” than mine), but the descriptions of life in these walled up and fearful communities was almost unbearable to read. I was just so angry at these people! And it is this aspect that really marks this book as a success. The reader falls into the same trap as Angelina/Benedicta, and even Alys, thus making these characters all the more sympathetic, for all of their evil deeds. Fear leads to anger. And anger leads to…

I can’t say enough good things about this book! If you enjoy original fairytales and can handle a healthy dose of creepiness, this book is definitely worth checking out!

Rating 9: A beautiful, standalone dark fantasy novel. I absolutely loved it!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Beast is an Animal” is newer and thus not many relevant Goodreads lists, but it should be on “Popular Dark Fairy Tales”  and “Twin Thrillers.”

Find “The Beast is an Animal” at your library using Worldcat!

Kate’s Review: “Ill Will”

30687788Book: “Ill Will” by Dan Chaon

Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: “We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

Review: So I grew up in Minnesota and went to college at the University of Minnesota. Around the time that I was in late high school and about to start college, there were whisperings and rumors about a spate of seemingly accidental drownings of college students across the country. One of these students was a U of MN student named Chris Jenkins, who was last seen drunk and kicked out of a bar, before his drowned body was discovered in the Mississippi River. This drowning has been cited in the “Smiley Face Murder” Conspiracy. It’s a theory that these seemingly random drownings of male white co-eds are actually connected to a killer or killers who target them, and then leave Smiley Faced graffiti near the bodies. So when “Ill Will” was coming out and I found out that one aspect of it was this farfetched (but kind of fun) crime theory, I was totally interested. And, even better, the other big theme of this book is the concept of 1980s Satanic Panic. Aka, the conspiracy theory that was red hot in the 80s and speculated that there were millions of Satanists hiding out in America who were sacrificing and abusing children all in the name of the Dark Lord Lucifer. So you get two paranoid and ridiculous conspiracies for the price of one!!!!

“Ill Will” touches on these themes, but it is far more literary and cerebral than I thought it was going to be. We follow the perspectives of a number of people within this damaged family. The first, and foremost, is Dustin, a man who was the star witness against his older, adopted brother Rusty, who was accused of murdering their parents and aunt and uncle in a Satanic rage. Dustin has become a psychologist, who has tried to keep his life together since that horrible night and the trail that followed it. But when his wife is diagnosed with cancer and begins to deteriorate, he becomes fixated on a wild serial killer theory one of his patients presents to him. Next is that of Aaron, the son of Dustin, who, after his mother dies, has found himself left alone with an obsessive and broken father, and he finds solace in drugs and risky behavior. There is Kate, the cousin of Dustin who is feeling guilt for her part in what happened that night and at the trial, and also terrified now that Rusty is out of prison. And then there’s Rusty himself, someone who was a messed up and dangerous teen who then was sent to prison for something he may not have committed. I was expecting a lot of straight forward and linear plot lines, with maybe the two conspiracies coming together. But instead I got an experimental, time and perspective jumping, format changing, meditation on loss, grief, guilt, and mental illness.

Which, in a lot of ways, is a pretty good thing. I think that horror far too often is relegated or expected to fit within straight forward genre fiction. Horror is expected to be mindless, maybe easy, and while not necessarily poorly written (on the contrary, there are lots of horror authors who know how to create wonderful stories and worlds) it is expected to be straight forward and perhaps a bit formulaic. So I like seeing very cerebral and deep works of horror. Chaon unsettles the reader through all of his tricks and devices, from time jumps to strange writing outlines to odd grammatical choices. It was incredibly effective, as the oddness of it all just kind of set me on edge. I think that the problem, however, is that I did sometimes find it a bit confusing, and was more inclined to have to go back and retrace my steps instead of being pulled forward in the story. It’s good to want to have everything straight. But when you have to go back and reread a number of things to totally piece it all together, it can be a bit of a distraction. I found myself vaguely irritated as I jumped back a few times, and while it didn’t stop me from reading it, it definitely felt more like work than leisurely reading.

I think that “Ill Will” is a very thoughtful and detailed read, and I definitely would recommend it to horror fans who like their books intricate and deep. But casual horror fans, you may have a hard time with it. Because I kind of did at times. All that said, I like that it dares to go to those strange and complex places.

Rating 7: Ambitious and unsettling, though at times muddled down by it’s vision, “Ill Will” is a literary horror story that makes us question memory, reality, and hysteria.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ill Will” is a fairly new book and isn’t really on many on topic book lists yet. But, I think that it would fit in on “I Like Serial Killers”, and “Satanic Panic”.

Find “Ill Will” at your library using WorldCat!

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: “Eye of the Storm”

Occasionally we are approached with the opportunity to promote books that may be of interest to our readers. And occasionally in lieu of a full review of the book, we will let it speak for itself by posting an excerpt from it. So if you like what you see in one of these excerpts, we have good news! You have the chance to win a copy of it! What could be better?

31363558Book: “Eye of the Storm” by Frank Cavallo

Publishing Info: Dark Serpent/Ravenswood Publishing, August 2016

Book Description: On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.

My Notes:

I received a paperback copy of this book in exchange for this promotional post. I want to thank Kelsey B., who sent it to me and gave our blog this opportunity.

This book is perfect for fans of Sword & Sorcery fantasy novels, with its action packed sequences and the always enjoyable use of stranding modern people in strange new worlds. My nostalgia bells were going off constantly with this book (specifically for things like “The Land that Time Forgot”), and who can resist a healthy dose of nostalgia? Red City Review gave the book 4 stars saying “Cavallo spins a fast-paced tale in his latest read…with a unique cast and setting…a flurry of twists and turns…quite a page turner, Eye of the Storm is bound to be a favorite among fantasy enthusiasts.”

This is by no means Frank Cavallo’s first book on the scene, coming in with several fantasy novels already under his belt, and another that was just released this last January, “Rites of Azathoth,” which sounds like X-Files (Scully’s character at least, as a female FBI agent is the hero of the story) meets Stephen King. For more information on the author, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, as well on his website http://www.frankcavallo.com/.

Enter the giveaway below to try and win yourself a free copy of “Eye of the Storm” and read the excerpt below! – Serena

Click Here to Enter The Giveaway!!

Excerpt:

The halls were dusty and cold as they headed into the heart of the citadel, climbing towards the Keep by Azreth’s vague directions. Spider-webs hung like curtains along the walls. Every corridor and passage was choked with the detritus of war. A hiss seethed from somewhere in the shadows.

At the crest of a winding staircase, they found a gallery-like corridor that opened under a vaulted ceiling. Despite having stalked the ruins for hours, their torches were no lower, and they cast a reddish light upon the whole of the grand hall. The walls were plastered from floor to ceiling, in brilliant shades of violet, green and gold. Unfamiliar characters were set in relief across both sides.

They continued on, hoping to glean some direction from the strange decorations. With a few of the glyphs there were images of figures. Men and beasts, elegant in detail but difficult to see in the torch-light, cavorting as if frozen in time. Some frolicked in festival, while others looked to be at war, painted blood dripping from their swords.

Each wall had several such murals, of men and women in long white robes and gold sashes. The designs were intricate and beautiful and savage.

At the far end of the hall, looming over the entrance of an inner hold, a stone carving larger than a man’s height peered down at them. It was no human face. The features of the carving were a caricature of humanity, still as sharp as from the sculptor’s hand; like everything else uncannily preserved from the ravages of time.

    Horns like a bull’s grew from the temples. Jowls like a hound’s hung open, with rows of teeth flanked by twin fangs.

“We’re getting close,” Azreth said. “I remember this. The bust of Wrael. This is the passage into his throne chamber.”

They all studied it for a moment, but had little time to consider. A rumbling grew up, as if the walls were coming to life. The stone began to vibrate, and the floor shifted beneath them. It was no quake. The thunder was organic, the growling of a carnivore.

“You remember this too?” Slade asked.

“The beast king’s guardian,” Azreth whispered. “The basilisk.”

Spawned from the darkness, something slinked out from beneath the statue. Though at first as black as the shadow itself, it moved of its own accord. Only its crimson eyes were visible. Threya gripped her sword. The thing shrieked. Slade pulled Azreth behind him. Kerr ducked with him, even as he drew a dagger from his cloak.

A lizard-beast leaped into the firelight. It drooled from a snout like a wolf’s, but its body was lean and scaly. The monster slashed at Slade. The force of its thrust knocked him to the floor, a gash torn in his arm.

Threya’s sword whistled through the air, slicing into the basilisk’s haunches before it could strike again. Her second slash tore open its back. The beast flicked its spiked tail, climbing halfway up the wall in a momentary retreat. It eyed Threya with a burning scarlet glower.

It leaped next toward her, throwing itself upon the warrior-queen. Again, the force of its landing was too much, and she collapsed under it, leaving the beast perched on top of her. Its powerful legs pinned her arms to the floor, holding down her sword. It reared its jaws over her, spilling hot, fetid breath in her face.

Back on his feet, Slade jumped from behind and Kerr from the other side. Both plunged their blades through the creature’s torso. Slade clamped his arms around the beast’s throat as it howled, until it squealed with a weakened yelp as the leper’s dagger choked the life out of it. Azreth neared, poking at the carcass with his staff.

“We’re very close now,” the mystic said.

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Wrong Number”

176340Book: “The Wrong Number” (Fear Street #5) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, March 1990

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: It begins as an innocent prank, when Deena Martinson and her best friend Jade Smith make sexy phone calls to the boys from school. But Deena’s half-brother Chuck catches them in the act and threatens to tell their parents, unless the girls let him in on the fun. Chuck begins making random calls, threatening anyone who answers. It’s dangerous and exciting. They’re even enjoying the publicity, and the uproar they’ve caused. Until Chuck calls a number on Fear Street.

To his horror, Chuck realizes he has called THE WRONG NUMBER. The jokes are over when murder is on the line. The murderer knows who they are and where they live — and they have nowhere to call for help.

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: I pity any “Fear Street” book that had to follow “Missing”. But I hoped that “The Wrong Number” would maintain some of the zany thrills that the one before it had. It starts with Deena and Jade, best friends who are quickly getting bored at Deena’s house. Deena mentions that her half brother Chuck is coming to live with her and her parents, as he’s a serious troublemaker and got kicked out of his school, so his mother has had it. Jade hopes he’s cute, when she should probably be hoping he’s stable. Still bored, Jade suggests that they start prank phone calling people! They start with her sister Cathy, who sees right through the ruse. Then they call Deena’s crush Rob. Deena flirts and then hangs up.

The next day Deena goes with her folks to pick up Chuck.She fixates a bit too much on how handsome he is, though he is ‘snowling’ (that’s scowling and sneering at once). But on the way home they see an accident, and Chuck runs to the scene and saves a dog from a burning car. See, he’s not so bad after all!!! Except he is, because the next morning Deena pours him some cereal for breakfast and he dumps it down the sink. So complicated. A true riddle. At lunch Deena tells Jade that Chuck’s a jerk, and as if to confirm this statement Chuck gets into a fight with local bad boy Bobby and pulls a knife on him!! Jesus.

We find out that post knife incident, Chuck almost got in trouble but their Dad was able to sweet talk the school. But Chuck’s on thin ice! Being that it’s Saturday, their parents go out, and Jade comes after her date cancels on her, which means more prank phone calls! Jade convinces Deena to call Rob again, and it continues to go well. Deena is too shy to reveal herself, and hangs up after hearing some weird clicks. Chuck comes into the room and introduces himself to Jade (who is immediately turned on). Then he says that he was listening in and wants to do his own prank calls in exchange for not telling. ASSHOLE. Deena and Jade agree. He immediately calls the bowling alley and declares a BOMB THREAT (this kid is insane!), then decides he wants to call someone on Fear Street. Because SPOOOOOOKY! He decides on Bobby, calls him, says that it’s the ‘Phantom of Fear Street’ calling. Dumbass. After scaring the girls, Jade decides to call it a night. He then offers to help Deena with her homework. Cuz remember. Enigma.

The bomb threat makes the news and Deena wants to stop with the calls. But Jade, wanting to get closer to Chuck, says that if Deena doesn’t keep it up she’ll tell Rob who’s been calling him. Friends like these. That weekend they are hanging out and grilling, and Deena tries to convince them to stop calling. They agree… until Chuck decides that he wants to prove that Fear Street is just a silly place that isn’t scary. So how does he want to prove this? By prank calling a random Fear Street number.

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(source)

So he puts the phone on speaker and calls… Only to have a woman screaming about how she’s being murdered. They are shocked, and a man takes the phone from the woman, and tells them they have the wrong number. Instead of calling the cops (because HOW would Chuck explain that he called this number?…. SAY YOU CALLED THE WRONG NUMBER), Chuck says they need to go to this house and investigate. GREAT. They arrive at the house and find a DEAD WOMAN! She’s been stabbed! Before they can call the cops a man in a ski mask confronts them. Chuck grabs the knife as a defense, but then they run out of the house and for their car. A chase ensues, but they lose the guy. They get back home and call the police. Chuck tries to be anonymous (once again cites the Phantom character he created). But of course the cops show up later that night. Turns out that Stanley Farberson, the man who is married to the dead woman, ID’d their plates and accuses Chuck of killing his wife!!!

So Chuck is arrested because his prints are on the knife and Mr. Farberson identified him in a lineup. Deena and Jade are distraught! But sexy Rob is there to distract Deena a little bit. Until that night, when Jade calls her and tells her to turn on the news. Mr. Farberson is speaking, and HE HAS THE SAME VOICE AS SKI MASK MAN!!! HE KILLED HIS WIFE!

After Deena’s theory is rebuffed by the cops, Jade says that they can totally solve this and the first step is to go to his restaurant and snoop around. They disguise themselves and Jade pretends that she’s looking for a job. While Farberson has them fill out applications he steps away, and the girls snoop. They find a plane ticket to Argentina, one way! Farberson returns and says he knows that the agency didn’t send them. Jade worms them out of it, and they leave. They decide that maybe the next person to see is his former assistant, Linda. As apparently there are actually two tickets to Argentina…

Deena and Jade go to Linda’s house and pretend they’re doing a door to door survey. While they are inside they overhear Linda talking to someone on the phone… It’s Farberson! And it sounds like they’re pretty cozy. She talks about him needing to come get something because she can’t have it in her house anymore. Deena and Jade make a hasty exit, and lie in wait. They see Farberson pick up this strange package, and follow him in hopes he’ll dispose of it. They think it’s gotta be the ski mask and some bloody clothing. But after he trashes it, they come back later that night open it up…. and find a dead cat. UGH, NO MORE DEAD ANIMALS!!

Lucky for them when they climb back in the car, masked man his hiding in the back seat. He tells them to drop it or else. When Deena visits Chuck at the detention facility she tells him that she and Jade are on the case. He’s pissed because he’s afraid she’s going to get killed, but this doesn’t sway Deena. She and Jade decide to go back to the scene of the crime.

They sneak into the Farberson house, in a very Grace Kelly-esque move, and snoop. They find evidence that Mrs. Farberson was the rich one, and was sick of her bum husband spending all her money. She planned to leave him. The girls decide they can go now, but Mr. Farberson is in the house! They wait for him to fall asleep on the couch and plan to sneak out, but they balk and hide in the office when he gets restless. Then they make too much noise and he finds them. He confesses to everything, and locks them in the office saying he’ll be right back, no doubt to kill them. Deena and Jade decide they can climb out the window and jump to the tree that’s right outside it. Just as they get outside, Farberson busts into the room. Deena and Jade are a bit high up with no where to go, so Mr. Farberson leaves the room….

AND REAPPEARS OUTSIDE WITH A CHAINSAW!!!! HE INTENDS TO CHAINSAW THEM DOWN AND THEN MAYBE CHAINSAW THEM TO DEATH???

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THIS IS FINALLY INTERESTING! (source)

But luckily,  the police arrive JUST IN TIME because Chuck told the authorities everything. And I guess they had a hunch themselves but just didn’t have enough evidence, and this was the perfect way to get evidence: to let two teenagers put themselves in danger while a third rots in a jail cell unnecessarily. Though Deena’s Dad thinks that it’s fine because the experience scared Chuck straight or something. Yeesh.

So now they’re all famous at school. Jade and Chuck are officially a couple. And Rob and Deena finally set a date. ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, I GUESS.

Body Count: 2. Mrs. Farberson and one dead cat. Stine needs to stop killing animals.

Romance Rating: 3. Deena gets to go out with Rob at the end, but their meet cute wasn’t very cute. And Chuck and Jade? Dude’s unstable.

Bonkers Rating: 4. Only because of the chainsaw. The rest was pretty dull.

Fear Street Relevance: 5. The Farbersons lived on Fear Street, after all. I guess.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Rain slanted in, and another flash of lightning illuminated Chuck, his limp body curled up on the floor.”

… And he’s faking it. Jerk.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Well I would have to say that the obvious one is that THEY ARE MAKING PRANK PHONE CALLS. That’s just so hard to do these days with caller ID. But the other is that Chuck pulls a knife at school and isn’t immediately suspended/expelled.

Best Quote:

“Be sure to tell him hello for me,” said Jade.

“He doesn’t even know you.”

Jade turned her full smile on. “Not now he doesn’t. But I have a feeling….. he will soon.”

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EYEAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! (source)

This was a sad follow up to the absolute batshit absurdity that was “Missing”. If I wanted a story like this I’d just watch “Rear Window”. Hell, even “Disturbia” would be better. Next up is “The Sleepwalker”, and I hope that one’s a step up.