Kate’s Review: “The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos”

29244700Book: “The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos” by Kami Garcia

Publishing Info: Imprint, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers.

The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

Review: When I was growing up, my family had three different Family TV nights as time went on. The first one was “Lois and Clark”. The last one, up until the end of high school, was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. And the middle one, the one that I have the fondest memories of, was “The X-Files”. I started watching “The X-Files” with my Dad when I was in fifth grade. I was both terrified and enthralled by it, and I loved both Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they investigated the weird and unexplained happenings of potential supernatural malarky and/or government conspiracies with aliens. The revival last year was enough to keep me sated for a bit, though I was definitely left wanting more. And since it looked to be awhile before we were going to get more, imagine my delight when I found out that two books about teenaged Mulder and Scully were coming out. I started with the one about Mulder, “Agent of Chaos”, which was written by YA heavyweight Kami Garcia. I started with this one because while I’m probably more like Mulder, I have a deep, deep love for Scully, and want to savor her and save her for last. So off we go into teenage Mulder in 1979. It’s like “That 70s Show”, but far more insidious.

To give a bit more description than the one above: Fox Mulder, a seventeen year old living in Washington D.C., is still feeling the pain of his sister Samantha’s abduction from a few years prior. His family has been shattered, and he is trying to adjust to his new life with his Dad, as his Mom is still back on Martha’s Vineyard. His best friend Phoebe is back on the island, but he’s made a new friend in Gimble, the nerdy son of an unbalanced former Air Force Major. When children in the area start disappearing, Mulder is reminded of Samantha’s abduction, and decides that he and his friends need to try and solve this case. This was so wonderfully Mulder, convinced so deeply of something and so entrenched in his belief of it, that he would throw everything he has into trying to figure it out. I also appreciated that this harkened back to the greatest tragedy of Mulder’s life, the disappearance of his younger sister. Though we all know now what did end up happening to her (and while this truth is touched upon in this book ever so briefly), the sadness and pain revived right away, and quite effectively (side note: anyone who thinks that “Closure” is a sappy episode of “The X-Files” can seriously bite me). It was a pretty obvious idea to make Mulder’s story about Samantha at it’s heart, but at the same time Garcia did it in such a delicate way that it was masterful and touching.

We got to see some old favorites in this tale otuside of Mulder. While I kind of had a feeling that The Cigarette Smoking Man was going to make an appearance, because how could he not, I was very pleasantly surprised to see X, a ‘man in black’ and FBI operative from the series, play a fairly large role in this story as well. But along with these old characters, Garcia created some very fun new characters to act as foils for Mulder. The first is Gimble, Mulder’s best friend in D.C. who is a D & D playing Trekkie. Gimble served us some very appreciated, if not sometimes awkward, comic relief. But even he has a bit more tragedy to him, as his father is a mentally unbalanced man who believes in all kinds of conspiracy theories due to his former involvement with the Government. The Major, as he calls himself, was the weakest part for me in this book, as it seemed a bit too on the nose to have Mulder bond with a man who is both brilliant, and yet bogged down by lunacy and paranoia. Plus, it was just hard to watch The Major interact with Gimble, because MAN that has to be a hard way to grow up. Granted, the government conspiracy stuff was always my least favorite part about the show, so to have it kind of leak in here, while totally understandable, wasn’t really for me. But by far my favorite new character was Phoebe, Mulder’s best friend and sort of love interest. So sure, it’s clear that Mulder and Phoebe are not at all end game, given that his real true love is Scully. But I liked that Garcia took a risk and put a capable, smart, supportive yet no nonsense girl into this for Mulder to have as a foil. Because why couldn’t Mulder have two great loves of his life? Phoebe is the anchor that Mulder has always needed in his life, serving the Scully role and keeping him in check. Plus, her love of all things geek made her very relatable, and kind of refreshing. The girl’s first appearance has her hair done up in Princess Leia buns for God’s sake!

Overall this was a fun origin story that I think did justice to Fox Mulder. I can’t say if hardcore “X-Files” fans will like it, but this pretty big fan quite enjoyed the journey it took me on. I really can’t wait to read the one about teenage Dana Scully now.

Rating 8: A fun little origin story to give one of my favorite TV characters. Though I sometimes felt that parts of it were a bit too over the top, seeing Mulder, X, and The Cigarette Smoking Man doing things again was a delight, and reliving the sadness of Samantha Mulder was tragically beautiful.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos” is pretty new and not on any Goodreads lists. But I think it would fit in at “X-Files Related Books”, and “Government Agencies Dealing with Paranormal”.

Find “The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos” at your library using WorldCat!

Not Just Books: January 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

new-arrival-movie-poster-615813Movie: “Arrival”

This is probably a bit late to the game, but I went to see “Arrival” at a late showing theater and it blew me away. The trailers for this movie were all over the place. The first one I saw, I literally had no idea what this was about. The second one I saw made it seem like an alien invasion action movie? Having seen the movie now, I can understand the challenge of creating a preview of this movie. This cerebral sci-fi movie knocked the breath out of me at every turn with its gorgeous visuals, moving score, discomforting realizations, and deep insights. It also left me thinking for many days after seeing it, which, I think, was its primary goal. I can’t recommend this one enough. While it’s likely out of many theaters, if you can possible catch it at a late-run theater, I definitely recommend it for the big screen.

mv5bmtuxmjizodi0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdk3oti2mdi-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_Netflix Series: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Yes, yes I featured the trailer for this on a list a few months ago, but now it’s here, and I’m loving it! Now, that being said, I’m not sure this one is for everyone. The series fully embraces the wackiness and corniness of the books, so at first even I was a bit put off by the strangeness of this world. The acting of the kids is also a bit stiff in the first episode, but improves as they are given more to work with. But, in no surprise to anyone, what carries the series is Neal Patrick Harris’s performance. The moment he shows up (and it sadly takes a good bit in the first episode), you can almost feel the story take a breath of fresh air and settle into itself more fully. He’s so committed to the camp and wackiness of this character, at times even managing to make a completely evil character rather pathetically sympathetic. If you liked the book series, this is well worth your time. If you didn’t…maybe not so much.

how-did-this-get-made-podcast-cover-thumb-q33uloPodcast: “How Did This Get Made?”

I know this is a favorite podcast of Kate’s as well, but I got to this list first with it, so I get to talk about it! Sometimes it feels good to watch trashy movies. And sometimes it feels even better to listen to other people describe their experiences having to watch trashy movies and telling you all about how truly trashy the movie really is. This podcast is so fun. I haven’t watched half the movies they talk about (cuz…obviously…most of them are awful!), but my enjoyment is not affected in the least by this fact! Listening to them ponder the whys, hows, and wtfs of these films is so much fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, you catch yourself wanting to go out and find yourself a copy of “Sharknado 2” just because how did that get made?!

Kate’s Picks

15099342_1818297575122609_3345333340906455040_nWeb Series: “The Boulet Brothers’ DRAGULA”

Yep, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” dry spell is still in full effect. But luckily, I was able to find a show that would quench my thirst this past month. “DRAGULA” is a web series produced and starring The Boulet Brothers, a shock and horror drag act that emphasizes the edgy and filthy aspects of drag. They decided to put together a “Drag Race”-esque show that would showcase ‘freaky’ drag, putting a number of drag queens together to compete in looks, performance, and challenges (like being buried alive, eating brains, and other squeamish things). Fashion, horror, and lots of dark humor pepper this show, and it gives me (after?)life!!! But just a warning: it’s not the the squeamish or easily offended. These ladies are hardcore in the ‘filth’ aspect of drag…

mv5bmtc3mjewmtc5n15bml5banbnxkftztcwnzq2njq4na-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Stargate: SG-1”

While I’m definitely a geek, when it comes to Sci-Fi I am far less knowledgeable than my husband is. So when I confided in him that I’d never actually seen any of the “Stargate” TV shows, he demanded that we watch “SG-1” immediately. Though it took me a bit to warm up to the show (I mean, really, parasites have to be the main antagonist?), I’m now all in. Richard Dean Anderson is a joy to watch, playing Jack O’Neill with the proper amount of disdain, snark, and, yes, pathos (the episode “Cold Lazarus” had me sobbing from start to finish), and while Michael Shanks will NEVER be Daniel Jackson to me (James Spader or get out), the two of them play well off each other and bring the characters to the TV format pretty well. And the new characters, specifically Tilk, an alien who has joined the team, are well written and fit in with the mythology!

vh1_antm_keyartTV Show: “America’s Next Top Model”

So I have pleasant, pleasant memories of watching “America’s Next Top Model” in college. I am not at all fashionable or ‘with it’ when it comes to the ins and outs of the fashion industry, but there is something about “Top Model” that I love. The photo shoots, the beauty, the clothing, the models, I like all of it. But I have to admit, I also like the drama of Tyra and the house infighting. Regardless, there is a brand new iteration of “ANTM” that has rebooted the show and the concept. Long gone are the days of the social media scores and Kelly Cutrone (THANK GOD ON BOTH COUNTS). We’re back to the basics of fashion and the potential of the aspiring models. Yes, I miss Tyra. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of drama.

Serena’s Review: “The Dark Days Club”

15993203Book: “The Dark Days Club” by Alison Goodman

Publishing Info: Viking Books for Young Readers, January 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Review: I always love it when I can find cross-genre novels that mix two of my favorite things. In this case, we have Regency era historical fiction and dark fantasy. Getting right down to it, I loved this book! And it served as an example of something that I had never been quite able to put my finger on when it came to my frustrations with other similar stories.

Lady Helen, a young woman just now entering into her first season as a lady of society, has worked her whole life to shake of the scandal of the death of her treacherous mother. Or…at least so she’s been forced to do by her Uncle, the man who controls her vast fortune and, along with her more kindly Aunt, has housed her since her parents’ deaths. But, of course, something dreadful must happen to set our protagonist on the path to becoming a heroine (line paraphrased from “Northanger Abbey” cuz why the heck not, it’s spot on in this case!). She runs astray of the even more scandalous Lord Carlton, a man rumored to have murdered his wife, though no body was ever found, and she discovers that she inherited from her mother a set of powers that belong to those destined to fight the demons that walk among them, disguised as average people.

Getting back to my point earlier, this book excelled in something that I had never been able to quite put my finger on when I attempted to explain why certain historical fantasies failed to hit the mark. What it gets down to is this: obvious extensive research done by the author. This book isn’t a paper thin veneer of a historical fantasy, it’s a thoroughly researched tale that combines the detailed aspects of this time period’s culture alongside its fantastical elements, never letting the magic and adventure wash away its historical foundation.

As one bookclub member and I discussed, this is the kind of book that you can read and come away from with an assortment of little tidbits about the time period that you wouldn’t have know before. For example, a gentleman who asks a lady for the last dance in the first set before the supper period is expected to walk that lady to her seat and sit near her. Thus, this gentlemen is expressing an even more active interest in the lady by requesting this particular dance! Fun Regency fact! So, in summary, this book fully embraces the historical aspects of its story, instead of simply appropriating convenient aspects for the sake of fitting into a popular genre than immediately discarding them in lieu of all the fantasy action, as too many have done before it.

Lady Helen herself is also very true to her time. While she is extremely intelligent and often frustrated by her Uncle’s very unfortunate views on a woman’s place, she’s also been raised to be a lady and a wife, and, if not thrilled about this prospect, accepts that this is the direction her life is headed. And, when suddenly presented with this demon-hunting alternative, she’s rightly wary. She’s been trained to run a household, converse with society, and manage other domestic duties. All notably free of risk of bodily harm and death. So when she’s told she’s a demon hunter and that said demon hunters face constant danger and often lead a life where their duties lead to eventual madness, she’s not jumping in head first. I really appreciated the fact that a primary arc of this story is simply Lady Helen fully coming to realize the choices before her and making realistic decisions with the knowledge that she’s given. At times it was frustrating as a reader, since we all know where things will end up, but it was also a very good character study of how a Regency era lady would struggle with these realizations, her own intelligence and curiosity be damned.

The fantasy elements were also much more dark than I was expecting. There are your run of the mill demons, and then you have the ones here who infect every layer of society, taking advantage of and feeding upon the worst aspects of humanity. There were several scenes that were straight up gruesome.

One last note on the historical accuracy of the books. The author included a very good afterward where she discussed the research that went into this book. It was fun to see how diligently she tried to incorporate the real life politics and goings-on of the time within the story. The newspapers that were referenced were real papers, the murders that take place really did happen (if, perhaps, not caused by demons). I always appreciate hearing about how an author approaches their work, and this was a particularly interesting example.

Rating 8:  A great example of well-researched historical fiction that doesn’t become overwhelmed by its fantasy elements.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Dark Days Club” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Regency Fantasy” and “Mysterious London.”

Find “The Dark Days Club” at your library using Worldcat!

A Brief History and Introduction to “Fear Street”

Call me inspired or call me unoriginal, but when Serena said that she was going to do a re-read of the “Animorphs” series, I began thinking about my own favorite childhood books. As you may recall in our “Childhood Favorites” post, the “Fear Street” series was one of the most influential reads of my girlhood. I have the fondest of memories of being in fourth grade and reading these books in our classroom during free time before the school bell rang to send us all home.

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Now let me tell you, on and off I’ve been hunting for copies of these books, as mine have either disappeared into my parents’ attic never to be found again, or were long given to Half Price Books or thrown in the trash by my Mom. And now that I’ve fully embraced the goodness of eBooks and InterLibrary Loans, I can finally go back and re-read this series that meant so much to me when I was a girl, and no doubt helped kick off my lifelong obsession with the horror genre. Not long after I outgrew these books was I moving on to Stephen King.

So for the uninitiated, “Fear Street” was a series that R.L. Stine wrote in the late 80s and early 90s, which takes place in the small town of Shadyside. Within Shadyside is a street known as Fear Street, a neighborhood that is said to be cursed. There is a cemetery, a burnt out manor (that originally belonged to wealthy resident Simon Fear), and a creepy old woods. The stories in this series don’t necessarily all take place on Fear Street, but there is almost always something that will bring the revolving characters back there for one reason or another. There were many spin off series from “Fear Street”, but I mainly stuck to the original series outside of an occasional “Super Chiller”, and the first book in the “Cheerleaders” spin off series, called “The First Evil”. The plots usually revolve around a first person protagonist, a series of murders, teenage hormones, and a mystery that will almost always be twisted and looney, supernatural elements or not.

After the initial run and success (over 80 Million copies are in print, guys), Stine took some time off from “Fear Street” until 2014. Until then, he’d been under the impression that no one wanted books like these anymore. After all, these books were at their most popular when publishers thought that kids and teens couldn’t handle more than 100some pages, and needed a tried and true formula they could keep coming back to. And we all know what changed that perception. But then St. Martin’s Press asked him to revive it. So now teens have a whole new generation of “Fear Street” they can enjoy, though the new books have been lengthened and made more violent and sexier to better match the sensibilities of modern YA fiction. And I guess there is talk of a potential movie adaptation of the series, which both intrigues and worries me. I just don’t think that any movie adaptation could capture as much of the heart of these books as the covers already have.

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She soon found herself in an A Ha video… (source)

So here is my plan. I am going to try and re-read as many of the original “Fear Street” books (and perhaps the occasional “Super-Chiller”) that I can get my hands on, and then review them here, much like Serena is doing with “Animorphs.” There will be snark. There won’t be much critical thinking or deconstruction, though hey, if something tickles my fancy in that regard, I’ll give it a whirl. And I will definitely be pointing out the funnier things, as well as the quirks that really jump out at me. Starting in February, these will be alternating on Tuesdays every other week, until I run out of “Fear Street” books (be it by finishing or unavailability), or my sanity snaps. Whichever comes first!

So join me if you will, and let’s take a walk down that one street in Shadyside that has all the kids talking. Revisiting “Fear Street” could be fun for everyone.

Serena’s Review & Giveaway: “The Bear and the Nightingale”

25489134Book: “The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden

Publishing Info: Del Rey, January 2917

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC

Book Description: At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Review: I received an ARC of this book and was so excited when it arrived on my doorstep. Of course, we all know that I love a good fairytale type fantasy novel. Further, Russian fairytales are a bit in vogue currently it seems. This probably started a few years ago with the “Shadow and Bone” series, but is still going strong today it seems. Only a few months ago I read yet another Russian fairytale, “Vassa in the Night,” which I had middling feelings about. So, I’ve been waiting, waiting for the good one to arrive. And here it is!

This book is a perfect example of when the cover art can in fact speak to the actual story. Looking at this cover, with the deep, dark cold blues of a winter night and the cloud of brightness and warmth blossoming in its center, beckoning the shadow of a young woman in from the dark, just so perfectly fits the mood, tone, and feel of this story. The feeling of winter, with its beauty, its power, and its danger pervades every moment in this story. The land itself is a character, and the changing of the seasons, its voice. But this world is home to Vasilisa and her family. They accept its challenges, just as they relish the unique joys that come with living far away in a deep dark woods.

What is so lovely about this story is the very “fairytale-ness” of it. There is no one fairytale that it is retelling, and, in many ways, it could also just be any old, winter fantasy novel in the hands of a less gifted author. But Arden nails that indescribable element that somehow transforms a story into a folktale. I’m not quite sure even what it is. Some combination of lyricism, philosophy, beautifully rendered characters, and a respect for the beauty that can be found in the whole process of storytelling, not just the destination. Juliet Marillier is one of my all time favorite authors due to her ability to capture what feels like the essence of folktales into her novels, and here, Arden, too, seems to  embody this same quality.

While this is Vasalisa’s story, in many ways, I loved how Arden didn’t short shift the characters that surrounded her. More and more, recently, I have found many young adult female protagonists seems to be written in a void. They are the only developed characters in their world, and that then leads to they themselves not being fully developed due to a lack of support and framework from which to interact. Here, we have Vasalisa’s father, her brothers, the priest who comes to their small village, the nurse, and the step mother. All fully realized, all with motives, all with unique perspectives and strengths and weaknesses. Not a single character is all good or all bad. Vasalisa’s father, so supportive much of the time, struggles with one of his son’s choices. The step mother, who is in many ways the villain of the story, has chapters that introduce her as a completely sympathetic individual. And even as we see her behave atrociously, we can understand how her world has shrunk, how she has been betrayed and manipulated by everyone around her, and how her every decisions operates from a place of stark terror.

This is a slow-moving story. The first fifty percent of it is setting up this world and these characters. I completely enjoyed this section as well, but it may seem slow to others who are looking for more fantasy action. But the second half completely delivers on this point, as well. There are many truly creepy and horrific moments, and plenty of other developments that simply left a smile on my face. The ending, too, was perfect. Bittersweet, poignant, and left open to interpretation. I can’t rave enough about this book! Another story that I’m sure will make my Top 10 for 2017! Apparently this is the first book in a trilogy, so I’m very excited to revisit this world and these characters going forward!

Rating 10: A perfect read for a snowy evening and a wonderful book all around.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Bear and the Nightingale” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Best of Russia”  and “Russian Fairy Tales.”

Find “The Bear and the Nightingale” at your library using Worldcat!

And, even better, you can enjoy this book, too! I’m hosting a give-away for the ARC of this book (cuz, let’s be honest, I’m going out to buy my own hardback any day now!). The giveaway will run until Feb. 1, 2017. Please see the Terms & Conditions for more details!

Click here to enter the give away!

Kate’s Review: “Fear the Drowning Deep”

23924355Book: “Fear the Drowning Deep” by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Publishing Info: Sky Pony Press, October 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

Review: So look, on paper this, to me, sounded like a straight up thriller with a supernatural twist to it. That’s why I’m reviewing this book that is, in actuality, pretty much just a straight up fantasy. Sorry, Serena, this is my genre today! That being said, there are definitely a number of strange and creepy things that really added to the potential of “Fear the Drowning Deep”. A witch’s apprentice? Murdered girls? ANCIENT EVIL IN THE WATER?

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Sign me up, I’m there! (source)’

But sadly, while I was all in and totally stoked, when I got to it, it didn’t quite live up to what I hoped it would. I think that what tripped this book up for me were a couple of things. One, my expectations were not met, and while that’s not the book’s fault, it nonetheless made it so I was setting myself up for a fall. The second thing is that it fell into too many traps of the fantasy romance YA genre, which I have become less and less forgiving of as time has gone on. You combine these two things, and then throw in a description that really played up more of a horror thriller angle than it was, and well, we’re bound to have some problems.

But hey, let’s start off with the things that I DID like about this story before we get into the negatives. First of all, I enjoyed the setting of this book, taking place on the Isle of Man in 1913. I don’t know much about the Isle of Man outside of the fact that the Bee Gees were from there, so seeing it in a historical setting with some of the mythology from the area were fun themes to explore. Bridey was an alright protagonist. I liked that she was a responsible teenager of her time, and while sometimes her aspirations kind of treaded towards the less pragmatic and more fanciful, by 1913 I think this is a more acceptable mentality for a teenage girl to have. I also really liked the storyline involving her and Morag, the island ‘witch’ whom Bridley apprentices for, just as her mother did when she was a girl. The parts of the story where Bridley was learning how to find ingredients for medicine, charms, and protection, were very intriguing to me, and I liked Morag’s role in the story as the misunderstood outsider. True, it got a bit aggravating when Bridley would dismiss Morag’s advice or warnings as superstitions or useless, because she has spent her whole life believing her to be some kind of witch! I have a hard time believing that she’d be so dense or haughty that she’d just toss this woman’s opinions out the window! It didn’t feel like it matched Bridley’s character, and that got a bit annoying.

I also liked the take and portrayals of various mythological creatures that you may not see as much in fantasy stories. Sure, we’ve all seen our fair share of dragons, vampires, and ghosts, but in this book we get sea serpents, Little Fellas, and fossegrims. Marsh has taken some long neglected mythologies and has given them a fresh perspective, and I think that this book could easily encourage interested parties to take a gander at these stories when they may not have otherwise.

However, a big strike against this book, for me, is that once again, we are met with the Dreaded Love Triangle. THIS time it’s between Bridley, her childhood friend Lugh, and the mysterious visitor Fynn, who washes up on shore one day with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Boy, a girl is torn between her true blue best friend and a strange and enigmatic newcomer. I sure haven’t read anything like THAT before.

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This is only compounded by the fact that a day before Fynn showed up, Bridley had been kissed by Lugh, and she had really quite liked it. But the moment that Fynn arrives, Lugh is completely out of her thoughts. It’s one thing if she was always a bit ambivalent about her feelings for him. It’s tired and worn out, but at least it’s realistic. Because MAN did she shift on a dime without any second thoughts. Plus, we got a ridiculous scene in which Finn and Lugh start fighting each other over her, and everyone felt a bit out of character all just for the drama. Lugh just didn’t feel like a character who even needed to be there, in all honesty. There was plenty of dramatics without Bridley having to be in the middle of a fight between the two stereotypes of romantic entanglements.

This book definitely had some things going for it, but overall “Fear the Drowning Deep” found itself in a couple of ruts that it never really pulled itself from. I really enjoyed the mythology aspect and the witch aspect, but there were too many well worn ideas that weren’t really reinvented to make it a complete stand out. Come for the mythos, try and tolerate the repetitiveness.

Rating 6: Though original in some ways, “Fear the Drowning Deep” wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, and fell into too many YA traps.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Fear the Drowning Deep” can be found on the following Goodreads lists: “Sea Creatures”, and “All Things Celtic”.

Find “Fear the Drowning Deep” at your library using WorldCat!

Guest Author: Kristen Twardowski

As a special treat this week, we have a guest post from blogger and author, Kristen Twardowski. Kristen wrote the book “When We Go Missing”, and has put together a post ruminating on reading, writing, her personal inspiration, and advice for aspiring authors. We are very lucky that she is willing to share these insights with us, and send her thanks and gratitude.

Welcome Kristen!

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I’ve long suspected that books, the ones we love as well as the ones we’ll never see, haunt both readers. Many of us read because we are searching for something. Maybe it is as simple as entertainment, but more often we want to find a book that makes us feel a certain way or one that tells us something about ourselves or our world.

For me, writing deals with those same issues. I write because I am looking for the answers to questions that I don’t always know I’m asking. This quest has followed me throughout my life. I like knowing things and have found there are many different ways to learn them.

History will always be my first love. I studied it in undergrad, and during my graduate work I focused on gender, particularly different iterations of masculinity in Imperial Germany. I have also worked with a wolf research and education center where we studied animal behavior and held various tours and seminars for the public. My professional life has also always revolved around sharing knowledge. I worked in academic libraries before I transitioned into the academic publishing industry where I have worked in books editorial and journals sales and marketing departments. I currently am in a role where I perform data analysis and promote books and journals. Though I never envisioned myself as a numbers person, my job is a rewarding one that ensures that readers have access to different perspectives of the world.

I recently delved into one of those alternate viewpoints in my debut novel When We Go Missing, which was released in December 2016. The novel is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Alex Gardinier, a woman who believes that her ex-husband is a serial killer and who can do nothing to stop him from her room in a psychiatric ward. When I began to write the book, I was looking to explore several themes: how people get away with murder in the United States and how the various victims of violent crimes respond to trauma. In particular, I delved into the ways that the justice system underserves poor communities, immigrants, and minority populations.

I struggled with several different aspects of writing When We Go Missing. At the most basic level, the book was on a quicker timetable than I prefer. When left to my own devices, I stew over manuscripts for long enough too ruin them. In the summer of 2016, I decided to try and overcome this roadblock by committing to publishing When We Go Missing before the start of 2017. I also found myself battling against the urge to write a nonfiction study of crime in the United States. Academia nursed me at its bosom, so the temptation to simply analyze the world was always there. I did manage to restrain myself and did not fill the novel with footnotes and citations. (The struggle was a real one.)

Now that When We Go Missing has been released into the world I have several other manuscripts that I am currently working on. The first of them is work that I like to call a modern mythology and is loosely inspired by Old Norse legends. The second manuscript is a coming of age story, which is not a subject that I ever anticipated writing about. I simply woke up one day and needed to put ideas to paper. I will very likely pursue publishing the modern mythology, but the future of the coming of age tale remains unclear.

In some ways, writing a modern mythology is returning to my roots. I am a fantasy lover at heart because those stories often distill truths about life even when surrounded by absurd and magical things. (But aren’t those things true in their own ways as well? Life is a little absurd and a little magical after all.) My favorite authors include folks like Diana Wynne Jones, Peter S. Beagle, Jan Siegel, and Melanie Rawn because they manage to portray existence in all of its beauty, and complexity, and wonder, and sadness. I always hope that that tangled web of emotion bleeds into my writing.

I encourage all aspiring writers to spend a little time on self-reflection and determine what stories they want to tell. Not everyone has to have the existential wonderings that I wander into, but writing is about more than simply putting words together. It is also about knowing what you want to say, knowing what you don’t know, and trying to draw the reader into that emotional and intellectual space. As I said before, we read to find meaning. Writers should acknowledge if only to themselves what truth they are trying to find.

Visit Kristen at https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/

And check out Kate’s review of her book “When We Go Missing”