Giveaway: “Fireborne”

36578543Book: “Fireborne” by Rosaria Munda

Publication Info:G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, October 15

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from BookishFirst

Book Description: Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

Giveaway Details: “Fireborne” is an October release that has been getting a decent amount of buzz in the months leading up to it. I had it on several TBR lists (yes, I categorize those; I’m a librarian, no one should be surprised) and saw it repeatedly highlighted by other readers as a title they were looking forward to.

Dragons are pretty popular right now. But really, when were they not?? I think the bigger standouts for me were the “similar to’s” that have made their way into the marketing. Some of the earlier buzz highlighted that the book was drawing inspiration from Plato’s “The Republic” which was part of my initial interest. What a cool concept! And unique! My last experience with a book drawing on a lesser known inspirational story (“The Lady and the Tiger”) was a bit of a no-go, so we’ll see if this book does a better job of it.

I also recently saw that the new promotional materials are now making comparisons between this and “Red Rising” which really just confirms things for me. I loved the heck out of the entire first trilogy in that series (the next installment of books have so far been a bit more dark than I prefer, but I’m still liking them). Even with this book’s description, I can see the connections to that story. Both seem to deal with the realities of revolution and how the differing sides can each be right and wrong at the same time.

My full review for this book is coming up this Friday, but don’t wait until then to enter to receive your copy! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents and ends October 15.

Click here to enter!

Kate’s Review: “The Turn of the Screw”

12948._sy475_Book: “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

Publishing Info: The Macmillan Company, October 1898

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Book Description: A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Review: I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a huge gap in my literature experience when it come to ‘the classics’. I took a rather unconventional load of English and Lit courses in high school and college, and because of that a number of stories have been left behind. The horror genre is no exception, surprisingly enough. I have had “The Turn of the Screw” in the back of my mind since I was a teenager, and it sat on my Kindle for a few years after I purchased a few old school horror reads that then just sat there. My motivation to finally read this book came from two places; I read “The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware and knew I was probably missing less known references, and the next Mike Flanagan “Haunting” series is going to be based on this Henry James ghost story. It was obviously time to dive in and read the tale of terror that has influenced so much of the genre.

“The Turn of the Screw” was one of those game changing tales that pushed the ideas of horror and what you could do within the genre itself. There is no denying that Henry James paved the way for modern haunted house tales like “The Haunting of Hill House” and movies like “The Others” when he took ideas of unreliable narrators and unsettling ghosts vs over the top ghosts and put them on the page. Some of the things that I really liked about this book were because of these tweaks and experimentations. “The Turn of the Screw” takes great Gothic elements and completely acknowledges the influence from Gothic stories, be it references to “Jane Eyre” or “The Mysteries of Udolpho”. Bly is isolated and distant, and the unnamed Governess is left there with two strange children, another servant, and no head of house for guidance or direction. As she falls more and more into physical isolation, so too does her mind fall into mental isolation, which is really what you need for a Gothic theme to really have a punch. I also really appreciate how James wrote this story in a way that makes the Governess a completely unreliable narrator, and that we can’t quite figure out whether or not there are actual ghosts and Bly that want to take the children, or if she is slowly descending into madness and she is the actual threat the whole time. It’s left up to interpretation, and arguments can be made for either scenario. I honestly don’t know where I fall on the ‘was it ghosts or insanity’ argument, James was so convincing of both. And frankly, I don’t know which would be the worse answer, given how the story ends. Along with that, in my mild bit of research into the background of this story, James was one of the first people to write ghosts in an unsettling way as opposed to over the top and melodramatic. And that really stands out in this story, as the ghosts of Quint and Miss Jessel are more inclined to move through the grounds or appear in dark hallways and merely stand there as opposed to rattling chains and wailing. And for me, that’s far more creepy and disturbing. There were moments of imagery in this book that sent chills up my spine.

Was it a mistake to read this book after dark while my husband was out of town? Almost assuredly. (source)

However, the reason that I am giving “The Turn of the Screw” a lower rating than one might expect from my praise is because of the writing style of the time period. This almost always knocks me off my game and distracts me when it comes to ‘classic’ stories, and “The Turn of the Screw” definitely fell into the trap of a lot of flowery language and slogging scenes with not as much action as I would have liked. When comparing it to another classic haunted house story like “The Haunting of Hill House”, I felt like it didn’t have the kind of pacing where the stakes were being repeatedly raised and the dread was building after every incident. I appreciate how this would have been groundbreaking for the time and how much it has done for the ghost stories that came after it. But for me, it was more of a slog to get through than I would have liked.

I think that reading “The Turn of the Screw” was ultimately a good choice, as I see how it works as a foundation for so many stories that I love. But it’s not one that I see myself revisiting as time goes on, as I might with “The Haunting of Hill House” or other classics like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

Rating 6: A classic horror story that paved the way for many themes within a genre, “The Turn of the Screw” has moments of dread, but sometimes is held back by the style it was written in.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Turn of the Screw” is included on the Goodreads lists “Books With Unreliable Narrators”, and “Quick Books”.

Find “The Turn of the Screw” at your library using WorldCat!

Highlights: October 2019

We are now entering the Season of the Witch, and that means a few things here at The Library Ladies! For one, it means that Kate’s Annual Horrorpalooza is in full swing. It also means that cardigans and cozy clothing is coming out of Serena’s closet. And, of course, it means that we have some Highlights for books coming out this month!

Serena’s Picks

42283300Book: “The Throne of the Five Winds” by S. C. Emmett

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Good, epic, political fantasies are hard to come by. There are a lot of moving pieces and complicated plots that need to play out just right so that readers can follow what is happening but still be surprised by the end result. This story featuring multiple princes’ bids for the throne, a political hostage princess and a handmaiden who is more than she seems sure does sound like it has all the pieces for it! I had to re-read the description itself to even start to get an idea of who is at the heart of this story. This could be a really good sign…or not. But I can’t wait to find out!

36510437Book: “The Art of Theft” by Sherry Thomas

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Obviously. I’ve been staring down my early review copy of this one for ages trying to hold out until I’m at least close to the month it is going to be released. The last story showed a definite shift in the relationship between Charlotte Holmes and Lord Ingram, but it also left things quite up in the air as to where the story would go from there. Knowing the Holmes we’ve seen so far, that relationship will take a second seat to whatever new case falls on her plate. This time it comes in the form of an old friend of Mrs. Watson’s who is needing Charlotte and the gang to take on a more active role in their investigation than ever before.

36578543Book: “Fireborne” by Rosaria Munda

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Why I’m Interested: With comparisons to Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” and a cover that is prominently featuring a dragon, “Fireborne was an obvious pick for me. Annie and Lee were both children when the revolution struck, each experiencing the horrors from very different walks of life. Now, they are both part of an elite corp of dragon riders working to gain entrance into the new regime’s dragon unit. But it turns out the revolution is not as over as everyone thought, and now Annie and Lee find themselves again splitting on opposite sides of the aisle. I’m hopeful that the comparison to “Red Rising” has more to do with the exploration of the challenges and moral gray zones of revolutions (a pretty interesting topic) and less to do with non-stop action (another thing “Red Rising” excelled at.) Not that I don’t like action and expect that, too. But the story was also said to draw from Plato’s “The Republic,” so…what does that look like??

Kate’s Picks

31934011Book: “Ghoster” by Jason Arnopp

Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Given that I absolutely loved Jason Arnopp’s previous novel “The Last Days of Jack Sparks”, I was ecstatic to see that he was coming out with a new novel. In “Ghoster” he shifts his satirical eye from viral videos to the enticing power of social media and online dating. When Kate meets Scott they have a whirlwind romance, and when he invites her to move in she’s ecstatic. But just a few days before she’s supposed to move in, he stops answering her calls. Her friends think she’s been ghosted, but Kate is convinced that something else is going on, and she starts an obsessive search to find out what happened to Scott. And what she finds may be more disturbing than anyone ever thought. I am very excited to tackle this follow up novel!

43522576Book: “Imaginary Friend” by Stephen Chbosky

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Confession time! I haven’t actually read “The Perks of Being A Wallflower”, the classic YA book by Stephen Chbosky. I know enough about it, though, to know that it’s not a horror novel, so I was VERY interested when I heard he was coming out with a new literary horror book. After Kate leaves her abusive relationship, she and her son Christopher flee to a small town across the country. Then Christopher disappears for nearly a week. Though he’s found safe and sound, something has changed within him. And he says he has a mission: build a tree house by Christmas, or there will be dire consequences. The premise is odd and eerie, and I’m quite curious to see how it all shakes out.

44774415._sy475_Book: “Mooncakes” by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Perhaps it’s not a horror novel, but it still has spooky and witchy themes, so I’m down for it. In “Mooncakes” a young adult witch named Nova is learning how to harness her magic thanks to her grandmothers. When her childhood friend Tam comes back into her life, she reconnects with her friend she lost a long time ago. Tam is a werewolf, and their connection is still as strong as ever. But someone, or something, with evil intent is looking for Tam, and Nova and her grandmothers want to help Tam before it’s too late. This story sounds adorable and sweet, and like it could be a contender for a gentler Halloween read!

What new books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!


Serena’s Review: “Deathcaster”

39320115Book: “Deathcaster” by Cinda Williams Chima

Publication Info: HarperTeen, March 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!


Warrior Alyssa ana’Raisa would do anything to protect her home, the Fells, and her legacy, the Gray Wolf Line. But as a prisoner of Empress Celestine, Lyss is forced to turn her fearsome talents as an army commander against her beloved homeland. Refusal would swiftly lead to her death, and her death would end the Gray Wolf Line.


In Lyss’s absence, Fellsmarch Castle swarms with intrigue, deception, and a primordial threat. Destin Karn, a Southern spymaster with a hidden agenda of his own, might be the queendom’s only hope of defeating the forces aligned against the Seven Realms… as well as the enemies within the castle.


Review: While so far this series hasn’t lived up to the super high expectations I had from the previous series set in this world, I’ve still be quite enjoying it and looking forward to the conclusion. At the end of the last book, our main characters were all spread out across this world and each faced what seemed like insurmountable odds. There was a lot of ground to cover in this last book, and for the most part, I was pleased with how things were wrapped up!

As Celestine’s forces continue to grow, headed up by the unwilling Lyss, both the northern and the southern realms struggle to set aside their long-lasting war to meet this new threat. Her brother and a gang of fellows set out to rescue her, headed by the pirate lord, Evan, whom no one is sure is even trustworthy. And Jenna and Cas circle in closer, hoping to get their own chance at the Empress who has hunted them for so long. It is left to Hal and the spy master Destin to head off the brewing war on the home front. As their paths twist and cross, it becomes clear that no one really understands Celestine’s long-game and without knowing that, can they defeat her?

Overall, this was a very satisfying conclusion to the story. There were a lot of moving pieces on the board, and while I had predicted some of the resolutions that came to play, there were still quite a few surprises in store, including elements I hadn’t expected at all. The biggest surprise was Celestine herself and the driving force behind her history and quest. Given that this has been the big mystery at the heart of this series, I was gratified that in this area, at least, I hadn’t been able to predict the ending.

I do wish, however, that more time had been given to this reveal once it came about (this will be a recurring complaint). It’s only at the very end of the book that we discover the secret histories of many of our main characters. And then once we do, it all kind of just ends. With a huge mystery like this that has been laid out across four different books now and explains hitherto unknown histories of multiple main characters, I just feel like a bit more time is needed to really settle into what that revelation would even mean. As it stands, we are only in the head of one of the three when the truth comes out. We never really get to see how the other two react to or process this new information. And then the actual action of the climax itself felt very rushed. Again, for the big bad of the entire series, I wanted more than what we got in a few brief pages with a sudden end.

With this action taking up so little page time, much more time was spent on the internal war between the two realms. This isn’t necessarily a complaint, but it wasn’t what I expected. The story had seemed to be going more the dragon/zombie soldier route with Celestine at its heart. Instead, we had much more time spent on the maneuvers of various, vast armies and the internal politics of two different courts. These were all fun enough, but not what I had been expecting. The court politics, especially, went in a direction that I hadn’t anticipated at all. But in this same vein, the story introduced a new force of evil (or at least a new face for it) and that added yet another thing to be dealt with in a limited span of pages, leaving another storyline feeling oddly truncated.

As for our main characters, they were all given much to do and I was satisfied with all of their arcs. People’s views on this will vary depending on which characters interest them the most. I think it’s fairly well balanced, but my favorite few characters did end up with a bit more time and attention than some others. There were a lot of reunions to get through, including three romantic pairings who had been split up for several books now. Again, this is a lot of emotional ground to cover. Each was good enough on its own, but I also wanted more for all of them. In many ways, each of them were still left with pretty big question marks in the end. We get a couple of reunions about halfway through the book, but then never really check back in with them as a couple after events have played out. I’m still not clear on what was going on with another group. And the last, while given a bit more, I think, also had the biggest events hinging on their future, together or separately, and thus, again, needed significantly more time for it to feel resolved.

As you can tell, my biggest complaint about this book was the fact that there was simply too much to get done in a single book. I’m all for succinct writing and not adding bloat to a series, but there also comes a time and place where it’s best to admit that the story is better served by more page time, even if that means an additional book. It’s easy to see how this series would fall into that category. The sheer number of main characters, the scope of the conflicts playing out, and the nature of the villains at the heart of things leaves a lot of ground to cover. It would have been almost impossible to wrap it all up in a satisfying and thorough manner in one book. As it stand, I was still satisfied with the ending; there was just so much potential for it all to be just a bit more.

This is a bit of an aside, but I also found myself increasingly distracted by the fact that this was a YA series. On one hand, it’s great that there are so many fantasy novels being published in YA currently. But I also feel like there are YA fantasty stories that would have been vastly improved for having been, simply, adult fantasy. It almost feels like we’ve entered some strange reality where fantasy is almost always YA, except for a few notable exceptions. But this series? In so many ways, this is very similar to “Game of Thrones” in scope and nature. And given some detail and page length, two things that often come up with adult novels, this story would have been so much better.

Beyond that, it became very distracting trying to reconcile the nature of our characters as presented with the age they are supposed to be. Lyss and Hal are both supposed to be incredibly talented and respected military leaders. And yet they’re both teenagers. There’s no way you cut it that the timing of their age and the years it takes to gain both the skill and notoriety they are said to have can match up. Evan is a notorious pirate lord. Devan is a master spy. And those are just the first examples. It applies to every single one of our characters: given their age, they would not be where they are. Many YA books run into this problem, but it’s easier to ignore if it’s just a main character that is this strange exception (though this was one of my problems with “Throne of Glass,” too, so who knows). But when you have this huge cast of characters and they all play important roles in their various corners of the world, the credibility of it all begins to go down the drain fast. Obviously, this isn’t anything new for this book but for some reason it stood out more for me in this book.

Fans of this series will likely be happy with this book. Depending on who your favorite characters are, you may be a bit more or less happy than others, but I think they are all satisfying in their own ways. I do think the book would have been much better served had it been split into two books; there was just too much plot and too many characters for it all to be covered sufficiently in just the one story. As for the age thing, that was a personal distraction, but will likely not bother others. Overall, I preferred the first series in this world better, but I did end up quite enjoying this one as well and am looking forward to what Williams Chima does next!

Rating 8: Could have been better served with more page time or, better yet, more books, but a fun, satisfying series, in the end!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Deathcaster” isn’t on any relevant Goodreads lists, but the series as a whole should be on “What to read after George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire)?”

Find “Deathcaster” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Season of the Witch”

43261389Book: “Season of the Witch” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Publishing Info: Scholastic Inc, July 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: It’s the summer before her sixteenth birthday, and Sabrina Spellman knows her world is about to change. She’s always studied magic and spells with her aunts, Hilda and Zelda. But she’s also lived a normal mortal life – attending Baxter High, hanging out with her friends Susie and Roz, and going to the movies with her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle.

Now time is running out on her every day, normal world, and leaving behind Roz and Susie and Harvey is a lot harder than she thought it would be. Especially because Sabrina isn’t sure how Harvey feels about her. Her cousin Ambrose suggests performing a spell to discover Harvey’s true feelings. But when a mysterious wood spirit interferes, the spell backfires in a big way.

Sabrina has always been attracted to the power of being a witch. But now she can’t help wondering if that power is leading her down the wrong path. Will she choose to forsake the path of light and follow the path of night?

Review: It’s Halloween season, and I had initially thought that that meant that we would be getting the next installment of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass. I am always going to be waiting on pins and needles for new content for this show and anything related to it (STILL WAITING ON VOLUME 2 OF THE COMICS!!), so thank goodness we have “Season of the Witch” by Sarah Rees Brennan to tide us over until it comes back!

Couldn’t have said it better myself! (source)

This novel is part of the TV show canon, and serves as a prequel to the series set a few months before the first season. Sabrina Spellman, the teenage half mortal/half witch, is still struggling with her identity as she prepares for her dark baptism. She loves her mortal friends, but knows that if she takes the path of darkness she may have to say goodbye. It’s a conflict that has kind of been left behind on the show, and I’m not sure that I felt the need to revisit it at this point. I totally get why a book would function better as a prequel than occurring at the same time as the show since we don’t know what that canon is going to look like. I did like the overall plot for the most part, however, even if it did feel a little bit regressive, thematically. I liked seeing Sabrina take risks, risks that didn’t always pay off, and I liked how she and her cousin Ambrose interacted within the plot as he helps her with a potential ‘love spell’. Ambrose and Sabrina’s relationship is one that we see bits of on the show, but Brennan puts it at the forefront of the plot, and really lets us see the ups and downs of it and how they perceive each other in positive and negative ways. Ambrose envies Sabrina because of her freedom (which at this point he still does not have, as he’s still under house arrest), while Sabrina is resentful of the fact that he is more favored by Aunts Hilda and Zelda than she is, in her mind. They care about each other, but the tension definitely starts to bubble over, and it made for the most emotional part of the story. The rest of the plot was pretty okay too, though I will say that it doesn’t really add much to the show mythology. But on the other hand, it relies on it enough that I think you really do have to watch the show first in order to fully understand a number of the plot points and implications, even as a prequel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping it would stand on it’s own a little bit more.

However, I really liked the characterizations of this book. The majority of the perspective is, of course, Sabrina’s, but interspersed throughout are vignette chapters that give you insight into the other characters within the series. From Aunt Hilda to Roz to Theo (still Susie at this point) to Harvey, everyone gets a chance to shine. Aunt Hilda is especially well done, as Brennan captures her kindness and quirkiness with ease. But the best ones were the ones I wasn’t expecting as much. The first is the chapter revolving around Prudence, the head of the Weird Sisters and Sabrina’s frenemy. Prudence is complex on the show, but what I liked best about her chapter was that we got to see a deep look into her insecurities about feeling like she doesn’t really belong anywhere, and how Sabrina’s loving family makes Prudence envious, and therefore leads to her lashing out. Prudence is a top three character for me on the show, and I liked seeing her vulnerability really explored. The other chapter was even less expected, and that focused on Harvey’s brother Tommy. All we really know about Tommy on the show is that he is the most supportive person in Harvey’s life, and that he is a great person and a golden boy around town. But in his chapter we really got into his mind and his heart when it comes to Harvey, and why he stayed behind in Greendale when he had other opportunities. This chapter was endearing and rather bittersweet, as we know how things change and shift within the Kinkle family as the show goes on.

Fans of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” will find a fun and entertaining story in “Season of the Witch”. It may not add much to the universe as a whole, but it gives the reader some really good material for the characters that we know and love. It’s a witchy read for this witchy time of year!

Rating 7: A cute and fun side story/prequel to the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Netflix show. It doesn’t add much to the mythology and even reverts a little too much sometimes, but it does explore character motivations of characters who don’t get as much attention on the show.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Season of the Witch” is on some pretty broad Goodreads lists, but I think it would also fit in on “Young Adult Novels with Witches”, and “All Hallows Reads”.

Find “Season of the Witch” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Gameshouse”

41716946Book: “The Gameshouse” by Claire North

Publishing Info: Orbit, May 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!

Book Description: Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets…

It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon – every game under the sun.
But those whom fortune favors may be invited to compete in the higher league… a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all…

Review: This book sounded like something altogether different. So different in fact that I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting! Was this a fantasy story? Some type of sci-fi dystopian future ala “The Hunger Games?” Would the said three contestants be fighting against each other? The sheer mystery of all, plus the appropriately creepy cover, was enough for me!

Throughout history disasters have struck, luck has failed one and served another, the slightest change can have lasting effects. It all seems so random. But what if behind many of these grand events lay a sinister and beguiling underworld where grand players used the entire earth as their playing board and kings and countries as their pawns? Who would join such a game? And more importantly, who would win?

Other than the intriguing general description, I didn’t know a whole lot about this book before picking up. Most importantly, I didn’t know that it had previously been released as three separate novellas. Once I realized this, it didn’t hugely change my take on the book, it is a fact worth noting going in, that this isn’t your typical, singe protagonist, linear story that one typically expects to find in novels. But, given the stories it does tell, I think the three separate novellas do fit very well together as a larger collection like this. It would have been interesting reading them individually, but together, you can see a greater progression, especially in the scale of the “games,” as each story unfolds.

That said, while the scale does get grander from the first to the last, I do think I enjoyed the first story the most. The smaller, more intimate setting and stakes somehow made it all feel a bit more personal and lead me to be more invested in the protagonist of that story and its outcome. As the three stories unfold, the fantasy elements begin to take over more completely. The first one felt more grounded as an alternate history with only a smidge of fantasy thrown in.

While the fantasy increased, story by story, I really liked the alternate history and blend of historical ficiton and fantasy that was woven across all three. These stories are definitely global and I liked that we got to deep dive into a few locations and times that aren’t often seen. The second book in particular, with its lush descriptions of early 20th century Thailand, was very interesting. While Venice (the setting of the first book) is always fun, it’s definitely a more common setting for a story. And the third one takes place in modern days and across the entire world. Each of these three had their own strengths, but, setting-wise, I did like the second one best.

The writing was also strong and quirky, living up to all the absurdity of its concept without becoming a mockery of it. There were some clever bit of commentary on identity, order, and chaos that were also slipped in there between the high stakes and increasing fantasy fare. I haven’t read anything else by this author, but this one was pretty darn fun and fans of hers are sure to be pleased. New readers might just find a new author to check out as well!

Rating 8: Three unique stories that seamlessly blend alternative history, fantasy and thrilling adventure!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Gameshouse” isn’t on any Goodreads lists, but it should be on “Let the (deadly) games begin!”

Find “The Gameshouse” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Full Throttle”

43801817Book: “Full Throttle” by Joe Hill

Publishing Info: William Morrow, October 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears, and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending my an eARC of this book!

Happy Horrorpalooza 2019 everyone! As you may know, in October I try to stick to books that have horror based or Halloween-y themes, as this is absolutely my favorite time of the year and I like to inundate myself with all things scary and spooky. So how lucky are we that we get to kick off the month with a book from one of my favorite horror authors, Joe Hill. Hill is one of those authors that I will always swear my devotion to, and so when I found out that he had a new short stories collection coming out I was stoked as heck. Granted, I had already read a few of the tales in “Full Throttle”, his new collection, as they had been published previously with other collections or in collaboration with his father, Stephen King. But a majority of the tales were new to me, and I couldn’t wait to tackle them all. As per usual with short stories collections, I’ll talk about my favorites, and then give an overall review of the series as a whole. And I have lots to say about my favorites.

“Dark Carousel”

This story is one of the most blatantly horror-centric tales in the collection, and it has a good amount of winking and nudging towards well loved tropes and stories in the genre. With nods towards “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, I took great delight in this creepy tale. Four friends attend a carnival and take a ride on the carousel. After they accuse the carousel operator of wrongdoing, they decide to have some fun and take their revenge on him. But little do they know that they are being watched by non-human eyes, and that their misdeeds will have dire consequences. I really, really loved this story, from the characterizations of our protagonists to the slow build of dread at the carnival and afterwards, and the come down that has ambiguity and a sense of inevitability. The loving references to “Something Wicked This Way Comes” were fun to spot, and the overall wrongness of the carnival and the carousel made for an eerie and unsettling, yet never over the top, scary story. The story isn’t terribly complicated, but it is very effective in what it is trying to achieve. The best horror story in the collection for me, hands down.

“By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain”

This was one of the stories I had read previously before picking up this book, but given how much I loved it the first time I was excited (and apprehensive) to read it again. But on a second go through, my love for the story only grew, and it is probably my favorite story in the collection. Friends Gail and Joel are visiting Lake Champlain on vacation, and one lazy Sunday morning the two of them find the body of what looks to be a plesiosaur-like reptile. Convinced it’s the famed lake monster Champ, they have dreams that their discovery will make them rich and famous. But instead of fame and glory, they have to confront the hard truths of growing up, loss, and mortality. I first read this story a few years ago, and it blew me away and left me crying. Reading it this time and knowing how it all ends made the experience all the more bittersweet. Hill has the ability to capture tween and teenage voices in authentic ways, and he also knows how to give hints to his characters realities without being explicit. We can surmise that Gail and Joel are both a bit lonely at home, and that their parents, at least during this story, are more focused on nursing vacation hangovers than on their children and what they are getting up to on a foggy morning by the lake. Gail and Joel are probably friends more based on circumstance than anything else, but that doesn’t make their friendship any less valid, nor does it cheapen the ultimate ending this story has. They are connected by interest in the Lake Champlain Monster as well, and honestly anything that shows weird and funny friendship obsessions with cryptids is going to resonate with me, given my past (and present) fascinations with similar topics. But on top of that, for me this is one of the most emotionally charged stories in the bunch (one of the others will be addressed in a moment). Hill is so good at writing grief and trauma, and the last paragraphs are still haunting and incredibly emotional. This is a story that I would LOVE to see expanded into a novel, where Gail goes back to the lake to try to get answers and closure. And even on the second read through I was left a bit emotionally compromised. Nay, extremely emotionally compromised.

Actual footage of my emotions at the end. (source)

“Late Returns”

I will wholeheartedly own up to the fact that as a librarian I was no doubt going to be biased towards this story. A new librarian, trying to escape his own grief and loss, takes over the Bookmobile job in hopes of spreading the love of reading to people who can’t necessarily make it into the actual library. As he makes the rounds, he starts to encounter people from other times, who may need to read books that were published after their deaths in order to feel complete. This is one of the less creepy or scary stories from the collection, and the unabashed love of reading and the testament to the power of a book is so sublime and wholesome. Hill also tinkers and plays with the idea of time and space continuums in this story in really unique ways. For example, should one of these ‘late returns’ (the name given to the out of time patrons) pick up a book that was published after their death, it may be indecipherable to them if they shouldn’t be reading it. But it will also morph it’s design to fit the design of the era the person was from. It’s little details like these that feel original and incredibly clever. On top of that, we get more emotional moments for some of the characters, from our protagonist processing his own grief to one late return whose son is fighting in Vietnam, and she doesn’t know if she will ever see him again. Again, while I love the scares and thrills that Hill creates, it’s how he taps into the human condition and all its complexities that makes him stand out.

As for the rest of the collection, most if the stories are strong in their own ways. The two collaborations with his Dad show how well they work together, though I will say that “In The Tall Grass” (another I’d read previously) sort of makes me feel like they were trying to one up each other in the shocks department (and I ultimately didn’t really care for it when all was said and done). It is a good balance of a number of genres, and they all fit together even if they aren’t explicitly connected. At the end he has little background notes about how each came to be written, and I thought that gave them even more context which enhanced the reading experience.

“Full Throttle” is a perfectly compiled collection of Hill’s various offerings, and if you want a taste of what he can do, you have a smorgasbord to choose from.

Rating 8: A solid collection of horror, thriller, and dark fantasy, “Full Throttle” has scares and heart and confirms Joe Hill’s prowess as an author of many genres.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Full Throttle” is included on the Goodreads list “Horror to Look Forward To in 2019”.

Find “Full Throttle” at your library using WorldCat!