Serena’s Review: “Age of Legend”

22819354Book: “Age of Legend” by Michael J. Sullivan

Publishing Info: Grim Oak Press, July 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Book Description: With “Age of Myth,” “Age of Swords,” and “Age of War,” fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan riveted readers with a tale of unlikely heroes locked in a desperate battle to save mankind. After years of warfare, humanity has gained the upper hand and has pushed the Fhrey to the edge of their homeland, but no farther. Now comes the pivotal moment. Persephone’s plan to use the stalemate to seek peace is destroyed by an unexpected betrayal that threatens to hand victory to the Fhrey and leaves a dear friend in peril. Her only hope lies in the legend of a witch, a forgotten song, and a simple garden door.

Previously Reviewed: “Age of Myth” , “Age of Swords” and “Age of War”

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers for the first three books in this review, so reader beware!

Review: I don’t know how many ways there are to write an introductory paragraph to a series of books that you’ve been raving about the entire time. Yes, more of the same! Loved, loved, loved it! Yada yada. So without any ado for that, let’s just jump into the book summary and actual discussion!

While humankind one a massive victory in the last book, one that also cost an enormous price, the war has now been dragging on for years. Persephone and her people have slowly pushed forward, and it’s clear that they pose a real threat to the Fhrey people. This growing fear results in the leaders of the Fhrey admitting one crucial fact: regardless of the “crudeness” of the human species, they have a powerful weapon in the form of Suri, the only human so far to master the Art, and thus she must be dealt with before all else. This realization sets off a tragic chain of events that can only be stopped by another band of characters setting off on an impossible mission, this time one that leads into the very heart of the Fhrey land.

Given the dramatic events in the previous book, it was inevitable that this one would read very differently. For one, the loss of Raithe is huge. Not only do we lose the man whose actions ultimately lead to this conflict and a pretty important POV character, but he had a lot of important connections to the other characters. His loss is felt by both the reader and these other characters. I very much appreciate the fact that Sullivan picked up the story at a few different time periods. By doing this, he allowed readers an insight into the thoughts and feelings of characters into this loss over a period of time. We see the initial loss and signs of grief (anger, regret, etc.), and we also see how this loss continues to play out as characters, especially Suri and Persephone, are forced to make difficult choices.

Suri’s burden is by far the heavier. The dragon she created with Raithe’s sacrifice was pretty much solely responsible for the humans’ victory. It is so powerful that the knowledge and use of this “spell,” for lack of a better word, is pretty much all it takes to win the war for one side of the other. But the price is incredibly high and Suri has had to pay it twice now. Naturally, her conclusion is that she must not love anyone or anything to avoid future tragedy. But she’s not alone in this war, and there are those on both sides of the fight who would pay dearly for her to use it again or to teach someone else how to wield this deadly ability.

Persephone, for her part, has to deal with the regret she feels for turning Raithe away with false words of disinterest all those years ago. Instead, she has had to follow the path she set out for herself, making practical decisions for the betterment of her people. These decisions have come with some joy, but also a lot of increased pain, worry, and self-sacrificed. The Persephone we see in this book is the worn-down leader, a war-time general who has been fighting for too long.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, one of the things that stands out the most in this series is Sullivan’s ability to juggle a large cast of characters and choose just the right POV character for every situation. We’re always seeing event through the perfect angle, and just when you begin wondering what so-and-so’s take would be on events, bam! They get the very next chapter! It all plays out so smoothly and at times it feels like the author is reading one’s mind with regards to what is needed next to keep this perfect juggling act in order. This being the case, there were several characters in this book who we got to see more POV chapters from and I very much enjoyed it.

I also loved the story itself, though it is a bit handicapped by the overall nature of the book. Sullivan provides and introduction to the work and in it explains that the book was originally one longer book that was split into two. This is pretty clear as one reads the book, and especially at the end (big cliffhanger warning there!). But this is a half-hearted complaint at worst. For one, in the hands of a more strict editor trying to force it into one book, we may have lost some of the early chapters that gave us earlier scenes in time than when the majority of the story takes place. We might have missed out on some of the important character work that was laid down in these chapters, especially dealing with the fall-out of Raithe’s death, as I mentioned above. This type of devotion to key character moments is what has allowed the series to maintain its large cast. So while the pacing of this story might have suffered for having to be split into two books, I would still prefer this result to the likely other option of reduced character moments in the service of plot.

Like I said, there’s a pretty major cliffhanger at the end of this book, but don’t let that deter you! I zipped through this book, and it has done all the work needed to set up the next one as even more thrilling. Definitely check it out! And don’t forget to enter for our current giveaway for an ARC version of the book. 

Rating 8: There aren’t really any new ways of praising this series other than to wag my finger at any epic fantasy readers who haven’t jumped on this wagon yet!

Reader’s Advisory

“Age of War” isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists, but it should be “Popular Ensemble Cast Books.”

Find “Age of War” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Growing Things and Other Stories”

42118050Book: “Growing Things and Other Stories” by Paul Tremblay

Publishing Info: William Morrow, July 2019

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

Book Description: A chilling anthology featuring nineteen pieces of short fiction from the multiple award-winning author of the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.

In “The Teacher,” a Bram Stoker Award nominee for best short story, a student is forced to watch a disturbing video that will haunt and torment her and her classmates’ lives.

Four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint only to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene in “The Getaway.”

In “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” a meth addict kidnaps her daughter from her estranged mother as their town is terrorized by a giant monster . . . or not.

Joining these haunting works are stories linked to Tremblay’s previous novels. The tour de force metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers” deconstructs horror and publishing, possibly bringing in a character from A Head Full of Ghosts, all while serving as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. “The Thirteenth Temple” follows another character from A Head Full of Ghosts—Merry, who has published a tell-all memoir written years after the events of the novel. And the title story, “Growing Things,” a shivery tale loosely shared between the sisters in A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full.

From global catastrophe to the demons inside our heads, Tremblay illuminates our primal fears and darkest dreams in startlingly original fiction that leaves us unmoored. As he lowers the sky and yanks the ground from beneath our feet, we are compelled to contemplate the darkness inside our own hearts and minds.

Review: I want to extend a thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

I’ll be honest and up front here. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but short story collections aren’t really my thing. True, I will pick them up every once in awhile if the book really tantalizes me (hence the collections I’ve read on here), but overall I tend to avoid them. That said, when I found out that Paul Tremblay’s newest book, “Growing Things and Other Stories”, was going to be a short stories collection, I was basically like

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The man can do no wrong in my eyes. (source)

I did go in with my usual worries and hesitations regarding short story collections, but I also had faith that I would probably like it overall. And that faith paid off for the most part! I enjoyed a number of the stories in “Growing Things”. And as I usually do with short stories collections on this blog, I’ll focus on some of the favorite stories from the book and why I liked them, with a general write up at the end.

“A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken”

First thing to note is that the format of this book didn’t QUITE work in eARC form, as it’s designed to be like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel. When you have an ARC that doesn’t have ALL the kinks worked out (as far as I know), AND it’s on an eReader, that removes some of the intent to this story. But, all of that said, I found “A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” to be one of the most emotional stories in this collection, as well as creepy as heck at times. It involves a woman revisiting her childhood home, and having to recount the memories of living there. Some of those memories are about the various ghosts that haunted the house and made her childhood creepy. Others involve her mother who was dying of cancer. Along with some visceral and unsettling imagery, Tremblay really tapped into the grief of losing a parent, and how that kind of loss can haunt a person just as much as the ghosts in the story haunted the house. I definitely teared up a number of times as I read this story. Tremblay is so good with pathos.

“The Ice Tower”

For those of you who like “The Thing” and other ice/cosmic horror, this is a tale you will probably enjoy. When a group of adrenaline junkie climbers are recruited to explore a giant, mysterious pillar of ice, it isn’t just the cold and snow that they have to worry about. Slowly it becomes clear that there is something otherworldly, and wholly threatening, about the ice wall. One of the main features of cosmic horror is that you never QUITE know what is going on, and you can’t expect explanations to go along with the terrible events that will surely unfold, and with “The Ice Tower” the ambiguity was rampant. As someone who knows cold and knows the horrors that can come with it (albeit natural ones in my experience), this story really resonated with me and set me on edge. I also couldn’t help but think about the fact that one of the most notorious ice climbs, Mount Everest, had such a deadly year this past year, which made this terrifying in it’s own way, supernatural scares aside.

“It’s Against The Law To Feed The Ducks”

The third story that stuck with me was this one, which had both a sense of existential dread and a childlike whimsy within it’s pages. Through the eyes of a little boy, a family goes on a remote family vacation in the woods. But during this vacation, something on a global scale happens, and we see it unfold through the perspective of a child who doesn’t understand what’s going on, and whose parents are trying to shield him from it. If you want to talk about unsettling ambiguity, this one knocked it out of the park. It also reminded me a bit of “The Cabin at the End of the World” in it’s themes. The reader never quite figures out just what it is that has happened, and the childish lens that we see everything through is written very well, and made it all the more upsetting. This was probably my favorite in the entire collection.

In terms of the stories as a whole, there was a lot to like. We get revisits to characters in Tremblay’s book “A Head Full of Ghosts”, we get to see some more monster stories, and even Hellboy makes an appearance (as Tremblay wrote for a collection that was in tribute to “Hellboy” and Mike Mignola)! While I thought that the three I mentioned were far and away the best of the book, there were other strong stories as well. While not many of them really ‘scared’ me, I did find them all to be pretty entertaining.

“Growing Things and Other Stories” is a nice sampler of the kinds of stories Paul Tremblay has to offer, and I think that horror fans really need to check it out! And like always, make sure to have some tissues handy, because you will probably cry.

Rating 8: Once again Paul Tremblay shows his talent and contributions to the horror genre. “Growing Things and Other Stories” is a healthy mix of different kinds of scary stories, as well as moments that are filled with emotion.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Growing Things and Other Stories” is included on the Goodreads lists

Find “Growing Things and Other Stories” at your library using WorldCat!

Giveaway: “Age of Legend”

22819354Book Description:With “Age of Myth,” “Age of Swords,” and “Age of War,” fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan riveted readers with a tale of unlikely heroes locked in a desperate battle to save mankind. After years of warfare, humanity has gained the upper hand and has pushed the Fhrey to the edge of their homeland, but no farther. Now comes the pivotal moment. Persephone’s plan to use the stalemate to seek peace is destroyed by an unexpected betrayal that threatens to hand victory to the Fhrey and leaves a dear friend in peril. Her only hope lies in the legend of a witch, a forgotten song, and a simple garden door.

Giveaway Details: I’ve been loving this series so far. It’s always great to find a new fantasy series to follow along. This series in particular has stood out due to Sullivan’s incredible work with a large ensemble cast of characters. Through the first three books, we’ve followed a handful of different characters and early work in the first book or two has paid off as characters have risen and fallen in important to each book’s unique plot.

This is technically a prequel series to Sullivan’s other works, but I haven’t read them and it doesn’t seem to be hindering my enjoyment. I’m sure for longtime fans, there are references I’m missing, but it stands well on its own.

It also stands out particularly well for its large cast of interesting female characters. Epic fantasy has come a long way since “Lord of the Rings” which, while lovely and amazing, has very few women characters and really only one notable (but awesome!) moment for any of them. Here, however, there are several including a powerful mystic, an inventor, and even the supreme leader of the human clans is a woman.

So yes, I’ve enjoyed the books so far. But this was the first one I really had to wait for and it was a trial indeed. Luckily for me, I received an ARC of this book in the mail a few months early and was able to dive in then. My full review will come out this Friday, but in the meantime, I wanted to share the love and host a giveaway for this copy! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends July 9, 2019.

Enter here!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Secret”

176259Book: “The Secret” (The Fear Street Saga #2) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1993

Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!

Book Description: Buried Evil

What is the secret of Fear Street?

Why has its horror lasted so long?

Ezra Fier wants to find out. He searches for the answer among the rotting bones in the ghostly town of Wickham. But he find only betrayal and death.

Elizabeth and Kate are in love with the same boy. How can they know that they too are caught by the evil that will haunt this family forever?

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Moving on to part 2 of “The Fear Street Saga”! We join Nora Goode again, who is writing the long, dramatic, and violent history of the Goode family and the Fear Family. We still don’t know why she knows it, or why she as a Goode has the Fear amulet, or her back story with the now presumably deceased Daniel Fear.

BUT, before we go into that, we go back in time to Wickham Village in the Massachusetts Colony in 1737! And we catch back up with Ezra Fier, the son of that dunderheaded narc Edward, who let his girlfriend Susannah Goode burn at the stake by orders of his father. Ezra has been nursing his grudge towards the Goodes since Willaim, Susannah’s father, took his revenge which led to the deaths of Ezra’s grandfather, great aunt and uncle, mother, and aunt. His dunderheaded father died too, but probably from idiocy. Ezra has been tracking George Fier, William’s son, for most of his adult life, and has dragged his family around the colonies on his hunt. His son Jonathan thinks that this is a ridiculous situation to be in, but wife Jane goes with it and daughters Abigail and Rachel are too young to be put off. Ezra is convinced that he’s tracked George down to this town, but as their wagon approaches they see a stopped carriage, with two dead horses next to it. When they look in the carriage, there are bloated and decaying dead people. And when they get to town, it’s more of the same. FILLED with dead people! Ezra isn’t swayed, and makes Jonathan go with him to explore, and tells him the whole background of his family. Ezra says they should go to the inn, as innkeepers will know the tea, but they TOO are dead. He tells Jonathan to go to the magistrate’s office to ask HIM what’s up, so it hasn’t really gotten through his dumb skull that EVERYONE IN TOWN IS DEAD, DUDE! Poor Jonathan goes, and once again finds a corpse. Ezra finally takes this for what it is, and they return to the wagon to tell Jane and the girls what they found. Ezra drives the wagon to a farmhouse, and while he doesn’t tell his family why they are there, he says that he wants to see their dead and rotting corpses, so we can assume this is where he decided the Goodes lived. But they aren’t there! Ezra throws a fit, and when Jane says that she doesn’t want their children living in a town full of bodies he pulls the ‘wives should be obedient’ card and says they are staying there for the foreseeable future, and that he’s going to find The Goodes.

The Fier family settles in okay, though Ezra is still a Ahab-esque tyrant. A few weeks after moving in, Ezra says to Jonathan that they are going to visit some farms a few miles away. But instead of exchanging pleasantries, Ezra immediately asks if they know about the Goodes. The first family just tells him to leave, and the second family threatens to cut his throat. Ezra says that this is proof of how evil the Goodes are because EVERYONE hates them, and to me I would say it’s a good sign to just let it the hell go. Ezra thinks these neighbors have to be hiding something.

The next day Abigail tells Jonathan she wants to go to the village. Jonathan says that they aren’t supposed to wander too far (doesn’t bring up the fact that it’s filled with rotting bodies), but Abigail says that he’s chicken. Given that being teased by his little sister will not stand, he agrees and they go. Yep, still filled with a bunch of bodies, but Abigail takes it upon herself to find bodies of animals and give them a proper burial. Super Goth there, Abigail. She keeps insisting that they go back so she can do this, and one day while they’re in town she wants to go so far as to bury the body of a girl. Jonathan says that they’d need a coffin for a person, and instead of being swayed Abigail says that they should look for a box. This girl is giving me Mayhem’s lead singer Dead vibes what with her strange fascination with death and decay. Jonathan inexplicably agrees and goes into the tavern to find a box, and when he returns Abigail is gone. He goes to find her, and then sees her playing with another little girl. When he approaches them the girl runs off, and Abigail says that her name is Hester. He asks where this girl lives, thinking that maybe there are people still alive in town, but Abigail says she doesn’t know. They go back to their house, and Jonathan doesn’t seem at all worried.

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It’s just that the town was filled with rotting corpses and now there’s a girl who is as weird as Abigail and goes there to play? That isn’t sketchy!? (source)

The next day Jonathan is in town digging a grave for a baby (this is also thrown out there with the nonchalance of him digging a grave for a hamster or a goldfish, by the way), and he realizes that Abigail hasn’t returned from fetching a grave marker. He eventually finds her and Hester playing in a cemetery. And then Hester grabs Abigail and pulls her into an open grave! Jonathan runs there and sees Abigail pop out of the coffin, and that’s enough death metal shenanigans for one day, and he grabs her by the arm and says they’re going home much to her protestations. The next day Jane says that they aren’t allowed to leave the property because they have to watch Rachel. But Ezra pretty much derails that when he asks Abigail to go for a walk with him, and says that Jonathan can handle it on his own and that he likes Abigail’s company. As Jonathan watches them walk away through the window, he sees Hester meet them in the road. Not trusting this weird coffin hopping kid, Jonathan rushes outside. Hester asks Ezra if Abigail can come to her house, and when Jonathan tells his Dad not to let her go, Ezra blows him off and says that Abigail can go. Jonathan begs him to let him go with, but Ezra says that SOMEONE has to watch Rachel (though gee, Ezra, up until this point you were just going for a meandering walk, maybe YOU could watch your own damn kid!). Jonathan obeys. Big surprise, Abigail isn’t home by suppertime. Ezra insists that she’s fine, but we all know better, don’t we? Ezra goes to look for her, and Jonathan comes too. They hear the sounds of girls’ laughter on the wind, and eventually follow it to a grave… And the headstone says Hester Goode!! And uh oh, next to the grave there is a new grave, with a headstone that says ABIGAIL FIER!! Ezra freaks and uses his hands to dig up the dirt, and there is Abigail, super dead.

Jump forward six years, and Ezra is putting Rachel to bed with the bedtime story of the time he and Jonathan found Abigail in a shallow grave. Wholesome bedtime storytelling at it’s finest. They’ve moved away from plague town and somehow they got richer in that time as Ezra has just kind of resold whatever supplies they’ve had extra of. This is their newest home and they’re just settling in. There’s a knocking at the door, and Jonathan goes to answer it. A pretty girl is on the stoop, and she says her name is Delilah Wilson and she lives down the road. She brought a pie to welcome the new neighbors. Jonathan takes her to the parlor (DAMN, they did do well for themselves), and tells his mother about Delilah. He goes to tell Ezra, but Ezra is too busy obsessing in his office and pawing at his amulet (you know the one). Rachel sneaks out of bed to go meet Delilah too, and when Jane sees her she has a momentary grief spell where she thinks Rachel is Abigail. After being gently corrected, she goes to prepare the pie. Jonathan and Rachel talk with Delilah, and Delilah asks why they’ve moved so much. Rachel, not one to play it cool, says it’s because of the family curse and tells her all about it. Rachel is all in on the Goode hate train, but Jonathan blames Ezra for Abigail’s death.

A few days later Jonathan is in town and he sees Delilah. She says she’s come from her father’s church and is on the way home, and he offers to escort her. He apologizes for his family’s behavior, especially Rachel’s, but Delilah says that she loved outlandish stories when she was a little girl too. Jonathan is very smitten, and that night he’s thinking about her as he’s falling asleep. He thinks he hears someone calling for help outside and a strange noise, but when he runs to his window he sees nothing out there. He thinks he’s imagining things, but can’t sleep the rest of the night.

The next day Jan asks Jonathan to go get kindling and asks Rachel to go get water from the well. As he’s gathering wood he hears Rachel screaming, and runs to the well to see what’s going on, Jane and Ezra leaving the house. Rachel points at the bucket, and it’s filled with blood. Ezra says that it’s the curse, and when Jonathan says that that isn’t real Ezra calls him foolish, and that there have to be Goodes nearby. Jonathan, sick of his family’s histrionics, goes to call on Delilah. He meets her father, Reverend Wilson, and then he and Delilah go for a walk. He confides in her about the noise and the bucket of blood, and she says that there has to be a rational explanation. But now Jonathan isn’t so sure, but he likes how sensible Delilah is.

That night, Jonathan is awakened by footsteps in the hallway. When he opens his door he sees Jane, crying out for Abigail. She insists that she heard Abigail calling to her. Jonathan says that she has to have been dreaming, and leads her back to bed. The same thing happens the next night, though Ezra is the one to take care of Jane that time. It happens again and again, and Rachel says that she wants to do something for Jane to cheer her up. They start to plant some roses, and Delilah pays them a visit. They all sit in the shade, and tell Delilah what has been going on with their mother, how she keeps saying she sees Abigail in the backyard. Rachel thinks it’s a ghost, and Jonathan thinks it’s hallucinations. Delilah suggests that it could be dream, meeting in the middle of two extremes. But that night, Jonathan hears Abigail, and Rachel says that she saw her outside her window, warning her, though she doesn’t know of what.

The next day Jonathan goes to visit Delilah. Jane sends sweet rolls with him, and when Jonathan gets to Delilah’s house her father asks how Jane is doing. Jonathan says not well, and when he and Delilah go for a walk he tells her that now he has heard Abigail and Rachel saw her. Delilah starts to cry, and when he asks what’s wrong says that she would never wish harm upon his family. He’s confused, and she tells him that she and her father are leaving town soon, and that it’s for the best. When he begs her to stay, she says that he has to go, even though she obviously doesn’t want him to do so. Jonathan leaves with a broken and confused heart.

Shortly before dawn the next morning Jonathan is awakened by a terrible scream. He looks out the window and sees nothing, but when Ezra and Rachel come downstairs Ezra says that Jane is gone. They search high and low and can’t find her, and after hours of looking Jonathan goes to the well to get some water… but the bucket is VERY heavy. He calls to Ezra to help him pull up the bucket, and when they do Jane’s body is sitting in it, drowned.

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Jesus that’s dark. (source)

Jonathan is all in on the curse business now. And it suddenly occurs to him that Delilah’s sadness and insistence on leaving might have something to do with all of this. He and Rachel rush to her house, and he confronts her. Delilah tells him that she is, in fact, a Goode. She says that she and her father changed their name after they were run out of Wickham after they were blamed for the plague. She said that she hadn’t believed in the curse and that when he hadn’t either she thought that it really couldn’t be true, but now she thinks that it is. She tells him that there’s only one way to end it: a Goode and a Fier have to get married. Jonathan says that he’s in love with her so that’s not a problem, and even Rachel, who has been indoctrinated by Ezra her whole life, is on board! Delilah says she’s worried the curse will try and stop their wedding, but Jonathan says they can just get married today! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?

So Jonathan and Delilah rush to the church and Reverend Wilson is going to marry them, but before they can finish the ceremony Ezra bursts in with his rifle. Rachel, carrying the “Fier Narc Trait” says that she told him because he MADE her, and girl? How hard is it to make up some LIE?! Ezra says that all Goodes must die, and raises his rifle. Jonathan lunges at him, and they fight over it, but it goes off, and it shoots Delilah! Ezra then points the rifle at Reverend Wilson, and repeats that ‘all Goodes must die’, but then Wilson drops a huge bombshells: THEY AREN’T ACTUALLY GOODES. He told Delilah to lie to Jonathan because the curse is infamous and they are poor while the Fiers are rich. He convinced her to lure Jane out of the house at night to make her think it was Abigail, but they never intended for her to fall in the well. Delilah felt awful about everything. Jonathan said he’d marry her anyway, whether she was a Goode or not. Ezra starts to have a nervous breakdown, and runs out of the church in a frenzy, and is promptly trampled by a horse. Before he dies he gives Jonathan the amulet and tells him to avenge his death… But Jonathan swears that he is stopping the feud now. When he eventually buries Ezra’s body, he buries the pendant with him.

BUT NORA TELLS US THAT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE!

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Me as I realized that there was still a fair amount of book left (source)

It took one hundred years, but yes, there’s more.

Flash forward to 1843, still Western Massachusetts. A teenager named Elizabeth Fier is in her backyard digging up the ground for a new planting project, when she finds a rusty metal box. She digs around the dust (IT’S CREMAINS, ELIZABETH!!!) and finds a pretty silver amulet. She doesn’t know what the words ‘dominatio per malum’ mean, but perhaps her brother Simon would know. She joins her family for dinner, which includes brother Simon, sister Kate (oh gosh), father Samuel, and mother Katherine, who tells her to go wash her hands (thank GOODNESS). Elizabeth shows them all the necklace as they eat, but then she has a vision of the dining room being engulfed by flames. But since the vision stops and nothing else happens, Elizabeth plum forgets about it!

Several weeks later, there is a knock on the door around dinner time. Elizabeth answers, and sees a dirty and malnourished looking man on the stoop. He looks at her necklace, an then says that he needs help. He’s hungry, and will gladly work for food. Mr. Fier tells the man that they have plenty of food to go around, and invites him in. Generous, but not something I’d have done! You have no idea who this guy is! Eventually as he’s eating he says his name is Franklin, and after he lost his family and the farm he’s been wandering around picking up odd jobs. He says that after he eats they should give him a task, but they say that they have no work to be done but instead offer him a bath. Elizabeth watches him start to undress, and even though he’s described as skeletal and thin he somehow still has enough muscle mass in his back that they ‘ripple’. Elizabeth rushes off. When he joins them in the parlor after his bath, Elizabeth realizes that he’s SUPER cute. But little do the Fiers know that Franklin is deliberately trying to gain their confidence and trust, and then he will turn on them all and they will pay for the pain that his family had to endure at their hands. Because his name is Franklin GOODE!

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It bears repeating. (source)

The Fiers insist that he stay, and Elizabeth is totally smitten with him.

Elizabeth spends time with Franklin the next day and they go for a walk. She takes him up to a spot where she used to play with Kate and Simon when they were kids, and confides in him about a strange old woman with a cane who scared them back then. People called her Old Aggie and it was rumored that she was a witch. Franklin asks where she got her necklace, and she says she found it. He says that he hopes that it can keep her safe from harm, and she’s certain he’s in love with her just as she is with him.

At dinner that night Franklin continues to charm the Fiers. They ask him what happened to his family, and he tells them that they all died one by one, though no one could figure out why. He said that no one would take him in lest he be a carrier for a mysterious illness, and that he’s worried that the curse will strike him dead too. Elizabeth feels so bad for him, but notices that Kate, too, is looking at him with pity. Which makes her SUPER jealous. In the parlor Elizabeth asks Kate what her deal is, and Kate says that she likes Franklin like everyone else, and so what? Franklin watches the awkward exchange and is happy his plan is working.

The next day Franklin and Elizabeth go for a walk, and they sit down at the same place that she brought him to from her childhood. He tugs the ribbon out of her hair, and she is excited to see what he’s going to do. She isn’t at all suspicious when he loops it around her neck. In FACT, she’s excited to see what he’ll do next because this is clearly normal courting behavior! He’s about the strangle her, but then Old Aggie hobbles out of the woods. Elizabeth panics and jumps up, foiling Franklin’s plan and dragging him out of the woods and back towards home. She apologizes for ruining their perfect(!!!!) afternoon, and he says nothing. They go inside and find Kate cooking some soup. When she sees them (and Elizabeth’s hair rumpled and UNDONE), she runs out of the kitchen. Elizabeth thinks that’s odd, but Franklin says she’s probably fine.

A few weeks later Elizabeth is waiting for Franklin to come find her, and decides to work on her knitting to pass the time. She hears the door thinking it’s Franklin, but instead it’s Kate. And she has interesting news. She and Franklin are getting married!!! The entire family gathers in the parlor to hear the good news, but then Elizabeth starts screaming that SHE loves Franklin and he loves her, and that Kate stole him from her! Kate is confused, and Elizabeth runs out of the house determined to find Franklin. Kate follows after her. Mr. and Mrs. Fier tell Simon to follow and see what is going on. He goes into the woods and hears his sisters voices, but then hears a horrible scream. He runs to the clearing where they used to play, and finds something horrible: Kate is sprawled on one of the big rocks, and she’s dead, with a knitting needle in her heart!

In the parlor Elizabeth is muttering to herself that Kate was a liar and that Franklin loves her, but when her parents look at her in abject horror she is like “WHY DO YOU THINK I DID THIS?!” Well, maybe because you’re more concerned about Franklin being your boyfriend rather than your sister being found murdered with YOUR KNITTING? When she and Franklin are alone he tells her that HE believes her, and knows that Kate must have killed herself because she was obviously unstable. After all, he NEVER said that he wanted to marry her, Kate was deluded, and he and Elizabeth should elope straight away. She says that she’d love to marry him! Franklin thinks about how he killed Kate, and how this is all going according to plan.

Simon has to get away from his grieving parents and his batty younger sister, so he goes for a walk in the woods. He finds himself back at the scene of the crime, and thinks about the evil that killed his sister. He also muses that there is evil inside of him as well, he feels it, and clunky exposition much? Someone grabs his arm, and he turns around and it’s Aggie. She takes his hand and tells him that Franklin Goode killed Kate and is going to kill Elizabeth. She says that ‘fire’ is in the Fier name, and that is how they’ll all come to an end, and ALSO tells him about the curse that the Goodes cast because of the Fier’s evil deeds. She gives him a dagger with a poison tip and tells him that this will stop Franklin, but to be careful as it only works once. He says that he will be, and runs back home.

And when he gets home it’s a mess. Franklin has murdered Mr. and Mrs. Fier with an axe and he’s threatening Elizabeth! He tells Simon that he’s the last of the Goodes and he’s going to destroy the Fiers. They start to scuffle, and even though Simon does stab Franklin with the dagger it doesn’t seem to work. Franklin is about to hack Elizabeth, but then the poison DOES work after all and he falls down dead. Simon and Elizabeth hug, but instead of being like ‘whoa, that guy was totally nuts but that’s behind us’, Simon starts to think about how goodness never did anyone any good and that being evil is the way to go. Elizabeth gives him the silver amulet and says that it must have protected her, and that he should have it so that HE can have the power. HOW ARE YOU COMING TO THESE CONCLUSIONS?! WHY DO YOU THINK HE DESERVES ANY POWER MORE THAN YOU DO?! Simon vows that he won’t let his family die in flames, and that obviously to break that prophecy is to change his name. The Goodes are dead, the curse (that he JUST learned about not twenty minutes before and has no reason to think is real) has lifted, and he’s going to change his name to FEAR.

And Nora tells us that, given that she’s a Goode, the story is far from over. TO BE CONTINUED.

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How will this all end?!?!?! (source)

Body Count: 8! And along with that an entire town of people!

Romance Rating: I GUESS I’m going to give it a 5, since Delilah did love Jonathan, even if she lied to him and was complicit in his mother’s death. Until her father manipulated her they went well together.

Bonkers Rating: 7. Not as crazy as “The Betrayal”, but that murder spree at the end and murderous child ghosts showed just how over the top it could be.

Fear Street Relevance: 10 again! We’re getting all the dish on the Fear family, after all!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“I will become your sisters’ only hope. Then I will watch them die, one by one. Frank slid his queen across the board. ‘Checkmate,’ he said, grinning.”

Oh, a chess metaphor, HOW ORIGINAL.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Again, as this is historical fiction that doesn’t really apply.

Best Quote:

“”The letters in your name – they can be rearranged to spell ‘fire’. Fier. Fire. Fier. Fire.'”

Yeah, we, uh, we get it.

Conclusion: “The Secret” was a little more haphazard than “The Betrayal”, but overall it bridged the time periods well, as the final book will no doubt cover Simon Fear and all of his bullshit. Cannot WAIT to see how that goes. Up next for our very final “Fear Street” book (for the foreseeable future) is “The Burning! 

Highlights: July 2019

Oh, July. The month where summer comes into its own and everything becomes super patriotic. It’s a fun game to find the most bizarre, July-4-themed things you can (similar to the game you play in the fall where you try and spot the pumpkin spice all over the place). Last year, Serena found a T-shirt at Target that said “My favorite color is freedom” and with a few adjustments, like cutting off the sleeves, it now makes regular appearances at silly things like volleyball games and such. Anywho. Here are some more books we’re looking forward to reading this month!

Serena’s Picks

22819354Book: “Age of Legend” by Michael Sullivan

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been devouring Sullivan’s “The Legends of the First Empire” series, and this was the first book I had to wait for. Luckily not long, though I was still too impatient to wait for the audiobook, even though I was really enjoying that version of the story. This epic fantasy series has been incredibly solid with the first three entries of the story, and with this, happening several years after the events of the first books, I’m excited to see where Sullivan takes things. There were some major changes and events at the end of the last book, so it should be interesting. You’ll be hearing more from me about this book this week…

36510722Book: “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia in the past, so I’m always game when I see a new title from her. This one is particularly interesting on concept alone, however! A Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a question to resolve a war between himself and his god-brother. It’s billed as a dark fairytale that pulls from Mexican folklore. I’m really excited about this one. It’s always great to find new fairytales and folk legends, especially ones that come from cultures that aren’t the “go-to” for many books of this type. I can’t wait to read this! Plus, that cover is awesome.

29226553Book: “Dark Age” by Pierce Brown

Publication Date: July 30, 2019

This book has seen several delays in publication date. I think it was originally supposed to come out last January? Needless to say, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival and regularly checking to make sure that it is still on schedule. While I didn’t love the previous book and first in this new trilogy as much as the original “Red Rising” story, I’m still invested in Darrow’s ongoing struggles to right the wrongs in the galaxy. The last book also introduced a host of other characters, some of whom I enjoyed more than others. Many of their stories were left on cliffhangers, essentially, so the publishing delays for this book have been killer! Soon though, very soon!

Kate’s Picks

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

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Any additional Sabrina content while I wait impatiently for the next season of the show to come back is good. And on top of that, this is a prequel to the series, so it’s going to build upon the mythology of the show. “Season of the Witch” takes place during the summer before Sabrina’s 16th birthday, and focuses on the relationship she has with her mortal friends, specifically her boyfriend Harvey. When she thinks about casting a spell to see how deeply he feels about her, a spirit with not so good intentions decides to interfere. Since we’re waiting forever for the next comic collection in print form (SERIOUSLY, THREE YEARS AND COUNTING), I am going to take any kind of print media that I can get, and I hope that “Season of the Witch” will make the show’s mythology all the richer.

41212413Book: “Growing Things and Other Stories” by Paul Tremblay

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Paul Tremblay is one of those authors that I am always going to read no matter what. I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read, and I am always excited for something new to come out. And even though I am usually a bit wary when it comes to short stories collections, I am looking forward to “Growing Things and Other Stories”. This collection takes a number of stories stories that Tremblay has written over the years and puts them together into one book, with ranges from cosmic horror, t0 ghost stories, to throw backs to some characters that may seem familiar to those who know is previous works (hello again, Merry and Marjorie from “A Head Full of Ghosts”). Tremblay is not only good at bringing scares, but also ambiguity and pathos, so this collection will no doubt be filled with ALL the emotions.

32603079Book: “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Given that I love me some post-apocalyptic fiction and this book is getting early buzz comparisons to “The Stand” in theme and depth, I am incredibly excited to read “Wanders” by Chuck Wendig. When a mysterious malady starts to affect people, and they begin walking with a purpose but do not respond to their surroundings, thus begins a global disaster that will reflect the perils of fear and hysteria rather than the actual threat, and it might be up to a teenage girl named Shana and a now disgraced scientist named Benji to help bring the sleepwalkers to safety, and to help rebuilt society. Clocking in at 800some pages, this is going to be a whopper of a book, but I am very excited by the prospect of it.

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

Serena’s Review: “Grave Mercy”

9565548Book: “Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers

Publishing Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2012

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

Book Description: Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Review: Our bookclub theme this go-around is books that have been on our TBR list for over two years. And there are a lot. My lists is somewhere in the mid-300s though, so cut me some slack! But while going through it, I tried to match up a few titles with ones that are currently available at the library in audiobook format and I struck across “Grave Mercy” and thought “Why not? Killer nuns sounds pretty neat.” And here we are. Sadly, killer nuns were not, in fact neat. But one could argue that the story wasn’t really about that anyways, so some other author could still cash in on what sounds like a cool idea.

Just as Ismae’s life is taking a distinct turn for the worst (an arranged marriage, said husband being an abusive jerk, etc. etc.), she’s caught up by a mysterious organization., a convent that follows an old god, one who calls upon his followers to take out evil in the world. The convents train in these deadly arts to carry out this work. With a new route before her, Ismae excels in her new life and role. But when the straight-forward plan of killing targets gets caught up in a much more murky world of courtly politics, Ismae finds herself out of her depth. Add in some romantic feelings, and she’s in a real mess.

To start with any pros, the best thing this book has going for it is the cool premise. I was excited to pick up this book, as assassins always seem like they would be good for an action-packed story full of potentially interesting moral quandaries. Unfortunately, the book itself fails to follow through on this premise, so even that is a pretty luke warm pro.

My biggest problem with this book comes down to the writing itself, both the style of sentences construction as well as the numerous plotting issues. I’m not personally a fan of first person present tense writing, and this one definitely falls prey to the weaknesses of this tense. The voice is often wooden and off-putting. Her emotions are conveyed using a handful of cliches that do nothing to really show us Ismae’s feelings, rather just informing us of them, as a matter of fact. I’m not sure I would have loved the character of Ismae had she been presented in another way, but this definitely didn’t help.

The other big problem with the writing is the way numerous writing crutches are used. The story opens with Ismae’s abusive first day of married life, quickly moves on to her being taken in by the convent and informed, succinctly, of their role in the world. Then two seconds later Ismae’s all on board and we have a time jump. Suddenly, she’s now this badass assassin out on her first mission. It all happens too fast and readers are left to just swallow it all, no questions. There is far too much telling and no showing. We never see Ismae gain any of these so-called skills, and with the introduction of a magical knife that kills with just the barest touch, we’re left wondering why any training is needed at all.

Frankly, it feels as if the author did the barest amount of work in the beginning of her story to get to the part she really wanted to write about. Which, fine. But if that’s your goal, just skip it all together and introduce these pieces of history as the current story plays out. This method would have worked much better and solved several of these problems.

I also struggled with the romance. It’s pretty much just what you would think, so I don’t really need to even bother explaining any of the details. But given Ismae’s early marriage (which, by the way, seems fairly valid and never is addressed again) and the abuse that came with it, I would have hoped for a more nuanced approach to her love story. Instead, we have generic googly eyes at the hawt guy and, again, a long list of cliched descriptions and emotions.

Assassin books are a strange thing for me, now. I feel like I really like them. But when I try to think of examples of books with this theme that I’ve enjoyed, there are really very few. And on the other hand, a rather long list of books with this plot that I’ve absolutely hated. It makes sense: how do you write about something as brutal as assassination without also taking the time to really address the moral issues at the heart of it? Far too many authors simply want the badass points of it all without the latter responsibility to the emotions and decisions behind it. So we end up with books like this, where we’re told that our main character is a badass and then proceed on to a pretty bland love story that is more focused on court politics that assassinations, anyways.

Rating 4: The weak writing really killed this one for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Grave Mercy” is on these Goodreads lists: Books With Heroes/Heroines Who Are Assassins and Young Adult Books Without Love Triangles.

Find “Grave Mercy” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Lock Every Door”

41837243Book: “Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager

Publishing Info: Dutton, July 2019

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

Book Description: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

While the combined phrase of ‘urban Gothic’ may seem like it contradicts itself, it’s a genre that can be really effective when done well. One example that comes to mind is “Rosemary’s Baby”, about a woman who has been isolated within the confines of a luxury apartment building in the middle of New York City (and she happens to be carrying the devil’s baby, but that’s neither here nor there for this comparison). The ability to make a character feel completely alone in the Gothic sense in the middle of a huge metropolis like Manhattan can take some finagling, and I’m happy to say that like Ira Levin before, Riley Sager has tapped into this theme with his newest thriller “Lock Every Door”. And while there’s no devil baby to be found, strange things are still afoot within the narrative and within the walls of the luxury apartment building The Bartholomew.

“Lock Every Door” follows Jules, a woman who has found herself nearly flat broke and without housing, so it’s natural that the strange offer of ‘apartment sitting’ in a glamorous building off of Central Park would be snatched up by her, odd rules be damned. We slowly learn that Jules isn’t just a naive woman who willfully ignores strange warning signs; she’s literally desperate. Being without a job, without housing, and with a dwindling bank account means that twelve thousand dollars is going to be worth more than rigid, downright draconian rules she has to abide by. I liked Jules a lot because she ISN’T foolish; she feels like she’s in a corner and has no choice. Because of this I had huge sympathy for her and wasn’t as fast to want to shake some sense into her. And she hasn’t necessarily willfully isolated herself for the most part; outside of her friend Chloe, she is basically alone in the world, as her parents are dead and her sister has been missing for years. For her these rules are very easy to live by simply because she is already isolated, even within a large metropolis. She is a complex and also tragic main character who I liked following, if only because of the believability with her in all aspects of the story. While some have suggested that she should have at least been more willing to ditch out as soon as the bad things start happening, I still maintain that sunk cost fallacies, desperation, and the constant gaslighting by modern society towards women and their anxieties made this believable to me. There were also well done supporting characters, from the helpful doorman Charlie who has personal pain of his own, and Chloe, who wants to support Jules in any way she can, but whose generosity can come off as condescension. 

But the strongest aspect of “Lock Every Door” was the incredibly suspenseful plot and setting of a gorgeous, but perhaps insidious, luxury apartment building. Described with intimidating architecture and disturbing gargoyles, and a tainted past to boot, it felt like a healthy mix of The Cecil Hotel and the Shandor Building in “Ghostbusters”. We know that something is happening inside and that the residents and realtors are hiding something, but Sager did a good job of keeping the details pretty close to the vest. Harkening back to Ira Levin and “Rosemary’s Baby”, the question of whether everyone is out to get your or you are just paranoid is prevalent in this book, as a vast conspiracy of neighbors simply couldn’t be possible in Jules’s mind. At least at first. The clues are dropped and the pieces are set out at a meticulous pace, and by the time we did find out what was going on I was pleasantly duped, and could also see how we got there, even if I didn’t notice it. The pacing was such that I had a very hard time putting this book down, and I needed to know what was going to happen next at the end of each chapter.

“Lock Every Door” was a creepy and nervewracking read, and another well done book by Riley Sager. The paranoia and tension will make this a great book to take on vacation this summer, but perhaps reading it alone at night would be second guessed.

Rating 8: An addictive thriller with shades of Hitchcock and “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Lock Every Door” will put you on edge and keep you guessing until the end.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Lock Every Door” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery and Thriller 2019”, and would fit in on “Fiction that Features NYC”.

Find “Lock Every Door” at your library using WorldCat!