Kate’s Review: “The Dead and the Dark”

Book: “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould

Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, August 2021

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

Book Description: Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

Given that I am a HUGE sucker for the ‘small town with terrible secrets’ trope, I am always on the lookout for books and stories that showcase it, and showcase it well. In the past few years there have been books that have hit the mark and missed the mark, and when I requested “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a YA horror novel that not only had that highly enjoyable theme, but it also had a sapphic romance to go with the scares. Since I was a bit let down by a previously hyped book with these themes, I was hoping that this one would give me what I wanted, and for the most part it did!

“The Dead and the Dark” is told through two third person perspectives. The first is that of Logan, a teenage daughter of Brandon and Alejo, the hosts of the ghost hunting show “Paraspectors”. Her Dads were raised in Snakebite but never fit in, and Logan has a strained relationship with Brandon that she hasn’t been able to really figure out. Ashley, on the other hand, is a local teenager who is basically a member of Snakebite royalty, but ever since her boyfriend Tristan disappeared she’s felt like something is off. When Logan’s dads are suddenly suspects in Tristan’s disappearance, Logan and Ashley have to work together to try and figure out what happened, and what secrets the town is hiding. Both characters were well explored and given depth, and I found myself eager to get to each perspective as the book went on. They are both good characters on their own, but Gould is sure to make their interactions as they become allies, then friends, then maybe something more, enjoyable. But Gould doesn’t stop there, as the supporting characters are also interesting and do more than just furthering the plot that Logan and Ashley work within. I liked getting to know Brandon and Alejo, as well as the other teens in the town who range from helpful to downright hostile. Snakebite as a town is also well explored, as the small town with a secret theme has layers of small town angst and pain for outsiders that come to the surface.

As for the plot and the horror elements, “The Dead and the Dark” did some new things that I really liked. I don’t want to give too much away, as there are definitely things here that I want readers to discover without the potential for being spoiled. But, like many good horror stories, there is thought and purpose behind the dark fantasy and horror elements. As Logan and Ashley start to find clues to the evil that is hurting local teens, they also start seeing the every day rot, be it due to sexism, or homophobia, or just plain resentment of anything different from what is known. This ties into the big reveal as to what is going on, and then another reveal within that reveal that legitimately caught me off guard. And it was done in a way that built it up, made it believable, AND socked me right in the feels. So much so that I found myself crying a bit, and I’m not really used to crying while reading YA horror novels.

I had a really good time reading “The Dead and the Dark”. The horror elements were creepy, the sapphic elements were very satisfying, and I will definitely be checking out what Courtney Gould has to offer the genre in the future!

Rating 8: A creepy and suspenseful YA horror story with enjoyable characters and a small town with secrets setting, “The Dead and the Dark” is a fun read with a nice romance to boot.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Dead and the Dark” is included on the Goodreads lists “2021 Sapphic Releases”, and “Monsters and Magic Society”.

Find “The Dead and the Dark” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Serena’s Review: “Curses”

Book: “Curses” by Lish McBride

Publishing Info: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, July 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling’s curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother’s choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family’s cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother’s debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?

Review: A cover can go a long way. More often than not, I get sucked into reading books that have summaries that don’t really speak to me but have covers that I can’t resist. But sometimes it cuts the other way. This isn’t an awful cover, but it also looks a bit cheap and like something that was quickly drawn up on Photoshop without much great thought. I almost passed the book up based purely on this, judging the entire book to be of a similar lack-luster quality. Luckily, my obsession with “Beauty and the Beast” forced my hand, because the cover in no way represents the absolute blast of a time I had reading this story!

Fairy gifts and curses can look much alike, often to the detriment of the poor human on whom its cast. But Merit’s experience is very much that of a curse, stuck in the form of a beast except for the few hours that a rare medicine can grant her. And, unless she marries for love or marries a strategic gentleman selected by her mother, this form will become a permanent state. Luckily, Tevin, a con man with his own agenda, is on the case. Together, they hope to break Merit’s curse by finding her a truly perfect match. Soon enough, however, each begins to find their own feelings getting in the way of this task. Will it be enough to break the curse in time?

This was such a fun and funny story. It’s definitely a light-hearted fairytale retelling, but it’s not shallow, like so many stories tend to be when they go for a lighter tone. There were several moments that had me laughing out loud, with witty dialogue and clever, insightful takes sprinkled within the text. On the more serious side, there are a bunch of mothers in this book whose failures as a parent range from general obtuseness to outright neglect and maliciousness. Most of it is still played for comedic affect, but there are some interesting nuggets buried in there regarding the complicated nature of parent/child relationships. How, even if a parent is abusive, there can be a desire to please and impress them on the child’s part, even a grown child.

I really enjoyed both Merit and Tavin as characters. Tavin, perhaps, in particular, was an interesting take on a gender-swapped “Beauty.” His looks are an established part of his way of operating in the world, for better and worse. There’s also a mixture of magic, with his ability to charm those around him. I like that the author didn’t simply say “oh, he’s handsome” and leave it at that as far as the Beauty adaptation worked.

Merit’s beastly nature is also interesting. Unlike many other versions of the story, she’s not left brooding in some dark castle. Instead, while she may prefer to linger in the countryside, her mother likes to keep her in town and participating in society. Merit can go in her human form at times, but also goes out and about in public in her beastly form as well. In a land that is blessed/stricken with people affected by fairy magic, while Merit’s form is unique, she’s not the only person with such an affliction. There were a couple of other characters with interesting curses/blessing, especially the nods at other fairytale characters, a few of whom are on the lesser known side of things.

There’s was also an interesting commentary on the freedom that Merit finds in her beastly form. Not only is she physically more capable, but at times she is seen to appreciate some of the other animalistic characteristics of that form, such as having her emotions closer to the surface and the freedom to express them as such. It was also refreshing to have all of the horror/fear of the beast essentially not even play a part in the story. By not having this aspect, it allowed for the story to develop the romance in a different way and for the story to explore different challenges and aspects of the curse itself.

The world-building and magic all fell heavily in the “light and fluffy” category. There wasn’t tons of detail given into how any of it works or any nuanced history of the world. Instead, readers are left to simply enjoy the ride, with discussions about flying badgers and pompous boys being casually turned into ostriches. The side characters were also all fantastic and added a lot of flair and amusement to the story.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of fairytale re-tellings. Had we not already done our “Beach Reads” lists for the summer, this is exactly the sort of book I’d throw up in my fantasy category. Who knows? Perhaps next summer it will make an appearance!

Rating 8: Perfectly fun in every way, with a well-balanced mixture of romance and humor sure to appeal to any romantic comedy fan.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Curses” is on these Goodreads list: Fairy tales & Retellings.

Find “Curses” at your library using WorldCat!m

Serena’s Review: “Cry of Metal and Bone”

Book: “Cry of Metal and Bone” by L. Penelope

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Griffin, August 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!

Book Description: Six weeks after the fall of the Mantle, centuries-old enemies Elsira and Lagrimar struggle to unite. The will of the goddess is that the two nations become one, but while the war may be over, peace is still elusive. As desperate Lagrimari flee their barren land for a chance at a better life in Elsira, a dangerous faction opposed to the unification rises.

When a shadowy group with ties to the Elsiran government takes responsibility for the attack and promises more, an unlikely crew is assembled to investigate. Among them are Lizvette Nirall, a disgraced socialite seeking redemption for past mistakes, and Tai Summerhawk, a foreign smuggler determined to keep a promise he made to a dead man. Powerful Earthsinger Darvyn ol-Tahlyro is sent with a secret assignment, one that Queen Jasminda can’t know about. And in a prison far away, Kyara ul-Lagrimar searches for a way to escape her captors and save a family long thought dead.

It’s a race against time in this world of deadly magic, secret agendas and court intrigue to discover those responsible for the bombing before the next attack. And in another land a new enemy awakens—one that will strike terror into the hearts of gods and men.

Previously Reviewed: “Song of Blood and Stone” and “Whispers of Shadow and Flame”

Review: While it may have taken me quite a while to get to “Whispers of Shadow and Flame” after reading “Song of Blood and Stone” over a year earlier, I was much more prompt in my continuance of the series this time. It took reading the second story to really remind me how fantastic this series really is! The fact that each book centers around a new set of characters while continuing the overall plot of two countries needing to come together in a new world just adds to the appeal. And not for nothing, but I also really like the cover on this one. Let’s dive in!

After so long kept separate by the magical barrier known as the Mantle, it’s no wonder that the countries of Elsira and Lagrimar have struggled to come together. Thing only get worse when there’s an attack on an Elsiran holy site. The King and Queen, desperate to hold their country together and with a shared vision of the prosperous land that could be these two countries united, bring together a small group of individuals to seek out the culprits. Darvyn, still working to find Kyara, his love who has been captured, joins a smuggler and an ex-socialite. For her part, Kyara works to begin to understand and control her powerful magical abilities.

This series seems to just get better and better! Like I mentioned already, one of the things I’ve liked so far has been that each book has introduced a new set of characters/romantic pairing. But as the series continues, this also becomes a more challenging task to undertake as the previous, now four, other characters still exist in the story, some with active storylines playing out. Darvyn and Kyara, for example, from the previous book, ended their story on somewhat of a cliffhanger. They were separated, and Kyara was still learning how to manage her magic. So I was thrilled to see them given the time and page count needed to continue their stories in a satisfying way.

At the same time, these characters can’t outshine the new characters introduced. I really like both of the new character we got here. They each had distinct voices and backgrounds that set them apart from the characters we’ve seen before. I also really liked the romance that developed between them (I’ve really liked all the romances in these books, another feat!). I was perhaps a bit, a bit, less interested than in others just because I was still very distracted by Darvyn and Kyara’s drama that was still unfolding. But that is barely a complaint at all.

I also really liked the continue exploration into the magic of this world and the various powerful players working behind the scenes. The history of the land also continues to unfold in new and surprising ways, keeping you constantly guessing at who was in the wrong or the right. I really like this type of nebulous story-telling that reflects history so well: it’s often told by the winners and so much is lost to time. My only real criticism here is that the villains in all of the books, including this one, have felt rather one dimensional with unclear motivations.

Fans of the series should definitely check this one out. Each book can technically be read as a stand-alone, but I think this one, even more than the second, would suffer as a first entry for new readers. There’s too much of Darvyns and Kyara’s story that would be lost. I’m excited to see where the story will go from here.

Rating 8: Another great entry with a new set of compelling characters and a sweet romance.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Cry of Metal and Bone” is on these Goodreads lists: Black Heroines 2020 and Diversity in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Find “Cry of Metal and Bone” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Book of Accidents”

Book: “The Book of Accidents” by Chuck Wendig

Publishing Info: Del Rey, July 2021

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

Book Description: A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers.

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver. And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic. This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

After reading Chuck Wendig’s post-apocalyptic tome “Wanderers” back in 2019, I told myself that I wanted to give him another go, even if there were bits of that book that didn’t work for me so well. After all, while I had my issues with the book, I ultimately liked the writing style that Wendig has, as well as a few of the characters that he created. So when I found out that his next novel, “The Book of Accidents”, was being touted as straight horror with a creepy house on the cover, I was absolutely game to hop right back into one of his stories. Sure, I was a little nervous about having issues with the story overall again, but definitely was willing to take the risk. And hey, as it turns out, that risk mostly reaped rewards this time around!

“The Book of Accidents” is touted as a horror novel by a lot of people, and while it definitely has horror elements, I would say that it’s also a bit of a dark fantasy. These genres can happily coexist, and Wendig combines them into something pretty unique. While there are elements of a haunted house story to be sure, we also have magic, inter-dimensional timelines, and a little bit of cosmic horror to top it all off. It’s a lot to cover, thematically, and you can see that in the length of the novel. It’s a bit of a double edged sword, because while I do think that Wendig did a good job of balancing all of it, it also made the read to be a little long at times. But a slight case of bloat aside, I found “The Book of Accidents” to be rewarding in all of the marks that it hits, and it still felt like a fast read overall when I got past some of the laggy parts. Wendig has a good sense for intricate plotting and build up, and he lays out clues that come to fruition and make sense when joined together. He also knows how to create a creepy scene, be it because you know that someone has ulterior, dangerous motives, or because he is putting you in the shoes of someone who has experienced something that is unsettling, or simply unexplainable, even if it isn’t immediately horrifying. It was moments like these that hit hardest as I was reading, and I found them to be pretty darn effective.

But what I liked most about “The Book of Accidents” is the family at the heart of it, Nate, Maddie, and Oliver. I felt that Wendig really developed all of these characters with care and meticulousness, and I found myself adoring all of them in similar amounts, something that doesn’t happen too often for me in books with multiple perspectives. Sure, I could like all of them, but there would be one stand out, and yet Nate, Oliver, and Maddie all had sections and moments that I was always chomping at the bit to get to. Wendig makes you care for all of them, and while he makes sure that they all have their flaws or bits that are rough around the edges, it’s easy to relate to all three. It’s easy to invest in this family, so when they find themselves in grave danger, the stakes for all of them are high and you need to know what happens to them. There were supporting characters who also stood out (I’m thinking mostly of Fig, Nate’s partner in the Fish and Wildlife Department, who is no nonsense and really enjoyable), but the heart is definitely the Graves family. The villainous characters are a little less drawn out (I found Oliver’s friend/foe Jake in particular to be a little cartoony), but in the case of this book I wasn’t too put off by that if only because so many of the others were well done.

“The Book of Accidents” is enjoyable and creepy! It’s a great choice if you are looking for horror with some kind of unique elements to the genre. Chuck Wendig has officially landed on my ‘gotta read what he comes out with next’ list with this one.

Rating 8: An entertaining horror/dark fantasy novel with enjoyable characters, “The Book of Accidents” is a quick read with some great unsettling scares.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Book of Accidents” is included on the Goodreads lists “Horror To Look Forward To In 2021”, and “Celebrate Horror 2021”.

Find “The Book of Accidents” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Serena’s Review: “She Who Became the Sun”

Book: “She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan

Publishing Info: Tor Books, July 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: “I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Review: This book has been extremely hyped since news of it began circulating a few months ago. Comparisons to “Mulan” and “Song of Achilles” only helped a plot that sounded dark, tragic, and full of explorations into the themes such as personhood and the tragedies of war. I don’t have a ton of knowledge of about the real historical period of time and place being referenced (1300s China), but that was just another appeal of the book. And for once, the hype seems pretty well-founded!

Zhu’s fate is one of nothing. Neither tragic nor heroic, her life is predicted to fade from thought almost as soon as it arrives. Perhaps, for an impoverished family, this fate is not so extraordinary. However, her brother’s destiny of greatness very much is. After tragedy strikes, Zhu’s own prediction comes true as she sheds her identity, leaving it behind like so much nothing, and takes up the mantle of her deceased brother. Is this truly what fate had in mind? Can she rise to the greatness that had been assigned to another identity? Or has she simply become who she was always meant to be.

I really enjoyed this book. I’m always in for books that are compared to “Mulan” and, while I haven’t read “Song of Achilles” I know that it’s well-regarded. However, now having read this book, I’d say that a better marketing campaign would have directed readers to “The Poppy War” as the best comparison. Many of the themes are similar, and the dark, grim tone of a war-focused novel is very much the same in each of these books. Like “The Poppy War,” “She Who Became the Sun” doesn’t shy away from the bleak and challenging aspects of war. Many “Mulan” stories are so focused on the heroism of the main character, that war itself fades into the background, almost only a stagnant tool used to elevate the hero into her role. Not so here. Instead, greatness is shown to be perhaps its own burden, not any easier to carry than the nothingness that Zhu left behind.

The writing was incredibly strong, and I particularly enjoyed the well-blended mix of historical China with the fantastical elements. The story also managed to not get lost under its action-packed plot, instead giving ample time to exploring its themes of identity. Zhu’ own journey of self-exploration and acceptance is very powerful. The story doesn’t simply whip out the well-trodden lines, but instead dives into a very nuanced discussion, subtly exploring the many angles involved.

It wasn’t a perfect read, however. The book starts out with only Zhu’s POV and is very much a coming-of-age story. I really enjoyed this portion of the book, which perhaps is why I found it hard to readjust halfway through when the story suddenly expands outwards and adds in other POV characters. It was definitely a gutsy call on the author’s part, as it must has been suspected that readers would be fairly invested in Zhu by that point in the story and might struggle becoming attached to others later in the game. Luckily, the writing is strong enough to largely pull it off. But I did find myself thrown out of the book for a bit and needed some extra time to re-establish myself. This, then, threw off the pacing of the story as well, overall.

I really liked this book. The writing was confident and lyrical, truly impressive from a debut author. The themes were also well-explored and Zhu was a fantastic main character. I was a bit put-off by the sudden switch from one POV to two, but I think it ultimately did help create a more nuanced look at the overall conflict.

Rating 8: While “Mulan” is an adequate comparison, I think this is a better read-alike for fans of “The Poppy War” who are looking for a darker war-focused story.

Reader’s Advisory:

“She Who Became the Sun” is on these Goodreads lists: 2021 Queer SFF and Asian Authored Books in 2021.

Find “She Who Became the Sun” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Final Girl Support Group”

Book: “The Final Girl Support Group” by Grady Hendrix

Publishing Info: Berkley Books, July 2021

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

Book Description: A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I’ve mentioned it many a time before, but I really enjoy slasher movies. They’ve been my jam since I was a middle schooler who was way into the likes of “Scream”, “Friday the 13th”, and “Halloween”, and as time has gone on I’ve explored many a franchise, many a slasher killer, and many a Final Girl. It’s a trope that’s a bit rooted in sexism and misogyny, as the virginal ‘good’ girl is usually the one to live to the end, though that’s been subverted a number of times in the past couple decades (“Scream” was probably the first to really do it right). Problematic or not, I do love a good Final Girl. A few books in the past few years have decided to explore what life would be like for a character like this after the monster movie has ended, and the newest foray into such exploration is Grady Hendrix’s “The Final Girl Support Group”. Because no one can deny that any Final Girl who survives a slasher killer, sometimes over multiple movies, would undoubtedly need therapy.

So much therapy…(source)

“The Final Girl Support Group” has a number of members, all of whom are middle aged women who have survived horrific, traumatic attempted murders that were then turned into film franchises. While the characters are technically original characters by Hendrix, all of them are clear analogs for some of the most popular Final Girls ever seen on screen (and their first names are usually the same as the actresses that portrayed these characters, with a couple subversions. It’s super, super fun). Marilyn (the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” analog) has married rich and dove into charity work; Dani (the “Halloween” analog, though a reference to Danielle Harris in later movies as ‘Jamie’ would probably be too on the nose) has become a gun hoarding hermit whose only companion is her wife, Michelle; Heather (“Nightmare on Elm Street”) has dived deep into conspiracy theories and addiction, as no one believes that her monster is, indeed, supernatural; Julie (“Scream”- another name change but her last name is Campbell) is wheelchair bound and now an activist; and Adrienne (“Friday the 13th”) has turned the summer camp of her trauma into a mental health wellness organization for women who have been affected by violence. But our first person protagonist is Lynette, who survived an attempted murder by a man whose dark obsession with Santa Claus drove him to kill people while wearing a Santa Suit (a la “Silent Night, Deadly Night”), and she is the one who probably needs the group more than the other members. When the other group members are wanting to disband, Lynette clings to the group, and when Adrienne is murdered she immediately believes that they are all in danger. It was an interesting choice to have our protagonist be Linnea Quigley’s character from “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, as technically, she isn’t a final girl- in the movie, she doesn’t survive, much less fight back against her would be killer. So in this, as a ‘real world’ version, Lynette has been kind of thrown to the wayside since she was too incapacitated to earn her Final Girl stripes. But it opens up a wealth of possibilities, and it makes Lynette somehow more vulnerable than the others in her insecurities and need to belong since she isn’t seen as a ‘fighter’. And in turn, that makes the story and the desperate choices she makes as they all try to survive once again compelling and frustrating, as well as very, very sad in some ways. While I think that Hendrix could have done more with her, and perhaps it would have been more interesting to follow another of the Final Girls (honestly, I want an entire book about Marilyn. I LOVED her), it felt correct that Lynette was the one we got, because she’s almost the one we could trust the least (outside of Heather. DAMN, poor Heather).

In terms of the plot as Lynette tries to figure out how to keep herself and her group mates alive, and to figure out who is targeting them, I was able to predict a few things here and there. I wasn’t as invested in that aspect of the story, as it’s pretty run of the mill. What makes this book work is that Hendrix has penned both a love letter to slasher movies, and found a way to deconstruct them and take them down a few notches without being smug about it. The slasher genre absolutely has problems with sexism and exploitation, and Hendrix makes us confront that by seeing just how incredibly messed up and traumatized these women are. Final Girls are seen as heroic in the movies because of their resilience and ‘goodness’, but in this book all of these women were basically brutalized by men, and then their lives were ruined because of it. However, that point doesn’t make it any less fun to see him play with these characters, and leave in all the fun easter eggs and treasures for readers who love the movies that their characterizations come from. I was grinning ear to ear throughout a lot of this book. And Hendrix, while making our Final Girls a little tragic and traumatized, also makes a few of them VERY funny. Marilyn had me in stitches half the time, and Heather has some hilarious snipes and sarcastic moments. Hendrix is still having fun, and the reader knows that you are allowed to have fun as well as confronting what the actual fallout of this kind of character would have be face.

“The Final Girl Support Group” was a really fun read for this slasher movie fan! It’s horror with heart and humor, and fans of the genre really need to check it out.

Rating 8: A fun love letter to one of my favorite horror movie genres, “The Final Girl Support Group” will be a blast for fans of slasher movies everywhere!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Final Girl Support Group” is included on the Goodreads lists “Slasher Fiction”, and “Horror To Look Forward To in 2021”.

Find “The Final Girl Support Group” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Book Club Review: “Parable of the Sower”

We are part of a group of librarian friends who have had an ongoing bookclub running for the last several years. Each “season” (we’re nerds) we pick a theme and each of us chooses a book within that theme for us all to read. Our current theme is “Award Winners”, in which we each picked a book that has won an award of some kind.

For this blog, we will post a joint review of each book we read for book club. We’ll also post the next book coming up in book club. So feel free to read along with us or use our book selections and questions in your own book club!

Book: “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler

Publishing Info: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Award: New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Book Description: When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day.

Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ pain.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith…and a startling vision of human destiny.

This highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from award-winning author Octavia E. Butler “pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale” (John Green, New York Times)—now with a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin.

Kate’s Thoughts

Back when Trump was elected, I started hearing whispers from my friends and acquaintances about a book called “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler. Many of them were saying that “Parable of the Sower” predicted the society in which a person like Trump could be elected, along with the existential crises that come with it. When we were deep in the shit of the Trump Administration, I couldn’t bring myself to read that book, as even though it sounded supremely fascinating, it also sounded too real. A story written in the early nineties that seemed to predict the shitshow of climate change, social inequity, and an incompetent and narcissistic president? On the nose! And therefore too stressful to read. So when someone in book club chose it for our first Award Winners read, I was happy that I finally had a push to read it…. And then I read it, and was sent into an anxiety spiral.

Basically my face during my entire reading experience.

“Parable of the Sower” is a bleak and terrifying dystopia where climate change, vast social and financial disparities, and corporate corruption has created a society where people are either gated in, hoping that they will not fall victim to rampaging violent nomads, or trying their best to survive in a violent and dangerous wasteland. We follow Lauren, a teenager who lives in a gated community who has dreams of a better future for herself, and who starts to develop and discover a new religion/life she calls Earthseed due to her faith and a condition in which she has hyper empathy to those around her. Butler creates a terrifying world where mass violence is always a threat, and it’s only a matter of time until a person faces the bleak and staggering reality of having to survive. I found it to be incredibly well written as well as horrific. It’s told in mostly epistolary devices, with Lauren recording what is going on each day, and I thought that the slow crumbling of her life and then rebuilding in a chaotic and unpredictable landscape to be compelling and very suspenseful. There were so many moments that not only set me on edge, but felt like they could potentially happen if we don’t get a hold on many existential crises that plague our world at the moment. Engaging to be sure, but it also made it hard for me to sleep at night.

I think that if I were a more religious person (in that I’m not at all) I may have connected a little bit more with the aspects of Lauren’s journey that involved ‘discovering’ Earthseed, and her self assurance that everything was going to work out because she was discovering and bringing forth a new religion that would save society. From the Biblical references to some of the blind faith aspects of this book, I didn’t connect as much to the moments where Lauren was creating a whole new belief system. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t intriguing; I definitely found myself enjoying the mythos that Butler was creating in this story, and liked seeing Lauren connect to it. I’m not sure that I have the emotional wherewithal to continue in the series (especially given that it’s incomplete; Butler passed away before she could complete it), but what I saw in this book really hit home how incredibly gifted Butler was for creating complex and horrifying alternate realities while also giving us a little bit of hope to cling to.

“Parable of the Sower” is a rough read, but I definitely think it’s worthwhile. Butler was a true talent, and this showcases the world building, and premonition, that she had as an author.

Serena’s Thoughts:

For being a long-time fan of the science fiction and fantasy genre, it’s kind of crazy that I hadn’t read any of Octavia Butler’s books before this. And I can’t really tell you why! Perhaps, like Kate mentioned above, when her books began coming up more and more in the public consciousness recently, I wasn’t really in a good mental place to dive into this type of story. Margeret Atwood is a similar author for me: I can recognize the supreme talent she is and appreciate her books, but I can only manage to read one every five years or so and inevitably spend those five years half terrified of the “too real”-ness of her stories. But, also like Kate said, I was glad to have the push to read this.

I agree with everything Kate wrote. I, however, come from a more religious family so in that way, I did connect more to the aspects of the story that were focused on the development of a belief system and the role that would play in Lauren’s management of the challenges of this society. Blind faith is a particularly challenging topic, even for those have a religious life. Most who are honest with themselves, I think, would say that faith itself is a constant challenge. It can provide some assurance in the midst of strife and unknown, but it, too, can cause its own form of strife, in that faith, at its core, is not necessarily a comfortable thing. I liked the way that Butler dug into this topic and her use of Biblical references went beyond the usual uses we’ve all seen a million times over.

I do think I’ll eventually read the next book, but like I said above, it will probably follow a pattern similar to my reading of Atwood’s stories. It’s a credit to just how powerful a writer Butler was that her presentation of a future world feels too read to inhabit for overly long without it causing real-world anxiety! If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I definitely recommend it.

Kate’s Rating 8: Terrifying and bleak, but well written and sprinkled with some hope, “Parable of the Sower” is a glimpse into a could be futurescape.

Serena’s Rating 8: Hope wars with terror in a version of the future that feels all-too real at times.

Book Club Questions

  1. The future that Butler paints in this book has a lot of mirrors to a reality that we seem to be nearly living in. Do you think that what happens to society in this book could happen in a similar fashion in real life? Why or why not?
  2. Even though Lauren is living in an unstable society and there is lots of violence and despair, she still seems to want to have kids some day. Why do you think that is?
  3. Does Lauren’s religion or belief system of Earthseed connect to you? Do you see it as a new religion? A cult? Something else?
  4. At one point Lauren says that she isn’t inventing Earthseed, but discovering it. What do you make of that statement?
  5. At one point Lauren and her group pass by the settlement of Hollister, which seems to be pretty stable and safe. What did you think of them continuing on their journey instead of stopping and settling?
  6. What did you think of the concept of hyper-empathy?
  7. What did you think that Butler was saying about religion in this book?

Reader’s Advisory

“Parable of the Sower” is included on the Goodreads lists “Sci-Fi That Will Change The Way You Look At Life”, and “SFF Books by Black Authors”.

Find “Parable of the Sower” at your library using WorldCat!

Next Book Club Book: “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White.

Serena’s Review: “The Empire’s Ruin”

Book: “The Empire’s Ruin” by Brian Staveley

Publishing Info: Tor Books, July 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Book Description: The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.

In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.

But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive. 

Review: I was so excited when I saw an ARC of this pop up on Edelweiss several months ago. I really enjoyed both the original “Unhewn Throne” trilogy by Brian Staveley as well as his companion/prequel stand-alone, “Skullsworn.” I knew he had another book in the works, but I hadn’t been paying overly much attention to when it was slated for release. Call me jaded, but epic fantasy isn’t the most reliable of genres for timely releases! But it arrived at last, and I wasted no time before diving right in.

Five years after the events of the first trilogy, the Annurian empire is scrambling to hold itself together. Adare, unable to use the kenta gates, the magical doorways that allow the sitting empire to quickly travel throughout the land, is desperate to hold her world together. To do so, she recruits a thief-turned-monk who promises he can teach her how to use the magical passages. But the empire is weak in more than one way. With the Kettral depleted, Gwenna is sent on a perilous mission to travel south into a land riddled with madness and monsters in search of Kettral eggs to bring back in the hope of rebuilding the powerful fighting force. And on the edge of the Empire, revolution has struck and two priests discover that their may be more Gods in the world than they had thought. And a new one has arrived with plans of conquest.

The story is split between three characters (sadly, Adare is not one of them). While the book is approachable to new readers, long-time fans of the series will be most rewarded. Gwenna, the Kettral warrior, had POV chapters in the last two books in the original trilogy. And Ruc, a priest of the Goddess of love who resides in the swamp-surrounded city of Dombang, was a character readers met in “Skullsworn.” The third character is a priest who grew up alongside Kaden whom readers briefly met in the first book. Gwenna is the most familiar of the three, but this prior knowledge of their stories does add depth to their arcs here, and fans of the previous books will be rewarded with little tidbits and references throughout the story.

This book is definitely the first in a series (duology? trilogy?). In that way, much of the story is set-up for the larger conflicts to come. We see that in the carefully laid groundwork that plays out in our three main story lines. Each drops several small pieces here and there to the larger plot, but none of the characters have a full view of the greater picture. Indeed, their plot lines barely even brush each others, all three living out very different experiences in far-spread parts of the world. Due to this, the story definitely progresses in a slow, careful manner. There are some tense action scenes, probably the best coming in Gwenna’s chapters, but the overall plot is mostly concerned with setting the stage.

However, the writing is as strong and compelling as ever. So while the book wasn’t a fast read or full to the brim with a moving plot, I was still completely engrossed. As we see some pieces fall into place at the end, it’s also gratifying to know that these disparate plot lines will come together in a satisfying way eventually. Given Staveley’s last trilogy, I felt satisfied with this book as a solid introduction to where he is heading eventually.

The characters themselves also largely go through “beginning of the book” syndrome. In that, each of them spends the majority of the book having their understanding of themselves and how they exist in their world broken down piece by piece. This is, of course, necessary for many character arcs as it allows the story to then focus on the rebirth of a character into a new form. But unlike the traditional arcs we see play out in single works, like the plot, this book treats its character arcs as ones that span the entire serie. So a first book sees only the first steps in this process.

At times, it can feel like a bit much. It’s definitely not a fun read to see favorite characters go through existential crisis after existential crisis, regardless of how necessary it is for their ultimate growth. Gwenna, in particular, has a roller coaster of a ride, with some true highs alongside some very dark, lonely lows. However, again, towards the end of the book, we begin to see the direction these characters are headed in, and I have faith that their continued stories will retroactively justify some of the lows we experience with our characters here.

I really enjoyed this book. It was so exciting to be back in this world. The familiar characters and scenes were a joy to return to, and the expanded world and mythology felt like it perfectly slotted in with what we already new of this universe. The book is long and, at times, slow moving, but fans of the series will likely be so thrilled by a new entry that this slower pace just seems like an excuse to revel in the story. Fans of epic fantasy are sure to enjoy this, though, while it’s not necessary, I recommend reading Staveley’s other books first, particularly the first trilogy.

Rating 8: An excellent return to the world of the “Unhewn Throne,” though the book is definitely focused more on setting up the bigger story than in creating a self-contained plot.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Empire’s Ruin” is a new book, so it isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it is on Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2021.

Find “The Empire’s Ruin” at the library using WorldCat!

Monthly Marillier: “Wildwood Dancing”

“Monthly Marillier” is a review series that is, essentially, an excuse for me to go back and re-read one of my favorite author’s back catalog. Ever since I first discovered her work over fifteen years ago, Juliet Marillier has been one of my favorite authors. Her stories are the perfect mixture of so many things I love: strong heroines, beautiful romances, fairytale-like magic, and whimsical writing. Even better, Marillier is a prolific author and has regularly put out new books almost once a year since I began following her. I own almost all of them, and most of those I’ve read several times. Tor began re-releasing her original Sevenwaters trilogy, so that’s all the excuse I needed to begin a new series in which I indulge myself in a massive re-read of her books. I’ll be posting a new entry in this series on the first Friday of every month.

Book: “Wildwood Dancing” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Alfred A. Knopf, January 2007

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.

Review: Obviously, I love fairytale re-tellings. But as the genre goes, there are definitely more popular fairytales than others to receive this treatment. For example, there are a million and one stories reimagining “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella.” And just this summer, we’re seeing three separate books coming out retelling variations of “Little Red Riding Hood.” But two of my favorite fairytales, “The Seven Swans” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” definitely fall in the “less likely” category for stories to be rewritten. Luckily for me, one of my favorite authors has written my favorite versions of both of these stories. I’ve already covered “Daughter of the Forest,” so now it’s time for Marillier’s take on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”

To others, Jena’s home may seem strange and even possibly dangerous. But she’s always loved the ramshackle castle and the mysterious woods that surround it. Wandering the wilds with her beloved frog, Gogu, Jena know that magic exists in this place. Every full moon, she and her four sisters travel in secret to the land of the fairies where they spend a night dancing and enjoying the revels of that strange world. But when Jena’s father becomes sick and leaves the management of the household to Jena herself, the magic that once made up her life seems to begin to turn dark. With threats looming in both the world of the fairies and in her own, very human world, Jena desperately tries to find the strength within to hold on tight to those she loves.

There are many things to like about this book. For one thing, it’s one of the first YA fantasy stories I read by Marillier. As such, the tone of the story and the trials her characters face are different than her adult books. While the story still has darker moments, overall, the tone of the story is light and bright. The wonders of the full moon balls were probably some of the best scenes of the book, perfectly capturing the magic of these visits with small details about the music, ballgowns, and strange attendees who made up these affairs. It is easy for readers to immediately come down on Jena’s view of this magical world, both the joys it can present but also the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.

I also really liked the side characters in this book. All of Jena’s sister felt distinct and had their own moments and mini arcs/stakes at play throughout the story. I would at turns find myself rooting for each of them and then, conversely, massively rolling my eyes at some of their nonsense. Tati, for example, the eldest sister who falls in love with a young man from the fairy world, is always a struggle for me. “Dying for love” is just not something I can really get behind, especially not in the circumstances given here where Tati’s lack of will to live, essentially, is not only dooming herself but leaving her sisters alone to cope with the very real, very present challenges before them.

I also really enjoyed the various relationships highlighted in this story. Obviously, there’s quite a lot of attention given to sisterhood, espeically as Jena sees her role in regards to her sisters, learning lessons about the difference between loving someone enough to let them make their own way and holding on too tightly. But there’s also a lot of attention given to friendship, that between Jena and her frog, Gogu, as well as the increasingly tense relationship between Jena and her cousin, Cezar. There we see how the choices we make not only change ourselves, but they change the relationships we have with people as well. The romance was also very sweet and original in this story, taking a winding path and drastically veering away from the traditional fairytale’s version.

Jena is also an excellent main character. And part of what makes her excellent is how very frustrating I often found her to be. If there’s on criticism that I’ve leveled the most against Marillier’s books up to this point, it’s that her main characters are a bit too perfect. That is definitely not the case here. Jena is presented as a highly capable young woman, but this same high level of ability is also her greatest weakness throughout the book. Again and again, we see Jena fail to trust those around her to help her deal with the challenges before her. Instead, she attempts to manage things (and people!) that aren’t her responsibility or things she has no right to direct. There are a couple of choices and moments that are very tough to read, as Jena so clearly ignores the common sense and warnings that the reader is picking up on. However, all of this is also very intentionally written in and included in Jena’s overall arch of self-discovery and growth.

This is one of my favorite Marillier books to go back and re-read. I’ve included it in lists in the past as a comfort read type of book, and that it remains. The story is fast-moving, the magic is beautiful and unique, and I love the friendships and romance at the heart of the story.

Rating 8: The best version of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” that I have yet to find.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Wildwood Dancing” is on these Goodreads lists: Books about Faery and 12 Dancing Princesses Retellings.

Find “Wildwood Dancing” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Children of Chicago”

Book: “Children of Chicago” by Cynthia Pelayo

Publishing Info: Agora Books, February 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: This horrifying retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale set in present-day Chicago is an edge of your seat, chills up the spine, thrill ride. ‪ When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned. When another teenager is brutally murdered at the same lagoon where her sister’s body was found floating years before, she is certain that the Pied Piper is not just back, he’s looking for payment he’s owed from her. Lauren’s torn between protecting the city she has sworn to keep safe, and keeping a promise she made long ago with her sister’s murderer. She may have to ruin her life by exposing her secrets and lies to stop the Pied Piper before he collects.

Review: There were, of course, many disappointments that came with the pandemic, and one of the biggest sub groups for me was of the cinematic variety. Not only do I really miss going to the Alamo Drafthouse for throwback movie nights, there were a number of movies I was very excited to see in the theater, that either had to be released on demand, or were bumped back by a year. One of those movies was the reboot of “Candyman”. For the unfamiliar, the premise is that if you say ‘Candyman’ into a mirror five times, he will come out of it and brutally murder you. I really enjoy the original, as not only does it tick my boxes of urban legend based horror and social commentary, it’s also an awesome deep dive into the city of Chicago and all of its darker realities (and seeing that I’m vaxxed now, if the numbers are looking good by the time this new movie comes out, maybe that will be my triumphant return to the movies…. fingers crossed?). Lucky for me, I randomly stumbled upon “Children of Chicago” by Cynthia Pelayo on Twitter, and after looking into it, lo and behold: it’s a horror story in Chicago, involving a mysterious game and the fairy tale of the Pied Piper, the man who steals children away when he isn’t compensated. OH MAN, THIS IS WHAT I WANT IN MY HORROR STORIES!

“You were not content with the stories, so I was obliged to come.” (source)

There are certainly comparisons to be drawn between “Children of Chicago” and “Candyman”, but Pelayo has created a horror story that feels wholly unique because of the themes and twists that she throws into it. The Pied Piper story turned urban legend is a great premise, as the fairy tale on its own is horrifying. When you bring it into a modern setting, and add in elements of “Bloody Mary” like kids games and Slenderman stabbings, it becomes something new and even more sinister. As our protagonist Detective Lauren Medina investigates the deaths of kids in Chicago, we find ourselves in a modern fairy tale with elements that suit both the horror genre and the genre it’s paying homage to. Pelayo has a stellar mystery of what the Pied Piper is, how he connects to Lauren, and how he’s involved in not only the deaths of teens in her jurisdiction, but also that of her younger sister, who was found drowned in a lagoon in Humboldt Park when Lauren was a child. As she investigates and starts to piece together what is going on, the tension builds and the terror creeps up. I loved how Pelayo took the original story and applied it to the present, bringing in modern horrors and anxieties to create something twisted and new. Sometimes things got a bit muddled, or I would feel like it was lagging a bit in terms of pacing, but mostly I was hooked and wanted to keep going.

Pelayo also has a lot of really fun tidbits about Chicago’s history, both that of the innovative and joyful city, and that of the darkness and violence that has plagued it since its inception. I know a little bit about Chicago, given that I’m from the Midwest and it is the biggest city in our region, but I feel like I learned more about it and its history as I read this book. Pelayo has a special focus on the systemic racism that has caused so many problems and damaged so many lives, and how Chicago has a lot of death surrounding it because of its history and because of the ills that still plague it. You get the sense that Pelayo loves Chicago, and wants it to be the best that it can be, while still acknowledging how dark it is in some ways.

But what struck me most about “Children of Chicago” is that our protagonist, Lauren Medina, is not exactly a hero. She carries a lot of baggage from her past, from the disappearance of her mother to the death of her sister, to trying to live up to the Medina name as her father was a highly respected police officer in his own right. There is also the very pesky fact that Lauren has a pretty serious pattern of discharging her weapon on suspects, and while in one case it’s possibly justifiable, in a number of other cases it isn’t. I feel like in cop stories where a cop or detective or what have you is trying to hunt down someone monstrous, more often than not if they ARE a ‘renegade’, it’s portrayed in a way that makes their behavior seem justified (though recently we saw a bit of a challenge to this in Stephen King’s “Later”). Not so in “Children of Chicago”. Lauren is a renegade and it is a serious problem, in that it damages her credibility, it damages the credibility of her department, and it causes damage to innocent peoples lives. It’s just one more layer of darkness to this tale, and getting into the mind of Lauren and peeling back the elements of her character is just as disturbing as some of the other aspects of this book.

Horror fans, you should definitely go read “Children of Chicago”. And I’m on board with whatever Pelayo comes out with next.

Rating 8: Dark and twisted, as well as a biting character study, “Children of Chicago” is a love letter to a complicated city, and an urban legend scary story sure to delight horror fans.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Children of Chicago” is included on the Goodreads list “2021 Horror Releases”.

Find “Children of Chicago” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!