Cursed Collectibles Anthology to Be Released October 1st

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I’m so excited to share I have a story coming out in the Cursed Collectibles anthology and it’ll be available for purchase on October 1st – just in time for Halloween!

The story I have in this anthology, entitled “The Garden Party” is actually one I wrote way back when I was going to UCSD – and then rewrote and submitted for this! I love the theme, the cover art, and can’t wait to read/hear the rest of the stories. Thanks for all the hard work Jace Killan!

Authors with stories in the Cursed Collectibles anthology are Dave Butler, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Joy Johnson, Martin L. Shoemaker, Gama Martinez, Mike Jack S, Lyn Worthen, Shannon Fox, Karen Pellett, Jessica Springer Guernsey, Jennifer Blair, Steve Ruskin, Tanya Hales, Frank Morin, Lauren Lang, Jo Ann Schneider Stringer, Kelly Lynn Colby, Heidi Andrus Wilde, Adric Mayall, Chris Abela, Martin E Greening, John David Payne

Edited by Angela Eschler

Cover art by Novae Caelum

And audiobook narrated by Shaun Smith and Hillary Andrus Straga

All profits from the sale of this anthology go to the Don Hodge Scholarship Fund (which is a scholarship that helps people attend Superstars Writing Seminars)

The anthology and audiobook will be available for purchase on Amazon.

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmare.

I’ll be honest, I picked this one up purely because someone who read my book said it reminded them of the movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes. As I’m still on the hunt for good comp titles, I decided to check out the book the movie was based on.

I think the only Bradbury book I’ve read prior to this is Farenheit 451 and it was sooo long ago, I don’t remember it well at all. I definitely don’t remember Bradbury’s language being like this, but maybe it was. In any case, one of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the way Bradbury plays with language and upends what we know about how English should be written. He slams words and verbs together in topsy-turvy ways that honestly really fit the atmosphere and tone of this book. It’s quite something to read even if I wasn’t always 100% sure what he meant by something. If you love experimental writing and/or language poetry, definitely check this one out. It’s really, really interesting to see language used like this in a story that otherwise seems very mainstream.

As I’m sure you can tell from the back cover copy above, the plot is super intriguing, dark and fun all at once. All of that I enjoyed. But what I enjoyed more was the way Bradbury resisted turning to the conventional with this story. Every time the story seemed to fall into a tried-and-true wagon rut, he changed course to lead us toward something entirely unexpected. The result is a story that takes one of the most fundamental truths of life (the young can’t wait to grow up while the old wish to roll back the clock) and presents in a fresh and fun way against a chilling backdrop of increasing horror.

If you haven’t read Something Wicked This Way Comes before or it’s been awhile, add it to your TBR stack for October!

 

13 Books on My TBR List for 2019

For 2019 I’ve set myself the (hopefully) doable goal of reading 35 books in 2019. Just a couple more than I ended up reading in 2018!

I feel like I’ve gotten very far behind on all of my series and fiction reading because I mostly read non-fiction this year. As such, there are some new releases I’m excited about…but then I realize I haven’t even read the book the previous book in the series. So instead of doing a list of new releases I’m excited about, I’ll just going to highlight some books that are on my TBR list for 2019, regardless of whether they’re a new release or not.

13 Books on My TBR List for 2019

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

This one IS actually a new release for 2019 and I’m so, so excited to get my hands on it. It sounds like a mix of everything I love in books and I think I am going to thoroughly enjoy it.

Talk Triggers by Jay Baer

Word of mouth is directly responsible for 19% of all purchases, and influences as much as 90%. Every human on earth relies on word of mouth to make buying decisions. Yet even today, fewer than 1% of companies have an actual strategy for generating these crucial customer conversations. Talk Triggers provides that strategy in a compelling, relevant, timely book that can be put into practice immediately, by any business.

The key to activating customer chatter is the realization that same is lame. Nobody says “let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I had last night.” The strategic, operational differentiator is what gives customers something to tell a story about. Companies (including the 30+ profiled in Talk Triggers) must dare to be different and exceed expectations in one or more palpable ways. That’s when word of mouth becomes involuntary: the customers of these businesses simply MUST tell someone else.

Consumers are wired to discuss what is different, and ignore what is average. Talk Triggers not only dares the reader to differentiate, it includes the precise formula for doing it.

I saw Jay Baer talk about Talk Triggers (say that five times fast) last year at Social Media Marketing World and just recently got around to ordering a copy of the book. As referral marketing is my very favorite type of marketing, I’m super excited to dive into this book because his talk was one of the best at the conference last year!

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

I finally got around to reading The Tipping Point in 2018 so I’m itching to read the other Gladwell book I have. Love him or hate him, Gladwell’s books are interesting and entertaining reads that, if nothing else, should prompt you to do your own research and deepen your understanding of the topic that is presented.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This is a carry-over from last year’s list of new releases I was looking forward to 2018. I finally got a copy of this book after Christmas! Super excited to finally jump in and read the book that’s been super buzzed about over the last year!

The Stand by Stephen King

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen.

I’ve actually had a copy of this book for a few years now and have had every intention of starting it, but it’s absolutely massive so I’ve been putting it off. Hopefully 2019 is the year to change that!

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media, Rachel Hollis has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own. Now comes her highly anticipated first book featuring her signature combination of honesty, humor, and direct, no-nonsense advice.

Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward.

From her temporary obsession with marrying Matt Damon to a daydream involving hypnotic iguanas to her son’s request that she buy a necklace to “be like the other moms,” Hollis holds nothing back. With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.

This was a book that was EVERYWHERE in 2018. And love her or hate her, Rachel Hollis is really good at doling out the inspiration. I’m excited to see what the buzz is about and hopefully, finish the book feeling a tad more inspired about life!

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmare.

As I’m about to close out another draft of Shadow of the Magician and believe I’m finally just months away from starting to query agents, I’ve been looking at books to consider for possible comp titles for mine. This was a suggestion from a friend and I have to admit, this book just sounds good.

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.

After reading the first three books in The Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy, I’m interested to read this new book and see how the story continues. There’s always a bit of nerves involved when you hear that a series that has supposedly wrapped up is getting new books. Will the new book do the original series justice? Will it be just as enjoyable? We will find out…

Origin by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I was supposed to see Dan Brown when he came to San Diego on tour for this book, but after the event was canceled, it took me a bit to get around to buying a copy. Not because I was upset or anything, I just tend to put off buying books because I know I really, really have a lot. I actually thought about buying another bookshelf from IKEA to match the one I have, but then I remembered my original bookshelf was discontinued and the new version, though similar, is not an exact match. Being that the bookshelves will go next to each other, my OCD can’t handle that. So I continue to have piles of books on the floor. Annnddddd this has nothing at all to do with Origin.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

A friend told me about this series and when I looked it up, it sounded like something I would like. Also, absolutely love the title. And the cover is gorgeous. But I recently started thinking this book could also be a comp for my book so it’s moved up my TBR list.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

This book was recently made into a movie which I haven’t seen yet. I hate watching the movie first because I never enjoy the book after. But after seeing the trailer, this book also moved up my gargantuan list.

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

Another entry on the possible comp title search. But being that Nikola Tesla is actually a character in this book, this one will probably be a sure bet. I’ve put off reading it because I didn’t want to do anything to include my own writing. So this one will not be read until I’m absolutely done done.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Another carryover from last year’s list, I’ve had this book since it came out, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet! Can’t wait to dive back into the Red Rising world!

So tell me: what’s on your TBR list for 2019? Any new releases you’re looking forward to buying? Any books you’ve had forever that you’re determined to finally get around to ready? Leave me a comment below!

 

 

Undercurrents

Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath

Fear is primal. Instinctive. Unavoidable. And right now, there is something you fear—and you can feel it. Creeping up behind you. Lurking in the darkness that lives under your bed, or in your closet. A nameless dread. 

In Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath, twenty-three talented authors, including New York Times bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye, have stood on the shores of their psyches and looked out over the ocean of possibility and wondered “What lies beneath?” 

The sea creatures and sea monsters that answered their calls range from a giant kraken that rules the deepest ocean to the smallest puffer fish that creates intricate works of underwater art. Creatures of classic mythology—mermaids, sirens, and sea serpents—swim alongside more unusual beasts—underwater cats and singing whirlpools. These stories dive deep into the fears many of us face, including loss, abandonment, death, and physical, mental, or emotional danger. When the fears we keep buried beneath the surface rise up and threaten to consume, we must make a choice: conquer or be conquered. 

This anthology is the fourth volume produced by the alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminar, and all royalties benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

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After attending the Superstars conference this year, I picked up the newest anthology, Undercurrents. I’ve never been a big anthology reader though I own several (including all the rest of the Superstars anthologies).

But since I’ve been so busy lately and not had much time for reading, I found reading an anthology to be the perfect antidote to never feeling like I’m finishing anything. Instead of reading a chapter before bed, I get to read a whole story!

And, I really liked this anthology. I think every story in it was well-written, unique, and fresh. It was interesting to see how people interpreted the theme of “what lies beneath” and what they did with it. Many of the stories were more “classic” and involved krakens and sea monsters and sirens. But none of them were exactly conventional. Other stories took the theme of “what lies beneath” to thoroughly unexpected locales like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The stories also covered a range of genres from horror to sci-fi to fantasy and even contemporary fiction. There was only one story in this anthology I couldn’t really get into, but I think its style just didn’t appeal to me.

This anthology is a great one to have on your shelf and if you’re a person who is obsessed with the sea or sea monsters, you will definitely want to add this one to your collection!

 

Series Spotlight: The Dark Tower

By Stephen King

Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King’s epic work of fantasy — what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus — has spanned a quarter of a century.

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King’s most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

Because of the nature of this series, where the seven books really equate to one rather long novel, I am reviewing all seven books in one post.

The Gunslinger was my very first Stephen King book! After years of staying away from the master of horror because of my aversion to horror movies and being scared, I finally relented when my friend sent me the first two books in the series. And then I just gobbled them up from there. Like if you’ve been following me on Goodreads and have seen how many books I’ve read recently and how few actually have reviews on this blog, in my defense I have to say it was The Dark Tower. And if you’re my neighbor who’s wondering why I have been missing our writing dates or my boyfriend who wants to know why I’m not starting on the seriously amazing book idea he gave me, I also have to say, it was The Dark Tower.

I wish that excuse worked as well for me as it does for Roland.

~ Here there be spoilers ~

The Gunslinger

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

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I didn’t particularly love this one, but I was intrigued enough to keep reading. And the book got better towards the end. Loved the confrontation with the man in black and Roland’s relationship with Jake. For the most part the story rattles along at a great clip and ends with you dying to get your hands on the next one. Which I already had, which leads me to…

The Drawing of the Three

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

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This book really started to show me why Stephen King is one of our best storyteller’s. Eddie and Odetta were both just insanely complex, crazy characters. A junkie mixed up with the mob and an amputee black woman with schizophrenia. I can’t even imagine how you dream up characters like them, but I’m so glad King managed it.

I also enjoyed Roland’s foray’s into “our time” and how charmingly fish out of water he was and also how resourceful. His whole difficulty with figuring out how to get medicine and bullets was kind of ridiculous, but it was hilarious how he overcame his own shortcomings to succeed.

There’s a twist concerning the third person that is “drawn” that is so, so, so good. This and the zaniness of Odetta and Eddie really hooked me on this series. So I bought the third book…

The Waste Lands

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Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

…which was even better than the second and I loved the second!

Although what happens to Jake in book one is revisited in book two, it was book three that really convinced me that the more random parts of book one were necessary after all. Jake comes back. The man in black comes back. Sex with demons comes back. Ali comes back.

It is also in book three that Roland’s “world” really comes alive. Finally, we start getting clues of how this whole place is set up with the twelve points, the guardians, the tower, and the beam.

King also introduced my favorite character in the series thus far: Oy! Oy is just amazing.

In this book the coincidences between things really start to pile up. And again, King proves how masterful a storyteller he is in that capacity. It’s one thing to write a story. It’s another thing to write that intricate of a story.

I feel sorry for anyone who had to wait between books three and four though. I would have gone out of my damn mind if I couldn’t immediately flip to book four and the resolution of the conflict with Blaine the Mono…

Wizard and Glass

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Roland of Gilead and his fellow pilgrims determine to reach the Dark Tower, but their quest is rife with confrontation, conflict, and sacrifice – from a vast computer system which bargains in riddles to Roland’s old enemy Walter and the wizard’s glass.

…which is continued in the opening pages of this book at a hurtling pace. As fast as Blaine the Mono is traveling. And then the pace comes to a screeching halt. Just like Blaine.

So apparently people are of two thoughts about this fourth book: either that the whole story of Susan is one of the most important elements of the whole story because it shapes Roland and starts his quest for the Dark Tower OR it’s a complete waste of time, super boring, about five hundred pages too long, and really takes away from the continuity of the narrative.

I’m more in the first camp, but I also found the story of Susan super painful to read because you already know there’s no happy ending here, though you don’t know exactly what happens, and then you find out and your heart is absolutely crushed beyond belief.

Seriously, I have hardly been able to tear myself away from the series and I had to give myself a few hours to recover from the horror of it.

But I did, so here we go to book five…

Wolves of the Calla

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Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town’s soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough….

So after the detour back to Roland’s youth, we’re finally back in the main timeline with Susannah, Jake, Oy, and Eddie (yay!)

We get a confirmation on that Susannah pregnancy (ugh) and that it’s a demon baby (double-ugh). The ka-tet gets drawn into the fight at Calla Bryn Sturgis because Pere Callahan has something they need: Black 13, another of those mystical orbs like the pink one that caused so much trouble in the Susan story. Apparently, there are 13 of these things (one for each point on the beam and one for the Dark Tower itself) and they all have strange abilities. Black 13 has the ability to help them open doors into other world’s which is important because they’re trying to save the rose that Jake found in New York.

So, they end up helping the Calla fight the Wolves who steal one from each pair of twins and send back that twin stupid and “Roont”.

Along the way, we hear the story of Pere Callahan, a character from Salem’s Lot who seems poised to join the ka-tet on their journey to the Dark Tower.

But before they can continue to the tower, the ka-tet has to chase after Susannah, who has been abducted by yet another personality from her delicate psyche. A personality that also decided to steal Black 13, because you know, nothing can ever go right in this quest.

The Wolves of the Calla also hearkens back to Book 3, The Wastelands, because it further establishes the coincidences and connections that seem to undercut this entire world. This book is super lengthy (almost 950 pages!) so it’s definitely an event to get through it, but like all the books in The Dark Tower series, worth the read.

In addition to the story of Pere Callahan and his vampires, and more strange robotic creatures like The Bear, we get introduced to the Manni, a group of almost mystical holy figures that I am itching to learn more about. It is they who discovered a door in a cave and it’s through that door the ka-tet will go….

Song of Susannah

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To give birth to her “chap,” demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah…and terrifying to the “daughter of none,” who shares her body and mind.

Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave…and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope with each other and with an alien environment “go todash” to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.

Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn’t. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying.

These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer’s journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga’s final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).

 This was the first book I felt had moments of actual “creepiness”. Nothing so far in this series has been unsettling to me, but the climax of this one was.

This book has a lot of revelations in it (you would think by book 6 of a 7 book series we’d be done with revelations and waiting for the final confrontation, but no). About Mia, about the chap, about the dark tower, about Castle Discordia, about the Crimson King, even about Stephen King himself.

The most insane thing about this book to me was that the author wrote himself in as a character. That’s not breaking the fourth wall, this is something else entirely, breaking the fifth wall maybe? The end notes are an awesome read for Stephen King fans and I can’t help, but shiver that he aligned the birth of the chap with the exact date he gets hit by a car. We also learn the greater significance of the numbers 19, 99, and 1999.

And so we go onwards at last to The Dark Tower…

The Dark Tower

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The seventh and final installment of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author’s long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal.

This book me the most time to read out of the whole series. Partly because I had a lot of things going on and partly because I was hesitant to end my journey to the dark tower.

What a series this was. What a series indeed. I’m so, so glad I read this.

I have little to say about this book because it would just be too many spoilers, but this is a heartbreaker for sure. But so worth the read.

That ending is still endlessly debated by Dark Tower fans. I’m still sorting it out for myself and it’s been a week since I finished the series.

 

If I haven’t convinced you to read this series yet, I don’t know what it will take. Oh yes, perhaps that there’s a movie dropping in February 2017. So you better hustle if you want to read it all before you see the movie!

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Acceptance

By Jeff VanderMeer

It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it–the Southern Reach–has collapsed on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they’ve been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.

Meanwhile, Acceptance tunnels ever deeper into the circumstances surrounding the creation of Area X–what initiated this unnatural upheaval? Among the many who have tried, who has gotten close to understanding Area X–and who may have been corrupted by it?

In this last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may be solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound–or terrifying.

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As I mentioned on my other two reviews, I’m so grateful that when I started to read this series all these books were out. I couldn’t have handled it if I had to wait months or years for the rest of the story.

Acceptance brings The Southern Reach trilogy to a close. Some answers are revealed, but in true VanderMeer form, we get more questions that don’t have ready answers.

The form of this book was quite a bit different than Annihilation and Authority. We jump from character to character as well as backwards and forwards in time. We hear from Control, Ghost Bird, the old Director of the Southern Reach, and Saul, the lighthouse keeper. So many different viewpoints means a lot of the questions and clues were either filled in completely or at least partly elucidated upon.

Finally, we begin to see inside the final days of the Coast and the birth of Area X. We learn a bit more about The Southern Reach and its shadowy controllers and employees. Control’s questions about the old Director get some explanation. And Control and Ghost Bird plunge into Area X, one final time.

I think this was my favorite of the three book. More answers, less secrets, but not all the answers. For those of you who remembered me being so scared while reading Annihilation, this book is not any creepier than that was.

Just go read it already. If you’ve come this far in the series, you might as well finish it!

Annihilation

By Jeff VanderMeer

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

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Annihilation takes the cake as one of the creepiest books I’ve read recently. I was thoroughly creeped out from the opening pages and nothing had happened yet, just description of landscape. Now that’s good writing!

As intrigued as I was, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book. I didn’t think I could handle it. But then, when I wasn’t home alone, I finished the rest of the book in one sitting.

If you’ve seen other reviews for this book, you know it opens a Pandora’s box of questions without bothering to solve much of anything at all. Good thing I got copies of the next two books, Authority and Acceptance, right away. I believe all three books originally came out within a few months of each other. Which was a good move on the publisher’s part. These books need to be binge-read together.

If you’re considering reading Annihilation, do yourself a favor and buy all three books.