Category: nostalgia


I’m finally getting around to writing this out three weeks into the current game. So, not too too far behind, but more than I would like. I think I’ve mentioned before, but this is the third campaign we’ve got for the same World of Darkness setting so there is a fair amount of carry over. Though most of that is from the last campaign since the original one was sort of off on its own. This is sort of a situation where back ground is helpful though, so let’s dig in.

So, Birmingham Saga part one was an all Changing Breeds campaign, everyone was a shape shifter of some stripe. There was Jonas the truly massive wolf were, Blane and Felina the cat shifters, Margaret the crow, and I cannot remember the rabbit’s name.

They wound up doing some work for a goat headed wizard before becoming the targets of a small cell of hunters, selling the wizard out to a vampire so that he would stop disappearing sorority and fraternity kids, and letting said vampire mind wipe the last of the hunters and take his family’s heirloom sword to save our own hides.

It sort of ended there and the characters presumably went their separate ways.

 

 

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Fall Into Books 10/5

FIB-favorite-authors

This is a hard one. Like, I can’t use favorite author as a recovery question because it changes pretty regularly based on what I’m reading at the time. So, let’s try to hammer down a top five four. That should be reasonably doable. Right?

So, in no particular order:

Seanan McGuire: I’ve been talking about Seanan McGuire’s books a lot lately, haven’t I? Her writing is aces the feel to it, whether leaning on folklore in Sparrow Hill Road or painting a picture of truly terrible parents in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, is great. She has protagonists who wouldn’t usually even be characters and this amazing work with the setting that makes it almost a character itself. It makes me really want to go back and read her October Daye books.

Tess Gerritsen: I admit, Tess Gerritsen makes this list almost as much for nostalgia’s sake as because I don’t remember reading a bad book from her since she swapped to writing thrillers. Even her romance novels weren’t bad, just very much a reflection of their genre and the tropes associated with it. So, not bad, just not for me. I’ve been reading the Rizzoli and Isles books since high school when I found a copy of Body Double in the basement and, since neither Mom or I could remember where it came from, figured it was as likely mine as hers and read it. Then I went back and found the first one at the Book Rack, The Surgeon, the Rizzoli and Isles book that wasn’t. It’s been a long ways since then. I still need to read I Know a Secret.

K. C. Alexander: The SINless novels, Necrotech and Nanoshock, have been something that I really, really want more of since chapter one. I’ve been wanting to talk about the end of Nanoshock since I finished it. And the way she handles her characters is both a treat and frustrating in the best way. Being right along with Riko in not knowing if she deserves the distrust from her former team or not, but still having to deal with the consequences of it, is pretty tops. I am still bouncing to find out what comes next and I’m going to do everything I can to find out, which in this case means backing her Patreon and reminding you all about how awesome her books are.

Robert Brockway: Somehow I missed Kill All Angels being released last December. But, I’ve reviewed and really enjoyed both of the other Vicious Cycle novels as well as his work on Cracked awhile back. The way he juggles timelines leads to interesting situations where both sets of characters learn a thing, but then the way they learn it or their reactions to that knowledge are vastly different. Plus, his character work is just fun.

 

Fall Into Books 10/4

FIB-childhood-favorite

I’m going to say the completely expected thing here.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone cover

The Harry Potter books were what I remember really getting me into reading as a kid. I know that I read a fair amount before that, mostly Nancy Drew kind of stuff. But then one Christmas one of my aunts gifted an elementary school me with these three tomes, saying that one of my older cousins really liked them. These things were each time again as thick as anything I’d read before minimum.

It was more than a little intimidating.

But then I started reading them and there was this new world to explore. There were monsters and magic and all number of things that I wanted more of. The characters were some of young me’s closest friends, and I could imagine myself at Hogwarts and along on their adventures. It was comfortable and fun and an away from the real world.

I got into more fantasy during the wait for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and then more sci-fi while waiting for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It opened my reading to Anne McCaffery and Brian Jacques and Tamora Peirce.

It felt a little like someone had shown me a hallway full of doors to other worlds and tossed the keys to me. There was so much to read, so many worlds to visit and characters to meet. So many adventures waited, if only I could find the books they were in. It meant that awkward kid me could find places she belonged.

And the characters grew with me, sort of at least. As they grew, so did the threats they faced and the stakes. It stayed a pretty standard hero’s tale, but Harry was given room to be angry and to feel uninformed and like he was being used. Characters matured and made mistakes, even the adults.

I really do need to read this series again sometime soon.

Fall Into Books 9/24

FIB-Bookstore

I’m running late on this one, aren’t I? I’ve got something of a confession for this one, my favorite bookstore’s been closed for years, and I’m well aware that it’s still my favorite because of nostalgia.

There used to be this tiny, tiny bookstore in Auburn called The Book Rack. It was sort of tucked out of the way, behind a restaurant that’s changed owners and menus a million or so times and a law office. You wouldn’t know to look for it if you didn’t already know it was there, after all the building beneath the sign was just a little old house.

Nothing fancy there.

All of their stock was second-hand trade ins from the customers. More often than not it was well loved and, in reality, third or fourth hand. But it was well organized and the people there were always friendly and ready to offer suggestions.

It was just fun to wonder through because the house itself had a number of miniature halls or shared closets between rooms, packed with shelves where space allowed. The whole place just felt nice. It was a sort of lazy summer day place.

Fall Into Books 9/15

FIB-debut-author

So, this is one I kind of have to cheat on. There isn’t really a favorite book by a debut author I can think of just now, but I do have a debut novel that I’m really excited to read. It’s the relaunch of a series I grew up with so, even though I would usually avoid talking about stuff related to the original author due to her stance on fan fiction, I am super excited for this one and really want to see what her daughter is going to do with the books here and going forward.

Dragons Code

Check it out! New Dragon Riders of Pern novel coming out next month. This is the book that middle school me would have would have 404ed at the idea of getting to read early. Adult me is also more than ready to dig in.

So, it took a little longer than to the end of the night. But , it turns out I had a bit more to say than I’d thought. Worse things have happened. I spent two weeks tracking down a copy of the second book in this series, here is Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex. Enjoy!

Heroine Complex cover

Aveda Jupiter is San Francisco’s super heroine, stopping demonic invasions as they crop up throughout the city. She’s brilliant at it and fantastic with the crowds. Unfortunately she’s also brilliantly difficult to work with, at least for anyone except her assistant Evie Tanaka. Unfortunately for Evie posing as Aveda Jupiter, being her while the real Aveda is out of commission, is much more difficult than just working for her. Stopping the incoming demonic invasion might just be easy by comparison.

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex was a total impulse pick for me while I was visiting my folks awhile back. The cover was cool and the blurb sounded fun. It kind of reminded me of some of the stuff I read back in high school. Plus, I just like the concept of the sidekick having to take on super hero level stuff and, through that, becoming a hero in her own right.

I liked Evie a lot, she opens up as the book progresses and lets herself have her feelings instead of keeping them locked back. Evie starts out so afraid of her feelings, afraid of what could happen if she felt strongly enough to trigger her powers. She’s afraid of the damage she could do if she lost control again. But then she’s forced to play the hero and the love interest is brought in and her feelings for him grow. She learns to not be afraid of them or of herself, which is a plot line that I enjoy greatly. It feeds into that character coming into her own, thing that I tend to enjoy so much.

I do wish less had been as reliant on the love interest, Nate, as it felt like it was. The book starts with Evie and Nate being almost at odds. He’s this big grump who serves as the team’s physician and demon researcher, he doesn’t do his share of chores around the HQ, and he’s inflexible in his methods. At least until Evie as Aveda needs a body guard/date to an event and it’s revealed that he looks really good in a suit. Then long moments are given over to Evie and Nate having couple moments and he becomes Evie’s rock. It interrupts the story and, since I’m not really here for the romance, drags more than a little. Admittedly, my issues here are almost entirely to do with how much page space the romance takes up rather than with Nate himself. He’s a solid character and it was nice to see him come out of his shell a little as he and Evie got closer.

The romance was mentioned in the blurb, so I expected it, but it felt fairly sudden and out of nowhere.  They were at odds and then they weren’t. He was an off putting grump and then he wasn’t. The turnaround is fast and I find myself wishing that there had been more of a slow burn thing going on. I also find myself wishing that it had eaten less of the page count just on its own, that more had been done make it feel like a break from the plot that gave Evie a much needed break from being something she wasn’t. It could have given a great view into her growth rather than feeling like the reason for it. This is one of the things that reminds me a lot of the stuff I was reading a decade ago and it’s the only bit I feel like I could have done without.

The flipside to the romance, something that I really enjoyed quite a bit, was Evie’s history with Aveda. This friendship that they’d had since they were grade schoolers that had kept solid for years and years through being social outsiders and the initial demon portal, through Evie’s power erupting horribly and Annie’s rise to super heroism and reinvention as Aveda Jupiter. It’s a friendship that’s gone a bit sour with Aveda’s whole super heroine diva thing and the way she tends to steamroll Evie’s thoughts and feelings on issues. Evie’s there to deal with Aveda’s temper tantrums and to guide her into better moods when things aren’t going her way, but then there doesn’t seem to be a ton she gets out of it aside from a pay check and fulfilling a sense of loyalty to her oldest friend. It was nice to see that have to change as Evie continued to stand in for Aveda and the public loved her and her power. It was nice to see how their relationship changed and strengthened as the plot rolled on.

That’s really where I land on this one. Heroine Complex was a fun nostalgic read for me. The characters were awesome and, while I could have done with less of the romance aspect, I’m definitely reading the other two books in the series. I want to spend more time with these characters, to see them grow and continue to come into their own. I want to see what Sarah Kuhn does going forward and how a world with demon portals and super heroines continues to develop. I’m giving Heroine Complex a four out of five and noting that the second book is already on my desk waiting for its chance to be read.

Later than I’d planned for, but this is one that I’ve been looking forward to finishing. It’s been a book that I’d been meaning to read since before its release but didn’t get the chance to really dig into until this week. Here’s Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. Enjoy!

Meddling Kids cover

Back in 1977 the kids of the Blyton Summer Detective Club had their last big case, some guy in a mask was hunting around in a supposed haunted house and the Blyton Summer Detective Club decided to stop him. They succeeded, really, they did. But maybe they saw a little more than they were meant to. A lot more than they were meant to. They solved the case, but what they saw broke them a little and they went their separate ways. The tomboy, wanted in two states. The brain, turned biologist, turned alcoholic. The golden boy, a star on film and in person, burned out before his time. The horror geek who turned himself over to an asylum, the only one who still talks to the golden boy even if he wishes he didn’t.  But the case wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. And that’s going to drag them back to the town where summer lived. The Blyton Hills, where their last big case was never fully solved, where everything went wrong, where just maybe they can put it back together again and put the past to rest. Put the past to rest and maybe save the world while they’re at it.

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is a deeply interesting beast of a book combining a number of takes on its own prose and some distinctly strange ideas that I want to see more of. This is, from title to composition to set up a fond reflection of those other meddling kids and their Great Dane. It isn’t a one to one thing, certainly, but the familiarity from that reflection allows for a certain degree of comfort with the less Saturday morning cartoon aspects. Lovecraftian strangeness and all that.

That’s actually a really good starting point here, Meddling Kids is sort of Lovecraft by way of Scooby Doo. It’s a lot softer than most of the Lovecraft based stuff I’ve read, more comedy than pure horror. But it plays with the wrongnesses worked into the fabric of reality that make up the horror of a lot of that sort of style of horror deals with. The writing will sort of break from standard prose into stage directions and lines and then snap back, characters interact with the narrative in non-standard ways. Kerrie, the resident brain, has hair that’s almost a character of its own. It reacts to things and has feelings, and somehow that’s done frankly enough in the writing to work. Similarly Tim, the Weimaraner, is given a ton of human reactions and is textually treated as being as self aware as the rest of the cast. Even buildings get in on the act. This all makes for some really nifty double take moments. It can also be a bit distracting when you first start reading, so there is that.

As far as the story goes, it feels very much like a comedy horror detective story. It is, in fact, shaped like itself. That isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, but I do feel like it shines the most when the characters have reached Blyton Hills and are poking at the things they hadn’t had the chance or awareness to investigate in the past. The points where things they’d talked about or experienced as kids come back up in the story, how safe a room had always felt or wanting to ride a mine cart, are really strong points for the characters and they feel good. This reads best when the focus is squarely on the characters, when it’s a bunch of former teen detectives trying to go back to what was and get down to the bottom of what is. It stays there too. The reader gets to see Andy being grumpy and aggressive and trying to keep the team going. We get Nate trying to keep it together as things get weirder and weirder and the dead guy won’t stop talking to him. I do wish we has seen more of the dead guy, I feel like Peter could have been a bigger presence throughout.

The setting is also great. Like I mentioned before, buildings become almost characters, reacting to the characters approach, muttering, and the like. The town of Blyton Hills is a town dying a slow death, but not ready to let go. There’s still people and drama and the issue with that old mansion. The choice to have the book take place in 1990 also works well with a lot of standard horror tropes. The technology we rely so readily upon just isn’t there, so they’re cut off in a lot of ways. There is no just grabbing a cell phone to call for back up, because they weren’t nearly as common. Likewise, the research needed has to be done by hand because the internet wasn’t as big or readily accessible. It also sort of slots the story into this sort of timeless place that doesn’t feel quite real, technology is seldom specifically brought up so the reader can sort of let things slide as they will. Blyton Hills itself has that sort of not real feeling so many fading towns get, it meshes well with the cast being comparatively small, but we’re also treated to the protagonists noting how empty the place feels. It makes for a pretty fantastic level of low key creepiness.

Meddling Kids is definitely a book that I hope gets a follow up. The handful of things I wasn’t a fan of pale in comparison to the things that work. This gets a five out of five from me. And I’m probably going to go looking for more of Edgar Cantero’s work.

The Burning

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m wrapping up the weekend’s festivities with the last Fear Street Saga novel today. This is actually the one I wimped out on last time. I admit the last thing I’d remembered from it was a lot earlier in the book than I’d thought. Bonus, the Jonesy cat seems to like Oxenfree and has been cuddling her whenever I’m in the room with both of them. It’s cute. Anyway, on to the review!

 

Over a hundred years ago Benjamin Fier framed an innocent girl for witchcraft and burned her at the stake. Over a hundred years since his brother Matthew robbed the girl’s grieving father. Over a hundred years since everything began, but just two since the curse was reawakened and Franks Goode murdered the Fier family in cold blood. Only two years since Simon Fear changed his family name and forswore good. The chain is completed, and the end is beginning.

The Burning is the third and final book in the original Fear Street Saga by R. L. Stine; it’s also the first of the three to give us a villain protagonist. That’s actually a thing that I appreciate about the book. Having Simon as both our starting protagonist and, ultimately, the antagonist of the book ties things up nicely in a way that the previous two books didn’t. The reader has known that the Fear Mansion was going to burn down at the end, leaving Nora Goode all alone; it’s just been a matter of getting there.

The big down side here is that I feel like the first half of the book was really rushed. Pacing has been a problem throughout the trilogy, so it isn’t a huge out of nowhere thing. It’s more another example of needing to get things in place for what comes next and not having the room for much build up. There’s some out of nowhere stuff that I would have liked to have seen more support for, but it’s par for the course at this point.

I can’t say that The Burning is the strongest of the three books, which probably still goes to The Betrayal, but it does pretty well for itself. While rushed in a lot of ways, I feel like a lot of the things that are rushed could or would probably be hand waved with the curse if the extra space had been taken to go further in.

There’s really not a lot for me to say here. The Burning has its points that work, and work well, but it also shares the same weak points that the rest of the series has. It also has an unfortunate side effect, since the reader knows about how it ends and that Fear Street is ultimately still cursed, of not having a really satisfying ending. It’s just kind of done. So, at the end of the day I think it earned a three out of five. If any single part of it had been a touch better it would have been a four.

Missed a day there. Nothing really big happened, the spooks freaked out a little when a friend came over. I think they aren’t fans of new people. Going to work up something to fix that. Any way, on to the review!

the-secret-cover

Forty-five years have passed since Benjamin Fier had an innocent girl and her mother burned at the stake. Forty-five years have passed since Matthew Fier robbed the girl’s father of everything he had with false promises. Forty-five years have passed since a curse was cast from betrayal and a mourning father’s grief. Following his great uncle’s notes Ezra Fier seeks the last of the Goodes to have revenge for his family’s downfall. Another link in the chain of vengeance is forged.

The Secret is R. L. Stine’s second book in the Fear Street Saga trilogy. Sometime after the end of the first book Ezra Fier has dragged his family to Wickham village in search of vengeance, only to fine the village empty of all but the dead. That makes Ezra great material for a villain, but I feel like I want more of why he’s so driven for revenge. Guy has a family, including protagonist Jonathan, which he drags along on his quest. I think that’s a big part of where this one falls apart for me.

See a big thing with The Secret is that, while we’re left with an Ezra who is totally out for revenge at the end of The Betrayal, a ton is left out from point A to point B. If his whole life is revenge, then when did he stop and court his wife, Jane? What kind of notes of Matthew’s is he following that it’s taken him this long to get to Wickham? It’s just kind of weak writing because the plot requires it. Ezra has to have a wife and kids so that there’s room for both a body count and enough Fiers to get through to modern Shadyside. It has to take awhile so that Jonathan is old enough that we have a relatable protagonist. That kind of works out for me, I don’t like it because it feels weak, but it works.

The bit after the century long time skip is where that weakness just kind of goes off the rails for me. After a hundred years of the curse not acting up in any way that is important enough to show, it wakes back up stronger than ever. We get the actually completely innocent Fier family, living happily in their ancestral home, taking in a charming drifter. The drifter is, of course, a Goode out for revenge because the plot demands it. Not just a Goode though, the last Goode, who watched his entire family die of apparently nothing so the Fiers must be at fault. This whole section of the book gives me so many issues.

Frank Goode blames the Fier family for his family dying, but we haven’t seen enough from the Goode side of things to know their feelings on the curse or feud. We don’t even actually know enough to know that there are any Goodes still alive until Frank shows up, but we’re shown a bunch of times that he’s been planning this for a long while. I feel like this could have been so much stronger if we were given more from the Goode family perspective, especially since way back in the first book George wanted nothing to do with his father’s revenge scheme. I want to know what made Frank grab on to the curse as a reason for his misfortune so hard. I want this bearing in mind that over the course of a century the Fier family itself completely forgot about the curse. Either that or I’d have liked to have seen the curse angle pushed harder rather than it being suddenly a Goode out of nowhere.

As to what was done specifically well, I liked Jonathan as a protagonist. I liked that Ezra was cast in a bad light because of his obsession with revenge on people he’d never met. The end to Jonathan’s section I thought worked really well for his character. The post time skip Fiers being legitimately kindly people and the implied happy childhood for their kids was great.

Right, so that’s a lot of words. What’s the verdict though? Ulitmately I don’t think The Secret is as good a book as The Betrayal, and it doesn’t really work well enough as a standalone novel to not get that comparison. Where it’s weak, it’s really weak. Where it works well, it still tends to be kind of thin. That said, I did read it in a single sitting without forcing myself in the least. So that happened too. In the end, it gets a three out of five for not being a bad book but also being one that could have used a lot of expanding upon.

So, day one of posting stuff for Halloween. I’m pretty excited, not gonna lie. Even the spooks around the apartment have quieted down some, either they’re getting used to us or they’re getting ready for Halloween too. But, regardless, on to the review!

the-betrayal-cover

Fear Street is cursed. Since Shadyside’s founding, the town and the street bearing the name of its most infamous residents have been haunted by murderers, vengeful ghosts, and all manner of horrors. When an innocent girl is burned as a witch, the first link in a chain of vengeance that will span centuries is forged. A curse is cast, and a legend begins.

The Betrayal begins at the end with Nora Goode staring in horror and disbelief as the Fear family mansion burns down, taking her beloved Daniel with it. The story, however, begins over two hundred years earlier in the village of Wickham in the middle of a witch scare as several girls have already been burned at the stake. A girl, Susannah Goode, is framed for witchcraft by her beloved’s father, Magistrate Benjamin Fier. She and her, also accused, mother are innocent. Her father however is not and, after having his family taken from him and being robbed by the Fier brothers, William Goode vows revenge and places a curse on the Fier family.

Right off the bat, this is pretty gory for a kids’/YA book, and that fits the Fear Street Saga trilogy pretty well. It also does a good job with build, even knowing how things ultimately end there’s this sort of looming sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think a good part of that is that our protagonist for most of the post betrayal book, Mary Fier, had nothing to do with that whole situation. She hadn’t even been born yet and is just a girl. Even knowing what her father and uncle did, having her as the protagonist makes the rest of the Fier family look better because she cares for them.

Unfortunately, while I do adore Mary as a protagonist for what she does for the story, The Betrayal is still very much set up for the other two books. The ending also feels a bit rushed, like Stine knew where his start was and where the ending was but he only had a certain number of pages he was allowed. It gets the point across, but it also feels pretty cheesy.

So, I know that my review and score here are ultimately pretty heavily influenced by nostalgia, but even rereading this as an adult I enjoyed it a great deal. So, The Betrayal by R. L. Stine gets a four out of five. Let’s see what happens next.