Tag Archive: Seanan McGuire


This is one that’s been giving me all kinds of trouble writing a review for. It’s one that I really enjoyed reading, but that is really hard to talk about without risking serious spoilers. Obviously something I want to avoid there. This one’s courtesy of netGalley. Here’s Mira Grant’s In the Shadow of Spindrift House. Enjoy!

In the Shadow of Spindrift House cover

Straight lines don’t exist in nature. There is no place for them among the curves, the twists, the softened edges. The House stands, all ruler straight lines and sharply measured angles, above a dying town that the sea reclaims street by street. The House stands, holding tight to its secrets and waiting. Harlowe Upton-Jones has been searching for answers for as long as she can remember. It’s what found her the teen detective group that would become her family. It’s what she’s good at. But a teen detective group can only stay teens so long and it’s all Harlowe can hope to do is find one last big case. One last big case to keep the band together or give the group a proper send off. One last big case that might find her the answers she’s been looking for since her parents’ murder. The legends surrounding Spindrift House twist in on themselves bending the Answer Squad’s story into something it was always meant to be, something it was never meant to be.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant is decidedly Lovecraftian in its horror, which in a lot of ways makes it kind of hard to talk about. The house itself is this inescapable thing for Harlowe, something she’s been keeping back from showing the other members of the Answer Squad for years but that she also knows is the big mystery. The one that could make them hit the big time, the one she hopes will keep her friends together for a little longer. The book is a story of losing battles and inevitabilities, buried family secrets and friends growing up and growing apart.

A lot of the story is driven by Harlowe being desperate to hold on to her present, to avoid facing the future for just a little longer. She doesn’t see any prospects for herself, no colleges that would take her that she could afford to go to, the girl she loves is planning on moving on with her life now that the mysteries are drying up. It’s that desperate fear that takes them to the Spindrift house and let’s Harlowe make excuses to just stay a little longer and a little longer. After all, Addison would be so mad if they left  and missed out on the reward money. Or maybe she just imagined the truly creepy things going on, they should just take a little longer and keep looking. There’s a fair amount of that.

In a lot of ways, the atmosphere of the story builds on mundane fears and frustrations. The Answer Squad are at a point in their lives where they can’t really be teen detectives anymore, and Harlowe feels more than a little trapped by the changes she’s staring down. She’s the one with no plan. She’s the one that weird things are happening to in Spindrift house. In a lot of ways it feels like the mundane is the root of all Harlowe and, by extension, the Answer Squad’s troubles within the story. They’re high school graduates, so the local authorities don’t have as much patience for them solving mysteries the police couldn’t. There aren’t many mysteries headed their way anymore, so they can’t support themselves with it, so Addison is getting ready to go make something of herself and start a career. Harlowe feels adrift and scared that she’s going to lose the people closest to her, so she pulls out the nuclear option of final mysteries.

Then Spindrift house itself has this fantastic oppressive atmosphere. The weight of time and all the fears that have driven Harlowe to lead her friends here. The things that are just off, that are wrong in little ways that add up. Then, there’s a reprieve, a moment with the Answer Squad just being a group of friends. It eases up for a little while to let the reader breath and to restart the cycle of rising tension. The writing in In the Shadow of Spindrift House is tight and satisfying even as a number of things begin to feel more and more inevitable.

This is much further on the horror end of things than a lot of things I read. But a slow creeping sort of horror, an internal horror that’s too big to properly fight, as opposed to something more action oriented. That is absolutely to its credit. Grant did a fantastic job here, especially with regard to the atmosphere. So, of course In the Shadow of Spindrift House gets a five out of five from me. It makes me want more of this setting and this type of horror.

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Last Call

It’s the last day for entries in the 2018 Books I Dig Giveaway. Remember, entries end at midnight central time tonight.

One last time, the books up for giveaway are:

K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech: A gut punch of solid writing and a really interesting read.

Necrotech cover

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids: The meeting of Lovecraftian horror and Mystery’s Inc. that hits a ton of nostalgia points.

Meddling Kids cover

And, of course, Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road: A series of stories about a ghost, the Phantom Prom Date, in her own words.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

All three books have been five star reads for me as well as being books that I would talk about ad infinitum if prompted. They’re also all three signed by the author.

So, if you want the chance to win one of these books, follow this blog and either hit the link up above and answer the question there or answer the question here. Dealer’s choice on that.

Question is, what’s your favorite end of the year tradition? Alternatively, what did you most enjoy reading this year?

Winners will be picked using random.com and announced tomorrow, January 1st.

I’m also only able to ship to winners in the United States.

I’ve mentioned something that I’m super excited about a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is that. See, there were a number of books this year that I really enjoyed and really want to share with you all. So, three readers are going to win one of three books that I’ve either reviewed this year or that come from a series I’ve reviewed this year.

Cool, right? Let’s make it even more fun, all three books are going to be signed by the author. So, what are the books I’ve decided excited me the most this year, the books I am so ready to share with all of you?

Well, there’s the first book in a series I talked about a bunch of times back during the Fall Into Books challenge. K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech. I still want to talk about these books anytime I’m given the chance and probably will.

Necrotech cover

And, as much as I enjoy a good cyberpunk story, let’s add a ghost story to this list. Let’s talk about a hitchhiker who’s been wondering America’s roadways since she was killed, the girl in the green silk gown. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire, a book that left me hunting the sequel through a number of bookstores.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Then let’s follow up the ghost story with a nice Saturday morning cosmic horror story. Those kids and their dog have been waiting an awfully long time to solve that last mystery, the one that split them up and left them broken. Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. This is another one that I still want to talk more about, so look forward to that.

Meddling Kids cover

So, rules and whatnot. How can you get your hands on one of these awesome stories?

Sometime between now and when the giveaway closes at midnight central time on December 31st, you’ll need to follow this blog and then comment below.

As to what you should comment about, let’s make it thematic. The year is coming to a close, tell me about your favorite reads of the year. And, of course, which book you want or your order of preferences on which books you want.

You’ll also need to live in the continental US and be comfortable with sending me your mailing address after winners are announced. I’ll be using random.com to choose winners for the sake of fairness and that announcement is going to come January 1st by midnight.

Good luck!

Fall Into Books 10/10

FIB-impatiently-waiting

This is the second easiest question I’ve answered during this challenge. What book am I most excited for? Most ready to read? Leg bouncingly impatient to check out?

In An Absent Dream cover

Not surprising in the least, right?

In An Absent Dream looks like it’s going to be another book going back to the world its protagonist visited before she wound up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. So, something like Down Among the Sticks and Bones in that respect. It really only makes me want to read Every Heart a Doorway that much more because I think the protagonist for this one was introduced there. I want to see the end point and then the journey there.

January feels like a long way away.

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.

 

Posting this later than I’d like, both in the day and in the month. But hey, January’s the door to a new year so it totally makes sense to post this as it closes. Right? Right. This one’s thanks to the folks at Tor.com, here’s Beneath the Sugar Sky. Enjoy!

Beneath the Sugar Sky cover

An impossible girl landed in the turtle pond outside of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Rini came to Earth to find her mother, Sumi, and take her back home. The problem is, Sumi was killed long before she could have had Rini and logic is quick to realize that an impossible girl shouldn’t exist. With a world to save and her existence on the line, Rini will have to find a way to put her mother back together. Luckily for her the students of the Home for Wayward Children are used to quests and ready to help.

Seanan McGuire is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers and Beneath the Sugar Sky is a really good example of why. This is a solidly written story with great character work and really interesting stakes. It is something I enjoyed so much that it’s actually really hard to write about because I just want to fangirl about how much fun I had with it.

So let’s start with the characters. Unlike Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which focused on two particular wayward children and their trip through a door, Beneath the Sugar Sky widens that focus to a number of students both new and old. This was a thing that I wasn’t sure on before I started reading, because I haven’t gotten to read the first book yet, I didn’t know Kade or Christopher or Nadya. But McGuire does a fantastic job of introducing them here through Cora’s perspective. There’s a sort of easy familiarity here that works really well.

The setting is interesting on a number of levels. Baseline, I like the idea of so many disparate worlds that can be accessed by the right people. The storytelling potential of that is awesome and those same people winding up back on Earth looking for a way home is a fantastic story hook. McGuire uses both amazingly here, both showing us a couple of the worlds and the sheer longing the cast has when faced with something close to theirs. It makes for some really good moments and some really great world building exposition.

The flipside to that potential and the possibility of characters going back to their world is that I’m very used to protagonists being fairly set.  It took a little adjusting to this new cast and the idea that characters might drop in and out of the story because of the doors. I like it, but it did feel weird for a good chunk of the book. It also left me wanting to see similar stories done for other characters though, which is a definite plus.

I knew less than half way through Beneath the Sugar Sky that it was a five out of five book. It made me want to jump to the first book and read the series again as soon as I finished it, so that I could see what came first and then re-see the second book and this one in that context. So, yeah, I had a lot of fun and really look forward to the next book in the series.

I’m late! Sorry all, long day yesterday, I didn’t get as much done on this as I wanted to then. I’m really excited for this review though. Back when I was dealing with my being at a low point I kept putting off reading this because I adore Seanan McGuire’s writing and I didn’t want to start it only to find that I wasn’t enjoying it, like every other book I was picking up at the time. That I’ve finally read it and enjoyed it as much as I expected if not more so is a great thing for me. So, thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Enjoy!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones cover

Jack and Jill, sorry, Jacqueline and Jillian, were their parents’ perfect children. Jacqueline was her mother’s daughter, soft and well mannered and always dressed like a fairy princess, a pretty decoration for the society ladies to coo over. Jillian was her father’s sporty tomboy, fearless and brave and almost as good as the son he’d wanted, at least he could talk peewee sports with the guys at work. They learned early that adults couldn’t be trusted. They learned early that what’s said isn’t always what is. But they never learned to lean on each other. When they find an impossible staircase in the room their grandmother abandoned years ago what they’ve learned won’t be enough for the world they find at the bottom or the choices they’ll have to make once they’re there.

Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a deeply interesting thing to me. It feels like it’s nearly all character study, which I love to pieces. It’s a story about choices and at the same time a story about being shaped by circumstance. It’s a story about expectations and how being forced into them can break someone without them realizing it, but also about how jumping to escape those expectations can hurt just as much. It’s a story about sisters, twins, split by expectations and choice and circumstance.

A big thing I like about Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the way things echo down from the beginning. Jacqueline is constantly told as a young child not to get dirty, to keep her dress clean, it’s part of her mother shaping her into the perfect society daughter. Once she’s on the other side of the door Jack has a phobia of getting dirty, even after years of working with Dr. Bleak as a mad scientist’s apprentice, it still effects her. Their dad does his best to shape Jillian into the ultimate tomboy, to make up for not having a son, but kids are cruel and the boys she was friends with as a kid abandon her as expectations tell them that girls are gross and not fun. She gets to see people calling her sister the pretty one without being allowed to be anything but the tomboyish one, the trouble maker with the same face as the prettiest girl in class. So she has no support structure on our side of the door and thus, once in the Moors, Jill clings to the adult authority figure who promises her comfort and pampering. She clings to him and idolizes him even as it’s revealed that he’s not concerned with her well being. Old resentments grow into a gulf of frustrations with consequences of their own.

I do feel like, ultimately, Jack pushes the story a lot more than Jill does. It tends to happen in stories with sibling protagonists that one gets more focus than the other. That said though, that feels more like a feature than a bug here. Jack chooses to go with Dr. Bleak, so Jill is left with the Master. Jack was tired of being just pretty and so jumped at the chance to learn, while Jill was tired of feeling like second pick and decided to be whatever the Master wanted to convince him she’d chosen him. That this also gave her a chance to be the pretty one is, if not significant to the initial choice, a fantastic bonus. Jack does more in story because she chose to be Dr. Bleak’s apprentice and so works with more people. Jill is the Master’s pampered daughter and so has little she has to do, which leaves her to soak in more of how fantastic it is to be the town ruler’s child and so above it all. It can leave Jill hard to care as much about, since we see her less versus seeing Jack grow.

Another thing I want to talk about real quick is the setting. The book takes place in this sort of fairy tale world, but it’s more gothic literature than the Disney stuff most of us have grown up with. The sun is seldom out from behind the clouds and night comes far too early. The mountains are full of wolves and what lurks beneath the ever stormy sea must be placated. The Moors are a dangerous place, something that the reader is reminded of regularly, but the danger is a fact of life. People plan for it and work around it. The Master is terrifying and dangerous, but so are the things behind his city’s walls. It’s dark, but not oppressive. It’s dangerous, but not paralysingly so. It’s really well written.

I don’t have a lot of wrap up here. I adored this book. I enjoyed the characters. The setting was great. Even the stuff that bothers me works in terms of the story itself, and I’m totally going to go find the one that came before this one. It gets a five out of five and if you can find it you should give Down Among the Sticks and Bones a read.