🎂Happy Birthday Fraggle!🎂

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~ Photo from Fraggle’s Other Place ~

I know I’ve talked about this many times, but what I love best about blogging is the amazing people from all over the world that I’ve met since I started By Hook Or By Book back in July of 2014. Well, one of my FAVORITE bloggers is celebrating her __ birthday today, so this post is for the fascinating, fantastic, fabulous Fraggle! And if you haven’t visited her blogs…well, all I can say is you’re missing out. She’s a phenomenal photographer and I’ve learned more about English history thanks to her and her husband than I ever did in school. She’s also got a wicked sense of humor and always makes me smile. But don’t take my word for it! Check out her blogs for yourself!

https://fragglerocking.org and https://fragglesotherplace.com

Without further ado, Happy Birthday Dear Fraggle! I hope you’re living it up and celebrating in style!

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Some of these videos technically aren’t birthday songs, but they’re birthday-ish!

Okay. That last one was for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Full Throttle, by Joe Hill ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to Edelweiss and William Morrow for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 1st, 2019

496 Pages

Synopsis: In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In the Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film on Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders, becomes the blood-drenched stomping grounds for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble upon the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality…and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths.  And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of outlaw motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.

A book of stories isn’t a novel and can’t have the simple narrative drive of a novel. I think it still should have a feeling of progression, of connectedness. It’s like a road trip. You’re staying in a different inn very night: One night it’s a romantic Victorian B&B with a supposedly haunted gazebo out back, the next it’s a cruddy Motel 6 with what looks like old bloodstains on the ceiling. The places where you stop to rest and dream are unique—but the road is the same, always waiting to carry you on to whatever’s next. And when it’s over, you’ve arrived someplace new, someplace (you hope) with a good view. A place to breathe deep and take it all in.

~ Joe Hill, Full Throttle ~

You know it’s a good sign when an author’s Foward is as entertaining as the actual fictional content. In his introduction to his upcoming anthology, Full Throttle, Joe Hill gives readers a glimpse of his writing journey as the son of two bestselling authors, Tabitha and Stephen King. While I know it’s easy to skip these, in this case I recommend you read it because it’s as fascinating as what comes next. As far as the actual anthology goes, I’m not going to review all thirteen tales in this creepy collection, but I’ll let you know which ones were standouts for me, for one reason or another.

I have to begin with Throttle because it’s the first of two stories Hill has co-written with his dad. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I didn’t care for it. Written in honor of horror writer Richard Matheson, I thought it was too derivative of Duel, only this time a murderous big rig is mowing down outlaw bikers. My biggest problem came with the characters though. I disliked the drug/biker gang so much that I vacillated between not caring what happened to them, to cheering for the anonymous truck driver. I had mostly guessed his motivation for the gory mayhem well before the ending so when the big reveal came, it sort of fizzled.

Dark Carousel is supernatural horror at its best and had me biting my nails from beginning to end. Here, Hill channels his father at his scariest. Despite it being a short story, I got a real sense of the characters and was terrified for them. It also gives a nod to Charlie Manx from Hill’s NOS4A2 which will delight fans. I do not recommend reading this right before bedtime!

Late Returns is another favorite of mind as it’s centered around a grief-stricken son who takes on a part-time job of driving an antique library bookmobile that, well let’s just say there are ghosts and time travel involved. It’s surprisingly sentimental and it had me tearing up a couple of times. It’s a perfect example of Hill’s versatility as a writer. 

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain is a beautiful tribute to Ray Bradbury and Hill takes that and channels his own memory of the disappointment of a failed childhood trip to Loch Ness, into pure literary gold. It’s a simply told, poignant story of two childhood friends who stumble across the corpse of a plesiosaur. As they debate over what to do, they’re unexpectedly forced to confront their own mortality. Hill does a masterful job capturing the voices of the children. The streaming horror network Shudder has picked this up as part of its upcoming Creepshow remake. 

Faun which is Hill’s tribute to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Ray Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder and Lawrence Block is hands down my favorite story in this collection. Have you ever wondered what would happen if adults stumbled across a magical doorway to an enchanted land like Narnia? Well, given the arrogance, selfishness and avarice of the human race, it goes pretty much as expected until the inhabitants decide to fight back. This story has me wanting to hunt Joe Hill down to plead with him to turn it into a full length novel. I guess I’ll have to be content though with the news that Netflix has won the bidding war to adapt this into a movie.

And speaking of Netflix, In the Tall Grass is the second story father and son write together, and the movie is due to drop on the streaming network in October. I loved this horror tale of a brother and sister who try to be good samaritans only to find themselves trapped in gruesomely horrific circumstances. After reading this you’ll forget about avoiding creepy cornfields when you’re going on your next road trip, and instead start growing anxious when spotting large fields of tall grass! This deeply disturbing, twisted tale really shows off both writers horror chops and I can’t wait for the movie!

While not every story was my cup of tea, overall I think Full Throttle is an enjoyable anthology that I will not only please longtime fans, but also attract new ones. All of the stories except for two, Mums and Late Returns, have appeared in previous anthologies so as you read this you get an intriguing look at how Joe Hill’s writing has developed through the years. Oh! And you know how I recommended you read the Forward? Likewise, I suggest the Storynotes are worth reading as well. And if you stick around for the acknowledgments, there’s a delectable little treat at the end called A Little Sorrow.

 

 

 

 

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse (The Thorne Chronicles #1), by K. Eason ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and DAW for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 8th, 2019

416 Pages

Synopsis: First in a duology that reimagines fairytale tropes within a space opera—The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia.

Rory Thorne is a princess with 13 fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium.

Then her father is assassinated, her mother give birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.

When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his crown. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination—how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but to change the course of history.

I’m pretty sure that you’ll all be with me on this when I say there are times I just want a book that’s fun. No deep meaning. No long, thoughtful discourses to make you ponder the meaning of life. Just pure, joyful, unadulterated fun. Well, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is just such a book. As a matter of fact, I finished this yesterday and it’s still making me smile.

While the synopsis references The Princess Bride and Princess Leia, there’s also nods to Sleeping Beauty (no sleeping curse though), and even a little Ella Enchanted. Rory Thorne is a protagonist who’s easy to fall in love with. Intelligent, yet eager to learn more. Feisty yet able to be diplomatic, under certain circumstances anyway. And she shows vast amounts of love and loyalty to her friends and family. As this is a fairytale retelling in part, there’s a touch of romance but it’s not the main focus of the story. The secondary characters are just as well written as Rory, and I’ve already picked my dream cast for any future movie. 

The story is a marvelous mashup that easily could have gotten messy, but doesn’t. While the politics are complex and there are occasional info dumps that slow the pace down a few times, the storyline is mostly kept on a quick and even pace by the unknown narrator who also brings some welcome levity to the story. The ending, while not quite a cliffhanger has definitely left me wondering what the second book will bring.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is an absolutely delightful read from beginning to end. It’s completely different than anything else I’ve read this year and I highly recommend it to readers who like fantasy and science fiction mixed with some sly humor.

Vendetta In Death (In Death #49), by J.D. Robb ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to Edelweiss and St. Martin’s Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 3, 2019

368 Pages

Synopsis: The predator becomes the prey in the newest thriller in the newest thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas.

She calls herself Lady Justice. And once she has chosen a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or curvaceous redhead, makes herself as alluring and seductive as possible to them. Once they are in her grasp, they are powerless.

The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company’s human resources department has already paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims—-but they don’t know his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice knows. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price.

Now Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are combing through the evidence of McEnroy’s secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the true identity of Lady Justice remains elusive. It’s a challenging case, made even more difficult by McEnroy’s widow, who reacts to the investigation with fury, denial, and threats. Meanwhile, Lady Justice’s criminal crusade is escalating rapidly, and if Eve can’t stop this vigilante, there’s no telling how much blood may be spilled…

I know I’ve raved about a lot of authors over the five years this blog has been online, but there’s one that I’ve severely neglected—J.D. Robb. Robb is actually the pseudonym Nora Roberts writes her bestselling In Death series under, and I was lucky enough to be approved for #49, Vendetta in Death.

Vendetta in Death is a perfect example of why this series continues to be so successful even after almost twenty-five years. In their 49th outing, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her dishy multi-bazillionaire husband Roarke, her trusty partner Peabody, and the rest of the familiar cast of characters, take on Lady Justice, a vigilante who takes avenging women who have been assaulted, much too far. As Robb does in many of her set slightly in the future books, she takes a real world issue like the #MeToo movement, and puts her own unique spin on it. Although the identity of Lady Justice is evident early on, which took a tiny bit of the suspense away, most of the fun is seeing Team Eve get their man, or in this case, woman. 

As usual, the chemistry between Eve and Roarke is absolutely sizzling. They are hands down, one of my favorite fictional couples. The love and passion these two have for each other makes them true soulmates. And as entertaining as they are, likewise are the relationships Eve has with Peabody and the other secondary characters, who are so likable that they really each could have their own spinoff series.

Once again, Robb has spun a thoroughly enjoyable mystery that kept me utterly captivated for the three hours it took me to read it. Vendetta in Death will surely please her longtime fans. While I think this could work as a standalone, I do recommend you read the series in order. Eve and Roarke have a dense and complex backstory, as do most of the other characters, and this really adds wonderful layers to the story. I know you’re thinking “Kim! There’s no way I’m tackling a 49 book series. No author is that good!” Well let me assure you, Robb is indeed worth it. All the books are very quick reads and I guarantee that once you start them, you won’t be able to stop. Just in case, the first book is Naked in Death!

 

 

 

Shut THE Front Door!

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If y’all heard a scream off in the distance a few minutes ago, that was me as I received an ARC of Stephen King’s upcoming The Institute (9/10)!

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If you guys have been following me for a minute (okay, slight exaggeration), you know how much I LOVE Stephen King and WORSHIP the ground he walks on. Hmm. Is that too much? Do I sound stalkerish? Ah well. The KING of Horror has gotten me through good times and bad over the last 4+ decades. A few weeks ago something possessed me and I sent an email to Scribner pleading my case and asking if there were any ARCs available. To be honest, I never expected to hear back from them. Much to my shock, I received a reply last Friday saying they’d be happy to send me a copy. THANK YOU MIA! So, how happy am I? I’ll let Dean say it for me.

Rest assured I will be posting a full review most likely next week, as soon as I’ve finished. In the meantime, I hope this video makes you as happy as I am.

 

 

Cursed, by Thomas Wheeler, Illustrated by Frank Miller ~ 3.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

416 Pages

Release Date: October 1st, 2019

Synopsis: The Lady of the Lake is the true hero in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur created by Thomas Wheeler and legendary artist, producer and, director Frank Miller (300, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City). Featuring 8 full color and 30 black-and-white pieces of original artwork by Frank Miller.

Whosoever wields The Sword of Power shall be the one true King.

But, what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?

Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…

That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.

Nimue teams up with a charming mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.

But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade.

Cursed has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, especially as it’s also going to be a Netflix series in 2020. I love Arthurian legends, and having Nimue take the lead role is long overdue. Alas, this has turned into one of my most frustrating reads in recent memory. There is just so much potential here, but it falls short in quite a few ways.

While I liked the way Thomas Wheeler depicted some of the already known Arthurian characters in some creative and unique ways, Nimue herself is just way too derivative of other female main characters in fantasy, namely Celaena from The Throne of Glass series, by Sarah Maas. There’s virtually nothing distinguishable between the two characters except that Celaena is more intelligent. I did find the secondary characters more interesting, particularly Lancelot, Morgan, and Iris. Except for a few tweaks, Arthur remains pretty true to previous depictions by other authors, but there’s the possibility for some further development with his character in the next book.

I actually liked the storyline, especially near the beginning, but then the narrative winds up being split between the povs of several characters and it’s a bit incohesive with everyone wandering around doing their own thing, marking time until the big climax. Speaking of which, the cliffhanger ending I found anti-climatic and deeply disappointing.

As far as the artwork goes, I don’t think this is Frank Miller’s best work and it really did nothing for the story. To be honest, I think it’s distracting at times.

Overall, while I didn’t hate Cursed, it’s definitely a disappointment. Thomas Wheeler needed to flesh out both the story and its characters to make it stand out from the crowded field of Arthurian novels. That said, I do see potential here and I will definitely give the next installment a try. I will also be binging on the series when it drops on Netflix, especially as it stars Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why, and Devon Terrell who excellently played a young Barack Obama in Barry.