Monday, March 23, 2020

Bookish Blog Hop: Spring 2020--Day 23! (Living) Authors We Would Love To Meet!

Becki Svare - A Book Lover’s Adventures

I have two authors that I would love to meet. One is J.K. Rowling. I think Jo’s story is very inspiring and would love the chance to sit and have a cup of tea with her. The other author is Debbie Macomber. While I have technically “met” her twice at book signings, I would love to sit and chat with her. She is another author who’s story is very inspiring to me. 

Stormi - Bewitched Reader Book Blog ->

It’s hard to choose just one author I’d like to meet. Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few of my favorites already. If I had to limit it to two authors I’d like to meet, it would be JK Rowling and Kennedy Ryan. Both have written books I absolutely love. 

Erica Robyn - Erica Robyn Reads -

My go-to answer for this is usually Stephen King! I’ve been in a theater where he spoke once, but I’d love to be able to attend another smaller book signing to meet him one on one. I’d also love to meet Kevin J Kennedy, Nick Clausen, Tony Moyle, Glendy Vanderah, and Michael Clark in person! These are authors that I have talked to directly through email and social media quite a bit, but haven’t had the opportunity to meet them in person yet. *Fingers crossed!*

Laura Doherty: Tales of a Natural Spoonie -

So if you’ve followed this hop you will have seen I have been completely fangirling over Laura Laakso so she would definitely be up there on my list of authors I would like to meet. Other authors I would like to meet are Stjepan Sejic, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling and Andrzej Sapkowski. If I could get all of those round a table that would be my bookish heaven.

Leslie Conzatti -- (Me!)

I have had the great fortune to meet a few local-to-me authors, such as Jeffrey Cook and Ripley Patton (when she lived here… she’s moved since then!) and I did get to meet Brian Jacques at a book signing before he passed away (I still remember that encounter!) and Felicia Day also, very briefly… A couple years ago at ComicCon, I got a photo op with John and Carole Barrowman, but I don’t know if that “counts” because it was so incredibly rushed (I was at the back of the line)...

But there are still quite a few that I’d love to sit down and chat about their books and their process with! Mark Lawrence, Kelly Blanchard, Kimberly Rogers, R. R. Virdi, Brandon Sanderson, Amy Hopkins, Mary Twomey, Cornelia Funke, and Evangeline Denmark, to name a few!

Robin Loves Reading -

The living author that I would love to meet most is Nora Roberts. She has written over 225 romances, including a series I love, with her pseudonym, the J. D. Robb In Death series. While growing up I read a bunch of her connected series. Currently, I have downloaded Shelter in Place from Audible as I have wanted to read it for quite awhile.

Another author I would love to meet is Lori Foster. When I first began reviewing over ten years ago, I read dozens of her books, and to-date have read close to 100. I also love James Patterson and wouldn’t mind meeting him, having read over 60 of his books.

Then there is Catherine Coulter. I have devoured her FBI Thriller and The Brit in the FBI series and each year I wait and wait for the next additions. I know she must do tons of research to come up with all of the various plots.

One author from the past I would have loved talking to would be Agatha Christie. Growing up I remember spending weekends at my great grandmother’s house in Reedville, Ma. I would go home with an armful of mysteries and devour them until my next visit. I did this for years until I pretty much exhausted the Christie novels that were published at that time.

Jo Linsdell

Those of you that know me, know I’m a little, OK a lot, obsessed with the Percy Jackson series. I even wrote a blog post about why I’m obsessed with it (you can read that here). My choice for this question is therefore Rick Riordan. Although I’d also like to meet Ethan Cross. I’m a major fan girl of his work too (you can see my blog post about why I’m obsessed with his The Shepherd series here). Another I should add is Jojo Moyes (you guessed it, I did a blog post about her Me Before You series too). I’d like to talk to all three authors about their series that turned me into a fan girl, but I’d also like to talk to them about their other books.

Valerie, Cats Luv Coffee

While there are many mainstream authors that I follow and love their work, the authors I’d most like to meet are indie authors. Before I started blogging, I would have probably chosen the big name authors that would have been most exciting to meet. Now, it’s the less well known ones with whom I feel a more personal connection. I’ve emailed with them, chatted with them on Twitter, and took joy in their successes. Just a few of the ones I’ve love to have coffee with are Hailey Piper, Wilmar Luna, and Karen Gray. There are many more, but those are just a few that come to mind first!

How about you? What are some authors you would love to someday meet? Who have you met already? Let us know in the comments! Visit the >Introductory Post< for any Bookish Blog Hop stops you may have missed! 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Upstream Updates 2020: February in Review

Well, I figure, with all the free time I have this week due to Coronavirus Voluntary Confinement (I'm not sick, by the way--just not working while the schools are closed, and I don't really have very many compelling reasons to leave the house just now!) I might as well sit down and jot out an update for you guys. We're halfway through March, but I'm doing a review of February.

February in Review

February Stats:

Words Written: 18,728
Books Read: 3/4

Okay, first off, it was a short month, and a lot was happening, and major stress (like, I BOUGHT A CAR kind of stress!) so yeah, I was actually surprised that I was able to accomplish all that I did! However, I'm still not back to my old productive self--so there's one benefit to having the time right now, so I can hopefully work to develop the focus and discipline I need to get that stride back!

Anyhow, let's dive in to what I'm working on!


The Last Inkweaver

I didn't get so far in February, but I'm happy to report that as of this point, the first round of edits is finally DONE! There was a lot... I'm rewriting the very beginning (which was shaky from the start, so that doesn't surprise me in the least... and I absolutely love the ideas my editor gave me, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what actually needs to be said up front, in a way that will really hook the reader in!) and also I'm combining two consecutive parts in the middle... and then beyond that there are a few places that either need to be wholly rewritten, or just tweaked a little, or detail added in-- so that's going to be tricky right there!

Priscilla Sum

Something I decided in February too was that I would not be able to finish the serial "Priscilla Sum" in time to submit it for the Myths and Monsters anthology... so I'm still plugging away as I'm posting it here on the blog! Have you been keeping up with it? I must admit, I've almost caught up with myself, and the details and scenarios for which I only have the vaguest sort of general notes are remaining stubbornly vague and general... But I'm going to do my best to get it humming again while I still have plenty of time! I'm really having fun developing the characters, foreshadowing what might happen next, and building the story--I hope you all are having fun following the series!

Upcoming Anthology

Speaking of Myths and Monsters, the story I am submitting is still probably going to be the urban-fantasy-romance-cum-whodunnit, "The Water-Man." Currently undergoing some edits and acquiring commentary, courtesy of Claerie K--someone who's beta-read for me before and she has done and is doing a spiffing job!--so I think if I can get her comments addressed and tidy it up in time for the submission deadline, you'll be able to read it in the anthology, come June!

Blog Hop: Spring 2020!

I think the thing that helped me to "stay afloat" word-count-wise during February, was going through and answering the questions for the latest Bookish Blog Hop. It's been fun so far to see the answers going out (except one or two of the first few days when I totally meant to go back and edit my answers, but did not so they got posted as-is and it's dreadfully embarrassing!) and it's definitely worth checking out, if you're also under "social distancing confinement" and hunting around for something fresh and new to read!

Princess of Undersea: Soon To Be Under New Management!

Something else that happened in February was that I signed on with a PR person to help me spread the word about myself and about the one book I have published... and in the course of the discussion, I ended up deciding that I would actually begin taking steps to "un-publish" the current version of Princess of Undersea, and self-publish a new, spiffed-up version! That's not happening for another couple months though, as I still have a lot to learn about the process and I have to make sure I have all the pieces lined up... but yeah, at least by summer (if all goes well) you should see the same cover but with new content inside, such as the tie-in stories and epilogue scene, and a fresh new bio for you all! Wish me luck!

D & D: "The Amateur's Dungeon"

Yet another writing foray that's just launched in the last month is my very first attempt at being a Dungeon Master! I went from knowing little-to-nothing about Dungeons & Dragons to sitting at the table with my brothers and their friends, taking a four-man party through a village where a Dhampir is causing trouble as he tries to raise an army of the dead to try and take out the city's governor. The part I think I found the most fascinating was the level of detail possible in a world-building exercise like this! I ended up just rolling the dice and using the tables of suggestions from the Dungeon Master's Guide to formulate my premise and whatnot--and it's going to be very tricky trying to come up with conflicts and encounters for this rambunctious team to face and overcome... but the good thing is, they've already displayed some excellent teamwork already, and they've done a really good job at guessing on my hints, I haven't made it too easy with telling them where to go and what to do, and yet it's not so confusing that they're headed in completely the wrong direction. The thing that I know I need to work on is getting more comfortable with providing an open world they can explore, not being too worried about my plot that there isn't any room for them to do anything else but follow it. They're a curious bunch, and I think we all can really have a lot of fun if I can just get in the "zone" of being flexible and improvising! (and if anybody reading this has ideas about what kind of shenanigans or encounters are fun to do in a D&D campaign, feel free to leave a comment and let me know! I'm open to ideas, to help me in the learning process!)


Well, I admit, I've been doing slightly better over the last month than I did during January! In the last update, I mentioned the two books I managed to finish by the beginning of February: Saving Faith by David Baldacci, and Prey by Michael Crichton. I also finished the ebook City of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster, and you can follow the hyperlinked text to read my review of the book.

Meanwhile, since the Coronavirus outbreak was announced, I've been at home doing lots more writing and reading than I ever thought possible, and managed to finish a second ebook and three more library books: I read and finished Grave Tidings by R. R. Virdi (and loved every minute of it--so much that I cannot wait until the next book in the series comes out!), and also Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Until We Meet Again by Michael Korenbilt, and Magnus Chase and The Ship of The Dead by Rick Riordan. I seriously enjoyed all three of those books, for vastly different reasons.

Veiled Rose carried within it all the magic and wonder of a good fairy tale, with the strong moral message and spellbinding storytelling that just continually draws me back to Stengl's books again and again! Until We Meet Again was a harrowing story, as many tales from Jewish families during the Holocaust are--I admit, it was a little slow at first, but the story focuses on the two characters at its center, Meyer and Manya, and the account quickly turned from tentative and methodical to gripping and intense! Lastly, Ship of The Dead was a romp, pure and simple, from start to finish. I giggled, I gasped, I shouted at the characters--and it finished well enough, so I was happy.

Now that those are over with, I'm going to see if I can't get the last two books out of that original batch read before the end of the month: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, and The Stars Below by David Baldacci. Once those are done, I actually have a second stack of library books, which I picked up literally the day before all the closures were announced. They are: Empire of Shadows by Miriam Forster (yes, the sequel to City of A Thousand Dolls! I really didn't expect to find it at the library, but there it was, so I had to pick it up!) I also got Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, a book I've wanted to read ever since I laid eyes on it because DRAGONS! and Inquisitor by Carole and John Barrowman--the dynamic duo who can really turn out an exciting book is at it again--this time with a continuation/spin-off of their marvelous Hollow Earth trilogy! Finally (and I'm not sure about this, we'll see when I get to it) I did pick up Beastly by Alex Flinn. I love a good fairy tale re-telling, and I do remember being really fascinated by the premise when the film came out... Well, the film itself was a disappointment, so this is me, hoping (praying!!) that "The Book Was Better" holds true here!

Wish me luck, and I'd love to hear everything you're up to! If you are stuck at home, like me, and looking for something to read (like me)... but unlike me you're not the type to just have stacks of unread books around your house... I have a blog full of fun stories! Pick one, read it, and leave a comment to let me know what you thought of it!

As always,

Catch You Further Upstream!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Reader's Review: "Grave Tidings" by R. R. Virdi


"His stuff is badass!" ~ New York Times bestselling author, Larry Corriea. 

Trapped in a hotel packed with vampires. Only seventeen hours to find a killer. Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, is forced to work his newest case with a living nightmare out of legend. And if the two of them don't find a way to solve this together, they'll be caught in a supernatural coup that will unleash a horde of vampires on the world. 

This day is going to suck...


I freaking love this series!

Virdi does it AGAIN with a fantastic (or should I say, fang-tastic?) installment of modest proportions--story-wise, but in no way lacking in quality! It's been almost two and a half years since I read the last book in the series, Grave Dealings--so diving back into this madcap "disembodied soul" and all of his sarcasm and outrageous shenanigans was a welcome experience!

This time, instead of being spread all over a city, and strung out over the course of a few days, Vince awakens in the basement of an abandoned building on one end of town, and ends up in a swanky hotel where most of the plot plays out. Having such close quarters in which to plot an entire mystery, set up clues, and take the reader through plenty of plot twists and red herrings is no easy feat--but Virdi pulls it off with his trademark snark and punchy conversations (and, you know, plenty of actual punches, too!), complete with a collection of no less than four varieties of vampires, plenty of innocent victims to get caught in the crossfire, whom he will have to defend in the course of bringing justice to his host's killer--and one very enigmatic Card Duvall--a character I absolutely loved, the minute he waltzed in and addressed Vince by name. In a series with a premise where the main hero has to go by a different identity every time he awakens in a new body, it was a nice touch to allow him to be "himself" for once!

It's intense, dark at times, and especially gory (duh! Vampires) but it really got me excited for the next book in the series, whenever it comes out! I really appreciate how writers like Virdi can have their fun and put their characters through the absolute worst and most outrageous situations without ever actually killing them (being a soul without a physical body has its perks, I guess!) but in the process, makes some very keen observations about life in general, and specific quirks of humanity in particular. It's masterful, brilliant writing that keeps me coming back for more!

Rating: *****

Find the book at:

Further Reading: (Paranormal/Supernatural Investigations/Also By The Author)
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings 
        -Grave Measures 

        -Grave Tidings (*This book)
        -Grave Dealings 

The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways 

-The Longest Night Watch, Volume 1--Lacey D. Sutton (Editor)
-Charon, Unguarded--A. H. Johnstone 
-Beasts of Babylon--E. A. Copen
-Notna--J. D. Cunegan
-The Tannis Project--Daryl J. Ball
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd 
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
Stories of Togas, Daggers And Magic--Assaph Mehr
       -Murder in Absentia 

Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
        -Burn Artist 
        -Blood Hound 

The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training 
        -Angel Eclipsed 
        -Angel Tormented

Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Guilty By Association 
       -Blood Debt 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Bookish Blog Hop: Spring 2020--Day 17! Authors With Initials In Their Pen Name

Becki Svare - A Book Lover’s Adventures

A few of my favorite authors that use initials in their pen name are E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web), A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), and of course, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter). Over the years, each of these books has been important in my reading life and were all much loved!

Stormi - Bewitched Reader Book Blog -

Of course JK Rowling is my choice for an author who uses initials in their pen name. The Harry Potter series is what started my love of reading and is still my all time favorite. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read this series and watched the movies.


Laura Doherty ~ Tales of a Natural Spoonie ~

My very first teddy was a Pooh bear, and that began my love of that silly old bear and his wonderful adventures that were created by A.A. Milne. I still have my Winnie the Pooh sat on a shelf in my bedroom. As I have had my own children, I have absolutely loved sharing the stories of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and all the residents of the 100 Acre Wood.

Other authors I can think of are the poet T.S. Elliot, Nora Roberts who writes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb, H.P. Lovecraft and C.S. Lewis.

Leslie Conzatti -- (Me!)

To avoid being redundant, I chose for my answer four indie authors whose books I’ve read and still very much enjoy--bet you haven’t read any of these (if you have please can you let me know!) and now is your chance, because they are amazing!
First there’s R. R. Virdi, author of The Grave Reports books (a paranormal/urban fantasy series along the lines of The Dresden Files), the Books of Winter series (well, it’s going to be a series… right now there’s just one book, Dangerous Ways), and a handful of other short stories and stuff. He hobnobs with Larry Correia and Jim Butcher, and his Supernatural (and other nerdy-type) references are on point and I’m always excited when he comes out with new stuff! He’s even started a GameLit series that I haven’t read--but I’m sure it’s great! I’ve interviewed him on my blog >Here<, I did a post about >“The Top 10 Vincent Graves Moments”<, and you can read my reviews of some of his books here: >Grave Beginnings< >Grave Measures< >Grave Dealings< >Dangerous Ways<

Next is E. A. Copen, another paranormal/urban fantasy author, and she writes some kickass female leads, such as Judah Black, the star of her main series, and Anastasia Thorne in the chilling urban fantasy/horror novella Beasts of Babylon. She’s written a few other series since then, the ten-book Lazarus Codex series, and it’s quasi-spin-off (or maybe it’s a tie-in? I don’t know, I haven’t read it) Hellbent Halo. She’s got a style that makes her characters spring to life as you read them, with their very real flaws and their own unique “voices” that make them stand out! You can read my reviews of some of her books here: >Guilty By Association< >Blood Debt< >Beasts of Babylon<

Then there’s J. E. Mueller, who absolutely inspires me with the way she seems to continuously find new and inventive spins on how to weave a fairy tale--she’s got her own trilogy, the Shaudrey Universe that takes on the “classic” trope of “cursed from birth”, and turns it into an unbelievable quest that will have you hanging onto every last word. Then she tried her hand at writing modern-day fairy tale re-tellings with An Unexpected Brew and For The Guild. I own the first two books of her trilogy, and I recently bought e-copies of her re-tellings, but unfortunately, out of everything the only one I’ve read so far is Fire’s Song--but I enjoyed it, as you will probably be able to tell from the review I posted on my blog: >Fire’s Song< Cheers to an author you won’t want to miss, though!

Finally, the last author I’ll mention is J. D. Cunegan. His Jill Andersen series piqued my interest when I heard that the characters were hugely inspired by the TV series Castle (of which we were both avid fans), and upon reading the first few, I can confirm that yes, the resemblance is there--and yet it’s also something new and unique that doesn’t quite read like your average “police procedural.” Then he comes out with a paranormal adventure that is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Indiana Jones” with his novel Notna, and I was completely blown away by his skill in writing in two almost completely different genres--but fitting them so well! Of course Notna is more violent peril and intense gore than the sharp and intriguing Jill Andersen series, but both display a diverse cast of colorful and vivid characters, and I really enjoyed them both--even when it made me a little too squeamish sometimes! Here are my reviews of his books, which I’ve posted on my blog: >Bounty< >Blood Ties< >Behind The Badge< >Notna<

There are more indie authors I’ve read who use their initials, but you can check those out for yourself!

Jo Linsdell--

C.S. Lewis is the first to come to mind as he was a huge part of my childhood with his The Chronicles of Narnia. As was A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. J.K. Rowling is another that springs to mind. I bought a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone recently as although I’ve watched all the films and read other books in the series I have yet to read the first one. J.R.R. Tolkien is an author I have yet to read but that’s on my list, and has been for years. I really must get around to reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Valerie, Cats Luv Coffee--

An author that I’ve really been enjoying lately that uses initials in their pen name is W.R. Gringell. I’ve read all The City Between series, which has really unique world-building for an urban fantasy series. Of course, it also has werewolves, vampires, and Fae because what great urban fantasy doesn’t have paranormal creatures! I need to pick up some of her other stuff soon.

Eline -

I’m currently catching up on K.J. Charles’ backlist. I love her queer Historical and Paranormal Historical Romance! The A Charm of Magpies series is an absolute must-read for Fantasy and Romance readers, in my opinion. I also loved the Lilywhite Boys series which I listened to as part of my January audiobook marathon. Now I’ve started the Sins in the Cities series. She has such a beautiful writing style and unique story ideas!

How about you? Who are some authors you've read, who use initials in their pen names? Have you read any of the authors listed above? If you haven't, which ones sound the most intriguing? Join the discussion in the comments! Don't forget, if you've missed a few days, there's always the >Introductory Post< with all the links listed by date!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Serial Saturday: "Priscilla Sum" Part 11

Part 11

I was still sitting on the couch, the torn letter in my hand, when Zella walked in to begin dinner preparations.

"Oh!" she murmured when she saw me. "I did not realize you were home yet."

I couldn't move, couldn't respond to explain that I hadn't even gone back to school after that shell-shock at lunch.

Zella came around the side of the couch and sat opposite me. She picked up the letter and laid it out on the coffee table between us.

I opened my mouth to say something, and ended up bursting into tears instead. Why was I crying? It wasn't as if they were dead--they couldn't die if they were gods, could they?

Oh sweet mercy, they were gods! My parents were actual gods! I looked over at the dark-haired housekeeper, who didn't seem fazed in the least by the information imparted by the letter, almost like she'd known exactly what to expect.

"Is it true?" I managed. "People can't just... I mean, it's not like you can know someone for most of your life and they're perfectly normal and then one day they're just, like, By the way, I'm a god--that's gotta be some kind of farce!" I rubbed the tears from my face. "There had to be some kind of sign! How could they have passed for mortals all this time? Why was this never brought up till now?"

Zella waited through my outburst and took my hand. "Time runs differently when you're an immortal, Priscilla--and when you're a deity, the everyday humdrum of the whole world doesn't happen the same way as it happens for the people who live their entire lives without knowing of any other plane of existence."

I sniffed and rubbed my nose. "Is that why Mom decorates with art and sculptures instead of pictures?" I'd been to a few friends' houses, and without fail, the home decor always involved a hallway full of unflatteringly outdated portraits in oddly-shaped frames, or some sideboard or living room wall full of pictures from bygone generations. I'd always thought it was part of Mom's affinity for artifacts and her job as a museum curator that led her to decorate our house like one of her exhibit halls.

Zella grinned. "They have no family photographs from their past because they have no past--at least, not one that could be photographed. Patrick wanted to at least have a few photos they'd taken with you, as you grew with them, but Aurelia felt that it was too risky, that seeing only photos of yourself would lead you to ask questions they didn't want to answer before the right time came."

My eyes remained glued to the words "we are gods, Priscilla", and I blurted out my next question, "Did you know what they were, when you came to work for them?"

Zella's eyes lit up and she actually laughed at this. "Of course! It's because I belonged to a congregation that worshipped the Microtheon, as we referred to these 'second-tier' gods, that they hired me in the first place. In fact, my grandparents could trace their ancestry all the way back to the group of worshippers who built the temple dedicated to your parents, in ancient Macedonia."

I felt a small shiver across my back, and I rubbed my hands across my forearms. "So wait; are they gods, or are they not fully gods? What do you mean by 'second tier'?"

Zella folded her hands in her lap patiently. "There is the Greek Pantheon, which is populated by the major gods--Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Ares, and all the rest. They are the most widely-known, but they are by no means the only gods in existence! The major gods, their power ranges from manipulating the elements to shape-shifting and altering reality any way they please. The minor gods are no less divine, but their power is limited to one particular thing, and therefore, many of them have collectively formed the Microtheon: a consortium of gods who answer to the Pantheon, but also see fit to direct and shape the world and its people via their respective specialties."

I picked the letter up and read the part where Mom explained all that. "So, my mom controls the wind, and my dad is the god of... waves? And that's all they can do?"

The housekeeper nodded. "Now you're getting it. They answered, of course, to Poseidon, him being god of the sea."

My head began spinning again, and I covered my eyes with my hands. Just imagining my parents actually physically speaking to an actual god was something out of a fantasy novel!

"Holy cow..." I sighed. "This is a lot to take in."

Zella gave a small chuckle. "You should check out your mother's office while I get dinner ready. That might help settle things once and for all."

I dropped my hands, ready to give the housekeeper a look--but she was already up and making her way to the kitchen.

I sighed and pushed myself off the couch. I'd been in Mom's office before--at least, the part in front of the door, just across the threshold. Never any deeper, since I never had a reason to. When she was in the office, she wouldn't let me come in any further, choosing instead to come out and sit with me on the back patio when we needed to talk; when she wasn't, there was this feeling I would get whenever I ventured near the door--a feeling like I was going to get "caught" at any moment. What exactly I was afraid of, I never knew--but this time, armed with Zella's invitation and the knowledge that I wouldn't be discovered accidentally by a mother who was afraid I might see something before she deemed me "ready", I marched through the double french doors and straight inside.

It looked like a normal office: her desk, a chair next to the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf full of leather-bound and hardback books. On the interior wall of the office was an old-looking map, with a couple framed diplomas alongside it. I sat in her desk chair, spinning freely on the swivel as I brushed my hands under the shelves and desk surfaces, in case of a hidden switch or something.

My cell phone went off in my back pocket, making me flinch so hard I nearly hit the edge of the desk with my face. I pulled it out to see a new message from Tony.

Tony: Where r u?

"Oh right," I muttered to myself, formulating a reply. "I've just had the shock of my life and I'm supposed to be in class right now."

Pris: @ home. Big family stuff happening RN. Needed the day to handle it.

Tony: U ok? Want me to come?

Pris: No, thnx. I'll get thru it. Just need rest. B better tmrw.

Tony: Ok. Hey, BTW, guess who's got a clean bill of health and is coming on the FRED trip?

Pris: Srsly? I thought they'd already picked 5 of us.

Tony: 1 backed out--Chelsea, I heard.

Pris: Her parents were pretty leery of the whole thing

Tony: Yeah, and now they're totally boycotting it. TBH, it does feel a little sketch that the school is letting us go when we dk 4 sure WHERE it is, even

I frowned at his message. Was he getting the same vibe, that something deadly awaited us in Fourtouna? Of course, only I knew the bit about the deadly demon (which I may or may not have released in my effort to keep Tony from dying) but if the "greater Pantheon" was aware of it, we wouldn't exactly be in danger, would we?

I opted to change the subject, only slightly.

Pris: So they're letting an anthropology guy go in place of the tech girl?

Tony: Hey! I do tech! I ran a successful robotics team in high school, JSYK! We were just two wins shy of making it to nationals!

Pris: Ok jeez didn't mean to offend. That's cool. See u in class?

Tony: No. Parents want me at home till they're 100% sure everything's ok. Doc says I'm fine, but they keep talking about relapsing.

Pris: that's rough. See you whenever, then!

Tony: Sure

I swiped over to my college email and sent some very apologetic emails to all my professors, explaining that I had to miss the rest of the day due to personal reasons, dealing with huge family stuff, and promising to make up for it as soon as I felt well enough to return to attending classes. As I re-read the email and thought about everything Zella told me, I could feel a pointed, stinging, hot sensation just below my collarbone. In alarm, I put my hand over the area, and I felt the round lump of my locket hanging around my neck--but it felt like the thing was on fire.

I twisted in the chair as I fumbled with the clasp at the back of my neck, intent on getting it off me before it left a brand on my skin. I stared at it--the locket was definitely glowing, but only the design on the front and back. I stared at the strange shapes, more like symbols, really, and as I turned in the chair, I noticed a pair of what I had assumed were paperweights on Mom's desk. They were round stones, etched with the same designs as the ones on my locket! I picked up one of the paperweights, and something clicked behind me. I turned toward the wall with the map.

The topmost diploma had moved! It now stood partially open on noiseless, hidden hinges. I scrambled around the desk to open the apparent hidden compartment. A second panel opened on the other side, and I stared at a set of ancient relics: a small plate, a few stones with Greek letters etched into them, and a small, hollowed-out stick of some sort. Behind it all was a colorful painting of a woman wearing a dress made of clouds, with her hands outstretched as the trees curved under her, and birds soared around her. The detail was so incredible that I recognized the woman's face immediately.

"Mom?" I gasped under my breath, cradling the icon in my hand.

I moved the other paperweight, and Dad's real estate license certificate also swung away from the wall, revealing a second set of relics, this time a tiny sealed jar of sand and water, another small incense plate, and a terrifying icon of a giant bearded man gesturing toward a foaming sea as waves curled around his feet and a pitiful boat caught in the storm. I set the two collections on Mom's desk. My instincts and my knowledge of world religions told me that I was most likely looking at remains of what might have been a pair of in-home altars. The icons left little doubt as to whom these altars were meant to worship.

I replaced all those things, and paused to take a better look at the map. The shape of the land mass wasn't any continent I knew of, and the Greek words scattered all over seemed to indicate that it might be an island in the Aegean Sea, or something. At the center, I sounded out the word F O U R T O U N A. I saw, among the textures and designs denoting mountains and forests, a repetition of those two symbols representing Auraea and Trikymios--my Mom and Dad. The name of the island followed me out of the office. It might refer to something like fate or fortune to everyone else... but I didn't feel very fortunate, knowing that there might be a malevolent demon waiting for me on the island.

Zella gave me a knowing look as she set a plate of spaghetti and meatballs on the counter in front of me. I noticed she'd already packed up the leftovers. Did that mean she was staying, and my parents wouldn't be back?

"Was your experience enlightening?" asked the housekeeper.

I nodded, running my fingers over my locket again. Once I left the room, it had stopped glowing and burning. "Found some things," I said, "and confirmed all that stuff you told me." I hesitated. "Zella, do you know anything about this demon Mom mentions in her letter?" The one that tore off the rest of her warning and low-key threatened me in blood-writing? my thoughts added.

Zella shook her head, her dark eyes gleaming. "They never told me about that part. I guess they weren't too worried about it at the time. I wonder what changed between then and now." She sighed. "I do believe that your mother kept some old books that happened to mention the Microtheon--it wasn't a very common subject, so information about it in this day and age is rare. Maybe one of those might mention some kind of conflict with the Underworld."

She turned to load the dishwasher, and I hid my guilt behind a mouthful of noodles. I knew exactly what changed. Only time would tell just how badly I'd jeopardized my own trip due to sheer stupidity. My one consolation would be that Tony would be there. If I had to explain the real situation to anyone, surely he would be the most understanding!


Atlantic Ocean, 1956

The SS United States bucked and rolled as the choppy seas pushed against her reinforced sides. Tourists in gaudy linen outfits clutched tightly to the edges of their chairs and tried to ignore the fact that a vehicle the size of five buildings could be pushed around so. Those who were drunk enough never noticed, attributing the movement to their own inebriation. Those who weren't drunk saw their staggering companions and fervently wished they could be also.

Among the waves, invisible to the mortal eye, Trikymios followed the trail of the ocean liner, scooping out huge whitecaps and rolling surges with merely a gesture. He enjoyed toying with the mortals on occasion, never really intent on harming them--just reminding them that, even with all their innovations and advancements, their grand ideas and noble predictions, they were never really in charge.

Trikymios coaxed a large curl up to a height that would break over the topmost deck of the ship, where most of the humans had already found someplace to hang on for dear life.

To his chagrin, the wave didn't even have a chance to form properly at the top before it disintegrated, slumping down to drench the lower decks instead. That got the god's attention. He roused a bit, nudging the cruise ship off course as he sent up a few more crests to discern the source of this disruption.

A sweeping wind thundered over the surface of the water, obliterating the waves and sending seafoam in all directions. When Trikymios produced another wave, the wind came from another direction, swirling along with the curl and pushing the water up to new and amazing heights. Trikymios sensed the presence of another divine, and he chuckled. He could discern a female presence flitting among the clouds overhead, toying with the air in the same way he toyed with the water. Nudging the waves into a pattern she would understand, he, like a gentleman, extended an invitation. Using the wind in much the same way, she communicated her acceptance.

The passengers of the SS United States had hardly begun to cope with the extraordinary chaos of the rollicking ship when it stopped, and everything settled. A whole team of waiters who had only recently figured out which position kept them upright suddenly collapsed in heaps on the dining room floor, as the ship righted itself and ceased its constant shifting.

A tall man with long hair, a thick dark beard, and bright, piercing eyes adjusted the button on his white polyester suit jacket as he strode into the dining room and claimed one of the two seats at an empty table. He picked up the menu and glanced over its offerings. Paltry selections, for sure--especially compared to the ancient feasts and banquets of his heyday--but at least he could order without limits here. He beckoned to a waiter bearing a bottle of white wine and directed him to fill both glasses on the table.

"And what may we serve you tonight, sir?" the waiter asked, nodding to the menu in the man's hand.

The man's icy-blue eyes twinkled as he clapped the menu shut and handed it to the waiter. "Just bring me one of everything," he boomed.

To his credit, the young man managed to keep a steady, professional manner. "Very good, sir," he said, as if the man had just ordered a modest selection of dishes. One of everything? Some might attempt to order their way through a cruise menu as a joke, a dare, or out of curiosity... but this man had hardly looked twice at any of the dishes! The waiter wagged his head as he filled out the ticket and sent it off to the kitchens.

The man sat back as he waited for his food, surveying the array of faces before him: dark, light, old, young, happy, irritated, tired, excited, bored, awed--it was as if the ship carried a small sampling of all of humanity. "One of everything," indeed!

He heard the high-pitched, animated chatter of the three women before they even neared his table. The whole time, there were at least two of them talking over one another. When one would finish, the other would cut in and start talking, all the while the third would be airing her opinion, or relating some lengthy anecdote.

They stopped walking when they saw him, and one of them burst out laughing as her friend announced to the dapper gentleman, "Oh my! Sitting alone, are we? Wouldn't you like to sit with us, I wonder?"

"Our table's just over there," her friend added, pointing deeper into the dining room.

The man shook his head. "Thank you, ladies," he responded, prompting more giggles at the sound of his rich, rolling voice. "I am, in fact, expecting someone else to join me very soon." He gestured to them with his hand, and like the rolling waves of the sea, the women resumed dancing and babbling amongst themselves.

"I believe you were expecting me?" said a voice behind him, but when the man turned to look, he saw no one. He turned back to the table just as a woman settled daintily in the unoccupied seat opposite him. He leaned forward, examining her features. Her dark eyes sparkled at him, and her sleek dark hair curved around her finely-sculpted cheeks. She, like him, was neatly dressed, in a deep-red velour pencil dress with a sweetheart neckline. Her dark lips curled in a smile.

"Trikymios." She saluted him with the glass of wine.

He toasted her back with a polite nod. "Auraea, how good of you to join me."

"A lady doesn't get invited onto a Transatlantic cruise every day," she nodded to him.

He shrugged. "What can I say? I was bored, and this seemed the most likely place to find a new kind of entertainment."

Auraea sipped the wine and glanced around the dining hall with pursed lips, much in the same way that Trikymios had. "Yes, I suppose the sea does grow a little dull after a while." She met her companion's gaze with a flick of her eyebrow. "How fortunate that the sky can spread so easily over both land and ocean."

The bearded gentleman with the booming voice threw back his head and laughed at the jibe. "My powers may be limited to the water--but at least this world holds plenty of it!"

A waiter arrived, bearing a tray full of appetizers on single-serving dishes.

"The rest will be out shortly," he informed the impeccable guests.

Trikymios nodded, accepting dishes until the table was full.

He nodded to Auraea. "Shall we begin our mortal adventures?"

The goddess selected a rolled pastry and sank her teeth into its flaky crust. She swallowed and nodded. "You sure know how to treat a lady," she murmured.

Trikymios snapped a crab-shell in half with his hands and waved one of the legs at her. "Woman," he promised, "I'm just getting started."

Her grin widened, and she reached out to take his hand.

"Then, good sir," she murmured in that delightfully exotic accent of hers, "I believe this is the start of a wonderful relationship."

Late that night, the cruise ship experienced a second storm that had not been on the radar, though this one wasn't quite as chaotic as the first, and rather than fighting against their heading, the waves and wind seemed to be working in concert this time, to drive them faster and closer to their destination. The captain advised the engineers to adjust the motors accordingly, and watched the North American coastline skim by as he walked down the hall to his berth. The sooner this bizarre return trip was over, the better--and he hoped never to experience another one like it!


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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Serial Saturday: "Priscilla Sum" Part 10

Part 10

The next morning was the one day I didn't have an Ancient Civ class. Ordinarily, I would use this extra block of time to study for classes like Basic Calc or Business Management--topics that were not my forte, so I needed all the extra exposure I could get--but today, I was in the mood for something else. I walked out to Woodlawn Avenue and hopped a bus to Advent Health.

I made my way down to the hospice wing, but I didn't see Tony's family anywhere. Probably his siblings were back in school--did that mean he hadn't passed away during the night, after all?

Mrs. Rosen walked into the waiting area, from the direction of the cafeteria. She had a huge grin on her face. When she saw me, she gushed, "Oh Priscilla!"

Her bangles clacked together as she threw her arms around me.

I dared not ask the question that stumbled out of my mouth in half-pronounced syllables, "How's Tony?"

Mrs. Rosen kept a tight grip on my arms as she pulled back and exclaimed, "It's a miracle! Come, see for yourself!" She fairly dragged me back down one hallway and another, to Tony's room.

We passed a hospital orderly wheeling a table full of flowers and balloons that I'd seen in the room last night. She grinned at Mrs. Rosen. "Another load for the car!"

The wiry woman reached out and grasped her shoulder. "Bless you for doing this," she sighed.

"My pleasure!" the orderly nodded.

Inside the room, the curtains were wide open, the sunlight streamed in, and Tony stood--actually stood--in front of the window seat, gazing out over Lake Michigan.

"Tony!" his mother sang out. "Someone to see you!"

My friend turned, and I almost gaped at the difference. He looked like a whole person now--not the ashen, pale, sickly ghost I'd been seeing for, I suppose, almost a week now. It hit me just then how sick he had really been for as long as I'd known him--I hardly recognized Healthy Tony, because as far as I could remember, Sick Tony was Normal Tony to me.

He walked over to where I stood, rooted to the vinyl floor. "Hey, Pris! Good to see you."

I blinked rapidly, trying to figure out something to say that didn't sound lame or cliche. Behind me, Mrs. Rosen grabbed another armload of flowers and gifts and ducked out of the room.

"H-how?" I stammered.

Dangit, brain... That's no good!

Tony just laughed (it felt so good to hear him laugh without losing breath or triggering a coughing fit!) and shrugged his shoulder. "I don't know much, myself. One minute, I was so worn out that I could hardly keep my eyes open, or keep myself awake... then the next thing I knew, I woke up and the sunrise was coming through a crack in the blinds, and I knew I felt better than I had in a long time!"

It felt so surreal, having my friend whom I assumed was dying standing next to me talking about how strong he was, and actually feeling the muscles in the arm around me, not fatigued or atrophied in the least!

I shook my head and slid out from under his arm. I sat on the window seat in front of him. I stared at him and his grinning face for a long moment, then said, "But seriously, though--how often does something like this happen to people with your condition? Are you saying you're recovered? I thought your body wasn't able to restore itself, much less that fast after a near-total collapse! Human Anatomy taught me that much!"

He came and sat next to me with a sigh. "Honestly, when my legs gave out in that lecture hall on campus, I thought I was a goner. I didn't see how anything would fix what I had--I knew my body wouldn't be able to go on like this forever."

I snorted. "Yeah, no kidding! I'm serious, Tony--what happened? Last night everybody was telling me that the medication wasn't even doing anything, that this could be your last night on earth, and... now what?" I searched his face. "What have the doctors told you lately about the progression of your disease?" I didn't say it out loud, but my mind wondered if this might be his body's last rally before it all came crashing down.

Tony got a funny smile, like he was about to tell the punchline of an especially hilarious joke. "Lately? Well, let me put it this way," he slid his hands along his knees. "When I woke up choking on that awful tube down my throat, and was fully awake and talking just fine and everything, my medical team ran some tests, took scans of all my organs, blood samples, everything..." he let his voice trail off.

Why was he taking so long? "And?" I demanded.

Tony gave another little shrug. "Nothing," he said.

My jaw really did drop then. "Nothing?" I echoed. "What about the whole speech you gave, about your blood attacking your organs, and your body's been on the brink of shutting down almost your entire life, and--"

Tony just wagged his head. His face was a little scruffy, but his hair didn't hold the greasy clumpiness of someone who hadn't showered in too many days. In fact, it looked freshly washed.

"I mean nothing as in my organs are completely healthy and functional. The doctors couldn't find any trace of the disease in my blood at all."

I just sat there in stunned silence.

The next words out of Tony's mouth made my heart start racing all over again.

"The only thing I can think of that might have made the difference--and, I'm only saying this because it was the only out-of-the-ordinary thing to happen to me between fainting and waking up--is probably the voice I heard talking to me in my dreams... but I'm not sure how that would be connected at all."

Memories of the amulet came swirling back, and I tried to keep my voice light and curious as I replied, "Voice?" Had he heard me say the incantation last night?

"Yeah--not like a voice I knew," he frowned in thought, as I felt a small sense of relief. He reached a hand up to push aside his long bangs. "Like a really deep man's voice, just talking and talking--I thought I could hear myself talking back, but I don't remember anything we said."

His upraised wrist caught my eye. The amulet charm I had made! But this one was on a leather cuff around his wrist--had someone else brought in the same amulet?

I pointed to it. "That looks neat, what is it?"

"This?" he pointed to the bracelet with a grin. "I don't know where it came from--I found it in an envelope among the stuff on my table."

A chill ran down my spine. No, this was wrong. I never put it on any leather cuff. "Wow, so you just like found it like that, on a leather thong?" He let me take his hand so I could see the stone closer. So very wrong. It was my wire-wrapping handiwork, all right, but the stone looked completely different: jet black from edge to edge, instead of veined with that orange near-glowing pattern I had so painstakingly reproduced.

"Yeah, just like that," Tony replied, sounding pretty excited about it. "I never considered myself a cuff-wearing guy, but this was just so neat and exotic-looking that I just had to put it on. The leather feels really nice, and check out this clasp. It's easy to do with one hand." He turned his wrist over and showed me the rotating latch. "See?"

A surge of alarm rose up like a sixth sense inside me. I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I'd done the wrong thing, taking the stone out of the house. I could only hope I could find a way to reverse what had been done somehow, return it to its normal state before Mom discovered my duplicate.

I wrapped my hands around the cuff as Tony undid the clasp. "Can I see it?" I asked.

Tony let me slide it off. "I guess..." his voice trailed off.

I held the cuff in my hands, thinking about those "healing spirits" I had tried summoning the past couple nights. That mumbo-jumbo stuff wasn't actually real, was it? Had something in the incantation changed the look of the stone? Did the light of the full moon have any effect?

Tony suddenly leaned on me with his full weight, nearly knocking the cuff out of my hand.

"What the--" I twisted awkwardly and tried to prop him up with both hands. "Tony? What's going on?"

His eyes hung half-shut, and when I pushed up one eyelid, the whites of his eyes were light pink and darkening quickly to red as the blood vessels seemed to swell and burst the more I watched. Dark-red beads formed underneath his nose, and his skin dropped several shades of pink into a sickly purple-green. I could see the branches of his major blood vessels popping out under his skin all over his body.

Had I been dreaming about how healthy he'd been in the last ten minutes?

"Tony! Wake up! Breathe, Tony!" I couldn't stand the thought of anyone coming in here and finding me with a near-dead patient--who'd been ready to discharge before I arrived!

"Tony!" I looked at the cuff in my hand. He said he felt better with it on, and he hadn't taken it off yet... I slipped the cuff back on his wrist and fumbled around with the ornate clasp until it clicked shut.

Tony's head came up with a series of wet, gurgling coughs, and with one shaky, deep sigh, he sat up straight like he had been before. He blinked and turned to me.

"That was weird," he muttered.

I was watching his eyes for any sign of the redness I'd seen before--but the whites were clear white again. The only indication of what had just happened was a few beads of blood under his nostrils.

He noticed me staring, and frowned self-consciously. "What? Do I have--" he touched the blood, and noticed it on his fingertips. "Oh, gross!" He scrambled for the nearest tissue box and cleaned it up.

When he sat down again, he rubbed the back of his ear. "So... was it just me, or did I have a relapse just now?"

I shook my head. "I don't know--whatever it was, you looked pretty freaky!"

He laughed again, and it was that clear, pure sound that he'd had before. "So what were we doing just before that? Let's see, I was showing you my new bracelet--"

He held it out to me, but I refrained from touching it this time. "Yeah," I said, "and then I undid the clasp to see it closer--" Or to keep it, I admitted to myself-- "and boom! Down you went."

Tony raised his eyebrows. "Whoa, really? That fast, huh? Well then..." He waved his wrist at me, "I guess I should think twice about taking this off ever again."

"Yeah, I think it's best if you keep it on," I answered, but on the inside, I was already shuffling through a dozen scenarios in which my parents discovered the switch before I got home, or maybe the copy was so good that they didn't even think twice, and I was the one to initiate the confession--in which scenario would they be less inclined to hold it against me? Would they even suspect me if I never said a thing--or would Mom assume it was someone at the museum who made the swap? Did she even know what the amulet did?

My alarm went off on my phone. I glanced at the time. "Yikes!" I bounded to my feet. "Okay, I have to catch the bus in the next ten minutes if I want to make it to my next class in time."

Tony joined me, grabbing my free hand. "Which class is it?"

"Chemistry," I answered. "We're doing lab work today."

"Yeesh," he gave me a wry grin of sympathy, "Patson is no joke when it comes to tardiness. You'd better go!"

Before I left, I threw my arms around him. "I'm glad you're okay, Tony."

He hugged me back. "I am, too."

I waved on my way out the door. "See you around!"

He chuckled. "Yeah, see you on campus!"

I speed-walked out of the hospital and down the block to the bus stop. As I sat in my seat and watched the blocks roll by, I wagged my head. Dude gets a new lease on life, and he wants to go back to studying? Unbelievable!

I made it through an hour-long lab session, and by the time we finished, I was definitely hungry. The closer I got to the house, though, the harder my heart beat in my chest. It was a cloudy day, but the lack of wind made it a bit warmer and more muggy than a late-winter day usually was. I took my time trudging down the driveway, going over what I would say when I walked in.

"Hi Mom," I muttered to myself. "Um, I need to tell you something. You know that wall of artifacts in the front room? Well, uh, I was really worried about Tony, see, because he had taken a turn for the worse and I heard the medications weren't helping, so I was desperate. I happened upon some research about a few of them..."

No, that wouldn't do. Too much. She would want me to get right to the point.

And what would Dad say if he walked in while I was talking? What if they happened to be sitting together?

"Hey Mom?" I practiced again, approaching the house, "What would you say if somebody told you... I mean, how do you respond to allegations that..."

I stood in front of the door now, my hand resting on the door knob. I hadn't seen their cars parked out front--but maybe Mom pulled into the garage.

"Mom, I was doing some research on the artifacts you have on display in the front room, and I think one of them might have had some kind of magical healing powers in it..."

I took a deep breath and pushed the door open.

"Mom?" I called. No one answered. Perhaps she was out on the back patio? She liked to sit out on the outdoor couch and read sometimes, rain or shine. I listened closely for any sound of movement at the back of the house, but everything was deathly still. I flipped on light switches on my way through the house, as the gathering clouds made everything that much darker.

I now stood between the kitchen and the living room, from which I could see into Mom's office. No one was home. I decided to try one more time, in case Dad was home with his upstairs office door closed.

"Hello?" I called, my voice booming off the granite countertops and smooth hardwood floors.

A movement flickered in the corner of my eye, and when I turned to focus on it, for a split second I saw a face!

"GYAH!!" I screamed, and a puff of air from somewhere brushed across my face and rattled against the windows--but when I waited and slowly turned to focus on every little shadow and shape around me, I saw no one.

There was something out of place I noticed in my quick scan, though. A torn piece of paper on the countertop. I recognized my Mom's handwriting right away.

Dear Priscilla, she wrote.

We had hoped to deliver this news in person, but it seems that circumstances conspire against us, and your father and I had to meet with some friends this morning. Don't worry--if we're not back by your lunch break, we will probably be able to return by dinnertime. Regardless, Zella has instructions to come and make dinner, and to stay with you until we arrive.

In our absence, it is important for you to know something that your father and I have been hiding for a very long time, since before we knew you.

We are gods, Priscilla. Not in the sense that you might think upon reading that sentence--we are not all-powerful beings capable of destroying the earth and altering time and space. We are both members of a lower pantheon. My name is Auraea, and I am a wind goddess--each time you felt a breeze around you at just the right moment, or random times during the day, those were my sprites checking up on you, and reporting back to me. Your father's true name is Trikymios, a god of sea-storms and waves. That was the reason he loved surfing so much, no matter what the Lake was like--he could harness his own waves, you see.

The two of us met on a cruise in the Atlantic, where we discovered that both of us had at least one thing in common: we were both indentured to a powerful demon, whose name I dare not even mention, in case it would invoke his presence. He is a devious, malevolent entity, and by his trickery both of us were bound in fealty to him, which resulted in our banishment from the aethereal realm, for a time. We were both required to live as mortals until a solution to the indentureship could be found--and in the process, I found a way to trap the demon in a prison stone, which I used my cover employment as an artifact curator to conceal among my personal collection--I beg you, Priscilla, do not under any circumstances touch those artifacts I have on display. I would not want to risk you releasing that demon we have worked so hard to guard against.

A final word about the Daeva-Staite Foundation--they are friends of ours, descendants of our worshippers, committed to preserving the integrity of our whole pantheon until Trikymios and I can return to our rightful places. They were instrumental in bringing you into our lives, and if they are involved with the trip to Fourtouna, you can be sure that our enemies--followers of the demon--will also seek to be involved as well. Perhaps this secondary organization, the one actually making their presence known on the island, is secretly in league with the demon. If he has not already found a way of escape, at least his influence is still very much in effect. They want to find us, and though we have been in hiding for a long time, careful about our identities, I fear that this trip might be nothing more than a ruse to lure us out. It might be better for you not to go at all, to live your life in Chicago, if we do not return. We have made sure you have everything you need, should it come to that. You see, your father and I have reason to believe that the discovery this archaeological team truly seeks is th

The letter stopped mid-sentence, but the sloping, swirling words ran all the way to the torn edge of the paper. Confused, I turned the note over in my hands. Dark splotches lined the bottom, and in a thick, jagged scrawl I read the words HAVE A NICE TRIP. SEE YOU IN FOURTOUNA. There was no missing the way the "ink" dripped down the page in a red streak. 

That wasn't ink at all--it was blood.


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Friday, March 6, 2020

Bookish Blog Hop: Spring 2020--Day 6! "A Book With More Than 400 Pages"

Jo Linsdell

I recently finished reading Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear which has 471 pages. If you enjoy crime novels it’s definitely worth checking out.

About the book:

From the beloved and internationally bestselling author of Sweet Little Lies comes the second novel featuring DC Cat Kinsella—an investigator “on par with Susie Steiner’s and Tana French’s female detectives” (Kirkus Reviews).

After a brief stint in the Mayor’s Office, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella is back at the London Metropolitan Police, wisecracking with her partner Luigi Parnell and trying to avoid the wrath of the boss, DI Kate Steele.

But for Cat and Parnell, it’s serious business when a young Australian woman turns up dead after a party thrown by her new boss. The initial investigation of Naomi Petrovic’s murder points to Joseph Madden, the owner of a coffee shop around the corner from police headquarters. Madden insists he’s innocent, that he was home with his wife Rosa at the time of the murder. When police question her, Rosa contradicts his alibi, swearing that she was home alone.

While the team builds its case against Joseph, Cat is tasked with getting to the heart of the Maddens’ marriage. Cat knows that one of them is lying—but the question of which one, and why, is far more complicated than she could have expected. As she tries to balance the demands of the investigation with a budding romance and unresolved family drama, Cat has to decide how far she’ll go to keep her own past mistakes buried.

With her trademark wit and brilliant plotting, Caz Frear ratchets up the tension and keeps you guessing as she explores the secrets we keep from our loved ones—and the ones we’d kill to keep safe in the dark.

Stormi - Bewitched Reader Book Blog -

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is a whopping 658 page read, which I plan on undertaking at some point in 2020. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but this one sounded too good to pass up when I saw it on Amazon. Fingers crossed it lives up to my expectations!

About the Book:

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and the imperfect union he could never have created without her…

Erica Robyn - Erica Robyn Reads -

One of my favorite books that is longer than 400 pages is NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. My copy has 692 pages. This tale is a very chilling read about strained family dynamics, but for better or for worse, how love always wins in the end. For those that don’t know, NOS4A2 is the license plate version of “Nosferatu,” the German word for vampire. So as I’m sure you can assume, this book is also about a vampire… of sorts. I’ve already read this novel a few times and I cannot wait to read it again! This is definitely one that I will reread from time. I also highly recommend checking out the comic, Wraith, which gives you a little background information about Mr. Manx. The Netflix adaptation is also wonderful! Feel free to check out my review of NOS4A2 here

Leslie Conzatti -- (Me!)
I have a lot of books that are more than 400 pages! The perils of being an avid reader, I suppose--we don’t much care about the length of a book, if the author is good and the premise is fitting! Pretty much anything by David Baldacci, I believe, is at least that long. Also I have several books by Michael Crichton that are at least 500 or 600 pages long.

The trick is to keep a reader interested, if a book is going to be that long. A book doesn’t have to be short enough to read in one sitting (though any book can be read in “one sitting” if that sitting is as long as the book!), but if the story drags on for pages and pages, then what’s the point of a long book?

Laura Doherty - Tales of a Natural Spoonie -
Each of the books in The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan come in at over 400 pages. This was a trilogy I read a few years ago over a long weekend at my brothers in Belfast when I had forgotten to take my Kindle with me. I really enjoyed this fantasy series but the first book The Magician’s Apprentice was definitely my favourite.

About the book:

“In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer - much to the frustration of her mother, who would rather she found a husband. But her life is about to take a very unexpected turn.

When treating a patient at the residence of the local magician, Lord Dakon, Tessia is forced to fight off the advances of a visiting Sachakan mage - and instinctively uses magic. She now finds herself facing an entirely different future as Lord Dakon's apprentice.

But along with the excitement and privilege, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. Events are brewing that will lead nations into war, rival magicians into conflict, and spark an act of sorcery so brutal that its effects will be felt for centuries...”

Eline -

I recently re-read The Fellowship of the Ring. I first read the Lord of the Rings paperbacks shortly before the The Fellowship movie was released. I’ve watched the movies a bunch of times but never actually re-read the books. 

Well, this year, I did the audiobook challenge and needed a book with a singing narrator. That was unexpectedly tricky! But it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to listen to the Fellowship audiobook, narrated by Rob Inglis. There’s lots of singing indeed!

Robin Loves Reading -
I checked my spreadsheet and found that I read 17 books this year over 400 pages. I will just mention a few now. For starters I will mention Becoming by Michelle Obama. There’s not a lot I can say about the book that hasn’t already been said other than it is truly a wonderful read and I devoured it via audiobook format in just a couple of sittings. Another book I read this year is Mermaid Inn by Jenny Holiday. I have only read a couple of books by her but from what I have read so far she is very entertaining. Mermaid Inn is the first book in a series and I am eager to read more. In January a challenge I do monthly, Reading Rivalry, had a criteria I needed to meet, and that was of a book about friends, so I chose Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I loved this book and, despite its length, read it in under a day. Lastly I will mention The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. I read the prequel before reading this and my attention was snagged from beginning to end. I love main character in this book, Charlie Quinn, and now I want to read Ms. Slaughter’s entire backlist.

Veronica - The Burgeoning Bookshelf

Whenever I see a chunkster of a book I always seem to put it off. When it finally came to the stage I couldn’t put Grown Ups by Marian Keyes off any longer I was worried it would drag. At 656 pages it was big! I needn’t have worried I flew through it. The story was funny, sad, captivating and I loved the characters. It was a great read.

How about you? What's a book you've read that's more than 400 pages long, and how did you like it? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to head back to the Introductory Post to check out the other stops in this blog hop!