I finally finished Mages 4! Still needs to be edited and published but hopefully it will be coming soon!
Happy November Mages fans! I’m going to be doing something a little different in this blog installment. I decided to re-read and write about a book that has had a lasting effect on me as a reader and as a person. As a young girl it helped shape my taste in novels and to this day I continue to avidly read anything the author of this book publishes. I have a lot to say about this book, so forgive me if this blog rambles on longer than usual. Here it goes: my experience re-reading Pet Sematary for the first time as an adult.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Pet Sematary tells the tale of Louis Creed and his young family. He relocates his wife and two children to a rural Maine town, where they purchase a house on a busy stretch of highway. This road is infamous for the death of many a child’s pet, and in the woods behind the Creed house the local children have erected a “Pet Sematary” to honor their fallen pets. Not long after the Creeds have settled in, their cat is struck and killed in the road. Louis’s elderly neighbor, and friend, takes Louis deep into the woods beyond the Pet Sematary to bury the cat in an ancient Indian burial ground. The next day the cat returns from the dead and Louis never tells his family what really happened. The cat isn’t quite the same though. Months later, two year old Gage stumbles into the road and is killed by a speeding big rig. Prostrate and half-mad with grief, Louis decides to bring Gage back to life with the power of the burial ground, but the thing that comes back from the ground is no longer his son.
It may be hard to believe, but as a young child, I was a bit of a scaredy-cat. I would get terrified if I accidently wandered into the horror section in the video store. Just the covers of those movies horrified me. I remember catching a chunk of Killer Clowns from Outer Space on TV some afternoon and having trouble sleeping for days! Scary and Anne did not mix, and for many years I was happy to avoid all things horror. Unfortunately young girls don’t live in bubbles and it wasn’t long before I found myself at a slumber party faced with deciding between two very unappealing options: suck it up at watch Child’s Play 2 with the rest of the ten year old girls, who didn’t seem at all afraid, or call my mom and go home in shame. I was terrified to watch that movie, but more terrified of the ridicule I would face if I went home, so I bottled my fear as best I could and watched that movie. It was scary. I jumped and screamed along with the rest of the girls and I realized something I had never known before; scary can be fun. After that night I was determined get over my fears and jumped headfirst into a lifelong love affair with horror.
My mom drove me to Walden Books when I was eleven years old to purchase Pet Sematary with my allowance money. My parents didn’t put any restrictions on my reading selections. Ever since I successfully made my way through The Lord of the Rings at the young age of ten, despite my mom insisting I was too young to comprehend it, I had been given free range to read whatever peaked my interest. By fifth grade, I had already exhausted the options of my elementary school library and was regularly making trips to Walden for new books. I had heard stories from friends at school who had seen the movie Pet Sematary. I didn’t know all of the details, but I know it was supposedly the scariest book Stephen King had ever written and apparently he had written a LOT of scary books. I had conquered my fear of scary movies. It was time to see what horror looked like in print.
I remember reading the first few chapters of the book, sitting on the counter of the pantry in my childhood home. I haven’t thought about that in a long time, but the memory is quite clear. I remember calling K.R. Yaddof from the corded phone in the pantry (still sitting on the counter) to exclaim to her over how many times the “f” word appeared in those first few chapters. This was the first R-rated reading material I had ever encountered and it was scandalous. I remember being surprised by how little horror appeared as I continued to read. King lets you get attached to the family in the story before he tears everything apart, and boy did I get attached. At the time, my family was living in a huge ninety year old house with two staircases and small bedroom with an attached bath at the top of the back stairway that my mom called the maid’s room. I currently inhabited the maid’s room, and anyone who has read Pet Sematary will know why I started to think of it as “the back bedroom” as the book went on. By the time I reached the climax of Pet Sematary, I was so spooked that I didn’t like to sleep in the same room as the book and would deposit it in my bathtub behind a shut door before attempted to sleep. The book terrified me. I loved it, but it terrified me.
Pet Sematary stuck with me through the years. My original copy is quite battered from frequent re-reading during my teenage years. Pet Sematary nightmares are something that I have come to accept as a permanent feature of my dreamscape. They are the only reoccurring dreams that have traveled with my through every stage of my life so far. I’ve seen the movie more times than I can count and own the DVD. In college I picked up a new addition of the book with an introduction by Stephen King that outlined his inspiration for the book. I read it again, at that time in my early twenties, under a whole new light of that intro. It felt different that time and after that reading I let it lie for years. My two paperback copies traveled with me through my twenties to several different apartments and cities but were not opened. Eventually they came to rest on the bookshelf in my husband and my first house. I picked up the book once during the first years year of our marriage, thinking it was time to read it again. I got a few pages in and closed it and immediately returned it to the shelf. The familiar paragraphs in those first few chapters suddenly didn’t sit well with me. I was now in my late twenties and the realization that I was in fact going to turn thirty in a couple of years made my own mortality suddenly seem startlingly real. I decided a book about death was not a necessary re-read anymore. Those first few paragraphs already had me feeling icky and scared. Maybe it was time to say goodbye to my old friend Pet Sematary.
Fast forward to the present! Despite how busy the fall of 2015 has been, I have somehow managed to spend a lot of time thinking about Pet Sematary. I have my reasons. My husband and I have two kids now: a five year old little girl and an almost two year old little boy. Our kids are the exact same sexes and ages as Ellie and Gage Creed are at the beginning of Pet Sematary. My husband, Derick, turned 35 over the summer. He is the exact same age as Louis Creed. Two years ago we moved to our second house, which happens to be located on a busy road. Shortly after moving in, our neighbors advised us to keep out cat indoors so we could avoid the heartache of having her killed in the road. They had lost a cat. I took their advice on the cat, and am constantly grateful for the six foot tall fence around our backyard that keeps our kids and dog safely penned in. I rarely let them play in the front yard. It’s too easy to imagine my toddler, James, running full speed into Jersey Ridge Road. My little blond haired son even looks a lot like Gage Creed. I caught some of the movie on cable a week or so ago and found myself in tears while watching it. I even had one of my old nightmares. Pet Sematary has definitely left its scars.
I decided it was time to face my fears and see what the book had in store for me under current circumstances. The coincidental similarities were nagging at me too much to ignore. It was time to visit with the Creed family again and this time I would really explore the story because this time I would be writing about it. It would be a cathartic exercise. I don’t have built in shelves in our new house so I had to dig the paperback out of a box in the basement. I plowed through it over two days and I feel emotionally and physically exhausted by the experience.
The familiar characters were all there, like old friends you haven’t seen in years, but still feel inexplicably connected to. As a thirty-three year old mother of two, Louis and Rachel are now my contemporaries and the day to day of their lives as spouses and parents were relatable in a way that it had never been in previous readings. I now know what it is like to have had a husband for several years and what a marital disagreement is like and I now know what it feels like to have and love a child.
I found myself rushing through the climax of the book as I have always done when reading it. I wished the same thing that I always wish when I get to the point in the story when things really get horrifying: that this time it would be different. Maybe this time, Rachel would take Jud’s advice and not rush home to her doom, or maybe Jud wouldn’t fall asleep and this time he would be able to intercept Louis before it’s too late, or better yet, a caretaker at the cemetery would interfere with Louis’s plan, or maybe Louis would change his mind and go to Chicago with Rachel and Ellie, or not send them at all, and most of all I wish that it all was just a dark premonition and that Louis had actually snagged the back of Gage’s jacket before he reached the road, and he had never been killed in the first place.
But the real horror isn’t in those last pages. The real horror isn’t a toddler back from the grave and thirsty for blood. The real horror isn’t written on any of the pages of Stephen King’s scariest book. Gage’s accident happens off screen so to speak. The reader only sees it through fragmented memories in Louis’s crumbling mind. The real horror is imagining what a two year old body would look like after being hit by a semi. The real horror is wondering what you would do if you had to see your own child destroyed right before your eyes. How would you stay sane? What would the days that followed really look like after seeing that?
The average person doesn’t worry about those types of horrors, because we all secretly think that we’re immune to them. We all think that since we are the star of our own story that nothing bad could ever happen to us or our family. Louis even thinks this exact same thing in the book after the family cat is killed in the road, “Just like your family is supposed to be different, he thought now. Church wasn’t supposed to get killed because he was inside the magic circle of the family (p. 152).” The ugly truth is that none of us are immune to tragedy. It happens to normal people who don’t reside in horror stories every day. Accidents happen. People fall down the stairs, flat screen televisions tip over, cars crash, mothers forget to drop off their sleeping infants at daycare and end up cooking them in the car mere feet away from their offices. We tell ourselves that we’re good people and our lives our safe, but we’re telling lies.
I’ve been lucky so far. In thirty-three years I have lost very few people that I have been close to; three grandparents, some peripheral friends, my beloved childhood cat: Shadow. Even with my luck I still feel the sorrow for those losses. I occasionally wake up from a dream in which my Granddad was alive and well and feel completely devastated all over again, and he’s been dead for almost ten years. I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning to the realization that your child was the one that was gone, that your baby would never be there to tickle or hold or talk to ever again.
That is why Pet Sematary is Stephen King’s scariest book. It’s not the bringing corpses back from the dead; it’s the parents’ loss of a child that is so horrific. This message is easily missed admits the violence and gore that culminates the book. It’s easily missed by a teenager or even a twenty something adult. That is why it has been lurking on my mind so much, because I now completely understand what the book is about and it is more terrifying now than it ever was when I was hiding it in my bathtub at age eleven. What would I do if one of my children died? How would I go on when the pictures and toys would be staring at me from every corner of my home? How would I be able to comfort my husband or explain the loss to our other child? How could we ever go on vacation again or celebrate Christmas or do anything for that matter? And then Stephen King asks the ultimate question: how could a parent let their child stay dead if there was an alternative?
So, how do I feel about this story, that I once loved in my youth, now that I have read it as a grown up? I’m not sure. I know that I missed the point of the book when I was a kid, and if nothing else, I’m glad to have read it at a time in my life when I can fully understand the message. I know that for the first time I can relate to Louis Creed’s motives when he decided to bring his boy back from the dead. I don’t know if facing my fears and reading it again has done more than that for me. If anything I feel more distrustful of busy roads, and basement stairs, and all the would-be accidents that await my children around every corner. I feel apprehensive, but apathetic at the same time, because what can we really do? I send my kids to school and daycare, and even when I’m with them there’s no way to know that they will be safe. There is no way for me to know that tragedy won’t strike my family. Reading Pet Sematary again has really resigned me to this fact and it’s a bleak feeling. I used to recommend this book to anyone who was looking for a good scare, but I’m not sure I can recommend it to friends anymore. I’m not sure I would wish these dark thoughts on others. I don’t know if I will ever read Pet Sematary again. Time will have to decide that. What I do know is that I will be giving my kids extra hugs and kisses whenever I get the chance and I will try to remember to never take their lives for granted.
Can romance and Halloween go together as more than a SEXY cat, nurse, or pumpkin costume? I found out the answer is yes in this fun and festive Halloween romance anthology! These stories have relatable characters with great love stories.
Today we're talking to the author of Garden of Souls, one of the short stories in the anthology, Michelle Ziegler. Here are her answers to my questions.
What spooky parameters were you given for the anthology?
There was a lot of freedom in this anthology. The main criteria were the story had to be themed around Halloween and it has to be a romance. Outside of word count, we had free reign.
How did you decide on a ghost story?
When I think of Halloween I always think back to my childhood of living across from a cemetery. I am still fascinated to this day about the old headstones and who the people once were. I always felt drawn to the what if, what if there were ghosts? I figured since I lived as close to the cemetery as possible, they'd come to haunt me first.
I was inspired by the thought of those that might not have gotten to finish their stories and to those that believe in the impossible - true love knowing no boundaries.
Do you think if Maranda's life circumstances have been different that she still would have fallen for Thomas?
I think that Thomas and Miranda were meant to be and fate would have always brought them together. She's always been open minded, and would most likely have made most of the same choices. Although, I can't say that she would've been quiet as excepting of a ghost straight off the bat. Her circumstances definitely make her want to believe that there is something else out there for her. Would she have always bought the haunted little carriage house? I think she would have, she wasn't that close to her family and no matter what happened she would have always craved independence. Her love of being alone and the desire to fix the broken would have drawn her to a deserted little place regardless. She is who she is, but her lack of anything to tether her to reality defiantly made accepting the impossible all the more easy.
And anything else you would like to add:
I'd be okay if Thomas wanted to haunt me this Halloween ;-)
Me, too! Find Spooktacular Seductions on Amazon and more about Michelle on her website, michellezieglerauthor.com.
Thank you, Michelle!
October is finally here! The month for pumpkins, ghosts, and best of all witches! To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I don't know if you've noticed but Halloween has gone the way of Christmas and really taken off in the last couple of years. Lawns are fully decorated, stores and shops have pumpkins all over, and haunted corn mazes are everywhere. It's awesome!
I know how you’re feeling fellow Mages Fans. You’ve just finished Mage Assassin and now you feel completely empty inside. It can be devastating to finish an installment of a series and not know when you will next get to join your favorite characters (I’m looking at you Song of Ice and Fire). Lucky for us, K.R. Yaddof is not George R. R. Martin and we won’t be waiting five plus years to continue the battle against The Blood Mage Order. Still, we need to find a way to fill our time while we wait!
When I wrap up a great book, or come to a halt in a beloved series, I’m sometimes hesitant to dive into the next reading experience. It feels like cheating for some reason. That’s where my TV addiction comes in. I love TV. I could go on about it for hours! Netflix has especially fueled my TV obsession with the ability to binge watch my favorite or not so favorite shows. So, here it is folks: Anne’s Netflix suggestions for the bereft Mages fan!
The Vampire Diaries : This is my favorite show on Television. I. Love. This. Show. It has vampires (VAMPIRES!), witches, werewolves, magic, villains, and impending doom around every corner. Fans of Mages will appreciate the relationship between brothers Stefan and Damon. It is not hard to see who is the Zachary and who is the Jacob (P.S. I’m team MAGES Jacob for life!). Watch this show. You will not be sorry.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel : I promise that not every show on this list will feature vampires, but Buffy has been a long time favorite of mine. It’s the original teen vampire TV show and in addition to having everything that I mentioned above that I love about TVD it is also hilarious and has a completely kick ass female lead. Fans of Alexis will enjoy Buffy’s transformation from a snotty airhead to the strongest female warrior around. I’m currently working my way through Angel right now, and while I don’t love it as much as Buffy, it is definitely a must see for fans of the supernatural.
Gossip Girl : You’re probably raising an eyebrow at this suggestion, but please stay with me. Gossip Girl might not feature traditional magic, but with the amount of money the kids in this show wield it might as well! The drama of their ups and downs and bed hopping is absolutely addictive. Mages fans will appreciate the struggle the main characters face when attempting to get out from under the feet of their often corrupt and childish parents. If you are a Jacob fan you will not be able to get enough of Chuck Bass! Oh, to take a ride in that limo!
Salem : This is a new favorite of mine. It’s a period drama set in colonial Salem and of course revolves around the witch hysteria of the time. Mages fans will appreciate the witches and magic for obvious reasons. I enjoyed all of the twists and turns of the plot. I spent a lot of time second guessing the motives of the characters, just like I do while reading Mages. No one is exactly what they seem in this show!
Honorable mentions -
· Revolution : This show only lasted for a couple seasons, but it started out great. The post-apocalyptic setting make is a must see for Mages Fans.
· Merlin : A fun retelling of the King Arthur legend from a young Merlin’s point of view. Lots of magic and a dragon!
· Dawson’s Creek : Joey and Pacey reaffirm my belief in true love every time! Can’t get enough.
See you next week Mages fans when I return to my regularly scheduled Book Review content!
I’m back! Did you miss me? My real, fulltime job actually required so much of my time last week that I could not get my guest blog written. I know what you’re all saying, “That’s not an excuse Anne. You could have gotten it done in the evening.” Unfortunately I have to pay a little attention to my husband and kids sometimes, too. So, I skipped last week. Can you ever forgive me?
A few months ago, it was my turn to pick the book for our book club. I’ve always been a horror/fantasy nut and I felt since it was my turn to pick, that I should share that with the group. So I fired up the internet to see what I could find in the way of a new horror book. I came across The Replacement in a list of scariest new horror novels and thought it sounded great. Decision made.
The Replacement is the story of a teenage boy named Mackie and the town of Gentry where he has grown up. Gentry is haunted by a group of fairies that live beneath the local slag heap. Once every several years, these beings steal a baby to sacrifice and replace it with one of their own. In exchange for the sacrifice, the fairies keep Gentry and its people healthy and prosperous. The babies that have been replaced by fairy creatures usually die within a few weeks, because they cannot survive in the human environment. Mackie is the only replacement to have lived into adolescence. As he learns the truth about his heritage, he has to choose where his allegiance lies. Does he belong with his human family, or below the slag heap?
I figured out pretty early on that this book was much more of a fantasy story than horror. It had some scary moments but nothing that would keep me up at night. That being said, I enjoyed the story and my book club ladies were a little relieved that the book wasn’t terrifying. I enjoyed navigating the dark secrets of Gentry with Mackie and his friend and even felt like I would return for a sequel if the author ever decided to go there. There were a few minor characters and plot points that could have been fleshed out better (or not included at all) that would have made the story easier to follow, but maybe these are things that could be expanded on in another book. My only other complaint is that the list that I chose this book from did not mention that the book was YA. That’s probably my fault for not doing my research. I like YA, but I would have known better about the lack of horror had I realized it was a YA book from the start. Still, this was a fun story and fantasy lovers will really enjoy it and there are even a few creepy undead chicks for you horror lovers out there!
All you have to do is comment on these blogs that featured Mages!
"I can vouch for this series. It's amazing." - Kelly Hashway, Author
"I never meant to be an indie author." - KR guest post on Michelle Ziegler, Romance Author's blog
Both are wonderful writers and I really appreciate them letting me share my books with their audiences!
Hello again Mages fans! It’s Anne, your favorite guest blogger/book reviewer. I have to admit that I haven’t been doing much reading this week. Book club met last Thursday and I tend to take some time off after finishing a book. I can’t ignore my Netflix addiction for too long, and the entire series of Angel isn’t going watch itself! Lucky for all of you I have so many books I want to review, that it doesn’t even matter that I’m taking the week off!
Today I decided to review The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin. A.J. Fickry is a depressed widower, who owns a bookstore on a remote island off the coast of New England. Nothing seems to be going his way until he finds an abandoned toddler in his store. After opening up his home and heart to the lost little girl, things begin to turn around for him. He finds friendship, romance, and family all while being surrounded by his beloved books.
I have to admit that I adored this book. The plot had several twists and turns and many surprises that I wasn’t expecting. The plot twists were fun, but it was really the characters that drew me in. I loved them all! I was especially fond of the police chief who was never really interested in books, but through his friendship with A.J., and his adopted daughter Maya, develops a love of reading and starts a book club for local police officers and fireman! I also felt like this book spoke to me on a personal level. It was a book about books and book lovers and it was constantly referencing things that I hold near and dear in my dork heart. The first Lord of the Rings reference made me smile, add in a few more, and a character who is addicted to True Blood (see above regarding Angel and my post from last week referencing my love for vampire fiction) and I was hooked. This story touched me. I was so attached to the characters that I cried big tears while reading about their ups and downs!
If you are a lover of books and bookstores, than this is definitely a book for you. It also has a hint of mystery to it that kept me guessing until the very end. Lastly, it’s a very manageable length for those looking for a quick read here at the end of summer. You will not be sorry you picked up this book!