Author’s Note: I’m really excited that this particular story has finally been written because it’s just another link in a long chain of events that has yet to come. This story isn’t particularly vital to Harlow Kaine herself but does introduce a character we’ll see later on. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank those who have been reading along with her adventures. I’ve got something special planned for Harlow Kaine in the future and I hope you’ll stick around for the journey! Due to the excessive length of this story I’m placing it under a “Read More” tag. Enjoy!Continue reading “The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine (21)”
Happy almost-April one and all, nearly the end of March which means we’re right on time with the Monthly Media wrap up. This month I watched a lot of TV and played some video games. I did finish one book and start another which of course I’ll talk about in a bit and played a lot of Pokémon when I had the time. As you might have sussed out right about now I am not the most “on trend” media consumer in the world, I’m about 2-3 weeks (sometimes 20 years or more) behind everyone else binge-watching stuff on Netflix but I hope you enjoy the content all the same because most of what I’m watching/reading/playing is new to me and I’m excited to share it. It’s not officially the start of a new month yet but my weekend plans won’t allow me to indulge in anything else before April so without further ado, let’s talk about some media! Please note there are spoilers ahead if you’d rather not read!
Star Trek: The Next Generation; Seasons 3-5 (up to ep. 6) ~ I got into Star Trek through my partner and I wasn’t surprised to find that I enjoyed it a lot. It’s definitely the kind of show that appeals to me in many ways: plot, characters, world building and so on. I’m also a sucker for campy storylines because I find overly dramatic TV shows stressful. I was stalled in Season 3 for a long time before finally deciding to sit down and watch it again. I really like all the character development that happens in the show as a whole. For example, even though Data has certain restrictions because he’s an android, he still learns from the situations around him. We also see him assuming command of a vessel during the Klingon Civil War episodes in Season 5 and see what other challenges there are for him in Starfleet, particularly with people he doesn’t see or work with on a constant basis. I enjoyed the episodes featuring Guinan and Q (I LOVED the Robin Hood themed episode with Vash) and meeting Ensign Ro in Season 5 because she is a badass and I hope to see more of her. My favorite things coming out of this block of viewing for me were (in no particular order): Counselor Troi getting emergency control of the ship, Data creating Lal on his own, EVERYTHING about the Klingon Civil War/Worf’s family (including that we meet his son) & Picard’s involvement in it and getting to see Sarek again in Season 3. In total, starting from ep. 5 in Season 3 to ep. 6 in Season 5 I watched 54 episodes of Next Generation this month which doesn’t seem physically possible but there it is! I have enjoyed every moment of it. Also, as a side note, I’m in love with the Duras sisters and can’t wait to see more of them.
Midsommer Murders; Seasons 6-8 ~ Overall I really enjoy crime shows and find them fun and interesting. I chose this series for two major reasons, 1. Netflix recommended it to me for several months after I watched several other crime/conspiracy/mystery shows or movies and 2. Because it had 19 seasons and I am a sucker for long-running BBC content. Initially I wasn’t super impressed with the show but it was something to watch while I was working on my bullet journal stuff or playing Pokemon. Somewhere around Season 4 or 5 however I really started to get more interested in the characters and the story lines. I like that DCI Barnaby and his wife have a happy marriage and that he isn’t some hyper-gruff/masculine curmudgeon. He loves his wife and daughter and is very encouraging of their interests and hobbies. He’s had two partners so far both with similar personalities so at this point it’s easy to see Barnaby as the “main character” in all this. The show runs a pretty typical format. At least 1-3 people die in each episode, always right away, usually by bludgeoning although poison and choking seem to also be popular opinions.
Other viewers might find this show predictable and/or boring but so far, I’ve yet to identify a specific pattern of events like: “first murder…stunning revelation…second murder….revelation is wrong, second revelation!….third murder….etc. but I have noticed something about DCI Barnaby’s character which is that you can usually tell through visual and audio clues that he can tell when a person is lying to him but he never pursues it right away. He knows when to wait it out as it were and then confronts the person about it later. It’s campy dramatic in that there are a lot of “eerie” screamy-ish sound effects but it’s not a bad show to sit down and binge-watch and you have a lot to look forward to! I do know at some point his nephew?? Or cousin?? Someone takes over from him so I’m not sure what kind of shift is in store for that but that changeover appears to be several seasons away.
Origin; Dan Brown (definitely spoilers) ~ I really enjoy Professor Langdon as a character and I enjoy the stories that Dan Brown has written for him, but I have a few major complaints about this book as a long-time fan. Firstly, I didn’t feel as if we got to see Langdon and his decoding skills in as much action as previous books, it’s literally just a “cat-and-mouse” chase from start to finish. Secondly, I absolutely called (to myself of course) that Winston was the real culprit all along because it’s the same type of story you read about in sci-fi when a super-intelligent computer is involved. Finally, we know from the end of Brown’s last novel “Inferno” that a genetic mutation causing virus was introduced by Zobrist to render one-third of humanity sterile AND YET when Brown had to option to use that information in this current book he instead chooses to ignore it when Ambra Vidal tells Prince Julián that she is unable to have children. Now, I realize with the third issue that this revelation about Ambra was done in a flashback and she didn’t tell Langdon (it wasn’t his business). It’s also made clear from the last novel that Langdon, Sinskey and Brooks weren’t keen on spilling too many beans about the virus so it’s certainly possible that Ambra wouldn’t have been aware in any case. But it’s really frustrating when an author makes such a monumental change to humanity or in the case of Langdon, puts him through such hell over and over again that not once does this poor Harvard professor go “Shoot, this reminds of the time I thought I was drowning but in fact was breathing liquid goo and going into a weird stasis…”
Now, as irritating as I found this book it was still Langdon and I love him, so I didn’t find this a chore to read, in fact it was hard to put down in places because the suspense was well-written in those passages. I am also looking forward to any future novels while finding myself eager to reread all the novels I own. If you are a long-time fan like me, you can find ways to excuse this novel or just understand that it’s not his best work (obviously subjective). However new fans are advised to read this book in the order it’s been assigned: dead last.
Pokémon Ultra Sun ~ This is less of a review and more in keeping with “This is something media-related that I did this month,” while also waxing poetic about how I usually don’t compete in online battles. I don’t have anything against trainers who do but I always felt that for me, it took away from the fun of the game. However, as time has marched on, I found myself really curious and eager to try and compete. So, after thinking about it for awhile and restarting my game I decided that I wanted to put together some Pokémon teams for competition. I’m doing some research about it now and trying to decide what kind of teams I’ll be creating.
That being said Ultra Sun/Moon as remade games from their original counterparts are certainly more interesting with more side-quests and of course Mantine surfing! One of the things I like about the Alolan set-up is that at some point you will battle all kinds of Pokémon for your Z-crystals which means having a well-balanced team is a must and also an interesting challenge. My current faves have been to include a Salazzle and a Mudsdale (with stamina ability) while alternating with other pokemon, in this case I now have: Sylveon, Metang, Decidueye, and probably my favorite pokemon of the generation: Crabominable. I’ve yet to complete the game at this point but I’m only playing it casually while I do research about competitions and as something to do when I’m not creating bullet journals.
Wizards First Rule; Terry Goodkind ~ My partner recommended this book series (Sword of Truth) when we first started dating but I already had a stack of books of my own that I wanted to read. However, partially because I’ve been watching too many episodes of Midsommer Murders and because I realized that life was fleeting and of course because I love him, and I want to talk to him about these books, so I started reading. I’m not very far into the story but so far I find it more interesting than I thought, my first choice for fantasy novels typically don’t involve male characters (obviously there are exceptions to this) but Richard reminded me of at least a few people I’ve known for a long time so it was easier than I thought it would be to relate to him. I’ve really enjoyed Kahlan and her general badassery so far so I sincerely hope that keeps being a thing. The character of Michael really surprised me because out of nowhere he starts physically assaulting Kahlan, like, in the middle of a party of all his supporters, which for a guy that was said to be “really clever” and “shrewd” seems like a BIG slip-up all because he “wanted what Richard had”? Understanding of course that Richard and Kahlan up to this point are only friends so such a strong reaction to a perception seemed really out of place from what we’d been told about him so far.
The Food Explorer; Daniel Stone~ Nonfiction is turning out to be a much harder sell for me than previously anticipated, even when I’m genuinely interested in the subject matter. However, as I usually have 2-3 books going at any one time I need to start diving my time more equally between stories to lessen this gap.
The Moonstone; Wilkie Collins~ I’ve been stuck in this book for months now it’s almost like a running joke. Will I ever finish it?! Time can only tell.
Spring is a hard season for me to love.
I can only speak for myself but growing up in the desert meant that I wasn’t really looking forward to things getting warmer. Also, I wasn’t often in a position to see things like wildflowers blooming or new life coming up around me. Even now, the only reason spring is my second favorite season is because I dislike winter and summer so much.
Curiously however, I’ve been thinking about spring a lot this year. I wondered if writing down my feelings about it might shed some light on a curious phenomenon I’ve never realized before, that for the last several years, most of the major changes in my life have started in the spring. A short timeline for your convenience:
Spring 2012 ~ I arrived in Japan for the first time ready to start my job. I am colder that first March than I have ever been in my life. The new school year will start in a few weeks and I must take training and then move to my new apartment in Tochigi where I’ll be living and working for the next 3 years. The sakura blossoms are a little late this year because it’s been so cold; most of the trees are bare for the “Sakura Matsuri” a month later.
Spring 2015 ~ I must choose to move to Ibaraki or go back to the states a year before I planned to due to some unforeseen circumstances. I learn later that my cat passed away while I was dealing with all this other stress in my life. I choose to move because I want to fulfill my commitment to myself and stay for the four years I promised myself I would. I am unhappy for a long time about this situation but eventually, I move past it, but it takes me a long time.
Spring 2016 ~ It’s time to move back home to the States. My mother has come to help me go back and together we take lots of last little trips together to see things we know we won’t be able to for a long time. Kamakura is everything I thought it would be and more. The sakura are in full bloom and beautiful.
Spring 2017 ~ I met someone last year and we are (still are) very much in love. I make the decision to move in with him less than a year after I return home from Japan. I’m a little nervous but this isn’t the hardest or scariest thing I’ve ever done, and it seems natural that we be together, even if that means moving across the country.
Spring 2018 ~ I hate Vermont. It’s cold and I overestimated my ability to make new friends. The idea of living here any longer stresses me out and the weather isn’t helping. Who willingly wants to live with the threat of -20 degree or more weather every winter? Not the woman who is willing to live with 120 heat in the summer I assure you. We move to Texas.
Spring 2019 ~ I thought I would be happy in Texas and I was willing to be happy in Texas and then a simple question over the holidays from my mate totally changed the game. “Where do you want to raise our kids?” and for some reason all I could think was: “Arizona.” I want to be with my family again, I want to be able to see my mom whenever I want, I want my friends to be in my life again, not just through texts and phone calls, but in my life. We make the plans, and in another couple of months I’ll move again.
When I look at this series of events, especially since 2015 I start theorizing that I’ve internalized this idea that new things start in the spring. When I was living in Japan, most of the new things like TV programs, news segments, school years, and businesses started in the spring when everything was renewing itself. Perhaps because the seasons progressed so distinctly from one to another it was easy to draw that line that said “Okay, everything is blooming so we’re going to embark on our new things now.”
I’ve been thinking about the phrase everyone loves to use when Daylight Savings Time is coming. “Spring Forward” might be a great reminder to set our clocks one hour into the future but I also think it’s become an interesting reminder that spring, as the harbinger of new life and new opportunities should be utilized as a jumping off point for those who need a little extra time to start something new. I hate the idea of being a “new person” when the clock strikes midnight and January 1st is suddenly in our lives. Maybe the mantra of “new year, new me” should extend itself into spring as well. How can you decide to be a new person when the world around you isn’t going to change for another 2-3 months? Is that why some of us fail to keep these promises to ourselves? Let’s do more this spring than move our clocks forward, let’s move ourselves forward too, we deserve to bloom and flourish this spring just like mother nature. My goals this year can only be enhanced by taking the steps necessary to make my life better one season at a time.
Right on the tails of January’s late post, February is on time and everything is as it should be! This month features a lot of visual media, some music and a few other small offerings for games and books. I didn’t get much read this month because I was having a hard time focusing on one thing specifically for longer than a few moments at a time. Let’s talk about media!
The 100-yr-old-man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; Jonas Jonasson ~ I originally picked up this book when I was living in Japan, probably around 2013 and I didn’t get very far before I put it down and forgot about it; eventually I gave the book away. I bought it again recently because I thought the title was cute and I couldn’t remember disliking it so I thought it would be an easy read start to finish. It has a pretty solid 4.5 star rating on Amazon with 4-5 star reviews taking up a hefty 81% of the total but overall it left me really underwhelmed. Part of the problem was throughout the story I kept asking myself: “How did such a boring person lead such an interesting life?” He doesn’t read as having strong emotions, goals or ambitions, he’s simply THERE every time something happens and honestly it just got old. Strangely however, everyone around him is intensely interesting so I’m forced to wonder if that was intentional? Either way, it’s not high on my reread list and I wish I had a physical copy to return or donate instead of a digital copy.
As I write this rather underwhelmed review, I’m reminded that there was a movie made about this book and the trailers make it look rather funny, something I would argue the book was NOT. It was on Netflix for awhile and I had planned to watch it, more so after finishing the book but it’s been removed sadly. The plan is to watch the movie eventually so that I can make another comparison, just not this month.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 4 Eps. 46-51 ~ Finally, the last 6 episodes have dropped after almost a year of waiting and they brought the closure I both wanted and needed. I’ve enjoyed Kimmy’s story for a lot of different reasons over the years, but I think the one that’s endured the most is Kimmy’s spirit. The fact that she’s “unbreakable” and keeps her cheerful, optimistic outlook on life is really refreshing in a host of angsty, misanthropic, asshole main characters that seem to be everywhere on TV these days. Favorite thing about the last half of the season is probably my girl Xanthippe coming back to find out that Kimmy has authored her new favorite book prompting one last “omg nooooo” moment from one of my favorite tertiary characters in a show.
Fyre ~ I, like many, many, many other people indulged myself by watching Netflix’s Fyre documentary because I was also fascinated with that entire kerfuffle playing out all over the media. This was a great comprehensive set of interviews detailing the start, ongoing process and the conclusion(?) of the Fyre Festival saga. I especially appreciated all the interviews with people from the island itself and showed that the damage this festival caused was widespread and affected so many people other than the ones that were posting on Instagram and Twitter.
Fyre Fraud ~ The Hulu documentary didn’t interview as many people from the island location itself, but it DID have Billy Mcfarland sitting down giving answers/non-answers. This documentary also examined the Fyre Festival from the impact standpoint and involved a lot of interesting commentary about social media’s influence as a whole. My favorite part of this documentary had to be when McFarland was asked about villa’s/houses they had rented, and he claimed that they’d had a box of keys that “went missing”. The reaction from the interviewer was a priceless because he jumped right on that. I personally just really enjoyed watching McFarland flounder for answers from time to time.
Fyre vs. Fyre Fraud ~ I’m of the honest opinion that neither of these is necessarily better than the other because you should watch both. Since Fyre (on Netflix) deals more with the conception and process of HOW Fyre came to be, I think that’s a great first watch, followed by Hulu’s Fyre Fraud as it seeks to examine the WHY. I might even watch both again because I think a lot about the power of social media and how it’s changed/changing us as a society, and it feels like the Fyre Festival is one of those phenomenon’s that holds endless interest because it was so heavily influenced and promoted on social media.
The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass; Seasons 1-4 ~ God bless Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry for giving us personal baking lessons based around the challenges they set for the bakers in the last few seasons of one of my new favorite shows. It’s not super interesting all the time, in fact I tend to be listening with one ear because there’s just not a lot going on, but I have learned several new things about baking and in fact how to make my baking less stressful overall which is supposed to be the point of the “Masterclass” series.
This month specifically I wanted to focus on the two newest additions to my music collection, Ambitions and Eye of the Storm by Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK. I was first introduced to this band in 2012 when the first live-action Rorouni Kenshin movie was released in Japan. Their song “The Beginning” was attention grabbing and absolutely up my alley musically. Eventually I found myself buying several of their albums and decided that while 人生×僕= was the stronger album, the song “Yes I am” from Nicheシンドローム was my favorite, hands down. It felt like my theme song if my life was an anime and honestly, I still believe that. Since moving back to the states, I hadn’t really had a chance to catch up with their music because I knew that the US released albums were in English and I wanted to continue experiencing ONE OK ROCK in Japanese. However, a friend informed me that unlike previous albums there were only a few scattered verses of Japanese in some songs in the last two albums. After thinking about it I decided that I could live with missing out on verses in Japanese, my biggest fear had been missing out on whole songs. Also, ONE OK ROCK frequently tours world-wide and they seem to be moving in the direction of primarily releasing albums in English. I downloaded both albums immediately upon making my decision and WOW am I happy.
Ambitions; ONE OK ROCK ~ A solid album I thought, the music felt more “poppy” and less “rock and roll” from some of their previous albums but I am often of the opinion that the lines between those two genre’s blurs more often than not. I was excited to see a couple of collaborations on the album, most notably “Take What You Want” with 5 Seconds of Summer. I’m not a fan personally but I know that they are popular and that a lot of their fans were introduced to ONE OK ROCK through the collaboration and I am all about my boys getting more attention. Overall, not my favorite album from them but still worth the money which is just as important sometimes.
Eye of the Storm; ONE OK ROCK ~ I really have to admit that before Eye of the Storm I didn’t have a favorite album. I liked the first half of Nicheシンドローム and a handful of songs off other albums, so it was a WONDERFUL surprise when I realized that I love the heck out of their newest album. “Eye of the Storm” has a power beat that spikes my confidence while “Stand Up, Fit In” makes me cry like a baby because I identify with the message of the song SO MUCH, years after I needed to hear a song like this. “Giants” and “Push Back” are also incredibly motivating songs for when you just need that boost. It’s easy to go on and on because truly I feel like every song is just a treasure and the album is a great addition to their discography.
Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield ~ We got great news on February 27th aka “Pokemon Day 2019” with the announcement of two new core games coming out for the Switch system later this year. We were introduced to our three new starters: Scorbunny, Grookey, and Sobble and the new Galar Region. I am stoked for the possibility of new Pokemon and have my fingers crossed that regional variances will make another appearance in this game as they did in the Sun and Moon series. There’s a lot to speculate about the new names and from the appearance of the logos I think it’s safe to theorize that the legendary Pokemon will have a wolf-like shape or characteristic.
Real Talk: I’m so glad it’s not a Sinnoh remake, not that I would be against a Sinnoh remake, but I’d accept it as a re-released/remade game alongside another core or auxiliary game like the Pokemon Let’s Go series, rather than a solo release. I was really disappointed with the Ruby/Sapphire remake HOWEVER I am also willing to admit that Gen 3 is not my favorite by a long shot.
I have finally joined the Twitter after all these years. Find me @AvgMagicalGirl! I share my blog posts and retweet a lot of Pokemon stuff for now but I’m sure my feed with vary itself as I figure out how to use the app more effectively.
Because I waffled a lot on my reading material for this month I haven’t made much progress in either of the books I have going at the moment: The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone and Origin by Dan Brown but now that I’ve consolidated my reading list I should make a lot more progress next month.
Russian Doll ~ I know I’m late to the binge-watch bandwagon but after watching the first episode I’m not sure I want to continue watching by myself. A friend of mine has already volunteered to watch with me so when she has a free moment of life, I’ll be able to continue. I won’t lie and say that I’m not interested in watching the rest of the series, but I am giving serious thought to my level of sobriety when I sit down again. It feels like a show specifically crafted to be watched when under the influence of something and that could just be part of the show itself and I haven’t delved enough into it to know that yet. Additionally, I felt incredibly disconnected from all the of the characters. It’s like Nadia Vulvokov’s life is what a 17-year-old partier might think their 30’s will be because they’re assuming that they’re going to party forever with the same people, just doing progressively stronger drugs and drinking stronger liquor*.
*I’m fully open to this opinion changing as I watch more of the series but since I’m actively trying to avoid spoilers at the moment I’d appreciate that if you have a strong enough opinion to comment please be vague or understand that my feelings are liable to change.
Hello everyone and welcome to our first “Monthly Media” post for 2019! I know I’m several days late getting January posted, to be honest February really snuck up on me. I did a lot of reading this month in my free time and also revisited my favorite musical album of all time, plus short updates on what I’m up to for February! Without further ado, let’s go! Spoilers are ahead for the following books: Eric, Guards! Guards!, Moving Pictures all by Terry Pratchett and the Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.
As some of you are aware, I started reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for the first time last year and overall my experience has been great. He’s become one of my favorite authors and his novels really put me in a reading mood. Since I haven’t felt that way about an author in a very long time, I think its kind of a big deal! Not shockingly I have been recommending him to anyone and everyone who comes my way so if you’re looking for a new author to invest in, Pratchett’s your guy!
Guards!, Guards! – Book one basically of a new offshoot series within Discworld, this time featuring the members of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. This was well-written and had some interesting characters, but it wasn’t my favorite book so far. I’m not sure what business I have assuming how a plot will go in Discworld anymore, I really should know better by now but basically, I thought one thing was going to happen and like 7 other things happened instead sooo?? There is a dragon which is cool and like, a proper fire breathing, menacing horror with wings. I also felt that overall everyone got what they deserved both good and bad HOWEVER we don’t get any additional mention of said dragon or it’s actions in Anhk-Morpork in either Eric or Moving Pictures which makes me once more question certain time lines and how connected all these characters are. As a whole I liked the City Watch as characters and I look forward to seeing where they end up in future stories. Fun Fact: I once picked up a copy of Thud! and I was so confused trying to read it and I recently learned that the reason of course was because it was part of not only the City Watch story line but also like book 34 in the series (“chronologically”). I look forward to getting back to it and enjoying it.
Eric – Once more we find our beloved Rincewind in peril. I still don’t have answers to ANY of my previous questions and to be honest, while this is a continuation of his storyline, it reads as very disconnected from everything he’s done previously. I still enjoyed it because I find the character to be loveable but of all the books I’ve read so far, it felt like this was really left field. When I was thinking back on it getting ready to write this post it occurred to me that fans of Dante’s Inferno and or Aladdin might either love or hate this story depending on when you last read/saw either of these stories and how you felt about them initially. It’s not the strongest story so far but it nicely fills the niche of “How is Rincewind getting out of this one?” when we left off with Sourcery. I am forced to wonder however if Rincewind will mention this particular adventure ever again or if he might categorize it as “normal day” and purge it from his long term memory. I think this would make an interesting book club book if I have to make a suggestion for it, I think getting a lot of different opinions on the story would be interesting and perhaps necessary.
Moving Pictures – SO, this is another one of those interesting stand-alone stories with the primary plot focusing on movies coming to Discworld. My personal opinion is that Pratchett does some of his best work when he’s caricaturizing certain things from literature or reality. Wyrd Sisters pulled a lot from theatre, specifically Shakespeare and this novella pulls a lot from a very loose Hollywood history. It’s one of the better stories and I liked that once again we have a bit more of a serious tone and bits of creeping dread here and there to keep it suspenseful. It’s obviously supposed to be funny, why else would you have a talking dog who says “woof”; but there’s some really interesting social commentary there too. Overall it reads as less funny laugh-out-loud and more, funny chuckle-under-your-breath while you read it. If you are a movie lover (especially classics) you’re going to really enjoy all the little hints that Pratchett drops throughout the story. If you wanted to skip it (but why would you really?) you certainly could but I wouldn’t choose it as a debut Discworld novel since I feel like new readers would need a little more background information provided by at least 2-3 previous volumes of their choice.
The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books – Walter Moers is one of my favorite fantasy writers, easily in my top 10. I’ve been reading and rereading his books since I got my hands on a copy of The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear in my early 20’s. Please then imagine how utterly DEVESTATED I was that this book turned into such a disappointment. When I returned from Japan in 2016, I immediately started rereading books that I had left behind (remember I had no Kindle back then) and was enraptured once more by the novel: The City of Dreaming Books. It’s a GREAT story, a little rambling at times but it’s supposed to have been “written” by an author well known for his long-winded prose. The style returns in this sequel released while I was out of the country. I was finally reminded that he had a “new” novel out when I was speaking to a dear friend about books for her son. I downloaded it right away.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be aware that this book is NOT ONLY a sequel but also part one of a longer story. The worst part is the cliffhanger at the end after enduring several hundred pages of rambling nonsense about Bookholm/Zamonian puppetry. Additionally, I felt stalked by feeling of dread throughout the novel, anticipating when Yarnspinner would once more fall prey to the darkness in Bookholm and he does…but with no resolution in sight. The next book doesn’t have a release date as yet which means that I hover in purgatory waiting to see where his next adventures will take him. If I was inclined to physical outbursts anymore while reading I might have hurled this book across the room several times in frustration and horror and there is a lot to be horrified by. He’s a great writer and John Brownjohn has once more done an excellent job translating the text. It’s a maddening read and I, like several other reviews agree that this is certainly not Moers’ strongest work. Read at your own risk!
Infinity on High; Fall Out Boy – Recently I was forced to redownload this particular album because it refused to load on any of my machines and I don’t currently have a way of reloading the CD onto any of my devices. I am irritated by two things, the problem I mentioned beforehand and the fact that I didn’t just pay for and download this album sooner. This is by far, not just my favorite Fall Out Boy album, it is my favorite album of all time. The music, the themes, the way the tracks are organized, and the lyrics all come together and make this truly a wonderful musical and emotional experience. I honestly didn’t care much about music beyond how it made me feel at the time of it’s release in 2007 but after I listened to it a few times I realized why it was hitting me so much harder and my entire perception of music and how I listened to it. Even now, 10+ years later this album feels relevant and personal to me. I would argue that it’s their best album to date, but music is ridiculously subjective and I’d hate to have that kind of conversation with another fan who felt that way about Folie à Deux, American Beauty/American Psycho or any of their other works because I feel like we’re all allowed to have that one album that changed how we listened to music for eternity, judgement free.
I’ve paused reading Terry Pratchett for awhile to focus on some of the other books on my list so here’s what’s going on so far for the future:
I started a book about mid-January called The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone. It is a mouthful to say AND read, there’s a lot of information going on in here and it can be a little dry but overall, I feel like I’m making progress and retaining the information. I’ve also just started Origin from Dan Brown because reading the adventures of Harvard Professor Robert Langdon always delights me and I refused to be judged. I’ve yet to go back to The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins but I’ll get there someday, hopefully this year, send help.
This story is a direct companion to The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine (19).
Harlow sat at her large desk sorting tax documents when she got a phone call from the doorman downstairs announcing that a “Margo Wright” was here to see her. Harlow instructed for her to be sent up and for a light lunch to be prepared for her guest as she stood and started tidying her work space. The temporary tables from a few weeks ago had been removed against the wall, all papers in place for the upcoming tax season which would start for her shortly. A polite knock sounded before the housekeeper announced herself, opening the door slightly and announcing “Ms. Wright”.
“Thank you, Linda, when can we expect lunch?” she asked as a rather formally dressed Margo skirted into the office, looking around almost frantically before realizing she wasn’t going to be attacked.
“The cook says maybe fifteen to twenty minutes to prepare and serve ma’am, should I bring some coffee in the meantime?” she asked, her attention to Margo now.
“Oh! Um, if it’s not too much trouble…I like one cream and two sugars please,” Margo blurted out in an almost panicked voice.
“Yes of course ma’am,” Linda smiled, no doubt relieved that Margo wasn’t as scary as Harlow’s last guests.
Harlow thanked Linda as she left and then indicated that Margo should sit on one of the plush, comfortable chairs just beyond the front of her desk. Thank goodness she had moved the furniture back into place a few days ago or the seating arrangements would have been more awkward. Harlow had thought about and abandoned the idea of having such a potentially sensitive meeting in one of the more public sitting rooms.
“So, you live here by yourself?” Margo’s soft voice was hesitant with awe and fear.
“I would love to ease your mind and tell you yes, but I do not. There are three more like me who live here. However, you are under my protection and my Master is not the type to take advantage of such a situation.” She hated how hollow and formal that sounded, they were family were they not? Her great-niece, what a strange year this was already becoming. “Only Rosemary is home at the moment, the Master and August have their own separate business today.”
Margo was still looking around the room quietly wrestling with something as Linda returned with a tray of coffee and some small finger snacks to hold their guest over until lunch. Margo thanked the housekeeper almost shyly and took a small sip of her drink before she finally gathered the courage to look back at Harlow. “How did it happen?”
Harlow smiled, not unkindly and set her clasped hands on her crossed knees. Her business-casual attire probably made her look like a cunning spider in an intricate web and she really hoped that through the rest of their encounter the younger woman wouldn’t look so nervous. “To make a long story short, I was attacked and killed, and my Master Olivier was passing by and gave me this life before my old life could leave me.”
“Have you lived in Washington this whole time?”
“No, I lived in Boston for quite a long time afterwards and then in New York City. When the coven moved back to the West Coast and picked Seattle, I realized I wanted to come back.”
“Why a CPA? Like, of all the things you could do?” Margo’s voice was saturated with genuine confusion.
“Before I became a vampire I worked at a bank and I was always good with numbers. I realized that as time went on, I had an opportunity to take advantage of a lot of things that weren’t available to me when I was a younger woman. I went to school for several years for accounting and decided that I could use my skills for the coven. Vampires tend to have a lot of assets so having people in house to monitor all of them is a better idea than outsiders. We do have a small office of mundane people that help us with a lot of the accounting, but the manager of the branch is another coven member and I oversee her and the rest of the office. Luckily, taxes are straight forward when you know what you are doing so there’s not a lot, if any glamour going on. I handle sensitive stuff personally or hand it to Daisy-Lynn as needed to keep our turn over low. Are you okay?”
Margo had gone a bit paler than before and was clutching her coffee cup so hard Harlow was genuinely afraid it would shatter in her smooth, manicured hands. “Huu…um,” the sound that escaped her great-nieces lips was not a comforting one, but she did set her cup down with a little rattle on the tray. “I used to work for the Department of Vital Records in Pennsylvania, I was really good at my job. After a couple of years, I started getting headaches and my vision felt like it was swimming when I was looking at some of the paperwork. I went to so many doctors and specialists, but they all told me that I was fine. Another year after that my vision wasn’t swimming as much but my headaches came and went with more intensity than normal. I also started noticing discrepancies in the paperwork I was handling, when I mentioned them to my immediate supervisor, I was told not to worry about them, that they would be handled and to just set them aside. But I noticed that whenever my supervisor took them away, he just gave them to whoever the new person was, and they filed them normally.”
Margo paused for a moment and took a fortifying drink of her coffee while Harlow sat very still on the opposite couch. This story sounded a little familiar and a creeping sense of not-quite-dread was starting to envelope her body, starting at her tailbone and working upwards. “Anyway…I guess for me to make this story any shorter I should just say that one day I went home from work early with the strongest migraine I had had in the last four years and when I woke up, I could see everything. Everything. I freaked out so badly I couldn’t even make it into work when I realized what was happening. I ran back home and called in sick and then spent the whole day on the computer looking up stuff and reading accounts from other’s like me….”
“You quit your job and moved to San Francisco to be with your family and you started a podcast…” Harlow finished in a strange, half-amused, half-disbelieving voice. Her mother’s information yesterday had been more than useful after all. “Are you Professor Midnight?”
“Professor Midnight?” Margo echoed quietly. Her mouth opened and closed several times. Margo’s name wasn’t listed on the podcast website at all so for Harlow to be aware meant that she knew the history of Professor Midnight, which meant she knew about the podcast and…oh god this is exactly what she was freaking out about yesterday! “How do you know about that?” was the only question she could get through her suddenly dry lips.
“Oh well, um Professor Midnight is really popular among us all, you’re very informed for a mundane human.”
Margo stared at her before putting her head in her hands and taking several deep breaths. Harlow wasn’t sure how to proceed so she sat there silently for several moments. Linda arrived a few moments later with lunch for Margo and had been gone for several more silent minutes before Margo finally looked at Harlow, obviously on the edge of tears. “I’m popular among the supernatural community because I’m informed?” she finally asked.
Harlow still felt like she was swimming in unfamiliar waters and decided to take it slowly. “Your information is good wherever you’re getting it from, we listen because it’s news. You reported about an Abomination last year and your information was really accurate. You also know what the Knighthood is usually up to, so we know what areas in the city to avoid more than others. I’m honestly not interested in knowing how you’re doing it, or even to try to get you to stop or change, but it might help you to know that you are quite popular.” Harlow decided she was not going to mention that her great-niece had discussed “The Pumpkin Incident” back in October.
Margo said nothing for a very long time. She ate her food silently and drank another cup of coffee, all while brooding and occasionally sniffling. Now wonder the poor girl’s hair was turning grey so quickly, waking up one morning to find your entire life was skirted by danger could rattle anyone and yet Margo’s response was to try and warn others. Harlow thought there was something very brave about all of that. After awhile the vampiress decided she might try to talk again, if only because she didn’t think the silence was actually helping anyone.
“My mother, your great-grandmother Wanda, used to talk all the time about how you couldn’t pick your family, that you had to live with what you had. I loved my family, I still love my family and it was really awful not being able to see anyone after I died; even though I’m sure I had opportunities to play the “creeper” as it were. She told me you were Violet’s granddaughter, you look a lot like her you know, especially when you were angry yesterday.” Margo laughed despite herself and wiped a few stray tears from her face with her napkin. “You know her favorite radio character was Margo Lane from The Shadow. She talked for years about how she wanted to name a little girl that.”
“Yeah, dad told me that because he and ma couldn’t decide on a name, Nanny Violet stepped in and said it would be “Margo Elaine” or she’d cut them from her will.”
“That certainly sounds like something Violet would say. She probably wasn’t serious, but she always played to win,” Harlow laughed.
“Yes! She always said stuff like that! Like, she always knew what would get people to do what she wanted and like, it wasn’t like she was nasty or mean with it either, she just really knew how to manipulate in just the right way; but manipulate is such a terrible word to use,” Margo continued.
“Once when we were children, she desperately wanted to go to a baseball game at Sicks’ Stadium but your great uncle, Franklin, not Alvin, had told her that he thought it was stupid for little girls to go watch baseball games, that there was no way they could understand the scores. She told him right back that she thought it was stupid for boys to talk to girls like they knew what they were saying because Franklin, was obviously bad at it because Violet had seen Jane Thomason slapping him the other day outside the house. Franklin had to take all of us to the baseball game because he didn’t have a counter argument.”
Margo laughed and then was quiet for a moment, “Nanny Violet didn’t talk about the family a lot. Auntie Inez and Uncle Alvin talked about it more, she said it was because most of the family had passed away before they’d had a chance to live. They talked about George Jr.’s infant death and how Everette died from the flu in 1930 and of course every year on the anniversary of D-Day they would talk about how brave Franklin was. But not once would they say how you died; just “you died”. I think Cousin Rainbow finally looked it up for a school project trying to do her family tree. She found newspaper articles and everything about it, Great Uncle Alvin was really upset about it all but that year during the family reunion in 2009, he finally told us all that you had been murdered in 1949 and it was literally the most horrific thing anyone could think about and that’s why they never talked about it. They thought after everything else the family had been through with the first three boys dying that mentioning the fact that you had been murdered was somehow disrespectful to your memory.”
Harlow nodded in understanding, death was not a stranger to her family by any means, but the manner of her death was offensive, even to Harlow now after all these years. She’d rather not think of it either, so she decided the subject needed to change once more. “You have a cousin named Rainbow?”
Looking much more comfortable than she had all day, Margo smiled and laughed “Yeah, it’s a long story.”
“I have the time if you do?”
“…Yeah, I think I do.”
Her youngest sibling, dear Inez had peacefully passed away just hours after 2019 had announced itself so cheerfully. It had taken a few weeks but her mother, Wanda Kaine had returned with news of when a wake would be, as ghostly eavesdropping was a specialty of hers. Harlow decided it was only right that she pay respects to her sister since she had missed Alvin’s and Violet’s “celebrations of life”. On the day of the somber affair, she put on a modest black cocktail dress, with matching heels and nylons. After braiding and securing her long auburn hair into a simple upstyle, she pinned a fascinator to it and adjusted the almost opaque veil to cover most of her face.
She was certain it was silly to imagine that anyone would recognize her. Inez was seventeen when Harlow was transformed but she doubted that her youngest sister would have gone around showing off her picture to the point where Harlow’s identity would be questioned. She expected some of this logic from her mother as well, but the ghost of Wanda Kaine merely fussed a little at things that could be straightened and told her she looked lovely. Harlow suspected that her mother might be spending some more time with her this year than last.
The vampiress wasn’t angry or surprised that her mother had gone off so soon after they reconnected last spring and had stayed gone for most of the year. She knew exactly where to find Harlow when she wanted her but her time with her last living child was dwindling and Harlow respected that a lot more than she was able to convey in words. Harlow had her car brought around front and opened the door for her mother first, before the well-trained valet held her door open next. Harlow thanked him politely and drove off. She decided that later they would have a conversation about her mother floating through the door like any other self-respecting ghost.
They drove to the church in silence, Wanda in reflection and Harlow with her nerves. She could go into churches but not for a long time, she might be able to pay her respects and then hang around the narthex while the service was taking place. Then again, she could come home and sleep off the migraine she might develop. Popular speculations among the Sire’s and other “children” was that because the Sire’s had consumed demon flesh to gain their abilities, they also developed a slight intolerance to the church and passionate religious people in general and it was inherited. All vampires regardless of religious status at the time of their death all suffered symptoms of over-exposure.
She could just imagine it now, the headache would start between her eyes and spread all around her head, she might feel nauseous which is unpleasant when you have nothing to throw up and heaving makes your lungs hurt. Eventually her vision would be compromised, and she’d have to call someone to pick her up and sleep it all off for as long as it took. It wouldn’t kill her because God was merciful, but she’d suffer exponentially until she left which seemed both just and hilariously petty.
She pulled into the parking lot of the large, modern building and started feeling a little better about her predicament. Over the thousands of years that vampires had existed they’d been carrying out experiments to test the limits of their abilities. What they’d discovered only a few decades ago was that the larger and more “modern” or extravagant a church was, the longer they could hold out than in say, a small local church that had been there for centuries or had a small core group of members. No one was quite sure why but there had been several theories. She exited and then surreptitiously opened the back to pretend as if she were fetching her clutch as her mother glided THROUGH her. “Brr.”
“Sorry dear, just trying to make it easier for you,” Wanda apologized with a distracted air. “Oh, I see some people I need to greet,” she murmured before floating off. Harlow adjusted her dark sunglasses and took herself towards the entrance. Unlike her mother she hadn’t made a habit of dropping in on her family until she’d learned that Inez was suffering from Alzheimer’s and realized that her sisters’ condition might give her a reason to pay her a safe visit. She had never come out and told Inez that she was Harlow but there were parts of Inez that knew. The last time they’d met Inez had called her name and perhaps, knowing that her time was coming, told her sister with a toothless grin: “See you soon Sissy.” It would be a long time, Wanda said that Inez hadn’t manifested as a ghost after passing away, none of the other Kaine children had, even Franklin who’d died in the War had moved on without coming back to see the family, if he’d been a ghost at all.
Harlow was suddenly surrounded by a crush of people and saw her family all around her. She was grateful on today of all days that her glamour was a mostly automatic process, maintaining itself at all times unless she actively dropped it, it kept a lot of stress out of just existing in this world. She saw people look at her and then look past her with a puzzled, distant look and knew that it was working, despite the close quarters. Everyone would look past her today, their eyesight sliding just to the side of where she was. Creepy as it would sound out loud, she was the “person” just out of sight.
As she made her way towards the opening doors of the nave, she felt a very real hand on her elbow. “Excuse me, may I speak to you?” inquired a polite yet firm female voice. Shocked, and now a little on edge, Harlow inclined her head and allowed the greying brunette to lead her into a more private part of the narthex where they wouldn’t be disturbed thanks to Harlow’s quick manipulation of her scant magical ability. “Can I help you?” she asked as the woman finally turned to face her.
Harlow knew this woman was family right away, her face looked exactly like her sister Violet’s when she was about to throw a fit of some kind. “This is a private affair and it’s very disrespectful for you to be here,” the woman began in a hushed but obviously frightened voice. It must have taken all the courage she had to corner Harlow this way. “Humans are not your personal entertainment and I insist you leave now.”
Harlow was surprised that anyone in her family would be able to see her, the Kaine’s weren’t known for anything magical or supernatural, even though there was one great aunt who insisted she could read tea-leaves for some reason. The vampiress decided that the only decent thing she could do was tell the truth. She removed her sunglasses and smiled as non-threateningly as she could. What she was not expecting was the immediate and surprised reaction she got from the woman across from her. The woman practically jumped away from her with several expletives that surely would have drawn attention had Harlow not cloaked them earlier. “So…you know me?” she tried gently once the woman seemed to have calmed down.
“Aunt Harlow?” the woman whispered, marveling at the idea that while the rest of her family passed them by, they remained undisturbed. “Why can’t…anyone see you?” the niece finally asked before launching back into a muttered tirade about how “Her great aunt was a vampire and her reputation was totally going to be ruined!” and “…how none of this makes sense or could be possible because Harlow had been dead since 1949…” and Harlow’s personal favorite of the day upon reflection: “I’m related to a vampire.”
“Yes, and you seem to be incredibly troubled by this, so how about we go into the church, say our goodbyes to my wonderful sister and I promise to answer your questions at a later date, when you’ve had time to think about it,” Harlow was impressed by her own breakdown of events. She too was a little rattled because finally, someone in the Kaine family was able to see her and it rather threatened a lot of things. Harlow quickly fished a business card from her clutch and handed it to her…great niece? “I live in town and you are most welcome any time…?” she paused and waited.
“Margo, my name is Margo Elaine, I’m…Nanny Violet talked about you all the time.” The woman named Margo explained as the two joined the last remnants of the crows through the church’s main doors.
“Then Margo, I suggest you go sit with your family and we will have a conversation very soon,” Harlow advised as Margo kept staring at her business card.
“You’re a CPA?!” Margo’s shrill and disbelieving voice rose so much that she did in fact, attract a considering amount of attention towards them very briefly before Harlow’s glamour misdirected their attention again.
“Yes,” Harlow said through a strained smile “And if you don’t wish to draw any further or potential attention to me, I suggest you promise to see me first thing tomorrow so we can share our stories,” and with that the vampiress disengaged herself from Margo Elaine and dove into the closest pew towards the back of the church. Wanda’s appearance just a few moments later gave her time to address the apparent elephant in the room.
“Someone can see me,” she hissed quietly to her mother’s ghost.
“Is it Margo? That poor girl,” Wanda sighed. “You know she had a good job back east, oh that’s where Violet’s son Everest ended up after he married that awful woman Yvette, you know she cheated on him and got pregnant and went up and left him to raise Marlon and Margo all by himself? Nasty woman…anyway, Margo had a job with the Department of Vital Records in Pennsylvania and then one day she up and quit her job, no one could figure out why and she moved out to San Francisco and opened a coffee shop or something, totally off the deep end, all that government work for nothing.” The service conveniently started just after her mother’s story, preventing Harlow from commenting. It would appear however that any comments were moot, Margo had obviously seen Wanda at some point but the vampiress suspected that there was more to her nieces’ story than perhaps even her gossipy mother knew.
As the vampiress sat and enjoyed the recap of her sister’s wonderful and long life, she quickly formulated her own questions for Miss Margo. If the young woman decided to pay, her a visit tomorrow she wanted to be prepared. From the looks she kept getting over the woman’s shoulders it seemed plausible that Margo would make an appearance. Harlow did her best to ignore the young woman to focus on the ceremony and when she discovered that she was indeed beginning to feel the usual symptoms over overexposure, she bid her mother a quiet farewell and excused herself.
The pastor hesitated for a moment as he thought he saw a young woman exit the ceremony, but he must have been mistaken and continued. When Margo turned around at the pause to look for the vampire that was her Great Aunt Harlow, she discovered she was gone, the door softly shutting a second later.