Tag Archives: drugs

In the Shadow of Spindrift House

Author: Mira Grant

My rating: 4 of 5

Harlowe and her friends have been there, done that. They’ve made a name for themselves as teen detectives. Solved cases adults wouldn’t touch, even some paranormal ones. But now they’re growing up, and Harlowe feels like they’re losing something, maybe losing each other. So in one last try to keep the group together and make it work, she brings them something special: a haunted house, tied to her own family history and possibly to her parents’ deaths, with a huge payout if they manage to find the original deed and find out who the house really belongs to. None of them can resist. But they aren’t the first who have ventured into the house. Who’s to say whether they’ll be the first to succeed and make it back out alive?

I really enjoyed In the Shadow of Spindrift House, a paranormal novella by Seanan McGuire, written under the pen name Mira Grant. Right off the bat, I loved the idea of teen detectives who have grown past the point where they can call themselves that, who have already had their popularity and are no longer cute. I mean, you see stories about kids going around solving mysteries and doing crazy stuff all the time. But what happens when those kids grow up? Are they able to adapt, or do they keep doing that crazy stuff . . . only now, it will get them killed or arrested or something? Just saying, it’s an interesting idea to play with, and I thought the author addressed it well, putting this solidly in a new adult fiction kind of genre. Only with lots of eerie paranormal stuff going on. I also liked the way the mystery and the atmospheric creepiness gradually built, tiny details adding up over the course of the story. The author also did a great job of creating characters and relationships that I cared about–enough so that certain parts of this story actually hurt, so fair warning there. There’s a certain lack of definition to some of the paranormal elements of this story, and I still can’t quite decide if there was enough definition, or if I would have preferred a bit more clarity. For instance, there’s a good bit of effort put into building the themes of nature and the sea, and we definitely can tell a lot just from that and from the historical stories that Harlowe and her friends uncover. But we never get a name for what we’re dealing with, or an actual explanation, or anything like that. So I guess I’d recommend this book for those who prefer things a bit more mysterious and open-ended. I would definitely recommend In the Shadow of Spindrift House, though, and I certainly intend to try more of the author’s writing.

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At a Loss for Words (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: staymagical

FanFiction ID: 9734242

Status: Complete (14 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warnings: Mature Audience/rated T/mentions of drugs, forced addiction, mutilation, slavery, etc.

King Arthur has gone to great lengths to retrieve his servant (best friend) from the hands of the slavers who captured him. But by the time he finds Merlin, well, words like “safe” and “normal” don’t exactly cut it. Some of the things Merlin has endured are going to take a long time to recover from–like the drug addiction forced on him to make him more obedient and his stubborn determination to knock the addiction no matter how bad the withdrawal symptoms may be. Or the panic attacks and depression that plague him even after he beats the drug. And there are some things that will never be the same again . . . like the fact that they took away his ability to speak forever. All of it is so very wrong, but Arthur is determined to help his friend get through this somehow.

I know, it’s probably sadistic of me, but I really enjoyed At a Loss for Words quite a lot. Yes, it’s very whumpish, and a lot of bad stuff happens to Merlin in it, but it’s also a hopeful and sweet story; the best sort of hurt/comfort, right? I love how a great deal of the story is from Arthur’s perspective and how we actually get to see an Arthur who’s openly concerned, who takes the time to be there for his friend and acknowledge how much Merlin actually means to him. And Merlin’s sections, even though they’re angsty, are also filled with that great sass that so characterizes him. I felt like the author’s handling of some very difficult content–like addiction, withdrawals, PTSD, and depression–were tastefully handled and really added a lot to the story. And (although I love a good reveal), it was neat to see a story with lots of caring and Arthur/Merlin friendship that didn’t involve a magic reveal–but leaves us set up nicely for a potential reveal in the future. The writing isn’t always perfect, but it’s quite readable and has a nice flow and a good feel for the characters, which is honestly more important that perfect grammar and word choice. And yes, there’s at least one place in which concepts are presented that weren’t discovered until years later . . . but let’s face it, Merlin has always placed story before technicality and historical accuracy anyhow, so I can’t really bring myself to care. In all the ways that count, At a Loss for Words is a touching, intense, heartbreaking, and enjoyable story that I would definitely recommend.

Note: You can find At a Loss for Words at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9734242/1/At-A-Loss-For-Words.


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ghostingAuthor: Edith Pattou

My rating: 5 of 5

On the last weekend of summer, right before the beginning of senior year, a group of teens find themselves thrown together. Some of them have close connections. For others, any connections they may have had are by now ancient history. Others barely have any connection to the group at all. But on this one night, they go to a party together. And that’s when things begin to go horribly wrong.

Wow, incredible book. First off, Ghosting isn’t a ghost story–it has nothing to do with ghosts, except perhaps our own personal ones. Secondly, it’s nothing like what I was expecting from Edith Pattou; everything I’ve read of hers previously has been awesome fantasies or fairy tale retellings. This book is more like a modern-day nightmare, at least for the first part. It’s the tale of several teens–a largely diverse group–and one ill-fated evening where everything seems to go from bad to worse in an ever-increasing weight of bad karma. Drugs, alcohol, dares . . . and finally a gunshot. It’s pretty horrifying. But the author handles the whole situation very well. And the second half of the book, the aftermath if you will, is immensely healing, beautiful even. It’s the sort of story that both warns against making dangerous choices and also offers hope for those who have made those choices. I love that the entire story is told in free-verse poetry, from the perspectives of numerous individuals. The author does a great job of making each person’s voice and perspective shine distinctly. Ghosting is both a terrible and a beautiful story, definitely one that’s best for a more mature audience, yet one that is tasteful and meaningful. Highly recommended.

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A Scanner Darkly

Author: Philip K. Dicka scanner darkly

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Talk about confused identities! Fred is an undercover narcotics agent living among drug users and dealers as Bob Arctor. And Bob Arctor is a drug user himself–a user of Substance D, a drug that eventually causes separation of function between the lobes of the brain. It can also cause users to be dually (or half, depending on how you look at it) aware, with each side of the brain functioning independently, unaware of what the other half is doing. So it is with Agent Fred, who is assigned to cover a group of users including Bob Arctor . . . and who is becoming less and less coherently sure that he in fact is Bob Arctor as he takes more and more of Substance D, becoming an addict in the course of doing undercover work. Of course, there is the possibility that even that was in the plans somewhere.

A Scanner Darkly was an interesting read, but I guess mostly it just wasn’t what I was expecting. This is old-school science fiction, but it doesn’t really read like sci-fi–actually, it reminds me of Steinbeck’s social commentaries more than it does, say, Verne’s steampunk sci-fi. There are certainly some science fictional elements (like suits that make your identity indiscernible), but this book is much more a commentary on the effects of drub abuse–from someone who lived through the experience, as Dick mentions in the author’s note. It was moving and horrifying but also somewhat draggy, in my personal opinion. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had liked the characters better, although they were quite well written, and the dissolution of Fred/Arctor’s identity was effectively portrayed. Also, I have to note that the random German quotations scattered throughout were a detraction from the story for me . . . because honestly, I can’t read German, and I don’t want to take the time to find a translation in the middle of reading. In all fairness, this is the first Philip Dick book I’ve read, and I’m really not familiar with his style, so I’ll probably try to find a different book of his to read before I give up on his writing . . . but I can’t say that I would particularly recommend A Scanner Darkly except for readers who like that social commentary sort of story and who don’t mind some weird sci-fi elements mixed in.


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Take Me Tomorrow

Author: Shannon A. Thompson

While the world around her is definitely governed by tight rules and torn by the effects of the government’s war against the clairvoyant drug tomo, Sophie’s life is relatively stable, or so she thinks. Sure, her dad makes illegal weapons in the basement and she doesn’t know much about her friends’ past, but that’s never particularly bothered her–it’s just the way life is. Or was, until a strange, unpredictable boy with flashing green eyes rushed into her life, unsettling her emotionally and dragging her headlong into a drug war she hadn’t even know existed just a few days before.

When I read Take Me Tomorrow, I was gripped and impressed by how intense it is, not just in terms of action but also in emotional impact. This story deals with a number of difficult, even controversial, topics in a thoughtful way, while still leaving the conclusions up to the reader. The characters are vivid and thoroughly developed–I love the attention to detail that is placed into each of them. And while I’ve never been to the middle part of the United States myself, I found myself instantly picturing the location while not being overwhelmed with unnecessary description. The balance of action, angst, and romance was maintained nicely, and the pacing with which Sophie’s story unfolds is masterfully done. I would recommend Take Me Tomorrow to anyone interested in a thoughtful, exciting dystopian story.


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