Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Thickety Series by J. A. White

Back in around August, I read a message thread where Keeper of the Lost Cities fans were recommending other books to read.  The Thickety series was mentioned.  I read the free excerpt of The Thickety: A Path Begins on Amazon and felt that I would probably enjoy the book.  I had to wait around 2 1/2 months before I could read it, since I was busy with my third reading and analysis of the Keeper books.

The Thickety series consists of four books.

1.  The Thickety: A Path Begins, 2014
2.  The Whispering Trees, 2015
3.  Well of Witches, 2016
4.  The Last Spell, 2017

Here is the publisher's summary of the first book:

A dark, forbidden forest.  Vicious beasts.  Deadly plants.  An evil spellbook.  Secrets.  Mysteries. Witches, both good and bad...  Welcome to the world of the Thickety.

Full of action, set in an intriguing and dangerous world, and illustrated with gorgeous and haunting line art, The Thickety: A Path Begins is a truly stunning book.

A Path Begins is the thrilling start of a middle grade fantasy series about a girl, a mysterious forest, and a book of untold magical powers.  Kara and her brother, Taff, are shunned by their village because their mother was a witch.  The villagers believe nothing is more evil than magic, except for what lurks in the nearby Thickety.

But when Kara enters the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book, a grimoire that might have belonged to her mother.  The events she then sets in motion are both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

And that is just the beginning of the story—there are three more adventures in the Thickety to explore after this first book in the series.

This is a middle-grade series.  Kara is 12 years old, and her brother, Taff, is seven.  Clearly, the publisher used the age of the characters to determine the target age for readers.

This series is too dark for some kids of middle-school age.  The books are creepy and unsettling, featuring deaths, maiming, evil witches, and a demon. 

In an online review, a parent stated that their 10-year-old began crying during the early part of the first book, so they had to quit reading the story.

The author should have made Kara 16 years old and Taff 11.  If Kara had been 16, then the books would have been classified as young adult, which would have made them appropriate for the intended audience.

To me, Kara acts older than 12.  She just doesn't seem like a child.  By the second book, Taff acts much older than seven.  He seems more like a child of 11 or 12.

Book 3, page 155:

"I just want my friend back," Taff said, finally meeting her eyes.  "Part of me thinks you should have trusted her.  The other part of me is glad you stopped her before she did something she couldn't take back.  I'm not sure there was a right decision."

Taff just doesn't seem like a seven-year-old to me.

I prefer low fantasy, which are books set in our world but with some magic in them.  Examples are Harry Potter, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and Percy Jackson.

This series is high fantasy.  I was able to get into the books because the beginning of the first book reads like low fantasy.  It feels like our world but set 150 or more years in the past.  As the story proceeds, it becomes apparent that the setting is not our world at all. 

During the third book, Kara enters the Well of Witches, which is basically a world within a grimoire.  It is really weird, and I skimmed.  I greatly dislike trying to visualize alternate realities.  The Well of Witches isn't that weird, but it was weird enough to cause me to disengage.  It's just how I am with high fantasy.  I have no patience for it.

I enjoyed reading most of this series.  I didn't care for the Well of Witches part of the third book, and I also grew weary of the final part of the fourth book.  Those are the two parts that I skimmed.  I read everything else.

This series is very good, although for me personally, I consider it just good due to my aversion to high fantasy.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Failure to Read Most Windswept Books + Windswept #2 Someone Is Out There

Note: This post is from January 31, 2021.  I'm publishing it now because it fits in with my Windswept reviews.  My brief comments could be of some interest.

Windswept #2 Someone Is Out There, Carole Standish, 1982

Who would want to spend Christmas on Cape Cod in Grandmother Davies's drafty old house on the lonely beach, hidden in the winter fog?  Marcie Williams shivers at the very idea.  She's even more worried when she arrives on the Cape and meets Peter Doane.  He's quiet, sensitive, and good-looking, but so mysterious.

Peter and his uncle are suspected of murdering a fisherman.  Marcie believes Peter is innocent, but then who is it who prowls around the fisherman's abandoned hut?  Who calls Marcie with the strange warnings - and attacks her in the black of night?

Marcie is frightened, but she must stop whoever is out there, before it's too late...

This was the book that I tried in order to decide whether I should purchase the Windswept books.  I  did enjoy it, so I purchased the set.  Unfortunately, most of the set was written by authors whose style is not to my liking.  I ended up not reading most of the books.

I already mentioned how I tried many of the books and quit.  Here are some brief statements as to why.  I'm sure that many of the books are good, but a book has to grab me very quickly, or I won't take the time to read it.  If I were still young, I would be more patient.  I'm no longer like that.

#1 Don't Walk Alone - I felt information overload.  There is too much description of the setting, just way too much.  

#3 Girl in the Shadow - The book flashes back to eight years before, and I couldn't tell where it was going.  I can no longer tolerate books that don't tell the story straight.  Just get to the point.

#5 Yesterday's Girl - It was taking too long to get with the story, so I quit.

#7 The Red Room - information overload

#8 The Silvery Past - took too long to get to the point

#9 Dreams and Memories - flashbacks

#10 A Forgotten Girl - too slow to start

#11 The Ghost of Graydon Place - too slow to start

#15 The Girl Cried Murder - too slow to start

#16 House of Fear - too slow to start

#24 The Burned Letter - story about how she first fell in love with Roger - summary of the past

#25 The Castle Murder - aversion to teen books set in France

#28 The Disappearing Teacher - way too colloquial - using "you," etc.

#32 Secret of the Dark - isolated on a mountain

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Oralie and Sophie

This post is about Oralie and her relationship with Sophie.

This post contains MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS.  Stop reading NOW if you have not already read all of the books including #8.5 and #9.


I write with the assumption that readers have read my past posts and know what my theories are.  This is where my old posts can be found:

Keeper of the Lost Cities Summaries, Reviews, and Theories

Some Keeper fans have made very critical comments about Oralie, stating that she is horrible and that what she did to Sophie is inexcusable.  These readers see characters as all good or all bad.  They struggle with characters who are nuanced.  Oralie has both good traits and bad traits.  This doesn't make her a bad person.

Criticism especially centers around how Oralie reacts when Sophie discovers that Oralie is her biological mother.  I decided to take a closer look at Oralie and what little we know about her.

About Sophie's Parents

Book 3, Page 444:  "But if they tell you that your mom is the most open, go-with-the-flow person they've ever known, is that suddenly going to make you stop being so stubborn or keeping so many secrets?"  "I doubt it," Sophie admitted.  "And what if they told you your dad was an even bigger rule breaker than me—not that that's possible.  Are you suddenly going to start ditching class and pranking Dame Alina—or, Magnate Leto, or whoever our principal is?"  "No."  "Right.  Because our family doesn't decide who we are.  We decide who we are."

Keefe's hypothetical description fits Kenric and Oralie.

Book 8, Page 266   "But they were also experimenting with your life in ways that were bound to cause problems for you—and that didn't stop them from doing it.  So, I'm just saying… anyone who helped with the project probably has some issues—especially the people who didn't even want anyone knowing they were involved."

Keefe is right; Sophie's parents do have issues.  They donated their DNA so that their child could be genetically modified to become an elf warrior.  They are not normal.

Clues to Oralie's Personality

Book 4, Page 19   "It's okay," a fragile voice promised as the figure threw back her shimmering hood.  Blond ringlets cascaded around the beautiful, familiar face of a weary-looking Councillor Oralie.

Oralie's voice is described as "fragile."  I've been saying all along that it's an act.  I still think it is an act, but I must also consider that Oralie's voice is fragile here because she's utterly devastated over the very recent loss of Kenric.

Book 4, Page 23   "Sometimes rebellion is the only course of wisdom.  As all of you well know."

This is an early clue as to how far Oralie will go to support the rebellion.

Book 4, Page 296   "Oralie is far cleverer than you know.  It's easy to underestimate the quiet beauties."

Oralie is quiet, which means that she might be a bit shy.  Sophie was a bit shy at the beginning of the series.

Book 8, Page 195   "So while Oralie finishes whatever nonsense she's doing, I'll walk you through the Articles of your Regency.  The more we multitask, the sooner we can escape this pink monstrosity."  Oralie flung one of the powder puffs at his head, showering his face with a cloud of glitter.

Here we see Oralie being playful and sassy.

Book 8.5, Page 587  A staring contest followed—until Oralie murmured, "I wonder if this new ability isn't an ability at all."  "What do you mean?" Noland asked her.  Oralie's cheeks flushed.  "I'm not certain.  It just seems significant that Keefe is now a Polyglot and an Empath, and used his voice to control emotion.  That almost sounds like the two abilities merged somehow—or synchronized.  Which would make sense, given that Keefe was exposed to shadowflux and quintessence.  Elements trigger change.  They rarely create something entirely new.  But I'd need to do more research to know for sure."

The cheeks flushing could mean that Oralie embarrasses easily.  She may be a little insecure.  She's someone who might not respond properly when confronted with her deepest secret.

Book 9, Page 181   "Wow," Sophie said again.  "I didn't know you wore pants."  "There's a lot you don't know about me," Oralie said, padding across the room in her bare feet.  Between the boring tank, black pants, and messy bun, she was almost unrecognizable.

Oralie isn't the delicate fairy princess that everyone thinks she is.

Oralie's Grief for Kenric

Book 3, Page 339   But the finery didn't make them look any less weary and miserable.  Especially Oralie.  Her eyes were nothing more than puffy red slits, and she leaned on her goblin bodyguards like they were the only things keeping her standing.

Book 4, Page 540   But Sir Astin was right.  Kenric would never let Oralie suffer.  Just watching her thrash and flail and sob broke Sophie's heart.

Book 8, Page 176   Clearly all the months since Kenric's death hadn't lessened Oralie's grief over losing the person everyone had suspected she'd secretly been in love with—and who'd obviously been in love with her, too.

Losing Kenric has caused Oralie unspeakable grief.  This has impacted her deeply. 

Oralie's Lack of Mothering Skill

Book 5, Page 436   "Well," Oralie said, standing and removing a pink-wanded pathfinder from her cape.  "Family debates aren't really my area of expertise."

Oralie knows nothing about being a mother or dealing with any kind of family situation.

The Burden of Oralie's Secret

Book 6, Page 199   Her jeweled circlet was noticeably absent from her ringletted blond hair as she whispered, "Can you ever forgive me?"  Mr. Forkle moved to her side and reached for her fragile, shaking hand.  "There's nothing to forgive, Oralie.  I would've made the same choice my brother did in that moment.  And you're an Empath, so you know I'm telling the truth."

Book 6, Page 207   Oralie moved to leave then, holding a shimmering pendant up to the light.  "It's incredibly good to see you," she told Mr. Forkle, choking slightly on the words.  He cleared his throat.  "It's good to be seen."

Mr. Forkle is the only person who knows Oralie's secret—that she is Sophie's mother.  Oralie must be relieved that the one person who knows her secret is still alive.  Mr. Forkle is the only person she can talk to about her involvement in Project Moonlark.

Book 8.5, Page 531   "So he knew," Sophie said as both Oralies let out a strangled sob.  "He knew you're my..."  "He must have," the real Oralie whispered.  "But I had no idea.  He never said..."  She leaned closer to his projection, shouting, "Why didn't you tell me when I'd remember it?"

Oralie's secret is such a tremendous burden, and here she learns that Kenric knew her secret but said nothing aside from during the memory that he erased.  Kenric was someone who she trusted, and he would have been a comfort to her if she had been aware that he knew.  Instead, he kept it to himself.  Oralie yells at his projection in frustration that he never let her know outside of the Forgotten Secret.

Being Councillor Is Everything to Oralie

Book 7, Page 40   "Serving on the Council is a tremendous honor," Fallon told her.  "But it shouldn't be your life.  I gave the same advice to another, once.  Sadly, I don't believe she listened either."  He could've been referring to anyone, of course, but… Councillor Oralie's cheeks had turned the same shade of pink as the tourmalines on her throne.  Her azure eyes also looked glassy with unshed tears—which broke Sophie's heart.  She'd long suspected that Oralie had resisted her feelings for Kenric in order to remain on the Council.  And now Kenric was gone.

Some people are married to their jobs, and their jobs are their complete identity.  This is Oralie.  Fallon saw it and warned her.

Book 8.5, Page 530   "Ora," Kenric breathed, sweeping back her hood, "you don't have to keep fighting this.  We wouldn't be the first to walk away because of—"  Oralie shook her head.  "Kenric, don't."  His jaw set and his eyes blazed with the same intensity as his voice when he told her, "Because of love, Ora.  We both know that's what this is, no matter how hard we pretend otherwise."

Kenric comes on really strong here.  He suggests that he and Oralie could be together and maybe even have their own family. 

Book 8.5, Page 530   He leaned toward her, and her lips parted, like she might let him kiss her.  But at the last second she turned her face away.  "I can't do this."  He turned her chin back toward him.  "Can't?  Or won't?"  "Both."

Kenric is making sure of how strong Oralie's resolve is.  He professes his love, suggests that they be together, and acts like he might kiss her.  Oralie rejects him.  I believe this is partly why Kenric is able to fake his death without being shattered by guilt over what he did to Oralie.  He can justify his action because she was never going to marry him. 

Also notice that Oralie says, "I can't do this."  She means that she can't give in to her feelings for Kenric.  It's not that she doesn't love him; she can't act on her feelings.

Oralie's Regret

Book 8, Page 193   Oralie shook her head.  "Of course not!  You just look so…"  "So…?" Sophie prompted.  "It's hard to explain.  You've changed since the first day I met you.  You're… not a little girl anymore.  Which is how it's supposed to be.  I just wish…" Oralie bit her lip and looked away.

Oralie regrets that she wasn't able to be a mother to Sophie.

Book 8, Page 200   "But you need to know I'm unmatchable." Oralie froze.  Bronte sighed.  "I'm assuming that has to do with the lack of information about your genetic parents."  Sophie nodded, wondering if Bronte was yet another person who'd been expecting this to happen.  Oralie didn't seem surprised either.  More devastated.

Book 8, Page 204   "I'm sorry," Oralie whispered before she stepped back.  "For what?" Sophie asked.  "Many things."  She adjusted a strand of Sophie's hair.  "But mostly for the fact that you've needed an ally so many times—and I haven't been there.  I promise that's changing."

Oralie does have regrets.

Book 8, Page 670   "Just like you couldn't stand up for Prentice!" Sophie added—and somehow Oralie managed to turn even paler.  A ghost of her pretty pink self.  "I didn't know Prentice was hiding you," she whispered.  "When I found out… I've never been so ill."

Book 8.5, Page 521   Sophie jerked away when Oralie reached for her.  "Just stop it, okay?  You're wasting time."  "Actually… I'm not.  We needed my tears, didn't we?" Oralie blinked, showing how glassy her eyes had gotten.  "I knew the easiest way to trigger them was to remind myself of how much you hate me."  "Oh."

Oralie is hurt by Sophie's rejection.

Oralie's Fear of Discovery

Book 8, Page 420   "I am not your genetic father, Miss Foster.  By any means.  And if you need to verify that I'm telling the truth, ask Councillor Oralie."  Oralie stumbled away from both of them, shaking her head hard enough to tangle some of her ringlets.  "I don't want to be involved in this."  "Neither do I," Bronte noted.  "And yet, here I am."  Oralie's rosy cheeks turned very, very pale.  "If anyone found out…"

Oralie is panicking at the idea of anyone learning that she is Sophie's mother.  This is her deepest secret, and she is paralyzed at the idea that it might be revealed.  Being a Councillor is that important to her.

Why Oralie Donated to Project Moonlark

Book 8, Page 670   "Yes, I was told that I could help them create something—"  "Something," Sophie interrupted.  "A wake-up call," Oralie clarified.  "A force for change and good, who would make our world pay attention in a way that no one else ever could.  Make people see things for what they are, not what we thought they were."

Book 8, Page 670   "No," Oralie said, turning toward one of the windows and staring out at the stars.  "I thought it sounded like the only way I'd ever be able to have a child."

Oralie donated to Project Moonlark because she felt a duty to her world to help.  Since Oralie's job is everything, she knew that she would never otherwise have children.  She would never quit the Council to marry.

Book 8.5, Page 519   "It can," Oralie whispered, wrapping her arms around her waist, "when that's the only way to have a daughter."  The last word sounded different than the others, and for a second, Sophie found herself meeting Oralie's stare and wishing the Black Swan had made her an Empath.  Then she would've been able to tell if the sadness and longing she could see in Oralie's eyes were actually real.

By this point, I'm sure that Oralie has realized her mistake in making her job everything.  But what can she do?  Kenric is dead, and Sophie resents her.

Oralie's Reaction to Sophie Learning the Truth

And now, I get to the scene that has caused many fans to dislike Oralie.

Oralie admits that she is Sophie's mother, and then they stare at each other.

Book 8, Page 666:   And for a long breath, they just stared at each other.  And stared.  And stared.  Until Oralie said, "Sophie, I..."  And Sophie waited for her to finish that sentence.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  But all she got at the end was Oralie telling her, "I... can't do this."

Oralie uses the same words that she used with Kenric: "I can't do this."  With Kenric, Oralie couldn't give in to her feelings.  With Sophie, I suspect that it's the same reason.  Oralie can't give in to her feelings because she can't be a mother to Sophie.  Oralie can't be what Sophie needs her to be.  Oralie is a Councillor, and her job is her life.  

After Sophie expresses anger, Oralie says, "I know you're angry."  That doesn't help.  

Book 8, Page 668:   "Right," Sophie said quietly.  "You had to make sure no one would ever find out the truth—because if they did..."  Her voice abandoned her as the full reality of her situation clicked in.  No one could ever know.  It was the same realization she'd had when she'd thought her father was Councillor Bronte—only so much worse.  Because Oralie was beloved by the people.  Vital to the Black Swan.  Essential to the Council.

Sophie then says that Oralie has ruined her life.  Oralie replies, "Ruined?" in a flat and emotionless tone, like someone who is in shock.  When Sophie flounces out of the room, Oralie calls out to her, "Are you going to tell anybody?"

Oralie's reaction is bad, but I view it through the lens of what we know about Oralie.  The Council is everything to her.  Of course she's going to ask, "Are you going to tell anybody?"  She knows that she will lose her job if Sophie tells.

Oralie ought to tell Sophie that she cares about her, but Oralie is too shocked about her secret being revealed.  She immediately thinks of her job and that she might lose it.  I suspect that the Council became everything to Oralie after Kenric died.  Kenric was her rock, and she's lost that.  The Council is all that she has left.

That's my take on the situation.  I believe that Oralie and Sophie will come to an understanding eventually.  I find nuanced characters to be fascinating, and I'm not like the readers who see characters as all good or all bad.  Flawed characters are interesting.

I write my thoughts only in this blog because I have been downvoted on Reddit for the very few comments that I have made.  In one case, I answered a poll about my favorite Councillor.  The person who created the poll left off Kenric and put an unimportant Councillor who never speaks in his place.  I had to vote for Oralie.  Oralie got quite a few votes with Bronte coming in at first place.

In the comments, someone said that the people who voted for Oralie must not have read all the books.  Excuse me?  I've read them, and I won't apologize for liking Oralie.  I replied, "I've read all of the books, and I like Oralie the best of the Councillors who were included in the poll.  My favorite Councillor is actually Kenric with Oralie in second place."

I was downvoted.  They didn't approve of me liking Kenric and Oralie.  So, that's why I write my thoughts only here.  I get a low number of views and no feedback, but at least I'm not getting downvoted by fans who don't like my opinions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Blog, Facebook, and Reading Update

The last two weeks of the fall semester exhausted me.  It took me the first six days of winter break to recover to where I no longer feel tired and out of sorts.  

I listed a bunch of books on Etsy, including the rest of my Trixie Belden Goldencraft hardcover books. 

I also listed quite a few Nancy Drew Digest books plus some other stuff.  I may list some more books, but right now I may take a break.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

For the last several days, I've been working on this blog.  I first changed the template.  I went with an even simpler version this time.  For ease of reading, it's best to keep the layout simple with black print on a white background.

I then decided to change the description that shows below the title of the blog.  This is what I had:

This is where we discuss your favorite vintage series books from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Trixie Belden and the Three Investigators to all other similar vintage series books.

This blog covers other types of books as well, so I felt like I needed to change the statement.

With some thought, I came up with this:

A blog for vintage series books like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys... featuring modern middle-grade fantasy... young adult dystopian novels... vintage teen books... vintage book collecting, buying, and selling topics... and more.

This is much better.  I acknowledge the other types of books that I enjoy reading and reviewing.  I also like writing about buying and selling topics, and so mentioning those topics is important as well.

I've always been bothered that blogs display posts in reverse order within each tag.  It makes it hard for people to read my reviews and other posts.  I have some good stuff in this blog, and I have even forgotten exactly what I have.  I stumbled across one of those posts the other day and was surprised to see it.  If I don't even know what I have, then certainly nobody else does.

I use tags (or labels as Blogger calls them) for all of the topics covered in this blog.  I have tried to use the best tag for each post, and sometimes I have used more than one tag so that the post is listed wherever it fits.  Still, some tags, like the reviews, have too many posts listed under them.  I fear that many readers never see the small link at the bottom to older posts under that tag.  It's also annoying to have to click on a link to make it back to the early reviews in the sequence.

Blogger has an option to create "pages" for the blog.  Back in 2016, I created a page listing all of my Nancy Drew reviews in order from #1 to #56.  I then never published it or linked to it.  At that time, I didn't see a way that I could make the page prominent enough for anyone to know about it.  I did nothing with it and abandoned my idea of making the reviews easier to find.  I felt like it was too much work for too little of a reward.

I've been thinking more about this during the last couple months.  I created a page for my Keeper of the Lost Cities (KotLC) posts.  I have linked to that page in most of my KotLC posts.  I want whoever is reading my KotLC posts to know that I'm not insane and that I have good reason for believing what I do about certain yet-to-be-revealed secrets in the series.  Basically, I think I have it figured out, but most readers have missed all the clues.  So, the page with all of my posts is like my guide to what I have figured out.

So anyway, I got to thinking about the pages function of the blog again.  When I changed the template, I looked at the widgets that can be added to the sidebar.  I discovered that one now exists for the pages.  Oh!  I then realized that it would be worthwhile to create pages for my reviews, since I had a way of making them prominent in the blog.

I got started.  The first goal was to get pages for all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys reviews since I have such a large number of reviews for both series.  I then created pages that list my middle-grade fantasy, young adult, and vintage teen book reviews to make them easier for readers to find.  After that, I created pages for some of the vintage series that are the most popular so that readers can get to those reviews easier.

I created the widget and got the pages added to the main page of the blog on the right just underneath my avatar.  I then had to decide what to call the widget.  The default was "Pages."  I first tried "Review Pages," but I didn't like it.  I went with a few other iterations and then landed on "Selected Content."  I changed the widget title for the tags from "Labels" to "All Content."  I was feeling rather pleased, but I felt that "Selected Content" was a little off.  I hit upon "Featured Content," which is a label seen often online.  Perfect!

Always click on images in order to view at a higher resolution.

The pages listed under "Featured Content" are the ones that I created, and it was a lot of work!  I had to type or paste all of the blog article titles into the pages, and then I had to apply the link to each article title.  This was done over the course of several days.

I will find it very useful, since I have always found it annoying to try to look at my reviews.  I have a goal to post content to my Facebook page and group regularly, and I am using my old reviews for content.  For instance, yesterday I looked at my Nancy Drew #1-56 page and clicked on the post, Nancy Drew #26 and the Transition Books.  I decided that the second half of the post would work well as a post on my Facebook page.  I captured that text and edited it slightly to read better as stand-alone content in a post.  I then created an image to go with it using my dust jacket scans of Nancy Drew #23 through #26.

Having handy pages with my reviews listed in sequence will be of much use to me.  I hope others find the review pages beneficial as well.

I am spread pretty thin.  I have a number of interests.  I have two Facebook pages and my blog to maintain.  I am inconsistent in how often I post, but I do try to post regularly.

Back a couple years ago, I created a Bee Gees Facebook page.  I then abandoned it for around a year until I I realized that I had over 100 followers who were following it even though almost nothing was there.  I decided to start posting regularly.  Why not?  These people were following nothing, so I realized that the page would gain fast if I fed it content.  For someone like me, the reach of the page is becoming significant and astounds me.

Compare to the reach of my Jennifer's Series Books page.

Series books are popular, but they are nothing in comparison to the popularity of famous legacy music groups.  I am learning a lot about Facebook spam and how to deal with it.  It's an interesting experience.  

The approach I take with the Bee Gees page has changed my approach to the Jennifer's Series Books page.  I still have my blog posts publishing to it, but I now do these periodic posts like the Nancy Drew post from yesterday.  Most often, I will just pick a scan of a book to feature.  People love looking at images.  I will most often will use Nancy Drew, just because it is the most popular series.  

I wrote recently about my intent to read through the Seniors series.  It was a good idea, but the last two weeks of the fall semester were so hard on me that it derailed my reading.  I'm once again not reading at all.  I am continuing to obsess about the KotLC series.  I'm fighting the urge to read through the books for the fourth time, and I'm very close to caving in.

I continue to be frustrated over the comments of KotLC fans.  I read some critical comments the other day saying that Shannon Messenger has just been making it up as she goes and that she has no idea where the story is going.  No, I think she does.  I'm probably going to start through the books again to find more of the foreshadowing.

So, that's what is going on right now.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities Books Signed by Shannon Messenger

On December 2, I wrote about a signed Keeper of the Lost Cities graphic novel that I was fortunate to acquire. 

Keeper of the Lost Cities Signed Graphic Novel

I purchased it on eBay from a seller who had purchased it during Barnes & Noble's Black Friday signed books promotion.  

I mentioned in my last post that I am very skeptical about signed items. 

My View on Signed Items and Autographs in Books

In the case of the Keeper of the Lost Cities graphic novel, I was certain that it was signed because of the emblem on the cover that indicates a signed copy.  I knew it was real, so I was interested in acquiring one.

Recently, I saw a post on Shannon Messenger's Facebook about signed copies of the Keeper of the Lost Cities books.  Shannon has an arrangement with Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, and she signs books for them.

On December 7, Shannon's assistant posted the following on Shannon's Facebook.

Shannon stopped by @mystgalaxybooks yesterday and hand-signed all the things (hardcovers and paperbacks!), including the new KOTLC Part 1 Graphic Novel and all the books in the Keeper Series! This is perfect if you are looking for a signed book from Shannon as a gift (or a treat for yourself)!

That was proof enough for me, and I promptly decided to purchase as close to a set of the hardcover books as I could.  I already had been thinking about purchasing the hardcover books, just because I like the series so much.  Why not take the opportunity to get signed copies?

Mysterious Galaxy's order page for the signed books is here:

Order Signed Shannon Messenger Books!

If you click on each title, then you can scroll down slightly on the resulting page and see how many signed copies of each book are still available.  Someone on Shannon Messenger's Facebook was concerned about whether they could be sure that they would receive signed copies.  Yes.  This is what the shopping cart looks like:

I ordered a near-complete set of the hardcover books.  I am paranoid right now because of the holiday rush, and I've had some problems with incoming shipments this month.  For that reason, I paid for priority mail.  I also thought that due to the weight of the package that I needed it to come fast before it ended up damaged.

The package arrived safely.  The books were shipped promptly and packaged well.  This is what I saw after I opened the package and removed the top layer of padding.

The note made me grin.  So exciting!

I purchased the graphic novel, since Mysterious Galaxy had the regular edition, which is different from the Barnes & Noble edition.  That way I would have both versions in signed copies.

I purchased the softcover annotated edition of the first book, since I didn't have a copy of the annotated edition.  Mysterious Galaxy didn't have a hardcover copy of it available.

I then purchased hardcover copies of #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.5, and 9.  They didn't have a signed hardcover copy of #8 in stock.

Here are the signatures.

Here is my display of Keeper of the Lost Cities books and collectible items.  The signed books are the graphic novel that is second from the right in the top row and all of the books in the bottom row.

You might notice the page markers in the paperback books.  Earlier this year, I purchased the paperback books to mark the positions of the appearances of a certain character in his various identities.  I used a different color of page marker for each identity.  I did this to prove to myself that my theory about him was correct.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

My View on Signed Items and Autographs in Books

In general, I'm not that interested in purchasing autographs online.  Even if an autograph is authenticated, I can never be certain whether the autograph is genuine.  If I have some tangible evidence that gives me a distinct reason for believing the autograph to be genuine, then my opinion of it is higher.  I do think that signed items are great, but I have a very low interest in acquiring them for myself due to my skepticism.  I also tend to have lukewarm feelings towards autographs that I own and for the same reason.

It's just really easy to fake an autograph.  I am always skeptical, so I am just not that impressed by signed items that come up for sale.

I searched though my old posts here and on Facebook to find my past comments on autographs.  On March 21, 2019, I wrote:

Additionally, I am not that enamored with autographs.  I realize that sounds strange, but I can't help that I feel that way.

I wrote this on June 13, 2019:

After a couple of weeks, I decided that I wanted the dust jacket.  I actually didn't care about the signed book one way or the other.  Signed books do nothing for me.  That probably doesn't make sense to most of you, but I simply do not care about signatures in books.  I have no emotional reaction to a signed book.  Also, I am quite aware of the story about how Mildred Wirt Benson was allegedly not paid much to sign a large quantity of books.  That taints the signature.

I wrote about some Kennedy McMann autographs on September 7, 2019.

I purchased two Nancy Drew photos purportedly signed by Kennedy McMann.  I never trust autographs unless I have proof, and I have mentioned before that autographs don't mean much to me.  I am neutral on them.  The only autograph I own that I know for sure is real is the proof that Rudy Nappi signed that I purchased from him personally.  Otherwise, you just never know.  

These images will look great framed.  I was fortunate to purchase them before the seller raised the price of the ones with the logo.  The seller figured out fast that the most desirable photos were the ones with "Nancy Drew" printed on them.  Duh.

The Kennedy McMann autographs are probably real, since the seller was based in Vancouver and probably did get the photographs signed in person.  Also, these autographs were sold a month before the CW series premiered, and Kennedy McMann was a debut actress.  Would someone create fake autographs by an actress whose career was just beginning?  Probably not.  Still, probably isn't definitely, especially since I know that I could create fake copies of these particular autographs myself.  It wouldn't be hard.

On December 31, 2019, I found two tweed Nancy Drew books that were signed by Mildred Benson.  Or were they?

Dang, look what I just found...  I am sorting books to see if I can get together some small bulk lots of books in rough shape.  I was looking at my extra Nancy Drew books with jackets.  I was examining Shadow Ranch and discovered the Mildred Benson autograph on the title page. 😮 Okay... I remembered a bulk lot that I purchased this month.  I looked up the listing and began searching for the other books. I found Red Gate Farm with a Mildred Benson autograph.

I can't be sure if these autographs are real.  They don't look just like other Benson autographs, but Benson's autograph's varied greatly late in her life.

The bulk lot came from Florida.  Some of the other books have Farah's Guide numbers written in them, so the books came from a knowledgeable collector.  I am reminded of the deceased collector from Florida whose books were sold in 2015.  I wonder if these are some more of her books.  [Always click on images in order to view them clearly.]

Several people who commented on my post thought that the signatures were real.  Nobody stated that they thought otherwise.  I put the books up for sale advising that I didn't know for sure one way or the other, and they sold quickly.  I remain skeptical, but that's just me and how I view autographs. 

I've seen a number of books signed by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, several in person and many online.  Her autograph isn't that hard to find.  In most books, Harriet signed in the upper left corner of a page.  For the books I have, Harriet signed in the middle of the title page.  Despite the slightly different appearance, I believe the autographs are real.  They were all signed to a specific person, and besides, it's unlikely that people went around forging Harriet Adams' signature. 

Eventually, I will sell them, because autographs are generally not that special to me.  

As I mentioned in one of my posts quoted above, I have one autograph that I know is real.

I posted the following on July 4, 2016.

I am beginning the process of going through some things in order to clean up my collection.  I'm finding things I forgot I had, like this dust jacket proof of Golden Pavilion signed by Rudy Nappi.  I am not that interested in autographs even with a certificate of authenticity, simply because one can't ever be sure the autograph is real unless signed in person.  Even though this one wasn't signed in person, I bought it from Rudy Nappi, and that itself proves that the signature is real.  I even kept the mailer with his name and address.  So I like this autograph.

And here's the proof.

I wrote this post to lead into my next post about Keeper of the Lost Cities books signed by Shannon Messenger.  In the case of the Keeper books, I am certain that the autographs are genuine.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Stellarlune Positive Review Comments on the Forgotten Secrets

This post contains spoilers and should only be read if you have read through all of the Keeper of the Lost Cities books up through #9 Stellarlune.

The Forgotten Secrets are my favorite part of Stellarlune.  I find them fascinating and have read through each one multiple times in order to look for clues.  By now, I've read every Forgotten Secret at least five times, maybe more.  I've read the one with Oralie and Kenric in Kenric's readying room at least 10 times.  

In my previous post, I recounted how I looked for Goodreads reviews that mention the Forgotten Secrets.  Of the comments that I found, two-thirds of them are negative. This post contains the positive comments.  I have included links to the reviews from which these comments were taken.  

From five-star reviews:

"- Oralie’s EXQUISITE character development *chef’s kiss* (I’ll never get over that moment when they walked into her office and she just did a personality switch along with her outfit switch)

(She was already one of my favorites but I just love her even more now)

- The fact that Kenralie was enemies to lovers… they were both so snarky to each other in those memories and I loved every word of it… and now I need an entire book about their relationship please and thank you

- Not to mention, Kenric is (or was, I guess 😢) so sassy and I love him so much" 

Yes!  I love it when Oralie tosses her dress aside and coils her hair into a messy bun.  This is not at all what one would expect Oralie to do.  She's not what she leads others to believe she is.

I also need an entire book about Kenric and Oralie.
"Another thing to talk about is Kenric and Oralie. The fact that they were both each others number one match makes me so sad. That whole situation makes me so sad and I wanna cry every time I think about it."
"The scene in oralies castle was amazing and I love her. Also oralie and Sophie both pulling eyelashes is just so cute! And I love how much kenric knew about her that that was how his cache opened was with her and that hers opened with his last name as the password! I could totally see her being that girl who has the notebooks with Mrs. Kenric fathdon written all over them 😂

Opening kenrics cache was interesting and we learned lots of cool things. And I’m still not over his death! He and oralie deserved to be together and I’m still not ok because it will never happen
"Ok, new thing. The caches. I’m so freaking confused. Aren’t Forgotten Secrets supposed to be super crazy and sanity-shattering and destroy-the-world type of secrets? Well all we got was some Kenric + Oralie moments and some flowers. Like…what? For all the hype, the Forgotten Secrets pretty much just revealed NOTHING or if they did it was only one word…remind me why did they need to be erased? I’m so confused. I will admit…Kenric and Oralie still break me through. Enemies-to-lovers and they were #1 on each other’s match…AHHHHHH."
"I think that Dex is catching on to the fact that Oralie is Sophie's bio mom."

If Dex isn't catching on now, then he will do so during the next book.  Shannon had a reason for having Dex in on the Forgotten Secrets.  He may help Sophie figure out that Kenric is Forkle.

From four-star reviews:
"I feel like some significant headway was made in certain ways. We get into Kenric's cache and get one memory from Fintan's that lead to some interesting discoveries. We find Kenric's retreat and find out that he had approached Prentice about Prentice being the Keeper of Kenric's Forgotten Secrets. From what they have already discovered and the revelations in the cache, Sophie is focused on finding Elysian."
"the only times i was interested in the story was when we were learning about the adult's personal histories (oralie and kenric have a more compelling romance in like, 40 pages of content, than anyone else in these books), or when the kids were back at foxfire."

The Kenric and Oralie content is quite compelling.
"The insights we got through the caches were a real ride because we saw everything from Kenric and Oralies romance to shady fintan scenes."
"That scene where Oralie realized that Kenric was her first match, and she was Kenric's? GOLD😞"
"and the backstory with kenric & oralie... made me feel things. kenric and oralie are certainly very interesting characters, both because of their relationship, and their own arcs. they're much greyer characters than one might think, which intrigues me."

They are gray characters.  It's interesting that Oralie donated to Project Moonlark and that she wears pants.  In several scenes in the series, Oralie's voice is described as "fragile," which I think is an act to throw everyone off.  Wearing frilly pink dresses and having pink all over her castle is also apparently just an act.  Oralie wants everyone to think that she is just a helpless beauty when she is anything but.

And of course Kenric is awash in schemes of his own.  I believe that Kenric colluded with Fintan somehow in order to fake his own death in the Everblaze.  If so, then Kenric was an accessory to Fintan's escape.  That makes Kenric a very gray character and very fascinating.
"These books are at their best when the characters are allowed to be a little bit messy -- that scene where Kenric and Oralie have not known each other very long and absolutely hate each other was probably the most compelling scene in the book because of that."

That scene is my favorite as well.

From three-star reviews:
"- The side of Oralie that we are introduced to in this book is honestly SO COOL. I LOVED IT. I know I should be mad at Oralie for hiding that she was Sophie's biological mom, and in fact I am mad at her for choosing her ambitions over Kenric, but I enjoyed seeing the side of Oralie that is not all about pink and actually wears pants."
"Sophie also needs to get over her feelings about Oralie.Oralie wasn’t trying to hurt her and given her position, really didn’t have many options. Sophie should be grateful Oralie was essential in giving Sophie her life"

I agree with this, although I do understand why Sophie is so resentful.  Oralie didn't react well when her secret was outed and didn't give Sophie an appropriate response.  However, she's also not this terrible person like Sophie thinks.  Oralie is a very conflicted character who is deeply grieving the loss of Kenric while balancing her obligations to both the Council and the Black Swan.
"we also got some amazing Kenric and Oralie content for a solid 100 pages which made me smile so much." 


Friday, December 15, 2023

Stellarlune Negative Review Comments on the Forgotten Secrets

This post contains spoilers and should only be read if you have read through all of the Keeper of the Lost Cities books up through #9 Stellarlune.

For months, I have wished that I could find good online discussion of the Forgotten Secrets from Stellarlune.  There's hardly anything, other than people complaining that the Forgotten Secrets are boring.  It's so strange that so many readers have missed the importance of the Forgotten Secrets.

I browsed through the Stellarlune reviews on Goodreads.

First off, most positive reviews of Stellarlune go like this

OMG SoKeefe is canon!!!!!!!! Chapter 42!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These people are really happy.  

Most negative reviews of Stellarlune complain about the SoKeefe stans and say that they are only giving five stars because of Chapter 42.  These people are really unhappy.

That's it in a nutshell. 

I skimmed through all of that looking for what little Forgotten Secrets content I could find.  Before I get to that, I just want to mention how much more satisfying it is to binge a series than be forced to wait one or more years between each book.  The reading experience is much better.  Most of the negativity surrounding Stellarlune is due to readers having to wait years between books.  They feel like the plot is dragging.  When the books are read rapidly back to back, the reading experience is entirely different.

I began reading the first Keeper of the Lost Cities book on March 13, 2023 and finished reading Stellarlune exactly one month later.  Nothing dragged for me.  In addition to enjoying the story, I was busy trying to find clues to prove that Kenric didn't die in the Everblaze in Book 3.

It's interesting how differently readers can interpret a series.  I see the Keeper series as a fantasy/mystery series with both important clues and misdirection embedded everywhere.  Other readers are obsessed with SoKeefe and only care about that, not some stupid cached memories.

I saved all the comments about the Forgotten Secrets that I could find.  Approximately two-thirds of the comments are negative, saying that the secrets are boring or pointless.  I have placed the negative comments in this post.  I saved the positive comments for my next post.

After some thought, I decided not to link to the reviews from which the negative comments were taken.  

From five-star reviews:

"sorry but kenric’s memories were such a waste of page time"

"The first half of Stellarlune was slow-paced and boring, since they mostly talked about the caches which weren’t very helpful to the book overall, and the conversations were way too long (like 50 pages long, I’m not exaggerating), and could’ve been shortened."

"First- yes, it gets boring at some points. I did not need to hear about ALL of kenric's forgotten Secrets in full detail along with oralie's mind map."

"The scene with Oralie’s Cache seemed very long and just kept going which made me a little impatient for something else to happen."

From four-star reviews:

"Sure, there was the whole thing with Oralie’s Cache but to be honest it wasn’t a very compelling scene for me, especially since Shannon relies on us missing Kenric during these moments and places so much weight on grieving his death who wasn’t really a character I personally was able to connect with before he died."

"it felt like nothing was happening. i was so annoyed with the fact that the first 300 pages was literally just memories (some of which were from dead people), and it made no sense why that part was so dragged out."

"Opening Kenric's cache, which had been built up as this huge deal for like 5 books, was incredibly easy, and I find it hard to believe that the Neverseen wouldn't have kidnapped Oralie and tried to open it with her DNA if they were so focused on opening it. The memories in it were barely relevant for what's supposed to be 'Forgotten Secrets.' "

"Like, almost nothing happens in this book. The first 300 or so pages are just finding out useless facts about the past from ‘caches’ or living people. Either way, they don’t do anything terribly exciting for the plot."

"The plot… I honestly don’t know. It was too weird. Seriously, the only thing I understood was the Kenric-Oralie scene, and even that was not clear. I’ve read Stellarlune THRICE. Yep, three times and I still didn’t understand the book. Please let me know whether it’s only me. Thanks."

"also, the Forgotten Secrets?? WHAT A LOAD OF BULL. theyre stupid and incredibly unhelpful. like, omg, these secrets could shatter your sanity, and then its just kenric+oralie time or a dead gnome. WTF"

The above comment is hilarious:  "just kenric+oralie time or a dead gnome.  WTF"  

and also from the same reviewer as immediately above:

"like wtf yall sophie burning down the storehouse was the biggest power move of the century and I AM HERE FOR HER NEW ATTITUDE ITS AMAZING and then all her friends were like 'omg sophie youre so reckless blah blah blah' "

I agree that Sophie's friends were a bit annoying in how they reacted.  Mr. Forkle was the only one who supported her.

"The Kenric's cache scene cause it was like 100 pages and bored me to death."

From three-star reviews:

"I did feel like somethings weren't worth the hype and didn't have enough drama like when keefe came back from the lost cities. the whole thing with kenrics cache was a little boring and dull except for the one with the match lists(i was so sad), BUT it turned out to be incredibly important and in the end satisfied me."

"The book drags on (a lot of filler in my opinion especially with the caches. WHAT EVEN IS THE POINT WITH THEM UGHGHGHHGH)"

"The majority of the book was filled with long, drawn out discussions and Forgotten Secrets that were honestly disappointing."

"Okay so back to stellarlune, the plot was basically nonexistent, I mean so much of it was the whole kenric cache thing, which was so so boring and could’ve been summed up in a paragraph."

"seventhly i wish the caches were more relevant other than JUST the noxflare illusion thingamabob part. but that was super cool. lowkey hoping for fintan to show up in the next book and do something insane even though i hate him."

"Sophie's relationship with Oralie had no development in this book. (And by the by, the scenes where Kenric's cache secrets were revealed were sooooo boring.)"

"Instead, we spent a whole lot of time dwelling on lowkey irrelevant flashbacks and the doomed love of Kenric and Oralie which, initially, felt like a royal waste of print. However, while it definitely wasn't the most fascinating of subplots, I acknowledge the underlying commentary: they’re a perfect example of product of a flawed society. Not just that, but an immensely hypocritical one such as the Lost Cities. The earlier books in this series contained world-building that came off as so pompous and superior, and I enjoyed watching it being slowly torn down in the past couple books. It still could have been condensed though, to be honest."

From two-star reviews:

"I'm honestly so done with this series. Keefe isn’t in it until 70% through. So many more questions than answers. We still don’t know who Sophie’s Dad is."

Actually, I think we do.  Sophie's father has been revealed, just not explicitly so.  We know because of the Forgotten Secrets plus other clues that I have detailed in past posts

"We had 100 pages of examining Kenric’s cache, and I’m sorry, but it was wearying."

"My third problem is that there are too many Characters. Shannon should kill most of them and be done. This is the reason that my new favourite character is Kenrick because he’s dead. And I would like more characters to be like him."

I love fun comments like this.  Their favorite character is Kenric because he's dead.  I have to agree that the Keeper books do have too many characters.  

"For the cache thing, I honestly expected so much more from something that’s been built up for a long time."

"Shocked/not shocked the caches were mostly useless. Also, how were those memories sanity shattering they were mildly uncomfortable at most."

"The part where they opened Kenric's cache was disappointing as well, because there were no actually impactful secrets, like what the previous books led me to believe."

From one-star reviews:

"the book was pretty boring tbh for many reasons:  1- the caches, they didn’t really add on to the story and the whole process of looking at every memory took way more chapters than it needed making that whole part pretty boring"

"In Stellarlune, we are forced to watch the characters run around achieving nothing, watch some irrelevant memories, and be held back from achieving progress for no real reason."

"uuum here's a list of everything that went badly:  - the +100 pages of just sophie and co reading one by one every single gem containing a dead guy's memory"

"The opening of Kenric's cache and the one secret in Fintan's cache was also a huge let down. Even WITH context, it doesn't seem huge enough to 'shatter' somebody's mind."

"They opened Kenrics cache. That caused us more questions (and the memories weren’t even that interesting)."

Fans of this series seem inclined to pass off the Forgotten Secrets as boring and meaningless.  Or at least, fans who leave reviews online tend to see the Forgotten Secrets as boring and meaningless.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities #9 More on the Forgotten Secrets

Back in June, I published a post on the Forgotten Secrets of Book #9 Stellarlune.  In that post, I wrote the following about the Forgotten Secrets:

The lack of context is brilliant, really.  The characters discuss how the memories have no context, so they are difficult to understand.  It's fascinating to see how many readers have completely missed what is hinted at in the cached memories.  It takes multiple readings of the memories in order to grasp what is being revealed.

I read the Forgotten Secrets again during my third reading of the Keeper series and then once again as I read Stellarlune for the third time.  More has become clear to me.

This post contains MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS.  Stop reading NOW if you have not already read all of the books including #8.5 and #9.


This post should be read first:  Keeper of the Lost Cities #9 The Forgotten Secrets.  In it, I mention a lot of the content of the Forgotten Secrets.  I will not rehash most of that here.  This new post covers my additional thoughts only, so it's important that my previous post be read first.

It's also important to understand that I believe that Kenric is alive, that he is Sophie's biological father, and that he is Mr. Forkle.  Read through my past posts for the reasons why I believe this.

Keeper of the Lost Cities Summaries, Reviews, and Theories

I believe that the revealing of Kenric's Forgotten Secrets serves two primary purposes:  to give the reader clues that Kenric is Forkle and to give information about Project Moonlark.  We have either one or two books left in the series.  The big reveal about Sophie's biological father and Mr. Forkle's true identity must be coming soon, probably in the very next book.  These Forgotten Secrets are setting up for the reveal.

I believe that everything that happens during each Forgotten Secret is important with no filler information.  These books have lots of filler during the extremely lengthy conversations between Sophie and her friends.  But scenes like the Forgotten Secrets are rather short with no filler.  Everything matters; we just don't necessarily know why.

Forgotten Secret #1:  Bronte and Kenric dealing with a dead gnome

I mentioned in my previous post how Kenric counts the seconds at one point during this memory.  Counting the seconds is one of Sophie's two odd habits.  She pulls out her eyelashes like her mother, Oralie, and she counts the seconds like her father, Kenric.

Page 196:   "King Dimitar brought it to our attention.  He claimed we've been allowing the humans to expand into this land, even though it's supposed to be a Neutral Territory—and unfortunately he's right."

Kenric points out the cause of the pollution, a nearby human city that cannot be relocated.  He also mentions that Dimitar said that he will consider the Neutral Territories to be up for grabs if the humans are allowed to remain.  Bronte tells Kenric that he has no idea what they might be dealing with, and Bronte refuses to explain.  However, Bronte acts like the ogres are to blame at first.  Later, he says that it isn't what he feared and that the pollution was caused by human chemicals.

Page 205:   "There is a lot to monitor, Kenric.  We can only keep track of so much."  "Then we should ask for more help."  "From whom?"  Kenric dragged a hand down his face, leaving streaks of mud.  "I... have no idea."

Interesting.  Kenric starts to give a response, then he changes his response to "have no idea."  What was he going to say?  I think he was close to making an accidental slip, like perhaps a reference to his Black Swan activities.

Forgotten Secret #1 is the only secret that was placed in Kenric's cache by someone else.  Bronte kept the secret about the ogre plague to himself and washed Kenric's memory of it.

Forgotten Secret #2:  Kenric requesting a matchmaker give him the hypothetical match lists for himself and Oralie 

As I wrote previously, this is a huge clue about Project Moonlark.  Kenric needs to make sure that Oralie is his match so that the donors for Project Moonlark are number one matches.

Page 210:   "What if I told you that neither of us was going to remember the rest of this conversation?" Kenric asked quietly.  "Everything from this moment on will be erased."  Behnam's eyebrows lifted.  "Then what's the point?"  "This way I'll be able to remember that I asked.  But I won't know whether or not you answered.  That'll be enough for me to finally let this go—while also ensuring that there's no proof of you bending any rules.  It'll be almost as if it never happened."

I mentioned previously how this makes no sense and that Kenric must be lying.  This is what he says to Prentice in Forgotten Secret #5.

Page 256:   "In case you're wondering, I'll be wiping this conversation from my mind the second you leave.  That way it'll be as if it never happened

Page 257:   "As I said, I won't even remember that I approached you about this."

Kenric tells Behnam that he'll remember he asked.  He tells Prentice that he won't remember.  So which is it?  This depends upon where Kenric begins the memory washing for each memory, but here's the problem:  Kenric knew what he was going to do in both cases; he didn't wash his memory of when he set up the meeting with Prentice or when he walked in to ask Behnam about his match.  In both cases, Kenric would know that he asked.  He's lying when he tells Prentice that he wouldn't remember.

Forgotten Secret #3:  Kenric and Oralie arguing in Kenric's readying room 

This secret is the one that fascinates me the most since it provides a full conversation between Kenric and Oralie in an everyday situation.  Oralie has stalked into Kenric's readying room to complain about him missing most of her special first-year-as-Councillor celebration.  The fact that she's so bothered shows that she has deeper feelings for Kenric than she realizes.  

She complains that Kenric left during dinner after the first course.  She thinks he couldn't stand to watch her celebration.  Kenric tells her that he had an upset stomach, contacted Elwin, and then returned.  Oralie places her hand on his and replies, "You're a better liar than most.  But I can still tell."

So, we know that Kenric is lying about why he left.  He certainly didn't go to see Elwin.  The first few times I read through this scene, I took the scene at face value and didn't think anything of it.  I just figured that Kenric left because he didn't want to be at the dinner.  But then, that really doesn't make sense. 

A moment later, Oralie complains that Kenric has bad taste "in everything."

Page 218:   "I'm not a fan of you, either."  Kenric's lips twitched with a smile.  "Is that so?"  "Yes.  You're arrogant and boring.  And you have terrible taste in everything."  She crinkled her nose at his orange tunic—which did clash with his bright red hair.  Kenric's smile widened.  "If you were a better Empath, I doubt you'd denounce my taste in everything."

Kenric's last statement implies that he does care about Oralie, and she has no idea.  If Kenric does care about Oralie, then he didn't leave the dinner to get away from her celebration.  What would he have been doing, and why did Shannon make a point of mentioning it?

I think Kenric was switching with his twin.  He'd have to disappear at times in order to make the switch.  This must be why Kenric left the dinner.

Page 218   "And there it is," Kenric said, pointing to the hand she'd placed over her heart.  "The wide-eyed innocent act you love to hide behind."  "There's no act!"  "Really?  So you parade around in pink and ruffles because you want to be taken seriously?"  "No, I dress this way because I like the way I look."  "Pretty sure it's because you like to be admired."  Kenric stood up to face her.

My take on Kenric's remark this time is that he correctly understands that Oralie puts on an innocent act.  She pretends to have a fragile voice, and she dresses in pink ruffles so that people think she's just a helpless beauty.  Kenric is very annoyed by Oralie's behavior, and at this early stage in their acquaintance, he has no idea why she acts like this.

Kenric and Oralie's conversation then switches to why Kenric voted against Oralie becoming a Councillor.  Before Kenric answers Oralie, he "[takes] a step back."  I suspect that Kenric steps back so that Oralie can't detect a lie.  Kenric then tells her that she rushes through her assignments in order to garner attention and that is why he voted against her.  Oralie is deeply offended.

Instead, Kenric probably voted against Oralie being a Councillor because he already cared about her.  That is, the twins already cared about her.  They saw her as a complication, and they had enough problems dealing with their shared identity and keeping that secret.  They didn't need a potential love interest to be a Councillor, especially since their shared identity prevented either of them from ever marrying.  

I also suspect that Kenric is openly hostile towards Oralie as a means to mask his true feelings.  By angering Oralie, he keeps her from realizing how he feels.

Lady Fayina is also mentioned during this conversation.  She apparently fell off a cliff, and Oralie closed the case so that she could be declared dead.  Who was Lady Fayina?  Is she really dead?  Could she be of some importance?

Forgotten Secret #4:  Kenric and Oralie questioning Fintan about stellarlune

This secret provides some information regarding Elysian and Fintan's Noxflares.  I spot several vague statements that are likely hints about Elysian. 

Page 228:   "But some of us are still willing to wait for the opportune moment."  He smiled with the last words, as if he'd made a private joke...

This tells me that Fintan is waiting for a certain moment in order to unleash his scheme, whatever that is.

Fintan accuses Kenric of planning to give him one of his "infamous heart-to-hearts."  Interestingly, Oralie tells Sophie that she doesn't know what Fintan means.  Strange.  

We learn that Noxflares are fire-resistant.  

I continue to suspect that Fintan helped Kenric fake his death.  I believe some possible clues are in this memory.  

Page 234:   Fintan shook his head.  "These aren't hungry flames.  They'll stay right where I want them.  That's why I chose them."

What if the fire that Fintan sparked in Oblivimyre was one that Fintan could control and keep where he wanted it to burn?  What if the fire was designed to burn the tower and buildings of Eternalia and nothing else?  Is that why everyone was able to leap away?

Page 235:   "As far as I'm concerned," Kenric continued, "you can burn your whole house down if you want to—as long as no one gets hurt."

Hmm...  If Kenric didn't die in the Everblaze, then all that happened is that the tower burned down with nobody getting hurt.

Fintan offers Kenric a deal.  He will answer Kenric's question if Kenric will do something for him.  It seems that Kenric doesn't take the deal.  But then... most of the rest of the memory is unintelligible.  We know that Kenric did probe Fintan's mind, but only because of the other part of this memory that is detailed in Book 8.5.

What happened when Kenric probed Fintan's mind?  Could Kenric have made a deal with Fintan?  My thinking is that Fintan and Kenric had some kind of agreement that ultimately resulted in Fintan and Kenric faking their deaths at Oblivimyre.

The one thing I've struggled with is that Fintan would know that Kenric is alive.  I've since realized that since Kenric is a Washer, he would have simply erased Fintan's memory right after they escaped the flames.

A popular fan theory is that Kenric is with the Neverseen, and this would explain how Kenric disappears with Fintan.  The problem is all of the clues, particularly the anagram in Kenric's full name, that point to Kenric being Forkle, which is why I stick with my explanation.  Forkle is definitely not with the Neverseen.  I mean, I suppose he could be with the Neverseen and the Black Swan, but I think that's too much of a stretch. 

The rest of Forgotten Secret #4 (from Book 8.5):  Kenric reveals to Oralie that he knows about Project Moonlark

This portion of Forgotten Secret #4 turned quite a few readers against Kenric.  Some of the content is Kenric teasing Oralie.  The other part is Kenric telling Oralie that he knows about Project Moonlark.  Actually, Kenric questions Oralie in a needling way that doesn't come across as very nice.  Some readers see it as abusive. 
I don't view it that way, because I know that something else is going on here. 


Book 8.5, Page 533:   Oralie closed her eyes, letting out a shaky breath.  "You can't hide your feelings, Kenric.  They're there—every time I'm around you."

From the above passage, we must assume that Kenric truly loves Oralie.  She'd know if he were insincere.  I believe that Kenric tells Oralie that he knows about her involvement just to get the information in the cache.  He needles her to get her to admit to her secrets.  He already knew that he was going to erase the memory because of the previous part with Fintan.  He decided to make more use of it by getting some Project Moonlark clues placed in Oralie's cache.  That's why he says what he does to Oralie.  He's not bullying her.  He's planting clues.

Book 8.5, Page 526:   "You breached his mind?  Why?"  Kenric backed away, resuming his pacing.  "The same reason I always breach someone's mind—but I didn't find the information that I was looking for, in case you're wondering."

Kenric backs away from Oralie.  He's probably lying and backs away so that Oralie can't detect the lie.  Something important happened between Kenric and Fintan during that mind breach.

Book 8.5, Page 529:   He looked pale when he nodded. "Some days I dream about walking away."  "You mean resigning?" Oralie clarified.  He hesitated before stepping closer.  "I've done my share for my people, Ora.  I'd have zero problem letting someone else take over.  But… I won't go unless you resign with me."  Everyone sucked in a breath:  Sophie, Oralie, Oralie's projection—even Kenric, as if he couldn't believe he'd just said that.  But he didn't take it back.

I've already mentioned that this passage indicates that Kenric did fake his death.  The part that jumps out at me now is where Oralie asks, "You mean resigning?"  Kenric then hesitates before answering.  He also doesn't specify whether he means resigning.  I don't think he was considering resigning.  He was planning to fake his death all along.  Even so, what Kenric does tell Oralie is true.  He simply says that he'd have "zero problem letting someone else take over."

It may also be significant that Kenric steps closer during the conversation.  This might be so that Oralie can read his emotions and know that what he says is true.  

Book 8.5, Page 533:   "And if that's why you have to stay, Ora, then I'm staying too."  He tucked one of her ringlets gently behind her ear.  "You're going to need all the allies you can get.  Especially since someday the Black Swan is going to bring their moonlark into play.  You know that, right?"

Kenric is telling the truth that he doesn't plan to resign.  What he's not saying is that he's going to fake his death.

Book 8.5, Page 531:   "That time when you were ill... I stayed by your side the whole night, just to be safe... You'd toss and turn and whisper something over and over.  Something that sounded... a lot like suldreen."

Ah, yes.  Kenric knows all about Project Moonlark.  I think back to Book 1.  When Sophie mentions how her human father called her "soybean," she wonders if there's an elven word that sounds like it.  Kenric says, "I can't think of what that would be."  Classic evasive Kenric/Forkle.

Forgotten Secret #5:  Kenric and Prentice in Kenric's library

Page 244:   There was Kenric, sitting in a cluttered library.  And in the armchair across from him sat Prentice.

Sophie blinks several times when the memory begins, because she can't believe that she sees Prentice with Kenric.  I didn't see it as shocking at all when I first read this memory, just because I didn't understand.  In fact, it seemed odd to me that Prentice's name is even italicized.  That's how clueless I was. 

It took me several readings over a number of weeks to figure out that Prentice is being recruited as the Keeper of the Black Swan.

One aspect continued to bother me.  Kenric makes the request as himself.  If Prentice should accept, then Prentice would know that Councillor Kenric is in the Black Swan.  That seems like too big of a secret to entrust to anybody.  I believe that nobody in the Black Swan knows who Forkle really is. 

So something just didn't add up.  Recently, I put it all together when I read the memory yet again and noticed one passage that I hadn't thought about carefully during my previous readings.

Page 249:   Everyone assumed he'd used the Black Swan's code for imminent danger because he'd somehow uncovered the Lodestar symbol and feared the Neverseen would be coming after him.  But the explanation didn't totally make sense, as Prentice could've told someone what he'd learned—both to help prove his innocence and to make sure the information didn't get buried if he ended up in Exile.  Instead, he had kept everything to himself.  Almost as if he hadn't known who he could trust.

Ah-ha!  Kenric must have washed Prentice's memories of anyone involved in the Black Swan.  Prentice had no idea who had recruited him, and he likely didn't know the names of anyone involved in the order.  That's why he hadn't known who he could trust.  This all makes sense now!   

This next passage immediately follows the one quoted above.

Page 249:   And now Sophie was watching Prentice sit with Kenric in a secret library, about to discuss some sort of "big proposition."  "You okay?" Dex asked.  Sophie blinked, realizing he was staring at her—and that she was breathing very, very fast.  "Yeah, I'm just... trying to decide if I should tell Wylie and Prentice this story."

Sophie is beginning to hyperventilate as she thinks about this, then she lies to Dex about what she is thinking.  Sophie fears that Kenric is responsible for what happened to Prentice, which means that she is on the cusp of figuring out that Kenric recruited Prentice to be the Black Swan's Keeper.  This would then lead to her realizing that Kenric is Forkle.  She is just not quite there yet.

Page 257:   Instead he stepped closer and told Kenric, "No amount of talent will ever make me infallible."

I wonder...  Is this a clue as to why Prentice called swan song?  Did Prentice make a mistake that led to his capture?

Forgotten Secret #6:  Oralie and Kenric in Elysian

Page 262:   Kenric nodded.  "That was one of the details that helped me find this place.  Something had mentioned 'whispering rapids,' so when I found this river, I followed it here."  "And I'm assuming you won't tell me where you uncovered this information," Oralie's projection said.  "It's classified," Kenric agreed.

On this reading, my thought is that the "something" mentioned by Kenric is what he found when he probed Fintan's memory in Forgotten Secret #4.  There's also this:

Page 263:   "But see how they have red on their faces?  I found a mention about that, too—'butterflies kissed with red.' "  Dex chuckled  "Whoever wrote these descriptions was trying way too hard to sound deep and poetic."  Sophie nodded, wishing she had any idea who that could've been.

I think it could have been Fintan.  In Book 2, Sophie finds this in Fintan's memories:

Book 2, Page 239:   Glowing eyes peeked through bushes covered in blue ears, and butterflies with bright red lips whispered sounds like mush.

It's not quite the same description, but Fintan has been to Elysian, so he's a candidate for being Kenric's source.

Page 266:   "Why can't we see who it is?"  "I think they're wearing an addler," Dex told her.  The real Oralie groaned.  "You're probably right.  Which means it must be the Washer Kenric called to make sure I wouldn't remember any of this.  They often wear addlers to protect their identities."

I believe that the Washer is Kenric's twin.  He probably showed up as Astin or Leto, but he had to wear an addler so that Oralie wouldn't figure anything out.

Forgotten Secret #7: the map of Elysian

Kenric placed a map of Elysian in his cache.  Forkle placed a map of Elysian in Sophie's brain.  When Sophie sees Forgotten Secret #7, it triggers the memory of the map placed in her brain by Forkle.  This is such an interesting coincidence.

I want to go back to Forgotten Secret #4.  Both Oralie and Kenric are present for all of Forgotten Secret #4, but one part went in Kenric's cache and the other part in Oralie's cache. 

One part of Forgotten Secret #4 reveals Oralie's role in Project Moonlark, as in it reveals that Oralie is Sophie's mother.  Most of the secrets in Kenric and Oralie's caches pertain to the Black Swan and Project Moonlark in some fashion.  Kenric placed the part pertaining specifically to Oralie in Oralie's cache.  Everything else went in Kenric's cache.

If Oralie's cache provides evidence that Oralie is Sophie's mother, then we can conclude that Kenric's cache provides evidence that Kenric is Sophie's father/Forkle.  In short:

FS #1 Kenric counts the seconds, an odd habit that he shares with Sophie.
FS #2 Kenric verifies that he and Oralie are number one matches for Project Moonlark.
FS #3 Kenric is a good liar like Forkle and disappeared during a dinner, probably to change places with his secret twin.
FS #5 Kenric recruits Prentice to be Keeper of the Black Swan.
FS #7 Kenric had the same map that Forkle implanted in Sophie's brain.

These coincidences plus everything else in these memories all add up to the same conclusion.