Serena’s Review: “The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog”

157857Book: “The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog” by Elizabeth Peters

Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, February 1994

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Now, in the seventh mystery in the series, the Emerson-Peabodys are traveling up the Nile once again to encounter their most deadly adversary, the Master Criminal, who is back at his sinister best. Amelia Peabody was unabashedly proud of her newest translation, a fragment of the ancient fairytale “The Doomed Prince.” Later, she would wonder why no sense of foreboding struck her as she retold the story of the king’s favorite son who had been warned that he would die from the snake, the crocodile, or the dog. Little did she realize, as she and her beloved husband sailed blissfully toward the pyramids of ancient Egypt, that those very beasts (and a cat as well) would be part of a deadly plot.

Review: And we’re back for my first Amelia Peabody review of the year! After coming out on the top of my favorite reads list from 2016, I had high expectations for this book and this series. But, most comforting of all, even this far into the series, I had very few worries that I would not enjoy this book as much as I have the many that have come before it. Trust has been built, and I can now look forward to each next book in this series with very little trepidation.

“The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog” opens with Amelia and Evelyn pining for the adventure and romance of the past. Neither is unhappy with their life, full as each is by family and profession, but both Amelia and Evelyn spend moments reminiscing for the romantic passions they remember pre-children. And from these honest and natural feelings, comes very unwanted results, at least for Amelia. After returning to Egypt for another season, Amelia is looking forward to a rare opportunity to work alone with Emerson, as Ramses has chosen to remain in England for…school (to moon over Nefret, more likely). But these simple plans are suddenly foiled when Emerson is kidnapped and, while escaping the experience with his life, loses his memories in the process, including the fact that he was ever married to a woman named Amelia Peabody.

Generally, I am very suspicious of the whole amnesia plot tactic. This probably stems from being burned in early childhood by the egregious and completely unacceptable use of an amnesia story being thrown into my beloved “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and essentially triggering the beginning of the end for the series as a whole. But I won’t go on another rant about that, though it’s is difficult to resist. However, here, Peters uses it as simply another foil to Amelia’s ever-lasting quest to simply get through an archeological season without murder and mystery.

Having read the series up to this point over the last few years, it was interesting being thrown back in time, essentially, to the character that Emerson was pre-Amelia. I have to say, I’m not sure he deserved her, based on his behavior here! I haven’t re-read the original story, but I have to think that this version of the character was fairly true to how he was written then, and in one word, he’s kind of an ass. I have gotten accustomed to his gruffness and easy piques of anger always being balanced by his love and respect for Amelia. But without her influence or his desire to appease her sense of rightness, these quirks suddenly start overcoming the more appealing parts of his character. However, Amelia remains steadfast to winning him back throughout it all, even if we, the readers, want to smack him up the backside of the head (though she does employ similar tactics in her “wooing”).

The mystery itself is quite a tangled web with many villains re-appearing from past books. Probably the most challenging part of the story was trying to remember these characters and keep their histories straight in my head. There is typically a large cast of characters in these books, but we’re often meeting them for the first time and thus given time to acquaint ourselves. Here, while brief introductions are given, a lot is left to the reader to fill in gaps. I feel like the suspects would have been better rounded out had these histories and motivations been a bit better documented, for those of us who don’t have an encyclopedic memory of the series as a whole.

I also enjoyed the fact that the Nefret storyline wasn’t completely dropped in this book.  Most of the previous books can be read as standalones, and that is true of this one as well, for the most part. But the adventures and outcomes of “The Last Camel Died at Noon” introduced lasting effects on the Emerson-Peabody family going forward. Not only do we have a new character whom we can only assume will be a major staple in the series in the future, but her sudden appearance and secret history would be largely commented on by society as a whole. On the more intimate character level, I loved Amelia’s struggles with adapting to being a mother figure for a daughter as well as a son, and her realization that their needs are very different. And on a larger story level, I appreciated the fact that the happenings of the previous book were paramount to the mystery we have here while still allowing the book to be read on its own. It is a tricky balance to maintain, but one that I feel Peters pulled off very effectively.

While the amnesia storyline was handled for the most part very well, this book does highlight a trend for my views on the series as a whole.  I understand that perhaps the author was concerned that the happy and stable relationship between Amelia and Emerson might come across as tired, book after book, and she felt compelled to throw wrenches into the work. But the two books were this tactic was more prominently used (this story with the amnesia, and “Deeds of the Distruber” where there is much confusion and distrust between the two) were both on the lower end of my ratings. I still very much enjoyed them, but I, at least, don’t need relationship drama from this series to remain interested and when it’s present, it doesn’t add much to the series as a whole.

But, as I said, I still very much enjoyed it and am happily looking forward to the next!

Rating 7: Relationship shenanigans aside, an interesting mystery and a nice tie-in to the previous book.

Reader’s Advisory:

The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog” is included on these Goodreads lists: “The Villain Was Interesting” and “Mysteries with great humor.”

Find “The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog” at your library using WorldCat.

Previously Reviewed: “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” and “The Curse of the Pharaohs” and “The Mummy Case” and “Lion in the Valley” and “Deeds of the Disturber” and “The Last Camel Died at Noon”

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Sleepwalker”

176690Book: “The Sleepwalker” (Fear Street #6) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: An ILL from the library!

Book Description: One week after she starts her summer job on Fear Street with old Mrs Cottler, Mayra Barnes begins to sleepwalk, waking up in the dead of night not knowing where she is. Mayra becomes even more terrified when she discovers Mrs Cottler may be a witch…

Is the old woman casting spells on Mayra? To add to Mayra’s horror, she is being followed by a menacing stranger who seems to recognize her – but she’s never seen him in her life!

Mayra’s sleepwalking is leading her into more and more peril. She soon realizes she must take action. She must find out what is happening to her – or she may never leave Fear Street alive!

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: We meet our protagonist Mayra, a girl who is starting summer break with a new job. This job consists of being an assistant and companion to Mrs. Cottler, an old woman who Mayra’s mom used to be a nurse to the previous summer. Though Mrs. Cottler is described as a total bitch by Mayra’s Mom, she pays five dollars an hour and acting as an assisted living practitioner builds character, I guess. But as she works with Mrs. Cottler, Mayra finds out a few things about her. One, she’s actually pretty chill. Two, she has a grumpy cat named Hazel who likes to destroy necklaces (sorry, Mayra). And three, Mrs. Cottler, who lives on Fear Street of course, had a son who drowned in Fear Lake years ago. At this point I’m thinking that Mayra’s mother’s accusations about Mrs. Cottler being a bitch are incredibly insensitive. After reading to Mrs. Cottler from “Nicholas Nickelby” (I’m kind of picturing Jo March reading to her sour old aunt), Mayra goes to fetch her new boss a sweater. Instead of asking where to find it, she goes digging through some drawers, and finds some strange black candles. But before she can think too much about it, Hazel stalks in and freaks out as only a cat can. Mayra, properly chastised by a suspicious feline, leaves.

On her way home Mayra provides some plot exposition by thinking about how much she misses her deadbeat Dad, and also how much she misses her new boyfriend Walker, who has been off on some summer adventure for a couple of weeks. As she ruminates about how much she wishes he were home, someone grabs her arm. I would say that it’s not a homicidal maniac, but I can’t because it’s her ex boyfriend Link and he is a total lunatic. He begs her to talk to him, and when she tells him no he really doesn’t want to take said no for any kind of answer. She runs off and he calls after her that ‘she’ll be sorry’. Yeah, nothing suspicious about that.

The next day Mayra is at Mrs. Cottler’s again, and there is an angry knocking on the door. Cottler’s neighbor Mr. Kleeg (we will hear more about him later in this post, because this is my favorite moment in the book) is mad that Mrs. Cottler’s peach tree is continuously dropping peaches in his yard. Look, I don’t like peaches either, but I have a hard time feeling any kind of sympathy for him because you could probably make some rad cobbler out of that that you could share with friends. After hurling angry words at Mrs. Cottler, he leaves. But he dropped a handkerchief, one which Mrs. Cottler picks up and pockets. Mayra is constantly daydreaming about Walker pretty much the whole time, but she’s with it enough to take Mrs. Cottler up for a nap. Though, when she checks in on her one last time Mrs. Cottler is sitting up completely straight and holding the purloined handkerchief in her hand. Mayra leaves, feeling a bit uneasy. So the next afternoon she calls her friend Donna and tells her that she thinks that Mrs. Cottler is a witch. Kind of a jump, but okay. Donna says that Mayra should just ask Mrs. Cottler if she is, but Mayra is too scared. The only other person she’s known in her life who has loved the occult is Stephanie, Link’s sister, well, and Walker, who is into that stuff too. Donna thinks that Mayra’s spending too much time with her new boyfriend. Mayra doesn’t care, and when they hang up she decides to go see Mrs. Cottler….. And sees an ambulance carrying Mr. Kleeg away, as he has just broken his hip. Mrs. Cottler says that ‘she told him something would happen’.

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Actual footage of young Mrs. Cottler. (source)

Walker comes home from his trip, and he and Mayra decide to go out for pizza and card tricks. Because remember, Walker is way into magic and stuff. They banter wittily about her sundress and her shoulders, and then Mayra goes home. Her Mom tells her that Link has been leaving insistent (read: harassing phone calls) asking to speak to her. Which doesn’t so much creepy Mayra out as it makes her kind of flattered (ladies: no). That night Mayra dreams about standing in front of Fear Lake, and finds out that she can walk on water. As she walks onto the lake, she sees someone on the shore watching her. Then she wakes up… and finds herself on the front lawn. BOOM.

The next day after work Mayra is spotted and followed by a man who seriously sounds like Mr. Larson from “Happy Gilmore”. Note that this is basically how I imagined this mystery man whenever he showed up. She loses him and decides to go for a pizza at the mall….. BUT SEES WALKER THERE WITH SUKI THOMAS, “Fear Street”‘s answer to town slut, and therefore my favorite side character of the series. Mayra jumps into their conversation, accusatorially, but Walker insists he’s just teaching Suki some coin magic tricks. Mayra believes him because he’s WALKER. That night Mayra confides in her mother about her sleepwalking, and her Mom says that maybe she should see a shrink. Before any solid plans are made, the doorbell rings and Link’s sister Stephanie demands to talk to Mayra. Stephanie says that Mayra is being SO MEAN to Link and that they need to get back together. I can’t even. Mayra says no and Stephanie says ‘You’ll be sorry!!’ before stealing a scarf. That night Mayra sleepwalks again and ends up on Fear Street. Yeah, it’s probably best to see a doctor.

The next day before work, Mayra is visited by Walker, who says that maybe his amateur hypnotism skills can find some answers. Mayra says no thanks, and goes to work. Since Mrs. Cottler is showering when she arrives, it’s prime snooping time. Mayra finds her broken necklace (which Cottler said she’d fix) next to a melted black candle, and she freaks out but goes to make some lunch so she can act natural for Mrs. Cottler. On the way home Link drives by and offers her a ride. She accepts, and it’s not as molesty as I thought it would be. When she gets home Donna is there and says that a tall guy named Cal was asking for her. And he sounds like a Mr. Larson looking motherfucker. Uh oh.

Mayra goes to see Mrs. Cottler, who says she’s going out of town to see her ill sister, and asks Mayra to house sit and cat sit.  When she gets home that night her mother tells her Donna has been in an awful car accident. She’s alive, but hurt. When she visits Donna, Mayra finds out that a red pickup ran her off the road. Mayra thinks that sounds like Link! She goes to talk to Walker, because has a theory: her Mom worked for Mrs. Cottler. Mrs. Cottler thinks her Mom tried to kill her. Now Mrs. Cottler is trying to kill Mayra! Seems like a leap. Walker thinks that they should investigate while Cottler is out of town. The next day they go looking, and Walker sees Hazel and is immediately convinced. They also find books on sleepwalking. Okay, kind of odd. They then see some pictures on the desk.. of Link and Stephanie! And a note that says that they are her NIECE AND NEPHEW!

Mayra visits Donna to run her witch family theory by her. Donna isn’t convinced, but Mayra decides to go confront Stephanie. She finds Stephanie wearing her purloined scarf on her head, and chanting with black candles lit around her. Mayra accuses her of being a witch. and Stephanie says no she isn’t. Then tells Mayra that Walker has been seeing Suki behind her back and really Mayra should just get back together with Link already. Then they make up to progress the plot or something and Mayra goes home (but inspects Links truck. No dents. He’s in the clear for attempted murder on Donna). That night she dreams again. But this time she can see the person on the bank. It’s Walker! And then she starts to drown in her dream… and wakes up to find herself DROWNING IN FEAR LAKE! Luckily a fisherman taking a pleasure cruise in eel infested waters is there, and saves her.

The next day Mayra goes to the psychiatric unit of the hospital to see a shrink (and has a run in with Cal! She escapes, but still, what’s up with this guy?). He says that her sleepwalking may be due to repressed trauma and writes her a scrip for some pills. The next day she goes to the lake to try and remember some things, and Link shows up, begs her to take him back, and LITERALLY ATTACKS HER. She punches him in the head, and jumps in the water to swim away…..? But in the water she remembers something. And asks Link, who just attacked her, to take her home so she can think.

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(source)

Flashback time. God this plot is so long. Mayra remembers a night awhile back where she and Walker were at the mall. To prove he’s cool, he decides to steal a car. They go on a joyride, but he hits another car, which falls into the lake they’re driving past. One man splashes up, but Mayra is pulled away by Walker before they can see if the other person is okay.

After she remembers all this, Mayra asks to meet Walker. They go to the lake, and Walker tries to hypnotize her about forgetting that night in the car. Mayra, not one to play hte long game, angrily confronts him about all this. He says that he’s just been using her hoping she won’t tell on them or remember what happened, and that he’s actually seeing Suki. He then tries to drown her now that she remembers everything, because his magic career comes first. But Hazel the cat shows up and saves the day! She claws the shit out of WAlker, and Mayra runs away back to Mrs. Cottler’s house. For some reason Mr. Larson is there, and when he sees Walker chasing after Mayra he says “YOU ARE THE ONE WHO KILLED MY BROTHER!” That’s right, Mr. Larson and his brother were in the car they ran off the road. He was also the one who ran Donna off the road, but gets a pass because it was an oopsie and he thought she was Mayra. As if that’s okay.

Regardless, in the end Mayra is back together with Link (I CANNOT) and he tells her that his aunt Mrs. Cottler isn’t a witch, she’s a former professor of occult studies with a Ph.D and a number of books she’s written on the subject. And a badass cat. The end.

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(source)

Body Count: 1. Poor Jerry.

Romance Rating: 0!!!!!! Absolutely not! You have Walker, who is using her/hypnotizing her, and Link who has a serious problem with taking ‘no’ for an answer!!! Fuck these guys!

Bonkers Rating: 6. If only because this isn’t how hypnotism works and Cal is only mildly relevant, but Hazel the cat is a goddamn hero.

Fear Street Relevance: 9. Mrs. Cottler lives on Fear Street and lots of stuff happens in the woods and by the lake!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Oh no!” she cried, pointing to the photos. “Walker – Look! I don’t believe it!”

…. and then it’s just photographs of Link and Stephanie because they’re related to Mrs. Cottler.

That’s So Dated! Moments: There were LOTS of people sporting cut off jean shorts, and in once scene one of the girls was rocking a Hard Rock Cafe tee shirt. Remember when those were huge???? I do!

Best Quote:

“Is that you again, Mr. Clean?” [said Mrs. Cottler]

“It’s Kleeg – NOT Clean!” he shouted angrily. His face got even redder.

“What do you want this time, Mr. Clean?” Mrs. Cottler asked, appearing beside Mayra in the doorway.

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Mrs. Cottler, though. (source)

Well if you ignore the fact that all the boys in this book were predatory as hell and that Mayra’s big traumatic reveal was super lame, this one had Mrs. Cottler and her cat Hazel, and my girl Suki made an appearance! So meh. “Haunted” is up next! Severe lack of hero cats puts it at a disadvantage.

May 2017 Highlights

On the first Monday of each month we highlight our top three books that are scheduled to be published that month.

Serena’s Picks:

31632115Book: “Triple Threat” by Gwenda Bond

Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Kate and I have posted joint reviews for the first two books in this series, “Fallout” and “Double Down,” as our love of  all things Superman and Lois Lane is never-ending. While we’ve each begun to have some concerns about the longevity of the premise of this series (teenage Lois solves mysteries in Metropolis with the help of her “friend” SmallvilleGuy whom she knows only through virtual reality), I’m sure we’ll both end up reading and reviewing this one sometime in the near future!

23308087Book: “Flame in the Mist” by Renee Ahdieh

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I read and enjoyed both “The Wrath and the Dawn” and “The Rose and the Dagger” by this author, so I was excited to hear that she was starting a new YA series. Even more exciting, this book is being marketed as a similar story to “Mulan” and I love me some “Mulan.” Basically, any story about a girl dressing up as a man and becoming a badass warrior is a book that I will probably be checking out. The fact that it’s by an author who wrote a solid YA duology just increases the appeal.

8306741Book: “Thick as Thieves” by Megan Whalen Turner

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Why I’m Interested: OMG OMG OMG! This is not only one of the books I’m most looking forward to that is being published this month, but it may be my most anticipated book of the entire year! The combination of it being the 5th in a series that I have absolutely adored and the fact that it’s been SEVEN YEARS since the last one came out….I’m so excited! What’s more, Whalen Turner has created such a complex world and changed up her narrator and storytelling style so many times throughout the series that I truly don’t even know what to expect from this. All I know is that, yes, I am excited.

Kate’s Picks:

33151805Book: “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I was one of those people who enjoyed “The Girl on the Train”, and I feel that Paula Hawkins has a pretty good chance of delivering another solid thriller novel. This one involves the body of a single mother being discovered in a lake, a fate that met a young woman in that town fairly recently before that. Now the daughter left behind has to adjust to a new life, and a new person in the form of her strange aunt. I’m sure that twists and turns will ensue. This sub-genre may wear me down and grate me a bit, but I’m looking forward to see what Hawkins brings us this time.

31752345Book: “Black Mad Wheel” by Josh Malerman

Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I really liked Malerman’s novel “Bird Box”, and I was hoping that he would be coming out with something new. This one also has an incredibly intriguing and original premise, as a group of people have been recruited by the U.S. Government to go into an African desert and track down the origin of a dangerous sound. What they find is something that is far more complicated and dangerous than just one malevolent piece of audio, I guess, and honestly that sounds pretty freakin’ rad, premise wise. Malerman is so good at writing unsettling and uncanny stories, and I have high hopes that “Black Mad Wheel” will be a worthy follow up to “Bird Box”.

31554413Book: “The Boy on the Bridge” by M.R. Carey

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is the much anticipated sequel to Carey’s break out work “The Girl With All The Gifts”, the runaway zombie hit. While I didn’t particularly care for the execution of that one, the originality he gave to the zombie story did impress me to a certain degree. And therefore, even if I wasn’t too impressed by that one, I am more than happy to go back into this world that he has created. It seems that official promotions are being pretty tight lipped about the plot to this one, but the few things I have read has given me hope that the originality is still going to be there.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!