Serena’s Review: “The Sweet, Far Thing”

While I make an effort to complete most books I read, every once in a while I come upon one  that I just can’t get through. When I find myself repeatedly putting down a book to the point that attempting to finish it is taking up weeks of my time, I sometimes come to the conclusion that a book is a book, not a life and death contract to read until completion. There are too many books in the world that I will never get to to spends days on end trying to finish a book that I already know will not be my cup of tea.

127459Book: “The Sweet, Far Thing” by Libba Bray

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, December 2007

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

Book Description: It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances.

Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds. The Order – the mysterious group her mother was once part of – is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.

Previously Reviewed: “A Great and Terrible Beauty” and “Rebel Angels”

Review: As I said above, I try to push through most books, and those I can’t, I often choose not to review on this blog. After all, I rarely have much positive to say about the experience (and we do try to include positives in most of our reviews, even for lower rated ones), and…I didn’t finish the book! Can I really accurately speak to the book as a whole in a review? But since I’ve reviewed the previous two books in this trilogy, I didn’t want to leave the series hanging without a conclusion to my thoughts. So here they are.

The thing I most enjoyed about the first book was the juxtaposition of these young girls growing up in a very prim, restrained Victorian boarding school against a wild and mysterious magical backdrop made up of an organization of powerful women who have operated behind the scenes throughout history. Gemma and her friends are challenged to re-think their position in society, their own abilities, and the way they relate to each other and those around them. The magical world was unique and by no means “fluffy,” full of lurking danger and unknowns. By the end of the story, our main characters had learned that they did know all that much in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps there were more important things out there than petty, girl fights. They had lost a friend, discovered a new enemy, and seemingly grown closer, knowing that together they must face the challenges ahead.

The second book squandered all of this excellent set up, dialing back any growth the characters had gone through in the first book, making their decisions and thought processes confusing and frustrating. They still focused on the silly, bickered as if they had learned nothing, casually dismissed warnings, knowing full well the major consequences this type of behavior had lead to before, and generally behaved as if the first book had not happened, other than knowing that magic existed. Beyond this, the author introduced a terrible love triangle and some truly problematic scenes about consent.

So, with this second book as an example, I did not have high hopes going into the third. My only reassurance was that, after the events of the second book which were even more dire and traumatic than the first, there was no way that the author couldn’t address the growth and new outlook on the world that Gemma, Felicity and Anne must now have gained. How wrong I was.

I made it about a third of the way into the book before realizing that nothing had changed. Absolutely nothing. The girls were still caught up in petty nonsense, made decisions that made no sense, and behaved as if nothing had happened in the previous two books now that would influence the choices they made going forward. The author actively walked back on all progress that had been made in book two. I quickly realized that I was simply reading the same book over again.

Pippa was turning to the dark side? Nope, she’s still just there in the Realms, hanging out and making Gemma feel guilty for a decision that Pippa made herself back in book one. Gemma had decided to share the magic with everyone in the Realms? Nope, best to re-debate that decision AGAIN for huge chucks of this book,too. Kartik had decided to support Gemma and the girls? Nope, he’s distancing himself again and, of course, won’t tell Gemma why. Learned that when others much more experienced with the Realms warn you about something then you should really listen? Nope, Gemma will stop listening to others (when did she ever??) and maker her own choices!

It was truly incredible how neatly and quickly the author pulled back any and all progress that had been made in the last book and quickly seemed to start re-writing that book all over again. It was inexplicable to me. That last point, where Gemma once again refused to listen to warnings given to her by those in the Realms, was the point where I put down the book. Gemma does not read as a real person, or at least not one whom I could have any respect for at that point. Somehow she had learned nothing, and I’m not interested in reading another 700 pages about a character who is nothing more than a device for the author to indulge herself in a writing exercise that badly needed an editor.

I can’t speak to the end of the novel, but I’ve read a few reviews that further justify my decision to set it down. I won’t speak to these ending issues, as I didn’t technically get to them myself, but it doesn’t surprise me that the author ended up scrambling to pull things together and then missed the mark. How can you end a story when you haven’t really told a story? A story involves characters who learn, grown, and come out the other side as different people than they went in. That just didn’t happen in this trilogy.

Bray is an author with ideas, but she couldn’t write a single character arc for any of these girls. In a stand alone book (or the first in a series, like in this case), limited abilities with characterization might be passable. But it’s unacceptable for a trilogy. I’m having a hard time thinking of another trilogy that started as promising and then plummeted so steadily over the next two books.

Kate read only the first book in this series and liked it, as did I. For those out there in the same boat? Just stop there. Turns out you’ve already read books two and three as well in one go! Why waste the time re-reading that one again for another 1400 pages?

Rating: DNF

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Sweet, Far Thing” is included on these Goodreads lists “Thickest Books Ever” and “Worst Ending.” Yes, I know those are negative lists, but that’s how I feel about this book and others seem to agree.

Find “The Sweet, Far Thing” at your library using Worldcat!


Kate’s Review: “There’s Someone Inside Your House”

15797848Book: “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

Publishing Info: Dutton Books for Young Readers, September 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC of it from the publisher at ALA.

Book Description: Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Review: We’re nearing the end of September, guys, which means that October is just around the corner! For me, that means HORRORPALOOZA is on the way, in which my reading tastes gravitate towards all horror, all the time. I had to get a little taste of that before the calendar turned over, though, as I just couldn’t wait to pick up “There’s Someone Inside Your House” any longer. So I don’t know if it was the waiting and the hype that I built up in my head for it, but I’m wondering if waiting was a mistake. because while there were definitely things I enjoyed about this book, it was something of a let down.

I’ll start with what I did like, though. “There’s Someone Inside Your House” has had comparisons to “Scream”, one of my favorite slasher movies of all time because of how it cheekily deconstructs the tropes and tricks of the slasher genre. While I was reading this book, I one hundred percent could see it in my mind’s eye as a film. It has the right amount of characters, it has the right dynamic for the group that we follow, and it has so many visual moments in it that would translate very well to a movie screen. I also enjoyed Makani, our protagonist and surmised ‘final girl’, as of course this book would need one to play to genre type. She is a fish out of water, but not in the ways we may be used to seeing. Not only has she moved to small town Nebraska from freakin’ Hawai’i (I can totally get her bitterness), she is also a biracial girl living in a town with a majority of white people. Being half black and half native Hawaiian means she gets a lot of ‘but where are you from really?’ questions, and this book deals with that openly and frankly, which is very important. She does, of course, have a dark secret in her past that she fears getting out, and while I was rolling my eyes at this cliche when it was revealed what had happened, I was actually at peace with it, as it wasn’t too melodramatic, yet she also did have legitimate things to be sorry for while having reason to be hurting and traumatized. From characters who are POC to LGBTQIA to socioeconomically different, I feel like Perkins was committed to exploring diversity for this story when other authors may have not bothered.

The slasher killer plot line (so, the main plot line) had some issues that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I give props in that while Perkins starts out making us wonder who the killer is (mainly is it Ollie, Makani’s brooding but sensitive love interest), once it is revealed who they are, there are no more questions or twists, or suppositions of coming twists. It was who it was, and that was that. But once it was revealed WHY the killer was doing what they were doing, this book kind of lost me. It’s one thing if you are doing it because you’re a supernatural being that is taking revenge for your deserved but untimely murder (“Nightmare on Elm Street”), or because camp counselors weren’t paying attention and you drowned (“Friday the 13th), or because you’re just one big metaphor for Evil (“Halloween”). Even in “Scream” the trauma of parental abandonment mixed with the need to be famous/notorious worked out as a solid motive. But in this one it’s just so…. not that, and without more background to the killer I couldn’t and wouldn’t swallow it so easily. On top of that, each teenager killed by this person has something cut off and taken away, and it seemed like it was going to build up to one big gross reveal of just what was happening with these absconded body parts…… But then nah, the pomp and dramatics were all for naught, it was maybe just because reasons (note, I will admit that perhaps I’m wrong on this, as when I start getting near the end of a tense book I sometimes inadvertently skim in my anxiety).

While there were a few hang ups I had with “There’s Someone Inside Your House”, I do think that it’s a quick, simple, and totally appropriate book for the upcoming Halloween season. Teens that are craving horror but maybe aren’t feeling something a but denser and darker will probably find a lot to like here, and anything that nurtures kids and teens loves of horror gets props from me.

Rating 6: The characters were fine and I liked the diversity. While the identity of the killer wasn’t drawn out or too twisty turny, the motivation and MO felt flimsy at best.

Reader’s Advisory:

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” is included on the Goodreads lists “Teen Screams”, and “2017 YA Books With LGBT Themes”.

Find “There’s Someone Inside Your House” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review & Giveaway: “The Goblins of Bellwater”

33973968Book: “The Goblins of Bellwater” by Molly Ringle

Publishing Info: Central Avenue Publishing, October 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: e-galley from NetGalley

Book Description: Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Review: First off, thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book! I’ve had my eye on it for a while, with its intriguing description mixing goblin trickery, a romantic plot line, and set in my own home region of the Pacific Northwest. It was a quick read and I buzzed through it in one day, however, I did have a mixed reaction to the story as a whole.

The description sums up the plot pretty well, so I won’t re-hash much there. And the portions of the story that stuck to this plot were strong. The goblins themselves were probably the most intriguing part of the story. It was clear that the author had a clear vision and voice for these otherworldly beings, and their magic and mischief jumped off the page with every scene they stole. I loved the mix of the dark, wet forests of the Puget Sound area that are the perfect setting to hide a mysterious and dangerous fae realm. The goblins were tricky, smart, and best of all, viciously witty. We also got much more actual characterization for a few of the goblins than I had been expecting, backstories and all, that added greater depth of meaning to the choices they made and their interactions with humanity, in particular, Kit and his family.

As I said, setting the story in the Puget Sound worked well for this plot line. All too often fae stories always pop up in the typical places like Ireland and Great Britain. But at the same time, the tropes of the area seemed to jump out at me in a kind of grating way. Of course Skye is a barista who loves art and the woods. Of course Livy works for the Forest Services and is first introduced while kayaking around the sound. Of course Kit is a chainsaw sculpture artist in his spare time. It’s just a bit too on the nose.

Reading the description, I remember it mentioning that this was a contemporary romance, so perhaps it’s on me that I focused more on the fantasy elements and assumed the romance was a supporting piece to this story. Especially for the first half of this story, the book is almost purely a romance novel, and not the kind that I enjoy.

Look. I’ve read my share of romance and I’ve read my share of YA romance. This book is in the unfortunate position of existing somewhere between the two. Our main characters are all adults, early to mid twenties (though here’s another problem: Kit and Livy are constantly referring to themselves as “long-time bachelors.” Um. Guys. You’re barely at the mid-point of your twenties! It seems like such an easy fix to write them in their 30s, a choice that I think would have fit their more mature characterization much more naturally). But for some strange reason, the author chose to write about everything before and after the sex scenes themselves. Which would be fine if she was setting out to right a clean novel.  But the before and after descriptions are of the very unclean, erotic variety. Way too many descriptions about condom management, and some pretty smutty imaginings on all characters’ sides. So then to fade to black at the critical moment…just read strange.

Not to mention that there was a noticeable shift in writing style during these romantic subplots. During the fantasy story lines, the authors writing is strong and assured. But the romantic plot lines seemed to stumble around, filled with disjointed sexual language, an unfortunate bout of magically-induced instalove, and just a whole heap of awkwardness where there shouldn’t be any (phrases like “soak up her hotness” and “congenial sex” were used a few times too many for my taste.) It all read as very strange. Kit and Livy’s relationship was definitely the stronger of the two, but even it progressed in a way that didn’t seem to fit comfortably alongside the other subplots. It’s hard to put my finger on just what felt off about all of this, but something did. I will give credit for the author’s choice to make her two women characters older than their love interests, something you don’t often see in romance novels.

Towards the last half to last third of the story, the fantasy elements began to take over the story again, and I felt like the book gained back a bit of its footing, ending on a strong note. All of this to say, I have very mixed feelings about this book. Part of it is a failure of expectations on my end, and a general preference for A.) fantasy stories and B.) romance novels that are going to at least commit to being a romance novel, something this one always seemed to shy away from. But the story also felt awkward at times and uncomfortable in its own skin, some dialogue didn’t land as solidly as one would hope, and all four characters weren’t equally strong, with Kit and Livy washing out Skye and Grady.

The publisher is hosting a massive giveaway for this book, however, so you have the chance to judge for yourself! If you enjoy clean (for the most part??) romance novels with more of a hint of fantasy (rather than fantasy with a hint of romance), you might find yourself enjoying this book more than I did. Never hurts to give it a go! See below for full descriptions of the prizes available. Open to U.S. entrants only and running late into October!

Enter the Giveaway!


Rating 5: Right down the middle. I didn’t particularly love it, but I didn’t hate it either.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Goblins of Bellwater” is on these Goodreads lists: “Best Goblin Books” and “Books about Faery.”

Find “The Goblins of Bellwater” at your library using WorldCat

Prize Descriptions

Grand prize package:

• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• $10 Starbucks gift card
• “Flowerwatch” necklace/pocket watch
• Artistic guided journal/sketchbook
• Copy of Brian Froud’s Goblins!

Air prize package:

• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Air-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea
Earth prize package:


• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Earth-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Fire prize package:


• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Fire-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Water prize package:


• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Water-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea


A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Best Friend”

842655Book: “The Best Friend” (Fear Street #17) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Pocket Books, 1992

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL fromhe library!

Book Description: Best friends…to the end!

Who is Honey Perkins? She’s been telling everyone in Shadyside that she’s Becka Norwood’s best friend. But Becka’s sure she’s never met Honey before.

Honey systematically moves in on Becka’s life, copying her in every way. But when Becka presumes to have more than one “best friend,” the horrible accidents begin.

Does Honey just want a friend? Becka wonders. Or does she want more—much more!

Had I Read It Before: No

The Plot: The Fear Street Protagonist in this book is Becka, whom we meet while she’s on a date with her snooze of a boyfriend Eric. They’re sitting in his car and she’s working up the nerve to dump him because he’s such a dud, and because he’s really handsy and she’s not too comfortable with it. She finally tells him it’s over, and he says that it’s okay as he tries to keep it together. He takes her home, and says that he’ll see her in school. Becka decides to drive around for a bit to clear her head, and then proceeds to crash into another car.

The next day she’s hanging out in her room with her BFFs Lilah and Trish, telling her about the very minor car accident she was in. Why that even happened, I couldn’t say, because soon they’ve moved their talk to Bill Planter, Becka’s ex whom Becka is still hung up on. Her parents never approved and so she and Bill broke up (I think it was because of that?), but now it’s the holiday season and she’s LONGING for him. As they talk, suddenly a strange girl runs into the room, and starts freaking out in a good way about Becka, throwing her arms around her. Becka is rightfully confused and put off, and the girl says that it’s her former BFF from childhood Honey, who moved away but is now back in town and right next door! Honey and Becka, Becka and Honey, the gruesome twosome who were always together. But Becka has no clue who this girl is, as she remembers Honey, but was never friends with her, and I feel like I’m reliving a scene in “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. Becka and pals decide to play along, but whenever Trish and Lilah try to talk to Honey she ignores them and continues to talk about how much she missed Becka. She even puts off Becka’s mom, Mrs. Norwood, but hugging her and saying how much she missed her. After Honey leaves, Becka, Lilah, and Trish find their fourth grade year book and spot Honey, who they now all remember, but also remember as having no friends. Becka realizes that the parrot pin that Bill gave her is missing from her dresser, the dresser Honey was futzing with. Trish suggests to go ask Honey if she forgot to take if off, and Becka says she will. After her friends leave she’s about to head next door, but then Bill calls asking her if she will meet him at the mall. She says no because her parents will kill her, but you can tell she wants to. She goes next door to confront Honey… But the house appears to be empty! She knocks on the door and looks inside, and sees nothing but darkness.

Some time later, Becka and Lilah are walking home together talking about the Christmas party that Trish is throwing soon. Bill is going to be there, and Becka plans to wear a sexy catsuit just for the occasion. When she gets home she hears a voice in her room, and sees HONEY is in there trying on her clothes. Becka storms in and rightfully asks what the HELL she’s doing, and Honey says that Mrs. Norwood let her in, and that she left but said Honey could wait in Becka’s room. Also, she loves Becka’s clothes and remember how they used to share clothes when they were besties? Becka does not. She asks Honey why the house next door is empty. Honey says that the furnace croaked and they’re in a hotel until it’s fixed. She asks Honey what happened to her parrot pin. Honey…. REACHES OUT TO CHOKE HER TO DEATH??? Or not, she just chokes her for a bit, and then says ‘don’t you remember the gotcha game?’ I’m appalled, as is Becka. Before leaving (FINALLY) Honey says that Becka GAVE her the parrot pin, don’t you remember? Then she leaves and Becka is quite shaken. So she calls Bill, suggesting that maybe they could start seeing each other again, like old times. He says they should sneak off, and she balks at that. Becka hangs up when her Mom returns home with groceries, and Becka asks why she let Honey into the house. Mom has no clue what Becka’s talking about, she hasn’t been home all afternoon.


At school, Becka and Lilah are preparing to go home when Honey rushes up saying she and Honey should walk home together. Becka says no, she and Lilah are riding their bikes home (in December? In “Ski Weekend” it’s implied Shadyside is a days-ish drive from a snowy part of Vermont, how are they biking?). Honey ignores Lilah again and says she should get a bike so she and Becka can ride. Whatever, crazy. As Becka and Lilah are biking they start down a hill…. And Lilah’s brakes don’t work!!! As she’s flying towards a busy intersection!! She’s hit by a truck and flies over the handlebars!! She’s (kind of) alive, taken away in an ambulance, and the police tell Becka that someone cut the brake cable away from her bike. OH WHO COULD IT BE? When Becka gets home she calls Bill, saying she WILL sneak out with him because, honestly, she may not be alive much longer with Honey going full Robert John Bardo on her. She turns around and sees HONEY in the doorway!! SHe hangs up and demands how she got in, but Honey just goes into how sorry she is about Lilah before giving her a literally suffocating hug. Becka says she wants to be alone, and Honey doesn’t leave. Becka starts crying, and Trish comes in, to which Honey whisks her away saying “Becka wants to be alone”. Luckily she leaves too.

On Saturday Bill and Becka are gettin BIZAY in his car with some make outs and heavy petting. After they break for air, Becka complains about Honey, saying that Honey will NOT leave her alone. She doesn’t want to be mean, though, because she thinks that Honey means well (COUGH COUGH). But now that she thinks of it, Honey was asking her about Lilah’s bike, specifically how the brakes worked. ANd she was at the bike rack. She looks out the window and freaks out because she thinks she sees Honey hiding behind a tree. Closer inspection implies otherwise, and Bill thinks Becka’s losing her mind.

On Monday Becka is home sick. Her Mom brings her breakfast and says that Honey volunteered to bring her homework to her after school. BECKA, FOR GOD’S SAKE, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THIS GIRL. Trish calls that afternoon and asks Becka why she isn’t in the hospital, since she heard she had a complete mental breakdown because of Lilah. When asked where she heard this, Trish says that Honey is telling EVERYONE. Not only that, there will be no adults at the Christmas party that weekend, ooh la la. After hanging up, Becka is living, and then Honey arrives… And she’s cut and styled her hair just like Becka’s. STINE, YOU’RE LIFTING FROM “SINGLE WHITE FEMALE” NOW?! Later that night Honey calls her to reiterate that she’s always around if needed (WE KNOW), and that Trish was totally lying about Honey spreading rumors about her mental health. Which is totally refuted the next day when another girl outside of the group asks Becka how she is doing, mentally. Then Honey shows up wearing Becka’s clothes and the parrot pin and WE GET IT. Trisha and Becka go for a walk outside, and then they see Honey making out with Becka’s ex Eric, and Becka is disturbed by this. Honey sees them and tries to explain, but Becka isn’t having it. Honey runs off, crying probably. When Becka gets back to her locker, ti’s totally trashed. Thinking it must be Honey’s doing, she confronts the little creeper in the bathroom, accusing her of the locker misdeeds, which Honey denies, saying she’s just saying that because she’s mad about Eric. Becka FINALLY goes off on Honey, telling her to leave her the hell alone, and Honey starts crying that they’re best friends before pulling out a GUN!?! Which is just a water gun, another ‘gotcha’ joke on her part, and Becka runs out screaming.

This is too much. (source)

That night at Bill’s house Becka tells him about all the Honey stuff that happened that day, but before the locker moment he asks her if she heard about the random guys who CONVENIENTLY broke into the school and trashed a bunch of lockers. Oh great. So Becka feels bad that she accused Honey of that now, but really, she shouldn’t because Honey is just the worst. She asks Bill if Honey has ever approached him for anything, and he’s kind of….. mum about it. She goes home, and is confronted by her mother… who somehow found out that Becka was out with Bill that night? GEE, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! They have a huge fight, and Mom grounds Becka from Trish’s upcoming party. Becka runs upstairs to her room to sulk, and Honey jumps out of the closet, as if that was a perfectly normal place to wait for her. She says she’s sorry for ratting Becka out to her Mom, but thinks that Bill wasn’t right for her. Becka tells her to get out, they aren’t friends, they never were, they never will be, and the only friends she has are Trish and Lilah. Honey slowly leaves, but not before telling her that she broke up with Eric that day.

Good news! Becka’s Dad, who has never actually shown up on page, caves and lets Becka go to Trish’s Christmas party! While there things are going okay, until Honey shows up in the same outfit as Becka. Becka freaks at her again, and makes a big scene. Honey walks away. Later, Trish is at the top of the steps with a cake. Becka sees Honey there…. who then shoves Trish down the stairs! WHO LANDS ON HER NECK ODDLY. While someone calls for help, Honey sees Becka saw her, and says ‘I tried to stop her from tripping but it was too late!’ Becka turns her attentions to Trish, who is still alive but breathing funny, and Honey says to her (Low enough so no one else can hear, natch) that she’s her only friend now. Becka runs, sees the police, tells them Honey pushed Trish, then faints.

She wakes up the next day in her bed with her Mom and a doctor (No Dad again!). They tell her that Trish is alive but has a broken neck (OH, IS THAT ALL?), and that Becka is having a nervous collapse and she should rest. The doctor leaves, and then Mom says she’s stepping out too. And then, just like clockwork, the phone rings. And it’s Honey, who tells Becka that she should come over right away because she has something Becka should see. Becka is going to not, but then hears a voice in the background… Bill’s voice! She rushes over and looks through the kitchen window. She sees Bill and Honey at the table HOLDING HANDS! Becka’s officially done. She storms into the kitchen, grabs a KNIFE, and LUNGES FOR HONEY! About friggin’ time. But she can’t do much because of her fragile (and vague) physical and mental state, and collapses. Bill says ‘I thought you told her I was here!’, and Honey tells him to stay away because Becka is HER friend!!! They wrestle over the knife, and Honey STABS BILL IN THE CHEST. GOOD FUCKING GOD. And THEN, and I cannot BELIEVE it, she PUTS THE KNIFE IN BECKA’S HAND. As Becka slowly starts coming to, Honey tells her that that she won’t tell the police that Becka murdered Bill, but that it was in self defense, because she’s her best and now only friend. To which Becka….. thanks her. THE FREAKING END.


Body Count: 1??? Bill died but I think that Lilah and Trish are okay???

Romance Rating: 5. Bill has his problems but he seems okay, even if Becka is only willing to sneak around with him.

Bonkers Rating: 9. This is the darkest and most fucked up “Fear Street” ending yet!

Fear Street Relevance: 7. Becka lives on Fear Street and so does Honey, and the final showdown is there.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Becka gasped and hit the brakes. Her car slid hard into the other car. She closed her eyes against the crunch of metal and shattering glass.”

… And it turns out she was fine and the most damage was a broken headlight. What’s the point?

That’s So Dated! Moments: At the Christmas party the song on the CD player is Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and I think that was kind of dated even for it’s original publication! Unless this is a bunch of hipsters, which it very well could be.

Best Quote:

“‘What a night you had,’ Trish said, shaking her head. ‘First you wreck Eric. Then you wreck the car.’ Lilah laughed. ‘You should be a writer, Trish. You have such a way with words.'”

Yeah, that witty banter is sure to win a Pulitzer some day.

Conclusion: “The Best Friend” is truly the most disturbing “Fear Street” book I’ve read so far, and I’m kind of impressed that Stine was willing to do what he did with it. Apparently people were so incensed by this book he offered a contest to write the sequel, in a ‘well if you think you can do better, DO IT!’ kind of play. Up next for us, though, is “The Cheater”. 

Not Just Books: September 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks:

mv5bmjm3mjq1mzkxnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk1odgymji-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Baby Driver”

The name alone is confusing for this one. Add to that a very low level marketing scheme for a summer movie, and you couldn’t be blamed for blinking in confusion at this entry. But let me tell you, if you enjoy action movies, especially ones with good car chases ala “The Bourne Identiy,” this is the movie for you. It’s all about Baby, a young man with some definite driving skills who gets caught up in a criminal underworld filled with unhinged bank robbers. Beyond the superb action scenes, this movie has a killer soundtrack. And without spoiling the movie, the soundtrack doesn’t exist to simply backup the movie’s action, but plays a rather pivotal role in the story itself. Sound ambiguous? Good! Check it out and find out what I mean!

mv5bmtewmduymzgyndveqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdq3odu3odiy-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Outlander”

Droughtlander is over! Finally! It’s been almost two years since Season 2 ended with Claire and Jaime being torn apart by the centuries that exist between their own time periods. Confession: I didn’t even finish Season 2 until just this summer purely because I knew that it ended on, essentially, a cliffhanger. And since it took forever and a day for this third season to make it to our screens, I feel like this was the right choice. My other confession is that I haven’t read the books this series is based on. But from a non-reader perspective, this show definitely stands on its own, full of historical drama, romance, and two outstanding lead characters. If you like period piece dramas with a heavy dose of romance (and can stand some heavy stuff, cuz this show definitely doesn’t shy away from that), definitely check out the first two seasons, and now the few first episodes of season three, of “Outlander.”

mv5bmtcynteyoty0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwotaynzu3mdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “The LEGO Batman Movie”

This is late coming, but I sadly missed getting to see this while it was in theaters, so I’ve been patiently monitoring my Netflix DVD queue to move it up to the top once it was released. And I’m glad I did! As we all know, here at Library Ladies, we’re definitively Team Superman. But, in many ways, that’s what makes this movie so perfect for me! My biggest complaint about Batman, and especially the more recent movies with him, is the overly serious take they had on this hero. Not so here. All of Batman’s flaws are played perfectly and hilariously! It’s also chock full of references to other iterations of Batman that we’ve seen in comics, TV, and movies. I’m sure I didn’t catch them all, but those I did were great. Robin and the Joker were great foils to Batman, and in many ways, these relationships had much more heart than we’ve seen in any relationships given to us with past versions of the character. Definitely worth seeing if you (like me) have been living under the rock for the last 6 months and somehow missed this one.

Kate’s Picks:

mv5bmtg2mzi0ntq3ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwodmymzc1mde-_v1_uy1200_cr9306301200_al_TV Show: “Bob’s Burgers”

Last summer I binged through the first couple of seasons of the hilarious and actually kind of heartwarming show “Bob’s Burgers”, but it tapered off when Netflix ran out of episodes. I’ve picked it up again, though, and it’s still such a great sitcom that I’ve been obsessing over making my way through it until there aren’t any more episodes to watch. The Belchers are such a funny and eccentric, but absolutely loving, family, and I love watching the shenanigans that they get into as they run a burger restaurant. It’s hard to pick a favorite because all of them are great, but Mom Linda and Daughter Louise are probably the characters who make me laugh the most. I do have to say that there is a certain, relatable something to awkward and somewhat odd teenager Tina, though, and I really do have to applaud the show for giving us a teenage girl that is comfortable with who she is and has no qualms about her eccentricities. “Bob’s Burgers” is a real hoot.

mv5bmjazmte1nzqxnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjcwody3mti-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Everything, Everything”

Though my usual book fare doesn’t contain much on the romance front, every once in a blue moon I stumble into a book that is both romantic, and appealing to me. I absolutely LOVED Nicola Yoon’s book “Everything, Everything” (putting it on my Top Ten list in 2016), and was interested in seeing the movie. I ended up watching it twice on our long plane trips to and from New Zealand, because I couldn’t get enough. While there are some small differences, it’s still the story of Madeline, a girl raised indoors her entire life because she was diagnosed with SCID, an autoimmune disorder. When Ollie moves in next door and they start communicating via internet and text, she starts to want more from her life. Amandla Stenberg is the perfect Maddie, and her chemistry with the adorable Nick Robinson is supercharged. It’s romantic and sad and I just really like it.

maxresdefaultTV Show: “American Horror Story: Cult”

To be quite honest, I have a very love/hate relationship with the horror anthology series “American Horror Story.” Some seasons I loved (“Coven”), others I thought tried way too hard to be edgy (“Murder House,” “Asylum”), and others I was solidly meh on (… the rest?). But I keep coming back, and this time it’s “Cult.” Sure, I still find it a bit on the ‘trying too hard’ side in some ways, but then there are other things about it that I really like (Billie Lorde and Billy Eichner specifically). While I’m not sure that my opinion of it will end up like my deep love for “Coven” or my disdain/ indifference towards other seasons, I do know that as of right now I’m entertained. And really, that’s all that matters when it comes to this show. I AM STILL HOLDING OUT HOPE FOR FINN WITROCK TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE, THOUGH.


The Great Animorphs Re-read #16: “The Warning”

363405Animorphs #16: “The Warning” by K.A. Applegate

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, March 1998

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Jake has made an amazing discovery: a Web site about the Yeerks. Should the Animorphs investigate? If they do, they might walk right into a trap. And if they don’t, they’ll never know if they’re fighting their enemies alone…

Narrator: Jake

Plot: We’re into a section of the series that I only have vague memories of. Yes, I recognized this cover. No, I didn’t remember the craziness within. And now it’s dated craziness as well, so even better! Right away, I had an inkling of what I was getting into when the story started with Jake methodically explaining his online screen name: Bball25. “Bball,” in case you were confused, means basketball! Glad he clarified. The story quickly falls into place after Jake runs an Internet search for the word “Yeerk” and discovers an entire website devoted to discussing the topic.

I’m going to just make a happy little list right here in the beginning of the many, many dated references made in this book.

  • bizarre online screen names
  • Yahoo (as a relevant thing)
  • chain letters
  • chat rooms
  • limits of 10 words typed in chat rooms
  • Internet speeds

And all of that is referenced quite a bit, because the whole story revolves around this website and the Animorphs’ mission to discover how much of it is legit and whether or not it is an elaborate Yeerk trap.

The group decides that while most of the users in the chatroom on this site are the usual Internet crazies, there are a few that seem to actually know what they are talking about. More worringly, one user is concerned that his father may be a Controller and is contemplating confronting him about it. But with nothing but screen names to go on, the Animorphs are stuck. They decide they will need to break into the headquarters of the billionaire techie who owns much of the Internet, essentially, to discover who these users are and whether or not this is a trap or these are real, potential allies. Unfortunately, this headquarters is located far, far away.

To get there, they come up with the rather ingenious plan to morph flies, hop a plane, and simply fly there, free of charge! Perks of being an Animorph, I guess! But this plan quickly falls apart as some of the flight passengers are rather put off by the presence of a swarm of flies on their plane, and Jake gets swatted. The rest of the group has to….gather up pieces of him off the wall, and he barely makes it off the plane to demorph. Breaking into the headquarters, however, does go much more smoothly. For a distraction to allow Marco and Ax (the two most tech-capable of the group) to hack into a database and pull the user info for the chat room screen names, the others morph into their battle morphs and put on a little show for everyone in the building: a grizzly bear with a mop, a tiger with a bucket in its mouth, a hawk flying around above it all. This seems to work, though I do question why they never worried that there might be Controllers working there who would immediately see through this bizarre little scene.

The trip back home goes as well as can be expected, though Jake is still very rattled by his near-death experience. Once home, the team must decide what to do with the list of names they now have: go after the kid who might confront his Dad about being a Controller any day now (Cassie’s primary objective) or break into the mansion of the owner of the website and figure out whether he is a potential ally. Jake decides for the latter, reasoning that the stakes are much higher than the fate of one boy.

Breaking into the mansion, however, proves to be a disaster. The mansion is completely locked down: multiple levels of gates, guard dogs, the works. While in bird morph, they even over hear the guards discussing their boss’s orders to shoot any animals that look “strange.” This just makes their need to know what’s truly going on all the more urgent, so spotting an open window, they decide to fly in, demorph, and check it out. At least, that’s what they want to happen. Turns out that the owner is even more paranoid than they thought and that there are some type of security wards on the windows as well. They only discover this, however, after Rachel has flown threw and lies knocked out (or dead?) in the room within. Ax, too, who was flying close behind her veers away only to get knocked to the ground and dragged off by a guard dog.

The Animorphs are in a state of panic. They weren’t prepared at all for this mission, and it’s showing. Now, down two people, the only goal is to get them back before they’re hurt, killed, or, in Rachel’s case, forced to make the decision to trap herself in morph rather than reveal her human form once two hours have passed.

Desperate, Jake decides the only way in is through. With that in mind, he veers off to The Gardens, quickly acquires a convenient rhino morph, and makes his way back to the group. What follows is a fun little scene of Jake simply smashing his way through everything in front of him. I don’t remember this morph being used too often after this, but the sheer destruction that the rhino leaves in its wake seems to make a good case for its more regular use. The eyesight is pretty bad, though, so I guess that’s why it doesn’t make its way into their regular rotation.

After bashing through everything in his way, Jake and the others finally come face to face with Mr. Fenestre, the billionaire tech wizard himself. They then learn the full truth, and I swear, it’s straight out of a soap opera. Turns out that yes, Fenestre is a Controller (though he implies a sort of partnership between himself and his host body, claiming that with his own superior technical skills, he was able to raise their lives from one of obscurity to the wealth they now both enjoy). But he’s not just any Controller, he’s the “lesser twin” of Visser Three himself. Guys. It’s an evil twin plot line! Though I guess the case could be made for either of them being the “evil” one. Yeerks, however, don’t look kindly on twins, immediately granting one the more privileged life over the other. Not able to make anything of himself and his life in the shadow of his brother, Fenestre turned to making a life for himself in his host body, hence the tech wealth. Visser Three, however, didn’t like this, or any, success by his brother and has been hunting him ever since. Hence why the place is locked down and the guards are to shoot any animal, in case it’s Visser Three in morph.

The Animorphs rightly wonder how he has survived being hunted by Visser Three if he needs to feed in a Yeerk pool once every three days. Fenestre, however, has yet another secret: he’s discovered a way to gain Kandrona rays through another source. Instead of soaking in a Yeerk pool, he simply eats one of his fellow Yeerks, somehow absorbing the Kandrona rays directly from their flesh. So, yes, we now have evil twins AND cannibalism. To do this, he set up the website to attract Yeerk Controllers that he can then track down, extract (you can guess how well this goes for the hosts), and eat at his leisure, thus never needing to leave the fortress that is his house and make himself vulnerable to Visser Three.

The Animorphs are horrified, Cassie most of all at the fate of the human hosts. Jake and the others, however, also see the benefit of a Yeerk who is single-handedly taking out more Controllers than they ever have. Their main priority, however, is still to rescue Rachel and Ax. Fenestre agrees to hand them over and to remain in his mansion forever. Jake warns that if they ever catch him outside of it, they will kill him.

The story ends with the mansion mysteriously burning down days later, though Fenestre does escape alive. Jake doesn’t admit whether this was him, Cassie, or just a happy coincidence that Fenestre is now out in the world again, free to be hunted by them and Visser Three.

Our Fearless Leader: Poor Jake. In all of the other books, we see him as a strong, competent leader who for the most part always makes the right decisions when he needs to. Then we get to his books. And, importantly, we see that these decisions are painful and difficult for him. And, worse, his stories are always the ones where those plans just don’t work so well.

In this book, we got another good look into Jake’s mindset of what it means to be leader and have to make big decisions. We also saw his thought process for what it means in the smaller moments. On the way back from breaking into the tech center, Cassie tells him that it is alright to be afraid and to change the plan from morphing flies due to his near death experience. He ends up getting fairly mad at her saying that the others don’t want him to be the leader who lets them know that it’s ok to be afraid and make different decisions based on that fear. He needs to be the leader that shows that you can push through fear and move forward. He rightly points out that if he began changing missions based on fears, as a group, they would rack up such a list of things that they all had legitimate reasons to fear doing, that they would essentially paralize themselves.

It’s a good moment showing both the thought that Jake has put into his own view of leadership, and showing the weaknesses of Cassie’s view of life. Her empathy is a major strength for the team, but here, we see that her approach is not always right, and Jake fairly harshly calls her out on it.

The last scene where Jake must make a decision about what to do with Fenestre is probably one of the more ethically heavy decision points we’ve seen in the series (the other big one probably being in “The Andalite Chronicles” when they debated flushing the pool of Yeerks into space). As we see with Jake’s ultimate decision, he is beginning to walk down the harsh, but pragmatic, path that many war-time leaders find themselves on. This is good foreshadowing for the Jake we see in the end of the series.

Xena, Warriar Princess: Rachel and Tobias as a pair are the most skeptical of the Yeerk website, both believing it to be a trap and not likely real allies in their fight. Not sure what this says about them both. Other than that, Rachel spends almost the entire last third of the story knocked out as a bald eagle.

A Hawk’s Life: Tobias, as well, is skeptical of the website. This seems pretty in-line with his general less trusting outlook on humanity. He’s the most dedicated to the fight, but he’s the least likely to expect help along the way. I think this makes a lot of sense considering the way he grew up with an aunt and uncle who didn’t care for him at all. Tobias is also probably the most upset when Ax and Rachel are trapped. It’s his best friend and his quasi girlfriend, so this reads true.

Peace, Love, and Animals: In this book, we really see the different perspectives that Jake and Cassie bring to the group. Their conversation about what it means to be a leader was very enlightening both for her own perspective, and, more importantly, to hear Jake’s thoughts on the matter. Further, we see the role of support that Cassie provides Jake. Jake clearly trusts Cassie’s read of people and situations.

However. Towards the end where they learn what Fenestre has been up to, and the fact that the human hosts don’t survive the “extraction” process of the Yeerks from their heads, Cassie goes a bit crazy and tries to attack him. And then the real problems start. She doesn’t agree with the idea of letting him continue, and would obviously rather he die, even if this goes against her general philosophy. This exchange between Jake and her follows:

<What do you expect me to do?> I asked her. <You want to get rid of this
man because he’s evil? Do you want to do it yourself, Cassie?>
<You . . . your morph would do It better,> she said.
<You want me to get rid of him for you?> I asked. <That’s what you want?>

And again! Again I lose all respect for Cassie! Whether I agree with her convictions or not (in this case, she definitely not wrong, though there’s also no right answer here), the fact that she uses the excuse of Jake’s tiger morph “doing it better” to kill this guy rather than bloodying her own hands for her convictions just pisses me off. She’s essentially wanting to dictate the tough choice but make someone else do the dirty work for what that would really mean. It just reads as cowardly and selfish to me. I’d like to think that she burned down the mansion in the end, as a way for making up for this truly horrible moment.

In the end of the book, I did like the fact that she’s the only one who still thought of the boy in the chatroom with the Controller father. She goes to his house in wolf morph and tells him that he can’t trust his father anymore. And this is terrible and soul crushing for her to do, basically taking this child’s faith in his parent away from him to protect him. Another good redeeming moment for her.

But still.

The Comic Relief: At one point, Marco and Jake have a conversation about whether or not they would be able to transition back into “real life” if the war suddenly ended tomorrow. Jake is adamant that this is possible. But Marco, ever the pragmatist, is doubtful that anyone of them could live a normal life after experiencing all they have. And they’re not even halfway through their whole ordeal! It’s even more sad that Jake insists that he could be a “normal boy” again in a book where we’re really beginning to see the toll that leadership is taking on him. The Jake from book 1 would have never imagined leaving a Yeerk Controller alive who is killing human hosts just because he’s also killing off hundreds of Yeerks as well.

E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax plays a crucial role early in the book with his alien tech skillz. Right when the book started and Jake was searching the Internet for the word “Yeerk,” modern-day me was like “No!!!! They can track that!!” But in the very next scene they discuss taking precautions to mask their presence when searching around the chat room and website, and Ax is able to quickly do this. There are a lot of jabs doled out between him and Marco about the backwards earthlings and their rudimentary technology. And then in the last part of the book, he, too, is trapped and missing for most of it.

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: Jake swatted as a fly! We’ve had a few near-death experiences so far, but the description of just how bad Jake’s situation is…it’s bad. The other Animorphs are literally discussing how to best “scoop” up the remains of his body. As they’re flying away, legs that they are carrying are falling off. They’re concerned that they left behind to much of his body for him to demorph. It’s just terrible.

Couples Watch!: Not a whole lot for either couple. Jake has some good conversations with Cassie, though they are more representative of the different perspectives they each represent in the group than having to do with their relationship. Marco sends a fake message to Jake from “Cassie” in the opening scene which Jake responds to with a funny put-down that he can’t date until his friend Marco gets a girlfriend, which they both know will never happen, so “Cassie” will just have to live with disappointment

However! Jake is with me on the interesting relationship between Marco and Rachel!

Marco and Rachel have a strange sort of relationship. I haven’t figured out whether they pretend they can’t stand each other but secretly like and admire each other, or if they really just can’t stand each other.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: Of course Visser Three is the evil twin! And of course he’s been a total ass to his lesser Yeerk brother this entire time. And then of course once the guy gets even a little taste of success Visser Three decides that it’s best to just kill the guy off all told. Not that this brother is really a joy either, but it does seem that he is largely a product of his circumstances. He also claims that he is in some type of partnership with his host body, which is something Visser Three would never even contemplate.

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: There weren’t any overtly tragic moments in this book. But this does feel like the beginning of the end for Jake’s ability to exist outside of his leadership role. He has to make so many very tough decisions in this book. His view of leadership, the fact that he can’t really allow himself to even have human emotions, is so sad. And then to see him slowly start down some highly ethically questionable paths…Marco is more right than he knows: none of them can go back, least of all Jake.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: This whole section exists because of the group’s predisposition for not really planning at all. And here we see the results that, statistically, should probably be more common than we see. They did virtually no scouting of the mansion, and then when they tried to infiltrate it through one of the most obvious routes (the window) things go downhill pretty much immediately. They only escape through sheer luck based on Fenestre having very different goals than almost any other Yeerk Controller who could have been holed up there.

Favorite Quote:

“A ‘mix of truth and lies’ is like the definition of the Internet,” Rachel said. “Equal parts reality and delusion.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Scorecard: Yeerks 3, Animorphs 7

No score. Not a huge impact either way with this one.

Rating: I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t remember hardly anything about it, but it’s a great combination of funny moments (even more than there were originally with the dated stuff), action scenes (the rhino part is great), and a good introspection into Jake’s philosophy on leadership and where he is headed as a character.

Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!

Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.4): Queens”

35500613Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.4): Queens” by Marguerite Bennett, Laura Braga (Ill.), Mirka Andolfo (Ill.), and Marguerite Sauvage (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The explosive creative team of writer Marguerite Bennett (BATWOMAN) and artists including Laura Braga (Witchblade), Mirka Andolfo (Ms. Marvel) and Marguerite Sauvage (Faith) bring an all-new chapter in the acclaimed alternate-history saga inspired by the hit DC Collectibles in DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 4: QUEENS.

Technology and terror form an unholy alliance in a world at war, and only the heroines known as the Bombshells can shut it down!

As World War II rages around them, Batwoman, Catwoman and Renee Montoya take a journey to Africa to get help from an old ally: Vixen, Queen of Zambesi and co-founder of the Bombshells.

But they’re not alone. The lethal Cheetah has her claws out, and she’s digging them directly into a forbidden site: the dwelling place of the mechanical gods, whose incredible powers could spell triumph for the Reich and the destruction of all that the Bombshells hold dear.

Now Vixen, her fellow Bombshells founder Hawkgirl and the rest of the squadron must face their biggest threat yet! Can this brilliant but beleaguered African queen count on the support of a fellow royal-Wonder Woman-to turn the tide?

Find out in DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 4: QUEENS. This volume contains the debuts of Vixen and Hawkgirl-and the secret origin of the Bombshells! Collecting issues #19-24.

Review: As you all know, I really really REALLY love the “DC Bombshells” series because damn does it give my favorite superheroines something to do. There is something so organically feminist about this series, and it keeps the thrills, action, humor, and pathos balanced out expertly. Seeing some of the best and brightest DC ladies at the forefront is a delight, and whenever a new one comes out I can’t wait to read it. We are now on Volume 4, and after an action packed Volume 3 in which the Nazis were dealt a severe blow by our Bombshells, we’ve moved the action to North Africa and been introduced to Vixen and Hawkgirl! Also mechanical animals and Cheetah, aka the woman who killed Batgirl and Renee’s adopted son Jacon!

I sometimes get worried when new characters get brought into the fold in comics, especially since sometimes I have a hard time keeping track of characters as it is. But with “Bombshells” I am always excited to see which classic heroines will show up next and in what capacity, and Vixen and Hawkgirl were no exception. Vixen (aka Mari) was especially great, as we got to see her stand up to Hitler and steal his dog Blondie, as well as see her in a position of power as the Queen of Zambesi. She and Hawkgirl (who is delightfully tech minded and a very clever inventor) also helped found The Bombshells, so we got to see them interact with the team they created, as well as interact with each other as confidants, partners, and lovers. I think that ultimately the relationships between the women in these stories are the strongest parts of them, and these two fit right in in that regard. I liked seeing more interaction and background between Kate (aka Batgirl) and Renee as they faced their past relationship and the death of Jacon, but I have to admit that I’m kind of not digging the fact that Kate seems to have completely forgotten about Maggie back on the home front. Sure, Batwoman and Renee Montoya have a shared past and a shared pain, but Maggie is Kate’s present.

Speaking of Maggie, we got a fun story back on the homefront with the Batgirls again. I had thought that they were going to be a one-off story, seeing as so much is going on with the Bombshells in Europe, but I really liked seeing them and Lois get some more time to shine. I think that my favorite aspect of it is the way that their presence is handling some familiar storylines. And with that, I give you a


I think I mentioned that Harvey (eventually Two Face) Dent was in the previous Batgirls storyline as a mayor who was promoting an “America First” agenda. Well, he eventually got over that and had become an ally to the Batgirls, with self reflection and redemption on the mind. But given that Harvey really does have to turn into Two Face, I braced myself for it, and indeed, it does happen in this collection (won’t say how, but it does). Ever since I read the classic “Long Halloween” story arc, I’ve felt so incredibly bad for Two Face and the road that he takes, and I was worried that it was going to happen here as well. After all, Batman couldn’t help him in that universe, so my hope was slim. But in this one….. he doesn’t take the road to villainy, at least he hasn’t yet. Because while yes, he’s been horrifically scarred and has had something of a fall from grace, The Batgirls have done what Batman never could: they have rallied around him and affirmed that he is still Harvey Dent, imperfect but trying to be better Harvey Dent, and that they are going to support him and be there for him. And it seems that because of this, he’s MAYBE going to stay on the side of good, and remain their ally and friend. Cheesy? Maybe. But I think that it’s also a testament to the power of empathy and understanding towards those who have experienced trauma, something that Batman just couldn’t ever pull off the way that a bunch of awesome ladies can. The last panel of the Batgirls embracing him got me like

I have so many feels. (source)

But all that said, I was a bit disappointed seeing that the big problem to overcome this time around was a group of mechanized animals from another planet. I liked the Zambesi setting to be certain, but it felt like a whole lot more conflict crammed into a story that is already rife with conflict. Plus, given that it’s more ‘Nazis want to get their hands on otherwordly weaponry’ stuff, it kind of feels like more of the same. The good news is that we get a couple returns here, including Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, and Supergirl, all of whom I dearly missed in the last collection. I just wish that we could have seen more Wonder Woman and Supergirl (seriously, Kara was barely in this), before the last fourth of the book.

So while this is the weakest “Bombshells” collection for me so far, it’s still incredibly strong and I can’t wait for the next one. And I think I only have to wait a little while longer for that!! “DC Bombshells”, you still got it!

Rating 8: While I enjoyed the new characters quite a bit and the Batgirls story was heartwarming, I wasn’t totally sold on mechanical animal fights, and wish that Wonder Woman and Supergirl had been in it more.

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.4): Queens” isn’t on many Goodreads list at this time. But it is included on “Graphic Novels Featuring LGBTQ Themes”, and would fit in on “Female Power Comics”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.4): Queens” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “DC Bombshells (Vol 1): Enlisted!”, and “DC Bombshells (Vol 2): Allies”, and “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising”.

Serena’s Review: “River of Teeth”

31445891Book: “River of Teeth” by Sarah Gailey

Publishing Info: Tom Doherty Associates, May 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Book Description: In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Review: The fact that this novella is based on a true consideration undertaken by the U.S government, importing hippos to the U.S. to be used alongside cows in meat production, was all it took to land it on my TBR list. The fact that the cover features several characters riding hippos moved it quickly to the top.


And if the finished result wasn’t all I had hoped it could be, there’s still no denying the pure fun that is delivered with such a unique concept as hippo-riding outlaws!

First for the parts I did enjoy. As I said, the pure genius of this concept is spot on. I mean, who knew about the late, great hippo plan? If anything, this proves that the U.S. government was just as capable of thinking up ridiculous plans back in our earlier days as country as it seems to be now! But Gailey doesn’t just rest the historical wackiness of this plan, she brilliantly conceptulizes what this plan would have looked like if implemented.

The Louisiana territory is largely converted to extensive marshland, as hippos can only travel so far out of water. Various breeds of hippos have emerged, beyond the ones simply raised for meat. Some are faster than others, some larger, some more capable of managing longer distances on dry land. They are imagined to be a combination of a horse and a cow: close traveling companion in some cases, purely a form of meat production in another.

But, let’s not forget, hippos are very much NOT cows. They are strong, faster than they look, and fully capable of enacting their tempers on poor, unaware people who may get in their way. And, like all good plans, the great hippo importation quickly got out of control in this case, leaving wide range of the Mississippi river chocked up by an out-of-control feral hippo population, one that the notorious riverboat crime lord, Mr. Travers, has fully made use of to create his own scary, little kingdom.

Enter our heroes, tasked with a government funded mission to clear out the feral hippo population, once again opening up the river to commercial traffic. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Travers is not on board with this plan.

As I’ve said, the setting and creative use of the hippos was spot on in this story. So, too, the pacing is strong, reading like a charming classic Western adventure story, but with hippos. It’s easy to see these influences play out in many scenes, and in many ways the writing reads like a screenplay for what would surely be a super cool TV mini series.

But this strength is also a weakness. It almost reads too much like a screen play with a few beats hitting just slightly off target. There are moments when the dialogue veers a tad too close to the cheesy, and the descriptions could also seem pedestrian at times, lacking the detail and cohesion.

Which leaves us with our cast of characters. And there are many. We have the leader of our little troop, a man with a dark past tied up with Mr. Travers. A con woman. An assassin. A poisoner/munitions expert. And a man who knows the Mississippi region like the back of his hand. This is a lot of characters, all with big personalities, to be jammed into a short novella that also has a lot of story to tell. Characters would come and go so quickly that the fates that awaited them never really struck any chord. See you later, I barely knew you, I guess?

Further, Bailey attempts to right in a romantic story line, as well. And while I applaud her for her representation of this couple, their romance feels rushed to the point of unbelievability. And, in many ways, this relationship is used as a driving force for the decision-making of several of our characters, which just plays all the weaker for being given so little time to develop.

So, while I loved the conceptualization and adventure of this story, I was left wanting in a few areas. The writing style seemed to slip at points, and the numerous characters often overwhelmed any attachment I could develop for any single one, leaving some of the more important story beats to land flat. However, being a novell, this is a low stakes read, time-wise, so if you’re looking for a fun, quick adventure story unlike any other you’ve probably come across, I’d still recommend checking out “River of Teeth.”

Rating 6: An overwhelmingly large cast and some writing slips prevented me from fully committing to the Western adventure romp.

Reader’s Advisory:

“River of Teeth” is still relatively new and is on only one relevant Goodreads list “Alternate History in 2017.”

Find “River of Teeth” at your library using WorldCat


Kate’s Review: “The Last Days of Jack Sparks”

28765598Book: “The Last Days of Jack Sparks” by Jason Arnopp

Publishing Info: Orbit, March 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.

In 2014, Jack Sparks – the controversial pop culture journalist – died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours.

Review: I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I don’t find stories about demonic possession particularly scary. I think that there are certainly elements to them that can be creepy, but movies like “The Exorcist” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, while well done, don’t get my fear levels on the rise. The book “A Head Full of Ghosts” is probably my favorite exorcism related book, but even that one is filled with ambiguities instead of solid fact and over the top devilry. And then there is, of course, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”, but that one is in it’s own little category since it’s so 80s candy coated and about the power of female friendship. So when I picked up “The Last Days of Jack Sparks”, I figured that it would at the very least be entertaining. Little did I know that I was going to be basically freaking out on an airplane while reading this book. And then once again while walking down a dark hallway at two in the morning days after the fact. Yep. “The Last Days of Jack Sparks” has sufficiently messed me up, y’all.


This story is built on the premise that notorious journalist Jack Sparks died while working on a new book, and that we are reading his writings around the time of his strange death. So right out the gate, we’re pretty certain that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Sparks is an established addict, narcissist, and sanctimonious prick, so having him as a narrator is maddening but also absolutely perfect. It’s made even better because throughout the book we are also given other perspectives from those that he interacts with, in footnotes from Sparks’ brother Alistair, transcripts of conversations, and personal diary entries. The moment that I realized that I really couldn’t trust anything that ANYONE was saying, it blew my mind. This set up made it all the more paranoia inducing, as I really didn’t know what to believe from anyone involved. It also made it so that clues that were given throughout the story could harken back in multiple formats and through multiple lenses, and seeing the puzzle pieces come together in different layers was mind boggling for me.

Sparks himself is a fabulous component to the story. Yes, he’s absolutely terrible for much of the narrative, as an egomaniacal, pretentious and abusive liar, but as he slowly starts to fall apart you see the other parts of him bit by bit, which makes him feel all the more human and relatable. I went in thinking that I was going to be just fine with him getting his comeuppance, but as he becomes more desperate and as his identities fall away I ended up being really attached him him, as rotten as he can be at times. I also liked other characters in this book, specifically Sherilyn Chastain, a combat magician who Sparks sort of teams up with on one of her cases involving a houseboat haunting in Hong Kong. She not only provided a centered and badass female voice in all of this, she was also a way for Arnopp to really delve into some deep philosophy about faith, belief, and the supernatural. While some of the other characters felt a little trope-y, such as Sparks’ love interest/flatmate Bex with her cool girl persona, I did feel that Arnopp had a place for each and every one of them.

And finally, this book is pretty darn scary. This is coming from a self professed snob when it comes to demon possession stories. I think that this one had a lot of other factors within it that made it feel unique from the others in the genre, and given that it also bent genres a bit into some science fiction principles it felt all the more creative. The imagery of a dark apartment with a silhouette in the corner is always going to set me on edge, and Arnopp really knows how to make this scenario complete and total nightmare fuel. His use of social media like youtube and twitter and things like that really gave it a modern horror flair as well, as while I was skeptical at him just describing a video would be scary, I was totally wrong. It was terrifying, especially since it totally sounded like one of those weird unexplained viral horror videos that pop up occasionally. I also really liked, and perhaps this is a bit spoilery so tread carefully, that the entire premise of this book is that the Devil (or whatever demon Sparks is dealing with) really hates having the spotlight taken off of him/it when on a serious dramatic tear.

Come on, Pazuzu, share the attention. (source)

“The Last Days of Jack Sparks” was a freaky and fun read that I cannot recommend enough. If it can make this skeptic towards the genre cheer, think of what it can do for those of you who always love your possession stories.

Rating 9: A tense, creepy, disturbing, and fresh feeling horror novel for the social media age. It had me on the edge of my seat and I think that it’s must read for horror fans.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Last Days of Jack Sparks” is included on the Goodreads lists “Unconventional, Seductive, Intelligent, and Dizzyingly Surreal”, and “Terrifying Tearjerkers”.

Find “The Last Days of Jack Sparks” at your library using WorldCat!

Movie Review: “It” (2017)

As much as we like books, sometimes we like to check out the movie world as well. And perhaps you thought that this had fallen to the wayside, this movie review thing. Well, not anymore, as how could Kate pass up the chance to talk about one of her favorite horror novels and the movie that took it on. Today Kate reviews “It” with a special guest host, her friend Laura. We talk about our history with the book and Stephen King in general, the propensity for strange tween girls to binge on his stories, and the differences between the movie, the miniseries, and the book that they both took their inspiration from (all while I positioned the camera awkwardly. My bad!). Stay tuned until the end to see our book recommendations if you liked the movie (titles also listed below).

Laura’s Recommendations:

17406545“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill




25533076“Hex” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt




Kate’s Recommendations:

54607“Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury




9897624“Summer of Night” by Dan Simmons

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