Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2017: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And don’t forget to check out our “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway that may even features a few books from these very same lists! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, five to 1. 

23909755Pick Number 5: “City of Blades” by Robert Jackson Bennett

“City of Blades” Review

This is the special snowflake of a pick because it’s the middle book of a trilogy. And that’s when you know you have something special. Without the crutches of introducing a new world or wrapping up a complete series, a middle story must stand on its own. “City of Blades” capitalizes in all of the strengths of world-building and creative magic systems given to us in the first book. But it expands on them with a deep look at the cost of war and what it means to be a solider. Add to that the fact that we have a middle aged veteran woman as the leading lady who turns into my favorite character in the entire series, and “City of Blades” is a must for this list.

32718027Pick Number 4: “City of Brass” by S. A. Chakraborty

“City of Brass” Review

“The City of Brass” has been compared to “The Golem and the Jinni,” and as someone who loved the latter, it’s quite something for me to now report that this book is even better! Especially for those looking for more magic, more action, and more complicated political and religious maneuverings ala “Game of Thrones.” I completely loved the lush descriptions of the cities (both real and magical) in the historical Middle East, as well as the brilliantly-drawn characters each exposing a new, and deeper, version of a history that is still playing out as the story progresses. I love books where I can’t decide who is right or really have any clue how this whole mess will be resolved.

31817749Pick Number 3: “The Broken Earth” trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

“The Fifth Season” Review
“The Obelisk Gate” Review
“The Stone Sky” Review

The first of what, as you will see, is a cheaty pattern of mine in these reviews: the entire series pick! But really, it’s just a way of saving you all from hearing me blather on about multiple books in a series/by an author over and over again as they fill up the entire list. But especially in this case, I feel justified. In many ways, this trilogy reads as one long book that has simply been cut into three parts. If you had the wrist strength, you could mash all the books together and read it that way and probably not notice a thing. The story takes places in a diverse world where power and privilege don’t necessarily go hand in hand, where one woman unwilling finds herself in a battle for the future, with allies who were enemies and an enemy who may too have been a victim in its own time. These books are winning all the awards and they are all deserved.

34050917Pick Number 2: “The Bear and the Nightingale” & “The Girl in the Tower” by Katherine Arden

“The Girl in the Tower” Review
“The Bear and the Nightingale” Review

It’s hard to believe that “The Bear and the Nightingale” technically came out in 2017, but it did, thus dooming me to a second (but not last) multiple-book-entry. But really, how can you ask me to choose? With both of these books, I absolutely adored the beautiful fairytale-like quality of the storytelling, the unique setting of Medieval Russia, and the haunting story of a young woman who doesn’t fit into the role the world wants of her. The first book was dark, quiet, and dangerous like a winter’s night. The second was moving, pushing, willing itself forward and through,like its young protagonist and her magical horse. They are both exquisite reads and I confident that the third book will make its way on next year’s list as well.

29939230Pick Number 1: “Shades of Magic” trilogy by V. E. Schwab

“A Darker Shade of Magic” Review
“A Gathering of Shadows” Review
A Conjuring of Light” Review

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up the first book in this trilogy! And while I have tons of side-eye for my past self’s decision making process, I also was lucky enough to blow through the first two books in this trilogy mere weeks before the third, so that dreaded cliffhanger was barely a blip for me. This trilogy had everything I could ever ask for: action, magic, world-hopping, romance, an awesome hero and an even more awesome heroine. Lila Bard is everything. Just typing out this mini synopsis is making me hanker for a re-read; maybe this will be my late Christmas present to myself! Gift yourself as well and check these books out immediately!

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2017?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2017: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And don’t forget to check out our “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway that may even features a few books from these very same lists! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, five to one.

32075671Pick Number 5: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Goodreads Page

Another book that I didn’t review on the blog, though I kind wish that I had, because “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas absolutely lives up to all the hype it has. Thomas tackles the all too common issue of systemic oppression and racism against black people in this country, specifically within police departments. It tells the story of Star, a black girl who was in the car when her childhood friend Khalil was shot to death by a police officer even though he was unarmed. As his death makes headlines, Star starts to feel the pressures of being a witness, the pressures of having to straddle her home life and her (predominantly white) private school life, and the pressures of loss and trauma. This book is necessary, incendiary, and a MUST READ.

28765598Pick Number 4: “The Last Days of Jack Sparks” by Jason Arnopp

“The Last Days of Jack Sparks” Review

It’s been a few months and this scary as hell demonic possession story is still sticking with me! The sheer creativity of this book made it one of the scariest books I read this year, along with one of the most complex and compelling main characters I’ve read in a horror novel. Jack Sparks is a son of a bitch, but I was fully invested in him and his well being after strange things start happening after he laughs during the exorcism of a teenage girl in Italy. This book ratchets up the ‘unreliable narrator’ device, and the hints and pieces fall into place to create a truly scary, and breathtaking, story.

29069374Pick Number 3: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” by Emil Ferris

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” Review

This powerful and gorgeous graphic novel left me with my jaw agape at the details, the characters, and the mystery. This coming of age story set in 1960s Chicago was a graphic novel that left a serious mark on me, exploring racism, budding sexuality, prejudice through the eyes of a strange and precocious child named Karen, who really loves and fancies herself as a monster. This book is the pages in her sketchbook and diary, with vibrant and flawless designs. This is just part one, and I cannot wait to see part two, as Karen is so excellent and so genuine, and her need to solve the mystery of her murdered neighbor lets her escape her own tumultuous life. This book is so good and is a prime example of how we have entered a new golden age for graphic novels.

17404078Pick Number Two: “The Disaster Artist” by Greg Sestero

“The Disaster Artist” Review

I will admit that I was kind of surprised that this wacky, strange, and hilarious memoir made it this high up on my list this year, but “The Disaster Artist” was the most fun I had reading a book in 2017. The odd and outlandish story of the making of “The Room” and it’s eccentric and sometimes deranged creator Tommy Wiseau had me laughing hysterically as I listened to it, and it shed a light on some of the more ridiculous things about the Hollywood dream and how far people will go to get it. Greg Sestero chronicles the oddball process of making this terrible movie, but also tells a bittersweet, and sometimes quite upsetting, tale of a friendship that is ride or die, for better or for worse.

32920226Pick Number One: “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward

Review of “Sing, Unburied, Sing”

Jessmyn Ward has done it again with her newest book, “Sing, Unburied, Sing”, and I loved every bit of it. Part family saga, part ghost story, part road story, this book examines the effects of lingering racism and violence in a post Jim Crow American South. Jojo and Kayla have been raised by their grandparents, as their father Michael is in prison and their mother Leonie is an addict. But when Michael is released, Leonie is determined to reunite the family, taking her children on a road trip up to pick him out. Leonie is tormented with visions of her dead brother, but only when she’s high, though Jojo has seemingly inherited the full gift, as he starts seeing the ghost of a dead boy who was the victim of racial violence decades before. This book absolutely blew me away with it’s beauty, it’s power, and it’s dissection of Americana and it’s values.

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2017?

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2017: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And don’t forget to check out our “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway that may even features a few books from these very same lists! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

33574143Pick Number 10: “The Beautiful Ones” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“The Beautiful Ones” Review

This book was the perfect read at the perfect time. Featuring a compelling mix of Regency romance ala “Jane Austen, magical mysticism, and a compelling look at the limited options presented to women in this time period and how two women’s opposing approaches to life lead to vastly different outcomes, this was a complexly simple and beautiful love story. Not only did I get a main character whom I loved to love, but I had a villain whom I loved to hate. And while I was busy hating her, I also couldn’t help but feel sorry for and understand her. The romantic hero was also both frustrating and appealingly realistic. For fans of historical romance with a dash of fantasy fun, definitely check this one out!

30969741Pick Number 9: “An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson

“An Enchantment of Ravens” Review

For a book that I picked up simply based on its beautiful cover, this one blew me away. It’s as if the author knew my own person “wishlist” for fantasy fiction. Fairytale-ish setting? Check. Dark fairies/fairyland? Check. Charmingly arrogant/clueless leading man? Check. Brave, feisty, but non “snowflake” heroine? Check. Added bonus: a standalone novel that is free from the worry that somehow a perfect story will be screwed with sequels or the author will feel the bizarre compulsion to add a needless love triangle later in a series. And still, that cover!

29522966Pick Number 8: “The Beast is an Animal” by Peternelle van Arsdale

“The Beast is an Animal” Review

On the other end of the spectrum from last two picks which were bright, and happy, and complete wish fulfillment, “The Beast is an Animal” was a dark, disturbing, and at times very hard to read story. It, too, has fairytale-like themes, but ones that much more closely aligned with the very grim and morbid themes that can be found in original fairytales. But don’t let this scare you off. Not only is the writing absolutely beautiful, but this book has a lot to say about Otherness, that which we create in ourselves and that which is created for us against our will by those outside as a form of self-protection.

29939037Pick Number 7: “Skullsworn” by Brian Staveley

“Skullsworn” Review

Brian Staveley is the first repeat Top 10 author for me on this list, and there’s a good reason. His boundlessly creative fantasy world building is beaten only be his engaging characters. “Skullsworn” had the even trickier job of existing as a standalone novel set before his fantasy trilogy featuring a character who played a role (though didn’t star) in said fantasy trilogy. To all of this, he tackles complicated concepts like love, life, and faith, all through the lens of individuals whose religion’s focus is death. And man, that sounds grim, and yet I found myself routinely cackling and wanting to quote bits of dialogue out loud to my captive-audience-husband.

22817331Pick Number 6: “Now I Rise” by Kiersten White

“Now I Rise” Review

Another repeat! In fact, I think that White and Stavely simply swapped places on this list. “Now I Rise” continued the epic saga of White’s reimaging of the rise (and fall?) of Vlad the Impaler given the twist of turning Vlad into Lada, an equally troubled and powerful young woman who seeks to reclaim her homeland, regardless of others’ opinions on her abilities due to her gender. In this sequel, we also have Radu who is sent to the soon-to-be besieged city of Constantinople where he learns that there are never any winners in a war, and that his beloved Mehmed may be willing to pay a price that he, Radu, is not.

So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2016?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2017: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And don’t forget to check out our “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway that may even features a few books from these very same lists! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

30292413Pick Number 10: “The Call” by Peadar Ó Guilín

“The Call” Review

This was one of the first books I reviewed in 2017 and it managed to hold on for an entire year! This scary and creative book about killer faeries and the teenagers that have to outwit and outrun them, or die, was a great read for this horror fan. Not only did it take a kind of tried and true trope of ‘teens going into a deadly challenge’ and give it a new twist, it also featured Nessa, a fierce protagonist who is also a Polio survivor. A main character with a disability isn’t something you see every day, so that was an added bonus to an already stellar dark fantasy.

29936927Pick Number 9: “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui

“The Best We Could Do” Review

This moving and deeply personal graphic memoir is a beautiful and haunting family history. Thi Bui mostly grew up in the United States, but she was born in Vietnam. Her family fled after the end of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon, and her graphic memoir was one of the most powerful reads of the year. A narrative that still remains relevant and timely given the current Administration’s anti-Immigrant policies, this is a must-read for anyone and everyone. It’s also a great introduction to the graphic memoir, as the story is easy to connect to and the story sucks you in.

20179777Pick Number 8: “Holding The Man” by Timothy Conigrave

Goodreads Page

Okay, this is one of the books on my end of year list that didn’t make it to the blog. But I would be remiss if I were to leave the lovely, honest, and devastating memoir “Holding The Man” off of it. Timothy Conigrave and his boyfriend John met when they were teenagers and fell in love, but their romance was cut short when they were both diagnosed with HIV during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. This memoir is Conigrave’s tribute to their love, and a memorial to the love of his life. Sadly, it was also the last thing he wrote, as he died shortly after its publication. This book had me sobbing my eyes out as I read it, but if you can get your hands on it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you do. Just…. bring tissues.

34066621Pick Number 7: “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

Review of “Strange Weather”

But of course Joe Hill was going to make this list! His collection of novellas was a wonderful way to pass the time on a sick day, and his four very separate and very well done visions were excellent tales of the strange and unsettling. Short story collections are usually pretty hit or miss for me, but “Snapshot”, “Loaded”, “Aloft”, and “Rain” were all stories that sucked me in and had deep effects on me. Hill does a great job balancing the disturbing themes with the gentle whimsy of others, and his streak of being one of my favorite authors was just reiterated with this collection in 2017.

31624824Pick Number 6: “DC Bombshells (Vol. 3): Uprising”

Review of “DC Bombshells (Vol. 3): Uprising”

Strong women in comic books is pretty much my jam, and DC Comics really has a heavy hitter with it’s “DC Bombshells” series. Over and over and OVER I have greatly enjoyed the alternate WWII history starring all of DC’s best ladies, and “Uprising” has been the best contribution so far. Not only does it have a bunch of great chicks kicking Nazi Ass, it also has a lot of well rounded versions of Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, and many, many others. And let me tell you, given the recent rise in Nazis and Nazi Sympathizers in the collective consciousness and current events, the satisfaction of seeing these women kick their asses is pristine as hell.

Ten through six down, next time I’ll take on five through one. What have been some of your favorite reads this year? Let us know in the comments!

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Happy holidays fellow book lovers! And in honor of this time of year when presents  giving is everything, we’re hosting a “12 Days of Christmas” Giveaway. But, tricky us, it’s actually two giveaways, each comprising of six books from our preferred genres. Read on to see what books are included in each prize package and enter for your chance to win! Both giveaways are open to U.S. residents only and end on January 5.

Serena’s Prize Package

“An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson (My review)

“Jane, Unlimited” by Kristin Cashore (Goodreads)

“The Girl in the Tower” by Katherine Arden (My review)

“Murder, Magic, and What We Wore” by Kelly Jones (Goodreads)

“The Clairvoyants” by Karen Brown (Goodreads)

“The Fifth Petal” by Brunonia Barry (My review)

Click here to enter!

Kate’s Prize Package

“The Roanoke Girls” by Amy Engel (My Review)

“Into The Water” by Paula Hawkins (My Review)

“The Haunted” by Bentley Little (Goodreads)

“The Girl Before” by J.P. Delaney (Goodreads)

“Conversion” by Katherine Howe (My Review)

“The Pilo Family Circus” by Will Elliot (Goodreads)

Click Here To Enter!

We wish you the best of luck, and hope that you are having a happy and healthy holiday season!!!

Serena’s Review: “The Space Between the Stars”

30981910Book: “The Space Between the Stars” by Anne Corlett

Publishing Info: Pan Macmillan , June 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

Review: It’s been a while since I’ve read and reviewed a sci-fi novel for the blog, so when I was looking for what to pick up next, I decided that now was a good time to fit this book into the reading list. Unfortunately, what I got was less sci-fi and more interpersonal drama, of the kind that I don’t particularly enjoy.

Looking at the book description, there were several things that intrigued me with this story. Not only is this set on another world in a time when space exploration and colonization is fairly common place, but the author throws in a nice humanity-ending virus to the works. I love survival stories, the more extreme the better. And how do you get more “out there” than strand your protagonist on a world light-years away, potentially the only one alive on this planet and with no way of contacting Earth? So, you see, the premise was awesome.

And the story starts out upholding this premise. We jump right into the action with Jamie waking up, alone, sick and confused. Even more creepy, the disease that she has survived kills its victims by essentially incinerating them. All around her is floating the dust of her peers, all that remains of them. Unfortunately, the story goes off the rails almost right away.

In only a matter of pages Jamie meets up with a few other survivors on her planet, something that seems statistically bizarre. There is a lot of detail about the rates of survival at the beginning to really show how deadly this disease was supposed to be, but then it’s immediately undercut by the fact that Jaime finds others quickly and easily. They all simply meet up in town. And, look at that, in a few days they also get a call from a passing ship and they meet up with a handful of other survivors and are off the planet in only a few chapters.  So, nope on the “sole survivor” bit of this story!

Things like this always just frustrate the hell out of me. Part of it was a marketing failure for this book. My expectations weren’t properly managed so I went in expecting one thing and got another. But then the author also actively misleads readers in the first few pages with all the discussion about how deadly this virus is and the fear that Jamie lives with for the first few days (few pages) when she thinks she’s alone and the odds aren’t in her favor. But, of course, the odds mean nothing.

From here, the story shows its cards for what the author was really wanting to write: a character study for Jamie as she deals with the past trauma of her divorce and a miscarriage (all happening several years ago and which she was fleeing when she moved to a planet on the edge of the galaxy). And, while this isn’t the type of story that I typically enjoy, I might have been able to get on board if Jamie herself hadn’t been such an incredibly unlikable character.

She spends much of her time feelings sorry for herself, contradicting her own thought processes, and going off on the other survivors around her. The plot conveniences are sprinkled throughout to further fan the flames of her inner struggles. The other characters who surround her are perfectly primed to present Jamie with worldviews and opinions that challenge her own. But none of this leads to any deeper reflection on being the survivors in a depleted universe, but instead present opportunities for Jamie to come across as judgemental and hypocritical. And most of all, self-involved. She’s the main character, so yes the story is her story. But this is a main character who thinks she’s the main character or something. It’s all about her feelings, her pain, her loss, all the time.

Beyond this, her decisions and opinions were all over the place. In one chapter she’s condemning a character for not doing something, and in the next she’s getting in their face for doing that same thing and risking them all. These types of inconsistencies only made Jamie a harder character with whom to sympathize.

It became abundantly clear that the author was wanting to write a “women’s fiction” book and added space because…? I’m not sure? This book could have taken place on any location on Earth, separated by a continent or something, and Jaime could have gone through the same emotional path elsewhere. The fact that there were sci-fi moments sprinkled here and there only made it more challenging when the book again dove into Jamie’s inner arc.

There were a few interesting side characters who accompanied Jamie on this journey, but, again, all they did was make me wish to follow their stories instead of the one I had. So, in conclusion, this book mostly did a good job making me wish it was a completely different book. One that more closely followed the book description and marketing it was given (sci-fi, survival story) and that followed a more relatable and sympathetic main character. Perhaps for fans of more contemporary reads, women’s fiction in particular, this may be more of a hit. But for fans of sci-fi, beware. You’re mostly getting “whining in space” with this one.

Rating 5: Jamie may be one of the few survivors in this universe, but she wasn’t one I cared about.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Space Between the Stars” is on this Goodreads list: “Stories of Survival.”

Find “The Space Between the Stars” at your library using Worldcat!

Kate’s Review: “Feral Youth”

31556153Book: “Feral Youth” by Shaun David Hutchinson (Ed.)

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, September 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, Feral Youth features characters, each complex and damaged in their own ways, who are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.

Review: We have once again found a book that is inspired by “The Canterbury Tales”, the medieval tome that I have not read. Even though I was excited about “Feral Youth”, enough so to highlight in on this blog, I was a bit worried that I would miss key components because of my ignorance. But I still went ahead and picked it up, and I’m glad that my self doubt didn’t discourage me. “Feral Youth” is a strong collection of short stories from a number of talented YA Authors, some of whom I loved before, others of whom I am now interested in pursuing.

As the description says, the premise is that a number of teenagers at a program for troubled youth are on an eighteen mile team building exercise hike, and tell stories to each other to pass the time or provide distraction. Each author of the collection has written a story for each of the teenagers, and created some insight into their personalities through the stories. As a whole the collection was pretty strong, with a few excellent standouts and a couple of clunkers. I’m going to talk about my three favorites here.

“A Ruthless Dame” By Tim Floreen: Cody is a closeted teen in a religious family. He starts up a romance with Mike, the boy next door who is visiting from college, and has a passionate, yet brief, love affair. But after Mike goes radio silent, Cody feels like he’s been used. When Mike comes home the next break, Cody finds out that Mike not only has a girlfriend, but a number of photos of underage boys on his phone… Cody included. Cody decides to follow the footsteps of the femme fatales of his favorite noir movies to get his revenge. This story was a pure revenge fantasy piece, and I greatly enjoyed Cody and his manipulations. While in many ways he has been victimized by Mike, he doesn’t take things lying down, and is brilliant in his scheming. I was cackling as I read this story, but also always had a sense for the tragic existence that Cody is living and why he loses himself in noir films.

“A Cautionary Tale” by Stephanie Kuehn: C.J. Perez has found himself in the role of Student Safety Escort during a college’s Avalon Festival. He meets Hollis, a sophomore who pulls C.J. into an urban legend and conspiracy theory about a serial killer, or something worse, that kills students at the school in cycles. While C.J. is skeptical, he and Hollis find out that things may not always be what they seem. This story was the one that pulled the rug out from under me, plot wise, and I expected nothing less from Stephanie Kuehn. You all know how much I love her books, and this short story is just another triumph of hers. The suspense builds and the behavior of various characters simmers in unsettling ways, so this combined made for an intense and shocking read. Man, I would love it if Kuehn would do flat out horror in her future works, because this story shows that not only could she pull it off, she could create something fabulous.

“Self Portrait” by Brandy Colbert: When Sunday moves to a new town and new school, she befriends Michah and Eli, two brothers. Michah and Eli have a tumultuous relationship, and Sunday finds herself in the middle of their low simmering feud. But she never could have imagined that she would find herself betrayed so fiercely by one of them. Colbert was the other author that I was very excited for, and “Self Portrait” didn’t disappoint. I feel like Colbert knows how to build up the feel of YA melodrama without ever crossing into the ridiculous, and Sunday’s story continues that theme. It was one of the quieter stories in this book, but it still packed a real emotional punch at the end of it.

The stories are strung together through interactions between the characters on the camping trip, and it was interesting to try and parse out who were reliable narrators and unreliable ones based on those moments. But all in all, it ultimately doesn’t matter if these stories are ‘true’, at least within the context of the story. The point is that they shed insight into those telling it, and with all these different authors telling these different stories it does feel like a group of unique individuals. If I missed anything because of my lack of knowledge of “The Canterbury Tales”, I didn’t notice it. It stood on it’s own two feet well.

“Feral Youth” was an enjoyable collection of short stories that showcases some good writers. If you want a taste of some of these authors, this is the place to start!

Rating 8: A solid collection of stories with a few serious stand outs, “Feral Youth” is a must read for fans of short stories collections with a twist!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Feral Youth” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 YA Books With LGBT Themes”, and I think that it would fit in on “Best Teen Short Stories”.

Find “Feral Youth” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Hippopotamus Pool”

126730Book: “The Hippopotamus Pool” by Elizabeth Peters

Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, June 1997

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

Book Description: A masked stranger offers to reveal an Egyptian queen’s last tomb… and Amelia Peabody Emerson and her irascible archaeologist husband are intrigued, to say the least. When the guide mysteriously disappears before he tells his secret, the Emersons sail to Thebes to follow his trail, helped – and hampered – by their teenaged son, Ramses, and beautiful ward, Nefret. Before the sands of time shift very far, all will be risking their lives foiling murderers, kidnappers, grave robbers, and ancient curses. And the Hippopotamus Pool? It’s a legend of war and wits that Amelia is translating, one that alerts her to a hippo of a different type – a nefarious, overweight art dealer who may become her next archenemy!

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” and “The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog.”

Review: This is the most privileged-person reading problem ever: how do I continue to find creative ways of praising these books and this author without just sinking into repetitive gushing?? It’s problem, people.

Let’s just say that the strengths of this series are just as present in this book as they have been in the many before it. Amelia is ever the entertaining heroine (I’ve been listening to the audiobook version for the past several books, and it’s almost impossible now to separate the Amelia of the page and the Amelia that is brought to life with Barbara Rosenblatt’s expert and canny reading of her). Emerson, an excellent romantic hero, foibles and all.  A mystery, complicated and full of new suspects. Villains, some old and some new.

But I will focus on a few of the newer bits of this story. For one, while there is comfort in the stability of Amelia, Emerson, and their relationship, it’s a nice balance to have it contrasted with the ever-evolving lives of their children. Ramses and Nefret are now teenagers, Ramses on the young teen side and Nefret right smack in the middle, an especially complicated age for a young woman of fortune.

For his part, Ramses is beginning to evolve his relationship from child-with-adults to putting out feelers establishing himself as an independent entity. His changing relationship with his parents is perfectly illustrated in small changes (calling them “mother and father” rather than “mama and papa”). But also comes into play in larger ways as he pushes for independence and respect. However, Ramses’s relationship with them is firmly bound in familial love and respect. So these struggles often present themselves instead in strained interactions with his “sister” Nefret.

The two are at a perfect point for frustration. Sixteen and fourteen are around the exact ages when two years represents a world of difference and both the older and younger sibling struggle. In this case, it is all the more challenging in the fact that while Nefret has been adopted by the Emersons, she is not their natural born daughter.

Peters strikes the perfect balance in this sibling relationship. They bicker and argue like all the best siblings, but there is also a clear underlying tension in the knowledge of their non-typical family relationship. Further, Nefret is still adjusting to life in British Society, with all of the ridiculous rules and impositions that come with it. Yes, she’s growing up with a “mother” who shirks much of this (lucky for Nefret!),  but society itself has a way of pushing back, this time in the form of “suitors.”

I particularly loved Amelia’s attempts to parent a young daughter. She went from having one child, a very non-typical boy, at that. To having a pre-teen daughter who came with the added complications of being smart, headstrong, beautiful, and an heiress. But like anything, Amelia is up to the task. Theirs is a very nice example of female relationships, both maternal and friendly.

As I said, most of these stories come with the addition of new characters and you never quite know which ones are “one offs” or which are there to stay. We had Nefret introduced recently, but Peters wasn’t done there! Here we have the addition of David, a young boy (around Ramses’s age) who is loosely related to Abdullah, but through various mishaps has lead a life estranged from his family and raised to a life of crime. This will not do, of course! Particularly since Ramses forms a close, brotherly bond with David throughout this book. I feel confident that David is a character that is here to stay, and I’m excited to see what role he falls into in this strange family.

Beyond characters, this story is one of the first in a while to truly delve into a major dig, this time with the discovery of a queen’s tomb. While Egyptology is always important to these stories, there are varying degrees in each. I very much enjoyed having another mystery focused so closely on a dig.

Lastly, this book tackles some difficult topics with the sudden death of Evelyn and Walter’s infant child. Through Amelia’s eyes we see Evelyn’s struggle with this loss, the strain that is put on her and Walter’s marriage, and the process of living through grief. This also leads to Evelyn and Walter playing a much larger role in this book than they have for quite a long time. While the reason was tragic, I loved having these two characters back in a book. Evelyn especially. Not only does Amelia’s relationship with her lead to a deeper exploration of loss and depression, but Evelyn also rises through it into a role that was surprising and fun to read. Walter, on the other hand, had moments where I wanted to slap him upside his head. I can’t quite remember whether he always had some of the tendencies he put on display in this book, or whether this is evidence of Peters evolving his character over time and through experience. Don’t get he wrong, however, I still finished the book enjoying his character.

Well, hopefully I managed to cover some new ground in my praise of this book! But really, I’ll take the challenge of tricky reviews for the assurance of enjoyable novels any day. For fans of the Amelia Peabody mysteries, this is yet another to check out!

Rating 8: Yet another excellent story. This one tackles some tough issues, but handles them well and introduces another (hopefully!) main character.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Hippopotamus Pool” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Regency and Victorian Mysteries” and “Archaeology Novels.”

Find “The Hippopotamus Pool” at your library using WorldCat.



A Revisit to Fear Street: “Double Date”

89809Book: “Double Date” (Fear Street #23) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1994

Where Did I Get This Book: Ebook from the library!

Book Description: No girl in her right mind would say no to a date with Bobby Newkirk. Not with those great looks, that easy charm, and the awesome way he plays the guitar. Of course, some people think he’s just a bit conceited. But when it comes to breaking hearts, that hasn’t slowed Bobby down one bit.

At least, not until the beautiful Wade twins move to Shadyside. And Bobby brags to his friends that they’ll both fall for him.

And they do. Too bad for Bobby the twins never learned to share. One of them is jealous, murderously jealous. Is it quiet, shy Bree? Or bold, sexy Samantha? Bobby had better figure it out…or his double fun will turn to double terror.

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: BUCKLE UP FOLKS. THIS IS THE LONGEST ONE YET!! So for this book we meet Bobby Newkirk, a festering shithead of a protagonist. Bobby likes to date girls as long as they entertain him, then he will toss them aside like a wadded up tissue and never look back. When we meet him he’s pressing a skinny redhead named Ronnie up against her locker, kissing her and teasing her. She treats him like a rapscallion up for some fun, but I think he’s sketch as hell right out the gate. He muses in his head about how she’s not the prettiest girl he’s been with, but she’s the last cheerleader on the cheer squad that he has yet to hook up with. As the go their separate ways, her to cheer practice and him to his garage band practice, he says that maybe he’ll call her, but it’s pretty clear he probably won’t. He runs into his acquaintances Markie and Jerry, and confirms that he dumped Cari Taylor, and ribs Jerry for having to work at McDonalds. Bobby wouldn’t know about that, because he’s rich. Oh great, more North Hills jerks. Then, ANOTHER cheerleader Kimmy Bass turns the corner and yells at him for standing her up the night before. He tells her he only did it because he got a better offer. Piece of work, this Bobby. Kimmy rightfully storms away. We then meet Bobby’s bandmates as he saunters into practice, late. There’s Arnie, the drummer, Paul, the keyboardist, and Bobby, the lead guitar. Apparently their band is called Bad to the Bone. After some gross chit chat about the girls that Bobby uses and tosses aside, Paul (the only one who is actually committed to the band and the only one concerned about their gig that Friday) makes an off the cuff remark about how surprised he his that Bobby didn’t try to date them both at the same time.

AND THAT is where the Wade Twins enter, Bree and Samantha. They just moved to Shadyside the previous year, and they are the most beautiful girls in school. They are looking for a teacher, but the guys tell them that he’s not there, so they go on their way. Bobby and Arnie make some objectifying remarks, and then Bobby decides that he is going to ask both of them out! Paul thinks that it can’t be done, but Bobby is totally willing to try. After practice wraps up, Melanie comes looking for Arnie. Melanie is Arnie’s girlfriend, but she used to date Bobby, but Bobby dumped her, natch. And he thinks that if she lost some weight he’d probably ask her out again. THIS. FUCKING. GUY. They then hear the Wade Twins in the hallway, and Bobby heads off to chat them up. Melanie tells him not to do it (at some point Arnie told her and we didn’t notice), but he blows her warning off. He goes in the hall and meets with Bree, who is quiet and demure. After chatting a bit, he asks her to come to the band’s show at the Mill that Friday night. She accepts, and Bobby thinks that’s one down.

Arnie stops by Bobby’s place after dinner and congratulates him on his skeezery, calling him “The Man” at Bobby’s behest. Bobby decides to take that moment to call Samantha and ask her out for Saturday. Samantha answers, and Bobby starts chatting HER up. Samantha says that she and Bree were just talking about him, and is suspicious when he says he wants to talk to her. He asks her out for Saturday night, and she reminds him that he had just asked Bree out for Friday, and then asks if it’s a dare or something. He says no, he’s just been thinking about her a lot, and thought that she’d like to go out with him too. She asks why he thinks she’d do that to Bree, and he says it’s because she’s just dying to go out with him. She calls him conceited, but accepts the date. He says that it has to be their secret, and she agrees. They hang up, and Bobby whoops and hollers with Arnie about how scummy this all is. Bobby is sure Samantha won’t tell because she’s so outgoing and cool. Arnie wonders why Melanie was so against this that she warned him about the Wade Twins, but Bobby doesn’t care.

Bree goes to Bobby’s show at The Mill, and Bobby hot dogs on stage and struts like he’s Mick Fucking Jagger or something. After the set he meets up with Bree on the dance floor and they dance around, but then Bree says she would like to go somewhere quieter. As they’re leaving they run into Paul, who chastises Bobby for taking the attention away from the rest of the band, but Bobby don’t care. He looks back at the dance floor and thinks that Melanie sure looks fat as she dances with Arnie. Christ. He and Bree go driving around Shadyside, and he talks mostly about himself since Bree is so quiet. He even talks about a science experiment he’s doing with two honest to goodness monkeys that his uncle, who imports animals to zoos. Oh, okay. Because it’s totally ethical to give your dumbshit nephew two monkeys he can do a diet experiment on. Anyway, he drives her home and they kiss for awhile. Bree asks him if he wants to hang out again the next night, but NO CAN DO, as he has a hot date with Samantha. He makes an excuse and they say their goodbyes with more kissing.

The next day Bobby meets Samantha at the Mall. When they walk up to each other she pretends that she sees Bree, giving him a jolt, but HA, just kidding! Samantha flip flops between thinking it’s cool that they’re sneaking around, to feeling weird about it, but she also doesn’t beat around the bush and tells him she’s heard of his whorish ways. They go into the Gold Barn, and Samantha starts trying on earrings willy nilly. The clerk asks that she not do that anymore, and she politely agrees. She then asks Bobby if he likes excitement….. and bolts for the door with the earrings in her ears! Bobby is shocked that she’s shoplifting, and then before they know it they’re being chased through the mall by the clerk! They manage to lose their pursuers, and have a moment where a security guard approaches them, but only because they were running. So they get away with it, scott free. ‘Okay, kind of weird, but also sexy,’ were no doubt the thoughts going through Bobby’s mind. As they get to his car Samantha says that she wants to drive, and she drives his car like a speed demon up to River Ridge, Shadyside’s make out point. They start kissing, and Samantha asks if he likes her better than Bree. He says sure he does. She tells him that there’s a way to tell them apart, but she’ll show him later, but then goes on to say to be careful with Bree because she’s ‘fragile’.

Some time later Bobby is heading to band practice. But before that, he detours to harass Kimmy some more, pulling her hair and asking what she’s doing on Saturday, only to tell her to take a bath. He runs into Arnie and Melanie in the bandroom (Paul is there too but pissed, apparently is thinking of quitting the band because Bobby is such a fuck), and Melanie asks if he’s still trying to juggle the Wade Twins. He brags about how Samantha was over for a study date and Bree showed up, but Samantha snuck out back, and how he has them both crazy for him. Melanie asks him what if Bree finds out and it causes a rift between sisters, but Bobby says that that’s just how it is. That night in his room, he gets a strange phone call, someone saying that two’s company, three’s a crowd, and that he’ll pay. It freaks him out for a bit, because who could do this? Turns out, though, it is just Arnie messing with him and telling him that Melanie is mad. Bobby implies that she’s still hung up on him, but hangs up when the doorbell rings. It’s Bree! She walks into the house, and he thinks that maybe he’s busted. Bree says that Samantha is seeing someone, but she won’t tell her who and it’s upsetting her. Bobby assures her that he’ll ask around, and kisses her goodbye, then struts around the house totally pleased that he’s manipulating her so perfectly. Then SAMANTHA calls him and tells him Bree is on the way, and that she suspects something. He assures her that he pulled it off, and she says that he needs to dump her right away because she’s sick of sharing him, and because if Bree finds out there’s not telling what she’ll do. Bobby isn’t ready to break it off yet.

On their usual date to the mall, Samantha insists on driving Bobby’s car. She drives like a lunatic, swerving into traffic and out of it and Bobby is convinced that they are going to die a fiery death. They get to the mall though, and she confides she doesn’t even have her license.

Said no one ever. (source)

Over a slice at Pete’s Pizza, she asks him if he broke up with Bree while at Suki Thomas’s party the night before (YEAH SUKI MY GIRL!!!). He doesn’t really answer the question, but she seems satisfied when he assures her that she’s more fun than Bree. Eventually they make their way to the jewelry store again, and this time she dares Bobby to steal a charm bracelet. When she calls him a wimp, he says that he absolutely is not a wimp and lifts the case…. only for ALL the alarms to go off. But they make a clean getaway again, and Samantha accepts the bracelet for herself. Their merriment is short lived, however, as they are soon face to face with Bree!!! And Samantha looks absolutely terrified of her. Bobby says that they were just talking about her, and Samantha makes up some excuse about shopping and running into Bobby. Bree seems mollified, and both girls run off together, leaving Bobby in the lurch. Which irks him. But he’s still intrigued by them, and is convinced that he deserves a trophy for having them ‘both at once’. When he gets to his car in the parking lot, he finds that someone slashed some of his tires. EAT IT, CREEP. By coincidence (but Bobby doesn’t think so!), Melanie drives by, and offers to give him a lift. He’s certain that she has to be the one who did this because she’s jealous.

On the way to band practice that week, Bobby has decided that there’s no way that Melanie did it. For one, she does seem happy with Arnie, but for more importantly, there’s no way that a girl could slash his tires! On the way to band practice, he tries to catch up with Bree, but lost her as she went to chorus practice. Instead he finds Samantha, who pulls him into the science room. They kiss a bit, and she shows him the way to tell her and Bree apart: a blue butterfly tattoo on her shoulder. She then demands that he drop Bree because he doesn’t know her like she does. And boy is she adamant. She then shows him her science project: cannibal ants from New Zealand!!!

Yes, because NEW ZEALAND, the country of kiwis and sheep, would TOTALLY have those. (source)

At their rock show some times later, Bobby is being his usual boorish self, hot dogging and blocking Paul as he performs. But then, when he strums his guitar, he is suddenly bowled over by and electric shock! When he comes to, he is told that his amp wire was cut. He sees both Melanie and Kimmy looking down at him, concerned. He starts to wonder if someone is trying to kill him. WHen he gets home he calls Samantha, asking her if Bree could have done this. Samantha says she doesn’t think so, but then, she could be capable of ANYTHING. Sadly for Bobby, he turns around and sees Bree in his doorway. He hangs up and she says that she was SO SCARED. He hugs her, but wonders if she’s being sincere…

Bobby meets Arnie for lunch at a diner, and tells him that he wants to quit the band. He’s convinced that someone is trying to kill him, but Arnie says there wasn’t enough power in the amp to do that. Soon Melanie meets them, and Arnie goes to check in with his parents. Melanie asks Bobby if he’s okay, and says that maybe this is a sign that he needs to stop dating the Wade Twins. He asks her what SHE knows about it, and accuses her of being jealous and wanting him back. He then nuzzles up against her because YUCK! She assures him that no, she’s quite happy with Arnie, and shoves him off. Bobby storms off. He eventually meets Samantha a few blocks from her house, and they go driving together. She tells him that Bree is out with their mother. He asks her if Bree has said anything to him about his guitar, and she gets defensive, saying no, and that they don’t talk much anymore. The arm of her shirt falls to the side, and Bobby notices that there isn’t a butterfly tattoo there… THIS ISN’T SAMANTHA!!! He asks where her tattoo is, but she doesn’t hear him over the music. He pulls over and he asks if she’s Bree. She gets defensive, and says that he KNOWS Bree doesn’t know so how could she be? He asks abotu the tattoo on her shoulder, and she says that she doesn’t HAVE a tattoo. She then demands that he take her home because she’s upset him. He complies.

The next day at school he approaches both twins, but they blow him off. He goes to his locker, but sees a note on it that says ‘THIS IS YOU INSIDE’. He opens his locker, and sees the severed head of one of this monkeys!! He pukes his guts out, and Arnie comes to see what’s going on. He looks in the locker, and shows Bobby the monkey head is fake. But someone is definitely messing with him. Bobby is getting really scared now.

Before his date with Bree that weekend, Samantha demanded that he take her out somewhere so they could talk. She says that she asked him to dump Bree weeks ago, and now it may be too late. She is tired of waiting, and demands that they kill Bree together. Bobby is shocked, but she insists that they do this because she wants him all to herself. He says he will to placate her… but then he notices that there is a butterfly tattoo on her shoulder!!!! He asks her where it went in the car, and she has no idea what he’s talking about. She then tells him she wants to take him to a ‘special place’. While she drives he starts to wonder if maybe SAMANTHA is behind all of this! She drives them to an isolated cabin, She says that they can do the deed here, it’s her family cabin, and no one will ever know. Bobby decides that he has to warn Bree.

He calls Bree when he gets home, and says they have to get together right away. She says he has to wait until their official date because she’s busy, and hangs up. He waits until their date, and drives her away from her house, intending to tell her what Samantha plans to do. When he does, Bree has her own confession: she and Samantha aren’t twins. There is a triplet named Jennilynn who was sent away because of her violent tendencies towards the other two. She was so jealous of Bree and Samantha that she locked them in their room and set the house on fire. Luckily their father got home in time to save them, and they got Jennilynn therapy and sent her to live with relatives. She thinks it must be Jennilynn who wanted her dead, because she’s jealous that Bree has a boyfriend. She tells him that the way to tell it’s Jennilynn is the BLUE BUTTERFLY TATTOO ON HER SHOULDER!!!!!

Well after Bobby drops her off, he goes to tell Arnie about this (even though he promised not to tell anyone). Melanie happens to be there too, and Bobby tells them both, and demands if Melanie knew since she’s known the Wade Twins so long. She says that she ‘can’t say’ because she promised, and she and Arnie got to the movies. Bobby decides to dump both twins because he never bargained for a crazy triplet. The next day he meets with Samantha, who asks him why her sister was so upset when he dropped her off. He says that she told him about Jennilynn… And then Samantha says that THERE IS NO JENNILYNN, this is a sign that Bree is REALLY OFF HER ROCKER. She says that she has to go home and tell her parents…. He soon asks where her tattoo is. She tells him that she has no tattoo, and he says that she showed it to him in the science lab. She says that never happened and he needs to get a grip.

That night Bobby is at home when his phone rings. The caller identifies herself as Jennilynn, and demands to know why he was meeting with Bree at the Mall! He says it was Samantha, not Bree, and she says that she knows her own sister, and when are they going to KILL HER?

SO THE NEXT DAY he still hasn’t called Samantha or Bree or WHOEVER to ask about this, and Samantha drives up to his house in her convertible. He knows it’s her because she’s dressed very boldly. He gets in the car with her, and says that Jennilynn called him. She says that it HAS to be Bree because Jennilynn isn’t real. She says they’ll talk more when they get to the cabin. He then realizes that her shoulder HAS A TATTOO. He points this out, she says duh, he says that she didn’t have it at the mall yesterday, and she says she wasn’t at the mall yesterday, what is his problem? He asks if she’s always had it, and she says she showed him in the science lab!


They get to the cabin and she says that she has Bree’s murder all planned out. They get out of the car, and she hits HIM over the head with a bottle.

When Bobby wakes up, he realizes he’s tied to a chair, stripped to his tee shirt and boxers. He sees Samantha by a roaring fire in the fireplace, and she says that she’s Jennilynn. He says there IS no Jennilyn, and she freaks. OF COURSE THEY SAID SHE WASN’T REAL!! But she’s the one with the tattoo, and she was the one in the science lab! He begs that she let him go, and she says that her sisters can’t be happy, so they both have to lose him. She then dumps a jar of honey on his head, and THAT is when he sees the New Zealand Cannibal Ants. I AM SCREAMING, this is amazing. She takes their container’s lid off, and the ants storm forth, crawling all over him and starting to bite. She tells him to scream, because no one will hear him. She leaves him behind to his apparent doom. He freaks and falls over as the ants crawl all over him, but the tie comes loose due to the honey, and he’s able to get free. He runs out of the house, only to see headlights. He thinks that it might be Jennilynn, but no… It’s Melanie! He tells her what happened and she tells him to get in, they’ll go get help. She says that she wasn’t looking for him, though, she was trying to help Samantha and Bree, as someone stole their convertible and they thought it was Jessilynn. She admits that she knew the whole time, and he says they have to warn them. So they drive to their house….

WELL, when they arrive, he bursts into the house to warn them…. And sees that Bree, Samantha, Kimmy, Ronnie, and a few other girls are there. Mr Wade asks who he is and what he’s doing there. Bobby says that Jennilynn kidnapped him…. To which Mr. Wade says ‘who?’ He then says that his triplet daughter kidnapped him. Mr. Wade says there is no third sister. BUT THE CANNIBAL ANTS. “There is no such thing as cannibal ants.” Also, they don’t own a cabin. Bobby turns to Melanie for confirmation, and she says she has no idea what he’s talking about. BUT THE ONE WITH THE TATTOO-, to which Mr. Wade says they BETTER NOT HAVE TATTOOS. And they don’t. Mr Wade tells Bobby to go home and leaves to get the phone. Bobby says that the Twins did this to him, and they both say they have NO IDEA what he’s talking about they’ve just been with their friends all night. And then Melanie says that they were all in on this together because he’s a misogynistic pig who thinks he can just treat girls like crap. Humiliated, Bobby runs out.

At school that week Bobby is alone, his band has broken up, and he’s confronted by Bree and Samantha who give him a note that says “Twin sisters don’t have secrets. We both knew everything from the very start.” They wave and leave, and inside the envelope Bobby finds a temporary tattoo of a blue butterfly. THE END.


Body Count: Zilch, and I’m not angry about it because this story was baller.

Romance Rating: 1, because Bobby is a serious douche canoe. But again, that’s just fine given how this all shook out. Maybe I’ll up the ante to a 2 because Melanie and Arnie are happy enough.

Bonkers Rating: 8. I say this because these girls went to crazy lengths to teach this misogynistic creep a lesson, like shop lifting, breaking and entering, and probably what one could call assault.

Fear Street Relevance: 4. The Wade Twins live on Fear Street, and there’s some action in the Fear Woods, but altogether it could have been anywhere. Not as bad as books that take place outside of Shadyside, though.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Cut off just below the chin, the monkey head rested in a dark puddle of blood. Its tiny black eyes stared up lifelessly at Bobby. Its mouth frozen open in a silent cry of terror and pain.”

… And it’s just a plastic monkey head meant to freak Bobby out. I’m relieved, but how stupid.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Bobby named his test monkeys Wayne and Garth a la “Wayne’s World”, which is the second “Wayne’s World” reference in these books, so maybe Stine really likes this movie? Also their cover band plays a lot of songs from the 1950s, and I can’t imagine teens of today reaching THAT far back for retro points in the 2010s….

Best Quote:

“‘I warned you,’ she said in a low voice. ‘This is what you get for the way you treated Bree and Samantha, and for the way you treated all of us. You’re not Bobby the Man. You’re Bobby the Total Pig!'”


Conclusion: It was unexpected and kind of refreshing in a lot of ways, so I really have to give “Double Date” the props that it deserves. It shows that Stine was a bit more willing to think outside the box when it came to these books and not necessarily stick to a formula, and I LOVED how it all shook out. 

Not Just Books: December 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!

NOTE: Yes, we know that this isn’t the last Monday of the month and this isn’t a scheduling snafu. Instead, we’re working on a super special and exciting post for next Monday that also happens to be Christmas Day, so keep your eyes out for that!

Serena’s Picks

1487358575482TV Show(s): ALL the HGTV home make over shows

Look, I’m not proud of it, but there’s a good reason for this pick, just hear me out. As Kate knows (as in, this is all she’s heard about for a year now), my husband and I have been finishing the basement of our house. It started as “partially finished” (read: moldy wreck), and over a year we did demo, leveled the floor, added in-floor heat, tiled the floor, re-structured and laid out rooms, built walls, added a reading nook under the stairs, added built-in book shelves, installed a gas fire place, etc etc. And we finally finished this month. And ever since, we’ve been enjoying the new TV room by doing absolutely nothing but veg out in front of it re-living our trauma through the various home makeover shows on HGTV. Seriously, I think we have PTSD, but we can’t stop watching and triggering ourselves. It’s a sick obsession at this point.

mv5bodk2yme5mjetmmqzny00mzzjltgxndatytgzmthlztg1m2e3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjiwnti1mtm-_v1_sy1000_cr007061000_al_Netflix Show: “Glitch”

This seems to be one of those Netflix shows that is largely unknown by people. The first season came out two years ago, and yet somehow I never really looked at this one, and I’m not sure why. Set in Australia, the story rotates around 7 people who have mysteriously risen from the dead. No bells or whistles, they’re just back, and no one knows why. What’s even more strange is that they’re all back from different time periods, some as recently as a few years, some who have been dead for centuries. As the season progresses we learn more and more about each of these character’s lives and the suspense grows around the mystery of their return. I’ve really been enjoying binging this show and part of it is simply the fun of listening to their accents. “Come this way, mate. That’s right, now just take it easy” all in the classic Aussie drawl.

Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street”

 (I WILL RE-POST THIS ONE EVERY YEAR, I DON’T CARE!) Obviously this falls under the category of old movies we’ve “discovered,” but even that’s not true! Let’s be real, I watch this movie EVERY Christmas. It’s a classic for a reason and there is something to love for just about everyone. You have the romance, the friendship, the family, the humor, the villains, the court room action, and the feel goods. Not to mention, the adult in me loves this movie even more now than I did as a kid, with its main message being that even adults should believe in Santa Claus! And the larger message, that whether or not he was actually Santa Claus was beyond the point: Christmas is about loving and caring for everyone, and in that, Mr. Claus was the epitome of Christmas.

Kate’s Picks

search-party-s2-key-artTV Show: “Search Party Season 2”

So the first season of the darkly hilarious “Search Party” involved a group of New York Hipsters trying to solve the mystery of a missing girl. Dory (Alia Shawkat) is sucked into the disappearance of a college acquaintance named Chantal, and is convinced she met foul play. The season ends with them finding Chantal alive and well and vapid as ever…. except Dory and her friends accidentally killed a man who had been helping them look for her. Season 2 is dealing with the fallout… And yes, it’s still hilarious. My favorite character remains Elliott, played by the snide and snarly John Early, whose mild sociopathy and need for self preservation send him on a disconcerting, but also pretty amusing in some ways, mental breakdown. For those who like their humor dark, give “Search Party” a try, and know that Season 2 is pretty amazing.

23755322_130283744328423_6702880009203054438_nPodcast: “Bigfoot Collectors Club”

I have a fun little obsession with the supernatural and cryptozoology. My favorites include Mothman, El Chupacabra, and The Jersey Devil, and while I’m solidly a skeptic who wants to believe, it’s fun hearing stories about this stuff. Given this interest, I was pretty happy to discover the podcast “Bigfoot Collectors Club”. Hosted by Bryce Johnson and Michael McMillian (one of my faves), this fairly new podcast tackles strange and unnatural events, as well as tales of cryptids, aliens, ghosts, and personal experiences of the unexplained. While I may not be as true blue believing when it comes to Sasquatch, their enthusiasm and earnestness is contagious.

jingle_all_the_way_posterMovie: “Jingle All The Way”

So last year I talked about the movie “Scrooged”, but that is just ONE of MANY Christmas movies that I like to watch this time of year. This year I’m going to talk about the SMASH HIT HOLIDAY CLASSIC “Jingle All The Way”. Is it a good movie? No, not really. But it’s one that my husband and I HAVE to watch every year because 1) We love Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2) it takes place in Minnesota and treats both Minneapolis and St. Paul as interchangeable cities, and 3) Phil Hartman is treasure, may he rest in peace. The plot is flimsy, it feels like one long toy commercial, and it’s super dated and actually pretty problematic in a number of ways, but hey, we can’t deny a cheesy and stupid movie such as this? Put the cookie DOWN!! NOW!!!

What non books have you been enjoying this month? Let us know in the comments!

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