Kate’s Review: “The Cheerleaders”

30969755Book: “The Cheerleaders” by Kara Thomas

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, July 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

Review: I want to extend a special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book.

I am so, so pleased that the YA Thriller community has someone like Kara Thomas repping it these days. As you all know I’ve had a harder time with YA thrillers in the past, if only because they either aren’t gritty enough, don’t have enough interesting characters, or have predictable and spoon fed mysteries for their audience. While I understand that sometimes straight forward narratives are considered to be more ‘teen friendly’, I also think that it’s refreshing when authors don’t talk down to their teen readers and give them some serious narratives to chew on. And Kara Thomas trusts her readers enough that there is NO talking down to them. After reading her previous books “The Darkest Corners” and “Little Monsters”, I was practically chomping at the bit to read “The Cheerleaders”, her newest thriller mystery. When I finally sat down and began to read it, I pretty much devoured it all in two sittings. Thomas has done it again.

The first thing that really stood out to me about this book was our protagonist, Monica. Monica could at first glance be written off as your typical thriller heroine in novels like this: when we meet her she is in the middle of a medication induced abortion after a fling with an older man who happens to be the new soccer coach at her high school (side note: I super super appreciate the fact that Thomas has an abortion in this book and doesn’t use it as a melodramatic moment or a moment to proselytize to either side: it’s just a fact that Monica has one and that she made that choice without any hesitation). She has been having trouble coping for the past five years ever since her older sister Jen committed suicide, the fifth cheerleader in the five cheerleader deaths that have shaken the town, and has been distancing herself from everyone and succumbing to numbness. I appreciate the fact that while it’s never outwardly stated that Monica is suffering from a deep depression, Thomas makes it clear through her actions. Monica is flawed and Monica has moments where you just want to shake her, but she feels so freaking real that I just longed to hug her. I loved how intrepid she was, and think that she is one of the strongest protagonists I’ve seen in a YA thriller, or ANY thriller, in the past few years.

The mystery, too, was solid and intricate, and kept me guessing up until the end. It’s laid out in two different narratives: there’s Monica’s first person POV, and then a third person POV that follows Jen five years before in the months leading up to her death. Monica is starting to wonder if Jen actually committed suicide, and if all of the cheerleader deaths were as cut and dry as they seemed at the time. This leads her on a noire-like mystery with her own sidekick in Ginny, a neighbor that Monica has never really gotten to know in spite of the fact Ginny has always been around. The mystery surrounding the cheerleaders deaths is well paced and ever suspenseful, and Thomas doesn’t show her hand until she is good and ready to. I was once again left guessing until the end, and even though I had some small inklings of where things were going, I was mostly left surprised by the main mystery, and TOTALLY surprised by another that flits about off to the side, almost unnoticed but always present. The flashbacks to Jen’s story also give us clues that we can piece together while Monica is doing the same, and I really liked seeing Monica pick up on something that we picked up on previously, and vice versa.

And it’s gritty and bleak to be certain. Thomas doesn’t hold back in bringing up hard issues like abortion, statutory rape, violence in schools, and suicide, but they never feel like they’re exploitative, titillating, or over the top. At the same time, they they don’t feel like moments in an after school special either. Again, she trusts her readers to see nuance and darkness and be able to sort it out for themselves without any hand holding or deeper explanation. I think that it’s because of this trust that she knows how to strike the right balance in tone, and to make this book feel realistic and thrilling without having to go to any kind of extremes to send the point all the way home.

“The Cheerleaders” is another great mystery from Kara Thomas. Thriller fans, if you are reluctant to give YA thrillers a try, know that she is not going to let you down.

Rating 9: A suspenseful and well crafted mystery with realistic characters and a responsible handle on important issues, “The Cheerleaders” was a fulfilling read that kept me guessing.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Cheerleaders” is included on the Goodreads lists “Cheerleading”, and “Best Mystery & Thriller 2018”.

Find “The Cheerleaders” at your library using WorldCat!

Not Just Books: July 2018

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

mv5bmjqxnziznzi1mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtuzndk2ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “Anne with an E” Season 2

While the first season of “Anne with an E” was met with varied responses, I was one of those who really enjoyed this new version of Anne’s story. I, of course, love the older version as well and the books themselves, but I don’t have the same nostalgic attachment to it as others do that would tinge my appreciation of another series going in a completely new direction. In fact, I very much liked not knowing exactly the way the story was going to go. Here, in season two, the creators and writers have doubled down on this “new version” of Anne and we see a good number of new story lines introduced. Not only did I love the increased action they brought to the story, but through these new avenues, the show was able to explore a variety of topics like racism and homophobia that weren’t addressed in the books. So yes, this isn’t the “Anne” you grew up with, but I, for one, enjoy now having both options at hand! Plus, Gilbert is as cute as ever.

mv5bnzixmjywndewn15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzk5mdi3ntm-_v1_Movie: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Of course I went to see this movie!! Was that ever even a question? And I, for one, don’t think it deserves the critical panning that is is receiving! Is it as good as the original? Absolutely not! Is it better than some of the other sequels? Definitely! Is it as good as its own direct prequel? Yep, I think it’s even better! Honestly, I think that “Jurassic World” got a big ole pass from the movie critics simply for being a Jurassic Park sequel that came after a long drought, and it threw in quite a few references and familiar musical themes to pluck the nostalgia threads. But other than that? It was kind of just ok. But where it struggled, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” improved upon. It got rid of the annoying nephews that no one cared about. The woman lead was given a bunch more to do and was generally made less intolerable. They allowed Chris Pratt to make more jokes. Plus, there was a lot more action in this one to keep you distracted when you brain started to wake up and question the somewhat suspect script. Plus, there was a scene towards the middle that legit made me cry. Not that that’s saying much…

mv5bn2eyyjrhzjqtyznhni00mdbjlwfhodqtztrlotkyytfkmjq1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjexmjk0odk-_v1_sy1000_cr007071000_al_Netflix Show: “The Frankenstein Chronicles”

This probably more likely falls under Kate’s usual genres, but I’m a sucker for Sean Bean and period pieces, so I thought I’d give this horror/thriller show a go. And I’m glad I did! Yes, it’s scaring the crap out of me, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of it. The story walks a thin line between science fiction/horror and mystery. What’s more, it often feels similar to many other detective stories, with the narrative following the investigation of Sean Bean’s character into a mysterious death of a child who washed up in the river and was made up of several children’s bodies sewn together. So, yeah…it’s fairly gruesome. But I do like playing the game “spot the British actor” and the beautiful cinematography and talented cast make up for some of its more icky bits. And no, I won’t reveal whether Sean Bean dies in this show.

Kate’s Picks

dg51ingu0aeyrqfNetflix Show: “GLOW Season 2”

My favorite Netflix show is back, and with it comes amazing ladies, some badass wrestling, and all the 80s nostalgia I could ask for! This season the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling have to contend with newfound fame, changing power dynamics, and the ugly and inevitable challenges of sexism and misogyny in the pro-wrestling world. While it’s hard for me to pick my favorite performance this season, Betty Gilpin’s turn as Debbie is particularly strong as she is dealing with the fallout from her divorce and her lingering resentment towards her ex friend turned wrestling partner Ruth. But then there’s Chris Lowell as Bash, the enthusiastic but spoiled fanboy turned producer who goes through some serious character growth. And I am of COURSE rooting for Ruth (Alison Brie) and Sam (Marc Maron) to JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY. It’s such a good show. I need Season 3 yesterday.

mv5bzgvmmmixngetmtk1yy00ngiwlwe4mgmtytq5m2q1zte0ytqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjqzotm1ntc-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Netflix Show: “Aggretsuko”

Back at the beginning of July my pal Laura and I were waiting to head out to a Sci-Fi Fantasy convention and were looking for a way to spend the time. She suggested that we watch an anime on Netflix about a red panda who combats the ills of work life with death metal. Does that sound surreal? It is. But it’s also SUPER CUTE AND FUNNY AND EXCELLENT. “Aggretsuko” takes Sanrio characters (you know, the Hello Kitty people) and makes a comedy about the drudgery of office life. Retsuko is a frustrated office drone who feels trapped in her job, her only solace being death metal karaoke. But when she starts to be mentored by two other women at the company who are higher up on the food chain, she starts to realize her own worth and find her self esteem. This show is adorable and all kinds of relatable when it comes to frustrating jobs, sexism in the work place, and the ups and downs of adult social lives. Did I mention a Sanrio red panda who does death metal karaoke?

the-sinner-poster-183bbTV Show: “The Sinner”

When I was visiting my old library to pick up some books, I saw the DVDs of “The Sinner” on the new wall. I had heard of it in passing, mostly that it was a mystery involving a murder, and so I grabbed it thinking that I’d maybe give it a whirl. Boy, once I picked it up I couldn’t stop watching. Jessica Biel plays Cora, a young wife and mother who, for no apparent reason, gruesomely murders a stranger in broad daylight on a very crowded beach. Bill Pullman plays Harry Ambrose, a detective who is assigned to the case. But what he thinks is an open and shut matter turns out to be far more complicated than he could have imagined, as Cora has a dark past with a lot of secrets, some of which she herself doesn’t even remember. I binged this entire series in about 24 hours time, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you like thriller novels (this is, indeed, based on a novel), “The Sinner” is going to be right up your alley.

 

Serena’s Review: “Seeing a Large Cat”

66526Book: “Seeing a Large Cat” by Elizabeth Peters

Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, 1997

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

Book Description: No villain is safe in 1903 Egypt as feisty archaeologist Amelia Peabody embarks on her ninth adventure.

According to an ancient Egyptian papyrus, dreaming of a large cat means good luck. And that’s just what Amelia Peabody could use, as her growing family matures in the new century. What’s more, Amelia’s dashing husband Emerson has received a mysterious warning not to enter the Valley of the Kings. To Emerson’s annoyance, Amelia’s meddling distracts her attention as she exposes a fraudulent spiritualist, saves a marriage, and plays matchmaker. But diabolical forces are at work when an unknown tomb reveals a shocking murder — and the Peabody family dodges bullets from an assassin determined to put an end to their discoveries.

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.” and “The Hippopotamus Pool”

Review: I know, right?! Finally, we’re back with another Amelia Peabody book! I mean, yes, the Veronica Speedwell books have been a nice stand-in, but I can’t write a single review of those without referencing the OG female sleuth, Amelia. Plus, as much as I like the slow-burn romance in that book, I was also hankering for a nice, established relationship where I could just lounge in all of the lovely romance.

This book takes another pretty big leap in time between it and its predecessor. For the most part, the books before went year to year. But when we start this one, we see Amelia and Emerson waiting for the return of their son Ramses, who, now a young man, has spent the summer with the tribes and is only just not rejoining his family. I believe he is around 16 in this book? With Neferet being around 19? I was doing a lot of mental math throughout the book, and at a certain point, it was just distracting, so we’ll go with that.

Anyways! Reunited, the Emersons find themselves once gain caught up in a mystery. With dire warnings coming their way (which Amelia ignores, of course!) and old friends reemerging with romantic entanglements of their own, Amelia never wavers in her confidence that she is prepared to handle it all. This book also marks a change in that we get several chapters that are written in third person, detailing the goings-on of the younger generation. Here, we finally see behind the curtain and realize that while yes, Amelia does have a good understanding of much that is happening, her rapscallion child and wards also get up to a good amount of mischief that does fly beneath her ever-watchful radar.

It took a bit for me to get used to having to share my narrative time with these third-person chapters. Part of the reason I love these books so much is the brilliance of Amelia’s narrating voice, so it felt like a loss to give that up, even briefly. It was also unclear who actually wrote these other chapters. The rest of the books have clearly stated that Amelia is writing them for posterity. Who, then, is writing these? Especially since it is written in third person? It seems as if it has to be either Ramses or Neferet. But as the story progressed, I did begin to appreciate more and more this inner look into the “childrens'” eyes. One has to assume that as the series progresses, their own story lines will also begin to take more precedence (especially the thwarted love that Ramses feels for Neferet), and this device is a clever way of balancing both.

The mystery itself was also quite complicated and good. I also love the fact that Amelia’s penchant for match-making often seems to play a role in these stories. And here, that thread takes on a very different role with the return of two characters whom she had previously matched and who are now struggling quite a bit. From my view of things, I think the man in question never redeems himself and I was pleased to see Amelia think equally poorly of him for his failings. But, because these are happy books, things are resolved eventually.

Amelia and Emerson were as great as ever. Their banter and bond remain one of the biggest draws for the series. I also liked the action of this story, particularly the final scene. Of course the family ends up in quite a scrap, but the way things resolved was surprising and took on an unexpected, but appreciated, serious tone. I’m curious to see what the fall-out of this experience will be for the entire family.

All told, this was another solid entry into the series. I feel that it is ushering in a new age for the series with the introduction of the Manuscript H sections that feature the younger generation. But I was pleased to see that these sections never over-shadowed the real draw: Amelia herself!

Rating 8: An excellent return to a favorite series! This book brought forward new views on this familiar and beloved family.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Seeing a Large Cat” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Brainy/Genius Romantic Heroes” and “Sleuths in Silks.”

Find “Seeing a Large Cat” at your library using WorldCat.

 

Kate’s Review: “The Elizas”

35297385Book: “The Elizas” by Sara Shepard

Publishing Info: Atria Books, April 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

Review: This may come as a surprise to you guys given my predilection for soapy and thrilling mysteries, but I never actually read the “Pretty Little Liars” series by Sara Shepard.

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Shocking, I know! (source)

I DID read the first book in her series “The Lying Game”, but didn’t feel a need to go on for five more books and instead opted to spoil myself thanks to wikis and Internet sleuthing. I think that knowing that there were LOTS of books in each series didn’t bode well, as in my experience having a thriller series with a long drawn out mystery sprinkled with OTHER mysteries isn’t as sustainable as I usually like to see. But since I DO like soap in my mysteries, I was interested in her new adult standalone “The Elizas”. I figured that maybe I could get some fun suds but not have to worry about going on and on and on long past the point of believability and my waning interest. Nor harm in trying, right?

Meh. Wrong, kind of. “The Elizas” on the whole failed to really suck me in, mostly because it falls into too many traps and tropes that we have seen all too many times before in the genre. My first big quibble was with Eliza Fontaine herself, our hot mess of a protagonist. Hot mess protagonists are kind of par for the course with this kind of book, as them being messes and screwed up lends to the unreliability that is needed for this kind of mystery. But as you all know, I have LONG lost my patience with this kind of protagonist, and Eliza checks all the boxes that turn me off. She’s struggles with addiction issues. She has fraught relationships with her family and her friends. She’s managed to be successful with her writing, but as fame and fortune try to fall into her lap she starts to unravel, and may self sabotage her success and happiness. She is an incredibly unreliable narrator because of these things combined with other things. And on. And on. I am willing to give these hot mess protagonists a pass if there is something about them that is relatable or likable, but Eliza is pretty blah, her only redeeming features based in her odd relationship with Desmond, the man who rescued her from her fall in the pool. But even that relationship didn’t quite work because they were thrown together, but you don’t know WHY they are together. Sure, there are some cute quirks that Shepard added in, like their fondness of donning Halloween masks and sitting on the apartment balcony, but even THAT is treading into ridiculously quirky territory. Desmond himself is a bit too quirky too, but at least this time it’s a guy who is fitting the manic pixie dream girl role, so I was more okay with it than I might have been.

The mystery itself was okay in theory. The big questions of the book are 1) who pushed Eliza into the pool (or did she do it herself?), and 2) why is Eliza having these memory lapses. I’m one hundred percent on board with both of those questions, as they add some fun layers to plot points that may have been seen before.  The narrative is told through Eliza’s POV and through excerpts from her novel, “The Dots”, which makes this an epistolary thriller, a thriller genre that I generally like. “The Dots” is about a girl named Dot and her aunt Dorothy, and Dot’s childhood illness (which mirrors Eliza’s own medical history). I actually enjoyed those sections because I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Dot and Dorothy as it went from “Auntie Mame” to disturbing and sour, and found myself excited when we got to another “Dots” section. But the problem with this is that the proof is in the pudding because of the plot summary: “The Dots” gives away a whole lot of the mysteries surrounding Eliza! Whenever a question came up in Eliza’s life, we’d get a plot point in “The Dots” that would at least partly give away the solution. And even though Shepard tries to parse these moments out slowly and evenly between the two, by the time we got to some of the big reveals in Eliza’s story, they were already spoiled because of “The Dots”! Because of this, I didn’t feel terribly invested in finding out confirmation in Eliza’s side of things. And in turn, this book ended up being more of a slog than I wanted it to be. Eliza herself wasn’t likable enough for me to invest, so if the mystery can’t even give me what I need, what is the point?

So outside of an enjoyable side story and a kind of cute relationship, “The Elizas” was a disappointment, showing its cards too early. I will probably give Shepard another chance if she writes another adult standalone mystery, but I’ll have more managed expectations if I do. And they probably won’t be too high.

Rating 5: While there were some elements that worked, overall “The Elizas” didn’t impress me the way I had hoped it would.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Elizas” is fairly new and not on many relevant Goodreads lists yet. But I think that it would fit in on “Borderline Personality Disorder, Insanity, and Related Issues”.

Find “The Elizas” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Serena’s Review: “Keeping the Castle”

12871232Book: “Keeping the Castle” by Patrice Kindl

Publishing Info: Viking Childrens Books, 2012

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors–or suitors of any kind–in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . .

Review: This book has been hanging around on my Goodreads TBR pile for quite a while. Like, years. Between all the new releases and series that I’ve been reading so far, it’s never made its way to the top. Until last month when I was heading out on vacation and realized I had nothing on my Kindle that was particularly calling to me. Not to mention, I’ve been reading a heavy dose of fantasy/sci fi books recently, it was about time I got back to good, old historical fiction. So without further ado, I checked it out and raced through it.

The castle that Althea, her mother, her brother and her two snobby (but rich!) step-sisters live in is falling apart around them. Literally. Pieces of the ceiling pose a danger at any moment and the family must carefully arrange chairs when they have guests over to limit the risk of said chairs caving in from sheer age and decrepitude. Althea knows her duty: to save the castle by marrying well. Luckily, while fortune is not on her side, she does have a good amount of looks. Armed with this and a healthy dose of determination, Althea sets her eyes on their new neighbor, Lord Boring. But can she even get at him when the ever present, ever annoying Mr. Fredericks is always by his side?

From that description alone, you can probably guess the majority of the story. That, or having read/been exposed to any Jane Austen in your lifetime. I’m not leading with this as a criticism of the book (though it did have its downsides, which I’ll get into later), but as a general description of what this book sets itself up to be from the very beginning. There are no illusions of creating a completely distinct work. Instead, the story walks a line between parodying other classic works while also trying to work in a few surprises of its own. Some pieces of this were more successful than others.

Many of the characters had similarities to other stereotypical characters one usually finds in historical romance. Althea was an entertaining blend of Emma from “Emma” and Elizabeth from “Pride and Prejudice.” At her core, she’s a good-willed, smart woman. But she also has a healthy dose of foolishness that leads to all of the some-what expected shenanigans one could hope for from a light-hearted story like this. The two step-sisters were, of course, terrible, each exhibiting comical combinations of idiocy, selfishness, and petty cruelty.

The characters I was a bit more surprised with were Althea’s mother and the two gentlemen who are introduced. The mother was neither foolish nor absent! That alone is kind of shocker for stories like this. Instead, Althea’s mother is a very compassionate character and had her own mini arc throughout the book. As for the men, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that OF COURSE Althea has it all wrong about both of them. But their backgrounds and motivations where different than one might expect. This played to varying success. I liked the evaluation of Lord Boring and the choices he makes, revealing that in some ways, men and women in this time are not all that different.

But, while I liked Mr. Fredericks for the most part, I still struggled a bit with his “change” and the romance between him and Althea. Her frustrations with him are, largely, completely valid. And while he does make up for some his errors, I wasn’t quite convinced that I saw a discernible change in their relationship as the book progressed. Althea just kind of suddenly realizes that she has feelings. But it several of the better traits about Mr. Fredericks haven’t even been revealed! It isn’t a huge complaint, as I still enjoyed their scenes and dialogue together. But I also never really felt the chemistry between them either, which is a problem for a book like this where the romance is key.

As for the plot, like I said earlier, there are a lot of references to plot points from Jane Austen novels and the like in this book. While I enjoyed these for the most part, there were also moments when the book simply felt predictable because of how closely it was following the storyboard of those types of books. There were very few real surprises in here.

But, again, this is a book that one reads for the light, fluffy romance and for the writing style itself. There, the author very much succeeded. She did manage to neatly grasp the way of talking and writing that is common to stories set in this time period, and there were several turns of phrase that had me laughing out loud and highlighting bits.

All in all, it was a very pleasing book. It didn’t push any boundaries or surprise me, but it was just what it claimed to be: a light historical romance with some witty banter.

Rating 7: A fun, easy read, but don’t expect to be surprised or challenged in any way.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Keeping the Castle” is on these Goodreads lists: “Teen novels related to Jane Austen” and “Clean Regency (or around then) Romance Novels.”

Find “Keeping the Castle” at your library using WorldCat!

 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Face”

176604Book: “The Face” (Fear Street #35) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1996

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

Book Description: Why can’t she remember?

They say something horrible happened that day. But Martha can’t remember any of it—not the smallest detail. They say it will come back to her in time.

But someone wants her to remember now. She draws his face, over and over—the face of a dead boy. She can’t control her hand. And she can’t remember how he died.

But she’s going to find the answer. Even if it lies with the dead.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We start with a strange dream about drawing silver lines on a piece of paper and then the paper becoming soaked in blood or something. I don’t care for these prologues because they’re just nonsense. But then we meet Martha. Martha was in some kind of accident before the story began that has robbed her of huge chunks of her memory. Her besties Adriana and Justine don’t really know how to interact with her now that she’s an amnesiac, but her boyfriend Aaron is still loyal and loving (though Justine has a blatant crush on him, as is demonstrated during a wrestling match he’s in that they are both attending). We also find out that her friends MAY have been in the accident too but Martha was the only one who went into shock? It’s a confusing and clunky first chapter of exposition. We pick up after that inside Aaron’s den, where he and Martha are watching “Lethal Weapon”, and Martha tells the reader that Aaron kind of looks like Mel Gibson. I’m hoping she’s talking about The Mel Gibson “Thunderdome” era and not The Mel Gibson “He’s A Misogynistic Bigoted Abuser” era.

mel-gibsons-dui-arrest-los-angeles
Remember, Hollywood welcomed him back with open arms. (source)

Martha confides that she’s worried about Adriana, who has been looking super skinny and tired and whose grades have been slipping. Aaron asks if she’s talked to Adriana, but no, they haven’t spoken about the accident or anything. Martha wonders why it has affected Adriana so much but not the rest of them (excluding herself, I would imagine, since she CANNOT REMEMBER ANYTHING).

We THEN jump to the next day where Martha is out and about in Shadyside buying art supplies and she runs into Ivan, Adriana’s older brother who has adopted a new ‘bad boy’ look, with an earring and a goatee. He’s also been getting into trouble and drinking more, so you know that I am smelling a love triangle here because Stine LOVES his ladies to be into misunderstood bad boys. After teasing her about her ‘doodles’, he offers to give her a ride home. While they’re driving he asks if she wants to just keep on going and leave Shadyside for good, and Martha asks if he’s joking, to which he says ‘of COURSE’, but we know better, don’t we? She asks him if he knows what’s up with Adriana and he seems less than interested/sympathetic to his own sister, but does say that she’s been taught some kind of self hypnosis. Also the atmosphere at home is awful with his parents fighting and literally throwing dishware at each other, and Ivan is so upset about it he starts driving erratically and the car drives off the road and heads for a tree! But it seems that it stops right before impact, and both Ivan and Martha hug and cry and he apologizes that he almost took her out in his impromptu suicide attempt that he couldn’t follow through with. He drives her home.

The next day Martha and Adriana are hanging out at Martha’s house and Martha brings up the murder suicide kinda thing that almost happened. Adriana doesn’t seem too worried and seems more interested in her make up, but confirms that she has been taught self hypnosis to try and help her fall asleep. Adriana says that Ivan is messed up because his girlfriend Laura (the most BEAUTIFUL girl in Shadyside, I guess) dumped him. Given that no one got why they were going on in the first place the only person caught off guard was Ivan himself. Martha thinks that someone should talk to him, but Adriana says that Martha should focus on herself and her own well being before leaving the house. Martha decides to draw a self portrait. But as she’s drawing, her hand starts to act of it’s own volition and draws on it’s own, as if a ghostly presence is controlling it!

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So you’re saying it’s a Kanderian Demon problem? (source)

When the hand stops, there is the face of a boy on the page. Martha thinks that it’s too detailed to be made up in her head, and notices that the face has a scar on the eyebrow. She freaks out and crumples it up, and decides to try again. She thinks maybe she should call Laura and ask her to work as a model, but apparently Laura isn’t cooperative and is always critical of the final product, so tries to draw herself again. But, once again, she draws the boy. She then rips but the drawings, and thinks she’s going nuts.

Later that night Martha is meeting Aaron at the mall for a movie. She’s running a little late, and when she arrives she sees Aaron and Justine are both there, with Justine flirting with Aaron. Martha is okay with Justine flirting with him when she is present, but when she’s NOT around and Justine is flirting? Could Justine possibly be a, dare I say it, BAD FRIEND? But since Martha doesn’t want to ‘start having evil thoughts’ about Justine, she just joins them and says hello, Justine backing off right away, claiming she happened to run into him, and he invited her to come to the movie too. Martha thinks that she sees Justine brushing up against Aaron the whole show.

Later that night, Martha is back home trying to sleep, when Justine calls. She wants to talk about the movie they saw and how much Aaron liked it, but then it turns into a ‘my life sucks’ kind of thing and she tells Martha straight up that she’s jealous of her because Aaron is so great. Justine doesn’t have a boyfriend AND she can’t afford to go to college next year AND Martha is such a good artist with good parents. When Martha says that her life isn’t actually perfect, Justine, oddly, agrees, and says that Martha’s life ‘isn’t as perfect’ as Martha thinks. Then she hangs up with a lame excuse.

That Sunday evening Martha is on the couch watching TV, when there’s a flash of a cabin on the TV. Which instigates a flash of memory for Martha! She remembers being at two cabins, with Justine, Adriana, Laura, and herself inside one of them. There’s a knocking at the door, and when Adriana answers it’s Aaron and two other boys whose faces she can’t remember. And then it’s all gone. And when Martha looks down she sees that she drew the face again.

The next morning there is no school because of teacher conferences, and when Martha goes downstairs into the kitchen Laura is there, reminding her that Martha was accompanying her to a photo shoot for her aspiring acting/modeling/whatevering career. Martha drives them, and wishes that she could ask Laura if she recognized the face, but her doctor told her friends not to tell Martha anything or give her any hints, because her memory has to come back on it’s own. That sounds like nonsense, but I’m not a medical professional. After the shoot is over, Martha is driving Laura back home, and Laura says that she was at a party the night before and Ivan showed up, acting a fool. Martha says that Ivan is a mess because of her dumping him, and Laura doesn’t give a rip. Laura then tells Martha to watch out for Justine, and declines to elaborate.

The next day Martha goes to meet with Dr. Sayles, the man in charge of her case and recovery. She tells him about the cabin memories, and he doesn’t betray any sort of emotion. But when she shows him the drawings she’s done, he looks genuinely shocked. Do we get to learn more about this? NOPE, we jump forward to that next weekend. Martha is still wondering WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, when Adriana and Laura burst into her room and tell her to get inside, bitch, we’re going SLEDDING!, or something very close to it. So they go to Miller Hill and Martha resolves to have a little bit of FUN for once. Once they are at the top of the hill, Laura and Adriana take off, leaving Martha at the top. When Martha starts down, she starts to scream, and then doesn’t stop screaming, even when she gets to the bottom. She doesn’t remember how she got home, just that Laura and Adriana brought her back, and she wonders what triggered her. But apparently, she had another memory. Now she, Aaron, Justine, Laura, Adriana and IVAN are there, having a snowball fight. Then Justine takes it way too far and starts hurling them at Martha, hitting her hard and starting a huge fight between them. Then she remembers kissing someone in the cabin, but it wasn’t Aaron. It was the boy in the drawings!!

Martha decides to ask Aaron about everything the next day. She goes to his house, and his little brother Jake lets her in, albeit reluctantly. Then Aaron meets her in the hall and doesn’t want her to come in much further…. Because JUSTINE is there! They claim that she was just picking up a graphic calculator because hers broke, and that she only hid because they didn’t want Martha to get the wrong idea, especially after she had a freak out at Miller Hill. Justine leaves, and Martha wonders if she should believe them. She asks Aaron about the cabin trip, and he says that he isn’t supposed to tell her, doctor’s orders, and that she’s lucky that she doesn’t remember because something TERRIBLE happened on the cabin trip. She shows him the drawings, and he begs her to stop asking him. When she asks if he knows the boy he tells her that the boy is DEAD!

With Aaron not speaking to her and more questions than answers, Martha is at home on Tuesday evening and Adriana comes to visit. She tells Martha that things at home are bad. Her Dad has finally moved out but Ivan has a new tape player and a new Discman and she doesn’t know how he paid for it, so she thinks that he’s been stealing. After all, he’s been hanging out with some tough characters! She then notices that Martha’s been drawing the whole time, and that it’s the dead guy’s face. And after swallowing down whatever she MUST have been thinking in that moment. Adriana invites Martha to the basketball game that Friday. Not that the sudden change in topic is at ALL strange, right?

So Martha, Laura, and Adriana go to the basketball game. All is going well for a bit, but then Martha starts hallucinating that every player on the opposing team has the dead boy’s face! She starts to freak out, and so Laura and Adriana drag her out of the gym. While Laura goes to find her a drink (most likely just water even though Martha could PROBABLY use a nice hard whiskey), Adriana pulls out a coin and starts to use hypnosis on Martha, claiming that it’s to calm her down. Martha says she’s feeling better, and when Laura comes back they start to leave. Martha asks if they will tell her anything about this boy, but they refuse and say they’re going to take her home. But who does Martha see making out by the lockers???? AARON AND JUSTINE! Since the graphing calculator excuse is no longer viable, he starts to say something, but Adriana and Laura tell him to back the hell off, and Justine too, and they take Martha home.

Back at home Martha tries to calm down by drawing. But then another memory surfaces! She remembers kissing the strange boy, but this time it becomes clear that she doesn’t want him to be kissing her. She asks him to stop, and then calls him Sean, and the memory ends with them shoving each other and her slapping him. As she’s pulled from the memory she wonders why they were fighting (maybe because he was sexually assaulting you, Martha?), and then she notices that she has a message on her answering machine. The message is a low raspy woman’s voice saying ‘You keep drawing him because you killed him’. Martha thinks that it sounds like Laura, but why would Laura do this?!

Martha decides to go visit Adriana’s doctor, Dr. Corben, to see if hypnosis can help her. My first thought goes to planted false memories and Satanic Panic, but let’s see how this all plays out before I start ranting about the irresponsibility of this kind of therapy. So anyway, Martha asks if Dr. Corben will help her, because Adriana hypnotized her and Martha thought it might help. Dr. Corben is aghast that Adriana did that because it’s very dangerous since the girl has no training, and she says that she would need to get permission from both Martha’s parents AND her doctor before she would do anything. Martha decides that she needs to split because this woman isn’t helping her at all. Outside of the office, Aaron appears, and he tells Martha he isn’t going to sneak around anymore and that he and Justine have been going out for months, and that is what Martha and Justine were fighting about at the cabin. She asks him what happened to Sean, and he is shocked she remembers him. But he still won’t tell her because it is ‘too horrible’!

That Wednesday at school, Ivan gets into a huge fight with another kid and gets suspended. Laura and Martha are on the phone talking about it, and another memory comes back to Martha: Laura was going to dump Ivan for Sean! When she confronts Laura, Laura clams up and says she doesn’t want to talk about it before hanging up. But now the memories have recovered pretty much completely, and as they say on “Monk” here’s what happened!: After a day of sledding and Ivan and Laura fighting outside the cabin, Adriana suggests that the group go skiing! Ivan and Aaron bicker a bit, and Adriana suggests that Martha should go first because she was the sledding winner, and Sean says he’ll go second. Martha realizes that her ski straps are messed up, and says that Sean should go before her so he doesn’t have to wait. So he does. And then Martha realizes that there is a weird silver line between to trees that Sean is skiing right towards…. a silver wire. Before Martha can yell to warn him, he skis into it, and it cuts his FRIGGIN HEAD OFF!!!!!!

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(source)

So she calls Adriana and tells her she remembers everything, and Adriana starts to cry as well, saying that she can’t sleep and can’t concentrate because she’s been so traumatized. The police couldn’t figure out who set up the wire, and Martha asks if Adriana thinks that one of their friends killed him. Adriana says she doesn’t know, but no one else was up there so who else could it have been? Then she says she’s coming over so they can commiserate or something. Martha goes to find a change of clothes, wondering why she was the only one to lose her memory when all of her friends saw it. Then she finds her unpacked back from the trip, and when she opens it up, she finds SILVER WIRE!! She must have lost her memory because SHE killed Sean!!! She wonders if everyone has stopped talking to her because they know that she killed Sean! Adriana arrives and Martha tells her about the wire, saying that she must have killed him. Adriana asks why, and Martha admits she doesn’t know but says she’s going to tell her parents. But then IVAN comes in and says that Martha can’t turn herself in because HE KILLED SEAN!! Adriana understandably freaks out, and Ivan tells them what happened: he had stolen a car and felt so guilty about it he had to tell someone, so he told Sean. And then Sean, the asshole that he was, decided to start blackmailing Ivan. So Ivan took the wire and tied it up between the trees! But oddly, he remembers tying it up much lower, around ankle height, thinking it would trip Sean and rough him up a bit (yes, because THAT would absolutely stop a blackmailer). He saw the wire had moved, but only once it was too late to do anything. Ivan says that he’s going to  turn himself in so Martha doesn’t admit to something she didn’t do. But then Adriana freaks out at him, saying that he KNOWS that Martha did it, and that he can’t ruin this for her!

Yeah, as it turns out, Adriana had moved the wire to the height that it was! And she had done it because she wanted it to catch Martha in the wire and kill her!!! She was jealous because she liked Sean, and Sean liked Martha, and Adriana saw Sean kissing Martha and lost it. Martha tries to explain that she did NOT want to kiss Sean, but Adriana doesn’t believe her, of course. And apparently she hid the wire in the bag AND she used hypnotism on Martha to make her memories stay repressed!! And then she grabs the wire from the bag, kicks Ivan in the stomach, and wraps the wire around Martha’s neck, trying to strangle her and/or decapitate her. But as they struggle, Adriana suddenly stops. Because she sees Sean’s face drawn on the piece of paper that is on Martha’s desk. So Ivan disarms her and grabs her arms, subduing her. She then goes into a catatonic state, and Ivan and Martha hug as she just keeps staring at the portrait, the portrait of the face that ‘saved [Martha’s] life.’. The End.

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I mean, okay? (source)

Body Count: 1, and what a badass death it was!

Romance Rating: 2. Everyone was cheating on each other and it was a huge mess!

Bonkers Rating: 5. The story itself was kind of standard, but the misuse of hypnotism AND a ski death involving decapitation was excellent.

Fear Street Relevance: 0. There is NO mention of Fear Street in this book. Not even an off handed mention of one of the characters living there. I’m done with that kind of thing in these books, if Fear Street isn’t even mentioned, it’s a zero for me.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“To my surprise, he was staring at the drawings with bulging eyes. His mouth wide open. No longer the blank faced professional. He was staring at my drawings in total shock.”

…. And then we don’t get any kind of follow up as to how the rest of the appointment went. Like, as if that was that. I hate it when Stine ends a chapter on a cliffhanger that doesn’t have any resolution.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Well outside of Mel Gibson still being an acceptable sex symbol, Martha, Justine, and Aaron went to see a Jim Carrey movie with mentions of lots of gross out humor. OH, and Martha compares her doctor to a surfer on “Baywatch”. And he wears Bass Wejun loafers?? What are those?

Best Quote:

“Why do cats always have to act like cats?”

I ask myself that every single day.

Conclusion: “The Face” was pretty lack luster. I wish that it had been a recreation of the A Ha video for “Take On Me”, but instead we got something meh and not even trying to be a part of the Fear Street mythos. Up next is “Secret Admirer”! 

Summer Giveaway 2018 2: Freddy’s Revenge

As we said a couple weeks ago, it’s summer time and that means that people are probably traveling and needing entertainment while they do so. We know that we really only have about one month left of the season, and how scary is it that soon it will be winter again before we know it. But because of that, we’re feeling extra generous, and are therefore throwing ANOTHER giveaway. So if you feel like you missed out on some previous ones, now’s the time for another chance!! One is an acclaimed novel by Celeste Ng, author of “Little Fires Everywhere”, and the other is a book by the horror master himself Stephen King!

18693763Book: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

Publishing Info: Penguin Press, 2014

Book Description: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

20926278Book: “Revival” by Stephen King

Publishing Info: Scribner, 2014

Book Description: In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister – feel the same about Reverend Jacobs. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family; the preacher curses God, mocking all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. In his mid-thirties, he is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. Because for every cure there is a price…

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Giveaway details: We are giving away one (1) hardback copy of “Everything I Never Told You” and one (1) hardback copy of “Revival.” The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends July 29, 2018.

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