Not Just Books: December 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

MV5BMTU0OTc3ODk4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4NzI5NjM@._V1_Movie: “Roma”

I just got done watching this movie yesterday, so it was quick to come to mind when thinking what to highlight this month in this post. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until, when browsing Netflix, my husband spotted it and mentioned that he had heard of it. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this movie was definitely different than much our typical watching-fare. It’s in black and white and is a foreign language film, detailing the life of Cleo, a young maid working for a wealthy family in Mexico City. The story is quiet, contemplative, and then will hit viewers with a bang at the most unexpected moments. It’s also a story of the strength of women and the complicated roles they can play in each others’ lives. It’s also definitely Oscar bait, but I still very much enjoyed it and strongly recommend it!

The_Sims_3_Refresh_CoverComputer Game: “Sims 3”

To follow that lofty note of true art, I also had a Saturday shift this month and got super bored. So what to do? Download “The Sims 3” and play it all day, of course! As a kid, I played the first two versions of “The Sims” pretty obsessively. We won’t get into the rather ridiculous and maybe even messed up things that my friends and I did with that game (…we MAY have created and proceeded to kill a bunch of Sims so that we could have a hundred tombstones in our cemetery…). And I think I might have played “Sims 3” at one point or another, but definitely not to the same level. So it was high time to get back into a quality time-waster such as this. What exactly is the true appeal of trying to re-create your actual life on a virtual platform, two pet cats and all? I’ll never know, but I sure as heck enjoyed it.

p15885732_b_v8_acTV Show: “Jeopardy!”

We don’t have TV, so we’re not one of those families who sit down and watch this nightly. No, we’re probably even worse: we’re the kind of family who, upon seeing that there are now seasons available on Netflix, spent the next week binging entire “Jeopardy!” championships. Yes, we have an exciting life, don’t get too jealous. But, in all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed this show, so it was fun to find some of it available to stream. Kate and I are on a trivia team together, so she knows how bad I really am at trivia. But for some reason, the format and kinds of questions featured on “Jeopardy!” play better to my strengths. Though it’s still a fight to get an answer out before my husband, who is a trivia guru. We also had an exorbitant amount of fun choosing favorites and least favorites from among the tournament participants.

Kate’s Picks

iconTV Show: “King of the Hill”

If you were to ask me what my favorite animated TV Show of all time is, I would absolutely say “King of the Hill”. It follows the various anecdotes from the daily lives of people living in a small Texas town called Arlen, with the main focus on Hank Hill and his wife Peggy and son Bobby. It’s understated and sardonic, with the kind of humor that is highly quotable while still staying firmly in reality. I have loved this show since it was on the air for it’s 13 Seasons, and when I saw that it was back to streaming on Hulu I was overjoyed. While I do love all the characters on this show, the biggest stand out for me is the paranoid and eccentric Dale Gribble, whose complete lack of chill is far too relatable (though John Redcorn is a very close second). This show has so much heart and is so timeless, and episodes from almost twenty years ago still resonate today. If there was ever a comfort show for me, this is it.

PuhHRfNGbPs3MCRRIsm6WjrEsnn0DZAgVideo Game: “Let’s Go, Eevee!”

I have the fondest of memories of playing “Pokemon Blue” on my Gameboy back in high school. So when I found out that Nintendo was pretty much remaking it on The Switch, and this time you could start with Eevee if you so chose, I WAS SO EXCITED! “Let’s Go Eevee!” is pretty much a remake of “Pokemon Blue” (with “Let’s Go Pikachu” being “Pokemon Red”, which my husband got for himself), though it has added and tweaked some factors that make it a bit more immersive. You can play with your Eevee, you can have an additional Pokemon follow you around, so I of course picked Meowth, and you can see the unique personalities that each of your pokemon have. I was playing this game a lot during a stressful time this past month, and it really mellowed me out as I did so. If you have a Switch and have nostalgia for the original Pokemon games, “Let’s Go Eevee” and “Pikachu” should definitely end up on your list of games to check out.

theres-more-to-the-marvelous-mrs-maisel-season-2-than-meets-the-eye-750-1544444384-1_cropAmazon Prime Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

My favorite show about a Jewish Comedienne in 1950s New York is back!! When we left Midge Maisel in the Season 1 finale, her soon to be ex husband Joel had discovered that she was doing stand up with him as the punch line. When we get back into her life, we see not only the fallout from that, but we also see how high her star has been rising. Rachel Brosnahan continues to shine as the charming Midge, though this time around he has a few more moments of poignancy when it comes to her complicated feelings for Joel. And Alex Borstein shows exactly why she won an Emmy for her portrayal of Susie, Midge’s curmudgeon of a manager and confidant. And let me tell you, the moment Midge and her family went to the Catskills for an extended vacation, my husband and I were basically shouting in glee at the blatant proud Jewishness on display. Pride, man. This show is still marvelous.

 

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

26244626Pick Number 5: “Veronica Speedwell” mysteries by Deanna Raybourn

“A Curious Beginning” Review & “A Perilous Undertaking” Review & “A Treacherous Curse” Review

We all know how much I love the Amelia Peabody series. So imagine my excitement when I discovered yet another historical mystery series that featured an excellent heroine! And a series that is being written currently, with the fourth book coming down the pike this upcoming spring! Veronica Speedwell, in many ways, is the natural heir to Amelia Peabody: she’s snappy, clever, and willing to do things herself if those around her shy away due to her “feminine sensitivities.” And, of course, with every talented female sleuth comes her gruff partner in crime, trailing behind being exasperated but also endeared by our heroine’s antics. Stoker is just such a man. And, unlike the Amelia Peabody series, the “will they/won’t they” relationship between these two has yet to be resolved, three books in. We’ll see what comes of things in the next!

22299763Pick Number 4: “Six of Crows” & “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo

“Six of Crows” Review & “Crooked Kingdom” Review

I had pretty mixed feelings about Bardugo’s original series. By the end, I actually disliked it quite a bit. So when “Six of Crows” was picked for bookclub, I went in with a pretty heavy dose of skepticism. Imagine my surprise when not only did I like it, but I loved it! Probably the most of anyone in our bookclub! I immediately went out and purchased the second book in the duology and read it in a few days. I loved all of the characters involved, their tragic backstories, and the effortless chemistry that developed between them all. Plus, a fantasy heist story. A FANTASY HEIST STORY! Of course, I’m all over this! It also had just the right dash of romance sprinkled throughout to satiate that side of things for me as well. These are technically two books, of course, but they read as one continued story, so I had to include both here!

26863057Pick Number 3: “Age of Myth” by Michael J. Sullivan

“Age of Myth” Review

This book makes this list not only for the story it contains in its own pages but for what it represents: a gateway into an entirely new fantasy world and fantasy author who I had previously not discovered. I read a lot of YA, and that’s my only excuse for how I somehow missed a prolific author such as Sullivan.  But after reading this book, I’m on this train for good. “Age of Myth” introduces a fantastic new world full of familiar beings (elves, dwarfs, giants, and humans), but stands on its own with strong characters and an action-packed story. I particularly enjoyed the strong women characters at the heart of the story: a middle-aged chieftain’s wife who finds herself at the heart of a growing conflict and a young seer girl who begins to understand that she may be more than she previously thought. We also get insights into one of our villain’s mindsets, and the fact that I enjoyed even this (against my usual preference for limited POVs in books) just speaks to the strength of this book as a whole. Look for reviews for the next two books in the series which should be coming your way shortly!

363423301Pick Number 2: “Lady Sherlock” series by  Sherry Thomas

“A Study in Scarlet Women” Review & “A Conspiracy in Belgravia” Review & “The Hollow of Fear” Review

Kate gave me the first book in this series last year for Christmas, and thus, a new great love was born. I quickly devoured the first two in the series and then waited anxiously for the third to finally arrive this fall. I’ve loved every bit of this re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes that cast the titular character as Charlotte Holmes. But while we’ve seen a gender-swap of the famous detective before, what makes this series stand out is its added interpretations of other staple characters from the series, often re-creating them in new and unexpected ways and providing plenty of surprises along the way. And, of course, Charlotte herself is an incredibly original character, not only from the original Sherlock, but from all of the other “girl Sherlocks” we’ve seen in the past. Fans of historical mysteries and Sherlock Holmes in particular should definitely check these out!

36896898Pick Number 1: “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik

“Spinning Silver” Review

It will probably surprise no one to find this book at the top of my list. If Kate and I had been operating this blog when I read “Uprooted” I have no doubts that it, too, would have topped my reading list for that year. Novik has mastered the art of fairytale re-tellings, as far as I’m concerned. The best part of her approach is that while still distinctly told in a fairytale type way, the original story is often only barely discernible beneath the creative twists she’s taken on events and characters. “Spinning Silver” was even more thrilling because it was re-telling a lesser-used fairytale, “Rumpelstiltskin.” Novik also diverged from the approach she took with the first book and here introduced an entire cast of characters all sharing POV chapters to help unfurl the story. I loved everything about this book. So much so, that while now on Christmas break from work, I’m having a strong urge to re-read it, less than a year after the first go-around!

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2018?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 5 Through 1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

40774524Pick Number 5: “Lethal White” by Robert Galbraith

“Lethal White” Joint Review

I waited three long years for this book to finally be released, and not only did it not disappoint, it became my favorite of the Cormoran Strike series! Cormoran and Robin’s continuing adventures as detectives in London have never been longer, but they’ve also never been more satisfying. This time they take on the privileged class when a politician may have ties to a potential murder from decades past. “Lethal White” is a showcase of how much Galbraith has grown as a mystery author since the series debuted, and it is also a good reminded that Galbraith is a great master of characterization. All we need now is for Cormoran and Robin to finally start figuring out their feelings for each other, though I know we’re probably still a few books away from that. If you haven’t started the Strike books, you absolutely should, because “Lethal White” pays off big.

36124936Pick Number 4: “The Outsider” by Stephen King

“The Outsider” Review

Speaking of masters within their field, I was so happy to see that Stephen King returned to his horror roots this year with “The Outsider”. When a young boy is molested and murdered in a small town, the cops think that they have an open and shut case when DNA evidence points to a local little league coach. But all is not what it seems, as the coach has not only an air tight alibi, but video evidence of being hundreds of miles away at the time of the murder. The monster in this book is one of the most unsettling that King has ever created, but it’s the appearance of his character Holly Gibney that really sold this book for me. Throw in some homages to “Dracula” and a number of likable characters, and “The Outsider” is just another example of the new Golden Age of King we are living in.

36686229Pick Number 3: “Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles” by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan (Ill.)

“Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles” Review

The best graphic novel of my reading year was also one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen put to comic page. I myself would have never thought to take the Hanna-Barbera character of Snagglepuss and make him a symbol of LGBTQIA+ resistance during the Lavender Scare, but Mark Russell did just that and MAN did he create a powerful tale. In this universe, Snagglepuss is a successful playwright who lives a life of glamour and glitz as the toast of Broadway. But when those around him start getting targeted by the Government for their sexualities, Snagglepuss has to decide if he wants to be a sign of rebellion, or to play ball. This book was a powerful and all too relevant tale about Othering, and it gave an emotional story to a character that was decidedly not emotional in his original conception. Bring tissues to this one though. You will probably cry.

34810320Pick Number 2: “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

“Sadie” Review

Honestly, we’re basically in crying territory from here on out, because “Sadie” almost wrecked me. But it’s power and rage and devastation is what makes it so good. When Sadie’s younger sister is murdered, she is determined to hunt down the man she is convinced killed her and get her revenge. Meanwhile, a podcast about Sadie’s disappearance and the murder of her sister is telling her story to thousands of listeners, and two narratives converge to tell a larger picture about love, misogyny, poverty, and loss. Summers doesn’t hold back any punches as Sadie goes on her mission, and she faces awful circumstances and hardships along the way. She is a tough and gritty protagonist that you root for, and her story is absolutely soul crushing in it’s realism. But it’s hands down one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.

35226186Pick Number 1: “Providence” by Caroline Kepnes

“Providence” Review

It probably comes as no surprise that one of my favorite authors made the top of the list this year! Caroline Kepnes may be well known for her disturbing Joe Goldberg books, but “Providence” is more of a tragic romance with speculative fiction thrown in for good measure. Jon and Chloe are teenage best friends, but when Jon disappears the romance that was blooming stops. When Jon reappears a few years later, something about him has changed, and his very presence is lethal for those around him. I fell in love with Jon and Chloe, I rooted for them and their star crossed relationship, and I loved the Lovecraftian influence that Kepnes brought into this book. It had me filled with suspense, elation, and woe, and when I set it down I knew that she had once again kicked me in my feels and left me raw. “Providence” is a WONDERFUL book, and it’s my favorite book of 2018.

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2018?

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

363010231Pick Number 10: “My Plain Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

“My Plain Jane” Review

The unexpected companion novel to the unexpected joy that was “My Lady Jane,” this story tackles a re-imaging of “Jane Eyre” with all of the twists, humor, and nonsense that I’ve come to expect from this author trio. The twists pile on top of each other right from the beginning when we are introduced to not only Jane Eyre, a girl who sees ghosts, but her school mate, Charlotte Bronte, a girl who likes to write. What made this unexpected addition all the better, was the fact that I ultimately ended up enjoying Charlotte’s story even better than Jane’s! All of the required pieces from the original are present, but almost only if you squint. And that’s a compliment! “My Plain Jane” feels completely fresh and original, and the fact that these authors somehow pulled this little stunt off for a second time is pretty incredible. I hear there’s a third book “My Calamity Jane” in the works, and you all know I’m already lined up for it even though it’s not slated for publication until 2020.

32991569Pick Number 9: “Jane, Unlimited” by Kristin Cashore

“Jane, Unlimited” Review

Not only do I include this book because it is fully deserving, but I do it in the same mode that I wrote my review: as a service to a book that has been criminally overlooked or DNF’d by fantasy fans who were disappointed that it wasn’t the next “Graceling.” As I said in my review, I understand that reaction (I, too, loved Cashore’s first trilogy), but I also feel that because of the massive popularity of her first books, “Jane, Unlimted” didn’t get a fair shake of it. This book is so completely new, so completely unique, that it’s a true shame that it has gone by so unnoticed. Cashore described her writing experience as trying to essentially create a “choose your own adventure” novel for adults. And it’s that and so much more! This genre-defying story follows the twists, turns, and choices of Jane, an average girl who likes to make umbrellas, as she explores a mysterious house and all of the wonders, and horrors, it contains. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy reading this book, but it left me thinking long after I turned the last page. And now, just re-reading my review, I feel compelled to re-read the entire book to try and remember exactly how this complicated story played out. I’m sure I missed many little nuggets that would be great to discover on a re-read!

25446343Pick Number 8: “Strange the Dreamer” and “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

“Strange the Dreamer” Review & “Muse of Nightmares” Review

Can you believe that I read both of these this year?? In my mind, it was FOREVER ago when I read “Strange the Dreamer.” Probably because it ended on a killer cliffhanger that tortured us all until the sequel and conclusion came out this fall. But man, I loved them both. The beautiful writing, the sharp characterizations, the increasingly complex look at what makes up who we are and why we do what we do. Grief, family, love, retribution. It’s all there! Looking back, I think I enjoyed “Muse of Nightmares” even more than the first book, preferring its deep-dive into some pretty dark topics over the heavy focus on romance in the first book. But, of course, you couldn’t have the sequel without the first, and I loved that one as well, so they both get a shout-out and the duology as a whole should be a “must” for all YA fantasy fans.

33555224Pick Number 7: “Thunderhead” by Neil Shusterman

“Thunderhead” Review

Speaking of cliffhangers, beware this next book unless you want to live through the waking hell that is counting down the days until “The Toll” comes out…sometime in 2019? Ugh. I loved “Scythe” and the uptopian world that Shusterman created where people live in a perfect world where death doesn’t exist, except when doled out by a select group of people whose job it is to keep the population under control. “Thunderhead” takes the concepts introduced in the first book and expands them exponentially. We get an even greater look behind the curtain into the corruption that exists in this seemingly perfect system. And our two heroes, Rowan and Citra, are coming at the situation from very different angles: one as a rebel, trying to  blow up the entire system, and the other working from withing, attempting to gather the power and influence necessary to steer the course of the future. The events at the end of this book are huge, effecting not only our main characters, but also the entire world. I have no idea where the story will go from here, but I can’t wait to find out! Soon, hopefully!

35921536Pick Number 6: “The Defiant Heir” by Melissa Caruso

“The Defiant Heir” Review

“The Tethered Mage” came out of nowhere and blew me away, so it was with much excitement that I got my hands on “The Defiant Heir” as soon as possible. And, again, this sequel proved that even good things can get better with time! No mid-trilogy slump here! What I loved most about the first book, and continued to love here, is the incredible female friendship that operates at the core of the story. Not only are Amalia and Zaira cautious friends, though. Their complicated relationship bound up in the restrictions placed on those with magic is being constantly challenged by the different forms of power and restraint they each face. This second book also expands the world out even further and we get a look into the massively crazy power of the Witch Lords whom we had heard about so much in the first book. Amalia and Zaira spend much of the book behind enemy lines and in tremendous danger. It’s definitely a more action-packed take than the more politically-focused first book. The third one comes out in April, and I’m already scheming up ways to get my hands on an early copy!

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 2018?

Kate’s Favorite Reads of 2018: Picks 10 Through 6

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. 

33918887Pick Number 10: “Bruja Born” by Zoraida Córdova

“Bruja Born” Review

This creepy follow up to “Labyrinth Lost” was the book that confirmed that I had a new favorite witch series to follow! A witch series that shows the dangers of bringing the dead back to life, as Lula Mortiz does to her boyfriend. The sad and also very creepy continuing story of the Mortiz Sisters was an improvement on the first, as not only does it center more on the scares and the dangers of the magical world the sisters live within, it ups the stakes and makes the consequences of their magic feel very apparent. Plus, the focus on impetuous and flawed Lula gave me a more well rounded character this time around, with lots of emotional moments as well as scary moments that would make “Pet Sematary” proud.

35068432Pick Number 9: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara

“I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” Review

The passing of Michelle McNamara was devastating, especially since her book about The Golden State Killer was such a labor of determination and hope for justice. What made it all the more poignant was that shortly after this book was published, The Golden State Killer was caught. “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” would have been a true crime powerhouse even had he not been, as McNamara does a superb job of tracking the case to the most specific detail, as well as putting the focus less on the monster, and more on getting justice for his many victims of rape and murder. This is a haunting book for many reasons, and will assuredly be a classic in the genre.

38746485Pick Number 8: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

Goodreads Page

While this memoir didn’t make the blog reviews, I was completely blown away by Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”. Our former First Lady was already an amazing person in my book before reading her memoir, but as I read it realized that not only is she incredibly intelligent, compassionate, civically minded, and poised and fabulous, she is also a great, great writer. I was taken in from page one, and her memories of childhood, meeting Barack, the ups and downs of married life and parenthood, and then being FLOTUS all leap off the page. She is candid and frank about how hard it could be to be in the spotlight, and the misogyny and racism she faced as First Lady made my blood boil. But, of course, she transcends all expectations and speaks her truth with eloquence and fierceness. This woman is a national treasure, and we don’t deserve her.

36750068Pick Number 7: “The Last Time I Lied” by Riley Sager

“The Last Time I Lied” Review

Riley Sager blew me away with his previous book “Final Girls, and I had high hopes that he’d be following it up with something just as strong. He came back with something better. Part gritty and scary mystery, part homage to “Nancy Drew”, “The Last Time I Lied” follows Emma, a woman whose past at a summer camp has haunted her. Specifically when three of her fellow campers went missing, and she told a lie that had rippling consequences. Emma’s return to the camp is rife with tension, as someone is stalking her for her misdeeds. This one kept me guessing up until the very end, and the suspense was palpable throughout the entire book.

36381091Pick Number 6: “The Cabin At The End of the World” by Paul Tremblay

“The Cabin At The End of the World” Review

Some consider Paul Tremblay to be a new master of horror, but I see him as the master of ripping my heart into a billion little pieces. His horror stories are emotional rollercoasters, and “The Cabin At The End of the World” had me scared to death and sobbing my eyes out by the end. When a home invasion interrupts the cabin weekend of two men and their adopted daughter, the invaders speak of an apocalyptic prophecy and a terrible choice the family has to make. There are many questions as to whether or not the invaders are right or just nuts, and this book raises questions about faith, family, and how far you’ll go to protect the things you love, no matter the cost.

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 2018?

 

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 our second annual “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 4.

Serena’s Prize Package

“The Dark Days Deceit” by Alison Goodman (My review)

“Furyborn” by Claire Legrand (My review)

“Deathless” by Catherynne M. Valente (My review)

“Empire of Sand” by Tasha Suri (My review)

“Lifel1k3” by Jay Kristoff (Goodreads)

“Song of Blood and Stone” by L. Penelope (My review)

Click here to enter!

Kate’s Prize Package

“The Boy on the Bridge” by M.R. Carey (My Review)

“The Most Dangerous Place on Earth” by Lindsey Lee Johnson (My Review)

“Pieces of Her” by Karen Slaughter (My Review)

“Bring Me Back” by B.A. Paris (My Review)

“The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond (My Review)

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (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: “Finding Baba Yaga”

39680799Book: “Finding Baba Yaga” by Jane Yolen

Publication Info: Tor.com, October 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: Netgalley!

Book Description:

You think you know this story.
You do not.

A harsh, controlling father. A quiescent mother. A house that feels like anything but a home. Natasha gathers the strength to leave, and comes upon a little house in the wood: A house that walks about on chicken feet and is inhabited by a fairy tale witch. In finding Baba Yaga, Natasha finds her voice, her power, herself….

Review: I don’t read a lot of novels in verse, but I’ve been a fan of Jane Yolen for quite a while. Pair that with a Baba Yaga story, and I’m in! This was a quick read, and while it took me a bit to really feel invested in the story, in the end, I really enjoyed this interpretation of Baba Yaga and the writing decisions behind presenting it as a story in verse.

The story follow Natasha, a girl running from a very unhappy home. As the cover of the book so beautifully depicts, she makes her way into the woods where she finds a certain house walking about on chicken feet. From there, the modern setting from which Natasha came mixes with the fairytale version of Baba Yaga that readers are more familiar with.

There are a bunch of incredibly strong themes in this book. Natasha, coming from a bordering on abusive home, travels an intense journey of self-discovery throughout the story. Through her, we see the struggles that face those who live in shut-down families, like the challenges to not only find one’s own voice, but even to give validation to one’s own thoughts as valid and worthy of expression. In her “new life,” she must not only tackle these growth areas, but deals with both sides of the emotional coin in loss and love. There’s also a very nice through-line about found families and the strength of connections that can be forged between two individuals who, outwardly, have nothing connecting them.

I also very much enjoyed the poetic style of the book. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of novels in verse. If anything, I’m more likely to pick up a collection of poetry than I am to read a book like this. In the past, I’ve often struggled to feel truly connected to a story that reads like a novel but is told through such a reduced number of words and often presented in challenging formats on the page itself. Maybe this comes from too many poetry classes, but I’m often so distracted trying to analyze line breaks and why a certain piece was laid out on the page the way it was and what that says about the content to maintain a consistent connection with the ongoing story.

I had the same problem with this story, but about halfway through, I was able to get more fully into the action. I think this slow dive in also had to do with the way that Yolen tells her story. Things aren’t all simply revealed from the beginning. Instead, we’re slowly introduced to who Natasha really is, what her life has been, and how the events she’s currently experiencing connects to it all.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a very short read (not only page count, but word count), so readers are likely going to be able to finish it in one setting. If you’re skeptical about novels in verse, I’d also say that this might be a good introductory piece, especially if you have an interest in fairytales and Baba Yaga in particular (I didn’t get into her much, but I really enjoyed Yolen’s interpretation of this classic character as well!). And, of course, fans of Yolen’s work will not be disappointed by this new entry.

Rating 8: Though it starts slow, the style of the story adds power to the deeper themes it is presenting throughout, such as self-discovery and finding one’s own power in the world.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Finding Baba Yaga” is a newer title, so it isn’t on many relevant lists. But it should be on “Novels in Verse.”

Find “Finding Baba Yaga” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Bring Me Back”

35857495Book: “Bring Me Back” by B.A. Paris

Publishing Info: St Martin’s Press, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I was given a copy by the publisher.

Book Description: Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

Review: Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC of this book!

Every once in awhile my book pile gets out of control. Okay, more than every once in awhile. It’s always teetering on the edge, and it does start to get to be too big. But earlier this year it was SO big that I felt a need to make two separate piles on my nightstand. My husband would taunt me saying that it was too much, TOO MUCH, but I told him that I had a system and that it was fool proof. Unfortunately, the second pile fell a bit to the wayside, as it was filled with non-library books and non- ARCs, which I deemed not as big of a priority… Until I looked at it a few months later and realized that one of the ARCs, “Bring Me Back” by B.A. Paris, had been sitting in that pile the whole time.

giphy7
My system! How could my system FAIL me so?! (source)

Kicking myself, I threw it on the regular pile, and when I finally, FINALLY, sat down to read it I promised myself that I would check these two piles a bit more frequently from now on, as I had missed out on a read I had been looking forward to.

And then… THEN. I finished it and wished that I hadn’t let the anticipation build. Because I did not care for “Bring Me Back”. And to fully explain my frustrations with this book, I’m going to give this a big ol’ SPOILER ALERT. If you still want to read this book, by all means have at it, and skip the bulk of this review because you’ll find nothing but sadness here.

For one thing, none of the characters are very likable or sympathetic. We get this book in two narratives: Finn and Layla. Finn is creepy as hell and has moments of toxicity and violence towards women in his life, be it verbal or physical. He is the epitome of ‘broken fellow who is deathly obsessed with one woman’, but unlike in books with similar characters (HELLO, JOE GOLDBERG) there are no interesting or complex or SATIRICAL things about his personality. He’s just a mess. We eventually find out that that Layla didn’t just ‘disappear while he was in the toilet’ while at that roadside stop; she’d confessed that she’d slept with someone else and he DRAGGED HER out of the car in a rage.

Then there’s Layla. Her parts are a little more understandable in their muddledness, given how her character enters into all of this. But my biggest problem with her is that, in SPITE of the fact that Finn is the goddamn worst and that she runs away with him in a fear that he’ll kill her, SHE STILL WANTS HIM BACK. And I kept waiting and waiting for a reveal, or a twist, or something that I had missed. But nope. She just wants him back, and wants Ellen out of the way. I really hated that aspect of this book, and while I know that there are a lot of complicated factors that enter into abusive relationships when it comes to how abusers can control and keep sway over their victims, but this seemed far fetched and really seemed to sweep Finn’s violence under the rug (as Layla repeatedly says that she KNOWS he’d never ACTUALLY hurt her, as if dragging her out of a car in a rage isn’t damaging).

But the biggest frustration for me was the end. The other B.A. Paris book I’ve read is “The Breakdown”, and if you recall I was very ‘meh’ on it until the last third of the book, when it did a surprising and well pulled off twist that pretty much saved the read for me. Going into “Bring Me Back” I hoped that it would get to the point a little faster than “The Breakdown”, but then it did the other extreme and about a fourth of the way in I figured out what one of the big reveals was. It is set up from pretty early on that Finn is an unreliable narrator. He talks about having moments of rage that he can’t control, talks about moments where he’s had minor black outs, and talks about his obsessive love for Layla. So from the get go I was saying ‘Layla is dead, Finn killed her, and now the guilt is resurfacing and he’s made a split personality a la Norman Bates’. I’m not quite right. The end is far more ludicrous. Turn back, y’all, if you really don’t want to know. The whole time, Ellen WAS Layla. Finn had been with Layla thinking that she was Ellen, because she has been wearing concealer, lost some weight, and tinted her eyebrows and changed her hair, along with other minor physical tweaks. Also, she took on all of Ellen’s mannerisms. I just CANNOT suspend my disbelief to this point, guys! Paris tries to make it all work, with other ‘changes’ that Layla made being brought up, and the fact that before Layla had disappeared Finn had never met Ellen (P.S.:Ellen is dead, y’all: their father killed her) so he didn’t have a frame of reference. But it really, really didn’t work for me. On top of all of this, the big reveal happens in the form of a long winded letter, a literal telling as opposed to showing faux pas being laid out on the page.

There were a couple of things that I liked about this book. Mainly a couple of side characters named Ruby and Harry. They are both meant to be red herrings, but I liked Ruby’s kind personality and I liked Harry’s tolerance of other people’s BS. They both seemed like supportive friends at the end of the day. It was also a quick read, and while I was having a hard time with everything, it did keep me going and I didn’t find myself slogging as I went through. It’s fast paced to be sure, and clocking in at less that 300 pages it could be a way to spend an afternoon during this holiday season if you find yourself with time off.

So it’s another book that pulls out Ranganathan’s Law 3.

ranganathanfaith

“Bring Me Back” wasn’t the book for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the book for you.

Rating 3: With a twist that was easy to guess and an incredibly improbable ending that felt way too far fetched, “Bring Me Back” really didn’t work for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Bring Me Back” is included on the Goodreads lists “Matryoshka/Nesting Dolls”, and “OMG Where Did That Come From?!”.

Find “Bring Me Back” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Last Namsara”

32667458Book: “The Last Namsara” by Kristen Ciccarelli

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, October 2017

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

Book Description: In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Review: This book came out a bit ago, but it’s been lingering around on my audiobook holds list for a while. So when I was looking for a next book to listen to and saw that it was available, it seemed like fate had finally decreed that now was the time! And, really, a book about dragons? ANY time is THE time as far as I’m concerned! But, while the dragons themselves were, of course, awesome, I didn’t end up loving this book as much as I had hoped.

Asha has grown up as a princess, but one who has been shunned by the general public for an accident she caused when young. To make repayment for this error, she has made it her life’s mission to hunt down the dragons that, through breaking her trust, scarred her face and terrorized her city, killing many. With an unwanted wedding swiftly approaching, Asha begins to slowly uncover secrets at the heart of her society and its history that may change everything. But can a cursed girl still be a savior?

So, while this book ultimately wasn’t all that I hoped it would be, there were still some pretty cool elements involved. And first and foremost of those was the world-building and history at the heart of the story. This book doesn’t just plop you don’t in some generic fantasy setting with dragons and call it day. No, instead there is a detailed history that is carefully laid out before readers in interludes between chapters. Not only is this an actual history of events that lead to the society and cultural situation that Asha finds herself living in during this book, but there is folklore and legends incorporated as well, all neatly tying larger themes together. I think I ended up enjoying these interludes more than the actual story itself. They provided a lot of depth to the world itself and crucial layers to the complicated social dynamics taking place, but the writing style seemed also best served by this type of storytelling. Many of these sections had a certain fairytale-like ring to them that I truly enjoyed.

I also loved the dragons. It took a while for them to really show up, and, of course, I was happy when we inevitably got past the “dragons are evil and I must hunt them” stage of things, which we all saw coming from the start. There was a really nice connection again between storytelling and the dragons, and I thought this concept was both unique and played well to the author’s obvious strengths in this area.

But, while it did have those strengths, I had a hard time really connecting with the story and instead found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with Asha herself and the pacing of the story over all. We’re told quite a lot about how badass Asha is, but again and again, the story felt like it was building to a moment where we would actually SEE this badassery come out to play only to have the story pull back at the last minute. Not only did this damage Asha as a character (it became increasingly hard to believe what we were being sold as far as her abilities when she continuously chose the cautious and inactive route), but it really hurt the pacing of the story itself. The tension would be racketed up, all of the players would be in place for conflict, and then Asha would just give up, pass out, not engage, whatever and the whole thing would deflate like a sad balloon. This happened again and again and AGAIN.

Asha was never a driving force in this story. Instead, almost all of the action that takes place to move the plot ahead was done by the characters around her. There was truly only once instance in the very end where we saw her make an active choice, one that wasn’t forced upon her, and by that point it was too little too late. It also takes waaaaaay too long for Asha to figure out certain secrets and reveals that are made very obvious to readers from the beginning. This kind of drawn out “suspense” does nothing but annoy readers who have already guessed and make the protagonist seem like an idiot for not figuring it out, too.

But, again, the dragons were super cool. I also liked that the book was written as a stand alone story, so Asha’s tale is now complete. The author has a companion novel featuring a few of the other characters who were present in this book, so I might check that out. Like I said, the storytelling and writing were strong enough, it was just Asha herself and the pacing that failed. Perhaps with a new tale to tell and new characters at its heart, everything will click together in a second go-around. If you like stories with dragons, this might be worth checking out, but I recommend it with cautions due to the main character and the story’s struggle with pacing.

Rating 5: Half of a positive rating for the dragons/history/world-building and half of a negative rating for Asha/poor pacing.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Last Namsara” is on these Goodreads lists: “Dragons” and “ADULT Fantasy books with stong female leads and a romantic SUBplot.”

Find “The Last Namsara” at your library using WorldCat.

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Silent Night”

843086Book: “Silent Night” (A Fear Street Super Chiller) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1991

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

Book Description: Don’t open that present!

If only Reva Dalby had listened to that warning.

But beautiful, cold Reva won’t listen to anyone. Reva thinks she can have whatever—and whoever—she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby Department Stores.

Now, someone has some surprises in store for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.

Holiday cheer quickly turns to holiday chills for Reva. Someone is stalking her, someone is trying to get to her.

Her money can’t help her. No one can.

After all, who can you turn to when murder comes gift-wrapped?

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: Chanukah may have passed us, but my Jewish/non-denominational turned secular household still has Christmas/Yule/whatever to look forward to, and given that R.L. Stine felt festive while writing his “Fear Street” books I, too, thought that I could get in the spirit of the continuing season. Therefore, it just made sense to pick up “Silent Night”, one of the “Fear Street” Super Chillers! Had Stine written a book based on Chanukah I would have read that too (he could have called it “Eight DEADLY Nights” or some shit), but as it is, we get us some Christmas themed scares. But seriously, to all our Jewish readers, I hope you had a pleasant Chanukah!

giphy4
And I ate far too many of these bad boys this year with NO regrets. (source)

We meet our protagonist Reva Dalby, the spoiled daughter of Shadyside’s department store tycoon. She’s barely doing her job at the counter, and is instead judging all the plebeians around her because she is SO above working. What’s worse, it’s the Christmas season so the store is playing “The Little Drummer Boy”! While I’m sure that her hatred of it is supposed to denote what a jerk she is, if you ask ANY retail person this time of year what they think of holiday music they will probably tell you they’d rather puncture their eardrums rather than listen to the store soundtrack. Reva covers her ears, and then is confronted by her manager, Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith tells Reva she has to go work on some back room Chanel stuff, and Reva flat out refuses, saying she can’t because she ‘did her nails’ and doesn’t want to ruin them. Ms. Smith tells her that it’s the last straw, but we all know that since Reva’s dad owns the entire store she won’t do anything about it, and she stalks off. Reva ignores a customer and then decides to apply some lipstick to her mouth, but when she does a sudden pain leaps across her lips, and they start bleeding. When she looks at the lipstick, she finds that someone has stuck a needle in the tube! And given that she had used it previously, it must have been ON PURPOSE!

giphy5
Reva in that moment, I like to think. (source)

Now we jump back two weeks. Reva is driving with her boyfriend Hank Davis, and wondering why she’s been dating him for the past six months because he’s SO not her type. So she pulls over, and promptly tells him that they’re through, excited to see how badly it wrecks him. She then realizes that she liked going out with him because he is such an emotional lunkhead, so she REALLY hopes that he freaks out. When he asks if she’s mad at him she says no, she’s just done and he shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. When he asks why, she says she wants to spend the New Year with someone ‘interesting’, and this girl is a piece of work. He is understandably upset, and she tells him to walk home and unlocks the car doors. He tells her that she’ll be sorry as he gets out to leave, and when she calls for him he gets excited that maybe she’s reconsidered, but nah, she just tells him ‘happy holidays’ and literally LAUGHS as she guns it and drives away, planning to steal a guy named Mitch Castelona from some girl named Lissa Dewey. We’re putting Reva up there with past awful protagonists like Bobby Newkirk and Brady Karlin!

Shortly thereafter she arrives at Dalby’s Department store to pick up her Dad. As she walks through the empty store she’s scared for reasons she can’t really articulate to herself, but the empty space gives her the willies and it always has. She runs into a mannequin and freaks out, but then composes herself and goes up to the sixth floor. She runs into Mr. Wakely, head of security, who is in a piss poor mood as he storms on past her. She goes into her Dad’s office and asks him why Mr. Wakely was so mad (as she knows his son Mickey from school), meanwhile musing to herself that the picture of her mother on his desk must make him sad. See, she died four years previously, of course. It’s plot exposition. Mr. Dalby tells her that he just fired Mr. Wakely for drinking on the job. And the store has been having even more problems, what with rampant electrical issues and an employee shortage. He reminds Reva that she can have a job over break, but tells her that she should recruit her friends. Reva says she will, and immediately thinks of Mitch and how she will be able to steal him away all the easier that way.

Reva calls Mitch and offers him the job, and he accepts because he could use the money. He then asks Reva if Lissa could also have a position, and Reva grudgingly says yes. When Lissa gets on the phone to thank her, Reva hatches a very cruel plan and tells Lissa to wear her best outfit when she reports for duty, because she’ll be at the perfume counter. But in actuality she will be loading and arranging items in the stock room. WHAT A HOOT REVA IS. Her little brother Michael comes in, and Reva is actually pretty okay to him because I suppose Stine thought that humanizing her a little bit was more in the Christmas spirit, but shortly thereafter the phone rings again and it’s Pam, Reva’s cousin who happens to be poor and lives in a tiny house on Fear Street. And Pam is wondering if there are any job openings at the store. Reva hates Pam because 1) she’s cuter that Reva, and 2) she’s poor. I guess this implies that Reva’s Dad really did build an empire on her own since Pam’s a Dalby that doesn’t have jack shit, but it also shows what a wretched family this is if Pam is literally calling begging for a job to make ends at her house meet. Reva lies and tells her that no, the store isn’t hiring, and hangs up, patting herself on the back for being such a goddamn bitch. But Pam seems to know that Reva is full of shit, because she says to herself she’d love to pay her back somehow. And girl, I hear ya, #teampam!

Shift to Pam’s perspective. She’s upset, but decides that meeting her friends Mickey and Clay will take her mind off of everything. She drives to the 7-11 to meet them, and thinks about how she enjoy’s Mickey’s company (he’s described as kind and funny, though sullen lately), but is kind of scared of Clay (who has a mysterious scar on his face and has been suspended for fighting before). The three hang out musing about various candy brands, as Mickey LOVES candy, but then decide they should go when the cashier is eying them. They go up to pay, and the cashier accuses Clay of trying to shoplift. Pam tells him that they weren’t stealing anything, but the cashier is insistent and says he’ll call the cops. Clay loses his cool and physically attacks the cashier, grabbing him and throwing him against the cash register. They hear sirens, and bolt, piling into Pam’s car, but the car won’t start no matter how much Clay tries. Eventually it does start, and then they’re in a chase with the cops! Eventually after a prolonged and unrealistic chase they lose them (though I would THINK that the cops would have taken a license plate number), and when they stop it turns out that Clay had been shoplifting after all, and he brings out his spoils to share with them. Mickey tells Pam that he needed to have fun like that because his Dad was just fired, and Pam tells them she’s mad at that family too because Reva said there weren’t any jobs for her there. But then Clay tells her that Reva handed jobs to Mickey and Lissa just that night. Pam tells them she’s going to get her cousin.

That next Sunday Reva is driving around town, thinking about how she’s blowing that pop stand soon because she got accepted to Smith starting that Fall. She then sees a classmate named Robb, a guy she thinks is nice and funny, but she’d never go out with him because he’s fat. She pulls up next to him and asks if he’d be interested in making money at Dalby’s, and he accepts under the pretense that it’s going to be an important PR job. She can’t wait to see his face when he finds out it’s actually a job for Store Santa!! Because how funny! Because he’s overweight!!!

giphy11
Pretty much my face whenever Reva is on page. (source)

That night she’s babysitting her brother and fantasizing about Mitch when there’s knock on the front door. It’s Hank, and he asks her why she hasn’t called him back. She tells him to take a hint, and then he asks her if he can have a job at the store and that this isn’t easy for him. She tells him no, happy to see him upset. He grabs her in his desperation and rage, and she LITERALLY SICKS THE GUARD DOG ON HIM. He pulls himself away from the dog’s mouth, and runs to his car, saying he’ll get her back, but Reva just laughs and laughs like a god. damn. sociopath.

At work that Saturday Reva laughs laughs LAUGHS in the faces of Lissa and Robb, both of whom she has humiliated with her ‘dress up nice for demeaning work tasks’ trick. Her boss, Mr. Rawson, chides her, but what power does he actually have given that she’s the CEO’s daughter? She tells him to put Mitch and Lissa in different departments. She goes back to her work station patting herself on the back, and then gets pulled into a closet by Hank, who is now working security. That’s inappropriate behavior and I just don’t have a horse to bet on here. As she leaves him in the closet she’s suddenly intimidated about how angry he is.

Jump to Pam, Mickey, and Clay all hanging out in Mickey’s living room, Clay futzing with a knife. Mickey confides in them that this father has been drinking nonstop now that he doesn’t have a job and only leaves the house to buy more beer. He asks Pam where their friend Foxy is, and she says that he got a job at Dalby’s, and she’s still mad at Reva but doesn’t want to start any family feuds. She and Mickey have a grudge against the store, and Clay asks if they can keep a secret: he plans to rob the place and asks if they want to help. He sees himself as Robin Hood and that they’re taking stuff from the rich to give to the poor (i.e. themselves). Plus he has a plant on the inside; his friend Maywood is a security guard there who is still mad about Mickey’s Dad, and he says that he’ll leave the door open for Clay to take whatever he wants, and they’ll stage it like an actual robbery. Pam understands why Mickey is bitter. She then remembers a time when she and Reva got along really well. In fact, they were thick as thieves until Reva’s mom died. Then Reva changed. But now she hates her cousin, and is considering going through with the plan. But she decides that she can’t rob the store, so Clay asks if she’ll at LEAST be the getaway driver. THAT she agrees to. And before they can discuss it anymore, Foxy shows up and they keep their plan to themselves since he wouldn’t approve.

Cut to Reva (with her cut lip, so we’re back up to date now) talking with Pam on the phone. Reva’s Dad told her to invite Pam and her family over for Christmas Eve. She resents Pam because she still has a Mom, after all. After they hang up, she thinks about maybe not going to work because of the needle incident, but then her mind wanders to Mitch and why he hasn’t fallen all over her yet. After all. Lissa is a ‘drip’, so how could he possibly want to be with HER over pretty, rich Reva? How indeed, bitch. Little brother Michael comes in asking if she’ll take him with her so he can see Santa, but Reva says not today, chump, and instead promises herself that today is the day she seduces Mitch. She corners him in the electronics stock room, and after some tepid overtures she kisses him (hoping that Hank is watching on the security cam). When Lissa walks in, she acts like Lissa, his GIRLFRIEND, is a mere inconvenience. Lissa runs off, and Mitch chases her, and then Reva chases HIM saying that he should let her go. He says that what they did was wrong, but she tells him he seemed pretty okay with it in the moment before heading back to work. When she gets back to her station (fifteen minutes late, inconveniencing Ms. Smith), she finds a present for her. She opens it up to find a bottle of perfume, but then she realizes that it isn’t perfume, it’s BLOOD! In her shock she drops the bottle, and it smashes, splashing blood all over her white sweater. With a card, mocking her, of course. Instead of freaking out, she storms to Hank’s office, ready to get him fired as she’s convinced he did this. But he’s been busy since that morning, helping install security equipment. She says he’s lying, and runs to her father’s office to tell him all about it. Then she hears popping noises, the sound of gun shots, and when Mr. Dalby leaves his office he sees her bloody shirt and faints, convinced she’s DEAD. When he comes to, it’s explained to them both that it was a power surge that made some Christmas lights explode. She tells her Dad she has to go home and change. But as she’s driving she realizes she’s being followed by a strange man with a moustache! Being a dim bulb she drives straight home, and when she gets out of the car he parks and gets out too. Is this her stalker?! No, it’s a guy who accidentally bumped her car with his and broke her tail light. He just followed her to give her his insurance info. Reva thinks that she’s really going nuts.

It’s the night of the robbery! Pam is way nervous even though Clay assures her that all is going to plan and that the new security system isn’t even hooked up yet. They arrive at the store and Pam says that she doesn’t want to wait outside stewing in her nerves, so she accompanies them inside. Clay has brought a gun with him for some reason. As they go through the store and the boys start looting, Pam hears a noise that makes her cry out. Mickey and Clay convince her it was nothing and continue to try and figure out how they’re going to carry their stuff. But then another noise makes Pam turn around to see a tall security guard. She thinks that it must be Maywood, but SURPRISE. IT’S NOT. Clay COCKED IT UP!! The guard tells them to raise their hands above their head and he’s going to call the police, but then Clay pulls out his gun to match the guard’s and then SHOOTS HIM. In the chaos they all bolt. As they are driving home police cars zoom towards the department store, and Pam somehow gets the guys home and gets herself home.

The next morning, she wakes up hoping it was a dream, but it wasn’t. She sees on the TV that the guard was fatally shot, but then the TV also says that the burglars made off with $25,000 from the safe. And THAT isn’t right, because they didn’t take any money! She calls Clay, telling him that the money thing is wrong, and then HE tells HER that his gun wasn’t even loaded!!! So he couldn’t have shot the guard! She says that they have to tell the police about this, but Clay says that there’s no way they’d believe them, and Clay is right on the (not taken by them) money.

As Mr. Dalby is driving to him and Reva to work that next Monday, he’s exhausted and telling her that the burglary must be an inside job, but even that doesn’t make much sense because everyone liked Ed, the guard who was killed. He was also shot in the back, so it doesn’t make sense for there to have been a stand off. He then realizes he never asked Reva what that stain was on her shirt (nice, Mr. Dalby), but she doesn’t want him to worry so she says it was just a ‘practical joke’. They get to work and Reva’s morning drags until Mitch asks if they can talk. They go to be together somewhere and he starts kissing her. He tells her that Lissa dumped him, and asks if she wants to go to a movie that Saturday. And Reva, being THE GODDAMN WORST, says ‘nah, I’m good’. Mitch gets so mad that he throws a bench against a wall, and she smirks to herself and walks back to her work station. When she gets there Ms. Smith tells her there’s a package for her, and it’s HUGE! Reva is excited and opens it, but then she starts to scream when she sees a body folded up inside! But surprise, it’s just a weird looking mannequin. And there’s another note, and this one says ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM A FRIEND’. Reva runs away, and nothing’s gonna stop her now. It’s a “Mannequin” joke, get it?

Three days after the robbery gone afoul, Pam, Mickey, and Clay are sitting in Mickey’s house, trying to figure out just what’s going on. Mr. Wakely is going out for more beers, so it’s good to know he’s still having issues. Clay says that he can’t get a hold of Maywood, because work said he called in sick, and that he swears he didn’t bring a loaded gun. They ask Pam if Reva’s father suspects anything, but Pam hasn’t been able to get ahold of Reva either. The phone rings, and Pam picks it up (even though it’s Mickey’s house?), and the voice says that THEY SAW WHAT THEY DID AND THEY WANT THEIR SHARE!

That next night Pam and Foxy are hanging out at her place and Foxy asks where she was the night before. She tells him that she was just hanging out with Clay and Mickey, and asks if he’s JEALOUS? Before they can continue their flirtation, the phone rings. It’s the guy again, saying he wants ten thousand dollars! Pam says that she doesn’t have any money, and freaks out as she hangs up. Foxy asks what the heck is going on, and she tells him everything. He’s horrified, and she tells him that she’s just so goddamn sick of being poor while her awful cousin gets everything, and hey, that’s totally fair. Foxy says that she needs to call the police, but she says that Clay would never go for it. He suggests they go talk to Clay together, and they drive to Mickey’s house (on really icy roads) because I guess Clay is a member of the household or something. Clay says he’ll kill the person threatening her, and I just… these Super Chillers are so long.

At work that Thursday Reva confronts Hank asking him if he’s the one who’s been sending her the creepy presents, and he says that no, he isn’t, and she says that it HAS to be him because who else would be doing it? And Hank points out that it could be anyone, LITERALLY ANYONE, because everyone HATES her because she is such a fucking ASSHOLE.

giphy7
It’s a GODDAMN Christmas MIRACLE! (source)

Reva realizes that since her mother died she’s become very cold and very cruel, as if that makes it all better, and Hank comforts her.

Meanwhile Pam is trying to get ahold of Reva and Foxy. When Foxy doesn’t answer (because she expected as much from Reva), she decides to go and find him. But when she gets to his house, someone grabs her from behind and clamps a glove over her mouth. The person tells her that they want ten thousand dollars, and that they could hurt her if they wanted to. They also tell her not to turn around, and then she does, of course. The attacker shoves her and pins her to the ground, but runs to their car and speeds off. Foxy shows up, and Pam tells him that she knows who’s been calling her.

Reva gets to work the next day, feeling a little better, but then stumbles upon Robb and Mitch physically fighting. Mr Rawson stops the fight, and Mitch says that Robb started it but Mr. Rawson is more concerned about opening and doesn’t want to hear it. She asks Mitch what happened and he tells her to suck it, in so many words.

Another jump in time. Reva has finally taken Michael to see ‘Santa’ (aka Robb). After he’s done he tells her it wasn’t the real Santa because he could feel the padding, but she assures him the tried and true ‘it’s a helper’, blah blah blah, what’s MORE important is that she sees Ms. Smith who tells her that another gift has arrived. Reva is ready for anything now, and when she opens the huge box she expects to find another mannequin. But sadly, it’s not Kim Cattrall this time, it’s DEAD MITCH WITH A KNIFE IN HIS BACK!

After the police are done questioning her, Reva is sent home and is basically in a daze for the rest of the day, feeling bad that she never apologized to Mitch. And as she’s falling asleep that night, at 2am she bolts up and realizes that she knows who did it!

Pam, meanwhile, thinks it was Clay, and asks him as much. Because it was Mitch who saw them the night of the robbery and was blackmailing them. Clay denies it, though, and says that he wouldn’t throw is life away for a worm. When Mickey asks if he’s telling the truth, Clay SCREAMS at him that he’s not a liar, and Mr. Wakely tells them to get out if they’re going to fight. The three of them leave, and Mickey apologizes for his Dad, and tells Clay he knows that he didn’t kill Mitch.

Reva, on the other hand, thinks she knows who did. She brings her Dad to the security office to watch the tapes, and points out Santa Land the day Mitch died. She thinks that it’s Robb that did it, because Michael told her that it wasn’t the real Santa because he could feel the padding, whereas, in Reva’s mind, Robb is so FAT that HE DOESN’T NEED PADDING. This bitch. Mr. Dalby says a murderer that does not make, and she tells him about the fight Robb and Mitch had. Mr. Dalby says that’s good enough for him, and calls the police. The police arrive and plan to arrest Robb IN HIS SANTA SUIT, but them Pam runs up, asking why they’re arresting Foxy?! Robb IS Foxy!! Suddenly I ship them all the more! As the police take him away he tells Pam that he did it for her! Pam is horrified, and Reva sees the awful glare that Robb/Foxy is giving her. Pam is also giving her a glare. When Reva leaves work that day at closing, Pam is waiting for her and tells her there is no WAY that Robb/Foxy could have killed Mitch. Pam explains that Robb/Foxy was fighting Mitch because Mitch was blackmailing Pam (but doesn’t tell her why), and that Robb/Foxy was only trying to protect her because they’ve been dating for six months. Robb/Foxy was the one playing the mean tricks on Reva (I don’t think that a needle in lipstick is a TRICK, but okay) because 1) Reva had been so awful to Pam, and 2) because Reva had humiliated him with the Santa gag. Reva kind of starts to realize what a jerk she is, and apologizes sincerely to Pam. Pam offers to drive her home, and Reva says sure, she just has to go grab her purse from her Dad’s office.

But when she’s inside, she hears a strange noise. It’s Mr. Wakely, with a pistol aimed at her (as “Silent Night” blares on the store speakers, natch). So here’s what happened! He and Maywood were going to use the three kids as a distraction while they robbed the safe, but when Mr. Wakely saw that one of those kids was HIS kid, he freaked. And then when he saw the security guard Ed aiming a gun at his son, he shot him. Then he found out that Mitch saw the whole thing, and overheard Mickey and his friends talking about the blackmail, so he killed him. When Reva asks why he sent Mitch’s body to her, Mr. Wakely is confused, and says that he just stuffed him in the first box he saw, which happened to be the mannequin box that still had her name on it. He came back this day to get more  money, but now Reva has seen him and that won’t do. Reva runs, and lucky for her Mr. Wakely is drunk, as is the new normal, so the chase is on. Eventually he lunges at her, but misses, and he sails over the balcony, and lands on a huge Christmas tree. And the lights short out, electrocuting him. And Hank shows up, telling Reva that he saw the whole thing, and the confession recorded on the security footage. She collapses in his arms.

Reva, Hank, and Robb/Foxy are at the police station together. Robb/Foxy has been let go since he didn’t do anything, and he apologizes to Reva. She forgives him and says that she kind of deserved it (and I don’t want to say yes, but I also can’t say no). Pam eventually leaves questioning, and there is going to be a hearing regarding the whole quasi robbery thing, but since she’s never been in trouble before she’ll probably only be charged with trespassing. No news on Mickey and Clay, and Jesus, poor Mickey. The group all walks outside, and Reva and Pam hug, Reva thinking that finally, FINALLY, she feels again, but how sad that such horrible things had to happen before she could. And she walks with Hank into the ‘silent night’. The End.

giphy12
How nice that YOU were able to learn something from this, Reva. (source)

Body Count: 2, the poor security guard and Mitch, who I’m not as sad about because what a tool.

Romance Rating: 7 for Pam and Robb/Foxy, but the wretchedness of Reva and her dalliances brought it down from an 8 or 9 that Pam and Robb/Foxy probably could have had.

Bonkers Rating: 6. It wasn’t terribly over the top, but the blood in the perfume bottle and the Mitch in a Box was kinda nuts.

Fear Street Relevance: 3, just cuz Pam lives there, but so little happened on site.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“He stood over her, then dropped down, pinning her to the drive.

‘Too bad you turned around,’ he whispered.”

… And then he just ran away!! I mean, good for Pam, but what a clunker!

That’s So Dated! Moments: Mickey’s go-to for stealing is a couple of VCRs, and Reva laments the fact that Hank always wanted to take her to Arnold Schwarzenegger movies on their dates, and WHAT THE HELL, how can you LAMENT that?!

giphy8
How can you hate the man who brought you this smash holiday classic?! (source)

Best Quote:

” ‘Hey, man, did they really stop making Zagnuts?’ Mickey asked, upset.

‘Why don’t you write the company and ask?’ Pam suggested, reading the headlines of The Star and The National Enquirer.

‘Yeah,’ Clay said. ‘Write to Mr. Zagnut himself. ‘Dear Mr. Zagnut, I am desperate.”

‘I don’t think there IS a Mr. Zagnut,’ Mickey said seriously.”

I don’t know why, but this whole exchange tickled me.

Conclusion: “Silent Night” was long, but it was actually pretty okay!! Definitely a fun holiday read! Reva was awful, but Pam is a solid person to root for, and the story itself was entertaining. Up next we’re extending the holiday madness, with “The New Year’s Party”!