Book Description:Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed… But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction…
Review: It was the Fall of 1997. I was in eighth grade, and I had just finished “The Stand” by Stephen King. My Dad had handed me his copy after we’d watched the re-broadcast of the miniseries, assuring me I would like it. He was right, and I still consider it one of the best moments I’ve ever had with my father, because he opened me up to the world of Stephen King. And while he didn’t have anymore King to share (he’s not a horror guy at all; “The Stand” is his kind of dystopian dark fantasy thriller), I knew that I needed to get my hands on more. And my next choice was “Carrie”. For a vaguely isolated and bullied eighth grade girl, “Carrie” was exactly the kind of book I needed in that moment. While “The Stand” was the book that introduced me to King, “Carrie” changed my life. And on a whim, I decided to revisit it, twenty one years after having first read it. I had my fears that it wouldn’t be as profound to adult Kate as it was to thirteen year old Kate who needed a catharsis from her awful classmates. But I was wrong.
“Carrie” is still a relatable and unnerving horror story from the master of horror himself, and even 45(!) years after it was published it still tackles issues of bullying, zealotry, social isolation, and teenage angst in believable ways. Carrie White is an unconventional protagonist in that she is a constant victim, and is perpetually beaten down and weakened by her peers, her community, and her own mother. Carrie isn’t particularly two dimensional as a character; true, she finds her telekinetic powers and does find some bouts of self confidence that manifest every so often, but she never achieves what she wants to achieve, which is acceptance. Or at the very least, being left the hell alone. And yet even though she is for the most part mousy and passive except for a few moments, and then Prom night, you still feel for her and ache for her. King does a really good job of creating a lonely teenage girl who we pity and care for, and yet ultimately fear (note: We do have to give some credit to King’s wife Tabitha, an author in her own right and complete bad ass. She helped him with the infamous period scene, and helped him with the viciousness of teenage girls). But it isn’t just Carrie White who King so amply brings off the page. Many of his supporting characters are developed and well thought out, and sometimes it’s the real life horrors in this book that will upset you the most. While the bullying is awful, I’m more put off by Carrie’s zealous Mother, so devout and obsessed with her religion that she perverts it into the physical and emotional abuse of her only child. King makes it very clear that Carrie isn’t the real monster in this novel, or rather, if she is she’s a monster who didn’t stand a chance to become anything else.
But I also need to give kudos for how well King captures teenage life for not just Carrie but for the other teen characters. I knew girls like Chris, the cruel and insecure spoiled princess who is used to getting her way, even when she’s at her most rotten. I knew boys like Tommy Ross, a popular but ultimately sweet guy who was just doing his best (side note: I am still in full belief that if Prom Night hadn’t ended the way it did, Tommy and Carrie would have ended up together. HE WAS FALLING IN LOVE WITH HER, GUYS!). And Sue Snell, the girl whose guilt led to her good deed of getting Carrie a date to the prom, is almost more interesting than even Carrie herself. Sue’s comfort in her conformity is tested at the beginning, and her slow realization that there is life after high school, and that she wants more than people would expect from a pretty, popular girl in a small town. On this re-read from an adult’s eye, I found Sue’s arc to be incredibly compelling and bittersweet.
The narrative of “Carrie” is also a slow burn of suspense, told in a combination of third person and epistolary sequences. The perspective may be from that of Carrie or the various people in her life, or it may be through police interview transcripts, book excerpts, or scientific papers. The jumps sometimes feel a little jarring at first, but once you get in the rhythm of them they flow together in a cohesive way. I feel like we haven’t seen as much epistolary experimentation from King as of late, and this throwback to that style from him was fun to see, especially since it’s used so much in thrillers these days. It also casts a wide net on perspectives, and it gives a very well rounded picture of not only Carrie’s life, but the lives of those around her and how the Prom Night and aftermath affect those who come out of it alive. One of the most fun things that I completely forgot about it in this style was the ‘scientific paper’ excerpts, where a scientist is talking about telekinesis and how it applied in this case. But, in another masterful touch by King, even in these epistolary excerpts many of the adults just don’t get what life is like for the teens involved, and the contrast between the speculations and the realities make the story all the more sad.
I may be looking at this through a biased lens, as “Carrie” was a book that got me through a lot during my darker years of adolescence. But I find it to be so effective and well done that I’ve been known to recommend “Carrie” to teenage girls who are looking for a bit of a challenge beyond the YA shelf, and who don’t mind a good scare or two. King’s first is still one of his very best.
Rating 10: This remains one of my favorite books of all time. “Carrie” is not only a suspenseful and truly scary book, it also captures the horrors of being a teenage outcast that still feel timeless and relevant.
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!
This show has been airing for quite a while, and while I always had a vague idea of its existence, I never particularly felt very interested in watching it. Part of was my lingering annoyance with the fact that they undid Coulson’s death (I think the character is awesome, but c’mon, someone has to die every once in a while in this dang universe and his death was pretty moving in the movie). The other part had to do with some idea I had that this was a very episodic, NCIS-but-with-superheroes! type show. But when I was laid up after having my baby, my husband and I decided we needed some show with a nice build up of episodes and a low commitment level to get us through the sleepless days and nights. And turns out we both really enjoyed this! So much so that we blew through about 3 seasons-worth in about two weeks. The show was way more serialized than I had thought and there were some legitimate surprises in store as well as some fun Easter eggs for those really in the know. I particularly have liked the ongoing villain of the series, as well as, of course, Coulson (though I’m bitter now that the fact that he’s by far the best character in the show undermines my continued annoyance at said death scene previously).
Though I’ve always really enjoyed the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, I had no idea that this movie was coming out soon or was even in the works until I saw the adorable promo piece featuring GOT’s Kit Harrington and Toothless (honestly, I had no idea that Kit Harrington even voiced a part in these movies and was pretty confused by the whole combination until I looked into it further.) So count that as a win for the marketing department! I really loved this movie. This entire trilogy is one of those rare beasts that has held up through its entire run. While I don’t think anything can really top the first movie, the second two did nothing to detract and this one wrapped up the entire story in a pretty excellent way. As usual, the visuals, particularly the flying sequences, were gorgeous and the heart of the story of a boy and his dragon is enchanting. I did spend a good portion of the movie trying to hide the fact that I was crying a ton from my husband though. There was also a little boy sitting a few seats away from us who was getting pretty teary eyed, and props to his dad who didn’t try to hush him!
Obviously. While I prefer DC comics, there’s no denying the amazing feat that Marvel has pulled off with their movie universe. I mean, look at the failures of both DC’s attempts as well as the horrid “Dark Universe” that Universal studios tried to launch with “The Mummy.” It’s clearly not as easy as it looks. I think we were all pretty skeptical about how “Infinity War” was going to work juggling that many characters. And I know I was super impressed by that movie. So that made the build up to this movie even more fun. Not only was there a massive cliffhanger at the end of the first movie, but by this point, I felt fairly confident that they would actually pull it off, so gone was much of the worry, leaving only anticipation. And I thought this was not only a thoroughly enjoyable movie, managing to have a solid selection of comedy beats in the midst of a pretty bleak situation, but also wrap up a ton of storylines while setting up stories for our continuing characters. I could predict a few parts of it, but there were also a good number of surprises in store. Between this and GOT, the internet is a spoiler-ridden minefield, so really, there’s no excuse not to just go out and see it as soon as possible!
My favorite witches are back, and this time they’re really sticking it to the patriarchy! When we left off in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, Sabrina had just signed her name in the Book of the Beast, pledging her devotion to Satan and seemingly choosing her witch side over her mortal one. But Sabrina has been having some struggles since she made that choice. Her mortal friends are growing distant from her, her new boyfriend may not be as trustworthy as she wants him to be, and her Aunt Zelda is getting close to Father Blackwood, the misogynistic head of the Coven who has a vendetta towards Sabrina. When Sabrina starts to make serious waves that go against the male dominated Coven, she may find herself in danger. This show is still witchy fun with a dark twist on a beloved character, and it has sucked me in AND piqued my interest in feminism in relation to the Dark Arts. And plus, Lucy Davis is still a charming delight as the bubbly and loving Aunt Hilda!
There was no questioning that “Get Out” displayed Jordan Peele’s talents as a horror director, but it’s his newest film, “Us”, that solidifies his prowess as a horror maestro. When Adelaide and her family go on vacation to Santa Cruz, she tries to suppress memories of a trauma from her childhood. But on their first night, the family is confronted by strangers outside their vacation home. When the strangers come into view, they turn out to be doppelgangers of Adelaide and her entire family. And they are armed with scissors and a bloodthirst. As Adelaide tries to keep her family safe, the mysterious doppelgangers do their best to take them all out. This movie is complex, disturbing, and filled with hidden meanings and Easter eggs that will keep you talking long after its final scenes unfold.
As the true crime nut on this blog, it’s probably not terribly surprising that I was totally sucked in by the Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard saga. The short version is that Dee Dee abused, poisoned, incapacitated, and manipulated her daughter Gypsy and made it seem like she had a number of debilitating conditions in hopes of getting attention and money. Eventually Gypsy and her online boyfriend conspired to murder her mother. It’s far more complicated than that very brief Cliffs Notes. And now Hulu has a limited dramatization of the case called “The Act”. It stars the incandescent Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee, and she is intense, scary, and very saccharine in the role. But it’s Joey King as Gypsy who steals the show, as her performance as a manipulated and abused woman who goes to terrible lengths to get her freedom is heartbreaking and eerie.
So, surprise! I had a baby last month! And in honor of my little one, and to acknowledge that alongside all the great fiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the last 10 months the fact that I’ve also been obsessively researching baby information, I’ve decided to dedicate my two posts for this week to four of my favorite pregnancy/baby-related reads. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as a librarian, reading was/is my go-to coping method when the first-time mom anxiety hit(s) and there are a lot of resources out there. Some were ok, some seemed like a textbook for scare tactics (I’m looking at you “What to Expect” series), but these four were pretty solid for me specifically. Now, of course, pregnancy and parenting is all very individualized to how people approach life and children, so massive warning that these fit what I was looking for and in no way reflect some type of be-all, end-all to the the vast, VAST expanse of resources and approaches on these topics. So, that out of the way, here are the second two I’m highlighting.
Book: “The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year” by Alice Callahan
Publishing Info:Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2015
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: It seems like every time a new mother turns on her computer, radio, or television, she is greeted with news of yet another scientific study about infancy. Ignoring good information isn’t the right course, but just how does one tell the difference between solid studies, preliminary results, and snake oil?
In this friendly guide through the science of infancy, Science of Mom blogger and PhD scientist Alice Callahan explains how non-scientist mothers can learn the difference between hype and evidence. Readers of Alice’s blog have come to trust her balanced approach, which explains the science that lies behind headlines. The Science of Mom is a fascinating, eye-opening, and extremely informative exploration of the topics that generate discussion and debate in the media and among parents. From breastfeeding to vaccines to sleep, Alice’s advice will help you make smart choices so that you can relax and enjoy your baby.
Mini-Review: So while my first two recommendations on Wednesday had to do with birth and labor, these two books have to do with early infancy and the millions of questions that come with it! I read both of these books when I was pregnant, so at the time, while I knew the information would be useful, I was also coming from a purely theoretical viewpoint. Now, after the fact, I find both of these even more useful. Again, surprising no one, this book focuses on analyzing the research behind the many, MANY recommendations that come with early infancy. And with recommendations comes debate, especially as, if you ask any woman, especially those from different generations, these recommendations are constantly changing. How do you know which to follow and which may be just the most recent “fad?” Well, truthfully, we’re all just guessing. But this book does a good job of really looking at the research behind the current recommendations and letting new parents get at least a better understanding of what the debates are and some basis for coming to their own conclusions. I’ve referenced it a few times now when trying to make decisions about my baby.
Book: “On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep” by Robert Bucknam & Gary Ezzo
Publishing Info: Hawksflight & Associates, Inc, September 2006
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby’s world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby’s day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant’s unknown needs.
The information contained within On Becoming Babywise is loaded with success. Comprehensive breast-feeding follow-up surveys spanning three countries, of mothers using the PDF method verify that as a result of the PDF concepts, 88% breast-feed, compared to the national average of only 54% (from the National Center for Health Statistics). Of these breast-feeding mothers, 80% of them breast-feed exclusively without a formula complement. And while 70% of our mothers are still breast-feeding after six months, the national average encourage to follow demand feeding without any guidelines is only 20%. The mean average time of breast-feeding for PDF moms is 33 1/2 weeks, well above the national average. Over 50% of PDF mothers extend their breast-feeding toward and well into the first year. Added to these statistics is another critical factor. The average breast-fed PDF baby sleeps continuously through night seven to eight hours between weeks seven and nine. Healthy sleep in infants is analogous to healthy growth and development. Find out for yourself why a world of parents and pediatricians utilize the concepts found in On Becoming Babywise.
Mini-Review: For a book about sleeping, there sure is a lot of talk about breastfeeding in that book description. I am definitely of the mindset that”fed is best” so take this recommendation for what it is and not any grand statement in favor of exclusive breastfeeding or any other “stance.” No, what appealed to me about this book (beyond the obvious of course! I mean, who doesn’t want their baby sleeping through the night as soon as possible?!) was the nice balance it seemed to strike between hyper scheduling feeding/sleeping and some type of more “baby led” or attachment parenting style. Using the tips from this book, the baby is less on a schedule than on a routine or rotation of activities. I’ve found this so, so helpful! Not only do I feel like nighttime feeds have become more manageable more quickly, but as a panicky new mother, I felt like I had a better guess as to what was actually going on when my baby cried than I would have had otherwise. I really can’t recommend this book enough, regardless of how you feed your baby. With its emphasis on full feeds (rather than “snacking” where the baby eats in short bits and then wakes up 30 minutes later and its a constant, exhausting cycle), I fully believe this booked helped me not lose my sanity in the early days. It took some early commitment, what with keeping baby awake to eat and letting baby fuss a bit in bed, but I do think it set us all off on the right track.
Publishing Info: Lake Union Publishing, November 2018
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:The ghosts of the past come calling in a spellbinding heart-stopper from the “Queen of the Northern Gothic.”
After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams…
One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen.
As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past.
Review: As someone who grew up in Minnesota, I have fond childhood memories of spending summer trips by Lake Superior. Even in my adult life I try to get up to Duluth and the north shore at least once a year, as the beauty of the lake shore and the north woods is hard to resist. Because of my affection for this part of the state, I am almost always going to give Wendy Webb a shot when it comes to her books. And given that she’s a local author, the wait list at the library is usually pretty long, so unless you’re on top of the publication dates it may be a wait. When “Daughters of the Lake” came out I wasn’t on top of it, but after a few months wait it came in for me, and I was eager to start it.
Webb’s books have always managed to capture the feel and essence of Lake Superior towns and what it’s like to live there. She describes the lake itself just how it is in real life, with the beauty, power, and danger that comes with it. Her descriptions of the lake shore and the towns on it really transported me to a part of this state that I love, and that alone made it so that I was going to finish this book no matter what. The characters were plenty likable as well. Kate, our main character, is a relatable protagonist, and you believe her pain as a woman whose marriage has fallen apart due to her husband’s infidelity and lies, and her need to have a change of scenery. More interesting, still, was her cousin Simon, a sympathetic and supportive bed and breakfast owner who has turned the family estate into a cozy resort. I liked their relationship, though sometimes Simon treaded little close to the ‘supportive gay bestie’ trope, especially since it seemed his sole purpose was to play as her sidekick. I was definitely invested in both of them, though, and the mystery at hand. I also liked the moments in the past, told both through Kate’s strange psychic visions and also perspective chapters. In those sections the focus on on Addy, a young woman whose birth culminated with her literally floating on the waters of the Lake with no harm done. The supernatural aspect of her story is slowly peeled away, and I enjoyed seeing those layers peeled back.
But unfortunately, a promising plot with fairly solid characters gets muddled in the last half of the book. The first issue I had I can’t really go into much detail about, as I don’t want to spoil anything. But some of the supernatural aspects of this book seemed to work without a magical system that was sorely needed to make believable. By the time the book had wrapped up I still wasn’t totally sure that there had been a full explanation of how this twist of fate worked. Secondly, there were small hints of other ghostly elements in this book that implied they were building up to something big, but by the time it was revisited it was rushed and crammed in near the last minute. There were also a number of plot twists that were either a little too obvious, or out of left field without any sort of build up. And one of these twists was the kind that I absolutely cannot abide: the plot twist that happens in the last few pages, which completely changes the outcome of the entire story.
I’m occasionally willing to give this kind of thing a pass, mostly if it’s inconsequential in it’s outcome, or if it’s SO well done and so well placed that it takes my breath away. But in this case it just felt like a cheap last moment ‘gotcha’, and I rolled my eyes as it unfolded because it felt totally unnecessary. My fear about this kind of turn of events in thrillers is that authors will start to think that a well plotted story is all about the twists, and will therefore try to add twists for the sake of twists. I don’t recall Webb doing this in her past works (well, not in ALL of them anyway), so I don’t think I need to worry about her future books. But it always makes me wary.
Ultimately, while I liked the setting and the building blocks of the plot and characters to “Daughters of the Lake”, there were a few too many stumbles for me to be able to give it a really high rating. It’s an eerie gothic read to be sure, but I had wanted more from it.
Rating 6: While the plot was fun and the setting kept me interested, “Daughters of the Lake” had a few too many hokey twists and felt disjointed in the story telling.
“Daughters of the Lake” isn’t featured on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Lake Superior Mysteries”.
So, surprise! I had a baby last month! And in honor of my little one, and to acknowledge that alongside all the great fiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the last 10 months the fact that I’ve also been obsessively researching baby information, I’ve decided to dedicate my two posts for this week to four of my favorite pregnancy/baby-related reads. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as a librarian, reading was/is my go-to coping method when the first-time mom anxiety hit(s) and there are a lot of resources out there. Some were ok, some seemed like a textbook for scare tactics (I’m looking at you “What to Expect” series), but these four were pretty solid for me specifically. Now, of course, pregnancy and parenting is all very indivualized to how people approach life and children, so massive warning that these fit what I was looking for and in no way reflect some type of be-all, end-all to the the vast, VAST expanse of resources and approaches on these topics. So, that out of the way, here are the first two I’m highlighting.
Book: “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know” by Emily Oster
Publishing Info: Penguin Press, August 2013
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most profound, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.
A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any complicated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.
Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.
Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.
Mini-Review: As a librarian, I feel like I have a lot in common with the author and her emphasis on research-based decision making. Working in an academic library, none the less, I spend a solid chunk of my time teaching students why it is important to find research to back up their own thoughts and opinions and how to distill that information into choices that are reflected in their work. This book has an incredible wealth of information from someone who has spent the time to really analyze what studies are really saying about pregnancy and decision-making, all presented through the lens that each expectant mother will need to ultimately make whatever decision feels right and most comfortable to her. For me personally, it really helped re-focus my attention on aspects of pregnant life that do require new approaches but also took a lot of fear out of the millions of warnings out there that make pregnant women feel like everything and anything is crazy dangerous for them and their growing baby. It’s all too easy to live the full 9 months feeling like every little thing could be the WORST THING EVER and you’re a BAD MOM if you do such and such thing. This book really helped me give myself a break from much of this. For others looking to know what the science is behind the general recommendations that “everyone knows to be true,” this is a great book to really dig deep. And yes, justify a glass of wine now and then!
Book: “A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience” by Anne Lyerly
Publishing Info: Avery, August 2013
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: Most doctors are trained to think of a “good” birth only in terms of its medical success. But Dr. Anne Lyerly knows firsthand that there are many other important elements that often get overlooked. Her three-year study of a diverse group of over one hundred expectant moms asked what matters most to women during childbirth. The results, presented to the public for the first time in A Good Birth, show what really matters goes beyond the clinical outcome or even the usual questions of hospital versus birthing center, and reveal universal needs of women, like the importance of feeling connected, safe, and respected.
Bringing a new perspective to childbirth, the book’s wisdom is drawn from in-depth interviews with women with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, and whose birth stories range from quick and simple to complicated and frightening. Describing what went well, what didn’t, and what they’d do differently next time, these mothers give voice to the complete experience of childbirth, helping both women and their healthcare providers develop strategies to address the emotional needs of the mother, going beyond the standard birth plans and conversations. Transcending the “medical” versus “natural” childbirth debate, A Good Birth paves the entryway to motherhood, turning our attention to the deeper and more important question of what truly makes for the best birth possible.
Mini-Review: Yes, yes, again with the studies. But this was one big study conducted by a doctor on women’s experiences with labor, specifically. The author was recognizing that while medical professionals focused, rightly for the most part, only on the outcome of labor to establish whether a birth was “good,” many women, asked later would mention a variety of things that contributed to their feelings on their labor experience. The book is broken up into section that deal with these larger areas (like communication, safety, control, etc) and got into the different, smaller details that influenced how women felt about these larger topics and their birth. The really great thing about this book, I thought, was the way it always circled back to the idea that every woman is going to need different things to feel like she had a “good” birth, and that in a society that is largely fixated on the “right way” to have a baby, we are often losing focus on the fact that the whole idea of a “right way” is a fool’s errand to begin with. One that is often used to shame women about their choices, rather than support the variety of ways that work for the many, many different women (and births!) out there. After having my baby, this book seems even more valuable, as I can still find myself having the tendency to feel guilty about some of the aspects of my labor. But this read is a good reminder that there is no need for that.
Book: “Best Friend 2” (Fear Street #50) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1997
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description:Becka is relieved. She’s finally ready to forget all the horrible things her “best friend” Honey did to her real friends. She can even forget the way she was blamed for it all. So why does she keep seeing Honey everywhere she goes? At first she thinks it’s her imagination. But then the threats begin. Honey is back. And this time she won’t stop–until Becka is dead.
Dear Reader: A few years ago, I wrote a book called The Best Friend. And hundreds of you wrote to tell me how unhappy you were with the ending. You thought Honey Perkins should pay for her crimes.
But I needed your help. I wasn’t sure exactly what should happen to Honey. So we held a contest to let you decide. I got thousands of great ideas. It was hard to choose, but I finally picked my favorite. A girl named Sara Bikman from Grafton, Wisconsin, sent in the winning entry. Thanks, Sara!
So here is the book you’ve all been waiting for. Honey is back–and she’s after Becka Norwood. But this time, Honey will get what she deserves. Won’t she?
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: Okay gang, I have been both anticipating and dreading getting to “Best Friend 2”. As I mentioned in “Best Friend 1”, the reception to that ending was so bad that R.L. Stine pitched a bit of a fit and pretty much said ‘okay, children, if you think that you can do better, I challenge YOU to write a sequel!’ So a contest for “Best Friend 2” was held, and the winner’s story was turned into an honest to God “Fear Street” book. I imagine that Stine took the plot and made it his own, but who knows, maybe this is the complete product of an unsatisfied fan. Whatever it may be, on we go.
Becka is trying to move on from the traumatic events of “The Best Friend”. She has moved to Waynesbridge, the lame unofficial sister city of Shadyside which seems to cultivate a lot of the “Fear Street” Bad Boys. This is her first day at her new school and she’s nervous and thinking about all the terrible things that happened with Honey Perkins, the girl who stalked her and tried to kill her friends Trish and Lilah, and killed her boyfriend Bill. Becka has to meet with Mrs. Englund the guidance counselor to check in, and we get the run down of everything that happened in Book 1 (Lilah’s bike accident, Trish’s fall down the steps, Bill’s stabbing). After Becka leaves the office she thinks that she sees Bill, and she calls out to him, but it’s not Bill. His name is Steve, and he helps her find her way to her first class. In this class she meets a girl named Glynis, and they seem to hit it off and Becka thinks that Glynis not only has cool nails (chocolate brown! How unique!), but that she could be a real best friend, unlike Honey. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize that she’s written Bill’s name over and over again in her book.
After class Glynis meets up with Becka at her locker and introduces her to a boy named Frankie. Becka is instantly smitten because not only does he have rebellious long hair, he plays guitar! He tells Becka that her nails are so short she could be a good guitar player, an then he invites her to go with him and Glynis to get some pizza. Becka is convinced that this polite gesture of inclusivity translates to him having the hots for her. They walk to Pizzaz Pizza (you are NO Pete’s Pizza!), and all sit down together. Becka is feeling relaxed and okay, but then who should walk in, but Eric, her ex boyfriend (the guy she was with before Bill). Was Eric mentioned in “The Best Friend”? I honestly don’t remember. She runs to him and says hello, but he seems not so happy to see her. He reminds her that she dumped him, but she swears that she has changed, and asks if he wants to go join her, Glynis, and Frankie? When he balks she says that they can go driving around instead, and says goodbye to her new friends who were kind enough to invite her out after school, and instead goes with a guy who doesn’t seem to want to even be near her. They walk to his car, and Becka suddenly kisses Eric, even though she’s thinking about Frankie. Eric says that she’s change, and they kiss again and make an arrangement to see each other again. When Becka gets home she thinks about how excited she is for this new life, and then decides that she’s going to get herself some of that chocolate nail polish that Glynis has. In fact, if she changed her hair a bit, she would look a lot like Glynis….
The next day Becka buys the nail polish and after she applies it she fantasizes about Frankie calling her and confessing his feelings for her. At first she think that the conversation actually happened, but when she realizes that no, it didn’t, she starts to worry that she’s acting crazy, just like Honey was. We get another recap of the bad things that Honey did, and Becka tries to get ahold of herself… But the realizes that she used the nail polish to write Bill’s name all over her face.
Some time passes and Becka checks in with Mrs. Englund. She says that she’s feeling really good, and Mrs. Englund compliments her on her new hairstyle. After school Becka goes to Glynis’s house and they hang out while Becka tries on some of her clothes. Glynis suggests that they should go shopping together, and tells her that she usually drives to Shadyside’s Mall on Division Street. Glynis’s mom comments on how alike the two of them look, and Glynis laughs, which makes Becka feel insulted, because after all they’re BEST FRIENDS RIGHT?! When Glynis goes to help her mother with a task, Becka does the very friendly and rational thing of taking Glynis’s clothes and putting them in her own bag because best friends always borrow each other’s clothes.
The next day Becka accompanies Glynis and Frankie to the Division Street Mall, and when Frankie comments that she’s wearing Glynis’s outfit Glynis starts to look a bit concerned. Becka says she wants to wear them on her date with Eric, and asks if there is a problem. Glynis, probably terrified that this girl will boil a rabbit if she protests, says no, and just to give them back after her date. They get to the Mall and Becka is suddenly nervous about being back in Shadyside. What if people from her past see her? And just as she’s worrying about that she runs into Eric in one of the stores! He tells her that he works there. They have some okay small talk, and when Glynis and Frankie join them it seems to be going okay. Glynis and Frankie tell Becka they’ll meet her at the food court, and when they leave Eric is suddenly on edge. He asks Becka why they called her ‘Becka’. Because, as if you haven’t guessed it yet, BECKA IS ACTUALLY HONEY!
Side note and pause: I don’t know who this Sara Bikman, the winner of the writing contest is, but if this is a plot point she came up with on her own, I have to give her some serious snaps. Even though I saw it coming from a mile away, I’m not certain I could say the same had I read it in 1997 when I was still within the target demographic.
Honey says that she IS Becka now, and starts to freak out and throw a fit. To make matters worse, she sees the ACTUAL Becka, and in a last ditch effort to try and keep her new name and new life, grabs a string of glass beads from a display in the shop and, for no clear reason, proceeds to STRANGLE ERIC TO DEATH WITH THEM. She tells Becka that SHE’S the one who did it, first she killed Bill and now she’s added Honey’s new life to the ol’ notches on the kill belt, and then makes a break for it with people chasing her.
We now move on to Part 2, and the perspective has shifted to the Real Becka, home in Shadyside and totally shaken up by this turn of events. She, Lilah, and Trish are attending Eric’s funeral, and talking about how Honey pulled off the great con of pretending to be Becka (she forged some transcripts and a letter from Becka’s parents). Evidently Honey escaped from her hospital that past summer and her father had no idea where she was, and she’s gone missing again. Becka thinks that she sees Honey, but it’s just someone else with the same hair color. As Trish and Lilah walk Becka home from the funeral they tell her that they’re worried about her. She’s been seeing Honey everywhere ever since Bill was stabbed, and to that I say uh YEAH, IT WAS A TRAUMATIC EVENT IN HER LIFE. And then, shock and awe, BILL shows up! Apparently he didn’t die from his stab wound, though he now only has one lung. Becka feels so guilty about what happened to him that she can’t even look at him anymore (but weird side note again: Trish ‘pecked’ Bill on the cheek when he came up to them. It seems like something a couple may do, but it doesn’t appear that they ARE a couple? Are they just really friendly and affectionate?). Bill wants to talk with Becka but she says she can’t, and he says that he knows she’s seeing some chump named Larry now (my words, not his), but he just wants to talk some things out. Becka refuses, and Bill leaves dejected. Trish and Lilah ask her why she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, and Becka says that her memories are just too awful, and frankly, I get it. Trish tries to lay on the guilt by saying that Bill was by her side while she was in the hospital with her broken neck, and Becka apologizes that she wasn’t there for her as much as Bill was. They all hug. Becka gets home and her mom asks her if she’s feeling stressed, as her doctor, one Doctor Perlman, says that she should avoid that, but Becka claims that she’s fine. Her phone rings, but when she picks up, there’s no one on the line, and Becka wonders if it’s Honey. Why isn’t she in any kind of protective custody right now? CAN THE POLICE AT LEAST SEND A SQUAD CAR TO HER HOUSE?! I don’t think this is unreasonable given that Honey just killed someone and has an obsession with Becka.
At work the next afternoon Becka is visited by her new boyfriend Larry, whom she describes as looking like Bugs Bunny. Not exactly high praise in the looks department, but you know, Bugs glamours up REAL nice.
Larry keeps pestering her but she tells him that he has to order something or get out. He obeys and leaves. When her shift is done she goes to her car, and hears footsteps. She worries that it’s Honey again, but no, it’s just Bill. He begs her to speak to him, and she once again says no, and he says that he tried calling her yesterday bot lost her nerve. She feels stupid for blaming Honey, but she’s not out of the woods yet because he won’t take her ‘no’ for an answer and tells her that he still cares about her. He grabs her, and she tells him to let go. And who should come to the rescue? Larry! Larry asks if there are any problems here, and Bill insists no before skulking away. Becka tells Larry she’s okay, but then when she looks at her car things go from bad to worse. Someone has slashed up the seats and left a gutted dead rat on the passenger side. Becka just starts screaming ‘HONEY!’ over and over, even as Larry drives her home. Paging Dr. Perlberg…
After taking some of her sedatives Becka has calmed down, and she tries to watch the news, but they keep talking about Eric’s death and how Honey is still at large. She turns it off and wonders if Honey is hiding out next door. She considers going outside to do some investigating, when her phone rings. She answers it, and it’s Trish, telling her that she just saw Bill and he was SUPER messed up. That isn’t Becka’s fault, I’d argue, but Trish seems to think it is. She tells Becka that Bill pulled off his shirt and showed off his scar, and told Trish that Becka’s cruelty hurt more than the knife, and to that I say HA!! Manipulation, much? Becka rightfully says that isn’t fair, and asks Trisha whose side she is on anyway, not as rightfully. Trish says that Becka is being unfair, and Becka hangs up on her, thinking that she’s a traitor. The phone rings again, and Becka answers, immediately apologizing to Trish, but, big shock, it isn’t Trish. It’s a raspy voice saying “YOU KILLED BILL”.
Becka proceeds to go outside to sneak around Mr. Perkins’s house to see if she can see Honey. She looks in the window but just sees Mr. Perkins, asleep in front of the TV. She is startled by someone coming up behind her, but it’s just Lilah. Becka screams, but then wonders if she was too loud, expecting to see Mr. Perkins now staring out at them but he’s not. Becka asks Lilah what she’s doing there, and Lilah says she came to show her something, but before she can clarify Mr. Perkins HAS shown up at the window and starts yelling at them, saying that somehow all of this is Becka’s fault and asks where Honey is. Becka says she doesn’t know, and Mr. Perkins says he’ll call the cops on her if he catchers her prowling around his property. He closes the window and Becka and Lilah scamper away. They go up to Becka’s room, and Lilah says that she has to show her something. She pulls a newspaper clipping from her pocket, and shows it to her. It’s about a family annihilator named Kevin Paulson who murdered his wife Deidre and his son Harold, while Harold’s twin Hannah hid in the closet. Kevin then shot himself to death. Lilah reminds Becka that Harold and Hannah were in their grade, and that after the murder suicide Hannah went to live with an Uncle. Becka remembers how weird the twins were, and how badly Hannah wanted to be their friend. So much so that she followed them around and was a general nuisance. One day Becka was so sick of Hannah she tricked her. She asked Hannah if she wanted to join the Cool Club, and Hannah said yes. Becka told her the way to join was to get down on all fours and bark like a dog during a school assembly. So Hannah did so, crawling up on stage and barking like a dog. The school laughed and laughed. And then when she went to Becka’s house in triumph, Becka informed her that THERE WAS NO COOL CLUB. Hannah as crushed, and Becka never saw her again. Becka realizes that Hannah IS Honey. And THAT is why Honey hates her so much.
The phone rings and it’s the same voice. This time it tells Becka that it’s her best friend and that they’re coming to see her with something sharp. Fine. Whatever. BUT MAY I JUST SAY that there was absolutely NO reason to give this kind of backstory to Honey WHATSOEVER. Bitch, you are not Carrie White! This isn’t a legitimate moment that would lead to some kind of mental break! And also, which is it? Is Honey psychotic, or hell bent on psychopathic revenge?! It can’t realistically be both!
Becka meets with Dr. Perlberg asking for more sedatives. He lackadaisically gives them to her, and also encourages her to call the police. Becka says she will, and leaves her appointment with her prescription. She is then attacked by Honey in the parking lot! Honey keeps screaming that she’s Becka and slams Becka’s head on the ground over and over until Becka passes out. She comes to, and realizes that Honey must have thought she was dead.
She is later telling Trish about all of this. She went to the ER and called the police, but all the cops will do is up the regular patrol on her block (SERIOUSLY?). That Sunday Becka goes to a movie with Larry, but is on edge the whole time. After mistaking someone bumping into her as an attack, Larry offers to take her out for coffee and Becka says that it may help her calm down (coffee is, as we know, totally known for being a calming beverage). She says that Honey keeps calling her every night with her disguised voice. They get to the diner, and Becka once again freaks out when she thinks she sees Honey, but it’s just a waitress. Becka has a full on melt down and Larry takes her home. He asks her if she wants him to come in, but she declines. Unfortunately when she gets to her room, someone has smeared red stuff all over her things and has written on the wall THIS IS U.
The next evening Becka is hanging out with Trish and Lilah. The police are worthless, I guess, and for some reason Becka is still staying at her house. Lilah offers up her home, but Becka declines. The friends leave, and Becka tries to concentrate on homework while she waits for her Dad to come home. But of course, the phone rings, and when Becka answers it it’s the caller saying that they are coming tonight, so Becka should wait for her best friend. Becka is terrified and decides to make a break for it, but there’s someone on the other side of the door. But it’s just Bill. She says that Honey is coming to kill her, and he says that they can go hide in his uncle’s cabin in Fear Woods. The phone rings again, and this time it’s Lilah, Becka says she can’t talk, she’s going to Bill’s uncle’s cabin, and hangs up, and the two make a break for it.
They get to the cabin, Becka feeling a new affection for Bill as he is now her knight in shining armor, and he says he’ll go get firewood. While he’s gone, the phone rings, and Becka answers. It’s Lilah again, and she says that Becka didn’t give her a chance to tell her the good news! Honey’s been caught! She was captured two days ago, and it’s just coming out now because she hadn’t given the cops her name. They must have caught her right after she attacked Becka. But Becka realizes something very bad: if Honey was caught two days ago, who called her that night, and who wrecked her room? Then, Bill walks into the cabin with a strange look on his face, and he tells Becka to hang up the phone. Becka, realizing the danger, tries to dial 911, but Bill lunges at her. He rips the phone out of the wall. She asks him why he’s doing this, and he says that she should know why. She says he’s been calling her and he snuck into her room, and he says it wasn’t him… And then TRISH walks into the cabin. She’s been doing this because they’re supposed to be best friends, and Becka never came to visit her at the hospital when she broke her neck because Becka is SELF CENTERED AND SELFISH. Trish says that Becka dumped her and Bill, and real best friends don’t do that to each other. She then reveals a knife she’s been hiding behind her back, and Bill looks totally caught off guard because THAT wasn’t part of the plan! But Trish raises the knife and lunges for Becka. But stupid, creepy Bill throws himself between them, and Trish stabs him in the chest!! That’s two for two, Bill!!! Trish says that Becka stabbed him again (?????), and she lunges for Becka. They struggle, but Becka manages to get the upper hand. Becka manages to cut Trish’s throat (but it’s made VERY clear that it hasn’t been done fatally), and as police sirens start to wail Trish retreats to a corner and cowers while Becka cradles Bill and says that she promises to be a good friend to him as he takes her hand. The End.
Body Count: 1, but maybe 2? I’m not sure about Bill’s survival this time around.
Romance Rating: 4? Becka seems to have a legitimate affection for Larry, but everyone else who has any kind of romantic feeling expresses their affection in unhealthy ways.
Bonkers Rating: 5, just because the first big twist was pretty good, even if I figured it out pretty fast. And then there was the big bonkers reveal about Honey’s origins, but that was so out there I was more frustrated than anything else.
Fear Street Relevance: 7. Becka still lives on Fear Street, and the final fight takes place in Fear Woods.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“‘Oh!’ I cried out as a sharp blade poked into my back.
‘No!’ Then the pain shot through by body, and I began to scream.”
… And it was some woman’s umbrella bumping into her.
That’s So Dated! Moments: The big one was that we once again used an actress as a visual description for a character, and this time around it was Claire Danes, fresh off her turn in “Romeo+Juliet”! A reference was also made to a volcano movie, and that could have either been “Dante’s Peak” OR “Volcano”!! And speaking of dated….
“So I work as a waitress three evenings a week and every other Saturday at a place on Canyon Drive called The Hackers Cafe. It’s actually just a coffeehouse. But Mr. Arnold, the owner, put computers at the counter so that customers could surf the internet and send emails while they drink their coffee and eat their muffins and pastries.”
This description of an Internet Cafe is so perfectly of this time that I was chuckling like an idiot as I read it.
Conclusion: “Best Friend 2” wasn’t the shit show that I was anticipating, and even though the ending felt like things we’d seen before, at least it felt more satisfying than the end of the first book. Up next is “Trapped”, which also happens to be the final book in the original “Fear Street” Series! We will have a couple books left with a final special trilogy arc, but we’re nearing the end of our time with this classic series.
Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us.
I recently read a Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and enjoyed that very much. I like urban fantasy that features a protagonist who may have supernatural abilities, but either struggles to use them or is challenged to solve problems without them. Madeline Miller’s Circe was another recent favorite. She was a character who had potion-making abilities, but she had to learn through trial and error over centuries exactly which amount of which herb produced which effect. She also could not rely exclusively on magic to solve every challenge she faced. On the flip side, I like urban fantasy that features ordinary people who outsmart/outmanoeuvre the villain who may have supernatural abilities, i.e. a werewolf ( like Stephen King’s Silver Bullet) or a vampire ( think Van Helsing Vs. Dracula). I will also add that I don’t like zombies because I like my monsters/villains to have a personality. Looking for adult fiction, btw.
I hope that is enough information. Let me know if it isn’t…
It sounds like you have a large swath of interests within the genre, and that’s great! Going by what you’ve laid out in the email, we’ve come up with a few options that may appeal to you.
Book: “The Peter Grant Series” by Ben Aaronovitch
When talking about characters who have to adjust to newly found powers, Aaronovitch’s “Peter Grant” books may be a good fit. Grant is an officer in London’s MPS, and after having a run in with a ghost he is transferred to a division of the Force that deals with all things supernatural. He himself doesn’t start out with powers, but becomes an apprentice wizard once he joins this team. The series follows Grant as he deals with a number of mysteries and conflicts, from warring River Gods to serial killers to magical attacks, Grant has to adjust to a world he didn’t know existed. The best part is that this is a series, so if you like the first book (“Rivers of London” or “Midnight Riot” if you’re in the U.S.) you will have a few more to sink your teeth into!
Book: “The Changeling” by Victor LaValle
Victor LaValle is an author who has consistently come out with stories that deconstruct well explored tropes and injects them with themes of social justice and long unnoticed voices. “The Changeling” is a modern day fairy tale/dark fantasy that is set in New York City, and it involves a humble book seller named Apollo and his wife Emma and their new baby. But when the wife starts to think that their child isn’t really their child, and something truly awful happens because of this belief, Apollo has to go on a journey to find Emma, and perhaps find their child as well. Along the way he meets magical figures, haunted places, and has to contend with a world he knew nothing about. With elements of Changeling folk lore and inspirations from the book “Outside Over There” (and in some ways the movie “Labyrinth”, in turn), “The Changeling” is a mysterious and dreamy book that brings fairy tales to a modern time and place.
Book: “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
We put this out there because of your enjoyment of Miller’s newest book “Circe”. Miller does a similar treatment with this book, this time exploring the myth of Achilles and his lover Patrocles, and the tragedy that awaits them during the Trojan War. Miller once again uses her immersive and engrossing writing style to put her own spin on a long known epic, and gives the characters more complexity and depth than the original source material does. Both Achilles and Patrocles are given quite a bit of plot to work with, and their relationship is slowly developed and gets the reader fully invested, even though the foregone conclusion of what’s going to happen to them is always lingering. It also explores Achilles’s strengths and weaknesses as a being that has God-like abilities, except for his one fatal flaw. It’s a story that may need to be read with tissues at the ready, but it’s also one of great beauty and power.
Book: “School for Psychics” by K.C. Archer
What happens when you take a plucky con artist with some psychic powers, and put her in a school that nurtures people with these powers? You get “School for Psychics”, a fantasy story with a New Adult twist. Teddy has always used her innate abilities to read people to grift them out of money, but after she’s had one too many run in with the law she finds herself recruited by the U.S. Government for a top secret program. This program takes psychics of all types, from empaths to pyrokinetics to soothsayers, and hopes to train them to serve the United States at the highest levels of government. As Teddy slowly learns to harness her powers, she moves closer to accepting a very dangerous assignment that could cost her everything. This is a fun and fast paced thriller with people trying to hone their talents, and figure out where they belong in the world.
What books do you recommend for people looking for stories with supernatural, or non-supernatural, main characters? Let us know in the comments!
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, December 2000
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: David, the “sixth Animorph,” is back. When the Animorphs and Ax decided to give another human being the power to morph, it was one of their biggest mistakes. David tried to destroy all of them–and almost succeeded. Rachel and the others thought they’d seen the last of him.
They were wrong.
Rachel knows what a threat David is. He’s cunning and dangerous. Worst of all, he knows their secrets. Now he’s captured Rachel as part of his plan to take over everything. David wants power. Money. But more than anything, he wants revenge.
Plot: Again, for 90% of this book I was banging my head against a wall at the sheer waste of the very last Rachel book we’re going to get. There’s a strong argument to be made that, other than Jake, Rachel has the most interesting over-arching story line throughout the series. And then, in the last book before we lose her for good, we get this. Dream sequences within dream sequences. A return to the crazy Rachel who wants to fight Jake for leadership. A bizarre Crayak appearance that comes with the worst “morph” (and cover art) ever. And then, at the very end, some truly good stuff about Rachel’s role on the team and how the others view (and use) her. But we’ll save that for just a few throwaway pages at the very end, just to really rub it in your face that there was in fact good stuff to be had here. But we had to get those dream sequences in, you know?! Priorities.
Rachel and the other Animorphs are on a school field trip to the White House when the Yeerks attack, leading with a shot that takes out Tobias. Enraged and assuming that the Yeerks are now going on the open offensive, so they might as well too, Rachel and the others go into their battle morphs. Grizzly!Rachel begins taking out Hork Bajir, but takes a lot of hits while she’s at it. Gorilla!Marco pulls her back and tiger!Jake orders her to stand down; that she’s taken too much damage and is out of control. This enrages Rachel and she decides that she’s done taking orders from Jake and it’s time for them to fight it out for leadership of the group. They fight, but Rachel continues to take too much damage, slowly bleeding out in front of the White House, only to wake up, drenched in sweat in her bed.
Later, Rachel is visiting Ax and Marco in Ax’s scoop in the woods after failing to find Cassie in her barn. Rachel is concerned about the repeated nightmares she’s been having of fighting Jake, one-on-one. On the Internet, the discover a first hand account of the attack on the battle carrier. Rachel expresses her excitement that the war will finally be out in the open. Marco and Ax are both concerned about this level of enthusiasm from Rachel, and she begins to feel ashamed herself. Marco goes on to explain that if the war does come out into the open, the Animorphs are finished.
Eagle!Rachel flies back towards home with Tobias. On the way, they get into another discussion about Rachel’s enthusiasm about the war, with Tobias pointing out that she was beginning to disturb everyone with her attitude. Rachel once again starts down the “Jake is threatened by me” mentality that we are all so familiar with and loved back in the “Rachel is the leader” book. As she ponders this, she almost hits an electrical wire before, again, waking from her dream.
Awake, Rachel is disturbed by her dreams and reflects on the David incident, one of the most extreme examples of her past ruthlessness, but also an example of when the hard thing had to be done and the fact that while the plan ad been Cassie’s, Rachel was the one who had to actually follow through with it.
At school, she sees Jake in the halls and feels that his nod of greeting is more cold than usual. She worries that she is still in another dream, feeling disturbed and as if something is wrong with the world. In class, she begins to see red flashes and thinks she hears rats in the wall, crying out for help. She skips the rest of school and sends a note to Cassie to meet her at Cassie’s barn. When she arrives, she sees Cassie run out, pursued by a mass of rats that being attacking her as she tries to morph. The rats come after Rachel too and she tries to escape them by jumping in a pond. But once there, she is grabbed by something beneath and almost drowns.
She wakes up in some type of dungeon/sewer location, trapped within a hard, plastic cube. Two thugs show up and one pulls out rat!David. David tells her of the horrors of living on the rock island, but explains that, because he’s so smart, he was able to recruit a few of the “smarter” rats as lieutenants and then sneak off the island on a boat brought in by a group of naturalists. Once on the mainland, he was able to recruit another 200 or so rats to his “cause” and, being able to get into small places, like banks, gather the funds to pay off thugs like the two in the sewer with them.
The two get into a conversation where David tries to manipulate Rachel into taking all of the blame for what happened to him and gas-lighting her into thinking he was an innocent victim. For his revenge, he wants to force Rachel to morph rat and become stuck, like him. The red light returns and reveals another corner of the room where Cassie is being held prisoner in similar cube. David says he’ll let her suffocate in the cube if Rachel doesn’t morph. To buy time, Rachel does as he asks, hoping to still find an out. As she tries to think of a way out of the situation, David continues to prod at her about her role on the team. He also reveals that he has a solution to the Yeerk problem: wipe out the humans on Earth with a plague, then the Yeerks have no reason to be here anymore. As David talks, his voice starts to sound strange. He continues to manipulate her, almost hypnotizing her into agreeing that without Jake, Rachel could be in charge and wouldn’t that just be better?
The red glow returns and reveals itself to be an eye. Rachel snaps out of it and realizes that David can’t have an army of rats, they aren’t smart enough for that. And thus nothing that has happened can be real, like her and Cassie being attacked by rats. In the cube, “Cassie” turns into the Drode, and Rachel realizes that the red haze/eye is Crayak. She also realizes that Crayak’s hatred of Jake has been behind her strange dreams, setting Rachel up to hurt him. David, it turns out, is also only working for Crayak.
Crayak tells Rachel that she needs to free herself from herself and magically pops her out of her cage and into a giant, warrior version of herself with claws for fingernails. She is able to transform to and from this form at will, and begins to revel in the power it offers. She tries to attack the Drode, but everything is an illusion. Crayak transforms her back into a rat, now trapped in her cube with David. She gets in a fight with David, but he has more experience as a rat. Just when she is beginning to lose, Crayak pops her back out and into human form. She transforms back into Super-Rachel. He tempts her with thoughts of the power she could have in this form, able to take out the Yeerk force all on her own. Then pops her back into the cage with David, a rat again. The contrast starts to drive Rachel crazy.
Back in Super-Rachel form, Crayak lays out what he wants: she can retain this form and power if she kills Jake. Rachel refuses, telling herself that she is one of the good guys. To push Rachel further, Crayak somehow snaps Visser One/Three into the room. Crayak tells Visser One that he is now involved in a fight to the death with Rachel. If Visser One wins, he gets Earth; if he loses, he and the Yeerks must retreat.
They fight. Rachel is able to instantly morph to any of her forms, including Super-Rachel. When Visser One morphs some type of sentient goo that Rachel can’t fight, she discovers that she can create morphs, essentially, turning into a killer plant of her own imagination. Even after Visser One beheads her, Rachel is able to quickly reform herself. Rachel prepares to kill Visser One. But as Crayak urges her onward, she begins to reflect on Super-Rachel and how the world and the other Animorphs would see her: not as a someone to be honored and respected, but someone to be feared and hated. She releases Visser One, repeating that she is one of the good guys.
Back in the cube, back as a rat, Rachel begins to despair, not sure what is real and what is not. Crayak and the Drode disappear, leaving rat!Rachel with minutes before she is trapped as a rat and with Cassie, back trapped in her airless cube. She remembers the two thugs, and quickly calls out to them, highlighting the crappy situation of working for a talking rat like David. She promises that if they let her out, she will find the money David had promised them and they’ll be free of him. They let her out and she morphs grizzly and scares them off while David scampers away. As they run off, Rachel realizes that eventually they’ll talk and a Controller will realize that there’s a rat out there who knows all about the “Andalite bandits.” She releases Cassie and tells her to go on ahead, that she still has something to do, to return David to the island. Cassie tries to stop her, and Rachel gets angry, saying that Cassie knows what needs to be done, and can she do it herself? When Cassie hesitates and says she doesn’t know, the matter is settled.
She catches up with David, who is sitting staring at the sun; he doesn’t run when she approaches. He tells her he’d rather die than go back to the island. When she tells him that she can’t kill him, that she’s one of the good guys, he replies that she should do the “good thing” and put him out of his misery. Horrified, Rachel tries to tell him to just run away and promise never to tell anyone about them. David laughs a manic laugh and calls her a fool. Despite herself, she feels sorry for him and sorry for herself that they are in this situation. Rachel sets him down and cries, half hoping that he’ll just run away and spare her the decision. But he doesn’t. He repeats that if she is one of the good guys, she’ll do the right thing and kill him. But Rachel doesn’t know what the right thing to do is, so she sits there, a teenage girl in an alley staring at a white rat.
Xena, Warrior Princess: As far as Rachel’s character goes, I feel like we only really get into it towards the last third of this book. There’s a horrible return to the power-hungry Rachel who has some type of grudge against Jake for the first half to two-thirds and I don’t really want to even bother going into my feelings on that yet again (instead I’ll do it in the Jake section next!)
Instead, I wish the story had focused on the David stuff the entire time as there is plenty of character stuff to mine there. Not only do Rachel’s actions in the David trilogy play a big role in her relationship with Jake, but we also see how Rachel’s view of Cassie has been affected by that group of books as well.
I really liked effect had by the repeated mantra of “I’m one of the good guys” and then the heart-braking pay off for that phrase in the end when David asks her to kill him, saying that that would be the “good” thing to do. Crayak mentions that good and evil are only simple to the small-minded (deep burn to Cassie!) and it’s another great payoff that we see that thought in action with Rachel’s decisions at the end of this book. What is the good ting to do?
I also really liked her reflections on her role in the team, once she settles upon the symbiotic nature of the relationship.
I looked at Cassie’s face. It was a sweet face. It was wise, too. But still…I don’t know…oddly innocent somehow.
I’d been protecting her. Them. Jake. Cassie. Tobias. Even Marco and Ax. Helping to protect their innocence. Letting them see themselves as the good guys. It was a symbiotic relationship. Or co-dependent, whatever. They needed me to be the bad guy.
And I needed them to be the good guys. See, if they were good guys, and I was on their team, then that automatically made me a good guy, too. Even if I was different.
For all of the book’s flaws, I’m really glad that this part came out of this story. It’s essentially the conclusion and thesis to Rachel as a character throughout the entire series. It’s just excellent all around. If only it had come in a book that didn’t have a god awful cover of Rachel morphing some mutated version of herself. *sigh*
Our Fearless Leader: It’s unfortunate to see a return to the “Rachel is jealous of Jake’s leadership role” take again in a Rachel book. While the later explanation by Crayak that his goal in recruiting Rachel is to take out Jake, it still seems to play off the idea that Rachel, on her own, still covets the leadership role and harbors some type of violent inclinations towards Jake. It was hard to swallow this the first time and having it reappear doesn’t really improve things. Since that book, again, we’ve seen no evidence that Rachel covets the leadership role, that the other Animorphs would ever accept her as the next in line for leadership, or that any of this type of tension lies at the heart of Rachel and Jake’s relationship. Given where the book ends up in the last third, with Rachel’s realization/acceptance of the role she plays in the team, especially when connected to David, there were a lot more interesting routes that could have been taken with her relationship with Jake given his and Rachel’s interactions back during the David trilogy. And when you know where the series is headed with Jake’s use of Rachel…I just feel like there were a lot better options to explore there than some weird jealously/leadership angle that has never made sense.
A Hawk’s Life: Tobias isn’t even in this book in reality, only in a dream sequence.
Peace, Love, and Animals: You have to wonder whether Rachel and Cassie talk more about this after the fact. And, as I’ll get to in the “crazy plans” section, like David, I’m not sure why real Cassie had to be involved in any of this either. But it’s good that she was, because, again, the end of the book had some good stuff between her and Rachel as Rachel is understand truly where she stands. Rachel thinks repeatedly about the fact that Cassie was the one who came up with the plan to trap David (ironic, since earlier in this book, David mentions that he would have picked Cassie as a companion because she was nice to him, but he didn’t want to torture her with being a rat, so he chose Rachel. If only he had know who the ultimate mastermind of his fate had been!) but how Rachel was the one who had to suffer actually executing it. There’s also this great interaction at the very end when Rachel is having to go after David once again to return him to the island:
“I don’t think you can do it a second time,” Cassie said quietly.
I felt all the old anger bubbling up. Why was she arguing? She knew what had to be done. Why was she pretending not to understand what had to be done? So she could sleep at night? So she could say “I tried to stop her, so it’s not my fault?” so she could say “I didn’t know.”
I looked her in the eye. <I’m not sure I can, either. So will you do it?>
Cassie’s face creased. Her mouth opened and closed. Her eyes flickered.“I don’t know,” she whispered finally.
<I didn’t think so.>
It really highlights how even Rachel’s best friend is willing to let Rachel suffer the brunt of these kinds of things. And Rachel’s right, it’s worse because Cassie and the others often do things like this, use Rachel to do the dirty work and then judge her for it. The symbiotic relationship Rachel references feels a bit uneven at that point. It’s one thing for Rachel to do the dirty work to be one of the good guys, and the others to let her, so that she’s the bad guy. But then taking the extra time/breath to judge her for it, that’s tipping the balance towards the others being in the wrong ultimately. Rachel’s essentially paying a double price at that point.
The Comic Relief: Marco, too, isn’t in this, other than the dream sequence. Though his contributions in the dream conversation hold pretty true to the Marco we know. He’s also the example Rachel uses in her discussion with Tobias about why one bad behavior in the group (Marco’s whining) is tolerated but her gung-ho-ness is not. I’m not sure about this comparison, but, again, it’s a dream sequence so probably not worth over-analyzing it.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax is only in this in the dream sequence, and even there he doesn’t contribute much.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: I mean, the most horrifying part of this book is the cover. Full stop. Super!Rachel is such a stupid idea. She ends up having unlimited morphing abilities as it is in the fight with Visser One, able to morph instantly and create imaginary morphs. There’s no reason to have some steroid version of herself included too. It’s just stupid and a truly unfortunate choice to include as the cover. If readers weren’t already jumping ship off this series at this point, I’m pretty sure showing up at the bookstore and seeing this cover might have been the death knell for a good number of people.
Couples Watch!: Man, I can’t emphasize enough just how disappointing this book is on this front, considering it’s the last Rachel book we have in the series. The past few Rachel books have been disappointing in this arena for the most part too, and it’s really unfortunate as it felt like at one point about halfway through the series this relationship was going somewhere interesting with the whole “Rachel is frustrated with Tobias’s choice to remain a hawk” thing. But then that whole plot point was just dropped all together pretty much. And the only interactions we get in this book are during a dream sequence that Crayak creates and in which Tobias is again mostly a jerk towards Rachel. What made them an interesting pair was their ability to understand the choices the other made, choices that were often hard for the main group to understand. Rachel can appreciate Tobias’s commitment to the war, and Tobias has his own ruthless streak to match Rachel’s (again, remember that he is ultimately the decider behind the destruction of an entire alien race back in Megamorphs #2). So yeah, it’s a bummer that we’re left out in the cold here. There’s some good David stuff in this book, but I can’t help but be disappointed that in Rachel’s last book we get more on her relationship with psycho David than with Tobias.
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: There are essentially three villains in this book: Visser One, Crayak, and David. Visser One only shows up for the brief battle royale and you have to imagine how confusing this whole thing is to him. He tries to get arrogant/snippy with Crayak initially but quickly seems to realize he’s outmatched. And then he lucks out that Rachel has a crisis of conscience at the very end or he would have been a goner.
As for Crayak, he’s again kind of just a nebulous, Sauron-like bad guy with a fixation on Jake. Frankly, other than the “Ellimist” book, the Drode has been the more interesting villain from this group and I think the story might have read better with him and his snark taking point, rather than the pretty cheesy “master villain” vibe that Crayak had going for him.
David is by far the most interesting villain in this story. I’ll get into why it’s weird that he’s here at all a bit later, but regardless of whether it makes sense, I’m glad they included him since the best parts of the book were at the end when Rachel was having to deal with him. He’s pretty interesting throughout this story. We see the full scope of crazy!David, from his extreme egomania, to his the cowardice at the heart of him, to his deranged sense of being wronged and the extremes that he will go to to fight back, to the part that is still a human boy who is living through hell. I’m not convinced that David ever had to come back, but since he did, I would have rather had the entire book deal with him and the fallout from the events back in the David trilogy. Crayak and Visser One just seem kind of ridiculous in comparison to some of the pretty heavy stuff that comes to play with the David sections of the story.
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: The end of the book definitely got to me. Not only does Rachel begin to feel bad for David, but the reader does too. There are just some really powerful lines and images dropped in there. Like when Rachel first comes across David again after chasing him down and she describes him as standing up on this back legs, facing the sun and delicately waving his paws around to appreciate his freedom and the world. And his pleas that Rachel kill him, that ultimately that is what a “good” person would do, all things considered. And the line, of a girl crying in an alley, staring at a white rat. It really hits home how terrible this situation is and that, regardless of all of this, Rachel is still a teenage girl faced with terrible choices. And choices that her friends have left her to make on her own.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: Crayak’s plan to try and turn Rachel on Jake seems overly complex. I’m not sure why David had to be involved at all really? The threat to trap her as a rat with references to her past ruthlessness with David would probably have been just as effective without him. Or, as we see throughout this book, Crayak is perfectly able to create illusions, so the real David was never necessary to the actual plan. And then why David had to have a plan of his own with two actual human thugs to carry it out? What benefit did this have for Crayak other than introducing points of failure to his plan which then…did fail because of them! If those thugs hadn’t been there, and David hadn’t been there, Rachel and Cassie would be done for. I guess maybe this would have been against the “rules” in Crayak and the Ellimist’s game. But the rules are pretty hard to really understand as it is, so I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason for the overly complex nature of this all.
This is a long quote, but it sums up a lot of good stuff from this book and Rachel’s realizations about where she fits in the team. The biggest frustration for me, the reader, a Rachel fan, is the fact that Rachel has realized things like this a few times, but the other members of the group never seem to realize the same thing: that they need Rachel to do these things and that they are foisting a burden on her and the least they could do is keep quiet instead of shaming her further.
I looked into Cassie’s eyes. Did she want to know? Did she really want to know? No. she didn’t. That’s why I’d been so angry. Not just at Jake. At all of them. Because they had kept their hands clean. They had pretended they didn’t know I’d done something extreme like threaten to kill David. And his parents.And when David had confronted them with the truth, they’d made their disapproval known. Separated themselves from me. Made it clear I was deranged and out of control and so, so unlike them.
And then, Cassie had come up with the plan to trap David in morph. But only I’d had the nerve to endure the two gut-wrenching hours of David’s misery.Why hadn’t I fought back? Defended myself against accusations, insinuations of craziness? Okay, I’d confronted Jake. But had anything really changed between us since then? Did he generally approve of my actions? No. Only of their results. He needed my results.
Scorecard: Yeerks 13, Animorphs 16
No change! Nothing really happens in this book and there aren’t any long-standing changes to the overall war effort on either side.
Rating: So, as evidenced by the gif at the beginning and my thoughts throughout, I had a very mixed response to this book. I think the inclusion of Crayak was questionable (and his plan was idiotic), and that the dream sequences were a waste of precious page space in Rachel’s last book. But I also think that the last third of the book dealing with David and Rachel’s realizations about her role on the team and how the others have treated her is crucial character development for her before the final chapter in the series. Other than the obvious end of the series, I think this book highlights why Rachel is one of the more tragic characters in the series. Tobias obviously has the roughest go of it, but I think Rachel might even beat out Jake. Jake at least gets some of the respect that comes with being a leader and the hard choices that come with that. We see in every other Animorphs book how much the others respect and recognize the burden Jake takes on in this role. Rachel, on the other hand, plays an equally important role, and the others use her for it knowingly, but she also gets only derision and shame for doing these hard things.
I also have mixed feelings on the end. I’m not sure if I like or dislike the fact that it doesn’t resolve Rachel’s choice about David. In some ways, it feels like the same type of cop-out that the Animorphs themselves take: leave it up to Rachel. But here, the author just side-steps the whole terrible choice by leaving it unanswered. So yes, on one hand you have the interesting situation where each reader can decide for themselves what Rachel did (or they would do in her place). But it also seems to avoid answering the main question of the entire book and Rachel’s arc throughout the series: what is the “good” thing to do vs. the necessary? And the fact that there really isn’t an answer to that question doesn’t mean that people/characters don’t still have to ultimately decide. Rachel can’t sit in the alley forever.
I do think the last lines of the book is one of the more beautiful endings of any book in the series, however. So I’m torn on whether I’d want to lose that in exchange for some more resolution.
I caught a glimpse of myself in a broken shard of mirror. And saw what anyone looking down the alleyway from the sidewalk would have seen.
A young girl sitting knees-up in the sun, staring at a white rat.
It would be hard to believe the entire fat of the planet depended on that girl.
A girl who wanted to do the right thing.
But who had no idea at all what that was…
Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all!
Book Description: The first and only comic book artist ever to win a National Book Award returns with a haunting tale of intimacy, guilt, and collective amnesia.
As the sun sets on the 1970s, the spirit of the Love Generation still lingers among the aging hippies of one “intentional community” high in the Ozarks. But what’s missing?
Under impossibly close scrutiny, two families wrestle with long-repressed secrets… while deep within those Arkansas hills, something monstrous stirs, ready to feast on village whispers.
Nate Powell, artist of the National Book Award-winning March trilogy returns with a new creator-owned graphic novel.
Review: I have read a couple of graphic novels that Nate Powell did the artwork on, and given that one of those was the stupendous “March” Trilogy I hold him in high regard. I first heard about his new graphic novel, “Come Again”, at work, when a coworker had requested it and couldn’t remember why. When she told me what it was about and who wrote it, I requested it myself. Not only was I interested in a supernatural story that takes place on a commune in the fading days of communes, I was also curious to see what Nate Powell would do as a writer as well as an illustrator.
“Come Again” has a number of themes that it addresses, and some of these themes work better than others. I will start with the aspects that I liked, because I liked them a lot. Our main character, Haluska, has lived in an Ozark based ‘intentional community’ (or as some laymen may call it, a commune) with her close friends and son Jake for the greater part of the 1970s. The idealistic 1960s are long over, though when Hal, her ex Gus, and their friends Adrian and Whitney first started living there it was 1971, and the world seemed filled with possibility. Now we are at the end of the decade, and though the community remains it has shrunk considerably, and Hal has been carrying on an affair with Adrian that is based in an underground cave they found in the forest. Their affair doesn’t seem to have much joy or passion to it, though neither seem willing to give it up, even though they have to take it literally underground. Haluska certainly feels guilt, but not enough to end it, and her attachment to a comfortable relationship that may not be what it used to be resonates within the greater storyline. The ideals of the Love movement, and the commune itself, are fading away, and with that change comes uncertainty and the impulse to cling harder to something that may not be there anymore. There was a moment that I found to be quite powerful, when Hal and Adrian go into town to sell goods at a farmer’s market. Their somewhat strained relationship with the ‘traditional’ town has been buoyed by the give and take system they have with each other. But on this specific day, a local band has been booked to perform. They happen to be a punk band, and their angry song of rebellion angers the townsfolk, but connects with Hal in ways she may not totally understand in that moment. Knowing that the 80s are coming, and the cynical and predatory social changes that are in store, it feels like a greater reflection of what’s to come, though Hal may not know it. These aspects of this book, of isolation, and guilt, and the secrets we keep from even the ones we love most, worked supremely well for me.
It was the dark fantasy and supernatural elements that fell a bit flat. There is something living in the cave that Hal and Adrian use, a disembodied voice that sinks into the various pages. After Hal’s son Justin and Adrian’s son Shane find the cave, Shane is lost within the depths, depths that may not be there all the time. This, of course, helps feed into Hal’s guilt about her affair with his father, but then it becomes clear that something supernatural is going on that only Hal can see. While I usually really like strange supernatural elements (and am enough of a ghoul that missing people is a theme that I like), I didn’t feel that this part of the book was as strong as it could have been. We don’t know what it is that is living in this cave, we don’t know why the spell it casts manifests in the way that it does, and as we see the consequences of the disappearance and spell start to unfold, we don’t really get answers as to why or how it’s happening. I understand that ambiguity is a key component of a story like this, and I can appreciate it to a point, but in this story I was left more confused than anything else. It ultimately leads to a sacrifice that Hal has to make, and though I understood the resonance of the sacrifice it also felt a bit like a cop out when it came to her having to own up to some of her past mistakes (and the mistakes that others have made as well). I think if the story had leaned in more to the magical or supernatural system I would have liked that part more, but it could have easily functioned as a historical fiction meditation on self, secrets, and guilt.
But Nate Powell’s style is still very unique and stands out in my mind. I liked seeing how he used shades, shadows, and a semi-realistic stylization to tell this story. I especially liked how the disembodied voice of the monster/whatever was written, in ways that made it seem like it was literally floating on the wind.
“Come Again” was a book that didn’t quite give me what I want from the premise and author. It certainly had strong moments, but overall it didn’t have to ghostly oomph I expected.
Rating 6: While I enjoyed the broader themes of isolation, secrets, and guilt, the supernatural elements left much to be desired.
Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!
Book Description: When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.
Review: After discovering the absolute joy that was “Hi Majesty’s Dragon,” it was all I could do to wedge in “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe” before going straight to the next on in this series. Already, this series feels like a comfort read, where I know what I’m going to get, to a good extent, and I’m there for it. I can just relax back and enjoy.
At the end of the last book, Temeraire and Laurence discovered that, while they always knew Temeraire was special, he was even more unique than they had thought: a rare Celestial dragon of the sort to only partner with Chinese royalty. His egg had been meant as a gift for Napoleon, but now that they have realized the error, a delegation has been sent to express their insistence that Temeraire be parted from Laurence and returned to China. Refusing to be parted, both dragon and captain must now set off on the long sea voyage across the world. And once arriving at their destination, both are shocked to realize that perhaps there is more to dragon-human relations than they had presumed.
In some ways, I was just as surprised by this book as I had been by the first. In the first, I had expected a lot more military action and was surprised to find such an intense focus on characterization, especially the building relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. But then in the end, we got that great battle scene where Temeraire’s “super power” essentially came to light and I thought “Ok, now we’re going to move into the military action series I had been expecting!” And then I started this book and found…a long sea voyage with political espionage as the main action of the story.
But, as I said, my expectations not being met just turned into yet another delightful surprise once again! I loved the sea voyage. There were a lot of little episodic moments sprinkled throughout that had to deal with Great Britain’s relationship to the slave trade, the relationships between the various military arms (navy vs aerial), cultural distinctions that don’t translate well between countries, and even sea monsters! And many of these domains were made all the more interesting being seen and discussed through the very different eyes of Laurence and Temeraire. Laurence must confront his own assumptions and prejudices, and Temeraire must work through his understanding of humanity, especially as it deals with dragons.
Like Laurence and Temeraire, the reader so far has only been presented with Great Britain’s approach to dragons. While in the previous book Laurence had already challenged a lot of the obvious negatives that popped up, throughout this book, we learn more and more about the true limitations of the Western approach. It was fascinating to explore the cultural differences in how dragons exist in each of these societies.
I also liked the added wrinkle this added to Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship. Temeraire is rightly curious about the country of his origin. And, like I said, he had already been asking questions regarding the limitations and prejudices put upon dragon-kind back in Great Britain, so he is all the more fascinated and intrigued by the freedoms and independence offered in Chinese society. From Laurence’s side of things, however, he also sees a great country in China, but one that has also treated poorly with his beloved Great Britain, and specifically himself and Temeraire. From the comfort and surety of the relationship that was built up in the first book, this one offers challenge upon challenge to both Temeraire and Laurence. Who needs tons of action when you’re on the edge of your seat with worry about how your precious dragon/captain pair are going to make it through this all??
Given the nature of the story and the need to keep some of the mysteries held close until the end of the book, this did read a bit slower than the first. I was fine with it, however, as, like I said, I’m mostly here for the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence. But if you go into this one expecting an uptick in the military action, you’ll probably be disappointed. However, I do feel like there were a healthy number of action scenes that were perfectly sprinkled throughout the story, so I feel like this is only the most nit-picky of nit-picks. If you enjoyed the fist book in this series, I’m sure you’ll love this one too!
Rating 8: An excellent sequel, all the better for once again offering a surprise in the overall direction the series is taking.