Kate’s Review & Giveaway: “Allegedly”

30037870Book: “Allegedly” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publishing Info: Katherine Tegan Books, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it!

Book Description: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

Review: Back in January I was in Miami, Florida for a wedding celebration. This also happened to be the same weekend that some crazy and awful shit was going down in this country constitution wise (though this could really mean anything at this point, so I’m specifically referring to the travel ban). During one of the days my husband and I were cooling our heels after family time, I was getting ramped up in an anxiety spiral, so he suggested that we try and find a book store so that I could calm my nerves a bit. We found one in walking distance from our hotel, and I went on a spree. One of the books I picked up was “Allegedly”, as I’d heard some buzz on it and was solidly intrigued by the concept. As bleak and dark as it may be. So I took it on the plane with me and tore threw a lot of it in one sitting.

I liked how unflinchingly honest and real this book was about a great deal of things. Jackson pulls no punches when describing how our criminal justice system treats those who are inside of it, and how it is especially biased against POC offenders. Mary was accused of and convicted of killing a baby, which is, yes, absolutely horrible. But it is made pretty clear from the get go that the attention and rage that is directed at her is based on a deep seated racism in our society. Mary is black, and baby Alyssa was white. Reading about crowds mobbing a NINE YEAR OLD outside a courthouse, demanding the death penalty was gut wrenching, and I was glad that it was put forth multiple times that had the races been reversed between perpetrator and victim, the media wouldn’t have caused such a storm around it. And there on Mary, a child herself, was from then on treated like an adult, an thrown into a legal system that especially punishes people who look like her. I had no doubt that Jackson is taking influence from real life instances, from a nine year old girl being held in solitary to the absolutely abysmal conditions at the group home Mary ends up at.

Not only did I feel that the portrayal of the criminal justice system was accurate, I really liked how Jackson tried to be accurate and fair to portrayals of mental illness in this book. Mary is pretty clearly suffering from some form of PTSD, as her time in prison/solitary confinement as a child has done irreparable damage to her psyche. Instead of going the route of stereotypical symptoms like flashbacks or uncontrollable rage, Mary is skittish, quick to anxiety attacks, and has a heightened sense of flight instead of fight. It’s a side of PTSD that not many people may know about, and I really appreciated that Jackson took such care in her portrayal of it. So, too, is Mary’s Momma portrayed in a pretty realistic way, as a narcissist who may be suffering from bi-polar disorder. We only get to see Momma through Mary’s eyes, but the hints and clues are there that there is definitely something off about her.

Mary herself is a wonderfully created and portrayed narrator (side note: I gotta shout out to the sly aside that one of Mary’s nicknames was Mary Bell… who was also a notorious child aged murderer in England). This book is in the first person, and since Mary has so clearly been stunted from her time in prison there are lots of bits of information that we don’t quite get. The mystery slowly starts to unfold, but you always kind of know that there are things that you are never really going to know about Mary, or her Momma, or the things that happened between them before, after, and even on the night that Alyssa died. You only get to see the various clues to this and the things going on with Ted and at the group home through this lens of a very unreliable narrator. While a lot of the time I think that sometimes this makes some things kind of obvious when it comes to twists, that by hiding certain things you make it obvious that these things are there, Jackson actually surprised me when it really counted. True, I was able to figure out a couple of things, but I feel like it was all one big magic trick that distracted me from the actual solution, so when the actual answers came I was totally knocked off my seat. To the point where I actually said “WAIT….. WHAT?!”

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BraVO. (source)

“Allegedly” is a fabulous book that I cannot recommend enough, both for the societal themes and for the well crafted mystery. Fans of YA should definitely read it, but I think that this is a GREAT example of how YA shouldn’t be dismissed. Go and get your hands on it ASAP.

Rating 9: A tense and VERY upsetting book about the modern justice system, mental illness, and attempted redemption. Though it’s definitely a hard read, “Allegedly” is an important one.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Allegedly” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Deliciously Dark”, and “YA Debuts 2017”.

Find “Allegedly” at your library using WorldCat!

But the fun doesn’t stop there! You could have your own copy of this book, as I am hosting a give-away for a hardcover copy! You know you want it. The giveaway will run until March 2nd, 2017. Please see the Terms and Conditions for more details.

Click Here To Enter The Give-away!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Prom Queen” (Fear Street #15)

656717Book: “The Prom Queen” (Fear Street #15) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, May 1992

Where Did I Get This Book: An Ebook from the Library!

Book Description:  Dance of death…

A spring night…soft moonlight…five beautiful Prom Queen candidates…dancing couples at the Shadyside High prom—these should be the ingredients for romance.

But stir in one brutal murder—then another, and another—and the recipe quickly turns to horror.

Lizzie McVay realizes that someone is murdering the five Prom Queen candidates one by one—and that she may be next on the list! Can she stop the murderer before the dance is over—for good?

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Like I said last time during my review of “The New Girl”, I’m jumping forward just because “The Prom Queen” was available right away and I was itching to read something else from the “Fear Street” catalog. So keep in mind that this one is a bit more seasoned, as Stine kind of got into his groove more on how he was going to tackle this series.

Lizzy, Rachel, and Dawn are in the gym locker room right before the school assembly to announce the Prom Queen nominees. They are talking about a girl named Stacy whose body was found in Fear Street Woods. Lizzy, our first person protagonist, gives us insight into her friends personalities as they all gossip about the dead girl (Rachel is poor and lives on Fear Street, so she’s pretty shaken; Dawn couldn’t care less about the dead girl and wishes more attention was on her). They also talk about how Stacy’s death is similar to a girl named Tina who was killed out of town not too long ago, but no matter because it’s Prom Queen announcement time! At the assembly Lizzy, Rachel, and Dawn are all called as nominees, and rounding out the group are Simone, a vain drama nerd, and Elana, a smart and incredibly wealthy girl. They all go to pizza to celebrate, but Simone leaves pretty quickly when she sees her boyfriend Justin flirting with another girl. After she’s gone to give the lout what for, Dawn confesses that she’s going on a date with Justin behind Simone’s back. Oh that Dawn! Of course, then Rachel, who also has a boyfriend (Gideon) confesses that she too went out with Justin. So much for the bonds of sisterhood.

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(source)

That night at play rehearsal, Simone doesn’t show up. Lizzy goes looking, but cannot find her. So Lizzy goes to Simone’s house, and instead of finding Simone, she finds a trashed bedroom and a puddle of blood!!! And sees a man in a baseball jacket running into the night!

The cops question Lizzy and her friends the next day, but everyone had an alibi, so they are all free to go. Lizzy then runs afoul the neighborhood Creepazoid, a boy named Lucas who legitimately sounds like every stereotypical school shooter post-Columbine, in dress and manner. He used to date Simone (she used him to get to Justin, as they are both on the baseball team), but now he seems to have his wormy little sights on Lizzy. Lizzy declines and leaves him be.

Then time passes and no one is really thinking about Simone anymore. Besides Lizzy. But not enough to stop from going Prom shopping with Dawn and Rachel, especially since Lucas asked her to the Prom. She said no, because she DOES have a boyfriend, thank you very much, but even if she didn’t, Lucas is a creep. Kevin, her boyfriend, is an army brat and has moved away to Alabama. Lizzy holds out hope that he’ll be able to come back for Prom. So while they are at the mall, they see that Justin is on a date with yet another girl. He’s sure moving on from Simone fast! While at the movie Dawn is attacked by a strange man, getting punched and left on the floor. Dawn, ever the trooper, brushes it off, though now is a bit more concerned now that SHE could be in danger.

That night Lizzy gets a frantic call from Rachel, and Lizzy, thinking she’s in danger, speeds over to Rachel’s house on Fear Street. Turns out Rachel is upset because Gideon dumped her for Elana. Ouch. Lizzy comforts her as best she can, then returns home. There is good news at home, as a man thought to be the murderer has been caught!… Except a few moments later, a cop shows up on the doorstep to inform them that Rachel has been killed.

So a week later everyone is on edge, sort of, and Dawn is convinced that someone is trying to kill all the Prom Queen candidates. Lizzy wonders if maybe it’s Gideon who is murdering the Prom Queens, hoping to seduce Elana and then assure that she gets the $3000 scholarship for winning. That theory is shot when Elana not only says she isn’t going with Gideon, but also when Elana ends up dead from a fall. And in her hand is a maroon scrap of cloth, much like the ones the baseball team wears. Lucas? NOPE, Lizzy’s new theory is that it’s been JUSTIN THIS WHOLE TIME!

Well, Justin shows up at Lizzy’s house pretty late that night, but she manages to get him out the door when her father comes downstairs and finds them in the kitchen. She isn’t even safe as school, however, as Justin corners her again… But holy red herring, Batman, turns out the whole time he was just wanting to ask her to the Prom! Not without some shots and a clean bill of health, buddy. Lizzy says thanks but nah, and goes about her business….. until Dawn is attacked and stabbed by a guy in a baseball jacket.

EXCEPT IT’S NOT A GUY. IT’S SIMONE!!!!!! She’s killing her friends because Justin kept asking them out on dates!!!!!!

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(source)

After confessing, Simone tries to kill Lizzy, but LIzzy manages to pull a rope and drop a sandbag on her ass. Dawn, not dead, helps subdue her, and with the help of a conveniently placed janitor they get an ambulance to come take a look at Dawn and MAYBE help Simone, who’s been beaten up and possibly fatally stabbed? It’s unclear.

The book ends with Lizzy and Kevin at the Prom, Dawn surrounded by adoring boys, and a memorial scholarship set up for Elana and Rachel, may they rest in peace. Yay. Happy times, Stine.

Body Count: Stacy, Tina, Rachel, and Elana for sure. We don’t really know if Simone survived or not. So 4, maybe 5. That’s about average for “Fear Street”.

Romance Rating: 2. Kevin is MIA until the last chapter, and everyone else’s significant others are cheating on each other within the friend circle. Plus Lucas is sexually harassing Lizzy in every single interaction.

Bonkers Rating: 6. Honestly, it could have been crazier. Sure, Simone being the culprit was a little nuts, but kind of obvious.

Fear Street Relevance: Very little of the actual action takes place on Fear Street in this book. Rachel lives there, a body was discovered off page in the woods, and Prom happens at a refurbished mansion house in said woods. But it’s rather peripheral. So 5.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“That bump. That horrifying bump. I knew that I had just run over someone.”

…. And then it turns out to be a raccoon. Puh-lease.

That’s So Dated! Moments: OH MAN, there were a few in this one because it’s one of the original printings. When Dawn is being showboat-y while trying on Prom dresses, Lizzy says “Okay, Madonna.” The dress she’s wearing is described as black spaghetti straps with a plunging neckline, pretty standard early 90s fare. But the best was when they were in line for the movie they were going to see, and the girl in front of them says

“‘I mean just think,’ Suki gushed. ‘A new Christian Slater movie. Wow.'”

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Oh yes, WOW, Suki. (source)

Best Quote: It’s a tie guys. First we have this:

“‘I was excited when we were first nominated. Now it looks like we’ve been nominated to- to DIE!'”

That’s courtesy of Dawn. The other one, however, is a bit more subtle.

“They buried her in the new section of the Fear Street Cemetery.”

Do you want to know why they have to have a new section at Fear Street Cemetery? BECAUSE EVERYONE IN THIS TOWN IS GETTING MURDERED.

“The Prom Queen” is a good example of what the “Fear Street” series kind of turned into as it kept going: more about murder, sex, and paranoia. And not necessarily any direct ties to the street known as Fear itself. Not as off the rails as “The New Girl” in it’s revelations, but still pretty out there.

Next up is “The Surprise Party”, Fear Street #2. I’m pretty certain this was one that I read as a kid, so I’m sure that the perspective will no doubt be RIVETING.

Kate’s Review: “Everything You Want Me To Be”

29276588Book: “Everything You Want Me To Be” by Mindy Mejia

Publishing Info: Atria/Emily Bestler Books, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

Review: Small towns and their secrets. It’s a plot device that I am a huge sucker for. I don’t know if it’s because both my parents grew up in small towns and have many stories to tell and spill the tea on, but it has always been the kind of story that I can get behind. From “Twin Peaks” to “Peyton Place”, the Small Town Secrets trope can be incredibly tantalizing. The description of “Everything You Want Me To Be” makes it pretty clear from the get go that this is the kind of book that you’re going to be reading, and I can’t tell ya  enough how happy that makes me. Sudsy, dark, seedy, scandalous books are sometimes just what the doctor ordered, and it was a page turner that I greatly enjoyed.

Okay, so yes, perhaps part of that enjoyment is taken from the fact that this book takes place in small town Minnesota. Any book or film or show that takes place in my home state is going to get an advantage from me, just because you don’t see it all that often. And Mejia being from here definitely gave it that feel of authenticity, as you can tell that she knows the culture and knows some of the nuances of the people and towns that are outside of the larger cities. As I read this book I couldn’t help but think about the Jacob Wetterling Case a little bit, a kidnapping that happened in central Minnesota that went unsolved for 27 years (go HERE for a very well done podcast about the crime, the investigation, and the aftermath). There were many people who thought that it could just never happen there, and whenever something along those lines was said about Pine Valley, my stomach clenched up. Mejia captured the naïveté of a ‘simpler’ life and society very well.

I also thought that all of the perspective characters in this book were written very well. None of them were simple caricatures, when they very easily could have been. The first perspective is from Del Goodman, the sheriff of the county who is in charge of investigating the murder of Hattie Hoffman. He’s a friend of her family and has always known her as a sweet, intelligent girl who had big dreams and a big heart. That is really how most of the town knows her, and Del is determined to bring her killer to justice. He could very, VERY easily fall into the trope of craggy and stubborn sheriff who has seen a lot but never can accept that it ‘could happen here’. But instead he’s pretty level headed and is there to piece together the clues that we get as he finds them. But along with him we get two more perspectives. The first is if Peter, the new English teacher at the school who moved to small town Minnesota with his wife Mary to help his ailing mother in law. He’s a fish out of water from Minneapolis, and Mary has made it clear that she doesn’t see him as robust and ‘manly’ now that he’s on the farm. So when he starts up an online relationship with the mysterious “HollyG”, he finds validation and solace he feels he’s lost at home. Of course, as one could guess, HollyG is Hattie. Peter could VERY easily be portrayed as a predatory and insecure asshole who is merely trying to manipulate and recapture his youth/stroke his ego. But Mejia definitely makes him far more complex than that. He radiates ennui and frustration, and desperation, and while she never lets him off the hook, you can understand how he got on the hook in the first place. And then there’s Hattie. Hattie could either be portrayed as a small town girl with big dreams who gets caught up in her own hopes and wishes…. Or of a man-eater whose ambitions lead to manipulation and abject cruelty all in the name of getting what she wants. However, she really treads the line between both, and instead you get a girl who feels trapped inside a place that is far too small for her, and is desperate to escape by any means necessary. I was expecting to end up hating her, be it because she was too pure or because she was a complete psycho. But she never went that far. And I ended up pleased with that.

Mejia brings these three narratives together to tell a very strong mystery about what happened to Hattie. And I will say, I was definitely taken for quite the ride. There were hints and clues that were dropped that I thought were far too obvious, only for them to be completely different from what I thought. Then there were things that I thought had to be red herrings, that actually ended up being completely legitimate, but framed in such a way that you HAD to think they were misleading! It was a real trip. All of this bundled together to make it so I didn’t know who did it, I wasn’t certain of the motive, and everything I knew was wrong. True, there were a couple of revelations and resolutions that left me feeling a little ‘oh, is that all?’ because of so many well done twists and turns, but ultimately I really enjoyed the path that we had to take to get to the solution to the crime. And boy was it hard for me to put this book down until I had that solution. For the first time in a long while I was at work wishing that the day could just be over already specifically because I wanted to go home and finish this book.

“Everything You Want Me To Be” is the best thriller of the year so far, and it’s going to have to have some pretty stiff competition thrown it’s way to have it overthrown. Definitely, DEFINITELY check this one out if you like thrillers. You will not be disappointed.

Rating 9: A provocative and addictive book that kept me guessing the whole time. Though I feel there was a slight anticlimax, I was still very drawn in and entertained. Definitely one to check out if you want a fun and worthwhile thriller.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Everything You Want Me To Be” can be found on the following Goodreads lists: “Gripping Stand Alone Page Turners”, and “January 2017 Buzz Books”.

Find “Everything You Want Me To Be” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Kate’s Review: “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

27274343Book: “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Reid

Publishing Info: Gallery/Scout Press, June 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: You will be scared. But you won’t know why…

I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page…and never lets you go.

Review: I am constantly running the risk, given my fiction tastes and predilections, that when I close a book I may be saying to myself ‘what the EFF was THAT?!’ And knowing this, I kind of try to brace myself for it, especially when a book is described as ‘edgy’ or ‘literary’ in a horror sense. Usually this jives with me just fine. With “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”, I’m having a harder time making sense of what I read, what it meant, and what I thought of it. And I’ve been thinking about it! It’s one of those books that I think I’d have to go back and read again to really pick up on everything and to totally be able to unpack it. But…. I don’t have time, man. Not right now. Right now, there are other books to read.

So now I need to figure out what to say about this book without giving things away. Tricky tricky tricky.

Well for starters, Our Narrator, nameless as she is, has a very well done stream of consciousness voice. Her thoughts and feelings flow out, in regards to her boyfriend Jake, parts of her life before the events of the story, or just random passing musings. We know that she and Jake are going to meet his parents at their farm, her first meeting with them; we know that she’s been getting mysterious, stalker-esque phone calls; and we know that she’s thinking of ‘ending things’ with Jake, certain that it just won’t last. Why she thinks this is unclear, but her mind is pretty much made up. We know far more about Jake than we do Our Narrator, as she talks about how analytical he is, how his personality ticks, how he has bursts of passion but is almost always grounded in his earnestness. He works in a lab and is quite brilliant, but never lords it over her or puts on airs about it. It’s really quite stunning that we learn so much about Jake through her eyes, and yet learn so little about her outside of bits and pieces of stories.

This book builds up with unease from the get go. Our Narrator shares a number of disconcerting stories as the book goes on, stories from her experience in the past or moments happening as we read the book. They are always less in your face scary, and more ‘well that’s just weird and unsettling’. Like seeing a very tall man outside her window at night when she was a child, only seeing his chest and his hands and he wrung them together. Or the story of a neighborwoman bringing cookies to her family, asking her if she was ‘good or bad’, and then the Mom getting food poisoning from said cookies. It’s little things that just set your nerves on the slightest edge, that by the time you reach the serious crux of things that’s referenced in the description, you feel like you’re about to fall out of your chair. The suspense is taut and well done, and the imagery of shadows, unfamiliar hallways and faces, it’s all placed very well. You see clues and hints that come back later, but then when you’re done with it all you still have to go back and find everything. It’s meticulously crafted, and it definitely unsettled me.

But at the same time, the big confrontation came so late in the book, and it was so haphazard and chaotic, I had a hard time following it. Plus, there would be moments where the reader would be taken right out of it again, as Our Narrator would start on a tangent of waxing poetic on other, not as pressing matters as, say, the fact she’s lost in a strange labyrinthian school and can’t find her boyfriend. These moments of stopping and starting made the climax feel interrupted and jostled. There were other interruptions in the narrative as well, as between chapters we would get snippets of an italicized conversation between two faceless, nameless people, commenting on a terrible crime that has occurred. Obviously it has to do with what we’re all leading up to, but these interruptions worked a bit better because they felt like placeholders, and because they did give us more clues and puzzle pieces.

So what did I think of this book overall? I think I liked it. I know it disturbed me. I didn’t see where it was going at first, but then looking back at clues and references it started to come together. The problem was that getting there was so crazed and maniacal that at the end I was more overwhelmed than satisfied.

Rating 6: I THINK I pretty much liked it okay? But it gets kind of disorienting and also has the ability to take us into journeys that would amount to nothing, and distrupt the plot. It’s well done in a lot of ways, but you’ll have to read it twice (or more) to get it, I think.

Reader’s Advisory:

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is included on the Goodreads lists “ALA Midwinter 2016”, and “Thrillers with Big Plot Twists”.

Find “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate”

29244734Book: “The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate” by Jonathan Maberry

Publishing Info: Imprint, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers in this young adult origin story.

The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate will explore the teen years of Dana Scully, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. Her story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Scully as she experiences life-changing events that set her on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

Review: Who is one of my very favorite TV queens? Who is one of the TV characters that I love for her inspirational strength, her smarts, her snark, and her perseverance? Who is up there in my personal hall of fame of badass ladies on the small screen?

Dana. Freakin’. Scully.

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You rang, fives? (source)

So the very moment that I discovered that both Mulder and Scully of “The X-Files” fame got their own origin stories, I knew that I’d save Scully for second. I wanted to savor her. I wanted to bask in her story and her background. Jonathan Maberry had a huge character to take on, and I really wanted him to do her justice. And it took me a little while, but eventually I decided that Maberry did.

This story, since again we don’t get much background in the description, finds Dana as a fifteen year old adjusting to a new life in Maryland. She’s close with her sister Melissa, and trying to fit in in school, even though she knows she’s more introverted and reserved than her sister and her peers. And she’s also been having dreams, visions of violence and carnage. She’s seeing an ‘angel’ in her dreams, an angel who is killing. As teenagers in the area keep dying in accidents, Scully can’t shake the feeling that they are connected to the dreams that she doesn’t understand. What she doesn’t know is that she may be in a more dangerous situation than she realizes.

So this book takes the “Scully is a psychic’ theory and totally runs with it. There have been hints at her intuitive abilities throughout the series (in “Beyond the Sea” she sees a vision of her father right before his death; “Irresistible” finds Scully kidnapped, and she sees her kidnapper’s face shifting into different iterations of evil), but it was never truly confirmed. But I liked that Maberry decided to take this theory and give it a lot of life in her background. I was kind of wondering how he would make it believable that she could have psychic visions in her youth, and then have such a skeptical foundation in the series when it starts. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that he pulls it off, and that I really liked how he did it. And seeing Dana react and manage these very scary visions was fascinating to watch. I think that she is still very much within her character, even as a fifteen year old. She feels younger and perhaps less secure in herself, but still feels like Dana Scully, even when in a situation that is so not something you’d think she’d be in. I sort of liked the mystery that she had to solve, because it’s foundation was a good harkening to her faith, her abilities, and her ultimate road to skepticism. I had a feeling I knew what was going on from the get go, so it wasn’t terribly surprising in it’s completion. But it wasn’t about the mystery itself for me. It was about how Dana was going to solve it with her strengths and wits.

I really enjoyed seeing the Scully family as well. In the series you get to know a few of her family members, specifically her sister Melissa and her mother Margaret, though you also get some solid and touching insight into Dana’s relationship with her Dad. You know that she was close to him in a lot of ways, from her reaction to his death in Season 1, to their nicknames for each other (Ahab and Starbuck!), to her seeing him in other visions as the series went on. In “Devil’s Advocate” we see how that close relationship is also a bit strained, and that Captain Scully was a bit more closed off from his family than maybe we realized. There were many moments between Dana and Captain Scully that made me misty eyed, as well as a wonderful scene with them reading from their favorite book “Moby Dick”. Whenever he called her Starbuck, I practically began to cry. I also loved seeing Dana and Melissa close and partners in crime, because their relationship on the show, while loving, was a bit contentious because they were so different. Having Melissa and Dana go to a New Age coffee shop and store for yoga and advice from local New Age practitioners just tickled me completely. Maberry also made an interesting choice of taking one of the Men in Black from the original series (the Red Haired Man), and gave him a role in a side plot. This was kind of a weaker part of this book for me, just because it took away from the main plot. In the Mulder book the surveillance parts involving X and Cigarette Smoking Man felt like a foregone conclusion; Mulder’s life had been intertwined with Cigarette Smoking Man since the beginning. Scully having this surveillance stuff in her life just felt… odd. Yes, later in life that aspect was there. I just had a harder time swallowing it in her youth.

I generally liked the new characters that Maberry created to interact with Scully, be it Corinda the New Age guru (her shop also makes an appearance in the Mulder book “Agent of Chaos”), or Scully’s love interest Ethan. Like in “Agent of Chaos” I was skeptical that a love interest had to happen in this book, since we know that he’s not going to be around ultimately, but Ethan was an okay addition. He was really there to give Scully some support from someone who was more like her, which I appreciated. Her relationship with him was also a good platform to show some of the casual sexism that Dana, as a fifteen year old girl in the late 1970s, could run into, even from someone who really does care about her. Seeing her push back against that was very gratifying, and seeing Ethan try to learn from it was refreshing and a good message to modern teens who may read this. While Ethan wasn’t as strong of an original character as Phoebe was in “Agent of Chaos”, I liked having him there for Dana to bounce more down to Earth ideas off of and help her find her voice. I liked that their partnership was it’s own thing, not just a predecessor to her eventual partnership with Mulder.

“The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate”, showcased my girl Scully. I know that we probably won’t get anymore teen books about Scully and Mulder, just because it would feel a bit absurd to take it too far with their backgrounds, but I really enjoyed how Scully was showcased in this one. It did a good job of speculating how she became the person she was when “The X-Files” started.

Rating 8: While the mystery itself wasn’t as entertaining as it could have been, the character study of Dana Scully as a questioning teenager was incredibly effective, and very well done.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate” is fairly new and not on any Goodreads lists yet. But I think it would fit in on “X-Files Related Books”, and “YA Novels about Psychic Abilities”.

Find “The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The New Girl”

9851339Book: “The New Girl” (Fear Street #1) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, August 1989

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

Book Description: Welcome to Fear Street.

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself…and see if its dark terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Dying for a Kiss

She’s pale as a ghost, blond, and eerily beautiful—and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin’s kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes. He can’t get her out of his mind. And the trouble has only begun: Shadyside High’s star gymnast is losing sleep, skipping practice, and acting weird. All the guys have noticed, but only Cory’s friend Lisa knows the truth: Anna Corwin is dead and living on Fear Street. Now Cory must explore its menacing darkness to discover the truth. He has already been warned: come to Fear Street and you’re dead!

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Sweet baby Jesus, jumping back into this series right at the beginning and I have learned that it didn’t slowly turn into a batshit bananasfest, it was ALWAYS this way. We first visit Fear Street because of high school gymnast and lovesick puppy Cory, a boy who sees a beautiful new girl in the cafeteria one day and just has to find out who she is. He’s oblivious to the fact that his best friend Lisa is in love with him, and would rather cuddle up next to this blonde who ‘haunts’ him and practically ‘floats’ down the hallway. All Lisa knows is that girl is named Anna Corwin. After asking around and getting a phone operator complicit in his stalking (she gives him Anna’s address even though she isn’t supposed to, because he ‘seems nice enough’ and ‘it’s [her] last night anyway’), Cory calls the number only to be told there is no Anna there.

Not to be deterred in his obsession, Cory asks Anna if the number he has is right, to which she says yes. But when he calls, a woman answers and says that Anna isn’t there, despite the fact he can hear her screeching in the background. So, deciding that this is obviously a messed up situation, he ventures off to Fear Street, the street that Anna lives on. And this is where it starts to get crazy. A man answers the door and tells Cory that Anna isn’t there, because Anna is DEAD!!!!!!

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Cory in that moment. (source)

Still undeterred, Cory refuses to believe that she’s dead in spite of the fact that he’s presented with newspaper articles, testimony, and an obituary that Anna Corwin is dead and buried. By all accounts, she’s no more, ceased to be, etc. He even breaks some pretty serious privacy ethics when he looks for her file in school and cannot find one for her. Signs are pointing to ghost. So how come whenever he kisses her (and boy does Anna REALLY like to kiss him, like all the time), she feels alive, warm, and supple? And why is it that she’s always asking him to save her and take her away and be with her FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER? Nothing fishy about that. Everything must be on the up and up.

Well, after a few too many meetings, Cory finds out that Anna’s brother Brad wants to keep him away from her, so much so that she’s taken out of school for a bit. Though Cory continues to pine, when Lisa asks him to the Turnaround Dance, he accepts, only to find out that Anna has returned, saw the whole exchange, and also wants to go with him. By complete coincidence, Lisa later opens her locker to find that someone has thrown a dead and gutted cat inside of it, with a note that says she is up next for the killing. Cory is convinced that it MUST be Brad, Anna’s deranged brother!

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Totally. (source)

Come the night of the dance, Cory goes with Lisa even though he really wishes he was there with Anna, and then Brad shows up and shoves Lisa down some steps, though he claims it’s a mistake. But, mistake or not, dude, that’s uncool. Luckily Lisa gets away with just a swollen ankle. The harassing phone calls up until this point seem like cake now.

Cory eventually confronts Anna about her crazy brother over pizza, and Anna tells him that she and Brad had a sister named Willa, who fell down the basement stairs. It broke the Mom, and Brad as well, and now they moved to Shadyside as a family to start over. Anna says that Brad, sad about Willa and dealing with a recently dead girlfriend named Emily (who died in a plane crash, what the HELL?!), got the names mixed up when he sent the obit to the newspaper. Hence why everyone thinks Anna is dead. It’s not Anna, it’s Willa who’s dead. Because of course. Not strange at all. But then Brad is outside the pizza parlor, staring in at them, Anna runs off.

SO WE ARE BACK AT THE CORWIN HOUSE, and Cory comes to take Anna away with him to keep her safe from Brad. But as he’s confronting Brad, suddenly Anna starts to turn exceedingly violent with a letter opener. She takes a few swings at Brad, and then turns on Cory when he tells her to maybe knock it off. And it is then (after an asinine moment with a window) that we find out that Anna is NOT Anna, she is WILLA. Willa, jealous of Anna, killed her sister, and Brad covered up for her, but never got her the help she needed, thinking he could keep her safe. Good one, Dr. Frasier Crane.

Our story concludes with Willa possibly getting the help she needs, and Cory and Lisa finally coming together as a man and his silver medal. And that, guys, is how the very first “Fear Street” book ends.

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(source)

Okay, let’s unpack it all, shall we?

Body Count: One, being Anna before the events of the actual story. Well, and a cat. So I guess two. Poor cat.  A pretty low number for a Fear Street book, really.

Romance Rating: 5. Anna was far too creepy from the beginning and Cory was so heartless to/oblivious about Lisa until basically the end. But ultimately I was happy that Lisa was happy because she was pretty decent.

Bonkers Rating: A solid 9. I expected this kind of craziness from later books, but apparently it was there from the get go.

Fear Street Relevance: This book introduced Fear Street as a concept and a lot of the important plot points took place on it, so I will give it a 9 in this category as well.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“The passenger door swung open. He started to scream.”

….. And then we find out it’s just Anna opening the car door. Stine is known for these kinds of things. Sometimes you gotta improvise when every chapter needs to end with suspense!

That’s So Dated! Moments: So the copy I found of this book was actually an updated version, trying to make “Fear Street” hip and relevant to the youth of the early 2000s. But it was done in an incredibly lazy way, such as replacing a Walkman with an iPod and Phil Collins songs with Missy Elliott songs (I did my research), and yet leaving in references to video stores, records, and actual human phone operators. PET PEEVE! Will be looking for the originals from now on.

Best Quote:

“Go get more paper towels,” Lisa said. “Ucccch, I think I’m going to be sick. It’s a good thing I hate cats.”

That’s Lisa after she finds the dead cat in her locker. I swear, they’re all psychos in Shadyside .

So “The New Girl” really gets things going with the Revisit to Fear Street! Next up is “The Prom Queen”, Fear Street #15 (I’m jumping ahead just this once because I had access to that one right away, I’ll be trying to go in order after that).

 

 

Kate’s Review: “Cold Calling”

33837691Book: “Cold Calling” by Hadyn Wilks

Publishing Info: Dead Bird Press, February 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: An ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description: You spend your days staring into a computer screen, trying to sell life insurance to young couples with new babies.

You spend your nights staring into a computer screen, extracting filth from and injecting bile into the internet.

You still live with the same dickhead housemate you went to university with.
Your only respite from computer screens are nights spent getting smashed with him at student bars, watching him prance around, trying to pull much younger girls.

Your life sucks and you suck at it.

One drunken night, you try something new.
Something terrible.
But something that brings you new energy, new drive, new desires.

You start eating the young.

Note: THERE WILL BE MANY SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Review: Oh, hey, hi! What’s up? Uh huh, uh huhhhhh, yeah, that’s cool. Oh, how did I spend my night, you ask? Oh you know. Watching ‘Top Model’… Eating some cake…

Reading a novella about a guy who eats babies…

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You read that right. Also, spoiler alert. (source)

Terrible etiquette, I apologize. But yeah. “Cold Calling”‘s main character eats babies. Okay, just hold on, hear me out here. I felt a need to get that spoiler out there because 1) I had no idea it was coming and I could have used something to soften THAT blow, and 2) I think that if you read the description you can kind of maybe guess that’s the end game. Even if you didn’t really want to believe that’s what was happening. Me getting this out there was not out of malevolence or spite, even if I was pretty well put off by it when I was reading this book. But, in spite of the fact that is just a reprehensible reality of this story, I do believe that there was a point to it. And once I kind of came around to that point, well, I was more willing to think about what the baby eating was kind of really about.

Our protagonist (“You” as he is referred mostly, as this is written in the second person, but Rhys by everyone else) is living a monotonous life in modern day Britain, working a cold calling job that is utterly thankless. Then he goes home and exists in the same sphere as his roommates, masturbates a bit to web cam porn, occasionally goes to the pub with his mates who aren’t really that good of mates if we’re being honest. His mates and those around him barb and bitch about the problems of society, usually pinning it all on immigrants, and then Rhys goes back and repeats it all over again, and again, and again. Until in a drunken blackout he finds the home of someone he’d cold called, murders the entire family, and brings the corpse of the baby home. And then he cooks it and eats it. And decides that yeah, he could do it again. It actually kind of smacked of an old school Ketchum novel, with balls to the wall violence and depravity that is meant to make the reader squirm and shake and question whether or not they could continue. I could also see the undertones of Chuck Palahniuk at his most disgusting and wretched (looking at YOU, “Guts”). I mean, horrific imagery and themes aside, I have to admit that Wilks can write, can craft words and sentences and soliloquies that leapt off the page as I was reading this book, my jaw fully agape in abject horror. Sometime the second person didn’t quite work or came off as scattered, but I do understand the choice behind it. And I think that I do see where Wilks was going. For me, the point is that for some people, the more deplorable realities of society crushes them and twists them into monsters that do absolutely horrible things. And then in turn, that same society refuses to see just what it was that really happened, or the role that it played, and then instead focuses on scapegoats that fit a narrative that are far more comfortable (i.e. everyone assuming that it had to be some ‘immigrant’ that had kidnapped these missing babies). Just to let the cycle start over again. It was as if ‘you’ were the symbol or product of an apathetic, cynical society that chewed people up and spit them out as mutants, which eventually led to the sacrifice and violent consumption of the innocent and innocence in itself. Which I really appreciated in these times.

And THAT, my friends, is why I really have no idea what to do with this story when it comes to saying what the HELL I thought about it!!!

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(source)

I guess I will say this. I definitely appreciated the underlying metaphor here that lots of innocent people get caught in the crossfire of awfulness that could have been prevented if perhaps an overarching selfishness or apathy was done away with or combated by those who have the power to do so. Yes, by having our protagonist devolve to a point and literally eat babies it was hitting the reader over the head. But I can’t say that it’s untrue. So fine, “Cold Calling”. Ultimately I jive with what you had to say. But DAMN if it wasn’t an absolutely nasty ass read and NOT for the faint of heart. It was too much even for me.

Rating 6: The writing is pretty good and the ultimate metaphor was one that I got and found pretty powerful. But I personally had a hard time with the implementation of said metaphor.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Cold Calling” is new and hasn’t found it’s way onto any Goodreads lists yet. But it would fit in on “Maneaters”, and “Cannibal Books”.

“Cold Calling” isn’t available of WorldCat as of now, but you can find it on Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.