A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Surprise Party” (Fear Street #2)

176637Book: “The Surprise Party” (Fear Street #2) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1989

Where Did I Get This Book: Interlibrary Loan from the Library!

Book Description: It’s been a year since Evan died in the Fear Street woods. A year since Ellen moved away, and “the gang” split up. Meg Dalton felt as if she’d lost her best friends. Everyone changed. Even her boyfriend Tony was acting moody, strange. But when she heard that Ellen was returning for a visit, Meg had the answer: she’d bring them all together again with a surprise party for Ellen!

That’s when the terror began…the phone calls…the threats…the bizarre acts of violence. “Cancel the party—or else,” the whispered voice on the phone told her. Meg was scared, and with good reason. Whoever wanted the party stopped would try anything—even murder! But why? The dark Fear Street woods held the answer…if Meg dared to discover the truth!

Had I Read This Before: Yes

The Plot: And it was with “The Surprise Party” that I not only got back on track with going through the “Fear Street” series in order, but also having a full understanding of what my devotion to finding the originals would entail. The ILL copy I got of this book was pretty gross and disgusting, guys. I found a long faded and nasty remnant of an M&M within it’s pages. The candy shell does NOT melt in your hand, but if cracked, the chocolate seeps into all the pages. But it was worth it, because the dreckitude of this book’s condition was far outweighed by how nostalgic it was to hold it in my hands.

Meg Dalton and her group of friends are living normal lives in Shadyside. Well, pretty normal, outside of the fact that the summer before the horrible death of their friend Evan kind of tore a big hole down the middle of their clique. Evan shot himself in the Fear Street Woods, and no one knows why. His girlfriend Ellen moved away she was in such shock and grief. Meg misses her friends, and her bestie Shannon and her boyfriend Tony just don’t quite fill that void. But then she hears from Lisa (of Lisa and Cory from “The New Girl”) that Ellen is coming back to town for a visit after all these months of being away. Meg has a scintillating idea when she hears that: Let’s throw this traumatized and potentially still in mourning girl a surprise party! Shannon seems down for it, while Tony is visibly shaken. Meg goes home and starts to plan her perfect little party….. Until she gets a scary phone call, with the person saying that she better not have a party for Ellen… OR ELSE.

Meg, not to be deterred by a little light stalking, continues to plan the shindig. Shannon even makes some nice invitations that they can pass around. Meg goes to study hall with her friends, and notices that her weirdo cousin Brian is there too. Brian is SUCH A WEIRDO because he likes to play Dungeons and Dra-, no, excuse me, Wizards and Dungeons, with his actually awful friend Dwayne ‘Date Rapist’ Colligan (who has been aggressively trying to get Shannon to go out with him). Brian was also in the woods the day that Evan killed himself, as he heard a shot and went running, only to find dead Evan and a frazzled Ellen. After Meg turns her attentions away from the invites for just one moment, she returns to find that they’ve been cut up! How dare someone try and stop this totally fun and wicked party idea?!

Meg decides she needs to make a list of suspects of attempted party pooping. There’s Brian, because he’s a weirdo. There’s Shannon, because she may blame Ellen for Evan’s death. And then maybe Ellen could be a suspect too, because ‘she never liked parties’, and someone could have tipped her off. Brilliant. She writes down Dwayne for good measure because she doesn’t like him. She decides to call Tony to see what he thinks. He thinks that someone was following him, and he also thinks that she’s nuts for still going through with this in spite of the blatant threats against her. Meg can’t understand why he’s so upset, and guarantees that she’ll find out who is behind this. She then calls Ellen, just to see how she is (and maybe to try and get a feel for her knowledge re: her shindig). Ellen sounds very happy to see her and excited about coming home… Maybe TOO happy and excited…

As Meg manages to isolate herself from everyone on her mad quest for fun, she visits Shannon and thinks about how impulsive- no, wait, what’s the word- volatile and violent Evan was when he was alive. From throwing things to hitting Tony with a pool cue. Meg notes that Shannon’s older half brother, Mike, looks so much like Evan, which surely won’t come into play later. Shannon and Meg think maybe Brian could have something to do with all of this craziness. And he’s been SO OBSESSED with Wizards and Dungeons since he found Evan dead in the woods, that has to mean something, right? When she’s about to go confront Brian, someone tries to run her down in their car!!! Though she jumps out of the way, she runs home and mulls her next move? Call the police? Nah, call Tony!… Who doesn’t answer (because he’s out for a run, and is having a confrontation with Dwayne). The next night Meg actually drops by, but he’s not home. And then, around 4am, Tony’s drunk of a father calls Meg and tells her that Tony has disappeared with Brian!

Meg decides to go into the Fear Street Woods to look for them, as they were supposedly going to play a game of W&D. When Meg is looking for them, she’s thrown down a ravine by an unknown assailant. She finds Brian all beaten up, and Tony soon appears, saying Brian fell down the ravine and he went for help. After they are all taken out of the woods, Meg goes to visit Brian, who seems standoffish (and not just because he’s in severe pain). He seems like he’s about to confess SOMETHING to her… but then ELLEN is there, and they’re both surprised to see each other. Meg leaves, and calls Tony. He asks if Brian confessed, and Meg says yes, thinking he meant to the phone calls… BUT TONY ACTUALLY MEANT TO KNOWING THAT TONY WAS THE ONE WHO KILLED EVAN A YEAR AGO, AND HE’S THE ONE MAKING THE PHONE CALLS! And now Tony thinks that he’s going to have to ‘take care’ of Meg!!!

Meg and Shannon go to visit Ellen. After an awkward and forced conversation about their favorite childhood game ‘eek a mouse!’ (in which you randomly scream as loud as you can), they go to an unsupervised party at their classmate David’s house. Dwayne basically tries to molest Shannon, but Meg rescues her and they both downplay the situation. When Tony arrives he and Meg go off to talk alone. Tony is planning to kill Meg, but then realizes that she hasn’t actually put two and two together about his involvement. You get to live for now, Meg.

The night of the surprise party arrives! Meg brings Ellen to the old Haley house in Fear Street woods under pretense of Shannon being there for some reason. They surprise Ellen, who actually seems to be pretty excited to be dragged to the woods where her greatest trauma occurred. Everyone is having a good time, except Tony, who is on edge…. Until Brian shows up…. AND IN WITH HIM WALKS EVAN!!! Except no, it’s NOT Evan, it’s Shannon’s half brother Mike, who looks like Evan, remember?! Regardless, Tony freaks out, and starts to confess to what he did… But then the lights go out and a gunshot rings out!! When they come back on, Tony has been SHOT (by the gun he brought to the party) and it was DWAYNE who did it!!! Dwayne takes Meg and Ellen hostage and they leave the party, and go into the basement to ‘hide’. Ellen confesses that the day Evan was killed, she had just dumped him for Tony (yeah, sorry Meg). Evan ran into Fear Street woods with his father’s gun, and Ellen went after him, Tony not far behind. Soon Evan and Tony were fighting over the rifle, and then Evan ended up shot. Brian heard the gunshot and came to the woods, finding the scene. Tony said he would make it look like suicide, and if they told, he’d kill them. They all ran off at that point… BUT DWAYNE REVEALS THAT NO, IT WAS HE! Because he came looking for Brian (as they had been playing W&D), and found a very much alive, but weak, Evan, who hadn’t been shot but hit his head on a rock. So Dwayne decided to get rid of this guy because Evan never let him go out with Shannon. After he confesses he says he’s going to kill them… But then Meg decides to play ‘eek, a mouse’ (like Chekov says, if you introduce ‘eek a mouse’…). She distracts Dwayne, Ellen hits him in the head with a frying pan, and they make their escape…. No word on if Dwayne was killed, though it sounds like maybe he was.

It all wraps up at the end. Tony gets therapy, Ellen goes home, Brian says that he and Ellen had planned to try and get Tony to confess by bringing Mike to the party. No word on Dwayne’s status. As Ellen and Shannon wrap it up in a neat little bow, Mike asks Meg out on a date. She agrees… but says in a flirty way “Please… no parties!”. The End.

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I guess that’s one way to react to this whole thing… (source)

Body Count: Well I know for sure that Evan is dead, though he died off page. I don’t know if Dwayne died though, so we’ll say 2.

Romance Rating: 2. Given that Tony was lying and threatening Meg for most of the story and all other couples were generally dysfunctional that may be generous. But Mike seems fine.

Bonkers Rating: 7. From the dated evils of Dungeons and Dragons to the whiplash inducing twists at the end, this one was up there on the bonkers scale.

Fear Street Relevance: 9. There was a lot of action taking place on Fear Street and in the Fear Street Woods, including the most important moments of the book.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“It’s blood!” she cried. “My lunch bag is filled with BLOOD!”

….. and then it turns out it’s red paint.

That’s So Dated! Moment: Thank God that this was written in 1989 and this copy was the original publication! Because of that we got this gem:

“With her coppery hair, blue eyes, and full pouty lips, Meg thought, Shannon looked just like that actress in the movies, Molly Ringwald.”

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But I have brown eyes… (source)

Best Quote:

“Quick – crank up some music!:” Shannon shouted, startling Meg from behind once again. “And crank it all the way up! This party is okay!”

A ringing endorsement if there ever was one.

I remembered a few things about this book from my childhood, but reading it with an adult’s perspective kind of hit home how ridiculous this series was. And how it shows a weird and warped version of teen dating and love. I was especially horrified by the portrayals of Dwayne before his big reveal. His behavior towards Shannon was downright predatory, so it’s good that he was the villain or else I would have had a serious problem with downplaying his violent misogyny as ‘harmless’.

Next up is “The Overnight”! “Fear Steet” goes camping and I can’ wait!

Kate’s Review: “The Roanoke Girls”

30689335Book: “The Roanoke Girls” by Amy Engel

Publishing Info: Crown, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

Review: I don’t know what I was expecting when I requested this book from Librarything for a free giveaway (one again, a big thank you to both Librarything and Penguin Random House for sending me this book!). Reading the description it makes “The Roanoke Girls” sound like a pretty typical, run of the mill “Thriller with a Messed Up Female Protagonist”. Secrets happen, you can’t go home again, etcetera. While you can probably surmise what that big secret is if you read the description and have a working knowledge of the genre, I was not prepared for what I was picking up. Pretty early on the big underlying secret is revealed, but it was how Engel handled it that I was most interested in. And it was in the way she handled it that I was most impressed by this book.

Though I won’t go into many spoilers here, I am definitely going to say that this book carries some serious trigger warnings with it, regarding rape and sexual abuse.

Lane, our main character, seemingly falls into the usual trap of ‘messed up female protagonist’ of a story like this. She harbors secrets, she left town and hoped to never return (with many secrets under her belt), and she comes back reluctantly due to a mystery (being the disappearance of her cousin Allegra). Hell, she even runs into Cooper, her old boyfriend who, of course, still lives in this small town and still carries a brightly burning torch for her. She even has an ex-husband that she cheated on, therein ruining their marriage because she felt like she didn’t deserve him. But while these are, yes, certainly tropes that are all too familiar, the way that Engel writes Lane, and the things that Lane has had to endure, almost make it that I can forgive how familiar they are. Lane is by far one of the most damaged protagonists that I’ve seen in this genre, but Engel never makes her victimhood, or any of the victimhood portrayed in this book, seem tantalizing. Therefore, I never felt that it was exploitative in how it portrayed the abuse. I kind of try to measure it on a “Flowers in the Attic” kind of scale when it comes to that kind of thing. And this never felt like “Flowers in the Attic”.  And Lane’s portrayal felt genuine to me, as did Allegra’s. While they both made terrible decisions, and while sometimes they could be absolutely terrible to each other and others, I never felt like there was any judgment that Engel was throwing at them. They always came off as complex and broken, so therefore their behavior was more tragic than maddening (as I sometimes feel in books of this genre).

This story is told through three different ways to varying degrees. The majority of it is from Lane’s perspective, shifting from her summer in Kansas in the past to her return to the family farm in the present. The mystery of Allegra can be pieced together in both of these time periods, as much of what Lane sees and refers to will eventually come back to her present disappearance. The mystery itself wasn’t really all that interesting to me, as I had it pretty well figured out fairly early on. True, Engel tried to toss a couple of red herrings at the reader, making us question who the culprit was, or if there was even a culprit at all, but it’s all laid out if you’re looking for it. Part of that is because of this third perspective, that of every Roanoke Girl. There are little intermittent chapters from a different Roanoke Girl’s perspective, which are there to really emphasize how far reaching and how damaging the ‘big family secret’ is. I was a bit torn about having this all out in the open, because at first I was thinking that it kind of takes away the secrecy. But then it occurred to me that the mystery isn’t what the family secret is. That would almost be too lurid if it was the big reveal. The mystery is about how deep it has affected Lane, and if she was able to get away before it totally consumed her. The sexual abuse is no secret, to anyone, really, not even the characters. The people who are privy to it are either warped by it so they think it’s normal, or they are more inclined to blame the Roanoke Girls, or see them as tainted goods because this is the culture that we live in. The isolation is just as physical as it is emotional, as Lane has no one to turn to. So ultimately I am glad that Engel didn’t treat it like some big twist reveal. Because that would have felt like it was perpetuating it, somehow.

“The Roanoke Girls” was definitely a rough read for a lot of reasons, but I found it to be worthwhile as well. I definitely want people to approach it with caution, because it’s very upsetting. But I do think that it makes the reader think about how we view victims of prolonged sexual abuse in our current cultural climate.

Rating 8: Though it’s incredibly dark and upsetting, “The Roanoke Girls” pushes the envelope and boundaries of the usual genre conventions, and brings up legitimate questions about how our culture views and treats victims.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Roanoke Girls” has not come out yet and is on very few Goodreads lists. However, it is on “Books About Rape and Rape Culture”, and I think it would fit in on “Family Secrets”.

Though it is not out yet, you will soon be able to find “The Roanoke Girls” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum”

6941759Book: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum” by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Vertigo, September 2000

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it!

Book Description: Investigative reporter Spider Jerusalem attacks the injustices of the 23rd Century surroundings while working for the newspaper The Word in this critically-acclaimed graphic novel series written by comics superstar Warren Ellis, the co-creator of PLANETARY and THE AUTHORITY.

Review: The more I revisit “Transmetropolitan”, the more I see and deeply feel parallels to our current legal situation, and in turn the more I mourn the lack of a Spider Jerusalem to jump in and start speaking ten kinds of truth. This re-read is both cathartic and upsetting, but the good news is that at least I’m finding myself laughing hysterically at many points of these comics. Because Spider, Yelena, and Channon are all so perfect and filled with snark.

We pick up where Volume 3 left off. Spider (and the world, really) is mourning the assassination of Vita Severn. She’s become a martyr and a symbol for the Callahan campaign. Spider, however, isn’t convinced that Callahan (aka The Smiler) is actually in mourning for Vita. In fact, he has a pretty good hunch that murdering Vita was a political move on the Callahan’s part. And with the election coming up, Spider wants to get the truth out in the only way he knows how. The problem is, there’s no way to win. Because the choices are The Beast, or The Smiler. And either way, Spider, and the country, is screwed….

And along with that we get a Christmas story and a story about the joys of Winter!

Ellis continues his masterful and deft political satire that continues to feel just as relevant today as it felt back when it was first written. While this collection does have a few off shoots and off story vignettes (more on that in a bit), the meat of it is about The Campaign, and Spider’s not so slow realization that there is no good solution. You either get stuck with The Beast, who has driven the country into the ground with oppressive and totalitarian policies, or you end up with The Smiler… Who has managed to prove himself far, far deadlier and menacing than his opponent behind closed doors. There are two moments in this book where Spider confronts both candidates. We get a swift reminder that The Beast is still basically the worst (and he even kind of looks like a certain presidential advisor), but at the same time you see the portrait of a man who is less beastly, and more pathetic and complacent. It was a truly unsettling moment for me as a reader, because it shows that what’s coming is going to somehow be WORSE than the worst. It was a very interesting and kind of pathos ridden final confrontation between Spider and President Beast.

And then there’s The Smiler. It is here that we get full confirmation that he is a full blown psychopath who just kind of wants to watch the world burn. So while The Beast may look like that certain Presidential Advisor, The Smiler shares ethos with him. And it is in this volume that we see Spider, wily, truth pursuing and clever Spider, is bested. Spider had an enemy in The Beast, for sure. But The Smiler is full on intent of annihilating him and wiping him from the Earth. “The New Scum” kind of feels like an “Empire Strikes Back” moment, where almost all hope has been lost and the Empire has won (even more so than Vol. 3, which ended with Vita being assassinated on live TV, and THAT was pretty dismal). Finishing that arc before the next left me feeling drained and in need of chocolate cake.

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(source)

But along with these painful and ‘oh no it’s far too true to life’ moments, there were small moments of pure hope and joy in this collection. In one of our offshoot stories, Spider finds himself meeting up with Mary, his friend who was frozen from the 20th Century and woke up in a scary and completely different future. As she talks about how different it all is, there are still the little joys that make her happy, even if the world is overwhelming and sometimes scares the crap out of her (and then Spider gives her a camera, as she was a photographer in her old life, and that just made my heart sing). In this same story Spider meets a little girl whose Mom had to pawn her favorite doll…. So Spider buys it back for her. Because he recognizes that “… all we’ve actually got is each other. You decide what that means.” And the other story that really affected me is Spider’s rumination on Winter. Winter means change. Winter means a rebirth is coming. Winter means that we can always look forward to the next one, and maybe next Winter will be better. It was a poignant and stunning one off that, true, feels a little harder to swallow these days. I don’t feel like I’m better off this Winter than I was last Winter. But the point is that Ellis knows that even when there’s all this garbage and terribleness, you can always depend on a couple things: the small joys and kindnesses that you will encounter, and that hope for change and rebirth is always there. In these moments, I was able to feel at least a little calmer.

Thanks for the hope, Spider. And thanks for staying inspirational when it comes to truth and journalism.

Rating 9: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum” is one of the most hopeless and hopeful collections of this series yet. Definitely hard to read, but impossible to put down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum”is included on these Goodreads lists: “Great Non-Superhero Graphic Novels”, and “Bibles for the Revolution”.

Find “Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:“Transmetropolitan (Vol.1): Back on the Street”, “Transmetropolitan (Vol.2): Lust for Life”, “Transmetropolitan (Vol.3): Year of the Bastard”.

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!