A Revisit to Fear Street: “Silent Night”

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

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1991

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

Book Description: Don’t open that present!

If only Reva Dalby had listened to that warning.

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

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

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

Her money can’t help her. No one can.

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

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s a GODDAMN Christmas MIRACLE! (source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kate’s Review (and Mini Brief History): “Aliens: The Original Comics Series”

33161041Book: “Aliens: The Original Comics Series” by Mark Verdheim, Den Beauvais (Ill.), Sam Kieth (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Dark Horse Books, April 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: In 1986, James Cameron’s “Aliens” brought to theaters the horrors of a new kind of war against a terrifying enemy. Long before Alien3 was even a glint in director David Fincher’s eye, Dark Horse Comics was already crafting a terrifying post-Aliens continuity for Ripley, Hicks, and Newt. 

Earth is overrun by xenomorphs with no hope of saving it for humanity. But that doesn’t mean just leaving it to the Aliens. Ripley has a plan to capture, from what they believe is the Alien homeworld, a “Queen Mother”–a super queen that rules multiple nests–and bring it back to Earth. There the Queen Mother will command the xenomorphs to gather where they can all be destroyed by nuclear bombs.

Collects Aliens: Nightmare Asylum #1-#4 and Aliens: Earth War #1-#4. Includes cover art for all issues.

Review: Even though Science Fiction isn’t really my preferred genre, if there is an excellent horror theme to it I’m assuredly going to be game. So it most likely isn’t shocking that I love both the movies “Alien” and “Aliens”. Not only does it have a solidly excellent female protagonist (Ellen Ripley for LIFE!), it also has a very scary adversary in the Xenomorph, a creature that is essentially a giant parasitic space bug that you COULD fight, but you have significantly better odds if you just run away. The first two movies in the “Alien” franchise are awesome, and while I love them both my heart probably belongs to “Aliens” the most. Not only does Ripley get to kick more butt, but she picks up a rag tag group of friends along the way, specifically the Colonial Marine Corporal Hicks, the android Bishop, and the orphan Newt, a girl saved from an overrun colony. “Aliens” ends with the Alien Queen vanquished, and Ripley looking forward to taking her life back with her new found family in the wake of the one she lost while drifting in space post “Alien”.

…. And then “Alien 3” happened, and it completely trashed that perfect ending by crashing the ship, killing off Hicks, Newt, and Bishop, and throwing Ripley into a new clusterfuck of a PRISON COLONY SETTING because apparently she doesn’t get ANY breaks whatsoever.

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How I feel about the “Alien” franchise post “Aliens”, if I’m being honest. (source)

What does this have to do with “Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and Earth War” you may ask? More than you’d think. SO, after “Aliens” came out, Dark Horse created two mini series set within the “Alien” universe, focusing on Hicks, Newt, and Ripley a few years after the action in “Aliens”. But when David Fincher’s dark for the sake of dark “Alien 3” came out, Dark Horse decided that it had to be retconned because HEAVEN FOR FUCKING BID THAT HICKS AND NEWT REMAIN ALIVE IN COMIC FORM. So Dark Horse went back and changed the names of Hicks and Newt to Wilkes and Billie, and they were SOMEHOW not Hicks and Newt in spite of the fact they were CLEARLY Hicks and Newt, and re-released the two series with a brand new ‘now agreeing with film continuity!’ seal of approval. Given how “Alien 3” ended and what happened to Ripley, what with her DYING, I don’t understand why the comics decided to change Hicks and Newt to fit THEIR deaths, but let Ripley come back unaffected. But whatever, what do I know? Happily, in 2017 Dark Horse went back and righted this wrong, and both “Nightmare Asylum” and “Earth War” were re-released in a hard cover collection with Hicks and Newt back in tact. And now that this “Short Brief History” has concluded, let’s get to the review.

I’ll start with “Nightmare Asylum”. Ripley wasn’t seen much in this story, but I was surprisingly okay with this because it gave Hicks and Newt some time to shine. Set a fewish years down the line from “Aliens”, Newt is now a young woman, and has been living as a surrogate daughter/sister/friend to Hicks. They have been floating in space, as Earth has been taken over by the Xenomorphs and they escaped by the skin of their teeth (along with an android named Butler with whom Newt has been in a relationship). But unfortunately they run afoul a crazed General named Spears, who has gone full General Kurtz and thinks that he can make an army of Xenomorphs to fight against the Xenomorphs on Earth, namely by torturing and trying to condition an Alien Queen to make her control her brood lest he destroy her eggs. And while Ripley is nowhere to be seen for the most part, I REALLY enjoyed “Nightmare Asylum”, if only because Hicks and Newt (her in particular) had some fantastic story lines and moments of riveting action. Given that I have ALL the love for both Hicks and Newt, I am a-okay with the focus being on the two of them. For Newt it’s because she has taken on the role of the determined and scrappy Ripley character, and it shows how she has gone from scared orphan girl to be saved to an adult who is out to save the world. For Hicks it’s his continued journey of being a tough and competent soldier who is more than happy to let the tough ladies around him take the reins. He had the utmost respect for Ripley and trusted her, and  he has the same respect for Newt. And also, Hicks was played by Michael Biehn, who was foxy as HELL in the role, so yes, my libido has SOME influence over my affinity.

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AM I WRONG?! (source)

But I also REALLY liked the main plot with the crazed General trying to use the Xenomorphs to his own ends. Any “Alien” fan worth their salt is going to know that this is a TERRIBLE idea, but it feels original enough that it could totally fit within the hubris that we see so often in this universe. And with new but familiar protagonists coming in to deal with it it doesn’t feel like just another instance of  ‘Ripley is right AGAIN and why doesn’t anyone listen to her?’. Ripley can be right til the cows come home, but admittedly it would get a bit old. And yes, Ripley DOES show up, right at the end, so it doesn’t feel like she’s been forgotten or thrown to the side. One note I do have, though: I didn’t like that there were so many sexualized drawings of Newt. Sure, she’s an adult in this story arc, but was it REALLY necessary to have multiple shots of her in skimpy underwear and spread legs?

“Earth War” was next, and that one brings Ripley more into the fold. As she, Hicks, and Newt (along with other brave fighters) gather together to try and take Earth back, Ripley also has to contend with her leaving Newt and Hicks behind after “Aliens”. I liked the device that was used in this case, as it doesn’t feel too cheap (like “Alien 3” did, and no I will NOT shut up about how much I hate that movie) and also feels wrenching. To Ripley Newt was sort of seen as a stand in for her daughter, who died while Ripley was in hypersleep out in space, and so it was important to give a GOOD explanation as to why Ripley would have disappeared after “Aliens”. “Earth War” absolutely achieves that. But I think that the reason I found it to be the weaker of the two, in SPITE of Ripley’s presence, is that it feels very rushed. While the smaller story of “Nightmare Asylum” works in four issues, trying to cram a reunion for Ripley and her friends, information as to where she was that whole time, AND a battle to take Earth back from the Xenomorphs in the same number feels VERY rushed. Plus, I think that for me there was a HUGE disconnect from the artwork between the two, and I much preferred Den Beauvais:

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(source)

Versus that of Sam Kieth:

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(source)

I generally like Kieth (I REALLY like his work on “Sandman”), but I didn’t feel like it fit in as well with the content at hand. Which means I was taken out of it a bit more than I would have liked.

All that said. this collection is FINALLY back the way it is supposed to be, and I am SO happy that I finally got to read it. “Aliens: The Original Comics Series” gives “Alien” fans the stories that we’ve always deserved, and it gives Ripley, Hicks, and Newt a lot to do without getting dour or unnecessarily bleak. I greatly enjoyed this series as a whole.

Rating 9: The “Alien” continuation that we deserve to have, “Aliens: The Original Comics Series” is action packed, powerful, and a shining light on favorite characters from the first two movies.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Aliens: The Original Comics Series” isn’t on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Supernatural (Not Superhero) Comics”.

Find “Aliens: The Original Comics Series” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit To Fear Street: “All Night Party”

842654Book: “All Night Party” (Fear Street #43) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1997

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

Book Description: It’s Cindy’s birthday, and her friends are throwing her a surprise party on Fire Island. It’s a private party — no parents, no cops…in fact, no one around for miles. 

Except there’s a madman loose on the island. A murderer who quietly crashes the party. And he wants to dance with the birthday girl…

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: New girl Gretchen is driving her minivan with her newly acquired friends Patrick, Gil, Hannah, and Jackson. Gretchen moved to Shadyside about few months back, but this group of friends really welcomed her into the fold. Now they’re driving to their friend Cindy’s house, who is having a birthday that week. Since her parents have left town on a business trip, this group of friends has decided to kidnap her for the night and take her to Fear Island for an all night party. Gretchen is a little distracted because she’s been getting weird hang up calls, and she wonders if it’s been Jackson, the one person in the group she doesn’t know too well, and who therein gives her ‘the creeps’. They arrive at Cindy’s house, find the spare key, and let themselves in (with Gretchen catching Jackson staring at her). They barge into Cindy’s room, and she protests as they tie a blindfold around her eyes, but she should thank her lucky stars that they didn’t gag her with a giant jawbreaker lest that become a problem later. But there is a problem, because Patrick pulls out a gun and presses it into Cindy’s side. When Gretchen and Hannah start yelling at him, he tells them that it isn’t loaded or anything, he thought it would make the kidnapping look ‘more realistic’. After he puts the gun away, they tell Cindy they’re taking her to an all night birthday party, and she seems to forget about the gun that was until a few seconds ago jammed in her side. We’re in for a doozy here, folks.

Once they’re in the minivan Cindy asks if she can take the blindfold off but the others say no. She whines a bit, and Hannah seems annoyed. Gretchen hasn’t quite mapped out the complicated landscape that is Hannah and Cindy’s friendship, as they seem to be more like bitter enemies than friends, but hey, sometimes that’s how high school is. What makes matters more complex is that Gil is Hannah’s boyfriend, but up until recently he’d been going out with Cindy until Cindy dumped his ass. Hannah, there are so many issues with this. Gretchen asks Patrick why he brought the gun, and he is hesitant to tell them lest is ruin their fun night’, but after prodding he tells them his motivation. His father is a police officer living in Waynesbridge, and while he was visiting Patrick that day he told him that a convicted killer escaped from prison and had been spotted in the Fear Street Woods. His Dad gave him the gun for protection in case they run into the killer on Fear Island. Gretchen is more concerned about the fact he ruined the surprise than the potential killer on the loose. Cindy asks what this guy did, and Patrick tells them that he murdered three teenage girls. They all argue about whether they should change their plans, but Cindy says that the guy probably wants to get out of dodge so why would he go to Fear Island. Most of the others agree, though Hannah and Gretchen are reticent, for pretty okay reasons, but they arrive at the dock and all jump in a boat to row out to the island. Cindy complains about being cold since she left her coat in the car, and Gil gives her his and says that he could ‘warm her up’ in other ways, and poor Hannah is angry about this, of course. Patrick then jokes that he sees a shark because I guess he thinks they’re on Lake Zambezi or some shit. Cindy asks if Gretchen’s boyfriend Marco is coming, and Gretchen gets tense. Marco is your typical bad boy with long hair and a motorcycle, but Gretchen has realized that bad boys generally don’t give a shit about the ladies who want to save them and thinks she may need to break up with him. Suffice to say, she didn’t invite him to the party.

They land on the island and Gretchen runs ahead to light the candles on the cake. Jackson offers to walk with her and she is SO CREEPED OUT by the offer (after all it’s not like there’s the potential for a crazy person who kills women to be on the island or anything) she says no. She walks into the cabin, but the lights won’t turn on. She starts into the cabin to try and find a candle, but then someone grabs her in the darkness! She screams, convinced the killer has her, but no, it’s something that in some ways is worse: it’s Marco. She yells at him for scaring her since there’s a killer on the loose, but given that Patrick’s Dad told him to keep it quiet Marco couldn’t have known that. And I guess it was Gretchen’s Mom who narced on her and told him where she was, and he thought it would be fun to surprise her so he hid his boat and waited at the cabin. The others arrive and Cindy is so excited to see Marco. Gretchen sets up candles all around the room and they get the cake all lit, ready to celebrate her birthday. Cindy says that she’ll remember it as long as she lives, and it’s heavily implied that that may not be as long as she thinks….

Gretchen still is creeped out by Jackson who isn’t saying much but is watching the others. She thinks he’s studying them, and he says he’s going to build a fire for the hotdogs. Gretchen and Hannah go into the kitchen to prepare the dinner, and Hannah asks her why Marco is there. Gretchen tells her about her narc Mom, and they agree that hopefully Gretchen can just avoid him. They bring the food out and start roasting. Cindy and Gil continue to flirt, and when Hannah tries to exert her authority as girlfriend Cindy reminds her that she and Gil dated for SIX months while Hannah has only been with him for one. Hannah rushes to the kitchen, and Gretchen follows her. She asks Hannah if she’s upset that Gil is flirting with Cindy (as she would have every RIGHT to!), but Hannah says that Cindy is an even bigger dick than that. Apparently Hannah tried to win a scholarship that would have made it possible for her to go to college, but when Cindy heard that Hannah wanted it SHE applied, and SHE won. The kicker is that Cindy’s family already has more than enough money to send her to college, and Cindy didn’t need the scholarship. Hannah says that sometimes she wishes that Cindy was dead, and when Gretchen says that she doesn’t mean that, Hannah replies with ‘don’t I?’

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Like most overshadowed besties, Hannah is feeling the swells of rebellion within her. (source)

They go back into the main room just in time for Cindy to open her gifts and be a totally ungrateful bitch about all of them, making snarky commentary about all of them. The earrings from Gretchen are ‘great’, but the perfume from Hannah ‘makes her break out’. The rock concert tickets from Gil and Jackson are met with neutrality (ROCK CONCERT TICKETS ARE NOT CHEAP, GIRL), and she doesn’t care that Patrick didn’t wrap his gift so he will give it to her later. Marco’s box of slasher movies (LOL) is met with derision. They put on the music and Gretchen tries to get out of dancing with Marco but he won’t take no for an answer. As they dance she watches Gil and Hannah dance, and sees Cindy glaring at them. She dumped Gil because he and his friends stole a car and Cindy’s parents were livid, so Cindy broke it off. Now it seems she’s having second thoughts. Gretchen notices Jackson looking at her, and she gets freaked out again. She says that she’s going to gather fire wood, and Hannah and Gil say that they will join her on their way to look at the stars at the dock (though Gil and Cindy continue to openly flirt). After they part ways, Gretchen gathers some wood and starts to return, but under the kitchen window she hears arguing. It’s definitely Cindy, and Gretchen is convinced that the male voice is Jackson. She then hears a slap, and wonders if she should go intervene, but remembers that Patrick and Marco are inside and they can do so. She decides to take more time alone in the woods, and is scared by Marco again. She is pissed, because he now knows about the prisoner, but he tells her to lighten up. She then dumps his ass, and he takes out his switchblade and starts stabbing a tree with it. He then walks back towards the cabin, and she for whatever reason tries to talk to him, but he isn’t interested.

They get back to the cabin and find it basically empty. Marco suggests that everyone else went for a walk and sits and sulks by the fire place. Gretchen goes to set up the dessert, but when she enters the kitchen she finds CINDY DEAD ON THE FLOOR, STABBED TO DEATH AND SPRAWLED IN FLOUR. She pukes, and then runs into the main room, where Marco holds her as she screams. Patrick comes upstairs asking what happened, and then Gretchen notices the blood on his shirt! She asks him how he got it, and he says he cut his palm trying to open an upstairs window, and shows her his bandaged hand. Marco goes to investigate, and Patrick stays with Gretchen in the main room. He says that it must be the escaped prisoner. Gil and Hannah come back, and Gretchen tells them what happened. Gretchen says that they have to call the police, but Patrick says that they can’t. When Gretchen asks why he hugs her and says that there are no phones on Fear Island. Gretchen says they can row back to shore, but a rain storm has started and Patrick says that the killer is outside and it’s not safe. He reminds them that they have the gun, as he did bring bullets. Then Jackson comes back with more firewood, and when they tell him what happened he doesn’t react in the histrionic way everyone else has, so Gretchen is IMMEDIATELY suspicious. Patrick says that they have to wait until tomorrow, and when they don’t come back their parents will wonder where they are and send the police after them. This is stupid as hell, but the others agree. They search the house to make sure the killer isn’t inside, and decide to wait it out.

But Gretchen thinks that she sees something outside, and HAS to investigate. She goes outside, and then Jackson is next to her, scolding her for going out on her own when there is a potential killer in the woods. They go back inside, and Gretchen thinks about the fight he had with Cindy that she overheard. After the others come back into the room, Marco says that he has questions for Patrick, because he didn’t see any blood on the window sill. Patrick says he cleaned it all up. Gretchen starts to fall into a paranoid spiral, thinking of all the motives those around her could have had for killing Cindy. After all, Hannah lost the scholarship and Gil was still interested in Cindy, and then there’s Jackson, who is just CREEPY. She decides to focus on him, and brings up the argument she heard. Jackson that he didn’t argue with Cindy, and Gretchen is adamant that she heard him. He says it wasn’t him, and is she calling him a liar? Patrick says that he was outside so it couldn’t have been him, and everyone else has alibis. Hannah keeps crying and Gil tells her to shut up because she and Cindy were fighting so how is she so sad? Hannah says that Cindy never cared about him and was only flirting with him to get back at Hannah, and GIL says that he doesn’t even like her and he liked Cindy, he was going to dump her, and he hopes the killer gets her next.

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Me as I read this book. (source)

They all eventually agree that sticking together is the best plan. Jackson wants to check the body one more time, and they all trudge into the kitchen. Gretchen then notices a baseball can in Cindy’s hand, and Cindy wasn’t wearing a cap before. It may belong to the killer! Patrick owns up to it belonging to him, and they all think that he must be the killer. He says he has no idea how Cindy got his hat, as he put it on the hook in the front room. Gretchen notices that Cindy is also wearing a jacket that isn’t hers, so maybe she grabbed it and the hat to step outside in the rain. But Marco says that there’s no reason for her to have it after unless she was trying to give a clue to who the killer is, so it has to be Patrick because of that AND the blood on his shirt. He reminds them that he has a gun, so why would he stab her with a bread knife? They ask him how he knew what she was stabbed with, and he says he saw the knife missing! They back off, saying that they’re sorry and all on edge. But then they notice a boot print in the flour on the floor. Whose boot has flour on it? Gretchen goes to check his boots. And indeed, there is flour on the sole. And guess whose does? PATRICK’S! He still claims that he didn’t do it, but the others tie him to a chair a la “The Thing”. The decide to go through his stuff, and as Gretchen is going through his backpack she finds a note! It’s from Cindy, and it says that she can’t keep their secret anymore and is going to tell her parents. Was Patrick seeing Cindy secretly? They then find a bloody break knife in his sleeping bag!!! They confront him with the evidence, but he says that there wasn’t anything going on between him and Cindy so the note has to be fake. And on top of that, WHY would he leave all this damning evidence around? He begs Gretchen to untie him because if he was the killer he wouldn’t be so careless. The others aren’t convinced, but he’s making sense to Gretchen. She lets him look at the note, and he points out that the i in her name in the note isn’t dotted with hearts, which was Cindy’s trademark (GAG ME). The compare the note to some history notes in Cindy’s bag, and while the writing looks very close, it isn’t the same. The y’s are wrong too. So someone must be framing him. They show that to Patrick, and they untie him. Also, Hannah has disappeared. Gil freaks out, worried that the killer is going to get her, and they find a note from her that says she’s too scared to stay and is bolting.

As they’re getting ready to go find Hannah, Gretchen wonders if maybe Hannah is the killer and left because she felt guilty. Then she sees Jackson staring at her. She starts to freak out, and he says that she ‘must suspect…’, but before he can finish she runs out hte door and into the night. She realizes that he’s following her, and she trips and falls down a hill (goddamn it this is so stupid). Jackson is soon on top of her, but it’s because he also fell and not because he’s attacking her. He asks why she ran and she tells him she was scared of him because he’s always staring at her, and he admits that he does that because he’s had a crush on her ever since she moved there. He was about to tell her in the cabin when she bolted. He’d planned on telling her that night because he heard her talking to Hannah and Cindy about how she wanted to dump Marco. So when Marco ended up there he got upset, and then, you know, CINDY DIED. Gretchen lets him know that she did dump Marco, but they should probably focus on not dying before they do anything about that. They start back for the cabin, and then hear Hannah screaming. Gretchen grabs a rock to use as a weapon, but when they run back inside the cabin they find the others pulling another “The Thing” kinda deal and are trying to tie Hannah up! Gil says that while they were at the dock she left him to go get a sweater, and that could have been plenty of time to kill Cindy and plant all that evidence to frame Patrick! But Hannah says that when she got back to the dock with her sweater, GIL was gone, so HE could have done it! And the accusation wheel in the sky keeps on turning. Gretchen goes to her purse to get some chapstick, but then finds a note. She reads it, and then turns to Patrick, asking him why he killed Cindy. He says that they settled this, but she holds up the note. It’s one he left her saying he’d bring stuff for the party, and it’s the same handwriting as the note they found earlier. He framed himself. And he says that maybe he did, and pulls the gun on them!

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You should have locked him in a shed like poor Wilford Brimley. (source)

So apparently Cindy found out something about his past, and she also pretended to like him but went out with Gil instead. She’d also continuously tease him and remind him about whatever he’d done. He’d planned to kill her once they made plans for the party. He almost changed his mind and tried to kiss her in the kitchen, but she laughed at him and told him that she’d never kiss him. When he tried to stop her from leaving, she slapped him. So it was PATRICK that Gretchen heard. He then stabbed her. And now he’s going to have to kill ALL OF THEM!! But before he can shoot, two deus ex machinas police officers enter the cabin! Patrick turns the gun on them but Gretchen knocks him down. The police wrestle the gun out of his hands. When asked if they are there because of the killer in the woods, the police say that they haven’t heard of such a thing. Yes, Patrick made it up. The cops are actually there because Patrick stole his Dad’s gun and he reported it. And apparently the big secret was that Patrick set a fire in Waynesbridge and he thought that Cindy knew about it. But Hannah says that Cindy didn’t know jack about Patrick, she teased him because she liked him. So the book ends with the remaining friends all together, contemplating the existentialism of life. “Party’s Over”, says Gretchen. The End.

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This was abysmal. (source)

Guys… Okay, this is just… The sheer laziness and rubber stamp plotting of this book was just flabbergasting to me. And then, THEN, to not have any kind of twist or supernatural element, to just have it be Patrick…. I can’t. I did not like this. So let’s just get this break down over with.

Body Count: 1.

Romance Rating: 3, only because Jackson and Gretchen seem to be on track for an okay relationship assuming the shared trauma of the party doesn’t ruin it.

Bonkers Rating: 2. Nothing bonkers here, just the stupidity of everyone involved. There wasn’t a supernatural element OR a huge twist!

Fear Street Relevance: 7 given that the action takes place on Fear Island and there was talk of the not real killer hiding in Fear Woods.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Cindy ripped off the red bow and lifted the lid of the box. She peeked inside- and her mouth dropped open in disgust.

‘Ohhhh. Gross!’ she moaned.”

…. And it was just a bunch of slasher movies, and listen Cindy, if YOU don’t want them, I will take them!

That’s So Dated! Moments: Sadly, this was one of those “Fear Street” books that was so bland and sparse that there really were no details outside the plot at hand. Maybe the fact that the slasher movies were video tapes?

Best Quote: This is going to sound super harsh, but nothing about this book was good, so it goes without saying that there weren’t any ‘best’ quotes.

Conclusion: “All Night Party” was haphazard and lazy, definitely up there with the worst of the worst “Fear Street” novels. Skip it. Up next, in honor of the season, is the Fear Street Super Chiller “Silent Night”!

Kate’s Review: “Jar of Hearts”

36315374Book: “Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier

Publishing Info: Minotaur Books, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review: Sometimes I get carried away in my request lists for library books. On my personal Instagram I have repeatedly posted pictures of book piles that are overflowing and busting at the seams, fifteen books high and not showing the books on my kindle OR the pile of ARCs in my home office library. And when this happens, I occasionally have to make sacrifices and send books back into the library pool. I did this with “Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hellier, thinking that it was probably going to be a book I liked, but one that could wait, like so many middle of the road thrillers ultimately can. But when I did eventually pick it up again (after sleeping on it AGAIN; I didn’t pick it up until a week before it was due), I was angry with myself for letting it go that first time. Especially since Caroline Kepnes, ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, wrote the blurb on the cover, and I didn’t even notice! “Jar of Hearts” is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year, and one of the reasons for that is that it is so dark in some ways it treads towards horror.

The story is laid out through a few different perspectives. The first is from Geo’s perspective, the woman who went to prison for helping her boyfriend Calvin James cover up the murder of Angela Wong, her best friend. We get to see Geo’s present day timeline, from her arrest to her trial to her stint in prison to her time out of prison, as well as moments from her high school days, when Angela was still alive and Geo was just getting involved with Calvin. Seeing how Geo changes over time because of the various experiences she’s had really gives the reader a feel for the character, and it allows her to become multidimensional in an organic way. To go from awkward and shy high schooler to world weary felon is heartbreaking to see, and you really see how much of a monster Calvin James is while also seeing why Geo would have fallen under his spell. Hillier does a very good job of showing the reader why Geo is the way that she is, and simultaneously doesn’t excuse her mistakes, but helps you understand them, and her. I really liked Geo, and while she had EVERY opportunity to fall into the tried and true ‘hot mess’ stereotype for this kind of thriller, I feel like she never did.

Geo and Angela’s high school friend Kaiser is our second perspective, and his is set firmly in the present. Kaiser was the sweet best friend who held a torch for Geo, who then ended up being the detective who solved the murder and then arrested Geo. While is isn’t as compelling as Geo is, I did like seeing this man with his own haunted past have to come to terms with his feelings for his old friend as he investigates a new spate of crimes that she may have a tie in, be it directly or not. While he DID fall into familiar traps of the genre (the cynical detective who is responsible on the clock but makes reckless decisions in his personal life), I really did like Kaiser and liked following him. He was also our main connection to the mystery at hand, while Geo was the connection to what happened to Angela.

And let’s talk about that mystery. Because “Jar of Hearts” is dark as hell. Kaiser is trying to figure out if Calvin James is back to killing women after years of being off the grid, as bodies start showing up that are similar to Angela’s murder scene. But along with the dead women, there are also dead children. This doesn’t match James’s original M.O., and as Kaiser digs deeper and does more investigating, things do start to fall into place because of the various perspectives we are getting. And not only is it suspenseful, there were moments in this book that I was completely unsettled. Hellier did a great job of slowly giving the reader the clues just when she deemed it necessary, and while I had an inkling as to where some things were going, I never got there too soon before Hellier wanted me to. The content was bleak and very upsetting at times, and while I greatly enjoyed this book, it is not for the faint of heart. It feels like it treads more towards “The Silence of the Lambs” than “The Girl on the Train”. Which is a SUPER positive in my book.

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If only the villain was as polite as Hannibal, though. (source)

But before I wrap things up completely, I do need to give a serious, SERIOUS content warning. This book has multiple depictions of rape in it, and while it doesn’t feel titillating or exploitative in how it’s done or portrayed, it absolutely could be triggering for those who are going into it. So just be aware that it is there.

“Jar of Hearts” is a fantastic thriller and an incredibly impressive debut novel. I truly cannot wait to see what Jennifer Hillier comes out with next. Do not let this one go, thriller fans! Don’t make the same mistake I did!

Rating 9: Suspenseful and disturbing, “Jar of Hearts” was a fantastic thriller that hit every bingo box for my dark thriller needs!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Jar of Hearts” is included on the Goodreads lists “Non-Caucasian Protagonists in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal Romance” (I imagine this fits in horror?), and “Best Suspense Novels”.

Find “Jar of Hearts” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Killer’s Kiss”

89793Book: “Killer’s Kiss ” (Fear Street #42) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1997

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Rivals throughout their whole lives for the best grades, friends, and boys, Delia and Karina both set their sights on the attractive Vincent, and Karina decides that if she cannot have him, no one will.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We start out with Delia Easton and Vincent Milano making out on his couch. Delia pauses to apply some dark purple lipstick, described in full detail as well as her botting method which doesn’t make sense because it seems she just kisses a tissue instead of putting it between her lips? She also gives him a big ol’ smackola on his cheek, leaving a purple mark. She says that they have to plan for his birthday, but it’s getting late and she should go before his parents get home. He tells her it’s not THAT late, but does check on the clock because this scumbag is waiting on his OTHER girlfriend Karina Frye, who is supposed to come at 9. He’s miffed that the two girls he’s using are going to probably expect to spend his birthday with him or something (the NERVE), and acknowledges that while Delia isn’t a hottie like Karina, she’s still noticeable. Delia asks if he’ll ever forgive her for being ‘dumb enough’ to think that he was going with Karina (since she and Karina are rivals in every way), and he is SO GRACIOUS and forgives her. Vincent then realizes with horror that the clock has stopped, and that it’s really close to nine! He tells Delia that she has to leave because his parents will be home soon. He shoos her out and she kisses him goodbye, leaving. She gets out of sight JUST as Karina drives up. When Karina comes in he gives her the “Vincent Milano Trade-Mark Smile” (which is mentioned numerous times in this book, whatever that means), but she sees the lipstick stains on his cheek. Since that purple is a style Delia has the market cornered on, Karina accuses him of cheating on her with Delia, and Vincent deflects saying that SHE kissed HIM and he wasn’t even into it. Karina says she’s sick of Delia trying to get everything that belongs to her, and she goes to her car and drives off like a lunatic.

At school that next day Delia and her friends Britty and Gabe are discussing The Conklin Award, a scholarship that Delia is hoping to win (and that shares a name with the family in “One Evil Summer”, and I’m trying to discern if that’s a coincidence or if the terribly negligent journalist mother got an award named after her). The winner has to have high grades, and has to be an accomplished performer and artist. Delia is also thinking about Vincent, wondering why he was so eager to shoo her away. Delia also thinks about how Gabe has a crush on her, but she’s not interested even though he’s very nice. She applies more purple lipstick (which is called “Midnight Wine”), and does that weird botting method but this time with Britty’s notebook paper (INCONSIDERATE MUCH?). Delia says she’s nervous about the Conklin because if she won it would be the first step in achieving all of her dreams. And the problem is that KARINA is also trying out for it, and Karina is just as accomplished and talented as she is. Britty is sick of them fighting over everything, as she is Delia’s best friend but she liks Karina too, and Delia says it’s because Karina is TRYING to seduce Vincent away from her! Just then Karina rushes into the gym, and lunges at Delia, trying to strangle her! They struggle, and Karina manages to RIP DELIA’S EARRING OUT OF HER EAR before they’re separated. Karina says that Delia can’t steal Vincent and that she can’t win everything, and that Vincent is HERS. She is pulled away from Delia and taken to the office, and Delia says that Karina must be crazy because she actually believes that she’s going with Vincent and that’s the only explanation. She is shaken up, but reapplies her lipstick perfectly.

That evening Vincent is at Delia’s house as she’s asking him if he thinks her drawings are good enough for the Conklin Award. Vincent isn’t terribly invested in anything outside of the basketball game, and yet Delia still muses that she can’t draw him well because NO artist could capture how gorgeous he is, which is nauseating. She tells him about Karina and that she thinks that Karina is legit delusional about him and her supposedly non existent relationship, and Vincent gets mad that they’re talking about Karina so much. Then her younger sister Sarah walks in and teases the two of them. Delia thinks about how dumpy Sarah is, and then essentially tells her that no boys want to fuck her, which sends Sarah into a rage spiral and kicks a bunch of Delia’s artwork before stealing one portrait and rushing for her room. Delia yells at her not to spy on them anymore, and Sarah promises she’ll do something even worse.

At school the next day Delia is still miffed that her sister took the best picture from the bunch, but she’s also determined to still win. As she’s searching her locker for a notebook, another Conklin nominee(?) named Stewart comes up to her and asks her if she’d like to hang out that weekend, since the talent competition is on Monday and he could use some time to think about something else. She is tempted to say yes, but then sees Vincent in the hallway and declines the invitation. I HAVE QUESTIONS. How is Vincent maintaining this charade of dating two different girls if he isn’t telling them to keep their dating on the down low AND they all go to school together?! Anyway, Stewart takes in in stride and goes on his way. But as Delia walks down the hallway she hears someone say her name. She stops by the storage room she hears voices, and sees Stewart and Karina having a heated discussion! She goes into the science lab wondering what she saw, and when Britty shows up she tells her everything. Britty isn’t really convinced that she saw anything of note, but she does to the door to look out into the hallway Stewart leaves the room, but Karina isn’t anywhere to be seen until a little while later when she leaves too. Delia suggests that Britty talk to her since they’re still friends, and Britty eventually agrees, and rushes to catch up with her. Britty asks of Karina wants to go to the mall to talk about everything going on, and Karina says no, she’s just fine, and Britty reminds her that she tried to strangle someone so maybe she isn’t. Karina balks and shouts that Delia won’t win the Conklin and she won’t be able to take Vincent away from her! Delia is still of the belief that Karina is delusional.

That night Delia has a bad dream about Karina smearing purple lipstick all over her. Maybe it’s time to lay off the lipstick. That Monday it’s the talent portion of the Conklin Award, and Delia is nervous because she was put as seventh to perform and now all she can do is worry about it. Stewart has some amazing magic show with his dog and Karina has a lovely voice, but DELIA is not only singing, she’s playing the guitar, AND it’s a song she wrote herself. She’s bummed that Vincent can’t be there, as he gave the excuse that he had to take his mom to an appointment, but at least Britty is there, as is Gabe! Karina’s song is amazing, of course, and as Delia scans the crowd she sees Sarah there for some reason. Britty says that she’s probably there to cheer Delia on, but given that Sarah is giving her an unsettling smile I wouldn’t put money on THAT pony. Eventually Delia goes backstage to get her guitar, Gabe wishing her luck, and she goes on the stage… But finds that someone has cut all of her guitar strings, a dead rat is stuffed in the hole, and someone wrote “HA HA” on the guitar’s body.

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Okay, so it doesn’t have the same panache of Woody Guthrie, but MAYBE she could try and spin it as a political statement? (source)

Delia accuses Karina of doing this, but Karina, who is oddly calm about the whole thing, says that she doesn’t need abusive stalker methods tricks to beat her. Then she and SARAH leave the auditorium together. Gabe and Britty assure her that she will he allowed to redo the talent portion, and that they are her bodyguards from now on.

When Delia gets home that night she finds a note from Vincent on her front door that suggests they go to Red Heat to celebrate her what he assumes was awesome performance. She remembers that Britty borrowed the skirt she wants to wear, so she goes to Britty’s house to find her and Gabe making chocolate chip cookies for Delia to cheer her up. That’s some good friendship there! They tell her to just stay away from Karina from now on, since she’s gone off her rocker. Unfortunately while driving home, Delia spots Karina and VINCENT kissing on the street corner. Delia is so distraught she crashes her car. Karina runs to her aid while Vincent runs to call for help (or more likely runs to avoid any kind of consequences), and Delia says she’s fine. She tells Karina she saw them kissing, and Karina says that she knows he’s been seeing the two of them behind their backs. She also says that she’s sorry she lost her shit about the whole thing, but she swears that she didn’t do the rat thing, really! Delia believes her, and they both agree that they no longer have to fight over that creep, just the Conklin. But as Karina heads off, Delia tells herself that SHE isn’t going to give Vincent up that easily.

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Alright, dumb dumb, you earn whatever bullshit he throws your way then! (source)

Later that evening Vincent and Delia are talking on the phone and he tells Delia that he can’t go dancing that night after all. But he ALSO tells her that he saw her and Karina talking and wouldn’t you know it, Karina just ran up and KISSED HIM AND HE WASN’T INTERESTED AT ALL. And the worst part is that Delia believes him. But he tells her that they’ll go dancing this weekend, and when he hangs up he turns to DELIA’S SISTER SARAH AND THEY START KISSING. This guy is a straight up creep.

That next week Delia is waiting for the judges of the art competition of the Conklin to finish up with Karina so she can show them her drawings. She applies more Midnight Wine to her lips, and then runs into Stewart. He tells her not to worry, the judges seemed fair, and that he’s sure she’ll do great. He asks her out to Pete’s Pizza afterwards to celebrate being done with the judging parts of the Conklin, but she declines because VINCENT. As Karina leaves the art room she smiles at Delia, who fakes a smile back and also notices how great her oil paintings are. Delia walks to the classroom and opens her portfolio…. and someone has smeared purple lipstick over all of her art work!! As well as the note ‘HA HA, COULDN’T YOU JUST DIE??” Delia runs out of the room in a panic, and then sees Karina and Vincent cuddling up with Karina bragging about how she’s going to win, so they’re BOTH idiots!!!!

Delia tells Britty that she thinks she has to drop out of the competition. Britty thinks that they need to rat out Karina, but Delia points out that Karina’s already attacked her once and that she doesn’t want to face her wrath a second time. Britty jokes that they could kill Karina, but it doesn’t quite land that way she wants it to and Delia for a moment thinks she’s serious. Britty says that Delia never used to take her morbid sense of humor that seriously before, and Delia says that without the Conklin her dreams of getting out of Shadyside will be finished. She says that she has to go talk to Vincent so he can explain himself, and Britty VERY ASTUTELY points out that he’s a complete jerk and that there are LOTS of guys (like Gabe and Stewart) who would be better boyfriends, but Delia chalks it up to Britty just not understanding love. Unfortunately, when she gets to Vincent’s house she finds him making out with Sarah. When she confronts them she notices that Sarah has used her Midnight Wine lipstick and stolen her clothes, but Delia pulls a fatality by telling her that even in her clothes and lipstick she’s ‘nothing special’. YA BURNT. Sarah runs out of the house, and Vincent ACTUALLY TELLS HER THAT HE WAS GIVING SARAH KISSING POINTERS!!!! He then tells Delia that he was snuggling up with Karina because she’s delusional, and he’ll talk to her. AND DELIA FORGIVES HIM.

Fast forward to Vincent’s birthday party, which he is throwing at an abandoned mansion on Fear Street. Everyone is having a good time but Gabe is wondering where Delia is. Karina shows up a little after Gabe, and she and Vincent start dancing. Britty pulls him aside, sick of his bullshit, and asks him if he’s seen Delia. He says no but brushes is off, and Britty says that something must be wrong because there’s no way she’d be this late to his party.  Vincent is more relieved because now he can just be with Karina and not worry about the two girls fighting. But another couple of hours pass and Delia still isn’t there… Until she shows up, bloody and bruised and looking a mess. She tells the whole party that Karina invited her over before the party under pretense of talking, but then knocked her out and tied her to a bed! Karina insists upon her innocence, but everyone remembers that she was late to the party. Delia says that her blood is all over the bedroom floor at Karina’s house, and Karina says no they can’t go to her house to check. When Vincent tells her that they need to get her help, she screams and runs into the night. Vincent says he’ll take Delia home, but she says she needs to rest a bit, and that she’s in shock over what Karina did.

The next day Britty picks up a newly lipsticked Delia so they can go help clean up the house on Fear Street. Delia seems to be doing much better, and Britty is relieved. They get to the house along with Gabe, expecting to find Vincent already cleaning, but he’s nowhere to be found. But then they do find him, facedown on the floor, DEAD!

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Boy, bye!! (source)

Gabe pulls back the body’s shoulder for a moment, and sees he’s been stabbed. They call the police, who arrive shortly thereafter. They start questioning the three teens, but then they all go inside. The police turn Vincent over, and he has indeed been stabbed… But on one of his cheeks are two purple lip prints!!!! Delia insists that she didn’t do it, the last time she saw Vincent was after he drove her home and he was alive when he left. She tells Gabe and Britty that it has to be Karina, but they tell her she’ll sound guilty if she just starts accusing the girl. Eventually she goes to the police station with the cops, and they look at the photos of the lip prints and a photo of Delia’s lips and they someone determine that it’s a perfect match? Delia freaks out for a moment and takes a look, but then realizes that they shouldn’t be a perfect match because if SHE had kissed his cheek they’d be reversed (I guess?)! Which means that someone must have lifted her lip prints from something and then pressed them to his face in an attempt to frame her, and THAT IS WHY YOU DON’T BOT YOUR LIPS IN A STRANGE WAY, DELIA! She tells them about Karina, and they say they will go question her but she has to stay away while they do.

But Delia doesn’t stay away, and decides to go spy on Karina’s house while they search it. And what do you know, when they go into Karina’s dresser drawer they find a pieces of paper with Delia’s lip prints all over it. Delia bursts in, screaming at Karina for murdering Vincent, and the girls fight. Karina scratches Delia’s face, and the police separate them, saying they are taking Karina to the station.

Fast forward a few months to prom night! Gabe and Delia are attending together. But before they do, Delia wanted to visit Karina at the Shadyside Psychiatric Hospital. As they’re led into a waiting room, they snuggle up together, and Delia muses about how she won the Conklin Award. But she also admits that this isn’t how she wanted to win, but then, Karina just didn’t appreciate everything she had. Delia says that she would have won both Vincent and the award…. if Delia had let her. SURPRISE, JERKS!! DELIA WAS BEHIND IT ALL! She sabotaged her performance and art pieces hoping she could get sympathy from the judges. And then when she caught Vincent and Sarah making out, she knew that he had to die, and she could blame it all on Karina and that way she’d get her revenge on BOTH of them! She faked the kidnapping by bruising and bloodying herself, killed Vincent at the house AFTER everyone had left, and planted the lip prints in Karina’s room. She starts to kiss Gabe all over his face, asking him if he’s going to tell on her…. And then a doctor walks in and says that he conveniently heard the whole thing and has called the police so justice has been haphazardly restored. THE END.

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That’s lame even by “Fear Street” standards. (source)

Body Count: 1. And frankly, he deserved it, so I’m not really torn up about it.

Romance Rating: 1. Vincent is a gross cheater and Karina and Delia were far too obsessed with his selfish stupid ass.

Bonkers Rating: 6. Because the ending is COMPLETELY out of the blue, so out of the blue it doesn’t make sense, so this is NOT a positive thing.

Fear Street Relevance: 4. Only because the party that ends with Vincent dead is in an abandoned Fear Street mansion but it felt like a ‘oh shit, where does Fear Street come in?’ kinda moment.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Delia saw the tree loom in the windshield,

Then she felt the hard jolt.

Heard the crunch of glass and metal.

And everything went black.”

… And it went black because the AIR BAG deployed and blocked her vision!

That’s So Dated! Moments: Karina is described as looking like Michele Pfieffer, and while she is still smoking hot and excellent, she doesn’t exactly evoke a teenage girl vibe anymore. And honestly, Karina fucking wishes.

Best Quote:

” ‘Oh come on.’ Britty patted Delia’s arm, smearing flour on her blouse. ‘Chocolate chips help everything.'”

FINALLY, something in this book makes some sense!

Conclusion: “Killer’s Kiss” was boring and tedious, and even though the end was a crazy solution it was stupidly random. Up next is “All Night Party”! 

 

Bookclub Review: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

7108001We are part of a group of librarian friends who have had an ongoing bookclub running for the last several years. Each “season” (we’re nerds) we pick a theme and each of us chooses a book within that theme for us all to read. Our current theme is ‘genre mash-ups’, where we pick two random genres and try to find a book that fits both. 

For this blog, we will post a joint review of each book we read for book club. We’ll also post the next book coming up in book club. So feel free to read along with us or use our book selections and questions in your own book club!

Book: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith

Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, March 2010

Where Did We Get This Book: Kate owns it,

Genre Mash-up: True Crime and Speculative Fiction (a doozy to be sure)

Book Description: Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

Kate’s Thoughts

I first read this book when it came out in 2010, having been taken in by the concept of taking one of the country’s past and most beloved Presidents and making him a vampire hunter. I mean, it sounds ridiculous, and yet I was so enamored with the idea that I got my hands on this book and then spent almost all of my free time devouring it. I was very much into vampire mythology in my younger years, and I had grown weary of vampires as love interests and yearned for them to be scary again. And while “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” didn’t make them scary, per se, at least they were antagonistic to a degree. So I read it, loved it, and it had been sitting on my shelf ever since.

Re-reading it for book club was something that excited and scared me. I had such happy memories of this book, and I was afraid that revisiting it eight years later was going to be disillusioning. I’m pleased to say that my fond memories weren’t totally tainted by the re-read, but going back and looking at it critically was something that, while necessary, was a bit bittersweet. But I’ll start with the things that did still work for me. As a person who really likes American History, especially during the Victorian Era (as yes, much of Lincoln’s life was during the Victorian Era), I love how Seth Grahame-Smith uses diary entries, letters, historical documents, and footnotes to tell this alternate history where Lincoln fought and killed vampires. I greatly enjoy the various connections that he makes between world events that have enough ambiguity that they could have a vampiric element, one of my favorite examples being the Colony of Roanoke. I always had a fun time seeing various other historic figures, from Edgar Allan Poe to Marie Laveau, play into the story. Easter Eggs like this are my bread and butter.

But the biggest problem that I had with it this time around that I wasn’t really thinking about the first time I read it was that one of the biggest plot devices in this book is the Civil War. Namely, the practice of chattel slavery. In this book, one of the big plot points is that vampires were working directly with the Southern elites in order to keep slavery around, as it directly benefited both of them (the humans in terms of money, the vampires in terms of food). When I first read this book I thought that it was a clever way to show an evil and yet symbiotic relationship, but looking at it again now it just makes me uncomfortable. Slavery in this country was an evil practice, and the repercussions of it are still seen and felt today because of generational trauma, lingering systemic racism, and marginalization towards African Americans in this country. To flippantly say ‘and also, VAMPIRES!’ just feel uncomfortable, and a little too cheeky at the expense of very real pain and injustice.

That said, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is overall a bit of crazy stupid fun, and it’s written in a way that history buffs and vampire fans alike will probably find it enjoyable. It didn’t fully stand the test of time, but there were still plenty of moments that made me grin.

Serena’s Thoughts

I had not read this book before, but I’m pretty sure I saw the movie at some point (though my super vague memories of it or what I even thought of it at the time might say more than anything). I think at the time I was still in a huff about “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and mentally sorted this book into the same category and wrote it off. That said, I was pleased when it was picked for bookclub as I generally try to avoid tendencies like the one I used for this book: judging it without reading it. I was even more pleased to find that I enjoyed it! (Though, it must be acknolwedged that this was always going to be an easier sell then trying to convince me that Elizabeth Bennett killing zombies is something I should take seriously).

What I enjoyed most about the book what its historical aspects and the stylization of the way the story is told through letter and other historical documents. These were all used to great affect and very much sold the concept of telling a story that could be wedged in alongside the version of true history that we are more or less familiar with. One’s own knowledge of the actual history of the time period also goes along way as, like Kate mentioned, there were nice references to other happenings of the time that would reward diligent readers. Not an extreme history buff myself, I can’t even be sure I knew exactly where some of these lines between fiction and true history were being drawn.

The story itself was also the kind of semi-campy fun that simply makes for an enjoyable read, and I think if approached in this way, it is best appreciated. As Kate also referred to, a closer examination of the work can lead to potential discomfort with superimposing layers of vampire nonsense over a truly challenging time in American history. I, for one, was generally ok with this aspect of the story as I think the point of the book was to do just that: make up a nonsensical version of a traumatic period of history and essentially make a satire out of it by highlighting just how truly horrible it was! The addition of vampires merely underscores the fact that, while they are fantasy creations, the true human players in this existed. Plus, the Civil War has, deservedly, garnered a huge wealth of books that cover its history in a more serious, thoughtful tone. And I don’t expect every book set in this time period to do the same thing, which I think does a disservice to the creativity of tactics that can used in criticizing events such as these.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. It wasn’t the type of book that I likely would have picked up on my own, and while fun enough, it also didn’t neatly fit into my wheelhouse and I came away with it pleased, but not feeling as if I had been really missing anything by not reading it before now.

Kate’s Rating 8: While it didn’t hold up as well from when I first read it, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is still a bit of silly fun that entertained me as person who likes horror and history.

Serena’s Rating 7: I liked it; I didn’t love it.

Book Club Questions

  1. What did you expect from a book that brings a vampire and supernatural spin to an actual person and an actual time in history? Did you feel that the author integrated the two ideas well?
  2. Were there any characters or moments from history you especially liked seeing in this book? Were there any that you could have done without, or felt didn’t work as well?
  3. What were your thoughts on the character of Henry? Did you feel that you got a good impression of him as a character?
  4. What did you think of the theme of vampires and slavery in this book? Did you think that it was a good metaphor, or do you think that it was inappropriate to use it as a plot point?
  5. What did you think of the ending? Did you fee like the revelation at the end fit with the rest of the story and the themes given Lincoln’s relationship and opinions towards vampires?

Reader’s Advisory:

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is included on the Goodreads lists “The Monster Mash”, and “Vampire Mashups”.

Find “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review and Giveaway: “Someone Like Me”

Woman wearing a red hoodie by a riverBook: “Someone Like Me” by M.R. Carey

Publishing Info: Orbit, November 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I was sent a copy by the publisher and received an eARC by NetGalley.

Book Description: SHE LOOKS LIKE ME. SHE SOUNDS LIKE ME. NOW SHE’S TRYING TO TAKE MY PLACE.

Liz Kendall wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s a gentle woman devoted to bringing up her kids in the right way, no matter how hard times get.

But there’s another side to Liz—one which is dark and malicious. A version of her who will do anything to get her way, no matter how extreme or violent.

And when this other side of her takes control, the consequences are devastating.

The only way Liz can save herself and her family is if she can find out where this new alter-ego has come from, and how she can stop it.

Review: Thank you to Orbit for sending me a copy of this book, and to NetGalley for sending me an eARC!

M.R. Carey has taken some of the most beloved, and therefore most overdone, tropes in the horror genre and breathed new life into them. In “The Girl With All The Gifts” and “The Boy on the Bridge” he took the idea of a zombie apocalypse and gave it a unique and fresh perspective (zombies because of fungus? Totally awesome!). In “Fellside” he took a gothic haunted house story and set it in a women’s prison, therein bringing isolation to a whole new level. So of course when I found out that he’d written a new book called “Someone Like Me”, and that it sounded like a new take on a possession tale, I was in. If I’m going to like a possession story you basically have to do something new with it, and I knew that M.R. Carey was up to the task. And not only did Carey bring a new and fresh perspective to a well worn trope, he also brought in very real life horrors into the thematics, like trauma and domestic abuse. And because of this, “Someone Like Me” is his best work yet.

The summary focuses on Liz Kendall, so I will start with her and who she is as a character. Liz is meek and demure, a woman who suffered at the hands of her now ex-husband Marc. Liz had been a vibrant young punk singer, but when she got together with Marc his years of abuse and cruelty wore her down. So while one might think that she just snapped one night, and fought back after he was attacking her, Liz is horrified to realize that she had absolutely no control over herself in that moment. It was as if someone else was controlling her actions. So what could have been a story about a run of the mill demonic possession is more of a psychological terror: is Liz possessed, or is she traumatized to the point where she’s disassociating? Both options are completely plausible, and while it becomes clear that there is an outside force that is working within her, Carey STILL brings in enough unreliability and unanswered questions that I was kept completely gripped and enthralled. Seeing Liz battle with an angrier, more violent, and yet just as tragic, version of herself was unnerving and unsettling, and I loved seeing this Thing slowly overtake her life and personality.

But Liz is only half the story. Well, a fourth of the story, really. Because there is another primary character in this book whom I wasn’t expecting, but loved just as much, and that is Fran. Fran is a teenage girl who goes to school with Liz’s son Zac, and she has experienced her own traumatic incident. After this incident, she began hallucinating things around her, seeing things that others couldn’t see, seeing details shift just a little bit. She has also gained an ‘imaginary friend’ named Jinx, who has taken the form of a fox character from a children’s show. Fran sees Jinx as a protector and a burden, as while Fran wants to get better and get closer to others, Jinx is wary of anyone who comes near them. I really enjoyed seeing Fran get closer to Zac, and how her own unique psychological (or not) situation compared to Liz’s. It was also really interesting to see Carey slowly start to connect them, and to build a whole new mythology that I didn’t see coming at all. I’m not going to go into the specifics of it, because I think that it’s best to go in without knowing, but I will say that it went in directions that I couldn’t have anticipated and did so successfully.

I also really liked how Carey framed this story through the idea of trauma and tragedy. All of our main players who have perspective chapters (and there are four in total) are well rounded and well written, and all function through various horrific things that happened to them and made them who they are. I really appreciate Carey pointing out that sometimes things and people we perceive as monsters or monstrous are that way because of the horrible things that have happened to them. But he also makes sure to point out that just because horrible things did happen to them, and that it IS awful that these things did happen, that it doesn’t give anyone license to do horrible things to other people.

“Someone Like Me” was a tense and emotional read, and if you are a fan of M.R. Carey you should absolutely go grab this. If you haven’t read anything by Carey yet, this is the perfect place to start.

And I have good news! I’m giving away a hardcover copy of this book! The giveaway ends November 20th, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Click Here To Enter The Giveaway!

Rating 8: A smart and tense psychological thriller, “Someone Like Me” not only brings the creeps, but also brings emotions with themes such as trauma and abuse.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Someone Like Me” isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists right now, but I think that it would fit in on “Fictional Multiple Personalities”.

Find “Someone Like Me” at your library using WorldCat!