A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Overnight” (Fear Street #3)

656729Book: “The Overnight” (Fear Street #3) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1989

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

Book Description: “Nothing bad will happen,” Della O’Connor assures her friends in the Outdoors Club. So what if their advisor can’t go on the overnight to Fear Island—won’t it be more fun with no adults around?

But it’s no fun at all when Della gets lost in the woods, and the dangerous stranger appears, whispering threats, driving her to a violent act.

Suddenly all of her friends are involved, prisoners in a conspiracy of silence, trying to conceal the terrible truth. But someone saw what Della did. And he’s threatening them all, forcing them back to Fear Island to find the evidence they forgot to bury…

Had I Read This Before: No (I’m starting to wonder if I read more standalones and “Super Chillers” rather than the original “Fear Street” series).

The Plot: As if the teens of Shadyside didn’t have enough problems and woes on their plates, we now have to factor in the possibility of leaving the more populated parts of the town and go straight into a remote location where mischief and mayhem (and in all probability MURDER) can wreak havoc. That’s right guys, “The Overnight” doesn’t just take us into Fear Woods! It takes us to the not until just now mentioned Fear Island, which is in the middle of the lake within Fear Woods! That is where the Shadyside High Outdoor Club is planning on taking their overnight this year. Our protagonist is Della, one of the members of the aforementioned club, along with her innocent and sheltered bestie Maia, her (as of very recently) ex-boyfriend Gary, the preppy and awkward Pete, the obnoxious class clown Ricky, and the town bicycle Suki (who is my favorite character in the “Fear Street” series because her physical description makes it sound like R.L. Stine has watched “Return of the Living Dead” a few too many times). At their meeting (where Della is moping about Gary and Suki being so close now), their faculty advisor, Mr. Abner, tells them that he won’t be able to escort them to Fear Island that weekend, as he has just heard of a family emergency and has to leave RIGHT NOW. The Outdoors club is disappointed, until Suki suggests that they all go anyway, just unsupervised. Maia is SHOCKED that she would even suggest such a thing, but Della thinks it will be fun and convinces her to go, because what could possibly happen?

While Della is packing that Saturday, we get some exposition about Fear Island. It’s either an old research facility that is now inhabited by mutants, or the site of an Indian Burial ground (ugh, goddammit, this friggin’ trope). Obviously a destination for camping fun. Pete picks Della up, his obvious crush flying over her head, and they meet the others at the lake, where Gary and Suki are already chumming up pretty heavily. After a close call involving Maia’s parents and Ricky acting like a moron in the boats, they get to the island and decide to play a round of ZAP tag. Which pretty much sounds like paint ball, but the guns spray liquid paint instead of pellets. Girls vs Boys, of course. After Suki (and her punk rocky boy crazy attitude) pisses Della off, Della goes off on her own. And suddenly, a strange man approaches her. Her first thought, instead of ‘hm, strange man acting funny in the woods, I should be careful’, is ‘ooh, hottie alert!’, and she starts to flirt with him. He tells her that he’s studying the trees in the woods, but can’t keep his story straight, and yet no warning bells are going off for Della yet. After she prods him a bit more he attacks her. He says some gobbledy gook about communication and something about an old man, and Della gets herself free from his grasp long enough that she can shoot him with the ZAP gun. A chase begins, he catches her at the top of a ravine, and she shoves him down it. And then she realizes that it looks like he’s dead. So while trying to cover him up with leaves, the others find her and the mass freak out begins. Mostly by Maia, who isn’t as concerned that a crazy man tried to murder and do God knows what else to her best friend, but that her parents will find out that she was on an unsupervised trip!! Really, bitch? They decide that instead of going to the police (when it’s pretty clearly self defense here!), they should just leave him there to rot because who will find him? They complete their camping trip so as not to raise suspicions, and outside of some weird noises in the night they sleep fine.

The next day they leave the island and go back to their lives. The day after that Maia is freaking out that her parents are going to find out about all this (still not about the dead guy), so Della goes to reassure her and suffer some guilt tripping from her friend. This is just too much. For being best friends Maia is pretty much the goddamn worst. When Della returns home, however, she finds a note in her mailbox, which contains some jewelry that the dead man was wearing, and a note that says ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID’.

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Hm, I’ve seen this movie… (source)

The Outdoors club meets to discuss this turn of events (as Gary also got a note). Both Dell and Gary are missing their wallets, so that’s how whoever this is must have found them. Pete arrives fashionably late, and shows them a newspaper clipping about a recent burglary and murder, where an old man was murdered, possibly for money that he may have had, and there are pictures of the suspects (I guess? I don’t know how they would have figured that out, but okay). ONE OF THE SUSPECTS IS THE DEAD GUY! So maybe the person stalking them is his partner! Maia freaks out about her parents again, Della FINALLY tells her to SHUT THE HELL UP, and they are all surprised when Della’s mom comes home with a gentleman caller, which pretty much breaks up the meeting. Though Pete has time to ask Della on a date. Which she accepts.

Pete and Della go dancing at some teenage dance club, but while they’re driving home they are nearly run off the road by a strange car. They maneuver their way out of it, and see the strange car crash into a tree. When they look to see who was driving, the driver has already skedaddled. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU JUST GO TO THE POLICE?! They go back to school on Monday and at Outdoors Club tell the others about this (Maia is still freaking out. She’s clearly the weak link, guys). Mr. Abner returns and has great news!! The family crisis is over and he can finally take them all to Fear Island THIS COMING WEEKEND!! Della and Ricky try to play it cool by feigning interest, but everyone else tries to make excuses. Mr. Abner, acting less like a teacher and more like a child, guilts them about how he’s made special time to do this. Dude, really? They say they will let him know in a couple days. Most of them want to bail… But then Ricky tells them he’s missing a ZAP gun, which must still be on the island with the body. Somehow this could tie him to the crime, I guess, and he says that if it does he’s taking all of them down with him. So they agree that they will go back to Fear Island this weekend to get the evidence.

The Outdoors Club doesn’t even try to pretend that they are having a good time, so poor Mr. Abner must really be feeling like he’s stuck with a bunch of ingrates as he leads them across the lake and to the camp. Once they’re settled Pete and Della try to go get the gun, but Abner, convinced they’re going to go bang, says they can’t leave his sight. He says he’ll go get it (because at camp they won’t get into shenanigans I guess), but is soon knocked out by the CREEPY GUY, who runs off into the night. The Club makes a decision: Ricky, Gary, and Suki go for help,Della goes to get the gun, and Pete and Maia will stay with Abner (because Maia would rather have someone with her instead of letting Pete go with Della, the little wretch). Della goes to get the gun, but finds that the body is missing! And in a scene very reminiscent of “Robocop”, Della finds herself face to face with the man she thought she killed. Turns out she hadn’t. Apparently he has a ‘very faint pulse’ and that’s why she thought he was dead. He is then mad that she left him for dead, and tries to kill her again, as unlike her fake gun, he has a real one!…. But then Pete shows up and shoots him with the ZAP gun, getting paint in his eyes. They run back to camp with the guy chasing them, but the others have arrived with the police, who have also nabbed his partner.

The book ends with Pete picking Della up for a date, and in an attempt at comedy he brings a folded up tent in his car. Good one, Pete. Let’s remind her of all the trauma she’s gone through. But then they opt to eat marshmallows and watch movies all night instead. The end.

Body Count: Zero! Can you believe it?! I feel ripped off, in all honesty.

Romance Rating: 6. Not much, but okay, I admit it, I liked Pete! He and Della worked and made sense. And I was happy that there wasn’t any kind of love triangle either between them and Gary.

Bonkers Rating: 3. The twists were pretty standard, and felt like a run of the mill thriller. I was hoping that it would be MR. ABNER THE WHOLE TIME, but then it wasn’t. Meh.

Fear Street Relevance: 4. I am calling a cheat on this because while it took place on Fear Island, Fear Island wasn’t established as a place within this universe until it was convenient!!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“The canoes!” Della said. They were gone. “Oh no!” Maia cried. “We’re trapped here!”

…. And then it was just that Ricky hid them like a douche.

That’s So Dated! Moment: Sadly there were few and far between super dated moments in this book! Though at one point Della’s shoes were described as white Reebok hightops, and I totally had a pair of those!

Best Quote:

“Knock it off, Suki,” Gary warned. “Stop picking on Ricky.” “Ricky’s picking on ME by existing,” Suki muttered.

I freaking love Suki Thomas.

I expected more from you, “Fear Street”. This just felt like “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. So maybe Kevin Williamson stole that idea from this. Regardless, it wasn’t one of the better stories in the series. Hopefully “Missing”, the next on the list, will be better.

Kate’s Review: “Tiny Pretty Things”

18710209Book: “Tiny Pretty Things” by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, May 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Review: I honestly couldn’t tell you what it is, but there is something about the “Drama and mean girl bitchery happening at a boarding school/organization for some kind of art form” trope that I am a complete and total sucker for. It doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be about ballet (after all the movie “Fame” isn’t strictly about that art form and I LOVE it), but it’s just an added bonus if it is. “Center Stage” is by no means a good movie, but if I stumble upon it on the TV I am guaranteed to watch it. “Black Swan” messed me up real good and I could have taken even MORE mental anguish and paranoia from it. Because the competition of being the best within the strict and narrow world of ballet makes people do AWFUL THINGS, according to this trope, and I live for it.

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HERE. FOR. THIS. (source)

So of course “Tiny Pretty Things” was going to appeal to me. The fact that it has an underlying mystery is really just a bonus, I would have picked it up regardless. But “Tiny Pretty Things” also surprised me in a lot of pleasant ways. In a book that could have easily been about a bunch of spoiled and rich white girls (as the ballet world and culture is disproportionately white), authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton instead represented a rather diverse cast of characters, and the struggles they all face trying to fit into the ballet box. And they do this seamlessly, weaving these everyday moments of frustration or microaggressions against them into the bigger picture, so their struggles are just a natural, and yet exposed, part of their day to day realities. And there are a LOT of themes here, and since I want to break them all down, we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

One of the themes this book talks about is discrimination in the ballet world, both racial and sexual orientation. Gigi, being the only black student at the school, is always being put in the ‘Other’ role by those around her, be it fellow dancers or even the administrators. Her talents and merits are always being picked apart by those around her, and there is always a question of how much she deserves the roles that she’s getting. June, too, isn’t immune to such treatment, even if it’s to a different extent. Her biracial ethnicity has left her without a group, and since she has never known who her father is she is feeling even more like she has never known her true identity. And while they aren’t given many perspective moments, it’s mentioned that there are a number of the Korean dancers at this school who are absolutely fantastic at dance… but never get lead roles, and rarely get solos, because they just don’t ‘fit’ the part. Not only are racial biases spoken of, but so are those of sexuality and the idea of masculine and feminine ideals. There are two GLBT characters in this book, and while neither of them have perspective chapters, you do get to learn a bit about them through the other girls eyes. William is gay, and is definitely one of the best male dancers at the school. But again, because he doesn’t meet the physical (and yes, sexual preference) ideal of how a male ballerina should be, he too is denied lead roles. And Sei-Jin, June’s enemy, is a closeted lesbian. She torments June but is also terrified that June will tell the world that she’s a lesbian, therein ruining her chances, in her mind, at stardom. I really appreciated that this was touched on in this book when it easily could have just been ignored.

Along with discrimination there is the obsession with perfection and how far you go to achieve it. Be it the eating disorders that June and another girl named Liz are living with, or the Adderall addiction that Bette has, the competition runs all of these girls completely ragged. And this is why even Bette, mean awful HORRIBLE Bette, is a character that I can’t completely hate. She is certainly entitled and spoiled and bordering on psychopathic, but it is because this is all she has been raised to know, even since she was a little girl. She has seen her perfect older sister rise into prominency in the ballet world, and now their emotionally abusive and alcoholic mother wants both of her daughters to be stars. So Bette, who has been raised to be a star, is driven to the extremes beyond her Adderall addiction to achieve this perfection, and starts to spiral into madness when it just can’t quite be achieved. I really liked that this story addresses the fact that these CHILDREN are being completely put through the ringer, and that most of them aren’t going to make it in the ways that they are being pushed to do so.

Which leads us into the mystery of this book (as yes, there is indeed a mystery). Since Gigi is new and black and doing phenomenally well, someone starts harassing her and tormenting her. And while it very well could be Bette (and some of it is Bette because she’s the worst), some of these pranks and taunts are downright violent. While I may have a pretty good idea as to who it is (this is the first in a duology, so it hasn’t been revealed yet), I’m not quite certain. And I love the fact that I’m not quite certain! There are other little mysteries in this book that are a bit more obvious(such as the identity of June’s father, which I won’t spoil here, but it’s really not too hard to figure out), and while that’s fine, the mystery in itself is pretty run of the mill. The joy and power of this book isn’t in the mystery, though there are lots of pretty amazingly over the top moments of drama that surround it. The joy is definitely in the complex issues that Charaipotra and Clayton put in here, as well as, yes, the juicy juicy drama. Whenever a book about ballerinas ends up with one of said ballerinas getting glass shards left in her ballet shoes, you KNOW that I’m going to be a total sucker for it.

I really really enjoyed “Tiny Pretty Things” and will certainly be picking up “Shiny Broken Pieces” as soon as possible. It’s definitely soapy and dramatic, but it uses this premise to talk about other, very relevant problems within the ballet culture. So it’s a double win for me. Definitely pick it up if you want something fun, light, but thoughtful.

Rating 9: Steeped with soapy and sudsy drama, but also taking on some pretty relevant issues within the ballet world, “Tiny Pretty Things” is both a trashy mystery romp and a relevant commentary. A perfect quick read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Tiny Pretty Things” is included on the Goodreads lists “Diverse Books by Diverse Authors”, and “Hell Is A Teenage Girl”.

Find “Tiny Pretty Things” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Wintersong”

24763621Book: “Wintersong” by S. Jae-Jones

Publishing Info: Thomas Dunne, February 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: ebook ARC from NetGalley

Book Description: All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Review: This book has been marketed as a good read for fans of “Labyrinth,” and while I’m familiar with the movie, I wouldn’t say that I’m a die hard fan by any means. I think I’ve only seen it once? But from what I remember, this book description does seems very close to that story. Perhaps too close? I have read several iterations of the “Goblin King” fairytale, however, and have had a hit or miss run of them. But I’m always intrigued by the basic arc and curious to see what new twists each author will bring to a fairly established story. However, while “Wintersong” is written beautifully, after reading it I wouldn’t list it as one of my top choices for this type of story.

Basically, this story can be split into two halves. The first deals with Liesl’s mission to save her beloved sister Kathe from the clutches of the Goblin King who has stolen her away. For the most part, I very much enjoyed this first half of the book. Liesl’s relationship with her sister is realistically complicated, based in both deep familial love but also challenged by Liesl’s jealously of the perfection she attributes to her sister based on her beauty. While this strained relationship could at times leave Liesl looking a bit selfish and self-centered, I felt like it also tapped into the true undercurrents that develop in many sibling relationships. And the fact that beneath it all Liesl would do anything, even sacrifice herself, to save her sister properly orients both her character and the sisters’ relationship as a positive one.

The second half of the story is where it goes a bit off the rails for me. This is kind of surprising, because as much as I loved the first half, I always knew where the meat of this story would lie: Liesl’s time spent as the wife of the Goblin King. And typically, this is the part of these types of stories that I enjoy the most. That said, it is also the most challenging to write as now the Goblin King must be developed to have more layers beyond villainy and the complicated relationship between him and his stolen bride must be more fully fleshed out.

And while there were elements of this half of the story I did enjoy, I also felt like the novel became a bit confused about what it was trying to do and say. Honestly, it almost feels as if this book would have done better if it had been marketed as an adult fantasy novel. Being pushed into YA territory leaves the physical aspects of the two’s relationship rather strained and almost working against the author’s arc of self-discovery for Liesl. It just felt odd at times.

The Goblin King’s transformation into a tragic, romantic hero also felt like something we have seen too often before. And while that isn’t always a fault (as I said, I’ve read many of these types of novels), this book’s descriptions of him at times seem to take its own angst and oh so tragic beauty too seriously. The lyricism of the novel that serves the story so well in its world building and descriptions of music, begins to feel a bit empty and cliche when it comes to their romantic relationship.

At this point in the review, I would say the book was coming in at a solid 5. I liked the first half, didn’t really like the second half, so a very middle of the road read. However, I won’t spoil it, but I was very disappointed with the end of the novel. I understand what the author was trying to do. However, there are too many questions left unanswered, and, again, the beautiful tragedy of it all seemed to be taking itself too seriously for the type of book this is. I hear there is a sequel in the works, and I do not appreciate books that leave cliff hangers that require readers to continue to get any sense of resolution. Sure, leave the door open and set the stage, but end it in a way that is still satisfying if readers don’t want to continue. So yes, I was unhappy with the end of the book. It may work for some, but it didn’t for me, hence the extra drop in my rating of it.

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

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

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1989

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

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

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

Had I Read This Before: Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

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

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

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

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

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But I have brown eyes… (source)

Best Quote:

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

A ringing endorsement if there ever was one.

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

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

Serena’s Review: “RoseBlood”

While I make an effort to complete most books I read, every once in a while I come upon one  that I just can’t get through. When I find myself repeatedly putting down a book to the point that attempting to finish it is taking up weeks of my time, I sometimes come to the conclusion that a book is a book, not a life and death contract to read until completion. There are too many books in the world that I will never get to to spends days on end trying to finish a book that I already know will not be my cup of tea. Sadly, one such of these books came across my desk recently.

28818314Books: “RoseBlood” by A.G. Howard

Publishing Info: Amulet Books, January 2017

Where Did I Get these Books: the library!

Book Description: In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

There will be spoilers in this post!

Review: I included this book as one of my highlights in January’s post and even there I expressed nervousness going in. The expectation game plays a large part in books like this. I love everything “Phantom of the Opera,” so this being the case I have a critical eye for stories related to it. And while this was definitely part of my struggle with “RoseBlood,” it was combined with some other flaws to the point that I put it down about two thirds of the way through.

This book tries to do two things with “Phantom of the Opera:” present a sequel while also re-telling the classic tale in the modern day featuring our two teen protagonists. As a sequel, nothing about this book worked for me. Perhaps if had simply been a retelling I could have gotten on board, but as a sequel, the author wrote herself into a corner where she had to re-create and “modernize” the Phantom himself while also providing backstory into the original story that would make it fit with her new version. So the Phantom, Erik, becomes a…wait for it…psychic vampire whose method of feeding is siphoning off the emotions of others. And the way he does that is…wait for it…owning a rave where he shows the audience his face nightly and feeds off their fear. Yes. This is a real thing the book does. I can barely take it seriously enough to type it out.

Next, the author creates a paranormal “soulmates” device (but she calls them “twin flames” because apparently she can’t take the term “soulmate” seriously, but somehow “twin flames” is a more acceptable term?) where not only are our main characters “twin flames,” but so were Erik and Christine in the original story. Only she wasn’t “mature” enough to understand the deep love and soul connection she shared with the Phantom. So, now beyond the ridiculousness factor of psychic vampires who own raves, we’ve got a backstory that completely misses the message of deep tragedy in the original and throws Christine under the bus. The relationship between Christine and the Phantom was never a healthy one, and that was the whole point. Erik’s life was one of such deep tragedy that he was broken as a person, not knowing how to express real love for another or how to exist in society. At no point should Christine have ever stayed with him, and to paint her as an immature character who threw away true love does a huge disservice to the character and to the message of the original story.

So those were my concerns with this book as far as it goes as an adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera.” While I can’t say whether or not I would have continued reading had these been my only stumbling blocks, the fact that the novel as a whole reads as a “paint by numbers” YA fantasy was the final nail in the coffin of my ability to complete it.

In other reviews I’ve discussed some of the over-used tropes that can be found in YA fantasy that now feel so tired that they need to be shelved immediately. But this book manages to hit every single one of them, reading almost like a “Twilight” rip-off with only the aforementioned “Phantom” tie-ins differentiating it.

We have a main character with a ridiculous name who is gorgeous and has a special talent that she was born with but can’t control. She goes to a school that she hates (though it’s in Paris and full of rich, beautiful people), and immediately, through no effort of her own, becomes friends with everyone. The popular girls of school also immediately dislike her because they envy her beauty and talent. She meets a mysterious boy who wears a mask even though he, too, is incredibly good looking (this also felt like a very poor use of a “Phantom” tie-in, again missing the point of original that beauty is found beyond one’s face). She discovers they are soulmates, and they immediately fall in love (no stakes in the relationship, no growing to know, appreciate, and love each other, they’re just “destined”). Powers, magic, an attempt on her life. The end. There was just nothing there.

The unique aspects of this story were the connections to the original, and after they were used so poorly, there was nothing left to grab on to. The fact that the book was also over-written and overwrought with pages upon pages of flowery, descriptive language just really killed any interest I had in the story.

Now look, we here at The Library Ladies try to always include positives. And the positive for this is if you are a reader who truly enjoys the formula I described above, then this book will be great for you. And that’s fine! But, for me, nothing about this story worked. And while there are clearly readers who still enjoy this type of story, I also sincerely hope that we begin to move beyond these overly tired YA fantasy staples. They have been so over-used that they almost feel like a parody of themselves at this point. YA fantasy can do (and be) better.

Rating: DNF

Reader’s Advisory:

“RoseBlood” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Retellings of Classic Novels for Children and YA”and “Phantom of the Opera.”

Find “RoseBlood” at your library using Worldcat!

 

Serena’s Review: “Beastly Bones”

24001095Book: “Beastly Bones” by William Ritter

Publishing Info: Algonquin Young Readers, September 2015

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

Book Description: In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Review: While I didn’t fall in love with “Jackaby,” the first novel in this series, I was still intrigued enough by the things it had done right (an interesting protagonist, less known supernatural beings, and strong writing) to wish to continue on with the series. Granted, it took a while to get around to this, but I’m glad I finally did! This book brought the same strengths as the last and improved on some of my complaints and concerns as well.

Not long after the events of the first novel, Abigail is still feeling unsure about her role as an apprentice to the paranormal detective Jackaby. She has an established place in the household and has made good friends with the local ghost, Jenny, but she still feels like a failure in many regards, simply not having the necessary wealth of expertise to prove herself a useful assistant to Jackaby. So, when a case pops up in the nearby Gad’s Valley concerning a prehistoric dig, Abigail is excited to join up seeing this as an opportunity to put to use her knowledge of and passion for archeology and prove that she does have something to contribute to the team. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Charlie, the handsome  policeman/shape-shifter also happens to now live in this area.

As I said, this book doubles down on the strengths it had shown in the first. Many new and fantastic creatures are introduced in this book, some that have a basis in known mythology, but also several others that seem completely new. The shape-shifter kittens, for example, seem to be a unique creation of Ritter’s and one that he fully makes use of. This, too, is something that I very much appreciate about the fantasy elements in this series. Ritter doesn’t simply play lip service to the genre. Even with new creatures like these shape-shifters, Ritter takes the time to develop and extensive history for the beings and to tie them into known history (here we have ties to Darwin and Queen Victoria!) in new and interesting ways. It is clear that while Jackaby has a wealth of knowledge in the paranormal, he is by no means the only person in the world who understands that we walk the earth alongside fantastic beasts.

Another thing I enjoyed from the first book was the supporting characters. We don’t spend as much time at Jackaby’s home in this one as we did in the first, so Jenny’s page time is similarly limited. However, it is clear that Ritter is setting her, and the mystery of her death, up as a focal point for future stories. But in this book we get a whole new set of fun characters. Including a trapper who will hunt anything and who also has a fascination with the supernatural, two dueling archeologists whose snippy interactions were some of the most amusing in the entire book, and the unstoppable Nellie, an independent lady reporter who marches onto the page with her own plan and with no apologies.

The book also improved on the last in a few ways. First, one of my struggles from the first book was with Jackaby himself who I felt came across as a bit “aggressively wacky” and thus not believable as an actual person. Ritter combats this perception in a few ways. For one, Jackaby simply has a bit less page time than he did in the first and I think this was a wise choice. As a character, Jackaby is best served in brief, yet potent, doses. This method still highlights his strengths and interesting quirks, while not distracting from the story itself. Secondly, I enjoyed the more humorous take on Jackaby’s and Abilgail’s relationship,  most notably his horror at being drawn into discussions about her romantic entanglements with Charlie.

While the first book did not shy away from the darker aspects of this paranormal world, I felt like the stakes were raised in this book. In the first book, Jenny was introduced as a rather one-dimensional ghost friend for Abigail. Here we begin to see beneath the surface to what must be the true horror of being stuck in the world after death without the ability to move on. Also, the central mystery is not resolved without serious consequences. I was surprised by some of the risks that Ritter took towards the end of the novel.

Lastly, the story sets the stage for an over-arching plot which I think is an excellent decision. It would be all too easy for these books to start to feel a bit procedural with a new paranormal case that is begun and wrapped up in each book. The potential for a “big bad” whose presence can be traced throughout the series is intriguing.

As a sequel, “Beastly Bones” did everything I asked of it: reinforced the series’ strengths and improved upon its weaknesses. I’m more invested in checking out the third than I was this second book, which is always a step in the right direction!

Rating 8: It’s always fun to see a series grow in strength from a shaky start, and this book bumps the series up as an all-around fantasy recommendation for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Beastly Bones” is included on these Goodreads lists: “YA & Middle Grade Historical Mysteries” and “YA Historical Fiction of 2015.”

Find “Beastly Bones” at your library using Worldcat!

Previously Reviewed: “Jackaby”

Kate’s Review & Giveaway: “Allegedly”

30037870Book: “Allegedly” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publishing Info: Katherine Tegan Books, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it!

Book Description: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BraVO. (source)

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

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

Reader’s Advisory:

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

Find “Allegedly” at your library using WorldCat!

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

Click Here To Enter The Give-away!