A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Rich Girl”

1533828Book: “The Rich Girl” (Fear Street #44) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1997

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Fear Street — Where Your Worst Nightmares Live…

Emma and her best friend Sydney always share their secrets. And now they have a big one: They found a duffel bag filled with cash and swore never to tell anyone. But Sydney broke her promise — she told her boyfriend, Jason.

Now Emma is terrified. She doesn’t trust Jason. She knows he would do anything to get the money for himself.

Even if it means killing someone who gets in his way…

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Sydney Shue and Emma Naylor are best friends to the end. They’ve been BFFs for years, though Sydney thinks that they’re growing apart because Emma doesn’t like Sydney’s boyfriend Jason. But they get to spend time at work together, as they both work at the movie theater. During one of their shifts, Emma is talking about how she’s worried, because her mother needs an operation on her knee, but without insurance Emma doesn’t know how they’re going to pay for it. Emma and her mother are practically broke, while Sydney lives in North Hills and therefore isn’t lacking anything (but insists that she isn’t spoiled because her parents made her get a job). Emma is also worried because the diner her mother works at six days a week is threatening to fire her because her bad knee has made her slower, and some things never really change, do they? Sydney thinks that she probably never could understand Emma’s anxieties given that she’s rich, and while I appreciate the self awareness, I wonder if Sydney could do more than just acknowledge her privilege? At the end of their shift they are taking trash out to the dumpster, when Sydney drops her charm bracelet into the heaps of garbage. She insists that Emma help her look for it, and a dumpster diving we will go! Sydney finds it, but it’s stuck to a garbage covered duffel bag. They climb out of the dumpster with the bag, and as she untangles her bracelet they notice a fifty dollar bill poking out of the sack! And when they unzip it, they find STACKS of them! By Emma’s estimation, it’s probably close to 100,000 dollars!!! Sydney is ready to turn it in, but Emma says that they should totally keep it! If they keep it her mother can have her operation, Emma can go to college, AND she can buy some nice clothes! I don’t know if I care for this ‘the poor person is going to be the duplicitous one’ development. Sydney says that it’s wrong, and Emma tells her that she wouldn’t get it because she’s RICH and of course this is chump change. To which Sydney says that hey, SHE isn’t totally spoiled or anything! After all, she has a VERY tight allowance AND has to pay for the insurance to the car that her parents got her for her birthday!

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That’s not exactly relating to the proletariat, Sydney… (source)

Emma says that if the keep it they can split it and then Sydney can spend it on whatever she wants. Sydney points out that they have no idea where it came from, and that the police could be looking for it. So Emma suggests that they hide it for now, and if they don’t hear anything about it then they go back and get it. Sydney agrees, and ladies, this could possibly end with a crazed assassin chasing you down with a captive bolt pistol.

Emma and Sydney agree to hide it out in Fear Woods, and while they are digging Sydney starts feeling paranoid. After they bury the money a raccoon jumps out and scares her, and Emma says they need to stop being paranoid. When Sydney gets home and drives her car up the long driveway and to the horse stables (but don’t worry, since they ONLY have TWO horses they converted most of the stables to a garage), she sees Jason working on her father’s Beemer. She totally forgot that they were going to study that night! She gets out of the car and he asks her why she was late, and when she tries to lie and say that she had to work late he gets VERY mad and says he knows she’s lying. He demands to know if she’s been cheating on him. Because obviously THAT’S the only reason she could be late, of course. Sydney can’t think of another good lie on the spot, so she tells him about the money. I can think of a few lies that could have worked, dummy.

  • “Emma was having a rough time because of her mother’s health issues and we had to talk.”
  • “I realized that I forgot something at work and didn’t want to wait until my next shift to get it.”
  • “It’s actually none of your business where I was.” And that’s not even a lie.

Once Sydney sings like a canary, Jason asks if it was her who found the money. Sydney says she found the bag but Emma was the one who opened it. Jason says that’s too bad, because since she has claim to it they would have to murder her if they wanted to split the money between the two of them. Okay, first of all, NONE OF YOU HAVE ANY CLAIM TO IT, and second of all, YIKES. Sydney is shocked, and Jason says he’s kidding. I, however, am not so sure.

At school the next day Sydney is a complete basket case because she can’t stop worrying about the money. But Emma is far from worried, she’s excited because there hasn’t been any news reports about it as of yet, and if that continues for two weeks it’s all theirs! Sydney says they shouldn’t talk about it so brazenly, and Emma tells her to chill out. As they are walking to class they approach the big cement staircase, a group of classmates sweeps in behind them, and suddenly Emma plummets down the steps, screaming! She lands on the concrete below, and Sydney sees that Jason is standing there, possibly smiling at this turn of events! Sydney runs down the steps to get to her friend.

Luckily, Emma isn’t dead, and after the school nurse checks her out Sydney drives her home and calls her family’s personal doctor to check her over. After he leaves, Sydney goes to sit with Emma, who confides that Jason pushed her! Sydney freezes up, and Emma asks her if she told him about the money, to which Sydney admits her dumb mistake. Emma says that he must be trying to kill her to try and get her share, and Sydney asks why he would do that given that he’s pretty well off himself, and Emma says that it’s because he’s GREEDY! Sydney doesn’t want to believe it, but she can’t help remembering what his face looked like…

Sydney confronts Jason the next day, and he says that no way, he didn’t push her! But he does admit to accidentally bumping into her, which sent her careening down the steps. He says that she’s never going to forgive him, and Sydney, relieved that her boyfriend isn’t an attempted murderer, tells him that he can just explain what happened. He suggests that he could look at Emma’s junky old car and give it a tune up as an apology, and Sydney thinks that’s a great idea! So later Sydney is back at home, and gets a phone call from Emma who tells her that Jason has fixed her car and it sounds much better now! She says that she’s still suffering from headaches, but that Jason also told her everything and she isn’t suspicious of him anymore. She then tells Sydney they should go to the mall so that she can plan out everything she’s going to buy with the money (though I THOUGHT that she was going to use it to pay for her mother’s operation and college? Both those things would eat up $50,000 I’d think). She tells Sydney to meet her at her house and she’ll drive, and Sydney agrees. After she hangs up, Jason calls and sees if she’s busy, and Sydney says she’s going to the mall with Emma in her now fixed car. Jason, of course, starts acting strange asking that she isn’t going in EMMA’S car, is she, and Sydney says yes, and he says that she should cancel and hang out with him instead! Sydney says no, and hangs up.

Sydney arrives at Emma’s house and the girls get in Emma’s junk bucket (though it sure does sound better), but as Emma is driving down a hill the brakes don’t work! Would she not have noticed this when she was pulling out of her driveway and through her neighborhood??? Regardless, the car is out of control and side swipes some other vehicles as it blasts through an intersection, and Sydney tells her to pull the emergency brake! The car eventually comes to a stop, and Emma says that it has to have been Jason! He IS trying to kill her, and while Sydney balks Emma’s fears do seem more realized. They get out and inspect under the hood, and low and behold, the break lines have been cut. Sydney admits that when Jason called her and she told him she was going to the mall in Emma’s car, he sounded strange, and for Emma that tears it! Emma says that Jason is so greedy he will probably kill Sydney next, and while Sydney doesn’t want to believe it, she starts to think maybe Emma is right. She wants to call the police, but Emma says no because she needs the money for her Mom’s operation!!

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Not even ten minutes ago you were about to hit the mall to plan out your shopping spree! (source)

Emma then has a really good idea. She suggests that, so he won’t try to kill the girls for it, that the cut him in for a third of it. That way he will get more money than he had before, but he’ll stop trying to murder her and then probably Sydney. Sydney agrees.

So they go to confront Jason about the brake lines, and he swears, SWEARS that the car was fine when he was done with it. Sydney thinks he’s telling the truth because he looks ‘so upset’, and Emma proposes that they give him a cut of the money. Jason is ecstatic! 33,000 dollars is no joke, and they all seem happy with the new arrangement. Jason then says that they should go look at the money right now! Sydney is hesitant, but the eventually decide that they can just quickly go and dig it up to take a look. By the time they get out to Fear Woods it’s dark, and Jason grabs the shovel from Sydney’s trunk and they trek out to the site. Sydney gets cold, and goes back to her car to get her sweater, but as she’s coming back she hears Emma screaming! She runs the rest of the way and sees Jason and Emma struggling! When Sydney yells at them to stop, Jason turns to look at her… and Emma smashes him in the head with the shovel! He falls to his knees, and then falls on his face. And doesn’t get up. Emma checks on him, and tells Sydney that he’s dead!! Sydney asks what the FUCK happened, and Emma says that he tried to take the money, and when she tried to stop he he went nuts. She offered him half, but he said he wanted it all and tried to hit her with the shovel! They struggled, and that’s when Sydney arrived. Sydney says that they’re murderers, and Emma says that SHE is the murderer. Sydney wants to call the police, but Emma says she will take care of everything! She will sink his body in Fear Lake and none will be the wiser! She tells Sydney to just sit and relax (?!) and she’ll take care of it. Sydney falls against a tree, and Emma buries the cash again and drags his body into the darkness. Sydney hears a splash, but then Emma calls for her. Sydney comes running, and Emma says that his body won’t sink! Sydney gives her her belt so that she can tie it to his body to attach a weight to him, but then is feeling way too sick all of a sudden to help Emma find something to weigh him down. Emma is surprisingly cavalier about the whole thing and says she’s on it. Sydney looks away, and eventually Emma finds her and tells her that it’s over.

Sydney drops Emma off, who starts to cry as it starts to hit her just what she did. Sydney assures her that no one will know what happened and that they had no choice. That seems to calm Emma down, and Sydney goes home. She tries to study for her upcoming history test, and then goes to bed. But in the middle of the night she wakes up to see waterlogged corpse-y Jason standing at the foot of her bed, glaring at her!!! She screams and jumps out of her bed, but when she turns on the light there’s no one there. Just a dream…. But then the next morning she finds muddy footprints on the floor by her bed! And they’re size JASON!!!

At school that day Sydney is telling Emma all about this, and Emma says that she has to be imagining things. A dream can’t leave foot prints, after all, and they must just be Sydney’s footprints because she was in such a daze. All day people keep asking Sydney where Jason is (AS IF SHE’S HIS KEEPER), and her guilt gets worse and worse. She ‘s sure she flunks the history test, and then when she opens her locker she finds an envelope… and inside is Jason’s class ring, all muddy!!! Sydney freaks out and shows Emma, and tells her that it was on Jason’s corpse last night when he was in her room! Emma says that she has to be mistaken, she didn’t see the ring on Jason’s hand. Maybe he left it for her yesterday, but Sydney doesn’t remember seeing it. But then again, Sydney feels like she’s going crazy! Emma tells her to calm down and not to lose it. Sydney tries to get a grip, but doesn’t have a chance in HELL of doing so because when they get to her car, they find the muddy and bloody shovel in her back seat!! Emma says that she forgot to hide it, and now they think that someone must have seen them! They get in Sydney’s car and drive back to Sydney’s house (after Sydney thinks that someone is following them for a bit). Sydney THEN finds a note in her stack of mail that says ‘I saw you in the woods, I know your name. It’s MURDERER’. Sydney starts to panic again, and Emma says that even if this person DID see them, they have no proof that they killed Jason… But then Sydney points out that they used her belt to tie a weight to him! Emma says that they can’t go back to the lake, but Sydney insists. SO, they drive back out to the lake so they can retrieve her belt. Emma leads them to the pond scummiest part of the water and says this is where she dumped him, but when Emma plunges her arms into the water to grab for him, she can’t find him. Emma insists this is where she dumped him, but the body is gone!

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Oh. I see what we’re doing here. I’ve seen this movie. (source)

Emma says that someone must have moved the body. It couldn’t be the police since they would have told Jason’s parents about his death. Sydney is on the verge of a nervous breakdown as they’re leaving.

Sydney gets home and sneaks into the house so she doesn’t have to explain to her parents why she looks like she just crawled out of the Black Lagoon. After she showers her mother tells her that she and Sydney’s father are going to a fundraiser for the evening. Sydney is happy to stew in her guilt alone, and as he goes into her room she notices that someone has tied something around her teddy bear…. And yeah, it’s her belt, with a note in Jason’s handwriting that says ‘murderer’. She calls Emma and tells her what she found, and asks Emma if she was sure that Jason was dead, and Emma says yes, she was sure, and Sydney asks if Emma believes in ghosts. Emma says that she got a note too, and it must be someone from school and Sydney can’t get hysterical. But Sydney says she’s pretty much already there, so it’s a little late for that. Emma says she’ll come over. Sydney can’t be in the same room as the belt and note, so she goes to wait for Emma on the porch. When Emma arrives Sydney takes her to her room to show her the note, but of course the note and belt are gone!!! Sydney starts to tear her room apart looking for them, and Emma watches her, telling her to stop! Sydney says that she isn’t crazy, but when her Mom knocks on the door she tells Emma she can’t let her mother see her like this, so Emma covers. Mrs. Shue says she and her husband are leaving for the fundraiser. Emma helps Sydney clean up her room, and tells her that she needs to get some sleep. Sydney says she’ll at least walk Emma out, and she watches her friend drive away. But when Sydney goes back to her room, algae and mud covered Jason is standing there! Sydney tries closing her eyes, but when she opens them he’s still there! He starts to lurch forward, rasping about how she let him die, and he descends on her.

Cut to a hospital waiting room, where Emma is sitting. When a doctor comes out, JASON is following him! The doctor says that he thought that his patient was ready to see him, but apparently not. Jason says that he’s so sad that she sees him as a monster. He and Emma leave the waiting room, and when they get to the car she asks if all is well. And he says that yes it is: Sydney is completely nuts! And they drove her to it! Yep, they faked his death and used it to drive her mad. The night after Emma and Sydney found the money, Emma went to Jason with the plan to drive Sydney crazy because she knew that her conscience would get the best of her. They figure that she’s so rich already that she doesn’t NEED the money! Plus, they’d been hooking up behind Sydney’s back for awhile, their antagonistic relationship all a ploy. Now Sydney is in a mental institution, and even if she does get out and get better, no one will believe her because she’s been diagnosed as delusional!

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I KNEW IT!!!! (source)

So the whole time it wasn’t “No Country for Old Men”, it was “Les Diaboliques”. Now that Sydney is out of the way, Jason and Emma are content to take the money for themselves and now they can really be together. They go on a shopping spree with a handful of the cash, and pick out a lot of really expensive clothes to buy! But when they get up to the cash register, the clerk laughs at the money. When Emma looks down at the cash, not only does it say ‘UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA”, it also has Ben Franklin sporting cross eyes and a backwards baseball cap. Emma is about to faint, and the sales clerk asks her if she ‘brought any real money?’ The End.

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And frankly, they deserve more shit flung their way, because they’re just back at square one and Sydney’s life has been completely fucked. (source)

Body Count: 0. I wish there had been a zombie plot line, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Romance Rating: 0. Jason was cheating on Sydney with her supposed best friend and they gaslit her to the point that she had a mental breakdown. Gross.

Bonkers Rating: 4. I am giving it a four because sure, there was a big crazy twist at the end there, but it’s, like I said, just a rip off of “Les Diaboliques”! It’s not original in any way!

Fear Street Relevance: 6. They buried the money in Fear Woods and then dumped Jason’s ‘body’ in Fear Lake.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“‘Come here!’ Emma’s voice shook with fear again. ‘You’ve got to see this!’

Sydney scrambled out of the car, rushed up to Emma, and stared under the hood. ‘Huh?’ she cried, her heart racing. ‘I don’t see anything. What are you showing me?'”

… This isn’t a cliffhanger!!! This would have been a cliffhanger if you stopped at ‘You’ve got to see this!’

That’s So Dated! Moments: Given that there is talk of pre-ACA insurance issues, I’d say that dates this, but not in a fun and kooky way. But I did have to laugh that one of the extravagant gifts that Sydney bought Jason in the past was a beeper. I feel like even for 1997 those were on the way out…

Best Quote:

“‘That’s their fourth breakup and make-up this year,’ Emma remarked… ‘Let’s see, this is April, right? They’ll probably break up and get back together at least two more times before school’s out. They’re definitely going to set a record.'”

It’s not great, but there wasn’t much to work with.

Conclusion: “The Rich Girl” was ultimately disappointing and a serious bummer in a lot of ways. It wasn’t as bad as some of the other books I’ve read in the series, but it’s definitely one of the most frustrating. Next up is “Cat”!

Kate’s Review: “Two Can Keep A Secret”

38225791Book: “Two Can Keep A Secret” by Karen M. McManus

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, January 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Review: Thank you so much to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

I know that I probably over reference “Twin Peaks” in my blog posts, but given that for me it’s the pinnacle of storytelling it’s a standard that I can’t help but hold certain types of stories to. Basically, if you are writing a book about a small town with seedy secrets, I’m going to immediately start chanting in my head about magicians longing to see and stuff of that nature. If a book doesn’t live up to those (probably unfair) expectations, woe be unto the author and the universe they create. But when they do?

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(source)

And that brings me to Karen M. McManus’s newest YA mystery thriller “Two Can Keep A Secret”. Given my enjoyment of her previous book, “One of Us Is Lying”, I was excited and nervous to read her follow up to a stellar debut. The good news is that I liked “Two Can Keep A Secret” even more than “One of Us Is Lying”!

Once again, McManus has a compelling hook and likable characters that immediately pull the reader in. While on the surface our cast seems to fill various tropes of the genre (the cynical new girl, the misunderstood outsider, the manipulative and popular bitch), McManus writes them all in such a way that they feel fresh and unique. Our main two perspectives are Ellery, a true crime obsessed teen who has just moved to her mother’s home town of Echo Park, and Malcolm, the younger brother of a former golden boy. Both have outside connections to tragedy in this small town, as Ellery’s aunt disappeared when she and Ellery’s mom were teens, and Malcolm’s brother fell from grace after his girlfriend was murdered and he was the prime suspect. While it may have been easy to follow ever explored formulas for both our main characters, Ellery and Malcolm both surprised me with their depth. They both have moments of triumph and moments that were less than flattering, but at all times they felt like realistic teens who are trying to move past painful realities and traumas. While the supporting cast didn’t have as much time to shine as these two, when they were on the page they, too, felt like real teens with lives they were navigating as best they could. I especially liked Ezra, Ellery’s twin brother, whose love and loyalty to his sister was a good way to counterbalance the ever so tempting ‘all alone new kid’ plot line. It was also a thoughtful way to show how different people can approach and process a shared pain, as the twins have to navigate moving to a new place after their mother Sadie ends up rehab.

There are multiple mysteries tied up in “Two Can Keep A Secret”, but McManus juggles them with ease so they never feel overwhelming. Echo Park is a town filled with secrets, from who killed Lacey the Homecoming Queen, to the disappearance of Sadie’s twin sister Sarah (which, understandably, has possibly contributed to her mental problems), to secret familial connections that no one wants to talk about. The various tragedies at the center of this story were where the book most reminded me of “Twin Peaks”, and I think that’s in part due to how well McManus laid out this town and those who inhabit it. While there were some answers I was able to discern on my own before their reveals, for the most part I was left guessing and theorizing up until the answer was given. I greatly enjoyed the many different mysteries, from the tragic to the sudsy. They were all satisfying from start to finish, and McManus did a superb job of making sure all of her threads were pulled together by the end of the book.

“Two Can Keep A Secret” was a fun and suspenseful mystery, and it solidifies Karen M. McManus as a talented thriller author. Readers of thrillers, no matter their age, will almost assuredly find something to like here. And if you like the less surreal aspects of “Twin Peaks”, this book could be a good fit for you as well!

Rating 9: A fabulous follow up to a great debut, “Two Can Keep A Secret” is a tantalizing mystery with fun characters and many satisfying twists and turns. Fans of thrillers should check it out.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Two Can Keep A Secret” is included on the Goodreads lists “Secrets and Lies”, and “Mystery Thriller 2019”.

Find “Two Can Keep A Secret” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Spindle Fire”

30163661Book: “Spindle Fire” by Lexa Hillyer

Publishing Info: HarperCollins, April 2017

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

Book Description: It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

Review: I don’t really remember how/when this book showed up on my radar, but I have a pretty good guess that it likely had something to do with the beautiful cover. Call me a sucker, but a detailed, non-model-featuring fantasy book jacket is likely to get a second look by me most days! Plus, it’s a fairytale re-telling, and we all know how I feel about those!

In this twisted take on “Sleeping Beauty,” the cursed princess, Aurora, is joined by a half-sister, Isabelle. Together, they’ve navigated the complicated pathways of a royal upbringing, all while missing portions of their senses that were tithed away to fairies at Aurora’s birth. Aurora, beautiful and kind, has lost the sense of touch and the ability to speak; Isabelle lost her sight. Through a secret language of tapping and a strong sisterly bond, the two have faced down every challenge thrown their way. This all comes to an end, however, when a dreadful curse finally comes to pass. But Aurora isn’t just asleep; she’s somewhere else, in a new land that is rife with danger. Just as she works to find her way home, Isabelle sets out to rescue her sister, traversing the country to find a young man capable of kissing her sister awake.

While this book never hit the highs of some of my favorite fairtyale re-tellings, it did have some factors that played heavily in its favor. For one thing, in the multitude of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cindrella” re-tellings that are out there, I haven’t come across as many “Sleeping Beauty” stories. Kind of obvious, when you think about it. It’s definitely a challenge to tell a story where the main action all takes place while your heroine is asleep. But Hillyer had a somewhat brilliant, two-fold answer to that. Not only does Aurora experience a different world while her physical body back in “reality” sleeps, but we’re given an entirely new, secondary heroine in the form of Isabelle who inherits much of the plot often relegated to the Prince.

Stating the obvious once again, I do love me some stories about strong sisterly bonds and, as that’s at the heart of this story, I was also predisposed to enjoy it for that reason. We have just enough time and background detail given in the beginning of the story to appreciate the special relationship the two sisters have built with each other. For one one thing, each is approaching the world from a challenging position. Aurora cannot feel or speak. She doesn’t know when she’s injured and can’t communicate with those around her. Isabelle can’t see. Of the two, Isabelle, through either nature or necessity, is still the much more capable one. But even with that being the case, we see how Aurora’s more quiet goodness has protected Isabelle throughout their childhoods, as well. But when separated, we truly see them shine. Aurora comes into her own, having to play a more active role in her own story without the guiding force of her sister. And Isabelle escapes the confines of a palace that has always looked down on her as mostly just a nuisance.

I did end up enjoying Isabelle’s story more, of the two. Her experiences navigating the world without sight were interesting and spoke to the strength and abilities of those who are blind. She always manages to find clever ways of accomplishing things that one would at first guess to be beyond her. She is also able to use her better developed other senses to suss out information that others might have missed. She is also given the better story arc as far as romance goes, though there is a whiff of a love triangle in the air that I didn’t appreciate.

Aurora’s story fails pretty miserable in the romance department, introducing an instalove romance quite quickly and never really delving into much more than that. But luckily, her story is the one that takes place in the heart of an enchanted land where the mysteries behind her curse are truly at play. So we’re giving a good number of distractions on that front, and the secret history of the fairies is definitely worth the wait.

The story is also broken up with various chapters from some of the fae perspectives. Not only do we get into the mindsets and histories of the two fairy sisters who brought this all to pass, but other, secondary fairies are also given perspectives. Some of these felt more useful than others, but I also found the interludes to be nice breaks from the standard POV switches between our main heroines. We were given a lot of great world-building and the fairy history and politics were padded out, as seen through the eyes of the various fairies involved.

The story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it also definitely doesn’t end at all, making it necessary to read the second book to complete the story. While this one felt a bit light, as far as storytelling goes, I was definitely invested enough in the princesses’ stories to want to complete the duology. Here’s to hoping the love triangle is stomped out quick and the instalove…I don’t know, does something. For fans of fairytale retellings, I think this one is definitely worth a shot. Go in expecting a lighter, quick read and you’ll likely be left satisfied.

Rating 8: A few stumbles in the romance department, but still a sweet fairytale retelling at its heart.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Spindle Fire” is only on variations of the same list on Goodreads, so here it the broadest one: “Fairy tales & Retellings.”

Find “Spindle Fire” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The New Year’s Party”

182599Book: “The New Year’s Party” (A Fear Street Super Chiller) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: Ring in the new fear.

P.J. wasn’t supposed to die. It was just a practical joke, no big deal. But P.J. had a bad heart…

The kids at Reenie’s Christmas party couldn’t tell the police what they’d done, so they hid the body…and then it disappeared.

Now someone is killing them, one by one. Someone is taking P.J.’s revenge…but who?

By midnight they’ll know. Because when the clock chimes, they’ll all get a kiss. The kiss of death.

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: Happy 2019 everyone! I hope that you were able to ring in the new year with friends, family, or a good book, and that you are ready to say goodbye (and maybe good riddance too) to 2018 and have a new beginning. Much like my last foray into “Fear Street”, I decided to do a festive little ditty for our recap today. Ring in the New Year with a ridiculous teen thriller, everyone. My gift to you.

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(source)

We start in 1965, with a group of teens having a New Year’s Eve party, listening to The Beatles and having an all around keen time. A girl named Beth Fliescher is dancing in her new white gogo boots and super hip mini skirt (because it’s 1965, GUYS!), and a dreamy boy named Todd tells her it’s a groovy party and starts to dance with her. She thinks that she likes Todd because he’s so dreamy, but she can’t help but gaze out at Jeremy, a cool loner who I am now imagining as Michael Fitzsimmons in “Peggy Sue Got Married”, and if he’s HALF as ridiculous as that kid he’s a true winner. Beth is also wondering where her best friend Karen is, who is also the host of the party and who has disappeared from the festivities. The clock winds down and Karen is no where to be seen, but Beth does see some popular boys picking on Jeremy and wishes that he would stand up for himself. After Jeremy is knocked to the floor Beth considers going to him, but Todd pulls her away for make out times I bet. But then suddenly TWO MASKED MEN WITH PISTOLS run through the door! They tell everyone to get up against the wall, and then start to rob them. One of the guys grabs Jeremy and points a gun against his head, and Jeremy begs for his life, but hey, no worries, it’s all just a prank set up by Karen, who congratulates the robbers. Who are just seniors for Shadyside high school. The party starts to mock Jeremy, as if they too wouldn’t have been pleading for mercy with a gun against their heads. Beth calls Karen out for her prank, and Karen says it was just a joke. Jeremy runs out of the party, and Beth tries to follow, but Todd grabs her and says that he’s sick of being ignored. I don’t know, TODD, it seems to me that she’s been dancing with you all night, that isn’t really ignoring you. When she says that Jeremy needs her he says that he’ll find someone who pays attention to him, and BOY, BYE. Beth runs after Jeremy and jumps in his car with him, and he starts driving like a lunatic on icy roads. She begs him to slow down but he doesn’t, and then they hit something, and it looks like a boy! Jeremy skid ahead, and says that they have to go back, but Beth says no, because it couldn’t have been a person, but it must have been a raccoon, and then they hear police sirens! Jeremy speeds off, but he loses control of the car and crashes it, killing them both.

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There was a lot going on in that prologue. (source)

Now it’s present day! And by that I mean 1995. Reenie Baker has arrived home and goes to her room to see her group of friends, waiting to work on a group trigonometry project. There’s her best friend Greta, Greta’s boyfriend Artie, and their mutual friend Ty. They’re still waiting on Reenie’s boyfriend Sean. Artie says that Sean was last seen getting cozy with the school beauty Sandi Burke, and that now it’s Ty’s chance to make a move on Reenie. Artie’s going to be the one that I have no remorse for when/if he dies, I reckon. Ty seems embarrassed, but Reenie thinks that if he knew that half of the girls at Shadyside have wanted to bed him (my words) since he transferred to Shadyside he could have his pick. Artie complains about their homework and Greta basically implies that if he doesn’t get trig he’ll never amount to anything, and maybe she, too, can be lost without any mourning from me. Reenie goes to put her sweater in her closet, and out spills Sean, looking dead as a doornail! But Reenie isn’t falling for the dumb joke they all decided to play on her, and after that crazy prologue I actually for a moment believed that Stine was going balls to the wall with twists and turns so I was fooled too. It’s made clear that playing pranks on each other is pretty standard for this group, and Reenie wonders if they should stop escalating it lest it go too far.

At school the next day Greta is confiding in Reenie that she and Artie fought after they left her house. Greta is worried that Artie isn’t going to go to college, and he’s even been hanging out with the local bad boy of this story, Marc, who has been trying to convince Artie to drop out of school like he did. Marc makes good money at a car factory in Waynesbridge, and Artie’s family needs money now because his little brother Davy is having health issues. As they turn the corner they see a girl trying to break into Reenie’s locker! They confront her, and the girl says that she’s new and the secretary gave her this locker number, but Reenie tells her that the note says B-9, not 89, and they all have a good laugh. She introduces herself as Liz, and then points to her brother P.J., who was standing there the whole time but went unnoticed by Greta and Reenie. Reenie notices how handsome P.J. is, but he isn’t saying much and stares at the ground mostly. As Reenie opens her locker, two hands reach for her throat! Liz screams, and Reenie yells at Ty who, so committed to the bit, has wedged himself into her locker just so he could have this moment. She says she wasn’t scared, she was startled, because scared lasts longer than a moment. Reenie introduces Ty to Liz and P.J., and while P.J. is still asocial Ty’s gaze is locked on Liz, and Reenie figures that maybe he’s finally taken interest in someone. As Ty leads Liz to her locker, P.J. stares at them all strange like, and then tears after them, leaving Greta and Reenie confused.

Some time later (a week maybe?), Reenie, Greta, and Sean are hanging out and eating their food outside the Burger Basket. Reenie is talking about how cool Liz is, and while Sean and Reenie think that P.J. is kind of weird Greta says that he’s probably just shy, and it seems that maybe she has a crush on him. They speculate about Ty’s seeming crush on Liz, and as they all talk about the new kids Reenie realizes that they don’t know where Liz and P.J. live or much else about them. Then Artie pulls up beside them with Marc in Marc’s new car, and Greta’s mood instantly sours. Marc offers to give them a ride, and while Reenie and Greta say ‘hard pass’ Sean says he’d like to see how the car runs, so I guess that means that all three of them have to ride in it. Greta insists just for a ride around the block. But Marc, being a total douche, not only drag races with them in the car, he decides to take them beyond the block and towards Fear Street. Eventually he drives off road and up to Fear Lake. When they all get out he says that he wants to show them something but they have to go to the cliff side. As he gets closer, he suddenly screams and falls off! Reenie runs forward to try and see if she can see him, but then she TOO falls down the side, and slides out onto the frozen lake. When she gets up to try and make her way back, the ice cracks and she falls through!!!! But luckily Sean is able to rush out onto the ice, slides on his belly, and pulls her out. She asks what happened to Marc, and then Marc shows up unharmed. Apparently it was a joke that he and Artie cooked up. Given that hypothermia is probably setting in, they wrap Reenie in coats and high tail back to Marc’s car, Greta living and Reenie hoping that this is the end of the stupid pranks.

At lunch the next day Greta is railing about the terribly joke that Artie and Marc pulled, though mostly about Artie. Sean and Reenie tell her that it was an accident, but I’m kind of on #teamgreta on this one because actions have consequences and Reenie could have died. Greta goes to get some dessert and Reenie and Sean discuss her crumbling relationship with Artie. To make matters worse, they see Greta flirting with P.J., and just as they see, Artie comes into the cafeteria and sees as well! Sean is able to go over and diffuse the situation by intercepting Artie, and Artie stalks off instead of starting a fight. After school Reenie is walking home in the dark and grey weather, and sees Liz in the parking lot. They get to chatting, and Liz says that she heard about the bad joke that went awry, and Reenie asks her how she and P.J. are adjusting. Liz says fine, but P.J. is having a harder time because he’s so ill, what with his heart murmur and all. Liz asks that Reenie not say anything about his heart to anyone, and Reenie promises not to. She breaks off from Liz when Ty shows up with a clear intent to ask Liz out, and she starts to walk by herself when Artie pulls up in Marc’s car. He offers her a ride and says he’s borrowing Marc’s wheels (no freaking duh), and while Reenie isn’t totally comfortable, she deems cold wet weather to be a bigger threat and gets in. He apologizes for the bad joke as they get to an intersection, but then he continues his streak of Questionable Decisions, as when the light turns green he peels out and speeds through the next intersection… and gets t-boned by a green van.

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(source)

They climb out of Marc’s now wrecked car, and unfortunately the driver of the van is none other than P.J. Reenie sees him slumped over the wheel, and is worried that his heart gave out, but he’s okay. Artie is livid, saying that P.J. ran a stop sign (though my guess is that it was a four way stop if it’s on a road with stop lights not a few blocks earlier, so perhaps it is YOUR fault, Artie), and bangs his hands on the car. Reenie begs for him to stop, still thinking of the heart condition, and Artie blows up at her and gets in the car and speeds away.

At lunch the next day Greta is telling the gang about how Marc ripped Artie a new asshole over his car, and Reenie says that it isn’t Artie’s fault because P.J. ran a stop sign (I still refuse to believe that Artie bears no fault in this situation). She’s relieved that Liz and Ty are now dating because that means maybe she won’t be as concerned about her weird brother. Greta just hopes that Marc will be out of their lives now, even though she worries that Artie is wrecked for life because of his influence. Sean tells the group that Reenie’s parents are going to be out of town and he’s trying to get her to throw a Christmas party! Before they can dwell too long, though Sandi suddenly runs into the lunch room and tells them that they have to come to the weight room. They rush to the weight room and see Artie sprawled on the floor. Apparently he was doing his weight training and demanded that P.J. be his spotter in an attempt to humiliate him, but then he couldn’t get the barbell back on the rack. And then, as if this should be a surprise to ANYONE, P.J. couldn’t get the weight back up either and it fell on Artie. Coach Wilkins says that he’s calling a doctor and both of them are to blame for dicking around without supervision, and Greta comes to P.J.’s defense. As soon as Coach Wilkins leaves, Artie stands up and accuses P.J. of trying to kill him, and is SICK of people standing up for ‘poor little P.J.’. He is about to lunge at P.J. but Coach Wilkins comes back and tells him to stop moving for fuck’s sake, and tells everyone else to go on to their next classes.

After school that day Reenie, Artie, Greta, and Sean are hanging out. Artie announces he’s made up with Marc, who now realizes that somehow this is all P.J.’s fault. They start to discuss the Christmas party guest list (and name off “Fear Street” alumni such as Corky Corcoran and Deena Martinson), and Artie says that his ‘first choice’ is P.J because he and Marc have a trick planned. Reenie and Greta are both disapproving, but Artie says he has the best plan. He and Marc are going to get Sandi to ask P.J. to the party, and then while at the party she is going to kiss him… and then pretend to DIE!! P.J. will think that his kiss is, and I quote, ‘too hot to handle’, and that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. But Sean thinks it sounds awesome, and for whatever reason Reenie and Greta agree???? Reenie thinks that it may make P.J. feel more included since the group tricks each other all the time.

The night of the party comes and Reenie is kind of hoping that Sandi and P.J. don’t show. But there are so many other characters of Fear Street’s past in this scene it feels a bit like the Mickey Mouse Club roll call. Artie and Marc, both drunk, are waiting for their moment, but still no sign of Sandi or P.J. Liz and Reenie start talking and Reenie feels a need to warn her about the dumb prank. Liz is horrified, and tells Reenie that this is a terrible idea and super mean. Reenie tries to reason that it’s like all the dumb tricks they all play on each other, but Liz disagrees, and runs off to try and find P.J. before he arrives. Ty comes back into the room and asks Reenie where Liz went, and goes off to try and find her just as Sandi and P.J. arrive. Everyone is shocked that the new kid weirdo guy is with the hottest girl in school. But P.J. doesn’t look totally comfortable, and when Sandi pulls him onto the dance floor he is very clearly not digging it. When Sandi goes in for the kiss it seems way aggressive to THIS reader, and then she goes through with the joke, pretending to drop dead. As Artie delivers a Jolie-esque performance of histrionics about how she’s dead, P.J. starts to freak out. He then starts to yell and convulse and then he keels over. Artie says that he probably just fainted, but when Reenie listens for a heart beat she can’t hear anything. She announces to the shocked room that he’s dead.

Back to 1965! In an unexpected turn of events, Jeremy and Beth are able to crawl out of the car wreck. They stumble around and realize that somehow neither of them have a scratch on them. In hopes of finding help they start to walk back towards the road in hopes of flagging down a passing car. Beth realizes that she isn’t cold at all. They go back to the road and don’t see any body of a boy they hit, and cars whiz by and don’t stop for them. They find a farm house and knock on the door, but no one answers. So they go back to the car in hopes of taking shelter from the cold… and then find their own bodies in the wreck! They actually are dead! And they are ghosts! Jeremy tries to jump back in his body, but to no avail, and they both disappear into the void.

Back to the 1995 Christmas party. Reenie tries to blow air into P.J.’s lungs as Sean does CPR on him, but to no avail. She blames herself because she knew about the heart murmur but didn’t tell her friends. Sean says that P.J. is definitely dead, and while they debate what to do the headlights of a car pull into the driveway. Panicked that Reenie’s parents have come home, the group lifts P.J.’s body up and decides to hide it in the basement.

Okay. Here lies a giant, GIANT, plot hole. At no point was there a mention of the party clearing out. In fact, Stine made it VERY clear that it was still crowded when they pulled the joke. And yet, the party has suddenly disappeared. Are we to believe that the entire party cleared out and made a pact that they would never speak of what they saw that night? I mean, I get that this is Shadyside and ALL of the people at this party have seen some shit,  but this is a TERRIBLE CONTINUITY ERROR. Like unforgivable!

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Shame on you, R.L.! (source)

They stuff P.J.’s body behind the furnace, but when they get back upstairs they realize that it wasn’t Reenie’s parents, but someone just randomly turning around in her driveway. They decide that they really should call the police and explain what happened, and then after they’ve done so they realize that they have to take the body out from behind the furnace because if they don’t that looks HELLA SUSPICIOUS. They also note that Sandi and Marc have high tailed out, but make no mention of the other party guests. When they go back down to the basement to retrieve the corpse, the body is gone! So now they decide that P.J. must have run into Liz, knew about the joke, and decided to turn the tables. The police do come and chastise them for making a fake call, but they tell them they didn’t realize it was a trick when they called. The police search the house and don’t find anything. After they leave the group decides no more pranks, and they clean up and Reenie feels good…. Until Liz calls her, asking where P.J. is. Reenie says that P.J. isn’t there and that he can tell Liz everything when he does get home. But she doesn’t sleep well that night, because Liz didn’t know where P.J. was…

But at school the next day, P.J. is nowhere to be found. And Liz is way emotional. Reenie overhears her talking to Ty about how P.J. is missing and that she’s worried about him, but Reenie’s friends think that she’s in on P.J.’s joke so Reenie doesn’t know what to believe. She also doesn’t understand how mourning is different for everyone because seeing Liz kiss Ty in a long and serious fashion makes Reenie think that maybe she isn’t worried about P.J. Reenie gets called to the principal’s office, and sees that there are policemen there. They have questions about P.J. and the party. When they try to tell the cops that it was just a joke, the cops say that P.J. didn’t come home the night before, and that his jacket was found in Fear Woods. The gang (with Sandi) are trying to convince themselves that P.J. was alive and well when he left the house after his prank, but Reenie isn’t sure.

A week later there is still no sign of P.J., and as Reenie and Greta work on trig  homework they talk about how guilty they feel. Greta also says she’s going to dump Artie because he’s STILL hanging out with Marc and is going to drop out of school. Greta asks if Reenie will go with her now to dump Artie, and Reenie agrees. They get to Artie’s house, and he says that he’s working on a car in the garage with Marc. Greta asks if she can talk to him without Marc there, and Artie says sure, he’ll go let Marc know that he has to go. But shortly thereafter, they hear a horrible scream from the garage. Reenie and Greta go to see what happened, and they find Marc’s body sprawled across the hood of his car, his head turned around totally backwards. GNARLY! Artie says that he was fine when he went to answer the door. They go to call the police, and as they wait for the cops to arrive, they surmise that whoever did it had to be strong so that they could snap Marc’s neck so easily, and fast so they could do it in the span of three minutes tops.

So now Reenie is super paranoid given that there’s a killer out there. She’s driving to pick up Sean and Ty from The Burger Basket, watching her back the whole way. When she gets there she’s surprised by a mysterious person who comes up behind her, but it’s just Sandi. She thinks that Liz knows more than she’s letting on about P.J. and is hoping to pump Ty for information. Reenie and Sandi meet up with Sean, who says that he’s going to to find Ty. Reenie goes to wash her hands, but when she comes back the dining area is deserted. She goes to look for everyone, and when she enters the kitchen she slips and falls. But when she gets up, she screams! Sandi has been stuffed in the garbage!! Sean and Ty run out to see what the commotion is, and all Ty can muster is a couple of ‘wows’. They pull Sandi out, and her head has also been twisted all the way around.

Reenie, Greta, Sean, and Artie are all hanging out after Christmas, still scared about the death and destruction that surrounds them. Sean thinks that P.J. did it, because he’s been mysteriously missing and had a vendetta against Marc and Sandi. Reenie asks how he could have gotten into Burget Basket to kill Sandi when the doors had been locked for the night, and he has no response to that. Artie says that P.J. is too weak to twist people’s heads around anyway. Greta thinks that maybe she should follow Liz, who may lead them to P.J. if he is alive. They suggest that Reenie go talk to her at least to see if she says anything, so Reenie goes then and there to see her, going to her house on Fear Street. She knocks on Liz’s door, and Liz answers, but makes it very clear that she doesn’t want to see Reenie even though Reenie tries to apologize. Liz says that she can’t forgive Reenie for what she did, and goes back inside, slamming the door in Reenie’s face.

A few days later Greta and Reenie walk inside Reenie’s house. Reenie’s mom gives her some mail, and the two girls go up to Reenie’s room. Reenie opens the letter, and it’s an invitation to a New Years Party. From Liz! Apparently she is sorry for being irrational, and says she wants to throw a party to start off the new year with all of her closest friends. Oh yeah. THIS seems totally legitimate.

So the group heads to Liz’s house on New Year’s Eve! Sean and Reenie arrive first with Greta and Artie meeting them on the walk as they walk up to the house. Liz lets them in, but it’s strange because there’s no music and no one else at the party. And it’s been decorated in black everything. Also, there’s very little furniture in the house, outside of a punch bowl on a single table and a big book next to it. It’s a yearbook from 1965. Reenie starts to page through it, but Liz snaps at her to stop snooping. So why the heck did you leave it out, Liz?! There’s a knocking on the door, and Liz goes to get the new guest, who is, of course, Ty. Sean says that he hasn’t seen Ty around much at all lately, not even at work, and Ty seems to want to remain mysterious about this. Liz says that it’s time to start the party, and gives a toast to the departed. She then bursts into tears, and Ty tries to comfort her but she pushes him away. She tells the group that she invited them here because it would be ‘easier to kill you all at once instead of continuing one by one’! That’s right! LIZ IS THE KILLER! Reenie is in disbelief, but Liz says that she really liked hearing the crack of the bones as she broke Marc and Sandi’s necks. When they ask her why, she says that it was the stupid practical joke that caused her brother’s death! Liz grabs a knife and asks Reenie if she’d like to be first, since she was the first to pretend to be her friend (ICE COLD!), but before she can stab her Sean wrenches the knife away from her, and demands that she unbolt the doors so they can leave. She says that she will, but instead of going for the door, she tackles Sean to the ground and they fight over the knife. After biting Sean’s wrist, Liz gets the knife back in her possession and is about to stab him, but then a voice tells her to stop! It’s P.J.!!! He’s alive!! P.J. tells Liz to put the knife down, and once she does, he tells her that he’s glad she stopped… because he wouldn’t want her to kill them without him!!! P.J. confirms that Liz killed Marc and Sandi, but he likes to watch her when she does such things. Greta says that they were worried about him and he was their friend, and to THAT I say ‘ha’, and Sean tries to grab the knife from Liz but there’s a stumble and he accidentally stabs her with it. But… BUT… There is no blood. And Liz says that none of them can kill her OR P.J., and you wanna know why? She tosses them the year book, and Reenie opens it up to the “In Memorium” page. There on the page are Elizabeth “Beth” Fliescher and her brother Philip Jeremy!!!!

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I’m pretty sure that this was the face that 5th grade Kate made when she read that reveal all those years ago. (source)

Liz is pulling a full on Pamela Voorhees and blaming all pranksters for her and her brother’s deaths, on New Years Eve like this one. Thirty years later and there are still asshole teenagers in this world, and Liz is NOT pleased about it. So these guys are going to pay! Throw in some weird mythology about going to a cold grey place and slowly gaining power, blah blah blah, and they’re back in their old bodies and back for revenge. But then….. THEN…. Ty jumps between Liz and the others. And he tells her that it wasn’t she and P.J. who were brought back for revenge. HE WAS!!! HE WAS THE KID THEY HIT WITH THEIR CAR THAT NIGHT!!

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I think 5th grade Kate actually screamed at this reveal. (source)

He didn’t know why he’d been brought back, but as soon as he saw Liz and Jeremy he figured it out. I also want to add that I kind of love that Ghost!Ty just kind of kept doing teenage things before he figured out why he was brought back to life, such as going to school and getting a job at Burger Basket. Responsibility!! P.J. screams that they should have gone  back, and Liz is still insistent that they hit a raccoon and not a person! Ty says that he’s back and he’s going to kill them! He throws his arms around Liz, and then P.J. tries to get him off of her, but as the clock strikes to midnight the three struggling ghosts fade into oblivion. After they are gone, Reenie says that it’s all very sad and scary and that she doesn’t know if there’s much more to say. To which Sean says “How about Happy New Year?” The End.

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(source)

Body Count: I mean, I guess that it has to be five!! Which is pretty damn high for a “Fear Street” book!

Romance Rating: 3. Sean and Reenie are barely a couple, Artie is a jerk, and Ty and Liz’s relationship was built on Ty ultimately hoping to drag her back to hell, so it’s not gonna be a high score this time.

Bonkers Rating: 9. There were so many crazy twists, turns, and ridiculous continuity issues that my head was spinning around and around.

Fear Street Relevance: 7. With appearances from Fear Woods AND Fear Lake AND the final confrontation being on Fear Street, this was solidly Fear Street oriented.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“‘He’s dead!’ Ty gasped. ‘Sean is dead!’

‘Good,’ Reenie said.”

…. Like, doesn’t that just giveaway that Sean very obviously ISN’T dead????

That’s So Dated! Moments: Outside of the fashion descriptions (like Sandi wearing an oversized sweater and leggings for an outfit) and the mention of CDs here and there it wasn’t terribly dated. Oh except for Reenie saying that Liz and P.J. were killed ‘more than ten years before the rest of us were born’, which would be QUITE a different timeline today.

Best Quote:

“They spent hours talking about boys and movies and rock music – especially The Beatles. They made up stories about how they went to London and met the Beatles in person, and all four of the rock stars asked them for dates. The hard part was deciding which two Beatles to go out with, since all four of them were so far out.”

I’ll make it easy for you: John was a prick and Paul’s one true love was Linda who was a saint, and you can’t get in between that. George and Ringo are the obvious winners.

Conclusion: “The New Year’s Party” was completely insane in all of the best possible ways!!! A really fun read that every “Fear Street” fan ought to pick up! Happy 2019 everyone! Next up is “The Rich Girl”!

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”! 

 

Serena’s Review: “Stormcaster”

33816845Book: “Stormcaster” by Cinda Williams Chima

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, April 2018

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

Book Description: The empress in the east—the unspeakably cruel ruler whose power grew in Flamecaster and Shadowcaster—tightens her grip in this chilling third installment in the series.

Vagabond seafarer Evan Strangward can move the ocean and the wind, but his magical abilities seem paltry in comparison to Empress Celestine’s. As Celestine’s bloodsworn armies grow, Evan travels to the Fells to warn the queendom of her imminent invasion. If he can’t convince the Gray Wolf queen to take a stand, he knows that the Seven Realms will fall. Among the dead will be the one person Evan can’t stand to lose.

Meanwhile, the queen’s formidable daughter, Princess Alyssa ana’Raisa, is already a prisoner aboard the empress’s ship. Lyss may be the last remaining hope of bringing down the empress from within her own tightly controlled territory.

Previously Reviewed: “Flamecaster” and “Shadowcaster”

Review: This book came out last spring, and yet I’m reviewing it almost six months later. Part of this is due to the way my library holds list played out, and the other part of it almost seems reflective about my attitude towards this series. I just don’t know what to expect anymore, and so, I delay. I loved the original series that was prequel to this one, but that love hasn’t translated well, at least not consistently or evenly. I wasn’t a huge fan of “Flamecaster,” and while “Shadowcaster” was an improvement, it still didn’t reach the highs of the originals. What makes these feelings all the more clear in hindsight is the fact that when I started this book, it took me forrrreeevveerr to remember the details of the story or who some of these characters even were. Not a good sign. And, while I did like this one more than the fist book in the series, I’m also starting to accept the fact that, as a whole, this series might just not be my jam.

Per the usual with the books in this series now, the story opens in the past, then catches up to events that were occurring to other characters during the present of the period that made up the first book and much of the second, and then finally catches up to the last portion of the second book and moves forward. Confusing? A bit. The timeline jumping didn’t help with my general disconnectedness from the larger narrative. Our newest member to the ever-growing cast of characters is the titular stormcaster, Evan Strangward, a character we met briefly in the first book as a pirate who delivered the dragon, Cas, that Jenna has paired up with. (Another example of my confusion and lack of memory of this series: I absolutely did not remember this at all until it was literally pointed out on the page much later in the book. I thought this was a completely new character for most of it. So…yeah, that says a lot, I think). Evan has his own motives and connections to the villainous Empress across the sea, and teams up with other familiar characters. Meanwhile, we check in briefly with our other main characters, including Jenna/Cas, Lyss, Adrian, Lila, Hal, etc etc.

Look, I’ll just say it: there are too many characters for this series to handle well. At this point, Jenna, our main character from the first book and a girl with a literal dragon best friend, has only gotten about 3-4 chapters in the last two books. Adrian, the son of Raisa, was almost gone completely from the second book, but gets a bit more here. Hal and Lila have their own roles to play, and Lyss finally shows up about halfway through the book, but it’s all just too little too late. For one, there are simply too many characters to feel equally invested in them all. This will inevitably lead readers to forming preferences and then facing disappointment in one book or another when those characters have to be pushed to the side to fit in all of the other characters that have been introduced. For two, trying to juggle this large cast while sticking with a reasonable page length leads to corners being cut as far as character development goes. Most particularly, the romance suffers.

This series insists on pairings all of its characters up, and so far I’ve only really been able to buy into one of these relationships, the between Lyss/Hal. And objectively, this is likely due to my preference for Lyss as a character rather than any particular strength of this relationship on its own. Adrian and Jenna suffered from an extreme case of instalove, and we saw another version of that here in the relationship formed between Evan and Destin. One of the biggest strengths of the first series was the slow-burn/development of its main romantic pairing that took place over four entire books. Because this series has so many characters and adds more in each book, every single romantic pairing suffers, if not in the beginning (like the cases of instalove), then as the story progresses (like Lyss and Hal who in this book spend the entire time on opposite sides of the world.)

The story itself also suffers for this large cast. The action often feels reduced and stunted because the book must jump around so often to cover what is happening to everyone in their own little corners. And then in this book in particular, the “big confrontation” that comes towards the end felt a bit subdued and predictable. There were a few exciting moments in it, but ultimately, in an epic fantasy series, it felt more like a small action scene that should have happened in the middle of some book, rather than the grand finale of the third in the series.

There were a few things that still intrigued me here. I still very much enjoy Lyss as a character and was very pleased when she finally turned up. It was good to hear (and see!) more from the Empress and what her motivations/plans are. There are also a few neat scenes where various characters meet up with each other for the first time, and that was particularly enjoyable.

However, ultimately this series is starting to fall prey to what I call “Game of Thrones” syndrome where the concept has started to kill what might have been good originally. Namely, too many characters and POV switches don’t always help a series and can often prove to be detrimental, especially as they continue to build and eventually start overwhelming the story itself. An author is so busy catching up with a million different people and POVs that the story itself begins to feel lost. At this point, I will still finish off this series, but I feel pretty confident that unless there’s a major turn-around in the last book, this won’t be going down as as much of a favorite as its predecessor series.

Rating 6: Stumbles under the weight of its own increasing cast size.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Stormcaster” isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists for some reason, but it is on “2018 – Sequels.”

Find “Stormcaster” 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”!