A Tale of Two Sabrinas

A Tale of Two Sabrinas: Kia takes a look at Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the new Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics.

Hello readers and welcome back!  I’ve been doing these blog posts for awhile.  I’ve written about and recommended (or not recommended) several books, and it’s all been fun, games, and good times!  But now it’s time to stop being polite and start getting real. This is a story of heartbreak, abandonment, and feeling like you’re just not good enough.  It’s that age-old story – girl meets boy, boy woos girl, girl falls in love, boy meets prettier and more exciting girl, boy dumps first girl. It happens all the time.  Some girls bounce back. Others fall to pieces. Well, this is my story of how I bounced back. This is the story of how I loved and lost Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

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A few years back, I discovered that Sabrina, the teenage witch we all know and love, was getting a makeover.  Her story was going to be much darker than the earlier comics and 90’s TV show, and that was evident right off the bat with the new title of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  It was to be written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack.  Admittedly, when I first saw the artwork, I wasn’t sure that I liked it. However, once I started reading the comic and saw just how dark it was, I realized that the artwork was a perfect fit.  I loved this comic! I loved that it was so unlike the TV show I had watched as a kid; that Sabrina’s aunts weren’t just spinsters that happened to know a few spells; that Sabrina’s high school experience and social life were more Buffy the Vampire Slayer (especially the later seasons) and less Sweet Valley High.  Sidenote: I’m not shading Sweet Valley High.  I read Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, and Sweet Valley University, and yep I watched the TV show.  But I prefer my supernatural entertainment to fall a bit on the darker side.  So after reading the first trade of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I was very excited to see how the story would continue.  I waited and waited and waited patiently, and then I waited and waited and waited not so patiently.  Until I saw that there were new single issues that had come out but then had prematurely stopped. And then I learned that Netflix was doing a Chilling Adventures of Sabrina show.  “Okay, that could be cool” I thought.  I wasn’t threatened – the comic and the show could both exist at the same time and the comic would obviously be the source material for the show.  But no – that’s not what happened. Instead, the comic was basically abandoned. I saw social media messages from readers asking when the next comic issue would come out only to be completely ignored.  And then during a run to my local comics shop, I learned that a new Sabrina comic was coming out.  And there it was. I, along with other fellow readers, had been dumped for a much more attractive love interest – a television audience.

Now don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed the first season of the Netflix show and, I’m looking forward to checking out the second season (I’m a little late, I know).  But I definitely watch the show with a bit of bitterness in my heart because I don’t understand why the show and the comic can’t both exist in the same universe. I don’t think it’s been officially stated that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is done, but I would imagine that it is, especially since a new Sabrina comic has already hit the shelves.  So let’s talk about that.

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The new comic is under the Archie Forever banner and is simply called Sabrina the Teenage Witch – back to the basics.  It’s written by Kelly Thompson, who brought us the very entertaining Jem and the Holograms comic, with artwork by husband-and-wife team Veronica Fish and Andy Fish.  I’m not familiar with Andy’s work, but I like the work Veronica did for the relaunched Archie comic.  When I heard who would be writing and drawing the new Sabrina comic I was looking forward to it, but I also knew that it would probably be a much more light-hearted take.  And after reading the first issue I see that I was right. The artwork is much brighter. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is very dark – a lot of blacks and oranges.  It just screams Halloween. The new Sabrina is very bright and colorful, which is a style I actually really like, but it lets me know that this comic is going in a different direction.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is rated “Teen+” for violence and mature content.  The new Sabrina is just rated “Teen.”  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was done under the Archie Horror imprint, while the new Sabrina is not.  That being said, I enjoyed Sabrina #1 and look forward to checking out where the series goes.  I even added it to my subscription box at my local comics shop.  It’s a fun read with great artwork, and the potential is definitely there for it to go to some dark (or at least shadowy) places.  But Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will always be the comic that got away, and I would’ve loved to see where the story went.  Maybe I’ll get some answers on the Netflix show, but us comic readers know that there’s a whole lot you can get away with in a comic that just won’t fly on a television show.  But, despite my bitterness, I’ll still watch the Netflix show because it’s really good. And I’ll still read the new Sabrina comic because it’s really good.  But I’ll miss reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina because it was really great.  Until next time!

Kia is a co-host of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

 

Book Reviews: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein & The Butchering Art

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Hello blog readers!  And (I hope) book readers!  I’m back with a couple more recommendations to quench your horror thirst.  The first is The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White, the author of Slayer (which I recommended in my last entry).  The second is The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris.  You know the saying “truth is stranger than fiction?”  Well, The Butchering Art shows that truth is not only stranger than fiction but far more disgusting than you could imagine.  So let’s get to it!

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White is a retelling of Frankenstein.  Before I started reading, I thought that the story would take place in modern times but was pleasantly surprised to see that it seems to be set in the same time period as Frankenstein.  This time, the story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza (the love interest of Victor Frankenstein in the original novel and Henry Frankenstein in the 1931 film adaptation).  In The Dark Descent, Elizabeth is “adopted” as a child to live with the Frankensteins and basically keep a young, troubled Victor in check.  Through her perspective and flashbacks, we get to see not only how Victor becomes the monster creator we all know and love but how Elizabeth’s relationship with Victor colors how she sees herself.  The Dark Descent is a very enjoyable book from a storytelling standpoint.  White does a great job at painting the world in which our characters live and giving the reader some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.  I also really enjoyed the character of Elizabeth- she’s multi-layered and complex. I was initially unsure of how I felt about Elizabeth but, just like real life (at least some of the time), I grew to like her the more I spent time with her.  But aside from the storytelling, my main takeaway from this book is the idea that we’re all “creations” of something or someone – we’re all influenced by things and other people – and vice versa. The hard part is figuring out who you are apart from those influences and defining yourself the way you want.  At least, that’s what I got from this book. Maybe you’ll read it and take away something different. Or maybe you’ll just enjoy it! That’s fine too.

My second recommendation, The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris, contains a lot of anecdotes that could be considered torture porn.  Except they’re all true and took place during an unfortunate period of history before anesthesia and surgical sanitation.  This book might make you rethink your answer if you’re ever asked what other time period you would like to live in. I definitely wouldn’t say The Butchering Art is an enjoyable read, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be.  There’s nothing enjoyable about the conditions under which people had to endure surgeries pre-1900s.  Can you imagine undergoing removal of a tumor from your jawbone – a twenty-four-minute procedure that involved slicing off pieces of the tumor and jawbone – without anesthetic?  Or having a surgeon operate on you using the same blood and pus-covered instruments as he used during a previous operation and without washing his hands or changing the sheets soaked with another person’s blood?  It’s completely disgusting and unbelievable and yet exactly how things were done for a very long time. As a result of the unsanitary conditions, infections after surgery were widespread and common, and it was a widely held belief that people were actually safer being treated at home than in the hospital.  But thanks to Joseph Lister, a British surgeon, the idea of sterile surgery eventually became the way of the world. Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art is vivid, detailed, and well-researched and at times hard to read thanks to the stomach-churning anecdotes.  Next time I go to a doctor’s office or hospital and look around at the (hopefully) clean and sterile environment, I’ll definitely be thinking of Lister.  I usually like to recommend fun reads within the horror genre, but those authors have to get their inspiration from somewhere. There’s a great deal of inspiration in The Butchering Art.

Happy Reading!

Kia is a co-host of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

Book Reviews: Vicious & Slayer

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Hello again!  It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, and my plan was to pick up again with my Back to Fear Street series.  However, I was starting to get a bit burned out, and I had some not so enjoyable experiences revisiting the series and checking out the new books.  So, I decided that I would go back to reading whatever I want. I’m off to a pretty good start – I’ve read seven books so far this year which is pretty good for me, and there’s a couple I’d like to recommend.

The first is Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  This book came out in 2013, so I was tardy to the party but better late than never.  Vicious is the story of two college roommates who discover a way to develop super powers.  But then something goes horribly wrong, as things tend to do when super powers are involved, and the two friends become enemies.  Think Professor X vs. Magneto. I loved Vicious and gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads.  If you enjoy reading comics, I think you’ll find this book to be right up your alley.  But even if you don’t, it will still be a great read! Schwab does a fantastic job at world-building without being overly complicated, and her characters are complex and well-developed.  A sequel to Vicious entitled Vengeful was released in 2018.  I haven’t read it yet but definitely planning to.  I also read that the rights to a film adaptation were purchased, so maybe we’ll be seeing this story on the big screen.  But if not, it’s definitely worth a read!

My second recommendation is Buffy-related, which if you listen to our podcast will come as no surprise. Slayer by Kiersten White is a 2019 release about…a slayer.  But not the one we all know and love. There’s a new slayer in town, and her name is Nina.  There’s just one tiny complication – she’s also part of the Watchers, an organization that works to protect the slayers.  Before Nina even gets a chance to adjust to her new calling, a host of demons and monsters show up, and her powers as a slayer and her duties to the Watchers are put to the test.  I LOVED this book and gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads. I think a newcomer to the world of Buffy would enjoy Slayer because it’s just a lot of fun if you’re into supernatural fiction.  However, as an OG fan of Buffy, this book was truly rewarding. Talk about Easter eggs!  If you loved the movie, TV show, AND the comics, you’ll definitely get a lot out of Slayer.  There’s so many references that aren’t necessarily key to the plot but that just add so much to the story because this book very much so takes place within the Buffyverse.  But in addition to the references, we also get some visits from some much beloved characters who do factor into the plot. I won’t reveal any surprises because if you’re as big a Buffy fan as me, the payoff is worth the wait.  I read on Goodreads that this will be a duology, but I would love for it to go on and on. It’s obvious from both the story (and from the acknowledgements at the back of the book), that the author is an OG Buffy fan herself. She wrote Slayer with a lot of respect to the original material and gave us a host of new complex characters and adventures to enjoy.  I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of supernatural fiction, and it’s a must-read if you’re a fan of Buffy!

Hopefully I’ll have more recommendations soon!  There’s a lot to read out there, and a lot of it’s on my many bookshelves.  So on to my next adventure!

Kia is a co-host of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

 

Back to Fear Street – Ski Weekend (Fear Street, #10)

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Back to Fear Street – Ski Weekend (Fear Street, #10)

Happy November!  I hope your Halloween was sufficiently frightening and enjoyable!  But now it’s time for winter, snow, Christmas, and everyone’s favorite pastime – skiing!  That’s right – let’s go on a Ski Weekend, or at least let’s discuss the tenth book in the original Fear Street series.  My last two write-ups were on R.L. Stine’s new series, Return to Fear Street.  If you read those, you know I was less than enthusiastic about them so I was looking forward to returning to the original series, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.  Ski Weekend was nothing special, and the twists were not very twisty, but it was a solid read so I gave it 3/5 stars on Goodreads.  The story follows a group of friends – Ariel, Doug, and Shannon and a stranger they befriend at the ski lodge named Red – who get stranded in a snowstorm while driving back to Shadyside from a ski trip.  They get stranded when Doug’s car breaks down after he attempts to drive like a maniac through a blinding snowstorm. Doug then seals their fate when, after surviving a near-collision, he says, “All right!  We’re gonna be okay from now on!” I know he was trying to be positive, but that was just too much temptation for fate. The group seek shelter at the home of Lou and Eva Hitchcock who end up being more than just good Samaritans.  Basic but promising premise. I don’t think that Stine was making the reader question the intentions of Lou and Eva – to me it seemed obvious that they were up to no good. Eva’s very evasive, and Lou is extremely creepy and inappropriate with the teenage girls.  There are also some interesting clues that not only point to Lou and Eva being of questionable repute but also suggest that the house might not even be theirs! For example, when Ariel asks Eva for a cup of tea, Eva has trouble finding the tea in the kitchen. When Lou puts on a coat before going outside, Ariel notices that the sleeves are too short.  Ariel also notices that Lou’s jacket has ski lift tickets attached to the zipper, but Lou mentions that he hasn’t been skiing in years. So it becomes very clear that all is not as it seems.

To me, it was also clear that Red, the stranger the group befriends at the ski lodge, was also up to no good.  Stine didn’t make this as obvious, but I think there were some signs. One, he’s a stranger. I’m immediately suspicious of those in literature and the world.  Two, he’s the one that spots Lou and Eva’s house when the group gets stranded driving back. Third, the first night they’re in the house Red goes outside because he can’t sleep, and the next day the group finds that the car has fallen into a ravine.  Fourth, it’s Red who finally reveals Lou and Eva’s plan to the group after he claims that he overhead them. Coincidence? Definitely not! I’m sure there were more clues that I’m not remembering, but these were enough to put me on alert. Honestly, knowing how these Fear Street books tend to go, the fact that Red’s a stranger was enough.

What Red reveals to the group is that Lou is planning to rob them and leave them at the lodge with no means of escape and that he’s forcing Eva to go along with his plan.  However, while trying to escape the group discover a body in the barn. It soon comes out that Red and Eva are actually siblings; that Red, Eva, and Lou killed Eva’s brother Jake (the real owner of the house) because he stole their inheritance; and that they were going to pin the murder on the teens  The plan obviously gets foiled and our group saves the day. End of story. So yeah – nothing special and no big twists that I didn’t see coming but a good read.

It wasn’t flawless, so I do have some complaints. This story has absolutely nothing to do with Fear Street.  It doesn’t even take place in Shadyside. The only mention is when Ariel says, “Being home on Fear Street will be a pleasure after this!”  By now I know that Fear Street isn’t as central to these stories as I had once thought they were, so the fact that Ski Weekend takes place in another town is fine.  But nobody would actually say what Ariel said.  Like, as a kid I would never say “Man, can’t wait to get back home on Mary Lou Lane!”  You’d just say, “I can’t wait to get home!” So I think Stine could’ve snuck in a Fear Street mention in a less silly way.

Another complaint is that there was no good description of the layout Lou and Eva’s (or actually Jake’s) house.  This might just be one of my things, but I need layouts explained well-enough so that I can actually picture in my mind where characters are going.  I’ve even gone as far as to draw out layouts based on their descriptions so that I can have it in my mind when reading. So I just couldn’t follow some of the characters’ movements and where they were in the house because the layout wasn’t well-explained.  This sounds silly as I’m typing it, but this is me. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

I also didn’t understand some of the characters’ actions during the big face off at the end.  While the teens are being held at gunpoint by Lou, Ariel hits him with a snowball which causes him to drop his gun.  Red and Doug both go for the gun and when Doug gets his hand on the gun…he throws it across the yard. Why would he do this?  Nobody else had a gun so this would’ve given our group a one-up. Instead, Ariel, Doug, and Shannon run to the barn where there’s a Jeep.  But…they realize that they don’t have the keys. Ariel realizes they’re trapped and thinks to herself, “I was stunned by how stupid we had been.”  Ariel and I are definitely on the same page. Ariel then uses a snowmobile from the barn to lure Red and Lou away and she tells Doug and Shannon to run for help.  Her plan works, and Red and Lou start chasing her on foot while Doug and Shannon find help. At first, I didn’t understand why Red and Lou would attempt to run down a snowmobile instead of going after the two who were on foot.  On re-reading, I noticed that it says that Doug and Shannon snuck out of the barn, so I’m guessing Red and Lou didn’t see them. But shouldn’t the fact that they know that there are three teens and only one person on a snowmobile make them suspicious that this is a plan to distract them?  Maybe not. I’ve never been in a life-or-death situation like this, so I’m sure clear thinking might go out the window. So maybe I’ll give Red and Lou a pass.

While not really a complaint, I wonder how this whole plan to set our group up was to be put in motion.  I’m guessing Red was supposed to find a group of unsuspecting people at the lodge and catch a ride back home with them.  But Doug’s car breaking down seems to have been the result of Doug driving like a moron in the snowstorm, so it seems awfully convenient that the breakdown occurs right in front of Lou and Eva’s house.  Had Doug not been driving like an idiot, they could’ve potentially made it back safely. Maybe Jake had already been killed, and when the car broke down in that particular spot Red decided they could frame the kids.  However, he tells the group, “You might say I recruited you guys. At the ski lodge.” So, it sounds like this was the plan all along. Which again makes it a little too convenient that Doug’s car broke down where it did.

Finally, I think this is the first book in the Fear Street series without any recurring characters.  It’s possible that Ariel is related to a secondary character from Haunted based on their last names.  Ariel’s last name is Munroe, and there’s a character in Haunted named Krissie Munroe.  Krissie didn’t get mentioned in my Haunted post by name, but if you remember I discussed how Stine didn’t portray poor people very well in that book.  One of my examples was a girl trashing another girl’s clothes to which our main character responds, “She’s just poor, that’s all.”  Well, the girl doing the trash-talking is Krissie. If she’s Ariel’s sister, I’m guessing a couple apples fell off the family tree and blew away in completely different directions.  But this is just speculation. Maybe future books will clear up this mystery once and for all.

Well fellow Fear Street travelers, I’ve come to a close.  And I think to a bit of a hiatus in my journey back to Fear Street.  I’ll be taking a bit of a detour, specifically to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as I attempt to re-read the Harry Potter series before the new year.  So until then, I hope you enjoy this holiday season in whichever way works for you. Rather, that’s spending time with family, battling the crowds to do some shopping, traveling, staying warm and curling up with some good books (my personal choice), or all of the above, I wish you a great holiday season and hope that the end of 2018 closes out better than it started!  Rest well – our Fear Street journey resumes in the New Year!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl

We’re back with another special edition and a review of the latest book in R.L. Stine’s new series.  From the back of the book, The Wrong Girl is about a girl named Poppy who swears to get revenge after a guy named Jack plays a cruel prank on her in front of her friends.  But then her classmates start turning up dead. As the back of the book says, “Is Poppy being framed? Or did the kids of Shadyside High mess with the wrong girl?”  I was going to do my best to not spoil this book in case some of you readers wanted to check it out for yourselves. But that was before I read the book. And I have since taken an oath to spoil the hell out of this book so that no one else will have to wade through it and suffer as I did.  Where to begin?

The book bounces around between different characters’ perspectives but is mainly written from Poppy’s point of view.  Poppy and her group of friends – Ivy, Jeremy, Manny, and Jack – decide to start playing pranks on people and filming it for social media.  The group of friends also included Keith, Poppy’s boyfriend, but she breaks things off with him and starts dating bad boy Jack instead because Keith is too boring and not interested in pulling pranks on people.  The group decides to call their group the Shadyside Shade because, as Poppy says, they’re “throwing shade on everyone.” I might not be completely up on the slang of the youth, but my understanding of “throwing shade” is throwing insults, not playing pranks.  So I guess this is what happens when a 74-year-old writes books about teenagers. The group’s prank club stars off innocently – they unleash a bunch of dogs into a pet store. Then Poppy decides that they should play a prank on her arch nemesis, Rose. Poppy and Rose have apparently been in competition with each other since the fourth grade, and Rose has just beaten out Poppy to get the lead role in the school play.  Poppy first thinks that they should put a laxative in her water because Rose always drinks water right before she goes out on stage. But Jack tells her she’ll get arrested for assault. Poppy then decides that they should keep people from making it to the play by staging a car accident in the intersection and blocking people from the school. As ridiculous as this sounds, everyone’s totally fine with it because they figure they can just tell the police, “Punked you!” and say that they were just doing a high school prank.  Yeah, because that’s how the police work. Also, does anyone actually say “punked” anymore?

These kids go through with the prank, and to really sell it Poppy puts a smoke machine in the back of Ivy’s car.  Why she wouldn’t think people would clearly see smoke coming from the backseat is beyond me, but she’s clearly an idiot as evidenced by her coming up with this plan in the first place.  Somehow all of the cars catch on fire, but apparently the kids suffer no real consequences aside from making their parents a bit upset. Afterwards, Poppy and Rose get into a physical fight at a restaurant after Poppy smashes a hamburger bun in Rose’s face.  Why? Mainly because Poppy’s upset that her sister has started hanging out with Rose. Other than Poppy and Rose being a little competitive and bitchy towards each other, the book doesn’t really establish any big beef between them that would lead to a physical fight in the middle of a restaurant.  Plus, Poppy, Rose, and Heather all seem to have some anger management issues which served no purpose except to make them all possible suspects when the shit hits the fan.

After the car prank, Jack decides that the group should pretend to rob a store, with the owner in on the prank, and film it to share on social media.  However, they go and “case the joint” which made me think that the store owner actually wasn’t in on the prank. A weird aside – before they pull off the prank, Jack gives everyone a ski mask, and Jeremy asks about the material of the ski mask because he’s allergic to wool (and a bunch of other things).  Jack tells him not to worry because the ski mask is fake. I didn’t understand this. Maybe he meant it was fake as in a synthetic material, but that still doesn’t make sense to me. A ski mask is still a ski mask. It’s not like someone being robbed would be all, “Hey, wait a minute. This is a prank! That’s not a real ski mask!”  But I digress. The group goes through with the robbery, but as they’re entering the store Jack slips a gun in Poppy’s hand, and she ends up shooting and apparently killing the store owner when she sees him going for his gun. After the incident, Poppy feels extremely guilty and decides to turn herself in to the police, specifically Manny’s brother Benny.  Benny and Poppy go to the store… and the store owner is there! Alive and totally fine! Turns out he was in on the prank all along, as was the rest of the Shadyside Shade. And it was actually Jack and Rose’s idea because they’ve actually been dating this whole time behind Poppy’s back. You know who else was in on it – Office Benny! That’s right – a police officer was totally fine with a group of kids filming a fake robbery in which one of the kids thinks she kills someone.  I guess that makes sense – these are the same police that had no problems with the same kids staging a fake car accident in which multiple cars exploded. Also, let’s not just skip past the fact that the couple behind this prank are Jack and Rose. The star-crossed Titanic lovers are reunited, and they’re bigger and badder than ever!

So now to the core of the story – the big revenge!  Which doesn’t start until page 240 of a 328-page book.  And remember all of those classmates that start turning up dead?  Yeah, it was just two people. Ivy gets acid put in her shampoo but lives; Jeremy has his room filled with hornets who sting him to death ( remember he’s allergic to everything – a My Girl moment); and Rose gets strangled just before taking the stage for her lead role in the rescheduled school play.  But that’s the extent of the revenge. It’s almost as if Stine remembered “oh yeah, that’s what this book is supposed to be about.”  Another thing – I’m pretty sure that Fear Street isn’t even mentioned until page 262, and even then it’s just a throwaway mention about Keith, Poppy’s ex-boyfriend, thinking about death a lot ever since moving to Fear Street.  Maybe this was another “oh yeah” moment for Stine – I mean this new series is called Return to Fear Street after all.

Let’s skip to the big finale.  The remaining kids, Officer Benny, and another police officer are all together in a room shortly after Rose’s body is discovered.  Poppy (in all of her brilliance) and her sister Heather decide they know the perfect way to get the real killer to confess – Poppy confesses to the acid attack and murders, but then Heather steps in and says that she’s the real killer, and she stabs Poppy in the chest with a knife.  And then Keith confesses that he did everything because he wasn’t good enough for Poppy and because nobody wanted to get to know him. Can’t imagine why? When it comes out that the stabbing was staged, Poppy explains, “We figured if we confessed, the real culprit wouldn’t be able to just stand by.”  I’ve watched a lot of Investigation Discovery shows in my lifetime (there’s actually one on in the background as I’m writing this), and this has to be the dumbest plan to get someone to confess that I’ve ever heard of. First off, there’s two armed police officers in the room, so Heather basically risked her life by pretending to stab someone right in front of them.  Second, what if Keith had been all, “Hey, I’ll just let one of them take the fall. This worked about better than I could’ve imagined!” All the evidence pointed at either Heather or Poppy anyway – a bottle of jewelry cleaner containing acid is missing from their home; Jeremy was killed by hornets and Poppy and Heather’s mother just happens to be an entomologist who’s doing a study on hornets; and Rose gets strangled with a scarf and it’s mentioned a few times in the book how wearing scarves is Poppy’s “thing.”  So, Poppy and Heather’s idea to get the real culprit to confess was pretty stupid. But hey, in the world of Fear Street it worked perfectly. By the way, the whole stabbing-and-confession thing happens in the last seven pages. A whole lot of ridiculous buildup for an even more ridiculous conclusion.

In case you can’t tell, I really didn’t like The Wrong Girl.  And I actually left some things out of this post for the sake of time, space, and my sanity.  I gave this book a 1/4 rating on Goodreads. I would’ve given a lower rating if I could, but you can’t give a half-star rating and giving no rating at all is equivalent to not voting – your voice won’t be heard.  And I wanted my voice to be heard loud and clear! The next installment in the Return to Fear Street Series is called Drop Dead Gorgeous, and it’s set to be released in February 2019.  Here’s a look at the cover:

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They say the third time’s the charm, so maybe we’ll have better results with the next installment.  Thankfully, I don’t have to find out until next year. So next month I’ll be going Back to Fear Street to review Ski Weekend, the tenth entry in the original Fear Street series.  These last two books of the new series have left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I’m looking forward to going back to the original series.  I’ve had better luck with those and they’re less than 200 pages so any suffering is swift!

Before I go, I’d like to end on a good note and recommend some fun reads that are perfect for the Halloween season – The Ruins by Scott Smith; The Amulet by Michael McDowell; My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix; The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill; Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror, an anthology with multiple contributors; Midnight Movie by Tobe Hooper; and Let the Right One In and Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  And some suggestions for you comic readers – Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips; I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young; Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook; Outcast by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack; and American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.  I could recommend many more books and comics, but these are the ones that came to mind.  I can guarantee you’ll enjoy any of these more than The Wrong Girl!

Have a happy (and spooky) Halloween, and I’ll see you in November!

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride

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Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride

Hello fellow travelers!  I’m sure you all remember that in my very first Fear Street blog post, I mentioned a new series called Return to Fear Street, and in my August post I shared the beautiful cover art from the first book in the new series, You May Now Kill the Bride.  Well, I have since read this book and will share my thoughts on it and future books in this new series in these special edition posts.  I can just see the ear-to-ear smiles on your faces! So let’s get started. And I’ll be immediately spoiling this book, so consider yourself warned.

The premise of You May Now Kill the Bride from the blurb on the back of the book is that a curse that haunts the Fear family affects two sisters at two Fear family weddings decades apart.  Seems pretty straightforward. The story begins in 1923. Seventeen-year-old Ruth-Ann Fear discovers a secret attic in her house where she finds old spell books and learns about the hatred between the Fear family and the Goode family.  Ruth-Ann starts doing spells and casts a spell on a boy named Peter Goodman to get him to like her. He does initially but ends up falling for her older sister Rebecca. However, at the wedding (which takes place the following year on a cliff at the Fear family lodge in Colorado), Peter picks Rebecca up right after kissing his new bride and hurls her off the side of the cliff.  Why? Well, you probably didn’t see this coming, but Peter Goodman is actually Peter Goode, and there is a curse where a Fear and a Goode can never marry each other and live. Well, Ruth-Ann’s father gets upset with Ruth-Ann because when she found out about Rebecca and Peter she got upset and told them that they would never get married. Ruth-Ann and her father struggle and then SHE falls off the cliff after losing her balance.  The moral of this story – don’t have a wedding on a cliff. Ruth-Ann’s father gets even more upset as can be expected and vows to take his revenge on the Goodes. The fact that Ruth-Ann dies was a great mislead because I really thought she was going to a be a more prominent character throughout the story, and I thought this was a great start to the book. It was well-written and just really grabbed my attention as a reader, and I thought that R.L. Stine was back with a great new series!  Mr. Fear will have his revenge and somehow that will affect a future generation of Fears and Goodes – just like the back of the book promised!

Well…none of that happened.  The story flashes forward to present day – we’re back at the Colorado lodge, only now it’s no longer part of the Fear family because it was sold.  Our main character is now seventeen-year-old Harmony Fear, and she and her family are at the lodge for the marriage of her older sister Marissa to Doug Falkner.  Harmony and Marissa’s father says the place is cursed and that that’s why it was sold, and some of the family know about what happened there in 1924. But Marissa’s heart is set on getting married there, so we’re back for another wedding…on a cliff.  What could go wrong? Well, shenanigans happen the day before the wedding, including an uncle choking on chicken feathers and the wedding party getting attacked by squirrels. Uh-oh! Must be the curse! But no, it just turns out to be Harmony doing some silly spells because she also discovered the Fear family spell books.  Her grandfather warns her about doing even harmless spells at the lodge because the place was cursed and spells could get out of hand. The grandfather, Harmony, and Harmony’s brother Robby talk about what happened at the lodge back in 1924 and about the hatred between the Fears and Goodes that went back hundreds of years, but the grandfather mentions that no members of the Goode family had been heard of since then and that Harmony and Robby’s father hired two different investigative firms to make sure none of Doug’s family were related to the Goodes.  As a reader, I’m thinking “Oh, there’s definitely a Goode at this wedding and the curse will strike again.”

Wrong again.  Turns out the curse between the Fears and Goodes was stronger than anyone realized.  Remember when Peter threw Rebecca off the cliff back in 1924? Well that happened right after they were officially married.  The curse was unleashed – hence Peter killing Rebecca. But the curse also caused people to be trapped in the lodge after death – they were dead but not dead and unable to control when they lived, sometimes living in their own time but sometimes living in the present.  This curse trapped Ruth-Ann and Rebecca and also some lodge workers from 1924 who Harmony talked to, thinking they were workers from the present time. This curse also traps Marissa. On the day of her wedding, she goes missing, and it turns out that she was killed when she was pushed off of the cliff.  But she wasn’t killed by a Goode – she was killed by her scorned ex-lover Aiden Murray. Not scorned because Marissa dumped him but scorned because, about a year ago back in Shadyside, Harmony injured his hand while doing some woodworking and ended his dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Harmony discovers Marissa, Ruth-Ann, and Rebecca at the lodge where she learns about Aiden’s actions.  She also learns that Aiden has taken out his revenge on Robby by stealing his girlfriend. I understand being upset at Harmony for injuring his hand, but it seems far-fetched for Aiden to be so angry at the other family members. Plus his revenge on Marissa and Robby seems extremely unbalanced – I mean Aiden went from stealing someone’s girlfriend to pushing someone off a cliff. Talk about going from zero to a hundred.  This all gets wrapped up when Harmony goes from doing silly spells to a big spell – transporting herself back to 1924 where she uses another spell to send Peter flying off of the cliff before the Fear-Goode marriage can take place and unleash the curse.

I left this book just feeling really confused.  I’m unsure how Harmony stopping the Fear-Goode marriage would impact the present day events.  It would keep people from being trapped at the lodge after death, but I don’t understand how it would’ve kept Aiden’s hand from being injured back in Shadyside and then seeking his revenge.  The book makes clear that the lodge is cursed, so it’s unclear as to how the events in Shadyside would have been prevented from happening. Also, I thought that Ruth-Ann and Rebecca’s father’s swearing to take revenge on the Goodes would have something to do with the rest of the book, but as far as I can tell that was a big dud.  Maybe his revenge has something to do with why no member of the Goode family has been heard of since the events in 1924, but that’s just speculation on my part. The book also gives no details as to the why the Fears and Goodes hate each other so much or why the Fears, according to Harmony, have a long history of meanness. Maybe Stine already dealt with this in one of his previous books – I know he’s written several on the history of the Fear and Goode families.  But I don’t think it’s safe to assume that new readers will be familiar with the older books or that old readers (like me) will remember or that we even kept up with the series. I know that I stopped reading the Fear Street books in the early 90s, and I definitely don’t remember the specifics of the books I read when I was kid.

Also, I didn’t get the point of the magic spells.  Maybe this also harkened back to an earlier entry in the Fear Street series, but it seems misplaced and pointless in this book.  I’m guessing the whole purpose for the spells was so that Harmony could all of a sudden become a powerful magician or sorceress (because her grandfather tells her earlier that he believes the magic runs in their family) and transport herself back to 1924.  It all just seemed a bit too convenient for me.

I didn’t really like this book (in case you couldn’t tell) and gave it 1/5 stars on Goodreads.  A lot of other reviewers gave it three or four stars, but I noticed that most of those reviews started with the reader going on about nostalgia and how they loved Fear Street when they were younger.  I’m not reading with my nostalgia glasses on, so this was a big miss for me. I’m still looking forward to the next entry in this new series, The Wrong Girl, which comes out later this month.  From the description on Amazon, it doesn’t seem to involve the Fears or Goodes.  So if you’re dying to know about the Fear-Goode saga or need to refresh your memory, you might need to track down the older books.  I’ve had a rough patch of disappointing books here recently – The Elementals by Michael McDowell, Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and You May Now Kill the Bride.  I read the new Flintstones comic by DC to clear my palate but was a little disappointed by that too (although I loved the artwork).  So, where do you go when you want maximum entertainment and minimal disappointment? The world of organized crime – Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi.  I’ve seen Goodfellas plenty of times but now I’m ready for a little deep diving.  Hmm, going from the Flintstones to the Mafia. Makes me think of one of my high school friends who wrote in my yearbook about me buying Britney Spears and Metallica CDs at the same time.  I live outside the lines. See ya in October!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

Back to Fear Street – The Stepsister (Fear Street, #9) & R.L. Stine Presents: Scream and Scream Again!

Back to Fear Street – The Stepsister (Fear Street, #9)

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The wait is over and it’s time for another trip back to Fear Street!  If you’ve been keeping up, you know that the last couple of outings were pretty disappointing.  But I’m happy to say I fared much better this time around! Like any book or movie named after a step-relative, The Stepsister is a tale all about the sinister side of blended families.  Emily Casey, our protagonist, is excited about her new stepsister and stepbrother moving into her house on Fear Street, but then a lot of terrible things start happening.  Emily knows that her new stepsister, Jessie, is behind everything but no one will believe her, and she has to expose the truth before Jessie goes too far. A basic premise but a very enjoyable read, although I again predicted the twist ending.  That left me a little underwhelmed, but I still gave The Stepsister 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  The story was well-paced and fun and the characters were interesting, so even though I saw the twist coming I still enjoyed getting there.  I also liked that the chapters had titles – don’t know why but I did. So I definitely recommend you drop whatever you’re doing and check this book out!  Or you can just read ahead for spoilers. The choice is yours.

SPOILERS AHEAD…

So let’s talk about those terrible things that Jessie does because they range from serious but harmless pranks to attempted murder.  She rips the head off of Emily’s favorite teddy bear, steals her sweater, deletes her school report from the computer, and puts peroxide in her shampoo.  Serious but harmless. Jessie then kills Emily’s dog by stabbing it in the chest, sets a school bathroom on fire after trapping Emily inside, pushes Emily down a steep flight of concrete stairs at a concert arena, makes out with Emily’s boyfriend, and pushes Emily into an open grave during a family camping trip and tries to bury her alive.  With the exception of making out with Emily’s boyfriend, I’m pretty sure these others would warrant a mental diagnosis. And in fact, Jessie is seeing a psychiatrist twice a week. But here’s the twist…

It turns out the actual culprit is Nancy Casey, Emily’s older sister (although Jessie did accidentally rip the teddy bear and steal the sweater).  Nancy blames Emily for the death of their father (who drowned while boating with Emily during a family camping trip to Fear Island) and for losing her boyfriend Josh (who dumped Nancy and started dating Emily).  I was already suspicious of Nancy just from knowing about her father and ex-boyfriend and also because when all signs are pointing to one character that usually means it’s someone else entirely. But the real giveaway was right after the bathroom fire scene.  Before going into the bathroom, Emily had run into both Nancy and Jessie, but after getting rescued she thinks to herself that Jessie was the only one who had known she was in the bathroom. That was a pretty obvious sign to me that Nancy was involved. Now to be fair, I thought that maybe Nancy and Jessie were both involved and working together but still leaned more towards Nancy as she had the most to be upset about.

Quick aside – I think it would’ve been awesome if the antagonist had turned out to be Emily’s mother!  It wouldn’t have made sense as she wasn’t always in the right place at the right time to pull some of the stunts, but how cool would it have been if she was all, “You killed my husband!!!!”  I mean, that would’ve taken the Fear Street series to a whole new level. But I digress.

Now Jessie isn’t completely innocent.  She definitely did some bitchy things. She was kind of insulting when she first moved in and took over the bedroom that she and Emily had to share.  She also secretly talked on the phone at night and was overhead saying, “I could kill her. I really could kill her.” She also sneaked out of the house a few times.  But it turns out she was talking to and meeting up with her boyfriend who her father didn’t approve of because he was three years older. As for Jessie seeing a psychiatrist, she was apparently blamed for the death of her best friend but was actually innocent.  So I’m assuming she had to see the psychiatrist to deal with that, although I don’t think a specific reason is actually given. And I guess the threat she made on the phone was maybe just innocent teenage anger over her and Emily not getting along. Maybe Jessie can schedule a group therapy session at her next appointment because this family’s definitely got some issues to work through.

Speaking of the other family members, Emily and Nancy’s mother is pretty basic and falls into the trap of being more into her new husband than into believing her daughter that something terrible is going on.  The new husband, Hugh Wallner, is interesting. He’s more rough around the edges than Emily and Nancy’s real father and picks on his thirteen-year-old son for doing typically stupid teenage boy things and for engaging in that dangerous gateway activity – reading!  Mr. Wallner mentions that his son, Rich, is a “real bookworm” and brags that he himself hasn’t “picked up a book since high school.” Not sure that this a good bragging point. Mr. Wallner also has a couple of sexist, pervy moments. When Mrs. Wallner asks who’s going to clean up after dinner, Mr. Wallner says, “Not me.  That’s what I like about living with four women. There’s always someone to clean up after dinner.” Mrs. Wallner responds, “You’re a sexist pig,” smiles, and kisses him on the forehead. Now, I’m no stick in the mud so I can laugh this off. But I can also see how Emily and Nancy would definitely not appreciate that this is the man their mother chose to replace their father with.  Then during a camping trip in South Carolina, everyone except Mr. Wallner is feeling less than excited, so he says, “Come on, gang. How can I get my harem into an up mood?” EEEEEWWWW! Who uses the word “harem” to refer to their wife, daughter, and step-daughters? And I guess also Rich? I feel like Mrs. Wallner should be making some mental notes – sounds like we have another issue to address at that group therapy session.

As for Rich, Emily describes him as “that weirdo with his Stephen King books.”  And of course, he’s reading Pet Sematary, so when the family dog gets killed he immediately falls under suspicion.  This prompts Rich to yell out in teenage angst, “Just because I read books doesn’t mean I’m a killer!”  If I had a nickel for every time I had to say that. Just kidding – I’ve never had to defend my love of reading.  So it’s a bit weird that Rich has to. But I’m wondering if this was a bit tongue-in-cheek of R.L. Stine – maybe there was some parental backlash when kids started reading Fear Street books.  I don’t specifically remember my mother having any problems, but who knows? Maybe it gave her pause when my reading list went from The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High to books about teenagers being murdered.  This leads me to an interesting side note that Craig brought to my attention – at the age of thirteen, Rich is reading way more mature material than I was at his age, including the Fear Street series.  And looking at Young Adult fiction today, the books definitely seem to be way more complicated and detailed than the books I read as a kid and teenager. It’s amazing to me when I find my old books just how small and thin they were – it seemed like I was reading full-fledged novels at the time when they weren’t even two hundred pages.  So I applaud Rich for his literary maturity! And kudos to his open-mindedness as by the end of the book he’s reading The Hardy Boys.  Variety is the spice of life!

As for our recurring characters, this time around we have Della O’Connor (the protagonist from The Overnight); Ricky Schorr (the character I mentioned in my last post as being the first to have two terrifying Fear Street experiences in The Overnight and Halloween Party); and our lasting couple Lisa Blume and Cory Brooks (making this Lisa’s now sixth appearance in the series – the most overall).  However, they were all relegated to honorable mention status as students that Emily and her best friend just notice in the hallway or cafeteria.

Now for a bonus feature!  Back in my very first Back to Fear Street blog post, I mentioned that Stine was coming out with a new Fear Street book called Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride.  Well, that book has arrived and here’s what it looks like:

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Gorgeous cover!  And this would also make a killer back tattoo!  I haven’t read it yet but definitely looking forward to it!  And Amazon shows the next book in this series comes out in September and is called Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl.  That’ll definitely be added to my collection!

Wait, what?  There’s more?  Yes! Because Stine put out ANOTHER book.  It’s a short story collection called R.L. Stine Presents: Scream and Scream Again! that includes a story from Stine and stories from the Mystery Writers of America.  It also has a pretty great cover:

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I just got finished reading this one and gave it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  The collection included some really good stories that made me think of Are You Afraid of the Dark.  They’re definitely written for kids, but they’re still a lot of fun and a few genuinely creeped me out, especially the last one, “The Platform” by Peter Lerangis.  Some of my other faves were “Ring and Run” by Steve Hockensmith, “Area Code 666” by Carter Wilson, “The Only Child” by Joseph L. Walker, “The Girl in the Window” by Tonya Hurley, and of course “The Best Revenge” by Stine.  A good read for adults and some family-friendly scares for the younger readers!

So happy reading and I’ll see ya in September!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’