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: 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 – Haunted (Fear Street, #7)

Back to Fear Street – Haunted (Fear Street, #7)

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And…we’re back!  I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for my next Fear Street entry, and well, the wait is over.  So let’s talk about Haunted.  The seventh entry in the Fear Street series follows a girl named Melissa (“Lissa”) who’s being haunted by a ghost who’s trying to kill her, making this the first book in the series to delve into the supernatural.  It’s a basic premise that we’ve seen a thousand times in movies but with a couple of twists. And it’s because of these twists that I gave Haunted 1/5 stars on Goodreads.  That makes Haunted my lowest-rated Fear Street book thus far.  It was bound to happen sooner or later – can’t win ‘em all.  And one star is better than no stars, amirite? This is another post where I think spoilers are necessary, so consider this your first and final warning:

SPOILERS AHEAD!

So, Lissa is being haunted by a ghost named Paul.  He pops up in her bedroom where he tries to push her out of the window, and he even shows up in her brand new, shiny blue Pontiac Firebird (a birthday present from her dad) where he takes over her steering wheel and tries to run her off the road.  And when he’s not trying to kill her, he rips up all of her birthday presents during her party. Sassy! Paul eventually tells her that he plans to kill her because she killed him, except they’ve never met before and he doesn’t actually remember how she kills him because impaired memory is apparently a side effect of being dead.  Lissa eventually sees Paul out with his friends – and he’s totally alive! Obviously, this confuses the hell out of Lissa, but after seeing the live Paul a few times and the ghost Paul having no idea what she’s talking about, she figures out that ghost Paul is actually from the future and that he’s come back to prevent her from killing him.  Whew! Didn’t see that one coming, but I thought it was a pretty good twist. I’m sure there’s all kinds of plot holes and complications when you get into messy timeline situations, but all that’s usually over my head. So, yeah – pretty good twist. Lissa and ghost Paul then attempt to convince live Paul to stay away from Lissa so that he won’t get killed.

Another good twist is that while all of this is going on, Fear Street is being plagued by the Fear Street Prowler, and Lissa is rightfully terrified as she actually lives on Fear Street.  Well, it turns out that the prowler is none other than the live Paul. Once you find that out, it becomes pretty clear right away how Lissa could kill Paul.

Now the bad stuff.  R.L. Stine really doesn’t portray poor people very well in this book.  I first noticed that in the way he has one character go on and on about how horrible this girl’s clothes are.  She’s clearly disgusted by this girls “plastic pedal pushers,” her “tacky top with the fringe,” and her “white plastic boots.”  When she mentions how tacky the girl’s outfit is, Lissa responds, “She’s just poor, that’s all.” Meanwhile, Lissa shows up later wearing her own fringed top, but I’m sure it’s top-of-the-line as it’s made clear throughout the book that Lissa is rich (or at least her parents are).  Later, while Lissa is trying to figure out who ghost Paul is, she decides that he probably didn’t go to her high school, Shadyside High School, but to South because “ he said he was poor and everything.” South is then described as a “pit,” and another character mentions how she “unfortunately” knows all of the kids at South.  Lissa eventually makes her way to live Paul’s neighborhood which she describes as being “creepy” and “horrible” – this coming from the rich girl whose house is haunted. Finally, live Paul and his friends are just bad seeds – they’re constantly drinking and they’re always making very lewd and sexually suggestive comments to Lissa, not to mention literally running after her in a parking lot.  Plus, on more than one occasion Paul physically assaults her, grabbing her and refusing to let her go. He even says to her, “I don’t like it when rich, snobby girls hurt my feelings.” And let’s not forget that live Paul is the Fear Street Prowler, and the only time he’s portrayed as a decent guy is when he’s a ghost. So, the portrayal of poor people was off-putting, way too heavy handed, and didn’t really serve a purpose.

I also wasn’t a fan of all the convenient things that happened at the end.  Throughout the book Lissa complains about it being so hot in her room, and she often sleeps with her window open despite being terrified of the Fear Street Prowler.  Then at the end, while her parents are out of town, she decides it’s too hot to sleep in her room so she’ll sleep in theirs…because it’s air-conditioned! This whole time I’m just thinking, “Man, why don’t these people just turn on their AC,” when it turns out they’ve had air conditioning all along but for some reason not in Lissa’s room.  Who needs a new car for their birthday? I’ll take some ductwork please. I mean, her parents are rich right? Surely they can afford it. It seems that the revelation about Lissa’s lack of air conditioning at the end of the book is solely for the purpose of relocating her to her parents’ bedroom. Why? Well, it’s revealed rather early in the book that Lissa’s father keeps a gun in his nightstand.  And this just so happens to be the night when live Paul (aka the Fear Street Prowler) decides to break-in to Lissa’s house, and of course the window he comes in through is the window in Lissa’s parents’ bedroom. There’s a confrontation, and Lissa gets the gun but refuses to shoot Paul despite him being very threatening towards her. Eventually, ghost Paul shows up, and he’s able to take the gun away from live Paul and throw it to Lissa.  For some reason, he was never able to make live Paul see him, which surely would’ve caused live Paul to rethink his life choices. The gun accidentally goes off when Lissa grabs it, killing Paul. Instead of saving his own life, ghost Paul decides to save Lissa’s life because he didn’t want her to get hurt and because he cared for her. Even ghost Paul hates live Paul. Maybe I’m being overly critical, but by the time I got to the final showdown, I had already predicted everything that was going to happen and was a little underwhelmed by how all the elements came together.

Tallying everything up – I talked about two things I liked and two things I didn’t.  That should even out, but the bad stuff just really dragged the book down for me. Hence, my low Goodreads rating.

Now for the fun stuff.  We have some more recurring characters – Lissa’s best friend is Della O’Connor, the main character from The Overnight, and Della’s boyfriend is Pete Goodwin, who also appeared in The Overnight.  Della also makes a cameo in The Wrong Number, while Pete gets an honorable mention in Sleepwalker.  Neither of these characters play significant roles in Haunted, and for some reason Lissa never even tells Della about ghost Paul (or live Paul for that matter).  She only asks if she knows a student who died named Paul. A minor character from The New Girl and The Surprise Party that I’ve never mentioned before, David Metcalfe, also makes another minor appearance.  He’s basically the class clown of the Fear Street series, but maybe we’ll see him develop as the series continues.

Tom Cruise gets another mention as Lissa comes across a Tom Cruise/Paul Newman movie (I’m guessing The Color of Money).  She’s trying to take her mind off of being alone in her house, but the movie has too many commercials so she just turns the TV off.  I’m sure this is an indicator of just how nervous she is, but from my 2018 perspective, maybe also an indicator of how few TV options she probably has.  While her TV options may have been limited, Lissa’s clothing options certainly weren’t, and Haunted gives us a great description of 1980s clothing.  Haunted was copyrighted in 1990, but we all know that’s still basically the eighties  Lissa goes to a teen dance club with her boyfriend (who spends the book not believing Lissa when she tries to tell him about ghost Paul) dressed in a “sparkly midriff-length top and black Spandex bicycle shorts under a thigh-length purple skirt.”  It’s like the eighties exploded and landed perfectly on her body. Wait, there’s more – she’s sweating so much from all the dancing, so she wipes her forehead with a tissue “from the small bag belted around her waist.” If that’s not a fanny pack I don’t know what is.  And her outfit sounds like what I used to wear around my house to act out Kids, Incorporated – except I tied my bicycle shorts around my hair so I could “whip my hair” while performing “Tell It to My Heart.”  I didn’t care who was in the living room – that was my stage so watch me perform! Great times!

Finally, I don’t have any ghost stories of my own, but my grandmother told me that she used to always see her father’s ghost in her doorway when she was about to get sick and that my grandfather once saw a headless ghost while walking through the woods to work.  He dropped his lunch pail and ran all the way home. She also told me that her mother saw a ghost in a hallway when she was getting off of an elevator. I used to pray that the ghost of my Aunt Betty would visit me, but that never happened. I was always a bit scared of it actually happening, although she wouldn’t have threatened to kill me like ghost Paul.  But she would’ve definitely pinched the hell out of my cheeks. By the way, these weren’t the adorable prayers of a six-year-old. I was in high school, so it was more like The Craft.  Anyway, I usually believe ghost stories (although not of the ghost hunter variety), and I believe my grandmother.  I’m not so sure about ghosts from the future, but I’ll keep an open mind.

See you in July!

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 Wrong Number (Fear Street, #5)

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Back to Fear Street – The Wrong Number (Fear Street, #5)

And here…we…go!  I’m happy to report that I survived another trip to Fear Street!  Join me, won’t you, as I tell you all about what happens when you call…The Wrong Number.

So, the fifth entry in the Fear Street Series is another simple concept.  Our teen protagonists, Deena Martinson and Jade Smith, decide to make some prank phone calls on Deena’s brand spanking new phone.  Like a real phone. You know like the ones with a cord? So after making some innocent prank phone calls to some kids at their school, Deena’s half-brother Chuck, a bad seed who moves to Shadyside after getting expelled from his other school, gets involved.  And his prank calls are a lot less innocent – he calls in a bomb threat to a bowling alley and threatens another kid, saying that he’s the Phantom of Fear Street. Eventually, the three teens decide to stop with the prank phone calls after the bomb threat gets reported in the newspaper.  However, one night Chuck decides to make a random call to someone on Fear Street. Because he’s new in town, he doesn’t believe the crazy stories about Fear Street and is trying to prove that the people who live on Fear Street are just like everybody else. He call the first name he finds in the phone book with a Fear Street address, but his call is answered by a woman screaming that she needs help because someone is trying to kill her.  They hear a struggle and then a man’s voice telling them that it’s none of their business and that they got the wrong number. Instead of calling the police, they decide to go to the woman’s house. They see her stabbed and bleeding on the floor and get chased out of the house by a masked man. The woman dies, Chuck gets arrested for her death because his fingerprints are on the murder weapon (he picked it up in self-defense when the masked man tried to attack them), and Deena and Jade spend the rest of the book trying to prove his innocence and find the man behind the mask.

I gave The Wrong Number 3/5 stars on Goodreads.  It was a pretty entertaining book as all of the books in the Fear Street Series have been thus far.  Without fail, these books always suck me in and get me hooked. Unlike the others, though, I solved this mystery well before the ending of the book.  It was pretty clear to me who the man in the mask was, so when Deena and Jade have their “A-ha!” moment, I was like, “Oh, I thought we knew that already.”  The girls find out about halfway through the book, so Stine obviously didn’t intend for this to be the big mystery of the book. Once you find out who the man in the mask is, the story then becomes an old-fashioned sleuthing tale with Deena and Jade snooping around for evidence that the man in the mask is the real killer.  So there is no twist ending here. And that’s not a bad thing – all stories don’t need a twist. But it takes the wind out of my sails a bit when I’m a few steps ahead of the protagonists. Also, the way the three teens get involved with the woman’s murder made no sense to me. They didn’t want to call the police when they first called the woman because they would have had to explain how they made the phone call in the first place and they didn’t think the police would believe them.  Well, when they get to the woman’s house and see her on the floor, they then decide to call the police but get interrupted by the masked man. I just didn’t get this. Their reasons for not calling the police in the first place hadn’t changed, and they would have still had to explain how they randomly called the woman and ended up at her house. Maybe seeing her stabbed and bloody on the floor lit a fire under them, but she had said on the phone that someone was trying to kill her. And these kids were more worried about themselves than trying to help her.  So, yeah – definitely some shitty kids. But remembering how I was as a teenager, I probably would’ve done the same thing. It is an incredible and extended period of self-focus and self-preservation.

We again have some recurring characters.  Cory Brooks and Lisa Blume return for their fourth appearances, and Della O’Connor from The Overnight also pops up.  However, like I said in my last blog post, these recurrences continue to just be mere cameos rather than important plot points.  Here, Cory just happened to be at the bowling alley when Chuck called in his fake bomb threat, and he shows up at the end asking Deena if she really helped the police solve a murder.  Lisa is the assistant editor of the high school newspaper and wants a scoop from Deena about Chuck’s arrest and then later about how the three teens helped solve the murder. Della just pops up at the end and says, “Congratulations, Deena!”  So not relevant character recurrences at all. And really – the main common denominator in these stories so far is Fear Street, Cory Brooks, and Lisa Blume. Someone needs to investigate those kids.

Some interesting takeaways.  The Wrong Number was published in 1990, so a teenager getting their own house phone was a pretty big thing.  Case in point – when Jade sees Deena’s new phone, she says, “It’s pretty rad. It looks like the control panel for a jet plane or something.”  Deena even has to explain to Jade what all the buttons are for – programming numbers, putting someone on hold, using the speakerphone. I wish I could remember reading this book as a kid.  Did I read that exchange and think, “Man, can’t wait ‘til I get my own phone!” Or was I all cool kid and like, “Yeah, everyone knows what the buttons are for.” Who knows. But as an adult, I read it and thought that it was such a thing of the past.  That an exchange between two teenagers about the buttons on a brand new phone would probably be considered “retro.” And how I’m at the age when things from my childhood and even my teen years are considered “retro.” An example – a really good book I just read recently called One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus has a part where two teenage characters are watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.  The show is described as their “latest obsession” but also as a “retro vampire show.”  That’s my favorite show of all time, so I was left feeling both extremely happy that the show is still so relevant in pop culture but also reminded that I’m getting old and that my childhood and teenhood loves are now retro.  So, yay? But anyway, I digress.

Another thing that might be considered retro – prank phone calls.  Do kids do these anymore in the age of cellphones where you can see who’s calling?  Growing up we had caller ID and *69, so prank phone calling was definitely not fail-proof.  Maybe prank phone calls are just too simple. There’s so much technology and social media hijinks for kids to get up to nowadays that a good, old-fashioned prank phone call would probably sound pretty lame.  But hey, they were simple and nobody got hurt. That’s right – I was a prank phone caller. But I only remember doing it once. I was going through a phonebook picking out random names, and I called this woman a few times and just hung up.  I was so tiny and smug (probably not that tiny), until she called back and demanded to know who kept calling her. I think she also threatened to report me. I quickly brainstormed like the tiny, smug genius I was and said that I had been watching my little sister and that she was making the calls but that she wouldn’t do it anymore.  Problem solved, and that was the last time I did that. Looks like I was a shitty kid too.

Ok, I’ve gone on long enough and hopefully you stuck around.  If you’re reading this, I guess you did. Thanks! Until next time…

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 – Missing (Fear Street, #4)

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Back to Fear Street – Missing (Fear Street, #4)

Welcome back to Fear Street!  This month’s outing, Missing, was another good one with some interesting flaws.  Again, the premise was simple – our main characters, Cara and Mark Burroughs, are siblings whose parents go missing.  The last time the siblings see their parents is a Tuesday morning at breakfast. They think their parents are busy at work as computer programmers, so they have some friends over Tuesday night but get concerned when their parents don’t show up that night and are still missing the next morning.  The rest of the book deals with them trying to find their parents. Overall, I liked this story and gave it 3/5 on Goodreads, but like I said it has its flaws. So let’s start with the good.

I’m pretty sure this is the first book where the protagonists actually live on Fear Street.  The siblings are new to the area but are quickly made aware of all the weirdness surrounding Fear Street and the woods behind their neighborhood.  Them living on Fear Street doesn’t actually have anything to do with the story or the twist, but I’m sure future books will be different. It’s also the first book in the series that is solely written in first person, with the perspective switching back and forth between Cara and Mark.  I enjoyed this format because it made the story seem more personal – I got to know exactly what Cara and Mark were thinking and felt more a part of their world. I also like when authors tell a story from different perspectives because the reader really gets to be the fly on the wall.

Another thing I liked about this story is that we have some more recurring characters.  Cory and his best-friend-turned-girlfriend Lisa from The New Girl and The Surprise Party make an appearance, as does two of Cory’s friends from the first two books and a character from The Surprise Party.  However, while I like seeing old characters pop up, I’m noticing that not much is being done with them.  They’re kind of just there, making little cameos but not really affecting the story in any way. This is fine, but I’m hoping that there’ll be some old characters popping up that are crucial to the story – maybe a character that seemed harmless before but turns up as a villain or vice versa.

Finally, R.L. Stine stumped me again!  A little ways into the book I was pretty sure I had a good idea what was going on and what the twist would be, but I was totally wrong.  Not even close. It’s time I accept my limitations.

Now to those interesting flaws I mentioned.  Cara describes her brother Mark as a serious no-nonsense type of guy that makes friends easily and that everyone likes.  But my initial reaction to Mark was “Wow, what an asshole!” One example – while the siblings are still questioning where their parents are that first night, Cara gets a bit upset, as could be expected.  And Mark says, “I got Cara calmed down in my usual way. I yelled at her and told her to shut up.” Like, who thinks something like that? A crazy person with anger management problems that’s who. Another example – when the siblings discover that their parents’ car is still in the garage and Cara suggests that they drive to their parents’ job, Mark kicks a rear tire and slams his fist on the trunk because he can’t decide between looking for his missing parents or going to school so he can take a math test and see his girlfriend.  WHAT?!? So now he comes off like a crazy person with anger management issues and a complete idiot. Maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky, but these are our early introductions to Mark, and it just doesn’t paint him in the best light. I’m not exactly sure why he was written this way as we learn pretty quickly that Mark is not a villain and that he’s not involved in his parents’ disappearance. It just struck me as an odd choice. Thankfully, Mark’s character improves as the book goes on, which makes it all the more strange as to why he was depicted in such a negative light in the first place.

Another big flaw that stuck out to me while reading Missing is a character being written in such a way that it was more than obvious that he was an antagonist.  Although to the author’s credit, this character had a twist of their own that I didn’t anticipate.

Now to some minor flaws that were more like personal annoyances and probably make me sound more like Mark than I’d like.  When interacting with a character for the first time, Cara thinks, “I guess he was handsome. But with his white-blond hair, pale skin, and sparkling white teeth, he was practically an albino!”  Geez, if I was an albino kid reading this I’d be pretty offended. Another minor flaw – Mark and Cara visit a coworker of their parents and instead of telling him straight out that their parents are missing, they act like it’s a big secret and instead just ask the coworker if he has their parents’ work number.  Given the severity of the situation, I just didn’t understand why they felt the need to be so secretive. Finally, I’m no expert on sentence structure or grammar, but there was a sentence that I had to read more than once because I was surprised that it made it into the book. While thinking about his girlfriend, Mark says to himself, “I kept hearing her voice again and again, hearing her words again as she told me we couldn’t see each other again.”  I added the word in bold for emphasis.  I know I’m being overly critical and the book was written for teens, but I think using “again” four times in a sentence just sounded really awkward.  I came across a website, 17 Fantastic Examples of Repetition in Literature, which differentiates between unintentional repetition which sounds awkward and sloppy and intentional repetition us a purposeful literary device and gives examples of the latter.  I think the sentence in Missing is an example of unintentional repetition as it indeed sounds pretty awkward and sloppy.

So, I covered the good and the bad and now on to the funny – or at least funny to me.  At the start of the story while Cara and Mark are having their little party, mention is made of a CD player being “really cranked up.”  This probably isn’t very funny to you, but it’s funny to me because I had no idea that in 1990, when this book was written, CD players were mainstream enough to be mentioned in a teen horror novel.  A brief Google search showed that the first CD audio players were marketed in 1982 and sold for a whopping $900 and that portable CD players were introduced in the mid-1980s but didn’t become popular until the 1990s.  This was news to me because I was born in 1982 but don’t think I became aware of CD players until the 1990s. And I didn’t think they would catch on (silly me), so I kept buying tapes until the 11th grade when my first CD purchases were TLC’s FanMail album (with “No Scrubs”) and Eminem’s mainstream debut The Slim Shady LP.  I was a bit late, but hey, better late than never right?  And you’re welcome for that brief (hopefully correct) history of the CD player.

I’m almost done – I swear.  My finale involves cereal and Coke, two things that I didn’t think went together and I’m pretty sure I’m right.  So, when our siblings’ parents are still gone Wednesday morning, the kids look around for something to eat for breakfast and find a box of cornflakes but no milk.  They apparently don’t waste time deciding to just pour a bottle of Coke on the cereal instead, and they conclude that “actually, it didn’t taste that bad.” I find that extremely hard to believe.  Just thinking about it makes me nauseous and transports me back in time to my own cereal horror story. My story didn’t involve cornflakes but Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, and it took place while I was at my dad’s house for the weekend and when electric juicers were super popular.  Like Cara and Mark, I too had cereal but no milk. So my dad, who was really into juicing, thought a good substitute would be juiced apples…over Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. It was the stuff of nightmares – like a Double Dare stunt or an inspiration for Fear Factor. I’m dry heaving just thinking about it.  So yeah, I don’t believe that Coke and cornflakes actually didn’t taste that bad.

Ok, I know I spent most of this blog post talking about the negatives, but after all of my criticisms, I still enjoyed Missing enough to give it 3/5 stars on Goodreads.  The story was good, entertaining, and kept me guessing, so even though the flaws started to add up, I think they were outweighed by the positives.  Until next time…

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 Overnight (Fear Street, #3)

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Back to Fear Street – The Overnight (Fear Street, #3)

It’s that time again – time to go Back to Fear Street!  I must confess that I was a bit nervous about this third trip.  My memories of Fear Street have been pretty rose-colored, and after reading the first two entries in the series and being somewhat underwhelmed, I was concerned that my return to the series would not live up to my own hype.  But I’m happy to report that the The Overnight was a great ride!  The premise is simple – six members of the Outdoors Club at Shadyside High decide to take an overnight trip to Fear Island, a small, uninhabited island in the middle of a lake in Shadyside, Ohio that, much like Fear Street, is shrouded in mystery and has its own creepy rumors, including rumors of ghosts and mutated animals.  However, the club’s trip gets sabotaged when one of the students, our main character Della O’Connor, has a run-in with a stranger.  I enjoyed my third outing more than the first two, so I gave The Overnight 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  It was sitting at 5/5 stars, but there were some things that I wasn’t a fan of, including a deus ex machina-type of situation to explain away a significant plot point, internal thoughts of characters that were at times inconsistent, and an ending that was a bit too convenient.  However, the good far outweighed the bad.

There were a lot of things I liked about The Overnight.  Before even getting to the actual story, I have to point out that I have an original copy from 1989, so there were no unnecessary updates like in The New Girl and a couple of great references that surely made more sense to a reader in 1989 than a reader today.  During a car chase scene, one of the characters does a maneuver and says, “‘That’s an old Kojak trick!’”  Considering that Kojak was a TV series that ran in the 1970s, it makes sense that it was referenced in a 1989 young adult book.  Maybe in the updated version of The Overnight, the character does the cool driving maneuver and says, “That’s an old Vin Diesel trick!”  The other great reference is from a conversation our main character, Della, has with her mother.  Before going on the trip, Della’s mother says, “‘If anything bad happens, you’ll call me right away, right?’”  Della responds, “‘Call you?  On what?  I’ll tell you what – I’ll send up a smoke signal, okay?’”  I loved this interaction!  It’s easy to forget in 2018 how people were once so disconnected, so Della’s response really reminds the reader just how isolated the Outdoors Club will be.

Turning to the story, The Overnight was really easy to get into.  It follows a similar pattern as the first two books – a character does something or gets involved with someone and starts getting threatening messages.  However, what stood out to me with The Overnight was that it’s well-paced.  It covers a small period of time – about two weeks – and unlike The New Girl, the characters in The Overnight don’t make silly decisions to move the story along.  Rather, their decisions seem to make sense for the story and are not merely devices to push the story forward.  I also found the characters in The Overnight to be less stilted than in the previous two books.  They each had different personalities and spoke in a way that seemed natural for teenagers, and I really enjoyed the banter between the characters.  We also get another return character.  We had some return characters in The Surprise Party, and a character briefly mentioned in that book, Suki Thomas, gets a bigger role in The Overnight as a member of the Outdoors Club.  As I mentioned in my last Back to Fear Street post, the recurring characters really give the Fear Street series an insular feel, so I was happy to see that continue in the third outing.

The Overnight also has a genuinely creepy first encounter between Della, our main character, and the stranger in the woods.  It was an initially innocent dialogue but with something sinister underneath.  It was like if you met Max Cady, the villain from Cape Fear (the 1991 version with Robert De Niro as Cady), while out in the park.  The two of you would probably have a perfectly normal conversation, but it would definitely get very weird, very fast.  If you’ve seen the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  If not, you should really stop reading this and check it out – it’s a good movie!  This initial encounter really stuck out to me because I don’t remember such an intense scene being in either of the first two books.  It was a fun (and pleasantly uncomfortable) scene to read!

One last thought – like the first two Fear Street books, The Overnight does a good job with appearing deceptively simple.  I go into them thinking, “Well, this guy is obviously the bad guy,” and I’ve been wrong every time, or at least not 100% right.  The books stumped me as a kid, and they’re still stumping me now.  I honestly wasn’t expecting that.  I assumed since I’m older and my literary choices have grown in “level of difficulty,” I would be able to spot the twists a mile away.  But maybe the Fear Street series actually does hold up after all these years, and maybe R.L. Stine can construct a thoroughly entertaining whodunit that can appeal to all ages.

I still have a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that the kinks were worked out in the first two books and the series will come into its own with The Overnight.  We shall see on my next trip Back to Fear Street!

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.’