Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don’t Stay Up Late, or “Crazy Things Happen to Crazy People”


Time for another new Fear Street!

I am liking the new Fear Street relaunch, in theory. The new books definitely look appropriately scary, anyways, and Don’t Stay Up Late is no different. Girl alone in a darkened room, horrifying shadow pressing in behind her. It’s creepy. Even the title, Don’t Stay Up Late, gives a shivery warning, which makes it feel just a little bit naughty. The tagline: In the dead of night, the evil one awaits. That is effing creepy. So far I’m impressed. Does the substance of this newer, sexier Fear Street live up to its shiny wrapper? Wait and see …

Part One

Oh, lordy yes! Already divided into parts. This used to be how you could tell a super chiller from a regular Fear Street, it was separated into parts. Now, all the books have parts? We will roll with it.

Enter Lisa, our heroine of the novel, who is new to town and self-identifies as a twisted psycho. An interesting way to introduce yourself, she’ll fit right in at Shadyside High. Lisa has been at school for a month and already she has a best friend (Saralynn) and a boyfriend (Nate). Nate and Lisa met when she (accidentally) pushed him down a flight of stairs. It was love at first assault. They also have another friend, Isaac, who is described as chubby and funny, which pretty much ensures his death.

She explains the night of the accident started off like any other. She was out with her friends at the local burger joint as Saralynn tells them that she wants to make a horror movie for a class project. And it just so happens that Nate is a horror film nut, with tons of movie posters and costumes in his attic. They all agree to be in this film. I love it, I can already see how things are going to go south here, crazy boyfriend, film becoming much too realistic.

While they are chatting, Lisa confesses she snuck out of the house to be there as her parents are super overprotective. This is just as her dad comes storming into the diner and forces her to leave, causing her to die of embarrassment. Lisa behaves exactly like any other teen ever, and is a brat, fighting as they drive home. Her dad loses control of the car and they have a horrific accident.

When Lisa wakes up, she’s in a hospital bed. Her father is lying next to her, the steering column jammed through his skull. As she starts screaming again, her mom and nurses appear to calm her down and explain she’s had some head trauma that is causing hallucinations. But she was right about one thing – her dad is not okay.

Well, that is effing horrible. Rarely do Fear Streets start off with such genuine grief and horror. I’m feeling for Lisa. On top of losing her father, she’s going to see horrific visions due to the brain trauma. That’s just peachy.

Part Two

Lisa has started to see a psychiatrist to help deal with her grief and hallucinations. Dr. Shein doesn’t think she’s up for school yet. Just as an aside, I’m impressed that they all seem to be coping with their dead dad/husband quite well, as in their actually trying to deal with their loss. Like, she’s having nightmares of his death after two weeks? No problem, that’s normal. In old Fear Streets, you were supposed to get over death instantaneously. Grief must expire at the funeral, otherwise everyone acts like there is something wrong with you.

Late one night, Lisa hears a dog howling under her window so goes out to find it. The world looks strange at night, and she sees a shadowy creature – standing on two legs, skinny, bald, with red glowing eyes, pig ears and snout and a row of fangs. Lisa figures she must be dreaming but she can’t stop screaming, and the shadow creature grabs her …

It was her mom, who’s frantic that her daughter’s sleepwalking in the middle of the night. Lisa wonders if she’ll be crazy forever.

The next morning she goes to Nate’s and starts screaming because she sees a hideous green creature. It comes towards her and grabs her around the waist – it was Nate and he’s all pleased with his joke, as Lisa is like – yup, I’ll be crazy forever. They are filming Saralynn’s horror film, using one of Nate’s many horror costumes. Hmmm … like maybe with a weird pig mask with red eyes? Lisa gets a funny feeling that Nate and Saralynn are keeping something from her. Like how they are trying to make her even more crazy by torturing her with monster costumes?

Lisa sees her shrink again, who lets her go to school and encourages her to get a job. She knows of a woman looking for a babysitter for her little boy, which would be perfect for Lisa. And they live on – dun dun DUN! – Fear Street.

Part Three

Isaac tries to convince her not to take the job. She’s at his house, waiting for her other friends to arrive, listening to his horrible band rehearse. Isaac is wearing a (pop culture reference!) Vampire Weekend tshirt. Yay! I don’t remember that many pop culture references from the older books – maybe I just didn’t get them. Isaac stresses how much she should not go to Fear Street. He even gives a brief run down of the Fear/Goode curse and that they learn about it in school! Awesome. Lisa is mad that Isaac is such a downer. Then he behaves as all Fear Street men do and leans in to kiss her after trying to scare her. Nate arrives just then and Lisa doesn’t know if he saw the kiss or not, but he doesn’t mention anything. He does say that Brendan Fear is a good guy and Fear Street isn’t so bad. He drives Lisa to meet her new boss, Brenda Hart.

The babysitting job isn’t hard – she’s to pick up eight-year-old Harry from his aunt’s house (where he’s homeschooled) three days a week when Brenda has to work late, and the job pays really well. There are some signs that Harry is different – he’s super self sufficient, there’s no sign of a kid in the house, and he goes to bed very early. Brenda stresses how important it is that he doesn’t stay up late. Lisa thinks Harry is adorable, but Brenda warns Lisa to NEVER let Harry stay up late. She’s very intense about this. Her reason is because he would be cranky the next day. Haha, as a mom, I totally get this.

Lisa gets a call from Summer Lawson, Nate’s ex. Summer warns Lisa that she’s in lots of trouble because of Nate, then hangs up. Alright, Lisa is getting creepy on all sides here.

The next day she goes to pick Harry up, first day on the job, and once again thinks how angelic he is. Lisa hears what sounds like sobbing from Harry’s aunt’s basement, but the aunt says it’s just the cat.

Nate calls her while she’s babysitting to see how it’s going and Lisa tells him about the weird call from Summer. Nate gets cagey when she asks him where he is and he just says “out.” Hmmm, following his cheating heart or getting ready to terrify his girlfriend? Given that it’s Fear Street, I’ll take door number two …

Lisa drifts off on the couch as she does her homework, only to be awoken by tapping upstairs. She sees a figure at the top of the stairs – she chases it to Harry’s room where it jumps out the window. It looks up at her and she sees the same demon face as before.

Harry isn’t in his room and she’s full out panicking, until he makes a noise at the front of the house. He was hiding in the front closet all along. Lisa doesn’t tell Brenda about the demon intruder because she doesn’t want to lose the job. That’s some crazy logic. I’d be like: fuck you and this crazy house, I am out of here.

She does tell her mom, Nate, and her shrink about what she saw, and not one of them believes her. Dr. Shein wants to put her on medication for her hallucinations.

Friday night, she goes to hear Isaac’s band playing. They talk about their fake IDs and their club outfits – the place is open to teens because a teen band is playing, but Nate has to use his ID to get beers. Nate snuggles into Lisa’s neck and it sends a chill down her spine, but in a good way, I guess? Lisa likes that kind of thing. Saralynn cryptically tells her there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nate. To reiterate this, Summer Lawson approaches her and warns her about Nate, but Lisa thinks everyone is just jelly. She’s the only one who’s getting his spine-chilling caresses! Nate comes to kiss her again and she gets another chill when his cold lips find hers – Fear Street is so hot.

Summer calls her again when she’s babysitting, but she doesn’t answer. Later on Lisa hears footsteps in the kitchen and freezes in fear – the demon! She goes to call 911, but her cell phone is dead – of course it is! Half of horror stuff can’t happen when there’s proper communication. She makes a mental note to ask Brenda for an iPhone charger. Then she goes back to being terrified.

Never mind, it was just Nate, creeping around. He wanted to make her feel better about the intruder last time by breaking in himself. Good to know some things haven’t changed in Fear Street and boys still behave like stalkers. Lisa goes to check on Harry, and when she comes back down, Nate is gone.

The only person there is the demon creature! It spit green goo at her and runs out the back door. She hears screaming outside but doesn’t see anyone.

When her babysitting shift is over, Nate comes back to pick her up. He has blood and scratches on his face he can’t explain. As they leave, they see something across the street. It’s Summer Lawson’s body, her stomach ripped open and bite marks all over her.

Part Four

At the police station, Lisa is told Summer was torn apart and eaten by a human, yuck. Lisa tells the police about the creature and is shamed by everyone, because they are all a bunch of assholes. But Lisa is beginning to suspect that Nate is into more than just horror movies.

Once she has Harry again, it is reiterated that he absolutely can’t stay up late. Now they’re telling her he gets seizures if he doesn’t have enough sleep. You would think that’s kind of pertinent information.

When Harry is in bed, Lisa peeks through some family albums on the shelves and finds a photo of a family reunion that includes both Saralynn and Nate. She calls Saralynn with the evidence and Saralynn confesses they are all second cousins, Nate just didn’t want to tell her.

On Friday, she picks up Harry, and this time her friends come over and they study together – I guess it’s okay because they are related to Brenda and Harry? Nate leaves to see if he can find Isaac. Right after that, Lisa sees the creature, but Saralynn calmly tells her nothing is there. She’s totally gaslighting her, right? Lisa runs to check on Harry – he’s gone too.

As they search for him, she hears a fight outside, then screaming and runs out to see the creature running away. It left something behind – Isaac’s mangled body, half-eaten. Yuck again.

At the police station, once again no one believes her and call her crazy. Saralynn explains she didn’t see a creature. But, like, there was still the body, right? A hallucination didn’t do that. Dr. Shein thinks that Lisa should be better by now – ouch. She puts her on medication and threatens her with a mental hospital.

Lisa has had about enough. She doesn’t take the meds and decides that Nate is the killer. Just then Brenda calls, because she needs an overnight sitter. Lisa thinks she can find something at the house. She searches all the photo albums for clues, and finds a letter from Harry’s former babysitter, Joy, explaining she was having nightmares from her time at their house and had to quit.

Lisa goes to see Joy from the address on the letter, only to be told she was at a mental hospital. Damn. Joy looks normal, but freaks out when Lisa mentions Harry. She keeps shrieking “he’s a demon,” while Lisa is like “oh, so you know Nate?” Lisa is not exactly the sharpest tool in a Fear Street mental institute.

The next day with Harry, because Lisa keeps going back despite the pile of disemboweled bodies, he forgets his backpack at his aunt’s house so Lisa goes back to get it. She hears screaming at the aunt’s house, and follows the sound to the basement, where there are three creatures like the one she saw, in cages. So, it’s a family of demon breeders? She’s all like, yay, proof, but doesn’t take an effing picture, because that would be too easy. She gets Harry home, calls the police, then leaves Harry by himself to go see what happens at the aunt’s. But when she arrives, there’s nothing in the basement and everyone is pissed. Lisa realizes she’s about thisclose to rooming with Joy. She lets Harry stay up late and that’s when the shit hits the fan. His eyes glow and roll back in his head as he turns into the demon and tries to eat her.

Brenda comes home and is remarkably calm, is just mad at Lisa for letting Harry stay up late. She can’t let Lisa go, now that she knows about their family and how they raise demons. There is no explanation as to why they are raising demons. Or why they would rely on a bunch of teenage girls to keep these demons in check. Seriously, what is Brenda doing on those nights that’s more important than not letting the demon out? Anyways, Harry is special because he can take human form. Brenda then tries to stab her in the chest. Nate comes in and saves her and Lisa escapes.

Lisa is at Dr. Shein’s, telling her everything. Of course Shein is in on the whole thing and plans to have her institutionalized because she knows too much. Lisa was chosen for the job because she was already hallucinating since her accident.

But, haha, Lisa was on FaceTime the whole time with all of the police officers outside the door, and they watched Shein’s entire confession. FaceTime ftw! Lisa had figured out Shein’s involvement because she had referred her in the beginning. Lisa and her mom get to go home. Nate and Saralynn disappeared in the night, as does anyone else in connection with the demons.

All is well in the world. Lisa gets a job at a daycare and really likes it. Until one day an angelic little boy comes in, looking exactly like Harry. He’s not Harry, but he does want to stay up late …

Okay the final word on this is that it started off with such promise, and ended up being really cheesy. I mean, the whole demon breeding thing doesn’t make any sense. I guess I’m expecting too much, but I think the whole thing would have been much creepier if her friends had actually been trying to drive her crazy while filming it. That would have been genuinely horrifying. And while little kids can be uber creepy, once Harry turned into a demon, all I could imagine was some kind of cheesy old school horror movie, like creature from the black lagoon, especially with the spitting of green goo.

But hey, I’m just happy that there are new Fear Streets out there! I give this book 4 cheesy swamp monsters out of nine. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Party Games or "Get to the Escape Canoe!"



Welcome back Fear Street fans!

As you can see below, L.K. Stine has already posted her recap of Party Games. We figured since the new books will be so few and far between, no one would mind if we both reviewed. I also didn’t want L.K.’s post to influence me, so I haven’t read her recap yet.

First off: The cover is good, in the sense that it looks pretty creepy.  Dilapidated stairs full of old balloons? Perfect. Although I do miss the 90's covers, with the illustrations of teenagers and their amazing 90's fashion. Don’t worry though, there is a lot of discussion about 2014 fashion in Party Games. R.L. really liked to dropping fashion knowledge like “skinny jeans” and “tangerine jackets”. Tagline: “Are you dying to party?” Yes! It makes sense. I love it. So many fond memories of Fear Street are flooding back.

And there’s a lot of familiar Fear Street trends in this book too. Such as our main character: Rachel. Rachel is poor, hard-working, and pretty (but not too pretty). She goes to school, then works for hours every day after school at a local restaurant, Lefty’s, then goes home to study until she passes out.  Her best friend is a sort-of pudgy red-haired girl named Amy. Aren't they all? Seriously, there are so many red-heads in Shadyside.

Part One

The book opens with Rachel working at Lefty’s and serving some kids from her school, including her crush, Brendan FEAR. He’s sitting with Kerry, Patti and Eric (warning! There are so many characters in this book. Feel free to ignore their names).  Turns out they're planning Brendan’s upcoming birthday party.  And even though Rachel and Brendan have barely ever talked, he invites her to his party. An all-night party at his cabin on Fear Island. She’s super jazzed.  (Note about Brendan. He is always wearing black jeans, and video game t-shirts. …is that cool now?)

“DON’T GO.” This is Amy, town buzzkill, telling her best friend not to go to a party with her crush. Yeah right, Amy.

Amy and Rachel walk home after work, and when Rachel gets home, she sees that her front door is wide open. After a search of the house turns up nothing, they decide it must be that pesky wind. That is, until Rachel finds a dead rat in her bed! She immediately blames it on her ex-boyfriend, Mac. Well, she calls him her ex-boyfriend, then mentions that she just stopped responding to his calls or texts and stopped seeing him. So. Not saying he’s a nice guy, especially since Rachel thinks he’s the type of person to stuff a dead rat in a bed, but… did she even dump him? Cold, Rachel, cold.

Rachel hilariously monologues to herself: “Mac, you can frighten me. But you can’t ruin my life. I’m going to Brendan Fear’s birthday party. It’s going to be the greatest all-night party ever.” Remember when parties were the biggest deal in your life? Like even bigger than discovering someone broke into your house and left a dead rat in your bed? Teens. Don’t ever change!

Rachel goes to meet Amy at a basketball game and runs into Eric from the night before. Eric is the class clown – always making jokes and hitting on girls, but no one takes him too seriously and loves him for it. Amy calls and says her parents grounded her so Rachel leaves to go visit her. 

I’d like to stop here and discuss something weird that I noticed. Rachel talks and thinks SO much about people and situations that didn't have to do with the plot of the book. Case in point: she spends so long explaining Amy’s weird home life and relationships with her parents, and then Amy isn't in the book!  Other ones I noticed: Rachel talks about her sister Beth constantly, so much so, that I thought maybe Beth was dead, and Rachel was crazy (I think that was a Fear Street book at one point); Rachel also talk about Eric all the time. I get it. He’s a lovable doof.  My only thought is that maybe this series is connected, similar to Fear Street Seniors. If R.L. is laying the groundwork for the next few books, I’ll be really impressed. If not, well, I won’t be too surprised.

Anyway, Rachel leaves the game and is accosted by Mac. Mac Attack! is what I called it in my head.  Mac is described as a young Brad Pitt with blonde hair, blue eyes and skinny jeans. He also tells her not to go, saying he “knows what's being planned”. Rachel finally wrenches herself away, with Mac falling over in the process. When she looks back, he’s sitting up and shaking his fist at her. Classic!

Part one ends with Rachel having a scary dream. I hate dream sequences. As a friend once told me, “why would I care about a dream? It’s a weird story that didn’t happen. No thanks.” (This was directly after I told him about a dream I had).  It was about a rat or whatever. I skimmed.

Part Two

There is a huge catamaran to take the kids over to the island on the day of the party. They even have a boat captain, Randy. There are a lot of introductions, since there are so many GD characters in this story! Here are the names: Kerry, Patti and Eric are there again. New characters are April, Delia, Geena, Spider (Robby) and Brendan’s two cousins that don’t know anyone. I barely kept track of them.

As soon as they disembark at the island dock, Randy the boat captain has an accident. He slips and hits his head and then falls into the water. And doesn't resurface. AND NO ONE DOES ANYTHING. There are two Fear employees there, Miguel and Antonio, (servants I guess?) and one of them makes a half-hearted attempt to rescue Randy, while the other one leads the way to the cabin. What?It just seemed too weird that all the teenagers were like, “yeah… I’m sure this employee can mount a rescue attempt by themselves”. So bothersome.

They have to hike a bit to get to the cabin, which is actually a giant, creepy mansion. As they are putting their stuff away, April suddenly mentions that she found a dead squirrel in her bed. Wha? Geena found a dead raccoon! The girls are way too nonchalant about these dead animals. They decide it was someone who wanted to scare them away from the party. Why aren't they more worried that they know someone that would do that!? Also, Rachel is wearing a tangerine jacket. That will be relevant.

They go downstairs to the ballroom, which looks like the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast. Brendan is there, and tells them that Randy the boat captain is fine, and it’s time to get trashed! They have a giant feast, as well as a full service bar, since it’s his 18th birthday.  In my notes, I wrote down a quote from Brendan: “Are you into torture?” Rachel WAS into it. And I remember zero other context, so I’m going to leave it at that.  Rachel just thinks it’s the best day ever!

Until she goes to the bathroom and hears someone that sounds suspiciously like Randy screaming for help. She goes to find him, but Antonio and Miguel, el creepo workers, block her path and tell her everything is fine. Rachel is really freaked out. Remember when she thought it was the best day of her life a few minutes ago? She also keeps thinking about Eric and how he’s both funny and annoying. This strain of thought literally goes nowhere.

She joins back up with the group and they open up the envelopes they were given when they arrived. It contains a scavenger hunt list! See, Brendan wants to spend time playing retro games, so he had his employees (servants?) hide a bunch of weirdo crap around the house and now they’ll find it! April pipes up and asks if dead squirrel is on the list. She accuses Brendan of doing it. Brendan claims innocent, then launches into a story about his great aunt Victoria, who lived out on the island by herself and was really into taxidermy. Apparently she ended up stuffing herself! Right.

Geena still thinks Brendan did it to put them “in the scary mood”. No one else pipes up, so we don’t know if they: 1) believe the taxidermy ghost did it, 2) Brendan did it (crazy-pants), or 3) someone did it to warn them. And yet, they move on, like all those possibilities are totally normal. WTF.

Much to Rachel’s excitement, her and Brendan are partnered for the scavenger hunt. He takes her to the top floor of the mansion in an elevator! (side note, I knew a guy who had an elevator in his cabin. Rich people are weird.) The elevator gets stuck, causing Rachel and every single claustrophobe reading this book to panic. But, JUST KIDDING, Brendan did it as a joke so he could kiss Rachel. She swoons, although I'm not sure if it’s due to romance or relief.

As they’re exploring the upstairs, Rachel and Brendan get separated and Rachel finds a bat nest. Gross. She runs around trying to find Brendan and finds him…hung from the ceiling. Dun dun dunnnnn!

Nope! It’s just another R.L. trick. It was a mannequin, but it’s dressed like Brendan, and has a little note attached: “ANYONE FOR A GAME OF HANGMAN?” They are all “hmm that’s odd” when they hear screams coming from another part of the house.  All the other kids are gathering in another room, and Patti is at the centre. Dead. For real this time! We see no cause of death other than her limbs are all twisted and she’s covered in blood. Her note reads “Twister, anyone?”  Brendan pronounces her dead.

Part Three

The next events happen pretty quickly, and since this post is getting crazy long, I’ll skim a bit.  They realize that there is a psycho murderer, but Brendan points out that they have no cell reception, or phones to call for help. And he says they can’t leave the island since their boat captain is incapacitated with a concussion from his fall. I guess… although I would rather try to figure out how to sail (drive? ride?) a catamaran on a lake then be stuck on an island with a murderer. Just me, maybe.

Then the lights go out. They try to find the chest of flashlights, but they are all gone. The teens start panicking, and Brendan is mysteriously quiet when they demand to know if Randy is really alive. The lights come back on so they check the security camera footage. They see two masked men with shotguns arrive at the house a few hours previously. Uh, shit.  They decide that enough is enough and go down to the docks to take their chances with the boat. Except! All the Fear mansion workers are on the boat and sailing away! Wait, were they going to leave the workers there while they escaped? Justice.

They realize another member of their party is missing – Kerry, who was Patti’s boyfriend. They start looking for him in the construction zone of some renovations.  Rachel spots him under a bunch of concrete slabs. His note says “I was never any good at Jenga”. Damn! Brendan also pronounces Kerry dead, which seems a bit unnecessary, since they are all staring at his body under a bunch of concrete slabs.

Rachel is kinda freaking out, but instead of staying with the group, she decides to go into the house by herself to get a drink of water. The house where two of her friends were just murdered by two intruders. She walks past a room where she sees a light on…she investigates closer…and basically falls into the room. Smooth, Rachel.

And she’s walked in on an old-timey ghost! Man, R.L. has just PACKED this book. The table in the room is covered with animals and animal parts. The ghost is a woman, all grey and spooky. But worst of all, the woman is sewing her skin together. Sick. This ghost is clearly Great Aunt Victoria of crazy taxidermy fame. Rachel screams and goes to find the group. She takes them back to the room of animal parts, but nothing is there. Ooooooh damn! Is Rachel cracking? (Also, are we supposed to think the ghost is killing people? Or the two intruders? Too much is going on here).

Outside the room, Rachel sees a blur run past at the end of the hall. But she recognizes the hair of the blur – It’s Mac! Are we in for another Mac Attack? She follows Mac, but doesn't catch up. It’s then that she realizes someone is rushing towards her in a ski mask!

Nope. It’s just Brendan and the shadows made his face seem ski-mask-y. They hear more screams and run to find their friends around Eric’s body. His feet are jammed at the top of a ladder and his face is all purple near the floor. They think for a second he might be alive because his hand twitches but no, Brendan examines him and declares him dead too. His note reads: “Chutes and Ladders isn't always a baby game”.

As Rachel is emo-ing about how she’ll never hear another one of Eric’s hilarious jokes again (seriously, she talked about him all the time), she’s grabbed from behind. By Mac! Mac Attack! But no, he’s not attacking her. He tells her he followed them here in a canoe and they can escape now. Rachel won’t go with him though. Probably since he won’t explain what he’s doing there, what’s going on, and also because he followed her in a canoe. Creep. He sees something behind Rachel that spooks him and runs off into the darkness of the mansion. SO WEIRD.

Brendan takes the surviving members of the party to the theatre to regroup.  Brendan says a weird little speech about this being the “final curtain” and pulls back the curtain to reveal their three friends bodies heaped on the stage. (What kind of house has a stage?) Gasp! So Brendan was the killer all along?

NOPE! They aren't dead. Patti, Kerry and Eric rise up all zombie like, then basically shout surprise. Yup, it was all a creepy joke. What. The. Fuck.

Everything that happened that night has been a joke. The dead animals in the girls beds, Randy falling, the servants leaving, the horrific deaths, the bats… everything. Randy shows up, along with a cousin of Brendan’s who’s dressed like the ghost of Great Aunt Victoria. Seriously, Brendan planned everything to scare the shit out of his friends. Rachel can’t decide if he’s a creative genius or dangerous sicko. UM, I CAN ANSWER THAT FOR YOU, RACHEL.

Just then, two masked men burst through the door. They start yelling at everyone and Brendan tells them to knock it off. But they just punch Brendan. Brendan clues in that these are not the two men he hired to scare everyone (or maybe they are, and are just taking advantage of this remote location?). The masked men hustle everyone besides Brendan and Rachel into the basement and declare this party a good old-fashioned kidnapping!

Part Four

How is this book still going? The intruders, who are referred  to as “Blue Eyes” and “the pudgy one” discuss how Brendan’s dad, Oliver Fear fired Blue Eyes and this kidnapping is his revenge and money-making scheme. Things are going swimmingly for the kidnappers until… MAC ATTACK! Mac bursts in and demands the kidnappers let Brendan and Rachel go. Not sure why they would listen to him… Anyway, in the ensuing struggle, one of the rifles go off, and Mac is shot. Brendan and Rachel heartlessly use this distraction to escape! Using the loud, old elevator to bring them to the top of the house! WTF. No part of that is a good plan.  Are there no stairs in this house? Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever reading about stairs, only this terribly loud elevator. 

Unsurprisingly, as soon as they reach the top, the elevator is called back down to the patiently waiting kidnappers.

So they climb a tree to get down to the ground floor. WHY didn't they just run out of the house in the first place! So frustrating. They run through the woods, get separated and lost, then Rachel falls into a pit of BONES (which by the way, is never explained). She has to make a pile of human bones so she can climb out of this pit of digustingness. Rachel finally makes her way to the dock, but can’t find Mac’s canoe. She hears someone coming through the woods, and instead of running back into the woods at a different spot, Rachel chooses to wade into the water and hide underneath the dock. OMG Rachel, you deserve to die basically. How far away could the trees have been, that this is a better plan?

The person ends up being Mac, who can clearly see her since he immediately knows she’s there. So dumb. Mac wasn't actually shot but pretended so Rachel could escape. Is creepy canoe Mac the real hero of this book? He tells her to follow him to where he hid his escape canoe, and Rachel is relieved her nightmare will be over soon (Fuck Brendan, I guess?).

NOPE! Mac returns her to the kidnappers, who caught Brendan. Turns out, Blue Eyes is Mac’s father and that’s why he looked kinda familiar to Rachel. Mac tells her he had to bring her back because she “recognized his father”. Too bad Mac didn't realize that Rachel is much too dumb to recognize anyone, and he brought her back for no reason.  Rachel and Brendan escape again, although I can’t remember how. Rachel runs and finds the canoe, but old Blue Eyes catches up with her again and shoots the canoe full of holes to sink it. He marches her back to the mansion at gunpoint. During this walk, Rachel has a disturbing fantasy that she kills him, but I won’t bore you with the details since it’s another dream sequences. No thanks!

Once back at the house, the pudgy kidnapper presses Blue Eyes to kill Brendan and Rachel now that they know their identities. Blue Eyes is resistant so Pudgy runs at Rachel with a knife – and cuts off her ponytail! Ack, there are way too many fake-outs in this book.

Suddenly! The police burst in! They seem kinda weirded out by the situation, but Brendan yells that the three men are kidnappers and need to be handcuffed. The police awkwardly put Blue Eyes, Pudgy and Mac in to handcuffs. Rachel (and I) are super confused. Brendan just kind of laughs and tells her those were two actors that he hired for the night to scare his friends.  He guesses they must have been super late. And then tells her their guns are fake! Seems like a dangerous gamble to make the actors take, Brendan.  Well, he’s clearly insane and doesn't give a fuck about anyone, so that seems par for the course.  Rachel and Brendan make out, obviously. Shouldn't they be letting their friends of the basement now?

We cut to Rachel back at work at Lefty’s and probably suffering from some pretty severe PTSD. R.L. actually kinda mentions that she’s messed up over it. Her sister, Beth, comes in to visit her and she’s so excited. They share one scene together, and that’s it. Rachel spent so much time talking about Beth throughout this book, and all they do is hug in Lefty’s. I sincerely hope Beth is in another Fear Street book, otherwise, half of Rachel’s inner thoughts were for no reason.

One last part. Yes, this book is STILL NOT OVER.  Rachel had been wearing a super cool tangerine jacket at the party, but had taken it off at some point during the night. She makes Brendan take her back to that house of NIGHTMARES for this stupid jacket. Girl, buy yourself something else and call it a day. She goes searching through the house by herself. And what does she find? A g-g-g-ghost!!

Yes, she walks in on Great Aunt Victoria Fear again; only this time, it’s apparently a real ghost. She is also sewing her skin together really creepily (probably the only way you can sew yourself together) and surrounded by dead animal parts.  And she’s wearing the tangerine jacket! Rachel runs to get Brendan but when they come back, the animals and the ghost are gone. But her tangerine jacket is left in ball on the floor. Rachel tries to tell Brendan what she say and he goes “You don’t believe those crazy stories – do you?” FIN.

I don’t know Brendan, seems like you may have totally fucked Rachel up, so maybe don’t be so judgemental. A few final unanswered questions. Is Rachel smart enough to BURN that jacket as soon as she gets home? Probably not. Why would she even take it? Also: Where did Brendan and his friends get the dead animals that they stuffed in Rachel’s bed? Did they…kill the animals themselves? Or go look for some? WTF. What happened with the police ACTORS and the kidnappers? Did the actors just take them back to Shadyside in their non-police boat? And drive them to a police station?

So many questions. Such a long book! I don’t think Fear Streets ever need to be 275 pages. I can’t decide if I loved this book, hated this book, or hated it so much I loved it. I mean the plot was crazy and way too long and unnecessarily complicated. But it did fill me with so much happiness to read a new Fear Street. And I can’t wait for the next one. Hopefully we get a release date soon for the next one!

Party Games gets 67 newly-haunted tangerine jackets out of 111.  Hope you enjoyed this crazy long post!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Party Games, or “Murder Isn’t a Game, Right?”


Hello all Fear Street lurvers, and Happy Halloween! And what a treat we have this Halloween, what with R. L.'s NEW Fear Street book. Y'all can probably imagine the joy this book has brought to us at Shadyside headquarters. R. L., you are amazing. Please don't ever stop again, we love every last cheesy, terrifying word.


Let’s get right into it. That’s what you’re here for, right? A recap on the first new Fear Street book since … I should know this.  Luckily Wikipedia does all the work for me and he hasn’t published a Fear Street since 2005. The good news? Guys, this book is good. It will not disappoint. I felt like it had everything I can hope for in a Fear Street book, and then some.
The bad news? There isn’t any. Everything is wonderful.

I’m going to put a little spoiler alert up here, which I normally don’t do because we assume everyone already read the Fear Streets when they were twelve. But this, Party Games, this is new. Maybe some of you are like A. M. and I and pre-ordered your copy, but maybe you didn’t and haven’t actually read this yet. But there are spoilers here – this is a recap, not a review. Also, sorry for the length. I got excited.

Part One

Party Games takes place in the present. There’s all kinds of awesome things you find in 2014, like Facebook, and texting, and Netflix. Obviously every teen has a cell phone, so I can’t wait to find all the creative ways to get around this problem – most things that happen in horror books or movies could have been easily prevented by some solid communications, so we’ll see how this plays out. I’d actually love to see R. L. use technology as part of the horror sometime – idk, like ghost cyber bullying? That would be cool.

I really felt like this book was setting up Shadyside as it is today. There was a lot of time spent introducing people, some who played zero part in the plot whatsoever. I’m hoping that this is the “cast” of characters who’s going to be in each of the novels – I loved it when a character you already knew from an older book turned up in a new one, even if it’s just a cameo. It doesn’t have to be Seniors styles, but I like to keep up with who’s going out with who.

There is a Fear at Shadyside High – I think that might be the biggest deal of all here. Other than in the Seniors books, I don’t think a Fear had ever gone to Shadyside, and I like it. It means that the creepy Fear family is going to have a much more active role in the hauntings of the town.

Our fearless main character of this inaugural book is Rachel. She is poor, but newly poor, and pretty. In the world of Shadyside, being poor and ugly is usually a death sentence, but I think things balance out and she’ll be okay. Her father used to be a director of an investment company, but now is a shift manager at Walmart. I’m assuming due to the recession? I like the realistic tone here. Rachel’s mom is recovering from a bad bout of Lyme disease, which seems like a really random disease to have.

So Rachel is picking up the slack by working at the popular burger joint all the kids hang out at, Lefty’s. She works hard and is often sweaty and covered in grease, things that can be a real drag when you’re trying to make it in high school.

She is in love with Brendan Fear, who is smart, handsome and popular. I also like that the Fear kid isn’t some scary goth – that fits in way too much with what we’d expect. Brendan is super into video games and there are rumours he’s already working to program his own games.

His father is Oliver Fear, an investment banker and billionaire, and it looks like he runs the town with money and power. He built an enormous stone mansion on Fear Street for all the towns people to be in awe of.

Rachel is working a busy shift when Brendan enters the burger joint, along with some of the who’s who in Shadyside High: Kerry, a jock, and his girlfriend Patti, a beautiful girl who looks like a doll, who Rachel knows from childhood. Rounding out their little group is Eric, a joker, who’s always flirting with Rachel.

As he leaves, Brendan invites Rachel to his 18th birthday party, an all-night thing at his family’s estate on Fear Island.

In walks Amy, Rachel’s best friend, who warns Rachel not to go to the party, because she’s heard wild things happen there. Rachel’s pretty much like, are you kidding, the man of my dreams wants to do wild things, I’m there. Amy is introduced: chubby and redheaded, all bad signs when it comes to survival. But she doesn’t really play a significant part in the book at all, so I’m hoping she’s being introduced for later.

It comes out that Rachel has a boyfriend – sort of. Mac’s the good looking bad boy who transferred to Shadyside High last year for fighting issues. She’s been trying to ditch Mac for awhile, which means she changed her FB profile from “In a relationship” to “It’s complicated.” A sure sign things are over! But she’s not being a bitch, actually she’s scared of him because he has a bad temper and can be controlling and possessive, she’s not sure he won’t get violent with her. Oh yes, the Fear Street abusive relationship. It did not take long for that to get in there. However, I feel that R. L. is much more sensitive about the subject matter now. As opposed to making Rachel horny, Mac’s possessiveness makes her wonder if he’s a psycho. Literally, one of the chapters is charmingly called “Is Mac A Psycho?” It made me laugh. But she does find a dead rat in her bed and suspects that Mac put in there, so clearly she needs to be away from this boy.

Rachel goes to a high school basketball game, where she flirts with Eric, then is accosted by Mac outside, who warns her not to go to Brendan’s party. She breaks up with him unequivocably, which is pretty awesome. Props to her for using her words.

Part Two

All the invitees to the party hop aboard a catamaran, which will take them to Fear Island. She sits with Patti, Kerry and Eric. There are some other kids aboard, some from her high school, but she’s surprised at what a small crowd it is and wonders why Brendan invited her. Mac hides in the bushes and watches them leave, like a great big stalker.

They sail by the Fear House that’s been built on the island, basically a three-storey mansion of evil. I love it when people refer to their “little cottage by the lake” when they know it’s eighteen times the size of your house. They have to hike through the woods to get to the house from the lake, and are led by guides Antonio and Miguel.

The pilot of the boat, Randy (aside: isn’t it the captain of the boat? Or is that just me, I know nothing about boats), slips off the dock and falls into the lake, hitting his head on the way in. Randy doesn’t come up, only a big pool of blood. The two guides say they’ll take care of it and the kids are hustled along the path towards the house. Already there’s an ominous atmosphere of tension and dread. Good. Oh, and conveeeeniently, there’s no cell reception on Fear Island. Of course there isn’t.

The staff does a poor job of pretending all is well, looking shifty and harassed, while they show the kids to their rooms where they can freshen up. Rachel shares with two other girls, April and Geena. As they talk, the discover that each of them found roadkill in their beds – wonder if it’s a warning.

They meet with everyone in the ballroom, lit entirely by candles. If they knew the Fear’s history, they probably wouldn’t have been so keen to light everything by fire!

Brendan is at the centre of the room, welcoming them. He tells them Randy is fine and they need to start partying. There’s beer – he mentions 18 is legal in their state, is that true? I thought all of the states was a 21 age minimum (ridiculous, by the way). He has two cousins there, Kenny and Morton. Also, there is way more food there than people, which makes Rachel wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, Brendan says he wants to party like his ancestors. This should be a flashing red light. They didn’t party in a safe way at all. But apparently he just means old-fashioned games.
Rachel gets a beer (ooh, naughty) and Brendan comes over to talk with her. Rachel’s a bit of a flirt, and she pours it on for Brendan, who eats it up. Awww, young love. She’s flying pretty high, but excuses herself to the bathroom. There, she hears someone screaming for help, a young man that sounds an awful lot like Randy. When she tries to find him, her way is politely but firmly blocked my two servants, who shoo her away.

When she returns, the games have begun. They’ll play a scavenger hunt, looking for a list of creepy items hidden throughout the mansion. Brendan warns the attic is haunted. Delia, one of the girls, wants to go to the attic with Eric – Delia might be related to Suki, who undoubtedly would have a near-adult child by now. I hope Delia is the new Suki of Fear Street!

They are assigned partners, and Rachel is matched up with Brendan – he had the servants hide everything, so he could still play.

Before they leave, some of the girls accuse Brendan of the roadkill in bed, to scare them. Brendan goes white and shares one of his family’s secret ghost stories: his great-aunt Victoria had one love in life, taxidermy. She would stuff everything. She used to hide dead animals in unwanted guests’ beds, which is just so charming. She eventually stuffed herself, right there in the house.

Another Fear family story is passed around: about a hundred years ago, the Fear family hunted down all of their servants on this very island, for sport, and left their bodies in a hidden mass grave.

No need to worry about that, though. Brendan and Rachel set out, and he takes her to a hidden elevator. Their advantage falls short when it breaks down and everything goes dark. Brendan uses this time to make out with Rachel – he had actually turned off the elevator himself. Rachel is loving this party.

The couple get separated on the third floor, where Rachel is attacked by bats. She finally finds Brendan … hanging from the rafters. Underneath his body is a note:
ANYONE FOR A GAME OF HANGMAN?

Brendan comes running at Rachel’s scream. The hanged body is a mannequin, dressed in Brendan’s clothes. They think it’s a sick joke, until they hear another scream.

They find everyone freaking out in a bedroom, standing over Patti’s broken body, her limbs all contorted. Her note says:
TWISTER, ANYONE?

Only it’s not a joke, Patti is really dead.

Part Three

Everyone wants to get the hell off the island and call the police. As they are all freaking out, the lights go out, leading to more freaking out. Brendan leads them to a cabinet where the flashlights are kept, but they’ve disappeared. The lights come back on and they begin to suspect they’re being toyed with.
Brendan remembers there’s a security camera. They go check it out and see two masked men enter with hunting rifles a few hours earlier.

Time to get out of there. They make a run for the boat, only to see the catamaran leaving the dock, full of all the servants. They are left behind, alone with the hunters who seem keen on killing them off one by one. A crash is heard from behind the house.

A storm has blown in and no one can concentrate in the wind and rain. Rachel suggests they go back to the house. They can be hunted anywhere, but at least they’ll have shelter there. I’m not sure if I’m down with the logic, but okay. They go back, and discover Kerry is missing. They search around the back of the house, where there’s a construction area where work is being done on the house. Underneath a slab of concrete that’s been pushed over, is Kerry’s crushed lifeless body.
I WAS NEVER ANY GOOD AT JENGA

Everyone agrees the whole thing is sick (good consensus). Brendan tries to comfort Rachel, but she runs out to get some air. She stumbles into the library and discovers she’s not alone. A woman is there, all grey, surrounded by mist and animal parts. She’s sewing up her own side – it’s Victoria Fear!
Rachel freaks, gets everyone to come back to the library, which they find empty. Rachel looks completely insane. She runs away again, embarrassed and scared. Brendan finds her, kisses her and tells her no one will hurt her.

More screaming. Eric has been found strangled, dangling off a ladder.
CHUTES AND LADDERS ISN’T ALWAYS A BABY GAME

Rachel backs away, is grabbed from behind. It’s Mac, telling her she has to go with him, but Brendan interrupts and Mac flees.

Brendan gathers everyone in a theatre room to calm down. He pulls the curtains up to show the pile of their friends’ bodies. And the bodies start to move. Everyone screams, then gets angry/relieved as they realized it was all an elaborate plank. Brendan is killing himself laughing. He planned everything; calls the game Total Panic. A girl in heavy grey makeup comes in – the ghost of Victoria Fear was actually his cousin Karen. Rachel wonders if Brendan pretended liking her as well.

The two men in masks and rifles come in. Brendan tells them they’re late, but when they don’t respond he realizes something is wrong – they’re not the hired actors.

Part Four

One of the men looks familiar to Rachel. They start to rough up the kids, rounding them up and locking them in the basement, except for Brendan and Rachel. One of the guys has been laid off by Oliver Fear and wants to hold his kid for ransom.

They go to tie up Rachel and Brendan, but Mac busts in and tells them to give it up. Mac is shot. In the chaos, Rachel and Brendan make a run for it, heading to the elevator, then shimmying out a window down a tree to freedom. They run for Mac’s canoe at the docks but lose each other in the woods. Rachel hears a gunshot and hears the men saying they got the boy.

She runs blindly and falls into a pit of human bones. Instead of freaking out, she decides she’s going to survive. She piles up the bones and uses them to climb out of the pit. I like how strong and resourceful Rachel is, I’m a fan of this character. She makes a break for the lake, but doesn’t find the canoe. Hearing the men coming up behind her, she hides in the lake under the dock. The men don’t find her, but she hears a familiar voice calling her – Mac! He faked being shot to give them a chance to escape. He says he’ll take her to the canoe.

Only to lead her back to the men, who have Brendan alive but tied up. One of the men is Mac’s father! At first Mac wanted to protect Rachel, but now apparently he wants to protect his father. There’s a lot of confusion and the other man wants to kill Rachel, they get into a fight and in the mix, Rachel’s ponytail is cut off, which, as it turns out, is the only fatality in the book.

Just then, two cops show up, guns pointed. The armed men give up pretty quickly and are handcuffed. Brendan is pretty bossy with the cops, ordering them around. Once they’ve all hussled away and they are safe, Brendan turns to Rachel, smiling. He confesses those weren’t real cops, but more actors he hired, as scared as anyone there, but it worked to convince the inept kidnappers.

He’s laughing and Rachel kisses him, telling him, accurately, that he’s crazy.

A week later, Rachel is still upset by the events but is trying to get back into her life. She’s starting to see Brendan, and is really happy when her older sister Beth comes home from college to spend time with her.

At the end of the book, Brendan takes Rachel back to the Fear House to get her jacket she left behind. She walks into the library to see the real Victoria Fear wearing her jacket, skull face grinning at her as she sews up  animals.

Brendan laughs at her for believing in the ghost stories …

This book was such a great set up for the series. Lots of interesting characters (I did not go into all of them here, I hope I’ll get a chance to in later books). This used so many themes from the original Fear Streets: maybe paranormal stuff going around, a lot of poverty-induced anger, not to mention bringing the Fear family right into the mix here. I give Party Games 10 out of 10 hacked off ponytails. I am really excited to see what R. L. has for us next. Great to have you back!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Vampire Club or "How Crazy Can R.L. get in 20 pages?"

I can't even tell you the mix of emotions I had reading an R.L. book for the first time in years. There was joy, nostalgia and a healthy dose of wtf-am-i-reading. Also, since I had never read "The Vampire Club" before, there wasn't too much nostalgia. So my reaction was pretty heavy on the WTF. 

"The Vampire Club" is a short story that was attached to the two Goodnight Kiss books and made into the compilation "Temptation". I can't for the life of me find out whether "The Vampire Club" was ever published before being attached to "Temptation" in 2012. So let's just say it may have been written in 2012, or maybe at some other point. Fact checking is not my forte. 

Since "The Vampire Club" didn't have its own tagline (or interesting cover), I checked out the tagline for the whole compilation. Sometimes evil is sealed with a kiss. ...Hmmm! That one almost made sense. Like evil can seduce you? I guess that's what the Goodnight Kiss books were about, so good on R.L. (or whoever actually makes up the taglines. It can't possibly be him).

The first line of "The Vampire Club" was seriously the best: "Starting at a new school can be a real pain in the neck". SEE WHAT HE DID THERE?! God, I've missed his writing. 

Anyhow, Pete is new to Forest Grove, after moving there from Shadyside just before his senior year started. The setting doesn't really make sense to me, since Pete could have easily just moved TO Shadyside, and nothing in the story would have changed. Whatever. Forest Grove sounds suspiciously like the Washington town that the Twilight series was set in, and yes, I am proud that I don't remember that name. (Forks. Dammit). Everything in Forest Groves is dark, shady, and covered in creepy ivy. Pete even remarks that is looks just like the Fear Street Woods! (Why are we in Forest Groves then?).        

Pete is trying to get through his first day at his new school, but is feeling pretty homesick. Once the home bell rings at 3pm, everyone starts running through the halls like they are trying to get to another class. Pete finally asks a girl from his home room about this fuckery. Nan (yes that's her name) answers that everyone is required to join a club after school that meets every day. Two things here: Pete thinks Nan is super hot. Like "On a scale from 1-10, she's definitely 150!" kind of hot (Pete is a total cock waffle, clearly), Second thing: Mandatory clubs? That's just another class, right? Pete doesn't think this is weird at all, and asks if there is a carpentry club since that's his hobby. Let's revisit that. As a 16 year old boy, his hobby is...carpentry. Pete definitely has to be a vampire, right? Because no one gets into carpentry as a hobby until they are at least 80.

Nan tells him she has a more exciting club for him to join. Since Pete is now in love with her after their 3-minute discussion, he follows her into the woods where he meets her boyfriend Lee and the rest of their club. They are called The Vampire Club.  It takes a while for Pete to suss out whether these weirdos think they are vampires but it turns out they are vampire hunters! Amazing. I think I was in a ghostbusting club at age 9, so I feel a connection to these people. Lee is all "we destroy vampires! They hunt in these woods but go to school with us in the daytime!". Pete is "unsure" whether or not they are fucking with him.  And honestly, since this is an R.L. novel, I have no idea either. Lee tells Pete that to be initiated into the club he has to kill a vampire. Pete is all "cool" and makes plans with them to meet up the next night for some huntin'. And at no point does he think it's weird that there are mandatory after-school clubs.

The next night, they all gather in the Forest Grove woods again, and walk in complete darkness for a little while. Finally, Lee sees something. A boy from their gym class, Jason, has just entered a clearing in the woods, dragging a dog along with him. As Pete watches, Jason lowers his head to the dogs neck! Lee is all gleeful: "He's drinking its blood!", and Pete turns away to be sick. Everyone laughs at Pete, and he runs home. He can't believe he was wimped out and blew his chance to be in the club with Nan! Hmm. Pete...

Pete decides that he's not going to chicken out. So he carefully files a log into a stake all night long. OMG what? Then just before daybreak (because vampires must return home to sleep during the day, Pete thinks. Clearly forgetting Jason is a boy from his gym class. In daylight.), he sneaks into Jason's house and slips into his bedroom. Pete thinks to himself that he can do it, he can kill the mighty vampire Jason, FOR NAN. And with that, he shoves the stake into Jason's heart and runs home. 

As soon as he gets home, he calls his obsession, Nan. Nan is really glad he called, because she feels bad about the prank that Lee pulled last night. Prank? What prank? Um, yeah, Pete, Jason is Lee's friend. Lee got him to pretend to be a vampire to freak out Pete. Oh. 

The book ends with "What did you call to tell me, Pete?", which I totally loved. The short story wasn't too bad! I actually wasn't sure what direction R.L. would take it. I kinda thought Pete would be a vampire and try to eat all the lame-o club kids. Or maybe Nan and Lee were the leader of some sort of cult that thought they were vampires. All of these situations would have been okay with me, but I liked that R.L. went with Pete being a total crazy person. Seven stakes carefully crafted out of logs over the course of an evening of insanity out of nine. 

But can we discuss the real thing that's bothering me about this book? How did no one care that there were mandatory clubs after school every day?!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Guys. It's almost time!

Alright Fear Street fans, there is so much news that I had to make a post. My first post in YEARS! I’ve missed you all. I’ve missed discussing the finer points of R.L.’s writing with L.K. Most of all, I’ve missed reading amazing Fear Street books!

Let’s start us off: As I'm sure you all know, R.L. is releasing new Fear Street books this fall. In fact, the first one, Party Games, will be released on September 30th! So soon. Don’t worry, I’ve already placed my pre-order. Here is the description of Party Games:

Her friends warn her not to go to Brendan Fear's birthday party at his family's estate on mysterious Fear Island. But Rachel Martin has a crush on Brendan and is excited to be invited. Brendan has a lot of party games planned. But one game no one planned intrudes on his party—the game of murder.

As the guests start dying one by one, Rachel realizes to her horror that she and the other teenagers are trapped on the tiny island with someone who may want to kill them all. How to escape this deadly game? Rachel doesn't know whom she can trust. She should have realized that nothing is as it seems… on Fear Island.

Soooo…basically “All-Night Party”? 

I’m into it. I mean, really, how could I not read any new Fear Street books? I cannot WAIT to read this book (although I should point out, I did not spring for overnight shipping. I guess I can wait a little bit.)!  To prepare his true fans for the release of the new Fear Street books, R.L. has done a little bit of promotion that I thought I would highlight. There was an article published on thebigthrill.org, which is an online publication of the International Thrillers Writers, which I did not know was a thing.  Here is the link to the article: http://www.thebigthrill.org/2014/01/special-to-the-big-thrill-r-l-stine-and-the-return-of-fear-street-by-dawn-ius/.

Great, right? Here are some of the talking points for those of you who don’t feel like reading an article about R.L. Stine (why are you reading this blog then?).

  • He doesn’t like zombies and doesn’t get this new zombie craze. Well, I just feel like that is a blatant lie.  He wrote sooo many books with zombies in them! “Zombies are boring as characters,” he says. “You can’t disguise them as humans. There’s really not much that can be done with them.” Should we discuss the amazing novel The Perfect Date which included three zombies who were disguised as humans? What about InToo Deep where a male child zombie disguised himself as a hot teen and seduced a male camp counselor?
  •  He thinks “vampires are sexy”.  Good to know.
  • Best quote? “All I’ve ever wanted was to be funny”. I hope he knows how much laughter and joy he has brought to my life over the years.
  • He’s afraid of water! Interesting! I would say that many more characters have died from fire, ghost attacks, being slashed with a skate than have drowned. Perhaps he doesn’t like to confront his fear too much? (A notable exception is Sarah Fier who drowned when her boat sank in the Atlantic. And then she haunted some cheerleaders for some reason).
  • He said that after Party Games, he’ll probably bring back cheerleaders! L.K. will be so pumped!
  • Mentions how he “never wrote from the heart” and doesn’t understand why authors would. He wants to sell his books! And I’m also guessing that whatever is in his heart is terrifying.
  • He says that it usually takes him 3-4 weeks to write a Fear Street book, and it goes so quickly because he does a lot of planning before (He doesn’t say this but I imagine it’s also because he doesn’t mind gaping plot holes).  But the article references him finishing a novel in 8 days in the late 80s. He mentions in another article that the 8-day book was…The Secret Bedroom! That makes sense. Here is L.K.’s final review of The Secret Bedroom: "This book was cheesy and nonsensical. Skeletal corpses dancing around? Even the cover sucks, with the cheesy glowing door, and cheesy skeletal hand. This book belongs firmly in the ranks of Goosebumps, and I’m sorry to see it put in the category of Fear Street. 2 skeletal corpses out of 7.” Hahahah
That article was full of facts and gems. It really did heighten my anticipation for the Party Games release!

He also went ahead and made a list of his favorite Fear Street books: http://rlstine.com/rlstine-picks-his-8-favorite-fear-street-books/
  1. New Girl
  2. Silent Night
  3. Switched
  4. Fear Street Saga: The Betrayal
  5. Haunted
  6. The Perfect Date
  7. Cheerleaders: The First Evil
  8. The Secret Bedroom
Most of these are our favourites too. I have always had a soft spot for the original Fear Street Saga, and L.K. distinctly remembers Switched from her youth. In fact, she mentions Switched in both her top five favourite Fear Street list and top five scariest list.  But why is The Secret Bedroom on here? He says he loves it because it “wrote itself”. Maybe it would have benefited from some actual human editing? Just sayin…

I also wanted to mention that I just got a new R.L. book from the library – Temptation. It is a compilation of Goodnight Kiss, Goodnight Kiss 2 and Vampire Club. I won’t be reviewing Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2 since L.K. already reviewed those. Apparently Vampire Club is a short story, and I don’t believe we ever read it, so I will try to get that up on the blog before we get into the Party Games!

Exciting times, Shadyside fans!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Red Rain, or "Zombies are Just So Obvious"


Hello faithful Shadyside Snark fans! Are you in for a treat, because I’ve finally gotten around to reading and recapping R. L. Stine’s more recent adult novel, Red Rain. This recap is really just to whet your appetite as we countdown to the new Fear Streets!

You are going to have to forgive me because it’s been SO LONG since I’ve recapped a book, I’m pretty sure I have no clue how to do it anymore. This ended up being super long, largely because the book was about three times the size of a Fear Street.

I actually read this a while ago and have put off writing the recap because in the meantime I moved overseas. Luckily I took some kick-ass notes, which may or may not make any sense to me now. I hope this knowledge adds to your experience here.

Prologue: We begin in the aftermath of a horrific hurricane, which devastated an island located somewhere off the East Coast of the US (my American geography is fuzzy – let’s say it’s somewhere off the coast of South Carolina. That makes sense, right?) Lea, an adventure traveler, is standing on the beach, in shock and horror at the calamity she is witnessing. The sky opens up, and bright red rain starts to pour down on her, like blood. She basically falls to her knees and starts screaming “oh, the humanity!” Two blond boys, twins, appear in front of her out of the blood rain.

That’s a pretty good beginning. Let’s go back in time a little bit to put this all into place. Lea is sitting down to write a blog post. I’m just going stop right there to say: Blog post! R. L. has totally entered this decade. This makes me even more excited as to what the new Fear Streets will offer.

Anyway, Lea is updating her travel blog. She is an adventurer extraordinaire, venturing where the faint of heart will never travel. At the moment, she is on Cape Le Chat Noir – a mysterious island that few people visit due to rumours that it is overrun with the living dead. Legend has it, since a horrific hurricane in 1935 destroyed most of the population, the dead got up and kept on going right next to the living. So … zombie island. Oh, A. M., I bet you wish you had read this one!

Lea goes on a guided tour to a Revenir ceremony. Even the living dead are into capitalizing on tourism. At this point she brings up Facebook, and that she was creeping on somebody’s page. R. L. is right with the times now! She meets up with Martha Swann, a woman she’s been in touch with who lives on the island. Together they watch the Revenir ceremony, although Martha warns her it’s tough to handle. In the ceremony, six men are brought up to the front and given a “Black Death” concoction to drink. They all vomit and die in front of a naturally horrified Lea. But then the priest comes in and revives them, so everything is good. The newly dead/living men chuckle like “whoa, what a trip.” K, willingly dying goes beyond what I’ll do for a travel experience. Come to think of it, vomiting is also on that list.

At that time, a giant hurricane that has been threatening the coast blows in. Hurricane Ernesto is huge. It reminds people of the horrible hurricane of ’35. Lea goes home with Martha to ride out the storm.

Over to Mark, Lea’s husband, a psychologist, who is near their home on Long Island in a town called Sag Harbor. He is in the midst of a book tour, promoting his very controversial bestseller non-fiction book, “Kids Will Be Kids,” where he apparently discusses how kids should be allowed to be free and do whatever they want. Ooh, foreshadowing here! This theory rubs people the wrong way, and lots of irate parents show up to yell at him, so he’s super stressed out. In the middle of a bookreading, he gets a call from Lea in the hurricane. She screams and is cut off.

The hurricane is horribly destructive. Lea and the Swann’s are all like: are we going to make it? Then the roof collapses.

After the storm, it is a horror show. There are corpses everywhere. Lea, while wandering the streets in a daze, is attacked by a man in distress.

Back to Long Island. Andy, a NY cop who has recently transferred to peaceful Sag Harbor, is there to give Mark the news that his wife is dead. Oh, oops! It was the wrong address. Classic R. L.

Lea is fine, although swiftly developing PTSD. She is pulled over to help a woman who is trapped. They end up ripping her leg off. What? Holy crap. She wanders away from that horror show to the boarding house where she was supposed to be staying that night. The house is destroyed and one of the owners has been impaled. So lucky she stayed with the Swann’s, I guess. That’s when the blood rain starts and she meets the twins, Daniel and Samuel. They say that everything they have is gone. Lea feels a connection to them and immediately adopts them, largely on the grounds that they “are adorable.” She mentions their blond hair and blue eyes a lot. Wtf, how easy is it to adopt children there? Where I come from, taking children with you because they are cute is labeled “kidnapping.”

Daniel and Samuel have a friend named Ikey. They discuss bringing him. Daniel puts forward that Ikey isn’t as pretty as them, so their new “Mum” wouldn’t want to have him around. Samuel really wants to bring him, though, so Daniel goes out and kills Ikey, I guess to avoid the argument. So already we know: mysterious twins appearing out of blood rain are evil. As if you needed a random murder to tell you that. Also, they talk in a weird accent, like part English, and call everyone “boyo.”

Long Island. Andy the cop is in a complicated relations with a chick named Sari. That is all. Oh, and he also breaks up a fight over an ice cream cone. Very important stuff. Actually, the bully who was trying to steal an ice cream cone will show up later.

Alright, now finally Lea and Mark are together. Lea brings home some brand new twins she has adopted overnight. The confused household is there to meet them: Mark, their two kids Ira and Elena, and Mark’s sister Roz who lives in their guest house with her toddler Axl. Everyone goes on and on about how pretty the twins are – even Mark, a grown man. This is all very weird and creepy.

The twins, who are about 10, decide they want to move into the guesthouse, which seems inappropriate, but nobody can say no to them. Roz and Axl are moved into the attic. Next, Daniel and Samuel go shopping for clothes since they have absolutely nothing of their own, where they have a run-in with the class bully and we discover that they are not only evil murderers, they are also shoplifters. *gasp!*

Lea becomes distant and completely obsessed with death rituals. It’s all she does; she basically doesn’t really come into the story for awhile.

In the meantime, while his wife is busy with her PTSD, Mark has taken to fucking his young assistant, Autumn. Ugh, these scenes are so awkward. It’s like a Fear Street book, and then all of a sudden we’re talking about her creamy white ass moving under him. Okay, there’s your requisite sex scene to make this book adult.

Daniel and Samuel have taken a toll of the world around them, and have come to these conclusions: the bully would have to be dealt with, and they need to take Mark out of the picture, because he’s not quite as accepting of them as their new Mum is, no matter how pretty they are.

Mark is denied a grant that he had been hoping would come in. The guy who came out to tell him the bad news ends up dead in his car in Mark’s driveway – with his throat torn out by a blowtorch. Like, his windpipe has been torn out and thrown onto the back seat, while the edges of the gaping hole are charred. Yes, creative Stine death!

The police are suspicious of Mark, because brutal murder is clearly how people respond when they are denied a grant. The medical examiner, Harrison, shows up and is a hilarious dick to everyone.

Now Samuel and Daniel are talking about how they want to “rule the school.” It’s like the next step in their evil plan: Step one: take out adversaries; Step two: rule the school. They say they’ll convince Elena, who is older, and Ira, who is their age, to help them. First, Daniel plays a game with Ira to see who can hold their breath the longest. Daniel nearly drowns Ira, then Samuel, the “quiet” one who seems nicer steps in and uses his laser eyes to hypnotize Ira to do whatever they want. No really, that’s what happens. Samuel has laser eyes that can be used to burn, hypnotize or kill. He thinks about how when they came back from hell, Daniel got all the rage, but Samuel got the superpower.

So, you guessed it already, but pretty early on in the book the twins are outted as being the evil undead with powers. The whole book was really obvious. There wasn’t any subtlety or suspense here. I really felt let down by this, because there could have at least been a little build up.

Ira starts acting weird and moves out into the guesthouse with the twins. They all paint blue arrows on their faces. Then Ira’s friend Ethan moves in and paints an arrow on his face. Then they paint an arrow on toddler Axl’s face and the adults start freaking out.

At school, they get in trouble for the face paint, but Samuel hypnotizes the principal, who then says all the kids have to get blue arrows painted on their cheek. That afternoon, Samuel and Daniel go to the bully’s house …

Andy the cop fucks his ex, Sari, then she tells him she just got married and that was like a goodbye handshake with his penis. I forget what any of this has to do with the plotline now. I actually don’t think it does. You are welcome to forget that bit, if you can.

The cops are called in for a new murder. The bully is found in his house, beheaded and burnt.

That evening, Daniel and Samuel have lots of kids over to the guesthouse, all of them with arrows on their cheeks. They’ve “convinced” a lot of older kids to join their little club, including Elena, the teenager, which is worrying a lot of the adults. Despite all their worry, Mark and Lea go out that night, trying to reconnect after his affair she doesn’t know about and her blatant obsession with death. When they return, the guest house is empty and all the kids are gone. Like 80 kids disappeared that night. Pretty creepy.

Early the next morning, Daniel and Samuel are back and they decide to go find Autumn of the creamy ass, Mark’s assistant he’s been having on the side. They kill her in order to set up Mark. They’re all very polite about the whole thing. Autumn fights back and stabs Samuel with a heel (btw, I always think about using my stilettos as weapons when it comes right down to it.). Unfortunately, because he’s the evil undead, a heel stab wound doesn’t really slow him down. She’s a goner. The cops go to arrest Mark, so he behaves perfectly rationally, jumps out a window and runs into the woods.

Martha Swann, from the island where this all began, contacts Lea. She’s discovered some stuff about Daniel and Samuel, like a photo of them after the 1935 hurricane. They haven’t aged because they are zombies, as we already know. They survive by stealing and have a deep desire to control children. Lea’s all: wtf. Then Martha very portentiously tells Lea that there’s more …

Meanwhile, there’s a string of burglaries in Sag Harbor, committed by children. The missing kids all go to the middle school, where a “new order” has been started. No adults are allowed in, except for the kitchen staff to make them snacks. The kids are all going crazy, behaving like the wild animals that they are. Guess kids shouldn’t really be kids, now, should they Mark? Daniel can somehow control their mood through the blue painted arrow.

The principal manages to get in, and Samuel sets her on fire. There is a stand off between the kids inside and the cops of Sag Harbor outside. Daniel and Samuel come out and set fire to everything while chanting “Rule the School!” One cop goes in to be a hero and stops Samuel from killing Elena and Ira, and is almost killed himself.

Then Mark jumps in and knocks the twins out, ending their power over the kids – because stab wounds are nothing, but a knock over the head will take out a zombie anytime. All the kids run out and the twins disappear.

Mark finds Lea wandering around the school. She tells him that she’s dead, she died in the hurricane, and the Swann’s got the Revenir priest guy to bring her back. The twins then sneak up on them and try to kill Mark. Lea grabs them and they all catch fire, burning to ash.

R. L. always likes a neat wrap-up when it comes to his zombies – they usually disappear in a whirlwind or a blaze of fire. But wait … Axl, the little toddler, has been taught Samuel’s gift …

As terrifying as the thought of a toddler with killer laser eyes are, on a whole this book wasn’t so much scary as it was CRAZY. Things that were sort of scary: The blood rain with the twins appearing out of it. This started off with SO MUCH POTENTIAL. Also, having the kids disappear. I think it would have been way creepier if they had just … gone. Not ransacked the school to eat a lot of snacks in the cafeteria and boss grown ups around. And the zombies. I read somewhere that R. L. was over zombies? What does this mean for the new Fear Streets? A. M. will be so disappointed!

Alas, the book lacked nuance. But it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything new by R. L., so it was still fun and exciting. Am even more excited for the New Fear Streets, coming out this October!