Monday, March 30, 2009

Door of Death, or “Don’t Tease Me With Your Barn Door of Decapitation … LIES!”

I’m not going to lie. When I first saw this cover, all I could think was: awesome! I had no idea what was going on, but I wanted to know more. The guy seems to be in a barn – is said door of death a barn door? I like how his fingers are clenched and curled, as if in agony for having lost his head. Or maybe surprise, like: where’s my head?

To my grievous disappointment, the cover in fact has nothing to do with the story in any way, except that there is one scene that does occur in a barn. I would much rather have read the book I thought I was reading then the one I in fact read. Keep this in mind as I feel rather bitter and scathing as I write this blog. In much funnier news, I feel obliged to report that this book was found in the bedroom of A.M.’s rather embarrassed boyfriend. Closet Fear Street fans just can’t stay hidden.

Jake Fear’s Journal: Shadyside, October 1, 1853

Jake Fear had lived a sad and lonely life, living alone in his expansive property, but with the fear of the Shadyside villagers, who believed his family was cursed. No one ever went near him, until he was the age of 67, and Cassandra Ryan walked through his door. Cassandra was from Ireland, and had in fact just walked off the boat, and into Jake Fear’s life. Their’s was a whirl-wind romance, although everyone thought Jake was completely delusional in thinking that the beautiful young woman could actually love him.

Cassandra, though, was unsure of his love. One week before their wedding, she asks him to prove how much he loved her. Jake proves (how badly he wants to get laid) his love by crossing out his name on the deed to his property, and writing hers in place. How romantic. They marry the next week and Cassandra is a good wife to him.

Shadyside 1854

It’s a year later from that random diary entry, the day before All Hallow’s Eve. Amy Burke is hanging out at her friend Bridie Padgett’s house. So, did 19th century teens hang? The gang is all in Bridie’s sitting room: Amy’s boyfriend (suitor?) Richard, his weaselly little sidekick Giles, and chubby but earnest Everett. Richard is known as a prankster, and can get out of hand on Halloween night. He is telling them all how Jake Fear will return from the grave on the anniversary of his death, on Samhain, or All Hallow’s Eve, to look for revenge. He used to wander the town, muttering “cheaters never prosper,” so they all need to watch out for this.

The kids are either freaked or titillated by this story. Birdie is scared and clingy, but Amy’s more worried that her boy is going to land himself in serious trouble one day. Richard and Giles take off to make mischief, leaving Everett to escort Amy home. We learn that Everett is in love with Amy, and Bridie is super jealous of her friend for all the attention she gets. Sigh. It must be hard to be you Amy.

While walking home from Bridie’s, Amy and Everett run into a bull and some cows, and flee for their lives. That was Richard’s big trick – releasing some farm animals? Somebody slow this kid down. Everett takes this life-or-death moment to profess his love to Amy, and she’s all “um, no, but let’s do get back at my douchey boyfriend.”

As they continue home, they come to the town square, where a bunch of villagers are gathered around the church doors. The church doors of death? On it is this parchment:

Henry Gray
Giles Laughton
Bridie Padgett
Richard O’Connor

Cheaters never prosper
Jake Fear

Apparently in Ireland, lists like these were posted by dead people, who then came to kill the people on the list on Samhain. Seems reasonable. Also, Jake Fear’s grave had been dug up. Most people are freaked, but Amy is furious that her boyfriend took things this far. I’d be pissed too if my boyfriend was digging up corpses – not cool.

Jake Fear’s Journal – Shadyside, October 10, 1853

After a month of marriage, Cassandra Fear introduces Jake to Owen Compton. She had given the Fear estate to Owen, and now they were kicking him off his property. Cassis got an annulment for the marriage (probs for impotency), and married Owen. Here’s the thing, though. Why go through with the marriage at all? Why not do this the day after he signs the property over? The constable and lawyers back up this whole deal. I feel certain there is no way this transfer of property is legal. I mean, total lack of witnesses for the first transfer, right? Could women even hold property back then? Whatever. Jake is thrown in jail and becomes homeless. The Comptons sell his property, then the estate is hit by lightning and burns to the ground. Now that is damned unlucky.

Shadyside, 1854

All Hallow’s Eve. Amy goes to meet Richard by their makeout tree, and they make out for awhile. This romantic moment is interrupted by Bridie screaming in the distance. They run through the fields to find Bridie’s body, her neck oozing blood, her eyes staring lifelessly. Richard and Amy freak and run, until Amy stops at the edge of a wood, unable to go any further. She unfortunately stops right at the tree where the body of Giles is hanging, swinging on the end of the rope in the wind. That Jake Fear works fast! Amy is convinced this is the work of a ghost, but Richard’s all: don’t be an idiot. There’s a real killer here. Just at that moment, a headless man grabs Richard and spins him around. The man stabs Amy in the gut, then places the knife at Richard’s throat. Richard is about to shit himself, when Amy’s all: Gotcha!

The headless man is Everett, wearing his clothes up over his head, and Giles and Bridie come laughing into the clearing. It was a huge joke, planned by Amy to get back at her prankster boyfriend. Richard is about to boil over mad, then starts laughing, saying he’s the luckiest man to have such a clever girl in his life. I guess. All the friends share a good laugh and everything is right with the world.

Jake Fear’s Journal – Shadyside, October 30, 1853

Jake is living in the shed of the church, dying of unknown reasons. Cassandra comes in to see him, being all fabulously rich, and starts laughing at him. She tells him she’d fed him poison the whole time she was living with him, and he was near the end. Okay, but why? Isn’t that a little unnecessary? Jake curses her: Cheaters never prosper, and she leaves laughing. So the guy dies a little bitter, I imagine. Like the bitterness I feel at blogging on this awful book.

Shadyside, 1854

Everything is all right in Amy’s world. After schooling Richard, she goes over to Bridie’s to have a backwards dinner: if you eat your entire meal backwards, in complete silence, at the end of it a vision of your husband will appear. True story. They do the backwards dinner, and Amy gets all dizzy and sees the rotting corpse of Jake Fear. Well, that’s not good. He says he’s going to claim her for a bride before the night is over. Then Amy falls over and starts to have a vision. She sees Henry Gray, the town blacksmith, in his shop, his head stuck in the vice as it magically tightens until his head pops like a rotten melon. Youch! Amy comes to screaming.

She can’t be consoled, and goes to Richard, demanding he take her to see Henry Gray immediately to ensure what she saw was only in her head. Richard thinks Amy is being overwhelmed by delicate lady sensibilities, or something. There’s no sign of the blacksmith, but his anvil is covered in a slick of fresh blood. Not a good sign. They discuss how Henry was known for shortchanging the villagers – in other words, he was a CHEATER. Hmm, I wouldn’t want to be on this list right now.

Richard takes Amy home, and she collapses into bed, wanting to take a nap before the big barn dance later that night. As she falls asleep, she has another vision. It’s of Giles irritating the constable by knocking on the door, then running away. He carves Richard’s name into a tree, to make the constable think it was his friend irritating him. Before Amy can huff that Giles is a big cheater, the tree comes alive and grabs him, choking the life out of him. The branches start to grow around him and through him, popping through his eye socket and all that. Gross visual, and soon our Giles is the second victim of the “list of death.”

Just at that moment, Richard and Bridie show up to take Amy to the dance. Hmm, Richard and Bridie together, what could they possibly have been doing? Amy agrees to go to the dance, but only to see if either Henry or Giles are there, to either prove or disprove her nightmare visions. They show up there, but everyone is dressed up in costumes and masks, making it difficult to determine who is who. Amy can’t find either of the men she’s looking for, but she does see the rotting corpse of Jake Fear. He lures Bridie away from the dance, into the graveyard. Amy runs after them, only to be confronted by Jake who starts choking her. Richard and Everett come flying in to the rescue, and Corpse-Jake kisses her and disappears, saying he’ll be back for her.
Richard tries desperately to calm Amy down, and finally confesses that he dug up Jake Fear’s grave and posted the list. Only it’s too late, Amy doesn’t believe him, and can prove it wasn’t him. All they need to do is find the list, and compare the handwriting to that of Richard’s, found on a love letter he wrote to Amy that she carries with her everywhere. Aww, how sweet.

Richard agrees to this test, and they four of them take off to break into the rectory, where the pastor kept the list. Richard finds the list, and as he goes to compare the handwriting, his hand slips, causing the candle he’s holding to set fire to the love letter. How convenient. Which is exactly what Amy thinks … clearly he didn’t want her to compare the writing. Then someone notices that the names of Henry Gray and Giles had been crossed off in red ink. That sounds like an odd thing for a pastor to do. As they watch in horror, a red line magically scratches across Bridie’s name. Yikes, I would be out of there.

Bridie does the most sensible thing possible and huddles into a ball weeping, as a cold wind starts gusting around them. Jake Fear slowly stalks into the room, wielding a knife. He goes after Bridie, who nonsensically grows a pair and bites him on the leg, ripping out his rotting flesh. Um, ew. And also, what’s that going to do? Amy grabs the knife and stabs him in the chest, and he’s all: I’m already a corpse, hon. He pulls out the knife and guts Bridie with it. Blech.

Amy, Richard and Everett run down the road, until they think they are safe. I don’t know, being stalked by a supernatural corpse, I’d keep on going. As they watch, Richard’s name is slowly crossed out on the list. Richard tearfully confesses that he’s been messing around with Bridie for months, but has always loved Amy. She forgives him, but it’s not enough. Jake Fear shows up carrying Bridie’s bloody heart in his hand. Blech again. They run back to the rectory. So, they must not have run very far in the first place, right? I’d try to avoid my friend’s gutted body, if I were them. These kids are stupid.

Once they’ve TRAPPED themselves in a confined space, Richard lights the candles on a candlelabra. Ooh, scary. Once Jake Fear is on them again, he sets fire to the corpse. The corpse lights up like a jack o lantern, but is still alright. He pulls Richard in for a toasty hug, and Richard immediately goes up in flames. Jake Fear turns on Amy, and she stabs him with a letter opener (a letter opener! That hasn’t come up in a long time in the Fear Streets I’ve read), until the corpse is “dead.” Unfortunately, Richard is dead too. The list is completed, and Jake seems to be a corpse once again. Amy and Everett are found by the pastor, who takes care of everything.

Amy goes back to her house, where her parents tell her the bodies of Henry Gray and Giles had been found. She goes to bed, hoping it was all a nightmare. Except the nightmare isn’t over. She has a vision of Jake Fear in a groom’s morning suit. She hears a little scratching sound, and finds the list in her pocket, as Everett’s name is slowly scratched into it. Amy realizes the prank they pulled on Richard that morning was going to cost them their lives. Everett’s name is savagely crossed out, then A-M-Y is scratched in. She realizes her husband is coming for her, and makes herself ready.

What the fuck. This was tripe. There were no decapitations, and only one lame not-actually-headless guy. I couldn’t handle this book. I was going to make a “If You Seek Amy” joke, and couldn’t even be bothered. The Saga series totally went downhill, and I believe brought about the end of the Fear Street books in total. I feel cheated – I wanted barn doors of decapitation, but in fact this book should have been “List of Death” or something equally lame. Ugh. I give this 3 missing barn doors out of 79.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Halloween Night, or “Being a Shitty Friend Can Be MURDER”

Halloween Night starts off with Brenda, bitching with her besties Dina and Traci. Dina is tall, boyish, and morose. Traci is dark and dramatic. And Brenda, as the main character, is a fiery redhead, with the bitch personality to match.

Bren is bitching about her cousin Halley, who has recently moved in with her family due to her parent’s horrific ongoing custody battle over her. Halley even displaced Brenda from her room/shrine-to-Luke Perry, and Brenda now lives in a closet with a bed. Brenda’s new room also has a vent on the floor that is directly situated over the living room, and everything that is said can be heard by pretty much everyone in the house. Keep this in mind, as it is important to virtually every plot twist in this book.

Anyways, back to Halley, who comes off as a real bitch as well … and she’s spending way too much time with Bren’s boyfriend Ted. Bren knows she should be nice to Halley, or at the very least feel very sorry for her (because that’s what everyone wants – pity!), but Halley’s not making it easy. Cue to Halley and Ted (the previously mentioned boyfriend of Bren) in Ted’s car, presumably so he can give her a driving lesson. She’s flirting up a storm, inappropriate touching abounds, until Ted accidentally knocks over her purse in a wave of spastic lust, and finds Halley’s driver’s license. Ted’s a little slow on the uptake: … but why do you need a driving lesson? … but Halley deals with this by making out with him. Ted helplessly goes along with it, because he is a douche. Moving in to your cousin’s room, then stealing her douchey boyfriend, that is pretty low. And not conducive to incurring sympathy, although maybe that was the point.

On to the major plot device in the story. Brenda, Dina, and Traci have an English assignment: Plot out the perfect murder. Am I a total dork, or does that actually sound like a lot of fun? It’s due just after Halloween, which is a few weeks away. Halley is the obvious victim of their plot, and Bren decides to throw in Ted as well, the cheating cad. Although she hasn’t actually discovered anything yet. Dina is actually on Halley’s side, since a few years ago she went through a similar experience with her parents splitting up, and thinks everyone should be nicer to Halley. Brenda had totally forgotten about those horrible months in Dina’s life (um, so she’s an awesome friend). Dina is apparently the “nice” friend, you can tell because she works with animals at a vet’s clinic. They are all ready to forgive Halley, until Brenda spots them making out in Ted’s car. Parked in her driveway. Wtf, that’s not very stealthy of them! Again, probably not the point, but that’s pretty ballsy. Brenda has a total hate-on for Halley, and is ready for revenge.

Just one day later, Brenda catches Halley hitting on Noah, Traci’s boyfriend. SLUT! Noah’s all uncomfortable and tries to play it off, but Bren knows. She also won’t speak to Ted, because they are OVER. She stomps around in a fit all day, then comes home to her cozy closet that night, and has the shit scared out of her by a Halloween monster mask taped to her window. Sounds lame, but I’m pretty sure if that just caught my eye, and it was dark out, I’d have a little heart stopping moment too. Perhaps even more creepy is the message written on the back: See You on Halloween.
How mysterious. Bren is going to have a huge Halloween party for the whole school, and the prep work is already started. She has her best girls over for a “practice jack o lantern carving” night – um, anal? While they are carving away, a gorilla lumbers into the kitchen. Brenda stupidly thinks: “It’s a gorilla.” This girl is dumb. In fact it is NOT a gorilla, but Halley in her Halloween costume. K – this never would happen. Halley is a teenaged tramp out for attention. She’d wear underwear to the Halloween party, but not a sweaty ape suit. Unless Halloween was different in the 80s?

The girls continue to discuss their murder plot: Halley at Bren’s Halloween party, in a gorilla costume, and is stabbed with a carving knife and propped up, so that no one knows as she bleeds to death inside her costume. Sounds pretty ingenious. Brenda goes upstairs to her bedroom to find blood smeared all over the wallpaper, spelling out: See You On Halloween. So, she’s being hounded by a psychotic prankster. Blood smeared messages are not cool.

Traci and Brenda go out to the local pizza place (NOT Pete’s Pizza) and run into Halley and Noah on a date. This girl has no idea how to be inconspicuous. Traci joins the we-hate-Halley club, and they plot to destroy her. Meanwhile, Ted shamefacedly makes up to Bren, wanting to go to Homecoming with her, and claiming he knows nothing about Halley now dating Noah. Bren is sorta ready to take him back, but is infuriated when he makes it conditional – he wants to see over people (aka Halley). What a douche. She takes him back anyways (!!) He kisses her and his lips are dry and SCRATCHY (!!?!!) R. L., we really need to talk about this. Lips are not meant to be dry, and scratchy is not a good thing. That is why we invented Chapstick. Please give some to your leading men, please, before I have to have an intervention. To any men reading this: lips that are hot, dry, scratchy, or any combination of the above are not okay. Do us all a favour, and buy some balm.

The murder plot progresses. The idea comes up that the murderer should be in costume, but change their costume with someone else without anyone knowing, so as to keep their identity safe. This murder plot seems to be taking a long time to come up with – I hope it’s worth it. Brenda goes to bed that night, and finds a jack o lantern lit in her room – inside is a decapitated bird, and a note: You’re next. On Halloween. Brenda immediately blames Halley, as they now have open hatred for each other, but Halley plays victim. “What did I ever do to you?” Um, steal my boyfriend, bitch. To make everything all better, the next day Halley takes Brenda’s beloved car without asking, and totals it. She claims it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t see the stop sign.

Brenda goes psycho and attacks Halley. A little intense. I mean, sure, she’s taken her room, her boyfriend, and her car, which is pretty much all the important things to a self centred teen, but c’mon Brenda. Wait a year, then move out of your terrible house. This isn’t the end of the world. She gets even more upset when her family sides with Halley, who’s going through so much right now. That’s kind of unfair too, though. Halley has been horrible to Brenda, and Brenda is dealing with a psycho who keeps spreading blood and dead animals around her room. Some sympathy for her as well.

We go to a conversation between Traci and Dina, about how they think Bren has totally lost it. They also gossip that Ted and Halley were spotted making out the night before. Dina hangs up and repeats: Poor Brenda, over and over again. Not unlike a psychopath herself.

Everyone is tense and uncomfortable around Brenda, and she feels like she’s lost her friends and family too. She goes to bed all downtrodden, only to find herself lying on wet chunks of rotting meat, covered in maggots. I’d probably snap after that. Brenda’s about to completely lose it, then something clicks. “I know” is all she says. How cryptic.

Brenda and Ted go to the Homecoming Dance together, despite him being scratchy-lipped and a douche. She loses him while they’re dancing, and finds him making out with Halley. That’s harsh! I imagine Brenda is some pouffy, pretty-in-pink taffeta number for this scene. As she watches, Noah runs up and starts fighting with Ted over Halley. They take the fight to the parking lot, and Halley is in ecstatics over this. Bren just feels weird and out of it, so she simply leaves, walking home in taffeta. When she gets there, she calls Traci.

The murder plot takes a new twist now. Brenda decides she’s actually going to play out the scene at her Halloween party, and really kill Halley. I mean, bitch must die, right? I’m just wondering, though, wouldn’t it be a little suspicious when they hand their paper in right afterwards? Or maybe no one would ever connect the two! Brenda was going to go as a clown, Traci as a peacock, and Dina as a monk. Bren suggests they all switch costumes, but whoever does the actual stabbing will have an entirely different costume on (Frankenstein), so that no one will know who is who.

Dina backs out, stating passionately she could never do anything like that, then runs from the room. Bren shrugs and carries on with her cold-hearted murder planning. After she stabs Halley, she’ll ditch the Frankenstein costume down the laundry shoot, because no one will ever think to look there! Except the police, you dumbass.

Perspective switches to that of Halley, standing in the living room, standing paralyzed, listening to every word through the air vent. Dun dun DUN! Not very covert of them at all, is it?

Bren goes to pick up her costume supplies of death for her party, and runs into Noah and Ted, joking around at the mall. This infuriates her since just last night they were fighting to the death practically over Halley. Ted never even called her after hooking up with her cousin at the dance. However, Ted is a douche, so he runs over to her and tries to make up again. Bren gives him a wicked cold shoulder, of which I am impressed, but then changes her mind suddenly and tells him to come to her Halloween party … as Frankenstein.

At home, Halley confronts Brenda, sobbing about how she overheard all the murder plans. She opens up, and tells B she didn’t mean to be such a bitch, but was afraid, insecure, upset about her parents – the usual teen angst – and she could tell that Bren was not happy to have her around. She stole her boyfriend to get back at her, and knows she’s been awful, but she asks for forgiveness, and the chance to start over, as friends and cousins. Brenda’s all “too bad I still have to go through with the plan.” That’s pretty cold.

After this little outburst, Halley and Brenda get along swell, prepping for the party. Brenda goes to shower and finds her little bro Randy on her floor, in a pool of blood. Fake out, it’s plastic blood. Hmm, I wonder if the pool of plastic blood will be used again in this book?

The Halloween Party. Everyone is referred to as their costume, so you don’t know who is who, as if nobody actually knows in the party as well. I see where R. L. is going with this, it’s kind of an interesting scene: a mummy is dancing with the peacock, the monk and a Frankenstein are talking, the clown is busy laughing with Princess Di. A Frankenstein approaches the gorilla and plunges a knife into it’s chest, and nobody notices. Finally, a scream cuts through the party – there’s a pool of blood under the gorilla. A pool of blood, you say?

They take off the head to find … a dead Brenda. Oops! Traci rips off the clown mask in panic. A monk-robed Dina screams that Traci killed the wrong girl. Halley runs forward in the peacock costume, saying Brenda forced them to change costumes. Traci claims she didn’t stab anyone, that they are looking for a Frankenstein. The two Frankensteins in the crowd step forward, and neither are Ted. A mummy comes forward, reveals himself as Noah, and says Ted is home with the flu. This scene is trippy, I like it.

The gorilla corpse starts moving, and Brenda gets up and spits out a bitter “Happy Halloween.” Guess what? The blood under her is plastic! Halley gets everyone out of the house by Traci and Dina. Brenda confronts them, saying she knows who stabbed her. She rips open Dina’s monk’s robe, revealing a Frankenstein costume underneath. Dina goes ballistic, confused that Brenda didn’t die when she stabbed her. Dina had heard, through the air vent, that Brenda and Halley were changing costumes, so knew to go after the gorilla. Brenda had already figured out that Dina was her psycho stalker, so had sewn a double-thick pad of foam in the chest of the gorilla costume to protect against carving knives. That’s pretty risky, I think. What if Dina stabbed her in the back?

Anyways, she had figured out Dina was tormenting her, because all the pranks involved animal stuff … animal blood, decapitated birds, rotting dog meat, all of which is readily available at a vet’s clinic (I don’t know much about this, but is there really just lots of animal blood hanging around at the vets? I don’t think they store human blood at the doctor’s. Do they?!!) Dina hated Brenda ever since Brenda was a crappy friend to her during her parent’s divorce, and she lost it when she saw how Brenda was treating Halley in the same situation. I still don’t get all these revenge killings. If Brenda pissed you off so much, stop being her effing friend. Revenge killings are stupid, and you deserve what you get. The police come and take Dina away, so she gets what she deserves. The book ends with Halley and Brenda sipping hot chocolate, talking about what awesome friends they are.

A lot of this book was trippy, but I liked the whole Halloween party thing. I actually just love costume parties, so I may be biased. Still, no actual death or destruction (asides from one decapitated bird, and a totaled Geo), which is why Point Horror is never as good as Fear Street. I want some real murder! Too tame. I give it 18 chunks of rotting dog meat out of 28, for being too PG on the violence scale.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Sign of Fear or "Extreme Historical Fiction!"

The Sign of Fear! I feel like this title needs to be said with a lot of emphasis and enthusiasm. I wanted to recap this book mostly because it had to do with the Fear family history (which I feel mildly attached to after doing the original saga) but also because half of the book takes place in the year 50 C.E. YEAH. R.L. is trying his hand at classical historical literature. This should be aMAzing.

The cover: We have the Fear amulet (which by the way, whatever happened to it? It never appears in any of the books set in the 1990s…) which is accurate. The skull with the glowing green eyes also makes an appearance in the book. BUT (you can see where I’m going with this) the scene with the man taking out a girl from a burning building? NOT accurate. In fact, the exact opposite happens in the book! WTFudge, cover artist? I mean, there’s artistic liberty and then there is just not reading the book. Or a recap of the book. Or the one descriptive sentence that I imagine R.L. sending the cover artist “Include the Fear Amulet, a skull with glowing green eyes, and a man LEAVING a woman in a burning building to die.” The job can’t be THAT hard.

We start very randomly with old, crazy-balls Matthew Fier. You’ll remember that in The Betrayal, Matthew bricked himself up in a room to die, to protect himself and his precious amulet, all while laughing hysterical. Creepy, yes. Practical? Nope! He thinks back to the year when he stole his de-LIGHT-ful little amulet from a woman named Christina Davis…

Cue flashback music!

The New World: Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1679

Like many of our poor protagonists, Christina has just found herself orphaned. Since this is a Fear Street novel, we know that her new guardian is not a magical unicorn who grants wishes and poops puppies, but is instead her evil Aunt Jane. While the funeral is taking place, the sky suddenly darkens because a huge murder of crows has appeared out of nowhere and are attacking the villagers! (Dream!) The crows tear at everyone’s flesh, including two unfortunate children. (Dream!) While Christina is running away from this terrifying funeral interruption, a crow drops something into her hands: the Fear Amulet. (Dream!) And then she falls into her fathers open grave.

She wakes up at her house later that day. She still has her wounds and the amulet, so I guess the crow attack WASN’T a dream?! I guess that could happen… never… Anyways, mean Aunt Jane comes in with a woman, and Christina pretends to be asleep. The women cackle about getting rid of Christina and her ‘disappearance’, then exchange money, so Christina assumes they’re going to kill her. (Why would they have that discussion in front of her, even if she was ‘asleep’? I could plan such better murders than these people.) Christina decides she needs to escape RIGHT THEN, while Aunt Jane is outside. Of course Aunt Jane catches Christina in the act of trying to break out of her window. (Christina realized that if she stopped to change, she would miss her window of escape. So she stopped and changed. WTF?) A fight ensues were AJ catches a foot to the throat and Christina is free!

The Old World: Britain, 50 C.E.

Fieran is a Celtic warrior who just killed and decapitated the leader of the advancing Roman army. He knows that bringing the head home will give him lots of power and honor (like marrying his dream girl Brianna) so he’s pretty jazzed about it. That is until, his mortal enemy Conn (also conveniently in love with Brianna) decides that the middle of a raging battle is the perfect time to engage Fieran in a fight to the death. Did I mention their in the middle of a battle against OTHER people, not themselves? Fieran successfully fights him off, but decides that killing one of his best warriors is not the best thing to do, so lets Conn go with a warning. I see that one coming back to bite him in the ass…

After sending Conn back into the fight, Fieran sees that the Romans are retreating and the Celts are chasing them off. So he decides to head back to his home. What? I’m pretty sure the head of the Celtic army needs to stay at the battle until it’s over. That MUST have been a rule somewhere. Anyways, he heads back to his home (which is a CAVE by the way. Not what the Celts lived in) and thinks about his love, Brianna and Conn. The three of them are spellcasters, who do pretty much exactly what you are imagining right now.

As a spellcaster, he knows that to release the power of the decapitated head, he must cook it. He puts it on a spike in his pot for safe-keeping (where I keep all my things!) He also has a vision that he will soon be declared chief of the tribe. Conn and Brianna randomly wander into his cave to tell him that the chief has been mortally wounded and the new chief will be chosen that night! Convenient. The two men head over to the clearing, where everyone waits for the ceremony. Which includes the old, dying chief stepping into a wooden cage and being lit on fire. This apparently “transfers” his power to the next rightful chief. Yeah, chief is not a job that I would be applying for. Fieran obviously feels the power go into himself but before he can prove that he is the rightful leader, Conn announces that HE has the power. I see a flaw in this method… To prove he’s the chief, and blessed with powers, he grabs Brianna and drags her into the fire with him. When they both come out unharmed, the tribe makes him chief and banishes Fieran. Burn!

Conn comes by Fieran’s cave later to taunt him over losing. Ass. Conn tells him that his precious Brianna helped him win willingly, and it was her magic that protected them from the fires! Fieran feels so enraged and betrayed, that he decides to release the power of the skull early! Apparently, you’re supposed to let the severed head of your enemy ferment over the course of a few days (in a pot) before releasing the power, otherwise it could be too hard to control. You probably already knew that, though. Releasing the power means de-fleshing it, which leads to a graphical scene that basically ends with Fieran passing out.

Massachusetts 1679

So Christina is still on the lamb from Aunt Jane. She’s running through the woods when she’s scooped up by a stranger on a galloping horse. She’s oddly not TERRIFIED (which is what I would be) but maybe this was a regular occurrence back then. The man ends up being a friendly guy named Matthew (dun dun dunnnnn!) who wants to help her out. Christina immediately thinks that he is her soulmate. Wow. She had not met a lot of guys, did she? He takes her to the Peterson’s farm since he’s been there before and thinks they are nice. Christina is apprehensive since she’s heard gossip that the Peterson’s practice witchcraft! But since it’s late and her soulmate would NEVER lead her wrong, she agrees.

Turns out that Mrs. Peterson is actually the woman that Aunt Jane paid early that day! Except Christina misunderstood: Mrs. Peterson was paying Aunt Jane so that Christina would come be her servant (cough*slave*cough). Mrs. Peterson also has a daughter, Emily who is apparently HAWT x 10 000. The Petersons send Christina to her room to clean herself up while Emily “entertains” Matthew downstairs. Christina then does the most normal thing for a girl to do when someone else is macking on her soulmate-of-one-hour: She crushes a porcelin water pitcher in her hands and runs downstairs streaming blood. Well, Matthew is certainly not going to forget about you!

Emily also reacts to someone bleeding in a completely typical way: She squeezes Christina’s hand to get the most blood into her cupped hands, then runs away while sniffing it. YEAH. Christina is creeped out and begs Matthew not to go, but he tells her that he must find his family’s amulet! (You know, the one that Christina has. O the star-crossed shenanigans that will ensue!) Anyways, Matthew leaves, but after confessing his undying love for Christina and proposing, saying he’ll come back for her. Remember, they still met about an hour ago.

Well, Mrs. Peterson immediately beats Christina for breaking the water-jug, and throws her in the cellar for the night. So apparently Christina was right about them, fat lot of good it’ll do her now. Basically, her days consist of cleaning the house from dawn to dusk. (But here’s my question: There’s only three of them living there. How dirty are they, that they need someone to clean every day, all day? Even if it does consist of like washing walls and stuff that no one ever really does, wouldn’t the work just run out one day?) Anyways, whenever Christina passes Emily’s room, she hears terrible moaning. So one day she decides to investigate… WHY!?

Emily’s room is full of mirrors, kind of a shrine to her glorious beauty. The moaning is actually coming from a clay jar, that knows Christian by name, but she never opens the jar (I wouldn’t have either). There’s also a big spice rack filled with vials of old blood, including Christina’s! Well she smashes it on the floor and vows to run away. I don’t know why she didn’t vow this while she was say, a SLAVE to the Petersons. Maybe Christina has deeply Catholic values that don’t allow witchcraft, but slavery is a-okay? Anyways, after she smashes it, the Fear Amulet on her chest burns and the world erupts in flames around her.

Britain, 50 C.E.
Cutting back to our lame hero Fieran, he’s just released the power of the skull of his enemy. It transports him to a stone altar that looks like the Amulet, but bigger and made out of rocks. He realizes that the power he will be given is pure evil, and wonders if he can use pure evil power for good. Hmmmm. I wonder.

The amulet has magically appeared in his hands but to get its power, he must wash it in the blood of an enemy who he killed. He’s unsure whether he could actually kill Conn or anyone for that matter. He spies on Conn’s hut, only to see Brianna and him have a romantic meeting. There’s a lot of “I’ll love you till the day you die, Conn” and such from Brianna. Fieran can’t believe she betrayed him, and vows to kill her too! I guess he got over his apprehension of killing people…

He gets Conn to meet him in a special “circle stone” meeting spot (cough* Stonehenge *cough). They fight and Conn almost wins, until a huge stone falls and crushes him. Fieran is disappointed because it means he can’t use Conn’s blood to get the evil power. Brianna pops up from behind a rock and says that she used her magic to kill Conn to escape him. Apparently she never loved Conn, it was always Fieran! And he believes this crap. They decide to get married that day. *shakes head*

Shadyside Village 1679

After Christina found all the disgusting vials of blood, she finally booked it outta that hell hole. Although she had been beaten, abused and neglected for months, those little jars of blood really got to her! Christina goes to confront Aunt Jane, who is baking pies in their backyard in Shadyside (backyard? Maybe people use their backyards as kitchen in non-Canada land). Before Christina can do anything though, the amulet acts out on its own. Hot pie juice begins to squirt all over Aunt Jane (more than a pie could ever contain) and it’s apparently an ACID pie since all of her flesh begins to disintegrate. Christina is rightfully horrified because she only wanted to give Aunt Jane a talking to, not … whatever the hell is happening to her. She’s unfortunately rooted to the spot by the amulet so she can neither go help Aunt Jane or get the HELL away from her.

Once Aunt Jane is a pile of smoldering bones and disgustingness, Christina runs away and bumps into her beloved Matthew! She tells him the horror stories about the Petersons, and he decides to take her back there to confront them. When they ride up to the Peterson’s Emily is outside shrieking her head off because Christina destroyed all the blood. Em ain’t looking too good. Apparently the blood kept her beauty around, and without it, she’s a shriveled old hag. In fact, she’s actually Mrs. Peterson’s mother! Weird. Christina and Emily get into a good old fashioned girl fight and the front of Christina’s dress gets ripped down the front, exposing… the amulet! And boobs, I like to think. Matthew gasps!

Britain 50 C.E.

Brianna and Fieran have been successfully married and are snuggling in post-coital bliss. Unfortunately Brianna has to go and RUIN it by giving Fieran the same love talk that she gave Conn earlier that same friggen’ day! Fieran realizes that Brianna only loves herself, and for that she deserves to die. Well… okay… let’s see where this is going. Fieran asks Brianna to share in the power of the skull and she jumps at the chance because she is a power-hunger hooch. Fieran does some dramatics and goes to stab her! But of course Brianna saw that coming and stabs him instead. While Fieran lies dying, he puts some things together. The skull had been promising him revenge but Fieran finally understands that the SKULL of the man he MURDERED wanted revenge against him. Makes sense. Brianna reigns triumphant and tells Fieran that she is pregnant with his child (approximately .5 hours old at this point) and the power through evil will live on through his bloodline. And while R.L. didn’t mention it, she MUST laugh manically at the end of all this. She just has to.

Shadyside Village 1679

After the amulet (and Christina’s boobs) have been exposed, everyone goes for her throat. Matthew is very excited to find it, while Emily wants it because it’s shiny. Okayyyy. The amulet is potentially scared, as it makes the whole room, including both Emily and Mrs. Peterson burst into flames. They die a horrible death, like they should. Christina gets caught under a fallen wooden beam and looks to Matthew for help. She’s gonna be looking for a long time, since Matthew just bends down and rips the necklace from her neck. He tells her that he never loved her, he was only drawn to the amulet. Then he effing LEAVES her in the burning building! I always thought the Fear Amulet made people evil, but no, Matthew was a total dick his whole life. Christina actually manages to escape the inferno by herself, and sees Matthew riding off into the sunset with the amulet. She’s super pissed he chose the amulet over her. The End!

Well, that was a different ending! No make-outs overtop of charred bodies. No cheesy one-liners. Too bad! I enjoy how both of our main characters ended up either dead or unhappy, but I think in the long run, Christina was better off without Matthew. Because she probably didn’t die a horrible death like everyone else in the Fear family. I give this book 70 de-fleshed skulls outta 74. Great!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beach Party or "Kidnappings: The New Erotic Date?"

Here is another R.L. book that does NOT take place in Shadyside (awful, I know). But it does take place in L.A., land of plastic surgery and overpaid movies stars! Exciting! Except this book isn’t really that exciting. And I never figured out how I felt about any of the main characters… I’m kinda ambivalent towards all of them, and that’s probably not a good sign.

While the cover leaves something to be desired (no early 90s teens giving us their best “scared” faces??) the tagline is classic R.L.! “Some came to party. Some came to die.” YES! At every party I go to, at LEAST one person came there specifically to die! No, wait… that would be insane. I also like how the tagline has nothing to do with the actual plot. Points for randomness!

Our two main characters are Karen (brunette, pretty, from L.A.) and Ann-Marie (blond, pretty, from New York). Those are basically their personalities. Ann-Marie serves almost no real purpose throughout this book, so I guess she didn’t really need a personality? There’s no excuse about Karen though. Ann-Marie is out visiting Karen, and due to some quick trickery between divorced parents, they scored a beach-side condo without parents for the whole week! (subliminal implication: Divorced parent are baaaad. They don’t care about their childreeeen.) The first night Ann-Marie is there, Karen meets one of the two guys that are her love interests in the book. His name is Vince, he’s in a teenage street gang in Venice Beach and the two of them first meet when his gang surrounds the girls and THREATENS TO KIDNAP THEM. But of course! Who could resist?

Karen and Ann-Marie get rescued by her second suitor, the ever charming Jerry. He pulls the old “that’s my lil’ sis!” trick and gets the girls out of there ASAP. Karen thinks about how DISAPPOINTED she is that she didn’t get to see where it was going with Vince. Karen? That situation was going someplace verrrry different than you thought. Or not, depending what you’re into. Anyways, Jerry and his friend take the girls to grab some pizza with them, and they meet Jerry’s girlfriend Renee. Ooooo he did not mention her when he was playing knight in shining armor! After pizza, Renee does the thing most girls would do in that situation: Tells Karen to back the fuck down from Jerry, or else. Wait, do most girls do that? Or is that just me…?

The girls meet up with Jerry and his downer girlfriend Renee the next day on the beach. Renee has previously been lecturing Jerry about checking out other girls goods, and is not too impressed to be hanging out with Karen again. Karen mentions that she’s never been snorkeling before, and Renee perks up all of a sudden and offers to take her out! Hmmm jealous girlfriend taking you out to sea? Karen may want to re-think this one… Of course, Renee leads Karen over to some terrible rocks and horrible currents and then ignores Karen as she cries for help. Who’d thought?! Actually, that’s kinda REALLY crazy behaviour. Can you imagine killing someone just for talking to your loser high school boyfriend? That would become an even bigger regret as soon as Renee steps onto a college campus, and realizes what she wasted her time (and murderous ways) on.

Jerry notices that Karen is floundering at snorkeling and dives in to save her. Back at the beach, Renee seems horrified that she didn’t notice Karen’s plight and for some reason, everyone (but Karen) believes her. Karen also receives a threatening phone call that night, from someone telling her to stay away from Jerry. I completely enjoy how Karen is all “Could it be Renee!?” Hmmm, lets think…

The next day, Karen runs into Mike, her ex-boyfriend, on the boardwalk. Mike is pretty sweet and asks if they could hang out but Karen shoots him down mercilessly (“I hope we can stay friends. But no one ever really stays friends. That would be a little awkward don’t you think?” True, but harsh to say out loud!) To escape ex-boyfriend Mike, Karen jumps on the back of Vince’s motorcycle, who randomly showed up just as Karen was wishing for a tiny earthquake to make Mike disappear. Karen is all thrilled to be riding with Vince, until she realizes that he’s taking her out of town. Like kidnapping? Like what he threatened to do the FIRST TIME you guys met? I hope this story has a bad ending for Karen. When Vince finally stops in a different city, Karen demands to be taken home and Vince obliges. That’s it. What? Why was that included?

Karen’s in for another surprise when she gets home, because someone spray painted the words STAY AWAY FROM JERRY onto the hallway outside the condo. That’s certainly a way to get your message across. Could this also be Renee!? thinks Karen. Later that night, Karen leaves Ann-Marie at home (nice, I know) and goes to a BEACH party with Jerry and some other kids. (side note! Karen notes that Jerry is wearing: “tie-dyed jean cutoffs and a black and white striped crew neck pullover.” TIE-DYED JEAN CUTOFFS?!) They joke around about Karen dying, and how great Jerry is at saving people (this conversation becomes even MORE asshole-ish and terrible once we find out more about Jerry). Because who doesn’t love to joke about their near-death experience with strangers? At the party, Karen thanks Jerry for the life-saving, and they make with the smooches. When they go to rejoin the BEACH party, they see that Renee is standing there watching them! Dun dun duuuunnnn!

Renee pretends like she saw nothing, and Jerry plays along. Karen watches them walk off together all WTF?? which would probably be my reaction as well. Renee and Jerry have an … unstable relationship. Later that night, Renee confronts Karen and tells her that she saw the two of them together. She also lets Karen in on Jerry’s background story. Apparently the summer before, Jerry’s brother Todd drowned in the ocean because Jerry wasn’t able to save him in time. I told you his friends were ASSHOLES! Renee takes this heart wrenching tale and makes it all about her: because she and Jerry have been through a lot together, she’s not giving him up without a fight! Meow, rawr, hiss! Cat fight sounds!

Karen and Jerry have a date the next day and they stretch it well into the evening. What about Renee you ask? Jerry says to “not think about Renee”. Hmmm, convenient. When Karen crawls into bed after a long day of relationship wreaking, she finds herself covered in jellyfish! BLECH! Someone filled her bed with jellyfish, like some sort of coastal mob member. She can’t sleep for the rest of the night, and makes up her mind to go confront Renee the next morning to get her to stop all the craziness!

8am rolls around and Karen is on her way to tell Renee off once and for all. Only thing though… Renee is dead. And Karen is the one to discover her body. Yikes! Throughout all the police questioning, Karen keeps Renee’s creepy pranks to herself because she doesn’t want to look guilty. Well, I guess that’s reasonable… if you’re the MURDERER, Karen! The police always find out these things and then it makes you look worse… o wait. These are R.L.’s police officers. They’re not gonna figure anything out. Carry on, Karen. Karen and Ann-Marie are confronted outside by a girl claiming to be Jerry’s sister who warns Karen… to stay away from Jerry. Hmmm, maybe the crazy stalker wasn’t Renee? Karen is really confused by this new, random girl, especially after Jerry is all “But I don’t have a sister!”

Karen finally hangs out with Ann-Marie (who flew across the country to get ignored by her apparently) and they relax on the beach. Ann-Marie invites Karen for a walk but she refuses. Two minutes, dark and dangerous Vince asks her for a walk and Karen jumps at the chance! Actually, I’m starting to figure out Karen’s personality. …it’s not that great. Vince and Karen chat and walk along the beach, until they’re far away from all people. Karen gets nervous (since he did previously abduct her) but all he wants to do is tenderly kiss. She stutters that she’s confused and runs back to her blanket.

As she’s trying to clear her thoughts, she pulls out a typed messaged from her beach bag. STAY AWAY FROM JERRY is repeated over and over again. Do you think it was typewriter typed or computer typed?! Karen tries to shrug it off and put on more sunscreen. Only problem is that her sunscreen was replaced with ACID and it burns the skin off her hand and shoulder! Holy crap!

A few days after the skin-melting incident, Karen and Ann-Marie head down to the beach for some fun in the sun. Karen and Jerry decide to go snorkeling (Jerry’s moving on preeeeetty fast, don’t we think? For a non-Fear Street character that is) so Karen dons her wet suit, and away they go! Jerry leads her far out in the water, and Karen starts to have regrets, thinking she won’t be able to make it back to shore without help because of her shoulder. They stop, and Jerry asks about her arm. When Karen admits that it hurts and she’d like to go back now Jerry says: “I can’t help you. I’m not Jerry. I’m Todd.” Well. That was unexpected.

Todd/Jerry tells Karen that he has taken over Jerry’s body to warn people to stay away from Jerry. He says that Renee didn’t heed his warnings, so something bad happened to her. Ooo I feel a thrilling R.L. climax coming! (Ew.) Todd/Jerry yank off Karen’s snorkeling mask and throw it away! And then he/they swim back to shore! …Wait, what? That was the big dramatic end? Karen is like “Eff, now I need to get those glasses back” and then she swims back to shore! Like, really?!

Karen runs into Vince on the beach and she tells him all about crazy Jerry. They see Jerry on the beach and Vince rushes to tackle him. Only Jerry is back to normal, so he runs towards him and Vince ends up grabbing him around the chest in what was probably an awkward and unexpected man-hug. The girl claiming to be Jerry’s sister (who actually was his real sister) pops up and takes him away, hopefully to a mental institution, but we never really find out. Karen turns to Vince and asks if he’s someone she could lean on. Vince is all “Try me!”, scoops her up and runs away. Presumably, he’s just kidnapping her again.

So how anti-climatic was that? Renee died off-page, Todd/Jerry tried to kill Karen in the LEAST effective way possible, and then the final take-down scene ended in some sort of bro-mance. There weren’t even any lone water-scooters racing around! Also, did you notice how they went to ONE beach party and it had nothing to do with the plot? R.L. might as well have called it “Ann-Marie Enjoys Drinking Milk After Eating Ice Cream” because he also mentioned that fact at one point. You can sense my disappointment. I really don’t like these non-Fear Street books. From now on, I’m making L.K. do some. I give this book 4 erotic kidnappings out of 13.

*Pssst! In this book there’s kinda a side story where Karen thinks that Ann-Marie is playing the creepy pranks on Karen because she’s jealous. But since both of the characters are boring, I decided not to include it. Short version? Ann-Marie is conveniently out when the phone calls come in, and Karen finds spray paint in her room. The real reason for the mysterious behavior?? Ann-Marie is secretly dating ex-boyfriend Mike! …That’s kinda uncool, isn’t it? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh, nah Karen deserved it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cheater, or “Sorry, Poor Kids, You’re Never Going To Win”

Have a Fear Street titled “The Cheater” confused me a bit, because, as A.M. aptly said not too long ago, pretty much any Fear Street could be called The Cheater. What else do these kids do? How is R.L. going to distinguish this one? Well, he does it by amusing me with some very obvious and biased stereotypes. Here’s what I learned about life in this book:
Rich = Good
Poor = Bad
Blond = Dumb
I swear you’re going to love this book!

The cover depicts Carter Phillips, our all-American, country-club-loving, straight-A-getting perfect heroine. In the background is a creeper guy, potentially her straight-edged yuppy blond boyfriend. Not sure, because this scene in no way happens in the book.

Carter begins our book fretting about her math achievement test. She got a 570, but her overbearing judge of a father wants her to go to Princeton, and demands she retakes them and get higher than a 700. Neighbour Americans, help me out on this one – is this an SAT thing? What is a good score on your SATs, I’ve always wondered. Point is, Carter’s father’s a bit of a dick, and she’s stressed out by the fact she’s only mediocre at math. Carter bitches about this to her boyfriend Dan, and bff Jill, who all belong to the same country club (but of course they do). Dan takes her for a milkshake to cheer her up. That’s a solid guy – milkshakes are great cheering-up food.

Carter half-jokingly asks brainiac Dan to take her math rewrite for her – since she has a boy’s name, there’s no way they would catch them. Dan frowns disapprovingly. Once he leaves, however, the cutie badass behind the counter, Adam, leans in and tells her he’ll do it for her, for the price of one date. Firstly: I love how Adam is this major badass, but works the milkshake counter, and Secondly: why is the plot device always people being blackmailed into dates? How desperate are these people? I like my blackmail to be for straight-up cash. Anyways, Carter agrees, figuring Adam would be easy to “handle”.

The plan goes off without a hitch – Adam writes the exam and nobody’s the wiser. As Carter agonizes over her marks, we learn her father is the judge in a high profile, media heavy case against the crime lord of Shadyside: Henry Austin. I love that Shadyside has a crime lord. I wonder if he lives on Fear Street?

Adam picks Carter up to collect on his date, and takes her to “his world” – a club called the Underground. Adam makes fun of Carter being a North Hills princess, then makes out with her on the dance floor. Carter is all over that shit. Adam drops her off at the end of the night, and shouts out he’ll meet her at the country club the next day, which stops her cold. Also uncool – Adam’s skinny poor girlfriend is waiting for Carter at her house, and threatens to beat her up. Hmm, hanging out with poor people isn’t very much fun at all, is it, Carter you slut.

True to form, Adam shows up at the North Hills country club the next day, looking incongruous in the Tudor mansion with his cut-off shorts and long hair and old tennis racket. Could we throw in any more stereotypes here, please? Adam ends up rocking at tennis, though, so that’s cool. Carter tries afterwards to tell him the deal is over, but he smarmily tells her she should be real nice to him, or he’ll tell Daddy all the bad things she did. Creep.

That night Judge Phillips pulls some strings and gets Carter’s mark early – a 730. Looks like she’s Princeton bound. As a reward for good behaviour, Carter gets some bling – impressive diamond earrings, and a shit-load of guilt. Meanwhile, Adam is making her break dates with Dan all over the place, making her go out with him on Friday night. They go to a movie, then back to his place. How very PG13 of them. His place is on Fear Street, because he’s poor. They start making out again, until Adam gets a little rough with our North Hills princess. It’s classic Fear Street date rape, I’m surprised Carter doesn’t secretly fall in love with him. While Adam has her pinned, he demands that she gets her friend Jill to double with them and his friend Ray, who has FIVE tattoos and THREE earrings. Adam is so angry and dangerous, Carter calls Jill to convince her to do it. He then pulls a gun on Carter, for shits and giggles (but probably just to overcompensate for, you know, stuff). Carter runs away from him, but is tailed on the way home by a car, and has no idea who could be after her.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Next day at tennis, someone puts a cow’s heart in her bag. With the message – be careful or you’ll break your Daddy’s heart. I’m not sold it’s Adam – he’s a small town date-rapist blackmailer. Livestock is way more something that, I don’t know, the MOB would do. Hey, isn’t her father doing that crime lord trial? No, Carter does not figure this one out.

That night is the night of the double date with the tatted-up earring-punctured Ray. They go to a skeezy bar where a skeezy band is playing. Ray makes Jill dance with him, and starts to molest her on the dance floor. Jill starts crying, but all the men in the bar think it’s funny. When Carter goes to save Jill, apparently every man there joins in the action. Yes poor=gang rapes. Obviously. The band sees what’s going on, and stop playing to join in. Like, for reals, what are they thinking? You’re playing guitar on stage, then see a gang rape and think: score! The girls manage to run away, and Carter feels terrible about putting Jill in danger, but still can’t come clean about her cheating ways.

Carter confronts Aaron and tells him their arrangement is over. He agrees that it is – he wants money now. Finally! I think Carter is a little huffy that Adam doesn’t want her anymore, but also freaks about the $1000 he’s demanding. Where will she get the cash? Well, one pawn shop and some guilt-laden earrings later, Carter is safe – for now. But we all know that blackmailers never stop, and Adam wants more money. Carter also has a huge scare when a car starts following her, trying to run her off the road into the ravine. She realizes the only solution is the final solution.

Meanwhile, her not-so-dumb blond boyfriend is on to her – he put the pieces together and guessed that Carter let Adam take her test for him, and is now using it to torture her. She confesses, but feels she’s trapped. She shows Dan her father’s gun, and he freaks, thinking she might be serious.

Carter still needs more money. She pawns more jewelry to get $200 together, and goes to Adam’s place to settle their debt. She comes home to find Dan waiting there for her. Before they can even say anything, the police show up to question Carter about Adam’s death.

That’s right. Adam had been shot. Carter lies to the police, saying she’d been studying with Dan all day, and hadn’t been down to Fear Street at all. Dan suspiciously agrees to the story, then takes off. For the next week, no one at school will talk to Carter, thinking she murdered Adam. However, it being Shadyside, they get over this quick, probs to talk about the latest gruesome paranormal death. The awesome thing is, we don’t know if Carter did it. Dan and Jill are still giving her the cold shoulder, and Carter’s pretty devastated by this. She plans on spending Friday night alone at home with a frozen pizza – the food of the depressed or potential murderers.

Suddenly, all the lights go out in her home. Carter starts freaking out as she hears something bumping slowly up the basement stairs. A man wearing a ski mask comes out of the basement, saying “Careful – or you’ll break your Daddy’s heart.” Then he starts choking her. Yikes, scary. This would be an excellent horror movie. Just in the nick of time, the police show up, and rescue her. They reveal the man as – some old dude Carter’s never seen before. Turns out he works for Henry Austin, Shadyside Crime Lord, trying to intimidate the judge to find favourably in his trial. He tripped the Phillips’ security system by entering through the basement – oops! He’d been the one threatening Carter all along, she just never caught on. Next time, the mob should pick a smarter girl to threaten.

So Carter starts to relax – the bad guys are in jail, Adam is dead. All good, right? Well, Sheila comes calling soon after, saying she has proof that Carter killed Adam, and demands $500 to buy her silence. Carter behaves like any reasonable innocent person would do, and tells her to take her proof and shove it. Just kidding! Carter sells her massively expensive stereo system to raise the funds, and meets Sheila all sketchily. Sheila gives her proof of her guilt – a necklace found by Adam’s body (overlooked by the police?) inscribed with “For Carter”. Carter recognizes the necklace as one she had pointed out to Dan, and reels in shock as she figures out the mystery of Adam’s murder.

She calls Dan up, and tells him she’s going to confess everything to her father – and wants him there as moral support or something. He comes over, and she tells her father about the cheating, the blackmailing, and that she shot Adam. Dan gets nervous, being like, hey judge, you can get your daughter off of this charge, right? When Judge Phillips is about to call the cops on his only precious daughter, Dan breaks down and confesses – he went to confront Adam after Carter paid him off the second time, telling him to back off his girlfriend. Adam, being a psychopath, pulls a gun on him, they struggle, it goes off and Adam is accidentally killed. Carter’s all: told you he’d confess Daddy! Predictably, her and her father had set up this little confession to test Dan, to see whether he loved Carter enough to not let her go to jail for him. The judge kindly tells him it will probably be judged as self-defence, and just in case gets him a good lawyer. He then apologizes to Carter for pushing her so hard to succeed that she turned to a life of crime. She’ll still go to Princeton though. The book ends with Carter and Dan sexily playing chess together (as an unusual change from the requisite make-out at the end.)

So, the rich get away with anything, and the poor end up being shot. And since they’re all a bunch of rapists anyways, no one really cares. So, I used to read these books when I was younger? What a great message to give to kids. Hmm. But, c’mon, you gotta admit this was pretty entertaining. I give this 7 guilt-laden earrings out of 11.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A New Fear, or “Power Through Evil: A Compelling Story of Right Versus Might”

Evil was his birthright. Ooh, this sounds ominous, which matches the cover – storms and lightning, decrepit graveyard, Nicholas Fear looking like a total creeper. At first glance, I thought he had a wee little mustache. Now I wish he did have one. This book has total potential.

Shadyside Village 1900

The first of the Saga series picks up right were the Saga trilogy leaves off (see A.M.’s reviews of The Betrayal, The Secret, and The Burning to get caught up). We begin with Nora Goode in the asylum in the village of Shadyside. I love how every small town in North America had a requisite mental asylum, no matter how small the town. I mean, otherwise, where would all the crazy people go? Who would we do disturbing experiments on? Nora has been there ever since witnessing the Fear mansion burn to the ground, taking with it the entire Fear family. Or did it? Pssst: no. Nora Goode is PREGGERS. After one ... afternoon of being married. Man, they did NOT waste any time there.

Hard to keep these things secret when forced to bathe in front of attendants and such. As soon as Nora has her bouncing baby boy, Nicholas, the doctors take the only reasonable course of action ... sell the baby! Nora will have none of this. Her original plan to make a rope with the hair on her head (sidenote: ick) is foiled by someone burning it, she gets desperate. When they go to take her baby, the amulet the Nora still wears around her neck heats up, and the room bursts into flames. Daniel Fear, her dead husband, emerges from the flames and grabs the doctors and attendants, burning them alive. He tells Nora to run, and she grabs the baby and flees, the institution collapsing behind her.

So you think if your paranormal lover returns from the grave to help you out, things will go a bit smoother, right? Wrong. Nora just can’t catch a break. She stows away (is that the correct term?) on a cargo ship, not caring where it will take them. Unfortunately, she is found out by a sailor with limited morals, who tries to steal her amulet. Sailor is then eaten alive by rats. Nora is discovered by the crew, who come to a logical conclusion: she must be a witch. Actually, if I had seen that, I might have been pretty close to making the same judgment. They try to throw her overboard, but she develops inhuman strength somehow and throws a sailor across the room, impaling him on a wooden peg. A tremendous storm whips itself up, destroying the ship, yet somehow the crate Nicholas is resting in remains buoyant. Nora passes out in the middle of the sea.

And wakes up totally okay on a beach somewhere! That’s lucky. She decides that they would no longer be Fears, and throws the amulet of death into the sea. Since they survived the elements, they would now be named Nicholas and Nora Storm, and settle down right there on the beach.

Shadow Cove 1919

Flash to Nicholas Storm all growed up, and moping about how much it sucks to be a fisherman, and how beautiful his girlfriend Rosalyn is. Rosalyn is Spanish, and rich, and her father wants her to have nothing to do with smelly fisherman Nicholas. Nick bemoans his fate, and wishes he was rich and powerful. Be careful what you wish for ...

He comes home to find his mother, Nora, dying from being a single mother for 19 years – she kinda wasted away. She tells him his father left him a legacy ... then dies. Nick is sold on the idea that he should find out about this legacy, and hopes it involves money and power. He goes to find Rosalyn, and along the road sees a man who looks identical to him, rasping the word Shadyside at him, then disappears. Creepy. He tells Rosalyn that he must leave to find his fortune, but that she must wait for him, because he will come back because he loves her SO much. As a token of her affection, Rosalyn gives him an amulet she found on the beach years ago. On the back is inscribed: Dominatio per Malum (Power through evil). What a thoughtful gift to give your lover!

Village of Shadyside 1919

Nicholas goes to the train station and randomly buys a ticket to Shadyside, not knowing where it is or even whether it exists. He is taken to a small town in New England (have we officially determined Shadyside is in Massachusetts?) He takes a walk through town despite a vicious storm brewing, and finds a creepy undeveloped street – Fear Street. He is inexplicably drawn to the burnt shell of a mansion, and goes inside the ruins. Um, dangerous. Quite dangerous, actually, because a crazy lady attacks him with a knife, screaming that Daniel Fear must die. The woman starts babbling that her husband had been killed in the fire, and she wishes she could join him. Nicholas gets the information that Daniel Fear’s wife was Nora, so figures out he’s in fact a Fear. He figures anyone who owns such a large mansion must be wealthy, and is genuinely happy to discover he’s a Fear. I don’t know, the whole scene seemed pretty foreboding to me ...

He goes to the boarding house in Shadyside, run by Mrs. Winter and her vivacious teenaged daughter, Betsy. Betsy develops a big crush on Nicholas, and they both welcome him into their home. They tell him a bit about the Fears, about how they were all crazy and that. And how an Andrew Manning now owns all the Fear land. Nicholas decides to pay Mr. Manning a visit.

The next day he heads to the Manning mansion, to politely ask for his land back. Manning laughs in his face, and you think this isn’t going to go well ... but then he apologizes. Turns out the Fear lands were a shitty investment, as for some reason no one wanted to develop their land, so all that’s left of the Fear estate is back taxes. Nicholas is crushed, but it turns out Manning is a good guy, and offers him a job at his sawmill, where he can start from the bottom to build his fortune. Nicholas is happy to find a job his second day in town. On his way out of the mansion, Nicholas is hit by a girl on a bike. She is described as being very ugly, with tangled black hair, eyes as black and lifeless as a dead fish, and feeling moist and clammy. Yum, delicious. She introduces herself as Ruth Manning, Andrew Manning’s daughter, and drools over Nicholas’ open shirt ... as well as the fancy jewelry he’s wearing. She seems to agree with power through evil.

The next day Nicholas starts his sawmill job, where he meets Ike and Jason, two affable guys who take him under their wing. Betsy shows up that day to bring Nicholas his lunch and flirt with him, and Jason immediately takes a dislike to him. Nick figures Jason is in love with Betsy, and since he has nothing to worry about since Nick’s heart lies with Rosalyn, figures everything will be alright. Until someone throws a rock at his head. There is something so insulting about having rocks thrown at oneself. This rock has a message attached: Be afraid. Betsy helps clean him up, and confesses that she is a Goode herself, and that not all people in her family are as affable towards the Fears as she is. Nick informs her he’s half Goode too, so everyone else can shove it.

The next day Nick continues to make friends and influence people at the sawmill when there’s an accident that causes Ike to lose all his fingers – a sheet of wood that Nicholas checked over had a knot in it, which is never supposed to go through the saw. Nick wonders if he was meant to be on the receiving end of the saw to finger action. Everyone else thinks Nick did it on purpose, and he is shunned at work. Except for Mr. Manning, who has taken a liking to him, and keeps on bringing his dead-eyed daughter around to keep him company. Dead eyed Ruth is embarrassed by her father’s obvious matchmaking attempts, and keeps on feeding him sandwiches. Manning leaves that day feeling decidedly unwell.

Nick gets home that day, to find Betsy lying on the kitchen floor, her hands tied behind her back, the over door open and cooking up the kitchen. Nick flips Betsy over to find her face horribly disfigured and puffy. He forces her mouth open, and white goo comes flooding out. It’s dough. Someone stuffed her mouth and nose full of dough and tied her hands behind her back – as the heat from the oven caused the dough to rise, Betsy slowly and horribly suffocated. I remember this death from when I was younger, and found it extremely disturbing. I still remember it to this day, and try to avoid any yeast-based doughs in case they expand in my throat/stomach and kill me. That’s my advice for you today: make sure your dough is not going to kill you!

Nick doesn’t know what to do, so runs over to Mr. Manning’s mansion (haha, alliteration!) Mr. Manning has taken quite ill, and asks Nick to stay at their place to watch over Ruth, in case someone comes after her with dough as well. Nick and Ruth go to Betsy’s funeral together, and come home to find Manning dead in his bed. Ruth tells Nick that her father’s dying wish was for them to be married, and although she knew Nick didn’t love her, she had loads of money now that would make being married to a dead fish somewhat more palatable. Nick doesn’t want to tell her about Rosalyn, because he doesn’t want to make her “feel bad”, so he basically tells her he’ll think about it.

Nicholas figured Jason killed Betsy, because of her flirtatious ways with him. He goes to confront him in his home, but Jason informs him Betsy was his cousin – Jason is a Goode. Jason pretty much thinks Nick killed her, and they get into a big fight. Ruth randomly jumps out of the shadows and plunges a hot fire poker into Jason’s throat. Nick is pretty overwhelmed by Ruth’s random act of violence, and even more so when she confesses she also killed her father and Betsy, and would go to the police with information that Nick killed them if he didn’t marry her. Damn, that’s pretty immoral, I’d say. Nick decides to match her ways and agrees to marry her, thinking he’ll kill her right after the wedding and take her fortune, so that he can go to find Rosalyn. This is for sure going to end well.

They have a quiet ceremony, with two witnesses. As Nick leans down to kiss Ruth, the skin on her face begins to crawl with maggots, and the flesh falls off. It’s just a vision, but ICK. Who doesn’t want that in their bed? When they get home, Ruth goes to change and Nick nonchalantly poisons a champagne flute with rat poison. They go to toast each other, only to be interrupted by … Rosalyn! Nick runs to her and holds her close, thinking how much he wants to be with her, despite the slight awkwardness of her crashing his wedding night/murder plans. Rosalyn doesn’t really give any reason for being there, but is crushed when Ruth invites her in to celebrate their wedding. Rosalyn gets all weepy, and downs a glass of champagne, because she just wants to Nick to be happy. She gets up all dramatic, saying she’ll leave the two of them alone. She only gets two steps before it’s clear who swallowed the rat poison. Rosalyn collapses and dies a swift, blood spattered death. Not a good way to go.

Nicholas grabs the knife from the wedding cake, ready to do serious harm to Ruth, but she calmly tells him to chill out. She knows about the power of the amulet, and wants to use it, but she needed a Fear to really get it. She tempts Nick with wealth and power, if he lets her stay with him, backing him. Having nothing left to live for, Nicholas Fear gives in to evil. Their first act as a married couple is to develop houses on Fear Street. Dun dun DUN!

This was awesome. So many gruesome deaths, and the clear story connecting the Fears to Shadyside for once and for all. I wish all the sagas were as good as this one, but what can you do? I give this 53 doughy deaths out of 58.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Killer's Kiss or "Here's Why No One Goes to the Local Police"

Killer’s Kiss. I suddenly foresee at whole lot of hot, dry lip lovin’ going on! Even the tagline gets in on that action: “Her lips were sweet and deadly.” Hmmm, isn’t arsenic supposed to taste bitter? It’s probably not arsenic then. Anyhoo, I love this cover. Our main guy, Vincent, is depicted in the photo in all his glory. According to the girls fighting over him, he’s the dreamiest, most beautiful, most perfect guy at Shadyside High. I’d say he’s attractive (for a fictional seventeen year old. Fictional means I can’t get in trouble for saying it!) but his kisses must have been preeeeetty dry for the girls to put up with his shit. He’s a total douche.

The books starts with Vincent having a little makeout session with our girl Delia. Delia isn’t really described … except to say that she’s NOT beautiful, but has long, curly hair, and everyone always notices her. Does that make her pretty, but not beautiful, or some sort of troll who dresses slutty? I was never quite sure. Anyways, Vincent is dating both Delia and Karina, who are rivals in everything. Karina is described as a lookalike to Michelle Pfeiffer, which would be a good thing in 1997. I guess? Pfeiffer would have been like 40, so I picture Karina as hot, but unnaturally old looking. Anyways, Vincent made dates with both girls on the same night, like half and hour apart. Well thought out plan. Delia just leaves when Karina shows up, but Vincent is still busted because he has Delia’s lipstick smeared on his face!

You see, Delia wears this purple lipstick at all times, and is recognizable to everyone that knows her. Gross. Karina vows revenge on Delia, but strangely enough, not Vincent. The cheater. (Sidenote: When L.K. and I were divvying up our new shipment of books, I got Killer’s Kiss and she took The Cheater, but for almost the entire time I was reading this, I thought I was reading The Cheater. Because Vincent is a terrible person. This book could also be called The Cheater.)

Delia’s hanging with her friends Britty (TERRIBLE NAME) and Gabe in the gym and discussing how both Karina and Delia are competing for the Conklin Award. The Award isn’t really explained but basically there are a bunch of Shadyside seniors competing in categories like talent and artwork, and the winner gets to go to the college of their choice. Karina storms into the gym, screaming at Delia and starts to STRANGLE her! Intense! Britty and Gabe pull her off, but Karina still manages to rip out one of Delia’s earrings. Cat fight! Karina finishes off her performance of clear sanity by threatening to kill Delia over Vincent. A teacher comes and finally leads Karina away. Uh, thanks for your help during the attempted murder.

Delia is discussing her issues with Karina at her house later on, with Vincent. He’s not interested, probably because he knows why Karina is claiming Vincent is her boyfriend, and doesn’t want to clue Delia in. Delia’s troll-like little sister Sarah comes in to tease Vincent and Delia about making out. But she’s 15, so that seems a little immature. Delia tells her off, saying she can’t get a date, so Sarah steals some of Delia’s artwork and vows revenge. There is a lot of revenge-vowing in this book. And it’s not even a super chiller!

The next day at school, Stewart (another boy up for the Conklin Award) asks Delia out to blow off some steam before their big talent competition (Delia may have a reputation… not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Delia says no, and wonders how Stewart doesn’t know about her and Vincent! Delia sees Stewart talking to Karina and is convinced that they are in on an evil plan to break up her Vincent! She convinces Britty to talk to Karina about Vincent so she can eavesdrop. Britty tries to talk to her, but Karina just yells that Delia will never win the Conklin Award and won’t still her boyfriend Vincent! Delia is convinced that Karina is off her rocker since Vincent is obviously HER boyfriend! So just to recap so far, Karina knows that Vincent is dating both of them but isn’t willing to give up, while Delia is convinced that Vincent would never do that and is also not willing to give him up. Is he really worth it?

The next Monday is the talent portion of the Conklin Award competition. Stewart does magic tricks, Karina brought in her own piano and piano player to accompany her beautiful, marvelous, hauntingly perfect voice (show off) and Delia wrote a song to sing. It’s of course called “Vincent” but she doesn’t get a chance to play it because her guitar strings were cut, and a dead rat was stuffed into the hole! Delia points the finger at bat-shit crazy Karina but no one is sure yet. Then Delia sees Karina and revenge-seeking-Sarah chatting, and is doubly certain.

Delia has a note from Vincent taped to her door (like the text message of the 90s!) wanting to meet at the dance club Red Heat (!) later that night. Delia goes to get something from Britty house, but on her way back she spots Vincent. With Karina. Exchanging dry, hot lip action! Delia immediately gets into a car accident. As one would.

Karina runs to her aid as Vincent goes to call Delia’s parents (not 911?). Karina and Delia finally talk rationally about how Vincent has been seeing both of them behind their backs. They think about what a douchebag Vincent is, and decide to both dump his ass and work towards fulfilling careers as a writers/investment bankers.

Just kidding! They do call a truce, until Vincent calls Delia and tells her that Karina kissed him, and that she’s still crazy. So… Vincent isn’t that good of a person hey? Delia believes him, even though Vincent blows off their Red Heat (!) plans for that night. When he hangs up, we see why he blew off Delia… he’s too busy making out with Delia’s sister, Sarah! Blech, I hate most of the characters right now.

The next day is the artwork portion of the Conklin Award competition. Karina does small, perfect oil paintings and Stewart does large, picture-like sketches that are very detailed. Delia apparently does loud caricatures using bright markers. What is she, a clown? When she goes to show her stuff, she sees that someone has scribbled all over them, using her signature lipstick, Midnight Wine! The message says “HA HA. COULDN’T YOU JUST DIE?” Yikes! Delia’s day gets a little bit worse once she runs out of the room in a panic and spots Vincent and Karina gettin’ all cozy.

Britty and Delia discuss what to do about Karina and Vincent over some taco chips. That… seems so normal for Fear Street. Until Britty suggest they kill Karina, and Delia takes her seriously. Britty is all, WTF, that was just jokes! Anyways, Britty comes through with the only advice Delia should listen to, which is to dump Vincent’s ass! Delia, of course, says no because she feels to strongly about Vincent. Delia? Those are your hormones talking. Go have sex with Stewart okay? He seems nice, and a magician to boot!

Delia decides that she needs to confront Vincent. So she drives over to his house only to find him … making out with Sarah. Vincent explains it away by saying he felt sorry for her, and she’s the one he really cares about. Let’s recap: Delia saw him kissing two girls today. One is his other girlfriend and one is her sister. And STILL Delia forgives him! GAWD!

We skip a few days (or weeks, who knows) to Vincent’s birthday, which is being held in an abandoned house on Fear Street. Well this will end well. Delia doesn’t show up, which Vincent thinks is weird, so he spends the whole time dancing and making out with Karina. In front of Delia’s friends, Britty and Gabe. What? Do they know that Vincent is also going out with Karina?

Anyways, just at the end of the night, Delia busts into the room claiming that Karina kidnapped her and tied her to a bed all night! Intense! Delia is all bruised and bloody, claiming the worst against Karina. Karina, meanwhile, is not helping herself as she screams she’s innocent but NO YOU CAN’T COME INVESTIGATE IN HER ROOM! Very inconspicuous.

The next day, Delia and Britty are getting ready to go to the old house to help Vincent clean up. (P.S. Delia tells Britty that her parents are going to “discuss” the kidnapping incident with Karina’s parents. Ummm what? No police?) I thought the point of throwing parties in abandoned houses was that you didn’t HAVE to clean up? O well, Shadyside kids are better citizens that me! The two girls and Gabe head over and once inside they stumble over… Vincent’s dead body! Dun dun duuuun!

The police are there and everyone is getting interviewed. One of the officers finally gets around to rolling over Vincent’s body (he was stabbed FYI) and Britty points out that Vincent has a bright purple lip print on his cheek! Things are not looking good for our terrible girl Delia here. She freaks out, a little bit suspiciously.

Down at the police station. Good! There are so few books where the police are actually involved, I was excited about this one. So Delia has been telling her story for hours and knows that officers suspect her. The officers come back in, with what they consider foolproof evidence. They show her a picture of her face (with lipstick on) and a picture of Vincent’s cheek (with lipstick on it). The lips and lip prints are a perfect match, they say! Pictures don’t lie, the officers say! WHAT?! They are going to charge a minor with murder based on looking at pictures side by side!? No wonder Delia’s parents didn’t call the police on Karina, they’re better off doing their own justice!

It takes Delia all of three seconds to point out the flaw in their “logic” though. She points out that the lips and lip print shouldn’t be exact matches, they should be mirror images. So they all slowly clue in that someone took an old blotting paper of Delia’s and tried to frame her. Forget art college Delia, a few years at police academy and you’d be running that joint!

The officers decide to finally talk to Karina, so Delia decides to sneak over to find out what happens. Delia can’t properly eavesdrop outside, so she BREAK INTO Karina’s house to listen to them rummage through her bedroom. One of the officers finds a dresser drawer full of old lip prints of Delia’s. Gross. Karina’s all, NOOO! And Delia jumps out of her hiding spot to confront her. Which was a bad idea since Karina promptly attacks her again. The police take Karina away for Vincent’s murder on very, very little evidence.

But there’s one more chapter! Gabe and Delia are visiting Karina at the Psychiatric Hospital on their prom night. I’m sure there’s nothing more a bitter, crazed teenager wants to see than a couple of enemies dressed up for prom! While their waiting however… Delia confesses to Vincent’s murder! She starts talking about how Karina had it all, but Delia took it all away from her! Delia put the rat in her own guitar, ruined all her pictures, then faked the kidnapping (I knew it!). Finally, she says that she killed Vincent for what he did, and thought blaming Karina would get rid of all her problems. Gabe stares in open mouth shock. Delia starts kissing him, saying “You won’t tell, will you, Vincent? I mean Gabe?” BAH! I thought the book should end there, but it actually ends with a doctor being like “I heard everything! The inept police are on the way!” I guess R.L. learned his lesson about Bad Girls winning in the Best Friend?

I think I mainly liked this book because I didn’t guess who the killer was until like three quarters of the way through. I was a little disappointed that NONE of the make-out sessions were described as “hot” and or “dry” but that probably my only complaint. And that I hated all the characters… 36 completely incompetent police officers out of 41!