Bites

I have the glorious honor of being a guest recapper at The Devil’s Elbow, a site dedicated to recapping and reliving all the glorious cheese that is Point Horror, Goosebumps, Fear Street, and all manner of 80s and 90s YA horror. Guys, I’ve found my people. I’ve been reviewing cheese going back to early 2011 when I had my resurgence of 90s YA horror love and started hoarding all those books again. It’s been a stunning love/hate relationship ever since.

And then I find this place run by, of all people, two of my fellow original members of the Lost Boys fandom from way back in the mailing list days. Life is full of circles, people! Full of them. So now I’m contributing recaps. First one up is Carmen Adams’s THE BAND:

Leather-clad creatures of the night who call themselves “The Band” are constantly on the lookout for new recruits to play music with them and to follow them into the darkness. (goodreads.com)

I have already reviewed this book here if you want to dig through the archives or check out the review on my Goodreads page. Coming up is Carmen Adams’s SONG OF THE VAMPIRE (which this and THE BAND are filled with so much Lost Boys love I can’t even take it) and then into the fall I’ll be recapping LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series (which is filled with Labyrinth love, can you tell why I adore these books???).

So be sure to bookmark pointhorror.com to follow along not only with my recaps but everyone else’s as they snarkily wade through some of the dredge that spawned during this early time for YA horror (and YA in general). Some books end up loved. More often than not they’re skewered and left to roast. And stay tuned because I’m getting slated as a guest on their podcast as well. Download those if you haven’t already. They’re rather awesome. Oh I can’t wait to chat cheese!

28220872Published: September 27, 2016
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Caitlin has never had a real boyfriend before. When she starts seeing Colin, she throws herself into the relationship with fervor. She ignores her friends who warn her that Colin may be a phony and that she is taking the whole thing too seriously. Caitlin is smitten. She doesn’t care if she loses her friends. All she wants is Colin. When Caitlin approaches Colin with another girl, she completely loses it. She snaps. Everything goes red. When she comes back to her senses, she realizes that Colin is dead – and she has killed him.

But if Colin is dead, how is he staring at her across a crowded party? (goodreads.com)

This is definitely a meh Fear Street book. The characters are just too much over the top, the plot itself is way too far-fetched, and it wasn’t that enjoyable. Or even really all that creepy.

None of the characters in THE DEAD BOYFRIEND are all that well-developed. They’re all pretty much parodies of people. There are the two best friends who hang out in the background and act concerned. Caitlin, the main character, who has really weird reactions to things that show she’s a bit of a psychopath but that’s not really the point of the story. She’s off the handle because REASONS and fails to suffer repercussions for anything, really. The weird chick who dresses all in black and may or may not be into some really weird stuff.

Blah.

It was just all really ridiculous. Caitlin kills Blade and then Deena Fear brings him back from the dead. But once she does that he starts stalking Caitlin out of retribution and just when you think Stine’s written himself into a corner a MAJOR PLOT TWIST happens and everything’s all better. OR IS IT?

Not Stine’s best showing. I mean it’s definitely reminiscent of the old school Fear Street books, but not the good ones. No character development, very cardboard characters that don’t even feel real, a grandiose plot that’s too ridiculous even for my suspension of disbelief. THE DEAD BOYFRIEND is probably my least favorite out of the relaunch at this point.

2

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

25663595Published: April 12, 2016
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Eddie and Emma are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emma discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it’s safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emma’s family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There’s only one problem. When Emma returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret. (goodreads.com)

Another addition to the Fear Street Relaunch! CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? mixes the more non-supernatural thriller aspects of Stine’s writing with a hint of the supernatural but they don’t quite seem to match up here. I think the story would have been fine without the added werewolf aspect but I guess it fit in okay. But just okay.

I feel like these new Fear Street books are a little more grounded than the originals. The characters don’t feel like caricatures although their development is still a little thin. At least here, though, the only seemingly ridiculous character is Danny, Emma’s ex-boyfriend and Eddie’s best friend. When things start to go south his mind is only one track for that money and it comes off as exceedingly cold. But I guess there’s always one?

For what was presented in the book I think the rest of the characters were developed enough. I got into the story just fine and I found myself trying to guess who was doing what. When the officials came into play they ended up being a bit much, rather cartoonish in how they went about their business, but considering the whole Fear Street aspect it’s not surprising.

The werewolf part . . . on its own was okay and even kind of interesting. But I felt like it was shoved into this otherwise real world storyline for reasons unknown. I think it was trying to be a subplot? I don’t know. The two storylines do end up merging at the end but it felt like that was forced. The werewolf part could have been a story of its own without mixing in this whodunnit piece and it would have done just fine. As it was that piece of the book felt rushed. So much attention was given to the money piece of the story that the werewolf part didn’t get much of a chance to develop.

Overall really not a bad new Fear Street book. I wouldn’t call it scary (really because I think it was trying to do too much at the same time) but it was entertaining and that’s all I really look for with these short read Fear Street books.

3.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

October 6, 2015

23848058Published: September 29, 2015
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago.  (goodreads.com)

THE LOST GIRL seemed a bit tonally different from Stine’s other Fear Street books.  A little more serious, a little better developed, a little less cheesy overall.  And I like it.

THE LOST GIRL was a bit more robust in the same way that I was finding Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS books more fleshed out than Fear Street.  I got some decent backstory here, with a family drama playing out, and a young girl stuck in the middle of it.  It teeters a little bit between the past and the present throughout but for the most part the two are very distinct and it becomes not a matter of who Lizzy is (because that’s really obvious from the beginning) but how it all came to be and how it’s actually going to end up.

This Fear Street book is different from a lot of the older ones in that the group of friends that we go through the story with are actually friends.  No backstabbing or backbiting, no one’s trying to undermine the other.  They genuinely care for each other and when the poop starts hitting the fan there are some serious emotions that fly around that really hang on to the characters.  It’s a good place for this relaunch to be.  It’s keeping to the standard Fear Street model with horror and suspense but making the characters far more relatable.

In true Stine fashion the body count in THE LOST GIRL is up there and people do die in a rather spectacular fashion.  The man is rather inventive with his teenage deaths, if I do say so myself.  I wouldn’t say they’re gory because he really doesn’t go into a ton of detail with them but they are gruesome and one especially elicited a shiver from me.

I have a rather blackened soul so I really wasn’t scared by this book but it had its suspenseful and thrilling moments.  The end is where the real cheese of Fear Street came in and the story wrapped itself up.  It definitely wasn’t out of nowhere like a lot of his past Fear Street books were but there was a little bit of corniness going on and it all came to an end rather quickly but it was good fun.  I enjoyed myself reading this one.

While I appreciate the throw back to the original Fear Street books I can definitely sense the tone shifting with the series to accommodate a more demanding YA market.  I fully support this relaunch and I look forward to seeing how Stine adapts it to this new generation of readers.  So far things are looking good and THE LOST GIRL is a fantastic edition to the Fear Street bunch.  A far better story with far better characters than the books of the past and I think it’s my favorite of the relaunch so far.

4.5

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

So . . . not sure I’m going to do this again next year, especially since it’ll be coming up on my wedding and ain’t nobody got time for that.

What I learned is that it actually takes me longer to read these books than I originally thought so I wasn’t able to smash through them as quickly as I wanted to.  On top of that if I took time out to read a YAck book it set me behind in my Summer of Cheese reading.  And I think I only did that once and it threw me off for the rest of the summer.  I ended up only being a few days ahead of my posts cropping up and for books I was largely unimpressed with that’s a pile of unnecessary stress.

I found that RL Stine is far better at writing middle grade than he is writing YA.  For some reason he thinks teens are total shitbags that don’t know the concept of friendship and are completely undermining and backstabbing each other.  He also has a habit of having “twist” endings that aren’t so much twists but endings coming completely out of nowhere that weren’t otherwise set up throughout the book.  So surprise endings, I guess, because they certainly were surprises.  Meanwhile, in the few Goosebumps books I read (because they do take me no time to read and it helped fill in gaps on super short notice, call it a cheat, whatever), which are middle grade books, I got totally believable characters, most of them actually garnering some interest from me as a reader, and the lead-up to the horror toward the end set a great scene and them BOOM.  Scary.  They were just better written, more fleshed out, more vividly set books than the Fear Street books, which I found shocking.  But it’s plain that middle grade is his mastery.  Both formulaic, but I found myself next to never rolling my eyes at Goosebumps books and nearly constantly rolling my eyes at Fear Street books.  Although I will say Stine does get rather twisted in the way he kills his characters.  I fully support that.

Christopher Pike writes excellent, detailed stories that sometimes bordered on a little too much detail.  But the effort he put into them helped them rise above the stock YA horror of the time plus I think it helped his novels transcend time far better than the Fear Street books.  It’s a different level of writing that would have made him stand out back then against the rest of the YA horror and a type of writing that would fit in perfectly with today’s market for the effort he takes in creating these stories.  They were far more complex and delved far deeper into questions that one wouldn’t expect from the genre it was marketed in.  It was all such a pleasant surprise and I fully support Pike’s older stuff.  Now I just need to get around to reading his newer works.  I’m still hoping he tours.  When I first moved to Arizona he was supposed to do a signing at a local bookstore but it cancelled.  Super sad about that.  And it was never rescheduled.

The rest of them bring their own brand of YA horror flair to the mix.  I think the only non-Stine/Pike author I read more than a couple books of was Diane Hoh and I liked her stuff enough.  She tended to the Pike side of what I liked than the Stine, more substantial characters, better constructed plot, that kind of thing.  Most of them, though, tended toward the more psychopathic ending as opposed to anything supernatural, which did surprise me.  Considering the genre and how much flair was involved with it you’d think there’d be more non-human monsters involved or something.  Nope.  Many of them just ended up being about demented people doing crazy things.

I did make a fairly sizable dent in my shelf pile, though:

IMG_4856

All three of those piles were even at the start of summer so I’d say that’s a pretty solid chunk of reading I did.  I have a short pile of books at my feet to add back into that but luckily it won’t fill that hole back in.

All in all it was okay.  More work than what I was expecting, mainly to stay on top of my self-imposed posting schedule but that’s on me.  If I do do it again next year I think I’ll reduce posting from thrice weekly to twice weekly just to ease up on the strain a little.  I don’t read as fast as I like, which is fine, just not for posting three books a week.  I thought I’d be able to read a bunch at a time, like one a day, and just schedule out.  Didn’t even come close to happening like that.  Live and learn, I guess.