Bites
October 14, 2017

Published: May 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker , a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own? (book back blurb)

I reviewed the first book a while ago and my recap for it just went up last month at The Devil’s Elbow. This month I’m recapping THE CHASE and having never read it before, of course it needed to be reviewed here too. Oh such Labyrinth-y goodness.

Granted I was a bit torn with THE CHASE. The pacing was a little all over the place and the first sentence in that blurb is really misleading. Jenny doesn’t have dudes falling all over her now. One guy asked her to the prom who wasn’t Tom. The blurb could have started with the second sentence and have been fine. Anyway, pacing. It lingers on minutiae in this book where it didn’t in the last, giving me drawn out scenes when they were postering (as in handing out posters with Summer’s face on it because everyone thinks she’s just missing) that didn’t really advance the plot at all, or the whole thing with this guy pursuing Jenny, which really wasn’t much of a thing. There’s a fair amount of cigarette lighting in the book and things don’t really start to get rolling until a little more than halfway into the book, which is far. I often felt like telling Smith to get on with it up to that point.

However, I did like the total mindfuck going on up to Game #2. They were just spaced far enough apart in that first half that they didn’t connect too well and too much time passed between them to really maintain interest. Plus Smith likes to drag on with unnecessary physical details and expounding a little too much on what’s going on in people’s heads so that slowed the plot down too. But the mindfucking was good. I wish she spent more time there.

About a third of the way through the book I started having real issues with the type of focus Smith was giving Dee, her Aba, and then a Polynesian woman. It seemed like every POC that popped up in her books were in some way otherworldly and deserving of this . . . other type of description that no one else got. Then I remembered Wing from DE mentioning not liking Smith’s othering of Dee. Not sure what that meant I looked it up. Yup. That’s it. That’s what was really bothering me. It’s almost like Smith’s overcompensating by making all of the POC in her book mystical and gorgeous and unreachable . . . except that just plays into typecasting, doesn’t it? Dee, the angry but beautiful black girl who’s regularly described as having lioness and panther-like qualities, who wants to fight constantly, and who is regularly described as having a savage or barbaric smile (OMG NO). Aba, the mystical black grandma offering pearls of wisdom to help the children along. And the Polynesian women, a cop and there for a second, was described as being model beautiful. It was just so glaring and off-putting.

Meanwhile Michael has some variety of spaniel eyes, Audrey has spiky lashes and bangs, and everyone else kinds of blends in. Smith has a real bad habit of using rather unique descriptors repeatedly. They stand out “nicely.”

Anyway, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horror and THE CHASE fits better into that arena than anything else. I really, really liked the mind games Julian played, wearing the group down before taking them one by one. Truly, it’s perfect. But then we get sort of a repeat ending from book one and I want to say it’s lazy but it also plays into Julian’s character so I’m not sure which way to sway on that one. But I like that Smith went with the brain game with book two. Considering how mentally mangled those kids would be after what they went through, and with losing Summer (I have a feeling she’s not actually dead . . .) their brains would be ripe for poking. And Julian did just that. It’s demented and dark and it made me like the story even more. Jenny is standing more on her own two feet and barreling headfirst into things. Tom is no longer her crutch. Instead she stands on her own and that’s kind of awesome.

I’m looking forward to working my way through book 3 next month. Be sure to check out my recap going up at The Devil’s Elbow on the 23rd!

4

My recap of the first book in LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game series, THE HUNTER, just went live at The Devil’s Elbow! Come see just how much Smith was inspired by Labyrinth and if she wasn’t I’ll eat my shoe. Not to mention, in the grander scheme of shitty YA horror from the 90s, THE HUNTER is probably one of the least shittiest. I actually enjoyed this story in all its twisted horror and Labyrinth love and Smith kept the crappy characters to a minimum. Considering the proliferation of teens-as-caricatures in 90s YA horror, I’ll take what I can get.

So come check out my recap of THE HUNTER at The Devil’s Elbow now!

September 4, 2017

Got a little haul last month, including a book that just made my heart soar:

I have no idea if MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM by Grady Hendrix is supposed to be any good but the second I saw the paperback I just had to have it. It’s so . . . so . . . perfect. And so 80s and my childhood walking around Blockbuster in the horror section looking for tapes to rent. I love it. Also got THE FALL by Bethany Griffin in there thanks to PaperBackSwap. Have I mentioned I love that site?

And then the digital books.

Both of these came from InstaFreebie. I still haven’t actually read any of the books I’ve gotten from that mailer and I’m a little apprehensive. Honestly they don’t look too quality, just based on cover design and how the blurbs read. Those that I have chosen I think are the better of the lot. But some that I’ve seen . . . Ugh. Guys. Put your money into your book cover. It shouldn’t look like you slapped it together in Paint. And if you have spelling and grammar errors in your blurb, I’m going to assume the rest of your book does too.

I got this copy from Penguin’s First to Read and I can’t wait to sink in. I love this series but I’ve been a bit out of it and I didn’t realize I’m actually two books behind in the series, plus some filler stories. I need to get on that ASAP.

September 2, 2017

Pub Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. (goodreads.com)

NYXIA is basically THE HUNGER GAMES in space. I liked the brutality of it and I liked how Reintgen explained the reason for needing teenagers to do this kind of work (the aliens that occupy the planet they’re trying to mine live a long time and don’t breed so they regard youth very highly and revere children, allowing them into areas of the world that they get openly hostile to protect if an adult enters). It’s certainly far more of a significant, substantial reason than what a lot of YA provides for these kinds of things and it’s one I can certainly suspend my disbelief for. The testing the kids go through is both physical and mental and meant to push them to the brink in order to help them survive on the planet. This is where it gets a little thin because if the aliens revere children then they shouldn’t be going into a hostile environment. I can understand wanting them physically fit to withstand the space travel and mentally fit for living in space and trained to work with the equipment. So pitting them against each other and telling them not all of them will go down to the planet (wouldn’t you want spares?) gets a bit thin.

I’m not huge into sci-fi and I would put NYXIA at the light end of the spectrum. Aside from rapid space travel and the nyxia element itself (something that can be changed into different things using the mind, like changing it into a knife), there really isn’t much sci-fi going on here, or anything that would make it stand out as something to stand out in that genre. It’s all rather generic. I can actually see this trending more toward sci-fi horror than anything else based on some of the things that happen, both from the planet and the company funding this whole endeavor.

As far as characters the only complaint I really had was with Emmett. He was pitched as a black kid from Detroit from the beginning, but his demeanor just came off rather stereotypical and it was kind of uncomfortable. I mean he has rapper connections, calls his parents Moms and Pops, and speaks, sometimes, in a manner like “what you got?” but at the same time waxes poetic about the things going on around him. And, especially at the beginning, everyone’s viewed by their ethnicity, especially his roommate, Kaya, who’s Japanese. She’s his only roommate and she starts off as his Asian roommate and then when she finds out she’s Japanese it’s his Japanese roommate. He doesn’t have more than one roommate. Why the insistence regarding her ehtnicity? It was just really weird and kind of kept like the author pushing diversity for diversity’s sake and his way of going LOOK MY BOOK IS DIVERSE. And with a panel of 10 “diverse” kids we still have two Americans and two Japanese kids. So not all that diverse. This whole aspect just felt kind of cheap all around.

The dynamic of the characters was great, especially as the competition went on. I really like how they all interacted with each other and grew on each other as time went on. I did think Roathy and Isadora ended up being tension for tension’s sake, though. They just felt really extreme in their reactions to things especially as they were the only ones acting like this. There was enough going on in the plot without fabricated drama.

I mean it’s a good enough story to the point where I’m interested in seeing where the author goes with this. And the DIVERSITY IS DIVERSE notion, while really insistent at the beginning peters out once Emmett gets to know everyone and even his token blackness fades out a little bit, but it’s all still there. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have an issue with diversity in books. What I have an issue with is authors making sure you know their book is diverse by turning characters into cultural stereotypes (or just naming random countries and pinning them on lapels because said characters are background fodder and don’t get developed anyway) instead of doing research and letting characters be people. It just rings disingenuous.

So I don’t know. I don’t think it’s glaringly awful the way characters are portrayed and it didn’t detract me from the story too much, but obviously I noticed it. I can imagine someone far more attuned to something like this being even less tolerant than I am. So good story, great dynamic among the characters, less than stellar character development as characters. Take it for what you will.

3

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

My next recap is up over at The Devil’s Elbow and this time I’m recapping the next and last book in Carmen Adams’s not-series-series, SONG OF THE VAMPIRE. Adams must have loved The Lost Boys so hard because, like Wing said, this book is the most Lost Boys book ever, even with the movie novelization thrown in there! Truly, it is. But truly it also has its total derp moments and those are supplemented nicely with various gifs.

So head on over to The Devil’s Elbow and check it out!