Monday, November 20, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: One Evil Summer


Book # 25 of the Fear Street Series
Published July 1994
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt

The cover may not be very big here but we have our main antagonist Chrissy Minor laughing evilly in her room as she holds a cat that is not very happy to be there. A moon at night and a lighthouse in the setting of Seahaven which is not in Shadyside but our protagonist Amanda Conklin lives on the titular street. I also like how an evil wind is blowing the curtains of the room and the teal coloring is nice with the popping yellow title. I found a couple of German versions with some nice artwork as always from either an original or a reprint or an omnibus edition:

Of course summer settings with a dark foreboding tone. The top is a little brighter but one simple spilled drink tells us danger is afoot. The second one has the bright hue of sunset but it's ominous with abandoned beach gear and a spooky lighthouse in the distance. The only other cover I could find was for the Brazilian/Portuguese edition and well I just love it! Check this out:

This actually does happen in the book! The blonde Chrissy is giving a smack down to brunette Amanda in the ocean with a speedboat and the cliffs in the background. Yes Chrissy is floating so this is not just a touch of awesome added to the cover. The sky in the background is just full of evil with those stormy tones! And for you male readers, hey a little skin from the ladies in some bared midriffs! This has to be my favorite even more than the original!

Taglines: On the front we have "Chrissy is perfect-perfectly evil." and on the back we have "Help! Wanted". The front is definitely better than the back and the little plot blurb will have you intrigued enough to read what's inside.

The First Line: "Amanda Conklin rolled over in bed. She opened her eyes and stretched slowly."

Not exactly gripping but we are introduced to our main character and we learn this isn't the beginning of the story. The first chapter tells us that Amanda is a juvenile detention center because apparently it's believed that she murdered someone but Amanda knows the real reason why she is there and we get the backstory as the main set up of the plot. So the Conklin family is heading off to Seahaven for the summer which is great except that Amanda sucks at algebra and has to attend summer school! I didn't know you could to summer school while on vacation I mean I had to come in on Saturdays for math workshops when I was in school but I could do that at the beach? Damn, I kind of want to live in this universe!

Amanda isn't the only one bummed because now her mother has to find a helper/nanny/babysitter to watch her eight year old brother Kyle and her three year old sister Merry because she can't. Apparently even going on vacation they plan on working a little and going out to dinner cocktail parties or something. So they arrive at the beach house to drop off their belongings but discover they need some food so Amanda's parents and her siblings go off into the town while Amanda stays behind to put their pet birds, Salt and Pepper, and their family cat, Mr. Jinx, out of their cages into their summer surroundings. A knock comes to the door where a pretty blonde girl named Chrissy Minor has come to answer Mrs. Conklin's ad and Amanda tells her not to leave as she tries to get her parents back home as Chrissy says she has another interview to get to. Amanda reaches them in time but she already has a bad feeling about Chrissy because the cat does not seem to like Chrissy.

Mr. Jinx hisses and reacts in fear at the girl and Amanda then sees unbeknown to Chrissy the girl hissing back in just the same aggressive fashion at the cat. Also, the birds don't chirp or sing around her either almost huddling together in a trance of fear. So this is a big red flag to me because animals are a very good judge of character and the flag goes even more haywire when Amanda's mother can't reach Chrissy's references and decides to hire her anyway. Amanda calls Mom out on this and gets a lecture about being just as irresponsible for failing algebra and putting her parents in the situation for help in the first place...harsh!

Of course Chrissy gets the job and the family falls in love with her but Amanda is still wary because of the animals and the fact that they still can't reach the other families that Chrissy has worked for. When she heads to summer school things look up for Amanda as there is a very cute guy in the class named Dave Malone who gets to be her partner. Being a local, Amanda asks Dave about Chrissy and he says he doesn't know anyone by that name or any other of the names that Chrissy gave for her aunt and her cousin. Later that day, while the family is playing badminton, a car almost kills Kyle and Merry as it lurches up onto the lawn! The driver says he couldn't control the speed as if the vehicle had a mind of its own and poor Mr. Jinx is the only casualty, which devastates Amanda. She thinks she sees an evil smile of satisfaction on Chrissy's face at the cat's death and later in the evening, Amanda swears she sees Chrissy floating off the floor in her room!

Her parents think Amanda is just stressed at the death of her pet and that maybe she thinks Chrissy is taking her place but Amanda is sure that there is something off and evil about Chrissy. The girl has old newspaper clippings about the death of her parents by carbon monoxide poisoning and how her twin sister Lilith is in a coma...what is she hiding? Amanda calls back to Shadyside to ask her friend Suzi if she can look up some more information than Amanda can find in the small town of Seahaven and she agrees while Amanda seems to be developing a summer romance with Dave. She tells him about Chrissy and he doesn't think she is crazy at all, they go out to a shed on an island where Dave and his brothers have taken over an old hunters' cabin. They kiss and Amanda has to hold on to his waist as they take a wave runner to and back and it's so sweet that Amanda has someone on her side. Dave also says he has a way that might get Chrissy out of the house by placing a hunting knife in her drawers that will have her parents kicking the girl out once they see it.

Getting back to the house, Chrissy throws herself at Dave and he uses this to distract her while Amanda can plant the knife but things take a turn to the weird and horrible as blood sprays out of the knife, all over Amanda and Chrissy's clothing and then the birds are found with their throats slit! So now basically Amanda's parents think their daughter is going crazy, killing the birds and trying to frame Chrissy for it along with everything else and send her to a shrink. Good Lord Amanda just can not get a break! Amanda knows that Chrissy has something sinister up her sleeve and that her family is in danger but what can she do when no one believes her? Is she really going crazy with jealousy or are her instincts right? Why is Chrissy out to get the Conklin family and when will her charade finally stop?

This was a very hard Fear Street not to spoil for those who haven't read it and it is a very suspenseful story with supernatural elements. Think of it as a combination of Jennifer's Body and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle with some of the same plot points here and there but not exactly like the first and teenage rehash of the latter. You know how The Best Friend is like Single White Female? Go with that! The ending is okay I suppose but I think a good twist might have made it a little better be it a downer ending or not. There is also a little bit of maybe inspiration from the Lois Duncan novel Summer of Fear and not anything outright plagiarized so in a nutshell a good read. When it comes to characters, I'm not too fond of Amanda's parents and we don't get a lot of time focusing on her younger brother and sister so I'm neutral on them.

I know the parents aren't really that bad but they don't really do anything in my honest opinion to deserve any praise. Chrissy is our villain but she just seems like a normal mean girl, alpha bitch so I don't really love her or hate her knowing her motives and back story either way. The only characters I like are Amanda and Dave because you are suppose to identify and feel for Amanda and well Dave, he is the only one who believes Amanda. They have chemistry and even if you think it is far fetched for him not to believe this girl he doesn't know is crackers, I still like him anyway.

Body Count: Well we have one dead kitty cat and two murdered birds :( Animal violence in books I don't get but it's just another way to kick Amanda when she is down. As for human fatalities, one definite and two maybes with two of them completely out of left field and totally unnecessary. After The Thrill Club, this is another Fear Street novel where a character death made me kind of sad so if I just gave away an unintentional spoiler...sorry :(

Cameo Time!: Blink and you'll miss it but Carter Phillips from The Cheater calls Amanda with some bad news. (Shutting my mouth as to why...)


Not to sound cheesy but it depends on what your taste in movies and music is whether you will agree this was one evil summer for both forms of media! In the book, Amanda is said to be wearing a red and black Pearl Jam t-shirt. She's got good taste in music I'll give her that so maybe there are some other songs to enjoy in the same vein:

There's also some stuff that I like:

One I just can't resist putting here:

And a song that truly is evil (middle school dances were evil too!) and terrifying:

When it comes to movies, they mention a totally fictional horror film called Blood Surfer. Sounds interesting but I can think of some better films to watch:

Before I finish, there is a movie from this time that was so evil it made one of the greatest movie critics go berserk:

NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: Might take a break from Fear Street with my next idea or maybe not. I guess only The Mind Reader would know for sure...wouldn't you like to know?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: The Thrill Club

So before I go into the book review like normal, I believe we should get the tiny white elephant out of the closest and out of the way. For those who do not know the book I will be talking about The Thrill Club was not written by R.L. Stine. In the early 90s even though Fear Street was big Goosebumps came along and kind of overthrew it in popularity and then of course R.L. also had the books he wrote for the Point Horror series, the Goosebumps TV series and other projects. It's kind of hard to have a new Fear Street book every month so this was the first instance where a ghostwriter was employed.

Now don't feel cheated because ghostwriters are nothing new...anyone like V.C. Andrews? Well the original author she passed away in 1986 with only the first two books of her Casteel series written so because of Flowers In The Attic being so big her estate hired author Andrew Neiderman to complete the series. So every book "written by V.C. Andrews" since 1988 was written by a ghostwriter who still continued to write novels under his own name.

When a franchise is so huge and the author you love sadly passes it is nice to honor them and continue the hard work but when you are still alive and swamped by ideas I see it as being nice to give aspiring writers a chance to help you out. The Thrill Club was written by author Tom Perotta and if you don't know who he is his biggest claim to fame is writing the book Election which was made into a film starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. If you have never heard of either the book or the film, I recommend the film as it's one of my faves!

Until I learned this news, I thought it was a good story and the first one I can actually remember having more supernatural kind of elements instead of just being a murder mystery which was awesome. Also for future reference, most of the books in the Fear Street Sagas and all of the Ghost of Fear Street books are in fact ghostwritten but don't despair for R.L. is of course writing new Goosebumps and Fear Street books at this time. So if you still wish to see what this book has to offer let's get on with the show...


Book #24 in the Fear Street Series
Published May of 1994
Written by Tom Perotta
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt

Well there is a ghost bride mentioned, the cemetery in the Fear Street Woods and we do have blonde Talia Blanton and African-American Shandel Carter as characters in the book. Very 1990s clothing with the hat and the green vest over a white tee on Shandel and I believe I had a vest very much like Talia's sporting. For the longest time I didn't know what she was wearing under the vest but know I realize it's a maroon shirtdress. Everytime I see this cover I can only think one thing: Melissa Joan Hart and one of the Mowry sisters being haunted by the ghost bride of Stacey I the only one who thinks that? Any way, there are a few German covers from omnibus collections and reprints that do actually fit the story:

All of them are bleak and all of them have corresponding items and events described in the book which is something I always like and the focus is not on any people but an object where I can think of nothing scarier than that one detail. Be it a lone sneaker in a cemetery, a dummy and a noose in a dank basement or a tribal mask and a glinting's uber creepy! As I always I enjoy the covers from Brazil:

The cemetery is bleak but the candles and photo of the members of the titular club bring some color. I like how all of the important characters are present and pretty much fit their descriptions from the book. Blonde Talia, her boyfriend Seth, Shandel, Nessa, Rudy with his glasses looking like Harry Potter and his girlfriend Maura. Now I found two interesting Russian covers but one sort of looks like it has nothing to do with the story while the other I swear looks like it could be the cover from some sort of supernatural romance. You be the judge I guess:

Personally I like the romance one better. I mean we do have a blonde girl as our lead character, creepy things happening at night and well yes a noose does play a part in the story. The first one I don't know it's suspenseful but not plot related a gun is not present anywhere in the narrative.

Taglines: On the front we have "They're dying to join." and on the back we have "Thrills and Chills..." I don't find the back one interesting at all but at least the front one has effort put into it as cheesy as it may be. If you read the blurb on the back, it will be enough to grab your attention and make you want to pick up the book.

Now there is no prologue but I guess you could call the first chapter kind of a fake out so I am going to do this just slightly different as there are no spoilers doing this.

The First Line of Chapter 1: "Shandel Carter shivered and glanced back quickly over her shoulder."

So Shandel is having to cut through Fear Street near the cemetery because she and bestie Nessa Troy got into a stupid argument...over ghosts. Nessa says she saw a ghost bride once and Shandel is like yeah right so Nessa tells her to leave if she can't believe her. What do you know? Shandel gets her throat slit by an unseen figure with a feminine voice...guess she should have listened to Nessa.

The First Line of Chapter 2: "Talia Blanton finished reading the story and gazed around the room with her blue eyes."

Turns out it was all just another story written by Shadyside's greatest writer...or is it? Talia usually has no problem writing but lately she has had severe writer's block and her boyfriend Seth has been writing her last couple of stories including tonight's presentation to The Thrill Club. Talia never usually puts her friends as the characters in her stories but since it's been Seth he says it makes the stories creepier...too bad Shandel is not amused at having her throat slit even in a tale of fiction. She and Talia get into a little bit of a heated argument and well I guess also trying to stab Shandel with a trick knife isn't going to help is it? There is also a lot of drama going on in this club because well you see Seth and Maura use to go out until Seth asked Talia for a date and she said yes so there is some tension there because even though Maura is with Rudy now she still flirts with Seth.

Not only has Seth been writing Talia's stories he has also been helping her with her math homework and apparently Maura thinks Talia treats Seth like a slave but apparently he likes to be treated like a loyal puppy dog. Talia's blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful so who wouldn't want that over a chubby ginger with freckles I mean this is Teen World right? Maybe Seth likes to feel needed seeing as how weeks ago his father just dropped dead at his work desk and it's messed with Seth pretty bad. His dad was an anthropologist into tribes from New Guinea and other countries so Seth has been going through his notes and tapes and finds one labeled TRANSFER TAPE with some real weird and creepy chanting on it that he makes Talia listen to.

It gets to the point where Talia thinks her ears are going to bleed as she feels weak and dizzy and nauseous from it and Seth shuts it off. Well it seems like Seth may be taking Dad's death even worse than Talia believed and she does feel guilty for almost maybe being tired of Seth and his needy tendencies. It also doesn't help that Seth doesn't defend her when Maura and the others begin to suspect the stories aren't hers and when a teacher asks her outright if she is cheating on her Math homework. These teen troubles are nothing compared to the terror about to come when Shandel is found dead with her throat slashed just like in the story and Talia finds a bloody knife in her drawer and bloodstains on her sweatshirt!

Talia has no idea what is going on especially when the police tell her that she called Shandel's mom and confessed to killing her daughter and Nessa says Talia also called to tell her that she can start dating Seth! Is Talia going crazy she says she didn't do either of those things? Everyone begins to look at her with much more suspicion that Talia can't help but kiss Rudy, the only one not treating her different or pulling away, but someone catches them! Who was it and is this person responsible for all of Talia's terror? It seems like horror is spilling over into reality when another member, the victim of another story, of the Thrill Club is found dead and this time Talia can't erase the evidence against her. Who is the villain rewriting Talia's story into one of horror and can she change the ending into a happy one?

As stated above, I really enjoy this story. Yes it has murder like most other Fear Street books but the supernatural element presented around the story's climax is refreshing and quite plausible: there is a lot about other cultures and the paranormal we don't understand. It's almost easy to pick out the antagonist of the story from the beginning but a few hints of another character being the villain are alluded to and maybe even a person not in the foreground. Soon that possibility is scrubbed and the more paranormal/fantasy element is introduced and you are like yeah I can see that.

The characters are good but I don't really get invested into them much. It's not that I don't care whether they live or die but only one death really doesn't seem deserved and I'm not sure if you can call the main character Talia completely innocent for some of the things she did. I'm also not really sure if the antagonist was justified in their motive as well but it doesn't mean the book isn't great either. I would recommend this Fear Street book it's engaging and all kinds of messed up (but in a good way!)

Body Count: Of course Shandel and as for the other character to die, I'll leave that one a secret. You'll probably realize who it is fairly early but it is so grotesque and sad :( It's one of the saddest deaths I have read in a Fear Street book...


I wouldn't say the music around this time was bad but nothing really pops out at me to talk about and the tone of the story doesn't really deserve anything to cheerful. Movies around this time are kind of another matter and one of them is of course the greatest films of cinema:

NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: A story that began One Evil Summer...