Sunday, October 26, 2014

Party Games A Fear Street Novel - R.L. Stine

Everyone in Shadyside knows the stories about the Fear family.  Their ancestors practiced black magic, the whole family is cursed, and the ancestors haunt the Fear Mansion on Fear Island.  The stories alone would keep most people away from the Fear family.  Rachel on the other hand has a major crush on Brendan Fear, and to her he's a popular and nerdy guy.  When he asks her to his birthday celebration on Fear Island she says yes.  Her best friend Amy and her ex-boyfriend Mac warn her not to go.  She doesn't listen and that Friday, she along with Brendan's friends and his cousins board a ferry to Fear Island.  After they get to the island the ferry operator hits his head on the dock loosing a bit of blood.  When they enter the ballroom of the house Brendan greets everyone and the party begins.  Brendan has a few game ideas for the night.  The first is an old fashioned scavenger hunt.  All the guests are given a list of items to find through out the house.  Everyone is  partnered up and Rachel gets to be with Brendan.  He leads her to an elevator taking them to the third floor to begin their search.  As the searching begins they become separated and bats come rushing out of the room at Rachel.  After the bats are gone she looks for Brendan but can't find him.  She comes upon a body hung by the neck with a note on the floor saying "Anyone for a game of hangman?"  She believes it's Brendan, but when he finds her she realizes it's a mannequin dressed in his clothing.  They hear screams and see a crowd outside a bedroom.  Inside Patti is on the floor bent in half with her legs all twisted.  There is another note saying "Twister anyone?"  As everyone tries to figure out what to do the power goes out.  They go to find flashlights, but those have been taken.  Brendan remembers they have a security room and cameras.  When they rewind the footage there are two masked men with hunting rifles breaking into the house.  When one of the guests suggests going to the boat and leaving, everyone agrees and they head to the boat.  When they get to the dock they see the boat leaving with the workers hired for the party on it.  How will they get off Fear Island, or better yet will there be anyone left alive to get off the island? 

It's been almost ten years since R.L. Stine has written a Fear Street novel.  This one comes back with everything I loved in the series when I read them in the late 1980's and the 1990's.  It had the fear of the unknown killer, stories of the Fear ancestors, the Fear Mansion and the point in the book when one of the main characters realizes the killer might be someone he/she knows.  I was also reminded of Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie while reading Party Games.  In it ten people are in a house on an island and the killer picks them off one by one.  I'm very happy R.L. Stine has decided to go back to Fear Street.  I'm hoping there will be more to come from Fear Street.

T.B. 10/26/14

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard by Kiera Cass

This book contains two novellas that accompany Cass's Selection series. The two stories offer up the same situations that happen in the original novels, but from a different point of view. 

The first novella, The Prince, takes place before the series begins, although the last few chapters overlapping the beginning of the first book in the series. This book is from Prince Maxon's point of view as he prepares for the Selection. You meet Daphne, who is mentioned in one of the later books, as the first girl who had been in his life, and you see his true feelings and fears as he embarks on this journey to find a wife. Then you witness his first reaction to meeting America who is nothing like he expected.

The second novella, The Guard, is from Aspen's point of view and overlaps the second book. It shows his struggle to do his duty and keep up with his feelings for America in response to what happened to Marlee and a fellow guard, as well as her conflicted feelings for the prince. It doesn't help his situation that the rebel attacks are increasing and there's only so much he can do to keep the woman he loves safe.

Both novellas do a nice job of showing the other side of the drama. Since it does take scenes from the original novels, it can feel repetitive and it would have been nice to see more beyond the book. Since it is just a novella, though, neither story is exceptionally long. These are really just a snapshot of what else is happening in this world. A longer book would have given more opportunity for depth and further exploration of these characters' worlds. 

On top of the novellas, The Selection Stories includes a number of bonus items. There is a Q&A with the author that not only delves into the writing of the novels, but further details about how she imagines the characters' lives. There's a list of all of the girls in the Selection and a description of the castes. Then there are the family trees and family histories for America, Aspen, and Maxon. The bonus content ends with "The Official Playlist" for books One and Two of the series. These playlists offer a popular song, a lyric from the song, and scene from the book that relates to the song. It's an interesting and unique way to look at the books. All of the bonus content is worth exploring as it delves deeper into these really enjoyable novels.

For fans of the series, these are a nice treat to keep the story alive. Two more novellas are coming out (The Queen and The Favorite) and a fourth book is planned for next year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Illusive - Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Meningococcas Krinotas or MK plague of 2017 began in Chad, then spread to Niger, Mali, Algeria, and Egypt.  It was only then when the rest of the world realized how bad it was going to be.  America became infected when one woman stepped into JFK International Airport off of a flight from Egypt.  The MK plague then spread like wildfire throughout the rest of the world.  Six months later a vaccine was developed by Fiacre Pharmaceuticals.  It was rushed through FDA approval and wasn't fully tested.  While there weren't any side effects in most of the people, it gave 0.003 percent of the population super powers.  Ciere is one of these few people with super powers.  She is an illusionist who can change her appearance, and a thief.  Kit, her "Uncle", took her in at the age of eleven and has been sending her out on jobs.  Her latest job, along with her friend Devon, was robbing a bank of $40,000.  On the way home Ciere and Devon run a fowl of the mob who want the money back, as the bank is in their territory.  Ciere agrees to pay back the money, but she needs time.  They put a tracking bracelet on her and give her a week to get the money.  When Ciere and Devon return they don't tell Kit about owing the mob money.  Kit has another job for them.  They are going to rob a lawyers office, and they need a mentalist to do it.  Kit knows someone, but they parted on bad terms.  He sends Ciere and Devon to meet with Magnus.  They meet his assistant at a bar and pay her.  They are taken to a hotel room to meet with him.  Just as the meeting begins SWAT teams pull up to the hotel.  They are looking for someone and Ciere fears it's her.  When an old man is taken everyone else is allowed to leave.  Magnus gives back the money they paid for the meeting and tells them to tell Kit he's sorry.  The next day Magnus shows up at Kit's house wanting to help.  They break into a law firm that holds the last will of Marie Louis and are to deliver its contents to Frieda Fuller.  After Kit and Magnus leave the SUV to head to the meeting point agents from the FBI and UAI (United American Immunities) start firing hitting the SUV.  Ciere runs into Daniel, their former associate, who she and Kit thought was dead.  She realizes he's working with the FBI and not by his choice.  After they escape Kit reveals that Marie Louis is an alias for Richelle Fiacre.  The will supposedly contains the formula to create more super powered people to be controlled by the government.  Ciere tells them that Daniel isn't dead and is working with the government.  They all head back to Kit's house to rest up and figure out what to do next.  Ciere comes up with the idea of selling the formula to the mob as payment.  Ciere and Devon pour over a copy of the will Devon wrote down.  They come across an address in Endicott, New York and go investigate.  Kit follows them and Ciere finally tells him about the mob and the payment she owes.  The house has been raided by the FBI, but their is a hidden room that was missed.  Inside that room contains not the formula, but the last supposedly dead member of the Fiacre family. 

I enjoyed this book.  It was a fun and action packed book to read.  It kept my interest all the way through.  When I got to the end, I wanted more.  According to the author's blog on her website there will be a sequel to Illusive.  When the book described the spread of the MK plague, it seemed very reminiscent of how Ebola is spreading from Africa to the United States and Spain in the last month.  I don't think there will be any super power side effects from the Ebola vaccine, but you never know.  


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

One death, Nine Stories edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith Jr.

This book is described as a novel told in stories. Each chapter is a separate short story, but they are all connected around one character's death and the idea of "initiation." This is an interesting concept, but I didn't feel it was as successful as it could have been.

Kevin Nicholas is dead and his death touches the lives of many people. There are the few who only know him in death, such as Morris and Nadira who work at the funeral home or Jackson who learns about his death through a cousin on Facebook. Then there are those who knew him intimately, like his sister Lydia or his first love Candy. There are his best friends and friends who had only just begun to know him. Either way, all of these people came in contact with Kevin in one way or another and they all have a story to tell.

While each character has a story to tell, I didn't feel as if there really was a central story. In the Afterword, the editor says this was a "Pick-Up Game, a cross between an anthology and a novel...individual stories written by different authors shifted character and story lines, making each one both a piece in itself and part of a larger whole" (145). While I can appreciate what they were trying to do, to me it felt too disconnected. The only connection was that Kevin died, nothing else. There were three chapters in a row ("Initiation," "Just Once," and "The Next Next Level") that flowed together as similar characters appeared in each story. In those three chapters you saw a history developing, a story forming. Even the next one, "Running Man," helped to build the damaged character of Kevin. After reading those four in a row, I thought it was building to something, the truth behind whatever happened, but then it just died and went off in another direction. I think that's my problem with this book - things are just disconnected and I don't feel that it goes anyplace. I don't feel as if this book gives any closure, even if the Afterword feels like the last chapter brings it all together. The editor also said there was a continual theme of initiation, and while I saw it strong in some, it didn't feel strong enough in others to say that connects the stories. I've read another book along the "Pick-Up Game" concept where multiple authors work together to write a novel - each chapter is a different author but it continues the story, sometimes taking it into a completely different direction, but all connected. I've also read an anthology where each author writes a different interpretation of the same event. This novel tries to combine those two concepts and isn't, in my eyes, successful.

It's not really a novel, but it's too connected to just be considered an anthology. However you want to classify this, is does open you eyes to see how one person's death can affect multiple people, even if it is in the most minor way, and the different situations in which we are initiated and learn something about ourselves.