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...

WELCOME TO FOCUSING ON FEAR STREET WITH THERESTHEGIRL

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 Q...am 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 hacksaw...it'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...

THE SHADYSIDE HIGH TIME CAPSULE

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...


Friday, October 27, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: Double Date

WELCOME TO FOCUSING ON FEAR STREET WITH THERESTHEGIRL

Book # 23 in the Fear Street Series
Published April of 1994
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt


Our male protagonist Bobby Newkirk sitting on a bench in the park with Samantha, one of the Wade twins, In the background her sister Bree looks on with a very unhappy look on her face. It's a nice detailed cover and set in bright daylight but not very scary. You could switch this out with a teen romance cover! Of course German editions always give us something dark and bleak on the covers and this time we get two! One is an original and one is a reprint:






The top cover has a scene which does happen in the book and the bottom one does involve a cabin in the woods both with a very bare yet terrifying concept. As always you can get a very nice cover for Brazil editions:


Still dark even with some bright hues and almost blank faces. One of the Wade twins leading Bobby into a cabin in the woods as the other watches on with maybe some sinister intentions. Got some midriffs and boobs on display for the male readers and certainly eye catching. The one from Russia is kind of cool too:


Looks more like an advert for a Nightmare On Elm Street film with the way the girl is clawing and ripping at the poor guy's shirt. This dude isn't Bobby...he's got dark hair! You'll learn quickly that Bobby is a blond pretty boy. Besides some flaws it still has horror elements and is creepy.

Taglines: On the front we have "Two's company. But three can be murder." and on the back we have "2 Cool 2 Live 4 Long". The one on the front is kind of clever if cheesy but the back one...oh boy! You'll know you are definitely reading a book from the 1990s with that one and if you are lucky enough to find a used copy that someone decided not to take the temporary tattoos from. My copy is a later Simon Pulse print but the original Archway Paperback had blue butterfly temp tattoos because they play an important part of the story with the twins! It was very cool but very 90s...radical!

The First Line: "Bobby Newkirk pressed against the locker door with one hand, squeezing Ronnie Mitchell into her locker."

This is how we meet our main character, ladies and gentlemen. Manhandling a poor girl into her locker with aggressive charm to get a kiss and admiring himself in her mirror. Bobby is blond, broad-shouldered and boorish. He may look like Mr. All-American but he is Mr. Arrogance who dumps and dates all the girls at Shadyside High like they are trends going out of style. Right now, he has cheerleader Ronnie eating out of one hand and fellow cheerleader Kimmy Bass eating out of the other. He once dumped a girl just because she spilled Coke in his car and when his friends pick up his scraps, Bobby kind of hopes to have them come running back to him.

Bobby is in a band with his friends Paul and Arnie and is the lead guitarist who loves his guitar as much as he loves himself but doesn't take it as seriously as Paul and he even thinks Arnie stinks on the drums and they constantly change their band name more than they practice...mainly because Bobby can't say no to going on a date with a girl just to string her on. One day, the Wade twins interrupt band practice looking for the music teacher and Bobby is taken with shy Bree and sexy Samantha.

They just moved to Shadyside and are the only girls Bobby hasn't dated yet but he bets Paul and Arnie he can date both girls at the same time. In no time, Bobby is going out with both girls and finds that Bree is shy at first but she begins to fall for Bobby very easily. Samantha on the other hand is not shy but she may just be a little too wild for Bobby to handle driving his car recklessly without a license and even getting Bobby to steal her a bracelet from the mall after she five-finger discounts some earrings on one of their earlier dates!

Things get heavier when Sam tells Bobby he needs to drop Bree saying that she isn't right when she gets hurt and that she wants more time with Bobby...guess the twins were never taught to share their toys! Besides the trouble with the twins, Bobby finds that his perfect existence is falling apart in a disturbing manner after the tires on his car are slashed and he almost gets electrocuted to death by his own guitar! There's a way to tell the twins apart but soon not even that can help Bobby discover which twin is doing this to him...or could it be someone else? Bobby's friend Arnie is dating one of his old flings Melanie...could she be jealous enough or hate Bobby so much to kill him?

So the story is pretty much like a crazy Lifetime movie in the beginning but it has some good points where there are some characters that could be the real culprit besides the twins. There are a few twists and turns but when you get to the end it is just the best! Now this may just be me being a female but you can't help but liking karma biting someone in the ass! True it may seem a little harsh but it's not evil or malicious and as long as no one gets hurt fatally...you just have to see it for yourself without me spoiling it (worth it!)

Character wise, the only two I can't stand are of course Bobby and Arnie. Not too much hate for Arnie he's just simply immature and annoying with his only good point being he seems to actually care for Melanie. Bobby Newkirk is the worst male character I have seen so far in a Fear Street book. He is vain, egotistical, treats women like dirt, thinks everyone likes him and just like so many guys I went to high school with. His only good points are that he likes classic rock music (like back to 1950s Chuck Berry) and likes animals (he has a science experiment with two monkeys and treats them very humane).

My biggest reason for hating him is he makes fun of Melanie for being a little overweight and says that if she lost a few more pounds he might go back out with her! I am slightly chunky myself so I take offense to that (especially in high school and college) but maybe it's his fault she is. Bobby went out with her for three months before she found out he was going behind her back with other girls and broke up with him crying so obviously a year ago she was just fine to go out with.

I for one know what it's like to be heartbroken and drowning my sorrows in tubs of ice cream and candy bars so maybe that's what happened and Arnie seems to like her the way she is. I think Bobby gives her crap for her weight just because she won't go back to him because he mentions that she does still look good...I still don't/will never understand boys/men!

Body Count: No human casualties and no animals were harmed either. There was a scene where you thought some one was actually deranged enough to cut off the head of one of Bobby's monkeys (named Wayne and Garth...so 90s!) and leave it in his locker! Don't worry it was real, gross smelling blood but a plastic, realistic monkey head but effective enough that Bobby tossed his cookies! Now I don't particularly like Bobby but that was messed up just like electrocuting him! Also, I do not like monkeys but I would never hurt one especially by decapitation...sick!

THE SHADYSIDE HIGH TIME CAPSULE


Bobby mentions taking Samantha to see a movie called Eradicator Five. Sounds cool but not a real film sadly. I think if they wanted to catch a flick they could have gone to see a nice romance:



Or with the way this story is going maybe some dark comedy?


Maybe the Wade twins would like a very female driven cast - they seem like some tough girls who can take care of themselves?


So that's a great time at the movies we could have had! Driving in the car or dancing at the club, I've got some tunes you might enjoy as well!



NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: Dead men and dead women tell no tales in this club...The Thrill Club!