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review 2020-06-05 21:00
Revenge of the Shadow People, Ghosts of Fear Street #9 by R.L. Stine
Revenge of the Shadow People - R.L. Stine,Jahnna N. Malcolm

Vinny Salvo loves hearing his friend Benny's terrifying stories about monsters on Fear Street, but friend Sharon is more skeptical. Then shadows begin moving on their own and one horned shadow monster is coming for him!


Stine's books (and his ghost-writers) are always a  roll of the dice. Sometimes you get something that's fun, middle-grade spooky, and with a bit of something to remember after its over. 'Revenge of the Shadow People'...not so much. We have a concept of shadow people - which is scary - but we have nothing other than Vinnie's gullibility and his jealousy of his toddler brother to work with character-wise. I think we're supposed to think Sharon's a jerk because she claims she deserves the award for their photography project more than Vinnie because she took and DEVELOPED all of the photos. Vinnie did glue them on to the poster board, though. And Benny? If he's not a shout-out to another book in the series I see no point to his character.


This was only twenty minutes of my time so I shouldn't be so picky, but there are books in this series that were a heck of a lot better.


Ghosts of Fear Street:


Next: 'The Bugman Lives'


Previous: 'The Ooze'

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review 2020-05-10 20:55
The Doom of the Haunted Opera, Lewis and Rose Rita #6 by John Bellairs and Brad Stickland
Doom of the Haunted Opera - Brad Strickland,John Bellairs

Brad Strickland finished this based on an outline left by John Bellairs after his death. It features a lot of classic Bellairs' charm and my personal favorite of Edward Gorey's artwork for the series - the back cover features Lewis' nightmare where headless Opera patrons surround him and Rose Rita. Strickland does a remarkable job here.


Doing research for a local history project brings Lewis and Rose Rita to the abandoned New Zebedee Opera House located above the Feed & Seed downtown. There, Lewis discovers some sheet music making up a lost opera, "The Day of Doom", hidden inside a piano and runs off with it. This is despite a ghost warning him of he who would be "King of the Dead". Rose Rita is surprisingly skeptical about the ghost, even when Lewis challenges her on the weird shit they've been through together and apart over the last couple of years.


It tuns out that the pages Lewis rescued were hidden from the sinister Henry Vanderhelm to prevent the opera from being performed. It makes up a grand spell that could enslave the dead and doom the living. Unfortunately, New Zebedee has been cut off from the outside world and the adults have already been taken in by the spell of the Opera. Without Uncle Jonathan or Mrs. Zimmerman and with the other New Zebedee magicians vanished, what can two plucky kids do?


As I said, Strickland does a good job here. He expands a little on the world of New Zebedee and attempts to explain why so much weird goings-on focus on their small Michigan town. I liked the inclusion of more witches and magicians as well. This was spooky and dosed with a little satire of high-brow culture.


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Specter from the Magician's Museum'


Previous: 'The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder'

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review 2020-05-05 21:30
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, Lewis and Rose Rita #5 by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder - John Bellairs,Brad Strickland

The second of two manuscripts finished by Brad Strickland after John Bellairs' death. This was a more typical novel for Bellairs, following shy Lewis and his new friend Bertie as they cause and avert supernatural misfortune at the Barnavelt ancestral estate in England.


My opinion of this has improved since childhood, I remember being disappointed there wasn't more done with an actual "FOR REAL" gothic country house. But, you guys, there's a haunted hedge maze.


This text had more of that authentic Bellairs flavor, following Lewis' adoration of Sherlock Holmes, the English Civil War, and little details about mid-century tourism. I could have used a party-line joke when telephones came into it, but to each their own.


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Doom of the Haunted Opera'


Previous: 'The Ghost in the Mirror'

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review 2020-05-04 21:29
The Ghost in the Mirror, Lewis & Rose Rita #4 by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
The Ghost in the Mirror (Puffin Chillers) - Brad Strickland,John Bellairs

This was the first of two manuscripts finished by Brad Strickland after the death of John Bellairs in 1991. I haven't read a full biography, I don't know if there even is one, but it seems to me from Bellairs' focus on Johnny Dixon through the '80s tells me that these manuscripts were likely experiments and wouldn't have seen publication. The only full posthumous work he left was 'The Mansion in the Mist', a rare Anthony Monday book, and one of his all-time best works.



Rose Rita and Lewis had reached a point in their relationship where certain realities were gonna have to be addressed if their friendship was going to continue. Romantic feelings, even if Rose Rita and Lewis were going to stay platonic, were not Bellairs' territory. He left them behind for good reason. 


That said, this is a Rose Rita book and that means its great. Stuck in New Zebedee with a broken ankle while Lewis and Jonathan are in Europe, she makes plans with Mrs. Zimmerman to go on a road trip as soon as she can travel. Mrs. Zimmerman has been feeling the loss of her magic and needs a distraction. Of course, she has a supernatural ulterior motive: a message from her long-passed teacher in a magic mirror tells her that if she rights a great wrong she will find her powers.


Bessy, Mrs. Zimmerman's car, transports the two to the 1830's and seemingly strands them there. What is the wrong they need to correct, and is there a more sinister motive to their being lured into the past?


This was fun, but adult me couldn't get over the lack of period details. The farm family don't speak in 19th century fashion and there are a lot of things like individual bedrooms for the whole, extended family that didn't seem right. Bellairs often inserted obscure bits of 1950s nostalgia into his books in the way of radio programs and defunct candy bars as way to introduce modern readers to a past way of life, and Strickland didn't come up with an 1830s equivalent.


The other nagging detail is I've always felt, even when I read these as they came out in the early '90s, is that 'Vengeance of the Witch-Finder' should really come first. They happen simultaneously, sort of, but the pace would really work better if their order was switched. As their written now, reading them that way spoils 'Ghost in the Mirror', but Strickland could have changed that. 


Lewis & Rose Rita


Next: 'The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder'


Previous: 'The Letter, the Witch and the Ring'

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review 2020-02-19 21:07
Parable of the Talents, Earthseed #2 by Octavia E. Butler
Parable of the Talents - Octavia E. Butler

'Parable of the Talents' is a very different book than 'Sower', but I felt it was just a good. The first novel was made up of selected early journals of Lauren Olamina, who "discovered" Earthseed and led her group of survivors to safe land owned by her lover Bankole after her home and family were destroyed.


Joining Olamina's voice is commentary from her daughter some years after Olamina's death. There are shorter fragments from the journals of Bankole and passages from Olamina's brother's book 'Warrior' as well.


I loved the tension that the voices of Olamina and her daughter added to the narrative. Olamina's journals pick up ten years or so after the end of 'Sower' with Acorn almost thriving. Over a hundred people form a part of the settlement and they've established good relationships with their neighbors and have started to sell excess goods they produce. Olamina's daughter, named Larkin by her mother, expresses bitter resentment towards her mother and references a tragedy. 


America is still struggling, but the worst of the chaos appears to be over. Unfortunately a reactionary government is rising to power in what's left of the United States. A preacher is running for President, deplores the loss of American character and values in the recent chaos years and promises to "make America great again". 


The issues I had with Lauren Olamina's flat voice persisted, but in many other ways this novel is superior to 'Sower'. The book is about tragedy and grave injustice. I couldn't stop reading it until I knew what happened.




Previous: 'Parable of the Sower'

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