Paperback Stack · Reviews

Paperback Stack: The Snowman by R.L. Stine

Title: The Snowman
Author: R.L. Stine
Series: Point Horror
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 02/01/1991
Classification: Horror, Young Adult


Scholastic debuted Point Horror as a series in 1991, originally by repackaging several previous books under the new banner. The mission was simple: create solid horror stories for teens. And it worked, with the jagged, spattered lettering and haunting covers becoming staples on young adult bookshelves throughout the ‘90s. New books were 
published through 2005 from authors like Christopher Pike, Caroline B. Cooney, and Diane Hoh. 

Here’s one of those— the chilling tale of The Snowman.

Starting Strong

The tone for the entire book is set in the first few chapters. We open on Heather talking to her Uncle James as he patches a leak on their snowy roof. He verbally attacks her repeatedly until, fed up, she knocks the ladder over, leaving him to freeze. Only the next chapter reveals she was only imagining this scenario and she rethinks the scene, choosing to not bump the ladder until Uncle James is already climbing down, causing him to topple down and, presumably, die.

Which is all a bit intense, but then the next scene shows Heather has actually been making out with her boyfriend, Ben, in his car … while fantasizing about murdering her Uncle. She then openly admits this to Ben. It’s awkward and a bit silly, but then, so is the rest of the book.

Heather might have dreams of murder, but that doesn’t keep her from being banal. The opening chapters suggest someone with pluck and cunning, but she spends most of the book confused and brooding. But it isn’t all her fault—she is as R.L. Stine wrote her. This does allow her some growth as the book progresses, but she remains passive, with most of the action occurring despite her. Her primary concerns are how much she hates her job at the coffee shop in the local mall and the fact that Uncle James refuses to let her touch her considerable trust fund.

Then He Walks In

Pure white hair. Cleft chin. That’s about as interesting as Snowman, the boy Heather meets at the cafe, gets.

Lies, All Lies

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. He lies a lot and it’s clear he immediately begins deceiving Heather. He claims he recently moved to their town and attends her high school, but then struggles to name his homeroom teacher. Heather has never seen him in school before, but brushes this aside, and her ability to believe blatant untruths plays rampantly throughout the book. It’s a frustrating character flaw.

She accepts his frequent excuses for why they never meet at school.

She accepts that he lost his wallet and can’t ever pay at the coffee shop.

She even accepts that his brother suddenly needs $2,000 for a mysterious operation.

The only time she doesn’t believe him is when he tells her he killed her Uncle until she sees the body. Snowman claims that he strangled Uncle James with a soft wool scarf, so it will appear he died of a heart attack, and Heather also accepts that. Of course, she does have a lot on her mind at that point, trying to figure out how to get out of this mess.

The Rest of the Gang

This is a quick read, but Stine manages to cycle through a cast of characters that don’t do much to move the plot. Kim is the closest person Heather has to a friend, and her descriptions are unfortunately cringe-inducing. Stine seems to think the most interesting thing about her is that she’s “chunky”.

Then there’s Ben, Heather’s boyfriend, and the one character who she appears to exert some influence over. He’s a stock boyfriend, playing up the Good Boy image against Snowman’s Homicidal Boy. After Heather begins actively dating Snowman, she initially approaches Ben about opening their relationship because she wants them both. Ben is probably the most sympathetic character, though based on none of his own actions.

Aunt Belle mostly wrings her hands at Uncle James’s torment.

Final Thoughts

Some of this could seem negative and even snarky, and The Snowman certainly does have problems. Heather plods through the action with complete naivete and Snowman crashes through with the subtlety of a melodrama. However, this book is exactly why I love paperback fiction of the ‘90s. It’s clunky and quaint with just enough bizarre originality to keep me engaged. No matter the plot holes, it’s never boring with the bones for a great suspense novel.

Favorite Quote

“I’m a living mummy. A living snow mummy. But not for long. Soon the air will be gone. Soon I’ll be a dead snow mummy.”

Goodreads

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Reviews

Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop by Portia MacIntosh

Title: Love and Lies at the Village Christmas Shop
Author: Portia MacIntosh
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 10/08/2018
Classification: Romance


Ivy loves Christmas, which is good since she’s the proud owner of Christmas Every Day, a shop where it’s—well, Christmas every day. However, while she adores running the store in her mother’s memory, sales have been slumping and bills are piling up. Everything changes when a mysterious businessman, Seb, waltzes in and spellbinds the tiny town of Marram Bay, promising new holiday homes and a bustling economy. All he has to do is knock down the Christmas business and he’ll have the perfect spot. But Ivy won’t let her shop go without a fight, even if Seb is ridiculously charming.

There’s nothing quite as quaint as a Christmas store and author Portia MacIntosh pulls out all the stops to ensure Christmas Every Day is deeply alluring. Christmas trees in every corner, baubles in every cranny, and bit of a cheeky Santa all make an appearance in this festive story. Moreover, Ivy is running her dream business, passed down from her deceased mother, raising the stakes and making her completely compelling. Ivy is a hardworking, delightfully jolly woman who grounds the entire story and gives it its heart.

This is not to suggest that the rest of the cast is slouching. What good is a Christmas read if it doesn’t have quirky secondary cast? Holly, Ivy’s twin sister, hates Christmas and needles Ivy about her lack of love life. Gaz, a trained actor and professional Santa, doesn’t totally understand workplace etiquette. Then there’s rest of the town, which struggles with wanting a change for the village while also not wanting to betray Ivy. It’s a series of plots that expertly intertwine into the perfect present.

Of course, then there’s Ivy’s main foil, and MacIntosh deserves extra praise for her handling of the slick Seb. His appeal is apparent and his actions are realistic and understandable while remaining completely frustrating. It’s an impressive execution, leading to a desire for Ivy’s business to succeed, Seb’s to fail, and their obviously budding romance to blossom—each thing contradicting the other. The end result, though, is something deeply satisfying.

This is a perfect Christmas read, blending the romance, nostalgia, and confusion so abundant in the season. In a way, MacIntosh has crafted a book that feels like I imagine Christmas Every Day would. It’s brimming with expertly packaged holiday cheer while holding an underlying warmth and tenderness. Simply, it’s pure love.

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC copy of this book through NetGalley.

Book Lists

5 Literary Cookbooks

After reading through Winnie-the-Pooh as a kid, nothing would have pleased me more than plopping down and sharing a pot of honey with the unflappable bear. Food is a common thread in most books, whether they be a children’s ode to stuffed animals or a Dickensian novella. Simply put: most characters have got to eat and these scenes can make readers downright hungry.

I mean, I defy anyone to read through the J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of the Halloween Feast in Harry Potter and not get a small hankering for pumpkin pasties.

Fortunately, there are great authors out there working to make these bookish foods a reality.

Below are five cookbooks that tap into the literary world for delicious inspiration.

Continue reading “5 Literary Cookbooks”
Reviews

A Very Lucky Christmas by Lilac Mills

Title: A Very Lucky Christmas
Author: Lilac Mills
Publisher: Canelo Escape
Publication Date: 08/20/2018
Classification: Romance


Daisy wasn’t having the best luck, but the ruddy silver sixpence certainly didn’t help. It all started when she came home to find her boyfriend, Freddie, in bed with another man, forcing her to move back home with her mother and grandmother. With Christmas around the corner, familial tensions quickly start boiling over. However, she makes a genuine effort for peace, even going so far as to making her great grandmother’s recipe for Christmas pudding—adding in a silver sixpence for good luck. Unfortunately, eating too quickly, she chokes on the coin and has to be rushed to the local A&E where she’s greeted by the dreamy Dr. Hartley … and that’s when her luck really starts to change.

Well, this book started off with me glad I wasn’t in Daisy’s shoes. The first few pages are incredibly rough, and it only goes downhill from there for a time. Fortunately, author Lilac Mills handles these scenes with a bit of a wink to the reader. At times, she seems to even relish in the misfortunes of her main character simply because of the sheer volume of bad things that happen to her. However, it’s a Christmas romance after all, and it’s apparent her fortune will shift by the end.

Before she gets there, though, the suffering piles on and a lot of it is pretty funny. The Christmas dinner scene at the beginning is a completely chaotic mess and relatable. It’s topped by Daisy’s choking on the sixpence piece. I won’t spoil everything, but the results of that incident crop up over and over in increasingly hilarious and fresh ways.

This book is light on romance, which isn’t a problem, but should be noted. Noah Hartley is a great foil for Daisy, and their progression together is a highlight. One common trope in the book is the use of miscommunication. Characters hear what they want to hear and make vast leaps to conclusions. At first, I found this slightly frustrating. However, Mills sets the stage for poor communication early and it makes sense for these characters. If Daisy didn’t realize her longtime boyfriend was gay and that she didn’t actually love him anyway, then it seems reasonable she would have communication problems.

And I do want to give special praise to Lilac Mills for her handling of the gay ex storyline. Plenty of other authors inadvertently demonize characters like this or play into awkward stereotypes. That doesn’t happen here, and I was pleased with how tastefully it was handled.

It’s a fun and festive romance with some bite, perfect for Christmas.

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Reviews

How to Get Rid of a President by David Priess

Title: How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives
Author: David Priess
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication Date: 11/13/2018
Classification: Nonfiction, Politics


Every president’s time in office is fleeting and, willingly or not, they’ve each had to turn power over to the next person. After two terms, President George Washington, the original, happily stepped aside upon the election of John Adams. William Henry Harrison wasn’t so lucky, becoming the first president to die in office after a mere thirty-one days. For each person who assumes the great position, it’s much less a question of when they’ll leave, but, rather, how they’ll leave.

Author David Priess explores this expertly, considering how each of the previous forty-four presidents have ultimately left the highest office in the land. The result is a compendium of vignettes suggesting the typical transition of power in the United States has been anything but peaceful. Impeachment remains the most obvious way of removing a president, but it remains one of the least used methods. After all, Richard Nixon resigned over the pressure from growing bipartisan calls for his impeachment. And George H.W. Bush was knocked aside during his reelection bid—the most democratic was of removing a president.

Reading about the more famous stories are fascinating, but Priess excels when he gets deep into the research of less obvious cases. He breaks the book up by listing the various ways a president can be removed, ranging from losing an election to being declared unable to serve. The latter section is particularly startling. His portrait of Henry Clay, who consistently lost out on the presidency through various circumstances, also deserves special mention. For being so brief, it’s deeply effective.

It’s hard to imagine this type of book being releasedwithout the current backdrop in American politics. For anyone hesitant to pickup another book featuring forty-five, it should be noted that he’s onlymentioned briefly, though he creeps over each page. The good news is that,within these pages, it becomes apparent that we’ve seen serious tribulationsbefore and we always manage to get through them. The only question is, how?

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Reviews

A Dad of His Own by Minna Howard

40879272Title: A Dad of His Own
Author: Minna Howard
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 08/21/2018
Classification: Romance


Anna and her seven-year-old son, Freddie, are living a dream: house-sitting a castle over the Christmas season. However, not everything is perfect. What Freddie wants more than anything is a father after his own tragically died in a car accident before he was born. As the two settle into their new community, Anna begins to wonder if there’s a special someone who could help with this Christmas wish.

Author Minna Howard has crafted an incredibly sweet winter tale.

There are a lot of wonderful characters lurking around the village, and the most enjoyable parts of this novel are when Anna and Freddie mingle with their neighbors. A flood destroys portions of the town early on, requiring neighbors to come together for a successful Christmas. This sense of community works beautifully and is really the essence of the story that Howard returns to in scene after scene.

And, of course, there aren’t many things more charming than a castle during winter.

Some of the action is drawn out, and there are moments that could have been trimmed. Some of this stems from Anna’s inability to make solid decisions, causing some reputation as she goes over events. However, the great setting and fun characters kept things moving, making for a fun book.

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Author’s Twitter | Goodreads


Note: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Reviews

Secrets and Scones by Laurel Remington

Title: Secrets and Scones
Author: Laurel Remington
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: 11/06/2018
Classification: Middle Grade


Scarlett’s mother is a mommy blogger like no other,constantly writing about every moment in her daughter’s life for the world to read. So, she hatches a plan to become totally boring, depriving her mom of new material. However, when her elderly neighbor is rushed to the hospital after a fall, leaving her cat wailing for food, Scarlett discovers the glorious next-door kitchen practically begging her to bake. But can she really keep her cooking(and a new friend) a secret?

Author Laurel Remington has taken the idea of technology and youth and flipped it on its head. Rather than a lamentable screed against screen time and teens, she focuses on its impact on parents. It works and it’s completely relatable. Whether a parent posts about their children on a major blog or just to their private social media, it’s incredibly easy and popular to overshare in a way that can be mortifying for young adults. This is such a refreshing and relevant take on the issue.

It also helps that Scarlett is such a great character. Since her plan has caused her to go introverted, outwardly she could appear rather boring. However, Remington takes advantage of telling the story from her perspective. Her inner thoughts are funny, insightful, and completely developed. Whether Scarlett was learning how to bake scones or going through the awkwardness of trusting her new friend, Violet, I was invested. She sounds like a teen.

While food carries the story (and sounds delicious), to unpack here about relationships. Scarlett struggles with her mother, and this drips into other parts of her life. She mistrusts the people around her, for fear they’ve read the dreaded blog. As she becomes close to her neighbor, Mrs. Simpson, part of what pushes the relationship is her focus on food rather than on Scarlett. It’s a delicate situation, and Remington handles it masterfully, allowing each of the characters to evolve naturally.

Not to suggest that it isn’t difficult along the way. Part of the charm of this book is that Remington does not shy away from the difficult, particularly over the last half of the book. But a little love and some great baked goods can always help the mending process.

The problems are real, the scones are delicious, and this book is divine.

Author’s Website | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.