Book Review: Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson

Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Source: Borrowed
Two teens. Two diaries. Two social panics. One incredible fraud.

In 1971, Go Ask Alice reinvented the young adult genre with a blistering portrayal of sex, psychosis, and teenage self-destruction. The supposed diary of a middle-class addict, Go Ask Alice terrified adults and cemented LSD’s fearsome reputation, fueling support for the War on Drugs. Five million copies later, Go Ask Alice remains a divisive bestseller, outraging censors and earning new fans, all of them drawn by the book’s mythic premise: A Real Diary, by Anonymous.

But Alice was only the beginning.

In 1979, another diary rattled the culture, setting the stage for a national meltdown. The posthumous memoir of an alleged teenage Satanist, Jay’s Journal merged with a frightening new crisis—adolescent suicide—to create a literal witch hunt, shattering countless lives and poisoning whole communities.

In reality, Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal came from the same dark place: Beatrice Sparks, a serial con artist who betrayed a grieving family, stole a dead boy’s memory, and lied her way to the National Book Awards.

Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries is a true story of contagious deception. It stretches from Hollywood to Quantico, and passes through a tiny patch of Utah nicknamed “the fraud capital of America.” It’s the story of a doomed romance and a vengeful celebrity. Of a lazy press and a public mob. Of two suicidal teenagers, and their exploitation by a literary vampire.

Unmask Alice . . . where truth is stranger than nonfiction.

I love my job, but it can be a little monotonous sometimes. I code medical charts for an insurance company, and sometimes it’s really interesting and other times it’s 5,000 mind-numbing pages of nothing. So to keep my sanity, I’ll listen to something while I work. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s an audiobook, sometimes it’s a podcast. One of my favorite podcasts is You’re Wrong About, and I’ve listened to almost all of the episodes. A few months ago, Sarah did a series on Go Ask Alice with Carmen Maria Machado and Rick Emerson. By the time it was done, I knew that I absolutely had to read this book.

Honestly, my mind is blown.

I never read Go Ask Alice when I was growing up. I definitely remember it always being on the shelf in my library’s YA section, but nothing about it really appealed to me. For good reason, it seems, based on what I learned in this book.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but this is an absolutely crazy story. For the first maybe 80% of the book, the author splits his story into so many seemingly unconnected threads. It’s clear that they’ll come together somehow, and I was just wondering how the different stories and different people connected. And when they did? Like I said, my mind was blown. You can maybe imagine a little bit of what happened when you hear that Go Ask Alice is a work of fiction. But the layers of deception, the way that it spread, and the effect that it had on society is almost unbelievable.

This is such a well-written and engaging account of what happened. It’s a story that feels more like fiction since it’s so crazy that a grown woman could behave so badly. It’s like the Bad Blood of publishing. I really can’t recommend it enough, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the source material.

P.S. I’m now reading Go Ask Alice and at roughly 30% in, I can say I’m not at all surprised to find out all of it was a lie.

Have you read Unmask Alice? Have you gotten any good recommendations from a podcast?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Recent DNFs

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Source: Borrowed

For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

Filled with carriages, candlesticks, and corpses, Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match is the spooky-season reimagining of the well-known classic that reminds us to never judge a man by his cadaver!

DNF @ ~10%

We all know that The Hating Game is one of my all-time favorite books. 99 Percent Mine wasn’t bad. Not my favorite, but not bad. I’ve had Second First Impressions on my shelf since it came out and haven’t read it yet. But Angelika Frankenstein? I was skeptical, especially given the early reviews, but I wanted to give it a chance. It took me three weeks to get to 10%, and what I read was just so… weird. This isn’t necessarily a forever DNF, but my library book was due back and I just can’t justify buying this book that I don’t care that much about reading. I might pick it back up later, once there aren’t 20+ holds on it.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Source: Borrowed

House Rules:
Do your own dishes.
Knock before entering the bathroom.
Never look up your roommate online.

The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.

DNF @ ~50%

I thought I’d like this. Really, I did. And it wasn’t bad at first, but Clara really rubbed me the wrong way. The premise was good, but I started losing interest halfway through. I would’ve probably finished it if my library loan hadn’t expired while I was in the hospital giving birth. I can’t say that I really care enough to put it back on hold, wait however long until I get it again, and then pick it back up.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Source: Borrowed

1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven’t seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she’s got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter’s been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

DNF @ ~20%

I remember hearing so much about this book when it first came out. I really thought that I’d love it. I mean, it’s basically Scooby Doo for grown-ups! (Right down to the Zoinkx River.) But the characters annoyed me, the writing style annoyed me, and I also just… didn’t like the plot. I wish I’d been able to finish this one. It seems like it would have been perfect for spooky season.

Have you read any of these books? What’s the last book you DNFed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Have a Match by Emma Lord
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Source: ARC via Netgalley
A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie … although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

By this point, you may have noticed that I’m in a bit of a pattern of apologizing at the beginning of my reviews. This review is no exception, because I was approved for this ARC on Netgalley in July of 2020, this book released in January 2021, and here we are in October 2022 and I am finally posting my review. My apologies.

But I loved this book, okay? I think I’d probably love anything Emma Lord writes. I even love her Twitter feed! I love her love of Taylor Swift and fanfiction and her sense of humor. I love the stories she comes up with, her characters, her dialogue, all of it. So the fact that I loved You Have a Match is probably not very surprising.

There’s a lot to love about this book. Emma Lord’s writing style is so… charming. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but her books give me this warm, fuzzy feeling. In this book, family relationships take center stage as our main character finds out through a DNA test that she has a sister she didn’t know about. I’ll do a little digression here and say that I have done a DNA test and, given that I was never that close with my dad’s side of the family, I’m always paranoid that I’m going to find out I have a secret sibling! Up to this point, though, the closest relative I’ve found is a second cousin.

In addition to the whole sister thing, there’s a cute little friends-to-lovers romance on the side. We all know how I feel about those, so that was just a little added bonus.

All in all, You Have a Match is another great book from Emma Lord, and it’s cemented her place on my list of auto-read authors.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of You Have a Match in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read You Have a Match? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Rating: ★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Source: ARC via Netgalley
A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

In another installment of “ARCs I Should Have Reviewed Literally Years Ago,” we have The Wife Upstairs. I loved Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle series, so I was excited to see an adult novel from her. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never read Jane Eyre, nor do I really know what it’s about aside from the most basic plot summary, so I can’t comment too much on the retelling aspect of this book and I’ll be looking at it just on its own merits.

And, on its own merits, it was good. Not great, but definitely good. I was hooked from the beginning and wondered how Jane, having grown up poor and in abusive situations, was going to assimilate into this culture of super rich women whose biggest concern is the landscaping of their neighborhood. As Jane seems to effortlessly transform into your stereotypical rich housewife, it also becomes clear that there’s a lot more than just landscaping problems going on in this neighborhood. There’s a thread of unease that starts running through her interactions with the once perfect Eddie, and then there’s the whole unsolved mystery of Eddie’s wife Bea’s disappearance.

The book is told from both Jane’s and Bea’s perspective, which provides a lot of tension as we’re just waiting for Jane to catch on to what’s really happening. There are a lot of twists and turns as we get to the ending, some of which I liked and others that I felt were a little over the top. Again, I have not read Jane Eyre so I’m not sure how much of that was inspiration from the original and how much was brand new from the author’s imagination, so I’m not really sure how judgy to be about some of those twists.

Overall, this was a really fun book. though I can’t say I 100% loved this book, I flew through it and it made me want to go read some of Rachel Hawkins’ backlist.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of The Wife Upstairs in exchange for my honest review.

Previously: Rebel BelleMiss Mayhem

Have you read The Wife Upstairs? What’s your favorite modern retelling?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini Reviews: Across the Green Grass Fields & Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Borrowed
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

It’s been a little while since I was in the world of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children, but I was looking around my library and saw that two books had come out since I last thought about it, so I figured I might as well read them. Across the Green Grass Fields was neither my favorite nor my least favorite of this series.

In short, I thought the setting was interesting and I liked Regan and most of the equine characters. Or, more accurately, I should probably say that I liked how those characters treated Regan. I can’t say that I particularly liked the plot twist — it felt a little obvious to me — but McGuire’s writing was, as always, magical.

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Source: Borrowed
Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…

Where the Drowned Girls Go is an interesting addition to the Wayward Children series since it takes place at an entirely different school than the rest of the books. The Whitethorn Institute isn’t a particularly welcoming place, and none of the children there are particularly happy.

This book follows Cora and Sumi, both of whom we’ve previously met in the series. It introduces several new characters with its new setting, some that I liked and some that I didn’t. The book itself had its ups and downs, sometimes keeping me interested and sometimes boring me.

This is the third book in a row from this series that’s been kind of meh for me, so I’ll be interested to see what I think of the next one.

Previously: Every Heart a Doorway

I didn’t write reviews for books 2-5, but here are my ratings:
Down Among the Sticks and Bones: ★★★☆☆
Beneath the Sugar Sky: ★★★★☆
In an Absent Dream: ★★★★☆
Come Tumbling Down: ★★★☆☆

Have you read either of these books? Have you read any good novellas recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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