DELICIOUS POKE CAKES: 80 Super Simple Desserts with an Extra Flavor Punch in Each Bite by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore

PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
AUTHORS' SITE: link
MY GRADE:

FROM PUBLISHER: Poke cakes mean year-round fun and flavor. No stress--just rave reviews. From the authors of Delicious Dump Cakes, this collection of fifty tested recipes is a quick, easy guide to delicious desserts. Begin with a baked cake, prepared from a box mix, or use one of the cake recipes included. Poke holes in the baked cake with a fork, the handle of a wooden spoon, or a skewer so all of the goodness and flavor can soak into the cake. Then just pour pudding, a topping, glaze, gelatin, or sauce over the cake and let the flavor seep into every crevice and permeate every morsel of cake. Finish it off with a luscious, creamy whipped topping or frosting and suddenly that everyday cake is new, unique, and oh-so-inviting, with an extra flavor punch in every bite.



THINGS I'VE MADE

CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER POKE CAKE


I made the Homemade Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake recipe instead of using a boxed cake mix like all the recipes state to do. The cake is extremely moist but it needed a lot more salt than called for. I made half in a 9"x1.5" round pan and it baked in 22 minutes. This exact cake recipe is one I've made several times before. This one called for a little more cocoa powder than I felt it should so I used 1.5 tablespoons less, so I used just 4T. for half a cake.

The peanut butter sauce wasn't at all 'pourable' like the recipe said it would be so I had to use a lot more milk (I used milk in place of cream since I didn't have any) and it still wasn't pourable and it didn't seep way down into the holes like shown in the photo in the book. It tastes very good. I didn't make the chocolate frosting recipe in the book because it had too much chocolate in it so I made my own chocolate glaze for this.

The cake was excellent and the peanut butter filling was good but because it didn't seep into the holes properly I won't use the poke method but will continue to make this cake, minus the filling.


MY THOUGHTS: I've only made one recipe out of this book but the book is filled with very simple recipes that take basic skills. They give you one from scratch recipe for chocolate cake, white, and yellow cake. The recipes use store bought boxed cake mix but you can use their homemade recipes in place of boxed.

There's a great variety of recipes and flavorings: Make Your Own Cakes, All-Time Favorite Poke Cakes, Chocolate Poke Cakes, Flavorful Poke Cakes, Boozy Poke Cakes, Bundt Poke Cakes, Frostings.

There are a lot of photos but not one for each cake. The full book is in color too.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



WHO KILLED CINDY JAMES? A WOMAN'S STORY OF PERSECUTION AND TERROR by Ian Mulgrew

PUBLISHER: Seal Books, 1/1991
GENRE: Nonfiction/True Crime
SETTING: British Columbia, Canada, 1980's
PURCHASE: link and link
AUTHOR SITE: link
WIKI: link
MY GRADE: A+

FROM PUBLISHER: On May 25, 1989, Cindy James, a former nurse and social worker, disappeared. On June 8, 1989, her body was found in a vacant lot in suburban Vancouver. Her hands and feet were bound. She had a puncture wound in her right arm. Initially police investigated the case as a murder, but later claimed it to be suicide. On May 28, 1990, a coroner's jury ruled the cause of Cindy's death "indeterminate."

For nearly seven years Cindy's life had been a nightmare. At least ninety incidents had been reported to the police, including threatening phone calls, abusive notes, cut phone lines, strangled animals left in her yard, and physical and sexual assaults. Several of these events could be substantiated by coworkers or relatives who were present when they occured.

Was Cindy killed by a sadistic tormenter who is still free, or did the very real persecution drive her to stage horrifying incidents to gain the help and attention she so desperately needed? Why did all our social institutions fail her at every turn? Because one thing is certain: Cindy James's death was the result of systematic indifference and abuse on the part of the authorities-all men-who might have saved her. From difficult relationships at home to the indifference of psychiatrists and members of the police force, Cindy James's tragedy embodies a nightmare women everywhere share.


MY THOUGHTS: This is the true story of an incredibly sick woman who seems to have lost her mind when she separated from her husband in 1982. The separation and divorce was Cindy's decision. Her maiden name is Hack, married name is Makepeace, and she changed it to James after divorcing Roy. So to answer the book's question of who killed Cindy James, in my opinion she killed herself. All roads lead back to Cindy. There isn't one shread of evidence to support someone stalking or raping her but there is evidence to suggest she stalked herself. She has an above average IQ, is anorexic with breast implants, and has been hospitalized for depression and suicidal thoughts multiple times.

She died from an overdose of morphine, flurazepam, and diazepam despite the fact she was found bound with a stocking around her neck. She'd been prescribed a lot of medication for depression over the years and she appears to have been stockpiling it. Police and her family found a lot of it in her house after she died. Her family got rid of a lot of it for some unknown reason.

One or two psychiatrists predicted she'd stage an elaborate suicide to make it look like murder and damn if they weren't right. She took several medications then hog-tied herself, which can be done. All legitures on her body when she was found- around her neck, wrists, and ankles, were all loose, so loose in fact they never even left a mark on her and she had no bruses anywhere. A knot expert, Robert Chisnall, was asked by those involved in the investigation to see if he could knot legatures himself and he could indeed do it within a few minutes. From page 207: "He (Robert Chisnall) tied himself up using similar strands of nylon and found several different ways of producing the knots and simulating their tightness. He even found a way to do it with his hands and feet in front, and then rearranging the knotted stocking so that the hands appeared to have been tied from behind. Self-tying could have been effected with a minimum of effort, he said." Robert, before the experiment with tying himself, didn't think Cindy could have tied herself up but he proved himself wrong.

The book is very well written and fair. He looks at it from both angles. The book includes eight pages of black and white photos of Cindy and her family. He was "the only person given access to the personal diaries of Cindy James by her family. He has conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with her family, her ex-husband, her friends, and officials involved in the case." He also used police files and her own psychiatric files. He came to the conclusion that Cindy killed herself. Her afore mentioned diaries are unreliable. She was told by a psychiatrist to keep one as a way of expressing her feelings. When she realized they weren't going to read them, she stopped writing in them.

There's a section in the back of the book with a chronological order of all the police calls that were made by her, beginning in October 1982. She claims she was first assaulted in 1983 and she even had sticks and debris up her rectum once, page 142, "...and there was evidence that twigs were shoved up her rectum during one attack and that a cigarette had been butted out in her vagina in another." She claims that she was raped with a knife (1/27/83) though she never actually saw the knife. And I'm assuming she means she was raped with the blade. About the knife incident, page 15: "Cindy was vague on details and doctors found no evidence of rape or serious injury to her vagina." She claims that she's never seen her attackers, ever. She claims too that a dead cat that had been strangled to death with a stocking and was left at her door two different times but no one ever saw them, or so I assume, so I'm assuming there never were any actual dead cats. At least I hope that's the case. She came home once and her dog had been beaten and was bloody with a stocking around its neck, sitting in its own feces. It was the same type of stocking that was on the dead cats. Someone was with her when she got home, of course, and saw it and they stupidly assume that since the dog ran over to Cindy that Cindy couldn't have been the one who abused it in the first place. And after several assaults, including the one where she died, she had 'pinpricks' on her inner arm at the elbow, at least once it was on the right arm (she's right-handed) that was from a hypodermic needle. Some say she couldn't have done that to herself with her left hand because she's right-handed. Stupid thinking.

Edit- No one actually saw the two strangled cats and one cat that had supposedly been hit by a car and was found at her door. That information came from her own diary/log she'd been keeping.

It's proven that some of the threatening phone calls to her home were made from inside her own home. It's not a coincidence that several times she was found bound by someone who was due to be at her house later that day. How convenient. There were a few house fires at her home and they were proven to have been started from inside the home. She was hellbent on framing her ex-husband for the attacks and threatening calls and letters. What she didn't know was that when one of the fires took place not only was he out of the country, he was on another continent. And he too got a few threatening phone calls. Let's pretend Cindy really did have a stalker/tormenter. Why would he call her ex-husband? He wouldn't. It doesn't make any sense. And at least once she claimed someone threw something through her window, breaking the glass, and it was proven that the object was thrown from the inside of the house to the outside. She also claimed that while on vacation in 1981 with her husband and sister Melanie, her husband murdered and dismembered a young couple.

Cindy reminds me of Joanne Chambers, a Pennsylvania school teacher who was stalking herself and trying to frame her female co-worker. You may know of Joanne from an episode of Forensic Files called Sealed With a Kiss.

You can read more about Cindy at the following places:

Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Cindy's Unsolved Mysteries segment called Scared to Death, originally aired 2/13/91, season 3, episode 20 , rebroadcast 7/17/2009 on Spike.




EASY COOKIE RECIPES: 103 Best Recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cake Mix Creations, Bars, and Holiday Treats Everyone Will Love by Addie Gundry

PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin, 11/2017
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: In Easy Cookie Recipes Addie Gundry adds elegance to no-frills baking with delicious results. From Apple Pie Bars to Red Velvet Thumbprints, No-Bake Coconut Graham Cracker Cookie Bars, and the best chocolate chip cookies ever, 103 Easy Cookie Recipes shows you how to use expert tips and shortcuts to make over a hundred types of cookies, plus plenty of customizations to make these recipes your own. Once you have your baking basics down, you can explore fun inventive types of cookies. This book is a collection of 103 playful recipes that add to, change up, and make old recipes new and exciting, while maintaining what makes cookies classic. Each recipe is paired with a gorgeous, full-color photo.

Categories: Bar Cookies, Cake Mix Cookies, Fruits and Nuts, Sugar and Spice, Chocolate, Old-Fashioned, Holiday.


THINGS I'VE MADE

MONSTER COOKIES 


This is just an oatmeal peanut butter cookie that has chocolate chips in it. I followed the recipe, omitted the chocolate chips, and like usual, my doughballs barely spread out for the first batch. The photo in the book shows a very thin cookie that obviously spread nicely. I scooped out the remaining dough with a cookie scoop, placed them on a cookie sheet then flattened them with the bottom of a measuring cup and stored the dough in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake more.

I used a 1.5"/1T. scoop and got 32 doughballs. They baked in ten minutes. These taste good but are a little dry inside and because of that, I wouldn't make them again.


CHEWY CLASSIC OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

I made half the recipe and like the peanut butter cookie from the same book, the doughballs barely spread, as you can see in the photo on the left. When I baked the rest I flattened the doughballs first and as you can see in the photo on the right, they're much flatter. The cookie is very good and is crunchy outside, like I prefer. I used a little more raisins and nuts than called for. I used one third the amount of vanilla extract, so I used 1/2t.

I used a 1.5" diameter/1T. cookie scoop and got 34 doughballs. After I baked the first batch I used the cookie scoop to scoop out the rest then flattened each one all the way with the bottom of a measuring cup.


RASPBERRY OATMEAL COOKIE BARS


These are great and have no egg in them. They have all brown sugar, no white. I omitted the cinnamon and added 1/4c. ground toasted almonds to the mix and added a drop of almond extract to the raspberry jam filling. I will definitely continue to make these.



HOMESTYLE AMISH SUGAR COOKIES


These are made with equal parts butter and vegetable oil and also have powdered sugar in them. I divided the dough in half and added lemon extract to half and dried cherries, ground almonds, and almond extract to the other half. I got 40 total. I rolled the balls in sugar after refrigerating the dough because the lemon part was soft. The directions should have told you to do that.

These don't have a lot of flavor, are a bit crumbly, and they have a little too much salt. Not worth making again.


RED VELVET THUMBPRINT COOKIES


I omitted the red food coloring and I didn't make the cream cheese filling that gets dolloped on top of the baked cookies. These have cocoa powder and butter in them and I added 1/4c. mini semisweet chocolate chips. The cookie doesn't taste very good, and there's not enough chocolate flavor in them. I made half and got thirty using a 1.5" diameter scoop. These are a huge disappointment.


MY THOUGHTS: Of the five things I've made I've only enjoyed two of them- the oatmeal cookie bars and the oatmeal raisin cookies. There are two chocolate chip cookie recipes I'd like to try one day as well as two other chocolate cookie recipes and a quite a few others, including Apple Pie Bars.

There are photos of every recipe. I don't know what cookie is on the cover because I didn't see one like it in the book and the author never responded to my message.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




SCARY STORIES TREASURY: THREE BOOKS TO CHILL YOUR BONES (Scary Stories #1-3) by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins, 6/1985
GENRE: Fiction/Children's Literature/Horror
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: Schwartz's three best-selling collections of scary folklore- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3, are made available in one book, each one in its complete form.



New artwork was given to these books for the 30th anniversary in 2011. You can see some comparisons here. If you want original versions avoid any with a publication date of 2011.
The July 2017 box set does contain the original artwork. Purchase here. The ISBN is 9780062682895.

If you want a hardcover version that includes all three stories with original artwork, it's here, here, here, and here.

An out of print paperback set containing three separate books of all three in the series can be bought here.

The face on the cover is from the story The Haunted House, from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

MY THOUGHTS: The stories were alright considering they were meant for fifth graders. Some are only one page long, some are two, and a few are a little longer. Some sort of end abruptly and leave you asking, "Where's the rest of the story?!" and some just really aren't scary and some seem really pointless.

There's a story from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark called The Babysitter and it's cleary a ripoff of the first 20 minutes of the 1979 film When A Stranger Calls.

There are only four stories that I really like: Cold as Clay. From Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I can't sing the praises of this one enough.

The White Satin Evening Gown From Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Perhaps one of the most unusual ways to die.

Cemetery Soup From More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Downright disgusting and cringe-worthy.

Harold From Scary Stories 3. Harold's a loveable scarecrow. He's a bad mofo and he knows it.

Just Delicious My eyes widened when I read a certain line and realized what she was about to do to make up for the piece of food she'd eaten.

Below are some of my favorite images from specific stories though none of the stories are favorites.

The Dead Hand
Sam's New Pet
Is Something Wrong?
You May Be The Next
The Bride

Here's an interesting article on the books, 14 Terrifying Facts.

I couldn't find an image online of the gobin thingie below so I posted my own photo of it. I sure like it. It's from page 105 of the bibliograpy section of Scary Stories 3.



CASE FILES OF THE EAST AREA RAPIST/GOLDEN STATE KILLER by Kat Winters with Keith Komos

PUBLISHER: CCW, 9/2017
GENRE: Nonfiction/True Crime
SETTING: California, USA, 1970's-1980's
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: He’s the most prolific, enigmatic, and dangerous offender the State of California has ever known... yet he remains unidentified and unpunished to this day. With over one hundred burglaries, fifty rapes, and possibly a dozen murders, the “East Area Rapist” / “Golden State Killer” / "Original Night Stalker" was truly one of history’s most vile and heinous criminals. He seemed to appear out of nowhere in the mid-1970s near Sacramento, California, where he began a series of rapes and murders that left police baffled and communities on-edge. He couldn’t be tracked, he couldn’t be found, and he couldn’t be stopped. Over a ten-year period, towns like Modesto, Davis, Concord, San Ramon, San Jose, Danville, Fremont, Walnut Creek, Goleta, Ventura, Dana Point, Irvine, and the neighborhoods of Sacramento were all violated by this monster. He left behind thousands of clues spread throughout over a dozen jurisdictions but still somehow outmaneuvered efforts to capture him at every turn. This book culls together information from every source possible to present a comprehensive rundown of each and every attack. Evidence is explained, myths are debunked, and viable leads are presented.

Other cases which might be related like the Visalia Ransacker, the Ripon Court shooting, the Maggiore murders, and the Eva Davidson Taylor murder are explored. Never before has such a detailed and thorough chronological volume been published about this case. Going over the nuances and evidence with such granularity is a worthwhile exercise. This case is solvable, and the offender is probably still alive. The clues to his identity are in here. Because, as they say… The Devil is in the details.


MY THOUGHTS: I've read the previous books on this criminal, who's also know as the EAR/ONS, and because of how well the crimes are detailed, this one's my favorite of the lot.

Such incredible detail was given to each and every rape, including a lot of pre- and post-attack information that was previously unknown publicly. The author couldn't have done a better job.

At times the book had an amateurish quality to it because there was such a large amount of typos and terminology like saying something was 'totally weird', something's 'sketchy', a male victim being 'a big muscular dude', the criminal 'got off' on psychologically torturing this victims, and something being 'creepy', just to give a few examples. There was overuse of words and phrases like 'though' and 'keep your eyes peeled' and I feel things were in quotation marks and too many things were in parenthesis that shouldn't have been. This self-published book definitely needs to be cleaned up by a professional editor. I didn't like the author giving her own speculation or spending time pointlessly analyzing certain phrases the EARONS would use, like 'gimme a good drop'.

Near the end of the book is a helpful section called EAR/GSK Communications. All contact the EARONS made with either victims', police, and others is listed chronologically. There's also a section after that that's dedicated to the break-ins of the Vasalia Ransaker, a man who some believe may be the EARONS, and that too is in chronological order. Another helpful section is last in the book and it's frequently asked questions about the case, including information about paint chips found at a few crime scenes and why the FBI hasn't taken advantage of technology that can render a lifelike image of the EARONS.

A tidbit I learned was that in the early 1990's, years after his last known crime, there were some EAR-like burglaries in Irvine that are being looked into.

Being interested in this case since early 2001 and liking a lot of detail to be given for any crime, I appreciate the hard work and time that went into writing this. It couldn't have been fun.

Other books on the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker:

Sudden Terror
Hunting a Psychopath
Hot Prowl
Frozen in Fear (written by an EAR victim)
Murder on His Mind Serial Killer
I'll Be Gone in the Dark

FYI-  The author has proven herself to be immature and disrespectful and likes to play the victim. She's publicly called someone who gave her book a 1-star review on Amazon a 'troll'. She's also released a video to publically shame someone who doesn't like her and she's also posted screenshots of said person's Youtube channel on multiple forums to rally people on her side.

A big thank you to Jason for sending this to me.




CHAIN SAW CONFIDENTIAL: How We Made the World's Most Notorious Horror Movie by Gunnar Hansen

PUBLISHER: Chronicle Books, 9/2013
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first hit movie screens in 1974 it was both reviled and championed. To critics, it was either "a degrading, senseless misuse of film and time" or "an intelligent, absorbing and deeply disturbing horror film." However it was an immediate hit with audiences. Banned and celebrated, showcased at the Cannes film festival and included in the New York MoMA's collection, it has now come to be recognized widely as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

A six-foot-four poet fresh out of grad school with limited acting experience, Gunnar Hansen played the masked, chain-saw-wielding Leatherface. His terrifying portrayal and the inventive work of the cast and crew would give the film the authentic power of nightmare, even while the gritty, grueling, and often dangerous independent production would test everyone involved, and lay the foundations for myths surrounding the film that endure even today.

Critically-acclaimed author Hansen here tells the real story of the making of the film, its release, and reception, offering unknown behind-the-scenes details, a harrowingly entertaining account of the adventures of low-budget filmmaking, illuminating insights on the film's enduring and influential place in the horror genre and our culture, and a thoughtful meditation on why we love to be scared in the first place.


MY THOUGHTS: The title says it all. The author, Gunnar, who played 'Leatherface' discusses what it was like filming this over the course of eight weeks in the awful Texas heat in 1973 and getting screwed out of their money. He originally only got $800 for the role.

Most interesting to me was that the story was 'rooted' in Hansel and Gretel (who doesn't love that story?) and that Leatherface's mask and home 'furnishings' were inspired by American murderer Ed Gein, which I already knew, having seen shows on Ed and having read a book about him years ago. FYI- Ed also made leggings and a 'mammary vest' from real humans. He killed two women and robbed graves to get other female body parts. It would have been real cool for Leatherface to have worn a vest like that. Gunnar said that during filming of the final scene when Sally (Marilyn Burns) gets away, he was stepping up into the back of the truck, his foot got caught and the truck driver pulled off, dragging Gunnar. That was a true accident so they refilmed it but I think they should have left that in. Maybe have Sally try to untangle his foot or something. But this was low budget and there wasn't time or money for that.

Gunnar mistakenly said that Ed robbed his own mother's grave (page 92) and put the bones back in her bed. Wrong. He did no such thing. He loved his mother and closed her room off. It was the only clean place in the house.

Some interesting tidbits are: that the opening scene was to be of a dead dog's eye, which they filmed, but they decided against using a domesticated animal. They decided against using a dead horse too. Most of the bones in the film were found in pastures. Some of the dialogue was improvised. Paul, the awful actor who played wheelchair-bound Franklin (I can't stand his character!), wasn't as horrible in real life as he'd lead everyone to believe. During the course of filming none of the actors were allowed to wash their clothes, ever, for fear of colors fading or something else happening to them at the cleaners, since no one had a duplicate set.

Though the book is fairly short I got a bit bored with the day to day goings on at the shoot. There are 16 pages of black and white photos from the set in the book, which is nice.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


THE BAD SEED by William March


PUBLISHER: Rinehart & Company, 4/1954
GENRE: Fiction/Psychological thriller
SETTING: New York, USA
WIKI: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: This is the incredible story of Rhoda Penmark, a charming and delightful eight-year-old. There is only one thing disturbing about Rhoda. She has developed an extraordinary moral code - and would think nothing of killing you if you had something she wanted...


MY THOUGHTS:
I really enjoyed this. Rhoda has brown hair, light brown eyes, and a gap between her front teeth. She's got no conscience to speak of and will do what she feels she has to to get what she wants. I wish she had been more discrete at at times with her evil deeds but then I have to remember she's only eight years old. She's got everyone fooled into thinking she's your average well-behaved good school student who does no wrong.

There were a few long scenes where Rhoda's mother Christine explored her own background. I felt it dragged the story down a bit and thought it was unnecessary to the plot line. The story was interesting enough without adding that over the top nonsense. The could have left that stuff out and they would have had time to investigate a child's death, since he had oddly shaped bruises on himself.

What I like about Christine is that she knows what her daughter's done, she's knows it's wrong, and is very conflicted about what to do. Does she tell the police and her husband all she knows or does she keep Rhoda's secrets? At times she's in a bit of denial but she's always able to see the truth. She'd write her husband letters telling him all that's going on and tells him about her suspicions about Rhoda but she never mails the letters.

Leroy, the maintenance man, was one annoying character. What adult taunts a child repeatedly like that? He got what he had coming. I feel like his character is supposed to be black though it's never said that he is. An Amazon reviewer has said the same thing.

Another slightly annoying character was their neighbor, Monica Breedlove, who never seemed to stop talking. There were also three Fern sisters who ran the school Rhoda went to. It just wasn't necessary to have all three characters when one would have sufficed.

The ending was good and bad at the same time. I never would have expected what happened to have happened. Christine took drastic measures to keep Rhoda's secret. I'm not surprised that it was left open for a sequel, one I'd have loved to have read but the author died from a second heart attack shortly after the book was published so a sequel wasn't to be.

Excellent article on the novel here.

1956 FILM-  In the book, Christine's father died in WWII but he's alive and comes to visit her in the film.

In the book, Rhoda and family used to live in Baltimore, Maryland but in the film they changed it to Wichita, Kansas.

Rhoda has brown hair and brown eyes in the novel. In the film she's got blonde hair and blue eyes. One of the later book covers has her with blonde hair too.

Almost everyone played their part well, especially Nancy Kelly, who played Rhoda's mother, Christine. Patty McCormack, the girl who played Rhoda, was eleven years old at the time and was way too mature to play the part of an eight year old and didn't even look like an eight year old, despite the braids. I don't think she played the part well because she seemed to be overacting  most of the time. There was a scene where her mother was questioning her about someone's death and Rhoda got really angry and that was the first time she seemed genuine.

There's a scene in the book where Christine sees Rhoda take some matches from inside the house. In the film not only does Christine see her take them, she asks her what she's going to do with them.

Christine never wrote letters to her husband in the film like she did in the novel.

It was left out of the film completely the part where Rhoda killed a dog when she was seven years old when they lived in Baltimore over a year before.

The film used a lot of the exact dialogue from the book.

In the book Rhoda was given a fluid-filled pendant with opals in it when an old neighbor died and left it to her. In the film they changed it to a crystal ball with a fish in it that resembled a snow globe.

We didn't get to hear Christine's thought process when deciding on what to do with the situation with Rhoda at the very end of film, though it had a similar ending as the novel. Instead, after Rhoda went to bed her mother stood over her telling her what was about to happen.

I absolutely love the part near the end where Kenneth is reading Rhoda a story in bed and Rhoda tells him that Monica Breedlove is going to leave her lovebird to Rhoda when she dies and her father says that Monica's not going to die anytime soon. That's not in the book.

The very end of the film is completely different and better than that of the novel and blows it out of the water, it's so good.

This is what the end of the film says, "You have just seen a motion picture which dares to be startlingly different. May we ask that you do not divulge the unusual climax of the story. Thank you."

1985 FILM- The book was made into an NBC made-for-television film. It's 100 minutes long. I haven't seen it but have heard it's no good. They say Patty McCormick was offered the role of Monica Breedlove but after reading the script, she turned it down.

There's an unofficial low budget 1995 sequel to this called Mommy.






THE MANSE by Lisa W. Cantrell

PUBLISHER: Tor, 11/1987
GENRE: Fiction/Contemporary Horror
SETTING: North Carolina, USA
SERIES: The Manse, #1
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: Each Halloween, the Manse becomes a House of Horrors. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and ghosts - not to mention Frankenstein's monster - stalk the premises. Bats and spiders drop upon the unwary. At every turn a new fright awaits - all in fun, of course.

But the Manse's history of horror is ancient and terrible - more awful than the innocent Trick-or-Treaters can imagine. For twelve years it has been biding its time, feeding on the fear its unsuspecting visitors so willingly offered...

Until tonight. Tonight is the Thirteenth Annual House of Horrors. It will be the last. Tonight, at the Witching Hour, all Hell will break loose.



MY THOUGHTS: Graded D for dull. The cover sucked me in. I was fooled by a pumpkin. Twin sisters own the Manse and one of them is evil. Something she did decades ago has caused the Manse to become haunted. I guess because the number thirteen is considered an unlucky number to some is why the author chose the thirteenth year of the Manse being in operation as a haunted house for things to go haywire.

We got no backstory on any of the main characters except a little towards the end on Elizabeth but for some reason got some on one of the many extra secondary characters. There were too many characters in this book (PoJo, Davy, Randy, Frank, Ted, Vince, Buddy, Elizabeth, Florence, Dood, Samantha, Zack, Pearl, Peter) and not one of them was interesting in any way. Out of all the main characters we only got the age of one, and that was Elizabeth. I have no clue of the age range of the others. Nothing about them made me think they were younger, like in their twenties, so maybe they're in their thirties, who knows?

There were three 'scary' incidents that happened inside the Manse before all hell broke loose at the end, two of which involved secondary characters, but because I didn't care a thing about those characters, I just wasn't interested. And I'm tired of main characters always surviving bad stuff in books and film.

SPOILERS: There were a few interesting scary scenes. A little boy named Davy was spooked at the Manse so he went outside to escape it and saw a fountain statue come to life. Her face was made up of hundreds of yellow eyes that turned into one huge eye. She pivoted around with swollen cheeks and water sprayed out of them towards Davy. Another scene near the end, on Halloween, there was a maze of mirrors in the Manse that began to suck children into it. One creature was trapped in the mirror and its eye exploded and a 'puss-like fluid' splattered onto it.

The story was just longer than it needed to be with boring characters and boring dialogue.

There's a sequel to this called Torments.





BAD RONALD by John Holbrook Vance, NOVEL VS. FILMS

PUBLISHER: Ballantine, 9/1973
GENRE: Contemporary Suspense
SETTING: California, USA
TIMESPAN: a little over a year(?)
TRAILER: link
FILM WIKI: link
PURCHASE: link, link
DVD: link
MY GRADE: B+

FROM PUBLISHER: Up to his seventeenth year no one regarded Ronald as anything but a rather large, overfed youth, probably best ignored. Perhaps that was the trouble--no one really took a good look at Ronald. Except for his devoted mother, who saw only the son she wanted to see. Who, then, is Ronald? Ronald is that faceless unknown who waits - to take, to grab what he needs, to become the ultimate invader.



NOVEL SUMMARY

Ronald Arden Wilby lives with his divorced mother, Elaine, in a two story, four bedroom, two bathroom house at 572 Orchard Street in the Oakmead area (p. 10) of California. She works at Central Valley Hardware. His father is Armand. They divorced ten years ago and she got the house in the settlement. Ronald's described by his mother as being slightly overweight, nice-looking, and gets better than average grades at school. He has dark hair, 'heavy hips, shoulders perhaps a trifle too narrow, long legs and arms', a long straight nose and full lips. He feels he's 'superior to the ordinary person' and is more 'intelligent'. He's about to turn seventeen in less than a week. He likes a girl named Laurel Hansen. He fantasizes about receiving her 'underpants' for his birthday.

On his birthday, a Saturday in August, he walks to Laurel's house. She's in the pool with a few friends and they pretty much ignore him so he walks home. That's when eleven-year old green-eyed blonde Carol Mathews runs into him on her bike. As she's falling off her bike he catches her and kisses her and gropes under her skirt. He drags her onto the property at Hastings Estate. She's screaming so he covers her mouth with his hand and she bite him. He smacks her, then rapes her underneath a tree, telling her to 'relax' and tells her 'This is going to be fun. Really it is'. She can hear her mother calling for her, she's trying to yell and won't promise Ronald not to tell anyone what he's done, so he strangles her. He got a shovel out of the shed and buried her. He saw Carol's father Donald stop in the road when he found her bike lying there. He put it into the back of his station wagon and left.

Ronald realized he'd left his new birthday jacket behind while he was burying Carol so he went back to get it though it was dark. Police were there searching around since Carol never returned home and that's the area her father found her bike. He returned home without his jacket and confessed to his mother. He lied and told her that Carol wanted him to 'do it' with her and when he wouldn't give her money afterward like she wanted, he accidentally killed her. His mom was upset and asked how he could do such a thing. She couldn't figure out what to do with Ronald. He asked if he should go to the police. She wants to hide him somewhere until she could save enough money for them to flee. She has aspirations of him becoming a doctor. They work until four in the morning to transform the main floor bathroom into a secret room for Ronald to live in. They call it his 'lair'. It's underneath the staircase and you can't tell it's there now. They hang a picture where the bathroom door once was. In the kitchen pantry wall, below the shelves, they cut open the bottom and make a secret door that leads into the bathroom. That's how Ronald will come and go, on his hands and knees, from the bathroom into the house and how his mother will deliver his food and other things to him.

The next day, two officers come looking for him and said they have 'several items of evidence' suggesting he may be involved in Carol's murder. The items are his jacket, which has blood on the hem, and shoes from his house look like they could have made the footprints that were in the mud at the crime scene. They also found the fake note that she had Ronald write and leave in his room, stating that he'd done something bad and had run away. They showed up again six weeks later just to check and see if she'd heard from Ronald.

Christmas has passed and Ronald's still in hiding. He kills time by exercising with cheap equipment his mother's bought him, and writing a fantasy novel about a land called Atranta. He thinks about how he's not sorry for what he did to Carol and said it was 'such wonderful fun'. His hatred for Laurel grows by the day and he blames her for what happened to Carol.

His mother has surgery for her gall bladder and he's left alone for eight days. While she's gone he gathers some tools and makes a trapdoor in the bathroom that opens up into the crawl space, giving him access to the outside. Sometime after she's back home she goes back to the hospital and dies there from complications from her previous surgery. Ronald learns of it by hearing a relative inside the house with a real estate agent. Ronald makes two peepholes in the wall so he can see into the house.

Ben and Marcia Wood buy the house. Ben is an Army veteran and works for the phone company. They have three daughters- 13-year-old Barbara, blonde, 16-year-old Althea, blonde-brown hair, and 17-year-old Ellen, who's got brown-gold hair and gray eyes. He's angry at the girls because school is about to start and they get to go have fun. He says they must suffer as he's suffered and jokes about getting them pregnant.

Marcia notices that food goes missing sometimes, like deviled eggs and pie. She doesn't know it's Ronald sneaking into the kitchen late at night to scavenge.

One day when everyone's gone, he snoops in Ellen's room and 'inspects her underwear'. He opens her perfume and accidentally spills some. She notices it later and accuses the youngest, Barbara, of doing it. Another day he snoops in Althea's room and finds her diary. He tries to open it with an opened up paperclip but the tip breaks off inside the lock. Later Barbara's suspected of doing it.

Ronald takes a liking to Barbara. He thinks she's 'adorable' and 'desirable'. He both loves and detests her and thinks she's a 'sexy little scamp'. He fantasizes about raping her one day when she gets home from school. She's in middle school/junior high and gets home before her sisters. One day he crawls out of his lair and waits for Barbara. She's in the kitchen and when she turns around, Ronald's there in the doorway. He grabs her, she struggles, and he punches her and forces her to crawl though the secret door into his lair. He gives her a pen and paper and makes her write a fake note saying she's run away to be with 'hippies'. He forces her onto his cot and for struggling, he punches her on each side of her face. He strips her down, ties her ankles to the cot and ties her hands together and gags her. He makes a noose for her neck. One end is tied to something on the wall and he holds the other end. Her sisters come home, then her parents. They call the police because she's missing. He rapes her multiple times later on after her family's gone to bed. Ronald calls it 'lovemaking'.

The middle daughter, Althea, goes missing. Ellen, the oldest daughter, comes home. Her boyfriend Duane is with her. He's the brother of Carol, the dead girl, and is one or two years older than Ronald. They find a fake note that was written by Althea saying that Barbara called her and that she's going to go see her. Though it's Althea's handwriting, it's disguised so Ellen knows something's up. She thinks Ronald has kidnapped both of them since he's on the loose.

Ronald has Althea in his lair. It wasn't told how he got her into it, just that she was home alone when it happened. He told her Barbara had been there but left when she got bored. He raped Althea multiple times and kept the noose around her neck too. She pretended to be sick. She went over to the toilet to pretend to throw up and took the toilet lid off and hit Ronald with it somewhere on his face or head. Blood was everywhere. He kills her but it isn't said how.

Duane comes up with a plan. He tells Ellen to sprinkle flour all over the kitchen floor when she goes to bed so they can see if there are any footprints on it the next morning. Sure enough there's prints that lead out of the pantry over to the refrigerator and back. Duane spotted the secret door in the pantry, figured out somehow that there was a hidden bathroom that Ronald lives in, and went snooping around in the crawl space. He found the trapdoor and bags of Ronald's garbage. He also found the graves of Barbara and Althea. They went inside and told her parents about their findings.

The mother dipped a paper towel in gasoline, lit it and threw it into the secret room. Ronald burst through the wall, on fire, and ran out of the house. He ended up down the street at Laurel's house, in her closet. Her mother heard something and opened the closet door. Ronald ran out of the room and ran though the glass patio door. Laurel's father chased him though the yard and punched Ronald in the head. He fell into the pool and stayed there until the police took him away.

Ellen and Duane are driving past the house. The family has since moved out of it and they're watching a new family with three young children move in.

NOVEL VS. FILMS


This was a made-for-tv movie that premiered on ABC on October 23, 1974 in the USA. Ronald's much more disturbed in the novel. In the novel he rapes and kills three young girls while in the film he doesn't rape anyone and accidentally kills one. Film credits spell Carol and Duane's last name 'Matthews' instead of 'Mathews'.

In the film after he accidentally knocks Carol down as she's riding by, she's verbally abusive, telling him he's all dressed up to impress 'Laurie' and that he and his mother are 'weird'. He knocks her bike down (that'll teach her!), tells her to apologize, she won't so he grabs her, she slaps him, he lifts her up by her head and throws her back. She hits her head on a cinder block and dies (first photo below). He's remorseful and repeatedly tells her he's sorry. He confesses to his mother. While talking about what to do with him, she rubs his head like a dog while he chews on an apple (second photo).


In the novel Ronald leaves his jacket at the estate where he buried Carol. In the film the police find Ronald's jacket in his closet with a huge swatch torn off. They tell her it may match the swatch left at the crime scene (photo 1). She knocks on the wall of the secret door to let him know the police are gone (photo 2).


In the novel and film there's a nosey neighbor named Mrs. Schumacher. In the film she's always looking in the Wilby's windows like a peeping Tom but she doesn't do that in the book.
In the film, one day while the new family's at school and work, Ronald goes into the kitchen and sees Mrs. Schumacher watching him through the window. He walks towards her, she has a heart attack, falls down the stairs and dies. Ronald doesn't want to get blamed for her death so he goes outside and buries her in the crawlspace.


In the film Ronald doesn't spill Barbara's perfume but he did try to break into Althea's diary.


In the film he doesn't assault Barbara in the kitchen. He attacks in her bedroom. He also put up a piece of his artwork on her wall. Barbara runs out of the house to Mrs. Schumacher's next door and Ronald runs inside though a different door. This part is more exciting that what's in the novel since it has Ronald outside of the house for the first time since he killed Carol months before.


He sneaks up behind Duane Mathews with a long figurine-type thing off the shelf, hits him with it then puts him in his lair, gagged and bound.


Althea sees light coming through one of the peepholes Ronald made, then she sees him put his eye up to it and screams like a banshee. Then Ronald comes bursting through the wall (instead of a glass door like in the novel), runs outside, falls down a few steps and is caught by the police.



THE NOVEL: I really like the idea of a hidden room in someone's house. He could only hear through the walls then had the idea to drill peepholes so he could actually see the occupants. He knew everything that was going on, pretty much.

People in their reviews describe Ronald as lonely and strange but we only met him a week before the first murder and I didn't see any of that. Nothing about him leading up to the first murder made me think he was odd or different. He seems pretty passive and easygoing and a definite mamma's boy. She dictates his future and tells him he's going to be a doctor and he goes along with it without expressing an opinion.

I don't like that Ellen and Duane figured out that Ronald kidnapped both sisters or understand how they come to that conclusion. No one had seen or heard from Ronald since Carol was murdered many months before yet they knew he was behind the disappearances? And Duane figuring out there was a hidden room is one thing but to know it was built around bathroom? Nope.

The ending was silly and could have been so much better. I really wish Ronald had gotten away with his dirty deeds but it wasn't to be. He could have gone on to anonymously terrorize the neighborhood and there could have been a sequel or three. The ending of both films were better than that of the novel.

None of the rapes are detailed at all.

THE FILM: The only way the film was better than the novel was the ending, with Ronald crashing through the wall and running outside. It's more believable than that of the novel. I don't understand why he didn't just escape through the trapdoor in the lair, down into the crawlspace, then outside to freedom when he saw Althea staring back at him though the peephole.

Also in the film the girl he likes, Laurie Matthews (Laurel Hansen in the book), is the older sister of Carol, the little girl he kills. In the novel they aren't related.

Actress Lisa Eilbacher played oldest daughter Ellen. I know and like her in the so-bad-it's-good Charles Bronson film Ten to Midnight.

You can watch Bad Ronald here, part 2.

Méchant garçon-

There's a French version from 1992 called Méchant garçon and you can watch it here. I don't speak French and have no idea what's being said but I watched it anyway. It wasn't good. It's boring for the most part and not suspenseful. Ronald was played by an actor named Joachim Lombard.

The film's in French until the new British family move into the house, then the rest of the film has French subtitles. It opens with a black screen with white credits rolling. During that we hear a female screaming and struggling with someone. Next, Ronald's at home talking to his mother, likely confessing something. Soon after that Ronald's in bed crying, remembering what he'd done. He was at the beach one night or early morning and it looks like he attempted to rape a girl. She has long curly brownish-red hair. She got away, fell and hit her head on a rock and died.

There are only two daughters, Mary and Stephanie, husband and wife, and the husband's French assistant, Christine. Christine is kidnapped and raped at least once and there's nudity. Stephanie is kidnapped and taken into the lair too while Christine's there but I don't think she's raped. They chose to have Ronald rape the adult instead.

Unlike in the book and US television version, Ronald escapes the house after his mother dies. He flees to a dock and tries to steal a boat but it wouldn't start, so he goes back home.

The only other interesting part was at the very end after Ronald fled the house after the mother sees him in the kitchen and slings a pot of hot water in his face. The next scene was of the camera moving slowly down the hallway of a hospital. Ronald narrated the scene. They show him in a hospital bed with much shorter hair and ointment on his burned face as he looks into the camera. I guess he was telling us what happened after he fled, or what he was thinking by committing those crimes. That epilogue of sorts wasn't in the book or US film version and I liked that we (meaning those who speak French) got some knowledge of what happened to him afterward.



Book and movie reviews for Bad Ronald by other people can be found at:

Bleeding Skull, Cheese Magnet, Coming Soon, Culture Shock, Detours, Discard Treasures (the best review that I've read on this novel), DVD Panache, Final Girl, Fright, Jerry's House of Everything, Made For TV Mayhem, Movies, Nostalgia Central, Reflections, Scared Shiftless, Stomp Tokyo, Wopsploitation.

These are my own screenshots except for the two DVD cover photos, which I got separately online.

Bad Ronald is included in a trilogy of John's novels titled Dangerous Ways from 2011.

A big thank you to Jason for giving this book to me.





ABBA THE SCRAPBOOK by Jean-Marie Potiez

PUBLISHER: Plexus, 9/2009 and 2012
GENRE: Nonfiction/Biography/Music
BOOK SITE: link
PURCHASE: link, link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: More than 30 years after their stunning victory at the Eurovision Song Contest with "Waterloo" in 1974, ABBA’s popularity remains undimmed. From disco classics like "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia" to ballads like "The Winner Takes It All," the group’s musical legacy endures, thanks in part to covers by artists ranging from U2 to Madonna.

ABBA: The Scrapbook gives a complete history of one of the best-loved pop groups of all time: the early days in Sweden, relationships within the band, their triumph at Eurovision, the group’s outrageous 1970s fashions, the making of ABBA: The Movie, the eventual break-up, and their continuing influence on pop music. The book also covers the hugely successful stage musical Mamma Mia! and its upcoming film adaptation. Fully illustrated throughout with rare photos of the band and memorabilia, ABBA: The Scrapbook charts the amazing story of how an obscure Swedish quartet conquered the world.



MY THOUGHTS
: This is a heavy oversized paperback, 2.8lbs. It's in full color. It's filled with countless photos that I've never seen before, as well as some information I don't recall ever knowing, like a pre-ABBA Frida going to college to study fashion. It goes in chronological order- pre-ABBA, during, and after ABBA. Only a little bit of information is given for most of the photos. This doesn't read like a biography and it's not supposed to and this would likely only appeal to a big fan, like myself, who's been a fan of theirs for twenty-two years. I love the book and have nothing negative to say about it.





The 1973 photo below is odd and unique because they're kissing the wrong partner.