Review: Don’t Stay Up Late by R.L. Stine (A Fear Street Novel)

Posted by – November 27, 2014

510pyx5CFtL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Don’t Stay Up Late is certainly a solid horror novel. The book sets you up with an unreliable narrator, functioning under the scary threat of mental illness—back to this in a second—; some good scares; plot twists; and misleading hints. Lisa, a newcomer to Shadyside, gets into a car accident that leaves her with mild brain damage, producing nightmares and hallucinations. At the urging of her therapist, she takes on a babysitting job, despite people’s warnings against it because of the family’s address on Fear Street. Lisa’s hallucinations begin again, but are they hallucinations? Because she sure as hell is not hallucinating all her friends getting killed off.

My main gripe with this book is primarily with the way mental illness is used in it. I’m sensitive to the way mental illness is portrayed in pop culture, due to my own history of depression and other people I know who have suffered from mental illness. Don’t Stay Up Late could be worse on this point. Unlike too many horror novels and movies to count, Stine primarily uses mental illnesses to create an unreliable narrator, not to create a threatening villain.

However, some aspects of this part of the book still bothered me.

The main thing that bothered me is how (spoiler) someone who is supposed to be helping Lisa cope with her trauma turns out to be one of the evil people. This feeds into the stigma of seeking appropriate treatment for mental health, and into the stereotype of psychologists as “shrinks” and “kooks.”

Second, the cops treat Lisa like shit because of her mental illness. This teaches kids that no one takes you seriously or respects you when you have a mental illness. Combined with the above point, an unintentional message of this book is that one shouldn’t talk about mental illness—you will either be misunderstood, or not listened to.

Third, and most important—why the hell does everyone keep letting a girl who hallucinates demons babysit a little kid?

The horror genre has a complicated relationship with mental illness, and this book demonstrates how even something that is not deliberately misrepresenting mental illness can contribute to societal stigmas. Mental illnesses is hugely misunderstood in general in this society and Don’t Stay Up Late is clearly more of a product of society than an aggressive contributor.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book because of the above reasons, but, those aside, I did really enjoy this book and think it had a fun and strong plot that will really appeal to Stine’s fans.

Pub date: April, 2015. 


Review: Elders by Ryan McIlvain

Posted by – July 11, 2013


McIlvain is very skilled at showing rather than telling, allowing the depth of his characters and their relationships with each other and their environments to sneak up on you. Early on, he demonstrates the way the Elders are growing closer with a simple yet perfect image of synchronized spontaneity: “Passos yelped, and McLeod too, like coon hunters, and instead of opening their umbrellas they took off running, downing the street at a sprint, laughing the whole way.”

I review Elders by Ryan McIlvain (Hogarth 2013) over at The Rumpus. 


“The Live One”

Posted by – July 1, 2013

I have a piece of flash fiction up at Flashes in the Dark. Check it out. 


Review: Mile Zero: Poems by Ryan W. Bradley

Posted by – June 30, 2013

mile zeroBradley’s poetry collection Mile Zero (Artistically Declined Press 2013)* is full of wonderful poems. The tendency toward the first-person makes it seem rather autobiographical; since this is poetry however, I do expect a blending of fact and fiction. There are lots of poems about love for his wife and his children. One of my favorites of these is “The Poetess in Me.” The imagery in this one in simple and beautiful:

The poetess in me speaks

in words I don’t understand,

like my wife’s body—such a mystery,

the way it works, lying naked in bed,

moving my fingers across her skin

like the best of anatomy lessons.**

In a less stylistic note, I also appreciate the gender-blending created by focusing specifically on the poetess in him.

However, I enjoyed the collection most when Bradley pushed himself a bit past the more straight-forward, autobiographical pieces. I loved “Aquarium,” which is still self-reflective, but is so by focusing on the world, and the unknowable qualities of the world, at large:

There are things happening,

behind closed doors maybe,

girls jumping

in the cramped space

of public restrooms

I also loved “Strippers Don’t Dance to the Beatles”:

Strippers don’t dance to the Beatles,

they save their jar-faces and swollen hearts

for the mirrors tucked in their purses.

“Strippers” especially demonstrates Bradley’s talent as it creates a dense and smoky atmosphere with the longer lines, the “d”s and the “s”s, the bruised and dark feeling of jar-faces and swollen hearts. These beautifully chosen phrases cloak the following line, “for the mirrors tucked in their purses”—a line with the potential to be just as superficial as it is desperate—with the feeling of dark, strip club hallways and objectifying glances.

“Dinner with the Family,” a portrait of a family at dinner, “feral beasts” and “artists” eating in a simultaneously destructive and creative frenzy, is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

“Atlas, Missing Earth” and its page-mate “Peter Sears” are also both remarkable poems, as are the final two poems, “For the Love of Wings” and “Houdini Holds His Breath in the East River.” Like the much-loved “Strippers,” these four all find that magical balance of the personal and the transcendent, creating worlds in which words function both as practicalities and as art.

On a last note (and I believe Bradley already knows this), but I love the cover design.


*full disclosure: I’m online friends with the author, Ryan W. Bradley—in fact, Mile Zero was a gift from him to help me through a hard time. 

**In case it’s not obvious, all of the excerpts are only select sections from each poem, not the poem in its entirety.


The LEGO® House

Posted by – June 7, 2013

S51aebdb6b3fc4bf3fc0000db_the-big-lego-house-reveal_1-1000x500o LEGO® is building some super sweet “experience center” in Denmark that will resemble a bunch of LEGO® blocks stacked together in a neat, appealing, and accessible way. The Father (a.k.a The Architect Father) forwarded my family a video of the design, mainly because he thought we’d like the style of the video, but I also was interested in the unique features of the architecture itself.

The design looks very interactive and very fun, which is appropriate considering its future usage. There are lots of rooftop terraces, including what looks like a maze. The keystone, the block in the middle/top, is the one piece that truly resembles a LEGO®, complete with the little circles on top. The video also shows the final design being essentially all in white, which makes the bright furniture and occasional wall decorations, also shown in the video, really pop.

I can’t figure out how to embed videos from Vimeo, so here’s a link to the ArchDaily article on the design reveal.


Amazon’s New UK Headquarters

Posted by – June 5, 2013

AmazonHQ-510x303As whenever Amazon appears in the news, the retail giant’s new Amazon’s new British headquarters have primarily reignited criticism over their avoidance of British taxes, discussion of job creation, and general Amazon controversy. But what else is new? Instead of focusing on that, which you can probably find better written and in more detail elsewhere, I wanted to draw attention to the freaking awesome building that will be these headquarters.

Their future headquarters, at 60 Holborn Viaduct and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, is a pretty basic, though beautiful, modern design: steel, glass, curves. What really struck me when looking at the renditions is the design’s perfect juxtaposition with the older, traditional building that sits at one corner of the block. Those even slightly familiar with me know that I geek out over juxtaposition in art, especially in architecture where I love the harsh along nature, and the modern along traditional. I also love the look of the steel frame in-between each story.

a4f3fd5d41e335be381e896703592d6ca670a39e_pageThe new development replaces Bath House, a 1967 building which is described as a “concrete block” in The Telegraph and “outmoded” in New Steel Construction’s March 2013 issue. The latter continues to discuss the new design, pointing out plans for it to receive an “excellent” BREEAM rating, which basically means it’ll be sustainable. Besides the obvious glass exterior and steel frame, the design features a variety of terraces, creating a step effect when seen from outside, in order to secure a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The more traditional building that initially drew my attention is a gatehouse on the northeast corner, which features traditional Portland stonework. The gatehouse is a tribute to the site’s original design which also featured such a gatehouse. Unfortunately, the original gatehouse was destroyed forty years ago. Apparently, the gatehouse was required by the city of London, and will be the final of three original buildings to be re-erected.

428px-Holborn4An especially well-written description of the design from New London Architecture:

Responding to its urban context the simple, organic form of the building softens the mass of the development. The skin is a series of curves influencing and influenced by views and sightlines to and from the site’s city location while the striking facade of twisting fins over a light glazed curtain wall gives a strong visual identity to the scheme.

Amazon will have twelve stories in the building, and will house around 1,600 employees once it’s fully built.

As usual, please let me know if I have any of my facts wrong, preferably with sources so that I can verify the information. I’m not an architecture student or expert, just a fan.




Sources & Further Reading:

London Loves Business

New London Architecture

New Steel Construction (March 2013)

New Steel—Sustainability

The Telegraph (by Christopher Williams)