Nonfiction — Unmask Alice

Unmask Alice:  LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries

By Rick Emerson

Expected Publication Date:  June 7, 2022 by BenBella Books

4 out of 5 stars

When I was about 12 or so, Go Ask Alice was considered a reading rite of passage.  Much like Flowers in the Attic or any of Judy Blume’s adult novels, copies of Alice were passed around between friends with whispered warnings not to get caught reading it, don’t let your parents confiscate it.  It was the book to read, a teenager’s diary full of drugs, sex, and other taboos that the average kid in the early 1980’s didn’t normally get a chance to read about…and it was all true!!  Wasn’t it??

In his upcoming release Unmask Alice, Rick Emerson explores the wild popularity of 1971’s Go Ask Alice and introduces us to the woman behind the book, Beatrice Sparks. I don’t know whether to describe Sparks as a con artist, delusional, or just hell-bent on finding fame at any cost (maybe a combination of all three),  but the lengths this woman went to in order to achieve success is truly mind-boggling, to the point of ruining a well-meaning family who made the mistake of trusting her to tell the truth about their child.

The domino effects of not only Alice but another “true” diary put forward by Sparks, Jay’s Journal, are also examined by Emerson.  The rise of the Satanic Panic era in the 80’s and early 90’s can largely be attributed to her publication of Jay’s Journal and her insistence that it was a real teen and his actual diary.  Emerson touches on some of the ripples brought on by the panic, including the vilification of the board game, Dungeons and Dragons, the rise of “false memory” accusations, and suicide (Please note that suicide is major theme throughout the book.  Proceed with caution if this is a trigger for you).

It’s important to mention that the narrative can seem like it’s all over the place.  More than once I wondered where a certain side story was headed and why all the attention to certain details that didn’t seem relevant.  Be patient and stick with it, it really does all come together in ways you may not see coming.

Overall, I thought this was a fascinating and thought-provoking read.  There were a few things that I felt were either not needed or not explained fully, but hopefully they will be fixed in the final edit.  Highly recommend.

As a quick side note:  after finishing Unmask Alice, I dug out my tattered copy of Go Ask Alice that I bought with my birthday money sometime in 1982 or 1983 and did a quick reread.  I still remember my younger self’s first impressions which included shock and sadness.  Strangely enough, reading it as an adult in 2022, I still felt a bit of shock and sadness, not over the story itself but for the people whose grief was exploited for the sake of another’s need for fame.

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!








Weekly Mash-Up #158

I’ve always enjoyed going through second-hand stores.  It’s like a treasure hunt, and over the years I’ve found some amazing items, from beautiful handmade quilts and blankets to a signed first-edition of Ken Kesey’s Sailor Song.  Over the past several months, I’ve noticed the quality at some of my favorite local stores has gone down, and the used books selections are just regurgitating the same worn copies of Clive Cussler, Brad Thor, and Harlequin romances.  So the other day, I took a little road trip to a town south of my normal shopping area and wandered through their local Goodwill…and discovered an amazing book section!  I found so many more titles than these, but knowing I still had to get groceries I limited myself to these select few.  The three on the left are duplicates of ones I already have but are in better condition (unless I can’t remove the sticker from Haiku, then I will keep my other copy).  I’m a fan of Josh Malerman but I have to admit I hadn’t heard of this 2017 horror/sci-fi/mystery novel.  I was excited to find Tool of War, the third in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy, and in hardback to match my copies of the first two.  It’s been a long time since I read the first two so I may have to do a quick re-read to get back up to speed before diving into this one.  Sherman Alexie is one of my auto-buy authors so grabbing his 1996 mystery, Indian Killer, was a no-brainer.

I’m already planning another trip to this area as I discovered several used book stores within walking distance of the Goodwill!  It was probably a good thing they were closed for the day (many of the smaller shops were on limited hours due to staff shortages), otherwise I  may have come home with a car full of books and no groceries, haha!

The Week in Books

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich — 4.5 out of 5 stars

A small indie bookstore is haunted by a loyal, yet somewhat annoying, customer’s ghost.  Tookie, an ex-con, is haunted by her past.  Set in Minneapolis from November 2019 to November 2020, Louise Erdrich incorporates the current events (from George Floyd’s murder to the covid lockdowns) into the lives of these flawed yet sympathetic characters, creating a blend of literature and magical realism that is by far my favorite of hers to date.  Highly recommend.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin — 4 out of 5 stars

In this latest offering from my NightWorms subscription, a strange plague is affecting the way people view the world around them.  Are there really blood-thirsty monsters on the loose?  Or are the infected succumbing to the influence of others?  Part social commentary and part bone-chilling horror, this story will leave you questioning your own reality.  Highly recommend.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #157

A belated Happy Easter to those who celebrated this past weekend!  We enjoyed a quiet family dinner and the brief appearance of some spring sunshine between the snow and rain storms (it’s spring, what the heck with all the snow last week??!!).

With all the cold wet weather sticking around, I’ve been doing some reorganizing and spring cleaning.  I boxed up about 100 books and donated them to the local library for their annual used book sale.  Many of these books were actually from my unread TBR piles!  I have hundreds of unread books in boxes and on shelves so I decided to reexamine them and donate ones I knew I would never get around to reading, like the eight novels in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series (I barely got through book two, the thought of reading any more makes my eyes glaze over) and several espionage-type novels that I really don’t know where they came from as that’s not a genre I normally read.  Of course, 100 books gone means I have some room on my shelves…hmmm…

The Week in Books

Unmask Alice:  LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the Worlds Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

Look for my full review here and at MrPinkInk the weekend of April 22-24!

Flood by Andrew Vachss — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my April selections.  The first in the Burke series, we are introduced to a “renegade private eye” who takes on a new client known as Flood, a lethal woman in her own right, who is looking for a twisted child murderer.  Burke’s connections and knowledge of the seedier side of New York City takes us to places that are difficult to forget.  Overall, I liked this introduction to Vachss’ work.  My biggest problem was there was waaaaay too much going on, shoved into 300 pages, almost like the author had a bunch of ideas and couldn’t decide which to choose so he put them all in.  Reading other reviews, many agree with this and several Vachss fans have said this is probably the weakest in the series.  While not my favorite read of the year, I am definitely hooked and will be returning to Burke’s dark world very soon!

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen — 3 out of 5 stars

I think the longer I have a book on my “must read” list, the more my expectations grow, which often leads to disappointment on my part.  I’ve heard a lot over the years about Kaysen’s memoir that highlights her stay at a mental hospital in the late 1960’s and finally had a chance to read it.  I was immediately absorbed by her story and finished it in one sitting, but I was left feeling like there was something missing.  I think I was looking for more back story or maybe some insight into her problems.  While I would recommend this, it left me feeling a bit underwhelmed, but as I mentioned it is due to my expectations and not the memoir itself.  Side note:  if you’ve seen the movie and think it’s worth watching be sure to let me know and I’ll check it out.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Rouge Street by Shuang Xuetao — 4 out of 5 stars

Three novellas that take place on Yanfen Street, also known as Rouge Street, in the city of Shenyang, China, stories that I would describe as darker literary fiction with a dash of magical realism.  Each story is unique and beautifully written.  Yes, there are a lot of characters and a lot of POV switches, but well worth reading.  I truly can’t wait to read more from this author.

A Cold Place For Dying by Kristopher Triana — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Two novellas in this NightWorms exclusive published by Thunderstorm Books.  The title story has Joe, an out-of-shape widower, heading out to the mountains to do some deer hunting on Christmas Eve.  As a snowstorm closes in, he finds himself in a fight for his life after coming across two strangers in the wilderness: a woman who claims to have escaped from a rapist holding her hostage, and a man who claims to be her husband and insisting she’s the one who is mentally unstable.  This one kept my attention, I needed to find out what the hell was going on!  The second story, The Love Nest, is one that I can’t describe without giving away the main spoiler so I’ll just say this:  it reminds me of those cheesy pulp novels with a supernatural twist.  Just when I thought I knew what was going on, it went off the rails.  If you’re familiar with Triana’s work then be sure to check these out.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #156

This year has definitely been a strange one so far.  From the ongoing global issues to all the things piling up at my home, I have found myself in an almost continuous reading slump.  Never fear, I’m sticking around and pushing onward, I just may be a bit slower to post things for the next month or so.

The Week in Books

Into the Forest and All the Way Through by Cynthia Pelayo — 5 out of 5 stars

A few years ago, if you had told me I would be reading and recommending poetry collections, I would have said you were mad, but here we are.  Pelayo’s collection of true crime poetry focuses on unsolved cases of missing and murdered women and girls.  It is at turns heartbreaking and horrific, and I think it is an important piece of work that should be read by everyone.

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden — 4.5 out of 5 stars

In this truly suspenseful supernatural thriller, documentary filmmaker, Teig, sets out into the remote wilderness of Siberia to research the history and strange events of Kolyma Highway, also known as the Road of Bones.  He and his travelling companions arrive at an abandoned town, where the only person left is a nine-year-old girl.  Strange and terrifying events soon start happening, forcing the small group to fight for their lives.  I read this in one afternoon, and even though it was a beautiful warm day at my house I was left feeling chilled to the bone.  Highly recommend.

Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home by Lauren Kessler — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Lauren Kessler takes a look at America’s prison system and what really happens when an individual is released back to society, focusing on a few who have spent a decade or more behind bars for crimes ranging from drugs and forgery to murder.  While the data and facts were well researched and quite eye-opening, I felt there was something lacking in the personal stories, or maybe I was just expecting more about certain individuals.  Overall a very interesting read.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

April — April Showers

For this month’s theme, I went strictly by title, looking for ones that remind me of the unstable weather we tend to get this time of year.  Since the melting mountain snow usually brings about some springtime flooding around here, Andrew Vachss’ novel was a no-brainer!  I hadn’t heard of Vachss’ crime thrillers until a random tweet got me interested in learning more about his work.  His books sound fast-paced and gritty, exactly how I like my crime novels!  As for the other two, I don’t know if I will try to read both or just pick one.  The Gift of Rain is historical fiction set in 1939 Penang, while The Master of Rain sounds like more of a mystery/crime novel set in 1926 Shanghai.  I guess I’ll have to see where my reading mood takes me!

Goodreads Group Reads

My Goodreads groups went with quite a range of subjects this month.  A few titles that caught my eye:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a children’s classic that I remember reading several times as a kid.  I may have to pull out my tattered copy and revisit this charming story.

Bunny by Mona Awad has been popping up on my feeds quite a bit lately and I have to say I am intrigued. Described as The Vegetarian meets Heathers, with an outsider accepted into a tight-knit clique and the resulting chaos and aftermath.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson is another title I’ve been hearing a lot about, the “adventures” of two young children who spontaneously combust when agitated, and their caretaker (who is an old friend of the children’s stepmother).

The Fisherman by John Langan is a horror novel about two old friends who decide to find out if the stories about nearby Dutchman’s Creek are true.  I’m going to assume this won’t end well!


What’s on your April reading list?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #155

The end of March already??  Sigh.  Another month gone, and another month that I feel like I’m behind on everything, from my TBR list to daily chores around the house.  But seeing the new growth and flowers beginning to bloom in my garden help me refocus, even if just momentarily.

Not my garden, but I still can’t stop looking at these beautiful daffodils.   🙂

The Week in Books

These Women by Ivy Pochoda — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

The lives of five very different women intertwine in this haunting and suspenseful novel.  Their lives are affected by a series of unsolved murders, and one of them may be the key to solving the brutal killings.  Part thriller/mystery and part women’s studies, focusing on the lack of interest in solving the murders of prostitutes.  I finished this book a few days ago and it is still haunting me.  Highly recommend.

Girl Like a Bomb by Autumn Christian — 4 out of 5 stars

The best way to describe this book without giving away any spoilers is to call it a bizarro chick lit erotica with fairy tale vibes.  At age fifteen, Beverly discovers that having sex can drastically change a person…and not in any ordinary way!  The story follows her for the next fifteen years and through a variety of weird encounters (a couple of which I’ll admit were pretty eye-rolling).  This isn’t something I normally read, but I’m a big fan of Clash Books and their truly unique publications so I just knew I would read this at some point.  I don’t know who I could recommend this to, but if you want to read something different this might be for you.

The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my March selections.  The description was promising, with Inspector Ann Lindell on the search for a serial killer targeting older men, but I thought the narrative felt flat and lifeless.  It wasn’t until the last 40 or so pages that I began to really get into the story, only to have it end abruptly and without any satisfying conclusion.  I’ll probably try the next book in the series, if only to see if any justice is served, but not anytime in the near future.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

A Puppet Scorned by Jamie Kort — 4 out of 5 stars

I never thought I would use the phrase “sock puppet erotica meets horror,” yet here we are.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This little tale is the story of Camille and Brad, two sock puppets living in a dusty attic.  Camille loves Brad, but after a baby sock enters the picture, Brad quickly pushes Camille and baby into a box and moves on with an “80 percent polyester whore”(my favorite phrase ever!  At least it’s right up there, haha!).  What happens when Camille and the baby try to get Brad back is dark, disturbing, and fucking funnier than hell!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!