REVIEW: Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein


I was not aware that this book even existed until several weeks ago. There was a giveaway on Goodreads, and just seeing the cover sent me right back to my childhood. To my extreme disappointment, I did not win a copy. I knew I needed this book in my life, so I contacted the publisher explaining that I worked in a library, had a blog, was an active Goodreads user, and would love an opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this book. I went to work a few Fridays ago to find that I had received Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age. Words cannot describe how excited I was! I managed to not start reading it while I was on the clock (though it was a struggle).

To begin, I should say that I believe I am the target audience for this book. My review could probably be considered biased because my positive reaction to the book has to do with the pure nostalgia factor along with enjoying the actual content.

Me circa 1997 with the always brilliant Kenan Thompson. Sixteen years later, and this still holds up as one of my favorite celebrity encounters ever.

Me circa 1997 with the always brilliant Kenan Thompson. Sixteen years later, and this still holds up as one of my favorite celebrity encounters ever.

The book has seven sections. Each section begins with a general theme and question (for example, the first section is called The Tween and poses the question, “What was it like to grow up on Nickelodeon?”). Instead of a normal narrative, this part of the book is derived entirely from interviews with Nickelodeon people. It was a set-up that initially took a bit of getting used to, but once I realized that I would be getting the whole story from Nickelodeon people with no input from the author I began to enjoy reading the words of the people who knew it best.

There are a lot of people involved in this book. Many names I recognized immediately, but many I did not. There is a helpful “Cast of Characters” in the book, but it is near the very end. In my copy, it begins on page 263. You can figure out who they are with context clues, but I suggest reading up on the cast of characters if you want to know who is who before beginning.

I loved all of the little details that this book provided. It was interesting to see who was well-loved and who was considered a diva. The author often artfully arranged the interview clips so one actress was swearing up and down that she was not a bitch, only to have the two or three interview snippets after hers talk about how difficult she was.

There were all sorts of fun anecdotes in this book. Stories about adventurous car rides, disasters on set, sneaking things into the cartoons that were originally shot down for being too adult, and more. There was also a section dealing with challenges on the sets, including the firing of Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. It was fascinating to see all of the points of view regarding that particular issue. I went in to that chapter with certain opinions about the whole debacle and left it with a new perspective. Behind the scenes drama is always interesting to me, and this was no different. I also loved hearing about the fashion, music, and sets. Every time they mentioned a theme song, I went off to YouTube to listen to it even though most of them I still know by heart.

The one section that left me with mixed feelings was the one on diversity. It posed the question, “Why were so many of the people on Nickelodeon white?” That is a fair enough question, and it is important to have a discussion about it. I am glad that they acknowledged that early Nickelodeon was very white, but I felt like some of the people interviewed spent a bit too much time justifying it. Clarissa Explains it All was set in the Midwest so of course it was white, we were marketing our shows towards the people with cable who were usually white, we thought we were being diverse, et cetera. Also, while I feel it is crucial to have these conversations so that maybe in the future it won’t even be a problem, I think it was almost a bit dismissive to not recognize the shows that were better about the diversity issue (All That and Kenan and Kel weren’t mentioned in the section, for example). I am glad that this section was included in the book, though. Like I said, it is important now to look back and concede that the network was too white and hopefully continue to work and change that.

Overall? This book was a great experience for me. Everything about it, from the interesting facts and stories to the tiny bits of slime going down the side of the right pages of the book, was brilliant. It brought back some really fun memories of my childhood and the decade-plus I spent watching Nickelodeon. As I was reading, I was reliving the dog days of summer spent at the local rec center watching Nick in the Afternoon with Stick Stickly (alright, nostalgic Nick fans, sing along with me! “Write to me/Stick Stickly/PO Box 963/New York City/New York State/10108!”). This book isn’t for everyone; I believe you will not find much of interest unless you are a fan of behind the scenes information and Nickelodeon’s “Golden Age.”

To end, I am going to post my very favorite Hey Arnold! episode. It was interesting enough as a pre-teen, but it is really striking and poignant watching it again as an adult. Hooray for nostalgia!

REVIEW: The Dog Lived (And So Will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne

I am on a mailing list for an independent publisher called Sourcebooks, and several months ago I got a newsletter with a contest for The Dog Lived (And So Will I). All I had to do was send an e-mail with my favorite pet story for a chance to win a signed copy. I decided to go with this:

When I was in ninth grade, we moved to a new house to put me in a different school zone. The first day that we all went to work and school, we left our German Shepherd mix dog outside in a little fenced-in area that came with the house. I was daydreaming on the bus ride home from school when I heard someone yell, “Hey, look at the cute dog!” As a dog lover, I hurried to get a glance at the dog. To my surprise (and horror!), it was my dog. He was walking steadfastly, as if he knew exactly where he was going. I yelled at the bus driver to stop and jumped off the bus. My dog and I made the mile+ walk back to the house, and as we were walking I realized that he was heading in the exact direction of our old home. The poor thing thought we had dropped him off at a new house and was coming back to get us! That night, as I was relaying the story to my parents, our cat decided to run up a lit fireplace. Panic ensued. After rescuing her (with no harm done), we decided to spend some time helping the animals get used to their new home. It didn’t take long before everyone was happy and all was well.


My Jake

I was one of the winners and got my copy of the book shortly after that.


I was finishing up my summer classes, as well as preparing for a move and a holiday, so I was not able to pick it up immediately. I started reading the book right as I was leaving for my trip to Guam, and I finished it at some point during the fourteen hour flight from Newark to Tokyo.

Before I get into the review, I have a confession I need to make: I am really not a fan of beagles. One of my family members has a beagle, and that dog is the most awful, obstinate, terrible, stinky, stubborn, bullheaded dog I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. After her, I swore off beagles, saying the only one I’d ever love again was the cartoon Snoopy. This book has helped me learn a few things – the biggest of which is that I like beagles a lot better when I am not the one responsible for taking care of them. Looking in on a beagle’s home as an outsider, I find them endearingly amusing. Also, all of his quirks aside, Seamus had been added to my very short list formerly only containing Snoopy of beagles that I have a fondness for.

So, on to the book review! Here is the description of the book from the publisher (here is the link to the book’s page):

Teresa Rhyne vowed to get things right this time around: new boyfriend, new house, new dog, maybe even new job. But shortly after she adopted Seamus, a totally incorrigible beagle, vets told Teresa that he had a malignant tumor and less than a year to live. The diagnosis devastated her, but she decided to fight it, learning everything she could about the best treatment for Seamus. Teresa couldn’t possibly have known then that she was preparing herself for life’s next hurdle — a cancer diagnosis of her own. She forged ahead with survival, battling a deadly disease, fighting for doctors she needed, and baring her heart for a seemingly star–crossed relationship. The Dog Lived (and so Will I) is an uplifting and heartwarming story about how dogs steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

I genuinely enjoyed this book. I am always a sucker for an animal book, though I constantly have to remind myself that the ones with animals dying will usually turn me into a sniffling, crying mess. I appreciated that the very title of this book ensured me that the dog would indeed live.

Seamus was a joy to read about. I laughed out loud more than once at Seamus’s antics (especially the food-grabbing, which is definitely funnier when it isn’t happening to me). When he got sick, I immediately began to root for him. When his vet didn’t seem to care as much about him as she should, I was angry on his behalf. I knew he would live, but I still breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that his cancer had gone into remission. I also loved the little quirks such as his affinity for toast and the author’s translation of Seamus-speak.

This story was just as much about Teresa as it was about Seamus. Her cancer diagnosis and her relationship with her boyfriend are prominent plots in the book. Though I was expecting the book to be largely about the dog, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotionally invested I found myself with Teresa.

She has a fabulous sense of humor and a way with words that made every aspect of her life fascinating. I enjoyed reading about her relationship, meeting the parents, her adventures with Seamus the beagle, and her journey through cancer treatment. She wrote it all with such a spark that you want desperately for her to succeed at everything from stopping Seamus’s uncontrollable barking to beating breast cancer. Her writing is clean, articulate, captivating, and funny. I loved the blog posts written by both her and her boyfriend Chris (especially those dealing with his hair growth). I actually began laughing uncontrollably when she relayed the story about going in for chemo and seeing the Beanie Babies hanging by their necks from the I.V. stands. Seeing as it was the middle of the night on my fourteen hour flight, I am sure my fellow plane passengers enjoyed my amusement. Oops.

What I appreciate most about this book is that it has heart without being preachy. The author doesn’t rhapsodize about praying or remaining constantly positive and eternally optimistic. She willingly acknowledges the struggles with both her cancer and Seamus’s cancer. There were tears and hopelessness and anger and frustration, but there was also a light at the end of the tunnel.

As soon as I got off the plane and to a computer, I looked up Teresa to see how she was doing. I was glad to see that she is doing well, but I was saddened to learn from her blog that Seamus passed away in March. I still think it is wonderful that he lived for eight years after his cancer diagnosis and that he had such kind and caring owners to see him through it until the end. And though his story has ended, I still highly recommend The Dog Lived (And So Will I) for dog lovers, cancer survivors, and anyone who loves a good, funny, well-written memoir.

REVIEW: The Returned by Jason Mott


Description from Amazon:

“Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.”  

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time…. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old. 

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human. 

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.


I received a copy of Jason Mott’s debut novel The Returned from NetGalley to read and review. I was thrilled to get it because two of my lovely coworkers made it to BookExpo America, and they said this was one of the very highly anticipated novels from the expo. To be perfectly honest, the fact that the book was published by Harlequin scared me. I associate them with bodice-ripping romances, which are not on my radar at all. A little bit of reading up on The Returned had me intrigued enough that I had to find a copy. Be warned that my review below contains some spoilers.

This was one of those amazing, soul-crushing books that will sit heavy on your mind long after you’ve finished it. The premise is beyond interesting: people have suddenly begun to return from the dead. No explanation, and no rhyme or reason as to who returns or where they return. It is something most people have thought about. What would happen if our loved ones could return? What would we say to them? I sometimes find myself thinking about what would I say to my deceased family members if I could see them just one more time. But Jason Mott reminds us that it isn’t so simple.

I love the flow of this novel. The main story follows Harold and Lucille as they deal with the return of their son Jacob, who drowned in 1966. Interspersed throughout are stories of various others who have returned and the living family members grappling with this unexplainable phenomenon. While there is confusion throughout regarding the return of these people, you see it rather quickly morph into suspicion. Suddenly, Harold and Lucille’s small town is turned into a large holding cell for the Returned.

The characterization in The Returned was excellent. The suspicious townspeople who quickly turn against the Returned and attempt to drive them out of town, the family who was brutally murdered by a passing stranger and Return together only to be shunned by their friends and neighbors, the Bureau agent who never really seems to believe in the abilities of his department to solve the issue of the Returned and who ends up being a surprising ally, and the couple who tragically lost their son decades ago only to have him show up on their porch – Harold, the man who makes up jokes with his son, and Lucille, the devoutly religious woman who has a deep love of finding the perfect word for every situation. In the beginning, Lucille appears to be far more receptive to the return of their son Jacob, but you find out in the most heartbreaking way that things are not always how they appear.

This is not an action-packed novel. Most of the actual action occurs at the very end. Up to that point, it is a meandering, slow buildup of tension. I believe that what made me love this book so much is Jason Mott’s raw talent. So many authors could have taken this concept and cranked out a mildly entertaining, mediocre novel, but Mott crafted a beautiful story that continues to stay with me weeks after I finished reading.

I believe that most people will find the poignancy and beauty in the novel, but it is not for everyone. If you want constant action, full explanations, and happy endings, you would be better served elsewhere.

Jason Mott has also written several short stories set in the same universe, “The First,” “The Sparrow,” and “The Choice.” The Kindle editions are free. You can access the first two here and here, and the third will be available here beginning August 1.

TheFirstThe SparrowTheChoice

The Returned will be available beginning August 27, and a pilot is currently being filmed for a television show based on the novel (the show is called Resurrection). I highly recommend the book, and I plan on tuning in to the show when it airs.

REVIEW: The Shade of the Moon

A few weeks ago, YA author Susan Beth Pfeffer hosted a giveaway on her blog for ARCs of her soon-to-be-released The Shade of the Moon, the fourth book in the Life As We Knew It series. The books tell the stories of several families dealing with the aftermath of a asteroid hitting the moon and knocking it closer to Earth. The first and third books, Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In, are written as the diary entries of Miranda Evans, a teenager living in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. The second book, The Dead and the Gone, is a companion to the first book that follows devoutly religious Alex Morales in New York City as he experiences the same events. The asteroid hitting the moon proves to be catastrophic. The event leads to tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, and a steep drop in temperature. There is illness, starvation, and desperation in the post-apocalyptic world.

I love the book covers!

Unfortunately, I did not get an e-mail saying I won a copy of the book in the giveaway. I was disappointed, but I figured August isn’t too far away. But! Not all was lost! One of my coworkers had also entered, and she did win a copy. I waited patiently (or not so patiently) until she and her son finished reading it, then she very kindly passed it on to me.

Before I begin my review, a disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of The Shade of the Moon that was borrowed from someone who won it from the author. I am writing this review because of a personal goal I set for myself to read more, review more, and blog more. Also, this is an honest review. I tend to be a little harsh with YA fiction because I am constantly finding so many problematic elements. I did have some issues with this book, but overall I enjoyed reading it.

Caution! Spoilers!

There will be major plot spoilers for all four books from this point on! I will try to not give away too much about the fourth book, but small plot points will be discussed.

I really love the idea that Susan Beth Pfeffer has explored with her novels. One big problem that I have with a lot of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature (especially YA) is that I often find myself asking, “But why?” I can never quite suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that the chain events the author gives could feasibly cause the plot of the novel. With the Life as We Knew It series, I could really buy that an asteroid hitting the moon could cause some serious issues. I could imagine the tides getting messed up (along with all of the other natural disasters), and I could see the reasonable ensuing panic.

In the first book, we are introduced to Miranda Evans and her mother, older brother Matt, younger brother Jonny, neighbor Mrs. Nesbitt, and other minor characters. We know that she has a father and a pregnant stepmother. The family struggles in the aftermath of the moon disaster, but through her diary entries we see them survive. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads because despite the fact that I am not too terribly fond of diary/first-person POV novels, I fell in love with the idea and I enjoyed reading it.

The Dead and the Gone is set in the same timeline as Life As We Knew It, only in New York City instead of Pennsylvania. We meet highly religious Alex Morales and his younger sisters Briana (who is the most pious of them all) and Julie (who is a bit of a spitfire). Unlike the first novel, there are no parents to help the situation. Alex, who has taken a traditionally male role in the family, struggles to adjust to daily chores such as cooking and bigger tasks like keeping his sisters alive and scouring fields of dead bodies to see if his mother is one of them. By the end, he and Julie are able to procure tickets to get into a community that can help them survive. Briana dies (and I must say that while it seemed obvious afterwards, I did not see that death coming!) My Goodreads rating for this book was 3 stars. I still loved the idea and the execution was good, but most of the characters annoyed me to the point that the book was slightly less enjoyable.

This brings us to the third book, This World We Live In. Unfortunately, this book was my least favorite. We are back to Miranda’s diary, and we see soon enough that her father, stepmother, and half-sibling arrive with three strangers in tow. Two of those strangers just happen to be Alex and Julie from the second book. Her older brother Matt sets out and returns with a wife, Syl. This growing group of people are trying to survive on dwindling supplies and food. Since it is the end of the world, it is only natural that the teenagers pair off in romantic couples (Miranda with Alex and Jon with Julie). I prefer my books without piles of sappy romance, so that aspect of the novel – while understandable and believable – was not my favorite. I was also quite upset about the cat and Julie. Miranda wrote about how furious she was that her sister-in-law Syl humanely killed their family cat, yet Miranda herself humanely killed Julie after she was terribly injured. She was so angry at Syl because she felt that Syl was not part of the family and did not have the right to do so. If that is the case, why in the world did she think she had the right to kill her boyfriend’s sister?! This book was a 2.5 star book for me, but I rounded it up to 3 on Goodreads since we can’t do half stars.

Since I wasn’t incredibly fond of the third book, I was not sure how I would like the fourth one. It was an unexpected – though not unwelcome – surprise to see that there was going to be a fourth; I thought she was finished after three. I was intrigued to see where these characters could possibly go from the end of the third book.

Susan Beth Pfeffer posted the first twelve pages on her blog. You can find them here. The first few pages of the book tell us that Miranda’s brother Jon lives with his stepmother and half-brother. His dad died on the way to the enclave where they currently live. They got in using the passes that Alex procured in The Dead and the Gone. This series has slowly moved from the post-apocalypse to a new, dystopian society that was created to deal with the fallout from the moon incident.

This society includes two main groups of people, the clavers and the grubs. Grubs do manual labor and live in subpar housing. Clavers are the upper class, living in houses with proper air filtration and eating the best food available. Jon feels a lot of guilt over the death of Julie, not realizing that Miranda was the one who ended her life. As a claver in his enclave, he has grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle – one that includes plenty of food and domestics to do the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting. His mother, along with a pregnant Miranda and her husband Alex, live in the nearby grub town and work as a teacher, greenhouse employee, and bus driver.

I don’t want to give away many major plot points or spoilers, but suffice to say things get ugly fast. The clavers feel some sort of entitlement over the grubs, and it leads to loads of drama and, of course, some tragedy. The way society naturally devolved into two main groups, the haves and the have-nots, illustrates a pretty typical dystopian element that really works well in this instance. It was hard to digest at points, but I believed it could really happen. I believe that it is entirely plausible that certain people would feel that entitled to the finer things in life while the rest, the majority, struggle to exist. I mean, it is basically a more intense imagining of something that is already happening to a degree.

One thing I must note, though: I hate Jon. Really. He is completely selfish and obnoxious and just awful. I appreciate that he went through some character growth throughout the novel, but I still thought he had loads of maturing to do at the end. The way he treated people (especially how he described his nights in the grub town ‘taking’ any girls he could) was pretty gross. Even with my hatred of the main character, I still enjoyed the story. I would have liked to see more uprising from the grubs, though. These are not stupid people – many of the grubs in the book were highly educated people who just happened to be in a profession before the moon disaster that was not productive in the aftermath. With all of those educated people, surely they could stage an uprising and use their smarts to their benefit? The one huge showdown between the clavers and the grubs in the book did not end well for the grubs. I know they have a lot going against them, but it would be great to see them really fight against these new societal classes.

Overall, I really liked The Shade of the Moon. The things that were meant to disgust me disgusted me, and the book kept my attention the entire way through (something that is surprisingly commendable thanks to my absurdly short attention span). I am glad that we got to see what became of the rest of Jon’s family. There was a healthy dose of action, drama, and heartbreak. There was one scene in particular that broke my little stone heart. I also like that it was open-ended enough that Susan Beth Pfeffer could always write another book in the series.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a literature snob. I do love my F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell, but I also see the value in a solid idea and execution in general fiction and YA. And that is exactly what the Life As We Knew It series is – a solid, enjoyable read.