Sunday, March 10, 2024

The Sunday Post #361

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The Sunday Post is a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, tell you what I’m reading, and share news. It’s hosted by The Caffeinated Book ReviewerReaderbuzz, and Book Date.

The Sunday Post #361

On The Blog Recently

In My Reading Life

I continued my streak of freakin' adorable books with The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. It's a heartwarming story about a case worker whose job is to oversee orphanages for magical children. One day, he's given a secret assignment. He has to travel to an orphanage on a remote island and write a report about the dangerous magical children who live there. At first, he's terrified, but he quickly falls in love with the quirky kids and their odd caretaker.

This book has literal laugh-out-loud moments. I switched to the audiobook for a while so I could listen while I was running. I'm glad I live in the middle of nowhere because I was running and laughing like a complete weirdo. The best part of the book is that it makes exercise suck less.

There's not a lot of action in this story. It's mostly about the cute characters and their conversations. It's about letting kids be themselves and not being afraid of something just because you don't understand it (yet).

This is the longest cozy fantasy book I've read, and it feels long. There's not much plot. The ending is predictable. The themes are heavy-handed and not super original. I think it could have been 100 pages shorter and still had the same impact. I got a bit bored.

Most of the book was a fun time, but I think some of the charm wore off because of the length. If you want a similar book (but shorter), I recommend Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children or The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches.

I needed a break from adorable novels, so I read a nonfiction book called Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, And The Imposter Behind The World's Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson.

Okay, story time! When I was in graduate school, I wrote a lot about cults, which means I read a lot about cults. Most of the stuff I read was memoirs or sociological studies. I don't remember how, but I ended up with a book called Jay's Journal in my stack of cult books. I was told that it was the true diary of a teenage Mormon boy who got involved with Satanism in the 1970s.

I started reading it, and very quickly, it felt wrong. Everything was over-the-top. It reminded me of those Hell Houses that churches do at Halloween. The diary was simultaneously trying to be a horror movie and preach Mormon ideology. It felt fake, but the cover said it was true. I tried to believe it was true! I kept telling myself that this was the personal diary of a once-devout Mormon teenager. Of course he was going to write about the world through a Mormon lens. Also, he didn't expect the diary to be published. It was a personal project, so it might have been embellished for whatever reason.

The diary got harder and harder to believe. It was nothing like the memoirs and studies I had encountered. This couldn't be real life. (Could it?)

So, I Googled Jay's Journal, and . . . oh, no. No, no, no. The kids are not okay!

"Jay" was a real teenager who kept a journal in the 1970s. His name was actually Alden. He developed severe depression, lost faith in the Mormon religion, and committed suicide at age 16. He was never involved with Satanism and did not express an interest in it. After his death, his mother gave his journal to bestselling author (and con artist) Beatrice Sparks. Alden's mother thought her son's journal could help other depressed teens if it was published.

The real journal wasn't scandalous enough for Beatrice Sparks. She took a few entries from Alden's real diary and invented all the rest. The Satanic stuff was fiction. Sparks did not allow Alden's family to see Jay's Journal before it was published. She also did a terrible job of hiding Alden's identity, so everyone in his small Utah town figured out "Jay's" real name. People thought the Satanism was real because the book was sold as nonfiction. Alden's grave was vandalized. His headstone was stolen. His house became a curiosity. His parents eventually divorced and moved out of town.

Jay's Journal is an exquisite piece of Satanic Panic Mormon propaganda that ruined a family.

After Google taught me the true story behind Jay's Journal, I was pissed. Teenage depression is a huge problem. I was a depressed teen! Nobody took it seriously! Having depression dismissed as "Satanism" is offensive and unhelpful.

That brings us to Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, And The Imposter Behind The World's Most Notorious Diaries. It's the story of Mormon con artist Beatrice Sparks and how her collection of phony diaries sparked (hahaha) the Satanic Panic in the 1980s.

There's a lot going on in Unmask Alice. It's a mix of biography and history. It examines young adult literature and why it's so compelling. It's also a critique of the publishing industry and how it consistently puts profit ahead of people.

The author of Unmask Alice—Rick Emerson—was clearly inspired by Beatrice Sparks. Just like in Sparks' books, Unmask Alice has breakneck pacing and a plot that goes in a million directions at once. It leaves the reader breathless. You don't want to stop reading to question what's real. Like Sparks, the author inserts his opinions into everything. It's nonfiction, so you're inclined to believe what he's saying, but . . . the whole book is about an author who lied in nonfiction. How "nonfiction" is "nonfiction"? This book makes you question everything you've ever read.

I recommend Unmask Alice to anyone who's interested in 1980s culture or the publishing industry. It's provocative for sure.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

1. Have you ever forgotten how much you like something and then rediscovered it again? YouTube reminded me that I love the Try Guys "Without A Recipe" videos. Now I'm rewatching the entire playlist. It's a cooking show where funny people attempt to cook different things without a recipe. Sometimes they succeed. 

2. I visited a bookstore for the first time in years. It was amazing! I missed everything about bookstores, even the smell. I've been on a book-buying ban since 2022, and before that was COVID. It's been a while. I didn't buy any books at the store because I'm still on a buying ban. I just admired the books.

3. I accidentally sliced my thumb while I was cutting up boxes for recycling. While I was bleeding all over, I discovered that we only have Blue's Clues bandages because (apparently) Baby Brooklyn does all our grocery shopping. Now my thumb smiles at me while I'm reading depressing literature.

4. The weather was nice on my walk. Barely any clouds. I could (somewhat) see the mountains. I also saw random underpass ducks.

5. There are still skunks under my house, so here's a new Skunkumentary. I'm learning a lot from making the world's stupidest nature documentary. Last week, I learned that I don't know all my neighbors' cats. I keep squinting at the videos and going, "Whose cat is that cat? I've never seen that cat in my life!"

I also learned that rabbits are North America's most boring animals. They will park themselves in front of the camera and do absolutely nothing for hours. I've spent an embarrassing amount of time looking through rabbit footage to find the mildly interesting bits.

In addition to boring bunnies, this week's documentary features noisy foxes, mystery cats, skunks (of course), and a few blurry shots because the files got corrupted, and I don't actually know anything about video editing. Enjoy.

For More Mildly Interesting Bits

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other. See you around the blogosphere!


  1. Aww bunnies! I love rabbits but they probably are not very interesting to sit and observe for long periods of time. Lol.

    Wow that who story of Jay's Journal, Unmask Alice is wild. I will have to read up on that. That poor family!

  2. Glad to hear your bookstore visit brought you some joy, and way to go sticking with the ban. I thought I was the only one who had any negative feelings about the Klune book, and you know I like warm and fuzzy. I agree with your assessment but I also felt it was a bit heavy handed at times. Hope the wound is healing while looking adorable.

  3. I do love Klune's books -- they always have that cute vibe. I actually find them a bit, hm, sentimental? A little too much in the wrong mood, but fun.

  4. I liked but I didn't love The House In The Cerulean Sea. It felt like something I had read before. Maybe I have read too many stories about quirky kids.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to a bookstore. My writing friends and I meet (almost) every week at the library in Galveston because they have a wonderful used bookstore. I like buying almost new books cheap.

  5. I heard great things about that Klune book! Need to read it. And I remember the day when I discovered Go Ask Alice. And then when I heard about how those diaries were all made up by Beatrice Sparks. I need to read the book you're talking about. You also make me want to get my own camera outside. I keep smelling skunk, and I assume it is someone smoking pot, not actual skunks since I've never seen any skunks around. I know there could be some though in the area nearby. Hope you have a good week!
    Lisa Loves Literature

  6. It looks like your walk was lovely. Have a fantastic Sunday 🤗

  7. There is so much to think about in this post! First, the animals are vastly entertaining, dont' seem to mind the bright motion-sensor lights, and it cracks me up that you must spend a ton of time each week distilling the HOURS of video into something for us to watch.

    Go Ask Alice played a huge role in my 6th grade year. We all read it, dog eared the "good parts" and were convinced it was real. It really opened my eyes to other people's lives (or so I thought). To learn it was all made up was quite disconcerting.

  8. I appreciate your reviews of the faked diaries and overall propaganda atrocities in our time and before our time. It’s interesting that you have been reading about this for a long time. Authors who falsify supposed documentary evidence in the service of religious fanatics really infuriate me! Now they do it for political reasons, too, though this week’s egregious attempt at such a fraud was caught out quickly. (I mean the story about the sexual abuse in the “rebuttal” to the State of the Union speech, that cited an event that took place deep in Mexico during the term of Bush and said it was proof against current policies.)

    best, mae at

  9. I can guarantee i don’t know all my neighbors cats but i do know which houses have a lot of black ones lol. I am sorry your still dealing with the skunks but at least your finding something funny in the watching of random bunnies and cats. I really like the house on the ceraleaun sea and i remember those days of blues clues bandaids and no adult ones to be found. We also had a lot of spongebob ones as well. Have a great week.

  10. But if you are on a book ban, do you borrow your reads fomr the library???

  11. So sorry you injured yourself, but that bandage sounds adorable. One time when I had routine blood work done, they gave me a crayon shaped band-aid and I just thought it was so cute. I've only been to a bookstore a couple of times in the past several years. I get my book fix outing at the library most of the time. Have a great week. :)

  12. I love reading your posts. I hope you have a lovely week with some interesting books and no injuries.

    Anne - Books of My Heart This is my Sunday Post

  13. Wow, I'm completely fascinated, and angered, by the whole Jay's Journal story. I hate that people are willing to do vile things for the sake of selling a story. I'm going to look into Unmask Alice. Thanks for such a great write-up about it! That bandage looks adorable on you, btw!

  14. Quite an enjoyable post. I loved Klune’s book!

  15. I love how you said Sometimes they succeed when describing Guys Without Recipes.

    That Jay's Journal books sounds horrific in so many ways.

  16. Cute bandage! Sounds like an interesting week. I read Go Ask Alice years ago but never really questioned its veracity. I'm not surprised that it was fraudulent. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  17. We love the Without a Recipe series! It's so fun. I would never be able to do it.

  18. The weather looks beautiful! I did enjoy The House in the Cerulean Sea; my middle son just love any sot of fantasy novel and often suggests book to me.

  19. I always loved bookstores. It's been so long since I visited one. I just read ebooks these days, but I always enjoy a good bookstore.

  20. I have to say - I wasn't a huge fan of The House in the Cerulean Sea as I thought it was rather overwritten and the story could have been told in far fewer pages. You have some chilly old nights, don't you?? I was looking at the temperatures on your nightcam and very glad that we're generally warmer. The rabbits are adorable, if a bit daft. If a light suddenly blinked on - I'd probably scarper like your canny fox did. And while I'm aware I can't smell them, skunks are truly beautiful. I just hope they move out from under your house sometime soon! Have a good week, AJ:)).

  21. OMG this entire post was so entertaining!!!! The skunks, the mystery cats, the lazy rabbits, the smiling bandaid...

  22. No coyotes on your film? I remember often wearing bandaids purchased for my daughter.