Posted in Podcast

Devil’s Elbow Podcast #9: Nightmare Hall #1: The Silent Scream by Diane Hoh

 

Wing recaps The Silent Scream by Diane Hoh, the first book in the Nightmare Hall series, and minus a bit too much red herring, it’s a fun and fantastic book. (Content: Discussion of suicide and abusive relationships.)

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: The Silent Scream by Diane Hoh

Let’s Do It: A Virgin Does Horror recap of Friday the 13th

Recap of The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine (previous winner of the Red Herring to Most Red Herring)

Listener/Reader letter: recommendation for Pop Arena’s YouTube reviews (Wing’s fave: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp by R. L. Stine)

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Posted in General

Expanding the Recap Empire

I do like calling things an empire. Anyway, see the below message from Dove, and let us know if you want to join us in recapping a wider variety of nostalgic media. (Things will continue here at the Devil’s Elbow, don’t worry! Guest recappers, regular columns, my feud with R. L. Stine and love of werewolves; none of that is going anywhere.)

 

Hi guys

We, Wing, Raven and Dove, are planning on expanding our recap empire, and would love to gauge the interest levels – readers and contributors – on the areas below. We’re not absolutely committed or limited to these, but they were the areas that were popping up in conversation:

The Babysitters Club
Horse and Pony books (general, Saddle Club, Jill books, Pullein-Thompson, Eventing Trilogy, etc.)
Fighting Fantasy by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (Choose your own adventure style books)
Enid Blyton (Famous Five, Malory Towers (old and new), Faraway Tree, Naughtiest Girl, Secret Series, Secret 7, Adventure Series, etc.)
Making Out by Katherine Applegate

For the time being, don’t worry about whether or not you have these books, just ask yourself, would I like to recap them? If the answer’s yes, then let us know.

Likewise, if you have a burning desire to recap a series not on here, and are desperate for some webspace to do just that, let us know.

Either comment or email recappers@sweetvalley.online

Posted in Podcast

Devil’s Elbow Podcast #8: Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine


Wing recaps Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine and finds it delightful. Ridiculous, cheesy, fun stories ahead. (Content: brief mentions of arachnids, child sex trafficking, and “illegal” aliens.)

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

13 Tales of Horror: OneTwoThreeFour

13 More Tales of Horror: OneTwoThree

“Gypsy” as a slur.

Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation.

Listener/Reader letter: Cat-Dogs cover on Tumblr

ASMRrequests Time Travel Tingles on Goosebumps

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #77: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

cover of The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson, has a figure in a black coat with its hood up carrying an ax, with the title and author information printed over itTitle: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

Summary: A SET OF keys jangled in my hand. The keys were my lifeline. One of them would be what saved the day. I held onto them as tightly as I could.

I was being followed. The man running behind me was my stepdad, Morris Heyward. He was holding an axe.

AFTER THE DEATHS of his best friend and stepdad, seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas can’t escape the memories of that night…the screams…the blood…the axe.

Now, Blake suffers from social anxiety and making friends at his new home seems impossible. With his therapist’s suggestion, Blake joins a social media site called The Reading Buddy. It is supposed to be a way for him to slowly step back into social relationships, and it doesn’t take long for him to become online friends with someone known as Charley17.

Recovery seems to be within reach, but once the school year starts, three local teens quickly pull Blake into their own circle, and soon it appears that Charley17 doesn’t want to share his new friend with anybody else.

The Reading Buddy is a Southern-set throwback to the teen horror and thriller novels from the 1990s and will keep you guessing until the very end!

[Wing: Oh dear. We’re kicking this off with yet another summary that is not so much with the accuracy, and is trying too hard to be Point Horror-esque for a book that really isn’t.]

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Disclosure: A copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. Or a lovingly snarky recap that may not be quite so loving, depending on how the story goes. Congratulations on book release day, Gibson!

This is the first time an author has reached out to us to have their book recapped, and I am both charmed and delighted by the opportunity and a little surprised. The author and publisher call it a book that will appeal to readers of retro teen horror from the 90s, which, you know, is pretty much our jam around here. I love a good southern horror, and I have high hopes for this one. I do worry that the marketing push to compare it to Point Horror and similar books is going to be a detriment; I’m going in with some solid expectations because I obviously know very well what teen horror and thrillers were like in the 90s. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. The summary and the marketing plan have driven home that this book will be that, and if it’s not, well … we’ll see.

Spoiler-Free Review

Because this is a new book, and you may want to read it without the spoilers of the recap, I’m going to start with a brief, spoiler-free review.

In short, I loved the first ¾ of the book, but found the ending badly paced, with whiplash characterisation. The book itself is very slowly paced, which is something I actually love, particularly in horror stories where the writing establishes the characters very well. That doesn’t not really happen here, but I still enjoyed the slow pace for a long time, until it finally because too slow, with too little happening. Spent a great deal of time adoring the main character and at least one of the side characters. Mostly handles mental health very well, until it veers sharply off track.

I think it’s a fun, entertaining read, but it makes a lot of style choices that I think you’ll either love or loathe, with very little in between. Like I said, it is slow, and at times almost seems to be leaning heavily into southern Gothic, but it never quite makes it. In the end, I think that’s my biggest problem with the book (except for the moment where Wing Goes Boom finally over mental illness); it starts to be a lot of things, and starts to have a lot of things, like strong characters and great relationships, but it never quite gets there. There’s a lot of build up for very little payoff (and I don’t mean in the plot, necessarily, but more in the writing style itself); it feels very surface level at times, when it was leading into a deep, profound setting and character-driven story.

I wanted more from it, and though I really did enjoy reading it, I’m also left unsatisfied and wanting more depth, more description, more characterization, more transitions — just more.

Per the marketing campaign from the publisher, it is being targeted to readers of retro teen horror — so, you know, us — and I can see why. It doesn’t quite feel the same as Point Horror or Fear Street or Nightmare Hall or Christopher Pike, etc. In some ways, it’s better. In some ways, though, it feels even more surface-level than they do. It certainly did invoke a ton of nostalgia in me, but not a lot related to the 80s and 90s teen horror. Mostly, small towns and high school football and marching band and werewolves. (You’ll see.)

I liked it. I’m glad I read it. I’ll reread it. But I am left not quite satisfied, and since the early part of the book was great enough it set my expectations high, that is even more frustrating than if it had been bad from the beginning.

Let’s do this.

(more…)

Posted in Podcast

Devil’s Elbow Podcast #7: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

Wing recaps The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine, and spoilers: she doesn’t hate it. Come listen for rollicking adventures, car theft, and murder.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

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Patreon: Devil’s Elbow

Posted in Podcast

Devil’s Elbow Podcast #6: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

And the podcast is back!

Wing recaps the relaunched Point Horror book Identity Theft by Anna Davies (spoilers: the blurb manages to both lie and spoil the twist and Wing goes boom RE mental illness), discusses the changes to the recaps and podcast as well as the new schedule, and shares reader/listener mail.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Facebook: Devil’s Elbow

Tumblr: Devil’s Elbow

Patreon: Devil’s Elbow

 

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #73: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick

cover of Silent Stalker by R T Cusick, shows a white girl on a floor in what looks like a cave, cowering away from a bunch of ratsTitle: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick

Summary: Trapped in a madman’s castle, a young girl must fight to save her sanity

Thunder bellows as Jenny and her father pull up to the gate of Worthington Hall. As they inch onto the grounds of the ancient estate, a disheveled young woman thrusts her head through the open window. “Leave!” she yells. “Before it’s too late! He’ll kill you. I swear.” Jenny is terrified, but her dad laughs it off. The girl is just an actress – part of the medieval fair being held on the castle grounds. But it’s not long before Jenny wishes they’d heeded the warning.

The house is a drafty maze of narrow hallways and dungeons. Jenny wants to flee, but her father is intent on the work he’s come to do. Soon the Worthington family sets upon young Jenny, playing twisted tricks on her until she forgets what’s real. The Worthingtons play cruel games – and if Jenny loses, it will mean her life.

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

WELL THIS IS OFF TO A GREAT START.

[Note from the future: While I don’t remember anything else about this book, and didn’t think I’d read it, the rat scene from the cover seems immensely familiar. Not sure if I saw something similar in another book, though.]

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Posted in General, Podcast

The Devil’s Elbow Patreon

image of patreon page

Well, it’s been quite a couple months, hasn’t it? Lots of changes around here, and all the guest recappers are killing it. Podcast episodes start up again in July. I’m grateful to all of you, readers and listeners and fans, for sticking with Devil’s Elbow during all this change. Y’all are the best.

One more new change for June: I’m pleased to launch our Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you get access to an exclusive Patron-only feed, and the rewards just go up from there. (Bonus episodes! Bonus recaps! You can star in a Very Special Episode!)

Regular monthly recaps and podcast episodes will still be available for free, as always. But there will be Patron-only episodes and recaps, along with other rewards. I love what we do here, and I will keep doing it no matter what.

Patreon allows creators to connect with their community, and gives the community the chance to help produce the work. By supporting the Devil’s Elbow podcast on Patreon, you’ll help provide hosting, upgraded recording equipment, and, once we reach enough Patrons, payment for our hard-working recappers.

Thank you, again, for all your support.

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #69: Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

book cover for Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald, is a snowy woods scene with the title in white lettering on the blue sky and the authors' names in black lettering on the snowTitle: Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle & James Macdonald (Bad Blood series) (podcast)

Summary: Valerie Sherwood is a werewolf. That doesn’t make her high school social life any easier. Good thing her boyfriend’s cool with it. But tonight she’s followed her nose into more trouble than she knows, and the question stops being can she save her friends and becomes can she save herself.

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Considering we only just found these books about a year ago, my excitement over this additional short story is as extreme as if I’d been waiting for more for the past thirty years. I love Val and this series and this world so damn much, and I am thrilled to get to spend one more month recapping it.

(Val and friends have previously shown up in Bad Blood, Hunters’ Moon, and Judgment Night, all recapped earlier this year. )

(more…)

Posted in General

Announcement: New Guest Recapper Donna

I bring you another guest recapper. Donna will be tackling L.J. Smith and similar books once a month. You can find more about her and her writing on her website: http://www.imaginewrite.net/.

I’m thrilled with all the guest recappers, and I can’t wait to share their work with you. Y’all are going to love this.

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #65: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine

The Hitchhiker by R L Stine book cover, right hand with thumb raised up in front of two headlightsTitle: The Hitchhiker by R. L. Stine 

Summary: He wants a ride. She wants a thrill. So, in spite of her best friend’s arguments, Christina stops to pick up the handsome hitchhiker. He’s everything she thought he’d be. And more. Much, much, more. Enough to thrill Christina and Terri… to death.

Tagline: Don’t stop now

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts

I don’t remember ever reading this one before, but I love road trips and road horror and hate the torture porn that now comes with this type of story. We’ll see where Stine falls in that spectrum. I don’t have high hopes, considering our feud.

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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Posted in General

Annoucement: New Movie Recap Guest Column

Another big announcement about guest recappers. Once a quarter, starting on June 13, we’ll have a new regular column recapping horror movies: Let’s Do It! A Virgin Does Horror. Guest recapper Virgin will take on horror movie series, and look at all the ways she would be a Final Girl.

(In other guest recapper news, I’ve had the privilege to read the first Goosebumps recap, which goes up at the end of this month, and it is hilarious. Jude did a great job, and I can’t wait for you to read it.)

Posted in General

Announcement: Guest Recappers

As you may have noticed, there are some changes going on behind the scenes at The Devil’s Elbow. There are still a few more in the works, but I can announce three things now:

1) Dove is taking a break from recapping and podcasting at The Devil’s Elbow. You can still find her creating recaps and podcast episodes over at Sweet Valley Online.

2) The Devil’s Elbow podcast is temporarily on hold until I work out some technical issues and line up a few guests. I will keep you updated.

3) I’m bringing on a few regular guest recappers! I’m super excited to get to share their recaps with you.

First, Dade will be returning! You may recall that he wrote the excellent recap of The Train. He’s returning now to tackle the Nightmare Hall books. I’m looking forward to his insight into YA genre publishing as much as I am his recapping.

Second, I’d like to introduce Jude Deluca, of the delightful If It Were Stine tumblr (if you haven’t checked this out, you should! It reimagines horror movies as Goosebumps books, and is hilarious). He will be taking on the Goosebumps books (which means I can focus my Stine feud on a different series, oh goody).

I’ll update the pinned post, too, but the new posting schedule will be Dade with a Nightmare Hall recap on the first Monday of the month, Wing with a Point Horror or similar recap on the 15th of the month, and Jude with a Goosebumps recap on the last day of every other month.

Like I said, there are still more surprises in the works, but for now, I hope you’ll help me welcome our reoccurring guest recappers and thank Dove for all the work she’s done for the project!

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #64: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies
Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Title: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Summary: Hayley is going to have the best year ever. After years of careful planning, she’s ready to serve as student council president AND editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Ivy League, here she comes!

However, just before student council elections, someone creates a fake facebook profile for Hayley and starts posting inappropriate photos and incriminating updates. It must be the work of a highly skilled Photoshopper, but the attention to detail is scary. The embarrassing photos of “Hayley” in her bathing suit reveal a birthmark on her back–a birth mark Hayley has never shown in public. . .

The situation escalates until Hayley’s mother reveals some shocking information. Hayley isn’t an only child: She has a twin sister who was adopted by a different family. And that’s not all. Soon, Hayley discovers that her long-lost sister isn’t just playing a prank–she’s plotting to take over Hayley’s life . . . by any means necessary. [Wing: Note: NO STUDENT COUNCIL ELECTIONS. No fucking birthmark. And if I’d read the summary before the book, it would have given away the big twist. What the fuck, publisher?]

Tagline: Some friend requests refuse to be ignored… [Wing: Note: NO FUCKING FRIEND REQUESTS ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO HAYLEY.]

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

The dedication reads: To the NYC crew: For always keeping me on the right side of sanity

Unsurprisingly, I am not looking forward to reading this book. I know I’ve read it before (and it’s the book that made Dove quit all new Point Horror until we recapped them), but I don’t remember a damn thing about it except that Dove hates it. I’m hoping for lots of Dove Goes Boom moments to get me through.

[Dove: Yep, I haven’t read this from beginning to end. I actually refused to finish it because it was so awful, so… I guess my feelings about this pointless waste of my time can be inferred from that. Also this will mean my comments are largely useless. I’m actually very much looking forward to Wing’s recap of this, because it means I’ll get to find out exactly how it happens without having to revisit the book itself.]

[Wing: YOU DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING READ IT THIS TIME?! DO YOU KNOW THE TERRIBLE BOOKS I’VE READ SO I CAN PROPERLY COMMENT ON YOUR RECAPS?! YOU LEFT ME TO DEAL WITH THIS ALONE?! WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, DOVE.]

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #62: Twins by Caroline B. Cooney

Twins by Caroline B. Cooney
Twins by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: Twins by Caroline B. Cooney

Summary: Twice the evil.

Twins Mary Lee and Madrigal are living double lives – with some shocking secrets

Mary Lee and Madrigal are twin sisters, beautiful and deeply attached to each other. Then in high school, Mary Lee and Madrigal’s parents decide to send Mary Lee away to boarding school – cruelly separating the girls. The twins have only been apart a handful of times in their lives. Mary Lee is devastated at first, and then horrified as Madrigal betrays her by approving of their parents’ shocking plan. Spending high school apart, as two separate sisters – not as twins?! What about their special twin bond? Madrigal seems to be thriving in her new solo life, and even finds a fabulous boyfriend. Mary Lee, lonely and unhappy at boarding school, begins to wish she had her sister’s seemingly perfect life. But when her secret wish disastrously comes true during a weekend ski trip, Mary Lee learns more about Madrigal’s new life than she could have ever dreamed… or feared.

Every kid’s fantasy is to be a twin. Now, that innocent dream is turned into a nightmare by a million-copy selling author. Caroline Cooney spins a shivery tale about a young girl who steps into the shoes of her dead identical twin sister and uncovers a horrifying legacy of evil.

Tagline: Twice the evil.

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

I’ve never read this before, but I kind of wish we’d done this one before Perfume, because I am ridiculously charmed by their names. Still, at this point, I’m pretty attached to “Wing,” so I guess it’s no problem. Back to the book, I’m both looking forward to Cooney’s whimsy and also braced for it, because the last couple of her books that we’ve recapped have been a little bit much for me, whimsy-wise. Ah well, on to the evil twin shenanigans. (I certainly hope they’re better than the Perfume shenanigans. God forbid someone skip brushing their teeth.)

[Dove: I loathe this book. Actually, when I was recapping The Stranger, I thought the plot of this book happened in that one. I was glad to be wrong, because I actually liked The Stranger.]

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #60: Bad Blood #3: Judgment Night by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Bad Blood #3: Judgment Night by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
Bad Blood #3: Judgment Night by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Title: Judgment Night by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

Summary: “I HAD A BAD DREAM…”

Valerie Sherwood knew all about nightmares. Three years ago she was turned into a werewolf, and ever since that strange moonlit night, she understood the power of the darkness. The only thing to fear was fear itself. And tonight, that fear came to her in her dreams.

“IT SEEMED SO REAL…”

When Valerie awoke, the nightmare didn’t end. Even by day, she was haunted by terrible shapes and sensations: The horrible vision of a giant, skeletal bird. The foul smell of decay. The chilling sound of eerie music. And that was just the beginning.

“I’M SCARED…”

There are some things so dark and evil that even a werewolf would be afraid. Now Valerie is about to learn the awful truth about the ancient force that calls to her from the mountains: It feeds on her fear. And it’s hungry for more…

JUDGMENT NIGHT

The dark legacy of terror lives on — in the shattering sequel to BAD BLOOD and HUNTERS’ MOON.

Tagline: It’s the One Night That Every Werewolf Fears

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors. Except I pretty much never call anyone the Muffin Man, so moot point.

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t know how many times I can say I love this book and this series, but it still holds true. I love this book and this series. To be fair, this is probably my least favorite book in the series, but I still adore it. [Wing: Note from the future. In recapping it, I realized how damn much I loved it.]

[Dove: I had never read this before — apparently in my excitement of finding the series, I read the first two, then passed out in the sheer joy of finding them. So if you heard me sounding proud on the podcast when I told Wing I’d read this, that’s why.]

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Posted in General

Wing Recommends the Teen Creeps podcast

Recently one of our readers suggest we listen to the Teen Creeps podcast, where comedians Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai recap YA genre fiction (starting out, mostly Christopher Pike, and you all know how much I love Christopher Pike). I think they are hilarious and their discussions smart, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking; they talk about the books, of course, but also their personal lives, racism, mental illness, rape, the dumpster fire that is USA politics right now — many of the same things we talk about in our recaps. (Warning: They go to the crazy = dangerous trope a lot.)

Dove doesn’t love the podcast as much as I do (I basically marathoned the available episodes in a week), but agreed with my plan to link to their episodes where appropriate. I just went back through and added links from our recaps of Christopher Pike’s Weekend and Whisper of Death, and in the future when our recaps cross, I’ll link there too.

We are not affiliated with the podcast, it’s just something I enjoy and want to share with our readers.