Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #120: Spinechillers Mysteries #6: Not A Creature Was Stirring? by Fred E Katz A.K.A. “The Gospel of Bergen”

Title: Spinechillers Mysteries #6 – Not A Creature Was Stirring?

Author: Fred E. Katz

Cover Artist: Mike Harper

Tagline: N/A

Summary: Yule Mania

Just before leaving with his parents to go skiing before Christmas, Conner Morgan breaks his leg. Fortunately, Great Aunt Bergen is coming to watch the house, and Conner can stay with her. [Wing: What, there’s nothing he can do at the ski lodge or wherever his parents are staying? They have to leave him behind because he can’t ski now?]

But there is something very strange about Aunt Bergen, and strange things start to happen when she arrives.

(Looks can be deceiving when fear backs you into a corner. Enjoy thrills and chills with the kids in this story who have fun as they demonstrate Christian character based on love for God, parents, and one another. You’ll share a scare… but, of course, ghouls and ghosts are strictly in the imagination.)

Initial Thoughts

Surprise! I’m giving you the best Christmas gift of all! JESUS.

I found out about Spinechillers, well, honestly I can’t remember. I WANT to say TV Tropes, when I was looking at the page discussing “Christian, family friendly alternative knock offs” of existing properties. Oh and I should mention there’s a Babysitters Club knock off called “The Twelve Candles Club.” [Wing: WHAT. THERE IS A BSC KNOCK OFF. WHAT.] When I learned there was a Christmas-themed book I immediately ordered a copy a couple of years back.

But, you know, I would like to get a bit serious, even a little heavy handed. Stuff like this intrigues me, not a lot, but enough to make me wonder. See, I was raised in a semi-devout Catholic household (my mom’s cousin is a priest and my dad works in a nursing home connected to a convent) so religion’s had a permanent residence in my life… whether I wanted it or not. I did communion and confirmation even though I hated attending those Wednesday classes because I had to miss art class in elementary school. I was put in two different all boys Catholic school through 6th to 12th grade, where I was humiliated, isolated, bullied, physically assaulted, made fun of by at least a couple of teachers, and sexually assaulted and harassed on two separate occasions by FOUR different people (and not in the same school). That I’m queer and had to listen to people telling me people LIKE me can’t have relationships did nothing to help my questioning sexuality. So for all intents and purposes I’ve had every justifiable reason to turn my back on organized religion, yet I haven’t. Well, the organized part yes, but I still believe in God and Jesus. I pray at night when I feel comfortable enough to do so (I haven’t done it in a while, feeling I’ve asked for too much lately and want to give God a break). I want to believe there’s a Heaven, but I have a hard time feeling I’m not going to Hell someday. Prayer does help sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I know Catholicism and Christianity and all its derivatives have been shamelessly used and exploited by hate groups, bigots, extremists, Republicans, what have you, and pretty much every other religion out there has suffered in some way because of Catholics and Christians. If you don’t believe in Jesus you don’t matter as a person, is what they seem to say. But then, what does it mean for the people who have genuine faith, the ones who don’t use the Bible for a hidden agenda or to propagate hate speech? What happens when we come across some media format that wants to talk about those values yet it gets lumped together with the hackneyed, poorly written, fear mongering bullshit meant to scare people into loving God? Hell, even a show as bad as “Drawn Together” offered a viewpoint of the Bible being meant to serve as a guide for people instead of a contradicting rule book (and they even said they weren’t admitting their interpretation was the right one).

I’m not trying to hype this book as some eye opening look into the Christian faith. I do plan to make a few jokes about how heavy handed it is, but there ARE a few points about it I do like. I even sent a copy to a dear friend of mine who’s deeply religious, and I did NOT mean for it to be an ironic gift. Candace is one of my dearest friends and I don’t pull that shit on her.

I just wonder, how do we draw the line between legitimate faith and a desire to do good, and bible-thumping hamfisted hypocrisy?

But hey, I didn’t count on this before, yet this is a perfect foil for “Here Comes Santa Claws.”

[Wing: Religion can bring out strong feelings in people, pro and con. I’m open for discussion here, but I will be keeping a close eye on the comment section (across the board, here and on social media). No personal attacks allowed.

I’ve mentioned this briefly here before, I think, but I grew up in a religious cult, one based on Old Testament faith. It was basically fake Judaism, but with Jesus and with a ton of racism against actual Jewish people. Long story, which I won’t go into super detail here, but I’m coming at Christianity from a very biased perspective, and I am aware of this.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #119: Jingle Belle: Santa Claus Vs Frankenstein by Paul Dini and Stephanie Gladden

Title: Jingle Belle – Santa Claus Vs Frankenstein [Wing: WHAT.]

Writer: Paul Dini

Line Art: Stephanie Gladden

Colors: Felix Serrano

Letterer: Troy Peteri

Editor: Filip Sablink & Phil Smith

Summary: Paul Dini’s Jingle Belle comes to Top Cow in a special ‘Halloween collides with Christmas’ one-shot written by Dini and drawn by Stephanie Gladden (Powerpuff Girls, Chowder, Hopster’s Tracks). In years past, Santa has triumphed over a variety of enemies including the Devil himself. Now, St. Nick gets ready to face his greatest challenge ever in Jingle Belle: Santa Claus Vs. Frankenstein! Inspired by Mary Shelly’s original novel (sort of), the story of Frankenstein’s monster takes a new twist when he is found by Jingle in the Arctic wastes and ‘rehabilitated’ to fit in with the elves at Santa’s Workshop. All goes well until an ultra-PC city declares Santa Claus taboo and awakens Frankie’s monsterous side in an misguided attempt to help his friend. It’s up to an ailing Santa and a reluctant Jingle Belle to stop their monstrous ‘apprentice’ before he destroys the town and ruins the reputation of Christmas forever!

Initial Thoughts

Sorry this is a bit late, but I figured what the heck it’s Christmas and did another recap of one of my favorite holiday/horror related comics. Jingle Belle is a series of different comics about the misadventures of Santa Claus’s bratty but well meaning teenage (by elf years) daughter. Hey, just because your dad’s Santa doesn’t mean you’re a little angel. Her best friend also happens to be the official Halloween witch.

Unfortunately, I only own two comics starring Jing, this one and one involving her uncle Krampus. I’ll save that one for next year.

Enjoy!

[Wing: KRAMPUS. I’m excited for next year, and for this one.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #118: Spinetinglers #7: Snow Day by M. T. Coffin, a.k.a. “Is This The Book You Wished For?”

Title: Spinetinglers #7 – Snow Day

Author: M.T. Coffin, a.k.a. Robert Hawks

Cover Artist: ???

Tagline: The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

Summary: LET IT SNOW!

The kids all cheer when the bus driver tells them the schools have just been closed because of the snow. But the bus can’t make it through the blinding blizzard, and soon they are trapped in the freezing cold school bus. Through the wind and the snowflakes, someone sees lights on in an old farmhouse – and it looks warm and cosy. But what they find inside doesn’t make them feel safe at all! Strange portraits with glistening red eyes stare down at them. And when the kids go to the kitchen for something to eat, they have to pull open the heavy steel door of the freezer… and that’s just when the lights go out!

Initial Thoughts

Here we have another of the supposed Goosebumps knock offs I mentioned, but much like Shivers the Spinetinglers series is much more darker and slightly geared towards a more older audience than the Goosebumps books were. I found out about this series when searching through Mark Nagata’s website and discovered one of the covers he did for this line. The first entry I ever bought was “Camp Crocodile,” but I’ve only read that book once. I have a modest number of books from this series, but “Snow Day” is currently my favorite.

M.T. Coffin is a pen name shared by a number of different authors, though.

I got this book in 2008 as a Christmas gift alongside “Weirdo Waldo’s Wax Museum,” which was appropriate because this is also one of the darkest YA horror novels I’ve ever read. I was instantly drawn to this book because, snow days and haunted houses, I live for those kind of stories, but that summary didn’t prepare me for the true horror behind it all. And none of you are prepared either. You think I’m being cute for drama, but I am NOT.

Thankfully the book isn’t all plot. A lot of it is geared towards the characters interacting with one another and their responses to the situation they find themselves trapped in. But that means this can be a slightly difficult book because you need to really focus on reading it. The author went through a lot of trouble to make sure the readers paid attention to what’s going on.

Just so you know, even if you can see the ending coming, that doesn’t make it any less horrible.

And it begins, appropriately enough, with the apocalypse.

[Wing: I’ve never heard of this series, either, but it sounds amazing so far.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #111: The Dead Boy Detectives by Jill Thompson

Title: The Dead Boy Detectives

Author/Artist: Jill Thompson

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Summary: They’ll do anything to solve the case.

Rowland and Paine, the dead British detectives who first appeared in Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS, travel stateside to investigate a strange missing-persons case at a posh International Academy for Girls.

Naturally, the inquisitive duo is forced to go undercover – in drag – if they’re to have a hope in hell of solving the case. It’s time for dark secrets, food fights, and spies as the Dead Boy Detectives learn a lot about life from the precocious daughters of rich ambassadors and rebellious rock stars.

Initial Thoughts

OH IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME AND IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS TIIIIIIIIIME!

Finally, December, my favorite month of the year because it’s both Christmas AND my birthday. I love doing stuff for Christmas. I love shopping, I love decorating, I love the music and the God awful Christmas specials, and because I love doing stuff for people on Christmas, I’m going to be doing a bunch of extra recaps for Point Horror, all for yous.

First off, we’re starting with a little something written and drawn by Jill Thompson, my all time favorite professional comic person. Jill’s done just a little bit of everything, she’s done pencils in Wonder Woman, Sandman, Black Orchid, Simpsons, GOOSEBUMPS (that she did the comic adaption of “One Day In Horrorland,” one of my faves, makes me love her more), Batman, X-Men, Thor, Beasts of Burden, and of course there’s her phenomenal “Scary Godmother” series.

(Indrina, Michiko, Frederika, Kanene, Fiorenza, Vanya. And in the back, Dream of the Endless)

“The Dead Boy Detectives” is an OEL (Original English Language) manga one-shot story published by DC’s Vertigo imprint. It’s a sort of follow up from “Death: At Death’s Door,” another OEL manga that served as an interquel for Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and is one of several works Jill has done for the Sandman franchise. Jill’s an incredibly versatile artist and knows how to express her art in several different styles. I wish DC would hire her to write and draw something Titans related because she’s also one of the few comic artists out there who knows how to draw teenagers that don’t look like porn stars (looking at you, Ed Benes).

[Wing: Though my siblings want to smack me for this, I’m not much of a fan of The Sandman (or of much of Gaiman’s work), but this sounds like a great addition to that franchise. I love Thompson’s art, and I can’t wait to see how this goes.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

October Patreon Bonus Recap: Are You Afraid of the Dark? 01×01 The Tale of the Phantom Cab

Submitted for the approval of the Devil’s Elbow Patreons, I call this post: The Recap of the Tale of the Phantom Cab.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a horror anthology tv show that aired in the early 90s. The premise was that a group of teens are brought together by their love of horror and meet up each week to take turns telling scary stories. They call themselves the Midnight Society, and though they are all very different, their stories keep bringing them back together.

Baby!Wing loved the hell out of this show when it first aired in the USA, and adult!Wing loves the hell out of it to this day. Revisiting it with you, amazing Patrons, is going to be fun.

You can read this bonus recap by supporting our Patreon at the $5 level or higher, and receive access to our Patron-only feed, bonus recaps, bonus episodes, and more. Click here to support the Devil’s Elbow.
Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #108: The Forbidden Game #3: The Kill by LJ Smith

The Author:

L.J. Smith, who finally ditched the ridiculous descriptions and probably realized what she did with Dee in the last book was a bit much so she toned it down a ton in THE KILL. The othering is still there, but it’s minimal in comparison. [Wing: Third time’s the charm, I guess.]

The Blurb:

It was Julian’s last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton’s boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: “If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there’s the devil to pay.”

Jenny, Audrey, Michael, and Dee have burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They’re lost in an amusement park nightmare, at Julian’s mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny’s only clue it a gold coin, Julian’s gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . .

At this point the kids are like, “Best of seven?” And Julian’s like

Because dude. You lost twice already. Just take your toys and go home.

The Place:

A little bit in Jenny’s grandfather’s house but mostly in an amusement park of nightmares. BE STILL MY HEART. [Wing: I am so damn excited. Best location yet.]

The Players:

And then there were four. And Julian.

Jenny – Who’s gone all BAMF and isn’t taking shit lying down and is [mostly] not having any of Julian’s crap and GODDAMNIT GIVE HER BACK HER MENS.

Dee – Who has largely stopped being othered (largely) but her personality changes pretty heavily in this book. I guess the amusement park really gets to her.

Audrey – Is basically looking like a crisped out Tri Pi from Sorority Boys hanging out in a life raft at this point. She’s frazzled, unkempt, and so incredibly over this shit.

Michael – Still a useless coward and I’m not even really sure what he’s doing in the story. He’s effectively dead weight.

Julian – Also looking like a haggard Tri Pi because Jenny’s beaten his ass twice and he doesn’t know when to fuck right on off.

Tom and Zach don’t show up until the end and as if you couldn’t see it coming, Summer shows up too.

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #105: Shivers #34: Weirdo Waldo’s Wax Museum, A.K.A. “Where’s Weirdo Waldo?”

Title: Shivers #34 – Weirdo Waldo’s Wax Museum

Author: M.D. Spenser

Cover Artist: ?????

Tagline: N/A

Summary: WAX NEVER FORGETS

And neither does Billy or his sister Crissy. Both of the kids will always remember that freaky family vacation. The one that almost scared them all to death. What should have been a terrific tour of Washington, D.C. turned into a terror-filled, run for your life race against wicked wax. All because Billy’s dad is, how do you say it – cheap! He never met a bargain he didn’t like until this one. Why go all the way to the capital, when you can save money and wander through a wacky world of wax. One low price gets the whole family in – only luck gets them out!!!

MY BRAIN IS MELTING!!!

Initial Thoughts

Shivers is another YA horror series I stumbled upon in my quest to complete my collection of Graveyard School, Goosebumps, and Fear Street books. I don’t remember how exactly I learned of it, most likely while I was perusing through a secondhand bookstore.

I only own a few copies of the series, most of them from the latter half. This one was a Christmas gift I received in 2008, and this book completely took me by surprise. It ventured into areas I would never expect a Goosebumps knock off to go into, but enough to qualify the Shivers series as a whole the right to exist as a “YA horror series” and not a “Goosebumps knock off.”

There’s a reason I wanted this post to go up on Veterans Day. I’d guess Memorial Day would’ve been more appropriate, but considering it’s been one year since that rapist homophobic piece of shit was put into power, coupled with the increase in the “Alt Right,” you’ll see why I wanted to recap this book.

You think this is a stereotypical “Wax museum full of dead people” story, like the myriad of “House of Wax” remakes and rip-offs and, it kind of is. But we don’t have scenes like Joan of Arc or one of Henry VIII’s wives getting executed. No, this book ventures into some very dark territory. I’m talking racism, sex jokes, a recreation of a fucking NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP. They should make kids read this book in school.

The really strange thing though, is that the wax museum is NOT run by Weirdo Waldo, but instead is run by Mad Mac. Go fig.

[Wing: Well this is going to be an interesting ride. Also, that cover is creepy as shit.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #104: Mermaid Saga Parts 5-6: Mermaid’s Forest by Rumiko Takahashi

Title: Mermaid Saga Chapter 5 & 6 – Mermaid’s Forest

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts: I decided to skip chapters 3 and 4 for now because that story isn’t really a horror tale, but more of an action/adventure one that takes place in Yuta’s past. I prefer the modern day stories because the past tales remind me too much of “Inuyasha” so they don’t really feel like “Mermaid Saga” to me.

I mentioned in the first post “Mermaid’s Forest” is one of the two most well known stories from the series. It was the first to receive an animated adaption as an OVA in the 1980s, and was later included in the anime series from the 2000s. In fact this story’s so well known Mermaid Saga is sometimes referred to as “Mermaid’s Forest.”

Image result for mermaid's forest ova

This takes place immediately after Yuta and Mana leave Cape Nosuri, and features the most visually striking character in the franchise, Towa Kannagi.

I’m gonna include scans and screencaps from the manga, the OVA, and the anime throughout this.

[Wing: I am in love with this story already, and looking forward to this recap.]

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #91: Prom Date by Diane Hoh

Cover of Prom Date by Diane Hoh, white teen girl dancing with a white guy, back to the reader, entire cover done in reds and blacksTitle: Prom Date by Diane Hoh

Summary:  It’s the biggest event of the year at Toomey High-Prom Night. But Margaret and her friends wont be going. After all you need a date to go to a Prom…

All they can do is envy the lucky girls who will be there. Popular girls like Stephanie and Kiki always get dates…

Then Stephanie is found murdered. And Kiki has a nasty accident. Is someone trying to kill off the competition?

Margaret is determined to find out the truth-even if it kills her…

Tagline: She’d kill for a date

Initial Thoughts

Ah Prom Night, I remember absolutely LOVING this book as a child for so, so many reasons-first of all Prom. I never even had a school disco so the whole concept of Prom was just delightful to me. I did have a ‘Leavers Do’ at the end of 6th Form, we invited our parents and had a sit down meal before having a party then heading to the school’s members only pub (In my school once you got into 6th Form you automatically became a member to a private pub opposite the school which obviously led to so much underage drinking….my school was weird) But that was the only type of celebration we had except for birthday parties. Proms were a foreign concept to me but they sounded so glamourous, grown up and such a huge part of high school, like in a lot of American YA books I read and ‘teenage’ films I watched everything centred around Prom, popularity and, of course, electing Prom Queen and King. Plus ‘Carrie’, PLUS Crowns. I love crowns, I have quite a few, whenever I have a bad day I pop one on and have a cup of tea. I feel better in no time. Growing up in a city I think I romanticised ‘small town America’ thanks to Point Horror books so the fact that this book was, based on my memory, in a small seaside town was another positive. These days I can’t function if I’m not in a city. Also I remembered this book starting with an actual murder so the stakes felt a lot higher from the get go. When I read this book as a kid I loved Margaret, her mum, her friends and I adored Mitch the hot, popular yet sensitive jock (I was 11) So I wonder how it holds up all these years later? Tuesday Out!

[Wing: Welcome back, Tuesday! I loved your recap of Freeze Tag, and I am so excited about this one. I’ve never read the book before, but I did attend a prom or two in my day. (Or six. Three in high school, two during undergrad, and one during grad school.) Also, I grew up in small town America (though not a small seaside town — I wish!), so let’s see how this goes.]

Content: Non-explicit but unexpected (to me, at least) animal death.

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Posted in Other Recaps

September Patreon Bonus Recap: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle

The Patreon Bonus Recap this month is Moonstruck issue 1 by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle. Here’s the teaser, and you can read the rest if you become a Patron at the $5 tier or higher.

https://www.patreon.com/devilselbow

QUEER FAT WEREWOLF GIRLS. It’s like this was written for me.

Title: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis (writer) and Shae Beagle (artist)
Summary: A NEW ONGOING SERIES from Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS and talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE that tells a story of monsters, romance, and magical hijinks!

Fantasy creatures are living typical, unremarkable lives alongside humans, and barista Julie strives to be the most unremarkable of all. Normal job, normal almost-girlfriend, normal…werewolf transformations that happen when she gets upset? Yikes!

Tagline: N/A

Initial Thoughts

Jude bought me the first issue because he thought I would love this. Based on that blurb, he is correct! Queer fat werewolf protagonist? YES PLEASE.

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #89: Mermaid Saga Parts 1-2: A Mermaid Never Smiles by Rumiko Takahashi

Title: Mermaid Saga Chapter 1 & 2 – A Mermaid Never Smiles

Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts: Some of you might know who Rumiko Takahashi is, or if you don’t, you might at least know of her works. She’s a longtime mangaka and creator of “Inuyasha,” “Ranma 1/2,” and “Urusei Yatsura.” She’s been writing and illustrating comics since at least the 1970s, and she’s still going. Nearly every one of her series have gotten at least one animated adaption, and most of them run for DECADES.

But today I’m here to talk about one of her more obscure titles and possibly the one oddball in her resume of titles. “Mermaid Saga” is Takahashi’s only foray into a straightforward horror series, and is relatively light on humor and love triangles unlike her other books. Which is good because it means her male protagonist isn’t an insufferable lech or an idiot.

Rest assured, the mermaids here are NOT the kind of mermaids you’re familiar with. We’re not talking about Ariel, or Darryl Hannah in “Splash,” or even the Hans Christian Andersen Little Mermaid. Mermaids in this story are monsters. Sometimes they walk on two legs, sometimes they don’t. But they are not cute, and they’re not friendly. The only way you can kill them is by chopping off their head.

Legend says the mermaid’s flesh can grant a person immortality if eaten. And it can… if you’re lucky. Eating the mermaid’s flesh is like Russian roulette, and if you don’t get immortality, you’ll be lucky if it kills you. The majority of people who eat the flesh, well… it’s not pretty.

Mermaid Saga didn’t get an animated series straight away. There were two OVAs (Original Video Animation, the equivalent of direct to video movies), one in the 80s and the 90s, and then an animated series in the 2000s. The one animated adaption I’ve watched in its entirety was the “Mermaid’s Scar” OVA from the 1990s, which is my favorite by far due to the artwork and the beautiful music. By admittedly, the opening theme to the anime series, “Like An Angel,” is breathtaking.

It’s one of Takahashi’s shorter series, with all the chapters collected in 4 volumes. For the sake of these recaps I’m going by each separate arc, but will include the cover art of the Viz manga collections that included the arcs.

[Wing: Okay, this sounds amazing, and I’m so excited. #killermermaidsforever]

And I’m including an MP3 of the opening theme, “Like An Angel” by Chiaki Ishikawa.

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #88: The Scarecrow by R. T. Cusick

cover of The Scarecrow by R T Cusick, has a scarecrown set against a cloudy full moonTitle: Scarecrow by R. T. Cusick

Summary: Beware the kindness of strangers

After crashing her car, Pamela Westbrook awakens to find that she has been rescued and cared for by the Whittakers, a family living on a remote farm in the Ozark hills. Still reeling from her accident and haunted by a tragic loss, Pamela takes comfort in the farm’s quaint setting and the family’s peaceful ways.

But soon, Pamela becomes wary of her surroundings. Micah, the strange, silent son, is treated cruelly and seems desperate to convey a message to Pamela. Girlie, the youngest child, possesses frightening, unnatural powers. When it’s time for the ritual burning of the scarecrows, Pamela comes face to face with a terrifying evil. She is ready to get away from the family’s dark rituals – but the Whittakers don’t want her to leave.

Tagline: N/A

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, but after revisiting Silent Stalker for the recent podcast episode, I am not feeling very generous to Cusick or excited to read more of her writing. Which is a shame, because this, too, sounds like a fantastic setting with an interesting, creepy story. I love the Ozarks, I love kids with unnatural powers, and I love the idea of a ritual burning of the scarecrows.

Unfortunately, this is Cusick, so I am not holding my breath.

[Note from the future: I SHOULD HAVE BRACED MYSELF BETTER.]

Content Note: Rape discussion inside.

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #82: Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams

cover of Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams, dramatic image of white dude vampire holding a fainting white woman

[Wing: OH NO THAT COVER. We’ve come a long way from the fun of The Band.]

The Author

I stand corrected with now knowing that Adams also wrote THE CLAW, a Point Horror addition that the lovely ladies at The Devil’s Elbow already recapped. I’d never heard of it, but should I stumble across it in my used bookstore wanderings I’ll have to grab it.

Remember how I said Adams wrote level-headed and realistic characters that weren’t caricatures of humans? Well, that’s still true, but where Adams’s development was a little better in THE BAND, in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE we got some major plot-serving going on served with a tall Dumbass Daiquiri, complete with a tiny umbrella. She got significantly better with descriptions in this book, throwing down on page two what Megan and Iris look like, however, she does bleed a little more into making Megan look a little more than average in this book.

I had a harder time separating my Lost Boys love from this book, and maybe it’s just me, but I ultimately felt her descriptions were a little lacking here. Where she really amped up the setting of Blue Mesa and ambiance as their own characters in THE BAND, here, while she didn’t short on description, it definitely didn’t feel as involved. There was a moment, and I’m pretty sure it was just the one, where her grasp of feeling and setting really came back to life. But I found myself really looking for that mood-setting tone that Adams has throughout the book and didn’t find it.

Still, she watched The Lost Boys and was like I WANT TO WRITE THAT. And she did. And despite the flaws I still love her for it.

Fair warning: this recap is going to be gif-heavy to supplement the heinous eye roll moments and to throw down the epic Lost Boys love that is this story.

[Wing: This is legitimately the most Lost Boys story I’ve ever read, and I own the damn movie novelisation. It is fucking amazing. And sometimes terrible, because COME THE FUCK ON, MEGAN, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.]

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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.

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #75: The Band by Carmen Adams

four teens on a black cover; three guys and one girl, all white, wearing leather and pouty expressions, very 80s and 90s vampire style

[Wing: RECAP #75! Thank you all for sticking around for this ridiculous, amazing ride.]

The Author

As far as I can tell Carmen Adams has only written two books, THE BAND and SONG OF THE VAMPIRE. [Wing: Well, she also wrote The Claw, which I recapped in 2016, and despite some lazy writing and the main character carrying the idiot ball, it was a delightful romp, so I have high expectations for her other books. Also, I realize this is where Paul recommended The Band and Song of the Vampire, so I’m glad we’re finally hitting them.] Technically that’s their order, however, they do stand alone. I know because I read them out of order and didn’t even really know THE BAND existed (or cared) until fairly recently. I am whole-heartedly convinced Adams was heavily influenced by movies like The Lost Boys and Near Dark when writing these books. While THE BAND doesn’t deal with vampires per se, it does deal with aimless teenagers trying to recruit unsuspecting victims into their dark lives through a blood ritual. They’re vampire enough without actually having to drink blood. And if you read SONG OF THE VAMPIRE and don’t get Lost Boys feels then we didn’t watch the same movie. [Wing: The Band 100% feels influenced by The Lost Boys and Near Dark. It captures that gorgeous feel of seaside horror-comedy even though it’s set in the desert, and it’s just great. AND LOOK AT THAT COVER. They’re basically the Lost Boys.]

Overall I think Adams had her finger on the pulse of teenagers a little better than her counterparts. Her characters aren’t caricatures of teenagers, they’re fairly level-headed and realistic, and she doesn’t rely on over-the-top shock to get her point across. Considering the market at the time it doesn’t surprise me she didn’t have staying power. I think she was a little bit ahead of her time just in the way these two books are written. They actually feel like they transcend time far better than any of the other 90s YA horror I’ve read (aside from mentions of crimped hair and VHS tapes, but that’s neither here nor there).

Really, both of these books are probably some of my favorites. THE BAND goes where literally no other book does: to revenants, not vampires. I’ve never come across revenants in any other book before, probably because they’re not sexy enough. At least Adams’s version of revenants are close enough to vampires that she might as well go with vampires, right? But she didn’t. She does go full tilt vamp in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE, but let’s leave that for the next recap.

For now, let’s get into THE BAND.

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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 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. )

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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 Other Recaps

Recap #57: Bad Blood #2: Hunters’ Moon by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Bad Blood #2: Hunters' Moon by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
Bad Blood #2: Hunters’ Moon by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Title: Hunters’ Moon (Bad Blood #2) by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Summary: Bitten by a werewolf, Valerie had no choice but to accept the bloodthirsty call of the full moon. Even though she vowed never to kill humans, children were being murdered in the night–drained of blood. On their necks was the mark of the vampire. Valerie knew she had to stop the creatures from killing again. But she didn’t know the vampires had the power to control werewolves.…

If werewolves are only folklore…

…then why does Val Sherwood transform into a savage wolf every full moon? Because the legends are real. Val has no choice but to accept the ancient curse — and try to live a normal life in the town of Hillside.

If vampires are just a myth…

… then why are children slowly drained of blood, drop by drop, night after night? Because a dark master and his thirsty brood have come to feed upon them all, using their unearthly powers to enslave and destroy. Val is determined to track down the vampires’ lair with her own predatory powers. But…

If vampires are able to control wolves…

…then Val and her family are dead meat.

Tagline: Night calls the hunter — and the hunted…

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. I don’t actually use it here, even though there is a Muffin Man. Sort of.

Initial Thoughts:

I love this book so damn much. As we mentioned in the second episode of the podcast, Dove and I spent years searching for this series based on Dove’s hazy memory of some of the details of this specific book. I was both shocked and delighted when she told me there was a teen werewolf book I’d never even heard about, and probably built my expectations way too high, though I tried to keep them low, after some of the books I was most excited about recapping turned out to be terrible.

As with book one, I love this book. I marathoned the entire trilogy when I first bought it, and have already reread it multiple times since, over the course of less than a year. I’m so excited to share this recap with you all.

(THAT COVER YOU GUYS, THAT COVER IS SO RIDICULOUS AND SO WONDERFUL.)

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Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #55: Bad Blood #1: Bad Blood by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Bad Blood #1: Bad Blood by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
Bad Blood #1: Bad Blood by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald

Title: Bad Blood (Bad Blood #1) by Debra Doyle & James Macdonald

Summary: It started with a group of teenagers telling scary stories around a campfire. No one believed Jay’s wild tale of moonlight and werewolves. They thought he was kidding when he said, “By morning, you’ll all be dead.” But Valerie saw the strange hunger in the boy’s eyes – and that night, she felt the sharp touch of his fangs…

Tagline: The moon is full. Beware the beast.

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. There’s no actual hidden Muffin Man in this story.

Initial Thoughts:

I love this damn book so, so much. Dove read it when she was younger, and then lost it for years. It took us ages to finally track down the title, and then I read it for the first time and fell in love. With it, with the entire trilogy. Here’s hoping I can manage an entertaining recap when I adore a book this much.

[Dove: As Wing said, I bought the sequel to this from a bargain bookstore, and I think a friend “borrowed” it and it never came back. Knowing how much Wing loves werewolf books, I told her about it, hoping she’d know who it was by. She didn’t. So every so often, at the end of a writing session, we’d devote about an hour to searching for it, and after so many years, Wing found it. And it’s just as awesome as it was back then.]

NOTE: This recap will be without book cover and Dove’s comments for awhile on Monday morning. With the holidays, I didn’t finish this until too late for her to comment before it went live.

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