Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #83: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Reader Beware– You’re In For Ten More Scares!

Can Jeff convince his parents there’s a live mummy in the basement? Will Adam escape from a monstrous flying gargoyle? Is Brian’s boarding school turning kids into robots? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to make you shiver!

[Wing: Stine is making a lot of guarantees with these books!]

Initial Thoughts

I’m not really sure what to say the theme for this collection is. The cover would have you think it’s summer related, but not really. It feels like some sort of middle ground between the first collection and the fifth, which was also the strangest. I think I can safely say you don’t really know what to expect from some of these titles, and they certainly are a bit more imaginative.

One story was adapted for the French novella line, and three of them got turned into TV episodes (one was a two-parter!). I think my favorite would have to be the last because it’s got a twist ending that’s definitely a lot of fun and won’t have you screaming in frustration.

Oh, and apparently this book came with a pair of actual boxers! [Wing: … what.]

For these subtitles I’ll be doing riffs on stereotypical anime and manga episode titles, like from Sailor Moon.

Oh and, Wing, hon, you’re really not gonna like the second story. [Wing: Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.]

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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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Posted in Podcast

Devil’s Elbow Podcast #10: Up the Airy Mountain by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald

Wing recaps the werewolf and fairy short story “Up the Airy Mountain” by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald, part of their Bad Blood werewolf series. (Note: Episode picked up some scratchiness in a few places; we’re working to keep that from happening in future episodes. Apologies that we didn’t catch it in time to stop it for this one.)

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: “Up the Airy Mountain” by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald

Recaps for the rest of the series:

#1 Bad Blood

#2 Hunters’ Moon

#2.5 “Up the Airy Mountain”

#3 Judgment Night

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Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #81 Fear Hall: The Conclusion by R. L. Stine A.K.A. “And You Thought Student Loans Were Scary!”

Title: Fear Hall: The Conclusion (obviously follows Fear Hall: The Beginning)

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Franco Accornero

Tagline: “Welcome back to the most terrifying dorm on campus!”

Summary: “A Special Message From R.L. Stine”

Dear Readers:

I hope you’ll join me for the conclusion of Fear Hall. I think it’s one of my scariest finishes ever!

Where will Hope go now that her secret has been revealed? Does she realize that her friends aren’t real friends? Does she know who the vicious killer really is? Are there more shocking surprises in store for her?

Find out the answers in FEAR HALL: The Conclusion. I had so much evil fun writing it, I scared myself!

[Wing: I am still both charmed and confused by Stine’s special message on these books. Why? How? … Why?]

Initial Thoughts

Back to Fear Hall for the last time. Were you guys scared by R.L. Stine’s take on mental illness? I know I was!

[Wing: “Scared” might not be the right word for my response last time… I do hope this goes better. I doubt it will. Also, student loans are terrifying.]

The ending of this tragedy follows directly after the last book’s climax, and believe me, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. If you haven’t read the recap for the first book, I insist you do so because otherwise it’s gonna be difficult to understand what’s going on and why, even with the short recap.

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Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #80: Fear Street Saga #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine

cover of Heart of the Hunter by R L Stine shows an Indian woman being stalked by a shadowy figure in the fog, with the head of a wolf in the clouds, under a full moonTitle: Fear Street Sagas #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine

Summary: A medicine woman tells Jamie Fier the love potion she gave him will cost him. Now Jamie finds himself transforming into a wolf—and if his true love sees him in this form, he will remain a wolf forever.

Tagline: The full moon summons the beast.

Initial Thoughts

Wing and the Werewolf, a Story in Three Acts

Act 1: Wing discovers a werewolf book by Stine. Immediately buys a copy because WEREWOLVES! STINE! FEUD! JOY! HATE! LOVE! LOATHING! THAT COVER! THAT TAGLINE! SO EXCITED!

Act 2: Wing reads the back of the book. Wing rereads. Wing reads yet a third time. Ooooohhhhh nooooooo.

Act 3: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, STINE.

[Wing: Now updated with comments from recapper Jude.]

(Jude: HEY! HEY EVERYONE! LOOK OVER HERE EVERYONE I’M COMMENTING FOR THE FIRST TIME! The Fear Street Sagas were admittedly my favorites of all the Fear Street spin-offs. I enjoy historical fiction and cheesy, gothic romance and horror so these were right up my alley. I’m still hoping to somehow find more information on the two Sagas which never got released, “The Raven Woman” and Carousel of Doom.” I hope to do Wing as much justice for her post as she’s done for mine. BTW, this one was ghostwritten by Eric Weiner, who also wrote “Door of Death.”)

[Wing: Aww, thanks. And wait, there are supposed to be two more sagas? Those titles have me intrigued.]

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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 Graveyard School recaps

Recap #79: Graveyard School #3: The Headless Bicycle Rider, A.K.A. “The Adventures of Algernon and Mr. Toad”

Title: Graveyard School #3 – The Headless Bicycle Rider

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Will The New Kid At Graveyard School Keep His Cool Or Lose His Head? [Wing: AMAZING.]

Even though the class bully makes fun of his name, Algie (short for Algernon) is enjoying Graveyard School and his new town. But things start to change for Algie when he gets a new customer on his paper route. The ride to old Mr. Bates’s house is dark and creepy, and rumor has it someone was beheaded there long ago.

Algie doesn’t believe the rumors, and he’s willing to brave his paper route. Until the headless bicycle rider appears…

Initial Thoughts

Round three of Graveyard School and this time we get a first hand look of how a child acclimates themselves to old G.S.. Algie is the first new addition to the ongoing cast who wasn’t mentioned in the very beginning of the series or was always simply there and never referred to, and he quickly becomes a mainstay among the sixth grade cast. We further get a glimpse of the best and worst the kids can offer, the best in Kirstin Bjork and the worst in Jason Dunnbar.

Now, you’d expect a bunch of references to Sleepy Hollow given the title and subject matter, but what you’re really in for is a bunch of “Psycho” references. Enjoy!

[Wing: I’m actually sad! I love Sleepy Hollow references. And headless riders. And new kids. Clearly I am primed to love this book.]

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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 Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #78: Nightmare Hall #3: Deadly Attraction by Diane Hoh

cover for Deadly Attraction by Diane Hoh, has a window with yellow shutters on the front, looking into a bedroom with a dresser and a clockTitle: Nightmare Hall #3: Deadly Attraction by Diane Hoh

Summary: The night Robert Q and Darlene meet, the attraction is immediate. The Big Man on Campus uses all his charm to sweep Darlene off her feet – and then dumps her a few weeks later. After all, he’s just playing around. Poor Robert Q. He doesn’t realize that Darlene is playing for keeps. He may think it’s over. But he’s wrong. Dead wrong.

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Thankfully, we’re back to a Nightmare Hall book actually written by Diane Hoh. The Roommate, the previous book, was actually courtesy of ghost-writer Nola “Hack” Thacker, and it was downright TERRIBLE. So, yay for Diane Hoh! I remember being intrigued by the fact that the relationship described in the summary is actually viewed through an external party, our main character Hailey. I can still remember the identity of the bad guy, too. Funny how a thin piece of fluff from 24 years ago can stick with me longer than anything I read today…

[Wing: I still find it weird that Hoh apparently NOPED out of the last book, but came back for this one. Where did you go, Diane Hoh? Where did you go?]

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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.

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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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