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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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Devil’s Elbow Podcast #12: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick and Skeleton on a Skateboard by Tom B. Stone

Wing recaps Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick and Graveyard School #2: Skeleton on a Skateboard by Tom B. Stone (aka Nola Thacker aka D. E. Athkins). Around the 21 minute mark, she gets a little deep about mental illness, the damage books (and other pop culture) can do, and her exhaustion over living with a mental illness. And then it gets much more fun with the ridiculous joy that is Graveyard School.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Written Recaps: pointhorror.com

Episode Media: Silent Stalker by R. T. Cusick and Skeleton on a Skateboard by Tom B. Stone

Reader/Listener Mail: Super Serials podcast

“Gypsy” as a slur.

Facebook: Devil’s Elbow

Tumblr: Devil’s Elbow

Patreon: Devil’s Elbow

 

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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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Recap #48: Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary: After her sister drowns, Ryan McCauley is haunted by the dead girl’s past

Two sisters walk through a snowy wood, collecting pinecones for Christmas decorations. Something has frightened Marisa, and she’s about to explain it to Ryan, her younger sister, when she steps onto a patch of thin ice. Marisa plummets into the frigid water below, and though Ryan tries to save her, there’s nothing she can do. Even though the accident wasn’t her fault, Ryan is consumed by guilt. But guilt is not what she should be afraid of. Three weeks after Marisa’s death, Ryan sees her everywhere. At night she feels something following her, but when she turns around there’s nothing there. A creepy college friend of Marisa’s shows up at Ryan’s house, and her mother asks him to stay through Christmas. To free herself of guilt, Ryan must unlock Marisa’s terrible secret – before death takes her too.

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick - Scan by Mimi

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick – Scan by Mimi

Tagline: Skating on thin ice…

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.

Warning: Even by my own standards, I swear a lot towards the end of this bag of shit recap.

Initial Thoughts:

I read this for the first time a few months ago. Based on the front cover alone, my hopes were that it was going to be some hi-jinks romp set at a ski resort, with all the standard clichés that requires: alpha bitch who is possessive over men, protagonist torn between a serial killer and a nice guy (but which is which? OMG???) and some very tame parties, where everyone drinks Pepsi and plays monopoly.

I was wrong.

Also, I could not get it into my head that the protagonist, Ryan, is a girl, so I kept thinking it was very progressive, what with the m/m relationships.

I was wrong.

I have forgotten all of the intricacies of this story, I know how it ends, but I can’t remember anything that happens in the middle or who is who and all that nonsense. I’ve purged almost everything except the WTF-out-of-nowhere-like-an-RKO plot from my mind.

Also, I started this recap in July. Seriously.

[Wing: Dove really, really hated this book. I … did not. We’ll see how well this recap goes. Also, Mimi’s cover is weird.]

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Recap #30: Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary: Robin’s convinced her new after-school job is going to be easy money. The only problem is, it means working at Parker Swanson’s house the most arrogant, attractive boy in school…

And Parker’s family is seriously weird. Scary, too. They’re all morbidly obsessed with Parker’s dead stepmother… And if she’s dead, how can she be scaring the life out of her daughter, Claudia?

And what is it that Robin keeps hearing, alone in the house at night…?

Tagline: Part-time job or full-time nightmare…?

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.

Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick - Scan by Mimi

Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick – Scan by Mimi

WARNING: This book contains a rapist. Not the usual Cusick fare of “lol no means yes, I’m your boyfriend so it’s just a joke” but an actual rapist. In my opinion, it’s actually less creepy because the text presents this as a bad thing (for once), but still, my triggers are not your triggers, so a warning is needed.

SECOND WARNING: Suicide is a plot point and the book is heavy with mental health being dealt with in a callous manner. Not the usual “crazy people kill” but “woman up, crazy chick, who cares if your mum killed herself, quit your moaning”.

Good lord, this book has a lot of issues. Wing is not going to like it.

[Wing: No. No she is not.]

Dove’s final note: given how awful this book is, and Wing’s book choice for the next recap. I have decided that I’m going to recap a wacky, hi-jinks style book next time around. Probably a Goosebumps.

Initial Thoughts:

I have never read this before. I ordered it off eBay when I realised I was running low on Cusick, so my initial thoughts are simply that I’m sure ellipsis are being abused in this book.

According to my Wordle, not so much. It’s all about the EnDash here.

Also: CUSICK! I’M BACK! I HAVE MISSED YOU. *snuggles the books*

It speaks volumes of how much I hated Defriended by Ruth Baron when I’m delighted to be back in Cusick world. Still, I love/hate her so much.

Help Wanted Wordle - apparently Cusick is over her elipsis

Help Wanted Wordle – apparently Cusick is over her elipsis

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Recap #20: The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary: There’s a stalker on the lose at the mall—and there’s no safe place to hide

Working at the mall is supposed to be fun. Trish’s job at Muffin-Mania is hardly intellectually challenging and her boss is a piece of work, but it’s worth it to have a job in the same building as her two best friends, the Hanson twins. And the hot guys who hang out there are an added bonus. But something isn’t right about this mall. It’s the oldest mall in the state, remodeled over a dozen times without rhyme or reason, and there are many strange nooks and secret passages behind the bright gleaming storefronts. Someone has been stealing housewares, furniture, and food, and now a mysterious man with ash-gray hair and a whisper-soft voice has started harassing Trish on the phone. He knows her secrets, and he has dark plans for her.

The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick - Scan by Mimi

The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick – Scan by Mimi

Tagline: Shop till you drop… dead

Note: 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 use the term “Muffin Man” to refer to our bad guy, because that’s what the text calls him. In fact, I want to call all future Bad Guys the Muffin Man. Wing, make this happen. Update your template.

WARNING: Just so you know, the entire book has a very rapey vibe (not just from the Bad Guy). It’s mild, because this is Point Horror, but I thought I’d better give a warning regardless. My own personal issues can be triggered by watching Brave, so honestly, there’s no guessing what can upset people. So consider yourself warned. Additionally, as I warned Wing when I first read this, “Just because I enjoyed it, doesn’t mean I won’t be using the phrase ‘statutory rape’ in my recap.” So, again, tread carefully if you have triggers.

Apology

First of all, I’d like to apologise for the delay in getting this up. It has taken me ages, because my skin keeps falling off my face, and sometimes the only way I can deal with it is to hold a wet cloth to my face to numb and moisturise the skin. Currently I look like the love child of Freddy Krueger and Sloth from Goonies.

Also, I posted this for Wing to comment on, and told her I was too tired to sort out all the things I wanted to link to. Wing went through and cleaned it up for me. I love Wing. Best friends means never having to hyperlink. ♥

[Wing: *preens*]

Initial Thoughts:

I had not read this before. I think I’d read the first few chapters a couple of times and bailed out, but I don’t actually remember anything from it, so I have no initial thoughts other than, “Oh god, when will the Cusick end.” So imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying it.

Disclaimer: You may require: an obsession with abandoned buildings, a high level of love for the Silent Hill franchise (especially SH3), and to be listening to the soundtrack as you read to enjoy it the way I did.

[Wing: I had all of those things and I did not enjoy it the way Dove did. In fact, I may have actively hated it. Possibly I wanted to burn things to the ground by the end.]

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Recap #18: April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary: It’s April Fools’ Day. Frank thinks he’s king of the fools. So when he and his friends get cut up by a hotshot driver, it’s fair game. But things start to go wrong. Someone saw what happened that night, and wants to join in the fun. But April Fools’ Day is over and these jokes are for real.

[Note from reality: They do not get “cut up by a hotshot driver”, Frank thinks it’s funny to run someone off the road because the honked. That’s it.]

[Wing: Is this a Brit versus American thing? Because I’ve never heard the phrase “cut up” used in this context in my life. “Cut off” is what I immediately thought it should be, but that’s not really what happened either, once I read it.]

Tagline: It’s no joke… it’s murder

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. Or, for that matter, that they’re “bad”.

Initial Thoughts:

Given the front cover, I always mix this up with The Doll, which is a short story in one of the Thirteen anthologies. I love The Doll. This? This I do not love. I know I hate the male character in here so much that flames… Flames, on the side of my face, breathing-breathl- heaving breaths. Heaving breaths… Heathing… [Depressing side note: there’s talk of rebooting Clue.]

[Wing: Oh, come on. It could be awesome. They could diversify the hell out of that cast.]

April Fools Wordle -- with... more punctuation abuse!

April Fools Wordle — with… more punctuation abuse!

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Recap #17: Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Teacher's Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: Teacher’s Pet

Summary: Kate likes a little thrill. She likes a little scare. And she loves getting the chance to go to the exclusive week-long writing conference taught by the famous master of horror himself. He’s so good at being so bad.
With a teacher like that, you expect a little competition. With a teacher like that, you practically have to kill to get his attention.

Does Kate have what it takes to be teacher’s pet?

Tagline: Look at what the cat dragged in…

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.

SUPER SPECIAL NOTE: Gemma requested this, so Gemma, this is for you. And I will hold you personally responsible if this is not awesome, ok? (Just kidding, it’s Cusick, there’s no hope of it being awesome.)

[Wing: GEMMA, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.]

[Dove: Wing, don’t shout at our only commenter. We love Gemma. We just really hate this book.]

Initial Thoughts:

I know I have read this book. I know I did not enjoy this book. I couldn’t tell you what happened in it. Except there’s a cat. And at one point they think the cat is carrying a hand. Other than that? No clue.

[Wing: I’ve never read this book. My life was better from not reading it, clearly.]

Punctuation Abuse

Note: I’ve just realised that I bounce between “ellipses” and “ellipsis” in reference to DotDotDots in this blog. The second is correct. I’m just bad at typing, and because the first is a word, it’s not flagged as an error when I spell check. I’m trying to correct them as I see them, but there will be errors, I guarantee it.

Ellipsis used: 666
EnDashes used: 624

Because… everything – and I do mean everything – needs EnDashes and DotDotDots

Because… everything – and I do mean everything – needs EnDashes and DotDotDots

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Recap #9: The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary: Kelsey’s summer should have been paradise: An invitation to rich and famous Beverly Island, complete with sun-drenched beaches and three gorgeous lifeguards on duty. But Kelsey’s summer is the opposite of paradise. It starts with the note under her pillow from a girl who’s missing. Then there’s the crazy man in the lighthouse who won’t leave Kelsey alone. And there have been a number of suspicious drownings… At least she has the lifeguards around to protect her… Poor Kelsey. Someone forgot to tell her that lifeguards don’t always like to save lives.

Tagline: Don’t call for help… he may just kill you.

Note: 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 refer to the Bad Guy throughout as “Justin” because it’s fucking obvious it’s Justin. It’s never been so fucking obvious ever before. Seriously, the Bad Guy is fucking Justin and I’m on page five. It’s fucking Justin, ok?

[Wing: WUT? NO! How dare you spoil it for me! I really thought it was Isaac Skip Neale Kelsey’s dead dad come back to take vengeance.]

Initial Thoughts:

Right, so I must have read this at some point because it’s in the box that came from my mother’s house. Also, it’s stamped with “Property of Sackville School” on the sides, which means it came from my home town. (No, I didn’t steal it… wait, I’m the evil twin, I totally stole it from a very posh public* school.) I have no recollection of ever reading this. Ever. So let’s just say I hate the cover and that’s all I’ve got.

*I’m English, so if you’re American, I mean private. Either way, a posh, pay-for-your-education-and-associate-with-toffs school.

Recap:

First things first, since it’s Cusick, the punctuation will be abused so here, have some stats:

Ellipses used: 691
En Dashes used: 764
Appropriate usage of the above: less than 10%

Yeah. This pisses me off on an epic scale. And not just because I had to format the fucking thing for my Kindle. Why can’t we use commas, semi-colons and full stops? Why… is it… always… ellipses – well, except for when – to be dramatic – we start – needlessly – using – wait for it – en dashes. *sigh*

To illustrate just how often they showed up, I created a worldle.

The Lifeguard - Wordle

Yes, she uses these more than the protagonist’s name

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Recap #3: Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Title: Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Summary:

From the beginning Martha knew there was something evil about the house. It was so cold and sinister. And it wasn’t just the house that was giving her the creeps. Martha was sure someone was following her, watching her every move.

Then the practical jokes began – the scarecrow with the carving knife in its head, the fire. And, worst of all, the phone calls…

Tagline: Trick or Treat, trick or treat, candy is dandy, but murder is sweet

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.

Note II: Electric Boogaloo: There are 584 instances of ellipses used to end a sentence. I would say 572 of them would be better suited to the single full stop. Then she goes mad with dashes instead of full stops. In total there are 863 badly ended sentences in this book. Seriously, no more than 20 of them need either ellipses or dashes. The rest is just… unnecessary – to give the impression… of atmosphere – I wouldn’t have noticed… if I hadn’t been scanning in my copy… for my… kindle – Argh.

[Wing: It is a sad, sad thing that you counted.]

[Dove: I didn’t count, Word did when I did a find and replace. Is that still sad?]

Note 3 (3D): Ok, new format, see if I can make these things a bit shorter while retaining the information. [Note from the future: I can’t.] I’m going to read a chunk, recap, read a chunk, recap, etc. Rather than recapping as I read.

Initial thoughts

This was the first Point Horror I ever read, it had a great picture on the front cover, an interesting summary and I was ready to be terrified.

I’m still waiting. I remember powering through it and finding it to be a jumbled mess at the end. I remember feeling that it was quite a dull book, and although I read it cover to cover, probably in about one sitting, I never really got into it. Let’s see how it pans out 20 years later…

Also: Wing, did you see that there’s another twee poem! This time it’s the tagline. *happiness* … *coughs* … *evil happiness*

[Wing: That is not evil happiness, that is pure, good happiness.

It is a good cover though. Minus the horrible twee poem.]

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