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.]

(more…)

Posted in Friday the 13th movies, Let's Do It! recaps

Recap #115: Friday the 13th, Part III 3D

Title: Friday the 13th Part III-3D (Out of eleventy-billion, am I right?) [Wing: Pretty much.]

Summary: A carefree summer becomes a deadly nightmare for another group of naïve counselors who choose to ignore Camp Crystal Lake’s gruesome legacy. They find themselves in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with the maniacal Jason who stalks their every move… and ruthlessly kills them off one-by-one. [Wing: Why do they keep going back? Why do they keep ignoring recent deaths? Why?]

Tagline: Meet Jason… In a whole new dimension!

Note: I know this says “in 3D”, but I am not watching it in 3D. Yeah, no. My eyeballs don’t like 3D.

Initial Thoughts

Well. Here I am. Again.

Fall, which was hot and weird for my region, not to mention choked with smoke from forest fires, is now sliding quickly towards Winter. Why not make myself all the more unhappy by watching yet another installment in the Friday the 13th series?!

I kid. I wouldn’t say snarkily recapping my way through a horror franchise makes me unhappy. But, man, after that last installment, I’m struggling with the stupidity of the writing and the glaring lack of Kevin Bacon.

Wait… when did Kevin freaking Bacon become my touchstone for this series? Dude’s character died in the first film, he’s not coming back! (Really, I’d rather watch him in Flatliners… maybe I should recap Flatliners at some point… uh, point of clarification: the ORIGINAL Flatliners.)

Let’s see, a bit of run down before we start in. The third film in the franchise was released August 13th, 1982 (ironically, that’s the month I’m wasn’t scheduled to post in, bummer) and I would have been about a year old, so I have no memory of this. [Wing: Boo, next time maybe we’ll switch up the posting schedule to hit something like that.]

It did well at the box office, no surprise.

Gleaning what I can from websites without being totally spoiled on a 35 year old film, this installment was the first to use a David Bowie song as its fake title during production, which also led to an “on-again, off-again tradition” of using Bowie songs for fake titles during production. Bowie was involved in everything, people, everything. Whether he knew it or not.

Oh, hell, let’s just start this recap, shall we?

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #112: Nightmare Hall #7: Pretty Please by Diane Hoh

Title: Nightmare Hall #7: Pretty Please by Diane Hoh

Summary: Johanna Dunn is strikingly beautiful, just like all her friends. Until the accident. Now her perfect face is scarred and bandaged. She’s embarrassed by the strange looks she gets on campus – even from her closest friends. A pretty face isn’t everything, is it? Somebody thinks it is. Some thinks she’s plain old ugly now. Too ugly to live…. [Wing: Well damn, that escalated quickly.]

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Love the cover of this one, with the bandaged face looking back out of the mirror. Once again, I remember the identity of the Muffin Man all these years later. The concept of a killer going after a person they consider “ugly” may sound thin, but I think it’s quite unique, living as we do in a very looks obsessed society. Diane Hoh usually delves deeper into hot button issues than other YA thriller writers did at the time, so I’m hoping she finds some time for some light social commentary in amongst the thrills.

[Wing: I’ve never read this one before, but I like the idea that Hoh is going to take on the power of beauty in our society. I hope this goes well. And I don’t think it’s too far fetched for a killer to go after someone they consider ugly; just look at how fat people, for example, are treated. People casually call for their deaths all the time.]

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #110: More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “It Just Doesn’t Die!”

Title: More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine (And possibly Carolyn Crimi)

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

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

Will Aunt Vera’s book of magic spells spell scary trouble for Kari? Is Jeffrey a musical genius or is the old guitar he stole truly haunted? Are Mike and his brother Ray house sitting for a monstrous ghost?

[Wing: Haunted guitar? Sign me up immediately.]

Initial Thoughts

This is one of the two short stories I was able to find at a church tag sale near my house. It still has its last check out slip from the library. I use it as a bookmark.

This one’s by far the most eclectic collection of short stories Stine has done for the franchise. The antagonists are also far more colorful than the first three books. But Wing, hon, I’m sorry to say there aren’t any werewolves in this book. [Wing: We had a really great October. I suppose that will carry me through the end of the year with few werewolves. I suppose.]

As a side note, this one originally came with a hat (like the ones the skeleton frogs on the cover are wearing). So far the most disappointing bonus of the short story books. [Wing: I would find a hat a weird bonus, except I STILL REMEMBER THE BOXERS.]

For this recap, I’ll be including music, having selected a different track from the soundtrack to “Umineko: When They Cry” for every short story recap, including name and artist.

(more…)

Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #107: Fear Street Sagas #17: The Raven Woman, A.K.A. “The Sum of Our Incomplete Fears”

Title: Fear Street Sagas #17 – The Raven Woman

Author: ???

Cover Artist: Karen Chandler

Tagline: Who Will Be Her Prey?

Summary: Will The Past Protect Her Or Defeat Her?

Terror is sweeping the land and beautiful Meg Fier is swept up in the frenzy. Some blame the approaching American Revolution. Others say it is caused by the curse of the mysterious Raven Woman.

Meg finds shelter with Dr. Malcolm Howell, renowned physician. She also finds herself falling in love with the kind, trustworthy doctor…

…Until she catches him reciting spells from the Book of Fier!

Initial Thoughts

This is about the best any of us is getting towards learning more about what was going to be the penultimate Sagas, “The Raven Woman.” The last Sagas, “The Hand of Power,” included a short preview in the back along with a summary for “The Raven Woman.” All I can say is it’s a good thing I didn’t know about this when it was first published or I would’ve been beyond pissed at the time I would’ve wasted wondering when the next book was coming out. I’m still trying to figure out which of the authors who wrote the Sagas books was supposed to write this in the hopes of learning about what was planned. I know it wasn’t Cameron Dokey though, or R.L. Stine.

This is the first time any “Book of Fier” was mentioned, which I guess makes sense because the continuity of the Sagas entries flip flops depending on the book.

[Wing: I’m very curious about this Book of Fier spellbook. I’ve not read a ton of the Sagas (pretty much only Heart of the Hunter, so I’m not sure how many spells tend to show up, but I’d love to see more of the Fier women being powerful witches, and especially this Raven Woman legend/curse.]

The online stores offer a bit more to the summary, explicitly mentioning the doctor character is performing mind control experiments, [Wing: Well that escalated quickly!] and Meg would turn to the Raven Woman for help. I’ll offer my thoughts as to what was gonna happen after the recap.

(more…)

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #100: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

cover of Halloween Night II by R L Stine, has three figures dressed in skeleton outfits and black cloaks in front of a Halloween night backgroundTitle: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

Summary: Brenda isn’t really looking forward to Halloween this year. After all, it was only twelve months age that her best friend tried to kill her at a Halloween party and she’d rather not be reminded of that. [Wing: I’d rather not be reminded of that recap either.]

But her friends persuade her to take part in a Halloween revenge prank, guaranteed to scare the victim to death. And soon Brenda realises that she is never going to leave the terror of Halloween night behind…..

Tagline: Trick, treats and…death

Initial Thoughts

Hey guys, how’ve you been? I’m good thank you, a little under the weather-sore throat, headachy that sort of thing but nothing too serious just a typical change of weather cold. Speaking of, the weather has been great here, perfect Autumn weather very mild and breezy, some rain, the type were you can throw on a lovely warm jumper and go for a walk around the Common drinking a hot chocolate or snuggle up in bed with a good book and light rain tapping on the window. Work? Yeah work is going well thanks, except for the ridiculous amounts of stairs I have to walk up and down but at least my ass and legs will get toned-Amirite?

Huh? What’s that? Am I mindlessly rambling on about my daily schedule in order to avoid recapping this book? Now why would you suggest such a thing!? Questioning my work ethic and dedication? Well, yes you’re right I’m doing exactly that. This. Book. Gah. I only vaguely remembered this book before I read it. I don’t know what I was expecting but in retrospect I should have reread Wing’s awesome review of Halloween Night BEFORE I read Halloween Night 2: The EXACT Same Story But Suckier. Everyone in this book is insufferable and Stine has never met a cliff hanger he didn’t want to take behind a shed and get pregnant. That being said, lets all work together and power through. [Wing: NO. I refuse. I did my time. (Seriously, I’m grateful that Tuesday took this one on, because I could not do a repeat of the first book.)]

[Wing: Happy 100 recaps! You, our readers and podcast listeners, are the best part of recapping. You’re smart and funny and engaged, and we appreciate you so much! I’m thrilled we’ve made it this far, and I look forward to 100 more.]

(more…)

Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #99: Fear Street: Halloween Party by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “Niki Meyer Is Stunning And Brave”

Title: Fear Street – Halloween Party

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt

Tagline: There is going to be an uninvited guest at this Halloween party on Fear Street…

Summary: WELCOME TO FEAR STREET

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself… and see if its dark terror and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Invitation To Terror

The invitation arrived in a black-boarded envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fiittng for an all-night Halloween party on Fear Street. But Terry and his girlfriend Niki wondered why they had been invited. They barely knew Justine Cameron, the mysterious transfer student who was throwing the party.

The party was well under way when the lights went out. That’s to be expected at a spooky Halloween party. But when the lights came back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

For Terry and Niki the trick-or-treating has turned to terror. To their horror, they realize that someone at the costume party is dressed to kill!

[Wing: That is a very dramatic blurb.]

Initial Thoughts

This is by far one of the best Fear Street books, if not THE best. The cover artwork alone is stunning (despite floating pumpkin skulls aren’t actually involved in the book itself), and even with my love of holiday-themed horror, I’ve read enough reviews to indicate this is an Ensemble Darkhorse in the original series. The atmosphere and locations are vivid, and its heroine, Niki, is genuinely one of the best main characters Stine’s created in a sea of unlikable whiny, shallow, self-centered, hypocritical assholes. And not just because she’s “Special.” I even got my copy, which thankfully had the original artwork and not the dull reprint version, autographed by R.L. Stine. Seriously, this book is so good I never want it adapted into a movie or TV episode because I don’t think any other format could do it appropriate justice.

[Wing: I’m thrilled for this recap. All the Halloween recaps this year. All of them. Such a great time.]

(more…)

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap 96: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins

cover of The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins, has four fingers coming out of dirt with long, sharp silver nailsTitle: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins

Summary: At a Hallowe’en party with very exclusive guests, the disguised play a game of hide and seek in an ancient cemetery as midnight approaches. When someone is killed, all the partygoers can do is suspect each other – unless there is an unknown player.

Tagline: Don’t look behind you…

Initial Thoughts

Every time I see the name D. E. Athkins, I laugh, which is probably not the intended response. I can’t help it. Deathkins writing Point Horror? Good lord, be more subtle.

Beyond that, I find D. E. Athkins’ work hit or miss, whether under this pseud or as Nola Thacker (who also wrote the Graveyard School series as Tom B. Stone and sometimes filled in as the ghost writer for the Nightmare Hall series under Diane Hoh’s name). (My god, the authors we recap here are an incestuous lot, aren’t they?) (Note: No actually claim or accusation of real incest here.)

All that being said, I love the summary of this book (… minus the Hallowe’en spelling, which just looks twee), and I hope we’ll all enjoy it.

(more…)

Posted in Snark at the Moon! recaps

Recap #94: The Howling (1981)

The Howling cover werewolf claws tearing through a solid sheet and a woman's screaming face behind itTitle: The Howling

Summary: After a bizarre and near fatal encounter with a serial killer, a television newswoman is sent to a remote mountain resort whose residents may not be what they seem.

Tagline: Imagine your worst fear a reality. [Wing: Worst fear. Right.] [Bat: Being a werewolf isn’t my worst fear…]

Initial Thoughts

This was baby!Wing’s first werewolf movie, her first horror movie, and I will forever love it for giving me all that it did: a love of werewolves, a love of horror movies, a love of dramatic full moon shots and cheesy dog and wolf puns and silver bullets, certain iconic images — I watched it at a fairly young age, despite the fact that neither of my parents like horror movies and we weren’t allowed to watch them growing up. [Bat: This explains SO. MUCH. I’ve known Wing ~20 years and now I understand the werewolf love all the better.]

My dad was a truck driver, and I often spent large chunks of my summer and holidays with him on the road. (Why I love road trips and driving to this day and can’t settle down in one place too long before I’m itching to leave and have an adventure.) One night, we had a break at a truck stop. I’m not sure how old I was. Maybe nine or ten? Eight or eleven? I’m not sure. Anyway, we were hanging out in the trucker’s lounge, and The Howling came on. My dad swears he doesn’t remember this at all, and probably he had fallen asleep, but I watched the entire movie, enthralled, and then when we headed out to the truck later, we had to walk through rows and rows of idling eighteen wheelers, and I kept picturing werewolves leaping from trailer to trailer. That thought still makes me catch my breath every time. [Bat: Why haven’t you written a long-haul werewolf trucker story, Wing?] [Wing: That is a very good question.]

Welcome to the first ever Snark at the Moon! recap. Every October and November, Bat and I will be recapping werewolf movies and the recaps will go live on the full moon. This year, October’s moon is the Harvest Moon, one of my favourites. (Why yes, I have a favourite full moon.) Take a look at it tonight, but keep an eye out for werewolves. You never know when you’re living a horror movie life.

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #93: Nightmare Hall #5: The Scream Team by Diane Hoh

cover of Diane Hoh's Scream Team, top cover is brick building with a window cutout that shows a girl in a cheerleading uniform collapsed on the floor

Title: The Scream Team by Diane Hoh

Summary: Delle has always been a cheerleader. And so she wants more than anything to make the squad at Salem U. Until she hears the horrible truth about what happened to last year’s cheerleaders…

Once Delle thought she would die to make the team. Now she realizes she may have to. Welcome to the scream team, Delle.

[Wing: Well that’s suitably creepy. What did happen to last year’s cheerleaders?]

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Can’t remember a great deal about this one, to be honest, though I can still recall the identity of the Muffin Man. It should be noted that this is another one from Nola “Hack” Thacker, so expectations are not high.

[Wing: I’ve never read this one, but I love horror + cheerleaders, so maybe that will work even if I didn’t much enjoy Thacker’s last Nightmare Hall outing.]

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Posted in Friday the 13th movies, Let's Do It! recaps

Recap #87: Friday the 13th, Part 2!

cover image of Friday the 13th Part 2 with font in white on a black background. Red partially covers "Part 2"Title: Friday the 13th Part 2 (I guess we’re not into Roman numerals yet?) [Wing: Well, the cover image I have is into Roman numerals, but there are a bunch out there without it.]

Summary: Get ready for twice the terror with Friday the 13th Part 2: Deluxe Edition! Fives years after the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake, the nerve-wracking legend of Jason Voorhees and his diabolical mother lives on. Despite ominous warnings from the locals to stay away from “Camp Blood”, a group of counselors at a nearby summer camp decide to explore the area where seven people were brutally slaughtered. All too soon, they encounter horrors of their own and the killing begins again. You’ll be at the edge of your seat for this gruesome thriller about 24 hours of bone-chilling fear!

Tagline: 2x The Fear… 2x The Carnage… 2x The Terror! [Wing: By god, the tagline on the cover version I have is so freaking much better, and it is boring as hell: The body count continues…] [Virgin: Clearly, the creativity died with the first installment, Wing.]

Note: I don’t honestly know what’s actually “deluxe” about this version, but thank Odin it’s not the damn uncut version! Finally, a break!

Initial Thoughts

Oh, I got a whole bunch!

Firstly: this is supposed to take place five years after the first Friday the 13th but in fact was released in reality April 30th, 1981. Yeah, this happened a lot with movies, jumping forward in time as opposed to staying current with the period of release, but still. That’s frustrating.

Also, way to release it on Walpurgisnacht! (Google it, kids.)

Secondly, this film is as old as I am. Wild.

Thirdly: is there a state comprised of nothing but summer camps, each spaced five miles down the road from one another? Is it somewhere in Maine? Are they secretly run by Stephen King? Because, damn. I know, and maybe this isn’t true but it seems to be, that summer camps are/were a big thing in the Northeast, because you’re all crammed in like sardines in the concrete jungle back there. (Greetings from the open spaces of the wild, wild West!) I know we have camps here; in another life I was a participant in Camp Fire and took a couple trips to Camp Namanu, which had a pond full of salamanders but it wasn’t a proper *lake*. (The salamanders succeeded in making us scream, holding onto our oars as we rowed the tiny canoe around. We were suburban-dwellers not good with nature, okay.) I think the scariest thing that ever happened on any of those trips was when the rope snapped while we were climbing a trail up the side of a mountain and then that morning when we weren’t allowed outside the cabin because the caretaker’s dog had died outside the front door and the adults didn’t want us to see the corpse.

Really, putting a dozen pre-teen girls in a giant cabin is a far scarier situation then being stalked by a deranged killer. I’m not sure how I survived. Oh, wait, I am Virgin! I always survive camp!

Now that I have completely finished digressing! In reality, I am picking this recap up not long after viewing Friday the 13th, but you readers won’t be reading this until, uh, September? So just pretend that there’s not a giant gap (ha ha! I’ve time-jumped, like the film has! See what I did there?) and let’s see if I can play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with any of the cast members.

Still can’t believe he was in the first film. Seriously.

Important note! Remember, I am rolling over the body count from the first film, so that will be reflected in the counter and final tally.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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 Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #76: Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

cover of Tales to Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine with a ghost in front of a background image

Title: Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary: “Reader Beware — You’re in for ten scares!”

From an evil baby sister, to a remote control that can control more than just the television set, to a teacher who’s obsessed with snakes, to a cute, cuddly teddy bear gone bad, here are ten creepy, spooky stories guaranteed to give you Goosebumps all night long!

Initial Thoughts

So this is the first of the six short story collections and, honestly, it’s kind of boring. It’s clear that most of these are ideas Stine had that he just wasn’t able to convert into full length novels. While most of the other collections had themes, this one’s kind of all over the place in terms of genre, with one that’s not supernatural or science fiction-based at all. Four of the stories managed to get turned into TV episodes, which is more than the other collections could say (and a bit of a waste since the one really good story wasn’t), while two were adapted into illustrated novellas for the French Goosebumps line. [Wing: Now that’s interesting! I wonder what the illustrations are like.]

I never read this book on its own, just after it was reprinted alongside the following two collections in hardcover format. I will say it’s interesting that this entry seems to be the birth place of Curly the Skeleton, the original Goosebumps mascot. You might remember him from the merchandise that appeared in the mid to late 90s when the series got popular. He was the skeleton with the buzz cut, bandana, and sunglasses who often had a big pit bull by his side. On the cover he was depicted with long hair and tattered white robes, more like a ghost, and Scholastic supposedly asked Tim Jacobus to redesign him. He’s sadly forgotten by the current young Goosebumps readers, discontinued like so many of the monsters like Amaz-O, Cuddles, and the Masked Mutant to make way for the disappointing likes of Madame Doom, Murder the Clown, and *ugh* Dr. Maniac. But he will forever live on in the goosebumps of our hearts.

To add a bit of fun, for subtitles this time I’m taking a page from one of my favorite animes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and adding “Duel” with each recap entry. The French words translate to a trait shared in the stories. I’m on a small Utena kick lately.

[Wing: Again, I’ve never read this, I’m excited for the recap, and I’m grateful that someone else is recapping a Stine book.]

(more…)

Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #74: Fear Hall Part 1 – A.K.A. “Fear Street: The College Years”

cover of Fear Hall The Beginning by R. L. Stine shows a white girl behind a window looking out and appearing scaredTitle: Fear Hall: The Beginning

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Franco Accornero

Tagline: The first part of a shocking two-part special!

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

Dear Readers:

Come with me to FEAR HALL. That’s the creepy college dorm built many years ago by the cursed Fear family.

Hope and her roommates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great… until one of them becomes a murderer!

Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream!

I hope you’ll join me for FEAR HALL. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

P.S. You’ll never believe what I came up with for the next book…

Initial Thoughts

I only read this story once when I was in middle school, and I barely remembered what happened after I was finished. I did that sometimes, skimming through a book so that I read it but I didn’t retain anything. This didn’t leave much impact on me at first, but I still found and purchased the two volumes as part of my unfinished effort to collect all the Fear Street books. Then, in the summer of 2011 I decided to re-read the Fear Hall books. I remember that summer. I discovered “Jem and the Holograms” and DC Comics was in the middle of their “Flashpoint” event which ended up ruining the DC Universe for six years and counting. Imagine my surprise when I re-read these books and ended up falling in love with them.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect story. It’s basically “Fear Street At College” which Stine already did with “College Weekend,” and Stine’s take on mental instability is… well, it is what it is. But I enjoyed it because I really liked the main characters, Hope and her roommates, and the setting. I’ve re-read these books so many times over the last few years they’re all scruffed up and worn. I practically refuse to put them back on my book shelves. I even got Stine to autograph them at that signing last year.

The story is split up in several parts and is one of those books where the narration shifts between different characters.

[Wing: I’ve never read these before, and am, of course, always leery of how Stine (and the other Point Horror and similar authors) handle mental illness, but I love a good horror at college story. Stine is setting the bar for the next book pretty high with his little introduction note, though.]

(more…)

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.]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #71: Nightmare Hall #2: The Roommate by Diane Hoh/Nola Thacker

cover of The Roommate, with a girl standing in front of a window staring in horror at something offscreenTitle: Nightmare Hall #2: The Roommate

Summary: Four roommates share a suite in the Quad. Danni is beautiful and perfect, from her long blonde hair to her expensive clothes. Margot is mysterious – brutally honest or slyly secretive, depending on her mood. Lacey is a wild woman, who loves to party, party, party. And Maureen is quiet and painfully shy. But the girls are not all what they seem. And soon one of them may be…dead.

Tagline: None

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

The first thing you have to be aware of is that this was NOT written by Diane Hoh. It is extremely obvious it’s a different writer. This was written by Nola Thacker. Nola Thacker also used the pseudonym D.E. Athkins in the Point Horror line. She delivered a total stinker (The Ripper aka The Cemetery), a pile of crap (Secret Santa), and a couple of okay ones (Sister Dearest, Mirror Mirror and The Bride).

[Wing: I thought I hated her work, but then I checked The Bride recap, and no, I actually loved the ending and enjoyed a lot of the ridiculousness. Actually, her short story “Blood Kiss” in 13 Tales of Horror was similar, not bad, but ridiculous.]

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #70: Don’t Eat The Mystery Meat! by Tom B. Stone, A.K.A. “Nightmare Cafeteria II – Electric Boogaloo”

cover image for book has plate of spaghetti with eyeballs in it set against a dark background and the words Graveyard School Don't Eat the Mystery Meat!

Title: Don’t Eat The Mystery Meat!

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

Cover Artist: Barry Jackson

Summary: School lunch has always been gross, but lately it’s worse than ever. The salad is soggy; the spaghetti is rubbery. No one knows what the meatballs are made of! When pets start mysteriously disappearing around town, sixth-graders Stacey and Park think they’ve stumbled onto something. The new lunchroom attendant is awfully weird… What exactly has she been cooking up?

Initial Thoughts

This was the last book I needed to complete the set for Graveyard School. It felt weird, finally owning this book, which is why I probably took so long to finally read it. It blew away my expectations, though, not thinking it would go down the route it did.

As a head’s up, I recently discovered Todd Strasser was NOT the writer of this series. Instead, the creative genius belongs to Nola Thacker, who some of you might know as Point Horror authoress D.E. Athkins.

[Wing: I’m really intrigued by these author shenanigans, I must say.]

(more…)