Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #260: Nightmare Hall #15: Truth or Die by Diane Hoh/Nola Thacker

 

Title: Nightmare Hall #15 Truth or Die

Author: Diane Hoh (Nola Thacker)

Summary: It begins as a game.

When first-year student Parrie Moore meets the other girls at a party, joining them in their harmless game of Truth or Dare sounds like fun.

And at first it is. The dares are silly pranks that make them all laugh.

But gradually the dares become stranger, more dangerous. The game is taking on a life of its own.

Parrie is frightened. But it’s only a game . . . or is it?

 

*Note: That ^ is not the cover I remember, and I hate it. THIS is the cover I had as a kid, with the see-through window that opened to another part of the picture, although by this point they might have been one solid cover. Much more nostalgic.

 

Initial Thoughts

Well, first things first, we have a Thacker! *sarcastic jazz hands* That means I’m not holding this to the same standard I would were it actually Hoh writing. I generally find Thacker’s writing to range from “meh” to “I’m going to build a time machine to go back and punch you in the throat as you’re writing this.”

I like the premise, even though it’s not one I’m a total sucker for; it reminds me of a writing prompt I saw on reddit and am actually currently writing a story based on. So, I hope there’s nothing in this book that I accidentally plagiarize for my own. Anyway, there are a lot of “truth or dare gone wrong” stories out there, even in current day, and this one doesn’t stand out at all. Unfortunately.

Regardless if this one is good or bad, I’m happy Wing welcomed me into the Nightmare Hall recapping fold. I remember loving these books, although after reading the recaps of them here, so far I’m questioning my teenage judgment. I doubt this is going to be the book that makes me gasp, “My God, they are as good as I remember!”

Anyway. Onward!

[Wing: I had the window covers, too, and I loved them so damn much. And many thanks to JC for stepping in when I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of this one. More JC recaps is always a good thing!]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #258: Nightmare Hall #16: Book of Horrors by Diane Hoh

cover of Nightmare Hall Book of Horrors by Diane HohTitle: Nightmare Hall 16: Book of Horrors by Diane Hoh

Summary: Horror book author Victoria McCoy, the new Salem writer-in-residence, knows how to make horror come to life. So Reed is thrilled when McCoy hires her as her new assistant…until she finds out that McCoy’s previous assistants have all disappeared.

Then frightening things start happening to Reed…things straight out of McCoy’s famous horror books.

And McCoy’s next tale of terror has an ending worse than Reed’s worst nightmares.

Initial Thoughts

Apparently Kindle Unlimited doesn’t have #15 Truth or Die, so we’re going to skip straight on to Book of Horrors. I know nothing about this book. I don’t think I’ve read it before, and if I have, I don’t remember a goddamn thing about it.

Randomly, I’m playing 5 Seconds of Summer “Teeth” on repeat while writing this. Not because it has anything to do with the story, I have no idea at this point, but because I sometimes obsess over a song and listen to it for hours, days, weeks at a time. My brain is so much fun. Honestly, this is one of the least terrible things it does to me.

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #246: Nightmare Hall 14: The Initiation by Diane Hoh

Cover for Nightmare Hall 14 - The Initiation by Diane HohTitle: Nightmare Hall 14: The Initiation by Diane Hoh

Summary: Joining the Others, a group of outcasts whom she thinks are just lonely students like herself, Salem University freshman Molly Keene realizes that there is something very wrong about the group, but finds there is only one way to leave it.

Initial Thoughts

I’m excited to pick up recapping Nightmare Hall, though I’m not nearly as informed about the history of the books, ghost writers, etc., as Dade was, alas. The Initiation is not one of the Nightmare Hall books I read growing up, and in retrospect, that’s a very good thing, because I hated it, thanks, good times.

Read on to see why, I guess. Or save yourself. Whichever you prefer. Insert evil cackle here.

(more…)

Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #204: Fear Street Superchiller #2: Silent Night by RL Stine

The Author:

Like RL Stine needs any introduction. The incredibly prolific author of such series as Goosebumps and Fear Street, not to mention the Fear Street Reboot and some adult titles as well, Stine’s been around for a while and integral to the formation of horror love for many people my age. Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes creepy, always some of the most excellent deaths in YA, Stine is a mainstay in the young adult horror world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Blurb:

Don’t open that present!

If only Reva had listened to that warning.

But beautiful, cold Reva won’t listen to anyone. Reva thinks she can have whatever—and whoever—she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby department Stores.

Now, someone has some surprises instore [sic] for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.

Holiday cheer quickly turns to holiday chills for Reva. Someone is stalking her, someone is trying to get to her.

Her money can’t help her. No one can.

After all, who can you turn to when murder comes gift-wrapped?

Can I get a photo of gift-wrapped murder? Please?

[Wing: We believe holiday horror has no deadline around here, so let’s end 2018 with a few more Christmas-themed stories.]

(more…)

Posted in Fear Street Recaps

Recap #201: Fear Street #17: The Best Friend by R.L. Stine

A gift from Becka's BBFF
Maybe she can get store credit?

Title: Fear Street #17 – The Best Friend, a.k.a “Baby’s First Fear Street”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt

Tagline: Sometimes friendship can be murder….

Summary: Best friends… to the end!

Who is Honey Perkins? She’s been telling everyone in Shadyside that she’s Becka Norwood’s best friend. But Becka’s sure she’s never met Honey before.

Honey systematically moves in on Becka’s life, copying her in every way. But when Becka presumes to have more than one “best friend,” the horrible accidents begin.

Does Honey just want a friend? Becka wonders. Or does she want more – much more!

Initial Thoughts

This is where it all began for me. I remember like it was yesterday. Me, a young child, with my mom and Nana in K-Mart looking at the book section. When suddenly I saw a small paperback with the image of a teenage girl horrified by a Christmas present in her lap. Upon closer inspection, I saw the present had a knife sticking out of it.

Even though I didn’t know what the title was, the memory of that cover stuck with me for a while. It was a couple of years later when I learned I was looking at “The Best Friend” in R.L. Stine’s teen series, “Fear Street.” I had no idea at the time Stine wrote this book, so it was an amazing coincidence that the book I remembered was also written by the guy who wrote “Goosebumps.”

Coincidence? Or maybe fate?

As you can guess, people have described this book as “Single White Female on Fear Street.” Of course I’ve never seen the movie myself.

Re-reading this book for the first time in years, I found myself feeling genuinely unsettled and disturbed by what went on. I knew of course the plot and what happened, but not from repeated re-reads. For some reason, the reviews I’ve seen of this book have derided Becka, the main character, as annoying and a bad friend. Honestly, I don’t see it. Becka’s probably one of the biggest victims in the entire franchise because of what Honey Perkins does to her life in this story.

Best BEST friends
Becka Norwood and Honey Perkins by Nanihoo – Nanihoo has been an absolute joy to commission this past year. She’s done numerous design commissions and helped me flesh out one of my comic ideas farther then I’ve ever gone in years

[Wing: That is such a fun piece of art!]

Oh and FYI, when R.L. Stine signed my copy last year, he told me everyone HATED the ending when it came out. Which probably explains how “The Best Friend 2” happened.

[Wing: Damn it, Stine, stick to your guns!]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #153: Nightmare Hall #12: The Whisperer by Diane Hoh

Diane Hoh - Nightmare Hall - The Whisperer
Diane Hoh – Nightmare Hall – The Whisperer

Title: Nightmare Hall #12: The Whisperer

Summary: Shea Fallon can’t tell anyone what she did. She knows it was wrong. Terribly wrong. But she had to do it – she had no choice. Anyway, she’s sure nobody will find out. Until she hears the whisper on the telephone. “You don’t have to worry. No one will know what you’ve done. I’ve seen to that.” Who is the whisperer, and how does he know? Shea wonders. And even more terrifying…what will the whisperer’s price be to keep her secret?

Tagline: Non.

Notes: I will refer to the bad guy/girl as The Whisperer since, well, that’s what they are!

Initial Thoughts

Welcome back, Diane Hoh. Why do you leave us? Your fill-in’s last contribution was real bottom of the barrel stuff and was almost my Last Date with the series. [Wing: Badumcha.]

As always, I have good memories of this, because it’s from Ms. Hoh. Shea’s big secret is that she cheated on an exam. I’ve never done that. Ironically enough, I’m not clever (or devious) enough to think up a scenario in which I could do so. I did okay, though. I got a degree. For all the good it did in securing a job. (I have had many jobs since university, of course, but my degree had nothing to do with any of them). I’m 38 and still paying the bloody thing off. And I have gone way off course… [Wing: Oh god, student loan debt. I hope this book is better than the last one. I need a distraction from weeping into my budget.]

[Wing: What with this being book 12, we’ve hit a year of Dade recapping Nightmare Hall! I’m glad we have so many books to come, still, because these recaps are a joy and a delight forever, and Dade continues to be a wealth of information about YA publishing in the 80s and 90s. Thank you for all you do, Dade!]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #145: Nightmare Hall #11: Last Date by Diane Hoh/Nola Thacker

Diane Hoh - Last Date
Diane Hoh – Last Date

Title: Nightmare Hall #11: Last Date by Diane Hoh

Summary: A night you’ll never forget. Call me. Demi does it on a dare. She places an ad in the personals column of the Salem Chronicle. Lots of guys call. And the nights are everything she advertised. Unforgettable. Unforgettably frightening. Because one by one, Demi’s dates start having nasty little accidents. Disappearing. Even…dying.

Tagline: None

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

Initial Thoughts

I didn’t even like this one when I first read it 24 years ago. 24 years. Bloody hell. If that weren’t bad enough, Nola “Hack” Thacker is back in the driver’s seat for this ride, so I’m anticipating severe bouts of carsickness and a strong urge to nap. (Note from the future: and a lot of swearing, too). [Wing: Another one I don’t remember reading. Somehow, I think I missed most of the Thacker ones, even though at the time, I didn’t know they were being ghostwritten.]

(more…)

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #142: Driver’s Dead by Peter Lerangis

Title: Driver’s Dead by Peter Lerangis

The Author:

A rather prolific author, Peter Lerangis has been writing for decades, although if you go to his website the farthest back you’ll find is his The Watchers series. No mention of his Point Horror writing that I can find. Seriously. Not even his Wiki page goes beyond his Watchers series. Don’t worry. I believe I’ve found them. Titles include DRIVER’S DEAD, THE YEARBOOK, and X-ISLE. Seems like he doesn’t want the taint, maybe? Or it’s just that his various other series have done so well there’s no need to put that retail work on his resume any longer. [Wing: Those the books I’ve found by him, too (with X-Isle being a two book series). He also ghostwrote some of the Baby-Sitters Club books.]

Anyway, he has a weird thing for the Vietnam War in this book, and I don’t know why. The premise seems to hinge on a “crazy” Vietnam vet and one of the characters being a refugee from the area and trying to find his parents. It’s just the date seems really off. The book was published in 1994. That’s a big, lingering gap for Vietnam relevance. It was just weird. It didn’t necessarily seem forced, but the timing was off enough that it really stood out.

Also every. Single. Chapter. Ends on a cliffhanger. All of them.

The Blurb:

Nightmare – dead ahead.

Kristen’s not a very good driver. And the driver’s ed classes aren’t helping. No matter how hard she tries, she just can’t get the hang of being behind the wheel.

Rob’s a very good driver. And he wants to give Kirsten a few tips on how to improve her driving. But after the first session, Rob turns up missing.

Kirsten is beginning to realize that this class may be a little more than she bargained for. A class that may drive her crazy – or to death.

#

That is . . . Really bad. One, it’s vaguely relevant to the plot. It just leaves out a whole shit ton of applicable details like Rob being a shitbag, the fact that he doesn’t turn up missing, but dead, and the story actually doesn’t center around the class itself. Driver’s ed precipitates a lot of the events, but the class is really more of a passing thing. The contest is really the driving force behind this (pun intended), along with, you know. Being haunted by a dead kid that’s screwing with her head.

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #140: Nightmare Hall #10: Sorority Sister by Diane Hoh

Diane Hoh Nightmare Hall 7: Sorority SisterTitle: Nightmare Hall #10: Sorority Sister by Diane Hoh

Summary: When Maxie McKeon pledges Omega Phi Delta, she figures she’s got it made. She loves her new sisters. And everyone knows Omegas throw the best parties and go out with the cutest guys. But someone on campus isn’t crazy about the sorority. That person is just, well, crazy. And he – or she – is determined to destroy the house, and everyone in it. Joining Omega won’t change Maxie’s life. It will just shorten it.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point. Right in the back cover synopsis! Although, to be fair, Hoh didn’t write the synopsis.

Tagline: None.

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

Initial Thoughts

I don’t remember ever disliking a Diane Hoh book, but Deadly Attraction and The Wish in this series have shown me they’re occasionally not as great as I recall (albeit a lot better than most of the YA thrillers at the time). This book has the misfortune of coming after The Night Walker, a tight, taut, complex little humdinger of a thriller that I could barely find fault with. So it has a lot to live up to. But I’m always optimistic when it comes to Hoh (unlike Nola Thacker), and I do have memories of this at least being fun. Note: I have no knowledge of how fraternities and sororities work, because we don’t have them in Australia. Any idea I have is based solely on books and B-grade movies.

[Wing: That cover makes me think of Dawn Schafer and Abby Stevenson from the Baby-Sitters Club, which cracks me up. I’d not read this one before, so had no nostalgic thoughts going into it, but I was a part of a music fraternity for awhile at university (yes, I said fraternity), but it wasn’t a social Greek organisation, and I assume much different than whatever we have going on here.]

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #121: Goosebumps #45: Ghost Camp by R.L. Stine, a.k.a. “When Harry Met Lucy”

Title: Goosebumps #45 – Ghost Camp

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Be all that you can’t see!

Summary: The Joke’s On Them!

Harry and his brother, Alex, are dying to fit in at Camp Spirit Moon. But the camp has so many weird traditions. Like the goofy camp salute. The odd camp greeting. And the way the old campers love to play jokes on the new campers.

Then the jokes get really serious. Really creepy. Really scary.

First a girl sticks her arm in the campfire. Then a boy jams a pole through his foot.

Still, they’re just jokes… right?

Initial Thoughts

This has been my all time favorite Goosebumps book since, like forever. I adore everything about it. I love the characters. I love the villains. I love the setting. I love the cover and that one single human girl who has got no idea what the fuck she’s gotten herself into. This is one of those rare books where you like the main character on purpose AND you manage to feel bad for the villains even though you know they can’t win. It’s also one of the more truly fucked up entries in the original series, and I wrote about it for “Endangered Bodies” via discussing the surprising sexual assault undertones.

I still have a completed jigsaw puzzle of the cover downstairs in my basement, and I remember when I was younger how I wanted the sneakers that had the girl ghost and camper on them. Of course, since those were the “Girl” sneakers, my parents sure as hell weren’t letting that happen. At the very least, I was lucky to get my copy autographed by Stine AND Tim Jacobus.

The reason I didn’t begin my Goosebumps recaps with this book right off is because I was waiting on a commission of the main characters, Harry and Alex Altman, from a dear friend who is also one of my absolute favorite artists. I refused to begin this recap until I was able to include the commission in this post, alongside another awesome piece I won in a tumblr art giveaway.

 

And now, that time has come.

[Wing: When I saw the cover, I could have sworn I’d read this one before, but the summary doesn’t sound familiar at all. We’ll see how this goes.]

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #117: Graveyard School #27: Here Comes Santa Claws by Tom B. Stone, A.K.A. “Krampus 0”

Title: Graveyard School #27 – Here Comes Santa Claws

Author: Tom B. Stone/Nola Thacker/D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Tagline: N/A

Summary: This Year, Santa Doesn’t Care If You’ve Been Naughty Or Nice!

If Kyle knows what’s good for him, he’ll block up the chimney and lock all the doors. He’ll close all the windows and turn on all the lights. He won’t go to sleep and enjoy happy dreams. And he won’t hang up his stocking. Because this year…

Santa Claws is coming to town. [Wing: So many “claws” references in Christmas books, so few damn werewolves.]

Initial Thoughts

I got this book for Christmas in 2004, and it was the only enjoyable part of my 14th birthday. No, that holiday season. Things started off poorly the last day of school before break, when I had to leave early because I was sick. I wasn’t able to stop shivering, I’d never felt like that before. I thought I was going to die. On Christmas Day/my birthday I was still sick, and for dinner I ended up eating McDonalds in front of my Grandpa’s TV, alone, while my family ate dinner upstairs. For the next few days I was not only sick, but miserable and depressed. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I was getting older and how much I hated that. I was terrified. But I still read this book every holiday season because it’s one of my favorites in the series.

The reason I referred to this as “Krampus 0” because if you read this book before you saw the horror flick “Krampus,” you’d feel yourself wondering if the director read this book before the movie was conceptualized. [Wing: I watched Krampus for the first time earlier this year, and now I get a book version (ish) too? This is delightful.] I’m not going to lie, Kyle, the main character in this book, is a little shit. He acts like a brat and it’s easy to see he brings this on himself. But you’ll be surprised when the big showdown occurs at the end, and Kyle shows a lot of backbone. The real draw to this is Kyle’s slick aunt Mab, who just happens to share her name with a Shakespearean fairy queen. Gee I wonder why that could be? Oh also the giant mutant rats on the cover.

Now, I should mention Kyle first appeared in the ninth book, “The Abominable Snow Monster,” and that was his only appearance before this entry. For some reason, the summaries on Amazon and other book sites make it sound like this is a sequel to the “Snow Monster” book when it is not.

[Wing: God, I love this series so damn much. Enough that I was filled with joy over a bonus recap this month.]

(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 Fear Street Recaps

Recap #106: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Title: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

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 terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Quiet — hospital!

Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own. Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all. Laurie has seen too much — and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie. What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway — a prescription for horror!

[Wing: Oh god, that summary. That last line. I am dying. This is terrible.]

Tagline: In this hospital people are dying — to get out.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, and thank god I wrote this recap before I read that summary, or might have never read it at all. The book is a billion times better than that summary.

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Hall recaps

Recap #103: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

book cover with window looking into white girl in blue bathing suit drowning in waterTitle: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

Summary: Katie Sullivan has everything – nice roommate, cool friends, and a great guy. Until the day she and her boyfriend are out on the river and their canoe overturns. She survives. He doesn’t. Katie can’t stop thinking about the accident, weighing the evidence, wondering if it was her fault. But someone else has already reached a decision about Katie. The verdict is guilty. The punishment is death.

Tagline: None.

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

Initial Thoughts

Thankfully, we’re back once again to a Nightmare Hall book actually written by Diane Hoh. Though none of the books so far have been as good as I remember, once again, I have distant memories of liking this one back when I first read it, especially the climax. [Wing: I love the window book covers for Nightmare Hall, but this one cracks me up. Is she drowning inside a room at Nightmare Hall? How is that even possible? If an actual pool, why does the pool have a window? Oh, cover designers. So delightfully ridiculous.]

(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 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.]

(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 Point Horror Recaps

Recap #64: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies
Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Title: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

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

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

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

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

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

Initial Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Posted in Point Horror Recaps

Recap #54: The Boyfriend by R.L. Stine

The Boyfriend by R. L. Stine
The Boyfriend by R. L. Stine

Title: The Boyfriend by R.L. Stine

Summary: You lie, you die

Dex is madly in love with Joanna. He would do anything for her… but she doesn’t care. To her, boys are there to be used and thrown away. After Joanna breaks up with Dex, he does something no other guy has done to her before.

He dies.

Joanna tries to pretend she’s sorry. But this time she’s gone too far.

Tagline: Her boyfriend’s back . . . from the grave.

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

Initial Thoughts:

Oh, god, we’re back to Stine already? I thought I was taking a break from our feud! Ah, well, I guess an evil twin’s work is never truly done. That summary, at least, is an interesting twist on how “boyfriend’s back from the grave” stories usually go. Is that a sliver of hope I feel? I think it is! I’m sure it will be burned to the ground within the first few words sentences chapters.

I’d never read this before, and now that I have, I wish I hadn’t.

[Dove: This was the second PH I ever bought, once again, a promise of supernatural, and once again it’s a fucking miracle I bought any more books in this series. I hate this book. Seriously hate. There are more offensive books out there, but for some reason, this is the one I hate the most.]

(more…)