J. R. Black: Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? (Shadow Zone #2)

Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? is kind of The Baby-Sitters Club meets Goosebumps. The main character, Annie Dubinski, is like an even-more-sporty, less business-oriented Kristy Thomas. Best friend Lily has Claudia’s hair but a lot of Mary Anne’s personality, only with two over-protective parents instead of one.

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The answer to the title question, before I forget, is “Annie’s older sister Sara.” Sara’s painted as a little bit boy-crazy, but not in a way that makes that seem wrong, just…she’s a little older than Annie, a little less sport and outdoorsy, and therefore a teensy bit annoying to Annie. Continue reading “J. R. Black: Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? (Shadow Zone #2)”

Jay Bennett: The Haunted One

I don’t even think I can write a recap of The Haunted One; I think I’m just going to do a chronological list of how much I hate each and every character in this book except Joan (run, Joan, run: do not stick around to date the horrible main character) and possibly Jean (the main character’s sister).

(Aside from Joan and Jean we also have Jody and Jane. I’m not making this up. I think the writer was actively trying to make me hate this book.)

To be fair, the book was gripping enough that I didn’t rage-quit it, and it was well written. Unfortunately it was well written in that style that gets called “beautifully written,” which in this case means characters in this book feel a lot of deep emotions very vaguely and for no discernible reason. It’s like if Jonathan Franzen somehow pulled Holden Caulfield into the real world and reproduced with him. Continue reading “Jay Bennett: The Haunted One”

J. R. Black: Scream Around the Campfire (Shadow Zone #10)

This is one of two middle-grade series books called Scream Around the Campfire (the other one is a Graveyard School book).

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Gina and Frank Giardelli, eleven-year-old twins, have been sent to Camp Slumbering Pines for the summer. Gina hates it. She feels invisible because all the other campers know each other, she thinks of the place as Camp Dork, she gets scared by a raccoon, and the girls in her cabin prank her by hiding a garter snake in her bag and shaking a baby rattle so she’ll think it’s a rattlesnake.

Gina is a city girl, unappreciative of all this nature. She also doesn’t appreciate Stacey, the Continue reading “J. R. Black: Scream Around the Campfire (Shadow Zone #10)”

Bryce Gibson: The Reading Buddy

The Reading Buddy is a new release, so as usual when I discuss new books, I’ll be doing a general review instead of a spoiler-laden recap. I like to try to give new books a little breathing room so they can find their audience.

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Like the books by Paul Philips that I’ve been reading, this feels very much like a vintage Point Horror or Fear Street novel, with one exception (and this applies to Philips’ books too): instead of vague “craziness,” used to dismiss homicide or whatever, there’s a specific mental health issue (in this case, social anxiety; in The Housewarming Party, depression), presented intelligently and with empathy.

As much as I can roll with the 80s/90s style of dealing with the issue (unrealistically, for the most part), I have to say, it adds some realism to have characters who’re able to describe mental health issues 1) in a way that makes sense and 2) that arise out of events, and make future events make sense. And horror just works better when the world is believable.

The Reading Buddy has a lot going on, most of which I can’t discuss without spoiling things. There’s a murder in the background, which far from being over and done with still informs the main character’s reactions (seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas, who lost both his best friend and his stepfather in one horrific night). There’s the menacing reading buddy from the title, an online relationship Blake acquires at the urging of his therapist as a sort of first step as he eases his way back into social relationships. There’s Blake’s father, and weirdness surrounding his relationship with Blake’s (long deceased, and before that, divorced) mother. And there’s the girl next door, whose relationship with Blake is more complex than he realizes…

I virtually inhaled this book. I started it before bed last night, and got up and finished it this morning. It’s very readable, obviously. Things that I initially worried might be loose threads got picked up as the story progressed, which was satisfying.

This is definitely one for fans of classic YA horror, and I’ll be reading the author’s earlier book, as well as whatever he writes next.

Tom B. Stone: Slime Lake (Graveyard School #7)

That is an amazing pseudonym.

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There is no recipe for a “slime sandwich” inside. There is a recipe for “slime lake guacamole.”

Slime Lake belongs to one of those series I think of as “Goosebumps clones”—you know, middle school “horror,” possibly created to capitalize on the success of Goosebumps (although for all I know, some other series predated Goosebumps).

The plot is very much “Scooby Doo with young kids and an actual monster”: Marc and his Continue reading “Tom B. Stone: Slime Lake (Graveyard School #7)”

Vicki Kamida: Never Love a Libra (Zodiac Chillers #5)

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. This book is so ridiculous, it kind of comes out the other side of ridiculousness and becomes great.

Never Love a Libra: the book that doesn’t just jump the shark: it picks up the shark’s bloody corpse and heaves it straight at its ex-girlfriend.

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The sticky notes represent my futile attempt to keep track of all the times someone was a horrible friend or just an outright idiot.

This whole series is zodiac-themed, so I was braced for some astrology, but holy crap: Continue reading “Vicki Kamida: Never Love a Libra (Zodiac Chillers #5)”