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).

scream around the campfire 2

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.

reading buddy

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.

Scan_20170728 (3)
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.

Scan_20170728
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)”

Richard Lee Byers: Warlock Games (Nightmare Club #3)

It took me about five chapters to make up my mind whether I was enjoying this or not. It’s not that the beginning was particularly slow, either; it’s just that it didn’t slot into any of the regular YA-horror categories, and it took me a while to settle in to it.

warlock games

Mark McIntyre’s been sent to Hudson Military Academy while his parents are in Paraguay because of his father’s job. He shows up at the Night Owl Club, popularly known as the Nightmare Club.

The Nightmare Club and its owners (Mr. Demos and his daughter Jenny) showed up in Joy Ride, but just to recap, it’s a teen club located in an old building in the woods. The building was at one point an orphanage, but that burned down (with the orphans inside) and now it’s rumoured to be haunted.

Mark has no friends at the military academy and he’s the only junior. He meets a couple of girls who attend the local high school, Cooper High, and he’s starting to like Laurie Frank when her brother shows up and punches him. Two other Cooper High guys come over to join the fight, and just as Mark’s thinking he’s doomed, two Hudson guys show up to back him up. They get thrown out for fighting, but now he has friends. Yay?

Just so you know going in, this book is entirely about groups of guys fighting, and later on they progress from vandalism through throwing bowling balls and then on up to shooting each other. Yeah.

Mark’s two new friends are Ken and creepy bossy guy Greg. Just from the back cover you already know Greg is a warlock, so: Greg is a warlock. He convinces Ken and Mark, and some other guys he recruits, to join a group called The Chessmen and each carry a chess piece at all times. Possibly I’ve just read too many novels, but the SECOND anyone proposed that I would assume they were evil and trying to control me via a chess piece.

But no, they all join up and start making trips to vandalize Cooper High School. The equivalent group of Cooper High guys vandalize them right the hell back.

In between rounds of this Mark’s still seeing Laurie, who tells him her brother Barry is obsessed with Hudson Military Academy guys because 1) Barry liked a girl named Traci, who 2) dated a Hudson boy named Wes, and then 3) they both disappeared.

The Cooper High Chessmen, who are being manipulated by an evil spirit, are convinced this means Wes murdered Traci. In fact, they keep having these meetings where they sit around vividly imagining/reliving her murder.

The coolest part of this book is when Laurie does a little research and discovers that Greg has been here before: a hundred years ago, when a rivalry between Hudson Academy and the orphanage led to the orphanage being burned down, and then a hundred years before that when war erupted between settlers and natives.

Greg is, as we know right from the back cover (and I actually hate how much I knew going in), a warlock involved in a “game” against an evil spirit.

All the actual power comes from the spirit, but just because it’s evil doesn’t mean it CHEATS or anything, so Greg’s actually won the last two rounds by having his chessmen kill the other side’s chessmen. But if he loses, his immortality will run out because…I don’t fully understand why. The spirit claims it needs to rest and recover and can’t be arsed keeping Greg alive once Greg loses, I think.

So it all comes down to actual combat in the woods, only Mark and Laurie have convinced Barry, and then his friends, to destroy their chess pieces and come see the place in the wood where Traci’s and Wes’ remains lie, both of them clearly having been killed by something else. So one side has disengaged, and they manage to hold off the Hudson guys and Mark fights Greg, and eventually Greg decays and everyone’s in hospital and the police are having to go with “mass hysteria” as their explanation.

In the end Mark’s parents show up to take him out of the military academy, but surprise! He tells them he wants to stay, because now he has friends.