Dale Cowan: Deadly Sleep (Twilight: Where Darkness Begins #1)

Summarizing from memory: Jaynie, obsessed with the boyfriend who dumped her for a California girl, travels to Scotland and gets possessed by the spirit of the only survivor of Macbeth’s murder spree, which leads to her plotting to kill her new boyfriend because she thinks he’s a Macbeth descendant.

My copy of this is faded and battered and gorgeous.

Actual recap: Jaynie arrives in Scotland, jet-lagged and exhausted, having flown there from Cincinnati. She’s staying with Evelyn and Evelyn’s parents; Evelyn was a recent exchange student who stayed with Jaynie’s family.

Jaynie is still brooding about her break up with Tim. She’d thought they were in love, and then he went to California and met “that other girl.” She spends literally the entire book still upset about this, which I guess is realistic for a teenager but was still annoying to read. It does play into the plot, though, because the spirit haunting the Beattie family’s castle is…the ghost of a girl whose fiance was murdered by Macbeth.

No, I don’t get it either. Continue reading “Dale Cowan: Deadly Sleep (Twilight: Where Darkness Begins #1)”


Halloween Reading List 2017

Someone (and I’m not sure if she wants to remain anonymous, so I’ll edit her name in if she’d like me to) suggested I do a general “book recs for Halloween” post. I think that’s a great idea. Yes, I know it’s NOT EVEN OCTOBER YET, but some of my suggestions might take time to track down, so I’m posting now in case anyone is inspired to seek out a used copy.

The List

  1. The Society (Forbidden Doors #1)
  2. The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1)
  3. Halloween Night
  4. Halloween Night II
  5. Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1)
  6. My Best Friend’s Exorcism
  7. Shallow Grave
  8. Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows

The Books

The Society (Forbidden Doors #1) calls for a digression: you know how sometimes you buy one or two items that have a “theme” of some kind, like a cow-shaped creamer and then some cow-patterned oven mitts, and then your friends and family make up their mindsocietys somehow that “Hey, she collects cows!” and suddenly you’re INUNDATED with cows. Everyone who sees a cow-ish knickknack immediately thinks of you, and as far as everyone else is concerned their gift-giving dilemmas are solved forever, and meanwhile you’re not even sure why you’re drowning in cows.

A while ago I reviewed a Christian-themed “horror” novel, and now people keep reccing other Christian horror series to me. I have gone from not even knowing these existed to personally owning books belonging to three separate series of them. Yikes.

Not gonna lie: this book, and the series to which it belongs, rank high on my “weirdest things ever read” list. I wasn’t raised by Evangelical Christians, so I’m not in the target market. Still, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise of the book, it’s fun and kind of creepy. The premise—that the people who own “New Age” bookstores belong to sinister societies and are heavily invested in forcing people to remain part of the group once they attend a meeting—is kind of a big ask, but once you get past that it’s fun, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into a different set of fears than are usually found in children’s/YA horror.

chilling adventures of sabrinaFollowing more logically than you might expect, The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1) gives us witches, and they’re the ACTUAL EVIL WITCHES of 1960s horror paperbacks: nothing harmless and well-meaning here. There’s rampant selfishness from parental figures, and blood sacrifice of innocent people, and it’s all horrifying and compelling. I’ve pre-ordered volume two (I may possibly have pre-ordered it twice, by accident).

Arguably everything I review on this blog belongs on a halloween nightHalloween rec list, of course, but I’ve made a deliberate effort to mostly skip listing the sort of vintage YA horror I recap all the time. One of my exceptions is Halloween Night, though (along with the sequel, halloween night 2Halloween Night II), because they’re both perfect examples of R. L. Stine and perfect “setting the mood” Halloween books. Provided, you know, that the mood you want to be in is “murderous rage directed at my cousin.”

Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1): The first volume of this series is the only one I’ve read, but I liked it well enough to immediately order the next three volumes. corpse party 1

It’s a grisly horror story set in a school (which is itself located on the site of another elementary school, torn down after a teacher’s death), and while I love all horror story school settings, this book has even more fun with it than usual. Right from the first lines I was hooked, because the haunted school is an elementary school, so it starts with “it was a dark and stormy…late afternoon,” and the dire warning that the ghost appears if you stay at the school after seven p.m. Ha. Seriously, isn’t that pitch-perfect for a haunted elementary school?

Mild warning: whoever drew this is under the impression that schoolgirls have larger breasts than is biologically or gravitationally likely. I wasn’t offended, but I did roll my eyes often enough that I’m lucky they didn’t get stuck that way. If that sort of thing gets to you, you may want to give it a miss.

my best friend's exorcismI love My Best Friend’s Exorcism so much that I have literally bought MORE THAN ONE COPY for MORE THAN ONE FRIEND. That’s right: I bought it for people, then fell in love with the paperback cover and bought it for THE SAME PEOPLE all over again. I’m not saying they have restraining orders out, I’m just saying I’d understand it if they did.

This book is epic and broad and sweeping. All the best and worst of the 80s is contained, or at least hinted at and summoned up to haunt you, in this book. It has my favourite exorcism scene of all time.

It also has a pet death, which I know makes it a hard NO for some people. That was the only scene I wish could be rewritten, because I am not up for sudden SAD when I want to feel nostalgic-yet-terrified. But other than that, it’s one of the most fun books I’ve read in the past year.

The Orca Currents books are designed for struggling or reluctant readers who have YA orca shallow gravelives and interests but don’t have the reading skills to go along with that. So they’re complex stories told simply, with surprisingly rich characters. Think “Degrassi” or “Bluford” and you’ll kind of get the moral and emotional tone of many of these books.

Before you dismiss these because you aren’t a struggling reader (or someone who works with struggling readers): I’m the readeriest reader that ever read, and I literally devour orca zombie scarecrowsOrca Currents by the handful. They’re stunning examples of controlled plot and “show don’t tell,” all deployed in fewer pages than seems possible for the sheer amount of character they offer. Curious yet? Shallow Grave is very much a traditional ghost story, set in the immediate present. It’s so Canadian you can hear the waves against the dock, I swear. On a somewhat lighter note, Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows features a kid trying to make a horror film for a class project, and stumbling across a murder plot along the way.


Nicholas Pine: Lights Out (Terror Academy #1)

Lights Out was more of a straightforward murder mystery than anything supernatural. So was Sixteen Candles, but Night School, which I’ll be reviewing next, has an actual vampire in it, so I’m hoping the series isn’t just “could possibly happen in real life” thrillers.

lights out

Like so many teen horror novels of the 80s and 90s, this feels like it’s taking place in the 1950s. Continue reading “Nicholas Pine: Lights Out (Terror Academy #1)”

Nicholas Pine: Sixteen Candles (Terror Academy #3)

Sixteen Candles sounds like such a sweet title, it struck me as an odd choice for inclusion in a horror series. But it works.

sixteen candles

I knew who the killer was, unfortunately, right from the beginning. But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.(And I’m going to be blunt about who the killer was, so SPOILERS BENEATH THE CUT). Continue reading “Nicholas Pine: Sixteen Candles (Terror Academy #3)”

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”

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.

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.