Bites

Published: October 24, 2016
Publisher: Glass Apple Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

The town of Saltlick Bluff is famous for an urban legend. Does the spirit of a young girl wait on a misty cliff-hugging highway for her ride to the prom?

In the house on Beech Street a terrible tragedy occurred. Now neighbors won’t look at the place as they pass. Those who live nearby draw their blinds and shutter their windows after dark. What are they afraid of?

Hale Hallow Woods seems sinister and menacing even in the light of day. Does a thirst for revenge beat near its dark heart?

The answers lie within these pages, just waiting to send a chill up your spine! (goodreads.com)

I’m always up for scary stories and SPINE CHILLERS sounded interesting enough. And with my digital copy coming in at just 71 pages it was going to be a super short read regardless.

Overall this is definitely a middle grade read. My fifth and sixth grade self would have loved this book and probably would have kept it with my collection of scary story books in my desk at school.

In the vein of GOOSEBUMPS but less cheesy, SPINE CHILLERS is to the point and each story had its own level of creep. One of my favorites was  ‘Seaworthy’ where a too-proud boy gets his just desserts after bargaining for more than he could afford. ‘The Healer’ was another good one where a little girl has the healing touch and the jerk of a dad decides to capitalize on it. Except that might not work out too well for him. My most favorite was probably ‘Prom Date.’ A girl who feels she’s been wronged tries to get revenge only to wake something up from the dead. All three of these stories have the running theme of someone getting their comeuppance and those are sort of my favorite. There’s a sense of satisfaction at the end of them all.

The stories are simply written, but the punch is packed at the end where they all turn themselves on their heads. A younger reader will definitely be up at night reading these under the sheets with a flashlight, and probably won’t be able to get to sleep after that. The world needs more horror-addicted youth and SPINE CHILLERS will help convert those youths.

4

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

December 27, 2016

17062Published: September 2003
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life. (goodreads.com)

How so thoroughly Neil Gaiman. If I had no idea this was his book I probably still would have been able to tell who the author was. He just has this lyrical way of storytelling that keeps things simple yet eloquent and dark but endearingly optimistic that is just so obviously him.

CORALINE is one hell of a dark book for a children’s book, and this coming from someone who grew up on SCARY STORIES. There’s just something about a fake mother kidnapping Coraline, holding her hostage, and threatening to sew button eyes on her that’s all rather terrifying. But the story’s told in a way that never gets away from Coraline. She’s never one to panic and she’s always firmly in control, even when she thinks she’s not. That juxtaposition keeps the story grounded and hopeful while at the same time being grotesque and off-putting. The storage sack of performers reminded me far too closely of Killer Clowns from Outer Space for my liking. Blech.

I shouldn’t say I was surprised by the depth in the story. It’s Neil Gaiman. There’s always so much more here than just a story. But I’d never seen the movie and the book wasn’t on my radar growing up. Really, I’m a new convert to all things Gaiman just within the last few years so take that for what you will. But I kind of loved CORALINE a little bit. She’s such a smart, astute, sharp little girl that doesn’t let anything by her, even among fantastical surroundings. Neither does she blink. She’s incredibly unflappable and she’s an incredible role model just for that. I mean any adult would run screaming by the dad thing in the basement. She was just like “Meh. I’ll figure this out.” And she did.

I’m so glad I [eventually] discovered Gaiman. I’ve yet to read a story of his that hasn’t left some kind of mark on me. That hasn’t stayed with me and left me in awe of his writing. CORALINE is no different. Screw children’s book. CORALINE is a BOOK and would be enjoyed by anyone. And would probably disturb everyone just a little.

5

6242978Published: June 15, 2009
Publisher: Clarion Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Two 13-year-old boys, Arthur and Logan, set out to solve the mystery of a murder that took place some years ago in the old house Logan’s family has just moved into. The boys’ quest takes them to the highest and lowest levels of society in their small Maryland town, and eventually to a derelict amusement park that is supposedly closed for the season. (goodreads.com)

Really what attracted me to CLOSED FOR THE SEASON was the creepy, rundown amusement park on the cover. How could I resist?

Hahn does an excellent job of setting the tone of the story. She really takes the time to build up the small-town feel of the place and sets the derelict amusement park right in the middle of that. It’s something people want to revere and save and at the same time it’s the source of a murder that these boys are thrust (or thrust themselves) in the middle of. The story relies heavily on ambiance and character-building than anything else, and she creates these flesh-and-blood characters that pop off the page and for whom you can really feel what they’re going through.

At first Arthur is really annoying and I totally feel for Logan in wanting to distance himself from his new neighbor, but as the story wears on Logan realizes that he’s more like Arthur than anyone else and he’s not someone he wants to abandon. The whole friendship aspect of the story is really touching, and I liked how Danny, the town’s young bully, plays a part in it. He ends up coming in at the end, but it’s not a let’s all skip into the sunset ending. It felt far more realistic and far less like some happy-go-lucky juvenile book that’s meant more to placate parents than anything else.

I also liked how the adults weren’t complete dunderheads either. They were more than just dopes who only existed to prove that the main characters weren’t spawned in a lab or something. They were viable human beings that carried real weight in the story and who ultimately concluded the story the way it should have gone. The boys didn’t get away with their antics unscathed and the adults acted like adults should act. It was refreshing.

You won’t find any kind of supernatural element in CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. This is a book about people and how they cope with loss and change and other people. It breaks down the idea that those who are seemingly perfect actually are and the weirdos are actually weirdos. It shows that there are consequences for a person’s actions, even if those actions are done with good intentions and end up helping someone along the way. It’s about what real friendship is and staying true to yourself while at the same time not lying to yourself about who you are and who others are to you.

It’s a good story. Hahn created a great voice, a great world, and a compelling plot that rounded everything out nicely.

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

125669Published: 1994
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Courtney is a total show-off.  She thinks she’s so brave, and she’s always making Eddie and his friends look like wimps.  Nothing can scare Courtney!  Or so she says . . .

Eddie’s decided he’s had enough.  He’s going to scare Courtney once and for all.  He’ll lure her down to Muddy Creek.  Because he knows she actually believes those silly rumors.  Rumors that creepy Mud Monsters are lurking there.

It’s just too bad that Eddie doesn’t believe the rumors, too.  Because they just might be true . . . (book back blurb)

YOU CAN’T SCARE ME is probably my least favorite Goosebumps book that I’ve read so far.  There just wasn’t enough run-up to the horror portion of the book.

Most of the time is spent focusing on how much of a know-it-all show-off Courtney is and how whiny and afraid of everything Eddie is.  Granted, while I appreciate that kind of scene-setting there wasn’t a whole lot of it around the concept of these mud monsters.  The woods that they supposedly inhabit aren’t even mentioned until maybe two-thirds of the way through the book.  So there’s very little time spent building the story around the woods and those monsters.  Instead they’re mentioned as an aside and the focus of the plot is shifted back to trying to scare Courtney with rather lame ways of doing it.

Eddie wasn’t that great of a character either.  Like I said before, pretty whiny and the kid was afraid of his own shadow.  Every time he cooked up some way to attempt to scare Courtney he would imagine these elaborate reactions she would have despite evidence to the contrary.  That happened at least three times, I think.  It got old.

I just wasn’t impressed with this one.  There was far too much build-up and far too little scare factor to really have an impact.  The characters, while fleshed out, didn’t hold my interest, mainly because they were uninteresting (I had my choices of the fraidy cat, the dirty kid that always wore a cap to hide his unwashed hair, and the know-it-all show-off) and a bit too stock character for me.  The monsters themselves were there and gone faster than you could blink.  There wasn’t anything to be afraid of.  It was kind of disappointing.  And it’s an older Goosebumps too, at least older than the last couple I’ve read.  Can’t win them all, I guess.

2

865736Published: 1993
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

There’s something horrible happening in Fever Swamp. Something really horrible.It started with the strange howling at night. Then there was the rabbit, torn to shreds.

Everyone thinks Grady’s new dog is responsible. After all, he looks just like a wolf. And he seems a little on the wild side. But Grady knows his dog is just a regular old dog. And most dogs don’t howl at the moon. Or disappear at midnight. Or change into terrifying creatures when the moon is full.

Or do they?  (goodreads.com)

Okay, so not my favorite Goosebumps book but when averaging them out this still came in higher than a lot of the Fear Street books.

These books are pretty formulaic in that they take a lot of time to set the scene and then the horror part happens within the span of a chapter or two toward the end and then it’s done.  Whether there’s resolution or not is dependent on the book.  THE WEREWOLF OF FEVER SWAMP is no different.  I got some solid scene-setting here with the ambiance of a Florida swamp, how hot and muggy it was, all the bugs, the bog, the creepy noises (I should say different creepy noises).  It was a good, solid setting for what was to come.

The characters were solid too.  Grady, a bit petulant at times, is a good character who’s just trying to adjust to this move his family had to make.  He seems like he’s trying to make the best of the situation and he’s eager to explore the swamp.  He meets his fellow neighbor children and interacts with them.  They’re not all that developed but they serve their purpose.  His older sister appears to be a bit more substantial than just an annoying older sister but the parents are your standard middle grade/young adult book parents in that they really don’t serve much of a purpose beyond being parental figures.

The creep factor was a slow build with the introduction of the swamp hermit and then the howling plus the discovery of the dog/wolf thing hanging around outside Grady’s house whom he adopts.  Of course all signs point to his dog as being the culprit behind the random animal killings and the disappearance of one of their neighbors but, of course, that’s not the case.  Nothing is that easily solved.

I will say this book came with a typical Stine ‘out of nowhere’ ending that not only did I not see coming but it really wasn’t set up in the book.  It wasn’t explained all that much (pretty much not at all) at the end either so it was like BOOM.  Reveal.  Done.  It wasn’t the greatest wrap-up and it did end up a bit cheesy which is why I’m not as thrilled with it as the others but it was still okay.  I didn’t have any eye-rolling going on while reading it so that’s a big advantage.

So no, not my favorite Goosebumps but still worthy of a read.

3.5