Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Doll’s Eye is SO creepy. Perfect for horror fans.

dolls-eyeThe Doll’s Eye, by Marina Cohen, (Feb. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722040

Recommended for ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Hadley is not thrilled with her mother’s decisions. Since she married Ed, whose 6 year-old son, Isaac, is nosy and allergic to everything, means Hadley’s constantly chasing him away from her stuff AND her entire way of eating has changed to accommodate Isaac. They’ve moved out of their apartment and away from her friends to live in this huge, dilapidated house, away from everything, because her mom and Ed got it cheap. Her mother even broke her promise to send Hadley to summer camp with her best friend, to go on a family road trip instead. And worst of all, her mother seems to have no time for her anymore. The only neighbor her age is a bug-obsessed kid named Gabe; at least the tenant, an older woman named Althea, treats her like a granddaughter.

Hadley discovers an old dollhouse with a doll family, and wishes her family were perfect, just like the dolls. But you should always be careful with wishes…

Doll’s Eye is creeptastic and perfect for middle grade horror fans that are ready for some more scares in their reading. Hadley is well thought-out and written, and her supporting characters will keep readers turning pages. Wacky former neighbor Grace is a delight, a scary movie staple as the person who’s in tune with the spirit world. The unexpected ending will get some strong reactions – Doll’s Eye is a great book to give to Goosebumps fans who are ready to go next level.

Give this to your Mary Downing Hahn fans and tell them between The Doll’s Eye and Took (by Hahn), they’ll be looking at their dolls (or their siblings’ dolls) with a very different set of eyes.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Humor, Teen

Drama, demons, and the Revenge of the Evil Librarian

evil-librarianRevenge of the Evil Librarian, by Michelle Knudsen, (Feb. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0763688288

Recommended for ages 13+

Cynthia and her BFF, Annie, have finally settled down after the events from Evil Librarian (#1), where Mr. Gabriel, the librarian in question, tried to make Annie his demon bride. Cyn’s now dating her crush, the gorgeous Ryan Halsey, and the two are off together to drama camp, where Cyn’s hoping to start working on set design. She’s ready to embrace the summer and all it has to offer, especially with Ryan at her side, but the demons have other plans: Aaron, demon-ish consort of the demon queen, looks Cyn up and reminds her that she owes the queen a few favors, for one. And things with Mr. Gabriel may not be quite over just yet.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian is the follow-up to 2014’s Evil Librarian, and it keeps a lot of the fun tone set in the first novel. There are demons at a theatre camp, a romantic rivalry, and a showdown to remember. Cyn is head-over-heels for Ryan, and the ups and downs of their romance – impacted by the fallout from the first book – will appeal to YA romance readers. Peter, another camper, is an endearing character whose background will crack readers up, and Jules, Ryan’s longtime summer camp “friend”, is the classic romantic rival.

Liven things up with your drama/theatre club readers and pair this with Stephanie Kate Strohm’s Taming of the Drew. If you’ve got readers who enjoyed the first one, they’ll love this one (and wait for the next one); if you have readers who enjoy their YA with a smidgeon of paranormal or horror, booktalk this one.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Ghosts roam The Shadow House… but who are they?

shadow-house_coverThe Gathering (Shadow House #1), by Dan Poblocki, (Aug. 2016, Scholastic Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545925501

Recommended for ages 8-12

Poppy is pretty much an orphan, abandoned as a baby and raised in a group home, where she’s known as “Crazy Poppy” because of the ghostly friend that lives in her mirror and who leaves her little gifts. She receives a letter from a long lost relative, thrilled to have found her, and invites her to live with her at Larkspur Estate.

Marcus is a musical prodigy who always hears music in his head. He receives a full scholarship to the Larkspur Academy of Music and can’t wait to be around other musicians.

Azumi is lost without her sister, who disappeared into a Japanese forest on a family trip. She receives word that she’s been accepted to the prestigious Larkspur Academy, where she can start over in a place where no one knows her.

Dash and Dylan are twin brothers, child stars who have left their show to go on to bigger and better things. They’re offered the chance to star in a horror movie to be filmed at a school… Larkspur Academy.

When the tweens all arrive at Larkspur, they realize that something is wrong. No one is there to greet them or explain what’s going on. Children wearing ghostly masks show up and try to attack them. What is really going on in the Shadow House?

This first book in a new middle grade horror series is a lot of fun, with a lot of creepiness that kids will love. If they’re ready for a little more than Goosebumps, but not old enough yet for Madeline Roux’s Asylum books, this is the book to give them. It’s a fast-paced read, switching between the points of view of the main characters (one of whom is hiding a whopper of a secret) and revealing little bits of information at a time. The ending left me a little wanting, but I’m hoping that book two, due in December, will clear the confusion up.

Scholastic is going all out with this series. There’s a Shadow House website with links to a healthy print excerpt, an audio excerpt, and an app that lets users explore the Shadow House. I haven’t downloaded it, but I may snag my son’s iPad (my phone is almost out of memory) and try it out. If you use it, comment here and let me know!

If you have horror fans, add this one to your list. I’ll booktalk this with the Haunted Mansion and Haunted Museum series.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Skin crawling YA horror: The Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics

women-in-the-wallsThe Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics (Sept. 2016, Harlequin Teen), $18.99, ISBN: 9780373211944

Recommended for ages 13+

Lucy Acosta lives with her cousin, Margaret, her aunt, Penelope, and her father, Felix, in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods. Her mother died when she was three, leaving her to be raised by her loving aunt and distant father. When Lucy is 17, Penelope takes a walk into the woods and disappears, throwing the household into chaos. Margaret, Penelope’s daughter, is becoming unhinged, telling Lucy that she hears her dead mother talking to her through the walls, telling her to join her. Her father, obsessed with throwing dinner parties for the exclusive club he belongs to, ignores Lucy’s pleas for help; he won’t accept any sign of weakness. As Lucy tries to get to the bottom of the voices in the walls, she starts hearing them too; and when she begins digging into her family’s legacy, the things she find may doom her.

This was a gloriously creepy novel with just enough gore to move it from haunted house novel to horror. Think Wicker Man meets The Legacy (wow, did I just date myself with that reference), with wonderful madness tossed in, to make things interesting. Be warned, delicate sensibilities and stomachs may find some of the language and violence too much. This is not a book for your conservative readers.

Lucy and Margaret are fairy skin-deep characters with the potential for deeper storytelling, but it’s not really their story, as you’ll discover. The real development is going on around them. Think of Lucy as the narrator – which she is – and the host of the story. She’s the central character, but she’s in the dark almost as much as we readers are. The supporting characters are where the story lies, and when the elements all come together, this is a page-turning read. Horror and suspense fans will enjoy this one.

Posted in Horror, Humor, Teen, Tween Reads

Gina Damico’s Wax: You’ll never look at a candle the same way again.

waxWax, by Gina Daminco, (Aug. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544633155

Recommended for ages 12+

Welcome to Paraffin, Vermont, home of the Grosholtz Candle Factory. The town stinks. No, really, it does; imagine all those different scents in the air all the time, and what they must smell like when combined? Seventeen year-old Poppy is so tired of Paraffin and their candle tourism, but she and her bestie end up touring the factory one day, for giggles. She ends up discovering some batty old woman talking about living wax, and gives Poppy a candle that will protect her. When gets home, there’s a naked teenage boy in her trunk. A boy who looks suspiciously like a wax figure that she saw in the batty old woman’s workshop. He doesn’t really know much about who or what he is, but he answers to the name, Dud. A fire destroys the workshop, and with it, any chance for Poppy to talk to the woman and discover more, but no worry: she’s going to find out what’s really happening in the town of Paraffin soon enough. People are starting to act a little odd. A little… waxy.

Wax, like Damico’s previous book, Hellhole, combines horror with humor, with laugh-out-loud results. If you’re like me and love horror comedies like Evil Dead: Dead by Dawn and Return of the Living Dead, with a little less gore, you’re going to enjoy Wax. There’s something really horrific going on in the town of Paraffin, but with a sarcastic lead character like Poppy and a sweet, but dense sidekick named Dud, just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s some true creepiness here; it’s not all snorts and giggles, so horror fans, if you want a break from gore and just want some good storytelling, pick up this book.

I loved Wax because there’s a good story and good characters, and it reminded me a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets one of my favorite cult films from the late ’80s. Does anyone remember Waxwork? I have such great memories of being in college, staying up all night, and watching movies like Waxwork and the Puppet Master movies from Full Moon Entertainment. If you haven’t treated yourself to a viewing of Waxwork, I highly encourage it. Here’s the trailer.

But back to the book. Give this to your morbid humor fans who enjoy a little chuckle with their scares. Please booktalk this one with Damico’s Hellhole, because I feel like that book doesn’t get the love it deserves. Quirk Books has a great list of horror comedies that you can display, too, and don’t discount the tried and true work horses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Have teens who love movies? Have a horror fest with the cheesiest of cheese! My teen and I bonded over Evil Dead 2, and my tween understands the power behind the phrase, “Hail to the King, baby”.

Shop Smart, shop S-mart, and consider adding Gina Damico to your horror collection if you’re a fan or have fans in your patronage.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Dare you venture into The Haunted Mansion?

haunted mansionTales from The Haunted Mansion, Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome, by Amicus Arcane (July 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1329-7

Recommended for ages 9-12

Four school friends band together over a mutual love of horror stories, forming the group, The Fearsome Foursome. One night, the friends find themselves at a spooky house – a mansion – and head inside, where they meet librarian, Amicus Arcane, who sits them down to tell them a few stories. But the stories are starring each of the foursome, and things get a little spooky from there. Inspired by the Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion, this is the first volume of short stories starring the ride’s narrator and Haunted Mansion librarian, Amicus Arcane, and is sprinkled with little references to the Disney experience.

If you haven’t been to Disney and don’t know much about the ride, you won’t miss a thing. It’s still a book of good, macabre stories – like Goosebumps, taken up a notch – for middle graders. If you are familiar with the ride, though, these little references are an added wink and nudge, giving you a little creepy chuckle that runs up your spine; right next to that little chill that’s headed in the same direction.

The stories are fun, spooky, and come with a twist, and the final reveal made me look forward to reading more. There are hideous sea creatures, possessed baseball mitts, witch bones, and a dare that will leave readers cringing. It’s a fast, fun read; perfect for a summer book. I’d love to see a graphic novel adaptation – any chance we’ll get one, Disney?

A fun add to burgeoning horror collections. Booktalk it with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and, naturally, Goosebumps.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

New spooky fun series! Bruce Hale’s Monstertown Mysteries!

werehyenaMonstertown Mysteries: The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale, (July 2016, Disney/Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1325-9

Recommended for ages 8-12

It’s another day in Monterrosa, California, and buddies Carlos and Benny are in class with their favorite teacher, Mr. Chu. Who starts acting really weird. He’s laughing and growling, he’s quick to be angry and aggressive with students, and… well, you’ll read about the chicken incident. Carlos and Benny start investigating the situation, enlisting the help of their local comic book dealer and a classmate who elbows her way into the group, they discover that Mr. Chu has been bitten by a were-hyena, and unless they can find the alpha hyena in a couple of days – in time for the full moon – Mr. Chu is doomed to be a were-beast forever!

This is the first book in a new scary-fun series for middle graders by favorite, Bruce Hale, and it’s perfect for Goosebumps fans who are looking for new territory. The kids rule the stories, there’s great characterization, some laughs, and lots of excitement, adventure, and mystery. Adults take a backseat and let the kids get the work done, but they’re supportive and there to help, like Mrs. Tamasese, the former pro wrestler turned comic book shop owner.

There’s also some very nice diversity in the book, with characters of different ethnicities and abilities (including Mrs. Tamasese, who’s wheelchair-bound, but doesn’t let that stop her from going on adventures).

I loved the book, and think this one will work nicely with the kids here, who have read my Goosebumps collection (in both English and Spanish) until they fall apart. I introduced the Eerie Elementary books to my younger readers, and they’ve snapped them up; something tells me that Monstertown Mysteries are going to find a very happy home on my library’s shelves. The ending sets up for a series very nicely. There’s some fun black and white illustrations that will keep readers’ interest, especially once you get to the Big Bad Hyena.

Add this fun series (number two is due out in the Spring) to collections where spooky and fun go hand in hand. If you’ve got kids in your life who love creeptastic excitement, put this on your list.

Bruce Hale is a hugely popular children’s author: the Chet Gecko, the Underwhere, and School for S.P.I.E.S. series are just a few of his hits. You can check out his author website to learn more about his books, author visits, and find some cool downloads and activities.

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Science Fiction, Young Adult/New Adult

The Frankenstein tale gets a new jolt in Heartless

heartlessHeartless, by Leah Rhyne (May 2016, Polis Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781940610870

Recommended for ages 13+

After an argument with her boyfriend, college co-ed Jolene Hall storms out of his apartment and wakes up on a table in a creepy room, naked and covered in jagged wounds and stapled flesh. She tears herself loose and manages to get back to her dorm room, but she and her roommate, Lucy, notice pretty quickly that something is very, very wrong: Jolene is dead. Sort of. She has no heartbeat, and despite being able to walk and talk, she needs to be charged up in order to continue operating at a normal level. And she stinks. No offense. Jolene is determined to find out who did this to her, and what exactly she is now. The fact that college co-eds are disappearing right and left makes her pretty sure that what happened to her is part of a much bigger operation – but is her investigation going to put Lucy in danger?

This rejuvenated take on Frankenstein appealed to me, because I like the whole flipped fairy tale genre that’s emerged over the last few years. While Heartless certainly has its moments, overall, I wanted a little more. Jolene ends up being fairly skin deep (no pun intended) for a good portion of the book, and Eli, her boyfriend, is a complete jerk. There’s next to nothing likable about him, and Lucy is a little too happy-go-lucky, we’re-going-on-an-adventure about this whole situation. The villain(s) were a little too easy to spot, making the reveal somewhat anticlimactic. I would have loved more of Jolene’s introspective moments; those captured me and kept me moving through the story. The idea of a person embracing their fate and making his or her peace with it, while trying to save others from a similar fate, is a fascinating idea. Having to witness how other people process this fate, whether it’s a parent or a loved one, can be brutal and Ms. Rhyne captures some intense and deep feelings in those moments.

The book’s ending lets readers know there’s more of this tale to be told. I don’t do spoilers, so let’s just say that I’m interested in seeing where this goes, because I’ll be darned if I’ll let the story continue without me.

The book will work for readers who like a little drama in their horror; a little star-crossed romance in their chiller. iZombie and Warm Bodies fans will jump on this book, so make sure to booktalk it to those audiences if you’ve got them.

Leah Rhyne’s author website has more information about Heartless and her zombie series, Undead America.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

My Best Friend’s Exorcism gives a touch of ’80s horror to YA

my best friendMy Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix (May 2016, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781594748622

Recommended for ages 12+

It’s 1988 and Abby and Gretchen, two high school sophomores, have been BFFs since fourth grade. After a night of partying goes a little awry, Abby notices Gretchen acting strangely. Really strangely. She finds herself on the outs with her group of friends when Gretchen turns on her, but Abby knows there’s something more to it than usual teenage friendship drama. The more she digs to find out what’s wrong with her friend, the worse the news seems to get. Abby’s convinced that Gretchen is possessed, but can she save her best friend without getting herself in more trouble?

I loved Grady Hendrix’s previous book, Horrorstor, so I dove into My Best Friend’s Exorcism with delight. Hendrix’s characters are in my age bracket, so the generous ’80s references (shout-out to Duran Duran!) and the song-titled chapters were just what the doctor ordered. I was in the frame of mind, and Hendrix captures the time and the attitude beautifully.

The creepiness of the actual possession story is deliciously insidious and skin-crawling. It builds, and I was right there with Abby, feeling my guts squirm and my knuckles tighten, waiting for someone to realize what was going on. Freaking adults, man! When Abby takes matters into her own hands, I was rooting for her; I was right there with her.

Then the exorcism happened, and I have to be honest, it fell a little flat for me. I get what Hendrix was doing, but it felt like the manufactured plot of an ’80s teen chick flick. If that’s what he was going for, he hit it on the head, but I was hoping for more. I was ready for an all-out ’80s horror fest, but what I got was a little more anticlimactic, a bit more melodramatic. Still, the book had a satisfying ending and overall, I enjoyed it.

Teens will get a kick out of it; it appeals to fans of high school drama and horror alike; there’s some truly creeptastic stuff to be found in here. Give it a whirl. My Best Friend’s Exorcism has received a starred review from Booklist. Check out an excerpt, below:

my best friend_1

my best friend_2

my best friend_3

Posted in Historical Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Divah takes New York!

divahDivah, by Susannah Appelbaum (March 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781634506748

Recommended for ages 12+

Itzy Nash is not looking forward to this summer vacation. Her dad is sending her off to her stuffy aunt, who doesn’t even like kids, while he goes off to Paris to do some research. But when Itzy arrives at New York’s elite Carlyle Hotel, she gets the strange feeling that something’s not right – for starters, Aunt Maude isn’t around, either; she’s left word that she’s hired a governess to keep an eye on Itzy. Plus, there’s a weird sound coming from one of the closets, and there are tons of flies. And that’s just the beginning.

Itzy learns that the Queen of the Damned – the Divah – is at the Carlyle, and she’s trying to open the gates of Hell itself. With the help of a fallen angel that she may or may not be able to trust, an aging star, and a host of colorful New Yorkers, Itzy also discovers that it’s up to her to save New York – and the world – from the Divah and her minions. Better hope she’s up to the task.

I loved this book. There’s a bit of historical fiction with a twist, some horror, and through it all, a fantastically witty thread of the darkest humor. It’s a sendup of high New York society and celebrity, a thrill ride in a book, with an End of Days bent. There are well-developed characters and a backstory that comes to fruition over the centuries. Ms. Appelbaum takes pop culture and weaves it into her story’s history to establish the ubiquity of demon and demon hunter culture in our world, from Evian water to Hermès scarves.

Add this to collections where YA thrillers/paranormal fiction is popular. Booktalk New York touchstones like the Carlyle Hotel in New York, particularly the Bemelmans Bar within the hotel; show art from the Madeline books to link the readers to Bemelmans’ work. For teens, booktalk Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, for similar New York-based horror.