ReReading Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

“Face to Face with a Nightmare…

How ugly is Carly Beth’s Halloween mask? It’s so ugly that it almost scared her little brother to death. So terrifying that even her friends are totally freaked out by it. It’s the best Halloween mask ever. It’s everything Carly Beth hoped it would be. And more. Maybe too much more. Because Halloween is almost over. And Carly Beth is still wearing that special mask…”

We are back on the Goosebumps nostalgia train with a story we probably should have covered at Halloween, The Haunted Mask.

I hate to admit it but I don’t remember reading this one as a kid. I remember the merchandise. Those voice changing creepy masks that were all over the place in the 90s. They were pretty cool, and unlike the real mask in the story, they came off.

The idea of a Halloween mask that refuses to come off is quite scary. Imagine how claustrophobic that would feel, especially if it is one of those full head covering rubber masks. It would get stuffy, warm and suffocating. If this was an adult novel you could probably play those points up very well, but this is a novel for primary school children so it isn’t scary at all. I don’t even think it would be scary for children, unless a child had a particular fear of things covering their face.

The idea of this book was fun but I can say this is probably the least enjoyable Goosebumps book I have read so far. The main character was a cowardly brat and everyone else in the story was a bit obnoxious. I actually felt sorry for the antagonist who sold her the mask because I would have given that brat a cursed mask to teach her a lesson. The main characters in Goosebumps books are supposed to be relatable so I guess this book was written for the brats of the world.

Even with a bratty main character this book would still be a fitting read for most young children. It is fairly short, an easy read and not scary in the slightest. It is just the right level of creepy to make it a typical Goosebumps novel. Also the whole story takes place on Halloween night so maybe put it away for a festive read next year.

So, do you remember reading The Haunted Mask when you were a kid? What Goosebumps book gave you nightmares as a kid?

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Reads of the Month: November

Can you believe it is December already??

I had a pretty good reading month in November. I read 6 books. Most of which are not relevant to this blog, but I will say this, if you haven’t read The Hobbit go do it.  I am having a bit of a Tolkien reread. Blame D&D.

So anyway, my top three picks for Dark Reads of the Month are…

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Orient Express is stranded in the snow and a man is found stabbed to death in a bath tub onboard. Detective Poirot has until the snow clears to solve the case.

This is the first Agatha Christie book I have ever read, and even though I solved the case myself only a few chapters in I still enjoyed it. It was darker than I expected, with backstories involving a child murder and of course the dead body in the bath tub.

This is a bit of a stereotypical murder mystery but those stereotypes have to come from somewhere, and Christie started most of them. I am not sure if I will read more of her books but as a fan of detective stories this was very enjoyable. If you like crime novels this would be a perfect quick and fun read.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Heathers meets The Exorcist. Abby has noticed that her best friend is acting a little strange. She smells, is suddenly cruel and looks very sickly. Could her friend be possessed?

I absolutely LOVED this book. Set in the 1980s, My Best Friend’s Exorcism reads like your typical 80s teen movie with a side of horror thrown in. Even the chapter titles are the names of 80s songs.

This book also isn’t very scary so if you are easily scared maybe check out this horror novel. I will warn you though, it can be pretty gross in parts due to the whole exorcism thing. If you have seen a film with possession in it you will know what I am talking about. It also has sexual moments, animal cruelty and general 80s attitudes to things.

You can read my full review here. 

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang is 10 years old and a vampire. She lives with her parents in monster town (basically diet Halloween Town) and has regular adventures with her friends who are also monsters like her. One day a spoiled prince visits her parents’ house and takes her pet pumpkin, Squashie, from her. Amelia has to come up with a plan to get Squashie back.

It has been a long time since I read a children’s novel but I bought this book around Halloween and it had bright orange pages so it magically ended up in my shopping basket.

This was a pretty cute read. It was very simple and clearly meant for child readers. It wasn’t like other children novels that throw in references or cleverness for adult readers. It was a simple kids’ story about a little vampire and her pumpkin. It even had a pretty decent anti-racism and “don’t judge people who are different” subplot to it. The art work is adorable too because it is fully illustrated.

I might not pick up more Amelia Fang books for myself in the future but if I had kids I would happily give them this to read. Perfect reading for tiny people who are discovering books with chapters.

You can read my full review here 

What was the best book you read this month?

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.

REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Summary:

From GoodReads.com:

“Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?”

Review:

Heathers meets The Exorcist.

I have fallen in love with Grady Hendrix’s writing. Earlier this year I read his other novel, Horrorstor, and thought it was amazing so naturally I had to pick up his second novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Was it as good as Horrorstor? Yes! In fact it was even better.

The book had all of the charm of an 80s teen movie but with the edginess of a horror film thrown in. Even with the horror aspect this book wasn’t scary, it was just simply enjoyable. It was funny when the moment called for it, it was creepy in just the right places, and all of the characters felt so very familiar. I am starting to think that is a trend with Hendrix’s writing, if you don’t relate to the characters you will know someone like them in real life which makes his novels very realistic, even if it is a high school drama involving exorcism.

I think my favourite part of the story was the friendship between the two main characters. You really felt for Abby while she was desperately trying to save her friend. There is no main romance in the story, it simply focuses on friendship and the power of it. That is brilliant.

Also this was my first time seeing an exorcism in a book. I studied exorcisms in school (I went to an odd school) so it was interesting seeing a topic I knew about being played out in a novel. It was done really well and made for very fast paced reading.

This is the perfect novel for anyone who loves teen dramas, 80s movies and just wants a little touch of horror thrown in.

Warnings:

Attempted suicide, drug use, rape references (no act, just discussion), sexual references, animal cruelty, gore and crude moments. For YA Readers and Adults.

Rating:

 

 

         4 out of 5 Skulls

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. You are missing out if you haven’t read this book yet. If you are a fan of films like Heathers or The Breakfast Club this is the book for you.

If you have read My Best Friend’s Exorcism let me know what you thought of it or link me to your own review. I would love to read it. Or, if you haven’t read it, tell me your favourite song from the 80s. I want music suggestions. This book has put me in the mood for some 80s music.

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.

5 Reasons Why I Love Horror Novels

This post was inspired by a comment from Beware of the Reader   on my 5 Reasons Why I Blog post last week. She isn’t a fan of horror but was interested in why I found it, not only enjoyable, but enjoyable enough to spend my time reading and reviewing horror novels. Yes, I also review thriller and generally dark novels but horror seems to be the marmite of book genres and the one I get asked about the most. People either love it or hate it, but I don’t think it is possible to hate an entire genre, there is always something for everyone.

So let me try to convince you by explaining why I love the horror genre.

1. Human Monsters

In my experience the best horror novels do not have an entirely supernatural villain. A human villain or a villain with human motives makes the novel relateable. It makes it scary. Human villains are the worst because they could actually exist, or in the case of many “based on a true story” novels like The Girl Next Door, they did actually exist. Ghosts, ghouls and all things creepy are brilliant but there is nothing scarier than a human monster.

2. The Atmosphere

Have you ever spent a cold, dark night with a storm rattling around outside reading a creepy book? No? Then you are missing out. I think as a reader you haven’t truly lived until you have read Frankenstein, Dracula, Poe or some other classic horror novel during a thunderstorm. It is even better if you do it by candle light.

So next time the weather is awful gather your blankets, pick up a classic horror novel, get a cup of tea, curl up and get reading. Also open the window a little so you can hear the storm better. It is one of the best reading experiences.

3. Something For Everyone

People tend to think of horror as a one track pony but that isn’t true at all.

Don’t like ghosts and supernatural things? Ok, find a horror novel based around regular people. Not comfortable with gore? Fine! Research your novel a bit to see if you can handle it or read a psychological horror. Easily scared? Easy! Read a YA horror or find a book about something that doesn’t scare you.

There are so many different ways to frighten someone so naturally the horror genre has a large variety of fears to choose from. I think a perfect example of this is the short story collection Dark Water. The entire collection is based around the theme of water and covers every possible fear with just water being featured somewhere in the story.

I plan to write guide someday to help people find the right horror novel with recommendations of course.

4. The Backstories

My favourite part of anything horror related is the backstory. What made all of the events happen? What horrible thing is the driving source behind the characters and the story? The explanation is always my favourite. There is usually a brilliant flashback or a plot twist thrown in. I love it and it keeps me hooked.

Also what I don’t understand is that I have seen so many people write “why I love YA/Fantasy/dystopian” lists and have a point on their list about loving the dark moments, and then on another post saying they hate horror. Clearly you don’t hate horror. You are just turning down an entire genre of that thing you just said you love. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book.

5. Morbid Curiosity

Have you ever read a story in the news that is tragic and terrible but find yourself wondering what exactly happened? Sure you will get the jist of it in the news but you just want the gory details. This is what drew me to the world of horror in the first place.

My introduction to the horror genre was when I watched the 1931 Frankenstein film as a small child. My grandfather made horror film props so the only thing to watch in his house was Hammer and Universal horror films. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but there is a scene in Frankenstein were the monster meets a little girl and they spend time throwing flowers into water and watching them float. They run out of flowers and the monster picks up the little girl and throws her into the water to see if she would float like the flowers. She drowns. This scene filled 5 year old me with so much curiosity, so much so that it stuck in my head forever. I learned two things: A little girl like me can die (something which had never occurred to me before) and the monster that did it wouldn’t understand what it did. The monster was innocent. I loved it so much that the following Halloween I dressed up as the Bride of Frankenstein.

I think when it comes to scary stories, especially those with characters similar to ourselves, we can relate so much we end up hooked. It makes us address our own mortality or our own humanity if we relate to the villain.

So these are my reasons for loving the horror genre. Tell me your favourite genre below or, if you are a fan of horror, tell me why you love it. Or heck, tell why you don’t like horror novels. I would love to read your reasons.

REVIEW: Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti (DON’T CALL HER BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents’ annual Barbaric Ball.

And when the King’s spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they begin to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . . 

Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won’t bite!”

Review:

Simple, inoffensive and charming. The Amelia Fang series is set around the adventures of a little girl vampire, her family and her friends, all of which are monsters of course.

This is very much a book for children. It is very similar to the Goth Girl series which I have mentioned on this blog several times before. I love Goth Girl so when I saw a very similar series based around the adventures of a little vampire and her pet pumpkin I had to pick it up. It has been a while since I reviewed a children’s book. Unlike Goth Girl though this is a book aimed solely at children. It doesn’t have any hidden references or cleverness for older readers to enjoy like some other kids’ books do.

Saying that though, I still had a lot of fun reading this. It could be a little stereotypical but it was sweet. It had messages that I would like children to hear, like how even bullies have their own issues and it even had a decent anti racism message. The illustrations were adorable, especially the design of the child grim reaper. He was so cute. I think if I had a kid who was wanting to branch out into novel sized books I would happily hand them this.

This book is just a cute read for children with nothing scary in it, just a simple, sweet story that just happens to be told using monsters. Perfect for any kid who loves Monster High or anything spooky.

Warnings:

None

Rating:

 

 

2 out of 5 Skulls

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. It might be perfect for kids but I wouldn’t make it a regular part of my grown up reading. I have read more enthralling kids novels than this.

5 Short Stories You Need to Read Tonight

So it is a dark deary night in November and you want something to read that fits the atmosphere of the night, you have already read Poe so many times that you can reenact The Pit and the Pendulum with Barbie dolls, but it’s ok, I have you covered.

Here is my, Poe Free, list of 5 dark and atmospheric short stories for you to curl up with this winter.

I have tried to stick to older stories for this list so you can find them online free and easily.

The Dancing Partner by Jerome K Jerome

If you like steampunk this is the story for you. An inventor decides to create the perfect dancing partner for his female friends, and it doesn’t go very well.

This is always held up as a perfect example of less-is-more horror. This story doesn’t have a pleasant ending but leaves your mind fill in the nasty parts. It is brilliantly written and I always love Victorian stories about robotics and automations.

Stanley Fleming’s Hallucination by Ambrose Bierce

Stanley Fleming sees a giant dog sitting at the end of his bed every night so he visits his doctor about the hallucination who agrees to spend the night in his house. I cant say any more about spoiling the story.

I love Ambrose Bierce’s short horror stories. They don’t get enough love in my opinion. I first read this story well over ten years ago and the entire plot has stuck in my head ever since. It ends on a mystery and leaves the reader questioning so many things. What those things are I cant say, just read the story.

The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker

A scholar rents a house that once belonged to a judge with an evil reputation. He soon finds himself tormented by rats and other horrors.

Bram Stoker has always had a way with horror. If you have already read Dracula you need to pick up this short story. It has the creep factor for a modern haunted house film, but with the pacing and bluntness of a short story. A perfect quick and creepy read, with a great ending.

One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce

A man wakes up to find that he has been buried alive, and believe it or not that isn’t the end of the story.

I am not sorry for putting two Bierce stories on the same list. This story is more of a dark comedy than a horror. Yeah you read that right, a dark comedy about being buried alive. It plays with irony and is full of that twisted Victorian dark sense of humour.

All Bierce stories are available to read online so this one will be easy to find.

Lost Hearts by M.R James

An orphan boy is sent to live with his older cousin in an isolated mansion. Soon he starts having visions of dead children.

This is a story that fits the Crimson Peak trope of being “a story with a ghost in it, not a ghost story”. I LOVED this story when I read it last week. It has some unexpected twists in it and even has elements that I wasn’t expecting from a Victorian ghost story. Give it a read and maybe check out a few other M.R James stories while you are at it.

 

Dark Reads of the Month: October

I am sorry for missing my September’s monthly reads but I have been so busy I have had little time for reading, which is why my readathon failed spectacularly. Most of my October was spent reading stereotypical haunting stories very slowly so I could enjoy them. I plan on reading tons this month so maybe I will suggest more than my usual 3 books at the end of November.

So, on to the books!

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Strange things have started happening around a furniture store so a small group of staff decide to spend the night and investigate. Is someone breaking into the store at night or could it be something paranormal?

A typical ghost story set in an Ikea, it’s surprising but it works. I expected this book to be a total parody but it was actually a pretty decent horror story. Don’t get me wrong, it is a parody because that is what Grady Hendrix writes but his parodies are more focused on intentionally using tropes and placing them in an unusual environment, like an Ikea.

If you want a decent basic horror story in an environment most of us will recognise I would recommend checking this out. Also the physical copy of this novel is designed to look like an Ikea catalog which is pretty damn cool.

Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

A family moves into a new house with a violent history and find themselves tormented by ghosts. I am just giving a quick summary for this story because I think everyone knows it by now.

The original modern “Based on a true story” haunting story. This book has been the subject of law suits and controversy over its claim of being based on true events, but even if it is made up it is still a good story. I think the only issue I had with this book is that I was too familiar with it. The story itself has been the subject of films and had created many of the tropes we see in haunting films today, so it doesn’t feel overly new. I think you should always read the origin of the tropes we love, which is why you should give this a read.

Black Cats and Evil Eyes by Chloe Rhodes

I rarely suggest non fiction books but this book was so interesting and straight to the point I thought I would give it a mention.

This is a book with quick summaries about the origins of different superstitions. Most of them are common western beliefs. It made for interesting reading and I got through it in one night. Lots of cool and sometimes dark facts.

I recently adopted a black cat. And even though they are lucky in my culture  I bought this book to learn more about the other beliefs about them. Also…there is pretty cat on the cover.