Slappy’s Tales of Horror (Goosebumps Graphix) by R.L. Stine

Four Goosebumps Graphix tales by master of horror R. L. Stine are adapted into full-color comics and feature a brand-new Slappy story by bestselling author, Dave Roman.

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I’ve always been a huge fan of the Goosebumps book and TV series, so I was super excited to receive this advanced reading copy from Scholastic.

The well-known ventriloquist dummy Slappy introduces the four stories and returns in between them to taunt the reader. They illustrators vary in their style, so it was an interesting approach to mesh them together in one book. The stories also range in ‘scariness’. I found the third story “Ghost Beach” was the most terrifying; specifically the ghost/skeleton image of the three cousins on page 120. I think fans of scary reads and R.L. Stine will eat up this graphic novel; especially as the release date of the Goosebumps film draws near. Pick up this quick, middle grade read on August 25, 2015.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

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This mysterious middle grade tale was such a treat inside and out! I loved the visually appealing cover, chapter title decorations and black outer pages. They hinted at the dark, spooky, Victorian ghost story that lurked between the pages.

Divided into three parts Arrivals, Pursuits, and Departures, the story surrounds two orphans that find themselves deep in the middle of a forest, in a strange house with a mysterious tree and night guest. It is a magical, yet creepy tale that reminded me of The Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman. Indeed, in the Author’s Note, Auxier acknowledges many influences in his writing.

The atmospheric story also has underlying themes of greed, honesty, loyalty and family. There are consequences and lessons to be learned. The power of storytelling is also explored through the travelling old woman- Hester Kettle. It is Hester that first tells Kip and Molly about the legend of “The Night Gardener”.

This excellent standalone is chalk full of intriguing characters and exciting suspense. However, be warned that there are some darker scenes (including death) and may not be suitable for younger readers.

The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki

Does an abandoned asylum hold the key to a frightful haunting?

Everyone’s heard the stories about Graylock Hall.

It was meant to be a place of healing – a hospital where children and teenagers with mental disorders would be cared for and perhaps even cured. But something went wrong. Several young patients died under mysterious circumstances. Eventually, the hospital was shut down, the building abandoned and left to rot deep in the woods.

As the new kid in town, Neil Cady wants to see Graylock for himself. Especially since rumor has it that the building is haunted. He’s got fresh batteries in his flashlight, a camera to document the adventure, and a new best friend watching his back.

Neil might think he’s prepared for what he’ll find in the dark and decrepit asylum. But he’s certainly not prepared for what follows him home. . . .

 

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The Ghost of Graylock
is a must read for young horror fans that have graduated from books like R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and looking for a more frightening read. But beware! Detailed descriptions of abandoned asylums, ghosts, and a shocking murder could potentially be nightmare inducing, especially for a middle schooler.  The plot surrounds the legend of Graylock Hall and the result of four kids breaking into the abandoned asylum.  I still have visions of Eric and Wesley hiding in the closet and Rebecca’s (the ghost) shadowy figure peeking in…terrifying!  However, I liked the ‘bread crumb’ aspect of Rebecca’s clues and how she helped Neil and Bree ultimately solve the mystery of her own tragic death.  Overall, short chapters (64 to be exact) and a fast paced story will take even the most reluctant readers on a thrilling adventure, filled with twists and turns!  You may just want to sleep with a nightlight…

Other recently reviewed MG spooky titles:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story…

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

                      

Published August 30th 2011

I am absolutely scared of ghosts, so I should have known not to read this book late at night before drifting off to sleep.  I woke up several nights with nightmares of Anna’s bloody dress dripping on the floor. Terrifying.  I also wasn’t prepared for the vividly gruesome scenes to commence early in the book. Here is a sample:

“…I strike, drawing the blade across the throat, opening a yawning black line. The hitchhiker’s fingers come up to his neck. They try to press the skin back together, but something as dark and thick as oil floods out of the wound and covers him, bleeding not only down over his vintage-era jacket but also up over his face and eyes, into his hair. The hitchhiker doesn’t scream as he shrivels, but maybe he can’t: his throat was cut and the black fluid has worked its way into his mouth (pg.13).”

The Good:

-As a Canadian, I loved that it was based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In Blake’s acknowledgements we learn that she actually stayed in Thunder Bay and clearly her research shows in the writing. I have many friends from Thunder Bay and from what they’ve told me, the description of the city sounds very accurate.  Apparently, even the restaurants and waterfalls described in the book actually exist!

-Quick read—chalk full of: black/white witches, Voodoo, ghost hunting and murder!  Great for reluctant readers!

-Vivid imagery (especially when describing Anna and the dress she was murdered in).

-The complexity of Anna’s character. One minute I saw her as a ruthless killer and the next as an innocent girl. I loved the way the story of her past was presented and I enjoyed trying to figure her out. Anna is a force to be reckoned with and always kept the reader guessing.

-Scary. Since it is categorized in the ‘horror’ genre, I felt it did a great job at inducing feelings of terror in the reader. It was both scary and entertaining and I just could not put it down! Maybe I’m just a sissy, but I was legit scared reading this book before bed.  I also loved how the text was printed in a strange red colour that gave off the appearance of dried blood.

 

The Bad

-Weird paranormal romance. I didn’t understand the love element between Cas and Anna. The romance was minor, and I only knew they were ‘in love’ because readers were told so. It’s a strange tragic paranormal love, and I really wish Blake omitted this addition.

-There is no way that teens could possibly have so little empathy for their murdered friends. If you witnessed a brutal murder of your friend or were the first to come across their murdered bodies I would expect that you would be devastatingly traumatized. However, these teens spent more time discussing their alibis than their murdered classmates and friends.

 

Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is an original, gory, heartbreaking story. Indeed, the book has been recognized as one of Kirkus’ Best Teen Books of the Year (2011) and an ALA 2012 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers.  The sequel, Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2) will be published in August 2012 and I’m definitely looking forward to that one!

*Warning-Since the book is told from Cas’ teenage perspective, there are quite a bit of f-bombs!

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