Recap #78 – Graveyard School #27: Here Comes Santa Claws by Tom B. Stone


Title: Here Comes Santa Claws

Series: Graveyard School

Author: Tom B. Stone (aka Nola Thacker/D.E. Athkins)

Published: Nov. 1998

Description: This year, Santa doesn’t care if you’ve been naughty or nice!

If Kyle knows what’s good for him, he’ll block up the chimney and lock all the doors. He’ll close all the windows and turn on all the lights. He won’t go to sleep and enjoy happy dreams. And he won’t hang up his stocking. Because this year . . .

Santa Claws is coming to town.

Nostalgia Time!

So, I’d never read any of the Graveyard School books before, although I was aware of them from my buddy Jude Deluca’s recaps of them over at the Devil’s Elbow site. For Christmas this year, Jude sent me this one, and I knew immediately I was going to recap it.

This might not be the best place to start reading this series, as it’s actually the penultimate book in the series, and since it takes place over Christmas vacation, we don’t get to meet the other kids who go to Graveyard School (Grove Hill School) with Kyle, except for his friend Park Addams. But hey, it’s Christmas, and I think even bottle episodes of Graveyard School are lots of fun!

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Recap #76 – The Haunted Mask (Goosebumps #11) by R.L. Stine


Title: The Haunted Mask

Series: Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: Sept. 1993

Tagline: If looks could kill . . .

Description: 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 . . . .

Nostalgia Time!

This is one of the Goosebumps books I still owned from my original Basement Box o’ Books from my child/teenagehood. This is one of the few that I remember pretty vividly. While Carly Beth is kind of annoying in how gullible and easily frightened she is, the book is pretty solid. Stine always does better writing for a younger crowd. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I think Goosebumps is superior to Fear Street. Who woulda thought.

So, this is pretty much a perfect book for Halloween time. Just, uh, be careful where you buy your Halloween masks, guys. *winks*

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Recap #75 – Virgo: Desperately Yours by Jahnna N. Malcolm


Title: Virgo: Desperately Yours

Series: Zodiac

Author: Jahnna N. Malcolm (aka Jahnna Beecham n’ Malcolm Hillgartner)

Published: August 1995

Tagline: Someone at Fairview High will do anything for attention

Description: A killer deadline.

Even though Virginia Wells doesn’t believe in horoscopes, she does seem to fit the Virgo profile of being neat, precise, and too critical. At least that’s what her staff tells her. But as editor of the Fairview High newspaper, it’s her job to keep everything running smoothly; a job that’s been close to impossible lately.

First there was reporter Kim Keller’s mysterious disappearance, then the major sabotage of the newsroom, including a sliced-up photo splattered with blood. But most eerie of all are the letters coming to the paper’s advice column: bitter and threatening messages that convince Virginia the sender had something to do with what happened to Kim . . . and wants Virginia to join her.

Nostalgia Time!

Um, yeah. I got nothing. I’m pretty sure the Leo book was the only book I’ve read in this particular Zodiac series, but it’s certainly possible I’ll pick one of these up one day, and much like the Leo book in the Zodiac Chillers series, suddenly remember it fifty pages from the end.

This is not that book. This book is so forgettable, I was forgetting it as I was reading it. I got to the reveal of the killer, and was like, ” . . . who? Oh . . . right, them.” I fell asleep twice while I was reading it. (To be fair, I do tend to fall asleep reading a lot, especially when I’m getting off work at like 3:30 in the morning after almost ten hours at work, but . . . I’m still blaming the book. So there.)

Anyway, yeah. This book is boring AF. I kept waiting for something to happen for the first three quarters of the thing, and finally there was some action, but after roughly 150 pages of absolutely nothing, it felt absurdly tacked on.

You know, it’s really unfair that this sub-par Zodiac series got a full run of 12 books, while the far superior Zodiac Chillers got, what, 6 books? Not even a full zodiac. Boo.

[Note from the future: I started this recap in early September, planning on having it published before the end of the Virgo cycle – Sept. 22. As you can see, that didn’t happen. I recapped the first three pages of the book, then things started getting a little funky, both in a world sense and personally – drama with my mother and her new apartment (and her emotional manipulation and guilt trips); the cat died; we’re dealing with an ongoing flea . . . well, not infestation exactly, but like one step down from an infestation; dealing with terrible people online coming at me; and now I’ve managed to mess up my lower back/hip, probably just by sleeping wrong, IDK, I’ll be forty next year and things are starting to fuck up all over the place. Anyway, I’ve had almost no motivation for recapping, spending my days instead trying to distract myself from existential dread by rewatching Marvel movies. There are some very distracting arms and butts in the MCU. So, here I am finishing this recap after several weeks of sneering at my laptop and ignoring it in favor of Captain America and Thor. (And Loki. Loki 4-Evah.) Hopefully it doesn’t suck. The recap, I mean. The book definitely sucks.]

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Recap #68 – The Accident by Diane Hoh


Title: The Accident

Author: Diane Hoh

Published: April 1991

Tagline: She has returned. From the dead.

Description: All she wanted was one week. Of Megan’s life.

She appears in Megan’s mirror one day, nothing more than a wispy, shadowy plume, glowing with an eerie light. Her voice is faint and hollow, like a distant echo. The voice of a young girl.

Strangest of all is her request.

“I beg you to trade places with me, Megan. For just one week. Let me live again.”

Megan is overcome with fear. Yet she is drawn to the shadow in the mirror, unable to look away. Fascinated by the oddly soothing voice, she listens to a tale of a horrible accident many years before. A tale she would never forget.

Gradually, Megan begins to realize that she has no choice. As terrified as she is, she knows she must make the trade . . . .

Nostalgia Time!

I remember checking this book out of the library and reading it when I was 13/14 and staying with my dad at my grandparents’ house. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the first time I read it, but it’s the first time I specifically remember reading it. I have always loved this book! It hit my ghost-loving and body-swapping sweet-spots, and the idea of a ghost taking over your body while you just float around incorporeally was terrifying to me. Still kinda is, honestly.

I’m not sure if this book is going to hold up some 25 years after the last time I read it, but I really hope so. I’ve had some disappointment lately in this regard (looking at you, The Cheerleader), but Diane Hoh is usually pretty solid.

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Recap #67 – The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney


Title: The Cheerleader (Vampire’s Promise trilogy, Book 1)

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Published: June 1991

Tagline: She would do anything to be popular.

Description: She wants it all. But he wants more.

The cheerleader. The beautiful, popular girl who sparkles with energy and excitement. The girl everyone looks at with envy. The girl Althea longs to be.

Althea is a nobody. Invisible. She gets no phone calls, shares no laughter, has no friends.

Until she meets him.

“Suppose,” he says with an evil smile, “that I could make you popular.” All Althea has to do is agree to a simple bargain. An evil bargain. And she becomes a cheerleader.

But Althea wants more.

And she’ll do whatever she has to do to get it.

Nostalgia Time!

Boy, you wouldn’t think a book called “The Cheerleader” would turn out to be about a vampire, would you? Or, a . . . wishpire? Djinnpire? Vamdjinn? Vajinn? . . . Vagina? . . . I’ll stop now. It’s a goddamn vampire who grants wishes, okay?

This book would have come out around the time I was turning 10, but I’m pretty sure I read the second one in the trilogy first. So I was probably 11 or 12 when I read this series. I used to love this trilogy, and wish for my own wishpire to grant me friends and popularity (and when we get to the second book, add “beauty, brains, and athleticism” to the list). Look, I was a sad kid, okay? Fifth grade was awful, the beginning of sixth was going okay until some girl who hated me started turning my new best friend against me, then we moved from California back to Kansas and I basically just stopped going to school; fell into the throes of debilitating social anxiety and depression . . . it was a dark time in my life, especially from ages 11-14ish. That’s one of the reasons these old books meant so much to me – they were my escape.

As a kid, I read this and wanted some magical being to come fix my life, too. I probably would have done some morally shady shit to be liked, just like the girl in this book. I’ve mostly moved on from that mindset, but that sad, angry tween is still floating around somewhere in the back of my head, popping up every now and then to be angry and sad at me. I remember the wish-fulfillment present in reading this as that kid, but I no longer feel it present in reading this as an adult.

Also, a note on Cooney – her writing style is one of the more challenging ones to get through among the Point Horror authors. Not because it’s an advanced writing style or anything, but because it’s so dreamy-feeling. Some people have described it as “whimsical,” but I describe it as “gauzy.” It’s like reading everything through a warm haze. Like gauzy curtains blowing around you on a hot summer day. This can be either comforting or cloying, depending on your mood, and the particular story. I don’t think this is a thing I noticed as a kid, but as an adult it slaps you in the face. Gauzy curtains whipping around in the hot wind, slapping the living shit out of your grown-ass face.

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Recap #62 – Girl Talk #2: Face-Off! by L.E. Blair


Title: Face-Off!

Series: Girl Talk

Author: L.E. Blair

Published: 1990

Tagline: Can Katie beat Scottie at his own game?

Description: Will Katie make the boys’ ice hockey team?

When conservative Katie Campbell decides to quit the flag squad and try out for the boys’ ice hockey team, everyone is shocked! Katie’s friends, Sabrina, Randy, and Allison, tell her to go for it. But Katie’s mother and her sister, Emily, totally disapprove. Plus, Stacy the Great, head of the in-group, and Scottie Silver, the gorgeous captain of the hockey team, are giving Katie a very hard time.

But there’s no stopping Katie – except for the fact that she kind of has a crush on Scottie . . .

Nostalgia Time!

I never read this one as a kid. I started with the one after this one, where Allison briefly becomes a model. Actually, that’s the only one I remember reading, and the only one I have real nostalgia over.

The first book in the series, Welcome to Junior High, did a good job introducing us to the characters. That book was from Sabrina’s point of view; this one is Katie. It’s a little strange being in Katie’s head after previously only seeing her through Sabrina’s eyes, and vice versa. But that’s how a lot of these series worked.

I found myself not liking this one as much as the first book, even though I like Katie quite a bit. This book has some substantial pacing problems, but there are things to like about it.

Also, as soon as I see the name Scottie, all I can hear is this:


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Recap #60 – April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick


Title: April Fools

Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick

Published: April 1990

Tagline: It’s no joke . . . it’s murder

Description: You can fool some of the people some of the time . . .

On the night of April 1st, Belinda, Frank, and Hildy are driving home from a party when they get involved in a gruesome car accident. The people in the other car never could have survived the wreck, so Frank insists they take off. After all, what happened wasn’t really their fault.

Two weeks later, Belinda is the only one who still feels guilty about the accident. Then the “pranks” begin. Someone sends her a bloody doll’s head. A car nearly runs her off the road.

Obviously someone witnessed . . . or survived that car accident. And they’re going to make her pay . . . slowly . . . for what happened.

April Fools’ Day is over. But these jokes are for real.

Nostalgia Time!

I’ve been a little hesitant to tackle RTC again, since her previous two books didn’t live up to my memory when I recapped them. I remember this one pretty well, helped along by several other recappers writing/podcasting about it. I remember Frank and Hildy being absolute assholes, but Belinda being a pretty good protagonist.

For some reason, I think I always found this book a little boring when I was younger, but I clearly read it multiple times – the spine on my old copy is pretty well-worn. And clearly my memory of Cusick’s books isn’t reliable, considering how much eight-or-nine-year-old me loved The Lifeguard. (I’m still cringing over that.)

Anyway, maybe third time’s the charm?

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Recap #57 – The Stepdaughter by Carol Ellis


Title: The Stepdaughter

Author: Carol Ellis

Published: April 1993

Tagline: Daddy’s little darling . . . is dead.

Description: Having a new father can be murder.

He’s kind and thoughtful. He wants them to be a happy family. He’s her stepfather.

And he may be a murderer.

From the day Livvie meets him, she knows she’s not going to like her new stepfather. But when she tells her mother and her best friend, they both think she’s crazy not to like such a wonderful man.

Then Livvie thinks she sees her stepfather’s picture on TV – wanted by the police for a murder he committed fifteen years before. The murder of his wife . . . and his stepdaughter.

Is Livvie crazy?

. . . Or is her stepfather?

Nostalgia Time!

Hoo, boy, that’s . . . a lot of “crazy”s we’re throwing around, huh? Not thrilled about that.

I remember this book pretty well. I was eleven, almost twelve when it was published, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, this book is basically the movie The Stepfather. Honestly, the book should have been titled The Stepfather, and I’m willing to bet the only reason it’s called The Stepdaughter is so that it wouldn’t be confused with that movie. But it is. It is totally The Stepfather. It also used to be one of my favorite Point Horrors. I’ve read this book multiple times. I don’t think the ableism regarding mental health is actually as bad as the back-of-book description makes it sound, but it has been a very long time since I’ve picked this one up, so I guess we’ll find out! [Note from Future Me: *stares bleakly into the abyss*]

Also, because it is titled The Stepdaughter instead of The Stepfather, I remember when I bought it assuming the stepdaughter was the murderer. (I don’t know if you can read the newspaper headline in the cover art, but it says “Police search for stepdaughter-killer” which my tween brain insisted meant the stepdaughter was the killer.) I was very surprised to discover it was actually about a girl who suspects her stepfather is a killer.

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Recap #55 – Sweet Valley Kids #4: Elizabeth’s Valentine


Title: Sweet Valley Kids #4: Elizabeth’s Valentine

Author: Francine Pascal/Molly Mia Stewart

Published: 1990

Tagline: One of the twins has a new friend!

Description: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield can’t wait until Eva, the new girl in their second-grade class, arrives from Jamaica. When Elizabeth is picked to show Eva around school, the two become friends, and Jessica begins to feel left out. After all, she and Elizabeth are supposed to be best friends.

To get back at her twin, Jessica ignores Elizabeth and pretends to keep secrets from her. She even pretends she has a new best friend. Elizabeth can’t understand why Jessica is being so mean. Everything’s a mess, and it’s up to Eva to help Elizabeth and Jessica become friends again!

Nostalgia Time!

Oh, sure, the one character of color in all of Sweet Valley is the one who’s made to solve these little white girls’ problems. *eyeroll* (This part of the story isn’t actually as egregious as the description makes it sound, but I was ready to go on a rant about how certain people are expected to perform the bulk of emotional labor for everyone around them.)

I read a shit ton of Sweet Valley Twins and SV High starting around age 8 or 9, but I don’t recall ever reading any SV Kids. So again, we have a book I’ve got zero nostalgia for. But I read the first book in this series around a week ago to prove a point to myself about how the twins’ ages and birthday are really messed around from series to series (Sweet Valley continuity is . . . not really a thing), and I decided to recap this one for Valentine’s Day, since it is ostensibly a Valentine’s book. Turns out Valentine’s Day is really just the backdrop and doesn’t really inform the main story at all, but . . . such is the wonderful world of Sweet Valley.

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Recap #53 – Dance of Death by Jo Gibson


Title: Dance of Death

Author: Jo Gibson (AKA Joanne Fluke)

Published: 1996

Tagline: Shoes to die for

Description: They were the most gorgeous shoes Donna Burke had ever seen. An exquisite pair of scarlet high heels. And allegedly cursed. According to the old shopkeeper, the shoes endowed their wearers with incredible talent – and horrible misfortune. But that doesn’t stop Donna’s friends from buying them. One by one, the girls are drawn to the shoes. One by one, the girls suffer grisly fates. And learn a sinister, final truth: One size kills all.

Nostalgia Time!

So, we meet again, Jo Gibson. And here I thought your only teen thrillers were the three holiday-themed ones that I already recapped. How silly of me. For since that time, I have thus discovered four more, resulting in my immediate purchase of your collection entitled Afraid, wherein are contained both this novel, and one called The Dead Girl. Did you think you could hide these tomes from me, my dastardly arch-nemesis? Muah-ha, the hubris!


Apologies, folks. Something about Jo always makes me a little overly dramatic. In all seriousness, I’m not quite sure if I’ve read this book before. It seems vaguely familiar, but that might just be because it’s inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Red Shoes. The Wikipedia page for that story actually has this book listed as an adaptation, which surprised me to no end. I just figured this book wasn’t the sort of thing people remembered and put on Wikipedia.

Anyway, I always tend to have fun snarking on Jo (except for the Surprise!Rape in The Seance; that killed my fun right quick), so I’m looking forward to cringing my way through this one. And since I’ve never read it before (maybe?), I thought I’d go ahead and recap as I read, so you get my more immediate reactions. I have zero predictions; since this isn’t holiday-themed (that I know of), I don’t think we’re using the same story template as Slay Bells.

Deep breath. Here we go.

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