Recap #67 – The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney

cheerleader

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 #65 – Zodiac Chillers #4: Twisted Taurus by Ellen Steiber

twistedtaurus

Title: Twisted Taurus

Series: Zodiac Chillers

Author: Ellen Steiber

Published: Oct. 1995

Tagline: She gets what she wants – always!

Description: Micaela wants Darci – and her brother . . .

Darci is the new girl. Dying to get a new life. Fast. Enter Micaela, the ultimate Taurus. So loyal, so devoted – her friendship grows into a poisonous obsession. Darci’s dates are ruined. Her brother is seduced. For Micaela was out to possess him from the very start . . . .

Nostalgia Time!


Okay, nope, I was not aware of this series when it was first published. I was clearly aware of the Jahnna N. Malcolm Zodiac series, because I owned the Leo entry, but I’ve never read any from the Zodiac Chillers series. This series only lasted eight books, and one of them is titled “The Thirteenth Sign,” so that means there are only seven books related to the commonly-known zodiac signs. Also, they’re all out of order, and weren’t published anywhere near their corresponding sign. This one, Taurus (April 21 – May 21), was published in October, for fuck sake. That should be either Libra or Scorpio.

I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

Anyway, this one seems to be the easiest to get hold of – it’s the one I’ve heard podcasters talk about, and it’s the only one I’ve seen in any of my local used bookstores. A few of them are available online for more than I’m currently willing to pay (meaning over $20 – not too outlandish, but still more than I’m willing to pay for books that I’m not attached to that retailed for $3.99 originally), and a few are available for more reasonable prices. Still others are out of stock and unavailable every time I check.

So. Let’s see what we’re getting ourselves into, shall we?

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

girltalk2

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 #61 – Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

frightnightpart2

Title: Fright Night Part 2

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Released: May 19, 1989 (US)

Description: Three years after the vampire was destroyed in Fright Night, his sister – in the guise of a mysterious performer – seeks revenge on the heroic duo who carried out the staking.

 

 

Nostalgia Time!


First of all, that description up there doesn’t do this movie the justice it deserves, but it was the best one I could find online. This is a pretty solid horror movie sequel that nobody seems to know about, and I’ll hit some of the reasons for that at the end of this recap.

While I don’t have the same attachment to this one as I do the original Fright Night, I’ve seen it a few times and really enjoy it. In this one, they flip it from Charley screeching about vampires and having no chill, to Peter Vincent being convinced there are vampires and Charley no longer believing. There are some new elements added to the mix, while still keeping the Fright Night vibe going. I can’t say I love this one as much as the original, but it’s still a lot of fun.

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Recap #60 – April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

aprilfools

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 #59 – Identity Theft by Anna Davies

identitytheft

Title: Identity Theft

Author: Anna Davies

Published: May 2013

Tagline: ☠ HAYLEY has a friend request she can’t ignore

Description: Privacy settings can’t hide the skeletons in your closet.

Hayley doesn’t have a Facebook account. As a finalist for a prestigious college scholarship, she can’t afford to flood the Internet with photos of her making duck faces, or write probing, existential updates like “OMG, why is oatmeal so delicious?!” So when someone claiming to be Hayley posts incriminating shots of her online, she assumes it’s the product of clever (but seriously mean-spirited) photo editing.

But then even more scandalous pics appear, including one revealing a birthmark on Hayley’s back – something she’s never shown in public. There’s no plausible explanation, until a shocking discovery reveals dark secrets in her family’s past – skeletons that refuse to stay in the closet.

Suddenly, Hayley realizes it’s not just the scholarship that’s at stake, because her tormentor doesn’t just want to ruin Hayley’s life . . . she wants it for her own.

Nostalgia Time!


Okay, look. This is the second book in the Point Horror 2013 relaunch. I was in my 30s when this was published. There is no nostalgia at work here. So let’s talk about that description. The tagline has nothing to do with the story – Hayley doesn’t receive any friend requests, because she isn’t on social media. There’s no birthmark ever mentioned anywhere in the book. Also, if anyone has ever posted the status “OMG why is oatmeal so delicious?!” please direct me to them so I can dump the bowl of said oatmeal over their head, because that status is obnoxious as fuck. Also also, privacy settings absolutely can hide the skeletons in your closet – that’s what privacy settings are for.

At least this back-of-book description doesn’t give the whole story, twist and all, away like the description for the Kindle edition does.

So, you may be able to tell from my tone that I did not enjoy this book. Not to give all my thoughts away up front, but this is bad. Really, really bad. I mean, at first I was going along all right, rolling my eyes and groaning about how willfully unlikable the protagonist is, but nothing Earth-shatteringly terrible. Then we hit the third act, and my brain melts into a fiery hellscape. So, you’ve got that to look forward to, dear reader.

Because that’s what you really come here for, isn’t it. 🙂

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Recap #57 – The Stepdaughter by Carol Ellis

stepdaughter

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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Movie cover for Bride of Chucky (1998)

Bride of Chucky (1998) (Recap #56)

Movie cover for Bride of Chucky (1998)
Bride of Chucky (1998)

Title: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Tagline: Chucky gets lucky!

Summary: Chucky hooks up with another murderous doll, the bridal gown-clad Tiffany, for a Route 66 murder spree with their unwitting hosts, two eloping high-school graduates.

Grade: B-

Initial Thoughts

I actually loved this when it came out. I jumped so hard on the bandwagon of horror movies being witty as well as creepy. The Scream trend was something I appreciated. Of course, witty is subjective, and more often than not it ended up being a lot of irritating people saying a lot of dumb shit that the writers thought was funny, but for me Bride worked. [JC: I had the Fangoria issue with this movie on the cover. I was hyped for this movie . . . and then didn’t end up seeing it until it came to video. For some reason. Anyway, I absolutely loved it when I finally did end up seeing it. And since my thing seems to be providing the critic scores (except I think I forgot to add them into either Child’s Play 2 or 3, oops), this movie has a 5.4/10 on IMDb, and 46% on Rotten Tomatoes. Which seems criminally low, btw.]

And I’ve adored Jennifer Tilly since the first time I saw Bound. And, this has fuck all to do with the recap, I think she seems like a cool person. Like, if you bumped into her somewhere, she’d be nice to talk to. Please don’t disabuse me of this notion if that’s not true. (Please do if she’s done something so awful I need to reconsider my stance because I will miss stuff. The only celeb I follow with any enthusiasm is Trey Parker.) [JC: As far as I can tell, she’s an absolutely adorable human being.] [Dove: Oh, thank goodness. Raven has a few friends who play poker professionally, and I keep hoping that they level up enough to meet her so they can tell me how awesome she is. So far no luck.]

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

svk4

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 #54 – Whispers from the Dead by Joan Lowery Nixon

whispersfromthedead

Title: Whispers from the Dead

Author: Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: 1989

Tagline: Who is trying to reach Sarah? And why?

Description: Only Sarah senses the horror.

The minute she steps through the doorway of her family’s new home, Sarah feels a smothering cold mist, and hears the echo of a scream and a heartbreaking whisper in Spanish, “Help me!”

Sarah feels compelled to find out who is trying to reach her. But can she uncover the mysteries of the past before terror strikes again?

Nostalgia Time!


I remember reading this when I was ten years old. I was reading a ton of Joan Lowery Nixon around that time, I think because the school library had a ton of her books. This was one of my favorites, and whatever Spanish I knew as a ten-year-old was because of this book. I think I figured out the mystery pretty quick as a kid, but reading this as an adult, it was infuriatingly obvious, and I spent a good portion of time screaming at the main character about how stupid she was being. I still enjoyed it (hell, I gave it four stars on Goodreads when I was done facepalming), but make no mistake – Sarah should have died from stupidity a hundred different times. Also, JLN clearly knew she was writing for babies, and it shows. She doesn’t miss any opportunity to over-explain simple concepts.

Having said that, I actually have nostalgia about her books, so I’m probably going to be biased about how good I think this is.

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