Banned Book Week Recap – Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan (Recap #30)

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Title: Killing Mr. Griffin

Author: Lois Duncan

Published: 1978 (My copy is the 1990 printing, meaning it’s still the original version of the text rather than the “updated” editions LoDunc herself “modernized.” Thank God.)

Description: The plan was only to scare their English teacher . . . . They never actually intended to kill Mr. Griffin. But sometimes plans go wrong.

Nostalgia Time!


So, for Banned Book Week (Sept. 23-29), I decided to recap a book that’s been challenged and banned from some schools and libraries. Believe it or not, Killing Mr. Griffin was #25 on the most challenged book list from 2000-2009. It was banned from a few California schools in the 1980s, and challenged in plenty more. Seems ridiculous, but most of the books on that list are. Supposedly, Killing Mr. Griffin contains “violence, murder, drinking, drugs, lying to authority, peer pressure, and smoking.” They forgot “foul language,” but Sinnott Elementary School in Milpitas, California didn’t in 1988 when they challenged it – they also added that it has “no redeeming qualities.” Hey, come on, guys. Determinations like that should be left to recappers on the internet, not school districts! Geez!

I remember reading a virtual shit ton of Lois Duncan when I was a kid – I checked a bunch of them out of the school library, oddly enough! Never this one, though, and maybe the whole “challenged/banned book” thing is why. I didn’t read this one until I was an older teenager, when I got it from the city library. A movie version was made for television in 1997, but I’m pretty sure I was unaware of it until a few years later. I honestly don’t remember the movie very well, although I’m about 90% sure I’ve seen it. I know I watched Teaching Mrs. Tingle at some point after reading this book because it looked like it was a rip-off of this story and I wondered if it was like an official gender-swapped version or something. Listen, the movies have not been kind to Ms. Duncan’s work. I Know What You Did Last Summer barely resembles the book it’s supposedly based on, and a TV movie of Gallows Hill that was retitled I’ve Been Waiting For You was frankly disappointing and forgettable. I mean, do you remember it at all? I was so excited for it because the book had come out only the year before, and I really liked it, and then . . . meh.

Anyway, I don’t remember Killing Mr. Griffin all that well, but I know I liked it. I’m sure there are tons of dated references, and a sociopath manipulating everyone into doing what he wants, and a sad-sack main girl who will go along with a lot of bullshit because of a boy she likes . . . hey, so I listened to the Teen Creeps podcast episode and it jogged my memory on some stuff, okay? At any rate, I’m looking forward to rereading and recapping this one for y’all, and also trying to parse why it’s a banned book.

Continue reading “Banned Book Week Recap – Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan (Recap #30)”

Recap #6 – Spring Break – Nick Baron

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Title: Spring Break

By: Nick Baron

Published: 1994

Description: April Mannerly and her friends wanted a spring vacation they’d never forget. And Florida’s historic Isley Inn seemed the perfect place to soak up some rays and do some serious partying. Even cooler, the bed-and-breakfast was rumored to be haunted.

But it’s more than a rumor. The first night there, somebody dies, and April is forced to become party to a secret burial. But at the Isley, bodies don’t stay buried for long. Trapped by a storm, April and her friends face a terrifying nightmare as, one by one, they fall victim to the vengeful spirits of the damned. For the unlucky kids in room 3B, there will be a charge for doom service – their lives . . .

Nostalgia Time!


Doom service? Doom service?! Did the Cryptkeeper write that description? I . . . I haven’t even started this recap and I might be done with it already.

Actually, I remember liking this one a lot and being genuinely scared by it. It was truly a horror novel, with real ghosts/demons/evil spirits, and I know I read it multiple times. (Of course, I was 13 when it was published, so make of that what you will.) And just look at that sandcastle skull on the cover! It’s a total lie, but isn’t it cool? And there’s a character in it somewhere who’s a horror writer, how meta! And lots of scary death scenes!

I might be fooling myself here about how good this book was. It has terrible reviews on Goodreads. (Future Me: . . . yeah . . . I am truly and thoroughly disillusioned with this book. If you need me, I’ll be in the corner drinking and crying.)

Continue reading “Recap #6 – Spring Break – Nick Baron”

Recap #5 – Pet Sematary 2 (1992)

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Title: Pet Sematary 2

Directed by: Mary Lambert

Released: 1992

Tagline: Raise some Hell

Description (from back of box)Sometimes dead is better. But the shocking terror that plagued Ludlow, Maine in Pet Sematary is still very much alive in this heartstopping sequel to the 1989 hit film written by Stephen King.

After the death of his wife, veterinarian Chase Matthews (Anthony Edwards) and his 13-year-old son Jeff (Edward Furlong) move to Ludlow to rebuild their lives. Antagonized by the neighborhood kids, Jeff befriends another outsider, Drew Gilbert, who lives in fear of his cruel stepfather Gus (Clancy Brown). After Gus cold-bloodedly shoots Drew’s beloved dog, the boys bury the body in the local Indian burial grounds – a place rumored to have powers of resurrection. When evil is awakened, the boys realize that sometimes you should just let sleeping dogs lie.

Nostalgia Time!


This is one of my favorite bad movies, so I’ve seen it an embarrassing number of times at this point, although it’s been several years since my last viewing and I’ve never examined it as critically as I’m going to have to for this recap. Even loving it as much as I do, there is so much gristle for the snark mill. Or . . . snark for the gristle mill? Erm . . . yeah. Something like that. Oh, also? Sheriff Gus. That is all.

Continue reading “Recap #5 – Pet Sematary 2 (1992)”

Recap #4 – Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House – R.L. Stine

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Title: Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: 1992

Description: Look alive! Amanda and Josh think the old house they have just moved into is weird. Spooky. Possibly haunted. And the town of Dark Falls is pretty strange, too.

But their parents don’t believe them. You’ll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends.

So Amanda and Josh do. But these new friends are not exactly what their parents had in mind.

Because they want to be friends . . . forever.

Tagline: It will just kill you.

Note: Hey, guys! For even more opinions about Goosebumps, go check out the Nightmare on Fear Street podcast where Zack, Meg, and Ember talk about this book. They’re a ton of fun to listen to, and well worth your time!

Note Part 2: Since this is more of a kids’ book than my previous recaps, I’m going to try to keep the swearing to a minimum. (No F-bombs, at least.) I’m an easily frustrated, very sweary type of person, though, so we’ll see how this goes.

Nostalgia Time!


I started reading Goosebumps when I was already a bit over the target demographic – probably around 15 or so. I used to spend the night at my three-years-younger-than-me cousin’s house and read her Goosebumps books in the morning when everyone was still asleep and I had nothing else to do. I found this one in a box of my old books (along with a couple others that I do remember reading), so I assume I’ve read it, but I just don’t remember anything about it. At all. Even listening to the lovelies at A Nightmare on Fear Street podcast talk about it didn’t jog my memory much (at all, really?), so this is going to be an interesting one. I’m going in blind, guys!

Continue reading “Recap #4 – Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House – R.L. Stine”

Recap #3 – Music From the Dead – Bebe Faas Rice

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Title: Music From the Dead

Author: Bebe Faas Rice

Published: 1997

Description: When Marnie’s father decided to rent an old summer house on the rocky coast of Maine, Marnie never imagined he’d choose Stoneycraig – a creepy-looking mansion miles from town. Her dad isn’t scheduled to arrive for a week, but there’s a housekeeper . . . who refuses to spend the night.

Marnie and her cousin Peter figure they can handle a week alone. But maybe not. Weird things begin to happen in the dead of night; they hear the chilling echoes of a woman crying and ghostly music drifting in from the piano room. Then Marnie learns of Stoneycraig’s tragic past sixteen years ago, involving a woman’s broken heart and horrifying death. Wanting to know more, Marnie and Peter move ever closer to the shattering truth, only to find a shocking secret that could kill them both.

Tagline: Marnie never believed in ghosts – until now.

Nostalgia Time!


I don’t remember this one very well, partly because in my mind it’s all mixed up with Rice’s The Listeners and Ritchie Tankersley Cusick’s Trick or Treat – all books I remember liking. I love a spooky ghost story, but I can’t remember if this one went full-on supernatural or not. (Future Me: Ghosts! We get for realsies ghosts! Ghooooooosts!) Either way, I’m really excited to reread this! A spooky isolated house with a possible haunting is right up my alley.

Continue reading “Recap #3 – Music From the Dead – Bebe Faas Rice”

Recap #2 – The Mangler (1995)

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Title: The Mangler

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Released: 1995

Description (from Netflix because I found it absolutely fucking hilarious): Machines aren’t made to rise up against humans, but in this sci-fi thriller, one does. But why? Police detective John Hunton (Ted Levine) is on the case, as he begins to unravel the strange mystery of a folding machine that seems to yearn not for clothing but for flesh. What’s behind this lust for blood, and just who is responsible for turning it into a mangling creature? The answer may lie with the gadget’s owner, Bill Gartley (Robert Englund).

Tagline: There is a fate worse than death.

Note: For another perspective on this movie, I’ve provided a link to Sean and Joe at The Horror Show podcast, episode three of their Tobe Hooper series. I don’t share their weird hate-on for Ted Levine (hell, I like the guy), but they’re funny as fuck. Check ’em out!

Nostalgia Time!


Wow, that description, though. “But why?” is what I was asking throughout this entire movie. Also, the fate worse than death mentioned in the tagline? Pretty sure it’s referring to watching this movie. So, The Mangler came out in 1995, and I’m pretty sure I saw it when it was fairly new on VHS (kids, ask your parents), so I was maybe 15 or 16? I remember renting it when I was at the height of my Robert Englund/Freddy Krueger kick, so maybe more like 16 or 17. Whatever. Moving on. I don’t remember hating it back then. I didn’t remember much about it at all, really, except that I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it . . . and I always thought it was going to be a bit ridiculous, because if you’ve read the original Stephen King story, you have to know it’s not going to translate well to the screen. It’s just not. I mean, it’s a possessed laundry machine that at the end of the story comes to life and becomes mobile, ripping itself off its moorings and killing people (spoilers?), so of course that was never going to play well on screen! So I never really had nostalgia glasses on with this one, since upon rewatching it I realized I barely remembered anything about it from my first viewing. Now I’m pretty sure that was my brain trying to protect me by blocking it out so that I didn’t have to spend the rest of my days obsessing over how magnificently awful it was. Like I’ve been doing ever since I rewatched it, after I asked myself, “It couldn’t have been that bad, could it?”

Spoiler alert: yes. Yes, it could. Continue reading “Recap #2 – The Mangler (1995)”