Recap #35 – Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

 

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Title: Trick or Treat

Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick

Published: Oct. 1989

Tagline: Trick or treat, trick or treat, candy is dandy, but murder is sweet

Description: Dressed to kill. Martha knew there was something evil about the house she was moving into. It was so cold . . . and creepy. And it wasn’t just the house that was giving her a weird feeling. Martha was sure someone was following her . . . watching her every move.

Then the practical jokes began – the scarecrow with a carving knife in its head, the fire. And the phone calls: “Trick or treat, Martha . . . you’re dead.”

It was October, but these were no Halloween tricks. Someone would be coming home this year with more than just a bag of treats. And Martha was the prize.

Trick or treat.

Nostalgia Time!


Wow, October 1989? I was eight years old when this book was published. I don’t remember the first time I read it, but it had to have been when I was around 11 or 12. My copy is old and stained all to hell with soda that leaked out of take-out cups. I used to take shit care of my stuff when I was around that age.

So, let’s start with that description real quick. Are they really saying that a fire is a practical joke? A fire?! Yeah, that’s not a joke, wtf. Also, the abuse of dashes and ellipses you can clearly see in the description carries on throughout the book. Or at least throughout the first three chapters, which is as far as I’ve read as I type these words. Based on Dove and Wing’s recap at The Devil’s Elbow, I’m aware that this trend does in fact carry on the entirety of the book. Yay.

So, this is one of those books that I know I enjoyed as a teen. I remember it really well, even though it’s somehow inextricably linked in my head to Bebe Faas Rice’s The Listeners and Music from the Dead. I think there’s a similarity in stories, but it’s mostly the covers. Those three covers look very similar.

Anyway, since this is RTC, I’m already second-guessing my memory of liking this book. Remember the hell we went through with The Lifeguard? I’m gun shy on all Richie Tankersley Cusick novels now. But I swear I liked this one, guys. I swear I did . . . .

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Recap #34 – Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan

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This isn’t the cover I have, but it’s the one I remember.

Title: Gallows Hill

Author: Lois Duncan

Published: 1997

Tagline: They don’t burn witches anymore. Do they?

Description: Sarah can see people’s secrets in an ordinary crystal paperweight. Too bad they still believe in witches in Pine Crest. And they don’t like them at all. Sarah’s about to relive a horrible ordeal that happened hundreds of years ago – unless someone can undo a terrible wrong.

Nostalgia Time!

I remember checking this out of the library when it was brand new. I mentioned this briefly in my Killing Mr. Griffin recap, but I read this book shortly before the TV movie aired. The movie was kind of a huge disappointment, but I remember liking the book a lot. I don’t remember the book very well, because the movie overrode my memory of the book a bit, and they changed, uh, pretty much everything from book to movie. Anyway, I tend to prefer LoDunc when she does supernatural, and Gallows Hill has reincarnation, witchcraft, fortune-telling . . . the LoDunc I enjoy the most!

Although, I do recall something about our main girl, Sarah, dressing as a “gypsy” to do her fortune-telling, which is . . . not great. Both that LoDunc uses that word, which we now recognize as a slur, and that we’re using Romani culture as a costume. Maybe this isn’t as egregious as I remember, but then again, maybe it’s worse. 1990s books were full of stuff that makes us cringe these days, so this is pretty much par for the course.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to revisiting this one. Even if I don’t like it as much as I remember, it can’t be as bad as the last one – Jo Gibson’s The Seance, which had me rage-caps-locking and cursing like it was going out of style.

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Recap #32 – Funhouse by Diane Hoh

the funhouse

Title: Funhouse

Author: Diane Hoh

Published: July 1990

Tagline: You can die laughing.

Description: When The Devil’s Elbow roller coaster goes off its track and several teenagers are hurt, everyone thinks it was just an accident. So no one listens when Tess says she saw someone tampering with the track.

But one person knows it’s true. That person is playing a deadly game – and is going to make sure Tess doesn’t stand in the way. Tess soon finds she’s being terrorized, with threatening notes, menacing phone calls, slashed tires, and nasty pranks. When another “accident” occurs in the Funhouse, Tess is sure she was the intended victim. Who is committing all these horrifying acts? And why?

Tess is just beginning to realize that the Funhouse can scare you . . . to death.

Nostalgia Time!


If I remember correctly, the Diane Hoh Point Horrors were always pretty solid. The Accident is the only one I ever remember with any clarity, though. I have vague memories of maybe reading this one, but I can’t say for sure. It’s possible I checked it out of the school library in fifth grade. I seem to remember reading in the bedroom I had when I was ten, but if so, I don’t think I’ve read it since. Honestly, I always remember the cover, but not the story. That cover is amazing. The evil clown on the Funhouse? Holy shit, y’all. So good.

I love stories with carnivals and amusement parks, especially funhouses/haunted houses and Ferris wheels. The opening chapter of this book gives me serious Lost Boys vibes, but without the vampires, I guess? Just the Boardwalk and seaside town with “Santa” in the name. Which, admittedly, is a lot of Southern California.

Anyway, here’s hoping the book is as good as the cover!

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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.

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Recap #28 – Deadly Detention by Eric Weiner

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Title: Deadly Detention

Author: Eric Weiner

Published: June 1994

Tagline: Just pray you’re not kept after school . . .

Description: When it comes to punishment, no one dishes it out the way Harrison High’s Mr. Crowley does. But there’s something even weirder than usual going on today. No one knows that better than the six juniors and seniors who are being kept after school. The doors are padlocked. All the windows are covered with wire mesh. And the phone wires have been cut. No one can get in – or out.

And somewhere along the dark and deserted hallways of Harrison High, a sadistic madman lurks . . . waiting to administer his special brand of discipline.

The fatal kind . . .

Nostalgia Time!


It’s still sort of back to school time, so how about a book about teenagers in detention getting killed off one-by-one?

This book came out right before I turned thirteen. I remember reading it when I was about 13 or 14, so that tracks. I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while, because I remember really liking it. That’s not to say it’s good. It’s probably not. If I remember correctly, the motive for murder is incredibly stupid. There’s a very stereotypical fat character, along with plenty of fat-shaming. Hell, the back-of-book description is telling us all about a madman – crazy for crazy’s sake, apparently. So, you know, mental health done well.

Still, I apparently liked this book enough at some point to read it several times – the spine of my book is nearly destroyed. So, let’s revisit this one, shall we?

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Recap #27 – Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike

whisperofdeath

Title: Whisper of Death

Author: Christopher Pike

Published: Dec. 1991

Tagline: They returned home to a dead world . . . .

Description: All the people had vanished.

Roxanne and Pepper are a teenage couple with problems. They leave their small town for a weekend to try and solve them. They don’t really succeed, and when they return home they find their town empty.

They call other towns.

They find the whole world empty.

But eventually they discover three other kids their age who are still alive in the town. They cannot imagine why the five of them seem to be the only ones left of the entire human race. They have only one thing in common. They were each directly or indirectly involved in the death of Betty Sue – the plain, shy girl who committed suicide only a short time ago. Betty Sue – the quiet, brilliant girl who wrote short stories about each of them. Stories of hate, of revenge, of death in a dead world.

It makes them wonder who Betty Sue really was.

Or what Betty Sue was.

Nostalgia Time!


Pepper. Jesus Christ, Pike, what’s with the names? I can’t wait til I get to Road to Nowhere (and end up with the Ozzy song stuck in my head the entire time I recap it, I just know it) with its characters, Freedom Jack and Poppy Corn. Fuck me, these names.

So, I was ten years old when this book came out, and I know I didn’t read it that early. I’m not sure exactly when I did read it, though. I was probably 13 or 14, I’d guess. I’ve never known quite what to make of this story. It’s one of those books that makes me feel dumb because I can’t quite figure out its full meaning. Interestingly, the first time I read this, I was still firmly entrenched in my mother’s anti-abortion beliefs (hell, the woman dragged me to an anti-abortion protest when I was ten – getting flipped off by motorists going by on the highway was, um, an experience) and this book read as pro-choice to me then. Now that my whole ideology has pretty much flipped, this book reads more anti-abortion to me now. I’m not sure Pike himself knew where he stood, since the message of this book seems a bit . . . muddled?

I think this is also the book where I got the wild idea that Christopher Pike was really Stephen King writing under another pen name. I know better now, of course, but there really did seem to be similarities in the styles and substance.

Also, if you couldn’t tell from the above paragraphs, content warning for abortion, of both the doctor-approved kind and the more DIY kind. (One of the things I thought I vividly remembered about this book was a coat-hanger abortion. Turns out that’s not actually in here, it’s just alluded to, and that might not even technically be what’s being alluded to. Memory is weird.) Heads up for suicide and rape discussion, as well.

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Recap #25 – Twin Terror by Janice Harrell

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Title: Twin Terror

Author: Janice Harrell

Published: 1996

Tagline: Murder . . . times two

Description: If at first you don’t succeed . . .

An urn of ashes labeled “Isabel Herrick” sat in a closet upstairs, and a police report on my twin’s murder had been filed at the beach town of Duck Cove. In spite of that, I found Isabel waiting for me when I went to the house.

Elizabeth can’t believe it when her murdered twin sister turns up alive and well. Isabel has just been hiding, hoping that Elizabeth’s presence will flush out the mysterious person who’d tried to kill her.

But now Isabel really is dead – and the police think Elizabeth is the killer. Trapped in a terrifying world where nothing is what it seems, Elizabeth struggles to solve her twin’s murder and save herself in this page-turning thriller.

Nostalgia Time!


Well, we finally made it, folks. The exciting conclusion to Twin Sisters, that I’ve waited over twenty years to read. (Seriously, if you haven’t read the recap of Twin Sisters, please do so now. This book is incomprehensible without knowing what happens in the first part, and I’m not going to waste time recapping my previous recap.)

So. This book was a thing. A frustrating letdown of a thing. Since I’d never read it before, the only nostalgia story I have is what I wrote in my Twin Sisters recap, but I was hoping it would be at least as good as the first book. It was not. It has this weird feeling of being both too rushed, and somehow also very padded out. These two books could have easily been one slightly longer book if the pacing had been a bit more evened out. I’m disappointed that Ms. Harrell is back to shitty Murder Game form for the conclusion of this story.

Oh, and just for shits and giggles, here’s the book I actually own, rather than the pristine cover up there:

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12/10 would also black out Liz’s teeth in person

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Recap #19 – The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick

lifeguard

Title: The Lifeguard

Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick

Published: 1988

Tagline: Don’t call for help. He may just kill you.

Description: A summer of sun, sand – and murder. Kelsey’s summer should have been paradise: An invitation to rich and famous Beverly Island, complete with sun-drenched beaches and three gorgeous lifeguards on duty.

But Kelsey’s summer is the opposite of paradise. It starts with the note under her pillow from a girl who’s missing. Then there’s the crazy man in the lighthouse who won’t leave Kelsey alone. And there have been a number of suspicious drownings . . .

At least she has the lifeguards around to protect her . . .

Poor Kelsey. Someone forgot to tell her that lifeguards don’t always like to save lives.

Nostalgia Time!


Well here we finally have it, folks – a book I have actual nostalgia about on my nostalgia recap site! This is the one that kicked it all off for me, but before we get to that, can we talk about this cover for a hot minute? The lifeguard on the cover looks about thirty-five; is he supposed to be one of the boys in the book? He looks like Harry Hamlin. What the fuck.

Okay, so I’m pretty well convinced that this is the first Point Horror I ever read, at the tender age of 8 or 9 years old. I had a friend at the time who lived across the street and was three years older than me, so she had all the creepy books. I borrowed this from her and read a good portion of it before she knocked on my door and told me her mom was making her get it back from me because she thought I was too young to be reading it. Baby Me was frantic – I had to find out who the killer was! This was not fair! So I did something I haven’t done since – I flipped to the back of the book and read the end so I would know who the bad guy was. The shame still burns bright. Also, it didn’t make a lot of sense without reading all the chapters that came before the end. So, some number of years later (I’ll be damned if I can remember how many), I got hold of The Lifeguard again and read the whole thing, without any nosy friends’ moms telling me I couldn’t! Ha! I have great affection for this book, so I was thrilled to read a recap of it at The Devil’s Elbow recap site, and then listen to a Teen Creeps podcast episode on it. None of these ladies seem to have the same affection for it that I do, however, which was quite an affront to my inner 8-year-old self. (Don’t worry, I’ve gotten over it. We’re all friends here.) Clearly nostalgia is a key factor in enjoying this one. As of this very second of me typing these words you’re reading with your very own eyes, I’m exactly halfway through rereading the book, and . . . yeah, not gonna lie, it’s kinda rough. I’m sure 8-year-old me would be punching 36-year-old me in the face right now, but . . . this book is not the fine piece of literature it was in my memory. Ah, well. Onward and upward, right? (Note from Future Me: Nope. There’s nowhere to go but down, straight into the deepest reaches of Hell. Pray for me.)

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Recap #18 – My Bloody Valentine by Jo Gibson

bloodyvalentine

Title: My Bloody Valentine

Author: Jo Gibson (Joanne Fluke)

Published: Feb. 1995

Description: Be mine . . . and die. It’s Valentine’s Day at Hamilton High. [Pretty sure it’s Valentine’s Day everywhere, but okay.] Everyone’s excited about this year’s big dance, especially the six girls competing to be Queen of Hearts.

One student at Hamilton High is paying extra close attention to the contest. Because it takes a very special girl to be queen . . . and if her heart isn’t pure and good, she doesn’t deserve to win.

In fact, she doesn’t deserve to live.

Poor Amy Hunter. Five girls down . . . one to go.

Nostalgia Time!


Well, guys, once again we have a book that I didn’t remember at all. Like, nothing sparked a memory, except when a certain character showed up I was like – it’s him! He’s the killer! And he was. (Saying “he” isn’t a spoiler – we get killer POV scenes that flat-out state the killer is male.) So, I would have been about 13 and a half when this book was released, chances are I bought it around that time. Probably only read it once since it’s pretty unremarkable and I obviously remembered nothing except who the killer was. This is the same author who wrote Slay Bells, which was one of the most fun recaps I’ve ever written, so I was hoping for something similarly over-the-top bonkers, and . . . I was pretty disappointed. This book was released a couple months after Slay Bells, and it’s like Gibson kept the template from that one to write this one (the similarities are ridiculous), but forgot how to make it fun. Which is sad for me, but hopefully not for y’all. My recap will probably make the book sound more fun than it is. Don’t be fooled though. This book is solidly “meh.”

Also, it has nothing to do with the slasher film of the same name. Just throwing that out there so there’s no confusion.

Continue reading “Recap #18 – My Bloody Valentine by Jo Gibson”

Recap #17 – Broken Hearts by R.L. Stine

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Title: Broken Hearts

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: Feb. 1993

Tagline: Valentine’s Day can be a killer

Description: Roses are red, corpses are blue. On Valentine’s Day, you’ll die too!

There’s someone out there, someone who kills on Valentine’s Day. Josie and Melissa are scared—especially when they receive threatening valentines. Then the murders begin. Who is sending these horrible valentines to the girls of Shadyside High? And who will be the next to die?

Nostalgia Time!


I wanted to recap Valentine’s books for February, and I caught this one for sale cheap on Kindle, so I thought to myself, perfect! The cover and description were familiar, so I knew I’d read it back in the day (I was eleven when it was published, so probably sometime around then), but I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything about this book . . . until I read the first couple of pages. Then it all came flooding back and I remembered who the killer was and why, although there was one surprise that I didn’t remember at all. Having said that, it’s never a good sign when I’m three pages into a book and suddenly remember, Oh, yeah, this book sucks. I’m pretty sure I thought it sucked the first time I read it, although I have no memory of the first time I read it. Hey, one of these days, this section might actually contain fond memories of actually reading the damn book I’m recapping on my nostalgia recap site, right?

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