Category Archives: Writing

“I think it’s time I start paying back this country for some of the good things it’s given me.”

52. Lock Every Door – Riley Sager

There is a lot of 2008 economic crash after effect in this story. The main character is in a position that started to be a frequent happening once people got laid off or found out there were no jobs available, as in, a shitty one where they have to basically take whatever they can and if it was one of several types of jobs I’ve had, you’re also supposed to never make any noise about how the pay is unlivable and no human being can do three people’s work, because if you make noise, you’re just ungrateful. So when there’s a job that is really just living in an apartment, you’re going to take it. It is, as they say, too good to be true for someone like Jules, so, just like what’s about to happen with the U.S. economy now – any and all red flags will be ignored until it’s too late, you have to rationalize that you have a job now and lots of people don’t and other people will tell you you’re just whining if you’d like to be able to live off of what you make and not completely destabilize yourself repeatedly and “just move,” as people who don’t know how expensive and risky moving can be say… On a personal note, I would never tell anyone to move somewhere new because they can’t find a job because A. I’ve moved for jobs and it is a giant setback most of the time because very few places to work are upfront about wages vs. cost of living where the job is and B. That’s how horror movies start (see A or Arachnophobia).

Jules just has to follow a few simple rules for her apartment sitting job, like never spending a night away and leaving people alone (and they didn’t even have a pandemic to use as a reason to isolate) because they could be rich and famous people as this is an important New York building. She also can never use bright light or eat after midnight. Kidding. There are echoes of some other familiar horror stories in here though. One has a baby and a New York building. The other one that came to mind for me is the sad and maudlin but very well written riff on The Clonus Horror by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Ozymandias, seen here luxuriating in his warm colors blanket, knows it’s best to follow his nose when it comes to housing. That’s why when he first sniffed my hand, he immediately popcorned.

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“See you in the cemetery.”

58. Blood Promise – Richelle Mead

Blood! Beasts! At least two parts of the Drive-In are well represented in this fourth book in the Vampire Academy series. There is some holding back on the breasts part of the Drive-In, this is a teenager book and not an 80s film…but there is much allusion. Anyway, let’s go to Siberia! It’s not as cold as you think apparently. Downer. Rose is hunting down Dmitri and finds much more than she bargained for in several ways. There are people who don’t take the “rules” of vampire society as seriously as she was led to believe. There are also parts she didn’t even know about, like the alchemists who clean up after all those filthy creatures of the night are slain by, according to Sydney the Alchemist, all those other filthy creatures of the night. I liked Sydney. I usually like difficult people, they have some standards.

In Blood Promise, Rose also has to face the worst of what can happen to her as a lady dhampir – the trashiest of potential futures according to her- and loses her pride quite a bit while wearing a sweater dress and also getting plied by shiny jewelry. Chicks, man. It can be so easy to distract them while they’re trapped in a penthouse suite instead of a penitentiary.

At least we didn’t have to read about Rose and Dmitri watching movies like in that ridiculously unedited Derek the vampire series, that would have been SOOO boring- Horace provides an important perspective.

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Unearthly

76. Wylding Hall – Elizabeth Hand

So short, yet so incomprehensibly scary. I’m glad there’s been a sort of spurt, I guess, of books and movies that involve folk horror in the past few years again because I really like that sort of thing. Mount that old school dread. Live deliciously.

And in this case, it even involves a folk band, which is really what makes the whole thing. Even if you haven’t been a musician or accidentally dated one, you’ll still get the horror of it from the kind of band that’s supposed to be affiliated with nature. But nature’s evil. And selfish. Like the lead singer, but, he’s a lead singer so it’s never going to be a surprise that he’s selfish and stuck in his own head to the detriment of others, it’s, like, classic. He even likes the word “ensorcelled.”

Anyway, the classic cliche lead singer disappeared in this old English country house and now, years later, there’s a documentary being made about it and people are sharing their memories. Their super chilling memories.

Can you spot the ensorcelled lead singer?

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“Come with me and sing the song of misery. Share my world!”

36. Unbroken – Paula Morris

This sequel to Ruined, a YA ghost story set in New Orleans, does not resemble Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, a decidedly not YA sequel set in New Orleans. There are ghosts in both, male ghosts, but…one ghost has a reason to be very angry and murder people like drunk Veronica Cartwright while also letting his descendants know what’s what about being in his family. Instead of that, Unbroken has a ghost named Frank who needs his locket for his unfinished business- which is in a building about to be torn down, not unlike the dilapidated set piece house in Farewell to the Flesh. It’s all connected. Obviously.

Unbroken was not as engaging as Ruined for me and didn’t stick with me as much as Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh did; which is unfortunate, because it was nicely written and interesting and yet again covered New Orleans areas I’m aware of in a way that makes me miss it… I can say that Farewell to the Flesh did not make me miss NOLA- because I watched it before I ever went there. That rambled, I like both.

And I have not seen Candyman 3, for the record. Candyman the first and Farewell to the Flesh were enough for me because I like both of them quite a bit, just like Ruined and Unbroken.

Duncan was born in my home, but since she passed I’ve only seen her in a dream once that I remember, so I assume that means she’s happy in Pighalla and just visiting when she feels like it. I’m not sure if she’d do it more if I said her name five times in a mirror.

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Pour one out for the blood feast.

39. The Chosen – L.J. Smith

Vampires and vampire hunters and their Romeo and Juliet, Hatfield and McCoy style crossover romance. It seems that in many cases, one becomes a vampire hunter by having someone one loves killed by a vampire. But there’s always more. There’s grey area, especially if a newly met vampire turns out to be attractive… and there’s always somebody around who only sees denizens of the night in black and white terms. They’re bad. Kill them all. This story is familiar on certain terms, but at least the lady main character, Rashel, is fun to follow on her vengeance goals and smart. She has also superhero named herself “The Cat,” because it is possible to be smart and not clever, as all romantic stories of star-crossed romance generally display.

Thaddeus and Pammy were the Romeo and Juliet of my herd because the way their houses were set up was balcony-esque and since they were smart and clever guinea pigs, they did not commit suicide in order to be together. They just waited until Pammy had to be spayed. No vampires were involved.

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I didn’t come here to make friends.

47. Weekend – Christopher Pike

A mystery is afoot in beautiful beachy Mexico. What really happened that night the “accident” happened to Robin? Who in this group is worth rooting for? Did Lena put the wrong date on some of the invitations or were only people present at a certain party invited? Inviting a bunch of recent high school grads to your beach house sounds like a recipe for disaster – and it is! And not just the way I think of involving stickiness and an inability to clean up after themselves because some are entitled, some are goofy in group situations, and some just want to fit in by being filthy.

Christopher Pike’s world building is always a scoch more structurally sound than a lot of the 80s and 90s YA writers. It’s probably why in middle school I thought his books would be for older kids than me and also scary. These kids are scary, but that’s in line with the general “who poisoned my sister” kind of narrative. It’s tense. Super tense because it’s 1986 and they can’t just Uber/Lyft the hell out of there… or stare at their phones and not interact. These teens are present, accounted for, fighting, or exploded.

Snuffy knows it was you.

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“Motoring…What’s your price for flight”

9. Sister Dearest – D.E. Athkins

Vicki is not my favorite protagonist. All I saw was a superficial girl with very little to redeem her. Just like her sister.

Her BFF Janet is an artist- a secretive artist – and a cheerleader.

Her other friend Lolly is, well, something, she seems a bit giggly and also like an amorphous blob.

Her dad is strict.

Her sister is popular and somehow part of a sorority organization in high school (we didn’t have that stuff at my high school).

Her brother, her sister’s twin, is a little creepy but used to be her very best friend before the accident.

Her ex-boyfriend sounds like he got left back a year or two and his chin was described as “gravel.”

Her enemy wants gravel chin.

Her new dude, Dace, yes, Dace, is apparently cool and very attractive.

Are there too many characters for a 106 page book? YES.

Do these characters have a little too much going on for a 106 page book? YES.

Janet could just be a secretive artist, you know, Deathkins, she didn’t have to also be a cheerleader and date Vicki’s creepy brother. Lolly could’ve not existed, it’s not like she did anything that in any way added to the story besides just being a person that was there during Vicki’s accident. Maybe she could’ve had a monologue in which she explained that the reason all these dorks were in an accident like the one they had was that all of them suck as people AND perhaps their interpersonal relations might have had just a bit more to it.

Does the central mystery get lost while you’re trying to figure out who all these people are? YES.

Vicki’s smoking in the bathroom while I’m unconcerned about who is trying to bother her and then ramping up their threats. “I thought you quit,” says Janet. Who are these people?

When guinea pigs get confused about the “plot,” they do what Ozymandias is doing. Nap.

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It’s no Waxwork II: Lost in Time, but it’ll do.

42. Black Dawn – L.J. Smith

This one’s in a castle. And there’s a shapeshifting falcon. It is a nice break from the mostly modern houses and apartments and schools and malls that the others in the series are set in. And again, a shapeshifting falcon provides a nice change of pace. Oh, and there’s blue fire. And a shapeshifting falcon. Unfortunately, it is not the falcon which must find its soulmate. The falcon has been denied such outcomes.

Merricat has just told Peregrine that she is not actually a shapeshifting falcon, she just bears resemblance to Sam the Eagle and has a falcon name. Merricat was very clever.

 

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Summer isn’t just for dating townies and going to the beach this year.

78. Waiting Spirits – Bruce Colville

A mother’s work is never done. Especially if that work involves wailing and wandering from beyond the grave. Just a note, if you suddenly decide to spend the summer in the house your little sister and mother and several others died in, maybe try teaching your grandkids automatic writing and seance holding at a different location. If you don’t, they might have a really shitty summer and almost get murdered by your dead mother.

Even when Murderface thought she’d given all the advice she could, Pickles was still following her around, so surely that is also how they’re spending the afterlife.

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Soundtrack by Winger

32. Only Child – Jesse Osburn

As an only child myself, I am incredibly pleased that I was not born solely to be taken to a lake on vacation and sacrificed. It makes it seem like more of an achievement to still be alive. And stuff. I didn’t even have to find a hidden cave or anything.

I honestly had some trouble keeping track of who the characters were in this, I guess because they needed a lot of fodder children and so there had to be the many names – no siblings = lots of last names. I also don’t really get the point of bothering to ground your child when you’re about to try and kill her. That’s pretty pointless. Why make the pointless death worse?

Mortemer will figure out the secrets of the outdoors if he has to circle this laundry basket until his birthday.

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