Tag Archives: Ghosts

She got Swayzed.

35. The Secret Bedroom – R.L. Stine

Every time I switch towns I eventually run into the same old story – there’s that creepy house where somebody got murdered. And you know, in Mississippi, it was my house. It was drugs. No unfinished business. Lea of The Secret Bedroom is not so lucky. I mean, it could’ve been drugs, but, it wasn’t mentioned specifically if drugs were involved in the 100 years ago murderage, so… Lea is not so lucky in many ways. She falls victim to the many tropes – she’s a new kid who spills on the prime bitch at school, then gets asked out as a joke but she doesn’t know until she gets stood up, in her wallowing she hears footsteps upstairs in the boarded up bedroom, the girls she ends up being friends with are either too popular to keep up getting to know her or they found a boyfriend and no longer cared (Friends!), AND her parents keep leaving her alone in their haunted house (Thanks, Lea’s parents.) and she would be okay with it – if it was being haunted by Patrick Swayze. Patrick Swayze, gateway ghost.

Mixtape –
1. School – Nirvana
2. Misery Keeper – Electric Citizen
3. Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
4. Phone Call – The Faint
5. Mother Father – Swans
6. Sick, Sick, Sick – Queens of the Stone Age
7. My Dreams – Electric Six
8. I Only Said – My Bloody Valentine
9. Lost Boys and Girls Club – Dum Dum Girls
10. Your Sins Will Find You Out – Eli “Paperboy” Reed
11. Everybody Dies – Those Poor Bastards
12. I Dreamt – The Black Angels
13. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – The Smiths
14. Love Can Destroy Everything – The Raveonettes
15. Noorus – Chelsea Wolfe
16. Ripe – Nine Inch Nails

Pammy and Thaddeus chomp down parsley in an attic bedroom. There’s no corpses in there or anything. Also no Swayze or Swayze-related materials. They’re like the wind.

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12 – Poor Condition

51. The Uninvited – Dorothy Macardle

Dinner parties! Ghosts! A painting model named Caramel! Endless weeping! Play writing! Dramatic gestures! These are the things people heard me complaining about while I tried to finish reading this book on a variety of lunch breaks at work. I requested it from a university in the same system as the one I work for and my first clue that my experience with it wouldn’t be great was that it came in a manila folded box. That means it’s fragile and no one wants to have it bound. I, usually, do not circulate items like that, even if I know they’re coming to librarians like me, who respect the books, because it’s hard not to damage items like that further, no matter what you do with them – especially if you drop them in irritation, which, I did not do. Not once. Not even on accident. The cover was completely loose, which made for a complicated and delicate reading experience, almost as complicated and delicate as everyone in the story seemed to think Stella the teenager was. She’s lost her mother, and she won’t stop showing up at her old house – she should probably lie down, and oh, p.s. since I, narrator and a grown man playwright, have moved to the country with my sister, I think I should date this hapless teenager who has lost her mother (that part happens later on, but still, I squinted in displeasure at it). The séance scenes were pretty amusing though, I will give Macardle that.

The Uninvited is also a movie and I saw some comparisons with The Haunting somewhere that made me interested in reading this book, but, it just wasn’t for me. It’s nowhere near as foreboding as The Haunting of Hill House. I hope that if I ever get around to seeing the movie it’s more like The Haunting, which is good, and that the comparison wasn’t based around there being ghosts in a house with ladies in both stories.

Oh, and I could not help but want someone to scream “STELLLLAAA!” ala Stanley Kowalski every time someone called for the hapless teenager as she wandered into dangerous situations looking for her ghost-mom.

“Is there a ghost up there?” – Danger Crumples “The only ghosts here are us.” – Ozymandias “For the love of anything please haunt me, my little piggies.” - Me

“Is there a ghost up there?” – Danger Crumples
“The only ghosts here are us.” – Ozymandias
“For the love of anything please haunt me, my little piggies.” – Me

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I wonder if Suze ever wandered down to the Murder House, they needed some exorcising…and less decorating.

6. The Mediator: Shadowland – Meg Cabot

These books are a very good mid-point between Buffy and chicklit. My impression of Meg Cabot has always been that she writes books that appeal to your traditional girly-girl, and I’m still pretty sure she does. These are the only books of hers that I have read, and I read them because they added something that usually appeals to me – ghosts. And they are very teen, there’s slightly forbidden romance, and Suze Simon is a very teen-girl character, she’s from New York, she moves to California, she judges everyone for wearing pastel colors, she worries about her fashions, and she tends to lost souls. One thing I have to say that I appreciate quite a bit in these books is that Cabot does not lose the family dynamic. Suze is a teenager, she has to live with her now blended family, she has to deal with rules and consequences that normal supernaturally inclined characters don’t have to deal with because they’re orphans or abandoned by their dad or they run away because of their calling, etc. etc. It is important to demonstrate how a character such as Suze can function in a real life context, obviously, she gets in trouble a lot. But, being grounded has its perks in Suze’s case, in the form of a house ghost named Jesse.

Anyway, in Shadowland the series kicks off with a poltergeist and a very normal teenager conflict – Suze stole this ghost’s former boyfriend. What a bitch. So the poltergeist tries to kill both her ex-boyfriend and Suze and Suze gets in trouble because her mentor-mediator Father Dominic would rather she tried the gentle approach when dealing with ghosts, encourage them to move on instead of straight-up exorcise them. But whatever works.

I made Pammy move this one time, and she did move in with Thaddeus, but they received a little house and a little bridge to hide under so no harm was done.

7. Ninth Key

The second entry in the Mediator series mixes Buffy with a little Veronica Mars. Rich people doing scandalous things, trying to trap young Nancy Drew-types inside their blazing inferno estates, Nancy Drew-types kissing the wrong boys and letting ghosts interrupt them, etc. My one real qualm with this series is that it really feels like one book with small asides. I guess Suze is, like, learning things about herself along the way and young people have short attention spans, but this was published in 2001 when Harry Potter and books the size of doorstops were totally possible. Maybe just not for girls, who were still expected to be learning to cook and doing their daily exercises of embroidery – or was that the seventeenth century? In our modern political climate, I sometimes get the centuries confused.

Pammy caught this goat all on her own in between fending off her suitors, of which there will always be many.

8. Darkest Hour

So, as usual I read this series out of order. Some jerky real teenager was reading book three when I needed to read it and so I had to put it on hold at the library and wait. Ergh. Anyway, the story had certainly moved along in this fourth book and Jesse the house ghost took on a much bigger role than cute dead dude. You know, there are times when I wish these books had taken place in San Dimas, California. San Dimas High School football rules! Anyway again, it seems that the house ghost/cute dead dude had an evil fiancee. Highjinks ensue and before you can say “Deacon, you ditched Napoleon?” everybody’s a mediator and/or dead. Well, deadish, as in for a time. Some people stay dead. Mostly the previously dead ones. Ghosts, eh? What’re you going to do?

Pammy narrowly avoids a kiss from Thaddeus, who is not an evil ugly dude. He has also never ditched Napoleon at a water park.

9. Haunted

Boyfriend fight! Well, one potential boyfriend and one creepy extortionist boy that’s not really a friend fight. Did you know that ghosts can punch you in the face? I bet there are several people who know that, and one of them lives in Las Vegas and spends a lot of time on his hair. As I mentioned previously, these books feel like one big book and that becomes much more apparent once the “real” storyline starts to pick up speed in book four. I do not recommend reading these without getting your hands on all of them simultaneously…which is more possible now that they’re being republished as multi-book editions – at least the first two books have been re-published that way, with a less colorful cover. It’s one of those “oh look there’s some random girl on the cover of this young adult book” sort of covers. At least her back is turned, showin’ some intrigue.

What? There’s a young adult cover without some photograph of a girl’s face looking serious on it? Published within the last five years? Blasphemy! Surely it is an abomination.

10. Twilight

The last one in the series involves time travel. Because that’s how supernatural ghost-exorcising powers evolve. Duh. But no phone booths. And it works out the way it needs to in order to be a teenager romance without a vampire involved.

Pammy is trying to time travel by hiding under this pillow. It may work at some point.

11. Reunion

So in the fourth book in the series Suze tries out a plot line that was later somewhat co-opted by American Horror Story and lets some previously murdered teenagers attempt to get their revenge on their still deranged killer. This is also the book where the main story arc kicks off. And I read it last.

So this one time, Pammy and Twiglet were on top of the pillow and it still didn’t work as a time travel device. A cuddling space, definitely, but no time travel.

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The cemetery is just a few blocks from the ice cream store!

30. Ruined – Paula Morris

I definitely count Ruined as one of my favorite young adult books. It’s a New Orleans ghost story that provides some history and very helpful information about what the deal with the Krewes is instead of well-worn New Orleans tropes. Morris did not rely on the enchanting nature of the city or some of its people to propel her story and does not talk down to her audience or expect them to just go along with anything due to the inherent enchantment possibilities. Like I’ve said before, I love New Orleans, but it has some very, very well-worn tropes about how magical it is and a city cannot get by on those alone; especially not when some of the coolest places in the city have disappeared, been replaced by a suit store, and then there’s the card reader who constantly checks his phone – he is not projecting an air of mystery, my future cannot be found on the internet. And sometimes it seems like people under the influence of those tropes decide they don’t have to pay attention to traffic signals because they are going to Café Du Monde. Um, there’s a walk signal. Look for it. It’s where it is everywhere else in the US and yes, you do have to pay attention to it because I will not feel bad about running you over on my way to the street I park on. I don’t care if you’re different there.

Anyway, Ruined also helped me out with my goal of wandering through one of the cemeteries (the walking tours don’t usually comply with my schedule or goals while I’m there) in a manageable fashion. The Lafayette Cemetery No. 1    is right next to Commander’s Palace (a restaurant I will probably never eat at for a variety of reasons like poorness and an abhorrence of seafood) and the Garden District Book Shop. I’m really surprised that I didn’t notice the walled cemetery across the street the first time I went to New Orleans as a kid looking for signed Anne Rice novels. It’s a fine example of cemetery architecture and has a nice tomb for destitute orphan boys where people have offered action figures and I think that’s nice.

Duncan, as a ghost, does not have to obey traffic signals. She’s different everywhere.

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Teenagers from Mars, we don’t care

68. Three Quarters Dead – Richard Peck

Speaking of classic young adult (and children’s) authors, Richard Peck has some seriously strong credentials. My introduction to him was a time traveling ghost story – Voices After Midnight, a 1990 classic that I have re-read several times. Three Quarters Dead was like a less successful version of Peck’s classic ghost stories that was geared directly towards girls and also caved in to peer pressure. This is an author who should not end up looking like he’s trying too hard but this book is just not quite right on a few levels. A supernatural clique should have been creepier and I am well aware that Peck can make things creepy. Maybe there was a rushed contract deadline in there somewhere. Anyway, Three Quarters Dead reads quickly enough, but something is just…wrong and it’s not in the uneasy awesome way that things feel wrong in Voices After Midnight.

Classic Pammy, looking for what’s not quite right on the chair. Maybe there’s a ghost under the embroidered pillow or maybe it’s behind the ominous black velvet skull pillow. Mystery is where you least expect it.

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“That’s your plan, Ray? Get her?”

15. The Unseen – Alexandra Sokoloff

Psychology! Sealed records! A shhing librarian! A haunted house! A situation that must be recreated so the house explodes with bad ghost energy! Wait, aren’t you, like, psychic and possibly the key? There are many elements here that mirror Ghostbusters and The Haunting of Hill House and that was sort of what drew me into this story in the first place. That and Ms. Sokoloff’s writing, while it may deal with very familiar tropes of the horror genre, is fun to read and very quick. Also, I truly enjoy stories where people are almost prevented from doing things by librarians protecting their collections from deteriorating. Perhaps public libraries are supposed to be about access, but academic libraries tend to be about keeping things and keeping you from information you shouldn’t be touching with your dirty little hands and inquisitive tendencies. There are more librarians that feel this way than you think. There are also more who feel the opposite way. I miss non-circulating things. I also vaguely recall that the librarian in this book may have had a bun and glasses, to which I say, really? Even that trope must be attended to?

Twiglet’s response to ill conceived research projects and haunted houses: bury her head in her mother Pammy’s side until it goes away.

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The edges of the Midwest really are out there

41. Borderland – S.K. Epperson

S.K. Epperson has had a bit of an odd row to hoe. She’s published several books during the 1990s that are described by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly as “over-the-top” and “unconvincing” and by one librarian for Library Journal as “Not recommended;” those books are now mainly out of print. When someone murdered a goat in Borderland and slathered its blood all over the interior of a trailer home I understood why. It was a bit much. But that sort of gory and ridiculous violence seems to be Epperson’s trademark and since she’s re-published several of her books as Kindle editions they’ve received very glowing reviews from her readers. It’s always interesting to see the discrepancies between the authoritative reviewers and the actual audience and I feel that in the case of S.K. Epperson, both kinds of reviews are accurate. Borderland had its moments, but it also had some moments I wish I hadn’t read. But good on Epperson, she has her wacky genre and she’s sticking to it.

Reading Borderland was a lot like watching one of those 70s horror movies with titles like The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death where the cover and title tell you nothing of the sheer weirdness you’re about to watch or why there’s random slasher elements and random supernatural elements and that pedophile over there is involved somehow and hey, cocaine!

 

Danger Crumples is sitting this one out. The Kansas-Colorado border is just too strange for him sometimes.

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Did you hear that?

13. The Harrowing – Alexandra Sokoloff

This was a pretty good loner meets people who expand her reality into drugs and sex and Ouija board highjinks/atmospheric ghost story until the reveal of what type of ghost it was. Then it seemed mildly ridiculous and I had a hard time suspending my disbelief at the end. However, I am always up for a good story of isolation on a campus.

 

Would you trust this pig with an Ouija board?

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