Thursday, February 05, 2009

Spooky Books

I've been feeling picky lately. There have been too many books with characters set in Hollywood and/or NY fashion industry, too many evil, interactive books, and too many books set in private schools with nasty girls. (Sorry, The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies. I was almost buying it until the gratuitous f-bombs.) Then, there are the historical novels set in strange, noncurricular time periods (Sorry, Anila's Journey.)

This is why I was so pleased to read two scary/ghost books. I invariably have a display of these up, and many children ask for them. The Graveyard Book has been popular. Starting with a murder never hurts! These two didn't immediately appeal to me, but were so good that I will add them to my list to buy.
Bracegirdle's The Joy of Spooking: Book One-- Fiendish Deeds has rather awful cover art, but a god plot. Joy lives in the decrepit and run down town of Spooking, but goes to school in the more prosperous Darlington. She likes her large, old house, the local bog with quirky inhabitants and strange creatures, and the connection that the location has to E.A. Peugeot, a writer of horror stories. One of these stories, The Bawl of the Bog Monster, seems to be set right in Spooking. However, the bog in which it is set may become the site of the Misty Mermaid Water Park, which citizens of Darlington think will add interest and jobs to the area, and also hasten the demise of Spooking.
Of course, a mystery is involved, and secrets of the past are revealed. I liked Joy, as well as her distracted parents. The villains were fun. What I particularly liked about this one was some of the writing. The first chapter is particularly beautiful, and has one of the greatest descriptions of place that I've read since Bonham's Durango Street. ("Spooking-- the terrible town on the hideous hill.") The other chapters aren't quite as exquisite, which is understandable, but getting a book off to a good start is never a bad thing. I will look forward to book two this summer, and book three in 2010.
Chris Grabenstein's The Crossroads had a lot going on, and while I usually don't have the patience to follow a lot of stories, these were presented in a way that made me think "Ooh. How is that connected to what I just read?" This required some thought, but all of the threads came together in a very intriguing ghost story.
Zack's father has just remarried, but it's okay-- his mother was not a pleasant woman, and died of cancer after an unpleasant battle with it. His new stepmother is a children's author and quite fun and caring. The family moves to North Chester, into a new house on a piece of land with old secrets. It's haunted by an evil spirit who takes over the body of a plumber, and it's up to Zack and his new friend Davy (who may or may not be a ghost!) to rid the area of its evil influences.
There was something especially charming about the fifty year old mystery-- the James Dean type character who ran a bus off the road because of a love triangle, overly the grieving Gerda, who has kept up a memorial to him, and the ghosts of the various people killed in the crash who manifest in a variety of ways. The story comes together slowly, and builds to a suspenseful conclusion. The characters are well developed, and although Zack's father is absent, his step mother is great. There is a sequel in the works, The Hanging Hill, coming out in August.


  1. Hi Ms Yingling, I like your strapline a lot. What a challenge to read all the YA novels in the world. I wonder if you ever venture into the UK world of YA, which is wonderful, and doesn't always get published in the States. My YA, Hootcat Hill is coming in paperback this March, and you can check it out at http:/ I also blog with 20 other UK YA and childrens' authors at and for myself, on writing and other matters at Pull up a keyboard and drop in sometime! Lucy

  2. I agree. All the books I read are the same, I'm in need of a good mystery, so I'm planning on starting Marissa Doyle's BEWITCHING SEASON soon. (:

  3. I have Crossroads sitting on my book pile at home and your review has bumped it up a lot closer to the top! The Joy of Spooking sounds like a lot of fun, too - I hope my library will buy a copy soon. Thanks for the reviews!