Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scary Books

Grabenstein, Chris. The Black Heart Crypt.
Sequel to The Crossroads, The Hanging Hill, and The Smoky Corridor. (which I know I read at some point!)
Zack is back, and this time he is trying to get help for seeing ghosts. Part of this help arrives in the unlikely guise of three quirky aunts, in whose trunk Zack and his friends find a heart shaped puzzle. They unwittingly set free centuries worth of Ickleby ghosts when they take the puzzle apart, and they must put up with a gruesome cast of evil doers in order to redo the spell and save their town for being brutalized by the Ickleby criminals. Zack's stepmother Judy is supportive as always, and Zack's mother continues to make creepy appearances, although this time she is more apologetic and interested in making amends.
Strengths: Good, creepy story with great ghosts and a strong supporting cast of ghost fighters. A bit icky at times, and similar to John Bellairs in its creepy factor.
Weaknesses: I almost wish that these titles were not in a series, so that students could pick up the volumes independently.

Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor.
In the 1800s, Victor Frankenstein is struggling with his twin brother Konrad's mysterious illness. When the doctor is unable to stop the fever and other symptoms, Victor and his cousin Elizabeth consult Polidori, an alchemist who supposedly created an elixir of life. Consulting the Dark Library, the two try to recreate this in order to save Konrad. This involves a great deal of action and adventure, as well as some grusome personal sacrifice. In the end, the two are unsuccessful, but I imagine this merely opens the door to another book that comes closer to the story of Frankenstein.
Strengths: If The Monstrumologist is popular in your library, this will be a good addition. The cover is great, the action is good, and the ties to classic literature are effectively used.
Weaknesses: My students have trouble with the 1800s setting of The Monstrumologist, and the print in this is rather small. Horribly enough, this does matter! That, combined with Victor's internal struggles over good, evil and his relationship with his brother make this more of a high school book. Still, this is the best Oppel book that I have read.

Taylor, Greg. Killer Pizza: The Slice.
Sequel to Killer Pizza.
Still reeling from their first adventure,Toby, Annabel and Strobe are put in charge of a monster who wants to defect-- the lovely Calanthe, who takes quite a shine to Toby as she tries to fit in to normal high school life. Hidden Hills seems like a perfect place to hide her in the Monster Protection Program, but the group is soon disturbed by the reappearance of The Tall Man, and also the many-teeth rukh, as Calanthe's people try to reclaim her so she can be sacrificed.
Strengths: Monsters have been a big interest in my school, and the covers of both of these books are enormously appealing. Good amount of action.
Weaknesses: These could both be better written. I'm not a literature snob by any stretch of the imagination, there were little things with descriptions, pacing, etc. that bothered me a bit. Will students notice? Probably not.

Sleator, William and Ann Monticone. The Phantom Limb.
E-ARC courtesy of Netgalley.
Isaac is having a hard time. His father has been killed in a car crash, and since his mother has been hospitalized for having seizures, he has moved into a small house with his uncommunicative grandfather. He finds a mirror box in the house, and starts having visions of the boy who used it-- a pianist who had his arm amputated because of cancer. When his mother seems to be in danger of the same fate, Isaac enlists the help of his friends and the spirit communicating with him through the box to thwart the plans of the evil nurse, Candi and save his mother from a similar fate.
Strengths: Good creepy cover, interesting premise, and a fair amount of action.
Weaknesses: For this author, the writing was rather wooden, and the beginning especially dragged. Hell Phone and The Boy Who Couldn't Die are hugely popular in my library, but this didn't even seem like it was written by the same author.

Whew! I'm ready for all of the October requests for scary books, although I must say that this is not my favorite type of book to read!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:18 AM EDT

    Thanks for this round up and adding your thoughts. Agreed on Kenneth Oppel's book. Just started MONSTOROLOGIST...