Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Haunted: The Nightmare Next Door

There is always a need for spooky books-- my R.L. Stine books don't get read much any more because they are in REALLY bad condition. Thirty year old paperbacks, even with prebind covers, are smelly and crumbling. Some great new replacements are K.R. Alexander's books like The Collector and The Fear Zone, and the P.J. Night books, but #MGLit could use a LOT more titles. If they were in hard cover, that would be even better!

These Joel Sutherland titles are great, but it's hard right now (April 23, 2020) to pin down the series in order or the publication dates. Keep them on your radar for October, though!

Sutherland, Joel A. The Nightmare Next Door
Sourcebooks, August 1, 2020
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Matt and Sophie aren't thrilled about moving from the country to a new development of houses. One house that isn't cookie cutter and brand new is the one right next door to them. It's old and creepy, and even creepier is the spooky, neglected horse hanging out in the field. Sophie loves horses and knows everything about them, so even though the kids are warned against bothering the neighbors, Sophie goes out at night to offer the animal some apple slices. Matt hears her and goes out to check, which is a good thing, because the neighbor comes out and threatens her with a pitch fork! The next day, Matt decides it's a good idea to take cookies to the neighbors as an apology, and they meet a woman they assume is the man's wife. She says she doesn't see the man during the day, but Sophie takes a picture with her cell phone that shows the man right behind his wife! Matt and Sophie makes the acquaintance of Chris and Nick, and their new neighbors tell them that the house is haunted, the neighbors both died 10 years ago, and even the horse is a ghost! Not only that, but children (Jack and Danny) who lived in a house where their new one was built, were killed in their beds after contributing to the accidental death of the horse! None of this can be real, right? Matt and Sophie have to believe in this when they meet the ghost of Jack in their house. Hoping to clear up the mystery, Matt and Sophie go back to the house to talk to the woman, and things start to go really wrong. In the end, Matt tries to bargain Jack and Danny's spirits for his sister's life, but will he be able to pull off the exchange?
Strengths: This was a nicely scary story, with the addition of making new friends in the neighborhood. The ghost horse will appeal to a lot of readers, and there are some great twists in the story. Creepy covers, large text, fast-paced writing; this is exactly what my readers want!
Weaknesses: Only available in paperback or prebind. Also, could we have a haunted house book that does NOT involve moving? I suppose younger readers don't mind, but I've read so many books with this theme that's it's getting a tiny bit old.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and it will fly off the shelves!

Sutherland, Joel A. Field of Screams
Sourcebooks, August 1, 2020
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Darius and Ryan always gone to the corn maze at the Wight farm, but this year Darius has his reservations about going. His father passed away ten months ago, and even though his mother wants him to "move on", he's having trouble. When Ryan visits, the two plan to go the maze, even though Darius has to force himself. The farm seems different; they are met by the Scare Crew before they even buy tickets, and old man Wight is wandering around, acting even stranger than usual. Darius finds an odd shaped rock that he uses to scare Ryan, and he takes it into the maze with him. The boys get stuck, unable to find their way out, and also meet a young boy who warns them that "the worst man" is coming to get them! The boys finally make their way out and get a little explanation from Wight; the boy is the ghost of his best friend, who died in a farming accident sixty years ago. Against their better judgement, the boys follow Wight into his house for more of the story, and find out that not only is Wight's friend, Clive, a ghost, but the man who owned the farm before Wight's family, Kane, has come through the same portal that Clive opened (thanks to the rock Darius carried in). Kane is still angry, years after his own death, about the sale of the farm, and is determined to wreak havoc. Will Darius and Ryan be able to send Clive and Kane back to the Netherrealm? And will Darius be able to make peace with his father's death?
Strengths: There are surprisingly few books centered around haunted houses, and that's a shame. I don't know how many of those really operate in real life (I have never been to one; well, not since my church group put one on in the 1970s), but the idea is a great basis for a scary tween novel. It's nice to see Darius and Ryan get along as cousins as well as friends, and the corn maze is convincingly off kilter. The fact that the boys have frequented it in years past made it easier for me to believe that they would not feel too uncomfortable visiting with Wight, although Sutherland gets bonus points for having them discuss that it is a bad idea. Great, frightening scarecrows and excellent use of scythes!
Weaknesses: I'm never a fan of the grieving for dead parents in books; as important as it may be to address in realistic fiction, it just slows down the plot of a horror book.
What I really think: These are great, but the one I really want to see is  Kill Screen, a book based on a video game mentioned in both of these books. It appears in the Canadian series, but the only other books coming out in the US are Ghosts Never Die and Night of the Living Dolls.
Ms. Yingling

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