Point Horror: Happy Childhood Memories

It might strike some as odd that I associate happy memories from childhood with horror stories, but that’s me for you. I grew up on The X-Files, was glued to the TV screen for Are You Afraid of the Dark, and I spent a lot of time with my head in a book, usually a Sweet Valley novel or something from the Point Horror series.

From the age of ten or so, I devoured every book in the Point Horror young adult series I could get my hands on. A few years ago, I wrote a short post on my Point Horror obsession and my last blog post was a review of Trick Or Treat.

My mom was a primary school teacher. She worked in the boys’ school near my own, and almost every day at half past two, I’d hurry to the library at her workplace to see what gems awaited me.

The colourful artwork and fun stories inside were perfect bizesize reads. I couldn’t make do with simply borrowing library books. I made it my mission to collect as many Point Horror books as I could.  For birthdays and Christmases my parents and relatives would give me book shop vouchers, allowing me to build my own collection, and I saved my pocket money and hunted down used copies in secondhand bookshops.

Even through my teens and twenties, I’d take a stroll to the young adult section of any secondhand book store I came across, just in case there was a Point Horror book I hadn’t read or didn’t have in my collection.

In case you never read Point Horror or have forgotten the series, I’ve chosen a selection of books below that may jog your memory.

accident

The Accident by Diane Hoh.

I actually read this one pretty recently and twenty years later, still enjoyed it. The Accident is a unique ghost story that manages to be pretty terrifying. What if you swapped places with a dead girl so she could experience a couple of brief weeks in your body as a normal teenager, but she refused to trade back?

 

roommateNightmare Hall: The Roommate by Diane Hoh

College dormitory life, psychotic roommates and murder. What more do you need in a good thriller? I’m struggling to remember the full storyline for this one, but I must have enjoyed it as I went on to pick up others in the Nightmare Hall series.

 

mummyThe Mummy by Barbara Steiner

Lana works part-time in a museum. A lover of all things Ancient Egypt, nobody is more excited than she is when her museum holds an exhibition from Cairo, which includes the mummy of a legendary Egyptian prince. It isn’t too long before Lana hears a man calling out to her in the dark corners of the museum. Everyone tells her she looks like the murdered princess, the prince’s tragic lover, but it’s just a coincidence, of course. Then why does she feel like she knows and loves someone who died thousands of years before? With a handsome Egyptian prince, a museum setting, the mingling of magic and romance, and reincarnation, it’s no wonder I loved this one.

forbiddenThe Forbidden Game trilogy by L.J. Smith

L.J. Smith wrote a fantastic story in The Forbidden Game. At her boyfriend’s 17th birthday party, Jenny and her pals end up playing a game. They build a paper Victorian house and put paper cutouts of themselves inside. The game states they’ll each have to face their worst nightmare. They don’t bargain for the house coming alive around them and trapping them inside. Fantasy, horror, sexual tension, a female protagonist with agency! How this book hasn’t been made into a TV show or movie, I don’t know. It’s probably only a matter of time.

vaThe Vampire’s Promise by Caroline B. Cooney

A group of high schoolers find themselves trapped in a vampire’s lair. This vampire doesn’t just want to suck their blood, he wants them to choose his victim. His bite won’t kill, but it will leave the victim sluggish, zombie-like and devoid of personality. The vampire in this one is a sadistic bastard, taking great pleasure in the terrible decision he forces these kids to make. The author, Cooney, never includes blood or gore in her books, but she is skilled at creating psychological terror.

babysitterThe Baby-Sitter by R.L. Stine

While I can vividly recall the cover for this one, I can’t remember reading it.

 

invitationThe Invitation by Diane Hoh

When a group of kids generally viewed as losers by the elite of their high school get invited to a party by one of the popular students, that should immediately get their warning bells sounding. They attend only to find themselves key players in a nightmarish game they never signed up for.

 

strangerThe Stranger by Caroline B. Cooney

Unusual, beautiful and sad. This story tugged at my heartstrings. Caroline B. Cooney is a terrific writer. She is one of the most gifted writers of horror in the young adult genre. I reviewed her novel The Fog earlier in the year.

 

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Have you come across any Point Horror books? What books from childhood do you remember with fondness?

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Book Review: Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick (A Haunted House in a Small Town)

Happy New Year

I’m kicking off the first review of the year with a bitesize teen book. Trick or Treat is part of the Point Horror series, books I devoured back in the 90’s. I’ve got a boxload of them currently to get through, a great find at a car boot sale last year.

trickWhile this is a young adult book, I was pleasantly surprised to find a scaryish tale that managed to on occasion give me chills. I probably read this twenty or so years ago because I definitely remember the cover, but I couldn’t remember much of the story. The setting drew me in from the start. A big old house filled with nooks and crannies and secret passageways. The kind of house a sane person would run a mile from. If the dilapidated outside, gothic architecture and too many rooms for a family of four wouldn’t be enough to put a normal person off, the cemetery in the back garden should do it.

Unfortunately for our protagonist Martha, her father adores the paranormal and is delighted when his dippy/arty new wife purchases a place so obviously teeming with ghostly presences.

The newly married couple aren’t going to be winning any parent of the year awards. No sooner has Martha started to unpack than she and her new stepbrother, Conor, are left to their own devices when their parents skiddadle off to Hawaii and leave them to fend for themselves in a sleepy new town, coming up to Halloween. A quiet, rainy, nothing town that is approaching the first anniversary of a murder that took place on Halloween night right in the very home Martha has just moved into.

Right away, Martha is afraid to stay in her new bedroom. She can’t quite explain it, but it’s much colder than the rest of the house and there’s something about the closet… The door seems to open and close by itself. She sees eerie shadows as she huddles under the covers at night. Then there are the scary, threatening phone calls, the creaks and groans of the old house and a fire that starts mysteriously. Conor’s calm suggestion that perhaps her bedroom is cold and feels different from the rest of the house because it remembers the grizzly murder that took place in that very room doesn’t help Martha’s state of mind.

Nor does the fact that according to some people in town, Martha resembles the dead girl, Elizabeth. Physical appearance isn’t their only similarity.  Martha soon draws the attention of the super athlete in town, Blake. Guess who his last girlfriend happened to be? And Martha’s new best friend, Wynne, used to be best friends with Elizabeth.  Is Martha fated to end up the same way as the previous occupant of her bedroom?

The creepy house, the sense of isolation, the location of the cemetery with its overgrown graves and mausoleum go well with the the author’s knack for creating tension, suspense, fear and dread around Martha. Martha seems paranoid, suffering from jangled nerves and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown almost from page one.

I found myself wondering how her stepbrother Conor was so patient with her. I enjoyed the story but Martha was a whiny victim with little agency. Despite being abandoned by her father in a new town in a house that clearly belongs in a horror movie, I couldn’t sympathise much with her, in fact I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a good slap. Conor was too lovely for his own good, though I do think he quite fancied his stepsister and she him. But that storyline would be a bit much to explore in the Point Horror world so nothing came of it.

If you loved Point Horror as a teen or just fancy a quick horror read, try Trick or Treat. It’s well-written with a suitably spooky atmosphere, mingling the haunted house genre with psychological horror.

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Have you tried the Point Horror series?

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Book Review: The Fog by Caroline B. Cooney (Chilling)

I had to take a picture of my own copy of The Fog since I couldn’t find this cover anywhere online. It’s a bit battered but it first belonged to my older sis, Lucy, before I “borrowed” it a couple of decades back and forgot to give it back!

the fog

Christina is 13 years old. She’s an island child, excited to leave for the mainland, a small town in Maine, to start high school. Her older island friends, Anya, Michael and Benj warn her that the town kids will tease and mock her island ways. They tell her not to “yarn”. What they don’t prepare her for are the Shevvingtons. The high school principal with his strangely hypnotic but mocking eyes, and his ghastly wife with the tiny, yellow teeth and a cruel grin. Christina can hold her own against kids her own age, but how can she protect herself and Anya from the twisted nature of the man and woman they’re forced to board with all year, the same couple who run the high school?

A growing sense of dread and wondering how Christina would keep going in the face of such evil kept me turning the pages. I finished The Fog in two sittings, this time round. I first read this twenty or more years ago as a child. The first few pages brought it all back: the lonely imagery of the island, the harshness of the cruel sea lashing violently against the rocks, Christina’s isolation in the big house on Candle Cove, the feeling of powerlessness against those older and in authority, the despair that no grown ups will help or even believe her claims.

Christina is a force to be reckoned with. She is granite, unable to be broken, unlike Anya who doesn’t have half her strength or cop on. Christina is tough and resilient but achingly lonely.

One aspect I didn’t exactly get was that while Christina blames the Shevvingtons  for Anya’s rapid descent into insanity, Anya is actually acting on the strange side from the moment we meet her at home on her island, dreamily rambling about the sea wanting its next victim. I wonder if the rest of the books in the series will explain this.

I read many Caroline B. Cooney horror books as a kid. She’s an excellent writer. Though marketed as a teen book, I still found this story to be a chilling read. This is how young adult horror books should be written.

Key Points

  • Growing dread
  • The powerlessness of children against evil adults
  • The horror that no adult will believe, not even your own parents
  • The violence and power of the sea
  • Imagery of solitude, rock, granite, island, loneliness but also strength. Christina is alone but she is steely.

You won’t find ghosts or anything supernatural lurking here (unless you count the tales of the sea captain’s wife who threw herself from the roof of the Schooner Inne and is said to haunt Candle Cove), but this is a horror book.The evil here is of the human variety, the abuse of children while in the care of adults. Christina’s story is frightening and disturbing.

I never did find out what became of her and Anya and the rest when I was a kid, but this time I’m going to track down the rest of the trilogy. These books seem to be out of print so it’s off to ebay or Amazon I must go.

Add it on Goodreads.

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Can you remember a book or story from your childhood that frightened you?

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#Free Read: Solstice Island by Mae Clair

Looking for your last, lazy, summer’s day read? Then I’ve got a treat for you.

End of Summer Sale: Solstice Island by Mae Clair is FREE 8/31 and 9/1
#cryptidfiction #romance #adventure

Solstice Island Final

I read this one myself when it was first released. My review from Goodreads:

“I want to be a cryptozoologist. It would definitely beat the day job. Solstice Island is the perfect summer’s day beach read. It’s light, fast-paced and romantic with a healthy dollop of mythology. The vivid descriptions of the cavern beneath the island put me right there beside Rylie and Daniel on their adventure. A charming read”

Let’s hear what Mae has to say.

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I know summer isn’t officially over until the autumnal equinox rolls around mid-September, but by the time the calendar reads August 31, I’m already thinking fall. My husband and I will be closing our pool this coming weekend, Halloween stuff is stocked in most every store I visit, and the days are growing noticeably shorter. I live in the northeast where summer is much, much too short. Blink and it’s easy to miss. I love fall, but I thrive on summer. So…I’m lamenting the demise of my favorite season with an end of summer sale on SOLSTICE ISLAND, my breezy romantic adventure novella.

Why should you read it (other than the fact it’s like a shot of summer wrapped up inside Kindle pages)? I’m glad you asked. :)

The Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Read Solstice Island by Mae Clair:

10. You’ll meet a hot charter boat captain trying to live down his family legacy.
9. You’ll encounter a spunky heroine cryptozoologist, determined hot captain should embrace said family legacy and all the baggage that goes with it.
8. You’ll be able to impress your friends with your stunning new knowledge of cryptozoology.
7. You may find yourself struck by the uncontrollable urge to look up blurry images of strange creatures online or go on a cryptid hunt (think Loch Ness, Big Foot, and the Jersey Devil).
6. You’ll learn why you should never ignore a craving for mint chocolate chip ice cream.
5. The next time your boat is attacked by a rampaging sea monster, you’ll know precisely what to do.
4. You’ll be swept up in a tale of romance, adventure, and folklore.
3. You’ll uncover buried treasure, thwart a villain, and discover a new use for a boat oar.
2. As a 72 page novella, SOLSTICE ISLAND makes a quick end of summer read.

And the number one reason you should read SOLSTICE ISLAND:

1. It’s FREE on Amazon August 31 and September 1!

Solstice Island Final

SOLSTICE ISLAND Blurb:

Can an ancient leviathan work magic between a practical man and an idealistic woman?

Rylie Carswell is an amateur cryptozoologist in search of a mythical creature, the Sea Goliath. In order to reach Solstice Island, a location the ancient leviathan is rumored to haunt, she’s forced to hire charter boat captain, Daniel Decatur.

Initially, Daniel wants nothing to do with the trip or the fool woman waving double payment in his face. Convinced she’s yet another loony treasure hunter looking for gold on the remote island, he reluctantly agrees. An embittered neighbor wants to have his charter license yanked, so the extra cash will help him stay afloat.

It doesn’t take long for Daniel to realize Rylie is after the same beast his parents were tracking when they mysteriously vanished ten years earlier. He’s avoided all links to cryptozoology ever since, but the smart and sexy cryptid hunter has him second-guessing his oath and wondering what he’s signed on for.

Warning: A family legacy, glowing plankton and rough waters.

Mae ClairAbout Mae Clair:
Mae Clair has been chasing myth, monsters and folklore through research and reading since she was a kid. As an adult, she stumbled onto the field of cryptozoology and realized there were others like her who loved speculating about weird and wonderful creatures.

Her blog, From the Pen of Mae Clair, features a weekly post each Monday where she examines a different myth or urban legend. In 2013 and 2015, she journeyed to West Virginia to learn more about the legendary Mothman, a creature who will factor into an upcoming series of novels.

As a writer, she pens tales of romantic mystery flavored with a twist of myth or folklore. Married to her high school sweetheart, Mae lives in Pennsylvania. Her passions include cats, history and exploring old graveyards. Look for Mae on her website at MaeClair.net

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:
Website and Blog
Twitter (@MaeClair1)
Google+
Facebook Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads
Sign up for Mae’s Newsletter

Download SOLSTICE ISLAND Free from:
Amazon

Add SOLSTICE ISLAND to your Goodreads TBR

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Good luck, Mae.

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Song of the Summer – “Shut Up and Dance”

The summer here in Ireland has been fairly miserable. With grey skies and plenty of rain, July felt more like November. We finally got some sunshine this week so I made the most of my lunch breaks, lounging in the garden with a book and cold drink.

The song that’s gotten me up and dancing and feeling good this summer is “Shut Up and Dance ” by Walk the Moon. When I first heard it, I thought it was an 80’s tune I somehow had never heard before. Then I saw the video and fell in love with the tribute to that decade.

Have you heard this one and seen the video?

It’s just so happy and carefree, I adore the melody, lyrics and video. Makes me look forward to the next 80’s night I attend.

What songs have got you feeling summery this year?

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