All Hallows by Christopher Golden

5 stars Thriller

Now, that was creepy good!  I enjoyed the intensity of the two storylines as they slowly built-up steams and I loved the intensity that swelled within this book once the festivities began.  I fell back in time as I read this book, back to the day when everyone living on your block was on a first name basis and most neighborhoods were safe as help was just a few feet away.  As one father and his daughter finished up preparations for their annual Halloween haunted woods, the rest of the neighborhood is getting ready for the annual Halloween block party.  Candy is stocked at the door for the trick-or-treaters and it seems like everyone has their night planned out, so they won’t miss a thing. 

Enthusiasm and excitement filled the air as this was a big night.  The haunted woods grew more extravagant every year and they were eager to see what awaited them this year.  The block party was a time for the neighborhood to come together and enjoy each other’s company, or at least that’s what this party had been in the past.    As the children start the night with their trick-or-treating, they encounter some costumed children they don’t recognize.   Could it just be the costumes that throw off who these individuals are or are these children not from around there?  It’s when these children start asking the neighborhood children for help that warning flags when off in my head. 

Sorry folks, your fun evening with your neighbors just got interesting.  What a thrilling read!  I loved so much about this book –  5 stars

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

4 stars Horror

Who’s pointing the finger now?  Mallory has a shadow over her and she can’t seem to shake it.  See, Mallory’s been in rehab and although, she’s been clean for some time, that doesn’t really matter.  For Mallory, the label alone wasn’t the issue, it was all the adjectives that came trailing along with that classification that she’s having to confront.  Mallory needs room to breathe.  Mallory’s big chance came when she landed a job being a babysitter for five-year-old, Teddy.  Mallory is given her own cottage to live in, separate from the families, and the only individuals who know about Mallory’s past are the parents.

Mallory’s job is to entertain Teddy while the parents’ work.  Swimming in the family’s pool, going to the park, and drawing together are just some of the activities that they enjoy together.  It’s not every day that you get some illustrations in a fiction book while you read but soon the book begins to show some of Terry’s drawings which are disturbing.  For being five, Teddy sure could draw! These drawings began very basic and later evolved but the details and the symmetry in which Teddy was able to create his pictures was amazing for a five-year-old.  Red flags immediately went up in my head, as there was no way Teddy drew these.  It doesn’t stop there as Teddy’s drawings started to take on more meaning and I was hoping it would be dark.   

Mallory was enjoying her own private quarters, away from the family, when she was not working.  She was alone in her cottage yet it felt as if someone was watching her.  Then, came the sound.  The scratching sounds.  Where was that coming from and why? So much for the quiet life that she had hoped to obtain.

As Mallory tends to Teddy, she finds him talking to, no-one.  He was carrying on this great conversation and when asked about it, he says he was his imaginary friend, Anya.  At first, she doesn’t think much about it but when she learns some history about this residence that she’s living on, she changes her mind.   This Anya might not be a made-up individual.  Is it really possible that this Anya could be someone from the past?  Mallory is all over the place mentally, as she contemplates what this all could mean and the excitement builds until I realize that Mallory needs to stop and consider her own life.  It’s Mallory.  The Mallory in Rehab.  With their foggy glasses on, people see her as unstable, not able to think straight, and just a bit off.  So, can she really address this issue with anyone?  Can she afford to remain quiet with Teddy in the picture? 

I liked the idea behind the story but I do think there were too many drawings in the book, as it connected too many dots in the story.  I would have liked less dots connected and more of a mysterious element to the story at the end, than having them all connected.  Perhaps leave out why some of the items were in the pictures and not explain everything just explain the main events.   I liked Mallory and Teddy and I thought their friendship was important to the story, as it provided comfort and it stability.  I enjoyed this book.  4 stars

Took (graphic novel): a Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

4.5 stars Graphic Novel

Holy macaroni!  You move your family into this neighborhood?!?  What was you thinking?  I got caught up inside the drama of this children’s graphic novel when I realized that the kids had no one looking out for them.  Well, that’s not totally true. There was first the creepy house with the spooky forest next to it then, the two children start getting picked on at school.  I read that a few of the area children have been disappearing over the years and how a witch might be connected with that.  A witch?  Erica starts talking to her doll ALL THE TIME and I was just waiting for that doll to start talking back to her and then, I don’t know what I would have done.  Daniel has to go into the forest to look for his little sister as she has disappeared in there. Yep, why she went in there he has no idea but after she did some quiet talking with her doll, she got up and headed off into the woods. 

Where is their mom and dad in all of this?  Good question.  They’re looking for jobs and they’re busy doing other things.  Isn’t that how it always is.  Now, what Daniel finds in the woods, when he’s looking for his little sister, has me reading this book into the early morning hours.  What a great middle school read. 

This is a gripping children’s graphic novel which I feel is good for upper elementary readers or middle schoolers.  The illustrations are colorful and I liked the variety of sizes that they used for text boxes.   It’s a book that will definitely grab your attention.  4.5 stars    

The Sleepover by Michael Regina

4.5 Stars Middle School Graphic Novel

This graphic novel was quite the surprise.  With a great mix of characters and a storyline that lead me down different roads, this middle school graphic novel is great for those who enjoy a chilling read.  This story had its share of emotions as the characters become involved in their own mystery. 

When the family of three returned home from vacation, they realized their beloved Nanny Ruby, would not be returning which broke their hearts.  Mom needed to return to work so she starts looking for another nanny for her children.  Matt has taken the news of Ruby’s death the hardest and his friends have arrived to have a sleepover with him.  Armed with food and scary movies, the boys have made plans to make this a fun night for Matt. I really enjoyed this mixed bunch of boys which made up Matt’s friends.  Forced to return to work, Mom hires Miss Swan as their nanny, to watch Matt and his sister Judy.  Miss Swan’s first night will be the night of the sleepover.

Judy is such a great character to have in this book, as she’s the youngest of the bunch which could mean that she’s immature but it could mean that she’s fearless, especially around all these boys.  When I read that the new nanny was “Miss Swan”, I immediately thought The Black Lagoon books, as I thought something creepy was bound to happen surrounding her. It’s funny how a name can trigger an image and get your head going.  Miss Swan surpassed what I had thought or what I could have even imaged.  Mother had to get back to work or lose her job and Miss Swan was her only option, what an option!

This book was a great adventure and I liked the wide variety of characters.  The graphics in the book were easy to follow although at times, I had to look back at the previous textboxes to help me distinguish between the different characters. I thought that by looking at just their faces in some of the textboxes, I couldn’t tell them apart.  I can see individuals who like their middle school books a little on the spooky side loving this book.  4.5 stars

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

4 stars YA

Courtney is one of my favorite writers and I admit I was hesitating to read a book about a zombie apocalypse and a suicidal girl.  I mean, if you think about it, it’s a sad situation really and a strange combination.  Yet, Courtney pulled it off and the book was engaging, sensitive, and entertaining.

Sloane was relieved when she was distracted from eating her breakfast.  Now, she wouldn’t get in trouble for not eating but what are they going to do with the woman that her father stabbed with the shard of glass?   As Sloane looks out their door, she sees the neighbor with the heart condition, lying on the grass, with individuals hunched over him.  As Sloane watches, she notices that his chest is being pulled open by their fingers. 

If those images don’t want you to board-up your house, I don’t know what would? I don’t know much about zombie apocalypses but I know, I’m not ready for one after reading this book.

It is now a week later and I find Sloane in a high school, barricaded with a handful of teenagers.  There are the typical teen power and relationship issues with these survivors which I’m glad the author included as it makes this drama more realistic.  The high school is a great fortress, as it has a lot of amnesties except its BIG.  Big means lots of places to keep secure and lots of places for problems.   THUD!  THUD!  Someone is pounding on a door and now, what are they going to do?

Sloane doesn’t know why she is with these teens. She has wondered this from the beginning as she doesn’t share the same feelings as the other teens. While the others want to survive and get to where other humans are, Sloane feels just the opposite.  Her feelings all started six months ago when her family started to have problems and they have only escalated.    Sloane’s character was perfect for his book. 

I enjoyed reading this book and was glad that I picked it up. 

MonsterStreet: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf #1

5 stars Children

It’s a mysterious and surprising tale regarding a young boy who finally discovers his father and the grandparents, that he doesn’t recall.  The story moves quickly; swallowing you in an adventure where you’re not sure what will happen in the end.

Max finds it strange that he’s off to spend a weekend alone with some relatives that he doesn’t even know or remember.  Yet, somehow, he is told the time is right for this visit with his grandparents.  Welcome to Creepville, in Wolf County.  This can’t be the place when they finally turn off the engine and get out.  The home has been taken over by cobwebs, some boarded up windows, and Max will discover later, no phone or electricity. 

The place looks deserted but as they walk around, an older man appears clutching an ax, and then an older woman emerges in a bloodstained apron, lugging a hog.  The stage is set for Max’s weekend as mom quickly makes her exit in her minivan.  

I enjoyed how Max was fed the story of his family.  Through a neighbor girl, his father’s diary, his mother, and his grandparents, Max learns about himself and his family.  There are elements of surprise and anticipation in the novel and I liked how they flowed into the story. There wasn’t anything gross or descriptive in the novel, just mysterious and creature horror. 

I think it’s a great book for kids who can handle some horror without getting scared.

“He was torn between his desire to obey his grandparents and the curiosity he now felt about what Jade was saying.  He wasn’t sure who to trust.”