The Ghost of Graylock

Posted May 15, 2015 By JS Daly

Ghost Greylock

The Ghost of Graylock

by Dan Poblocki
 
Scholastic, 2012
 
272 Pages
 
MG (Ages 10-14)
 
four_stars
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Neil and Bree’s mother needs some time to herself. Her recent divorce really hit her hard, so she sent the kids to stay with their aunts Claire and Gladys for a while. Her emotional state creates a spooky parallel for the kids’ encounter with a spirit that was institutionalized for mental illness.
 
The Ghost of Graylock has some of the creepiest moments I have experienced from Dan Poblocki. An abandoned asylum on an island in a still, seaweed-tangled lake lures the kids to do some urban exploration, and the quiet isolation of the ruin invites the shivers. The basement is flooded with dark, stagnant water and there are cages around the stairwells. The dismal atmosphere is disturbing not only because it is decaying, but in that the hospital was abandoned suddenly, leaving behind a snapshot of life unnaturally forsaken, preserved in a museum of death.
 

They say she smiles as she holds you under– her face blurred as you stare up through the silvery surface, her teeth glistening white– delighted to continue her murderous quest to end the suffering of the insane.

 
While exploring the Graylock Mental Hospital with their friend Wesley and his older brother Eric, to whom Bree seems to take an immediate liking, their electronic devices go dead and they encounter the ghost of Nurse Janet as the door behind them slams shut! It’s a good thing Neil has so much experience with the supernatural given his die-hard fanaticism for the show Ghostly Investigators.
 
When they discover that Nurse Janet is really still alive, the whole crew goes to visit her. But Janet’s son is there and he becomes suspiciously irate at the kids’ bothersome questions. But if Janet Reilly isn’t the ghost of Graylock’s room 13, who… what… was sitting at the foot of Neil’s bed, dripping wet, in the middle of the night? The water puddles on the floor weren’t his imagination. Nor was the lake-weed in the bathtub that tried to drown Bree.
 

A scream filled the night. It took Neil a moment to realize where it came from. The aunts turned toward the house too. The light in the upstairs bathroom looked stark, alone. “Help me!” Bree cried out, before screaming again.

 
The ghost, they discover, is really that of Rebecca Smith, a girl who was an inmate at the asylum. What does she want of Neil and Bree? Why does she keep sending visions? The kids are pressured to solve the mystery of the of the antlers, the sheet music, and the andirons… (Did you see what I did there? A little John Bellairs humor…) before their father drags them back home.
 
They know the history of the ghost, but they don’t know if she’s there to help them or harm them in a rage of vengeance. The ending is exciting enough for film. Rebecca’s murderer appears, determined to keep his secret even if it means killing again –and again– as the murky water entangles Bree and Neil in the dark.
 
This book is one of Poblocki’s best. It should not be missed by fans of John Bellairs or TAPS!
 


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Book Review: Hex Hall

Posted May 8, 2015 By JS Daly

Hex_Hall

Hex Hall

by Rachel Hawkins
 
Hyperion, 2011
 
352 Pages
 
Young Adult (12-14)
 
Review by: Kristin Grady
 
three_stars
 
three-skulls
 
 
 
 
Sophie is a witch. She gets into trouble at her normal school for doing a spell and is exiled to hex hall which is a school for witches, shape-shifters, and faeries. On her first day she is attacked by a werewolf, saved by a really hot but really rude warlock, finds herself hated by the three most popular witches in the new school, and ends up sharing a room with the only vampire in residence, who is despised by the entire student body.
 
When people start dying, they blame her only friend, her roommate. As if that were not enough, soon Sophie will have to fight an ancient enemy that is determined to kill everyone, especially her. Will Sophie be able to save everyone? Will she find out what she really is?
 
This book was a lot of fun to read, and I really enjoyed it. I liked the history of the school and of the main character, Sophie, and her family. There was depth to all the characters. I can’t think of anything bad about this book. The bad guys were great and I loved the twist in the story when they pop up. I recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a great
paranormal romance with a little bit of mystery!
 
For fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys!
 


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The Seventh Apprentice

Posted May 1, 2015 By JS Daly

Seventh Apprentice

The Seventh Apprentice

by Joseph Delaney
 
HarperCollins, 2015
 
114 Pages
 
Ages 13-17 Years (YA)
 
five_stars
 

 
 
 
 
The Spook’s seventh apprentice, Will Johnson, tells the story of how he made it through his time under John Gregory’s tutelage despite being the “laziest apprentice”. He slacks off with chain throwing practice and doesn’t do the required reading in the Spook’s library. Even the boggart tries to keep him motivated, but it takes an encounter with a unique type of bone witch to ignite his passion for the job.
 
A pig farmer hires a traveling butcher and his son to slaughter their pigs, but the farm is overtaken by a witch. The son travels to Chippenden for the Spook’s help, but Mr. Gregory is out of town on business. Since the butcher, and likely the farmer and his wife, have been captured, the boy is frantic. Will tries to hold off until his master returns, but the situation escalates, and they both end up captured. Will his powers as a seventh son of a seventh son be able to defeat the illusions cast on them by the Pig Witch? Don’t count on it.
 
Since I accept the Wardstone Chronicles as some of the best horror literature ever written for kids, I don’t feel too bad about holding Delaney to a higher standard. As a Pagan myself, I was disappointed that such an easily defeated witch was considered a parallel to Circe, possibly even the mythological figure herself. I’m glad they referenced Circe as a purveyor of pig magic, but the Pig Witch was definitely not a shadow of the Goddess. And of course, Delaney gets in the obligatory plug for The Spook’s Bestiary as well (eye roll). But…
 
Delaney doesn’t fail to deliver horror as intense as any found in the previous Chronicles. I will likely have nightmares about the witch’s familiar and what it does to the body of the farmer’s wife. This is not for the faint of heart.
 
I pray that despite Delaney’s attentions to a new series featuring gladiators fighting against creatures of the Dark (Arena 13), he will continue to give us a collection of short stories like this one that will bring us back to the world of the Spook and his struggle against witches and boggarts. I am also desperately awaiting the conclusion to The Starblade Chronicles…
 
Seventh Apprentice UK
 
I feel compelled to review all the known Spooks Apprentices. According to this story:

My master’s first apprentice, Benjamin Roberts, was struck dead by a stone chucker, a violent sort of boggart with six arms that throws missiles—sometimes even large boulders. It split Benjamin’s skull wide open and dashed out his brains on the grass.
 
Mr. Gregory’s second apprentice, Paul Preston, was attacked by a deadly goat boggart as he walked across a muddy field near Wheeton. The creature’s horns pierced him under the ribs and speared his heart. He died instantly.
 
My master’s next three apprentices ran away because they found the job too difficult and scary. Mr. Gregory is still annoyed that he wasted all that time training them.
 
His sixth apprentice, Brian Houghton, completed his five-year apprenticeship successfully and is now practicing his trade somewhere south of the County. So far he has been the Spook’s only success. This is hardly surprising: Ours is a dangerous and terrifying occupation. We fight the dark, dealing with ghosts, ghasts, boggarts, and witches.
 
I’m the Spook’s seventh apprentice, and now it’s my turn to be trained. Recently I’ve been thinking of running away myself—before my master kicks me out. The truth is, my apprenticeship hasn’t been going too well, and recently things got a lot worse. . . .

In Book 13, The Spook’s Revenge, we are reminded of the wall in the shadows across from the foot of the apprentices’ bed:
 

Three walls had been newly plastered, but the fourth had not, despite the fact that it was slightly blackened by smoke. My master had left it intact because upon that wall were thirty names, including my own. They were the names of the apprentices he had trained or, in most cases, begun to train. Over a third of them, including my predecessor, Billy Bradley, had died violent deaths while learning the trade. One at least had gone to the dark, while many others had simply not completed their time. I had met three who had: Father Stocks, Bill Arkwright and, most recently, Judd Brinscall.

 
William Johnson (#7) was considered the Spook’s laziest apprentice, but found some determination after he faced the Pig Witch while his master was away from Chipenden.
 
Morgan Hurst was one of the Spook’s failures. He turned to the dark and became a necromancer. He attempted to summon Golgoth while John Gregory and Tom Ward were staying in Anglezarke.
 
Father Stocks chose not to become a spook after completing his apprenticeship. He was not considered a failure as he purposely decided to turn to the church and become a priest.
 
Bill Arkwright successfully completed his apprenticeship and became a spook himself in the North country, a bastion against water witches. He kept two dogs, Tooth and Claw, and trained Tom Ward in swimming and staff fighting.
 
Judd Brinscall, also a successful apprentice of the Spook, took up residence in Bill Arkwright’s old water mill after Bill’s death during the assault on the Ordeen’s fortress. Judd was part of the final army against the witches of Pendle and the Fiend.
 
Billy Bradley (#29) died after cutting corners while binding a boggart. His fingers were caught under the capstone and the boggart drained his blood before he could be rescued.
 
Tom Ward (#30)The Spook’s last apprentice, and his Mam’s revenge against the Dark. Tom takes up the role of the Chippenden Spook after John Gregory dies in the final battle against the Fiend and his army.
 


 

Related Posts:

The Seventh Apprentice
Fury of the Seventh Son (Spook’s Revenge)
I Am Alice
Slither’s Tale
I Am Grimalkin
Lure of the Dead (Spook’s Blood)
The Spook’s Bestiary
The Ghost Prison


 

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The Stone Child

Posted March 18, 2015 By JS Daly

Stone Child

The Stone Child

by Dan Poblocki
 
Random House, 2010
 
288 Pages
 
Ages 8-12 Years
 
four_stars
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
As the curtain opens, Eddie and his family move to a small town in northwestern Massachusetts called Gatesweed after his mom discovers its rustic charm, an ideal setting for writing her stories. By an odd coincidence, (not really; there’s evil afoot,) the town happens to be home of his favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead, who writes books with titles that sound notoriously like John Bellairs novels.
 
The first thing Eddie hears about is the Olmstead Curse. (Cue: thunder and ominous fog.) The author disappeared under mysterious circumstances a few years before, and Townsfolk seem edgy and tight lipped whenever Olmstead is mentioned.
 
Eddie is given a coded book puchased by his mom at a flea market, and while searching for a clue to decipher it, lands a friend in Harris, whose mother owns the small town, cloaked-in-mist bookshop called The Enigmatic Manuscrpt. When he visits the store, vandalism has befallen the park across the way. The words “The Woman is Watching” is painted on the pedestal of a bust of Dexter August, (himself unimportant in his historic shrouded-ness but for his name’s ring of a favorite Lovecraftian mainstay, part of the flavor of Poblocki’s writing.)
 
When Harris takes Eddie to see the mysterious statue of a child in the woods beyond the Olmstead house, where they were definitely not supposed to be exploring, they are chased away by a pack of bloodthirsty hounds from beneath the dark waters of a nearby lake. And that was only their first encounter with horrible monsters that seem to come straight from the pages of Olmstead’s books.
 

”Do we have to walk backward all the way back home?” she asked. “My dad’ll kill me if I bring home several dozen giant shadowy demons.”

 
Soon Eddie meets the class freak at school, a goth-type named Maggie who follows them to the house the next time they go. She hitches along on the mystery when the boys discover Olmstead’s original manuscripts secreted away behind a hidden passage in the basement. There is one hand-written book there that has never been published before… and that hints at the existence of a figure from biblical history that is trying to cross into this world: Lilith herself, and she’ll be bringing a host of abominations with her.
 
The dark goddess extends her grasp across the divide between the worlds and begins to threaten the boys. They recall the words, “The woman is watching.” Can the three investigators unlock the puzzle behind the lost manuscript before She crosses over and lays waste to the world?
 
Just as we think the mystery of the manuscript, the statue, and the key has been solved and the book completely translated from its cryptic code, Eddie’s mom gives a reading of her latest novel… and horrifyingly begins reciting the chapters of Olmstead’s unpublished novel word-for-word. It is an incantation that –when her book is finished– will act as a spell to open the way for Lilith and her savage horde.
 
Poblocki is great with hidden symbols, puzzles and cyphers, as we’ve seen in his Mysterious Four series. In The Stone Child he calls upon the magic inherent in some ancient Hebrew letters and challenges his characters with a code that requires them to locate the key.
 
Though more thriller than horror, this book has many scary moments. I felt fulfilled when the town librarian witnessed a creature of the dark try to kill the boys. Too often an author of spooky tales will isolate children’s nightmarish experiences from the adult, rational world– making it all the more terrifying when the supernatural comes crashing into the real, sunlit world.
 

The myth of the Garden of Eden, the theory of the Big Bang, every single “once upon a time” you ever heard when your parents tucked you into bed– these help us imagine our own personal world. And wasn’t that the job of the writer? To create worlds? To invent myths?

 
An easy read and an engaging story with a taste of adventure, Poblocki’s first book is a thrilling, chilling taste of the frightful dark thrillers yet to come from this author.
 

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Afterlife with Archie

Posted February 23, 2015 By JS Daly

Afterlife with Archie

Afterlife with Archie:
Escape From Riverdale

by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
 
Archie Comic Publications, 2014
 
160 Pages
 
Young Adult
 
four_stars
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
To my surprise, the new series taking the comic-book store by storm is not written tongue-in-cheek… but it is based on a Life with Archie cover that probably was. …And so, finally someone addresses the question that has been nagging at the back of our (collective) minds since our parents were teenagers: What would happen if the zombie apocalypse started at good old Riverdale High?
 
Jughead appears at Sabrina (the Teenage Witch)’s front door in the middle of the night. Someone accidentally hit his pet Dog with a car, (Yup, it was Reggie,) and Jughead has it in his head that Sabrina is a necromancer. He begs her to bring Hot Dog back to life, and at first she refuses, remembering her aunts’ warnings, hinting at a price similar to that in The Monkey’s Paw, where you might not like what comes back. But after contemplating what it would be like to have lost her beloved pet Salem, Sabrina digs up an old spell and raises Hot Dog from the dead. This lands her a year in the Nether-Realm sans her magic (and conveniently allows for a spin-off comic).
 
The comic is drawn with a realism that makes one truly appreciate the renditions of Betty and Veronica in Halloween costumes. It holds no punches as it explores a lesbian relationship between Ginger and Nancy and a pretty weird …something… going on between Jason and Cheryl Blossom. But the staples remain intact; Moose and Midge bite it together, Betty and Veronica walk a tightrope between rivalry and friendship competing for the redhead’s attention, and Archie is even dressed as Pureheart the Powerful at the costume dance.
 
At the Halloween costume ball at the high school, (Ronnie is a perfect Vampirella,) a dark silhouette darkens the doorway. Juggie’s been bitten by a dog with distemper, and he’s really feeling dead on his feet. So he takes a bite out of Big Ethel, and gets dragged off by his friends until Principal Weatherbee and Ms. Grundy show up to really kick the apocalypse into gear.
 

Mr. Lodge, I’ve been trying to sneak into your daughter’s room for as long as I can remember, and I know what a fortress this place is…

 
Archie leads the unaffected kids to safety at the Lodge mansion, but someone’s already been infected! We see into the personal lives of Mr. Lodge and Archie as they flashback. Archie goes looking for his parents, and ends up collapsing his own father’s skull with a baseball bat. (Did I mention that my local comic shop displays this title on the kids rack next to Betty and Veronica and Sonic the Hedgehog?)
 


** Dead Dog Alert **
Vegas protects Archie when a zombified Hot Dog corners him. He doesn’t make it, but sacrifices himself for his master.

 
The standard “holed-up and watching the undead mill about on security cameras” angst plays out at the mansion, and there is an argument as to whether they should all stay put where it’s “safe” or make a run for it. But the food supply is limited and the generators will eventually run out of fuel, so we transition away from the mansion at the end, the first five issues of the comic book becoming a prelude to what I hope will be a long-running series.
 
Good luck finding first printings of the original comics. That’s OK, because they started reprinting them in magazine format, only with extras in the old Warren (Creepy and Eerie Magazines) tradition. Now might be a good time to pick up issue number six (with sexy variant cover) along with starting your collection of the Sabrina spinoff as well!
 


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