Hollow City

Posted January 23, 2015 By JS Daly

Hollow City

Hollow City

by Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, 2014
416 Pages
Young Adult

Riggs’ sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children picks up directly where the first book left off, the Peculiar children clinging to life in tenuous boats at sea, pursued by Nazis. Despite the danger our protagonists are in, the book started off slow for me, but after the halfway point, the story took off like a roller coaster.
I am glad Riggs put reminder pictures of what the main characters look like at the beginning of the book, it’s been a while and I forgot what the kids special abilities were. I only wish there were a picture of a hollowghast, running on its tongues, its atrophied human limbs hanging useless, starved for the brains of a peculiar.
A storm tosses their boats and the fellowship loses their Map of Days. Running from Nazi ships, they begin to read from Bronwyn’s Tales of the Peculiar, (volumes they discover hide secret, coded knowledge of the Peculiars,) and this leads the crew to another loop. Of course, they have to go through a hungry hollowghast to get there! Much like the tale they just read, the loop is filled with a menagerie of talking animals. (But don’t worry, this surreal almost silly chapter doesn’t last long.)

And to think I once dismissed these as just stories for children. They are, in fact, extraordinarily complex– cunning, even– in the way they conceal secret information about peculiardom. It would take me years, probably, to decode them all.

They next encounter a band of Peculiar-sympathizing gipsies who help them on their way to London, where they pray they can find an Ymbrine to help Miss Peregrine recover her true human form. Unfortunately, the wight-infested Nazi regime painfully catches up with the group of Peculiars. We learn the true value of having a chest filled with bees as unlikely Hugh comes to the rescue more than once.

Once in London, the odd group feels the terror of the blitz first hand with children being evacuated and an ever-present and unpredictable possibility of death from above. (Remember, they are still in the 1940s, though their loop has been abandoned.) Searching desperately, they soon learn that every loop in London has fallen, invaded by the wights. Do they enter a punishment loop “filled with pestilence so thick you can’t breathe” and attempt to rescue the Ymbrines on their own?
Riggs explores what it is like to be a true outsider, to be permanently invisible, for instance, as we learn how the different Peculiars first discovered their unique traits. The relationship between Jacob and Emma develops, we feel Jacob’s guilt over what his parents must be going through with him missing, and Emma reveals her own painful childhood all to foreshadow a heavy decision that Jacob must make once Miss Peregrine is healed.
On the way to their last, best hope, an ymbrine named Miss Wren, the gang meets other Peculiars: A pair of echo-locating twins and Melinda, a telekinetic. At this point, the story has turned truly creepy with a trip through some catacombs, the bodies of those who have chosen to “age forward,” a fearsome pursuit by hollowghasts, piles of bones and coffins, and that’s not even to mention the air raid above. We see the death of many Peculiars in this book, and some real violence toward the end.
After visiting the sideshow of a dark carnival the group ends up face to face with a brigade of wights, protected only by a building frozen thick with ice. Though Jacob begins to come into his own, exploring his peculiar powers by mind-melding with a hollowghast, we are double-crossed by none other than Miss Peregrine’s brother Caul himself.
We are now finally reminded with shock and horror of the history learned at the end of the last book—- that a group of Peculiars wanted to restore the race to its former glory and that they began doing experiments. There were experiments that blew up the Siberian tundra and created hollowghasts, things without souls, things that could become wights if they devoured enough Peculiars, (or gain the ability to enter loops,) and there have since been experiments to steal the dual souls of Peculiars. The results are there to be seen: Peculiars driven mad with only a single mortal soul.

They believed they had discovered a method by which the function of time loops could be perverted to confer upon the user a kind of immortality; not merely the suspension of aging, but the reversal of it. They spoke of eternal youth enjoyed outside the confines of loops, of jumping back and forth from future to past with impunity, suffering none of the ill effects that have always prevented such recklessness– in other words, of mastering time without being mastered by death. [~Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children]

It’s now up to Jacob and Emma and a talking dog to save peculiardom (and every living ymbrine,) from the evil of Caul’s twisted ideology.
Again, it seems that sometimes characters are put into the narration just to fit a photo, though admittedly that is the art form itself, to create a narrative collage from a series of images. Regardless, Riggs’ technique is successful and has inspired other books in the same style, such as Asylum by Madeleine Roux.
The ending is another cliffhanger, though I’m not disappointed I took the ride between Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and a promised third book. This episode explores the personalities of the other characters and begins to scratch the surface of the alienation they all feel while a driving adventure speeds us through a war-torn city, underground catacombs, and battles with horrific multi-tongued monsters. In fact, as Riggs comes into his own with his storytelling, I find that although the vintage photographs are indeed magical, they seem to become increasingly superfluous to the deeply engaging saga of Jacob, Emma, and a host of refugee misfits.

Related Posts:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Hollow City



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Eighth Grade Bites

Posted October 23, 2014 By JS Daly

8th Grade Bites

Eighth Grade Bites

By Heather Brewer
Penguin, 2007
192 Pages
Young Adult


Guest Post by

Kristin Grady
Vladimir Tod is just like everybody else. He gets picked on by bullies, he has a best friend named Henry, he has a crush named Meredith, and an aunt named Nelly. The only difference is: he’s a vampire. He is living a normal life until a new substitute teacher starts asking questions that are a little to close for comfort, and it doesn’t help that a vampire hunter has shown up in his small town. Now Vladimir has to figure out who this teacher is… before he gets killed.
This was a funny and suspenseful book that I give 5/5 stars. Although this is a small book, it was really fun to read and I greatly enjoyed it. I loved the author’s take on vampires and the different personalities of all the characters. I had to run out and get the next book right after I finished this one. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!



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The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

Posted October 16, 2014 By JS Daly

Treehouse of Horror

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror Comics

Bongo Comics & HarperCollins
Young Adult

For those of us who tune in faithfully the Sunday -after- Halloween (thank you NFL playoffs…) for the annual Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror Halloween special episode but just can’t get enough, Bongo comics also publishes a comic book companion to the thrilling comedy creepfest!
Considered the Simpson’s comics annuals, they are filled with decidedly adult humor, but no more innuendo and violence than you might find in Mad Magazine. The frightful holiday episode even has numerous companion sets of toys.


Although it isn’t out of the realm of imagination to collect all of the original issue comic books, reading copies can be found at most local libraries (here in the US anyway). Each issue usually has four or five major features, often movie parodies, each illustrated by a different artist, with bizarre gatefolds and schtick advertisements stuffed in between. Shorts like those found in other Simpsons Comics are packed in-between. The features include guest artists like Jill Thompson, Dan Brereton, Ted Naifeh, & Sergio Aragones, and “guest stars” such as Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, and Rob Zombie.

The Collections:

Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo

1999 – Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo
(Collects #1-3)

Spine-Tingling Spooktacular

2001 – Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Spine-Tingling Spooktacular
(Collects #4,5,6)

Fun-Filled Frightfest

2003 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Fun-Filled Frightfest
(Collects #6,7)

4-Hoodoo Voodoo brouhaha

2006 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Hoodoo Voodoo Brouhaha
(Collects #8,9)

Dead Mans Jest

2008 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Dead Man’s Jest
(Collects #10, 11)

Beyond The Grave

2011 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror from Beyond the Grave
(Collects #12, 13)


For a more detailed breakdown of each issue:
Simpsons Wiki
Simpsons Archive





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25 Best Horror Movies for Kids

Posted September 18, 2014 By JS Daly


With the grown-up content of so many horror movies these days, scary films you can watch with your entire family on Halloween are precious.
This list will safely entertain the whole brood on any dark and stormy night! No chainsaws, no flesh-eating zombies… but we can’t promise no nightmares!
So bring out the Butterworth’s and dim the lights!


25. Little Monsters
(1989) PG

If Howie Mandel was the monster under my bed, I would run for my life! He’s a far cry from Tom Arnold’s Huggly.
Fred Savage (from The Wonder Years) leads a frantic chase to return to the human world (from under the bed) before sunrise… or he’ll become a monster himself!


24. The Little Vampire
(2000) PG

Despite the silly cuteness of the actors in the advertising, this is actually a gripping thriller. When a boy befriends a vampire child, he must then fight the descendant of Van Helsing in order to protect him.


23. The Corpse Bride
(2005) PG

Another Tim Burton Halloween special!
Not to be confused for a follow-up to The Nightmare Before Christmas, this tells the story of a poor groom who must marry the wrong girl. Be careful whose finger you put a wedding ring on.


22. Hotel Transylvania
(2012) PG

An animated comedy about a vacation spot in rural Transylvania, catering to monsters.
Dracula’s daughter longs for the real world, and ends up falling in love… with a human. (The most savage of all the members of The Monster Club!)


21. Arachnophobia
(1990) PG-13

John Goodman (Norm from Cheers) takes on the job of spider exterminator.
…because there are millions of them…


20. 20. The Addams Family
(1991) PG-13

A modern take on the Addams Family TV series.
Though this spawned two sequels, the first is the best. It should be followed up by watching some of the original episodes!


19. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
(1943) G

The ruins of Castle Frankenstein are explored and the Monster is discovered encased in a tomb of ice!
A black and white monster classic! This story takes place before the events of House of Dracula, and establishes an enmity between the Monster and Larry Talbot.


18. The Haunted Mansion
(2003) PG

A spin-off from the ride at Disney World, Eddie Murphy explores an old plantation house. Can he break the curse before the clock strikes thirteen?


17. Twilight Zone: The Movie
(1983) PG

Do you want to see something really scary…?

Four vignettes remaking some of the classic episodes.
“Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!”
They are better enjoyed if you are familiar with the original episodes, so be sure to watch them, too!


16. The Monster Squad
(1987) PG-13

“The wolfman’s got nards!

Cheesy, but fun! If you like this one, The Goonies will be a hit, too!


15. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
(2009) PG-13

There is a war brewing within the vampire world just as poor Darren gets caught up in the life of the undead. His best friend becomes a victim of the war as well.
An adaptation of Darren Shan’s novels about a circus of freaks and monsters. If you like this, go read the books! It only gets better from here!


14. House of Dracula
(1949) G

Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and Dracula all in the same movie! One of Universal’s most climactic thrillers brings The Monster under the control of the Lord of the Vampires! Can Lawrence Talbot stop his nefarious scheme?


13. Frankenweenie
(2012) PG

A child loses his dog. Wouldn’t you do everything you could to bring back your beloved pet? Tim Burton. ‘Nuff said?


12. Monster House
(2006) PG

A thriller from the creators of Coraline. You’ll be hanging on the edge of your seat at the ending, when the house itself comes to life!
Another intelligent mystery about a crotchety old curmudgeon who chases kids off his front lawn, and also an unforgettable love story.


11. Coraline
(2009) PG

An adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s early foray into children’s fantasy books.
An amazing fantasy. The “other mother” will leave even the adults looking under their beds at night.


10. The Witches
(1990) PG

A witch’s convention gets hungry for the taste of children in this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s imaginitive book.


9. 13 Ghosts
(1960) PG

Treasure hunting in a house that’s really haunted! This old black & white movie is a lot like a visit to Mayberry, with a dash of murder!  
(Not to be confused with the 2001 remake that is definitely NOT for kids!)
A William Castle classic originally filmed in 3-D Illusion-O vision!


8. Young Frankenstein
(1974) PG

Bette Midler and Gene Wilder’s parody of Frankenstein.
Imagine the father from Everybody Loves Raymond dancing to Astaire’s Puttin’on the Ritz, dressed as Frankenstein’s Monster!


7. Paranorman
(2012) PG

Norman can see dead people, so it falls to him to save the town when its witch-burning past comes back to haunt them!
Paranorman is one of the most intelligent of the computer-animated horror films I’ve seen.


6. Gremlins
(1984) PG

If an antique dealer cryptically warns you not to feed the Magwai after midnight, LISTEN to him!


5. Beetlejuice
(1988) PG

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Another Tim Burton classic!
A mischievous spirit indoctrinates a newly deceased couple into the afterlife. The soundtrack even includes Harry Bellafonte!


4. Something Wicked This Way Comes
(1983) PG

An excellent adaptation of the book by Ray Bradbury, this is a study of the innermost desires of an all American town and a boy’s desire to connect with his father.


3. Hocus Pocus
(1993) PG

Three witches run Amok! Bette Midler and her crew raise the dead in this hilarious Halloween romp!


2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993) PG

Tim Burton’s all-time classic that explores Christmas through the lens of Halloween!


1. Ghostbusters
(1984) PG

The movie that brings you unforgettable quotes like these:

“Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'”


“Don’t cross the streams.”
“It would be bad.”
“I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, ‘bad?'”
“Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
“Right. That’s bad. Okay. Important safety tip. Thanks.”


Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
The dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

–The funniest horror film you’ll ever find.


What are your family’s favorite spooky flicks for a dark and stormy night? Stay tuned for our William Castle special!


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Gravediggers: Entombed

Posted September 10, 2014 By JS Daly


Gravediggers: Entombed

by Christopher Krovatin
HarperCollins, 2014
320 Pages
Mid-Grade (Ages 9-12)

I wondered where Krovatin would take his team of young zombie hunters next, and true to form, he kicks it up a notch by landing the three team-mates in the City of the Dead. The story starts with a bang– O’Dea, their Warden, has been kidnapped by Dario Savini, an enemy who had escaped from the Isla Hambrienta!
The Council of Wardens meets with the Gravediggers, and are complete jerks who claim that the Wardens have never truly needed the services of the Gravediggers, and are so rude they anger Kendra (who “has the blood” of a Warden, so it seems,) so intensely that she accesses her special powers and trashes the conference room. (The three partners began to develop new abilities in Terror Cove.) The Council are clearly a hostile force and will offer no help in retrieving O’Dea, who is expected to take her own life rather than allow a containment breach.
The Gravediggers are left with nowhere to turn except their old “friend,” Danny Melee. Together they solve the mystery of where O’Dea has been taken, but it’s not good news. Kudus is in Malaysia, and is the last remnant of a lost civilization, a place known in whispered legends as The City of the Dead, and for good reason.
Before they leave, it becomes evident that Ian is beginning to have feelings for Kendra. To top it all off, Josephina, O’Dea’s protegee, is having visions, ominous dreams about PJ in a cave posing a great danger for him, and she predicts that something bad will happen soon. But of course, there wouldn’t be a story if we all just heeded the warnings of the local gas station attendant not to go up to the haunted mansion on the hill…
Danny flies the Gravediggers to Borneo and equips the venture, (though, sadly, Ian finds he has to run away from home in order to get there.) Once there, the trio goes spelunking and soon unearth the gateway to Kudus.
Kendra is now showing signs of having much stronger powers; even more than those of the other Gravediggers. She can see the magic of sigils carved in the walls glowing as though she were a warden, and receives visions of the lives of the dead. Her visions allow us to learn the history of the ancient fallen city that was once invaded by an evil tribe, and then then horribly cursed. It became so overrun with the undead that the entire city was collapsed by the wardens of that time to lie forgotten below the earth.
At Kudus they encounter a new type of zombie– animated corpses that have dwelled underground for hundreds of years and have evolved adaptations to the darkness! They can smell human blood (unless you smear yourself with gore) and they can crawl on the ceiling, an entire army of pale zombies with fungus growing out of their spines on all sides! Remember that the fungus is what makes the zombie in Krovatin’s series– the body exists to spread the spore, and a head shot wont kill them like in the movies, these hunters must rip out or crush a zombie’s spine in order to take it out.
What they find in the sewers of the lost city is gross, spine-crushing, zombie cannibalism!

The whole blob of merged human corpses rises up around us like a garden of death, like a swelling lasagna of dead people sloshing up around us in festering waves. The basic laws of zombie nature have gone horribly wrong here, the conjoined dead deformed beyond reason– there are zombies with three arms, two torsos, four people’s worth of intestines spilling out of them. They all come pouring from the horrible pool of reanimated flesh around our feet.

Soon they find Dario’s father, a zombie, and watch Dario kill him. How cold; Dario is a ruthless Gravedigger bent on loosing the zombie population upon the world in order to teach everyone what life shared with zombies was once like, to make people appreciate the gift that is the Gravediggers. Besides unleashing the zombies from Kudus, one of his aims is also to destroy all Wardens. Gravediggers and Wardens, both sides seem to feel like there is no real need for the other.

They’ve never known what to do with us, because we have the power. Wardens need to be trained. Their blood has the potential for magic, but they need to be… whittled out of a person. Gravediggers are like diamonds… We have an inherent power behind us, an ability.

A skilled soldier, Dario offers at one point to help train the young gravediggers, but that is before they cross him. Dario’s father’s corpse had been holding a carven horn, what Kendra recognizes as the city’s seal. The kids nab it and run from Dario, but he soon catches up and gives PJ and Ian a beat down. Then he carries Kendra away. Eventually, the boys find O’Dea, who is upset that they came down into the tunnels and risked turning the tides of the magical containment. They were supposed to let her kill herself in order to protect the world. She had been kidnapped because in order to overcome the seal, Dario needs a Warden’s powers. Without O’Dea there should be no problem. Except he does have a Warden now. Kendra.
The team terrifyingly discovers the very source of the zombie contagion in Kudus and confronts it head on! Krovatin outdoes himself creating a horror at the center of it all that can viably threaten humanity itself, the raging spores of undead infection that may sweep the face of the planet. Not only will the Gravediggers have to defeat Dario the professional mercenary, but the fungal death itself… and then make it back to the surface alive to face the Council of Wardens.
Even better than the first two books in this series, the cover art on this edition is sweet! It promises darkness, terror, and zombie hordes, and Krovatin’s story delivers! There is no way to fully describe in words the alien flavor of ancient Southeast Asian architecture, so for a taste of what Kudus may have looked like, here are pictures of similar lost cities nearby. Wait a minute… could this sunken zombie-holocaust site be real?

Ancient Architecture:
Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Bagan, and Sukhothai

The Sarawak Chamber

Just as the feelings between Ian and Kendra are beginning to simmer and the tensions between the Gravediggers and Wardens are coming to a head, the Gravediggers Trilogy comes to an end! I am holding out hope that the story will continue in a new format. Necessarily a new format, because the ending of this adventure leaves the makeup of the Gravediggers fundamentally altered, and the characters forever changed.

Related Posts:

INTERVIEW with Christopher Krovatin
Gravediggers: Entombed
Gravediggers: Terror Cove
Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones
Heavy Metal and You



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