The Rest of Us Just Live Here

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is not really a horror novel, but I think it will appeal to horror fans, particularly those who are fans of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stranger Things.

It’s a book for all those who ever wondered what life was like for all the other people in Sunnydale.

A great thing about this book: a super realistic depiction of OCD. I have sever OCD, and it’s rare that I see an accurate portrayal of it in media, but this was an exception. It’s not delved into a lot, but the way the main character’s OCD is portrayed is pretty on point. I don’t think many people without OCD realize how badly it can disrupt your life.

A thing I didn’t like about this book: a mountain lion dies at one point, and I can’t really handle animal death, so I ended up really upset about that. I understand other people may not be as bothered by this, but I have a really hard time reading about animals in pain or dying and have trouble moving past something like that. It seriously affects my enjoyment of any work.

Overall though, this is a sweet, charming, coming of age story that’s often amusing and always heartfelt. Recommended.

Survive the Night

I know Danielle Vega’s famous for her Merciless series, but Survive the Night is the first thing I’ve read by her. Survive is a fast paced, thrilling novel with blood and scares to spare, as well as characters whom I actually cared about. When people begin dying, many of the deaths are acutely heartbreaking. No one here is just body count fodder.

Casey is just out of three months in rehab when she goes out with her friends Shana, Julie, and Aya. Shana, in particular, is wild, and as we gradually discover, largely responsible for leading Casey down the path that led her to drug addiction and rehab. Shana convinces Casey to go to an underground rave in an abandoned part of the New York City subway system. Casey, who’s trying to stay sober, is reluctant but agrees in hopes of reconnecting with her former boyfriend, Sam. After Shana drugs Casey’s soda, Casey stumbles upon Julie’s dead body. When Casey tries to convince her friends what she’s seen, they get trapped in the subway system, with someone, or something, that begins picking them off one by one.

We’ve all had friends like Shana at some point; at least, I know I have. Luckily mine never drugged me, or for that matter convinced me to go to a party where everyone was murdered. Shana is wild and irresponsible and definitely a bad influence on Casey, but we also see why Casey is drawn to her. Vega paints a nuanced portrait of Shana as a troubled and lonely individual, who is often jealous of Casey, but loves her too.

Sam is another character whom I loved. He’s wary of Casey due to the drug problems that previously ended their relationship, but also clearly deeply in love with her. When the friends find themselves in danger, he is determined to get Casey to safety, even at his own peril.

The scares here are also excellent. I don’t want to get to into them here, as part of the book’s appeal is figuring out exactly what is after our heroes, but our killer is a formidable threat, and Vega doesn’t skimp on the gore when the bodies start piling up.

I can’t recommend Survive the Night enough. Vega crafts a tense narrative, with thrills that once they start coming, don’t stop until the very end of the book. I will definitely be checking out more from Vega, so stay tuned here for more reviews of her work. And if you haven’t read Survive, remedy that as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.

Killer Scarecrow by Scott Donnelly

Scarecrows are pretty creepy. Something about them, the fact that they’re almost human but not quite, makes them incredibly eerie. I loved the episode of Supernatural with the murderous scarecrow, and the low budget 80’s horror movie, Scarecrows, always creeped me out as a kid. So when Scott Donnelly asked me to review his upcoming YA horror novel, Killer Scarecrow, I was intrigued.

The book starts out in tried and true horror fashion with a deadly accident taking place. Cash and his friend, Benny, are setting up a creepy scarecrow in front of a massive tree in Benny’s yard as a Halloween decoration. A trio of local bullies come by and begin harassing the friends. When things get physical, a tree branch breaks off, landing on Benny’s head and killing him instantly.

A year later, Cash is still struggling to move on after his friend’s death when he gets a Facebook request from someone claiming to be Benny. The three bullies get it too. Meanwhile strange things keep happening in Benny’s front yard where the creepy scarecrow still stands – Benny’s heartbroken father refusing to take it down. It’s not long before the creepy scarecrow starts doing what creepy scarecrows do best…killing.

Killer Scarecrow is a pretty entertaining book. It’s by the numbers in terms of plot, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. R.L. Stine is probably the most famous YA horror author out there, and his books tend to be by the numbers as well; it’s comforting in the way many classic slasher films and their multitude of sequels are comforting. You know what you’re going to get, but it’s still fun getting there.

My only complaints about the book come down to two things. There are some typos and abrupt switches in point of view that are a bit jarring, but I imagine those will be fixed in the final copy. The other comes down to characterization. Cash’s burgeoning relationship with his tutor, Paisley, feels a little forced. Some of their interactions just didn’t register as realistic, and I think that’s because Paisley herself didn’t feel completely well rounded as a character.

Other than those small complaints, this was an enjoyable, fast paced read that I recommend to Stine fans and those, like me, who find scarecrows to be deliciously creepy.

Thank you to Scott Donnelly for sending me a free e-book in exchange for a honest review.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! It’s the most wonderful day of the year!

If you’re looking for some YA Halloween reading, check out my post from last year:

Also, looking back at that post, I realized I neglected to include R.L. Stine’s Halloween Party to my list, which is a terrible oversight. It’s a fun entry into the classic Fear Street series, and a quick read if you’re searching for something to read in just one or two sittings.

Check it out, and have a wonderful holiday!

Clown in a Cornfield

Oh my gosh I was so excited for this one! I found out about Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare early in the year and have been anxiously awaiting its release. I dived into it as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. So did it meet all expectations? It exceeded them on every level.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead.

High school senior Quinn has just moved to Kettle Springs with her father, and they’re looking for a fresh start. Quinn quickly begins making friends but also notices the tensions in the town between the adults and the teens. These tensions come to a head at a high school party when a killer clown begins picking off the teens one by one. Unfortunately, for Quinn and her new friends, that clown isn’t acting alone…

One really interesting aspect of Cesare’s book is its reflection of the world today. The political world specifically: the clash between younger progressives and older conservatives. Early in the book, Quinn sees a flier: “Make Kettle Springs Great Again.” The adults and kids of this town are thoroughly squared off, and things get ugly. Murderously ugly. Kettle Springs’ generational clashes make it a violent, admittedly dramatized microcosm of the real world we’re currently living in.

I’ve expressed this to some of you, but I think that there may soon come a time when the powers of law don’t go far enough to keep Kettle Springs the town we know and love,” spouts the Trumpian sheriff. Like Trump, the sheriff also uses the people of his town’s fears and prejudices to get them to go along with his plans. He adds later:

But convincing the town that we needed to cull [the teenagers] was not as hard as you’d think. I mean, we didn’t say it right away like that…You tell people they’re right, tell ’em what they want to hear, you listen…but then the whole time you’re doing that listening, you’re pushing the boundaries forward. Reshaping morality. Drawing a new line in the sand while nobody else is watching, then wiping away the old one. And the whole time you know…You know where it’s all leading.

Granted Trump’s government haven’t dressed up like clowns and actually slaughtered large groups of people, but they are known for silencing those they see as “undesirable” in ways, such as the internment camps for immigrants at the border or in the support of killer cops, that are increasingly deadly.

Trump’s presidency has been a real wake up call for many of us in America. Those of us who are young, or poor, or women, non-binary, gay, those of us who aren’t white: Our government doesn’t care about us. In some cases, it actually wishes us harm. Likewise, the cornfield massacre is a wake up for the teens in this book. As one of of our heroes says:

You know the thing that gets me? How you pretend to care. Even in your insane way, you pretend to care. You’re all so worried about what’s wrong with the kids, when you’re the ones selling us guns, telling us times were better when men were men, pretending that global warming is a hoax, and turning hate into a team sport…

Now none of Cesare’s allegory would work if Clown in a Cornfield wasn’t otherwise solid. And it is. Cesare deftly creates characters the reader cares about; the book’s fast pace doesn’t deter from the buildup of characters that feel real. Outside of our heroine Quinn, I really loved Cole, Rust, and Janet. Cole is a lot more than just the surface “bad boy with a heart of gold.” Rust is a truly wonderful character, also full of unnoticed depth, and he and Cole’s kiss at the end (That wasn’t CPR. That wasn’t CPR at all.) will go down in history as one of my all time favorite book kisses. Janet’s also a compelling character, the queen bee ready to sacrifice her life for her classmates. As for Quinn, well, she’s a magnificent badass.

By the end of the book, Cole is the inheritor of his murderous father’s fortune. The town was unable to kill off its teen population, and the town’s upswing in fortune is in the hands of the youth they tried so hard to silence. Hate doesn’t win in Clown in a Cornfield, and it won’t win in the real world either. Times are changing; the future is ours, and our voices will be heard.

YA Horror I’m Excited For This Month (August 2020)

August is going to be a good month for YA horror, and there are three books coming out at the end of the month that I’m super excited for. I’ve decided to cover them here.

The Companion by Katie Alender

The other orphans say Margot is lucky.

Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family.

Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night.

And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.

But it wasn’t luck that made the Suttons rescue Margot from her bleak existence at the group home. Margot was handpicked to be a companion to their silent, mysterious daughter, Agatha. At first, helping with Agatha–and getting to know her handsome older brother–seems much better than the group home. But soon, the isolated, gothic house begins playing tricks on Margot’s mind, making her question everything she believes about the Suttons . . . and herself. 

Margot’s bad dreams may have stopped when she came to live with Agatha – but the real nightmare has just begun.

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Quinn Maybrook just wants to make it until graduation. She might not make it to morning.

Quinn and her father moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs to find a fresh start. But ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.

Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now. 

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…


Solstice by Lorence Alison is a recently released YA horror novel based on the infamous Fyre Festival debacle of 2017. Alison’s novel takes place at the Solstice festival, a similarly exclusive and expensive festival, which our hero, Adri, discovers to be nothing like what was promised. When food and medical supplies run short and then bodies start turning up, the festival goes from uncomfortable to down right dangerous.

Spoiler alerts for the review below.

Solstice is a pretty fast paced novel. I read it in one day and was never once bored with it. Our main character, Adri, is a likable enough lead, and her best friend Elena also comes across as likable, if somewhat spoiled and naive. Once bodies start popping up and the main mystery kicks off, I was really intrigued, especially because Alison’s novel plays its cards close to its chest for a while, and readers aren’t sure if the deaths are the result of human foul play or something supernatural.

Eventually, the perpetrator is revealed to be a giant monster. At first, it’s hinted that the creature, called Diab, might be some sort of shape-shifter and inherently evil, an idea that had me pretty excited. With a shape-shifter, the possibilities for scares and suspense are really endless. Unfortunately, upon the big reveal, we find that Diab is actually just a giant sea monster. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a giant sea creature as much as the next monster kid, but this revelation is somewhat disappointing compared to my expectations. Not to mention, this monster is so big and ravenous that it eventually eats an entire yacht, but the first couple of victims’ bodies are discovered mostly intact. I understand Alison wrote it that way in order to keep us in suspense as to the monster’s nature, but in retrospect, the fact that there are bodies at all, let alone minimally mangled ones, makes very little sense.

Also, with the reveal of the monster, we also get the reveal of the human big bad, Captain Marx. Marx set the whole sham festival up – knowing there was a monster on the island – in order to get a big insurance payout when the festival failed and people died. Suddenly, I felt like I was in a Scooby Doo episode. Captain Marx even gives us the cartoon’s typical big info dump explanation, stopping just short of referring to our heroes as “meddling kids.” Besides being super cheesy, this all just seems a little far fetched. There have got to be better ways to scam insurance companies than banking on a legendary monster to do your dirty work for you.

Solstice is a fun novel, and I enjoyed reading it. If you can get past how silly it eventually gets, you’ll enjoy it too. It’s a fun, light summer read, if not particularly astounding or memorable.

Summer Horror

Summer is officially here, and, at least where I am, it is hot. So I thought I’d kick off my summer of posts with a list of some summer and sun influenced YA horror novels. Now, I’ve read some of these, but not all of them, and I might have left some good ones off the list, so let me know if you have any opinions or recommendations to share.

Solstice: A Tropical Horror Comedy by Lorence Alison

This one is pretty new, and I’ll be posting a review of it sometime in the next week. Loosely based on the infamous Fyre Festival debacle, Solstice revolves around Adri, who disappoints her parents by running away to attend the much-hyped Solstice Festival with her best friend Elena. They’re disappointed to discover that the festival is a mess and nothing like the ads, but things get worse when a body turns up.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan’s novel was the basis for one of my favorite 90’s teen horror films. The book is a lot different than the movie, but the basic plot is essentially the same: a group of teens cover up a deadly accident and a year later begin receiving notes with the titular warning. Subsequently, attempts are made on their lives.

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein (Middle Grade)

Grabenstein’s novel is the first in a series about a boy named Zack, who moves to an old house in a new town with his father and new stepmother. The series is actually Middle Grade, but I read this one a few years ago and liked it so much, I wanted to include it. In Crossroads, Zack spends his summer facing off against the evil spirit of a man killed years before in a fiery car crash near his house. With the help of his new stepmother and a mysterious young boy, can Zack save himself and everyone else from this malevolent entity?

Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy

Camp So-and-So concerns a group of girls who plan on spending the summer at a prestigious camp run by a famous philanthropist, but all is not as it seems in this novel from Mary McCoy (Dead to Me). I haven’t actually read this one yet, but it sounds super mysterious. I hope on getting to it this summer, so check back here for a review sometime in the near future.

And finally, if those don’t satisfy you, you can always check the following books by R.L. Stine. I haven’t read them, but Stine can always be counted on for a pulpy good time.

Red Spikes

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’m crazy busy right now. Anyway, the collection reviewed here, Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan is not strictly horror, but it does contain some pretty creepy and occasionally disturbing stories, some of which fit into the genre, so I thought I’d leave the review here (I originally posted it on Goodreads) to tide over until I can publish a new actual horror review again.

This book. It’s not what I expected, and I find it hard to put a rating on it. Some stories I loved; one story I hated (seriously, Monkey’s Paternoster-I wish I had never read it).

Baby Jane was a charming opening to the collection. A boy finds his home invaded by a bear, a pregnant queen, and a little man, all from another world. The story was sweet and whimsical an I adored it.

Baby Jane was unfortunately followed by the unpleasant Monkey’s Paternoster. I wish I could unread it. It was unpleasant and nearly caused me to give up on the whole book.

A Good Heart was a short, sweet, melancholy tale that encouraged me to give the overall collection another chance.

Winkie, about a young girl and a giant, was strange and creepy, and my only real complaint is that it could have gone on longer.

A Feather in the Breast of God features a pet bird that comes back from death to save the daughter of the family that kept him. It’s beautifully sweet (and not nearly as saccharine as it sounds). I teared up a little.

Hero Vale was weird and creepy and hard to describe. Another story that I could have lived in a little bit longer.

Under Hell, Over Heaven features workers in the middle ground between hell and heaven, escorting a soul to hell. It’s mean spirited and gruesome and oddly entrancing. I was left melancholy and slightly disturbed by this forbidding idea of the afterlife.

Mouse Maker started out promising but kind of fizzled by the end.

I was originally not terribly impressed with Forever Upward, but it’s hopeful ending left me smiling. Kind of the opposite of how I felt about Mouse Maker.

Finally, Daughter of Clay, tells of a changeling going to fairy land to trade places with the girl whose life she’s living. It’s a bittersweet appropriate end to the collection.

Ultimately, Red Spikes reminded me of a collection of fairy tales, more Grimm than Disney. Charming and whimsical yet also melancholy and disturbing. It’s a hard book to rate. It’s like a box of dark chocolate, rich and filling but not to everyone’s taste.

Except for Monkey’s Paternoster. Seriously, it’s the worst.

Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales

Gothic! is a horror (although I use that term loosely here) collection, edited by Deborah Noyes, that I first read when I was back in high school. Like most collections, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, although overall it’s enjoyable, if nothing entirely special.

Joan Aiken (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) contributes the first story, “Lungewater,” which is an old fashioned ghost story. Our narrator is on the way to visit her great-aunt at Christmas when she runs into an elderly man who relates the history of a local legend. It’s nothing particularly original, but it’s comforting in a way that I find old fashioned ghost tales tend to be.

Prolific author, Vivian Vande Velde, contributes the first of my two favorite works in the collection. “Morgan Roehmar’s Boys,” also included in her collection, All Hallows’ Eve, concerns a teenage girl working at a haunted hayride on Halloween. It soon become apparent that there are some very real horrors haunting the attraction, and our protagonist will be lucky to make it through the night.

“Watch and Wake” by M.T. Anderson would probably make more sense if I had previously read his novel, Thirsty, which this story shares a (truly bizarre) world with. It’s a weird little story that I don’t remember particularly liking when I first read it years ago, but I appreciate it a lot more now. I’m definitely more inclined to pick up his novel, which I’d always passed over before.

Neil Gaiman’s “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire” is a parody of gothic romances and horror stories. You know the ones: scantily clad women running away from dark castles on the cover? It’s a fun story, which Gaiman has also turned into comic book form, and I recommend checking out that copy.

“Have No Fear, Crumpot is Here!” by Barry Yourgrau was easily my least favorite story in the collection. Our “hero” (another word I use lightly) is the thoroughly obnoxious and unlikable Walter. I’ve never read anything else by Yourgrau, and after reading this story, I certainly wouldn’t want to.

Caitlin R. Kiernan is a fabulous writer, and while “The Dead and the Moonstruck” isn’t her finest work, it’s still one of the better stories in the collection. There’s a lot of mythology crammed into this short story, so it’s really no surprise that it’s a prequel to some of her other work. The protagonist, Starling Jane, also features in Kiernan’s adult novel, Low Red Moon.

“Stone Tour” is by Janni Lee Simner, an author I am not otherwise familiar with. It’s a brief tale of a young girl searching for something she’s lost. It’s sad and, ultimately, sweet, but it doesn’t really last long enough to leave much of an impression.

Gregory Maguire (Wicked) does not turn in his best work with “The Prank,” a tale of bad choices and family secrets. It’s an interesting read, but doesn’t hold a candle to his fairytale adaptations, and honestly almost seems like it’s written by a totally different writer. It doesn’t help that the main character is absolutely unlikable, although I did feel a little sorry for her by the end.

Celia Rees’s story, “Writing on the Wall” was my other favorite when I first read this collection, and I’m pleased to say I still enjoy it now. I love a good haunted house story, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Garth Nix contributes the final story, appropriately titled, “Endings.” The story is well written, but it’s so brief as to be inconsequential. I know Nix can do better than this. If you want to see him at his best, check out his YA dark fantasy novel, Sabriel, or his adult short horror story, “Shay Corsham Worsted.”

Overall, it’s an entertaining collection, but nothing that ever left a lasting impression on me. It’s a quick read and probably better for older kids and teens just dipping their toes into the horror genre, rather than seasoned horror fans.