A Man With A Spooky Agenda

I'm an indie bookseller in Vermont, sometime public servant, and voracious reader. I love antiques, cats, D&D, and vintage Ken. Though my job requires me to dabble across the board genre-wise, my heart belongs to the Victorians and epic fantasy.


I write something about every book I read, but only publish reviews close to the release date of the book. If you see something on my shelves and there's no review, feel free to ask me about it!

Sharn: City of Towers by Keith Baker and James Wyatt

Sharn: City of Towers - James Wyatt, Keith Baker

Sharn is the largest metropolis not only on Khorvaire, but on all of Eberron. It is built on a relatively small piece of land at the mouth of a major river. It is located in a 'manifest zone', which means the barriers between it and another plane - one attuned to Air - are thin and so magical spells using that element are stronger. This allowed enormous towers of stone to rise up as high as a mile. One neighborhood, the Skyway, is an island that floats high above the rest of the city. The high population is mixed as well, with all of the traditional races of humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, halfing and half-orcs, but also a substantial minority of 'monster' races from goblins to medusas make their home here.


This makes for a complicated setting. The towers grow so high lower levels are sometimes in complete shadow, despite the presence of everbright lanterns, and there are rumors of older ruins deeper in the foundations of the city. Skycoaches or public lifts easily bring residents or visitors anywhere they like, but a notoriously corrupt city watch and several active gangs in all levels of power can make the city as difficult to navigate as a dungeon.


The book separates the city into levels, districts and wards and spells out what adventurers will find there. Everything is considered from entertainment districts to residential working class neighborhoods. There is even a section on local government and a nod towards such things as sewer systems and zoning permits. Love the details.


I'd used this extensively during my long Eberron campaign, but reading 'The Night of Long Shadows' made me remember that I'd never read it cover-to-cover. The truth is, as handy as it is, it just doesn't feel like enough for a separate book. The CD of atmospheric music is a nice touch, but not what I was looking for. Sharn is simply too enormous to go into the 'Eberron Campaign Setting', but there should have been a module or two, bigger maps, or something else built in for added value.

Night of the Long Shadows, Inquistives #2 by Paul Crilley

Night of Long Shadows - Paul Crilley

'Night of the Long Shadows' introduces one of the few characters of the Eberron setting to have anything like the traction of a Drizzt or a Raistlin. He appears in a few other titles and I believe will be an official npc in the revamped Eberron Setting for 5th Edition. Abraxus Wren is a half-elf of means and is in possession of many beloved and frustrating tropes of the genius detective. His excellent observation skills and nose for mystery are complimented by an over-bearing ego and an insufferable proficiency in everything from combat to opera.


Because this is a D&D novel, Wren's self-consciously hetero-normative and there's a lot of pretty ladies of every player-character race out there that need to hear that they're pretty. There's a way to write about flirting and female appreciation that isn't so...gross. Crilley could read a few romances and pick up some pointers. Anyway, the constant reminder of how awesome and sexy Wren was doesn't gel with the detective vibe - even the noir guys were at least self-effacing and creative with their legs for days compliments - that's more of a Bond thing - so, it threw the tone off. 


The book opens with Wren's dwarven hetero-lifemate Torin coming upon a grisly scene: a huge tattooed man covered in blood standing over a corpse with blades in his hands. The victim was a prominent professor of Morgrave University and Wren becomes involved with the investigation.


The story switches gears and we see the crime from the perspective of the tattooed man, Cutter, as he heads towards the university to convince his girlfriend Rowan, a courtesan, to back out of a theft that may make them rich, but will surely put a price on their heads.


The book pulls together interesting elements of Sharn and makes use of several official NPCs and locations to great advantage. The mystery itself was no great shakes, but has some twists and turns, and I liked the time spent humanizing most of the characters, main and secondary. In the end, this passed the time and got me checking references in my Eberron sourcebooks to good effect.


The Inquistives


Next: 'Legacy of Wolves'


Previous: 'Bound by Iron'

The Encounter, Animorphs #3

The Encounter - Katherine Applegate

When an Animorph takes on an animal's form they take on that animal's instincts as well, meaning that it is a battle of wills to maintain control over the animal body and there's always the chance that the animal will win out, if only for a moment, and put a mission in jeopardy. There's an interesting parallel between the Animorph's 'acquisition' of animal dna and transforming into them and having to subdue the natural mind, and the Yeerk's possession of an intelligent creature and enslaving their mind.


Tobias stayed too long in his red-tailed hawk morph during the Animorph's first confrontation with the Yeerk's and is therefore trapped forever in that body. Telling a story from his perspective means the focus is on his constant struggle between his humanity and his hawk-mind. How does he remain human when it feels like his human memories are already drifting away?


Without the constraints of school or other family responsibilities - Tobias is an orphan and his indifferent guardians each currently believe that Tobias is off visiting the other - so he is free to explore and discover any suspicious behavior that may point to Yeerk activity. He witnesses an unusual pattern in the sky that turns out to be cloaked Yeerk spacecraft. The group decides to investigate.


There have been a few times when the Animorphs have revealed themselves in public in silly ways, but Tobias and Rachel's prank on a used car dealer in the beginning of this book was caught on live TV and should come back to haunt them. Additionally, its been three books and nothing has been said about the woman they rescued from the Yeerk Pool - shouldn't this woman be an ally? Can she provide information about the aliens from the inside since she was a host for at least SOME period? The continuity of these books is pretty tight so I'll keep paying attention.




Next: 'The Message'


Previous: 'The Visitor'

The Visitor, Animorphs #2

The Visitor - Katherine Applegate

Rachel, Jake's fierce cousin, takes center stage in the second volume of 'Animorphs'. Applegate notes Rachel's traditionally good looks and athleticism, but stresses that it is what's inside that counts. Rachel is strong and impulsive, and often need to be reined in by her friend Cassie or Jake. She has clear ideas of what's right and wrong and hates to sacrifice her principles.


Since I'll be doing so many of these, I'll try to keep the reviews short. The main thrust of this book is Rachel's relationship with Melissa Chapman, an old friend and daughter of Assistant Principal Chapman, whom the group knows to be a high-ranking Yeerk Controller. They've drifted apart since Rachel was given her powers for obvious reasons, but Rachel is troubled by how changed her old friend has become. Is she being Controlled by a Yeerk now? Rachel must contemplate the value of her old friendship with the knowledge that could be learned by spying on Melissa.


It has only been a week or so since the events of 'The Invasion' and everyone is on edge. It is still impressive how these books juggle the main cast and their relationships with each other while still reminding readers of the wider world. The Animorphs can't draw attention to themselves without great risk, and the fact is that while they are all close friends now, they weren't always. The stress of dealing with the Yeerk invasion is hard enough, but they can't share their troubles with anyone, even their families. Who can be trusted when the enemy hides in plain sight? What should an Animorph do if they find themselves fighting a human or alien that has been possessed and is no longer in control of their body?


This book brings us closer to Rachel, and she may be one of the most consistent characters in the series. Great fun, and comes with an added bonus of talking about cat behaviors.




Next: 'The Encounter'


Previous: 'The Invasion'

The Invasion, Animorphs #1 by K.A. Applegate

The Invasion - Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate is writing some amazing books for middle grade these days (looking at you 'Wishtree'), but my generation will always fondly remembers her as 'K.A. Applegate' (a loose pseudonym used with her husband Michael Grant). As the author of the Animorphs series Applegate injected a paranoid vision of a secret alien takeover into the brains of future millennials everywhere. This was a phenomenon of the late '90s' almost the equal of 'Goosebumps', even having a TV-series on Nickelodeon. I picked up the whole 54+ book set recently at a flea market and can't wait to dive back in.


Each installment of the series is told in first person by one of the main characters. They can't tell us their last names, if they ever do its a fake, because if their names got out they would be hunted down and killed. Or worse. They could even be kids in your own town or school! Ooooo. It was great stuff.


On the way home from the mall one day Jake joins up with his friend Marco and Tobias, who's stuck around him since being rescued from bullies, as well as his cousin Rachel and her friend Cassie, who Jake has a crush on. Together they take a shortcut home through a permanent construction site. There they witness the crash of a spaceship and encounter an alien, Elfangor, an Andalite, who warns them of the sinister Yeerks. They are slug-like aliens who crawl into people's bodies and possess them by taking over their brains. These Yeerks will soon come down and kill him and destroy all evidence of his ship to keep their existence secret.


Jake is our first pov for the series and sets the tone. He's an athletic kid, big and popular enough to defend himself and others from school bullies. He's disappointed he didn't make the basketball team like his big brother Tom had before moving on to high school. He's probably around 12 or 13, same as his friends. It's important that Applegate makes clear Jake's fear when he faces danger and his reluctance to accept the awful truth of what he and his friends are facing.


The five are asked to take on special powers to enable them to resist the Yeerk invasion and possibly gather evidence so the authorities will believe what's happening. Many humans have been possessed by the Yeerks already and an Andalite army is at least a year away.


They do it, with some reluctance on the part of Marco. The power gives the five kids the ability to transform, or morph, into animals. The rules are they must 'acquire' the DNA of that animal through physical contact, and that they can't stay in a 'morph' for longer than two hours or it becomes permanent. There is much more Elfangor would like to tell them, but there was no time. The kids witness nightmares walking and discover that some people they know well are in fact 'Controllers': possessed by a Yeerk.


For such a short novel a lot of characterization is covered in the form of the five Animorphs - a term coined by Marco by the end of the book - and their relationships with each other. The basic rules of engagement with the Yeerks are established, the real horrors of the situation are made clear, and certain moral gray areas are already being discussed by the group. A few cultural references aside, the book holds up with only a few minor continuity and/or story problems that I don't remember ever being addressed.




Next: 'The Visitor'

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd


Serial/Spree Killer Square: Bridie Devine, in looking for an abducted child, uncovers a world of medical curiosities, myths come to life, and a lot of dead bodies.


The review will publish in Feb. when the book comes out!


'Things in Jars' by Jess Kidd


A Man With a Spooky Agenda: Halloween Bingo 2019 Tracking Post




Read squares will get a left eye, called squares a right.


Psych: 'Into the Pit' by Warner Lee, 9/7/19

Fear the Drowning Deep: 'Sea of Death' by Tim Waggoner, 9/2/19


Deadlands: 'Goodnight Kiss 2' by R.L. Stine, 9/26/19


Genre: Suspense: 'Deadly Attraction' by Diane Hoh, 9/29/2019


Paint it Black:

Darkest London: 'Un Lun Dun' by China Mieville, 9/26/2019

In the Dark, Dark Woods: 'Crooked Tree' by Robert C. Wilson, 9/12/2019

Spellbound: 'Magic's Pawn' by Mercedes Lackey, 9/15/19

Southern Gothic: TRANSFIGURED!

Relics and Curiosities: 'The Wish' by Diane Hoh, 9/29/19


Demons: 'The Case Against Satan' by Ray Russel, 10/1/2019

Sleepy Hollow: 'Deep and Dark and Dangerous' by Mary Downing Hahn, 9/28/2019

Free Square: 'Footprints Under the Window' by Franklin W. Dixon, 9/18/19

Baker Street Irregulars: 'While the Clock Ticked' by Franklin W. Dixon, 9/10/19

Classic Horror: 'The Mirror' by Marlys Millhiser, 9/4/2019


Black Cat:

Halloween: 'Spirit Fair' by George M. O'Har, 9/1/19

Dark Academia: 'Silent Scream' by Diane Hoh, 9/2/19

Serial Spree Killer: 'Things in Jars' by Jess Kidd, 10/11/19

Fear Street: 'Goodnight Kiss' by R.L. Stine, 9/9/19


13: 'The Mark on the Door' by Franklin W. Dixon, 9/23/2019

Creepy Carnivals: 'Carnival' by William W. Johnstone, 9/5/2019

Supernatural: 'Dead Voices' by Katherine Arden, 9/9/19

Locked Room Mystery: TRANSFIGURED! 

Ghost Stories: 'The Ghosts of Austwick Manor' by Reby Edmond MacDonald, 9/4/2019

Stranger Things: 'The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull' by John Bellairs, 9/17/2019


Transfigurations 0/3 Left

- Transfigured state is in lower left corner.

Medallion Status by John Hodgman

Medallion Status - John Hodgman

John Hodgman, I didn't even want to read this book. I knew I'd like it, but there's so much else out there. Unfortunately you were to hand when I couldn't find the other book I was reading. I couldn't stop.


What did I think? It was brilliant, as always, and while 'Medallion Status' was less internally consistent than 'Vacationland' this offered more laugh-out-loud pleasures.


The book is a series of memories and essays that span over almost a ten year period, as far as I could tell. The common theme is that it was during the years that Hodgman was more actively working in television and spending a lot of time in airports. He wrestled with the choice of his career and spending time with family and, spoiler, family wins, but only because television stopped calling.


I relish any excuse to laugh and so should you, so go ahead and get this book.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes - Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker

'Mooncakes' is a light, witchy romance celebrating family and friendship. It's super cute, which may be why I couldn't get into it as much as I should have.


Nova Huang lives with her grandmothers and helps run their café/magic bookshop. In her spare time she investigates mysterious goings-on that have a magical vibe. A report of a large white wolf in the woods and a horse-demon lead to an unexpected reunion with an old friend.


The dynamic between Nova and Tam is sweet and genuine and the added details of their lives - family dynamics, supernatural identities, struggles with handicaps - were very welcome. I could have used more with the bird-headed cousin. Maybe a sequel?


It was just very, very, cute. Even when it got serious. Other people are going to love this, but it wasn't for me.

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman

The Remaking - Clay McLeod Chapman

'The Remaking' is a self-aware horror novel about an urban legend with supernatural inertia. The story of how Ella Louise and her daughter Jessica were labeled witches and burned in a small southern town in the 1920s is told again and again, a cult movie, a 90s remake, eventually a podcast comes knocking....


The story is inviting enough, but the air went out of the novel when I realized a hundred pages in that the back-cover copy was the entire novel. The novel isn't about the vindication of Amber and/or a quest to get to the heart of the curse of Jessica, the little witch girl. You follow each stage and it doesn't matter, because you know what's going to happen. I know old 40s movie trailers used to show the whole film in 30 seconds, and audiences were fine with that, but I thought we were past all that. This isn't like 'Moby-Dick' or something, where we all know the ending but the brick of a novel is still worth reading. I feel like in the last five years or so there is no effort made in making trailers that invite you in. They just say it all. Which is disappointing, because this isn't Moby-Dick, or even a decent horror film.


This knowing exactly where the story was going as I plodded through it was a little frustrating and took a lot of the appreciation out of the occasionally well-crafted atmosphere generated by the book. Even if I didn't know where the story was going, I don't know if the novel would have held up, as each section had trouble standing on its own. We didn't spend enough time with anybody but the understandably anxious and, later, damaged Amber for any real horror to creep in.


I read it through to the end to see if the author would pull a last-minute victory of an ending, but it was some vague, pseudo-feminist babble. I don't think an author can have characters rattling around and doing nothing for hundreds of pages and then pretend at the end it was all part of some sort of grand scheme. It's too bad, I loved the horror film references and would have liked some contemporary commentary on the genre.

Francie and her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion by Joe Blitman

Francie and Her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion - Joe Blitman

I've been looking and looking for this! Francie, Barbie's "MOD'ern" cousin, debuted in 1966. She can be elusive, but irresistible once you get a handle on what you're looking for. Joe Blitman's other book 'Barbie and her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion' was a comprehensive and fun look at the 'mod' fashions for Barbie and her same-size friends. His book on 'Francie' is just as thorough and playful. It includes every Francie doll and outfit produced.


 Two blonde twist n' turn Francies. Standing is wearing 1966-67's 'Gad Abouts' missing a green knit hat with blue pom, and thin visor sunglasses. Sitting is wearing a vintage 'clone' outfit clearly inspired by Mattel.


In addition to a section covering dolls in their original packaging and outfits, the book offers two photos of each outfit, one neatly laid out with its accessories and another on a doll, or dolls, in posed shots with fun props and backgrounds. This makes for a more interesting read and it also offers different angles and textures that aren't easy to see when they're lying flat or still beneath plastic. This is especially true of the knit or crocheted leggings which are very hard make out in those small pictures.


Our latest find! The 1966 Francie house. It's an enormous vinyl suitcase. I can't imagine a kid lugging this around full of dolls. It's missing some pieces, as you'll see, but I put in some extras.


Francie in various forms was around for roughly ten years depending on how fast stores sold old stock. She had same-size friends in Casey and Twiggy (they shared a head mold). She never talked, but was given a Malibu make-over (a differently painted Casey head) in 1971. Her outfits then became less inspired as the '70s wore on before she was discontinued sometime in 1976.


A 1970-73 Francie with Growin' Pretty Hair in her original dress. The mechanism for the hair seems to be frozen. I'm not going to be the one to yank her head off trying to make the hair 'grow'.


Francie only ever came in blonde or brunette (the growin' pretties were only blonde, the quick curls were only brunette), but was the first doll to have the 'real' eyelashes enjoyed by many of the dolls of the late '60s and early '70s. In another first, Mattel released Francie as a black doll in 1967. This version is extremely scarce, but available online if a collector wants to pay. Another problem with finding any Francie in good condition is that in the 1965-69 years the vinyl has a tendency to yellow and/or develop a sticky residue.


A 1966-68 Twist 'n Turn Francie in her original swimsuit.


The other essential book is, of course, Sarah Sink Eames' 'Barbie Doll Fashion, Vol. 2'


We've made some progress collecting mod-era dolls, but we have a long way to go. With a few exceptions, we won't pick up anything after 'Malibu' happened. I didn't have many mod dolls before, so I've mixed a few of them in the last photo. :)


Party time! Another Growin' Pretty Francie wears 1968's 'The Silver Cage' escorted by a New Good Looking Ken wearing 1969's 'Rally Gear'. A Free Movin' Ken is in 1971's 'The Suede Scene' and a Twist n' Turn Julia wears 'Leisure Leopard'. By the way, those chairs are mounted in the vinyl and can swivel. Probably so a child (or grown ass man) could swivel the dolls underneath the table top (missing).

Homerooms & Hall Passes by Tom O'Donnell

Homerooms and Hall Passes - Tom  O'Donnell

The everyday world of dungeon delving, trap-springing, horde-looting, and lich-foiling can get a little wearying after awhile. That's why the game of Homerooms & Hall Passes has gained so much of a following in Bríandalör.


Once a week, despite the constant interruptions of mysterious strangers waving maps and villagers troubled by marauding beasts, a party of young adventurers gets together for an evening of H&H. If only for a brief time they can pretend to be middle schoolers vying to get into the right clique or extra-curricular instead of being 11 year old warriors and dungeon-crawlers. It means hours of dice-rolling, salty snacks and a bit of healthy (and SOCIAL! It really is social!) escapism. 


This is a very funny fish-out-of-water story where a party of adventurers fall under a curse and get transported to the "fictional" world of their favorite role-playing game. Suddenly the paladin, wizard, barbarian, ranger and thief have to navigate the turmoil of middle school: passing algebra and creative writing, doing the school announcements, making friends, and, quite possibly, saving the world again. Let's hope they don't blow it.


The book works on a few levels, but I wish O'Donnell had gone for a few more jokes n' tropes that surround D&D culture. There were a few times where he held back from a joke or pun when he should have just gone for it. At its heart this is a book about true friendship and being yourself, which is nice, too.

The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell

The Case Against Satan - Ray Russell, Laird Barron


Demons Square: Susan Garth is possessed, but how and to what purpose?


Susan Garth has been unable to attend mass for some time. Nausea overcomes her whenever she gets too close to the church. Her behavior has also been erratic, quarrelsome, and, at least once, obscene. Her father is dead set against a psychiatrist and so he asks the parish priest for help.


The priest is a recent transfer and has to battle with his modern sensibilities to believe in the evil that has taken over the girl. The page count is low, but the characters represent a neat cross-section of American Catholics in the early '60s. There was a lunatic pamphleteer, too, representing the very real prejudice Catholics still faced in that time.


I have not read 'The Exorcist', but many elements from the film version are present. Russell brings the devil in to modern times. Many have borrowed Russell's methods, but this still is genuinely scary.




The Wish, Nightmare Hall #4 by Diane Hoh

The Wish  - Diane Hoh


Relics and Curiosities Square: Vinnie installed a fortune-telling machine, 'The Wizard', at the pizzeria. It grants wishes in the worst way.


When Alex first sees the new attraction at Vinnie's she's profoundly disturbed. The plaster wizard behind glass reminds her of a creepy carnival she visited when her parents were divorced. That's kind of heavy and unrelated to the rest of this novel.


We're introduced to a huge cast of friends and roommates: Julie and Jenny Pierce, twins - pretty, but different looking! - plus FOUR football players named Marty, Bennett, Gabe and Kyle, and Kiki Duff, soccer player. Bennett starts the book in crutches, but that was my only takeaway before the book gets going. Its tough to keep any characters straight except for the rude Kiki.


Despite Alex's harping about the Wizard being a waste of money (uh, it's a quarter Alex, calm down) Julie wishes for a more interesting face and Gabe wishes for a car so he doesn't have to walk. Bennett says he could use new knees so he can play football again. Kyle doesn't wish for anything. Eventually lightning crashes into the diner and strikes the Wizard with little discernible effect. Everyone decides to call it a night.


There being so, so many characters, they drive home in two separate vehicles. On the way Julie, driving, doesn't see a fallen tree in time and crashes into it. Her face is slammed, twice, into the steering wheel and Gabe's legs are crushed in the impact.


That scene was pretty great, actually, but you see what's happening. Alex realizes that Julie, who broke several bones in her face, got her wish granted in a sick way. Gabe certainly won't be walking everywhere for awhile, either. Kiki makes a wish to lose some weight and Marty doesn't want to make a big speech for class. I'm impressed when Alex refers to the cryptic cards (Marty's says 'Silence is Golden') as bromides.


Despite it being obvious that something supernatural is going on (indoor lightning?), the book spends a lot of time pointing out there's a person behind a lot of the events. It seemed...excessive, I just wanted more psycho stuff to happen. It doesn't get easier keeping the football guys straight, either.


The book hesitated to go full supernatural horror. I won't spoil the ending, but it seemed to come out of nowhere after all of the scenes of Alex quizzing her friends about football charm necklaces. It was thing. At least some characters from previous books showed up with actual speaking roles.


I'll still check more of these out someday, continuity will reel me in every time.


Nightmare Hall


Next: 'The Scream Team'


Previous: 'Deadly Attraction'

Deadly Attraction, Nightmare Hall #3 by Diane Hoh

Deadly Attraction  - Diane Hoh


Genre: Suspense Square: Robert Q. broke Darlene's heart, now he and his friends are suffering the consequences. Who will be next?


The obsession of 'townie' Darlene for heartless Big Man on Campus Robert Q. Parker, III is matched only by Hailey's obsession with Robert Q.'s group of snobby friends. I loved the continuity references to 'Silent Scream'. Mostly it only involved Jess, Ian, and Milo showing up and making the appropriate noises to move the plot forward, but its more than Stine gives us over in Shadyside! This is the third book in the series, but apparently #2 was not written by Hoh, one of only a handful in the 29-book series that wasn't written by herself.


This is a well-plotted thriller with no trace of the supernatural and without the heavy-handed red herrings of 'Silent Scream'. The book is told through Hailey's perspective, weird because she is not a part of the titular 'Deadly Attraction' or a particularly close friend of either - she was just kind to Darlene a few times - so to keep the reader informed of the plot Hailey must obsess over the motivations and the actions of Robert Q. and his jerky rich-kid friends.


Salem University is revealed to be a pretty big place so this hyper-concentration on a select group of 'in' students is odd. I went to a small college of less than 3,000 students and it was still too big to have one group of pretty, popular folk dominate the social hierarchy the way Robert Q., Gerrie Northrup, Richard Wentworth and Puffy Wycroft (pleeeeaaase tell me she's the star of a future novel!) seem to.


The attraction is between young diner waitress Darlene Riggs and a callous womanizer named Robert Q. who is somehow the darling of campus, possibly because of his red Miata. When he ditches Darlene to go back to his society girlfriend Gerrie. Darlene is furious, but blames Richard's friends more than Richard himself.


What follows are a series of attacks and Hailey herself becomes a target, presumably because she helped Darlene with her hair and make-up and talks to her on the phone. The suspects include Darlene's jealous townie boyfriend, Darlene's brother Mike who attends Salem but nobody knows, and Darlene herself of course. Some of the attacks seemed a little too elaborate - putting a professor's papers in a girl's locker (a locker in college?) and reporting her as a cheater - but there were some clever misdirection and a great identity twist.


There wasn't that much to elevate this above other teen thrillers, but the continuity gives me hope for the series. Diane Hoh has a more subtle touch then her male peers. I may have to hunt these out instead of more 'Fear Street'.


Nightmare Hall


Next: 'The Wish'


Previous: 'The Roommate'

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

Deep and Dark and Dangerous: A Ghost Story - Mary Downing Hahn


Sleepy Hollow Square: Ali joins her Aunt and cousin at a remote lake in Maine where thirty years ago something terrible happened.


When going through a box of books from her mother's childhood 13-year-old Ali finds a torn photo of her mother and Aunt Dulci as girls at a lake. All that remains of the third girl in the photo is a arm and the first letter of her name: 'T'. When Ali asks her mother about the photo, her mother grows pale and denies ever knowing anyone whose name began with T.


Ali absorbs this normal reaction until her Aunt Dulci and cousin Emma come over. Dulci has a proposition for Ali: stay the summer at the family's old lake house and watch 5-year-old Emma while Dulci works on her art. Ali is excited, but her mother is full of protests about how horrible and boring it is at the lake house - its why they stopped going 30 years ago. Ali is finally given permission, but knows there's a mystery to uncover.


This book was a lot of fun, I love how Hahn always works in shout-outs to classic kid fiction in her works. A cameo from a vintage Lenci doll (star of 'The Lonely Doll') was an unexpected bonus. She weaves certain themes of those books she references into the plot as well including Nancy Drew and Helen Cornish nearly drowning in 'The Bungalow Mystery', the loneliness of Edith in 'The Lonely Doll' profoundly influences Emma, and a subtle thread of class consciousness and justice reflects Ali's assignment to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.


The atmosphere was top-notch, there were just a few loose ends among Hahn's secondary cast of characters that kept it from being perfect.

Currently reading

Warrior of the Altaii
Robert Jordan
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Philip Pullman
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The Last of the Wine
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The Tale of Genji
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