Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Snowman – RL Stine

I chose The Snowman thinking it would be an extravaganza of Christmassy good cheer ...boy was I wrong. And I think this is one of the more popular Point Horrors but I’m almost certain I’ve never read it before, what can I say, I don’t follow the herd, I beat to the sound of my own drum and I am definitely not a sheeple (sheeple are the worst.)

Our illustrious heroine is Heather, an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle. Heather absolutely HATES her uncle, in fact the book opens with Heather having a little fantasy about killing him. Of course, you think it’s real and you’re all, wow , there’s something actually happening in the first chapter, but then Stine does his usual thing and opens the next chapter with ‘oh, but it was just a dream.’ ANYWAY, this doesn’t exactly give me a great first impression of Heather. Although to be fair, her uncle is incredibly mean.

You know you’re just gagging to find out what Heather looks like, right? I aim to please:

“She knew she was pretty. Wither her golden hair, which she usually swept straight back into an off-centred ponytail, her creamy, pale skin and high cheekbones and her dark blue, almost violet eyes”

Hmm, sounds like Heather has a real boner for herself. Also, off centred ponytail??? That’s just a fancy way of saying SIDE PONY Right? Heather also just knows that she could be really popular if she wasn’t so shy and if her uncle let her do more stuff. And if she wasn’t such a miserable whining douche bag. OK, I made that last one up, but you know it makes sense yo.

Obviously, Heather has a boyfriend who adores her (Ben) and a less attractive best friend (Kim). As well as having a “horse, squeaky voice” (?!), Kim is “short and a little chunky” Every time Heather talks to Kim she has to make mention of her weird voice, eg: “her hoarse, scratchy voice sounded even more comical so early in the morning.” This hoarse voice business had better turn out to be highly relevant. I’m going to stake a guess right here that Kim is the killer and she was in some horrific accident/fire that damaged her vocal cords and was all Heather’s fault. She’s poss even a man in disguise? Haha, also Kim is always visiting Heather at work, where her boss is called...Mel. Well, I think we all know who RL Stine’s favourite sassy 80s pop twosome is now.

At work, Heather meets a boy who has pure white hair, hey, remember Eerie Inidana? I couldn’t find a picture of the grey haired kid but I’m sure some of you are with me on this one...right...anybody?

Anyway, this guy is imaginatively called Snowman, and “he had the most adorable cleft in his chin.” Chin cleft huh. Hey guys, remember chin clefts? You don’t really see chin clefts anymore do you. Anyway, despite the fact that Heather was making out with her boyfriend Ben like ten minutes ago and thinking about how much she loved him, she’s instantly all over this handsome white haired, be-clefted stranger and even agrees to go out with him on a date.

Of course, Heather doesn’t tell Ben about her hot date on Saturday night. She makes up some lame excuse, I quote “’We..uh…have to go visit these people.” That’s gold dust, I’m going to remember that one for myself.

I normally strongly veto irrelevant dream sequences from my recaps, but I have to include this one. Heather has a super creepy dream about going sledding with her uncle, and he’s all clinging on to her waist and they’re speeding through this “wet and ice hard snow”, speeding out of CONTROL, man, and I am flipping through my Lil Book of Freudiansisms in an absolute frenzy, this shit is HOT and oh, the dream climaxes with Heather killing her uncle. Phew. Did I mention Heather really hates her uncle?

Uncle James gives Heather shit about going on her date on Saturday but she doesn’t really care. Uncle James meets Snowman before the date and is ridiculously rude to him. Hehe, sweet old Uncle James, he’s so grouchy! He calls Snowman an albino and a mutt and basically laughs in his face. Snowman tells Heather that his dad is dead, but he was like Uncle James, only a lot worse.

On the date, Snowman freaks out in the car thinking that they’re being followed. But they’re not. That sure was exciting though. I think RL Stine is running out of ideas for suspenseful chapter breaks and he’s resorted to basically lying.

Oh, clumsy plot device alert: Heather has a good luck charm that her father left her. It’s a lighter. Hmmm, and this ‘novel’ is called The Snowman,. I wonder if this lighter will turn out to be an incredibly important clumsy plot device.

Snowman tells Heather how poor he is, so she agrees to pay for half the date. This guy is such a skeeze. The date is soooooooo amazing though and they like totally connect.

Monday morning at school Heather tries to find snowman at school but nobody has heard of him. And Ben has found out about Heather and Snowman because Uncle James told him, which okay I admit that is a pretty dickish thing to do. Heather’s really angry because she didn’t want Ben to find out, and she was only planning on going on one date with Snowman. Okay, I guess you could argue that that is equally dickish, being a dick probably runs in this family.

A sidenote, if you will forgive me. Heather kind of reminds me of Lauren Conrad (yes, I will happily admits to being disgustingly addicted to The Hills even though it’s no Laguna Beach), all Heather does is huff around feeling sorry for herself and listing the ways people have wronged her and all her conversations are about all the ‘drama’ in her life, she really couldn't give two hoots about anyone else.

So, Heather calls Ben and tells him she wants to go out with him AND Snowman, like he should be grateful, luckily Ben calls her on her bullshit and hangs up, way to go Heather.

Heather goes to meet Snowman at Swan Park and on her way, some mystery car starts following her again...she can’t see the driver, but Ben’s car is missing from his driveway. Gah, get over yourself Heather (people should use the word ‘gah’ more often)

Its super snowy at Swan Park and they build a snowman. Snowman takes Heather to a ‘secret place’. Why is there ALWAYS a secret place????!!!!!1111 This time, it’s a secluded clearing in a forest, what no haunted shack? Heather feels someone watching them. Heather and Snowman kiss ‘hungrily’.

Heather has Snowman round for dinner and Uncle James makes a bunch of digs at how much Snowman is eating. Like, this dude doesn’t even bother to pretend to be polite. I sorta like him. This is Uncle James’s big crescendo...

“Don’t get any serious ideas about her...because Heather is going to come into a great deal of money someday...And believe me , Burt or Bill, or whatever your name is, sh’es going to end up with someone from her own class. Not some white-haired freak whose mother can’t even put dinner on the table.”

Awww, hes protective, how sweet.

This is enough to make Snowman leave and Heather runs out after him. Snowman’s pretty calm, and he’s all chill out, it’s just words. Snowman says he has other problems – his little brother’s sick and needs an operation but they can’t afford the two thousand dollars. UH OH, looks like Uncle James was right. It starts out innocently enough with a plate of french fries here and splitting the bill on a date there but where does it all end. Naturally, Heather offers to lend him the money. Oh, Heather. Snowman protests etc etc but eventually he accepts it even though he acts all embarrassed and upset.

Ben visits Heather because he misses her (why) . Heather thinks about how she hasn’t seen or heard from Snowman in weeks and she doesn’t even have his telephone number, AND she’s never seen him in school. Oh honey, if you only had a brain.

Although, after work that day though, Snowman is waiting for her. He’s all happy and jubilant and when Heather asks why he’s like, ‘you did me a favour, I do you a favour, I killed your uncle for you.’ And Heather’s all UmmmMmmMMMm WTF. And I’m all, ‘FINALLY!! SOME MURDER.’

Snowman implies that he’s done quite a lot of murders in his time, and explains that he killed Uncle James by strangling him with the red scarf that he is now wearing, saying it will look like a heart attack. Yeah, because the police always get strangulations mixed up with heart attacks. Boy, you sure can tell that this book was written pre-CSI.

At home, sure enough there’s an ambulance parked outside and her dead uncle is lying on a gurney. Sure enough, the ambulance people think Uncle James had a heart attack. Umm, does he not have like massive strangly marks all over his neck or something?

Snowman acts all concerned to her aunt whilst secretly winking and nudging at Heather and Heather’s being all LC about it and just freaking out in her head but not saying anything out loud. I bet she’s letting one perfectly angled tear run down her cheek as we speak. I’d totally be like fuck it and just go all Mallory Knox and go on a killing spree, slaughtering innocent people with Woody Harrellson.

Heather angrily whispers to Snowman that he won’t get away with killing her uncle. You know what you could do instead Heather? Just call the police, I hear they’re pretty good at this sort of stuff. Being a Grade A psycho, Snowman genuinely doesn’t see that he did anything wrong. And he tells Heather that she totally can’t call the cops because he has the check she wrote him for two thousand dollars so it will look like she paid him for a hit. Of course he doesn’t really have a sick brother, so he isn’t going to cash the check but keep it as evidence. Mmmm, that isn’t exactly concrete evidence, I reckon I’d still take my chances with the police. Also, why on earth has Snowman bothered to set up this elaborate plan to kill Uncle James? I guess that’s just what psychos do.

Remember that car that was following Heather and Snowman? It pulls up into her driveway, and out jumps...the FBI! Of course they do. They question Heather about Snowman. Like an IDIOT she pretends not to know him beyond a passing encounter in her diner, even though she knows that the FBI car has been following them together. This is because she’s still scared he’ll use that stupid check as evidence. The big end chapter cliff-hanger is that they are looking for Snowman for murder...he killed his father....which would probably be more tense if it hadn’t been so heavily signposted throughout.

Now that Uncle James is dead, Heather has control over her money so she quits her job. Only, Snowman shows up. Sigh, that Snowman. He wants money, two thousand smackeroos will do. Heather stupidly gives him a check. (This book sure is full of checks...hey guys, remember checks? I don’t). Snowman whines a bit about how his dad used to beat him with a bicycle chain, gee this guy has a real chip on his shoulder.

Heather gets back together with Ben, at least until the next blackmailing psychopathic con man shows up I guess.

As a lovely surprise, Aunt Belle invites Snowman round for dinner. Heather is less than thrilled. Snowman wants more money, he promises to DEFINTELY disappear after getting the money this time – five thousand big ones in cash. They arrange to meet the next day by the bank. (hey guys, remember banks? I don’t).

Heather gives him the money and she’s all ‘phew, now he’s out of my hair forever’ although if I were Heather I wouldn’t be speaking too soon. Getting home, Heather discovers that Aunt Belle has rented the spare room out in the garage to...Snowman. Now that’s a DOH moment if ever I saw one.

Heather tells Ben the whole sorry story. Ben decides that they need to steal the un cashed check that Heather wrote out to the Snowman, so Heather will be free to go to the police/FBI without fear of being arrested*rolls eyes.*

So they creep into Snowman’s room together. Snowman’s there lying in wait for them with an iron tire jack (hey guys, remember iron tire jacks...oh, never mind) in his hand and wallops Ben before grabbing Heather and forcing her into his car. He takes her to Swan Park, to their ‘secret spot.’

Heather wakes up all tied together and wrapped up inside something hard and cold- A SNOWMAN!!! Yay, the end, Merry Christmas everyone!

Oh wait, there’s still a few more pages left, sigh.

This piece of prose struck me as particularly tense and thrilling:

“I’m a living mummy. A living snow mummy.
But not for long. Soon the air will be gone. Soon I’ll be a dead snow mummy.”

For some reason I had to type that out like six times because I kept writing money instead of mummy.

Oh yeah, remember that lighter that I guessed would turn out to be an important plot device? Well, what is more useful than your dead dad’s heirloom lighter when you’re trapped inside a snowman?! NOTHING you idiot, that’s the whole point! Heather burns her way through....and the real Snowman is standing there waiting for her. So Heather sets him on fire. Because he’s poor, his coat is probs made of some nasty super flammable synthetic material.

The police arrive and rescue Heather and put Snowman out, all thanks to Ben, who admits that he DID follow Heather on her date with Snowman, oh Ben you silly little stalker. Also, the check that was in Snowman’s shirt has luckily been burned up from Heather setting him on fire (I’m going to remember that one for the next time somebody tries to blackmail me.) Heather says she was cold with hatred but now she’s thawing?!?!?!? And this time it really IS the end.

Initial reaction: crushing disappointment that my speculation about Heather’s best friend Kim turning out to be the killer was wildly unfounded as Kim failed to even be a vaguely interesting or important character beyond her weird hoarse voice. But Snowman as the villain in a book called The Snowman just seemed..too obvious somehow, more fool me. Oh, also, I hate Heather. And I still don't really get why Snowman bothered to kill Uncle James in this first place.

But who cares about me, what do my lovely friends over at Amazon think?

"There are some good descriptions such as 'his dazzling white hair'. This makes you think about a snowman."

I can't disagree with that. Althoug to be fair, the reviewer does go on to suggest that perhaps Stine should hire a good ghost writer to 'help him along.' Hah, couldn't put it better myself.

Next time...I'm away for New Year in the back of beyond with no internet or phone access so I'll be back with you again in two weeks...have a spooky Christmas and a spine tingling New Year...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Yearbook - Peter Lerangis

I have massively mixed feelings about The Yearbook. I remember it as being absolutely insanely awesome, and it kind of is, but it also left me feeling sorta…empty. Maybe it’s because the front cover pretty much gives away everything of note that happens in the book:

I could just let you feast your eyes on the lovingly depicted tentacle monster and leave it there. But I won’t. That would be cruel.

The Yearbook holds the privileged distinction of being entirely narrated from a male point of view. I don’t know about you guys but I can’t think of any other Point Horror written from a guy’s point of view? It’s also contains little gems like this: “I saw Ariana beside me, flailing, borne on one thick, oozing tentacle.” Cough, cough.

Anyway, David Kallas lives in a town called Wetherby, and he’s our narrator, as well as being a genuine genius. Except he’s a really lame kind of genius who isn’t particularly good at anything. Perhaps solving tentacle monster based mysteries will be his forte? Fingers crossed!

Sex is mentioned directly on page 4. I guess that’s what you get when you let a seventeen year old guy take the lead position in a Point Horror book. David has a major hard on for a girl called Ariana Maas, who he’s working on the yearbook with. Sadly, Ariana has a boyfriend called Smut who’s also on the yearbook team, so David isn’t involved in any of the sex himself. What he is involved in is finding putrid corpses in a river next to a pipeline and not telling anybody about it.

Next day at school, everyone is buzzing with the news that some kid called Rick Arnold is missing and David spills about his gruesome corpsey find to Chief Hayes. Chief Hayes is, like, this big black dude who gets all teary eyed and tells the story of back in high school when him and his best friend Reggie Borden got bullied by racists, and then Reggie went missing. And then a bunch of other kids went missing and their corpses turned up, but not ol’ Reggie’s. Chief Hayes mentions some weird secret society that used to meet in the school’s basement and his suspicion that it was some sort of Klu Klax Klan thing (pretty heavy for a PH).

Sooooooo, who wants to hear some backstory? Sure you do! So, David and Ariana met when she saved him from a falling tree branch during a small earthquake (seriously). The last earthquake to hit Wetherby was 50 years ago – right around the time all those other kids went missing. Hmmmm.

Also – the yearbook team is advised by a teacher called Mr DeWaart, who is described thusly:

“Mr DeWaart was weird. No question. His nickname was Wartface, because of his last name and two large moles on his right cheek and left hand.”

RL Stine, are you READING this?? I hope you’re on the phone to your lawyers like, right NOW.

Anyway, Mr DeWaart holds a little party at his house (inappropriate much) and the students start competitively twisting cherry stems into knots with their tongues, and it is meant to be totally HOT when Ariana does it. I remember spending ages trying to teach myself how to do that when I was like eleven, now I guess I know where it came from. Thanks for the memories, Point Horror.

Anyhow, it’s David’s job to proofread the yearbook but he doesn’t really do it right, and all these nasty pictures of Rick Arnold’s corpse make their way into the book in place of the kids who didn’t show to have their pictures taken. Oh, and a bunch of the students also get crappy yet creepy poems written under their names basically warning them that they’re about to die. This is my favourite of the poems:

”Ed Lynan
Hates rhymin’
See ya, Ed.

Very beat.

Rick Arnold also has one of these very poems under his name, and, lest we forget, he is very much D.E.A.D. There’s an uproar, etc etc, the scene is set for some murder and I'm rubbing my grubby little hands together in delight.

Oh well, Rick Arnold is pretty much forgotten about as we move on (sorry, Rick). Mr DeWaald, and Smut, together with a few other elite students have a little club called The Delphic Society and they get together to have philosophical chats about things. It’s all very hush hush. Ariana isn’t too keen on it because some girl called Monique Flores is in the club and she has a crush on Smut. With a name like Monique Flores she certainly sounds like trouble. Kinda brings to mind this little minx:

David decides to find the Delphic Club’s top secret location and catch Smut and Monique macking so Ariana will be all his. He sees Smut with his arm around Monique and he’s all ‘yesssss, now I know for sure Smut is a cheat.’ Umm, David? I’m pretty sure that putting your arm around someone doesn’t count as cheating . Anyway, David then finds the club’s secret meeting place by going through a revolving bookcase thingamajig in the basement (how very Addams Family). There have been rumours about underground societies operating out of the basement circulating since at least the 50s, and this looks like a likely location for them.

Things start getting weird. There’s a crack in the floor of the secret room, and smoke’s billowing out and David suddenly starts chuckling without knowing why, and feeling weirdly powerful and like he wants to stay in this room forever and stuff. Then he blacks out, as usual.

Whilst blacked out, he has this weird dream about some kid called Mark who lives with his grandma because his parents were sick and now they’re missing, presumed dead.

Ariana finds David passed out. (what a turn on for her). She’s all hysterical, because she’s just found a corpse of her very own, stuffed into a pipe in some nearby construction works. The pair bond over their corpse finding abilities, and David thinks the following:

“I was already feeling better, until I started to laugh, which was like inviting Arnold Schwarzenegger to sit on my head.”

How 90s.

So, Ariana and David kiss until David goes and ruins everything by telling her about Smut and Monique. Ariana runs away in an angry tizzy, upset that David is basically spying on her life. Bah.

This time, David reports the corpse right away, It turns out it’s John. I haven’t bothered to mention him, so you’ll have to take my word for it that David and John were pretty tight, and David is upset by his death for at least a page or two. Chief Hayes tells David that this could be the work of a serial killer.

David and Ariana decide to put aside their argument and work together to figure out what’s going on. They go down to the secret room and find some kid called Jason trapped by this giant tentacle monster that’s emerging from the smoky crack, which incidentally has widened to the size of a ‘gash.’ (hee hee)

Yeah, I know, it happens completely out of the blue. They just…they just suddenly see this monster. I kind of feel like I haven’t given you enough of a build up or something, but then again that’s pretty much how I felt reading the book so I guess you’ll have to live with it or die trying.

David jumps in to try to save Jason, and there’s a really weird sequence where David’s in the hole and three old fashioned disembodied voices are talking to him, telling him that it isn’t yet ‘his time.’ He needs to ‘find out who we are’ first. The voices also tell him that he is ‘inside the Omphalos’ When he emerges from the hole, David’s hair is turned white by the experience, I guess that Peter Lerangis wrote that in so that he wouldn’t have to show David having any kind of emotional response to what’s happening.

OK, and before Jason died, David saw him with some tall black dude with a lumyp face who was supposedly called George Derbin. Putting his credentials as a genius to good use, David figures out that George Derbin must actually be – gasp – Reggie Borden. This is because George Derbin is an anagram of Reggie Borden, and ummm, they were both young, black and very tall. Good old anagram puzzles and racial profiling, working hand in hand to solve murders since ’94.

Since emerging from the hole, David has this weird lump on his head. Chief Hayes has a similar lump on his ankle from a strange encounter he once had with a singing group in the secret room, and he describes it as a calcium bump. Matching calcium bumps, how sweet, now I know what to ask for for Christmas. And George Derbin/Reggie Borden also has a lumpy face, which is another link between him and the tentacle business in the hole.

At home, David just happens to flick through some honeymoon pics of his mom and (dead) dad, and just happens to find a picture of them in Greece at the site of some ruin labelled as The Omphalos. His mom tells him it means belly button – the centre.

David dreams of that Mark kid again – this time Mark is 17 and he’s identifying his grandmas body in a morgue. His parents are still missing, so he’s going to have to be sent to be looked after by a foster family. We also get the big reveal in this dream that it’s 2016, whoaaaaa, it’s a FLASHFORWARD dream, I half expect the twist to be that the corpse he's indentifying actually belongs to John Locke ("Don't tell me what I can't do!".)

But it doesn't. And Mark’s going to be sent to Wetherby, to live with a guy called Walter Ojeda, a widower – UH OH, I don’t know about you but that name sure sounds like an anagram to me! An anagram of…murder. Oh wait, that totally doesn’t work, forget I said anything. Oh, and check this out, in a flashy example of the hi-tech future awaiting us, the police officer ‘faxes’ Mark a ‘holo’ of Walter. To recap, that’s a hologram picture sent by fax, nice one Lerangis, where can I purchase my shiny new holo-fax from?

David decides to figure out who two other crack voices are (with Reggie Borden being the third). So off he trots to the library to have a leaf through this book that basically documents everything that’s happened in Wetherby since 1683 or something, what a terribly useful book. He figures out they belong to Jonas Lyte, who went missing in 1862 and Anabelle Spicer, who was burned at the stake as a witch in 1686. Being a genius, David naturally also figures out that the dates follow a pattern – a pattern that is constantly halving itself. Gasp! And the tentacles monster is killing students based on their student numbers. Wow, I’ve never met a tentacle monster who loves maths as much as this one does. According to David’s calculations, the next victim will be – Ariana!

Are you still with me? Phew, the nonsensical nature of this book sure does make it difficult to recap. But I’ll struggle on, just for you, because you’re looking so pretty today. Have you lost weight? Your hair looks lovely by the way. And you smell divine.

David runs off in search of Ariana, but she’s gone to head off the Delphic Club… *sigh*, walking right into the trap. The Delphic Club are in the secret room chanting and wearing crazy Polyphonic Spree style robes, they also appear to be under some kind of spell. Mr. DeWaart is leading from the front, and David realises those aren’t warts at all..but..calcium lumps! WTF. And Mr. DeWaart admits that he works for the tentacle monster. My head hurts so much.

Ariana is in the crevice, trapped between some tentacles. David rushes over to save her, and blacks out once again, I can't exactly claim to be surprised.

In David’s dream world, Mark has moved to Walter’s house, and taken all his parents’ old boxes with him, he’s reading their papers for the first time. Both his parents had been very sick, and covered in tumours (or LUMPS) that weren’t cancerous but were out of control. If you don’t see where this is going yet then I really do worry for you.

David wakes up from his Mark dream, he’s on some weird yellowy floor beneath a column/tree trunk thing with three people sitting on one branch each – an older white man, a young white woman, and a teenage black man, all wearing special robes. It turns out he has worked out all their identities correctly as well. They call themselves priests and they’re pretty jokey and flippant, man the tone of this book is WEIRD.

David figures out that the tentacle monster wasn’t always in America, it originates from ancient Greece, and was the oracle at Delphi. Well, I must interject here to say I’m pretty well versed on my classics and before now I’ve never come across anything to suggest that the oracle at Delphi might be a giant tentacle monster. So bravo, Peter Lerangis, for your brave dedication to history, and to the truth.

The priests tell David and Ariana that they can only make one of them into a priest, the other has to be sacrificed, and they need to choose which one. But the little lovebirds refuse to let go of each other. It gets more smokey and things start exploding, and Jonas says that when the pain gets too great, and the growths become too much to endure, they’ll be back, because only the tentacle monster will be able to save them. But for now they’re free, I guess because love saved the day or some other nonsense.

Ariana and David are both covered in lumps all over their faces. The ledge comes into view, and Chief Hayes is there with the janitor, Mr Sarro, who’s drinking a can of coke. Accidentally spilling a drop of coke onto the monster wall, a chunk of the wall sizzles away. Don’t worry, this whole coke thing isn’t quite as clumsy as you think, Lerangis was at great pains to mention that Mr. Sarro is ALWAYS drinking a can of coke earlier in the book, so that’s OK then.

Since the monster feeds on calcium or is made of calcium or Jesus Christ who cares, and coke dissolves calcium then ummmm….hang on a minute, is it just me or am I LEARNING stuff here? If there’s one thing I hate it’s being tricked into learning stuff.

The gang stock up on coke (AND pepsi, just to be fair to all the major corporations I guess.) They spray it all over the tentacle beast and stuff like this happens:

“At the top of the tripod, the three priest were gyrating. Their movements were jerky and involuntary, as if cockroaches had crawled into their robes. Their eyes bulged, and their mouths seemed to be peeling backward, stretching across their faces.”

I know what you’re thinking – “wow, that sure sounds like a weird thing to happen, I wonder what our beloved characters reaction to it was?” Well, you’re in luck:

“Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro looked as if they were competing for widest mouth of the year.”

Then Chief Hayes covers it in gasoline and sets it on fire. David and Ariana run up onto a hill and watch Wetherby BURN, and they’re all, OMG, I hope some people survived.

That’s it for David, in the final chapter of the book we’re with Mark again. And he has just finished reading the very same book as us! Yes, Ariana and David are his parents. And Walter Odeja is actually Mr. DeWaart! Oh, Wartface! I’m sooo maddddd at you right now!

Mark quickly goes and finds the tentacle monster thing, and…his parents are there! They’re alive, he isn’t an orphan after all! Also there are Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro. And umm, they all hold hands to fight the monster, because it can only be destroyed, by like, love...or solidarity, or pepsi or something. The end.

Conclusion: What the hell just happened? I don’t think I can really say anything more than that. I guess that this book makes me feel like I’ve just suffered a major trauma to my head with a blunt instrument, but in a really good way.

Next time: The Snowman, by none other than old Wartface himself, RL 'I take all major credit cards’ Stine.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Trick Or Treat - Richie Tankersley Cusick

I’m being festive this week and going with Trick or Treat by RTC. Whaddya mean it’s not Halloween anymore? Chez Babysitter, it’s Halloween every day of the year.

Meet our heroine Martha. Martha likes sobbing and whining. Martha gets scared easily. Martha’s kind of a dickhead.

Martha’s dad has just married Connor’s mom, and Connor is just one year older than Martha. Connor is consistently lovely to Martha, and Martha consistently acts like a spoiled baby and treats him like shit because she thinks he’s a bit too thoughtful and weird. There’s also some weird sexual undercurrents bubbling under with these two, although that’s probably just me being mucky. I feel very protective of Connor.

Anyway, the whole happy family have just moved to a new town and a new house together, ‘The Old Bedford Place.’ Uh oh, you know when a house has a name like that that some bad shit has probably gone down there. Anyway, Martha hates the house because it’s scary and drafty and cold – like GHOSTLY cold, and she gets some weird vibes from it.

Within about five minutes of moving in, Martha’s dad and Sally swan off to Hawaii on honeymoon, leaving Martha and Connor home alone together. Nice parenting skills there.

On the first night, the ringing phone wakes Martha. The caller has a raspy voice (of course he does) and he’s all “look outside….Trick or Treat.” Outside her window is a hanging corpse with a big fat carving knife through its head. Umm, overkill much?
Oh, except it’s not a corpse. Shirtless Connor comes a –running to Martha’s screams and points out it’s just a scarecrow. Must be “kids” playing “pranks.” Kids eh? Those crazy murdering psychopath kids with their highly disturbing pranks, all a bit of harmless fun.

Martha and Connor drive into town together to buy picture hooks. In the hardware store, they meet a girl called Wynn and a guy called Blake, who are cousins. When Blake first sees Martha he looks pretty startled…almost as if he’d seen a ghost (hint hint). And when he hears that she’s living at ‘The Old Bedford Place,’ he’s double startled. Martha instantly has a crush on Blake, and once he has got over his initial reaction, the two flirt up a storm. Blake is like the school star, he’s amazing at everything and everybody loves him.

That night Martha goes for a walk in the houses’ grounds (which also includes a family cemetery bbs) and hears some crying and heavy breathing or something and gets scared, who cares.

At school the next day, Martha meets Greg – who is another cousin of Blake and Wynn. He’s also Martha’s creative writing teacher, and he looks soooooo similar to Blake that you know Martha’s a little hot for him. Oh sweet Jesus, does RTC actually have more than one plot line? If he also turns out to be an undercover police officer I’m going to kill myself.

Martha discovers that there was a murder at The Old Bedford Place, and together Connor and Martha discover the Bedford family mausoleum, which unsurprisingly, Martha isn’t too enamoured with. Later that night, Connor wakes Martha up to tell her that he can smell smoke – ohmigod mohmigod there’s a fire there’s a fire there’s a – tea towel on fire. And now Connor’s put it out. Oh. Well, that was exciting.

At school, Martha and Blake have lunch together. Blake tells Martha all about The Old Bedford Place. Turns out there was a murder there a year ago – almost EXACTLY a year ago, in fact, on Halloween. And the victim was one Elizabeth Bedford – Wynn’s best friend. Wynn even found the corpse (or what was left of it – frenzied stabbing attack, anyone?) in its bedroom – which is now Martha’s bedroom. The murderer was named Dennis, and he was Elizabeth’s ex boyfriend. In the months between their break up and Elizabeth’s death, he did all the usual stalker stuff, like make creepy phone calls, start small house fires etc. One more thing – Dennis himself has never been found. Gasp! They found his car and the knife but not a trace of Dennis.

That night, Connor and Martha discuss all this new information. Connor is a sweetie and even offers to switch bedrooms with Martha so she doesn’t have to sleep in the chamber of horrors. The phone rings again, and stupid old Martha answers it again. It’s the raspy voice again, this time it’s upped it’s game, saying “you’re dead Elizabeth. Trick or Treat.’ Umm, I'd choose treat I guess?

Martha hangs up and….the phone rings again. Relax, this time it’s Blake, and he invites her out for pizza with the ‘gang’: him, Wynn and Greg. Umm, I guess it’s cool for cousins to be close and all but isn’t it a weensy bit inappropriate for a teacher to be constantly hanging out with his students? Also, this is an example of the kind of thing that Greg says to Martha: “Martha, my newest and prettiest student, how’s life treating you at dear old Bedford?” And then he winks at her. Yeah yeah, put it back in your pants granddad. This guy kinda makes me want to wash in bleach.

They have a fine old time at the pizza place- and the guys reveal that they only didn’t invite Connor because Wynn has a maHOOsive crush on him and she refused to go along if he went. Martha reveals her absolute ignorance about the lovely Connor when she has to find out from Blake, who’s in his classes, that Connor is a genius, a regular walking encyclopaedia.

Back at home, before Connor lets her in Martha sees the shadow of someone moving about in her bedroom, yikes. Natch, when they go to check it out there’s nobody there.

Next day – Wynn confides in Martha that she can’t remember much from the (Halloween) night that Martha died – although she is convinced that Dennis didn’t do it, that there’s no way he was capable of murder. Also, Blake dated Elizabeth after she broke up with Dennis, which isn’t something Blake himself has ever mentioned to Martha. To make matters worse, supposedly Martha bears a strong resemblance to poor old dead Lizzie, hmmmm, and she just happens to also live in this girl’s bedroom, what a very strange coincidence. Why, if I wasn’t more trusting in RTC’s powers as an author, I’d say that sounds positively contrived.

Anyhoo, Martha has a crappy day at school and she ends up cutting class with Blake. He needs to go to a nearby town to gather decorations for the big Halloween dance – y’know the same Halloween dance that Elizabeth was brutally murdered directly after last year. Oh dear, anniversaries are never a good omen ion point horror books, ESPECIALLY if they happen to fall on Halloween. Things don’t look great for Martha.

So Blake takes Martha to a giant hay pile and it’s really romantic or something. They have this deep chat, Blake saying that he’s desperate to get away from the town and a basketball scholarship is his one big hope. Hmmm, you know who his one big rival for that scholarship was? Dennis. The Dennis who’s now missing after supposedly killing Blake’s girlfriend (my spell-check tells me that that ‘who’ should be a ‘whom’ but I REFUSE. Sorry, spell-check, it’s just against everything I believe in, I’m a strong advocate for poor grammar and syntax)

Blake’s about to kiss her but Martha goes and ruins it by mentioning his dead looky-likey girlfriend. Way to go, Martha. He pushes her away then denies that Martha really reminds him of Elizabeth beyond an initial superficial similarity. Everything is A-OK though, they make out again, and then gather the hay and pumpkins they need to take back to Bedford to use as decorations at the Halloween dance.

Back at the house, lovely Connor isn’t in. Martha sees something ‘floaty’ on the stairs and a silhouette inside her closet and gets herself all worked up, so worked up that she falls fast asleep. Once again, she is woken by a ringing phone. Once again, it’s the raspy voiced creep, who once again calls Martha ‘Elizabeth’ and once again signs off with ‘Trick or Treat.’ Okay, this raspy voiced guy needs to call me, I’m sure I could help him come up with some fresher material. I mean, I know serial killers and stalkers have certain rules of consistency they need to stick to, but that’s not to say they can’t spice things up a bit every now and again.

So, Connor finally arrives home, he had car trouble. He tries to calm Martha down but she’s a total bitch to him as usual. I really don’t get what her problem with Connor is. He even offered to swap rooms with her and take the horrible murder room for himself for God’s sake! Oy, won’t I have egg on my face if he turns out to to be the killer after all.

Martha finishes being a bitch and goes back to her room…and her closet door slowly creaks open…and Connor is standing there! Haha, go Connor! He figured out there’s a secret passageway running into Martha’s closet ( I guess she’s back in the murder room now. There’s a lot of dull bedroom yo-yoing but let’s just assume she’s always in the murder room) Martha kicks Connor in the shin and tells him she hates him. She also accuses him of being behind all the weird stuff that’s happened. In reply, Connor tells Martha that she knows nothing about him, and he totally shames her with all the stuff he knows about her. He totally called you out, Martha!

They kind of bond, Martha tells him all her fears. Connor tells her he feels the strange vibes in the house as well. He didn’t say anything before out of kindness, he didn’t want to make life any harder for Martha. I’m actually a little bit in love with Connor.

The next day, at school Wynn invites herself round to The Old Bedford Place for a study date- she feels like she needs to see the house where she found her best friend's corpse again. Really?! Is that absolutely necessary? Wynn hopes that going to the house will trigger her memories so she can know for sure that Dennis didn’t do it. All she remembers is the body and the blood.

Later, in the evening, Martha has to nip back into school to pick up a book before Connor picks her up. It’s deserted…but then…she hears a footstep. All the lights go out and the footsteps get louder and closer, “Martha’s eyes, wild with terror, were totally useless to her now.” I don’t know why I included that line, it just made me laugh but whatdoiknow.

Martha hides under some desks in a classroom, the footsteps guy follows her in, “her hand grappled with the knob” (hehehe) as she manages to run past him and escape, falling into Connor’s arms outside. The police don’t find anyone in the building, but Martha is pretty sure that somebody is trying to kill her.

Next night, Wynn comes to the murder house for a fun trip down memory lane. She tells Martha and Connor that the house has loads and loads of hidden tunnels. According to her, Dennis and Blake are also both aware of thse tunnels. Here’s what she remembers from the fateful Halloween one year ago: It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times (not really). The gist of it is – Blake and Elizabeth had an argument and Elizabeth went off with Dennis for a ‘chat.’ When Elizabeth hadn’t returned after an hour, Wynn, Greg and Blake went looking for her, and found her all smooshed up with a knife. Well, that was certainly worth it.

Night of the Halloween party (I’m sorta surprised they didn’t cancel it out of respect to the murdered but whatever) . Connor can’t go because he has the flu, but Martha is totally going even though she’s convinced there’s a killer on the loose who has a knife with her name on it. She dresses up like a gypsy. Blake picks her up and he’s death (how portentous), Greg is an executioner (double portentous) and Wynn is a witch (ummm).

Martha is loving the Halloween dance, until Wynn comes running up all panicky to tell Martha that she has just seen Dennis! Arggh! And then Martha gets a creepy (payphone) call again: “there’s no one home Elizabeth, it’s Halloween and they’re all dead” . Oh no, please don’t let Connor be hurt, what if Dennis reallly is alive and he's murdered him, arrrgghhh my tingly left arm and my clutchy heart. Oh, and the caller also throws in a ‘trick or treat.’

Martha, Wynn, Blake and Greg go racing back to Martha’s place to check on Connor. He’s fine. Not for long though. The lights go out and somehow everyone gets separated and Martha and Connor end up in Martha’s bedroom alone together being chased by someone with a swooshy knife that they keep swooshing around. Martha and Connor positively LEAP into the closet and run down the tunnel until they come to a storage closet. Their attacker starts a leetle fire outside the door and there’s nowhere to run (umm, not sure why they can’t just go back the way they came?). Luckily, Martha finds an extra secret double hidden tunnel behind some shelves and the pair follow it…ending up in….the mausoleum…dun dun dun. I totally guessed they would end up in the mausoleum as I was reading this, I award myself one hundred Awesome Points.

In the mausoleum, there’s a big ol’ altar shrine set up, complete with burning candles and decomposing corpse of Dennis. A tall black figure dressed as Death comes in and starts slashing at Connor, cutting him in the shoulder. Et tu, Blake? Only…it’s not Blake. We know this because Blake himself comes running in and tackles Death, who is actually…Wynn! Nice fake-out, RTC, I’ve certainly never seen you employ that device before.

Turns out Wynn really killed Elizabeth, and did all those creepy things in the months before her death. Reason? She was totally in love with Dennis. Wynn also accidentally killed Dennis, ooopsie daisy, she only meant to knock him out but I guess she doesn’t know her own strength. Oh well, these things happen, she shouldn’t beat herself up about it.

Wynn makes one more lunge for Martha with the knife but the police rock up and save the day. Connor’s going to be okay, and Martha even refers to him as her brother, aww, how sweet, all it took for Martha to like him was for Connor to sustain a near fatal injury whilst trying to save Martha’s life. Martha and Blake kiss in the mausoleum, of course they do. The end.

I’m left with a lot of questions at the end of this book. Like, are Martha and Connor’s parents ever going to come back? I have a sneaky suspicion that they have in fact run away to start a new life alone together. Also, I’m not sure if Wynn really had forgotten murdering Elizabeth or if that was just a fake out. This book was OK though, I just wish it had had some ghosts in it. It’s funny, you can really see the difference between the early ones (such as this), and the later ones where standards slipped and the writing became shoddier and shoddier. But it's weird, as the actual writing gets shoddier the books become more interesting as the writers are forced to dream up ever more implausible scenarios.

This book has got quite the following on Amazon, with particular praise being lavished on the ‘romance.’ Well, I guess this one really does have it all: undertones of incest, hay bale-based sexual tension and some potential hot student/teacher action (although sadly that promise was never realised - RTC, you’ve let me down, you’ve let your readers down, but most of all you’ve let yourself down.) A lot of people agreed with me and fell in love with Connor (hands off, he’s MINE), and at least one reader LUVED the book :

“i LUVED this book!!!! i was upset cuz she didnt like conor at all. i thoght it was really SWEET of conor(the nightmare part)i was dissappointed though cuz she still didnt like him after that. i luved conor.. he always tried to protect Martha..even wen he was close to dying. i read this book a bizzilion times n i still luv it. i'm glad that she went out w/blake...he was so sweet. i was soo surprised st the ending . this book got my heart pumping..its like i was Martha and i was experiencing the school part.. man i LUVED the book.”

This next review disturbs me slightly. A) because the reader is disproportionately angry at anybody who potentially dislikes the book, B) because I’m not sure that I like being called a crazy half wit and C) because there's something creepy about using then royal 'we' in a point horror book review.

“This book was a turn the page thriller! It was an on the edge of your seat til the finish kind of book. I don't know what some other people think, but if you dislike this book you must be crazy. It was full of suspense and mystery, and gave you that eerie felling that you are the person in the book. Any half wit can see that this book could have a high point in her career. This book has been written by the absolute master of suspense, horror and mystery in our books. We have read together 20 of her books. Just recently, Silent Stalker and Overdue. In our books she ranks number one, and her book deserves 5 stars and the honorable gold star”

Next time: I haven't settled on which book to do next, it's all up in the air and I have a couple to choose from. So I'll see you next time with a mystery recap, unless you die from the suspense first. (please don't die, I already have enough blood on my hands. )

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Amnesia - Sinclair Smith

Sometimes, when I’m stomping down the street scowling angrily at passers-by, people stop and ask me what’s wrong. I just shove a Point Horror under their noses and I say, “This. This is what’s wrong.” I always have such high hopes for every Point Horror book, I never learn. It’s like the boyfriend who always cheats on you but you can’t resist always taking him back even though you know it’s all doomed to end in heartbreak and herpes.

But not with Amnesia! Finally, a Point Horror that lives up to my expectations. Although, this does also mean that the next one I read will probably be an even bigger disappointment. But I don’t need to think about that now! Right now I’m free to bask in the awesomeness of Amnesia.

We begin: Alicia wakes up in hospital and she doesn’t know who she is. In fact, you might even say that she has ‘AMNESIA’ (she also has a broken ankle)

Alicia was found having a Britney Spears moment and wandering down a highway covered in blood a few days ago. For some reason, when I picture it she’s also naked. Nobody knows how she got there, and Alicia can’t remember anything about herself (just in case there’s anybody reading this who doesn’t know what the word ‘amnesia’ means.)

Luckily, someone arrives to claim Alicia and take her home – her sister Marta. My alarm bells start ringing pretty much right away. Marta tells Alicia that as well as being sisters, they were bestest friends ever and they always do everything together. Marta is really into the whole sisters thing. In fact, it almost seems as if she doesn’t want Alicia hanging out with any other people at all….

Marta tells Alicia that she was actually in a coma for four months, so she needs to take it easy for a while and won’t be going back to school until next year. Marta will be looking after her, since their parents died in the same accident that Alicia was in. Marta can support her because she has a big important job, although she won’t elaborate further than describing herself as a ‘top executive.’

Marta is generally a bit weird and off. She comes out with outdated, jarring phrases, and never laughs at anything until Alicia laughs first. Alicia thinks that “being around Marta was like watching a dancer who couldn’t keep the beat.” Okay, I think I know my Sinclair Smith, and I’m going to stake a bet right here and now that Marta turns out to be some kind of weird alien thing, possibly with tentacles.

Alicia and Marta’s house is covered in heavy thick curtains, according to Marta because otherwise the sunlight would fade the furniture – hmmm, really Marta? Or do you just not want anybody looking in?

Marta and Alicia have a ten page argument about whether or not Alicia likes pizza. Marta is pretty adamant about not ordering pizza, insisting that they both eat their favourite, liverwurst sandwiches TOGETHER. I’m getting kind of a Kathy Bates in Misery vibe from Marta.

Throughout the house, there are loads of family photographs of Marta and their parents but none of Alicia. Alicia’s room and clothes and lifestyle all appear to be pretty bland. And there’s nothing in the house that’s at all personal to Alicia, all of her clothes even still have price tags attached. Jeez Marta, if you’re going to go to the effort of kidnapping someone and making them believe they’re related to you, you may as well also make the effort to remove a few measly price tags. When Alicia confronts her about it, Marta comes out with a pretty lame excuse, saying that one day Alicia went out and bought all new stuff, giving all her other clothes and furniture away to the Salvation Army. Umm, okay, because teenage girls do that all the time. Marta also explains away the lack of photographs of Alicia in the house, saying she burned them all six months ago after a feud with her mom. Note to Marta: think of some better excuses you fucking lunatic.

About an hour later, Marta magically produces a photo album containing pictures of her and Alicia as children. This is enough to keep Alicia happy for a little while, and she stops worrying that Marta is going to stab her in her sleep and starts to fondly think of Marta as just being a bit quirky. One of the photos even prompts a memory in Alicia, of being at a fairground. But that doesn’t ease her nerves, and Alicia realises that her amnesia must have been brought on by something that she is too frightened to remember. Hey, I’d say being in the car crash that killed your parents is probably traumatic enough to bring on a bit of serious repression, but Alicia seems to think there’s something more important that she’s forgotten.

Alicia has a recurring nightmare about being chased by a dark figure through a tunnel (bad times), and also a recurring dream about a dark haired boy on a motorcycle (sexy times). When I say ‘recurring’, I mean these are sprinkled liberally throughout the book as a padding device.

Alicia overhears Marta on the phone to someone, basically saying that Alicia is away visiting relatives so no one can come see her. Marta then hides the phone away, banning Alicia from making any calls. Alicia confronts Marta about her weird behaviour and asks if she’s keeping something from her– Marta denies it and she’s all, ‘I’m doing this for your own good, blah blah blah.”

Marta smothers Alicia to an insane degree, even controlling exactly what she eats, and insisting that Alicia doesn’t ever leave the house. Whenever Alicia complains, Marta guilt trips her back into silence.

Alicia’s days pass by in an exciting haze of crosswords and word puzzles. Marta is massively offended when Alicia snaps and just can’t take any more puzzles, asking if they could do something else instead. Marta starts grinding her teeth and tugging at her hair and making her eyes glow with rage. Way to over-react, psycho. Alicia realises that over the last few days, Marta has been acting increasingly moody and temperamental.

Whilst Marta is at work one day, Alicia ruminates on how stressed and run down Marta must be, what with her big important job and all, so she decides to run into town to get some groceries for them. Umm, Alicia? Somehow, I don’t think Marta is going to like that much…

So Alicia takes a bunch of money from the money jar and heads out. First stop is the pizza place, where Alicia discovers that she was right and she really does love pizza, take THAT Marta.

A man enters the pizza place, he has a scar on his face and piercing brown eyes, these two physical characteristics make me pretty sure that he’s going to be important to the story in some way. Scar Man follows Alicia into town. Alicia doesn’t remember anything about the town at all. Alicia walks past the library, and spots Marta inside pushing a cart about. Ah ha! So Marta lied about her big important executive job, she really works in the library. Alicia feels kind of sorry for Marta feeling like she has to lie about her job, and decides not to confront her about it.

On a whim, Alicia buys a canary, Okkaaayyy. Because who doesn’t love a canary, right? To digress for a moment, that reminds me of this one time when I was about ten years old, I found a budgie in a park and I took it home and bought a cage for it etc, and I named it Pee Wee Herman and I was so happy. But then the little fucker wouldn’t stop squacking, and after one night I’d had enough so I gave it away to some old lady. Anyhow, this isn’t about me. Alicia buys a canary because there’s something familiar about canaries.

The scar man starts chasing after her and Alicia hides inside a video store, where she bumps into a guy called Mark. He has long, light brown hair and a silver hoop earring. I’m not sure whether or not that means he’s meant to be hot? Was that a good look in the early 90s? Mark lets her hide out in the video store office. Alicia DOES think he’s good looking, so I guess that’s that mystery solved, maybe I’ll just stop reading now. Alicia promises to go visit Mark again soon before rushing back home and getting the canary all settled in.

At home, Alicia’s bored so she starts idly snooping through a few drawers for stuff that might jog her memory– and she finds a briefcase filled with watches, rings, checkbooks and credit cards. I wonder what Marta will say to get out of this one, probably something really lame like ‘oh, I’m just holding them for a friend.’

But no, Marta goes one better than that, and catching Alicia at the moment of her discovery, Marta angrily tells her that Alicia actually stole all this stuff, and that’s the deep dark secret that Marta was trying to keep her from finding out. Marta says that she just wanted to trick Alicia into being a nice, quiet good girl instead which is why she made up all the lies about Alicia’s personality and non existent social life. Supposedly, Alicia was a real troublemaker on top of being a thief, and she even spent a bit of time inside a mental hospital. She also double crossed one of her criminal ‘friends’ in a deal, which would mean big trouble for Alicia if they find her. Really Marta? Are you sure about that?

Marta also spots the canary and generally acts a bit crazy, throwing plates around etc., you know, that’s just how Marta rolls.

Later that night, Alicia goes down to the kitchen, and finds every single window in the living room wide open – and the canary DEAD. It died from the COLD. I guess Marta did this, it’s a pretty passive aggressive way to kill something.

This is enough for Alicia to finally decide to, I dunno, DO something about the situation that she’s in. So she goes to the hospital to speak to the doctor who treated her there and released her into Marta’s care. Dr Kellogg (nice name) tells Alicia that she’s been trying, and failing, to get in touch with Alicia to find out how she is doing, as Alicia was meant to be going back to the hospital on a weekly basis for follow up visits, but Marta has been fobbing them off.

Dr Kellogg tells Alicia that she wasn’t in a coma for four months – she really was only knocked out for a few days. Dun dun dun, Marta has FOR SURE been caught in a lie this time. Alicia realises that Marta must have made up the lie to give her an excuse for taking Alicia out of school and making her stay in the house at all times.

Alicia visits Mark and after a bit of awkwardness involving Mark trying to get his greasy tongue down her throat, she confides in him about the amnesia and all the weirdness with Marta. When Alicia mentions her name, Mark tells her that he knows of Marta – she’s the resident town lunatic. Alicia still seems to think that Marta is her sister despite all the weirdness. Has Alicia never seen Overboard? If it’s good enough for Kurt Russell then it’s good enough for Marta is what I say.

Mark also tells Alicia that people have suspected Marta of being a thief for years – that’s the briefcase full of booty explained then. This is kind of strange, surely if Marta is so well known in town, people would also know about her family.

Alicia finds Marta’s diary, which starts on the day that Alicia returned from the hospital. It starts off on a positive, if sinister note – all glee that Marta’s sister is coming home, and happiness that Marta has the chance to reshape all of Alicia’s memories and personality. However, it quickly descends into a big fat mess of crazed ramblings about Alicia’s ungratefulness etc, climaxing with Marta’s decision to kill Alicia. I guess it’s pretty handy that Alicia found that diary, it sure pushed the plot on.

Marta appears in the doorway holding a big ol’ carving knife. She’s PISSED. And bitter – “’Everything always turned out all right for you. Off you went with your friends. You forgot all about me. Well, it’s not going to turn out like that this time.” Marta and Alicia have a bit of a tussle, until Marta gets the upper hand and trips Alicia down the stairs before her dragging her into the basement . Marta locks Alicia in there whilst she decides how she’s going to kill her. Because it is best not to rush the murder of your only sister, it’s kind of like losing your virginity, you’ll regret it if everything isn’t just perfect.

Alicia falls asleep to the soothing noise of Marta rambling insanely, and wakes up hungry. Good news: Marta has left her a covered dish of something. Bad news: under it’s cover, the dish contains Alicia’s dead canary. Yum. What, no ketchup? Alicia realises that Marta is going to starve her to death. Hmm, interesting choice, Marta. Although probably not the method I’d choose, I’d go for something a bit more hands on.

Alicia finds her bag hidden in the basement. It contains her school ID card, which names her as being Alicia Fisher rather than Alicia Taylor. Also in her bag are some pictures of her friends and the dark haired motorcycle guy she keeps dreaming about. This prompts Alicia’s memory – he’s her boyfriend of two years, Lou. For some reason, she also remembers that he hates broccoli. I doubt this will turn out to be relevant.

Alicia has another memory –Marta is NOT her sister. Well, duuuhhh.

The pair were childhood friends and they were so close that they used to pretend to be sisters, until Marta’s parents moved to Grimly. The visits to each other tailed off when Marta got put in a mental hospital. I kind of feel bad for Marta actually.

Later, Alicia wakes up again and hears a detective speaking to Marta – they’re evidently trying to find Alicia. This guy finds Alicia in the basement – and he’s Scar Man, that dude that was following her earlier. He’s a private investigator that her father hired to find her.

Alicia’s relief at being rescued is short lived when Marta creeps up on Scar Man and gets him in the back of the head with an iron skillet. POW! This book rules. Alicia runs out of the house towards the town with a CRAZED Marta in hot pursuit.

At the carnival, Marta reaches Alicia and starts strangling her, shaking her ‘like a rag doll.’ Hehe, I’m kinda picturing when Homer Simpson strangles Bart here. Alicia escapes a bit, and there’s a lot of struggling and running etc., and it’s all terribly exciting (I’m actually not being sarcastic.)

Mark arrives with the police and Scar Man, who’s recovered from his iron skillet bashing, and they rescue Alicia in the nick of time.

Alicia gets taken back to the hospital to have her injuries treated whilst she waits for her father to pick her up. It turns out her dad is a famous photojournalist, so he’d been off in the Amazon doing important photojournalist stuff when Alicia initially went missing.

The thing that really sent Marta around the bend was her parents dying in a car accident a couple of months back – poor thing was just lonely. Alicia remembers how she ended up in the hospital the first time around – Marta popped up from her hiding place in the back of Alicia’s car whilst Alicia was driving. She somehow managed to escape from Marta’s clutches that time around, and someone found Alicia wandering around. Hmmm, that’s a pretty good coincidence for Marta that Alicia did lose her memory then.

Alicia has a lovely reunion with her dad and her boyfriend, and Marta gets caught and put into a mental hospital. Hurrah! Three cheers for secure psychiatric units!

And then it ends on a really weird note, three months later, with Alicia finishing a painting called 'Amnesia' and vowing to put the whole terrible exeprience behind her. OK that's fine, but literally the last paragraph of the book is just this janitor guy looking at the painting and being all, 'tsk, modern art, what a load of rubbish.' Um, WTF. I can't help but feel that I'm missing something here.

In conclusion: I fucking love this book, it actually made me so happy to read a Point Horror that is genuinely good. I think one of the things that really works in it’s favour is that it’s pretty much a two hander between Marta and Alicia, rather than there being a whole bunch of random red herring characters to make my blood boil. Even though I was a teensy bit sad that my tentacle monster prediction didn’t come true, but I’ve moved on from that now.

Also, one other thing I did notice – I didn't mention any of it in my recap because it has nothing to do with the plot, but Sinclair Smith has a pretty angry attitude towards hospitals. She kind of makes the doctors all bumbling incompetent fools with big fake smiles and they make this big deal about the hospital not bothering to check any of Marta’s ID before letting her take Alicia home, and Alicia's dad rants on for a while about how he's going to sue the hospital. It kind of makes me wonder if maybe something similar happened to Sinclair Smith. I’m sure this sort of thing is a lot more common than we realise.

Over to Amazon:

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
IT CHANGED MY LIFE!, June 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Amnesia (Paperback)

Uh oh, I think this reviewer might have a touch of the ‘Marta’s’. The excitable caps and the declaration of its life changing qualities just screams someone who's desperate for a friend to keep in the basement and feed dead canaries to. I also like the way that 0 out of 3 people found it helpful, ouch.

Next time: next week is exciting as I have a three book anthology speeding it’s way to me in the post. In it is : April Fools, Trick or Treat and Blood Sinister. I haven’t decided which one I’m doing first yet, but I’m slightly leaning towards Blood Sinister just because I haven’t done any Celia Rees yet but I have gorged myself on RTC.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Mall - Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Mall – an angry commentary on a society that's hellbent on self destruction, guzzling down greasy fast food and sweatshop clothing? A gently humorous satire on a consumerist culture? The tragic tale of a loveless woman whose life is so empty that all she has room for is shopping? Or a ridiculous Point Horror book about a beautiful girl and all the men who are in love with her, at least one of whom is insane?

Man, Richie Tankersely Cusick has issues. I can’t say too much here or I’ll give away the big twist, but what is it with her and inappropriate relationships between teenage girls and much older men in positions of authority who have tendencies towards sexual aggression? First we saw this in The Teacher’s Pet, now in The Mall…in fact, the whole book follows a pretty similar plot line to Teacher’s Pet. I don’t know why this surprises me.

The Mall is set in a mall. Not just any old mall though – this is a super creepy old mall that’s been built over time and time again, until it’s packed full of all sorts of layers and tunnels and shops and subterranean chambers that have been abandoned and blocked off until the world has forgotten about them. There’s also some bad stuff going down here – several characters emphasise just how creepy this place is, and just how terrible an idea it would be to ever visit this mall after dark falls. I repeat – do NOT visit the mall after dark. Gee, I wonder if anyone’s going to end up trapped in the mall at night time?

So, The Mall opens with The Thoughts Of A Stalker – an unnamed narrator thinking about the object of his desires, who works at The Mallllllll (scary voice). He likes to stalk her by pretending to be a mannequin and just watching her. Umm, okay. Facebook sure has made stalking easier hasn’t it? Although there still is something to say for kickin’ it old school, after all you know what they say, “you can’t smell someone’s skin cells over the internet.” Who says that? Me, I do.

Trish Somerfield is our heroine, and the object of the stalker’s desires. Unless I tell you otherwise, you can pretty much assume that she is constantly in a state of “icy terror.” Trish works in the food court and her boss Bethany is a serious mega bitch. Also, Trish’s mom is conveniently ‘in Europe’ for the whole book.

Trish’s best friends are Nita and Imogene (nice spelling, not). They’re twins (yessss! Evil twin anyone?) and there’s a pretty detailed description of them but it’s probably just easier if I say Nita is Jessica Wakefield and Imogene is Elizabeth.

Storm Reynolds is a) the proud owner of like, the dumbest name EVER and b) the mall hottie. He’s pretty evasive about stuff like where he lives. Trish likes Storm and Storm likes Trish.

Also mysteriously evasive is Wyatt, who claims to be some kind of odd job man about the mall. Wyatt is quirky-cute and Nita decides she likes him. He has combed back long hair and wears stuff like this – jeans with holes, rock band t shirt, combat boots and a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off.

Muffin Man is this very very strange guy who Trish first spots watching her in the food court. He has a voice like a womans, “and a long, wispy beard on a pointed chin, long flowing hair that hid much of a gaunt face , and where the eyes should have been, only a pair of dark glasses. Oh, yeah, and his hair and his beard are both grey. (cough cough, *Dumbledore* cough)

He’s the immediately obvious contender to be the stalker, ordering a honey muffin from Trisha and then saying stuff like this: “the way that honey looks on your fingers…one could almost…taste it.” Yeah, it's definitely him.

The Muffin Man makes a couple of weird phone calls to Trish (on a payphone, natch, this is the 90s baby) – coming out with more gems like, “I’m eating the muffin. It tastes just like you.” she knows it’s him cos she recognises his weird, womanish voice, also his reference to the muffin, I guess that’s like their ‘thing’. When Trish tries to get a security guard to help her out he inexplicably becomes enraged, muttering about kids playing pranks on each other. Security guards and policemen of the world, I beseech you – when will you learn? It’s never just kids playing pranks on each other. Do your job, damn it.

Trish goes to visit Nita in her store, and she finds a dress she likes from the Purely Passion range: “long and flowing, it was all white satin and lace, like a gauzy cloud, with delicate trimming of ribbon and velvet…..a low cut neckline (with) a tiny row of pearl buttons down the front of the soft, full skirt”

Whilst trying it on, Trish gets the feeling that someone is watching her. Yeah Trish, it’s the fashion police and you’re looking at 15 years to life.

Leaving with Nita for the day, Trish finds Wyatt fiddling around by her car – weird. He makes up some lame excuse and the girls take him with them to a diner. Wyatt acts shifty throughout. For some reason he asks to be taken back to the mall, claiming he has a friend that lives nearby and Trish agrees. After dropping him off, her car suddenly dies. Uh Oh.

Trish heads towards the mall, hoping there are some security guards about that can help her. She finds a weird side door, and meets a security guard with long black curly hair, sunglasses and a scar down his face. This must be a disguise if I ever heard of one. In another Deus Ex Machina, Trish cuts herself on a bottle and the security guard invites her in so he can first aid her. Whilst being first aided, Trish stumbles across a mutilated corpse with an ice pick in her throat. The security guard says he will call for help, but Trish has to leave now, and not tell anyone about this, or else he could lose his job for letting her inside. He calls her a cab, finding out her address and home alone status in the process. What a kindly old security guard, thinks Trish.

The next day, it slooooooowly dawns in Trish that this security guard might have been up to no good, so she tries to figure out who he is. Based on her description of him, she’s directed to a security guard called Roger. He has the curly black hair, but not the sunglasses or the scars and, so Trish reasons that it can’t have been him. She also finds out that there are no night security guards. Trish realises that she was chilling with a murderer last night, a murderer who now knows her home address. Trish pretty much spends this point on until the end in a state of perpetual panic.

Trish visits Imogene in her book shop and agrees to go down to the loading bay with her. The bay is like, ridiculously deep in the ground, they have to get into about 20 (okay, two) different elevators going down and down and down until they can reach it.

Down in the stock rooms, Trish bumps into some familiar looking creep with slicked back hair who’s wearing dark sunglasses: “As Trish stared in cold, creeping terror, his mouth formed a crooked smile. Some of his teeth were black.”

Upstairs, Imogene finds a long grey wig and wispy beard in a bin. Trish thinks that the Muffin Man and the Security Guard and this guy she bumped into are all the same person donning different disguises. She still doesn’t mention anything about any of this this to anyone though.

Trish basically runs around the mall freaking out and falls off an escalator or something, waking up in hospital having had chin stitches. That night she wakes up to find a creepy visitor standing at the foot of her bed– it’s Muffin Man/Security Guard stalker guy. Somebody needs to teach this guy about boundaries. We find out that his name is Athan, and although Trish is upset and scared by his appearance, he insists that he would never do anything to hurt her, as Trish is ‘his life.’ He admits that he’s been watching her for ages – including that time she was in the changing room trying on the white dress and felt eyes all over her. He also threatens to hurt Nita and Imogene if she tells anyone about him, and also warns her of speaking to ‘him’, telling Trish not to trust ‘him’, but rather unhelpfully, won’t specify who ‘him’ is. Thanks a bunch Athan.

Trish drives herself crazy trying to figure out who ‘him’ is – Storm? Wyatt? Some other guy from the mall? I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be some other guy at the mall, unless RTC takes the unprecedented step of flying in the face of Point Horror structure and tradition and gives us a wildcard baddie. Relax, I’m sure she would never be so unprofessional.

Out of hospital, Trish spots Wyatt in a car outside her house. She has another freakout and heads to the library where there will be lots of people. Storm shows up there, and he’s nice to Trish but she's mega-suspicious, with Athan’s warning still ringing in her ears. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that id trust my ice pick murderer stalker to tell me which of my friends may or may not be bad news. Storm is worried by Trish’s freak-out and drags her out to the car even though she’s crying and begging him to leave her alone, well this guy is certainly a keeper, who says romance is dead.

Storm decides to show her something – a special place in the woods. Trish is massively uncomfortable with this, but Storm seems to think its ok to just ignore her protests and drive on. Trish manages to leap out of his car and run into the woods. Storm chases after her, pins her down and yells in her face for her to calm down. I do tend to find that that is the best technique for calming people.

Once Trish has been cowed into submission, Storm acts shocked that she would think he could ever hurt her. Well, let’s break it down Einstein shall we. First of all, you basically abduct her in the library, then you drive her into a thick wood, then you chase after her and pin her to the ground. Gee, what’s not to love about this guy.

Storm calms Trish down, and for some reason she agrees to go see ‘his special place’. It’s an empty ghost house in the woods. Wow, will this guy’s incredible calming techniques never end? I sure know who I’d want to hang out with if I was of a nervous disposition. This house has some stupid legend attached to it that echoes Trish’s own story, blah blah blah. Storm makes a lunge for Trish and kisses her hard. Thankfully, she slaps him in the face and makes him take her home.

Skipping forward past some pointless stuff: Trish decides to go back to work (umm why). She picks up her fixed car and, and finds a mystery cassette inside it. On the tape is Athan’s whispery womanish voice, saying “you’re a naughty girl Trish…a naughty girl. I told you not to tell anyone...I did try to warn you, didn’t I? But you wouldn’t listen. So now…now I have to show you how serious I am. You’d better be at the mall today Trish” OK, this stalker is officially my hero, he gets top marks for imagination and thinking outside the box.

At the mall, Nita gives Trish back her flashlight. I don’t remember when she borrowed it in the first place, but im guessing its going to be important to the plot so I’m clumsily shoving it in here, much like RTC did in the original.

At the end of Trish’s shift, one of her co workers passes on a message to Trish – a girl tried calling her who sounded like Imogene with a cold, but she’s hung up now. The message is:

“something about – I don’t know – a matter of life and death?...And she said for you to hurry - …She didn’t say where – she just said….’tell her to come now – before it’s too late.’”

Are you KIDDING me you dumbass. What the hell kind of a message is that to just pass on to someone, that’s like if you called somebody up going “fire! there’s a fire! I’m trapped in a fire and my head is on fire and I’m going to die from being burned alive in the fire!” and they’re just all , “ugh, well I can certainly pass on .the message.” WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Anyway – NOT IMPORTANT. Trish goes down to the creepy loading dock to find Imogene, but all she sees is a bloody hand reaching round a corner and holding an icepick. Scared that the murderer is attached to the hand, Trish hops back into the lift, and a chirpy little interlude follows that I like to call ‘The Elevator Diaries’. Here is a brief synopsis.

The elevator goes up.
The doors won’t open.
The elevator goes down.
The doors won’t open.

Repeat x 10. I am not joking. At first, I was like, whoa, this is seriously creepy, she’s trapped in an elevator. By the end of ‘The Elevator Diaries’ I was like, seriously, what is it with Point Horror writers and overkill? The monotony is finally broken when Bethany The Bitchy Boss’s corpse is stuffed through a gap in the elevator (don’t ask). She was killed with an ice pick, and there's a note attached to her neck saying "you're lucky this isn't Imogene." Oh okay, what was that phone call about then? I guess that will have to join my list of Life's Great Mysteries.

Then the elevator starts hurtling down and Trish gets sad that she’s going to die but I know she’s going to live because there’s still about 30 pages left.

She does black out though, and when she wakes up (and gets out of the elevator hurrah!) the mall is totally empty, and it’s night time. Trish ends up in Nita’s store, where she finds a panel missing from one of the changing rooms. Wyatt shows up and Trish throws a bunch of paperweights at him thinking he must be the killer before escaping through the hole in the wall. Oh, Trish, you still have so much to learn.

She follows a passage way for many many words until she reaches a tunnel. Hey, I wonder what the technical difference is between a passageway and a tunnel? She walks for many more words until she reaches a massive door. Inside the door is another door. I know I said this before, but sometimes I really do get the feeling that these Point Horror writers are just padding to reach a minimum word count.

So, Trish goes through the second door, and inside is a room filled with cobwebs and huge spiders. The spiders run all over Trish and even down her throat (gross). Trish grabs onto something – argh it's a foot, relax it belongs to a mannequin,. She notices the whole room is filled with mannequins, more mannequins than you would ever want to be in a room with. I really HATE mannequins. Also in the room: a candlelit table, a wedding cake and a “a huge wooden bed with white canopy and snowy bed curtains”

Her stalker turns up – and guess what, it’s not Wyatt. It turns out that Athan is actually Roger. You know, Roger. Remember Roger the security guard? No? Me neither. Oh my God, I cant believe RTC went and did this, after all the faith I put in her – I promised you she wouldn’t make the baddie turn out to be some random guy we haven’t really heard of. And what did she go and do? She turned me into a liar.

I’m sure you can guess what Roger/Athan’s intentions are. He tells Trish that he’s got rid of the competition, eg killed Storm with an ice pick, and leaves Trish to slip into her wedding dress whilst he goes to take care of some business. Luckily, Wyatt arrives to rescue her. For some reason Wyatt gets Trish to help him put out all the lights in the room instead of just, y’know, escaping.

The door opens again, someone else enters and there’s a but of a tussle, a gun goes off and Wyatt is all “Stop! Police!” And the other guy is all "get off me doofus", and it turns out the other guy is actually Storm and he and Wyatt are undercover police officers who’ve been following Roger. Storm has been hurt by the ice pick, but as we learned in The Train, ice pick injuries are not always fatal.

Anyway, fuck all that, how old are these dudes? Wyatt helpfully informs us that Storm is “much older than he looks.” This makes the whole kissy face scene at the ghost house in the woods take on an even more sinister turn. See what I mean about RTC and inappropriate relationships? I think somebody has some Daddy issues.

So, Roger busts in as well, and grabs Trish, but she remembers that handy flashlight and uses it to escape from Roger's clutches by shining it into his eyes, so Storm and Wyatt can shoot Roger dead.

Storm and Wyatt sheepishly admit that they’ve been following Roger for a while and they basically used Trish as bait. Nice. Roger had been kidnapping and killing girls for years, the reason nobody heard about it was because there was never concrete enough evidence to put him away and “the mall wanted to keep it quiet.” That’s pretty gross.

The book ends with the happy threesome waiting for back up to arrive and Trish and Storm flirting in a way that frankly makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

I was pretty disappointed with this book by the end, it had so much potential. I had all these crazy theories the whole way through about there being a kind of Morlock-y race of people living in the mall, or the perps being weird evil shadow versions of real people. When Trish found the mannequin room I started praying that Athan would be turning humans into mannequins, even though I knew I only had a few pages left to go. So when it turned out to just be this one dude we’ve known about from the start, it left me kind of…flat.

Oh well, over to Amazon. A worrying number of readers want to know more about Trish and Storm’s relationship, there are even calls for a sequel to be written concerning this. May I recommend reading ‘Lolita’ instead.

I like this description of The Mall a lot, I think it really does it justice:

“This book is about a woman that thinks that she is not pretty, and she works in a mall that is haunted. There are strange things happening like: the manager of the store got a call in the morning when the mall wasn't even open. There is a guy that is foolowing her, everywhere she is, there is him watching her. He whispered her name in the crow, his eyes are looking for her evrywhere. That man at first he was just a customer, but then he appears everywhere. With his thousands faces making her crazy. He knows everything about her secrets. “

I don’t think any of this stuff actually happened – a) the mall isn’t haunted, b) what’s with this phone call stuff and c)he whispered her name in the crow? That’s clearly a typo but I can’t even begin to guess what it might mean. Having said that, this sounds like it would be a hell of a lot better book than the one that RTC actually wrote. I’m going to go to sleep now, and I’ll dream of someone whispering my name in the crow.

Next time: I thought I’d break free of this RTC/Ho/Cooney cycle I’m currently trapped in, and go with Sinclair Smith for Amnesia.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Train - Diane Hoh

SO, we’re back with ‘The Ho’ again, as I like to call her (but please don’t tell her that I called her that, I’m on my final warning.) My expectations for The Train are pretty high, with the awesomeness of The Accident still as fresh in my mind as a newly slaughtered corpse. Also, the cover is pretty amazing, that skeleton/hand thing does indeed appear to be promising me a one way ticket to terror.

But OMG, I guess this one has also been reprinted as a non-Point Horror book, and I must say the new cover is highly disappointing:

What's scary about that??!!

So – this story is about Hannah Deaton and her friends and a wonderful train journey of death and misery. Hannah’s hair is ‘naturally wavy and chocolate-ice-cream coloured.’ What a very strange way to describe hair. She’s dating a guy called Mack, who is described as ‘rugged,’ even though he’s only about seventeen. You’d had to have had a pretty hard life to be ‘rugged’ at seventeen, right? Also in her gang is Kerry (the vain one), Kerry’s boyfriend Lewis (the funny one) and Jean Marie (the one to make up the numbers.)

So, Hannah’s school class are going on a Teen Tour from Chicago to San Francisco travelling aboard a train so they can learn them some geography. It quickly transpires that Hannah is afraid of quite a few things. I made a list of her fears whilst I was reading, they are: trains, tunnels, confines spaces and, ummm, death. Okay, I’ll give her death. But trains? Seriously? I have NEVER heard of that phobia before. And she mentions her fear like once at the very beginning, and then it is completely forgotten about. Tut tut, minus 5 points for the poor continuity.

Also in her class are a girl Lolly Slocum and these guys called Eugene and Dale or something. These dudes are the losers of the school. Euegene and Dale spend the whole book darting their eyes suspiciously and making inappropriate comments but as they turn out to be massive red herrings I’m going to cull them from my recap. Sorry guys, that’s show business. More on Lolly later.

We open as they board the train. Kerry’s carry on bag is put into the baggage car because stupid Lewis screws up the one little job he was asked to do. Kerry storms off to get her bag – and finds a coffin in the baggage car. Kerry decides that her and Hannah have to go back again – and this time look inside the coffin to check there aren’t any icky corpses on the train with them. Hey guys, you know what’s worse than having a dead person on your train? Breaking into said dead person's coffin and ogling their corpse is what.

They realise that the coffin belongs to a guy they knew. His name was Frog and he died in a horrible fiery car accident about a week ago – since he was originally from San Francisco his body is being shipped back. Frog was Lolly’s boyfriend and Eugene and Dale’s friend. Ergo, Frog was also a loser and everyone hated him. Maybe he would have been more popular if he was a pirate frog:

The gang meet in the train’s Diner and all of Hannah’s friends have a story about a time they treated Frog badly, although frankly some of the stories are stronger than others. All except Hannah, who refuses to talk about it. It’s pretty obvious that Hannah’s story of her Frog abuse is going to be the most brutal and important one - oh the suspense.

Suddenly – all the lights in the diner go out. When the teacher (Ms Quick) flicks them back on again, Lolly has some kind of noose thing around her neck that’s choking her. Mack jumps to her rescue and unties the noose. A doctor arrives and plans are made for Lolly to go back home the following day instead of continuing on with the trip. I’m kind of surprised that the attempted murder of one of the students wasn’t enough to get everyone sent home, but hey I guess I’m just weird about stuff like deranged murderers being on the loose in massively confined spaces. Good thing I’m not a teacher. Anyway, we’re promised that a detective will be joining the train to investigate.

Wondering what Lolly looks like? Well, “unlike, Frog, Lolly wasn’t really unattractive’” and was occasionally “almost pretty.” Wow, such glowing praise, I hope someday I get described as being almost pretty. The Ho continues – “”she was a big girl, but it seemed to Hannah that at least she made an effort to look her best, wearing neat, colourful clothes.” Because EWWWW gross she’s a fatty, but at least she isn’t a slob. Nice work, Point Horror – bustin' stereotypes since 1992.

Everyone is told not to split up and to always stay in a group, so of course Hannah and Kerry immediately split up. Hannah finds herself alone in a train corridor being grabbed and gagged from behind by a stranger. I love it when that happens. The mystery attacker steers Hannah into the baggage room and knocks her out. Oh yeah and when she wakes up she’s in a coffin. It’s immediately obvious that she’s in the damn coffin the second she wakes up and feels wood all around her, but for some reason it takes Hannah about 10 pages to figure this out, I’ll spare you the loooong description of what the inside of a coffin feels like as Hannah’s puny mind grapples with figuring out where she could possibly be. But Christ, she even manages to get this far: “Hannah realized she was lying in a long, narrow, wooden box with an unyielding wooden roof” without ALSO realising that a ‘long wooden box’ commonly goes by the name ‘coffin.’ OK, I’ll move on from this now, although an angry little piece of me will be trapped in that long wooden box with Hannah forevermore.

Hannah is saved from long wooden box hell by her friends, with Ms. Quick and the conductor in tow. Hannah realizes that the long wooden box she was in was Frog’s, meaning what the hell has happened to Frog’s corpse. (please be zombies, please be zombies, please be zombies)

Frog burned to death in his car accident – creating the possibility that it was some other dope’s charred remains in the car, and Frog may not be dead after all. Hannah thinks this is a possibility, because “no one would have checked the identity of the driver. The police would have assumed that, of course, it was Frog driving the car.” Ummmmm, I’m not 100% sure that that’s how these things work. Hannah reckons that Frog faked his death and now he’s out to punish the gang for the way that they mis-treated him. Yeah, and for some insane reason Hannah decides not to go home but to stay on the trip.

The train stops in Denver, and Hannah’s friends go for coffee whilst Hannah visits a doctor. Mack goes missing in Denver. And then he reappears. He ran off by himself because he thought he saw Frog. This adds weight to Hannah’s theory that Frog faked his death so he could get him some consequence free revenge. The only flaw in her theory – why would he attack Lolly, his girlfriend? Jean Marie has an answer – she recently over heard the couple having a nasty argument about Frog going somewhere and Lolly trying to stop him. Hannah knows about this fight – it’s linked in to whatever it was that she did to hurt Frog, although we still don’t find out what that was.

Detective Tesch arrives. Hannah wittily renames him ‘Detective Brown’ because umm, he wears a lot of brown. Quick, someone get this girl a MENSA membership. He doesn’t really do anything, you probably won’t be hearing much about him from me again.

Hannah finds Frog’s dead burned body in Kerry’s bunk bed. Oh, I guess that pretty much de-bunks her theory. I’m still holding out for a zombie. Hannah runs out and tells the others about her discovery, but of COURSE the corpse has vanished by the time they get there to have a look, and they’re all “Hannah babes, you just had a bad dream.”

Ummm, but did nobody else notice that Frog really isn’t in his coffin if Hannah was in there? I mean, I hate to agree with Hannah here but surely his body must be SOMEWHERE? Sadly, Hannah doesn’t think of this argument to use. Man, if it was me in this situation I would just be dealing with it all over the place. Hannah reckons that maybe Frog was just PRETENDING to be dead to scare her and oh my God we are back to square one. Ms. Quick just keeps feeding Hannah aspirin to try to calm her down. I totally didn’t realise that aspirin worked like that, that’s why I love Point Horror, it provides such as vast library of important medical information.

The gang go to the cinema to watch “the latest Schwarzenegger” and a mystery ice pick thrower gets Lewis in the collarbone during the credits. Whoever this attacker is, they suck at making successful kills. Nobody really makes that big a deal about the ice pick thing, the policeman is all kind of ‘meh’ and Lewis just gets bandaged up.

Hannah decides that her and the gang need to open the coffin to see if Frog is in there. Jeez, maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened in one of the first chapters? Reading this book makes me feel like I’m trapped in an Escher drawing.

On the way to the baggage room, Lewis trips into something and ‘utters a mild oath.’ Yeah, this is the same guy who was just stabbed through the collarbone with an ice pick five minutes ago. I wonder what the mild oath was? “oh, boobs”? Anyway, Frog IS in the coffin now, but in the event only Hannah sees him. And she only knows it definitely was him because catches a glimpse of his tattoo. This tattoo sounds amazing, I’m thinking of stealing it for myself: “a rat with wings and bared fangs.” Yeeeeeeaahhh baby.

Anyway, so now we have established once and for all that someone OTHER than Frog is after Hannah and the gang. At least I truly hope with all my heart that this is the case. If there is one more body in the coffin, body out the coffin twist I’m just going to…well, I’ll just get on with my life I s’pose.

This train sounds amazing. It has a diner, a great big shower room, separate bedrooms, a rec room with a pool table and an observation lounge. So, they head to the observation lounge so they can all go to sleep together and so they won’t be in their rooms where the ‘killer’ could find them. I say ‘killer’, it seems a bit kind to describe him/her as a killer, but ‘blundering, incompetent would be-murderer’ would take too long to type. They all survive the night, and the girls head to the shower room to freshen up. Jean Marie goes missing from the shower.

The Detective thinks that Jean Marie is just playing a ‘hilarious’ joke, demonstrating how you can slide away the shower tiles and climb through the train ducts. Umm, first of all, I don’t know what a train duct is and second of all, is this detective actually retarded?

Jean Marie dies, the killer throws her off the train roof. Well done killer, you’re really finding your feet and earning your reputation now, I’m proud of you.

Hannah goes back to her compartment alone and finds Lolly Slocum chilling inside, dressed in one of Frog’s old outfits. This is not looking good. Lolly reveals that she never really left the train, she’s been hiding on it the whole time and she’s been the one attacking everyone and she even put the noose around her neck herself. Yeah, she explains that she could do it because she’s good at knots, having worked on a boat one summer. All of this unnecessary exposition gives me the feeling that The Ho maybe has a minimum word count that she’s desperately trying to reach. Oh, and the corpse in the bed/coffin was also Lolly, in special effects make up. Good old special effects make up.

So, why is Lolly doing all this? Because Frog’s dead and now she’s lonely and Hannah and all her friends were mean to him. Hannah manages to make a run for it and escape Lolly. When Hannah returns with backup, Lolly is gone, and she’s left what looks like a suicide note – they assume she jumped out the window of the moving train and into the canyon. Yeah, it’s probably just safer to assume that, the police do love to assume stuff. Hannah points out that Lolly could conceivably have faked the whole suicide thing, considering she’s already faked a near-death anyway and seeing how she’s a psychopath and all. Once again I’m forced to side with Hannah as all her friends just act kind of embarrassed that Hannah wouldn’t take the word of a deranged and revenge hungry murderer, like ‘oh you’re being so irrational.’

The train reaches San Francisco and the gang go out to visit a house on a cliff. Hannah wanders off by herself and finds a roped off danger area. She leans over the wall. Guess who pops up? Yup, Lolly Slocum. Jeez, she’s probably the LAST person Hannah wants to see right now. Especially because Lolly has a knife pressed to Hannah’s ear.

Except it’s not a knife, it’s a little tin canister that holds Frog’s ashes – Lolly’s plan is to scatter his ashes and murder Hannah at the same time, how efficient. Turns out Frog was never in the coffin at all, his parents didn’t really care about him so Lolly just had him cremated and then ordered the empty coffin to be sent to his parents in San Francisco just to annoy them. This girl has waaaay too much time on her hands.

OK, remember when Jean Marie said she had witnessed a big old fight between Lolly and Frog? Turns out that Lolly does blame Hannah for that fight and she REALLY wants to kill Hannah. They have a tussle blah blah blah and Hannah manages to pull a lump of cement off the crumbly old wall and knock Lolly over the edge into the sea. Ha! That'll teach her for not conforming and being fat.

Hannah’s friends rush up having witnessed the tussle. And we FINALLY get to find out what it is that Hannah did to Frog that she was so ashamed about. Hannah’s dad hired Frog to work on their garden in the run up to a massive party Hannah was having. Feeling kind of guilty that he was so unpopular, she invited Frog along. Frog was delighted, and whether or not to go to the party was what Lolly and Frog had their big fight about, with Frog desperate to go along and Lolly less keen. Hannah instantly regretted the invite and spent a couple of days worrying about how embarrassing it would be to have him there. So when he and Lolly arrived she slipped out the house and lied to them, saying she was ill and the party was just about to be cancelled. Frog took it sweetly but he was gutted and ran off into his car, sped off and…crashed it and died.

Okay, I guess that was a pretty shitty thing that Hannah did. I was worried it was going to be something really lame, like she sneezed on him and gave him a cold or something.

So I guess Hannah forgives herself, and decides to stay in San Francisco for the rest of the trip and Kerry makes a lame little joke about going shopping. The ending of this book is far less awesome than The Accident. In fact the whole thing doesn't really come close to The Accident. Maybe it's not fair to compre, but I had such high hopes for The Ho.

I guess the moral of the story is – tattoos of rats with wings are fucking incredible. Also, that the inclusion of a zombie would have immensely improved it.

Amazon reviewers– over to you:

“I've caught the train from Chicago to San Francisco and it doesn't stop for a half a day in Denver either, it stops at places to refuel yes but not a whole morning and there's no way it would delay hundreds of passengers to wait for one teenager to reappear or not. Also why they would expect the corpse of Frog to be in the very same coffin they rescued Hannah from seems to defy logic. If you can overlook these things and accept the work as pure fiction then this is a very enjoyable read.”

Hmmm, I HAD enjoyed reading this book, but then I found out that the train route was used was completely illogical and incorrect and now my enjoyment has been retro-actively destroyed, thanks a BUNCH Amazon guy. Nothing makes me madder than lies about trains.

Aww, this one is a review by a kid:

“This is a great book but you have to be ready for it. i went into it thinking that it would somr murder mystery (one of my favorite types of books) but i was totally suprised. it is a very scary, sad and emotional book. Hannah, the main character, is a very distressed and scared girl because trains scare her a lot, especially when going across country”

That’s really sweet, I love that they found this book to be sad and emotional. Kids are so weird aren’t they? With their ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions.’

So next week, I think I’m going to be doing The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick, unless something goes wrong and it doesn’t arrive in time. I have a good feeling about The Mall though, I don’t think I’ve ever read it before and the Amazon reviews are pretty gushing. And if this blog has taught me anything it's that Amazon reviewers are frighteningly accurate.