Archive for the ‘Horror/Supernatural Elements’ Category


Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Such a weird story! The combination of bullying and horror story compelled me to finish the book, and I think it will appeal to anyone who likes really quirky stuff.

Joey Crouch has lived with his mother all of his life in Chicago. They don’t go out much and he’s never been over the Illinois state line. But when his mother is hit by a bus and killed, Joey is removed to a small town in Iowa to live with a father he’s never known.

Things are very bad from the start. Ken Harnett, Joey’s dad, doesn’t bother to pick him up at the depot. He immediately leaves the house upon Joey’s arrival and doesn’t return for three days. Meanwhile, Joey sleeps on the floor, has nothing to eat and notices a strange, nasty odor in the shack that he can’t identify.

Dressed poorly, hungry and stinking, Joey immediately becomes a target of bullying in his new high school—not only by jocks but by a sadistic biology teacher as well, one who daily makes Joey stand in front of the class and then uses him to point out body parts and their functions. (Just a note here from the teacher in me: I had a hard time believing that any teacher anywhere could get away with treating a student the way Joey was treated—but if one tried, I would hope that someone in the class would speak up and tell outsiders.)

The situation only gets worse when we discover what that terrific stink is: Ken is a modern-day grave robber. With nothing to lose at school, Joey decides to learn the trade, and we enter the bizarre brotherhood of this underworld. They are criminals with a strange code of honor, and the one of them who has broken the code is terrorizing all the others. He may have the power to use Joey to get at the whole group.

Rotters are people—because all people will die and then they will rot if they are not cremated. The descriptions of grave robbing, of disintegrating corpses, are the stuff of nightmares.  (So beware.) Yet the story is oddly original and well-written. There are a lot of interesting facts about the history of grave robbing and the ‘resurrection men’ who dug up corpses for scientists and professors to use in study. (Remember Jerry Cruncher in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?) When Joey has been bullied beyond endurance and he seeks revenge—well, imagine what a grave robber could do.


Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When we think of summer reading, we think of books we choose because we like them—books for fun.

In the past I’ve read long lists of YA books over the summer and have encouraged you to read some of them as well. This year I think I need to feed my soul with some not-so-light adult books that probably don’t have wide teen appeal. I will also be reading some books about bullying—both the cyber sort and the in-person attacks. (I listed choices in a recent post.)

Since I think you should pick some fun reads for summer, I hope you’ll read some YA books that are soon to be movies. Reading the book before you see the movie provides a good opportunity for you to compare and contrast two works; it’s a great way to think at a higher level without even realizing that your brain is working.


 So many good teen books are coming as movies in the next few years. Here are some that I’ve read and reviewed:


Catching Fire

(Second book in the Hunger Games trilogy)

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

The Great Gatsby

(OK, it’s an adult book, but teens read it in school, it’s short, and it’s great—

romance, betrayal, mobsters–all the stuff teens love)

2014 and possibly 2015:



The Knife of Never Letting Go

(first book in the Chaos Walking series)


The Maze Runner

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Fault in Our Stars

(Yea! It will star Shailene Woodley as Hazel. No word on Gus yet.)

Coming as movies soon, but I haven’t had the chance to read the books yet:

Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austen, of course.)

Actually, I have had the chance to read this one,

but I didn’t like it, and I quit after a few chapters.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Have a great summer reading on your own and at the theater!

Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ontario City Library and Best Buy Children’s Foundation

are sponsoring another Teen Book Fest!

May 11, 2013

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Merton E. Hill Auditorium

(on the Chaffey campus–next to the district offices)

211 W. Fifth Street, Ontario

You must reserve a ticket, but it’s free. Call 909-395-2225.

Doors open at 8:30. Come early and buy a book

so that you can have the author sign it!

This year’s authors include:

Carrie Arcos–Out of Reach

Leigh Bardugo–Shadow and Bone

Jennifer Bosworth–Struck

Jessica Brody–My Life Undecided

Stephen Chbosky–The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sara Wilson Etienne–Harbinger

Suzanne Lazear–Innocent Darkness

Marie Lu–The Legend series

Morgan Matson–Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour

Gretchen McNeil–Ten and Possess

Gregg Olsen–The Empty Coffin series

Andrew Smith–The Marbury Lens and others

Ann Stampler–Where  It Began

Lex Thomas–Quarantine: The Loners

See you there!

Read Full Post »

Envy by Gregg Olsen  envy

Katelyn Berkley dies in a freak accident. She is electrocuted in the bathtub when her expresso machine either falls into the water or when she threw it in. Or when someone else threw it in.

Katelyn is a ‘cutter’ whose many serious problems included an alcoholic mother. So is her death a suicide or an accident? Or maybe even murder?

Port Gamble is Katelyn’s home. It’s a seemingly perfect historic town in Washington with a lot of rules—the past has to be preserved—and a lot of secrets. It’s called “Empty Coffin” as a nod to an old tale about the mysterious disappearance of a body that was supposed to be buried at sea.

Katelyn’s death occurs just before the tenth anniversary of a horrific bus accident in which several Port Gamble children were killed. Thrown from the vehicle, Katelyn survived the bus accident only to later meet her bizarre fate in the bathtub. Two other girls, twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan, also survived the accident, but their survival was implausible. They had been plunged into a freezing river. They remained in comas for a month before waking. Now, no one talks about what happened.

While the truth about Katelyn’s death is surfacing, a nosey reporter is also uncovering some uncomfortable truths about the twins. Taylor and Hayley prove to be the snoops who take it upon themselves to investigate strange occurrences, to dig into the uncomfortable past. This seems natural for them. Their mother is a psychiatric nurse; their father is a writer of true crime books, a man who researches the lives of serial murderers; the girls themselves have a powerful paranormal connection and can visualize letters and words which they must deconstruct to get clues to the crimes.

Envy is the first in the Empty Coffin series. An important element of the book is based on a true cyber-bullying story. If you are one to follow big news stories, you’ll guess pretty quickly some of what happened to Katelyn—although knowing this news story won’t resolve the circumstances of her death, so you’ll still be in for some surprises.

Envy name drops many pop stars and current TV personalities, which may date the novel quickly. And some of the characters are one-dimensional. The twins are unrealistically sweet; opposite them is the super-witchy, egocentric Starla. She’s the school’s queen bee and cheerleading beauty, who had formerly been Katelyn’s BFF, but has dropped her for some reason. She’s the girl we’ll love to hate as the series moves forward. Still, the book is a lot of fun. It reminds me of the old TV series Murder, She Wrote because of the small town setting. But the twins have a lot more teen appeal than Jessica Fletcher. Maybe they are a super-updated version of Nancy Drew.

If you like quick murder mysteries with topical themes (like cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking), you’ll enjoy this who-done-it. If you are a fan of the Dead Is series, you’ll appreciate the paranormal element. A quick read for any teen.

Note: Author Gregg Olsen will be at the Teen Book Fest on May 11. Tickets are free, but to go, you need to have a ticket. Call 909-395-2225 to reserve one.

Read Full Post »


Lockdown: Escape from Furnace: Book 1

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Beneath heaven is hell.

Beneath hell is Furnace.

So begins the Escape from Furnace series, now complete at five books.

Lockdown is a great ‘guy read,’ full of injustice, desire for revenge, courage, and survival. It’s also full of weird creatures like hell hounds—dogs of muscle and sinew, but no skin—and tormentors with gas masks sewn into the skin of their faces and bandoleers full of dirty hypodermic needles.

Alex lands deep underground in Furnace Penitentiary after he’s convicted of killing his best friend, something he didn’t do. Not that Alex is a good guy. He’s a bully and a thief. But he’s no murderer. Yet in the group of boys who land in Furnace on the same day, the others that Alex meets are also framed. Later, when Alex meets his cellmate, Donovan, he finds that he was convicted of murder because he killed his mother’s boyfriend after he had beaten her one too many times.

Why is this suddenly happening to all these boys?

Furnace is a private company that contracts with the government to house juvenile murderers. It just so happens that after the Summer of Slaughter, people are afraid. They want harsh punishments for teen killers, and they consider those killers as good as dead once they are locked up in Furnace. You, reader, start thinking that there just may be some extra money to be made for the Furnace owners when they can add more guys to the number locked up. But there’s something more, too.

When Lockdown is announced with siren blasts, the skinless dogs are on the loose, and guys are hauled away in the middle of the night. What happens to them? Why are there so many bizarre creatures in Furnace and such nasty food in ‘the Trough?’

Despite all the terrors of Furnace, Alex is a thoughtful guy, one who reflects on how his bullying behavior out in the world is mirrored in Furnace by the roving gangs who torment inmates. This is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner that ends on a cliff hanger. You’ve got to go for this series.

Read Full Post »

walking dead


You asked for it.

We weren’t sure about the novels–reports/reviews are that they are far more graphic than the TV series.


We’ll have the graphic novel series available to you in a few days.  They are mature, for teens, but not over the top.

At Chaffey, we bought issues 1-17 (all that are currently available). At Colony, I asked the public library to purchase as there is adult appeal to all fans of the program. They jumped right on it and ordered the two book compendium of the graphic novels.

Zombie happiness all around? 🙂

Take a living walk into the library soon!

Read Full Post »

ZOM-B by Darren Shan   ZOM-B

Darren Shan is popular with kids of all ages. His Cirque du Freak, Demonata and The Saga of Larten Crepsley series have been bestsellers. He’s got a new series. And ZOM-B is the first book. Considering the nonstop action—the zombie apocalypse explodes about halfway through the book, but its beginnings in Ireland are described in a prologue—this is really a teen book, one that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers.

Sitting in front of the television in their London home, ‘B’, just like Dad, doesn’t believe that the zombie footage on the news is real. The zombies appear to be attacking a rural Irish town, and everyone in England thinks it’s just a stunt for a new movie.

As B, Dad and  Mum interact, we see learn a lot. B’s dad is a racist and a brute. He beats his wife, and B as well if B tries to stop the beatings. And B does try.

B is growing up to be like father. Terrible at school, a petty thief, a vandal, and a bully, as a protagonist, it would be hard to have any sympathy for B except that somewhere in that dark soul, there appears to be a kernel of light.

B has one Black friend and  keeps that a secret from Dad in order to avoid a beating. B harasses people of color (Indians—from India, not Native Americans—this is England—as well as Blacks) and Muslims at every chance, while claiming not to be a racist.

At a museum display about the Holocaust, B gets a sense of the horrors that racism can cause. B also acts heroically in helping a baby, who is Indian. While the rest of the community is giving B props, Dad tells him that he shouldn’t have helped any Indian, even a baby. And this is where a major conflict comes into the novel.

B both loves and hates Dad and can’t reconcile these emotions. And Shan does a great job of showing what this is like for a teen coming from a racist home with a brutal dad. In fact, I thought the tension in the family was better stuff than the zombie scare. But the appearance of zombies in London will force B to start connecting to all sorts of people if B and others are to survive.

This is a short book with black and white illustrations, some of which are of zombies munching on the students and teachers at B’s high school. It’s a super quick read and ends with “to be continued.” So while you’re having scary fun living through the horror story, you’ll also be forced to question prejudice. And you’ll be waiting for the next title to come out. Not bad for a few hours’ reading. Try it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »