Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Just Dial A Number" by Edith Maxwell

Published:  1971
Archway Pocket Books

Cath took a deep breath.  Her voice came out ragged and raspy.  ""

Complete silence.  For a moment she thought the connection was broken.  Then the sound of breathing started, quick and in little gasps, like someone trying to get enough air.  Todd stepped closer, moving the receiver away from her ear, so he could hear too.  He pointed to the phone, then to Cathy.  His lips formed the words, "Go on,"

Her hands were moist and her mouth dry.  "Someone tried to kill me," she gasped.

She was still holding the receiver so others could hear, but it wasn't necessary.  The next thing she knew, the telephone exploded.

"Mary Ann  Mary Ann!  Oh, my God, where are you?"

Cathy's stomach turned over, and she dropped the receiver on the desk with a crash.  Backing away, she shuddered and looked at the though it were alive.


“Someone tried to kill me,” Cathy gasped into the phone. It was only a prank call dialed at random – a joke played by four teenagers fooling around. But what happened afterwards plunged them into a nightmare. By the next morning two people were dead because of that phone call. Keeping their guilt secret, Cathy, Todd, Paul and DeeDee had to live with the terror of being found out.

This was a very well-written story.  It leans more toward suspense than it does supernatural or horror.  

To make a long story short without giving away any spoilers, a group of teenagers make a seemingly harmless prank call.  Only, the unthinkable ensues.

As the main character, Cathy, gets pulled into the maelstrom of events, her complete life is thrown out of balance.  She dangles at a terrifying precipice between the guilt of truth and a string of lies that seem never ending.  Relationships are uprooted and trust wavers as life as she knew it is totally thrown askew.

The outcome does finally arrive, and it's every bit as scary as she expected it would be.

It's  great quick read.  Fun if you're interested in a lighter mystery.

My Rating:

"The Window" by Carol Ellis

Scholastic Children's Books

Jody Used the binoculars to see if she could see light anywhere else in the cabin, maybe the hall, but all she saw was darkness.  She moved the binoculars slightly, to where she'd seen the figure last night, and gasped out loud.

Somebody was there.

Jody tightened her grip on the binoculars.  The somebody wasn't just walking by.  He was bent over, like last night, but not dragging anything.  What was he doing?  Kicking, that was it.  Kicking at the snow and looking down.  Looking for something.  For that shiny thing?  He'd lost something last night when he'd dragged the bag away, and now he'd come back to find it.

But why at night?  The moon was out, but so were the clouds, and they kept drifting across the light, making it harder than ever for Jody to see.  Half the time she thought the person had gone, but then she'd catch a movement agin, and know he was still there, kicking at the snow.

Then the kicking stopped.  But the person was still there.  She could just make out a dark form, motionless in the snow.  Standing there.  Staring.  Staring up at her.

Jody suddenly shrank backa nd ducked down, her heart pounding like a drum.  She'd been seen.  The glass in the binoculars must have caugt the moonlight and given her away.  And now, whoever was out there knew Jody had been watching everything...

Back Cover Synopsis:

It should have been the skiing holiday of a lifetime. But Jody sprains her ankle and finds herself alone with nothing to do but gaze out of her cabin window.

Gazing into the cabin of a beautiful neighbor she witnesses the fight, the murder and the killer...or does she?

And if the murder is real, has the killer been watching Jody?

I liked this book well enough.  I found the beginning a little confusing at the author pretty much attempted to introduce a whole group of people in the span of a few pages.  However, the rest of the story made up for the slow start.

The storyline will keep you flipping the pages, it totally kept me immersed so I completed the book in on sitting.  It gave me a wintry, cozy feeling.  I just wanted to cuddle up in a fleece blanket and drink some hot chocolate as I read.

Worth the read for adults and YA readers alike!

My Rating:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Summer of Fear" by Lois Duncan

Published:  1976
Setting:  Modern Day

It was then that I noticed a slight, acrid scent in the air.  A sulphur odor, as though someone had been burning matches.

Matches!  I turned to the bedside table and there it was, a pile of burnt matchsticks stuck into the base of the lamp exactly as it had been before.  I had wondered then what it was that Julia had been doing.  Now I did not have to wonder.  I knew.

For a moment I stood, stricken, too horrified to move.  My heart was beating so hard that I could feel its pounding in my head.  The matches, the lamp, the table, swam before my eyes.

So this was why Julia had seemed so lighthearted in the face of my threats!  She had no intention of letting me bring Professor Jarvis or anyone else to talk to my parents.  Somewhere in this house at this very moment there was a little wax figure in which were embedded some orange hairs, taken no doubt from the brush on the bureau.  Whenever she chose, Julia would begin to melt it.

Or had she began to do so already?  Even as I asked myself the question, a blinding pain shot through my head directly behind my eyes.  Terrified, I staggered backward and fell upon the bed, clapping my hands against my temples.

Back Cover Synopsis:

Why is Rachel the only one to sense the evil that surrounds Julia?

From the moment Rachel's cousin Julia arrives the summer, she seems to seep into Rachel's life like a poison.  Everyone else is enchanted by her...including Rachel's boyfriend.  But what does Julia really want?

Rachel's perfect life and her close relationship with family and friends comes to a screeching halt once her long lost cousin Julia arrives.  Julia has just lost both her parents, but it seems she's willing to take away everything that Rachel holds dear!

First her boyfriend, then the trust and respect of her parents.  Rachel just knows that Julia is evil  She is perfectly aware that something is not quite right with Julia.  And when she contacts an old friend from Julia's school, whom reacts to her serious questions with a protective, vicious regard from the girl, Rachel is almost positive something is not right.  Julia, as a person, is not adding up...she is the perfect contrast to the girl her parents and friends describe...and yet, she's there in the flesh.

I don't want to give away any spoilers that would make this book less interesting and exciting but it really does end with a bang.

The story line reads very much like the vintage gothic romances, which doesn't surprise me as I'm sure Lois Duncan was inspired by the stories of her time, as this book was written in the mid-seventies back when the vintage gothic was at it's prime for publication.

I've read it several times now, and it's always just as exciting.

Includes some great elements like witchcraft, stolen identity, secrets and murder....what more could you look for in a good horror/mystery read?

My Rating:
4.5 Stars

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Stranger With My Face" by Lois Duncan

 Published:  1982
Setting:  Modern Day

It is a long time since I have seen her, but I know she is here.  In bed at night, above the sound of the surf on the rocks beneath my window, I hear very faintly the rustle of her passage down the hall.  She moves softly, but I can hear, for I am used to the sound of her.

She pauses outside my door.

In my dreams I hear her voice.  But, are they dreams?  Or in the months since I saw her last has her voice become so slight that this is the only way she can reach me?

I blame you, she whispers.  Only you.

Back Cover Synopsis:

Laurie Stratton finally has everything a sixteen-year-old could ever want. But just as her perfect summer comes to a close, things start to unravel when her boyfriend insists he saw her out with another guy-when Laurie was really home sick! More mysterious sightings convince Laurie someone very real is out there, watching her. . . .

Laurie Stratton has the perfect life.  Just having been accepted to the popular group of kids the previous summer, she's dating one of the coolest guys in school.  She's invited to all the good parties with the in kids.  She lives in a fairy-tale like house on cliffs perched at the edge of paradise.  The beautiful view of the roiling ocean lays right outside her bedroom. 

Yet, suddenly life is not so perfect anymore.  Her social standing in school is jarred when her boyfriend claims he seen her walking along the beach on a night Laurie swears she was home sick from a party.  Things turn even more strange when her kid sister, and her parents, claim they see Laurie in places where she is not.

Suddenly, Laurie realizes she is not alone.  There's another being sharing her space, seeping into her life.  And this person looks just like her!  At first, Laurie welcomes the presence but things take a sinister turn when those close to her end up getting hurt.  At first Laurie can't figure out what the spirit thing hopes to gain by harming those dearest to her and destroying her most valued relationships.  But in one grand finally, Laurie realizes that the thing wants nothing....nothing but her body!

This book is a good little chiller.  I thought the story line was original.  There's lots of creepy elements inside this book:  spirits, astral projection, terror and suspense, a bit of a mystery, family drama, and even a little bit of historical knowledge referring to Native Americans.

However, the last thirty or forty pages were taxing for me.  It seems the climax occurs when Laurie and her boyfriend are led over the edge of a cliff by the spirit.  Yet instead of ending and wrapping things up, the author lingers on and on.

Overall, it's an enjoyable read.  I had fun seeing this mystery out till the end, just wish the last pages included as much suspense as the first ones did.

My Rating:
4 Stars

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fear Street: The Runaway

Written by R.L. Stine
Originally Published in 1997

Cover Blurb
Runaway Felicia settled on Shadyside because nobody there would know about her dark powers. For once, she could be a normal girl. But someone found out about the awful things her powers made her do. Felicia doesn't want to run away again. But if she stays, she might lose control. And then people would start to die.

Felicia is tired of being a guinea pig for the weird science project at a local college.

The doctors and nurses are ruthless as they beg of her to move things with her mind.  But she's having trouble...she's exhausted, and she doesn't want to partake anymore.  She attempts (with her mind) to drive the pencil into the doctors eye...instead, she puts it right through the wall.

She and her friend Debbie were walking along the beach, just joking and talking, when Debbie dares Felicia to tear down and old worn out, abandoned bungalow.  But to her horror...two schoolmates were inside the building when it collapsed!  She had murdered them both!

Fast forward, Felicia has decided to get away.  And her friend Debbie (who is also part of the experiment, but thus far has displayed little psychic powers or ability to move things with her mind) has agreed to help her escape.

So...Felicia runs away!  Eventually, she finds herself hitchhiking.  Desperate and caught in a thunderstorm, she accepts a ride from a young man who calls himself Killer, and later tries to actually kill her!  But when he crashes his car, she escapes.

She ends up at a coffee shop and overhears two guys arguing about how they had planned a trip, but one of them took a job house-sitting.  Felicia sees this as a perfect opportunity!  She agrees to take over the job for the guy, if he shares the pay with her.

Felicia wastes no time making herself at home on Fear Street!  She also takes the initiative to enroll in school, and eventually makes friends with kids (Zan and Nick) who work at a burger joint and eagerly get her a part-time job working alongside them.

Although Nick seems to be happily taken by Zan, Felicia can't help but feel a certain kind of chemistry with him.  Nick seems to feel the same way about her, but every time they get close, Nick pulls away.  He says Zan has had a hard time and he just can't turn his back on her.

As the kids grow to become friends, Zan invites Felicia to a sleepover.  Things take an ominous turn when, as she flips through Zan's notebook, Felicia discovers a picture of a boy whose face has been rubbed out with blood!  She doesn't let on like she seen it, and later as she does research she realizes (with horror) that the guy had been Zan's ex boyfriend....a boyfriend that had turned up dead by an unlucky accident.  Or was it an accident?

In the meantime...things take a sinister turn.  Someone breaks into the house Felicia is sitting, she's receiving horrific clues that someone is out to get her...but who?

Felicia suspects that Zan is the culprit and resolves to move on.  She can't be discovered, and besides, she fears for her very life!

But on the day she plots her escape, Zan attempts to stab her to death in the hallway at her locker!  She barely escapes in tact.  She thinks she's home free...until she gets back to the house and is confronted by none other than her friend Debbie!

Debbie, who said she'd never had any power, admits that she had used Felicia to help murder their two friends out of jealousy for the lovers.

The two girls enter a battle of wits, of psychic strength.  Debbie is stronger, but somehow Felicia distracts her and wins the battle...only to later be met by Nick, the hero.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Nightmare Hall #1: The Silent Scream

The Original Cover
Written by Diane Hoh
Originally published in the mid-nineties.
Republished in 2013.

Cover Blurb:

Jess can’t wait to start freshman year at Salem University—but her new dorm room has a terrifying past

There’s a reason why they call it Nightmare Hall . . .

Jessica Vogt gets a rude awakening when she moves into Nightingale Hall and learns that the previous spring, a student named Giselle hanged herself from a light fixture—in Jess’s new room. Campus officials pronounced it a suicide. But did Giselle really kill herself? Or was it a setup?

Strange things are happening to Jess. One night, she is awakened by a terrifying scream. A photo taken of Jess and a classmate reveals a third person in the shot—a girl with long, pale hair and a sad face. Is Giselle trying to communicate with Jess? As Jess moves closer to what really happened that fateful night, someone starts targeting her. Is she being haunted by a ghost, or is there a killer on the loose?

My Review:

Jessica Vogt has just moved into Nightmare Hall, the cheapest off-campus living available at Salem University.  The house is foreboding to begin with...dark and nestled atop a hill by it's lone.  Shutters bang lose, and what's worse is she doesn't know a soul on campus.

But she tries to relax as the kids all get to know each other.   Theres Linda (the swimmer), Cathy (the academic nerd), Jon (the ladies man) Ian (the nice guy), Milo (the reclusive poet), and Trucker (the handyman who also takes night classes).  Then there's Miss Coates, housemother who accidentally trips down the stairs and is forced to leave the seven students to fend for themselves.

The kids decide to have a small party their first night there.  They order pizza and introduce themselves to each other.  Things are going smoothly until Ian spills the beans that, in fact, a former student (Giselle McKendrick) hung herself in Jess's very room just last Spring.  

Jess tries to forget about the story, but soon weird things begin to happen.  Everytime someone mentions Giselle's suicide, doors and windows slam.  Then there's the eerie coldness of Jess's room that not even the humidity of summer seems to touch.  She even awakes one night to the shadow of a girl swinging across her wall.  Then weird things begin to happen to everyone...muddy footprints that disappear, Linda's swimsuit is destroyed, Cath's term paper goes missing and is later found in Milo's notebook.  Later on Linda's mirror explodes and she barely saves her face from mutilation.

Later on, Giselle's brother comes to retrieve a trunk of her belongings.  He states he's sure that whatever happened to Giselle, he knows it was not a suicide.  

Then one morning Jess finds a photo of Giselle, along with a creepy letter, obviously written by an ex.  Convinced the letter is by someone who did Giselle harm, Jess feel's there's probably more letters to be found if she could just look.  No one else in the house seems as concerned, but Jess finally finds an opportunity to search for the letters on a night when everyone else goes to a party.  She feigns a headache and stays home to search for the letters.

She's just begun when suddenly the electricity leaves her blinded by darkness.  She thinks Tucker must be working on the cellar but as she nears the old cellar door, someone pushes her down the stairs!  She hears a last sickening crack of her head hitting concrete before she passes out.  When she awakens later, she's sick with the putrid smell of gas and knows the furnace has been rigged.  Minutes seem like hours as she struggles to stop the leak, and then break out of the only window of the locked cellar.  Just as she thinks she's finally freed herself from the trap made by the suspected killer, she finds herself pinned to the ground by him as he attempts to strangle her.

As he does so, he admits he killed Giselle because she betrayed him.  Because she broke up with him and refused to speak to him.  He said she got her warning but did not listen.  Grasping for a way to save herself, Jess finds a piece of glass and attacks the perpetrator.  She's saved as a car comes up the drive.

Later that night, as the kids discuss who could have attacked Jess, they come to the conclusion that it must have been Milo since he did not attend the party.  He hastily packs his things and leaves.

All seems well and the students go about their lives, trying to forget the recent mayhem.  Jess is finally able to trust Ian again and they attend the fall dance together.  As a matter of fact, they had a wonderful time and came home early to catch a bit of time alone before the others got back.

When they arrive back to the old house, Ian goes inside to find Jess a jacket...but fails to come back.  Then a friend of Milo's stops by to return his jacket that he forgot in the library as they studied a few weeks ago...on the same night she was attacked!  Jess is terrified as she realizes that had Milo spent most of the night in the library with the girl, he could not have been the one who attacked her!  But then who was?

When she hears someone calling her name,  she finds herself out back, near the river with Tucker, whom has appeared out of nowhere.  Tucker points to a floating picture of Giselle in the river, and says he saw Milo do it.    Suddenly Jess just knows Tucker is her attacker...Tucker is the person responsible for Giselle's death!  But now she's trapped...Tucker says he has Ian tied up and that Jess must die.   

As Tucker advances on Jess with a necklace-shaped wire, ready to strangle her to death at last, the wind begins to howl.  Then the most fantastic thing happens...Giselle's picture floats from atop the creek water and plasters itself across Tucker's face.  He screams and scratches at the photo but cannot remove it...until, smothered to death, he topples into the creek.  And Giselle has her revenge at last!

The New 2013 Cover
My Thoughts:

This was a fast-paced mystery that kept you reading.  I admit I wasn't really sure which character was the real killer.  I found myself suspecting every guy except Milo.

It was sort of disheartening to see that everyone just generally suspected poor Milo just because he was different.  And let's face it, he seemed to be a common day New Age hippie.  Of course, let's just blame the weird guy!  Totally unfair.  But then, with the help of Giselle's restless spirit, the true killer was brought to light.

This is the very first book in the Nightmare Hall series.  The books were written for teens, but I feel they also hold great entertainment value for college students and adults, alike.  I look forward to reviewing the complete series.