Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Ghosthunters And The Incredibly Revolting GhostPublished in 2006, Ghosthunters And The Incredibly Revolting Ghost is the first of a four book series by Cornelia Funke. For those of you not aware, this is the same author who wrote the Inkheart Trilogy, The Thief Lord, and Igraine The Brave (all formerly reviewed on this site).

Story overview:

Nine year old Tom lives in an apartment complex. A new resident recently moves in, but unlike the typical occupant who rents an apartment, this one is a ghost (named Hugo) who haunts the cellar. At first Tom is scared away, but his Grandmother’s friend, Hetty Hyssop, tells him that the ghost is just an ASG (Averagely Scary Ghost)—which is mostly harmless.

When Tom confronts Hugo, he finds that the ghost was chased out of his former home by an IRG (Incredibly Revolting Ghost). Thankfully for both Tom and Hugo, Hetty Hyssop is an expert ghost hunter.

After collecting supplies, the three of them set out to chase away the IRG so that Hugo can have his home back. Once they arrive at the old house, Hetty Hyssop quickly discovers that this IRG is the most powerful one she’s ever dealt with.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed the lightheartedness of this story. Funke creatively uses objects to fight against ghosts, such as eggs, graveyard dirt, and mirrors. Keep in mind that unlike her other works [mentioned above], this one is geared to a slightly younger audience.

Things to consider:

There’s no inappropriate language, violence, or sexual situations. However, if taken in the wrong light, situations such as the IRG removing its head might come across as slightly disturbing to some children. Overall I’d say this is a safe read and one good for children ages seven to preteens.

Opportunities for discussion:

Some Christians get overly protective whenever a story contains ghosts. Please remember that this is a work of fiction, and not meant to be taken literally. Explain to your children what the Bible says about ghosts (which, if memory serves, isn’t much, if anything at all), and ask them if they believe ghosts are real. Explain to them your beliefs on the topic, but be careful not to put them down if they say something you don’t agree with.

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Just about everyone has heard of this series. There are a few movies out and the books are best sellers. Because of this I felt it my responsibility to start reading them myself and report on my findings.

Story overview:

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Swan (Bella) decides to move in with her father. Bella’s mom, Renée, is caught up in the life of her new husband. Rather than getting in her way, Bella decides to leave the warmth of Phoenix and enter the rainy and dreary atmosphere of Washington.

It doesn’t take long for Bella to fit in with the children at her new school. In fact, they all see her as a sort of celebrity. That is, all but one boy named Edward Cullen, who stays as far away from her as possible.

Bella is infatuated with Edward and doesn’t know why he keeps his distance. In time she learns his big secret and the two of them fall in love, but this is just the beginning. Bella soon learns that the world of Edward isn’t all she bargained for.

My thoughts:

I’ve always like the idea of Vampire stories. In fact, one of my favorite animes of all time is Vampire Hunter D, and I loved the novel version too. That said, with the Twilight series, I watched the first movie and thought it was OK. When I read the book I noticed that the movie followed it pretty well, but the biggest difference is that the book is much slower. So much so that I got pretty bored with it at times. Would I recommend this to Vampire fans? Probably not; it isn’t really a Vampire story, it’s a romance novel that uses vampires to attract attention. My advice is to watch the movie and don’t bother with the book, that is, unless you are one of those who really likes romantic centered tales. I for one am not a big fan.

Things to consider:

Overall, this story is pretty clean. No major language or inappropriate sexual scenes, and other than one central fight, there really isn’t much in the way of violence. This would be appropriate for a younger audience in that regard, but the tone of the story is really geared towards teenagers. The main character is seventeen, and I would assume those around fifteen plus would be a good starting point. Targeted more towards girls than boys, I think the average boy would be too bored with the slow story pace, but I see no reason to ban this series from your kids.

Opportunities for discussion:

Obviously romance is a big part of this story. Bella falls instantly in love with Edward based, mainly, on his looks. This is the kind of Hollywood romance that many girls dream of, but is unrealistic and honestly quite shallow. Romantic attraction may be obtainable in an instant, but before one can have a real, true, and lasting love, there are a lot more things that need to be addressed. Such as the test of time. This idea that one should jump into a final stage of deep love based on a few romantic feelings is one of the many lies bombarding our youth today; people often end up feeling discontented later in life from the decisions they made early on. Bella made Edward the center her life after a few short weeks, but in reality no human should become our totality. Everyone is flawed, and unrealistic expectations of our partner are one of the main causes of divorce and separations today. The statistics of broken relationships have never been higher, and Hollywood isn’t helping. True fulfillment can only be obtained when a person restores the gap between them and their creator, not by pushing these impossible expectations onto another flawed person. It isn’t fair to either party. Share this message with your youth; tell them your own experience with love and how it really works in the “really real world.”

From the author of Anne Droyd and Century Lodge comes the next book in the series, The House of Shadows. Will Hadcroft is probably best known for his The Feeling’s Unmutual non-fiction story, which overviews his challenges of growing up with Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder, which usually results in difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness).

The first Anne Droyd book was written in mind of children that suffer with similar symptoms. However, the story is not limited to this group by any means. It is a tale of a robot designed to have the appearance of a young girl, thus, an android. She comes across three children who end up adopting her in an attempt to help her understand what it is to become human. You see, she possesses some biological properties that make up her brain, and it is the children’s responsibility to awaken them.

Story overview:

Gezz, Luke, Malcolm (Malc), and Anne are on winter break in the coastal town of Whitby. Gezz’s parents—who are the chaperones—are not known for their wealth, and so the group ends up staying at a low-cost Bed and Breakfast. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that this place—and the family running it—are more than a bit odd.

The only semi-normal member of the Stevenson family is a girl named Sophie, who happens to be around the same age as the rest of the children. Malcolm takes an instant liking to the girl, and the others accept her into their group without any quibbles. Only, there is one thing. They promised to keep Anne’s secret safe. What secret? That she’s an Android. Sophie realizes there is something different about Anne and she is determined to find out what the other children are hiding.

But that’s not all. Sophie’s family has a few secrets of their own. Strange comings and goings of people in the night have all the children on a mission to uncover what is going on. It isn’t until they come across the frightful figure of a man, with the characteristics of a best, that they realize this isn’t the kind of vacation they were expecting.

My thoughts:

For some reason—which I can’t put my finger on—Anne leaves a lasting impression on one’s memory. The idea of a robot trying to figure out what it is be become human is not a new idea (can anyone say, Data?), but Hadcroft does this in a unique way. The behaviors of Anne Droyd are believable, as well as the personalities of the children who take care of her. In The House of Shadows, I found myself enjoying the side stories, such as the boating incident and the counterfeit money. But the ongoing plot as a whole also does not disappoint and comes out with a satisfying end. Overall a fitting sequel in the Anne Droyd saga. Here’s looking forward to the completion of Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill.

Things to consider

There is nothing questionable that I could detect in this story. I would age rate this for children ages twelve and older (tweens plus). It is important to note that this is a British written novel, which has not been converted over to an American audience. There were a few phrases, slang, and descriptions that confused me. Such as “Oh, you’d better take your coats. It’s still quite cold in the evenings and you’ll have to queue up on the pavement. There’s always quite a queue.” It took me awhile to realize what “queue up on the pavement” meant. There are also some punctuation differences such as single quotes instead of doubles and the placement of things like periods. Still, this does not affect the overall clarity of the story as a whole.

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a theme of addiction in this story. Not only Malcolm’s alcoholic parents, but Sophie’s family who tried to continue her grandfather’s experiments to prevent illness. Even though the experiments destroyed her grandfather’s immune system and ultimately lead to his death, Sophie’s mom wanted to use the mixture of chemicals to eliminate her negative moods. As you know from reading the story, this had negative consequences. Not only to the mother, but to Sophie. Unfortunately, children are often the victims in cases of addiction. Read the sequence on page 192/193 and ask your child to think about how Sophie is feeling. Warn them of the negative consequences of addiction and how they not only hurt themselves, but the ones they love too.

MirroInTheMirrorFor those of you who have followed my reviews in the past, you may remember that Michael Ende is one of my favorite authors. However, let me warn you that this story is very unlike The Neverending Story and Momo.

It is really just a sequence of short stories; each sounding like a recap of a dream (as Ende writes, somewhere between awake and asleep).

The illustrations, though fascinating, make absolutely no sense in relation to most of the stories. However, it is interesting to point out that they were drawn by Edgar Karl Alfons Ende, Michael’s father, who was a Germany surrealism painter.

This is a very difficult book to get your hands on. Translated by J.Maxwell Brownjohn in 1986, it has since become very rare. You can find people selling used copies online ranging from $60 to $1000. Yes, I said one thousand. But do not forget the wonders of libraries. Check out http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/19886063 to see if you can get a copy in your area. That is how I found it.

Since it is impossible to provide a detailed overview without a super long blog summarizing all twenty nine different stories, I will briefly describe how it starts and how it ends.

Story overview:

We begin with Hor; a man who is unable to speak in anything other than a whisper. He lives in a house with endless rooms. The only windows are ones that open into the next room, which looks just the same as the former. He lives off a yellowish, slightly transparent substance that resides on the walls and columns.

Hor claims to have kept a faithful record (I assume he means, mentally) and then the following twenty eight stories unfold. When we come to the last story we find ourselves in a snow-covered plain. In the midst of the plain are the ruins of a wall. In the wall is a closed door. The peculiar thing is—other than a door appearing in a wall in the middle of nowhere—one can easily walk around to simply see the other side of the door. It is as if it only goes from one side of the wall to the other.

Two sentries keep guard to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. That is, until one day when a young man, accompanied by a Princess—by her bidding—ventures inside. His mission is to find and destroy her evil brother that lives within, and this brother’s name happens to be Hor.

My thoughts:

Very interesting stories. Deep, insightful, sometimes confusing, yet wonderfully intriguing. I particular liked the story of the man being guided across a desert only to end up an old man when he finally meets his fiancé, who sets out to find her fiancé not knowing it is him. The twist was that he too saw an old woman greet him before his adventure, which obviously was the same woman. Yes, I know, it is strange, which is why I do not suggest this for the modern “only” reader. It is very esoteric in a sophisticated sort of way, if that makes sense. In other words, do not pick this up for light and easy reading. Pick it up to be fascinated and confounded. If you find dreams interesting, than this book is for you.

Things to consider:

This is probably not appropriate for a younger audience. Aside from the fact that most modern youth would be bored by the third page, there are some adult themes here: a few references to nudity, some to sexual situations, and some slightly crude. There are also several disturbing scenes such as the man with a doll-like face who devoured human viscera (intestines) from a bowl. But these things take on the creative form that makes sense for these dream-like tales. I would say later teens and older. Not specificity target towards men or women.

Opportunities for discussion:

Wow, where to begin. There are some strong Christian themes, but each tale has its own list of possible discussions. I will pick one that I like in particular: a little boy is stranded on a war stricken, seemingly deserted planet. He finds himself in an abandoned fairground and ends up sitting on a bench near a stage. Surprisingly, after an introduction asking the boy to use his imagination, a magician appears. The magician calls himself Ende. Ende is able come up with and perform marvels, but only if there is a boy—like the one here named Michael—to picture and imagine these feats. Obviously this story represents Michael Ende (the author) and his need to balance himself to produce creative stories. The discussion point here is to ask yourself or your elder teen, what is it in your life that you need balance in?

Vampire Hunder DThis is one of my favorite stories. As a youth, I greatly enjoyed watching the anime version, and as many anime fans know the majority of “anime” out there finds its beginnings in the form of manga. However, “Vampire Hunter D” is one of the few that actually came from a series of novels.

Once I found out this fact, I searched high and low for any possible way to read the original, but alas no options were available at the time.

On May 10, 2005, Dark Horse Books released an English translation to the US. By this time I was an “adult” (if you can call me that), though it didn’t hinder me in the slightest to re-visit one of my favorite teen stories.

Story overview:

In the distant future, very distant (12090 in fact), the world has regressed into a ruined “Frontier” state. However, many forms of technology still exist. Vampires, called the Nobility, have taken over the world and contaminated it with bizarre and aggressive creatures of their own creation. Mankind is forced to struggle to survive in this land by becoming farmers, hunters, or citizens of small communities.

A farm girl named Doris waits on the roadside and greets a dark rider (on a cyborg horse) by attacking him. Once he evades her attacks, with little effort, she determines that he is worthy of helping her. She was bitten by a vampire named, Magnus Lee, who becomes obsessed with the young girl and intends to force her to become his wife. Doris on the other hand, who lives only with her younger brother, Dan, wants no part of this.

She finds that D–although he presents an elusive and dark demeanor–has a heart of gold and will do anything to save her and her brother.

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed reading the full story, as the Anime only covered a small part of it, and it was well worth the many years of waiting. The translation may not be perfect, but it’s clear enough to understand the flow of the story.  It’s hard to fit this into a specific genre since it can easily go under: vampires,  fantasy,  science fiction and horror, but no matter which genre you like, it does a good job at fulfilling expectations.

Things to consider:

I would say the proper reading age for this book would be around fifteen, and is definitely targeted more towards boys. There are some sexual situations and descriptions of nudity, along with cursing and quite a bit of violence – I know, sounds bad, but keep in mind that these things are done with a fair amount of tact.

Opportunities for discussion:

D, the main character, shows us that caring for a person can help you to overcome all odds. D also shows us that one should struggle against their inner nature rather than giving into its evil temptations. Furthermore, one other great lesson is that it shows how we should not judge a person based on external appearance. One final discussion point would be that looking down on others based on arrogance will only lead to downfall. Pride becomes humbled, and the humbled show greater strength in the end.