The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinx

October is Scaring Up a Good Time!
In honor of Halloween, I've been reading spooky books! Horror, vampires, werewolves, ghost stories...get ready to be scared! I have some tamer titles for those who aren't fans of the macabre, but (let's face it) I'm a little off. I like dark and creepy, so I'm all about this theme :)

Toby is just a normal kid. He doesn't know how he ended up in that dingo pen. Seriously! Regardless of what his mom thinks, he's not on drugs. Waking up in the hospital with no recollection of the previous night is bad enough. When a mysterious envelope appears on his pillow containing a letter with vague offers of help, things just get weirder. His mom is freaking out. The doctor thinks he could have epilepsy! Great, just what he needs.

Ignoring the letter, Toby is surprised when Father Ramon and Reuben turn up at his front door. As delicately as they try to put it, what they are insinuating is just too far-fetched to believe. Reuben seems to know things though, like how Toby's hair grows *really* fast, and that he's got an amazing sense of smell. When they start suggesting that this is going to be a reoccuring problem, that's when Toby starts freaking out. They want to lock him in a bank vault! Why would he start threatening his family or friends all the sudden? Then he hears it..."werewolf." Yeah, right. What a bunch of nutters.

Fergus and Amin talk him into playing a prank on Reuben, something they can use against him later. When Reuben shows up, his seriousness is alarming. The evidence they find is starting to make him wonder: could there be something to his claims? When the police show up to question him, he doesn't know how things could get any worse...until it turns out they aren't the police.

Two guys drug him, and he wakes up in a cell. Managing to escape, he discovers another boy is trapped. They find their way outside, only to come to the disheartening conclusion that they are in the middle of nowhere. The new kid, Sergio, is very unstable. It seems the two blokes upstairs kidnapped him months ago, and have been forcing him to fight whenever he changes...into a werewolf. Rescue arrives in the form of an equally unstable, equally abused werewolf: Danny. He assures the boys that Reuben sent him, and that help is on its way. Of course, it's never that easy. The "rescue" turns into a comedy of errors, and even Toby's mom is dragged into it. Will they make it out alive?

Fans of The Reformed Vampire Support Group will recognize several familiar faces, and a similar style: disaster follows disaster until you can't help but laugh. This follow-up is not as good as the original, but still offers a refreshing look at the paranormal genre.
"'I bet you'd be famous all over the world!' he exclaimed. 'I bet they'd fly you to America and everything! They might even make a movie about you!'
'That's right,' said Nina flatly. 'Toby would be famous. Wherever he decided to go, people would know who he was. All the scientists who'd want to treat him like a lab rat, and all the crazies who'd want to get rid of an unnatural freak, and all the evil billionaires who'd pay big money to have a stuffed werewolf - all those people would know who Toby was,'" (Jinks pg. 136, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks
White Cat by Holly Black (Curse Workers, Book 1)
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

Jinks, Catherine. (2011). The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group. Boston: Harcourt.

The Devouring by Simon Holt

When Reggie finds a mysterious journal mixed in with the other books delivered to the bookstore, she can't resist bringing it home to take another look. The Devouring is the title, and it talks about the story of a girl whose brother is taken by the Vours on Sorry Night. His body remains, but his soul is taken.

Now that their mom is gone, Reggie has taken over most of the mom duties for her younger brother Henry. She's a little sick of the normal bedtime stories, so she reads him a chapter from The Devouring. She should have known that he couldn't handle it, he's always been a bit of a scaredy cat.

Now, no matter what she tells him, Henry is convinced the Vours will come for him on the night of the winter solstice...tonight. They will come to devour his fears. Reggie and her best friend Aaron are big horror buffs, so they decide to take the challenge. They taunt the Vours with one of their biggest fears, and come out relatively unscathed...but Henry is different.

The next day he maims his favorite teddy bear, Kappy. Reggie chocks it up to Henry's struggle to deal with the fact that their mother walked out on them, and their father's inability to cope. Kids that deal with heavy stuff like that act out, right? After several other incidents, Reggie is starting to think that it's something more. She and Aaron consult her boss, the proprietor of Something Wicked, a bookshop specializing in the gothic, gruesome, and grisly. Together they start investigating the author of the journal.

After visiting the home of Macie and Jeremiah, the three are convinced that Vours do exist. Reggie will do whatever it takes to save her brother, even if it means taking on the Vour herself! Will they find a way to banish the evil, and return Henry to normal? High suspense, interesting plot line, and well written details keep the reader interested. Quick read for reluctant readers, recommended for high school.
"When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.
For in the winter's blackest hours
Comes the feasting of the Vours
No one can see it, the life they stole,
Your body's here but not your soul...." (Holt pg 4, 2008).

If you liked this, check out:

Holt, S. (2008). The Devouring. New York: Little, Brown.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera

Ivy is pretty excited about moving to Sherbert. After the last seven years with a Jinx following her around, she is ready for some good luck! Her great aunt V has left a house to her mother Pearl, and the two are just sure their luck is about to turn around. It seems like that is the theme of the day when a piano is delivered to their house, followed by their neighbor Mr. Staccato - a piano teacher!

The other girls on Gumm Street aren't sure what to think of her. Franny, the adventurous and somewhat clumsy one, is excited at the possibility of a new friend. Pru, the overly cautious bookworm, doesn't know if she should bother with someone who seems to be so...accident prone. Cat, the free-spirited cartwheel queen, is a bit preoccupied with how awesome she is to pay too much attention to Ivy. It isn't until the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Staccato that the girls band together.

Not long after, Cha Cha blows into town. Cat is visited by a strange man in a balloon, and she knows the new resident of Gumm Street is bad news. The girls seem to be the only ones who can see through her facade, however, and even their parents are taken in! The more they investigate the mysterious silver shoes left for Ivy by Mr. Staccato, the more they think all of this might be related to The Wizard of Oz! Well, it does seem a little far-fetched, but nothing else makes nearly as much sense. The girls are convinced that Cha Cha's a witch after the silver slippers.

It doesn't take long for Cha Cha to prove them right! She bewitches them to SPOZ, and the girls are off on an adventure they won't soon forget...even if all they want to do is go home. Their summer vacation is spent in the service of Cha Cha's nieces Bling-Bling and Coco...who threaten to beautylyze them as soon as their aunt returns. Will the girls ever find a way out? Can they locate the other silver slipper before Cha Cha? What untold horrors await them along the way?

Whimsical, suspenseful, and even scary at times this story has just the right amount of Oz, but still manages to be very original. Recommended for 4-6th grades, there are scenes of similar scariness to the original Baum tale.
"Ivy's got a Jinx, an eye on her hand, and a wicked witch after her, but what do you care? Pru, you're too busy reading and eating cereal all summer, and Cat's got to do cartwheels up and down Gumm Street, so of course you don't have the time. But I don't have anything else to do more important than helping Ivy, so whether or not you guys want to join, I'm having a club. Maybe I'll even be president!" (Primavera pg. 207, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Libby of High Hopes by Elise Primavera (June 2012)
Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell

Primavera, Elise. (2006). The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Sanctum by Xavier Dorison and Christophe Bec

In the time of Stalin, a crew of men on a submarine faces mysterious circumstances to locate and retrieve an ancient statue. Led by the ruthless Comrade Colonel, the head of the crew takes drastic measures.

Fast forward to 2029, the crew of the U.S.S. Nebraska is drawn off course toward an emergency beacon of unknown origins. They discover the tragic fate of the ancient Soviet sub, and go to investigate.

One by one, crew members begin to be affected. One contracts all the symptoms of plague...but without the actual infection. Another turns on his beloved machines and fellow soldiers to murderous effect. The search team that heads out is trapped behind a wall, and all communication is cut off. Suddenly the ship is taking on water! Will they abandon the men, and try to save themselves?

The ship's doctor is baffled: several soldiers are showing high levels of the "violence hormone" in their blood...all they have in way of explanation is a document seemingly written in the oldest known language: Ugarit. Decoding what they can, they discover horrific poems of the evil god's destruction and devastation. With a damaged ship, there is little hope of survival. A desperate plan is hatched: it may be their only chance of survival, but it also doesn't have the greatest chance of success.

A second team is sent out to retrieve the first, finding only horrors in the cave. A horrific site greets them as they locate the main chamber: could this have been the end of the Ugarit civilization? Meanwhile back on the ship, the situation is getting more frantic. Time is running out, and the crew is starting to fracture. As more information is uncovered about the recovered Ugarit text, the truth seems even more horrible than they could have imagined.

Beautiful art, really innovative panel structure. It may be confusing to novice comic book readers, but it is very visually stimulating. The plot is a little cliche, but it does manage to draw you in, and get your attention. It has a bit of a Lovecraft feel as well.
"Give me one of your brothers that I might feed myself
and divert the rage that keeps me company.
Thus I will exterminate all humanity.
I will exterminate the multitudes of the earth," (Dorison pg. 121, 2005).
Dorison pg. 7, 2005.
*Library Link*
If you liked this, check out:
Long John Silver: Lady Vivian Hastings by Xavier Dorison (Vol. 1)
The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The Fourth Power by Juan Gimenez

Dorison, Xavier and Bec, Christophe. (2005). Sanctum. Los Angeles, CA: Humanoids/DC.

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan (Book 1)

Darren is just a kid when the Cirque Du Freak comes to town. His friend Alan is the one who tells him about it, after all, Alan's the one who got the invitation! Well, he sort of stole it from his brother...but who's counting? The boys are so curious they even ask their favorite teacher about it. He immediately begins decrying the horror of freak shows, and how the members were so mistreated back in the day. He claims such things don't exist anymore, and tries to pump them for more information, but the boys aren't stupid.

They know enough to keep their mouth shut to anyone who might put a stop to their plans. The show is by invitation only, and their flyer only lets in two. They have to decide who, out of the five of them, will get to go. They don't know much about it, except what the flyer tells them: snake-boy, wolf-man, performing spider, bearded lady, world's fattest all seems too good to be true. Could Mr. Dalton be right? Could it all be a hoax?

The night of the show comes around, and Darren and his best friend Steve are the lucky winners of the tickets. Every act is even more amazing than the last. There is no way this is fake! During the wolf-man's set, a woman's hand gets bitten off! Even more amazing? The creepy guys in blue who come up and reattach it...and in a matter of minutes, her hand is back to normal, with only the stitches to prove that anything had happened. What kind of a messed up show is this?

Most captivating of all for Darren is Madam Octa, the performing spider. Her keeper Mr. Crepsley controls her with the use of a flute. Even he admits that without it, he would long ago have been killed by his pet. Entranced, Darren watches as Madam Octa gracefully follows Mr. Crepsley's music, hanging, swinging, rocking back and forth.

After the act, Steve is determined to talk to Mr. Crepsley without Darren. Of course, Darren isn't missing out. Hiding, he hears an unbelievable conversation: Steve is accusing Mr. Crepsley of being a vampire! As if that wasn't bad enough, Darren is having thoughts about what it would be like to have Madam Octa all to himself. This freak show is bringing out some crazy things in both boys. What does Steve want from the vampire? Will Darren fall prey to his criminal impulses? Is this just the beginning of a much darker story? Well, yes...but it's one you won't want to miss!

Warning: a good amount of bloody violence/intentionally spooky prose. Not recommended for younger than upper middle school ages, but great for male fans of vampires and horror.
"People screamed and those nearest him lept from their seats and ran. One woman wasn't quick enough, and the wolf-man leaped on her and dragged her to the ground. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, but nobody tried to help her. He rolled her over onto her back and bared his teeth. She stuck a hand up to push him away, but he got his teeth on it and bit it off! ... While the crowd hesitated, the woman with the bitten-off hand went on screaming. Blood was pumping out of the end of her wrist, covering the ground and other people," (Shan pg. 60, 2001).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The First Kill: The Slayer Chronicles by Heather Brewer
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (Monstrumologist, Book 2)
Shan, Darren. (2001). Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Co.