Gallows Hill

Finished Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Role-playing takes on a terrifying cast when 17-year-old Sarah, who is posing as a fortune-teller for a school fair, begins to see actual visions that can predict the future. Frightened, the other students brand her a witch, setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one.

This is one of the Lois Duncan books that I somehow missed and believe me, I am kicking myself for this.

This is one of her most fun books and I was also completely tense the whole time reading it.  (It doesn’t help that the creepy town that Sarah and her mom moved to is basically one of those places where you know everyone knows something that you don’t, and where any sort of mistake could have dire consequences.)

While reading it, I was expecting Sarah to be ostracized (the town and school are full of small-minded people) but I didn’t think the danger would be any more than some pretty pointed snubbing.  (Yeah, shame on me; I should’ve known better.)

Instead, the mob mentality started to take effect and things got incredibly suspenseful and scary.

I think this is now in my top five of her books.  (Locked in Time, Down a Dark Hall, Summer of Fear, Stranger With My Face and now this one.  Daughters of Eve is a close sixth.)  I love Lois Duncan’s books so, so much.


Stranger With My Face

Finished Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Have you ever been haunted by the feeling that someone is spying on you, lurking around your house and yard, even entering your bedroom? Are your friends plotting against you when they say they’ve seen you do things you know you haven’t done? What’s going on — and does Laurie really want to find out?”

Things have been strange for Laurie lately.  Her boyfriend’s mad at her because he says he saw her out when she said she was home sick.  (Except…Laurie really WAS sick.)  And she could swear that sometimes, she feels someone in her room—but nobody’s there.  So what’s going on?

I think this is my second favorite Lois Duncan book (behind Locked In Time) and it’s just really, really creepy.  (The last chapter, especially, makes my skin crawl every time I think about it.)

Would people notice if you weren’t YOU anymore?

SO scary.  I turned some Amazon gift cards into most of her backlist and I’m excited to read more. :)  So if you haven’t read any Lois Duncan books (ever, or just not any time lately), do yourself a favor and check out these new versions.  They’re incredibly fun (and they’re still quite creepy).

Summer of Fear

Finished Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

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

From the moment Rachel’s cousin Julia arrives that 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?”

After Rachel’s aunt and uncle die in a car accident, her orphaned cousin, Julia, comes to live with the family. Rachel tries to be welcoming, but there’s something about Julia she doesn’t quite trust. It may be the fact that everyone is Team Julia all of a sudden and Rachel feels left out, but she’s pretty sure there’s more to it than simple jealousy. After a little research, she starts to suspect that Julia’s actually a witch (and it’s a little more like The Craft than, say, Sabrina the Teenage Witch). But how can she prove it? And how can she get anyone to believe her?

This book was really entertaining. I felt almost trapped with Rachel (although I also spent some time yelling at her because she left a key piece of evidence unguarded and really, REALLY, RACHEL?!), knowing that she was right and nobody believed her. It reminded me of that scene in the Blair Witch Project where Josh (or was it Mike?) was yelling at Heather and repeating “There’s no one here to help you!”

That was probably the creepiest part of this book, actually, watching this really close family falling apart and seeing Rachel try to figure out what was going on with no help. (And also, watching Julia just completely co-opt her life—and isn’t that something we’re all a little afraid of? seeing someone else live our life and doing it better and us not even being missed? No? That’s just me? Okay, never mind.)

I am so happy that these books are being reissued and I’m going to read them all. :) (I think you should, too.)

Daughters of Eve

Finished Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sworn to secrecy. Bound by loyalty.

It’s the high school’s most exclusive club–but now a twisted mind is leading it. Who will be the first victim?

From “The girls at Modesta High School feel like they’re stuck in some anti-feminist time warp-they’re faced with sexism at every turn, and they’ve had enough. Sponsored by their new art teacher, Ms. Stark, they band together to form the Daughters of Eve. It’s more than a school club-it’s a secret society, a sisterhood. At first, it seems like they are actually changing the way guys at school treat them. But Ms. Stark urges them to take more vindictive action, and it starts to feel more like revenge-brutal revenge. Blinded by their oath of loyalty, the Daughters of Eve become instruments of vengeance. Can one of them break the spell before real tragedy strikes?”

In this book, a select group of students are part of an exclusive club at their high school, the Daughters of Eve.  It’s sort of a secret society, and they have a new teacher as the faculty advisor.  The girls LOVE the teacher but the boys tend to think she’s a little weird.  Anyway.  So the girls slowly start to become aware of sexism (Dad’s career is taken more seriously than Mom’s; the “slut/player” dynamic in high school relationships, etc.) and decide to start playing pranks to settle the score.  What begins as relatively harmless pranks (although none of them are really harmless at all) quickly turn into dangerous and really mean-spirited.

Some reviews slam this book as being anti-feminist, but really, I think it’s more of a commentary on how dangerous the mob mentality can be.  These are smart girls—and nice girls—and none of them would do something like this on their own.  But throw a group of people together and people are braver (and dumber) than they may otherwise be.

And, also, as a feminist, it’s sad that this is still true.  (This book was originally written in the 1970s, I think, but even now, women do more housework and child care than men do, even if both work outside the home.)

I have most of Lois Duncan’s novels (both updated and original versions) and I’m very excited to continue reading them.  It’s taking me a while (so many great books!) but I’ll get there.

Down a Dark Hall

Finished Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Why does the exclusive boarding school Blackwood have only four students?

Kit walks the dark halls and feels a penetrating chill. What terror waits around the next corner?”

Kit is attending boarding school while her mom and stepfather are on their honeymoon. From the beginning, she’s against the idea, but once she sees the school it’s even worse. She has a sense of wrongness almost immediately, and the longer she stays, the worse it gets.

And it’s even weirder because there are exactly four students in the school (and that’s counting Kit). Soon, they’re all doing things they weren’t able to do before. Lynda is painting these amazing landscapes and Sandy is writing poetry and Ruth is doing these complex math equations. As for Kit, she’s mostly having weird dreams involving music—but before she got to Blackwood, she could barely even play the piano.

So what the what? as Liz Lemon would say.

This is a really interesting book and another case of teenagers knowing something is weird and nobody believing them. In the Q&A in the back, Lois Duncan says this is her one attempt at writing a Gothic novel, and it’s a very good one. It’s also really creepy and unsettling.

I don’t know how many of you grew up on Lois Duncan books like I did (this is actually one I missed), but they’re just as much fun reading them now as grownups.


Daughters Unto Devils (and giveaway!)


When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly Ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

Amy was nice enough to write  a guest post about her 10 favorite horror movie villains.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It: It:  I have three words for you: child eating clown. Need I say more?!

Nancy Downs, The Craft:  Nancy doesn’t start out as a villain, but her madness and greed over her powers transform her into a vile (and totally quotable) antagonist.

Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy is a classic horror villain, and for good reason. Rest in peace, Wes Craven. 

The Babadook, The Babadook: *deep growly voice* “Baaaaaba-DOOK! DOOK! DOOK!”

The Queen, Alien: One of the ultimates. This lovely specimen doesn’t much care how loudly you scream, or how much you want to live; she’s just as stoked to rip your throat out or melt your face off with her acid spit anyway.

Samara Morgan, The Ring:It’s one thing to watch a freaky girl on the television, but to have that freaky girl crawl out of the screen to kill you is a whole other ball game. 
Pazuzu, The Exorcist:  I love watching videos taken at the premieres of this film. People cried, passed out, vomited, and generally wigged out over seeing a sweet little girl become possessed by the evil demon Pazuzu. 

Dandy Mott, American Horror Story: Freak Show: The fact that Dandy was scarier than Twisty the Clown says pretty much everything you need to know about him. Sadistically charming, this budding serial killer is the definition of unsettling. (And was a blast to watch.)

Margaret White, Carrie: Depending on who you talk to, some might suggest that the villain of Carrie is, well, Carrie. However, it’s my strong opinion that Margaret, Carrie’s mother, is the real star of the antagonist show here.

Annie Wilkes, Misery: A writer’s worst nightmare. One of her freakiest quotes:

[Right after smashing Paul’s ankles with a sledgehammer] “God, I love you.”

Me again.  I absolutely love this list AND want to point out that Amy absolutely knows her stuff.  Know how I know? She identified the villain in The Exorcist as Pazuzu, and not “the devil.”  :)


Ever since she was little, Amy was especially intrigued by horror books and movies. Raised in a small mountain town in Arizona, she sustained herself on a steady diet of Goosebumps, Fear Street, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books before discovering Stephen King in her mother’s bookshelf. 

Amy lives with her husband, their two precious squidlings, and an old gentleman cat by the name of Frodo. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms. 

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Tumblr

They Never Came Home

Finished They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Joan’s boyfriend and her brother are missing and assumed dead. Until the voice on the other end of the phone hints at something more terrible.

This is one of Lois Duncan’s novels that I hadn’t read before.  Most of her books have some sort of supernatural occurrence (whether it be a main aspect of the book, like in Locked in Time, or a brief moment of ESP, like in Killing Mr. Griffin or I Know What You Did Last Summer) but this one didn’t.  It also wasn’t particularly creepy, as her books tend to be.  (Although yes, I know she wrote Hotel For Dogs and that she writes a lot of non-scary books, too.)

I really like the premise of this book.  What would happen if someone you love went off on a weekend camping trip and never came home?  How long would it take you to start to believe they were dead, even if no bodies were ever found?  How long can you keep hoping?

And what happens if you’re Joan and one of the missing boys is your boyfriend and the other is your brother? How do you go on when two of the most important guys in your life are gone? (And when the third, your father, has a bad heart so you could, in theory, lose him, too?)

So yes, this is different than her other books.  This also seems a little more plausible (at least at first).

This isn’t one of her best, but it’s definitely interesting and fun.  And there are some plot twists I didn’t see coming.

Don’t Look Behind You

Finished Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

How can April give up her name, her friends, her boyfriend Steve, and everything she’s ever known?April Corrigan feels like her life is over when she learns that her father has been working undercover for the FBI and the family must relocate under the Federal Witness Security Program.

No one can reach them now… or can they?”

April has the perfect life.  She’s got a great boyfriend, wonderful friends and she’s an excellent tennis player.  The only downside is that her dad’s been gone for the past couple of weeks, testifying at a big trial.  And then she learns that her dad’s actually been working for the FBI, trying to bring down a big drug ring. Now she and her family (parents and younger brother) are on the run, in the Witness Protection Program.

April is a bit infuriating (she doesn’t quite get that their lives are in danger, so she makes dumb choices) but she’s hard not to root for.  The action moves quickly and, while it’s not one of her best books, it’s still very fun.  And good luck trying to stop reading.

Locked In Time

Finished Locked in Time by Lois Duncan.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Nore Roberts didn’t ask for a new life, but now that her mom is gone and her dad is newly married, she has to settle in at Shadow Grove, the old Civil War mansion her stepfamily calls home. When she meets her stepmother, Lisette, Nore is shocked by her youth and beauty that gives her chills- and a hint of something sinister. There’s hope of becoming friends with her stepbrother and sister, until Nore realizes they’re hiding something. When she begins to feel like the target of a deadly plan, Nore starts digging into her stepfamily’s past. The skeletons in their closet are more real than she ever imagined. Can Nore expose her stepmother’s dark secret before an old and evil magic swallows her up?

Fun fact: this is easily my favorite Lois Duncan book and it was the first one I read.

It’s just as suspenseful as her others, but it also is a little more Gothic.  There’s a big question (at least as I read it) about how much is real and how much is in Nore’s imagination.  (I love stories like that, where you’re not entirely sure what the true story is.)

And when I re-read it for this feature, it was so much scarier than I remembered it being.  I feel like one of the creepiest things is the fact that you can know something WRONG is happening but no one will believe you.  *shiver*

It’s also interesting to see just how quickly things can go from normal and happy to batshit insane and scary.

Highly recommended.

Interviewing Kathy Coe

So my friend Kathy was kind enough to come by and talk horror with me.
1)  Bates Motel or American Horror Story? Bates Motel. Two words – Freddie Highmore. His performance – chills, chills, chills.
2)  Everyone has their sub-genre of what freaks them out (mine is religious-based horror).  What’s yours? Um… I think anything based in real life (serial killers, etc) is way more terrifying than paranormal/etc stuff so that genre. Real life genre (if that is even a thing).
3)  What are your favorite scary movie and book? Fave movie? Either Scream or Blair Witch Project. Fave book? Unsure that I’ve read one that truly terrified me to be a fave.
4)  What are the scariest scary movie and book?  (Yes, there’s a difference.) Movie – Psycho. To this day still had the biggest impact on me. Terrified to shower after. 
5)  So…Freddy or Jason? Hmm. Freddy. He’s more fun.
6)  What’s the last movie that really, really scared you? I don’t watch a lot of horror (I may be the worst person to answer this) so I am going to say Psycho. Honestly. It still creates a reaction in me, so that is powerful. I can’t think of a movie that came close – maybe Blair Witch Project. I am a less is more girl. 
7)  What’s the last book that really, really scared you? None that I can think of. I don’t read much horror novels. Maybe Kelly should recommend some to me.
(Kathy, it is ON.  So basically everything from this month and then also Carrie, The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Misery, all by Stephen King, and Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.)
8)  What’s your favorite horror urban legend?  (I think mine is “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”) Mine is the one where the call is coming from inside the house. Something VERY unsettling about that.
9)  What horror movie/series do you wish would get a remake?  I would be quite okay with them remaking Jaws (does this count as horror). I would like to see what the new graphics would do for the shark, but would only want it if they didn’t go crazy with over modernizing everything. 
10)  Favorite horror adaptation? Does Silence of the Lambs count? If so I pick that. Fave adaptation from a horror novel.