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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rapiers, book fairs, and endless childhood nightmares.

Hey guys let's lighten the mood a little. Last post was, like all trash bags now, pretty heavy-duty. What do you say we talk a little young adult fiction, yeah? What if, instead of talking about domestic violence and military coups, we talked about ghosts for a little bit?

Well. First let's talk about book fair. That magical day when the school library or gym or boiler room or whatever was temporarily converted into a book store. And how, for whatever reason, you just got to buy books during this time. You could go to a hundred real book stores during that year and ask nicely for books and then get a "what are you talking about is it Christmas? Did you get an A on something? No I'm not buying you a book" but then on book fair it's fair game.

Here's a fun thing about book fair, though. Some of those books are pretty inappropriate for kids! I got Jurassic Park in the frickin 5th grade. You guys maybe don't remember that in Jurassic Park a guy gets his intestines spilled and he just looks at it. Also there are like a hundred pages about math.

But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the unholy pairing of one Alvin Schwartz and one Stephen Gammel. Let's talk about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

I will NOT "say that we did," hypothetical reader. If there's one thing we do here at the Howies Book Club Worldwide Headquarters it's look for truth. The truth we look for is in fiction. It's complicated. Read that last post. Anyway, I'm not going to make up some nonsense just because you're afraid to look at a rat that some idiot tourists thought was a chihuahua.

Speaking of ghosts, I read the first two books of the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. I know, you guys. I know. I've posted on various forms of social media that I won't read any more books that have the GALL to call themselves "Book 1" when there's only the one dang book out. I don't mind sequels. If a book turns out to be good enough to justify dipping back into that universe, let's do it, I say. Here's the contract I make with authors who don't know who I am: you write a complete story, I'll read it. You give me a third of a book and charge me 20 bux and we've got a problem.

Luckily, I've read the Bartimaeus trilogy by the same author and was pretty sure he wouldn't let me down. If you like young adult fantasy stuff (which I don't) you'll like those (which I did even still). If you like ghost hunters who use dang rapiers to fight ghosts than you're probably in for a good time with The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull.

The guy on the left there is Anthony Lockwood, the owner of a tiny ghost-fighting outfit in a world where ghost hunting is big business. There are giant corporations and Lockwood's just trying to carve out his bit o' the capitalist pie. Gal on the left with the adorable pixie cut? Lucy Carlyle. She's new. Anthony can see the ghosts best. Lucy can hear them. Together with George, who seems like he might be the bumbling comic relief but ends up being the very competent and sharp-witted comic relief, is the researcher.

Lucy's no pushover:
This was classic Lockwood. Friendly, considerate, empathetic. My personal impulse would have been to slap the girl soundly around the face and boot her moaning backside out into the night. Which is why he's the leader, and I'm not. Also why I have no female friends.
Here's a spoiler: so far each book has been a complete story. No dumb cliffhangers. No Stephen Gammel. You're welcome.