Tag Archives: horror

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales by Ying Chang Compestine

The publisher did not oversell this title when they decided on “A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales” as the subtitle of Compestine’s newest offering. Eight nightmare inducing stories are great for reading alone and sharing at any haunting hour.

It is truly rare to read stories set in modern day China for children and I appreciate the authenticity in Compestine’s writing, backed up by researches and her own life experience. It must be noted, however, that since these are stories mainly about greedy and corrupt people, the pieced-together large picture shows a fairly unsavory angle of China, old or new. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Compestine has an agenda, but I would say that matter like organ harvesting, cooking and eating endangered animals, and government corruption and bribery are serious topics that, might make a Chinese reader feel uncomfortable or even ashamed: especially when the author includes notes after each “course.” On the other hand, these are human rights and animal rights issues that the Chinese and the Chinese Government should address. In this way, this book serves as a political treaty, exposing atrocities for the world (and young readers) to examine. I will recommend this to many of my students and their teachers who are always on the lookout for something really scary to read!

The recipes are authentic and wonderful — but I can’t bring myself to try or make these dishes after reading the stories and remembering how they are tied to the stories.

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Battle Royale

Battle RoyaleAuthor: Koushun Takami
Reading Level: Young Adult/Adult

Pages: 624
Publisher: VIZ
Edition:2003, Paperback

Finally. Read and finished this one. Ever since I heard about it (and watched the movie on youtube ;p) I had the book set aside to read but so many other things came along the way… it was WORTH my own wait and I wish that I had read it earlier in the school year so I could have recommended it to more readers.

It’s an interesting way to tell a story — there is an over arching plot, a simple one, an explosive one, a thoughtful one, but there are basically a series of character sketches as well. You meet some of the minor characters along the path, you know something about them, and they you see them being killed (mostly brutally, with graphic details — not for the faint of heart!) It’s an examination of human nature – the good, the bad, and the in between; the kind, the evil, and the confused. I actually shed tears at 4 different points — some for characters I learned to love; some for “throw-away” characters whose stories happen to touch my heart.

It seems to be a long book, but it’s such a fast and easy read. The alternative history aspect and the social criticism aspect are slightly didactic, but still work well with the narrative flow. Lots of action and “fun” — if one can define reading about 15-year-olds forced into killing each other as a fun experience.

My last words of wisdom? DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE before reading the book; after reading the book, you will be disappointed by the movie. So, if you plan on reading the book, basically, just let the notion of watching the movie go!

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The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookAuthor: Neil Gaiman
Reading Level: 4th grade and up

Pages: 320
Publisher: HarperCollins
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

This one definitely reached deeply into my heart. Love the world building. The Graveyard became a “residence” for my soul for the duration of reading/listening to the book — a real place where my mind can wander. I could picture the sights, the light, the details, both described in the book and not described, undefined. My mind filled in all the corners and expanses and turned that world into a tangible space. Even after the storytelling is over, The Graveyard remains in my heart. Now it’s as real and as cozy (if a cold graveyard can be cozy) a place as my Library’ Reading Room.

I think the short story format works really well. Each “story” has a satisfying conclusion. Each advances the larger tale forward, too. Bod’s maturation is expertly handled. And then, the conclusion of the entire tale is bittersweet, and yet not disappointing. (Oh, I guess I was sad that Bod might lose all the ghostly skills he possessed as a child and slightly mad of Gaiman for that — why can’t he still straddle the two worlds, even when he chooses to venture out into the world? My mind does not wish to accept that conclusion so I am making up other adventures for Bod that requires him to go into the other realms, to fade, and to haunt!)

I was shocked but really appreciated how Gaiman handles Bod and Scarlet’s necessary parting. Keeping us readers on our toes, always. (And that little scene where Scarlet hugs Bod… so achingly revealing: since the age of two, he has not really been hugged, by real flesh and bone.)

And there is the rich imagination, the host of distinctive and adoring characters, a most chilling villain, and all that witty humor. How could I not love the book to pieces?

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Passion and Poison: Tales of Shape-shifters, Ghosts, and Spirited Women

Author: De Negro, Janice
Reading Level: 4th – 6th grade

Pages: 64
Publisher: Marshal Cavendish
Edition: Hardcover

I really enjoyed the tone of these narratives but found the seven mostly familiar (or with familiar motifs) tales in this slim volume not scary or eerie enough. There exists always a promising build-up but the readers are left short of truly gruesome, horrific, or surprising endings. The cover design is quite effective, with raised blood-red title print, but the interior illustrations are uneven and less than accomplished in many cases. The very good cover art is done by Vincent Natale, but the illustration copyright is attributed to Marshall Cavendish, the publisher — and the quality of the illustrations definitely feel like work-for-hire jobs.

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Pet Shop of Horrors Vol. 1

by Matsuri Akino

This reminds me of some of the best and most horrifying mangas I read as a teenager, fitting the serie’s title. Whoever wishes to read it, must proceed with caution — and a strong appetite for the graphically gory scenes.

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February 2005 Reads

A Stir of Bones
by  Nina Kiriki Hoffman

horror (5th and up)

This book is just creepy enough, just romantic enough, just complex and simple enough, for pre-teen and early teens. I LOVE the descriptions of the consciousness of the HOUSE and Susan’s relationships with the House, her friends, and Nathan, the ghost boy. When Susan leaves her shell (body) behind and travels in a magical new exterior, the imagery is so vivid that even a non-visual/graphic reader like me can visualize the pictures. It is also interesting that there is no real “pay off” of the sub-plot of the father situation — that Susan’s father is not quite “punished” at the end. (I would have LOVED to see that…) It makes the story more real. This was a Bram Stoker horror fiction for young reader nominee. It lost to the 5th Harry Potter… hmm…. I disagree.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
by Suzanne Collins

fantasy, adventures, survival, series (4th-7th)

After a somewhat slow and not exciting beginning (um… for at least 1/3 of the book,) the book got really fast-paced and interesting. The “turn” of the events was suprising, and as the two books before in this series, no easy solutions were offered. I liked the somewhat cliff-hanging ending, too. Weaker than the first two, plot-wise, but definitely will keep me reading the last two titles.

To Be A Slave
by Julius Lester

highly recommended
nonfiction (7th and up)

This Newbery Honor, 1968 book was done superbly. Lester’s collecting, re-working, and threading of the slave narratives is careful and powerful. It kept me reading into dark nights, giving up sleep. The only troublesome selection, in my view, was the last entry — in which a former slave claims that there will NEVER be equality between the two races. No explanation or mentioning of any social progress accompanying this entry. Of course, at the time, Lester probably felt that was the case; he might still feel this way, even now, given the condition of this country and its people. It’s just that, it is such a downer ending and a child reader should have the opportunity to discuss this ending, and putting in the context of the last 30 odd years.

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