Tag Archives: Book set at Halloween

Thorn Jack – Katherine Harbour (Night and Nothing#1)

~ HALLOWEEN APPROVED ~

(This book, or part of it, is set at Halloween.)

This is a great read set through the month of October with the climax on Halloween..  ‘Thorn Jack’ captures the feel of Autumn. The brisk cold has the wind ripping leaves off trees. The Fae or Others, and their dead brought to life by the fairy folk, play their part.  Add a Teind, a pact that must be satisfied for the Fae and their collected spirits to live another 100 years and the story starts to get interesting.  Now, include a woman starting her first year at college in the sleepy Northeastern American town of Fair Hollow.  After her sister and her mother took their own lives in California Finn and her father fled to heal from the loss.  It’s a pretty fascinating concept, right?  It also is a retelling of the old Scottish ballad Tam Lin.  This book felt created especially for me based off my own personal interests.  It is very good but it is also a book that fades in and out of greatness.  The first near half of the book is close to perfect, however.  Katherine Harbour has a way with words and created a beautiful world mixing the normal with otherness.  It reminded me a bit of Charles De Lint’s writings.

Serafina Sullivan, better known as Finn, came to Fair Hollow with her father, the professor of myth and folklore, to escape constant reminders of the loss of her sister, Lily Rose. Someone, who we learn about through small portions of her journal.  Finn and her father move into her late grandmothers house covered in carvings/pictures of fairies and anthropomorphic animals.  It is a true example of the eccentric town that contains several other boarded up mansions belonging to old families of wealth and fortune.  It has been a haven for the art/theatre community for years.  Finn’s college takes liberal and unconventional to new levels, but the town love for celtic tradition appears to be more than nostalgia for lineage and roots. Finn and the close friends she makes get drawn into Fae mischief.  Finn turns the eye of a Fairy Queen and her Jack.  Their interest, and the why behind the interest is what this book is about.  When Finn sees ties to the Fae in her sister’s journal it causes her to unabashedly rush down the rabbit hole in search of answers.  The fact that she is attracted to the Jack only draws her further.

I recommend you read this book rather than listen to it.  Kate Rudd narrates it and while she has done very well with other books, such as The Chronos Files Series by Rysa Walker, I preferred my own interpretation of Harbour’s writing.  Listen to the snippet available prior to purchasing the audio version and make your own assessment.

The first half of this book I could not put down.  Harbour’s writing is picturesque and I adored the originality.  I recognize this is a retelling, and that Tam Lin itself is a romantic story of a woman who tricks the Fairy Queen to release her love/the Queen’s Jack from her clutches.  My problem is I was so engrossed in Finn’s story of finding out what happened to her sister, who committed suicide and the reasons behind it, I was frustrated at being drawn away from that portion of the story. Ultimately, however, Harbour had to develop the tale of how Finn grows a new heart in the dead Jack.  (A Jack is an Other, who at the bidding of the Fairy Queen, causes people to fall in love with them in the pursuit of mischief and.)  The paranormal romance is not bad, but it did not have the same teeth that Finn’s search of the truth about her sister’s death has.  The romance is predictable and typical of current YA/NA writing.  The character interaction of Finn with her friend’s Sylvie and Christie loses its depth and realness at this point as well.  I belive Harbour has great potential as an author. I hope the next stories in the series of Night and Nothing can be the level of the first half of this book all the way through.   I believe Harbour can do it and I have been left curious.  I’m assuming the stories will not be about Finn and Jack since this story feels so complete.

I recommend you pick this up is you like stories about the Fae.  This is very good at leaning on real lore regarding the Fae from Celtic origins with interesting quotes from Shakespeare, Yeats, and Lady Gregory.  It is definitely New Adult and paranormal romance but it is interesting.  As I said I am interested in Harbour’s other work.

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Book Review: Hallowe’en Party – Agatha Christie

~ HALLOWEEN APPROVED ~

(This book, or part of it, is set on Halloween)

It is Autumn, this week there have been storm clouds in the sky and wind pulling leaves off branches.  I am preparing for Halloween and hopefully a horde of trick or treaters who will be  knocking on doors in the near future.  In my preparation, I was also listening to Christie’s ‘Hallowe’en Party.’  It is a book I have not read by an author I consider an old friend – even if I never met her.  Agatha Christie and her beloved Belgian Hercule Poirot are special to me.  I watched the series with Hugh Fraser as Hastings and David Suchet as Poirot with my family as a child. Recently, I watched several with my father and they withstood the test of time.  It was with joy I found out the narration was done by Hugh Fraser heightening a sense of nostalgia for me and I burrowed down into blankets and dogs to enjoy this mystery.

Hercule Poirot is older now, at the end of his career, but he still seeks justice with a well-groomed mustache and patent leather shoes.  At the request of his friend the famous murder mystery writer, Ariadne Oliver, he has come to help solve the death of a young girl.  Ariadne was invited to her friend’s house for a Halloween Party.  Amidst the broom decoration, witches telling young girls fortunes, bobbing for apples, and the snapdragon a girl is found drowned.  Not in a mundane fashion either, she was found with her head floating in the tub used for bobbing for apples.  No one can think why someone would want her dead.  She wasn’t delightful, in fact she was known to seek attention by lying, but she wasn’t what one would consider special.  Ariadne heard the young girl boasting of having seen a murder to her friends, but when no one believed her she flounced off in a huff.  It wasn’t until the party was over anyone noticed her disappearance.  Ariadne, noticing something more sinister, insists Poirot come and use his skills to find out what is really happening in this quiet village.

Christie’s writing is as enjoyable as ever.  Her humor in these delicate murder mysteries is part of what I think made her stories unique and loved.  She never skimped on creating real whole characters.  ‘Hallowe’en Party’ is not long but it is packed with a good mystery, and commentary on the times it was written.  This was published in 1969 and while it still holds the atmosphere of a quiet English village you can feel Christie seeing the changes in England as she writes about it, including the changing opinions on children, accountability, and justice.  Much is said about how making “morally right” decisions can have larger, and in Christie’s view more negative, impacts on children and society.

The Halloween party is perfect.  You get a lot of discussion about village witches, the difference between pumpkins and vegetable marrows, young girls seeing their future husbands in mirrors, and a Snapdragon.  I had no idea what a Snapdragon is.  For your information  ‘Snapdragon’ is a Victorian parlour game where raisins are put in a shallow bowl filled with brandy.  The Brandy is lit and children try to grab the “snapping” raisins from the bowl.  It sounds a touch dangerous to me but it definitely fits as a fun Halloween game (even if it usually took place at Christmas time).

Small town politics and gossip, as is tradition, help Christie’s characters find their murderer.  I loved this book.  It will definitely be something I reread/relisten to around Halloween.  It is the perfect length at 336 pages or about six hours listening time.  It will get you ready for a Halloween party of your own…

*This is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon starting 10-19-15*


Book Review: The Wailing Wind – Tony Hillerman

~ HALLOWEEN APPROVED ~

( This book, or part of it, is set on Halloween )

Deputy Bernadette Manuelito of the Navajo Tribal Police gets called out on a last-minute call to check out an abandoned car.  She arrives at the scene to find what looks like a man sleeping off a night of drinking.  The dead man, however, doesn’t rouse.   Everything points to natural causes, there is no obvious cause of death, and she didn’t look hard at the scene until the gun shot was found by the EMT.  The murder of this man, Doherty, and an old case Joe Leaphorn worked years ago seem to be related.  It is tied to the legend of The Wailing Woman, the lost treasure of The Golden Calf, and the Halloween night years ago that Wiley Denton shot the con man McKay.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Mysteries with Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are infamous.  The legendary Joe Leaphorn has been solving cases in the Four Corners for years.  Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant has retired but it hasn’t stopped his curiosity.  He reaches out to Sgt. Jim Chee when he hears about the murder of Doherty.  He wants to know if it has any relation to his previous case where Wiley Denton shot a con man trying to sell him the location ‘The Golden Calf.’  The motivations aren’t obvious, but maps are found at Doherty’s murder site along with an old tin of placer gold.  Everything from the old case gets turned over, including Denton’s missing wife, who was supposed to go to a lunch with her friends the day of the murder.  She never showed up and never came home. People thought she ran off.  She was too young and too pretty for Denton.  She was believed to be in league with McKay because she introduced him to her husband.  No one, however, who knew her believed it to be true and neither did her husband.   Denton, in fact, hires Leaphorn during this book to look into her missing persons case.   He never stopped looking for her.  Leaphorn can’t shake the feeling this has something to do with the police report of three kids on that Halloween night.  They said they heard a woman crying amongst the old army bunkers at Fort Wingate.  It was Halloween, however, and the kids were scared.  By the end of the night two of the kids were convinced they heard “La Llorana”/the wailing woman, another one was sure it was a Skinwalker, and the last thought it was vampire.  It got dismissed as nothing.  Leaphorn isn’t so sure.

I read all of Hillerman’s books several years ago.  In fact, I remember listening to some of them when I was a kid  back when audio books were books-on-tape.  My family was traveling cross-country and we would stop at the Cracker Barrel’s, trading one Hillerman book-on-tape out for another.  Leaphorn and Chee made it so we could drive fourteen hour days and not commit murder.  Enough nostalgia.  The point is I read them awhile ago and forgot how good they are.  I reread this mainly because it’s Autumn and Halloween is coming.  I wanted to indulge in the murder set on October 31.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I got to rediscover a favorite author and series.  Hillerman captures the cultural intricacies and beauty of the American Southwest.  His writing is beautiful in a sparse way that reflects the scenery of the area.

Hillerman has a wonderful grasp not only of the Navajo culture in the Four Corners area but also the Zuni, Hopi, Hispanic and belagaana/caucasian cultures living there.  He grew up in the southwest.   It is how, along with research, he obtained the information contained in his stories. He has  received the Navajo Tribes Special Friend Award and Center for the American Indian Ambassador Award for bringing attention to Native American culture and concerns.  I recommend you read Hillerman’s books if you enjoy mysteries or if you have any interest in the American West.  They are contemporary Westerns.  If you are looking for where to start, the first of the Navajo Mysteries is ‘The Blessing Way.’


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