Tag Archives: 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 Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson’s novel is hailed as a distinguished and important work in horror.  ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ has a distinctly gothic feel even if it was published in 1959.  The house is a dark character enveloping people into its warped halls unwilling to let them go.  Dr. Montague, a scholar, who after considerable years searching finds Hill House.  It’s history is dark.  Tragic events taken place through the years lead him to believe it could be haunted.  He intends to find out by researching the phenomena correctly, in a controlled experiment, with people who have an inclination toward the paranormal.  He finds his participants by sifting through reports of metaphysical events.  Montague then sends out letters to the candidates he determined qualified and invites them for a summer at Hill House.  The three people who respond come for their own reasons.  They did not come, nor stay, because of an interest in the paranormal.

I picked up this book in anticipation for Fall, October, and Halloween.  It does not have a Halloween theme, is not set in October, or any part of Autumn.  It is, however, a seminal horror classic.  It is the haunted house genre. People read it every Halloween.  Who doesn’t want to indulge in a book about a haunted house when you can go to one after reading it?

The strength of this book lies in Jackson’s writing.   Her brand of horror is mental manipulation rather than physical danger.  Hill House has a twisted history of playing tricks on its inhabitant’s minds.  Those who come to stay tend to die rather than leave.  The few who have been able to leave develop an unhealthy obsession to go back.  Jackson includes some good twists and turns.  That said, it’s one thing to decide to spend a weekend exploring a hostile paranormal phenomena, but what could possibly possess anyone to stay a summer in a house believed to be haunted?

I listened to the narration by Bernadette Dunn.  She has a beautiful voice but it didn’t inspire the fear Jackson made her characters experience.  I do wonder if I read it instead, if ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ might have had more of an impact on me.  Dunn’s interpretation of climactic moments didn’t sound particularly different from the everyday events.

‘The Haunting of Hill House’ was horrifying to readers when it came out.  It was original.  It, however, is not now if you have read other haunted house tales with a paranormal investigation.  I recognize the books I’ve read were Jackson’s descendants.  They, unfortunately, prepared me for the climactic points of this book.   It will not have the effect on current readers it had on those in the sixties.  This does not mean you shouldn’t read it, but you should know its history, so you can respect it even if you are not frightened by it.


Halloween themed books/books set at Halloween

It is October.  Autumn.  Halloween is around the corner.  The leaves are changing.  The weather is brisk.  What other time of year do you get to say that?  It’s time for pumpkins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spiced latte’s, and don’t forget soup.

Halloween is a favorite holiday.  I love seeing little ghouls and superheroes come to my door.  Seeing a child pick out a pumpkin, carve it, and spoon out it’s seedy guts is wonderful .  Send me Elmo babies and dogs dressed as Freddie Kruger.  I think we can all agree trick or treating, jack-o-lanterns, and corn mazes are fabulous with or without crazy men chasing you with chainsaws.  Haunted houses pop up in vacant lots.  The best I’ve heard about this year requires a waiver.  It’s at an old hospital and they can touch you.  I’m a bit of a pansy when it come to visuals, and I would likely hit someone, so I will be skipping it.  But doesn’t it sound amazing?  It is quite literally the best people watching holiday.

It is time to ramp up.   I am looking for anything set at Halloween – books, movies, TV episodes.  Halloween does not have to be the theme, but it does have to be part of the story.  I don’t require it to be scary, however, good horror is appreciated.  Throw in zombies, witches, and paranormal hijinks.  It will make it better.  Mysteries and thrillers set at Halloween are wanted.  Murder spices things up.  Don’t forget the humor or camp, however.

It’s time to watch the leaves fall, wrap yourself in a toasty sweater, drink a cup of apple cider and get ready for a dark and stormy night.  To do that, you need to curl up with a book, or a movie that’s just as dark as what is brewing outside.  This month I have collected a group of new books that are season appropriate.  I will share them with you through the month.The only rules I have – part of the book takes place at Halloween.  Please share your favorites.  I will share with you what I find this year through the month, but let’s kick off by giving you a list of what I’ve found in the past.

Books Set at Halloween

*Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

A tale of two friends making the turn to teenagers on Halloween night.  It has a wicked travelling carnival including witches.  This is a classic that captures Fall.  It’s scary.  Disney made a movie of this in 1983.  The film gave me nightmares.  I still remember that damn carousel.

* The Gates – John Connolly

This is a clever book about a young boy who goes trick or treating with his dachshund Boswell three days early.  He’s trying to maximize.  He stumbles upon a plot to open the gates of Hell by a group of bored adults at 666 Crowley Rd.  ‘The Gates’  is funny and includes the Hadron Collider, Satan, and the Great Maleficense.  This isn’t scary but a worthy read.

*Dance Upon the Air – Nora Roberts

This is the start of a Nora Roberts Trilogy.  At it’s heart it is both a romance as well as self-exploration.  A woman comes out of a relationship so abusive she had to fake her own death.  There are supernatural elements.  There are witches on an island created by magic.  Halloween plays a part at the climax of this story.

*Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

Harkness’s story includes witches, vampires, and daemons.  Diana Bishop is a witch in denial.  She became a historian in an effort to maintain control and rationale in her life.  Her childhood home is haunted by her ancestors. When she calls up an ancient alchemical manuscript from the Bodleian library her world falls apart.  This is partially a romance.  Halloween plays a part at the end of the book and the cliffhanger.

The Thickety – J.A. White

 A story about a young girl with powers.  This is a middle school novel where a young girl grows up in a colonial village without her mother because she was convicted of witchcraft.  Her family has been shunned and there is mystery about an evil in the local wood called the Thickety.  It grows bigger despite the towns people clearing the trees every day.  Colonial Halloween traditions of bobbing for apples etc. take place.

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I read horror last year that was great ( favorites:  The Girl With All the Gifts, Feed, World War Z, Horrorstor, etc.) and I loved them, but they were not set at Halloween or Halloween themed.  Please let me know if you have suggestions.  I do have a Zombie trend but I welcome others.


The Thickety: A Path Begins – J. A. White

The Thickety: A Path Begins

A young girl loses her mother at the age of six.  Her mother is accused of witchcraft and killed in front of her in the small colonial village of Denoran.  The village is on an Island surrounded by dark forest known as the Thickety.  It’s black life continues to encroach on the town despite clearers cutting it back every day.  It reminded me of ‘The Heart of Darkness.’  No one can enter and not be changed if they survive at all.

halloween

HALLOWEEN APPROVED

This was another book I found in search for Halloween novels, and it is Halloween Approved!  Halloween is referred to as The Shadow Festival.  Activities include  costumes and traveling from house to house for treats.  There is even a corn maze.  Sordyr is the dark creature that controls the Thickety and the Shadow Festival is dedicated to cautionary tales of Sordyr and is the night he is at his strongest.

This is an intelligent middle school/young adult book that adults can enjoy too.  It centers around Kara who is twelve years old.  She has taken on the role of caring for her family in the absence of her mother.  Her brother is sickly and her father has never gotten over the loss of his wife.  He is barely functional.  Her family is looked down upon if not openly despised by the villagers because their mother was a convicted witch.  The village is a tightly knit religious community and what the “Fender,” similar to a governor, says is law.  The Fender believes Kara is a witch and has believed it since she was six.  He has no proof, however.  If this was not enough adversity for a young girl Kara has a nemesis in the body of a beautiful disabled girl named Grace.  The community sees Grace as a fair-haired angel.  She only shows her dark, cruel, and manipulative side to Kara and her brother Taff.

‘The Thickety’ is filled with magic.  It explores a few themes: what is not understood is seen as dangerous, and the price of power.  Kara is tempted by Sordyr’s creatures into the woods and finds a grimoire.  As she explores its power it brings out darkness, jealousy, vengeance and anger in her.  Sordyr is very similar to the concept of the devil in colonial stories of witches.  He provides temptation and power to young women in exchange for their mortal soul.   The focus of his attentions are on the disenfranchised and outcasts.  I believe that J.A. White did proper research into witch hunts like the Salem witch trials and utilized it intelligently to create this fictional tale.  It is age appropriate for middle grade children but doesn’t shy away from the unfortunate truths of historical  witch hunts.  I am impressed with this new series.   It is a good Halloween read.  It would be frightening for young children but is appropriately suspenseful for older children and young adults.  It is a great introduction to early Halloween traditions in America and colonial belief in witches for young adults.  I recently read The Penguin Book of Witches which is a book of collected true accounts of witch trials.  I was pleasantly surprised that J.A. White’s story kept so close to historically accurate portrayals of the early American beliefs in witches.

There is a wonderful audible version of this book narrated by Susan Duerden.  She has narrated several other books I enjoyed like ‘The Rook.’  She is one of my favorite narrators.  I recommend this in both book and audible format for people with children from the ages of 11-18 and people who enjoy young adult and middle grade books.


Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11)

‘Reaper Man’ is the first book I have read by Terry Pratchett.  Yes, I know I am very late to the party and I am reading it out-of-order.  I am even reading Death’s story out-of-order.  I was looking for a Halloween book, and this was recommended by a Pratchett fan, and I have it on her good authority that I will not burst into flames by reading it as a stand alone.  This book is brimming with the undead, zombies, werewolves, vampires, bogeyman, and of course Death himself.  This has all  required villains for Halloween but in this book they aren’t evil or scary.  If you are looking for the more frightening interpretations of death and other ghouls this is not for you.  Reaper Man is an intelligent book that can be read in the presence of little human ghouls.

I did not stamp this with my Halloween approval on a technicality.  It is not set around Halloween.   Take that out of the picture and it is perfect for it.

Pratchett has wizards casting spells to make the dead stay dead after Death quits his job.  Most adults have done a job they didn’t want to do and when the opportunity presented itself they quit for greener pastures.  This generally doesn’t cause any real damage that can’t be fixed.  What happens when Death quits? It wreaks a special kind of havoc.  The dead remain much to the livings frustration.  The dead don’t particularly want to stay either.  Wendell Poon was a wizard but when he died there was no place for him to go and no death to collect him.  He takes back possession of his body only to scare his colleagues, to try to find a way truly die to no avail, and ends up finding a group  for the disenfranchised dead who are discriminated against by the living.  They take up the cause for dead rights.

Death during this period is working the harvest for a woman on a farm learning what it means to be human. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  He finds himself depressed in an existential plight.  He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to die and starts to become annoyed with time.

This delightful book explores how we want what we can’t have.  More accurately, it explores whether we really want the things we think we want: another job, more time, an escape from death.  This is another fun quick read that has more depth for an adult audience but can still be enjoyed by younger ones.  I recommend you read rather than listen to ‘Reaper Man.’ Audible has a good narration of it by Nigel  Planer.  There are so many characters to differentiate and he does a good job, but I preferred my own interpretation of Death.  You can enjoy it either way but I liked it when I listened to it and truly enjoyed it when I was reading it.

I mentioned earlier, but I will say it again.  If you are looking for the more frightening interpretations of death and other ghouls this is not for you.  ‘Reaper Man is a well crafted piece of intelligent humor and fantasy.


The Gates – John Connely

The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1)

*HALLOWEEN APPROVED*

Connolly set the story between October 28 and November 1.  This tale includes demons and the Gates of Hell, trick or treating, and general Halloween hi-jinks .  It’s not terribly spooky but very fun.

halloween

Recently, I requested of the Blogverse some recommendations of good Halloween books.  ‘The Gates’ was recommended, and I am indebted to Ashley at readfantasybooks for doing so.  This is a delightful tale of a precocious eleven year old boy, Samuel Johnson, who takes initiative to start trick-or-treating with his dachshund Boswell on October 28  to get a head start.  Initiative, in this case, being something everyone says they want but don’t actually like when being used.  Connolly  is humorous.  He sprinkles in footnotes that explain words like initiative, the Hadron Collider at CERN, and nefarious in delightfully amusing ways rather than using strict boring definitions.  It is young adult, but I believe I would be hard pressed to find adults that don’t like this.  Samuel Johnson’s reward for early trick or treating is not candy but witnessing, albeit looking through his neighbors basement window, the Gates of Hell being summoned.  Samuel tries to tell his mother, his father, and his babysitter but no one believes him.  They all believe he is making it up and is spending too much time playing video games to get such weird ideas stuck in his head.

Samuel must figure out how to stop the Gates of Hell from being opened and allowing The Great Maleficence to enter Earth and destroy it.  Along the way we meet scientists, Samuel’s classmates, and a bevy of demons.  A beautiful aspect of this book is that when Samuel is visited by demons, who are supposed to either eat him or drag him to the pits of Hell, he befriends them.  You must understand Hell isn’t a terribly fun place and they don’t want to return to it either.  Just like adult humans the demons must have a job, like scaring small children, or being that terribly annoying bit of toothpaste you can’t get out of the end of the tube.  Some demons have exciting jobs, but others have to take jobs that are more frustrating or annoying.  Those more boring jobs are good for gentler demons.  We meet Nurd, a less successful demon, who was banished by The Great Maleficence.  He randomly is traveling between Hell and Earth without his say so, once being hit by a car, and once visiting Samuel’s room.  Here they share jelly beans, Nurd learns to smile, and Nurd gains the only friend he’s ever had.

Connolly is brilliant.  I read/listened to this book a second time immediately after finishing it.  If you enjoy audible books there is a great narration done by Jonathan Cake.  He made me love this book even more.  It is one of those rare combinations where the narrator is perfectly matched to the book and enhances it.  Either way I believe you will enjoy it

This is the first installment of the Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil series.  I’m excited to pick up the next book, ‘The Infernals.’  This is a series you want to be able to pay attention to.  Some audible books I can listen to and not give them my full attention.  You can do that here, and  probably glean most of the story without too much trouble.  I fear you would miss some of Connolly’s humorous gems, however, and I just don’t know that it would be worth it.  I recommend you listen to it while driving or doing something mindless so you can enjoy the whole of it.  If the kids are asking to many questions for a group listen turn it off and listen/read it on your own time.  You can make them take a second turn if they can’t behave.  We all must learn patients after all.  You’re building their character…that’s the reason…isn’t it? – You should now look up Connolly’s definition for nefarious.

 


Needed: Spooky Halloween Books

halloween

 

Oh how I love Fall.  I love Halloween, crisp air, turning leaves, and the smell of fire in fireplaces.  Since I was little I have loved Halloween, maybe even more than Christmas, and not because of the candy.  Truth be told I was allergic to candy as a kid.  My sister got my candy.  Don’t worry, I just ate spoonfuls of sugar.  I’m getting sidetracked, however.

I need a book for the season.  It can be spooky or scary but it it’s not a requirement.  It does have to be set during Halloween, and have something to do with Halloween.  It doesn’t need to be new.  I do need your help.  I haven’t found anything and I realized I have a very helpful group of people right here.  I’m jonesing…give a lady a hand.  Tell me what I should read


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