Tag Archives: The Gates

The Infernals/Hells Bells – John Connolly (Samuel Johnson#2)

Samuel’s success at closing the gate to Hell didn’t leave him quite in the position one would hope for.  Instead of being hailed a conquering hero for sussing out the plot and rallying people to the cause, they quietly believe he bears some responsibility.  They have done all they can to forget that demons descended on Biddlecombe.  When they see Samuel, however, they remember.  This makes him partially to blame in their thoughts.   If you have not read ‘The Gates’ it’s the wonderful start to the tale of Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil series. Everything started because Samuel and his faithful dachshund, Boswell, went trick-or-treating on October 28 when he was eleven.  He was maximizing his candy gathering potential when he interrupted a party of bored adults playing with the occult.  It all went downhill from there.

Samuel is thirteen now, and infatuated with the girl every little boy falls in love with.  He’s not spoken to her yet.  He’s still working up the courage. Aside from regular teenage worries he keeps seeing Mrs. Abernathy in the reflections of a puddle or mirror.  He just catches her out of the corner of his eye.  He has no doubt being the focus of an extremely powerful demon with a grudge is not a good thing.  During this book he is transported through a portal to Hell.  Luckily, he has company.  In trying to obtain Samuel a few others were brought to Hell by mistake. England has its own devilishly mischievous creatures.  Mr. Merrywether’s dwarves, an acting troupe of four little men, are pleasantly troublesome. The badly behaved crew is always in conflict with the law and once in Hell they give the demons just as much hassle.

We get to be reunited with “Nurd – The Scourge of Five Deities, Wormwood, and some of our other endearing demonic friends.  John Connolly did not disappoint with this sequel.  He includes the footnotes I loved in the first book.  There is a lot of scientific information in this and the last book.  The footnotes allow for some humorous/clever explanation.  It has been likened to Douglas Adam’s humor in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’  I don’t disagree, but Connolly has his own voice and style.  I saved this for Halloween because I believed part of it was set on October 31st, like ‘The Gates,’ but that was a misguided notion.  The third book, however, is set during Christmas time.  I will be putting ‘The Creeps’ in the queue at the end of November.

‘The Infernals,’ like ‘The Gates’ audio version is narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds and he does an amazing job.  Do not read this book even  if you only occasionally dabble in audio books.  He is paired perfectly with the material and, in my opinion, adds to the experience of the book.  I’m sure reading it will not disappoint, but I highly encourage you to listen to this book not only for, but also specifically for, his interpretation of Mr. Merrywether’s Elves/Dwarves.

It is a middle grade book, however, most of the people I know who have read and enjoyed it are adults.  There is much discussion regarding Hell and demons.  This may have you questioning whether eleven and thirteen year olds should be reading it.  The UK title is ‘Hell’s Bells’ and was changed for the US publication in part because of this concern.  It is not frightening or inappropriate.  There is no profanity included in it unless you count ‘Hell’ as profanity.  It does not comment upon religion in a negative or positive light.  I, personally, would not have a problem with nine year olds reading it, but I am not offended by Hell or demons.  I include this so you have some context in determining how family friendly it is.


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.


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 Gates – John Connely

The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1)


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.


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.


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