Fantasy · fiction · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade

FGR #6: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book came into my hands highly recommended and I only wish I could, in turn, place it directly into your hands. The characters alone have me cuddling the book tightly in my arms as I type. But the story…this story. Sigh. Well, there is a reason this book won both the Newberry Medal and the Carnegie Medal.

graveyard
A blue cover with gold writing featuring an antique headstone and a golden Newberry sticker.

The Graveyard Book gives us the story of Nobody Owens and, much The Jungle Book, Nobody Owens is as unique as Mogli because his home is unique. He is being raised by ghosts, taunted by ghouls, and protected by magical beings. Bod, to his friends and family, has the blessings of the graveyard and many of the unusual gifts of his long dead family and friends. In short, Bod is the very coolest of characters.

It is why he is in the graveyard that matters. He doesn’t belong there but he is only safe while he remains inside. But safe from what? Or who? And for how long?

Neil Gaiman is a prolific and talented writer. I have enjoyed several of his other books. But I doubt that any other story of his will remain with me the way The Graveyard Book is sure to from this day onward. I loved it like so many others before me. It is, without a doubt, a perfect Frighteningly Good Read.


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book or others by Neil Gaiman? Which is your favorite?

FrighteninglyGoodRead · nonfiction

FGR #5: Black Cats & Evil Eyes, A Book of Old-Fashioned Superstitions by Chloe Rhodes

I love to be obnoxiously in the know regarding little tidbits of information. I’ll never be smart enough to win a game of Jeopardy and I frequently miss major news headlines but I delight in sprinkling conversations with little know facts. And, since I also adore Halloween, a book that focuses on old-fashioned superstitions is perfect for me!

blackcats
A large black cat sits in the middle of a red and white book with other silhouettes of a ram and a crow.

Black Cats & Evil Eyes, A Book of Old-Fashioned Superstitions by Chloe Rhodes is a slender book stuffed full of superstitions and the history and basis for the belief. Each superstition is covered quickly – perhaps two or three pages – but so completely as to allow me to sound knowledgable about the subject. Perfection!

I immediately gravitated to superstitions that I actually practice. For example, picking up pennies. I have heard a lot of reasons to pick up or leave a fallen penny by now but the most prevalent one is certainly, “Find a penny, pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck.” However, the saying was originally, “See a pin and pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. See a pin and let it lie, you’ll feel want before you die.” Whether this saying originates with the encouragement to take pride in small tasks or the idea that pins are used in witchcraft remains a debate. But just think how much fun I will have throwing this little bit of information into everyday conversation!

Black Cats & Evil Eyes is the perfect book to read if you have always wondered why we believe things like; covering your mouth when you yawn is polite, putting shoes on the table is rude, burning cheeks means someone is talking about you, and (my favorite) the gift of a purse or a wallet should always include money. There are some really fascinating superstitions in this book and only a handful were unfamiliar to me.

Chloe Rhodes has written a book that makes me truly happy when I flip through it page by page. It is the perfect delightful mix of fascinating non-fiction information with a healthy heaping of Halloween feeling. An ideal Non-Fiction Friday Frightening Good Read!


Tell me, please!

What is a superstition that you hear frequently?

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday October 10, 2018

WWW

Today is the day we see whether I have been reading a lot or binging on-demand television too much. It’s WWW Wednesday! Brought to you by Sam at Taking on a World of Words we will cover the books you just finished, the ones you are currently reading and what you plan to read next.


What did I just finish reading?

I whipped through The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and loved it. I saw the movie this weekend and it was a lot scarier than the book but still within the parameters of family fun. I continue to wish that they cast a child that looked like the book version Lewis (who was mocked for being overweight) because I think it would have brought a unique perspective to the movie. My full review is here.

I finished The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as well. It is now haunting me. I cannot stop thinking about it. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it but, beware, it is terrifying. My full review is here.

I also started on the new comic book series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the first one was fantastic. I hope to finish the series and post a review for my Sunday Morning Comics.


What am I currently reading?

Heap House is very weird. I am only about 30-40 pages in and it hasn’t grabbed me yet but I carry on because of the level of weirdness.

I am working through the Hercule Poirot Puzzle Collection. It was supposed to be fun but it is making me feel like an idiot.

Scythe has long been on my to be read shelf and it seemed thematically perfect for a Frighteningly Good Read. I am tearing through it much more quickly than Heap House.

And, I have the second Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. So dark, I love it!


What do I plan to read next?

Here be Monsters remains in my “next” pile this week. I have also added The Hound of the Baskervilles because I don’t think I have ever read it.


Tell me, please!

WWW are you reading this week?


FrighteninglyGoodRead

FGR #4: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaids
Two women in red dresses with huge white bonnets are walking by a brick wall carrying baskets.

I cannot imagine that there is a book that I will read this month that terrified me as much as The Handmaid’s Tale. Perfectly paced and elegant in the unfolding action, Margaret Atwood’s modern classic is precisely the type of book I would store in a locked box.

The Handmaid’s Tale has a clear before and after. We learn through a haphazard timeline that our narrator was married and had a child before The Republic of Gilead. She had a job, her own money, an education, and the ability to purchase cigarettes. She could read and socialize as she saw fit. But after, after everything changes. She doesn’t even have her own name. She is now Offred, a handmaid who has been assigned to a Commander. She is allowed to walk with a paired handmaid to the market everyday with tokens to buy food that is labelled with pictures because women cannot be alone, they cannot carry money and they are prohibited from reading. Once a month she and the Commander engage in a ritual to make her pregnant because she is valued only for her ability to conceive. In a world with plummeting birth rates women have been boiled down to this one ability.

Well written fictional characters are fantastic in inspiring real feelings. A great deal can be said about the main character, Offred, and her ability to inspire sympathy, anger, and sadness. She embodies so many women’s greatest fears – that they will be valued only for the ability to procreate. Still, I found myself completely fixated on Aunt Lydia and the out Aunts, the wives, the docile handmaids, the Marthas, even Moira and Offred’s own mother. I hated Aunt Lydia on a level I thought was reserved for Dolores Umbridge and Nurse Ratchet. The other women were all, in their own way, part of the problem. What frightened me was that I could see myself making some of their same decisions.

And that is what makes this tale so horrifying. It is not as simple as saying, “I would never do this or that.” The lack of choices for so many of the characters, that feeling of being stuck in a situation forever, was so well conceived and written by Ms. Atwood that it is haunting me.

I don’t have a locked box in which to keep this book. Instead, I will store it on my shelf backwards so that I don’t visually trip over the spine and accidentally find myself back in Gilead. This is certainly put the Frighteningly back in Good Read!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book? If so, which character affected you the most?

all ages · FrighteninglyGoodRead

FGR #3 The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

housewithclocks
An orange and black cover featuring a tomb with two boys entering. Over the tomb is an orange cloud in the shape of a skull. A sticker reads, “Soon to be a Major Motion Picture.”

Lewis Barnavelt features in almost a dozen of John Bellairs mystery books and he is, without a doubt, my favorite thing about The House With a Clock in Its Walls. Orphaned at age 10, Lewis must relocate to New Zebedee to live with his Uncle Jonathan. This popular trick of orphaning the main character gives Lewis the usual freedom of an unsupervised child. And, while Lewis does make the mistakes any ten year old would without the guidance of an adult, it is how he copes that opened my heart to him.

Lewis is a big kid. Not in height but in girth. The story, set in 1948, has little to do with that but because of his shape Lewis is ridiculed and mocked. And, of course, the one friend he does make manages to get him into supernatural trouble.  Still, Lewis does not become mean or spiteful. Instead, he takes comfort in good books and hot cocoa. And he recognizes when the one friend he has is not worthy of his time. Ah… to be so wise at ten.

Perhaps this is I loved this book. It wasn’t scary or even spooky. Instead it was more like any other well written children’s book – a story about one thing with an important life lesson deftly nestled inside of it. Because of this I would absolutely recommend this to an all-ages audience. And, it has enough magic and ghosts to be a light Frighteningly Good Read.

I am headed to see the film tomorrow and I can predict with a near certainty that I will love Jack Black as Uncle Jonathan. But I am already disappointed that Lewis is a slender and standard looking child actor. I would have loved to see Hollywood tackle this angle.


Tell me, please!

Have you read any other John Bellairs?


WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: October 3, 2018

WWW

It has been far too long since I have participated in my favorite of social blogging opportunities – the WWW Wednesday! Hosted (as always) by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Make sure and check out her post from today and as many of the other participants as your time or to be read shelf allows!


What Did I Just Finish Reading?

I am deep into my Frighteningly Good Reads for 2018 and so I have just finished two fantastic spooky stories to kick off October. The first was Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente and the second was the middle grade spooky tale, City of Ghosts by the fantastic Victoria Schwab. You can see my full reviews in the links but I am having a blast reading my scary and spooky books as I gear up for my favorite of all holidays – Halloween!


What am I Currently Reading?

I am mere pages from finishing The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and it is a sweet spooky tale. I plan on seeing the new film featuring Jack Black on Friday and I am looking forward to comparing the book and the movie. I am also finally reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and it is horrifying.


What do I Plan to Read Next?

As I continue reading books through October sometimes the frightening takes backseat to the weird and only tangentially related to the season but I feel like Heap House has a very Victorian haunted house feel. Poirot is almost always Halloween related to me because of that glorious mustache. And Here be Monsters (the basis for the movie Boxtrolls) seems like a perfect read.

But, it is a long month so…


Tell me, please!

Do you have and spooky, scary, frightening or fun reads to recommend?

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade

FGR #2: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

cityofghostsI have had The Shades of Magic books on my to be read shelf for quite some time now but when City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab crossed my path I couldn’t resist reading it. I suppose this is precisely why my to be read shelf continues to grow – I have no self control. But, in the case of this particular book it was absolutely perfect as a Frighteningly Good Read!

Victoria Schwab delivers a great cast of characters in this middle grade spooky story of Cassandra Blake. Cass died. But, just for a little bit. When Jacob saved her they became best friends. It doesn’t matter to either of them that Jacob is dead. And, since her parents are famous paranormal investigators Cass has ample opportunities to walk through the Veil that separates the living from the dead. When her parents get an opportunity to host a show in Edinburgh, one of the world’s most haunted cities, Cass and Jacob are in for an adventure whether they want one or not.

Cass has always seen herself as an observer of ghosts. She takes photographs with her classic camera hoping to document Jacob and the other ghosts she encounters. But, in Edinburgh, she meets Lara who believes Cass is like her an inbetweener. Lara thinks inbetweeners have the gift of “freeing” ghosts from the Veil. But does that mean Cass should free Jacob? And what about the dangerous woman occupying the Veil?

This was a fast paced novel filled with spooky features guaranteed to keep younger readers on the edge of their seats. I found myself whipping through the culminating action in an attempt to figure out how the story would resolve. Except for the typical problem of inept / absent parenting I truly enjoyed this story. It was spine chilling good fun and I am thrilled that this is going to be a new middle grade series!


Tell me, please!

Have you read a middle grade spooky story as an adult?

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Over 18

FGR #1: 10 Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

Ten Stand-Ups. Nine Murders. One Solution.


tendeadcomediansFrighteningly Good Read #1 has to be Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente. I picked up this book just recently because the cover art tickled my haunted little heart. I assumed that it was a YA novel but it is most assuredly an adult level murder mystery.

Nine stand up comedians have been invited to the private island home of the famous funnyman Dustin Walker. He is as reclusive as he is inspiring to a generation of comedians. So when the invitation arrives via his assistant all nine jump at the opportunity of a lifetime. Or is it the opportunity to end their life?

This closed room dark take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None kept me guessing right up until the end. With modern twists and characters reminiscent of real-life famous funnymen, I could not put this book down! My inability to solve it may be because I am terrible at mysteries or because it had so many unexpected twists and turns. Either way, the whole book was a purely satisfying way to kick off Frighteningly Good Reads 2018!


Tell me, please!

Do you love mysteries? What are your favorites?


FrighteninglyGoodRead · Uncategorized

Frighteningly Good Reads 2018

It is almost October!!!

I love the fall. I especially love October. The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling, the bugs are dying and reading season is upon us. Truthfully,  it is always reading season for me. But for many people summer is apparently a time to go outside and do…outside activities? But now that it is Fall it is socially acceptable to curl up with a good book and read again. Hallelujah!

The best part of October for me is Halloween. It is my favorite time of year and my favorite holiday all wrapped into thirty one delightful days. So, like last year, I want to celebrate with Frighteningly Good Reads!

This month I will be highlighting books that are scary, spooky, silly and sometimes only tangentially related to Halloween. I try to post a book a day but since I only review the books that I enjoy sometimes it doesn’t work out.

If you have any Frighteningly Good Read recommendations – please leave them here!

FGR #1: Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lenthe

FGR #2: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

FGR #3: The House with the Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

FGR #4: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

FGR #5: Black Cats & Evil Eyes


 

nonfiction

Homey Don’t Play That

homeydon'tplaythatHomey Don’t Play That!: The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner tells the tale of the formation, rise and dissolution of In Living Color. Peisner masterfully lays the groundwork for the success of In Living Color with the history of Black Comedy. This was a time when a lack of representation combined with the newness of stand up comedy to create a kinship among rising Black comedians. As they set their sights on fame like that experienced by Richard Prior, they honed their skills on stages in New York and Los Angeles. Some, Damon Wayans, were able to take his stand up one step farther.

Peisner also highlights the childhood and tight familial connectivity of the Wayans’ family. Keenan, Damon, Kim, Marlon, Shawn and their other five siblings all grew up in a small apartment in the boroughs of New York. Understanding how close they were as children and how they utilized that familial bond to deal with their economic and social struggles brings to light some of the many reasons that Wayans siblings work so well together.

The book further does justice to the lasting importance of In Living Color. The list of stars that started on In Living Color continues to weave through television, movies and music today. Not only did stars like the Wayans siblings come into the light on In Living Color but also Jim Carey and Jamie Foxx. Rosie Perez and Jennifer Lopez were Fly Girls. And, In Living Color highlighted hip-hop artists like Heavy D who wrote the theme song, Queen Latifah and Flavor Flav, Public Enemy and Ice Cube, and L.L. Cool J.

I remember when In Living Color debuted on television in 1990. This was when the Fox network was new and I was growing up in Springfield, Illinois. So, of course, I watched The Simpsons because every kid in every Springfield everywhere was out to prove that the Simpson family lived in their Springfield. In Living Color came on and I was hooked. My friends and I still say catch phrases we learned from David Allen Grier’s Men on Film, Jim Carey’s fire Marshall Bill and, of course, Jamie Foxx’s Wanda. In fact, every time I see a lone pickle in a jar I think of Damon Wayan’s Anton Jackson.

If you have never seen In Living Color, the comedy holds up better than the Fly Girl’s outfits. Of course there are a great many things that would never be acceptable to say on television today but the timing and deliver is still hilarious to witness. This book covers many of the controversies that were experienced through the years as well as the in-fighting and eventual departure and dissolution of the show.  I appreciated the depth of coverage the author offers as well as his neutral point of view. In fact, he often gives one dramatic or pivotal argument four or five different people’s recollections.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the history of comedy, the importance of representation in entertainment or if you were a fan of the show. I listened to it as an audiobook and found that it was difficult to keep all of the players straight. Also, the narrator had some unnatural pausing in his delivery that upset the flow of information. Still, these small issue should not stop anyone from enjoying this fantastic book.


Tell me, please!

Have you seen In Living Color? Any favorite memories?