My favorite of all holidays is today! Dressing up (Edna Mode, thank you very much) and festive candy eating is the only thing that will distract me from the end of Frighteningly Good Reads 2018. I have had a wonderful month reading spooky, scary and suspenseful stories and I hope you all have found one or two that have tickled your terror needs.
I do have two more I finished just yesterday that I would like to highlight. The first is a middle grade book Small Spaces and the second is The Bone Witch. Both were excellent reads and were a perfect way to wrap up FGR!
Small Spaces is a middle grade story by Katherine Arden. In it, a girl names Olivia (Ollie) meets a distraught woman tearfully attempting to toss a book into the water. Like any good and dedicated reader she bravely saves the book. When her class goes on a field trip to a local farm she is surprised to see the woman from the edge of the water there – and she is the farm’s owner! Soon terrifying things begin to happen. Is it the book? Or the woman?
Small Spaces may be for middle grade readers but I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Ollie was a complicated character and watching her befriend two classmates, Coco and Brian, while running for her life was great scary fun. The author kept the tension going long enough for it to be delightfully spooky and never boring or repetitive, a difficult feat! I loved it.
The Bone Witch by Rain Chupeco is the first in a YA trilogy. In this story, Tea (pronounced Tee-ah) accidentally raises her brother from the dead. After doing so she is labelled a bone witch and is carried off to meet the King and be placed in school that will train her to become an Asha – more specifically – a Dark Asha. Since Tea and only one other Dark Asha exist, it is their sole responsibility to raise and order back to the dead eternal creatures of the enemy.
This book, as is true with many YA series, is set in a complicated world. The first third of the book is full of wonderful other-world explanations and adventures and while the middle third of the book lags, it more than makes up for it in the ending. Now, as is also true of most YA series, I feel the strong need to read the next two books. I foresee a complicated romance for young Tea as well as an adventure fraught with peril!
And so completes Frightening Good Reads 2018! Next Month is Non-Fiction November and I am thrilled to be participating. You can look forward to seeing a number of new non-fiction books here.
I am going to confess something. I didn’t want to read this book. I believe that I purchased it two years ago and started it only to quit three chapters in and shelf the book. If not for a combination of Frighteningly Good Reads and my 2018 Resolutions I probably would never have forced myself to read what turned out to be a phenomenal story.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman takes place in a world without hunger, disease, general misery or even death. Unfortunately, without natural death the world’s population must be controlled. Scythes are the only ones with the ability to take a life and Citra and Rowan have just been selected as apprentice Scythes. Now, only one can rise to the rank of a full Scythe. Citra and Rowan must master the “art” of death. As they do so they learn that living in a perfect world comes with a price.
Initially, I didn’t really find any of the main characters appealing. Which is why I put the book away for so long. However, as the story unfolded I began to comprehend the apathy to which these people must be acclimated in a world where there is no reason to worry, no purpose in hard work and the ability to die only to be whisked off to a revival center and brought back to life. If there is no threat of old age then do you lose the thirst and hunger of youth? Certainly when Citra and Rowan are faced with a permanent cessation of their lives their personalities change dramatically into characters that I grew to love and genuinely cared about.
And there in lies the magic of this story. At first glance I believed this was another annoying futuristic tale and the cautionary story of a world without death. Instead, I became slowly aware along with the characters of the importance of death in giving life value and purpose. As I watched Citra and Rowan struggle with that realization and the lengths they would go to in order to continue to live, even if that meant taking lives, I found myself completed immersed in the story. And now, as so frequently happens, a book I thought I would enjoy has become a series I cannot wait to continue!
Tell me, please!
Have you ever started a series determined to hate it only to be won over?
I remember watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on Friday night television as a kid. Sabrina was a delightful teenager, her cat Salem was scheming and snarky and her Aunts were wacky but well intended. In The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sabrina is still a teenager but the rest of the story is as dark and different as Riverdale is to the Archie Comics of my childhood. I mean, helllloooo Betty!
This series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack with artwork by Robert Hack is dark, scary and thematically grown up. Currently there are 8 issues of this horror sub-print. The 9th issue set to debut sometime this year.
Volume 1 (Issues 1-5), The Crucible, is the factual basis for all Sabrina-related stories. It introduces Sabrina’s parents, her childhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s and brings us up to Sabrina’s 16th birthday where she must choose between becoming a full witch or a mortal.
Volume 1 had me riveted. Everything in this volume is, as promised, chilling. Even though I was mildly shocked by the material (I really had the wholesome Sabrina deep in my psyche) I could not stop my speedy consumption of the storyline. As I am featuring Frighteningly Good Reads this month, this version of Sabrina was an ideal comic book series. But I was not mentally prepared for how dark this series was going to go! I have so many story line questions but I would never spoil it for future readers. But, I am dying to know if anyone else see Zac Efron as the basis for Harvey Kinkle. Below is not the best example but it is the only one that doesn’t disclose plot points.
Volume II (Issues 6-10), Witch War, only has two issues out right now. Issue 7 and 8 focus on Sabrina’s witch father, Edward Spellman and his banishment and mysterious return to the land of the living. I was happily tearing through Issue 8 and I cannot even form the words to describe my disappointment when I realized I was going to have to wait for the next issues!
If you are looking for a dark and horror-filled version of the (formerly sweet) Sabrina look no further than The Chilling Tales of Sabrina. Just be warned, this is absolutely not TGIF Sabrina!
Tell me, please!
Are you into the whole Riverdale / dark turn on this old comics?
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.
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?
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!
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!
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?
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.
I 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?
Frighteningly 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!
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!