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?

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?


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


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017

Frighteningly Good Read #18

Happy Halloween!!! October is coming to a close with the celebration that is near and dear to my heart – eating all the good candy out of the mix bags before the Trick or Treaters arrive. But, before I send my body into sugar shock I wanted to do one last FGR post.

When I was a kid my Dad would tell me Edgar Allen Poe’s tales. Sometimes he just explained the premise or he and my Mom would take turns retelling The Telltale Heart, The Premature Burial, The Pit and the Pendulum and quoting that stinkin’ Raven. Either way, through the years Poe’s tales have become woven into my subconscious like a family member you hear about but never meet.

When I finally took the time to read them I enjoyed them immensely but probably because I already had the skeleton of each story in my mind. They are not easy to read. And, while recounting the tales certainly made it is easier for me, not everyone has parents as stellar as mine.

edgarallanHowever, there is a children’s series called The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe by Gordon McAlpine and Sam Zuppardi. Edgar and Allan are identical twin geniuses and the great-great-great-great nephews of Poe himself. More importantly, the book weaves some Poe’s most important works into the story as well as Poe himself working in the afterlife as a fortune cookie fortune writer.

These books are cute and light children’s reading. But, like most things we give to children, these books serve two purposes. At the surface, they tell a lovely story about Edgar and Allan and their (mis)adventures through middle school. Underneath they are planting a seed in children’s minds everywhere. One day, they will go looking for Poe’s work and it won’t seem as unapproachable.

So, today, the last day of October for 2017 I thank my parents for making Poe’s work not just approachable but also enjoyable. I am happy and grateful to all of you who stopped by during this busy month of Frighteningly Good Reads and as to future plans for daily blogging I quote the Raven, “Nevermore!”

nevermore-gkm-prints

 

 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · nonfiction · Uncategorized

Frighteningly Good Read #17

It is October 29th and the gimme-some-candy moment of Trick or Treat is almost upon us. I have been reading so very many books. Sadly, there have been none which I feel confident recommending at this time. Fortunately, I stumbled across this delightful book which we might all need either for a last minute labor intensive costume making session.

costumeThe Costume Making GuideCreating Armor & Props for Cosplay by Svetlana Quindt is a mind-blowing introduction to how people make cosplay accessories and armor. I have been to one or two events which involved Cosplay but I have never understood how people really put together their outfits. I mean, they sell pieces at the conventions but a single item can set you back $100 so I couldn’t imagine building a whole costume!

But, in The Costume Making Guide, Svetlana aka Kamui Cosplaygives steller tips on how to make cosplay excessories and weapons that look so incredibly real out of regular materials (think saran wrap and duct tape) that I feel anyone could make some armor given the time and the know how provided in this book. And, by this time in October you either have your costume, you are not wearing one this year, or you are regretting not putting one together. Honestly, I found myself just last night on Pinterest looking at, “last minute costumes, stuff around house.”

But with this book I am going to try and make some Wonder Woman arm shields and pair it with regular clothing for an under-the-cover WW. Actually, Kamui Cosplay’s website has a number of other amazing ideas and books but I am pretty tickled with the idea of the arm shields so I am going to try it!

With only two days left in Frighteningly Good Reads I need to put down the stacks and stacks of books (both good and bad) and take a minute to make some kind of costume and I am really thankful to have found this book in time!


Tell me, please!

Do you celebrate Halloween? Are you dressing up?


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017

Frighteningly Good Reads #16

I have two books by Shirley Jackson peering at me from my bookshelf right now. The first, The Haunting of Hill House is an often sited scary book. The other, We Have Always Lived in the Castle I found while browsing and, admittedly, picked it up because the cover is bright orange. Happily, it is also a deliciously unsettling and thought provoking novel that is today’s FGR.

wehavealwayslivedWe Have Always Lived in the Castle is narrated by Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwell and tells the story of the Blackwell family’s tragic history and the torment that their small town plays inside the minds of the family members that remain. Merricat, her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian are all that remain of a family dinner laced with arsenic. Still, their quiet lives are spinning along in their isolated existence until their Cousin Charles comes to stay.

Mary Katherine has been cited as one of the most memorable narrators in 20th century fiction. She struck me as terrifying in both her inner monologue as well as in her small worldly interactions. Truthfully, I could not decide for quite some time whether Merricat was the villain or a victim. Likewise, Constance’s lighthearted commentary coupled with Uncle Julian’s rambling made me feel like a record was playing in the background at the wrong speed. Jackson’s ability to create so much upheaval in my mind within the confines of a mere 146 pages is awe-inspiring. Deeply unsettling doesn’t quite describe it.

This book is no “scarier” than any Agatha Cristie. Rather the story is so suspenseful that I find myself turning it over in my mind again and again. This is truly the best gothic suspense novel I have ever read and I cannot wait to compare it to The Haunting of Hill House.