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.
However, 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!”
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.
The Costume Making Guide, Creating 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 Cosplay, gives 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?
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.
We 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.
I know, I know. I’m falling further and further behind! But, you know whose fault it is? (Mine, really, because I apparently lack literary self control.) But some blame needs to be laid at Maggie Stiefvater’s door for writing an engaging and epic series.
It all started on October 15th when I started reading The Raven Boys. I was completely engaged from the tag line onward.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve. Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”
Hello. More please.
The Raven Boys features a female lead, Blue Sargent, whose mother is clairvoyant and their home is filled with women who trade in predictions. Blue does not have the sight but she has the ability to intensify the gift in others. On St. Mark’s Eve she accompanies her mother every year as the soon-to-be-dead walk past. She has never seen them until this year, when a boy emerges and speaks to her. The boy wearing the uniform of the prestigious and affluent Aglionby school known to many as The Raven Boys. This experience is further complicated by Blue’s life-long knowledge that she will cause her true love to die.
Now, all of this seems like a lot to cover in one book which is why I should have suspected that this was actually a series. Also, a careful look at the cover would have tipped me off since it says, “Book 1 of the Raven Cycle.” I’m sorry! I was excited.
Occasionally, when this happens I am livid. Picture me tearing through the last 20 pages of the book muttering, “How on Earth are they going to wrap this up?!?” only to find a cliffhanger ending and the need to buy the next book. I am not even a little miffed that this is a series. I needed to spend more time with these characters on their creepy adventures.
So, for FGR #15 I give you The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This creepy story presents the reader with multiple points of view as Blue and the Raven Boys try to solve one piece of an enormous mystery while avoiding becoming romantically entangled. The fourth and final book Now, please excuse me, the next two books in the series have arrived and I have hot cider to drink.
Tell me, please!
When you find out a book is actually a series are you thrilled or annoyed?
I know, I know. I’m running behind. There have been some big changes to my life outside this blog that have created a little hiccup in my schedule. But, I have all day today to get caught up!
So, lets start with the FGR for Saturday, October 14th. I have been reading some terrifying books during the day. At night, I just can’t do it. I have enough trouble with insomnia. So, I have been lulling myself to sleep with delightful children’s books that lean toward spooky or other wordly. This one is just too cute!
The Supernatural Sleuthing Service, The Lost Legacy by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe is the story of Stephen and his father moving to New York City to live in an unusual hotel, The New Harmonia. This hotel has a resident dragon and his hoard living in the basement. Bigfoot, creatures of the night and the fae are all frequent guests. And, my favorite side character, Elevator, torments riders with his big personality while he carries them up and down.
As is typical of books for grades 3-8, Stephen is dealing with moving to a new city, mysterious and magical artifacts and the self-discovery and social learning that is unique to children his age. This, as I have reiterated again and again, is what makes children’s literature so special. These characters don’t know who they are yet and they have to figure that out, deal with social norms and solve a big mystery. I will never stop reading them and recommending them because I think adults are constantly readjusting our self-knowledge. Except, we aren’t supposed to talk about it.
Stephen makes new friends and foes and together the story is simply adorable. With the characters including those of the night category I felt safe declaring it today’s (well, the 14th’s) FGR!
Tell me, please!?
Can you read truly scary stories right before bedtime?
Today’s FGR is the fabulous and award-winning Graphic Novel Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. After reading the super creepy Into the Woods I had to give myself a couple of days before going back into the Graphic Novel genre. Somehow, the illustrations with these stories have a way of creeping me out.
Anya’s Ghost is more than a spooky tale. This Graphic Novel covers a myriad of other teen-related topics superbly. From being self-conscious about your body to discovering that maybe other people’s perfect lives are no-so ideal, this is a phenomenal book for teens.
Additionally, Anya has a ghost. For three-quarters of the book I thought the ghost was a literary device for her conscience. Then the ghost took a dramatic turn in behavior and I found myself flipping pages faster and faster with my heart racing. It is remarkable how the authors of Graphic Novels can build so much tension with their illustrations and a few choice words!
Anya’s Ghost is also set to become a new Supernatural comedy directed by Dan Mazer. Now, I have been guilty of thumbing my nose at Graphic Novels in the past (no more, I swear!). But, for a slender illustrated book to pack enough life lessons and interest to be made into a movie is impressive indeed. I can only hope the live telling of Anya is as good as the Graphic version.
Tell me, please!
Have you ever looked down on a subject or genre or anything only to later convert?
For today, my Frighteningly Good Read recommendation is The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Beginning with A Discovery of Witches, adventuring through Shadow of Night and culminating in Book of Life, the adventures of Diana the Witch and her Vampire soul mate Matthew were thrilling and fascinating. And, since it is soon to be a BBC television series (*squeal!*) it is right at the front of my mind this Halloween season.
Much like Diana Galbadon’s sweeping historical fiction series Outlander, Deborah Harkness utilizes fascinating historical details to bring the story depth. This is not a surprise, really, since Ms. Harkness is a historian herself. I quite enjoy that she describes herself as, “A history profession who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and wrote the Internationally best selling All Souls Trilogy.”
If you follow my blog then you know that, for me, it is often the supporting characters that take a book from enjoyable to obsess-able. And All Souls Trilogy has a cast of supporting characters that I adored. A tremendous time is spend on Diana and Matthew and their budding (forbidden!) romance. But, I loved the Demons in the books, the third category of non-humans who were incredibly and diversely talented. They reminded me of all the wonderfully productive adults I knew who were told to “slow down” as children.
I appreciated that there were several LGBTQA+ characters in the book including Diana’s adoring aunts. I also revealed in the rich addition of history and scenic details. To be in a library like the ones Diana visits is a dream of mine. Visiting them through this book is as close as I am going to get this year.
Several reviewers have called this Twilight for grownups. There may be some truth to this but I would add that it is a smarter, stronger and more grownup story. And I liked Twilight! I will say that there is a scene that involves all three magical species together practicing Yoga. I enjoyed the scene but it appears to be the Jar-Jar Binks of this book. If you can accept that Witches, Demons and Vampires might get together in a human-free environment and downward facing dog then the rest of the series will be magical.
So, the FGR for today is really this delightful trilogy. I don’t know when the BBC plans to give us the television version but it is going to be difficult to top these books! Well, Matthew Goode as Vampire Matthew might help.
Tell me, please!
How much would you love doing yoga with a bunch of supernatural beings?
On the first Friday of every month my local library has a $4.00 Bag of Books sale. Sometimes there is little to nothing of interest for sale. But, this time I hit the jackpot! I found a couple of books to add to some of my series collections, some non-fiction gems and two fantastically ridiculous looking YA books that were perfect for the FGR theme.
The first one is Queen of the Dead, A Ghost and the Goth Novel by Stacey Kade. The cover of this book was just too awesomely ridiculous to pass up. And the story did begin just like a made for TV movie. But then, slowly, layer upon layer the story became more complex and the characters more likable and realistic. At first, I couldn’t believe this was actually a series. But, by the end I was so glad there were more stories!
It helped too that this book was set in the small town of Decatur, Illinois near where I grew up. Isn’t it amazing the things you will forgive a story for if you lived in the town or visited it?
The story is about Alona who died in her gym uniform and Will who is a ghost talker. Alona goes from the most popular girl in high school to Will’s spirit guide. Will finally gets to spend time with the girl he has had a crush on since sixth grade. But, admiring people from a distance is different than waking up to them every morning as Will soon learns. And Alona finds out quickly that being popular is not the same as being liked.
Now, doesn’t this sound like every book we have ever read? Except, at almost the half way point the author really puts a new spin on the whole thing. Without giving any spoilers this suddenly had a unique storyline and I loved it!
This may not be a book that you buy multiple copies of to give to friends and family. But it is definitely akin to a middle of the day, cute ghostly romance with just a dash of mystery that you watch with a cup of hot apple cider. But I really loved it. And how hilarious is that cover!?!
Tell me, please!
Do you enjoy reading books set in your hometown?
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are both prolific and talented writers. Whether they work together or separately, I always love their books. My hands down favorite character that they have created is Special Agent A.X.L. (Aloysius) Pendergast. Pendergast is the coolest person I have never met (who doesn’t exist) and if he is in the story I am buying the book. In fact, you can go to Douglas / Child’s website and sign up for the Pendergast Newsletters that as wonderful, weird and varied as Pendergast himself.
There are at least fifteen books with Pendergast but the one that really scared the socks off of me was Wheel of Darkness. It is right smack dab in the middle of all the stories but it deserves accolades galore for freaking me out. It should be noted that the authors made this book different enough that it could easily be read as a stand alone.
Wheel of Darkness is bizarre and eccentric. In this story Special Agent Pendergast and his ward Constance are wrapping up a World Tour in Asia where they find that a rare and dangerous artifact hidden and guarded by monks has been stolen. Of course, Pendergast offers to track and retrieve the relic.
I cannot pinpoint one particular part that scared me the most. The pace and anticipation of the book was fast and thrilling. Perhaps it is because large sections of the book take place on a cruise ship which is where all my nightmares begin. The big red boat is my idea of hell. I know so many people that find cruises relaxing but I just know I would be stuck on a ship with Norovirus and a hurricane outside. Plus, so many strangers…. no, thank you!
Some people did not enjoy this book. It was absolutely a departure in tone for many of the other Pendergast stories but I loved it. It was thrilling and terrifying and definitely deserving of being called a FGR. One person told me she was a huge fan of the series until this book and it scared her too badly to continue reading. Most importantly, did I mention it has Pendergast?
Tell me, please?
What is something everyone else enjoys that is a nightmare for you?
Recently I was coerced into watching the Amazon original show, The Worst Witch. Truthfully, this is not the best filmmaking I have ever seen. The “magical” moments were definitely not million dollar blue screen shots. However, the story telling was absolutely on point. It follows a girl struggling to better herself even though she is considered “the worst” in her class. It was so endearing that I watched the remainder of the entire series.
So, when I saw The Apprentice Witch I had to check it out. This book by James Nicol begins with our witch, Arianwyn, flunking her Witch’s assessment. However, since there is such a great need for Witches she is assigned to a little town called Lull as an Apprentice Witch. There she works she learns to become more and more confident in her abilities. And, it is working. With each spells cast and charm mended Arianwyn becomes more confident in her abilities. Then, sinister darkness appears out of the woods and Arianwyn is challenged by a force that would thwart even the most talented and seasoned Witch.
Maybe this selection takes the Frighteningly out of the FGR but it was such an adorable and fun book that I had to add it to my selections for October 2017. Arianwyn is a good person who chooses friendship over personal success and makes mistakes while learning.
For me, the supporting characters are often the biggest draw in a book. And these supporting characters come in all shapes and sizes. Arianwyn has to cope with being assigned her first post while on Witching probation and a long term visit from her rival Witch from school – Gimma. Gimma was a great foil for Arianwyn and her blossoming friendship with Salle. Truthfully, people like Gimma have managed to manipulate me my whole life and I went back and forth between hope that they would finally become friends and cheering for Arianwyn to crush her.
There was also Wyn’s new friendship with Lull townie Salle that had the realistic element of awkward hope that seems to be true of all new friendships – no matter how old you become. And maybe this is what I enjoy the most about children’s books. They allow us to learn over and over again what every child and adult needs to know. How to become a better person.
Tell me, please!
Are there any not-so-spooky stories on your TBR for this month?