Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to My Collection

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 27: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection (What books did you get as presents this holiday season? Or what did you buy with gift cards?)

Some of these were gifts, some were things I bought with gift cards (or otherwise…)

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner – This was from my dad, recommended by the lady in the bookstore. I read it just after I got it, and it was pretty enjoyable: interesting personal story against the backdrop of dramatic historical events. I was actually so interested in the character’s journey that when the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 happened, I was like, “Wait, I wanted to find out what happens with the others stuff!” But I think that reaction was definitely intended on the author’s part.

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama– My dad gave me this one too, and said he wanted to get me something I wouldn’t get for myself. While I wasn’t planning to buy it, it was on my library list, so I got to read it sooner than planned. Overall very good. A few times it veered into slightly too-self-helpy-for-my-taste territory (but even then, it’s never cloying) but overall it was in interesting combination of anecdotes from her pre-, during, and post-White House life that explain and illuminate her advice for tough times. And “tough times” can apply to pretty much whatever feels tough to you.

Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier – This was from my Aussie book buddy. I haven’t gotten to it yet but I plan to read the whole Warrior Bards trilogy next year, and this is the final one.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko – Another gift from my Aussie book buddy, I’m always a fan of magical schools, so I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. Actually I just now got the idea to maybe do a list of books set in magical school next year…

Heavens to Betsy and Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maude Hart Lovelace – This is the second volume of Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. I read the first volume at the very end of 2021, and I look forward to continuing. So far, at least, they’re wonderful comfort reads. I bought this for myself at a pre-holiday used book binge!

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl– Another from the pre-holiday used bookstore haul. I’ve really enjoyed Pessl’s other books, and I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. It’s my current read, and I’m enjoying it so far, but it’s definitely not the kind of thing everyone would love (at least so far!)

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree – All through 2022 I was pretty good about not buying new books, but I had a week last month of the year! I was heading to see family, there was a bookshop at the bus station, I had time before my bus came, and I’ve heard really good things about this one. I mean, who can resist those circumstances?

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – This was purchased at the same store and same time as the above. But this felt slightly less self-indulgent, because I had a good excuse for buying this one: it’s a potential comp title for my WIP.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books After Death

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

Today’s topic was:

December 20: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year

But rather than make another wish list (which could get very long!) I decided to do my own thing with a totally random idea I had one day. These are all books featuring either a dead protagonist, significant numbers of dead characters, an afterlife, and/or a personification of death. Yes, maybe the idea is a bit morbid, but I decided to go with it!

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – This was probably one of the weirder books I’ve ever read! In 1862, President Lincoln’s son, Willie died at the age of eleven. Newspapers reported that the president was grief stricken, returning to his son’s tomb several times to hold his body. That much is true. But in the book, Willie is in a sort of midpoint between life and death, amidst a number of other ghosts, each with their own arguments, regrets, penances, and gripes. None are able to give up their earthly lives completely. Will Willie Lincoln join them, or move on to whatever comes next? And will his father be able to put his grief aside and do what needs to be done?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – I actually didn’t like this book as much as a lot of other people seemed to. That said, I think if it had had less advance hype I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Fourteen year old Susie is raped and murdered by her neighbor on her way home from school one day. From heaven, she watches over her grieving family and friends, the detective trying to solve her murder, and her murderer, himself. One thing I liked about this book was everyone getting their own version of heaven. Susie’s is sort of an idealized high school with none of the bad stuff!

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb – Helen died 130 years ago, but isn’t able to enter heaven because she carried guilt with her at death. She attaches herself to human hosts to sustain her spirit. Her most recent host is a high school English teacher. Sitting through his classes one day, she realizes that one of his students, is a spirit also. But James doesn’t attach to a host the way she does. He actually possess the body of one of the teacher’s students. He shows Helen how to inhabit a body too, and Helen and James fall in love. But they must reckon with their own lives and pasts, as well as those of their host bodies. Billy and Jenny. This has a sequel, Under the Light, which I haven’t read yet. I’ll have to reread this one before I can read that one though.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- Technically, the main character of this book, Bod, is alive. But everyone else is dead! Bod was raised in a graveyard by ghosts (and a werewolf a vampire, and various other supernatural beings) following the murder of his family. It’s one of my favorite books by Gaiman (who I tend to have mixed reactions to) because as weird as it is, it also has a lot of heart. It was inspired by The Jungle Book, and it’s sort of a weird twist on the idea.

Passage by Connie Willis – I’m going to try to write about this without spoilers! It’s about a psychologist who volunteers for a project that simulates NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Her NDE has a sense of deja vu to it, and each time she goes under, she has a sense that something terrible is coming. And that’s about as much as I can say without spoilers! Mostly this book is filed under the heading “weird” in my brain.

The Returned by Jason Mott – Harold and Lucille’s son, Jacob, died in 1966. Many years later, he shows up on their doorstep, the same age he was when he died. He’s not the only one. All over the world people are coming back from the dead, unchanged. This was made into a TV series called Resurrection, because there was a series called The Returned, with a very similar premise that came out near the same time.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl – A year ago, Beatrice’s boyfriend died and she left her boarding school and friends in the shadow of that tragedy. When they reunite, Beatrice and her friends get into a car accident. Fortunately no one is hurt. Or so they think. When they get home, a stranger arrives at the door and tells them they died in the crash. Only one survived. Now they’re in Neverworld Wake, sort of a halfway station, where they have to decide who the survivor of the crash was. Until there is a unanimous decision, they will be trapped, reliving the day of the accident again and again. The friend group soon realizes that their possible redemption lies with the truth about what happened to Beatrice’s boyfriend a year earlier. I really liked this one.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion –  R is a zombie. He and his friend M spend most of their time shuffling around and eating brains. But when R eats a brain, he gets a bit of that person’s memory. So when he eats the brain of zombie-killer Perry, he sees Perry’s memories of his beloved Julie. For some inexplicable reason, R doesn’t want to eat Julie. He cares for her… This is sort of a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet that wasn’t bad, but I didn’t read any of the rest of the series.

Remember Me by Christopher Pike – Shari wakes up in bed with no memory of going to sleep. The last thing she remembers is being out with friends. When she leaves her room her family ignores her. Then, there’s a phone call from the hospital. No one will tell Shari what happened, so she goes with her family, and sees herself in the morgue. Even though her death is ruled a suicide, Shari knows she was murdered. She investigates her murder, visiting her friends in their dreams, while also facing a threat known as the Shadow. This is the start of a trilogy. I read it a million years ago, but I only remember reading the first book.

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan – Bibi Chen plans to lead a group of twelve friends from China to Myanmar. Unfortunately, she dies before that can happen. The group decides to go on the trip anyway though, and Bibi tags along in spirit form. Then, the group disappears. I think Amy Tan’s fans are probably split on this book, since it’s a departure from her usual work. But really liked it. I found it weird and funny.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This one is narrated by Death himself. It’s set in Nazi Germany, and is actually about a foster child names Liesel Meminger, who along with her foster father, saves/steals books from neighbors, graveyards and book burnings. She shares them with her neighbors and the Jewish man who lives hidden in her basement. Death (the narrator) distances himself from humanity for the sake of his own sanity, but Leisel breaks through his defenses, without even knowing it. I could go on about the narrative perspective in this, and whether the main character duties fall on Leisel, Death, or both. But it’s definitely a unique, haunting look life and death, in all their forms.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt – I read this years ago, and I think I liked it, but I don’t remember it too well. It’s about a girl who charms Death with her storytelling abilities. He agrees to spare her from…well, death…. if she can find true love in the next 24 hours. It’s sort of a gothic fairytale, and now that I’m writing about it, I’m thinking about rereading it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Even Darker Academia

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

I got confused with my TTTs last week and did this week’s topic:

September 13: Books with Geographical Terms in the Title (for example: mountain, island, latitude/longitude, ash, bay, beach, border, canyon, cape, city, cliff, coast, country, desert, epicenter, hamlet, highway, jungle, ocean, park, sea, shore, tide, valley, etc. For a great list, click here!) (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)

So for this week I decided to go my own way and do another school focused list, because I do love a school setting. I particularly love it when there are secrets beneath the surface…. I did a list like this a while ago, but I figure there’s always room for more:

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I’ve long since admired the film adaptation of this book, but I only read the novel last year. Set in Australia in 1900, a group of students and several teachers at a girl’s boarding school go on a picnic at the nearby Hanging Rock. After lunch three girls took a short walk and never returned. Obviously the primary mystery is what happened to the girls, but we soon realize that there is a lot happening beneath the surface at this school. One thing I found interesting is that we tend to associate Gothic with windy, rainy English moors. Here a lot of the tropes and themes that we associate Gothic literature (atmosphere of dread, isolated setting, secrets) take place in a warm, sun soaked setting that soon becomes as ominous as any creepy English mansion.

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson – Natalie can’t wait to go to college and get away from her abusive father and alcoholic mother. But when she gets there college life isn’t what she expected. As her sense of reality begins to fracture, Natalie makes a new friend… That’s the best way I can think of to summarize this book, because not much really happens here. I’m a fan of Jackson, and I admire some of what she did here, but it’s not what I’d call her best work. I didn’t know this at the time I read it, but Jackson loosely based this on the disappearance of a real life student at Bennington in 1946.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – As a teen, Alex Stern was the only survivor of a multiple homicide involving her and her druggie friends. In the hospital she’s offered a new start: a free ride to Yale in exchange for a job monitoring the university’s secret societies. These societies practice some dangerous magic, and if their activities aren’t kept under control, innocent people may suffer the consequences. Everyone said this was a “love it or hate it,” but I liked it. I was intrigued enough so that I’ll read the sequel, but I’m not totally hooked yet.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides – When Mariana Andros’ niece’s friend is found murdered, Mariana heads to Cambridge to help Zoe through the aftermath. She learns that Zoe’s friend was a Maiden, a student of Edward Fosca, a charismatic professor of Greek tragedy. She’s sure that Fosca killed Zoe, but she can’t prove it. Her obsession with trying brings her deeper into Fosca’s dark world. I read this one in about two days and I really enjoyed it as I was reading it. I didn’t predict the ending, but I was left rather underwhelmed by it nevertheless.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas – When students are accepted to Catherine House they are given an education for free. In return, they need to pledge three years (summers included) to the institution. During that time they are completely cut off from the outside world, including friends and family. After the death of her roommate, student Ines begins to suspect that the school has been hiding something dangerous that is preying on its students. I was dragging myself through much of the early parts, but as things were revealed I was more intrigued. However I felt like the reveal was rushed and glossed over.

Bunny by Mona Awad – Samantha is an outsider at her creative writing program. The others in her cohort are twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny.” Samantha wants nothing to do with them. But when they accept her into their group, Samantha’s world, and her sense of reality, begin to fall apart. Sometimes you read a book that just makes you shake your head and go “WTF?” This was such a book.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl – A year ago, Beatrice’s boyfriend died and she left her boarding school and friends in the shadow of that tragedy. When they reunite a year later, Beatrice and her friends get into a car accident. Fortunately no one is hurt. Or so they think. When they get home, a stranger arrives at the door and tells them they died in the crash. Only one survived. Now they’re in Neverworld Wake, sort of a halfway station, where they have to decide who the survivor of the crash was. Until there is a unanimous decision, they will be trapped, reliving the day of the accident again and again. The friend group soon realizes that their possible redemption lies with the truth about what happened to Beatrice’s boyfriend a year earlier. I really liked this one.

The Fairwick Chronicles by Juliet Dark (AKA Carol Goodman) – Callie McFay is a professor of folklore. She takes a job at Fairwick College where she has dreams of a handsome stranger. She comes to realize it’s the demon lover, her area of folkloric interest. She also discovers that it’s the only supernatural being at Fairwick, which, as the name suggests is a community of fairies and witches, who must help her cast out the demon. These were enjoyable but I don’t know if a trilogy was necessary. By the third book some elements felt a bit repetitive.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus – This is a bit like The Breakfast Club gone horribly wrong! Six teen stereotypes have detention one afternoon. Bronwyn is the brain, Addy is the beauty, Nate is the criminal, Cooper is the jock. Simon is the campus gossip columnist, whose app, About This, is notorious on campus. By the end of the afternoon, Simon is dead. The police suspect it might not be an accident, and when damaging information about the other kids in detention is revealed on About This soon after, it looks like everyone might have a motive. This was sort of the literary equivalent of candy. It was an enjoyable guilty pleasure, but no nutritional value.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – It’s 1991. Charlie is devastated after the murder of her best friend and roommate at the hands of a serial killer know, rather uncreatively, as the Campus Killer. Charlie wants to get away from campus. She finds a ride back to her Ohio home via a ride share board. Josh is also headed to Ohio to care for his sick father. But as they drive down secluded roads late into the night, Charlie begins to suspect that Josh might be the Campus Killer. This was a fast, diverting read. Nothing brilliant, but it’s not really trying to be.

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes From My Last 5 Star Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 24: Book Quote Freebie (Share your favorite book quotes that fit a theme of your choosing! These could be quotes about books/reading, or quotes from books. Some examples are: quotes for book lovers, quotes that prove reading is the best thing ever, funny things characters have said, romantic declarations, pretty scenery descriptions, witty snippets of dialogue, etc.)

No common themes here other than that I gave these books 5 stars (some were rereads) and these quotes stood out to me.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow – “In the stories, it’s generally best to do whatever the hell the talking animal tells you.”

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid– “Stories are supposed to live longer than people, and the turul is the most ancient story of them all. Tears go running hotly down my face. Maybe killing it will save this generation of pagans, but what about the next? When the fabric of our stories thins and wears, the people will be alive, but they won’t be pagans anymore. And that, I realize, is what Virág always feared the most. Not our deaths, or even her death. She was afraid of our lives becoming our own. She was afraid of our threads snapping, of us becoming just girls, and not wolf-girls.”

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – “I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.”

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce – “I meant to ask Hatty questions about the garden,’ Tom wrote to Peter, ‘but somehow I forgot.’ He always forgot. In the daytime, in the Kitsons’ flat, he thought only of the garden, and sometimes he wondered about it: where it came from, what it all meant. Then he planned cunning questions to put to Hatty, that she would have to answer fully and without fancy; but each night, when he walked into the garden, he forgot to be a detective, and instead remembered only that he was a boy and this was the garden for a boy and that Hatty was his playmate.”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow – “Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – “Our generation still carry the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there’s something unreachable inside each of us. Something that’s unique and won’t transfer. But there’s nothing like that, we know that now. You know that. For people our age it’s a hard one to let go.”

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – “It was the old New York way… the way people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes”, except those who gave rise to them. ”

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– “We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.”

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – “Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2021

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

I’m posting it a bit late today, but here is The Official List:

1. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl-This is a book that requires a bit of explanation. Beatrice’s boyfriend died, just before their high school graduation. The death was a presumed suicide. A year later, she reunites with her high school friends, and they spend an evening out. On their way home they have a car accident. They soon learn that they are in “Neverworld Wake” following the accident; a kind of limbo in which they will relive the day of the accident again and again. Only one of them will survive the accident and they must have a unanimous vote on who that will be. It soon becomes clear that in order to make this decision, they must learn the truth about Beatrice’s boyfriend’s death the year before. They began to investigate from inside “the wake.” But they quickly realize that they’re all hiding something about the night he died… This book combines Sci-fi/Fantasy with an Agatha Christie-eque murder mystery. It’s a mash up that works surprisingly well.

2. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She’s solar powered and therefore sees the sun as a deity. She watches from her place in the store as customers come in to browse. Eventually she’s chosen an moves to her new home. She movies in with teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, and suffers from a mysterious illness. It’s hard to explain this book, since it’s sort of a fable. It’s about humanity and friendship and faith.

3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I’m actually not sure how to explain this one, because I think it’s the kind of book that’s better the less you know going in to it. Suffice it to say that it’s a fun hybrid of genres including adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Also, it’s about Doors (yes, I used a capital “D” on purpose.)

4. The Betsy -Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace I’d heard these discussed and cited as being very important to people’s childhood reading, but somehow I’d missed them as a child. I got a treasury of the first four books at a used bookstore and was utterly charmed. It follows the childhood of Betsy Ray and her friends in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century. I found these books to be very comforting and reassuring. Yes, things are sometimes hard for Betsy and her friends, but we know with a child’s innocence, that they’ll make it through their struggles. Is it totally realistic? No. But I think just reading about happiness can be very reassuring.

5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – This was another book that I’d heard of as being a very important childhood read for a lot of people. So when I saw a copy I grabbed it. It’s a slow strange story about a boy named Tom who is shipped off to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother gets sick. He’s sure he’ll have a terrible summer. But one night he hears the clock chime an unexpected thirteen times. He’s transported to a garden where he meets a girl named Hattie. He returns to the garden every night, but as the summer ends and he has to return home, he starts to look for a way to his secret place.

6. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I came to this somewhat knowledgeable about what to expect thanks to having already seen the film and the miniseries. But in spite of prior knowledge about the content, I still found this book compelling. It’s a slim and rather slow moving novel about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher on a St. Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 Australia. It creates a strong sense of atmosphere that manages to be gothic in spite of the sun drenched setting.

7. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I’d had this on my TBR for a while. The author is one I’ve liked in the past and often pay attention too, but I’m about 50/50 on her books. This one had some not so great reviews, but it exceeded my expectations, which was nice. It’s about Julian, a handsome young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Josephine. But when he learns that she’s not what she seems, she vanishes from his life forever. Desperate to get her back, Julian takes a leap into the unknown… It’s the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest in 2022.

8. Weather by Jenny Offill – This is a perfect read for those days when it feels like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. The main character, Lizzie, is a librarian who takes on a side gig answering letters that come in to a doom-laden podcast called “Hell and High Water.” She tries to inject a note of hope into her answers, but it’s hard, especially when she spends her days answering people who write into the podcast, who tend to be rather pessimistic, to say the least. I saw this book as being subtly, and unexpectedly, optimistic. It has a wry sense of humor about itself. I also really like the title, the more I think about it. “Weather” can be a meteorological event or condition, but it can also be a verb that means both “to wear away by long exposure” and “to endure and come through safely.” I think it’s up to the reader to decide which definition is the most relevant to the book. It’s a quick read, but I found it an unexpected surprise.

9. Killers of the Flowers Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann– I’m not usually a true crime buff, but my book club read it this year and I found myself unexpectedly drawn into it. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. The Osage Nation was extremely wealthy due to oil found on their land. Then they start to be killed off. People who investigated the murders were also killed. As the death toll rose, J Edgar Hoover hired a former Texas rancher to solve the mystery. The story that emerges has “stranger than fiction” qualities, but is still utterly believable.

10. The March Sisters: On Love, Death, and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado and Jane Smiley– This is a book that made me see an old favorite in a new way. Each writer takes one of the March sisters as her subject and reflect on their personal engagement with the book and what each character taught them about life. It made me want to reread Little Women in 2022.

Something Halloweeny This Way Comes…

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid, I was hardly alone in that love. With it’s custom blend of fantasy, make-believe, and candy, it’s a holiday that seems tailor made for the young.

But I took it more seriously than most kids. I started planning costumes months in advance (literally, months- I would come up with costume ideas all year round and then have to wait until Halloween to use them). Then, around mid-September I’d start thinking about the logistics of costumes. For example, the year I tried to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid I was presented with several problems. One was that I would have to walk around in a more modest version of Ariel’s shell bra. Even though the costume had significantly more coverage than the movie version did, my parents didn’t think it wise for me to walk around with no sleeves and a bare midriff on a chilly October evening. That was solved by a flesh colored shirt worn underneath. But then came the challenge of walking around in fins. My tail had an opening at the bottom for my legs, but it wasn’t wide enough for me to take more than mini-steps, so it had to be expanded slightly. Such alterations and decisions required a lot of time and thought.

Not me in my little mermaid costume. I looked much sillier. Less cartoon-y though.
image credit: goat.com.au

My Halloween seriousness wasn’t just limited to costumes. I used to plan my trick-or-treating route. I knew what houses had the best candy, and where to go for “filler” items. I knew there was a limited amount of time for trick-or-treating: eventually my mom would say it’s getting late and we should go home. So I wanted to hit the best houses in the shortest amount of time. In between, of course, I’d stop at all the other houses. I wasn’t one to turn up my nose at any candy!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

But like all children, I eventually grew up. I didn’t grow out of Halloween though. I’m not much of a party girl, and since my friends in college weren’t big party animals either, we’d rent a bunch of Halloweeny movies, stock up on candy and make it a movie night. It was more fun then it sounds. So I’ve sort of maintained the tradition into adulthood. It’s not as much fun as it was in college, since I don’t usually have a group of friends who can easily come over and join me (one of the advantages of dorm living is that everyone is a few doors away!) and I’m more health conscious so I don’t let myself have quite so much candy.

I do save seasonal films to see, books to read and TV shows to binge. Here’s some recommended Halloween media. Just note that while I like “spooky” and “creepy”: I’m not a fan of horror per se. I don’t like blood and guts. I also (for the most part) left off stuff that’s aimed primarily at kids. There’s some good stuff there, but it’s a whole nother list!

Books

image credit: thehauntedlibrarian.com

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury– This is a very seasonally appropriate book. It feels like fall. Actually I think I’d call the story more “dark fantasy” than “horror.” But I suppose it depends on one’s scare threshold. I have some issues with the florid writing in this one. It’s appropriate in some places, but in others I think it slows things down. Still definitely worth reading though.

We Have Always Live In the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson– It’s hard to go too wrong with Shirley Jackson for Halloween! I think We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the most Halloweeny, but it’s a close race.

The Birds and Other Stories, Don’t Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne DuMaurier, and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- A lot (but not all) of DuMaurier’s work is Halloween appropriate. I think you can make the argument that Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel deserve a place on this list as well.

The Other by Thomas Tryon– I didn’t like this one at first but by midpoint it was hard to put down! Some of the twists I saw coming but others took me by surprise. Tryon’s novel Harvest Home is also Halloweeny, but I didn’t like it as much.

The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski- This is a haunted house story meets psychological thriller that takes place over several layers and incorporates different forms of text within a text. I didn’t include music on this list, but the author’s sister is singer-songwriter, Poe, who put out an album called Haunted that contained several songs connected to/about the novel.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Like The House of Leaves, this book plays with form. It incorporates photographs, documents, and there’s an app you can download to access bonus content. But more importantly, it tells a creepily compelling story with elements of murder mystery and supernatural.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie– If you love Agatha Christie, Poirot’s investigation of a deadly Halloween party is a seasonal must.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman- The first in a series, and I’d recommend starting here. It’s good if you want Halloween and witches without being too scary.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– I’d recommend this to readers who appreciate atmosphere and ambiguity.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub– Just what it sounds like! It has one of my favorite ghost story beginnings: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me—the most dreadful thing . . .”

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- This is a ghost story, but in an unexpected way.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill– Another creepy British ghost story (gotta love them!)

TV

image credit: thebrokenanchor.com

The Haunting of Hill House– This Netflix miniseries is inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, but it’s not really an adaptation.

The Haunting of Bly Manor- This miniseries was the work of the same team as the above, but deals with a different story and characters. This one is inspired by Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but again it’s not an adaptation per se. I didn’t care for the team’s third outing, Midnight Mass (perhaps because it’s doesn’t have a clear literary inspiration?)

Locke and Key– This series is based on a series of graphic novels which I haven’t read. Apparently they’re darker than the Netflix series. In TV form this plays sort of like Narnia meets The Haunting of Hill House. It’s fun, a little creepy, but nothing too intense. I didn’t like the second season as much as I liked the first, but it was still fun.

Being Human (UK) This show about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who live together, was a total guilty pleasure for me. I didn’t particularly care for the American version though.

A Discovery of Witches- This is another TV series is based on a book series (also fun) that blends supernatural creatures. The biggies in this one are vampires, witches and demons, but there’s also some other weirdness.

Salem– This is sort of semi-inspired by the idea of the Salem witch hunts, but that’s about all it has in common with reality. There are plenty of witches, demons, and supernatural creatures here.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina– When I was a kid I loved the old TV show. I like this one too, in a different way. Literary and musical theatre references abound, which makes it fun for me.

Stranger Things- If you’ve been living under a rock, and missed this supernatural, 80’s set series, Halloween is the perfect time to binge.

Film

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Hocus Pocus– A childhood seasonal favorite. It’s got a few moments that may creep the little ones a bit, but it’s mostly just funny and fun for the whole family.

The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values- Some more Halloween comedy classics!

Practical Magic– If you’re more into romcom and less into scary

The Changeling– A haunted house mystery that’s both sad and creepy.

The Other This is based on Tryon’s novel of the same name, listed above. It’s a pretty good adaptation, but the book is better.

Don’t Look Now– Based on Daphne DuMaurier’s novella of the same name (listed above).

The Others– A very gothic, Halloweeny haunted house story. It’s a favorite of mine in the genre.

Burnt Offerings– Another underrated haunted house

Sleepy Hollow– The classic legend gets the Tim Burton treatment. It’s just a fun movie.

The Woman in Black – Based on the book listed above. The 2012 film is good, but if you can find the lesser known 1989 film, I like that better. But I only saw that one once, a long time ago.

Poltergeist– I saw this movie for the first time when I was about 9 years old (don’t know how that happened) but needless to say it terrified me. I saw it again a few years ago. I found it less terrifying, but otherwise it holds up pretty well.

Workouts Yes this is sort of an unexpected category, but I saw a few fun Halloween workouts out there, so I figured “why not?”

Up To the Beat Fitness – 30 Minute Halloween Dance Party

Lucy Wyndham- Read- Halloween Workout

Were you’re favorites not listed? I could have listed more, but the post was already getting long! Maybe I’ll do an update next year. Let me know what you think!

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday: Last 10 Books I Read In One Sitting

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday.

July 20: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

For this one I just decided to keep things simple and go with the last ten.

1. Weather by Jenny Offill- This was one I read because I’d seen it recommended several places. It was short and had brief chapters so it went quickly, but it was also beautifully written, so it made me want to read more.

2. Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill- I sought this one out because I enjoyed Weather so much. It was written in a similar style, so I read it in about an afternoon. I don’t know if these are technically novels or novellas.

3. The Guest List by Lucy Foley- This had short chapters, and most of them ended on a cliffhanger or with an unanswered question. So I’d want to read another chapter, and the next one was short too, so I did… I read most of the book that way!

4. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson- I think this one took me a day or two. It was just silly fun that let me turn my mind off for a little while.

5. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- I read this when I wasn’t feeling well, so I had some time on my hands. It filled that time nicely.

6. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro– Ishiguro’s writing just flows so beautifully that it makes me want to keep reading it. I think it probably actually took me a couple days to get through, but I did read it pretty quickly.

7. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth– This one was clever about showing something from one character’s perspective that seemed inexcusable, and then showing the same event from another character’s point of view and letting us see that there were valid reasons behind it. That back and forth kept me interested.

8. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore– This was another very short but beautifully written book. In this case though it was less the events of the story that compelled me than the characters and the style.

9. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– I read this for a book club. We were supposed to read a horror book for Halloween, but I wasn’t in a horror mood, so I just went for something short. It was pretty compelling though and and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

10. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– This was a fast moving update of The Turn of the Screw. The tone was very different and it lacked the complexity of James, but it was fun on it’s own merits.

#WyrdandWonder Challenge Catch Up

I’m trying to do this year’s Wyrd and Wonder Challenge celebrating the fantasy genre. Since I can’t do a prompt a day (I keep forgetting) I’ll try to do them once a week or so.

So here we go:

DayPrompt
May 1We’re going on an adventure

what will you be reading this Wyrd and Wonder? (in theory. Until we tempt you with other recommendations)

For the first week in May I read Shadow of Night (second in the All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness
Now I’m reading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
On my immediate TBR (as in, these are sitting on my shelf)
Crown of Crystal Flame by CL Wilson (last in the Tarien Soul series)
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (I think this counts as fantasy, since time travel isn’t real)
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

we’ll see how many I actually get through!
May 2Pop this in your book bag of holding

What one fantasy book have you read since last Wyrd and Wonder that you want to put on the rest of the party’s radar?

Well since I’ve never participated in Wyrd and Wonder before, this should be pretty easy. It’s not though: so. many. choices! I did recently really enjoy Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. It’s set in a sort of limbo between life and death, where the main character, Beatrice, and her friends have to relive the day of their death over and over until they can vote on who will be the only survivor of the group.
May 3#MapMonday

I’m sharing the map of Florin and Guilder in The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Why? Because, even through I prefer the film, I think the book is sometimes unfairly overshadowed by it.


May 4I never knew my father #TropeTuesday

This year, Tuesdays are all about fantasy tropes we love (to hate) #TropeTuesday
In honour of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You) we’ll kick off with orphans, foundlings and other secret heirs to the throne / a grand inheritance / the magic in their blood


I’m going with the Tarien Soul series for this one, since the final book is on my TBR for the month. The heroine, Elysetta, has a loving adoptive father, but she’s never met her biological father, so I’m counting it. The reader knows who her biological family is, and what happened to them, but so far in the series, Elysetta hasn’t met them. I expect that will (or, at least, it may) change in the conclusion.
May 5I can do this all day

Underdogs or victory (in battle) against the odds (in honour of Cinco de Mayo)

In Ashling, the third book in Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, there is going to be a rebellion against the totalitarian Council. The Misfits of Obernewtyn can help the rebels with their unique powers and abilities. But in order to do so, they must first convince the rebels to overcome their prejudice against Misfits, and accept their help. To do so, they participate in a sort of test of their abilities, called BattleGames.
May 6Fly my pretties

A book featuring any flying animal character or on the cover is fair game today, but bonus points if it’s a pegasus (our 2021 Wyrd and Wonder mythical mascot)

Does this have to book a book I’ve read? If not, I’ll go with Pegasus by Robin McKinley (which is on my TBR)
May 7Fantasy from around the world

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on fantasy settings inspired by non-European cultures

Most recently, I really enjoyed Gods of Jade and Shadow, which was set in Mexico and played with some Mayan mythology. I read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior fairly recently too, and those are an interesting look at some west African magic.
May 8Currently reading

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
May 9Spine poetry OR Mother’s Day

spine poetry (combine book titles into a poem)
or celebrate fantasy mums (mother figures, female mentors etc) for international Mother’s Day


For this one, I’ll give a shout out to October Daye (of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire) who is mother to a daughter she hasn’t seen in years. The absence wasn’t her fault. She’d been turned into a fish. But her daughter doesn’t know that.
May 10Mixed feelings

Maybe it didn’t meet your expectations, maybe you loved some bits but not others, maybe it made you both incredibly happy and very sad… but tell us why!

I found Mary Robinette Kowel’s Glamourist Histories good enough that I wished they were better. They’re regency romance a la Jane Austen, but with fantasy thrown in. The main characters are Glamourists who work with a sort of art form known as glamour. This takes a physical toll on the worker, but it was very hard to understand how glamour actually worked. So the parts that dealt with that weren’t clear, and it felt like it was a big part of the series that I wasn’t completely getting. But I enjoyed it in spite of that issue.
May 11Reluctant hero(ine) #TropeTuesday

Since I’m currently in the middle of the All Souls series (read the first two books, and am currently watching season 2 of the show) I’ll go with this one. In the first book, A Discovery of Witches, the heroine, Diana, is pulled into a struggle between creatures (witches, vampires and daemons). She knows she’s a witch, but she’s not happy about it, and keeps distance from her magical heritage. Except in this book she realizes she can’t do that anymore.

Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Read With Nature on the Cover

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 11: Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)

I decided to just go with the last 10 I read:

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– I really liked this one. It’s sort of a YA fantasy meets Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. I initially sought this out because I liked Night Film, one of Pessl’s previous books, but this was totally different. But I liked this too.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link– Liked this one a lot too. I’ve never read anything by Link before, but I definitely want to check out more of her work. Most of these stories are set in places we recognize enough so that they seem familiar, but Link introduces elements that set it askew, and eventually turn it upside down. The stories dip into and out of different genres with ease. The only thing that all these tales have in common is that feeling of ordinary strangeness (or strange ordinaryness, depending how you look at it!)

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens– I was actually really a bit disappointed in this one. I think because it had been hyped so much. I didn’t think it was bad by any means! I just didn’t think it was as great as I’d heard. I do think that people who really like nature infused writing will enjoy this one though.

The Duchess by Jude Deveraux– This was another book that I’d heard was great, but I found just OK. I’ve been trying to be more open to/aware of the romance genre recently. I’d read other books by the author that I’d enjoyed, so I thought I’d give this one a try, since as I said, I’d heard really good things about it. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high, because it didn’t live up.

Blackthorn by Judy Nedry– This one was a disappointment. It’s subtitled “A Gothic Thriller.” Since I really like gothic thrillers, I was looking forward to it. I ended up with a very unlikeable heroine (which is fine with me, if it works for the book, here I didn’t feel like it did) and a fairly predictable set up.

It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell- I read this early in the year during a somewhat stressful period for me, and it was just what I needed. It was silly, fun, and it didn’t try to be anything more.

Christmas at the Heartbreak Cafe by Melissa Hill– I suppose that I could say the same for this one that I said for the book above this one.  It was sort of the literary equivalent of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie: you know exactly where it’s going, but you still enjoy getting there, if you’re in the right mood for it.

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina – Another fantasy/mystery. This one is a short read (about 200 pages) but it packs a lot into that small space. We get two narratives told in poetry and prose. It also provides a look at some dark Australian history and a look at historical and modern Aboriginal culture.

The Deep by Alma Katsu – This is sort of a supernatural thriller set against the backdrop of the sinking of the Titanic and it’s sister ship the Brittanic. It was a fun combination of mystery, fantasy, ghost story and historical fiction.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – This is about two separate events and the connection between them that spans many years, many lives. Not perfect, but I enjoyed it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Would NOT Want to Live

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

For this one I decided to twist things a bit: I’ve given a bit of thought to places in books I’d want to visit/see (here and here ) but these are places I would avoid!

1.Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- In this case the problem is the servants. Well, really just the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers; but she’s cruel, treacherous, cunning and destructive. Who wants to live with that?

2. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Here there would be two major issues. One is the fact that I have a crappy sense of direction and I’d probably get lost all the time. The other is the ghosts in the bathrooms. There are some places I just need privacy, and that’s one of them.

3. Panam in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- The reasons for this one should be fairly obvious. But I would always worry about being chosen for the Hunger Games. I know if I was selected I’d be one of the first to die. Actually there are a lot of dystopias I wouldn’t want to live in. I won’t list them all (that would be a different list) but really most of them sound pretty awful!

4. Obernewtyn in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– You could call this one a dystopia I suppose. It takes place in a pretty awful post-nuclear holocaust world. But Obernewtyn itself, after the first book in the series (where it’s a horrible place), becomes sort of a refuge. So I suppose if I had to live in that world this is where I’d choose, but I’d rather not live there at all thankyouverymuch. Just a note: these books are pretty popular in Australia but I think they deserve to be better known in the US.

5. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– In this one, the biggest problem is the madwoman in the attic who constantly escapes the woman who’s supposed to be watching her, and starts fires. When picking literary houses, that’s an issue I just can’t overlook.

6. Wuthering Heights in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– This one is pretty bad too. From the master of the house who is on a vengeful mission, to the ghost who wanders the moors outside, I would just rather not deal with any of them.

7. Neverworld Wake in Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Sort of a limbo state between life and death where the characters must relive the day of their deaths over and over again until they vote on one member of the group to be the sole survivor. Not only does the prospect of limbo sound bad, but reliving the same day endlessly until you make an impossible decision? No thank you!

8. Foxworth Hall in the Dollinganger series by VC Andrews– In this house I don’t know what’s worse: the religious fanatic owners, the greedy, heartless daughter, the sadistic butler, or the four kids locked up in the attic.

9. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining by Stephen King– Even if it weren’t for the malevolent ghosts that drive you crazy, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that’s so isolated. Plus, the fact that you have to take care of the boiler carefully or the whole place will blow up, sounds very stressful. So the fact that it’s haunted just makes it a bit worse. Really any/every haunted house book falls in this category (similar to dystopias) but I won’t list them all.