And That’s a Wrap: September and October 2021 Edition

Would you look at me, being all good, and once again sticking to my plan to be consistent with my wrap up posts every two months? I had some mostly enjoyable picks over the last few months with only a couple of prominent disappointments thrown into the mix. We’re getting closer to the end of the year now so I’m still hoping to find a few more blow-my-socks-off 5 or 4.5 star reads as I’ve only really found one recently.

I didn’t end up getting through as many books this month for the Magical Readathon as I would have liked but considering one of them was over 700 pages long I’m going to cut myself some slack.

Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff ★★★★.5 | Review

You can already tell by the rating I loved reading this one. The world-building was fantastic – super compelling and explained without bogging the story down. The sense of momentum was also great and I don’t think there was ever a point where I was bored, which is impressive for a book this size. The characters took some time to grow on me but after a while I came to really like a bunch of them. I especially enjoyed the relationship between lead Gabriel and street urchin Dior. There are a couple of little things that let the book down (e.g. some questionable humour choices) but I think if you enjoyed Nevernight you’ll probably like this. It’s a good mixture of action, adventure, romance, horror and devastating heartbreak. Also, the illustrations are freakin’ gorgeous.

Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney ★★

I went into Rock Paper Scissors without any real expectations except that it would involve a decent twist, but this just wasn’t really my kind of thriller. The atmosphere of the spooky, repurposed church in a snowstorm was excellent and the major plot twist, which I didn’t pick, was actually pulled off pretty well so props for that. However, the characters fell flat for me and I found myself bored by the plot during large chunks. It also felt as though it weirdly changed directions halfway through? The ending was somewhat confusing and not my cup of tea, too. In other words, I don’t really get the bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings I’ve seen for this one.

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee ★★★

I was really looking forward to this one. There’s something about those witchy, dark academia vibes that I can’t resist and they were definitely on point here because the atmosphere was *chefs kiss*. I enjoyed the ambiguity as to whether the supernatural elements were real or just in MC Felicity’s head and that the author somehow managed to make the obvious plot twist feel strangely unexpected (well, for me). I didn’t mind the central relationship between Felicity & Ellis, and the dark turn it took. However, I wish more was done with the plot surrounding the historical “witches” they were researching and that the side characters were better fleshed out. The plot did get a bit slow at times and there were a few elements that I found kind of unbelievable, even for dark academia level pretentiousness. I’m also still unsure how I feel about Felicity as a lead. Overall, good but not amazing.

I had fun getting into the Spooktober spirit this month with ghosts, demons and crazed human killers. And then there’s that one random and very out of place looking contemporary romance that was unplanned but I was just really in the mood for at the time.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson ★★ | Review

This was a disappointing start to spooky season. For how short Hill House is, it really shouldn’t have taken me as long to finish as it did. Mainly because I was bored for such large stretches of it. There were a couple of creepy and more interesting moments, especially the ending which went out with a bang, but they were buried amongst so many other meandering and mind-numbing scenes. The fact that I wasn’t particularly keen on the characters or the writing style probably didn’t help either. However, having done a bit of searching and reading into some of the book’s themes and ideas I can see how this might be something you need to discuss and analyse to fully appreciate it.

The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig ★★★.5

This was so different from what I was expecting. I went in thinking it was going to be a haunted house story but it was much more complex. TBoA centres around the Graves family, Nate, Maddie and Oliver, who move into Nate’s childhood home after the death of his abusive father only for weird things to start happening. At 500+ pages, it’s chunkier than many other books I’ve read recently and probably could have been shorter without sacrificing quality, but for the most part I was okay with the pacing. The supernatural elements do feel a little…out there at times but the story’s largely grounded by the familial bonds at its heart. While I did enjoy this, I didn’t love it and found that by the end I still had quite a few unanswered questions. Plus, the author tended to harp on about the miseries of the world too much at times, which was kind of a mood killer.

Kingdom of the Cursed – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★.5 | Review to come

KotC wasn’t originally on my TBR for this month but only because I didn’t think I’d actually find it in stock at my local bookstores. So I was pretty surprised and excited to find it. The feel of this was really different from KotW, mainly because while the first book was YA, this one is definitely more new adult with a lot more sexual content (which I actually think suits it better). The first half felt mainly like a romance and the fantasy elements didn’t kick in until later on. The romance was pretty enjoyable and hot except for one uncomfortable chapter, but the other plot elements confused me a lot, especially the ending. I also wish we’d gotten to see more of the different parts of Hell than we did and that there’d been some more plotting and scheming akin to The Folk of the Air series.

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones ★★★ | Review

I was actually pretty excited about this book and while I didn’t get exactly what I was hoping for, it wasn’t an unenjoyable read. It deals with an outsider named Jade who is obsessed with horror (in particular slasher) films. She becomes convinced that a real-life slasher is starting in her small town after bodies start showing up. There are an enormous amount of horror references in this that can feel overwhelming if your knowledge is limited. After a great opening, the pacing is also pretty slow for the first three quarters of the book, which requires patience and concentration, before culminating in a gory, action-packed, slasher-fun-filled climax. This is another read where I wasn’t super keen on the writing style or the characters but I like that it brings some Native-American rep to a normally very white genre.

It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey ★★★★

This most certainly was not on my Spooktober TBR but I wanted something light to read on my kindle whilst trying out my new bathtub and next thing I knew I was bingeing it. IHOS is a fun Schitt’s Creek inspired romance about an influencer party girl named Piper who gets sent to a small fishing town by her step-father after an out-of-control party and falls in love with a gruff fisherman. It’s very steamy as far as romances go – I probably could have used a little bit less steam to be honest because it was very dominant in the second half. Brendan as a love interest also verged into being too alpha for my liking at times. Overall though, the premise was cute, the chemistry between Piper and Brendan was great, and I thought the characterisation & journey of both leads was done really well.

Most of the books shown here were bought during one very enthusiastic trip to the bookstore after being stuck in lockdown for around 2.5 months. You have no idea how overjoyed I was to be standing in an actual store again after dealing with extensive postal delays for online purchases in previous weeks. As usual, there would be more books listed in this section but I read a couple of my purchases straight away. I’m really excited to get stuck into all of these because they sound so good!

I was also approved for an ARC of One Night on the Island by Josie Silver the other day which was a nice surprise. It doesn’t come out until Feb 2022 so I’m not in a massive rush to read it but the premise sounds cute and I really enjoyed Silver’s One Day in December when I read it last year so I might end up reading this sooner rather than later when the need for another romance binge hits me.

Other than the book reviews linked above, here are the posts you might have missed over the last few months:

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

tv & Movies

New Netflix Series 'Squid Game' Drops Its Ensemble Poster and Main Trailer  - ZAPZEE

Being stuck inside meant there was a lot of watching going on over the past few months. Here are some of the things I got through:

  • Squid Game – Yes, I caved to FOMO and binge watched this over 2 days. I love competition plots so no surprise that I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see a non-US show taking the world by storm for a change.
  • You, S3: Another binge watch. I liked the start but it did get a little ‘eh’ around the middle before picking up again. Some elements of the show are starting to get a little repetitive though. Biggest shock was ending up loving Sherry and Cary by the end.
  • Sex Education, S3: YES. I’d been waiting for this for ages and wasn’t disappointed. I love how much growth some of the characters had this season and still adore my girl Aimee. I’m not sure how next season will go and am starting to worry it’s about to run its course. Really hope I’m wrong though because this show brings me such joy.
  • Lucifer, S6: Having to say goodbye to one of my fave shows was pretty heartbreaking. I had a few issues with the series’ overarching plot but the showrunners showed so much love to the fans. The ending was perfectly bittersweet.
  • SO MANY Horror Movies: For Spooktober, my sister and I watched & ranked 20 horror movies. I’m a huge wimp so I usually avoid horror films but I took the plunge. Some of our favourites were Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, A Nightmare on Elm Street and It Follows.

games

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition high quality poster (9162x12960 resolution)  (download link is in the first comment) : r/masseffect

There was also a lot of gaming going on during lockdown…

  • Batman Arkham Series: I’ve been getting back into replaying these lately. I have so many new games to play but there’s something about the old comfort ones that are so good. I’ll blame the hype around the 2022 Batman movie.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: I finally finished! This was a long game but I really enjoyed it. I’m keen to replay at some point and take a different pathway to experience a new storyline and give characters different endings.
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition: This is one of my favourite video game series ever so it was super exciting to play through them all again with remastered graphics and on the PS4 instead of PC. Still amazing.

Life

As I mentioned, I was extremely happy to finally get out of lockdown at the beginning of this month so I’m once again back at work, double vaccinated, and just trying to return to normal. This weekend I’ll be leaving the city for a few days for the first time in ages to visit some family which will be really nice. In more mundane news, I went to the hairdresser for the first time in a year, thank god, and tried something new by going red. I’m still getting used to it when I look in the mirror but it’s a fun change. This month I also started posting to my Bookstagram again. I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it and the algorithm has been extremely disheartening after such a long break, but we’ll see how things go.


That’s it from me for another wrap up. I hope I haven’t entirely bored you to death and that you’re all doing really well, finding joy surrounded by piles of wonderful books. Until next time, happy reading!

Spooktober | A Meta Slasher for Horror Fans: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

It’s slasher season (aka October). And because slasher movies aren’t enough, why not branch out into slasher books as well. Enter: My Heart is a Chainsaw.

Who, What, Where?

Seventeen-year-old Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father and an absent mother, who finds solace and consistency in her love of horror movies. Her specialty is slashers, films in which masked killers seek revenge on those who have wronged them. But when bodies start to turn up around Indian Lake, Jade begins to believe (and hope) that a real-life slasher is taking place in her small town of Proofrock. But are the deaths connected to the new celebrity-rich development going up on the other side of the lake? Or perhaps one of the area’s spooky local legends? Regardless, Jade knows this pattern and catastrophe is coming. All she can do is try to ready the most likely Final Girl, town newcomer Letha Mondragon, and watch the carnage unfold.

Name that Horror Film

MHIAC is bursting with horror movie references. Being completely obsessed with slashers, Jade views almost everything around her through slasher goggles. She’ll constantly relate events and people back to her favourite films or bring them up purely to chat trivia. These mentions are essential for Jade’s character, but as a reader they can be overwhelming and confusing if your horror knowledge is limited. I’m extremely lucky that at the time I read this I was undertaking a horror movie marathon which allowed me to grasp some references that would otherwise have gone over my head. While Jade does explain some of her more important references, it’s still easy to feel lost at times, especially when she alludes to lesser-known films. Scattered throughout the novel are also a series of school papers Jade has written for her history teacher, Mr. Holmes, on elements of the slasher genre. I thought these were an interesting and fun touch, even though I didn’t always agree with Jade’s analyses, and they may prove helpful for any slasher newbies.

Beginning, Middle, End

This book required a lot of patience on my part. The opening is excellently done and sets the story up in perfect slasher fashion for an exciting and creepy read. However, after this, I found the pacing very slow until the last quarter, even with the occasional body turning up. It seemed like I was just following Jade around town as she kept track of the unfolding slasher timeline, half-heartedly tried to convince others of her theory (adults/police are useless in slashers, after all), and pondered preparing Letha for her supposed Final Girl destiny. Once things eventually kicked into gear though, boy – did they kick-off. It was go-go-go from that point onward. Gore, violence, run for your lives. I read most of this section in one session, eagerly awaiting answers and to see our real Final Girl rise from amongst the slaughter, and I was mostly satisfied. When it comes to the final chapter though, I have mixed feelings. While I appreciate the symbolism and what it meant for Jade’s character, I can’t help feeling like I was left in a place that was somewhat incomplete. But I guess that’s what sequels are for.    

What Was I Saying?

One of the major obstacles to my really enjoying this one was that I didn’t gel with the writing. MHIAC is written in limited third person from Jade’s perspective, but it’s done so in a way that tries to reflect how real people think and speak, which isn’t always the best approach. Why? People ramble, rapidly change trains of thought, pause, backtrack, let ideas trail off… In other words, the writing can be jumpy, hard to follow, and off-putting. I found this to be the case not only with Jade’s thoughts but also other characters’ dialogue. I had particular trouble with a transcript of an interview Jade conducts with Sheriff Hardy about the Lake Witch legend, a story that’s quite important to the broader narrative.

Missing Connection

Another issue I found while reading was difficulty connecting with the characters. Jade is a memorable and well-crafted protagonist with a fleshed-out backstory, offbeat personality. and gradually unravelled scars and motivations. And yet, I didn’t click with her until the later parts of the book. It was at this point that I came to understand her better and found myself rooting hard for her to not only survive but realise her own worth & power. The side characters, on the other hand, such as Sheriff Hardy, Mr. Holmes, Letha, and Jade’s father, are all distinct but never really develop into anything compelling or deep. They each have a couple of baseline personality traits and simply show up as the plot demands, which is a shame considering their potential. Such a thing could possibly be glossed over in a 1½ hour movie but a 400+ page novel, not so much.

Native American Stories

It was great to see some Native American representation with this book, especially in a genre that’s often said to be very white-centric. Jones touches on issues such as American colonialism, economic and social disparities for indigenous peoples, and domestic abuse in indigenous families in meaningful ways. *SPOILERS* Plus, there’s something so powerful but tragic about a young Native American woman who originally believes herself to be too damaged and strange to be anyone’s hero coming in and kicking ass only to flee, knowing that the narrative will be rewritten in the aftermath simply because of who she is. It hits hard.


If you’re a horror movie buff on the lookout for something self-aware and are willing to wait and concentrate long enough for a solid (and bloody) payoff, My Heart is a Chainsaw will probably be the read for you.

3 Stars

Spooktober: Characters I’d Want on My Haunted House Investigation Team

Only a few short days left until the end of Spooktober! I can barely believe how quickly this month has gone and yet, here we are. The other day I discovered this really fun post idea on Raya’s Reads, written as part of a Top 10 Tuesday freebie a few years back. It sounded really cute and perfect for one of my October Halloween-themed posts so I thought, why not give it a try? I love the idea of fictional haunted houses, I’d even love to write my own story about one someday. Real-life haunted houses though…not so much. This is why if I ever decided to try my hand at investigating one The Conjuring style, I’d need a great, supportive team! Here are the fictional character’s I’d bring with me if I could choose and the roles they’d likely fill:

The Researcher: Pippa Fitz-Amobi (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Series – Holly Jackson)

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Pippa is a research and investigation wizard. Whether it’s internet searches, interviewing people, or piecing things together with the help of a board/journal, Pippa has it covered. She’s also super determined to find answers, whatever they may be or the threats preventing her from doing so. I have no doubt that she would be perfect in discovering the history of our haunted house and its various inhabitants so that we can get to the root of why it’s such a source of paranormal activity.


The Protector: Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski)

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Geralt is a witcher which means he’s well versed in all manner of supernatural creatures – demons, monsters, spirits, you name it. Hopefully, this will give us an advantage in understanding what we’re dealing with in our particular haunted house. Even better, he doesn’t scare easily (or at all, really) and is a badass with a sword, which might prove handy. Plus, he can use potions to see in the dark, something that may be useful should we lose power. Basically, you can understand why I want him around to cover my butt when terrifying things start happening.


The Medium: Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern (Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo)

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The reasoning behind this one is pretty obvious. When investigating a haunted house, I’d definitely want to have someone around who can see and communicate with ghosts (well, that is if it’s a ghostly haunting). That way, we’ll be able to see any ghostly hijinks coming and potentially be able to speak to vengeful spirits. Alex is also a badass and has seen some serious “stuff” in her time so I doubt much would rattle her anymore, making her the perfect party member for such an expedition.


The Record Keeper: Josephine “Jo” March (Little Women – Louisa May Alcott)

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What’s the point of going through all these adventures exploring a haunted house if we don’t have anyone to write about it? Well, Jo March to the rescue! Jo starts out by writing Gothic-style stories and she’s quite a strong, progressive character for her time, so I’d like to think she’d find the idea of exploring a haunted house thrilling – the perfect fodder for a heap of interesting tales. I’d expect her to document the events that befall us in lush detail for others to read about and in a way that makes us all look very brave and dashing, of course.


The Leader: Victor Vale (Vicious – V. E. Schwab)

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I agree with Raya on this one. Every adventuring party needs to have someone who can plan, back up plan, and think on their feet when things hit the fan (with a haunted house, they inevitably will). Victor is smart, calculating, thinks outside the box, and can take his emotions out of the equation, all of which are important in dangerous situations. Also, with his ability to manipulate pain, if any of us happen to get injured by angry ghosts, he’ll get us up and going until we can reach help. He’ll probably be a bit of a harsh leader but I feel confident in his ability to get us through.


The Moral Support: Maybell Parish (Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle)

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In dark and scary situations, it’s always important to have someone with you who’s positive, cheerful, and morally supportive. After all, ghosts and demons can be scary and demoralising! Especially so if our time in the haunted house lasts for several days. Maybell is super sweet and an optimist, despite the sucky things that have happened to her. While she isn’t likely to be the bravest or most physically useful up against the paranormal, she’ll certainly be great for keeping people’s spirits up and helping take our minds off of things during the time between hauntings with her big dreams, bubbly chatter and romantic fantasies.


The Scientist: Chen Kitay (The Poppy War Series – R. F. Kuang)

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Okay, I know Kitay lives in a fantasy world inspired by 20th century China, but hear me out. The boy is a genius, so I have no trouble believing that were he in our modern world and I asked him to study a haunted house using scientific equipment, he would be like: Where do I sign up? Kitay loves a conundrum and while he’s more focused on things like strategy and policy, he’s also great with numbers and nventions, and generally loves exploring theory and knowledge. On this basis, I’m going to say that capturing and studying data to prove to others that a house is haunted and trying to work out ways to un-haunt it would be an exciting challenge for him.


And so concludes the dream team! I’m fairly confident in our chances here. I’m a complete wimp when it comes to scary stuff but I feel as though,with these characters by my side, I could maybe make it through and probably a lot more mentally healthy than the characters in The Haunting of Hill House.

Who would you want by your side when venturing into the depths of a haunted house?

Spooktober: Books Based On Your Favourite Halloween/Horror Creatures

When it comes to Halloween everyone has their favourite supernatural creatures, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy them within the context of horror books. For that reason, I thought it might be fun to bring together books based on some of the more popular monsters & creatures. For variety purposes, I’ve tried to include a mix of different books – YA/Adult, genres, tones, etc.

As usual, let me preface this by saying that I have NOT read all of the books mentioned here but I’ve done my best to research and ensure I’ve correctly allocated them.


Ghost & Ghouls

I love me some ghost-y shenanigans. After all, what’s more Halloween than a haunted house? Good ghost stories always seem to expertly walk the line between spooky and emotional and I think that’s why we enjoy them so much.

  • THE SUN DOWN MOTEL – SIMONE ST. JAMES: In dual timelines (1982 & the present), two women work the night shift at a haunted motel whilst investigating the disappearances & murders of other young women in the small, run-down town.
  • THE DIVINERS – LIBBA BRAY: In 1920s New York, a group of young people with psychic abilities and the owner of an occult museum help investigate a serious of ritualistic murders that may be being committed by a violent spirit.
  • NINTH HOUSE – LEIGH BARDUGO: Alex Stern, gifted with the ability to see ghosts, joins the mysterious ‘Ninth House’ at Yale, tasked with keeping the secret societies’ occult exploits in check. She finds herself investigating a murder on campus with potential links to them.
  • THE SHINING – STEPHEN KING: After taking a job as the off-season caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, writer Jack Torrence moves his family to Colarado. However, his uniquely gifted 5 year old son begins to notice something sinister about the Overlook.
  • KILL CREEK – SCOTT THOMAS: Four master horror authors agree to spend a night in The Finch House, one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses. What starts out as a publicity stunt soon becomes a fight for their lives as the horror follows them home.
  • THE DEAD AND THE DARK – COURTNEY GOULD: After teens go missing, Logan moves with her ghost-hunter dads to Snakebite, Oregon. She teams up with Ashley Barton (who is being haunted by the ghost of her boyfriend, Logan, the first boy to disappear) to investigate.

Demons & The Devil

What’s Halloween without the occasional loose demon causing havoc or a visit from the devil in the form of a body breaking possession? Well, if hellish vibes are what float your boat, here are a few reads with demonic flair.

  • THE DEVIL MAKES THREE – TORI BOVALINO: While working at her school library for the summer, Tess makes a bargain with the headmaster’s intolerable son, Eliot, which results in them discovering an ancient grimoire and accidentally unleashing a book-bound demon.
  • THE EXORCIST – WILLIAM PETER BLATTAY: Two priests and a desperate mother fight to free the soul of 12-year old Regan from an evil supernatural entity. I’m sure you know the movie.
  • GOOD OMENS – NEIL GAIMAN & TERRY PRATCHETT: A fussy angel, Aziraphale, and a fast-living demon, Crowley, team up to avert the apocalypse based on the prophecy of a 17th century witch. Only problem is, somebody has misplaced the Antichrist.
  • HORNS – JOE HILL: Following the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Ig finds himself the town outcast, convicted in the court of public opinion. However, after a night of drinking, he wakes up with a set of horns growing from his skull and some special abilities to go with them.
  • MY BEST-FRIEND’S EXORCISM – GRADY HENDRIX: Abby & Gretchen have been BFFs since 5th grade. After Gretchen disappears during a night of fun, she comes back…not right. The conclusion: She’s possessed by a demon. And so, Abby embarks on a quest to save her.
  • KINGDOM OF THE WICKED – KERRI MANISCALCO: After her sister is murdered, Sicilian witch Emilia uses dark magic to summon a demon prince, Wrath, for answers. The two make a deal and set out to find who or what is killing women on the island and why.

Vampires

Nothing beats a classic blood sucker book. Maybe you like them brutal, bloody and terrifying? Or perhaps brooding and in the midst of a moral crisis? Or MAYBE you just want to get your lust on? Well, either way, there’s a book for you.

  • DRACULA – BRAM STOKER – The classic vampire novel. Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to do business with the noble Count Dracula only to discover a horrifying secret. To thwart Dracula’s evil designs, Jonathan and friends, led by Professor Van Helsing, must embark on an nightmarish adventure. 
  • LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST: In 1981 Blackberge, Sweden, bodies begin to show up drained of blood. Meanwhile, bullied,12-year-old Oskar makes a new friend in Eli – a girl who only comes out at night, smells odd and has never seen a Rubik’s cube.
  • THE PASSAGE – JUSTIN CRONIN: A series of military experiments on a group of prison inmates go horribly wrong, resulting in a vampire apocalypse which wipes out all but a few pockets of humans in North America. Their only hope might just be a little girl from Iowa.
  • INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE -ANNE RICE: Vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac tells his 200 year life story to a reporter. He details his turning by the sinister Lestat, his bond with a child vampire named Claudia, and their travels across Europe to meet more of their kind.
  • THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES – GRADY HENDRIX: A book club of Charleston mothers investigate a mysterious newcomer to town after several local children go missing, only to discover that vampires are terrifyingly real.
  • DEAD UNTIL DARK – CHARLAINE HARRIS: Cocktail waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse’s life changes suddenly when a handsome vampire comes to town and her neighbours start turning up dead. There are heaps of vampire romances out there so I thought I’d include one I’ve read & liked.
  • VAMPIRE ACADEMY – RICHELLE MEAD: Couldn’t resist including my fave YA vampire series. When psychically bonded best friends Rose & Lissa return to Saint Vladimir’s, a school for good vampires (Moroi) and their future half-vampire bodyguards (Dhampirs), it soon becomes clear they’re in danger from more than just the evil vampires (Strigoi) outside the school walls.

Witches

All about that old black magic? Well, here are some magical reads. There were a heap of witch-y books out there that I could have used for this post but I decided seven would be plenty.

  • THE RULES OF MAGIC – ALICE HOFFMAN: The Owens family is bound by a centuries old curse that kills anyone they fall in love with. The book follows siblings Franny, Jet & Vincent growing up in 50s/60s New York and discovering their magical heritage and abilities.
  • PAYBACK’S A WITCH – LANA HARPER: In a small town during a spell-casting competition, three witches come together to enact vengeance on the warlock who broke all of their hearts, only for two of them to end up falling for each other.
  • SERPENT & DOVE – SHELBY MAHURIN: Lou, a thief & witch in hiding from her coven, ends up wed to a witch hunter, Reid, in a world in which humans and witches have long been at war. Despite the secrets between the two of them, they fall in love.
  • THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING – ALEXIS HENDERSON: In a strictly religious community, outsider Immanuelle begins to question the teachings of the Prophet when the spirits of dead witches gift her a journal previously belonging to her dead mother. Accidentally triggering a revenge curse, she must then choose whether or not to save the townspeople.
  • THE WITCH’S HEART – GENEVIEVE GORNICHEC: Re-imagining Norse Mythology, this book tells the story of the witch Angrboda, exiled by Odin for refusing to reveal the future and mother to three of Loki’s children. Angroboda must decide whether to accept fate or fight it.
  • THE NATURE OF WITCHES – RACHEL GRIFFIN: Clara, an Everwitch, is special in that her magic is connected to every season. When other witches start to lose control of their magic, sending the world toward an ecological disaster, Clara soon becomes the only hope of saving it.
  • BLOOD LIKE MAGIC – ESTELLE SAMBURY: To come into her powers, Voya must complete The Trial or risk her entire family losing their magic. The task: kill her first love. Voya signs up for a genetic matchmaking program only to be paired with the infuriating Luke. Soon it becomes a question of her heritage or her morality?

Werewolves & Shapeshifters

This was definitely the toughest category to find books for, mostly on the werewolf side because there don’t seem to be many well reviewed werewolf reads outside the romance genre. While I certainly included some romance picks, keeping my selections broad was challenging here.

  • SHIVER – MAGGIE STIEFVATER: After surviving a wolf attack as a child, Grace has long watched the wolves behind her house, fixated on one with yellow eyes. Sam lives two lives – human in the warmer months, wolf over winter. When the two finally, properly meet, Grace recognises Sam instantly and their relationship evolves. Can a cure be found or will they be torn apart by the dropping temperature?
  • THE WOLF’S HOUR – ROBERT R. McCAMMON: This book is basically like if James Bond had been working during WWII and happened to be a werewolf. Told in dual timelines, it follows MC, Michael’s, efforts to foil a Nazi plan called Iron Fist and his early years in Russia during which he was turned.
  • BITTEN – KELLY ARMSTRONG: Elena Michaels, the world’s only female werewolf, is trying to live life as a regular human when her former pack leader calls asking for help with a rogue wolf killing humans. This brings her back in contact with her ex/the man who turned her, Clay.
  • WICKED FOX – KAT CHO: In Seoul, Miyoung, a half-gumiho (nine-tail fox who feeds on the energy of men) accidentally loses her fox spirit after she saves a boy named Jihoon from a goblin attack. In the aftermath, the two form a bond, but when a shaman gives Miyoung the chance to reunite with her spirit, she must choose between immortality or Jihoon’s life.
  • IT – STEPHEN KING: Seven teens come together to face off against a supernatural entity killing children that disguises itself as a clown. 27 years later they are called back to town to fulfill their vow to fight IT again should it ever return.
  • THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS – STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES: Ten years after a hunting transgression, four American Indian men must fight for their lives as they are hunted by a vengeful shapeshifting creature known as the Elk-Head Woman.

Zombies & The Undead

Is death really the end? Not in these books, at least. If you’re someone who enjoys thinking about how they’d fair in a zombie apocalypse or likes tales of resurrection, this is the category for you.

  • UNDEAD GIRL GANG – LILY ANDERSON: When Mila’s best friend Riley and two others die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe it was a suicide pact. And so, armed with a grimoire, she brings them back to life. Now with only 7 days until the spell ends, she’ll need to wrangle the undead teens long enough to discover the identity of their murderer.
  • WARM BODIES – ISAAC MARION: R is a zombie with no life or memory of who he was before he was undead. Then he meets Julie – a living girl who brings colour to his grey existence and who, after consuming the brains of her boyfriend, R can’t help but want to protect.
  • GIDEON THE NINTH – TAMSYN MUIR: In a galactic empire of 9 planets, each home to a House practicing a type of necromancy, the house heirs and their bodyguards are invited by the Emperor to undergo a difficult and deadly trial to become Lyctors – his immortal disciples and living saints. This should probably be in the witch category but necromancy, so…
  • WORLD WAR Z – MAX BROOKS: Max Brooks provides an “oral history” of survivors’ experiences during the zombie apocalypse. Told in a series of vignettes, the book travels the world, detailing people’s accounts from the first discovery of African Rabies through to The Great Panic and beyond.
  • THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – M. R. CAREY: Set in a world in which a fungus turns human beings into mindless people eaters, Melanie and the children she goes to school with are special – while they are affected by the disease and eat human flesh, they retain their thoughts and emotions. Are they potentially a cure for humanity?
  • BRUJA BORN – ZORAIDA CORDOVA – After her boyfriend dies in a bus crash, Lula uses dark magic to bring him back. However, in doing so she turns all the bodies from the accident into casi muertos (creatures between living & dead). Now the only thing standing between them and freedom is Lula’s death.

Miscellaneous Monsters & Creatures

  • MONSTRUMOLOGIST – RICK YANCEY: In Victorian New England, orphan Will Henry is the assistant to Dr Warthrop, a man specialising in the study of monsters. The two are tasked with tracking down and removing a terrifying creature feeding on humans.
  • THIS SAVAGE SONG – V. E. SCHWAB: In the city of Verity, humanity’s darkest deeds result in the creation of monsters. Split into 2 independently controlled districts based on their approach to handling the monsters, there are fears the city will soon collapse into conflict.
  • A DEADLY EDUCATION – NAOMI NOVIK: At a school for mages with a low survival rate due to the constant influx of monster attacks, El Higgins does her best to survive the school year whilst keeping a handle on her talent for destructive (& potentially world ending) magic.
  • FRANKENSTEIN – MARY SHELLEY: Do I need to summarise this one? Consumed by ambition, Dr Victor Frankenstein builds a hideous creature out of human corpses and brings it to life. But which of the two is the true monster?

If I missed your favourite creature, I’m sorry! Really though, there were more I wish I could have included but this post was starting to verge on War & Peace levels already and we couldn’t have that.

What’s your favourite halloween-ish creature and what’s a book you enjoy that features it?

Spooktober: My Halloween Themed October 2021 TBR

Ignoring the fact that we’re already a week into October and I’m only just doing this now, here is my Halloween themed Spooktober TBR! There are 10 books on this list but as you likely already know, there is NO way I’ll get through all of them over the next 3.5 half weeks. However, because your girl is a serious mood reader, I need to have OPTIONS. I may also add something here or there if I happen to come across a book and suddenly get an irresistible urge to read it.

Putting this TBR together was more difficult than I expected because of accessibility issues. Due to Covid there have been some serious stock problems and shipping delays where I live. Combine this with some later AUS release dates for a few books already available overseas and you can understand my dilemma. As a result, many of my reads for this month will be kindle purchases. There were a few books I wish I could have included but couldn’t because (a) there’s no way for me to get a copy in the next few weeks or (b) I really want a physical copy and am willing to wait for one to become available. In the end, I’m excited about my TBR and really looking forward to getting stuck into it!


The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson*

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Four seekers arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

* I can already tick this one off! (Since I’m posting my TBR so late).


To Break A Covenant – Alison Ames

To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames

Moon Basin has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember. It started when an explosion in the mine killed sixteen people. The disaster made it impossible to live in town, with underground fires spewing ash into the sky. But life in New Basin is just as fraught. The ex-mining town relies on its haunted reputation to bring in tourists, but there’s more truth to the rumors than most are willing to admit, and the mine still has a hold on everyone who lives there.

Clem and Nina form a perfect loop—best friends forever, and perhaps something more. Their circle opens up for a strange girl named Lisey with a knack for training crows, and Piper, whose father is fascinated with the mine in a way that’s anything but ordinary. The people of New Basin start experiencing strange phenomena—sleepwalking, night terrors, voices that only they can hear. And no matter how many vans of ghost hunters roll through, nobody can get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Which is why the girls decide to enter the mine themselves.


My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones

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Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.


Payback’s a Witch – Lana Harper

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Got to have something fun and light to break up all the haunted house reads!

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one – in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams. But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov – an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts – who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden – unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?


Pumpkinheads – Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

A quick read that I feel as though I’ve had on my TBR FOREVER.

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .What if their last shift was an adventure?


The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig

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Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there. Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures. Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver. And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic. This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.


My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

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There were a heap of Grady Hendrix options for this TBR but I decided to go with this one because it seems to be the most popular, but also I’m all for those female friendship vibes.

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act….different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?


Summer Sons – Lee Mandelo

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Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble. And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.


White Smoke – Tiffany D. Jackson

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I planned to read this last month as part of my Magical Readathon but didn’t get around to it. However, it’s perfectly suited to this month’s TBR so maybe it’s a good thing I held off.

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right? As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.


The Shining – Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King - Books - Hachette Australia

I’m going to add this one just in case I’m feeling brave and ambitious because it’s a chunker. It’s unlikely, especially considering how long I’ve wanted to read it and haven’t, but you never know. Plus, what would spooky season be without some King?

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old. 


These should definitely keep me busy for the rest of the month. Hopefully I have a few really enjoyable books here. The end of the year and my top 10 ranking is getting closer and closer, after all!

Are you planning on getting into the spooky season with some Halloween-ish reads?