Special Post: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

If you’re not part of the frenzy of trick or treating tonight and you need a book to curl up with against the cold, this is the one.  If you got a hold of it on audio when Audible had it on special, even better!

This book is middle grade in that it features a tight band of ten year old boys who are looking to up the ante on their usual Halloween night.  This year turns out to be different for them: their ringleader, who Bradbury writes in one of the best descriptions I have ever read of a young boy, is home sick.

They meet up with a mysterious figure who takes them on a dark tour of Halloweens through place and time.  Each child is dressed as a Halloween figure whose place and time is visited over the course of the story.

Although this is middle grade, the tour through history done in the mysterious and dark way it is done appeals to all ages older. It was fascinating.  Through every iteration of Halloween they also have to save their ringleader friend who is home sick.  Not only do they have to save him, it is through giving pieces of themselves.  It’s not a chipper and cartoony history of Halloween, it is the true nature of the holiday and all the scary things that it comes from.

It took me a bit into the story to understand what they were doing, but I loved it and I can’t wait to share it with my son.  He wouldn’t have the context for it yet.  We have been reading Pete the Cat Halloween books, the one about the woman who swallowed the bat, etc.  He’s reading them to me. We wil get to the scary things together in due time and as much as I love scary and I think he will too, I am happy to hang onto his innocent a little longer.

He’s going around tonight dressed as Jack Skellington.   I couldn’t be more in love.

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Scary Reads October: Poe novels

I actually have to turn a light on to write in the morning again when I am getting it in before work!  Fall, what do you do to me after you lure me in with changing leaves, cool air, pumpkin patch trips and hoodies is you bundle me back up into the cold darkness of what is going to be a long cold season where I live.

Also, my son reached his sixth birthday yesterday so the weekends have been birthday and Halloween shenanigans.  He chose a Jack Skellington costume due to his being my child and loving the small bits of macabre that I allow to him.  I couldn’t believe Wal Mart had a Jack Skellington costume, and there was only one, but another excellent thing about my child is he doesn’t hem and haw about what to be for Halloween.  He chooses something and sticks to it, and the last two years he has truly had a choice, I have agreed with it wholeheartedly.  So that Jack costume launched itself into my cart with alacrity.  And like every mother it is hard to believe that they pulled him out of me and he changed me as a person six years ago already.

For this post, I read two books that have been camping out on my TBR forever featuring Edgar Allan Poe as protagonists.  And yes, I realize that this post may have been better earlier in the month, closer to the anniversary of his mysterious death. Anything to do with EAP is sure to be dark.  He is the 8th grade student’s hero with his brooding darkness and his tales that make kids realize that maybe all old literature isn’t terrible and boring and unrelateable.  Like, a guy who seals someone in a wall for revenge?  Someone who thinks they can hear the beating heart of someone they murdered coming from the floor panels?  Sweet!  And if kids read up on his life a little I think he is even more fit to be a broody, morbid and dark young teenager’s hero:  he struggles for a place in the world, is very smart, very moody, with a razor sharp sarcasm that he used even on his supposed ‘betters’ as a staunch literary critic.  These elements also make it unsurprising that multiple authors have chosen him for their historical fiction novels, combined with the fact that these are both mysteries and Poe himself was one of the first writers of detective fiction.  In this blog I review two:

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Poe Must Die, Marc Olden

This one was actually written in the 1970s and I had no idea it was that old when I downloaded it to read.  In this one, a prizefighter in England comes to 1830’s NYC to seek revenge on a man who was responsible for the death of his wife and son, and he is referred to EA Poe by Charles Dickens as someone who can help.  They start off as an unlikely pair but of course get to appreciate and look out for one another.  By the 1830’s, Poe’s young wife had died of TB and he was untethered and despairing, having given himself over to grief and substance use, the fame of The Raven still present but waning.  He has investment in stopping the same antagonist, a powerful man who is also setting to find supernatural secrets and have dark and demonic supernatural powers, and has chosen a young beautiful widow that Poe has some interest in to dupe into helping him reach his goal of complete power and takeover.  Both men have nothing to lose by seeking to stop and kill him.  Most men in this novel have a reason they could want Poe dead, and some of them try to kill him off and some of them don’t.  The antagonist instead chooses to try to drive him mad by convincing him the ghost of his dead wife is outside his home at night.

Both of these books deal with NYC in the early 1800s, back when it was all muddy streets and the usual combination of extreme haves and extreme have nots.  I love the history of NYC, and in these books it is so new that it is even still forested, especially in the next book I talk about, which takes place years earlier than this one.  They involve the same infamous slums that Poe frequented and both talk about the same event where Poe was face down in an animal fighting ring, although one book says that he willingly drank himself there and the second book suggests that he was drugged against his will.  It is a completely plausible setting for a plot of someone seeking supernatural dark power and doing everything to get it.

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On Night’s Shore, Randall Silvis

This one takes place a little earlier in time, so NYC is still even more muddy and wooded, although the decaying Brewery and Five Points are still featured settings in the city, and Poe’s wife Virginia is still alive as a convalescent.  And although he is writing, he hasn’t hit his fame yet with The Raven.  He is still trying to make it as a freelance writer and sell his work when he is low on money.

This one is also lighter.  There is no antagonist looking to raise power to be equal to the dark forces or baiting people Poe loves into death, no resurrection, no hostage taking of dead bodies.  It is told from the perspective of a ten year old street urchin who, as one might expect, is also trying to find his place in the world, and befriends Poe to help solve the mysterious death of a young woman.  He also falls in love with Poe’s little corner of domesticity with his mother in law and his wife, a loving and cozy life that the boy has never known in his ten years.

There are some dark and terrible things that happen, but the villains involved are the usual power drunk white men who are looking to have fun with no consequence and amass as much wealth and influence as possible.  More run of the mill reasons for murder, not, like, trying to find immortality, although in some of the cozies I read last year immortality was a more typical antagonist goal than in other books.

At least I posted on Poe books in the same month of his mysterious disappearance and death, even if it wasn’t earlier in the month.  If Poe was truly a sleuth in his life, equipped with his razor tongue and wit, a mysterious death of his own and a tragically short life himself doesn’t surprise me.  Also I have downloaded some of Poe’s detective novels, hailed as some of the first in the genre, because these fictionalized, although holding true to basic facts stories, intrigue me to look into more of his writing.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Halloween season!  Two more Halloween reads to post on, so stay tuned if you are enjoying scary reads October.

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Scary Reads: Demon Possession

I noted in last week’s post that the reads will be darker for the remainder of the scary reads posts.  Some of the books are dark because of the supernatural element and others also take place in a dark time and place in human history.  This week will be the darkest of the supernatural, in my humble opinion:  demon possession.

Briefly, please excuse any post oddities you might come across.  My computer crapped out and I am writing this post on the app with a bluetooth keyboard.  Still learning how to make a post through the app.


The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty

Now, this is far from my first demon possession read that I have posted on here.  Just off the top of my head I can think of three that I read before I read this foundational demon story tome.  I don’t know why it took me so long to loop back around to fit in this basic, but here it is.  And it’s place on my reading list had a definite effect on how scary I found this one.

Demons, or the idea of demons, frightens me to my core.  Don’t get me wrong.  Many of my contemporaries talk about how this was the first horror movie/book they encountered and how it was life alteringly scary.  Since this came out, however, other demon lore has been released that is scarier than this.  By far. I think the next book I will be talking about is an example.

What The Exorcist brings, however, that other books don’t do as much of, is question how real demon possession is in the first place. It takes place in the seventies, which I very much picked up on when reading this book.  Everyone smoked and the prevailing psycholological framework at the time was psychoanalytic. A priest goes to long lengths to get the Vatican’s permission to perform one, trying to prove that the symptoms of the possessed little girl, Regan, cannot be explained away by schizophrenia, while considering for himself if possession could be real.  If this could really be a demon inside this little girl.  He’s not even sure himself.  I can tell you from my own work with people struggling with schizophrenia that the symptoms this girl has deviate significantly from theirs. And while psychoanalysis has its effects on how we do therapy today, I don’t use it, and listening to them talk in those terms in the story it’s amazing how it’s really just the psychology of white people of European descent.  I talk about psychotic symptoms on a near daily basis and I don’t talk about them arising from guilt. And multiple personalities isn’t really a thing.  If someone is having noticeable personality changes and losing time, that’s usually a trauma response and can be helped by working on the underlying trauma. But I digress.

It’s about faith and spirituality as much as it is about getting the demon out of her, and it has that classic insidious nature of possession with the things you notice that are subtle enough to be explained away and then grow to unwieldiness because you didn’t catch them in time. That never gets old for me.  I don’t know why.  I always know where it’s headed and I read with bated breath as it gets there.
So I am going to be critical of a well liked and read book for a moment.  It could get rambly.  I felt it started off rambly and I almost had to put it on audio for it to get its hooks in me, which I didn’t expect with such a highly rated book.  It picked up quickly enough for me, but not before I scanned Goodreads to see if anyone had the same complaint, and they really didn’t, so I pressed on.  I felt like there was too much superfluous detail. Then there was a super rambly character, the police inspector, and it got to the point where I rolled my eyes when he got into the narrative because I knew it would be awhile before we got to the point of what he wanted.  I watched the movie in another lifetime and I didn’t need to watch it again after reading this.  But it was good.  It was scarier in its day than it is now, but it’s also a spiritual work as much as an entertaining one. The other books take the existence of darkness for granted and leap in from there, but this one begs the spiritual question in the first place.

The Demonists, Thomas Sniegoski

This one leaps right in with demons exist and spiral down a dark hole from there.  There is a little bit of skepticism about if mediums are real in the prologue, but the author is sure to kill that. It is fantastic, intense and gory, just as I expected it to be.

I put this one on for a long run because I need to get out of my head when I am running sometimes.  I need to think of something other than how much I’d really just like to stop running.  I wanted something with a promise of being engrossing, diverting and fantastical.  It worked.  I remember one part of my run where it was spooling out one of the narratives to be woven back up at the end and being able to visualize the setting more than worrying about my pace and turning around early.

This was written to be action packed, absorbing and surprising.  Purely entertaining. No long narratives over the requirements to prove a true possession and conversations with experts and long winded police inspectors and other members of the cloth.  No internal battles over spiritual matters and what it means to be spiritual. No, intestines were being torn out, men were killing their own mothers, and a woman has to go to lengths to keep under control a legion of demons within her belly. Demons that she put there in the first place. I don’t mind a bit of a refresh from a pure entertainment read after some of the things I read laden with larger implications.  Even if it haunts me a little.

So any true reader knows that we read for different reasons. Two books dealing with similar material but with different purposes.  Both scary and Halloween-y.

Next week I am blogging on books where Edgar Allan Poe is a character.  Does this qualify it as revisionist history?  I don’t know.  Probably doesn’t matter. But if you’d be interested in catching that post,  I can hint that the Poes in these books are true to the facts I gathered on the realities of his life.  That continue to qualify him as everyone’s eigth grade literary hero.

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Halloween Reads Week 2: Middle Grade Magic

Scary Reads Week 2!

And let me tell you, this is the least dark post of the four posts I have been reading for.  This is as bright and as shiny as it gets for scary/magic/dark/Halloween/entirely seasonal reads month here on the blog.

The two books today are both designated as middle grade, but they both dealt with being tossed out into the world to figure out their own competence.  And while competence is is a big part of the 8-12 years, it tends to be competence as compared to other children and themselves, not the adults in the larger world and where they fit in.  I think I would have enjoyed both of these when I was reading middle grade but there were ways I related to them as an adult that I wouldn’t have as a kid.  I’m interested if any of my readers have read these and felt the same way.  I mean, maybe I’ve just been a middle schooler my entire life and I need someone to break me that terrible news.

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The Apprentice Witch, James Nichol

My brain was craving this listen after I listened to The Master and Margarita, which as I said I enjoyed, but could have used more context for to truly get more out of it.  I needed something that felt simpler to me, and this fit the bill.

A young girl, Arianwyn, graduates from witching school with dubious honors, getting a test score that the adults aren’t quite sure what it means other than she didn’t get the same mark as everyone who has considered to have passed in the generations before.  This felt what I imagine to be in the British tradition, where old established schools of good repute teach generations of children from the same families, except here they share the genetic treasure trove of being magical.  And being from a magical family is really important.  Anyway, so she feels half competent and then gets tossed into a far reaching land that is having some trouble with tears in the veil between the darker world and some creatures are getting through and causing a stir for her first job assignment.  She might not ever get to be considered as a full witch and this is a trial of sorts so she can retake the assessment.  Like when you walk across the stage to graduate high school but still have to pass Health or take that last state test again in August.  But I think altogether worse and more confidence altering.

This reminded me of how hard it was to become a therapist at 23 years old.  In grad school itself, even though I had all kinds of psychology knowledge and things to guide me, I wished I had just a little more life experience before I was sat down before clients on camera to try to help them figure things out. This is the anxiety that got stirred inside me, that old fear of in over my head I am supposed to be grown but I am so not, when Arianwyn went on her trials.  Thankfully she ended up being less clueless than the adults around her and leading the way, and finding out some satisfying things about her main school rival, and I was very interested in how it was all going to turn out, but it resonated with a 37 year old Mom with a husband and is ten years into a professional job.  All the trappings of stability that I spent a long time wishing for.

But I liked it. And there are dark things but like more gray than black.  Like the other books I have been reviewing there is a sequel that is tempting me to see how she continues to do in her world.

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Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

This one was pulled into my awareness because it was made into a Studio Ghibli film, and everything made by them is a magical fantastic ride that I want every part of and I wonder who these people are who understand exactly the sort of thing that I have found entertaining for my entire life.  Like how do these people know  how to get into my imagination?   I know how I am predictable in other ways due to other parts of my identity but I feel like a smaller section of the world feels the same way I do about those movies.  Anyway.

Again I had the feeling with this one that the themes were more grown up than I would expect, but also again, it doesn’t mean a younger child couldn’t enjoy the story for different reasons.  I also felt a little vindicated by school library journal when they reviewed it also as being complex in parts.  I felt it was too, even though as I said, I definitely enjoyed it.

A girl, Sophie, trying to make her way in the world becomes cursed to become an old woman and can only break the curse by being part of Howl’s entourage and her deal with a fire demon.  Again, a young girl is tossed out into the world to figure things out, this time by a curse rather that something like finishing school.  There is some dark magic going on with the Witch of the Waste and Howl’s own curse he is trying to avoid, but nothing too dark, and her sisters are engaged in schemes to get themselves married in the world while their sister is trying to get out of her 90 year old body.  The other element that seemed very grown up to me was how Howl is entirely emotionally unavailable.  Yes, his immature tantrums can probably be related to by readers of all ages, but his quality where he doesn’t answer questions and commits to nothing makes me worry about Sophie or anyone with an interest in being close to him.

I also see that the movie is completely different, but I can’t get to it right now.  I do want to see it, even though it might not make things simpler.

So there it was.  The lightest post for the month.  Like I have in other years, four posts doesn’t seem to be enough to cover all the scary reads that I want to do.  I have books I have wanted to get to for scary reads other years that won’t make it this year.  Maybe I will have to do another scary series at a different point in the year too.  I only bought one book that I can think of recently in hopes of reviewing it for this round and it’s going to miss the bus.  The bus is too packed.  Or, I can sneak in a fifth post the first Sunday of November, as Halloween is in the middle of the week this year!

It will get darker, my friends.

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Halloween Reads Kicks Off with YA and Magic

Scary Reads is finally here!!

Well, finally for you.  I have been digging into the scary reads since my camping trip in the middle of August because I could indulge in paper library books for the trip.  It is an indulgence to have the time to read in daylight, on a beach, instead of cramming books into the margins of driving, working out, crafting, doing chores, or relaxing before bed.  Not that I don’t love to do that, I do, but since I have become a parent I have learned the importance of time in the margins.  Over the past 6 years since my son came, I have successfully kept up with a blog, run two half marathons and completed three sprint triathlons and drafted two novels (both are written out but need revisions before I try to get them anywhere).

The two books discussed today are borrowed library paper indulgences, YA in different time periods but with similar themes.  And I get to use my pumpkin patch picture.  Everyone wins.

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House of Furies, Madeline Roux

This stood out to me because of it’s solid Gothic vibe emanating from the library shelves, reaching out to me, playing on my love of the Gothic.  A teen girl with nowhere to go is taken to this mysterious house to work as a servant, but dark, supernatural secrets start to come out of the cracks.  This could be slow in places, because as it is the beginning of a series there is setup, and most of the book she is unraveling secrets and trying to get out, but being ambivalent, even when she is given permission to go by the mysterious house master.  The other servants in the house have their own stories and secrets and shall we say, talents, in a way that reminded me of Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.  I can’t remember if the book for Miss Peregrine is as dark as the movie was, seeing as I experienced them years apart, but House of Furies is definitely dark.  Both homes are sanctuaries for the unusual, but the protagonist Louisa in House of Furies has to decide if she wants to be a part of the house’s larger, more nefarious purpose, whereas Ms. Peregrine’s home is about survival, not vengeance.  And I still haven’t read Library of Souls.

Louisa’s ambivalence is laudable, however, because she really has nowhere else to go. Teens nowadays are more likely to bristle under the inescapable control of adults, whereas teens in earlier times were literally trying to survive, like Louisa was.  She begins the novel telling sham fortunes as a street pauper and would have to go back to it if she couldn’t manage her role in the House of Furies.  I think sometimes this can be harder for the more typical teen to connect to, the whole here or on the streets thing.

But where teens can relate here, in addition to their interest being piqued by the cool dark creatures chronicled in the book, is the question of identity.  Louisa ultimately discovers the reason why she has never fit in with the larger world and why anyone who has had to care for her is uncomfortable with her for reasons she hasn’t quite worked out and it has to do with her choices in the end.

Similarly, the next book I am posting on today also has to do with surprises/plot twists around identity and collecting the fringe members of society to concentrate them in one space:

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Hex Hall, Rachel Hawkins

A bunch of magical teens are committed to a reformatory for revealing their abilities and true natures to non magical humans in this one.  This one is much closer to the average teen’s experiences than The House of Furies.  Sure, the typical teen isn’t magical (unless they are and I am not allowed to know this due to my sadly non magical status) but they have to worry about insecurities, friendship loyalties, first crushes, and doing what is right, drama, all things included in this book.

The protagonist Sophie already knows that she is magical, that’s what got her here in the first place, but the family secrets have long been kept from her and reveal themselves to change her knowledge of who she really is.  Dark secrets of her family and dark things that her classmates are trying to suck her into, as well as defending her new and first friend against being wrongly accused of assaulting other students.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, especially since the book does resolve its major plot lines but ends in a typical YA series cliffhanger.  That threatened to suck me in, too, even though I want to keep up the variety on the scary/Halloweeny reads month. You know how I hate a spoiler, especially if someone is reading my review to decide if they want to read something.

Scary reads continues with some middle grade that really doesn’t feel so middle grade to me, next week.  Witches this time.

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They Just Don’t Stay Dead

I am doing a ten day writing challenge the beginning of November, actually paying money for instructor feedback on assigned short exercises.  The closest I have come so far to actually doing NaNo which seemed more attainable when my child did not have homework and a strict school schedule.    It is nice to spend time looking over and crafting responses and then combing through the replies to find instructor feedback.

I am also doing 12 short stories in 12 months, that is a free group, but the instructor mostly posts a prompt and a word count and there is no guarantee that she will look yours over.  I am on ten and I have not seen a comment from her yet.  Probably because my writing is untouchable perfection, right?  But I like having a deadline and having to get the wheels turning.  It is still worth my time.

I knew about Day of the Dead though before I knew about November being for writers.  And I am expanding my seasonal reads for books where siblings on both sides of the veil continue to share a relationship.  Day of the Dead is about resurrection of family and those spirits feeling loved and welcomed, and these books deal with conflicted relationships with semi-lost siblings.

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The Bone Witch, Rin Chupeco

I ended up reading two Rin Chupeco books for this season’s descent into fall reads, unintentionally, but I enjoyed them both.  The Bone Witch starts with the protagonist having enough grief to discover her powers by accidentally raising her recently dead brother from his coffin at his funeral service.

Dark magic fits in a regular class system society and a young girl is finding her powers and her place in the world of powers and a complicated and fierce system, with her loyal unintentionally undead brother at her side.  The book, because I think it is going to be a series, spends a lot of time world building but with chapters of her older and a witch comfortable in her powers looking back and telling the story of her youth while also assembling some sort of undead fighting force, which I don’t think is really a spoiler, so forgive me if it is.  So you know there is more plot coming, some kind of grievance.  The line between dead and alive is a lot thinner with the Bone Witch around, and she risks losing herself when she is using her powers.

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White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

Ms. Oyeyemi is a writer whose works I have bought a few of without actually having read her : Boy Snow Bird, Mr.Fox, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.  She’s hoarded and decorated but unexplored.

White is for Witching was good but I don’t know if it should have been my first foray into this writer. It gave me the same feeling that I had when I read Never Let me Go by Kashuo Ishiguro, as in there is something lurking behind the story that is unclear and I can’t decide if it is nefarious or not.  Of course, in Ishiguro’s it really is something dark, whereas the spirits and the passed down pica feel more neutral, less negative in Oyeyemi.  I will be honest that I looked over other reviews before I was willing to post that I felt I was missing something in the story, that there may have been something unclear or something I was not understanding, but I don’t seem to be alone that it needs more than one pass, there are multiple levels at play here, similarly to Ishiguro.

It is included in this post because there are a pair of twins, Miranda and Eliot, and while they have that intimacy of twins that is passed off as unromantic but also kinda is (I loved her description, asking how possibly you couldn’t love someone of the opposite sex who is separate but so intimately a part of you) Eliot cannot save her from the generations of women that come before.  Not from their genetic anomalies nor their still lingering spirits’ design to consume her into the house. I felt there were times in the novel where Miranda was possessed and times where she was herself, times when I thought she would be saved from herself and move on into long term relationships, and then not.  Not being British I don’t completely understand their social patterns and the weird detachment they seem to have from both family and friends.  Eliot cannot hang on to his first love, this familiar but strange woman who slips away.  Creepy, but not Halloween-y, necessarily.

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When I Cast Your Shadow, Sarah Porter

I bought this one brand new full price.  Almost never happens.  I have books I spied as fresh releases and they are resigned to the wish list so I can spy on prices.  Or they go in my library wish list so I can spy availability there.  I don’t tend to look at lists of new releases, even if they come to my Facebook feed or into my email inbox.

Had to have this one.  And you know, I loved it.  This is the type of novel I would love to be able to pull off successfully myself someday.  It has it’s criticisms, like the plot can get a little tangly, and it can, but it’s a complicated plot.   It’s about a dad and his teenage twins left behind by a drug overdose death of the oldest son and abandoned by their mother.  The dead oldest son Dashiell seduces the girl twin Ruby into allowing him to inhabit her body to carry out some business he has to take care of, even though he is dead.  She allows him to because she loves him and is unbearably devoted to him.  Their skeptical and not so blindly adoring brother, Everett, gets co opted into this to save his sister,  on top of dark spirits who would love to have two bodies to be back into, and who have it out for Dashiell besides.

The supernatural element in this book, and we all know I love some magic, spirits and demons, was well crafted.  It was creepy and dark without being overdone, without being gory.  It was deeply unsettling, lots of intersecting goals and complications of the living and the semi living.  It was a creepy, beautifully spun dream, with well crafted and beautifully crafted descriptions.

The complex dynamics between the characters was psychologically astute.  The drug addicted, completely appealing and dangerous older brother’s pain beneath the flash, the twins who will never be as flashy as he is, one who meets him with skepticism and another with blind devotion, the deep grief of a parent who had to set strong limits against a force more powerful than his son. This book described relationships I see in my work as a psychologist on a daily basis.   Loved it loved it loved it.  Because they were so vivid and believable I cared about what happened to them and what was next.

Pushing myself back into regular writing has been an awful rollercoaster for me and this book was a little dangling incentive…”maybe if you work hard enough and push through your issues enough, you could write something like this…”

I’ll forgive Ms. Porter for coming out with a book similar to something I have wanted to write.  She made it up to me with this one.

As this is already one of my longest posts to date (and it’s not getting done weeks ahead of time, like I usually aim for) I will keep the next piece brief.  I am at a standstill with what to do with my reading/writing/blogging next.  I have two and a quarter books to get through before I finish BookRiot’s Read Harder, and I am dreading those last two, but then….I don’t know.  I don’t have holiday reads planned, I would have to get through like ten books in eight weeks to win PopSugar at this point, and I have frequently thought that if I am really going to make a go of writing I need to break up with fiction novels.

Which sometimes feels as devastating as leaving my nutty but comfortable job of the past nine years or changing the locks on my loving husband who is building me a she-shed.

I would blog about whatever I am reading, fiction novels or no.  This is not a threat to the existence of the blog.  But no promises on where this is headed.

Comments/likes/shares! Pleeeeease

Halloween Reads: Not so Cozy Houses

There are so many haunted houses stories out there that I could do this kind of post every Halloween for a hundred more years and not run out of books to read.  And despite all the ones I have read, I am always up to hear how someone else managed the haunted house trope into something different than the one I read before.

Both of the books I review today possess my least favorite facet of some horror fiction: they don’t really resolve.  The scary cycle is doomed to continue itself and people in the future next round are doomed to the same fate that the characters that you cared about were subject to this time. When I was newer to horror it bothered me more than it does now, but it still does, a little, that these stories don’t end with a resolution of the greater issue.

Needless to say I have wandered away from the cozier Halloween reads, but I have some unread ones on my kindle telling me that I really need to come back.

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Within These Walls, Ania Ahlborn

Okay, so I love Ania Ahlborn’s books.  This is the third one of hers I have read, and I did not realize that when I started to read her she was self pub.  She was that good.  A lot of the self pub I read earlier on did not have the polish and engagement I found in her stories.  She has since been picked up by Simon and Schuster, inevitably.

Within These Walls brilliantly combined the haunted house trope with the cult trope.  And being a Psychologist she does well with the both:  the mentality of getting pulled into the cult and the haunted house that makes you severely question your grip on reality.  She weaves them in a manner reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, which is a compliment.  The struggling writer with a failing marriage taking a chance on moving to a new place to revive both, under the ruse of being granted an exclusive interview by a killer in prison.  The fun really begins when he brings his neglected and misunderstood 12 year old daughter with him and leaves his wife back in New Jersey. Two plot lines weaving and knotting and twisting into one another with surprises and brilliance and interest.

I have read Seed and The Bird Eater and I think this one showed more sophistication on her part. I want to read The Neighbors and The Shuddering and the rest of the books she has put out, whether before the big five pickup or not.  She’s great and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter and I wish I had the investment in writing to take her horror writing course.

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77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz

Another personal reading challenge for myself is to read authors who I have stayed away from due to their huge popularity.  I picked this one out for last year’s round of Halloween reads that I never made it to, which also happened with a book I am reading right now for the next posts on Halloween books.

So, this one was harder for me to make it through than Within These Walls.  It is a house built on the one space time fault in the world and every 38 years the fault opens and punishes and terrorizes its residents, which are extremely wealthy condo owners. Also, there is someone involved in a bioterrorism of sorts aimed at eternal life and conquering of disease, I was not sure.  Then there was an assassin? I say assassin because he is hired to kill people as well as having killed people for his own purposes. I felt like a lot of elements were just thrown in to reach out to everyone’s conception of scary.  I think that is a huge undertaking to want to add enough variation in the scary elements to be scary to a wide audience.  And lots of people get killed.  And like in Ahlborn there is no sign that the cycle was really going to stop, that hell wasn’t going to bust loose again after 38 years passed.

The characters I cared most about were an autistic girl and a boy estranged from his father, bookish and not like typical boys but determined not to be a sissy.  I cared about his saving her and Koontz did a great job of describing her. There were a lot of characters living in the house, mainly adults that were difficult to care anything about.

But I felt like I was slogging through this book and some of it felt pointless.  It did not feel as tidy as Ahlborn’s weaving between times, characters and their overlapping vulnerabilities.  I just wasn’t impressed.  I am open to someone helping me see the point better.  I can’t tell you my attention did not wander from some of the times I was listening to it and pushing to finish so I could start on something else.  I am not going to pick up another Koontz anytime soon.

And I need to read some of the horror early masters, like listening to my Necronomicon and picking up that Lovecraft omnibus with the tiny thin pages off my shelf.

Next week…might have a less unified theme.  I am working on some scary books that I have to think about how I will pull them together but I might not pull them together at all.  And it will be the peak of Halloween festivities! And my beautiful son will have turned five years old on the 27th and I am loving this age best of all….

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