Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2019

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

If you look closely, you’ll spot a cameo by a previous Recent Reads – Halloween Edition book

So, you’re telling me the season for spook is over? Think again, buddies. Some people leave Christmas decorations up until after New Year’s. Others leave Halloween decorations up until after Thanksgiving. I make the rules in this house.

It’s been such a long while since we did anything in the Bibliove world, let alone a Recent Reads. Fair warning: I’m a very different person now from who I was last Halloween Edition. Once one of the biggest wimps on the block, I am now on a constant quest for the best “horror” books and movies. Quotations there because I’ll concede that true horror is defined differently for each of us, based on your scare spectrum and thresholds. 10 points to Slytherin if you can figure out what exactly it was that triggered my thresholds to expand as far as they have over these past two years. And no, the current state of global affairs does not count.

Two of the books on this list were technically read last year but with the way my life’s been going, that’s recent enough. The rest were found and / or read over the past few weeks, when another one of my manic (and, let’s be real, borderline blackout) book buying sprees occurred. If you’re new around here, these are the days when I wake up and find that there isn’t a single book in my many floor piles of books-to-be-read that fit the vibe I’m going for. All things must be dropped or rescheduled, an immediate trip to the bookstore must be made, and anything that passes the general vibe test must be clutched to my person until I’m willing to hand it over at the counter for the sales woman to give me a knowing smile, as if to say “we’ve all been there,” and kindly apply as many discounts as humanly possible because damage has been done here in this bookstore today.

It isn’t until I’m safely back home, stacking my haul on the floor with the rest of their brothers and sisters, that the mania dissipates and I can crack on with one of those new reads. Look, I could have worse habits.

Halloween may have come and gone but if you’re like me and you’re looking to stretch it out for a little bit longer then I present to you some of my favorite Recent Reads – Halloween Edition. Onward we go. Enjoy.


‘The Supernatural Enhancements’ by Edgar Cantero

This book is so great. A true favorite regardless of how recently I’ve read it. A related but not super relevant fun fact about me is that there is a direct correlation between the amount of unsettlement and stress going on in my personal life and my attention span for books. The worse one gets, the worse the other gets. This was the book that survived a double digit spell of pick-up-put-down switches during a particularly hairy life transition time a few months ago. As I said, so great.

What pulled me in was the style and format of the writing. It felt a bit like what I imagine listening to an old radio show would feel like. There were scenes in which the main characters were on the main stage, then scenes in which they were playing out an aside somewhere else, then intermission-type segue scenes in which you were exposed to letters or discussions that were tied to but not really part of the main attraction. From a plot perspective, the idea of a haunted house was used as a bit of a red herring for the broader “real life” mystery plot. All in all, ‘The Supernatural Enhancements’ is very uniquely written and very addictive. Highly recommend.

‘Strange Practice’ by Vivian Shaw

You had me at vampires and Doctor to the Undead, Vivian. Set in London (massive check one), Dr. Greta Helsing goes off on an adventure with her ancient vampire, demon, and ghoul friends (massive check two) to take down a sect of supernatural monks (massive check two-and-a-half because there is also a budding romance between the Doctor and one of the aforementioned ancient vampires, which is a massive check to end all checks as far as I’m concerned).

You lost me at ‘Strange Practice’ being the first in a series. In my younger years I could crush a 13+ book series without giving it a second thought, but now there are just too many things to read that I couldn’t possibly commit unless the first one is an 11 out of 10. Not to mention series are difficult to manage with my constant war on paperback publishing delays. Get your hardcover release dates out of my face.

That being said, this one is a fun read. The plot is good, the writing is good. And don’t fret, the series aspect doesn’t make this any less of a standalone. I’d rather read an entire book dedicated to Ruthven though and I suppose I can thanks to John William Polidori… but something tells me that it just won’t be the same. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that spin-off.

‘City of Ghosts’ by Victoria Schwab

Despite the fact that I Did Not Like ‘A Darker Shade of Magic,’ which is by the same author just with a slightly adjusted pen name, the synopsis on the back of this one was hard to turn down. A young teenage girl who sees ghosts and is traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland for the summer because her parents are paranormal historians / investigators? Didn’t realize someone had been scouring the recesses of my brain for story material lately. Another series, which is unfortunate, but this is a lovely read with some ace character development of the three main youngsters (one of them is a ghost and that’s not a spoiler so don’t get mad at me).

‘City of Ghosts’ is technically for a younger demographic, but if you’ve given up on children’s or young adult books then you need to sit yourself down and sort yourself out because they have some of the best plots and life lessons that I’ve ever encountered. Maybe authors feel less pressured to develop kitschy narrative styles or something, but wow oh wow do books for younger audiences really punch you right in the heart sometimes. Don’t knock ’em. Try ’em.

‘The Price Guide to the Occult’ by Leslye Walton

Not only is the physical printing of the book absolutely gorgeous (see red pages under skull above), but as is the setting and imagery that Walton conjures. Oh so wondrous. Lush greenery galore on an island that feels more alive than the humans inhabiting it.

I love a good cursed-by-the-sorrows-of-the-scorned-matriarch-witch witch book. Think ‘Practical Magic’ meets ‘Beautiful Creatures’ then add a dash of teenage grunge sass and you’ve got ‘The Price Guide to the Occult.’ There’s a female bloodline curse, an evil mother on a power bender, a faithful familiar… what more could you possibly ask for? Better acknowledgement of the fact that the main character’s grandmother slash the book’s main living matriarch is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that’s what. Otherwise, I’m delighted with this one. There were definitely a few setups at the end that could lend to a follow-up if Walton so chooses to write it, but they weren’t so dramatic as to make the reader feel like they didn’t get closure. This is a story for witch (are you having that?) I’d pick up the next one in the series.

‘The Rules of Magic’ by Alice Hoffman

Speaking of ‘Practical Magic,’ this book happens to be its prequel. ‘The Rules of Magic’ has been sitting at the bottom of one of my books-to-be-read piles for ages and, I’ll be honest, it’s been left down there for so long because Hoffman’s writing in ‘Practical Magic’ wasn’t exactly my favorite thing of all time (even though the movie adaptation means more to me than most things ever could). It had its moments, Hoffman’s just isn’t really my cauldron of tea. Once HBO announced a potential pilot for ‘The Rules of Magic’ though I knew I had to hop to it in order to settle on my usual footing of reading the books before watching the adaptations. Girl’s got a brand to keep around here.

Anyways, in this prequel The Aunts are much younger (but not any less feisty) and are learning about the hardships of life and magic in New York City. There is the addition of a brother to Fanny and Jet, and if you’re familiar with ‘Practical Magic’ then you can probably figure out the connections if you really think about it but I won’t say any more about him than that. There was a part approximately halfway through this book that made me start to cry and next thing I knew I couldn’t stop crying for the next few hours until I finished it completely. That could have been a me and my emotional state problem or it could have been classic Alice Hoffman hitting you with those quality one-liners. You can decide.

‘Alice’ by Christina Henry

This one has to have a caveat thrown out there because technically it’s a Currently Reading selection. I’m about 100 pages in as of writing this. So far, it’s got a few of my favorite things going for it. ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Asylums. Seers. Horror. I’m a sucker for a good fairytale retelling (‘The Lunar Chronicles,’ I still see you… ‘Charm,’ I try really hard not to see you) and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ retellings might be up there as the record setter on my shelves.

Within the first 25 to 30 pages Henry makes it abundantly clear that you’re in a much darker and more adult version of the tale you thought you knew. Inclusive of some stomach dropping abusive assault moments that aren’t the easiest things to read. I’ve never read or seen Handmaid’s Tale, but I assume this is along the same lines (Game of Thrones, looking at you too). Why is this the new form of female character building these days? I can’t speak for all women here, but I personally find myself quite capable of fathoming the struggles of my gender in past, present, and future well enough without the added and increased tortures of physical and sexual assault, thank you very much. Fingers crossed that writers of television, movies, and books let us get to know female characters for themselves, and not for what the horrors of men have turned them into.


Still not sold on the idea of recommendations, so if you have any and you keep them to yourself then I wouldn’t mind. But if you find you absolutely must pass them along then I suppose I won’t turn my back on you completely… unless they’re true crime or excessive gore. I still draw a hard line in the fake blood on those.

As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads.

Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2017

Bookstores should offer human horse blinders at the front door, right next to the plastic shopping baskets.

We’re all either the type of person who needs the former or the type that needs the latter. Key word: “needs.” This girl right here happens to want a basket, but need some blinders. When struck with the urge to have a particular book, it consumes me. It quickly evolves into something primal, with a sense of the highest immediacy to get to the nearest bookstore. Upon arrival, rather than get what I came for and go, I tend to get carried away and submit to the frenzy. Few hours and many dollars later, I emerge with what some (looking at you, Mom) might consider too many too much. Unfortunately, the have-to-have-it craze doesn’t always translate into a have-to-read-it urgency. Stacks on stacks of volumes lay unread in a home by the name of mine.

I’ve recently tried switching to the online ‘Reserve In-Store’ option with the theory that this will allow for less ambling amoung new release tables, less perusing the YAF aisle, and fewer frenzied pick-ups. Get me in, get me out, small paperback in hand, only one addition to the stacks. Shocker, it hasn’t worked yet. Alas, there are worse things to foster an addiction for.

Now that we’ve gone through that little personal story time journey together, let’s get on with it. There was a point, I swear. It’s that we’ve done recent reads around here before, but this particular one features a few of those stack selections. They’ve been lying around my house for upwards of a year, just waiting for me to pick them up and dust them off and lovingly read them through with ample consideration for their poor spines (crack kills, folks). I’ve also held off because they align with a certain Octoberly theme…

Halloween is my absolute favorite season. Every year, I look forward to teeing up the hot apple cider and spooky-but-not-scary movies and pumpkin decor and autumnal playlists. Naturally, this love extends to the biblio nature. So here are some of my recent reads, ’tis the season edition. Enjoy.


Anno Dracula – Kim Newton

This has been out for a while and sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for almost as long. In one of my frenzies, the title caught my eye and the Neil Gaiman review snippet on the cover sealed the deal. This book is a take on vampire lore (check) set in Queen Victoria’s England (check) with references up the werewolf’s wazoo to other popular fictional characters of the time (the biggest check there ever was). Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Henry Jekyll and that other guy Mr. Hyde, Inspector Lestrade, Bram Stoker himself, Lord Ruthven, and more! A decently hefty read, it’s getting tough for me to lug it across the country and back (more on that another day).

Unlikely that I’ll finish this one before Halloween, but I’m giving it the good ol’ Monsters University try.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

I cannot rightfully take credit for willingly wanting to read this one. My best friend has had this book on her list for quite some time, and I believe her spooky-horror-loving mama was the one to put it there. The cover art of this edition is absolutely beautiful so right off the bats I recommend it for that reason alone. Jackson’s writing style is interesting and her dialogue can get… unsettling. Not scary, not spooky, but there’s something about the emotional shifts in how her character’s talk to one other, or on occasion to themselves, that you can’t help but think something’s not all there. I came into the book trying to puzzle out the grand finale scare the entire time and I recommend others do the same… because there doesn’t happen to be much of one, so that’s as much excitement as you’re gonna get.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

The veritable patriarch of the Gothic novel – the “OG,” if you will. Think Dracula, think Frankenstein, think The Monk (does anyone think The Monk anymore these days?). All inspired by Walpole and his tales of Otranto. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him until the professor of my Jane Austen class in Cambridge gave us some short passages to study. It’s a quick read, just over 100 pages, and the story keeps the pace at move-along speed. I got through it in the span of a bubble bath (I mean, blood bath…?) so you should be able to chomp on through it as well. Funnily enough, it may have been considered scary way back in the day but I wouldn’t worry too much about it in the present. This is just Stephen King’s world and we’re all living in it.

This fell into the frenzied pick-up pile courtesy of my time at Strand.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I mean… I’m not even going to gratify this one.

The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright

Not to be mistaken with The Doll People (which is precisely the mistake that I made, which led to completing yet another Reserve In-Store hasty pick-up because, again… have-to-have), this is another such doll-related book of a much more macabre variety. I recall going through a very odd, short-lived murder mystery phase in the days of my youth and this book happened to be part of it. Basically, a young girl goes to stay with her Aunt in their mysterious old family home with, you guessed it, history of a gruesome murder. The dollhouse happens to be an exact replica of said old family home and the dolls happen to be itching their wooden limbs with a story to tell. The overall plot is… interesting? It’s stuck with me in bits and (rest in) pieces(???), but I’ll also forewarn that Wright takes on some sensitive topic, social commentary threads that I completely forgot about. Wouldn’t really recommend this one unless it is literally one of the last books on earth. So. Yeah.

More importantly, anyone out there able to remind me what The Doll People is actually about? It’ll be a few years before I get around to that one, I’m sure.

Red Moon – Benjamin Percy

Another that’s been on my list for perhaps years, as in multiple. The cover art is rad. People who say don’t judge a book by it’s cover are lying to you, it’s something that is a very okay thing to judge it by. Percy has a really great narrative style and the story itself is so interesting and adaptive. It brings to mind all sorts of politically-charged times in American history (think AIDS crisis, think post and pre-9/11 terrorism, think the Red Scare, Civil Rights, World Wars, any oppression you’ve ever heard about, and riots for peace… think anything in the news these days, really) with a werewolf (“lupine”) twist.

This is a bit of a monster read (are you having that???), so it’s looking to be the one that carries me through to that Halloween finish line.


As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads. I’ve learned how to update page progress.

Follies & Fixations: November 2015

Ceramic Hedgehog Pals

Technically it’s a salt and pepper shaker but I named mine Autumn and she sits as a little figurine on my bedside table. If I can’t have a real pet hedgehog, this is certainly the next best thing.

Jane Austen Literary Mug

Come ON, can you believe something so wonderful as a Jane Austen quote mug exists?? I bought this in my favorite place on earth – Salem, MA. Specifically, at a fantastic store there called Roost & Company. They sell all sorts of cool knick-knacky home ware and other bits and bobs (think stationary, books, jewelry, etc). The saleswoman ringing me up commented on how she watched me walk around the store for 15 minutes clutching it to my chest, so that should be an indication of my excitement at owning this. Not to mention, it makes an excellent companion to the famous first lines quote mug my best friend got me for my birthday.

Russian Lit

Speaking of literary things, this is my latest phase. When I read, I tend to spend a few months on a particular author or genre. Naturally, I also spend obscene amounts of money on as many books as I can carry and usually weeks later end up dropping away from the phase before I finish them all. Rinse and repeat for infinity. Nikolai Gogol had been on my list for quite some time and when I went to pick up a copy of “Dead Souls” I figured what the heck, let’s stock up on some ‘stoys, ‘kovs, and ‘evskys too.

A goal of mine, albeit an ambitious one, is to read “War and Peace” in a week once I’m officially through with my last semester of college. I had a professor in Cambridge who told us that he read “Bleak House” in a week and because I’m the most competitive person to ever exist, I got it in my head to do something equally as impressive. Given that I am continually inspired by Professor G.M. much in the same way that Tolstoy was inspired by Dickens, I thought W&P was an appropriate choice for the challenge. Not to mention it’s almost 200 pages longer…

Apple Cider Everything

No specific brand, no specific way, just all of it all the time.

Society of Grownups

I can’t even think of a way to describe what this place is other than an amazing incredible resource. A friend and I attended a few classes in the beginning of November and color me so impressed. Society of Grownups hosts classes, chats, guest speakers, events, and more all around the important aspects of Grownuphood. I personally went to the “Basics of Investing” and “You’re a Grownup Now (Don’t Panic)” sessions and am planning to return in December. Even though I’m a finance major and I work at a Center for Financial Independence, personal finance is still a really scary thing for me to confront! SoG makes it relaxed and fun, not to mention their Brookline location has an indescribably comfortable vibe. I couldn’t sing higher praises. Worth stopping by, even just to see the space and peruse their really great bookshelves (they make a kick-ass cup of coffee too).

Halloween @ Home

I know, technically an October folly but November 1st is my December 26th so deal with me for a moment. Ever since I can remember, my family has gone all out with turning our front porch orange for the month of October. I love dressing up, I love eating candy, I love every possible activity that has to do with Halloween (I’m even coming around to haunted houses and scary movies, thanks to my best friends who really love forcing me through them… and by coming around I mean I mull it over for .7 seconds longer than I used to before begging “NOOOO!”) I’m the most basic of New Englanders in saying that Autumn is my favorite time of the year, but know that being home for Halloween makes up a solid 90% of that favoritism.

Tuneage

The Men of Pop have been coming out with all sorts of jams to kill the game lately. Obviously I’m in love with the new One Direction album, but here’s some other stuff I’ve been listening to on repeat. Enjoy! (Also, do yourself a favor and watch this video – WOW, you’re so welcome)

spotify:user:cmccarthy122:playlist:0KrLqzgYOcl6fX8ewgX7bo