October Spooky Reads Wrap-Up

⇒October had to be the fastest month of the year; I’m convinced. I got very few of my Spooky Reads read this month – I need 15 more October days! ⇐

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I had such high hopes. If you look back at my October TBR post, I was giddily excited about all the creepy reading I planned at the beginning of last month. Seriously, I had been planning my October reading since early September. So even with all that planning ultimately I only ended up reading 5 books (two of them weren’t even on my TBR list) and 1 additional ARC that doesn’t even qualify for Spooky Reads. Oh well, at least I’m reading. Let’s look at what I managed to get accomplished in the lightning fast month of October:

city-of-ghostsCITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab

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City of Ghosts was written for middle-grade readers, but it was so engaging and creepy that older readers will enjoy it too. It is the first in a series so anyone can follow Cassidy Blake’s adventures beyond the veil that separates life and death. Click for my review post.

frankensteinPRODIGAL SON: FRANKENSTEIN, #1 by Dean Koontz

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Another Book 1 in a scary series, Prodigal Son tells the story of Frankenstein’s monster centuries after being created and then drummed out of town. He’s been living in Tibet as a monk in the mountains, getting zen and smart. He travels to America, New Orleans to be exact, when he learns about the death of a friend and stays to help detectives solve a murder. I know the premise sounds a little convoluted, but it really works and makes the series one to follow. Click for my review post.

Eliz FrankensteinTHE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN by Kiersten White

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My local library must have known that I was previously reading about Frankenstein and his monster because, conveniently, my request for this book came through. Elizabeth’s story of meeting Victor Frankenstein and becoming his playmate (and conscience) eventually became something more… sinister. A very good read in which Kiersten White does a masterful job by exposing monsters in all shapes and forms and giving us a heroine who chooses to defend the world from them. Click for my review post.

Screenshot_20181026-074829_GoogleA HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay

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I felt meh after reading this book. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I picked the book up for either. I wanted a truly scary story of possession or ghosts or something, but it was more of a psychological study of a very disturbed little girl. Mental health disorders can be very scary, and I think this book drives home that point more than anything else. Click for my review post.

 

The Strange Casebook by Syd MooreTHE STRANGE CASEBOOK by Syd Moore

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These short stories are absolutely perfect reading for the Halloween season! I enjoyed “Snowy” and “She Saw Three Ships” the best, but each of them has eerily creepy aspects that fit right into dark rooms with low fires, hot cocoa, and creaky doors. Click for my review post.

So that was it for me as far as Spooky Reads go for October. But I did manage to read an ARC for NetGalley that released on October 16:

alva vanderbiltA WELL BEHAVED WOMAN: A NOVEL OF THE VANDERBILTS by Therese Anne Fowler

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Fowler expertly displays Alva Vanderbilt’s fortitude and resourcefulness when it comes to self-preservation and championing the causes of those who needed bolstering. I enjoyed A Well-Behaved Woman for showing that a woman – even in the 19th century – didn’t have to conform in order to be successful and powerful. Click for my review post.

Six books completed for the month and two more in the hopper that I didn’t finish before Oct 31st ended – hey, I spent time actually celebrating Halloween! I’m still working on Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carroll and I’m listening to (the seemingly never-ending) IT by Stephen King on audiobook. So, it looks like I found a way to extend my October a little more – at least until the end of the week!

I don’t have a challenge planned for November, so maybe I’ll just use the month to read my Owlcrate books and more from my shelves to clear some space in time for a new year of new releases. Happy reading!


 

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The Strange Casebook (Essex Witch Museum Mystery)

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Grab some cocoa (and maybe a friend!) and dig into these six spooky stories before the next full moon! ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Oneworld Publications, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Syd Moore

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(3.65 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: October 31, 2018, by Point Blank / Oneworld Publications

Genre: Horror / Short Stories

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 106 pages

#TheStrangeCasebook  #NetGalley

The Strange CasebookI can tell you most sincerely sir, I’ve had enough of Death today.

Yes! I finally found a book that is perfect for the Halloween season! It also fits into my October Spooky Reads challenge!

The Strange Casebook is a collection of six short stories – each of them with eerily creepy aspects that fit right into dark rooms with low fires and creaky doors.

Remember those camping trips you took when you sat around the fire and tried to out-scare each other with the most gruesome or most bizarre tales of specters and ghouls? Any one of these stories would win hands down.

Yes, the screaming. I do apologise. The medication has calmed her now. She’ll not disturb us again.

From Goodreads:

Enjoy these six short spooktacular stories, inspired by Rosie Strange and Sam Stone’s work at the museum…if you dare! These stories focus on characters that interact with Rosie and Sam in the Essex Witch Museum series and take place across a number of different time frames. Whether it be Rosie’s old relatives, academic George Chin or the residents of Adders Fork – spooky incidents abound at every turn.

And the six stories:

  • Death Becomes Her: A woman joins the police force to defeat Death
  • Snowy: The widow Norah lives with a lot of discerning cats
  • Madness in A Coruña: A man visits friends in A Coruña for holiday and returns with more than just a t-shirt
  • She Saw Three Ships: What Ethel-Rose witnesses at Lillia Lodge will have her thinking twice about arriving early for holiday ever again
  • Jocelyn’s Story: Jocelyn seeks personal perfection at the risk of all else
  • The House on Savage Lane: Twins are always part of the creepiest stories!

I find myself alert to slipping ghouls, dark-backed creatures, shadows unpeeling from crevices and walls.

I enjoyed “Snowy” and “She Saw Three Ships” the best, but each of them has its own brand of oddity that makes for freakily atmospheric reading. 

Not a fast reader? No prob there either – these are short stories, remember? and you can stretch them out too; read one each night and you’re still done in less than a week.

Once we’d had her cleaned up she looked almost human.

These short stories exist as part of the Essex Witch Museum series which also includes Strange Magic, Strange Sight, and Strange Fascination. Strange Tombs will release in 2019.

But before Strange Tombs, get your hands on The Strange Casebook which releases on October 31st. Yes, Halloween! Told ya, perfect!


About the Author

Image result for author syd moore 2018SYD MOORE

Website

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Syd Moore was a lecturer and a presenter on Pulp, the Channel 4 books program before becoming a writer. She is the author of the mystery novels The Drowning Pool and Witch Hunt.

(Bio adapted from ARC)


 

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A Head Full of Ghosts

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #4 is A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. What do you do when you’re literally living with your deepest fear?⇐

by Paul Tremblay
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(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published June 2, 2015, by William Morrow

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

Format: Paperback

Pages: 284

#AHeadFullofGhosts

A Head Full of Ghosts…being literally and figuratively haunted by outside forces, is almost as horrible as what actually happened. Almost.

October Spooky Reads month continues, and I’m getting exasperated! I AM NOT BEING SCARED! Ok, ok, so maybe my book picks are at fault because I chose to read primarily from physical books that were already on my shelves instead of lining up some truly, awesomely frightening books from the library. BUT!…. some of these have held the promise of “scary” without quite delivering.

A Head Full of Ghosts for example. I mean, come on! It’s right there in the title! Ghosts. In a Head. Gotta be horrifying, right? Meh, only marginally so.

…there are all these ghosts filling my head and I’m just trying to get them out…

Here is Goodreads’ synopsis:

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show, and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Are you good at keeping secrets, Merry?

The story is told from 8-year-old Merry’s perspective, so we get the innocence and gullibility of youth combined with her faith that her big sister and best friend would only always protect her. With a sister like Marjorie though, that’s blind faith indeed.

Marjorie is fourteen. And we all know how heinous some teenagers can be. Sure, blame it on imbalanced hormones and the awkward state of trying to “find oneself”, but Marjorie had some help with her misplaced aggression and angst: a psychotic break.

Here we tread on thin ice – do we pity her because mental health issues are gravely serious and people suffering from them should be treated not only with medicine but with respect and dignity? Or do we make Marjorie the monster because, hey, she’s “crazy” and this is a fictional book? You decide because I couldn’t.

I mean, this chick was definitely certifiable, but it seemed that her family was too in many ways. They definitely didn’t help her situation. So many different turns could have been taken that weren’t. It feels more like they were all in on it together, so their story really ended in the only way it could have.

What if you expelled the person’s real spirit and only the demon’s spirit was there to take its place?

Gripes: (in my whiny voice) I wanted it to be scarier! I wanted a real horror book. I read psych thrillers a lot, and that is what this book felt like to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad book – and there are some genuinely creepy moments. However, I found myself looking for more of those moments instead of being interested in the rest of the story.

Were these the most irresponsible parents on the planet? I’m thinking yes. Right now, I’m sitting here trying to dredge up one redeeming value about either of them… I got nothing.

And was that supposed to be a twist at the end? Hmmm… no spoilers, but I think what was supposed to pass as astounding information in the final two chapters just felt like a given. Still interesting, but predictable.

… I’m wicked smart, because I have to fill my head with something other than the ghosts.

A Head Full of Ghosts left me wanting more horror, but it was still a creepy book that had me questioning on several occasions whether or not there was really more to Marjorie’s mental health issues than what we’d rationally surmise. Could there have possibly been ghosts? In her head? Extremely willful and manipulative ghosts?  And how does that line up with the scientific definition of what psychosis is understood to be?

In the 1800s, Marjorie would have probably been burned at the stake instead of given her own reality show (19th-century folk didn’t play around with demons or witches), but that age is long gone; the spectacle is now more important than the cure. It’s sad. And that’s how this book makes me feel. Sad, instead of pleasantly scared and jittery like I wanted to be.

But that’s not quite right either. Maybe I really feel horrified, but in a completely different way than I intended.


About the Author

Image result for paul tremblayPAUL TREMBLAY

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Paul G. Tremblay is an American author and editor of contemporary horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction. He is also a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards.

(Bio from Google)


 

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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #3 is The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. An unexpectedly compelling and clever retelling of a classic monster story.⇐

by Kiersten White
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(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 24, 2018, by Delacorte Press

Genre: Horror / Historical Fiction / Young Adult

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 304

#TheDarkDescentofElizabethFrankenstein   #Frankenstein

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth FrankensteinVictor was the only person left whom I loved. I would not let the monster take him.

Do you ever read the author’s notes at the end of the book? I have to admit that often I don’t (especially if I’m reading down to the wire and I have to write my review or my blog by a specific deadline). But I am SO glad that I stopped and read this author’s note before closing the cover on this fascinating retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

So over 200 years ago, on a dare, Mary Shelley wrote a book that is referred to now as a classic gothic science fiction novel. In White’s book, she felt it was important to highlight Mary Shelley’s genius in writing that classic through presenting her story through the eyes of a female protagonist. White writes in her notes:

… at publication, for decades after, even today, people gave all credit to the men around her. After all, how could a girl — a teenage girl — accomplish something so great? …

How much of who we are is shaped by those around us? What happens when everything we are depends on someone else? And, as always: Where are the girls? Even Mary’s wild and expansive imagination could not put a girl at the forefront of this story. They’re relegated to the background, mere caricatures. And that was where I found my story. With a girl given to a boy as a gift. With a girl whose whole life revolves around the brilliant boy she loves. With a girl who inadvertently helps create a monster. With a teenage girl, because, as Mary Shelley proved, nothing is more brilliant or terrifying than that.

I had accused Victor of creating a monster, but I had done the same.

Goodreads summarizes the book this way:

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.

The Dark Descent… is a very good book but it was not the book I thought I was going to read. I wanted a spooky story for the season to flesh out my October TBR that featured a classic monster and a creative retelling to give the familiar story a fresh feel.

I got all of that in addition to an exciting and challenging story about one young woman’s determined struggle to find security and truth in a world that constantly tries to rip both away from her. And yes, it was about Frankenstein too.

Kiersten White has done a masterful job with this book by exposing monsters in all shapes and forms and giving us a heroine who chooses to defend the world from them.

The book is moody and atmospheric and is perfect for fall reading. It’s very well written with characters that grow and become richer with each chapter. And I love, love, love how White inserts Frankenstein’s monster is inserted in fits and spurts throughout the story. We get small doses of him while being overtly exposed to the true monster in Victor Frankenstein himself.

This was a truly enjoyable book that fast readers could definitely finish in one or two sittings as long as they took the time to really let the meaning of the novel sink in as the chapters fly by. I am not a fast reader, but I think that was a benefit when it comes to this book – it left more time for Elizabeth’s personality to grow on me and for Victor’s duplicitous nature to become a heartwrenching tragedy.

Four stars for this female-led novel that is absolutely perfect for fireside reading underneath big blankets with steaming hot chocolate and a dozen fresh-from-the-oven cookies! Go for it!


About the Author

Kiersten WhiteKIERSTEN WHITE

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Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of many books for teens and young readers, including And I Darken, Now I Rise, Bright We Burn, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and Slayer. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, where she perpetually lurks in the shadows.


 

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Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1)

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #2 is Prodigal Son, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1. The monster has become a face-tattooed monk and his creator is plotting a global takeover with a pack of perfectly placed zombies!⇐

by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
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(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 25, 2005, by Bantam

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

Format: Paperback

Pages: 469

#Prodigal Son   #Frankenstein

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)He cannot understand why Father would create him to be… dysfunctional. Father seeks perfection in all things.

Say “Frankenstein” to almost anyone and you can just about guess what image pops into their brain: a big, green, rectangle-headed monster with crazy stitches marking where his body parts have been sloppily meshed together.

Whether you’ve read the classic novel by Mary Shelley or seen any of the many movies about this well-known scary guy, you come to realize that the monster isn’t, in fact, the raging creature that terrorizes a town. The monster turns out to be that creature’s creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

It’s still hard to separate the name from the creature,  but leave it to Dean Koontz to figure out a way to do just that. Not only do we see the “monster” as a man, but we also see the hero in him as well.

Every city has secrets – but none as terrible as this.

Here’s the book summary:

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself – and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more – and less – than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac – but his deranged maker.

My origins are a prison graveyard, the cadavers of criminals – combined, revitalized, reborn.

As the book opens, we see that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster have achieved a level of immortality (200+ years of it) and find themselves living in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Nope, not joking.

Dr. Frank – now going by the name Victor Helios – has become a local entrepreneur. In public, he is a do-gooder and a powerful, influential man. But behind the scenes, he is creating a New Race of people – having perfected the method he used to create his first “person” so many years ago. As he strategically places his minions in key positions within the police force, religious institutions, healthcare, and government, his plans to achieve a future global takeover are coming together.

Frankenstein’s original monster – who has given himself the name Deucalion – spent time in the mountains of Tibet becoming a monk and getting all zen and stuff. Not kidding. He had to find a way to suppress his rage, the monks accepted him (warts and all), so he stayed. That is, until, he receives a letter from a trusted friend telling him that Dr. Frank is still alive and the S*^# is very close to hitting the fan! Deuc high-tails it to NOLA to finally confront his creator and try stop him from destroying everyone on the planet.

One man’s resistance, while admirable, cannot turn back the most titanic forces of nature.

As powerful as Deucalion is, he isn’t battling old Frank alone. He’s hitched his horse to two homicide detectives, Carson O’Connor and her partner (maybe eventually boo-thang) Michael Maddison – who weren’t exactly expecting their homicide case to turn into a supernatural saga.

Koontz’s writing is as interesting as ever – drawing you into a web of complex characters and laying the foundation for a thrillingly monstrous series. I never would have thought of the story of Frankenstein and his monster this way, but now I can’t wait to see how Deucalion, Carson, and Michael manage to save the world!

There are a whole lot of characters, but you quickly get used to the multiple POVs and all the different “voices”. By the middle of the book, I even began to anticipate which character’s story was coming up next. Don’t take that to mean that I’m calling the story “predictable”, it was… sensible.

If you’re picking this up expecting a bit of a fright for your October TBR, you may be disappointed. There are some gruesome moments, some mystery, and some definitely off-kilter characters, but all-in-all it’s basically more of a thriller than a horror novel.

That does not, however, make it any less enjoyable a read!

Koontz’s Frankenstein series continues:

Book 2: City of Night (2005)
Book 3: Dead and Alive (2009)
Book 4: Lost Souls (2009)
Book 5: The Dead Town (2011)


About the Authors

Credit EngstromKevin J. AndersonDEAN KOONTZ and KEVIN J. ANDERSON

Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human.

Kevin J. Anderson has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, StarCraft, Titan A.E., and The X-Files, and is the co-author of the Dune prequels. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series and the Nebula Award-nominated Assemblers of Infinity. He has also written several comic books including the Dark Horse Star Wars collection Tales of the Jedi written in collaboration with Tom Veitch, Predator titles (also for Dark Horse), and X-Files titles for Topps.

(Bios from Goodreads)


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