TBR Spotlight: Christmas Edition

It is only 10 days until Christmas! I finally have all of my Christmas shopping done so now I can enjoy the holiday season. Christmas is my second favourite holiday after Halloween. Who doesn’t like presents and an excuse to eat until you explode?

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I was originally going to do a Top 5 Holiday Reads but it has been a long time since I have done a TBR spotlight and I have added so many pretty Holiday reads to my list this week I thought I would share them with you. A lot of these books are either set during Christmas or have a beautiful wintery setting. Perfect for this time of year.

Links to the books are included in the cover images so you can add them to your own TBR list.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

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Summary of The Wolf Gift:
“The place, the rugged coast of northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. . . an older woman, welcoming him into her magnificent, historic family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . an idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence. . .The young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing who—what—he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf,” by authorities, the media and scientists (evidence of DNA threaten to reveal his dual existence). . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there are others like him who may be watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time and may possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge and throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.” 

This book is a sequel to Anne Rice’s werewolf series, The Wolf Gift Chronicles. I haven’t read the first one yet but I am a huge fan of her Vampire Chronicles series so I know I will probably enjoy it. It has been a very long time since I read anything with werewolves in it so I am pretty excited to get started on this series. This second book in the series, The Wolves of Midwinter, is set entirely during the Christmas period so I plan on getting stuck into the first and second books before Christmas rolls around.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

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“For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder.”

A thriller novel with ghosts and set during winter? Sign me right up! Maybe it is just the cover but this book conjures the image of four men held up together during a snowstorm being tormented by their past.  Just the story of story you need to scare yourself with on a dark winter night.

Christmas Spirits by Charles Dickens419dEzSJhIL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

“This elegant edition gathers seven spirited Yuletide fables by Charles Dickens. The heartwarming tales tell of people rescued from their own folly by mysterious strangers — including goblins, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures.” 

Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote Christmas stories other than A Christmas Carol? Well he did, and just like A Christmas Carol they are just as odd and supernatural. I have a personal tradition of reading A Christmas Carol every year so I love the idea of adding more Dickens stories to my Christmas reading list.

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse6450212.jpg

“By the author of the “New York Times”-bestselling “Labyrinth,” a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation. 

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.”

I know very little about this book but I have heard it is brilliant, beautiful and a wonderful ghost story. I like a good winter ghost story so naturally it ended up straight on my to read list. I haven’t read any of Kate Mosse’s writing before but I have seen her first novel, Labyrinth everywhere.

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom517ojcjfCwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

“Acclaimed author and artist Brom raised eyebrows and pulse rates with The Child Thief, his grim, brilliantly audacious, gorgeously illustrated reimagining of the Peter Pan legend. So what does this innovative fantasist do for an encore? He tinkers darkly with the beloved mythology of Santa Claus. Set in Appalachia, Krampus the Yule Lord is a twisted fairytale about a failed West Virginia songwriter who gets ensnared on Christmas Eve in an eternal war between a not-so-saintly Saint Nick and his dark enemy Krampus, aka Black Peter, an ancient trickster demon. Krampus the Yule Lord is Gregory Maguire (Wicked) meets Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) in the realm of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, as Clive Barker (Mr. B. Gone) works his dark sorcery from the shadows. Once again featuring Brom’s chillingly beautiful artwork throughout, Krampus the Yule Lord is a feast of wonder straight from the kitchen of Sweeney Todd.”

Krampus!! I need to read this book so badly. Brom is one of those authors I have been dying to read books from but I can never seem to find his work anywhere. It is a bit odd. I might treat myself after Christmas and order a copy of this book and The Child Thief from Book Depository.

If you don’t know already, Krampus is the anti Santa in folklore. He is a trickster who punishes bad children by either hitting them with sticks or kidnapping them to eat later. You should look into Christmas folklore, some of it is amazingly dark. Google Perchta if you don’t believe me.

Have you read any of the books mentioned above? If so let me know what you thought of them.

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ReReading Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

“Face to Face with a Nightmare…

How ugly is Carly Beth’s Halloween mask? It’s so ugly that it almost scared her little brother to death. So terrifying that even her friends are totally freaked out by it. It’s the best Halloween mask ever. It’s everything Carly Beth hoped it would be. And more. Maybe too much more. Because Halloween is almost over. And Carly Beth is still wearing that special mask…”

We are back on the Goosebumps nostalgia train with a story we probably should have covered at Halloween, The Haunted Mask.

I hate to admit it but I don’t remember reading this one as a kid. I remember the merchandise. Those voice changing creepy masks that were all over the place in the 90s. They were pretty cool, and unlike the real mask in the story, they came off.

The idea of a Halloween mask that refuses to come off is quite scary. Imagine how claustrophobic that would feel, especially if it is one of those full head covering rubber masks. It would get stuffy, warm and suffocating. If this was an adult novel you could probably play those points up very well, but this is a novel for primary school children so it isn’t scary at all. I don’t even think it would be scary for children, unless a child had a particular fear of things covering their face.

The idea of this book was fun but I can say this is probably the least enjoyable Goosebumps book I have read so far. The main character was a cowardly brat and everyone else in the story was a bit obnoxious. I actually felt sorry for the antagonist who sold her the mask because I would have given that brat a cursed mask to teach her a lesson. The main characters in Goosebumps books are supposed to be relatable so I guess this book was written for the brats of the world.

Even with a bratty main character this book would still be a fitting read for most young children. It is fairly short, an easy read and not scary in the slightest. It is just the right level of creepy to make it a typical Goosebumps novel. Also the whole story takes place on Halloween night so maybe put it away for a festive read next year.

So, do you remember reading The Haunted Mask when you were a kid? What Goosebumps book gave you nightmares as a kid?

Reading 23 Books in a Month? (Update & Week 1 TBR)

So I have to read 23 books to meet my yearly GoodReads reading challenge goal of 100 books. This was originally 24 books but since my last post on this subject I finished another book. I am normally very good at reading constantly but this year I bought a house, adopted a cat and been very busy with work and socialising, so I haven’t been reading as much as I normally would. Apparently 2017 was the year I became stupidly popular. I am usually not that bothered about meeting reading challenge goals but my mum set me this target and I cant let her down.

So I have decided to write a To Read list every week this month to update you on my progress and how I plan to tackle such a high number of books in a month.

This week I will be reading:

The Lord of the Rings (All Three Books)

I hear you: “Spine Cracker, if you have 23 books to read why tackle something huge like Lord of the Rings?”

One word: Audiobooks. If I listen to books while I am working I can keep reading when I am not able to physically sit down and read. Realistically I should be able to listen to one of these a day…I hope. I managed the entirety of The Hobbit last week.

I have read these books before but I have been playing a lot of D&D lately and that has put me in a serious Tolkien mood. Right now I am at the start of the Fellowship of the Ring and they haven’t even left the Shire yet.

Graphic Novels:

Nightwing New 52 and Batman: No Man’s Land (volumes 3 & 4)

These are some graphic novels that I have been wanting to get to for a while, so much so that Nightwing appeared on the TBR for a challenge earlier in the year. Graphic novels are perfect for reading challenges because you can get through one in a single sitting. Both of these have been on my TBR shelf for a while so it will be great to see them finally read.

Also, who doesn’t love Batman?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I read this book EVERY December without fail! It is also perfect for this challenge because it isn’t very long.

In my mind it isn’t Christmas until I have read a Christmas Carol. It is an odd tradition I came up with for myself years ago. I absolutely love this book and if you haven’t read it yet you have to. It is the holiday season after all.

So my plan is to read 7 books this week. Do you think I can do it?

It doesn’t seem that difficult. I might even throw another book in if I feel like I have the time. I will let you know how it goes next week. I will run out of short books eventually and that is when things will get trickier.

Reads of the Month: November

Can you believe it is December already??

I had a pretty good reading month in November. I read 6 books. Most of which are not relevant to this blog, but I will say this, if you haven’t read The Hobbit go do it.  I am having a bit of a Tolkien reread. Blame D&D.

So anyway, my top three picks for Dark Reads of the Month are…

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Orient Express is stranded in the snow and a man is found stabbed to death in a bath tub onboard. Detective Poirot has until the snow clears to solve the case.

This is the first Agatha Christie book I have ever read, and even though I solved the case myself only a few chapters in I still enjoyed it. It was darker than I expected, with backstories involving a child murder and of course the dead body in the bath tub.

This is a bit of a stereotypical murder mystery but those stereotypes have to come from somewhere, and Christie started most of them. I am not sure if I will read more of her books but as a fan of detective stories this was very enjoyable. If you like crime novels this would be a perfect quick and fun read.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Heathers meets The Exorcist. Abby has noticed that her best friend is acting a little strange. She smells, is suddenly cruel and looks very sickly. Could her friend be possessed?

I absolutely LOVED this book. Set in the 1980s, My Best Friend’s Exorcism reads like your typical 80s teen movie with a side of horror thrown in. Even the chapter titles are the names of 80s songs.

This book also isn’t very scary so if you are easily scared maybe check out this horror novel. I will warn you though, it can be pretty gross in parts due to the whole exorcism thing. If you have seen a film with possession in it you will know what I am talking about. It also has sexual moments, animal cruelty and general 80s attitudes to things.

You can read my full review here. 

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang is 10 years old and a vampire. She lives with her parents in monster town (basically diet Halloween Town) and has regular adventures with her friends who are also monsters like her. One day a spoiled prince visits her parents’ house and takes her pet pumpkin, Squashie, from her. Amelia has to come up with a plan to get Squashie back.

It has been a long time since I read a children’s novel but I bought this book around Halloween and it had bright orange pages so it magically ended up in my shopping basket.

This was a pretty cute read. It was very simple and clearly meant for child readers. It wasn’t like other children novels that throw in references or cleverness for adult readers. It was a simple kids’ story about a little vampire and her pumpkin. It even had a pretty decent anti-racism and “don’t judge people who are different” subplot to it. The art work is adorable too because it is fully illustrated.

I might not pick up more Amelia Fang books for myself in the future but if I had kids I would happily give them this to read. Perfect reading for tiny people who are discovering books with chapters.

You can read my full review here 

What was the best book you read this month?

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.

REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Summary:

From GoodReads.com:

“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?”

Review:

Heathers meets The Exorcist.

I have fallen in love with Grady Hendrix’s writing. Earlier this year I read his other novel, Horrorstor, and thought it was amazing so naturally I had to pick up his second novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Was it as good as Horrorstor? Yes! In fact it was even better.

The book had all of the charm of an 80s teen movie but with the edginess of a horror film thrown in. Even with the horror aspect this book wasn’t scary, it was just simply enjoyable. It was funny when the moment called for it, it was creepy in just the right places, and all of the characters felt so very familiar. I am starting to think that is a trend with Hendrix’s writing, if you don’t relate to the characters you will know someone like them in real life which makes his novels very realistic, even if it is a high school drama involving exorcism.

I think my favourite part of the story was the friendship between the two main characters. You really felt for Abby while she was desperately trying to save her friend. There is no main romance in the story, it simply focuses on friendship and the power of it. That is brilliant.

Also this was my first time seeing an exorcism in a book. I studied exorcisms in school (I went to an odd school) so it was interesting seeing a topic I knew about being played out in a novel. It was done really well and made for very fast paced reading.

This is the perfect novel for anyone who loves teen dramas, 80s movies and just wants a little touch of horror thrown in.

Warnings:

Attempted suicide, drug use, rape references (no act, just discussion), sexual references, animal cruelty, gore and crude moments. For YA Readers and Adults.

Rating:

 

 

         4 out of 5 Skulls

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. You are missing out if you haven’t read this book yet. If you are a fan of films like Heathers or The Breakfast Club this is the book for you.

If you have read My Best Friend’s Exorcism let me know what you thought of it or link me to your own review. I would love to read it. Or, if you haven’t read it, tell me your favourite song from the 80s. I want music suggestions. This book has put me in the mood for some 80s music.

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.

REVIEW: Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti (DON’T CALL HER BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents’ annual Barbaric Ball.

And when the King’s spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they begin to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . . 

Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won’t bite!”

Review:

Simple, inoffensive and charming. The Amelia Fang series is set around the adventures of a little girl vampire, her family and her friends, all of which are monsters of course.

This is very much a book for children. It is very similar to the Goth Girl series which I have mentioned on this blog several times before. I love Goth Girl so when I saw a very similar series based around the adventures of a little vampire and her pet pumpkin I had to pick it up. It has been a while since I reviewed a children’s book. Unlike Goth Girl though this is a book aimed solely at children. It doesn’t have any hidden references or cleverness for older readers to enjoy like some other kids’ books do.

Saying that though, I still had a lot of fun reading this. It could be a little stereotypical but it was sweet. It had messages that I would like children to hear, like how even bullies have their own issues and it even had a decent anti racism message. The illustrations were adorable, especially the design of the child grim reaper. He was so cute. I think if I had a kid who was wanting to branch out into novel sized books I would happily hand them this.

This book is just a cute read for children with nothing scary in it, just a simple, sweet story that just happens to be told using monsters. Perfect for any kid who loves Monster High or anything spooky.

Warnings:

None

Rating:

 

 

2 out of 5 Skulls

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com. It might be perfect for kids but I wouldn’t make it a regular part of my grown up reading. I have read more enthralling kids novels than this.

5 Short Stories You Need to Read Tonight

So it is a dark deary night in November and you want something to read that fits the atmosphere of the night, you have already read Poe so many times that you can reenact The Pit and the Pendulum with Barbie dolls, but it’s ok, I have you covered.

Here is my, Poe Free, list of 5 dark and atmospheric short stories for you to curl up with this winter.

I have tried to stick to older stories for this list so you can find them online free and easily.

The Dancing Partner by Jerome K Jerome

If you like steampunk this is the story for you. An inventor decides to create the perfect dancing partner for his female friends, and it doesn’t go very well.

This is always held up as a perfect example of less-is-more horror. This story doesn’t have a pleasant ending but leaves your mind fill in the nasty parts. It is brilliantly written and I always love Victorian stories about robotics and automations.

Stanley Fleming’s Hallucination by Ambrose Bierce

Stanley Fleming sees a giant dog sitting at the end of his bed every night so he visits his doctor about the hallucination who agrees to spend the night in his house. I cant say any more about spoiling the story.

I love Ambrose Bierce’s short horror stories. They don’t get enough love in my opinion. I first read this story well over ten years ago and the entire plot has stuck in my head ever since. It ends on a mystery and leaves the reader questioning so many things. What those things are I cant say, just read the story.

The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker

A scholar rents a house that once belonged to a judge with an evil reputation. He soon finds himself tormented by rats and other horrors.

Bram Stoker has always had a way with horror. If you have already read Dracula you need to pick up this short story. It has the creep factor for a modern haunted house film, but with the pacing and bluntness of a short story. A perfect quick and creepy read, with a great ending.

One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce

A man wakes up to find that he has been buried alive, and believe it or not that isn’t the end of the story.

I am not sorry for putting two Bierce stories on the same list. This story is more of a dark comedy than a horror. Yeah you read that right, a dark comedy about being buried alive. It plays with irony and is full of that twisted Victorian dark sense of humour.

All Bierce stories are available to read online so this one will be easy to find.

Lost Hearts by M.R James

An orphan boy is sent to live with his older cousin in an isolated mansion. Soon he starts having visions of dead children.

This is a story that fits the Crimson Peak trope of being “a story with a ghost in it, not a ghost story”. I LOVED this story when I read it last week. It has some unexpected twists in it and even has elements that I wasn’t expecting from a Victorian ghost story. Give it a read and maybe check out a few other M.R James stories while you are at it.