IT’S SPOOKY SEASON!
I am never not going to post this gif during Halloween. I remember when this first happened, and I will love it until the end of my days. I read and watched a lot of spooky things this month, and though I am definitely done reading those kinds of books, I had fun while it lasted!
Mini Book Reviews
The Haunting of Hill House | Shirley Jackson
I read this book mostly at night, like an idiot, and I was out in my kitchen getting a snack when my mom came out to investigate what the noise was, and all she did was say my name, and I must’ve jumped three feet in the air and yelled because it was creeping me out that much. I kept looking over my shoulder, and I honestly read this in two nights not because it’s so short, but because, much like how I binged the show, I was legitimately running back from the bathroom to my room because I thought something was going to get me. Jackson is just a phenomenal writer, and her use of language was so eerie and unsettling that I think I’d be spooked even in a non-horror book from her.
Ghost Squad | Claribel A. Ortega
THIS BOOK! I was so mad at myself for reading Cemetery Boys in September (but, I mean, can you blame me??), and though I desperately wanted to read Ghost Squad then, too, I forced myself to wait so I wouldn’t be reading ALL of my spooky ghost stories at the same time, and I’m so glad I waited because damn if this wasn’t the most perfect Halloween book ever. Not only was it adorable and had a cat, I just loved the characters so much, I loved the lore of the fireflies and how magic was built, and I loved the story. The different familial relationships were incredible, and I would read dozens more books set in this world with Lucely, Syd, and Chunk at the helm.
Queen of Volts | Amanda Foody
I’m trying to think of words to describe how incredibly grateful I am for this series, and it’s just not working, so bear with me here. I started reading this series when Ace of Shades was released and pitched as “House of the Rising Sun meets Six of Crows” because that? Yeah, that sounds like it’s going to check a hell of a lot of my boxes. It was a stunning opening to what would become one of my favorite universes, and I was nervous about its sequel, King of Fools, because it was a middle book, and there’s no telling how that’s going to go. AND WOW. AMANDA FOODY JUST DELIVERED. King of Fools was an incredible follow-up, and when I tell you that Queen of Volts was probably one of my most anticipated books this year, I’m not exaggerating. Sim, I’ve been hyped about a lot of books, and there are a lot of series coming to an end this year, and I’ve probably said this a half dozen times already, but I’ve loved Levi & Enne and their chaotic world for a little over two years now, and I was so damn afraid of this ending. What if it didn’t live up to how much I hopelessly adored the first two? I can confidently say that there is not a single thing I didn’t love in this finale. From start to finish, it was perfect. For me, this was exactly everything that I was hoping for and more. It was just the absolute best way to end this trilogy, and though I’m heartbroken that we’re leaving this world and its characters behind, I feel so satisfied. Every single plot line was seen through, even the little ones, like Enne’s tokens, that I thought were just throwaway character quirks from the beginning. And don’t even get me started on the plot because Foody is an absolute genius, and there were some twists in here that I didn’t see coming, but that were masterfully devised. The whole plot, truly, was incredibly well done, and I’m just so impressed with how hard she went with the card game theme and stuck true to it to the very end. I’m going to be thinking about these characters for a long, long time to come, and I cannot wait to see who Foody makes us fall in love with next.
Mexican Gothic | Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This was so damn horrifying! Like, scary isn’t the right word for it, it was truly horrifying, and in so many different ways that were just so damn well done. I’m highkey super impressed with Moreno-Garcia, too, because I didn’t love the writing style for Gods of Jade and Shadow, though I understood what she was doing, and seeing her utilize a completely different style now for Mexican Gothic, so that it fit the genre and mood of the book–WOW OKAY. What a flex, and what a way to make me want to read literally everything and anything she’s written. I loved Noemí as a narrator so much because she’s loud and uncertain and determined and rude and just all of the things. She’s one of the most relatable characters I’ve seen in a long time because she’s so human, and it made her a fantastic person to follow. The house in this was terrifying, and I loved the very cool scientific explanation behind everything. The romance was so understated and sweet, and I enjoyed having that to fall back on when I was just cringing away from everything else. Gosh, even Catalina, who doesn’t have much of a personality right up until the end (it makes sense why not), I was yelling for her at the end. This was just so damn good.
Return of the Thief | Megan Whalen Turner
Wow, damn, talk about absolutely delivering on a series finale. I am just utterly speechless about how much I love Eugenides. I was 100% not prepared for him to show up on page nine because this is a Queen’s Thief book, and half the time, he’s not in it until the very end, but then he was just there the whole time, making me scream and sob alternately. I JUST LOVE HIM SO MUCH, OKAY. I am so not ready to leave him behind, but that ending was truly divine, and I’m so happy to see him living a joyful, safe life. Pheris was an excellent narrator, and I love that we got another new, and totally unexpected, narrator. One of my favorite things in this series is seeing Gen through other people’s eyes, and Pheris was truly a delight to watch Gen through. As always, the slow politics and lore was wonderful, and I am just continually amazed by Turner’s talent with weaving together plot lines and twisting things around like nobody’s business. This series is such a gift, and this finale was everything and more that I could have possibly wished for.
Red, White & Royal Blue | Casey McQuiston
Look, the US elections are happening right now, and it’s got me all tangled up in a ball of stress, and the only way to alleviate it is to pretend we’re living in the Alex & Henry 2020 timeline. This was wonderful, as always, and I really took my time with it on my third read, and there were just so many small things to fall in love with that I’d bypassed the first two times because I was too busy falling head over heels for all the big picture things. I also read this in small chunks over several days, so I really got to linger in Alex & Henry’s story, and it was just wonderful.
The Rose & the Dagger | Renée Ahdieh
Wow, I nearly cried so many times reading this, and it was an absolute gift. I was so excited to receive this so quickly; I ordered it from Waterstones because I somehow ended up with the UK cover of the first book, which is just gorgeous, and I couldn’t stand not having matching covers. But the mail has been absolutely wretched, so I didn’t think I’d get it for a few months, and LO AND BEHOLD! Here I am, finishing a series right away because this is just so damn good! Everything I wanted to happen in this finale happened and more. That epilogue??? Read that epilogue at my wake someday, holy shit. I kept thinking about the epilogue in Madeleine Roux’s House of Furies trilogy and how I just felt so unexpectedly blessed by it, and SAME. Like, that was so much more than we deserved, and it was everything. The story in this was just fantastic, and I loved all the quiet calls to Arabian mythology. I loved getting to see more of the words, watching the characters develop realistically and beautifully, and ughhhhh that romance. Shahrzad & Khalid are one of my favorite couples in the entire world.
Utopia Avenue | David Mitchell
This was originally a four star read for me, but then that chapter with Marinus absolutely destroyed me. Like, truly just blew my mind and reshaped so much of what I already know about the Mitchell universe. This was a really interesting story, and it reminded me so much of Black Swan Green in the long, winding way it told its story. The chapter with Marinus was truly the most exciting part, though I do think that if you haven’t read Thousand Autumns or Bone Clocks, it’ll probably make no sense and just read like a very bizarre acid trip, which probably fits in with the overall theme of a band in the 60s. Well, that sentence got away from me. Anyway, this was excellently written, I adored the characters, the connection to the larger universe made me shout with joy, and I can’t wait to see what Mitchell does next.
The Shadows Between Us | Tricia Levenseller
Sweet Satan, this book is wonderful. For all the same reasons that I loved Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, I love this. It’s overflowing with all my favorite dark YA tropes–a Shadow King, who’s got the hair (if you know, you know), a jaw to cut oneself on, proper angst and quick temper, and a MC who wants nothing more than to kill him and gain his power, but is unfortunately falling for him in a friends to lovers romance, and I just canNOT with this book. It was truly a joy to read. You really can’t go into it expecting a serious story because there’s barely any plot, but if you’re looking for a good time, look no further. I laughed a lot, and it got a high rating because, despite being predictable and ridiculous, it was so much fun.
Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite | Various
This was pretty good! I really enjoyed (Desi vamp), (Schwab), and (internet vamp). They each brought such unique perspectives to the vampire legend, as well as added their own bits of lore, whether that was taking away or reinventing or just sticking with the age old goodies. I wish more of them had been in third person, but that’s just personal preference, and it doesn’t honestly detract that most of them are in first. I’m so excited that this collection is out and being hyped, too, because it really feels like vampires are making a comeback, and I am so, so ready for it.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle | Shirley Jackson
This was so much more sinister than the movie, and while I definitely prefer how the movie ended, I just loved the overall creep factor in this. Like, I didn’t totally hate Charles right away when he arrives at the house in the movie, though that’s probably partially because he’s played by Sebastian Stan, but he is immediately evil in the book, and it made for such a different experience with him. I loved having Mary Katherine as a narrator, too, because she just rambles on for the entire book, so we get an entire stream of thoughts rather than some here and there, which really just means she’s thinking about everyone dead the entire book. This is just such an interesting story, and it’s made me even more of a fan of Jackson’s writing style, so I’ll definitely be picking up more by her.
Catacomb | Madeleine Roux
Honestly, this series is so weird. There’s nothing about it that I outright hate, and it’s not even like I’m not enjoying it, it’s just kind of like, well, this is a book, and I read it. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because the plot is absurd, all of the characters are the worst, and the writing is just meh the entire time. I’m just so indifferent about this series? I don’t know, I think something turned off in my brain the second I realized it wasn’t going to be anywhere near as good as House of Furies, and so I just kind of proceeded with banal disregard? Anyway, I’m happy that I’m finally finished with it because I was starting to feel like I was dragging my feet through it, and while I went back and forth on whether or not to give this two stars, again, there wasn’t anything specific I disliked, it was just an overall who cares feeling. Also, it wasn’t scary, so that’s unfortunate.
Prelude for Lost Souls | Helene Dunbar
This was fine. I won’t read the sequel, but I’m not overly upset that I read this one. I felt like I was being held at a distance for most of this book, like I was missing just enough information to understand what was going on, but with no emotional attachment, so nothing really left a mark. The characters were fine, but we were only ever told how they were feeling, rather than shown, and it was an unbelievable kind of telling. The plot was interesting, but because a lot of information was withheld, or just not described well, it fell flat. This had a lot of potential, and there were some moments in it that I wanted to shout about, but it was weird, there was just this detachment in the writing that made shouting feel like more work than it was worth. There was also some serious drug use in this, and while I think it’s valid and important to see these kind of stories from the abusers, it definitely romanticized addiction, and that’s not okay. Overall, just an okay book that left a bit of a sour aftertaste.
Bloodleaf | Crystal Smith
This was fine, and I’ll be honest, if there wasn’t lore surrounding the maiden/mother/crone, I probably would have given up on it about 200 pages in, but the world and the lore in it was really interesting, so I stuck with it. It wasn’t that I disliked the characters or the plot, either, just that everything was very flat and fine. The writing was okay, the characters didn’t have a whole ton of development that was shown, just discussed, and the plot was very matter-of-fact and seemed to unfold according to a script rather than naturally. It was fine, and I might even read the sequel because I’m curious what happens, and I didn’t outright not like it.
The Asylum Novellas | Madeleine Roux
I think I’m done with these books. I have one more to read, Escape from Asylum, but they’re just getting progressively worse, and I don’t know if I can force myself to read another. This wasn’t cohesive at all. The stories didn’t make sense individually. Each one was like a snapshot, and there didn’t seem to be any real point to them, which just doesn’t work as a novella. It’s not a short story, and even if it was, it should’ve had some kind of story arc to it. These were just quick scenes of murder and abuse and boring horror, and they weren’t good. They didn’t add anything to the overall story that wasn’t already there. I just don’t know what the point was.
UM, Y’ALL? I had 9 books on my Halloween TBR, and, of those, I read 8. I mean, damn. I even managed to squeeze in a few books that were additions I wasn’t sure I could get to, as well as a few new releases. I’ve still got some other new releases that I’m hyped about and need to read as soon as possible, so I’m hoping to get those read at the beginning of November.
Last month, I decided to take the monthly stats out of my wrap-up after a really stress-relieving decision on Goodreads. I’m no longer going to keep track of when I’ve purchased books and try to read them in that order. I end up reading things that I’m not super hyped about at the moment, eventually forgetting about the ones that I am hyped about, and then just feeling bleh all around. Thus, I’m no longer doing pre-2020 purchase TBRs, or saying that I have to read something before I can read something else. I’ve got a physical TBR shelf, and I’m allowing myself to just pick anything I want off of it because why add stress to the most peaceful thing I do? That’s just dumb. Thus, this month’s TBR is all about what I’m screaming about currently:
- The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
- Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
- Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
- Beyond the Black Door by AM Strickland
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
I’ve got a five-star predictions post lingering out in the ether, and (1), (2), and (5) are all on it, (4) was on my Pride TBR, and I’ve been staring longingly at (3) since before I bought it, so I’m honestly so hyped about all of these, and I cannot wait. Plus, I’ve been trying to read about half of them for months now, but I keep getting sidetracked by my monthly TBR, so figured if I just put them as the monthly TBR, well, that’d solve a whole lot of problems.
Krysta @ Pages Unbound wrote a compelling and well thought out piece on if we should still be teaching Little House on the Prairie in schools, and they’ve outlined a lot of points that make sense and that, hopefully, encourage teachers to provide diverse reads for their students.
Margaret @ Weird Zeal compiled a wonderful post of fellow writers and their advice on writing. Sim, I’m tooting my own horn a little because I’m featured, but it was also so wonderful to see what other writers had to say about this beloved craft of ours, and as NaNoWriMo is approaching, it was so refreshing to see so many hopeful pieces about writing! She also wrote an outstanding review of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, and
What a month it has been! I took the first two weeks off to relax after finishing my book last month, but I knew that I wanted to start NaNoWriMo with a solid portion of the second book already written, so I dove back in around the middle of the month, and I’m wrapping up things now at 36,359 words for October! The first act of the second book is done, and I’m hella excited to be working on it. I just love duologies so much. They’re so much easier to write, and there’s no middle book to slog through and try to make better. I can just throw a cliffhanger in at the end of the first book and get cracking on the action immediately in the second book. The end of the first act is just insane, too, so I’m really happy to have reached that point.
I did end up taking a very small break at the end of October–I finished the first act on the 28th, and I went away on the 30th to spend Halloween with my witch sister, so I spent the whole weekend just lounging. I am so ready for NaNo now, though, and I am going to smash this second act out of the park.
And, if you’re curious what I’m writing for this year’s NaNo, I posted my announcement last week! Obviously, it’s going to be the second book of this duology, and I’m hoping to get through all of the second act, if not more.
What I’ve Been Watching
Erin & I kicked off Halloween with Repo! The Genetic Opera. I’ve never seen it, though I’ve always wanted to, and I was even more excited when I discovered that it had Sarah Brightman in it. I could tell you stories about my youth growing up obsessed with Phantom of the Opera, and it still remains my favorite musical/opera to this day. I was scheduled to see it at the godsdamn Royal Opera House in London, and I even bought a black gown to wear, but then the pandemic happened, and I’m starting to think it’s unlikely I’ll ever get to see it where it premiered. But anyway, Repo! was as ridiculous as I was expecting, hella Goth, and super fun.
Things are starting slow with horror movies, but I’ve been having so much fun with reading that I’ve mostly been doing that at night, though after watching The Others, I just want to consume every haunted house horror film there is. Erin & I have a few planned for while I’m there for Halloween, so some of them will have to wait, but I’ve got some excellent ideas for what I want to watch next. And wow, if you haven’t watched The Others, do so immediately because THAT PLOT TWIST. I did not see it coming, but it was freaking amazing, and I’m just so impressed by this film. Even beyond the plot twist, the rest was super spooky, and I had to watch with my laptop at the end of my bed several times, and now I want to watch it all over again with the plot twist knowledge because the whole move changes. Just wow.
I finally watched The Haunting of Hill House! I wanted to read the book first, and then I wanted to finish the first season of Supernatural, which is not listed here since I wrote about it last month, so it took me a minute to get around to it. I ended up bingeing this over a couple days because it was so good, but also because I was mostly watching it at night, and I really just wanted to sleep without sprinting through the house toward my room, haha. This was honestly just as good as the book, and though it wasn’t a direct adaptation, a lot of the elements of the book were still there, and I loved seeing them quietly threaded through. I absolutely adored all of the characters, and though I have some issues with how they changed Nell & Theo’s characters so drastically, this was a really great, spooky show.
Erin screamed so much about Jojo Rabbit that we watched two movies in one week because I’m on spooky train for our weekly Friday movie nights, and wow, I’m so glad that we did. I never thought I’d laugh so hard about Hitler? This was truly a fantastic movie, and I just love Hitler being played by an indigenous actor so much. Jojo and Elsa stole my godsdamn heart, and I was ready to throw Hitler out the window myself just so that Jojo could see how horrible he was, and UGH WOW. I don’t want to spoil anything because this movie is a gift and everyone needs to see it.
I started the second season of Supernatural! I have such vivid memories of season two, and it’s been really interesting going back to it. I remembered a lot of the first season, but it’s, like, weirdly vivid for the second one, and I’m enjoying it so much. Of course, I’m hella excited to get to season four, and every time I think about something wonderful that happens later on, I just want to binge my way through this and hurry past, but I’m also enjoying it a lot.
Obviously, it was Ben Whishaw’s birthday this month, which meant that I needed to watch something with him in it, and while I could have just rewatched Skyfall and quietly wept into my own fanfiction, I wanted to watch something new, so A Very English Scandal it was. I was shocked by the lack of tea-drinking in this, particularly because I made myself a cup for each new episode, and then no one was obsessively drinking it in every other scene, and this may sound like a stereotype, but I think I was in an The Hour mindset and expecting Ben’s character to just be slowly drowning himself in tea. Alas, there was no tea, and they painted Thorpe as a victim while underhandedly making fun of Norman Scott right up to the credits. This was well done, but left me a bit unhappy at times.
Anna @ Reads Rainbow tweeted about The Thing About Harry, and, well, it looked like a gay Hallmark movie, so I decided to give it a go, and wow. WOW. It was a bit of a trash fire, but I also want 12 more, and I’d like a NA book based on it that I can binge reread six times, um?? I loved this movie so much, I will 100% rewatch it several times, and now I’m fancasting Niko Terho as one of my characters because that’s just how life works, and that love confession? The NOT FADE TO BLACK?????? I am speechless. I was serial texting Erin throughout it, and when there was angst under a disco ball at pride, she was like, “Did you, um, secretly write this? What is going on?” I mean, truly, because there was a running through the streets in pajamas for a SECOND love confession while Shawn Mendes was playing, this movie was tailored specifically to me.
I truly don’t know what to say about Satanic Panic. It was almost more fun to watch Erin’s face during the movie because she was just as horrified as I was, and it was nice to confirm that we were both experiencing this truly awful, graphic, and bizarre movie. I’m not a big fan of gore, so I usually look away, which meant that there was a lot of looking away. They also did a lot of things right with the lore, though, so there were parts that I liked. At the same time, I didn’t like many of the characters, the story was batshit, and the execution just–left a whole lot to be desired. I don’t know. This truly felt like a fever dream, and not a good one.
I’ve been hyped about Away since Hilary Swank first announced she was working with Mike Massimino on a new project, and, let me tell you, it delivered. I’m so upset that it wasn’t renewed for a second season, particularly because it feels like something I’ll rewatch. The science was outstanding, and they did so many things right, and I’m just so happy this exists.
It is not quite the end of the month when this post is going up, but I’m currently in Maine celebrating Samhain with my witch sister, and next Friday will have my first NaNo weekly wrap-up, so I decided to post this a day early. I didn’t think I’d be finishing any books while I was up in ME, either, so there shouldn’t be any addendums to this.
October was a pretty great month. Penelope left for school with my sister, so we had a mini photoshoot of the girls, and I’ve got to say, I knew I was going to miss her, but I didn’t quite realize just how much. We also celebrated my sister’s birthday before she went back, and, because of the pandemic, she can’t come home on the weekends, or she won’t be able to go back to school, and I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss her, either.
I’m now teaching yoga inside, which is nice because we’re out of the cold & dark, but is a bummer to be wearing a mask. Obviously, I totally understand why, and I agree with wearing one, but it’s hard to teach with one, and it’s definitely a learning curve figuring it out. I’ve been focusing a lot more on breathwork, selfishly, so that I’m able to breathe better while also trying to talk a lot.
I made lots of goodies, too, and took pictures of approximately none of them, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Our neighbor recently had major surgery, so I made blueberry scones at the beginning of the month for her, and then again at the end of the month just because I wanted scones, and they were so good. I also made cranberry almond and lemon raspberry ones, and I just used that linked recipe for the blueberry scones, but subbed the blueberries. I used dried cranberries & slivered almonds for the first, and lemon zest & fresh raspberries, as well as a lemon drizzle (sub lemon juice for milk), for the second. They were delicious. Pro tip, though, if you’re baking the blueberry and cranberry ones at the same time, the cranberry ones will bake quicker because they don’t have the added moisture of the blueberries, so keep checking them by the underside to judge if they’re ready. My second batch of blueberry ones were falling apart a bit because I baked all three at once. They were still wonderful, but tasted more like cupcakes than scones because I took them out at the same time as the cranberry ones. I also made apple crumble bars, and WOW, let me tell you, if you need an autumn dessert, I gotchu covered. I didn’t put salted caramel on mine, which I realize is just a travesty, but I didn’t feel like making it, and they were amazing without it!
At the end of the month, I ended up having the best possible day of my life, and I’m still crying about it. I’ve known my best friend, Jenna, literally since the day she was born. Our parents were friends in school, so we grew up together, and she’s always been a sister to me. I call her kids my niece & nephews, which always confuses everyone, but it just feels right. I met her daughter, Grace, less than twenty-four hours after she was born, and Jacob about a week later. Due to the pandemic, though, I haven’t been able to meet her new baby, Luke, and he’s three months old now. Some last minute plans and incredible circumstances meant that my mom & I were able to go up to their summer lake house during their last weekend, and I was finally able to meet him. We’ve both been very good during the pandemic, and I’ve been careful with who I’m around & how, and I’d originally planned to keep my distance from the kids, but then Grace crawled into my lap to show me her math workbook, and Jacob snuggled up against my side while he watched Transformers, and then Jenna was just depositing Luke in my arms, and I immediately started crying because his little head felt like velvet, and he smelled like linen and baby goodness, and he was just so sweet. We had an absolute blast, and he was so in love with me, and I just feel utterly blessed to have been able to meet him. He’s just adorable, and I love them all more than every star in the night sky.
Overall, this was a pretty chill, but lovely month. I took a break for the first half from writing, and then totally kicked ass during the second half. I read a lot of excellent books, watched some quality Netflix, and got to see some of my best friends in the world. Plus, it’s finally getting cold out, which means two great things. One, I get to wear sweaters all the time. And two, though my cats normally sleep one on the bed and one on the tower, they’ve begun their migration toward one another, and I caught them snuggling the other day. A vida é boa.