Spooky Book Recs & Discussion: Children’s, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Books

Earlier in the month, I did “Snack Sized Stories” (short stories, novellas, comics & graphic novels), and I’d intended to post one of these book recs lists every Monday in October (replacing my usual “Must Read Mondays” this month), but…I forgot because it was a really busy time :/

I remembered this week, though!

I actually don’t read a lot of middle grade or children’s books these days, except re-reads of books I loved when I was growing up, or reading aloud with my kid. But, I’ve read a few as an adult, and I remember some from when I was a kid, and I do somewhat regularly still read YA, so hopefully this list won’t be only like 3 book long 😛 (I’m including both things generally considered horror, and some things I just think are creepy/spooky/scary.)


Middle Grade & YA

  • Goosbumps by R.L. Stine– Just, all of them, basically. If you never read a Goosebumps book, try picking up one of the classics (Night of the Living DummyGhost BeachStay Out of the BasementSay Cheese and Die!, etc.) to see what you think.
  • The Fear Street Saga by R.L. Stine– These were more for teens, I think, and I only read about 2 of them, but really liked them.
  • Shivers by M.D. Spenser– There weren’t many of these, and I don’t think they were quite as good or well-known as Goosbumps, but I really liked them.
  • Bone Chillers by Betsy Haynes– I think I only read like 2-3 of these, but I think I liked them in grade school.
  • Scary Stories (all 3 volumes) by Alvin Schwartz– Creepy folklore? Yes, please! I think I almost wore out my school’s library copies of these books, and I still love them and sometimes re-read them now that I have my own copies.
  • Christopher Pike’s books– I can’t remember if these were in a series, but I read a few and remember them being super popular for a while.
  • Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe– I…can’t remember if I ever actually read this, or if my BFF read it so much I just knew the story and think I read it :/
  • Point Horror series– These were books written by different authors (R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Caroline B. Cooney, etc.), and there was at least one spin off (Nightmare Hall, I think).
  • Haunting With Louisa series by Emily Cates– I might have only read the first one, but I remember liking it, at least.
  • Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers by Francine Pascal– Yep, that Sweet Valley. My cousin had tons of the different Sweet Valley books, but I think I liked her Super Chillers most.
  • Neil Gaiman– I started to list a couple of books, but pretty much just read any of them and you’re probably going to find something creepy.
  • Doll Bones by Holly Black– I read this a couple of years ago and really liked it.
  • The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle– This was one of my absolute favorite books of 2015 ❤
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– Not super scary, but still has some kinda creepy bits.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black– I really loved this one, too, and I feel like it’s really underrated.
  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray– Partially because I will use any excuse to talk about, and partially because it has some creepy parts (but it isn’t a horror series at all).
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl– My favorite Dahl book growing up ❤
  • In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz– I don’t think this was as well known as Scary Stories, but still great.
  • Scary Stories for Stormy Nights by Mark & Michelle Kehl– I remember having 1 or 2 of these, and liking them, but I don’t remember much about them now :/
  • Bruce Coville– I think I had the Book of Monsters and… at least one other.

For the pre-school(ish) kiddos (or grownups if you like picture books):

  • Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell– I read this one to my kid around Halloween and we both loved it. (This one is mostly for pre-school aged kids.)
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler– This one is also very cute.
  • The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing & Cynthia Fisher– I think this was my favorite to read to kid a few years ago.
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro & Jared Lee– This one was fun the first 12 times, then it got old. (This was probably kid’s favorite.)
  • Check for spooky versions/additions to your favorite series, like Berenstain Bears, Splat the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Little Critter, Disney, etc.

Did you read scarier books when you were a kid?

What was your favorite scary book/series?

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Halloween Read-a-thon Sign Up + TBR!

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I just found out about this read a thon yesterday or the 10th, but I’m excited! I wish I’d found it sooner, though, because I could have used my last read (Bird Box) for my choice between like 3 or 4 prompts 😛 Oh well, it’s fine. This will just (hopefully) motivate me to read more of the books I want to read this month anyway.

I’m notoriously awful at sticking to a TBR, so who knows what will happen. These are just the books I’m considering and hoping to read. (The book covers link to goodreads.)

Ok, before I dive in, can I just say how freaking great Lauren’s images are for this challenge? You don’t have to use these, but they’re just too cute not to ❤


About the Read-A-Thon:

(Check out Lauren’s post for all the details.)

💀 The read-a-thon is going to run from the 10th October – 31st October.  

💀 You can join in at any time until the end of the read-a-thon. 

💀 You can read as many or as little books as you want!!!

💀 The books HAVE to be horror, thriller and/or have some kind of supernatural element!! Except for one challenge, but more on that below. I’m sorry if these genres aren’t your cup of tea, but it wouldn’t really be a Halloween themed read-a-thon otherwise.

💀 When posting your TBR link back to this post so other people can join in!! Share the spooky love!! If you don’t have a blog that’s okay!! You can post your TBR on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, YouTube – ANYWHERE!!

💀 Use the hashtag #HalloweenWR to share your progress on social media!!


The Challenges/My TBR:

 

 

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I’m thinking Abberations (edited by Jeremy C. Shipp) for this one. It’s a collection of short stories from different writers, and I love the cover. Or, I might read Outcast: Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman because I’d forgotten the cover was creepy until now.

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So. Many. Choices! But I’m considering Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

 

 

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I actually don’t have a lot of books on my shelves that would work for this, but I’m thinking of reading The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin.

 

 

I do about 90% of my reading at night, so I’m counting pretty much whatever for this one. But, I might add an extra bit of challenge to it and read one of the Goosebumps books I got last month in one night.

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Oh this is soooo easy, and I’ve kind of already done it. In October, I marathon horror and thriller movies every single day. (Not loads every day, but at least one.) But, I’m thinking of doing the extra challenge and reading a book then watching the movie. Possibly The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

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I think I’m going with Trick for this, but I’m not sure what I’ll read. I’m thinking about This House is Haunted by John Boyne because it’s been on my Kindle for at least a year or two. (If I don’t read and watch The Exorcist, I might use it for this one.)

 

I might read 7 books, but I’m not sure I’ll manage 7 that fit this read-a-thon :/ I’m going to try, though!


Let me know if you’re participating in this read-a-thon, too!

Do you have any book recs that would fit any of these challenge categories? I’d love to hear about them 🙂

T5W: Creepy Settings

T5W is a weekly meme created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey, now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. You can check out the goodreads group to learn more.

 

October 11th: Favorite Creepy Settings
–These don’t have to be from horror books, but any setting from any book that gave you the heebie jeebies…in a good way. 

 

Ok, picking only 5 was a little hard for this topic. And I had a hard time remembering what was actually creepy vs what was just bleak/dark/etc.

In no particular order…


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The Shining
by Stephen King–The Overlook Hotel:
I mean, come on. Giant, old, essentially empty hotel? It would be creepy without any kind of supernatural happenings.

 

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill– Eel Marsh House & surrounding marshes: Again, the house was creepy enough, but add in the haunting? Nope, not staying there alone, thanks. Then there’s the marshes, which have claimed many lives and are possibly also haunted.

 

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The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle– pretty much everywhere in it: Ok, it’s been 2 years since I read this one, but I remember large parts of the book having an eerie feel to them & the setting. The house was probably the creepiest, though.

 

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy– post-apocalyptic-America: This one I read a long time ago and so don’t remember a ton about it. I do, however, remembering it being very creepy as the father and son made their journey.

 

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman– the world, the river: Is it cheating to use a current read for this? I’m only about halfway through and am pleased to report that this is the first book in ages to actually kind of freak me out. A+ creepy setting creation.

 

 


Bonus settings (yeah, I know it’s T5W, but I’m adding more because I love this topic):

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë– Thornfield Hall: It wasn’t over-the-top creepy, but it definitely had that “There could be ghosts or anything in this place” kind of vibe.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon– the entire town of West Hall: I don’t want to say anything to spoil this one, but trust me, it’s a bit creepy.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll– the woods?: The five stories in this graphic novel are awesome and all have a bit of creepiness to them.


What are some of your favorite creepy settings?

Is there a particular kind of creepy setting you prefer?

Blogtober babbling: I can’t say “No” to my kid about books

I think it’s because of the way I was brought up. I had books, but not many. A couple of family members would buy me a couple of books each for either Christmas or my birthday, and that was usually it for a year. Sometimes I was allowed to use money I got in my cards to go buy a book, but not often. We rarely went to bookstores, and, when we did, I thought I would die when it was time to leave. It wasn’t even that I wanted to buy tons of books. I just liked being around them.

Finally, when I was about 10 or 11, I was allowed to start going to the library a couple times a month. That was heaven. Looking back, I realize the library in the town I lived in was really small and actually not that great. But back then, it was my sanctuary. I didn’t have a good home life (I’ll spare you the details), and books were my escape. At school, I stayed in the library as often as possible, either reading, looking for books to check out, or helping the librarian. When I moved to the area I’m still kind of in, I stopped being able to go to the library. Or, when I did get to go, I was given about 15 minutes to find books. Two weeks later, they were returned (usually after hours by my guardian) and it was another few weeks to months before I got to go back. Fun times. (<<Sarcasm.)

Now, I’m all grown up and have a kid of my own. The first few years, I wasn’t sure my love of books had been passed on. Then, very suddenly, the obsession blossomed. One week, there was no interest in the books when we were at a bookstore. In fact, kid was bored senseless. Then, bam! Kid wanted ALL THE BOOKS! I was so proud and pleased ❤ (We live over an hour from the library, but try to go as often as possible. If we lived very close to one, both of us would probably buy a little less and borrow a lot more.)

The downside of this is that I just can not say no when kid wants a book. So, now there are two of us constantly drooling over the teetering stacks of books we’re toting around a bookstore, trying to decide which ones we absolutely must get, and which ones we can wait to buy. Poor husband. (He likes books, and likes that we’re approaching “we live in a library” status, but he doesn’t get as excited about books as kid and I do.)

Basically, in our home, books are treated as necessities for life. We don’t gift books, we gift other things (clothing, toys, games, etc.) I remember too many times getting something shaped like a book, being excited, ripping off the wrapping paper and discovering…not a book. I also remember getting too many books I had no interest in, but usually forced myself to read anyway because a) it was a book, and b) it was a gift and I would have gotten in trouble if I hadn’t read it.

I don’t want my kid growing up like that. I want my kid to not think of books as treats you get once or twice a year, and I want my kid to be able to read what’s interesting. Neither kid nor I get all the books we want. We’d need a house about 5 times bigger for that to even be a possibility 😛 But if kid finds a book and really wants it, I just can’t say no if it’s at all within my power to get the book.

Related anecdote: I was so proud over the weekend because we found the third Magnus Chase book. Kid has the first, but not the second, and I mentioned that. Kid’s eyes lit up and then kid said “I know where the second book is!” and shot off to get it. That’s the first time kid has remembered books in a series and been interested enough to know where they were in a store. It’s almost like how I was with Harry Potter ❤ I actually almost cried haha. I guess you kind of had to be there, and would have to know my kid to really understand what a big deal that was, but it’s definitely going in the baby book 😛

Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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Genres: historical fiction; contemporary; magical realism

Why I read it: Cottingley fairies! I’ve known that story since I was a kid, and I’ve seen the pictures loads of times, so when I saw the word “Cottingley” in a book title, it was immediately added to my TBR and I entered the ARC giveaway on goodreads.

Who I’d recommend it to: If you like the blending of old and new stories (switching between present and past with connecting threads), a teeny bit of magical realism, and/or the mystery of the Cottingley fairies, you might like this.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3.5 stars)

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon


What it’s about:

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


Review:

This took me ages to get through, but it was not the book’s fault, it was me. I’ve been in this awful reading slump all year for specifically SFF books, and, while this one isn’t super fantasy-ish, it was close enough for my slump to prevent me from making it very far in. (Then my surgery happened and that made it take even longer. Ugh.)

Anyway… As I said, I entered the giveaway for this because I saw the word “Cottingley” and, paired with that cover, I was sure before I even read the description that it would be about the Cottingley fairies, which I had a bit of an obsession with as a child. If you haven’t heard of the Cottingley fairies, google it. If you have no interest at all in what happened, I’d say skip this book. But, if you’re even just a bit curious, you might like it.

The story alternates between present day with Olivia, and events from the early 20th century recorded in a memoir later in life by Frances Griffiths. Olivia is still reeling from the recent loss of her grandfather when she finds out he left her his bookshop, Something Old. But that isn’t all he left her. He also left her a cat, Hemingway (who lives in the bookshop), and a manuscript. Within the manuscript, Olivia finds links to an old photograph she had as a child, and, later, connections to her own family. As she reads the book, peculiar things begin to happen in her own life that may or may not have logical explanations.

Along the way, she learns not only about the people in the story, but also about her family and herself. She’s been dealing with a lot, and some of her indecision and uncertainty really annoyed me for a while, even though I guess it was kind of understandable. So, when she finally starts taking control of her life, I was happy for her. Olivia is not my favorite character, and I actually found her a little boring at times, but by the end of the book I was definitely rooting for her.

For those of you who don’t like romance, don’t worry, it’s not really a part of this story. It’s there, kind of, but it isn’t a major plot point or anything and almost no time is spent on it. This is mostly about family and connections and accepting who you are and learning to stand on your own.

I expected to really love the Cottingley parts of this book, but I didn’t. (I did like them, I just didn’t love them.) It was an interesting way to go about mingling past and present in a historical fiction novel, but some of it seemed to drag by (that could have been the slump, though). I can’t imagine what Frances’s life was like, dealing with her father being away fighting in the war, and having her entire life altered so drastically. So, I felt for her, but her narrative wasn’t as compelling as I hoped it would be. Elsie honestly kind of irritated me, and most of the other characters didn’t leave much of an impression (they were minor). The exception to that was Ellen. My heart broke for her and I wanted the fairies to be real, just for her.

I’d really love to read Frances Griffiths’s own book (books?) about the Cottingley fairies, though, to see how much of the truth made it into this book. I do know that at least some of the “memoir” in this book lines up with what Frances said after confessing about the photographs.

For those who don’t know or care to look it up, Frances and Elsie confessed in the ’80s that they had faked the photographs. Why did they wait over 60 years? Because they’d fooled the world. Even Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in by their story, and subsequently wrote a couple of articles about it featuring the now famous photographs. (Yes, that Arthur Conan Doyle. He was a spiritualist and actually wrote a book about fairies called The Coming of the Fairies, though not many people know about it now.)

Basically, even though we know it was a hoax now, it’s still fascinating to read about, if you’re into this kind of thing. As for the fifth photograph (“The Fairy Bower”), I like to think Frances was telling the truth about that one.

…perhaps believing in fairies was more important than seeing them. In belief, there is hope and wonder. In seeing, there is often question and doubt.

Whether you believe/want to believe in fairies or not, this is still a great historical fiction novel, and I do recommend it. The writing is enchanting all on its own, the story has just a touch of magic, and the characters are so alive and believably human.

Book Blogger Hop: October 6th-12th

This weekly hop is hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer, featuring a question about books each week. The purpose is to bring bookish bloggers together, basically. To participate, write a post about the question for that week and add your link.

The question this week is: Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are both considered classics. Have you ever read either of them?

After many (many many many) failed attempts, I finally finished both.

I read Dracula almost 10 years ago, and enjoyed it, though not as much as I’d hoped to. The majority of the book really dragged by and I struggled a lot with it, but the last bit (after a particular event that I won’t name because ~spoilers~) picked up and I really loved it.

Last year, I made it through Frankenstein and just kind of liked it. I realized that I knew most of the story, but some things never really made it into adaptations, so it was nice to read the source material.

I think I rated both 3 stars on goodreads, with an actual rating of 3.5 stars each. I did like both books, I just expected…more, maybe. I’m curious now to read the edited version of Frankenstein, though (I read the original 1818 edition, which is apparently more gruesome than the later, more popular version), to see how it compares to the original.

Someday, I might revisit one or both, but probably not for a long time. They were good, but not favorites.


Have you read either/both?

Which one is your favorite, or the one you’re most looking forward to reading?

Book Review: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis

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Genres: YA; contemporary

Why I read it: The cover. I saw it while browsing goodreads giveaways, entered on a whim, and won an ARC.

Who I’d recommend it to: A lot of different people, honestly. If you like smart, funny, compulsively readable books in interesting formats (like epistolary novels, things like Illuminae, etc.) with feminist themes, I would recommend this.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository 


What it’s about:

Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won’t admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he’ll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn’t show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora’s dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.


Review:

I’m not really sure what I expected, going into this, but it’s not what I got. I think I was expecting a possibly humorous, but otherwise generic, contemporary YA story. What I got was different. It was still funny, but it was way deeper than I’d expected.

Flora is like the very best of Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl) and Cher Horowitz (Clueless). She was a privileged, upper east side, vintage-fashion-loving, private school girl, but she was also aware of and passionate about things like feminism, the environment, etc. I really thought this book and Flora, in particular, were going to make me mad, because she left her home and school to go to the Quare Academy (which actually sounded like a place I would have loved to have gone) all because of some slightly older guy she barely knew. But then amazing things happened.

During Flora’s first year, she makes some mistakes and things are generally not so great for her, at least at first. I loved how real this book felt. I had to keep reminding myself the letters and stuff were fiction, because Jenny Fran Davis did such a good job creating a realistic world and cast of characters. She didn’t shy away from difficult topics, and I think she handled all of them so well in this book.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, partly because it’s really hard to describe, but mostly because I think this is a book you should start without really knowing too much about it. While this book does cover some very serious topics, I enjoyed how it never felt like it took itself too serious.

The characters were great. Flora, of course, but also the people in her life at Quare and back home in Manhattan. She really learned a lot from many of them, and watching her grow as a character throughout the book was really nice. I hate when a book takes a character through really rapid changes (in a chapter or two, for example) because it feels too rushed. Or, on the opposite side of things, a character doesn’t grow and change at all throughout the book. Both are usually unbelievable. But with Flora, her change was gradual and never felt forced, rushed, or otherwise unrealistic.

I particularly liked Juna and Dean, and wouldn’t have minded getting to know both of them even more. Especially Dean, I think. Then there was the kind of mysterious Sinclaire, who had one of my favorite lines in the whole book (in an e-mail to Flora). I had to put the book down until I stopped laughing and could get the visual out of my head. Sam was kind of an ass, but I liked him and his relationship with Flora. Elijah, though. Ugh. I wanted to kick him in the shins repeatedly. Basically, I really liked most of the characters, even the ones we didn’t get to know very well.

The Miss Tulip subplot was fun to read about. I don’t want to say a lot about it because I don’t want to give away any potential spoilers, but the way Flora’s friends from Manhattan factored in was kind of amusing. (Also, that’s totally a blog I would probably read.) There was also the Nymphette Magazine side story that I enjoyed. (Also a magazine I would have loved, probably, back when I was a teenager.) The way the two were tied in together was funny, heartwarming, and just generally a good time.


This has been one of the hardest book reviews I’ve ever written. I have so many feelings about it, and the characters, but it’s hard to talk about it without giving things away :/ There are a lot of things I really want to talk about, but I’m afraid it would be spoiler-y. Sigh. 

To summarize: I definitely recommend it, and I will almost certainly be keeping an eye out for more books from Jenny Fran Davis in the future.