Top Ten Best Books to Read Round Halloween!

Top 10 Tuesday by The Broke and the Bookish-top 10 books to read for Halloween! (For those of us who aren’t into horror!)

 

1. Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

-Mysterious sightings of a woman in green believed to be the queen of the fairies, creepy goings-on round the keep…and minstrel songs of fey folk sacrificing Tam Lin on Hallow’s Eve.  “But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday,
Then win me, win me, if ye will,
For well I think ye may.”

 

2. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

-I once described this book as the modern negative (in terms of what’s dark is light and vice versa) of Jane Eyre, and I still think it’s an apt description.

 

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

-Demons named the Archbishop of Canterbury and other titles!  The Dance of the Macabre!  Magical ghosts!  What more do you want?

 

4. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennet  (Minikin Snickasnee really should have been in my list of favorite names!)

-It’s not easy being a wicked witch’s daughter.  It’s also not so easy dealing with the host of magical creatures on call through her magical powders…or going to school.

little witch3

 

5. The Magic Thief by Sarah Prinneas (Crows!)

-This breaks from the exact Halloween tradition a bit, but crows!  And magic!  And mystery!

 

6. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

-Having to dress up like the dark lord or a wizardly guide can be irritating.  Having to do it for different groups all tourist season can be murder!

Darklordofderkholmcover

 

7. Chronicles of Chrestomanci v. 2: Witch Week and Witches of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones

-Witches, witches everywhere, with everyday horrors rubbing shoulders with magical happenings, flying statues, and of course-cats who run the household.

 

8. Hexes, Inc. by Vivian Vande Velde

-A collection of stories all about people who try ordering hexes from the company.  Naturally, everything ends well…*scoff*

 

9. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

-Death and murder everywhere converge in two confused, comical performers.

 

10. I don’t care if it’s cheating-http://shoebox.lomara.org/ by ladyjaida and Rave.

-Wizarding ghost stories, Dumbledore pranks, and Marauders, oh my!

sbp_pdf_header1

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Daughter of Earth and Sky (Daughters of Zeus #2)

Daughter of Earth and Sky (Daughters of Zeus #2)

By: Kaitlin Bevis

(http://kaitlinbevis.com/)

Published by: Euterpe (December 2012)

A young adult fantasy review

 

(Review of Daughters of Zeus #1 here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/persephone-daughters-of-zeus-1/)

 

Persephone’s victory over Boreas proves short-lived.  Suddenly, a siren of a sister goddess rises and Persephone is saddled with acclimating Aphrodite.  Persephone’s realization of her powers causes friction with both Demeter and Melissa.  Zeus poses an increasing threat.  And no one can declare war on a deity quite like the god of death.  The stakes keep getting higher and Persephone finds herself sacrificing everything.  Will there be anything left to salvage in the end?

Daughter of Earth and Sky takes readers steadily further into the dark side of mythology.  No longer playing with the safe, familiar stories, Bevis thrusts Persephone straight into the world of endless appetites, divine demands for sex, death, and cruelty.  The effects feel much more immediate when you don’t already know at least the frame for the story.  Persephone acquits herself well, without losing her accessibility or plausibility.  The plot turns just fast enough so that predictions don’t overshadow the suspense.  The romance between Hades and Persephone turns easily with the story, a key part of the plot rather than gratuitous fluff.

In short, Daughter of Earth and Sky is the exemplary second book: new elements are introduced without encroaching on the old, obstacles are overcome to the point of facing the ultimate danger without giving away anything about the climax, characters experience real growth, romance reaches a level of satisfaction to offset the unfinished plotlines, and you want to read the next one.  Particularly because this book ended so abruptly.  If Persephone refreshed the roots for spring, Daughter of Earth and Sky grew the story’s stem.  Now we just need the blossom.

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Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

By: Kaitlin Bevis

(http://kaitlinbevis.com/)

Published by: Euterpe (July 5, 2012)

A young adult fantasy review

 

Persephone suspects she is going crazy.  The wind whispers her name and she often feels she is being watched.  Then her mother tells her she is a goddess, so clearly craziness is catching.  Being attacked by the god of winter and carried off to the Underworld by Hades don’t help Persephone’s day.  Ironically, they do convince her that her family is sane, if different.  Now Persephone’s only obstacles are learning how to be a goddess, the obsession of the lustful god Boreas, ruling as queen of the Underworld, and trying to regain control over her life.  Also, finding oneself in a permanent, political marriage to the god of the Underworld can get tricky.  Hades proves a very different god than Persephone imagined.

I found Persephone fresh, fun, and easy to read.  Bevis modernizes Greek mythology by creating her own history of what changing values and worship systems would do to the deities, rather than simply updating them like Rick Riordan.  Her alterations are engaging and change the stakes so that readers get to encounter well-known myths with fresh eyes.  (Yes, I am using the word “fresh” a lot because it’s about the goddess of spring.)  I can’t wait to find out more about the gods in her world-I wish there’d been a bit more exposition just filling me in.

I enjoyed this heroine.  Persephone’s discovery that she is a goddess is the most authentic, plausible supernatural-acceptance narrative I’ve ever read.  She felt so organic that she came across as a truly strong heroine without it seeming like the author was trying to make her one; she just was.  Her personality grounded the novel and grew in the spotlight, no matter what else was happening.  Plus, Persephone’s practically the only time I’ve seen a short girl in this supernatural role.

Bevis very deliberately leaves no stone unturned in creating a Hades whose character is positive.  His Underworld has a lot to offer and is wonderfully fleshed out.  The supporting cast is compelling, rather than just plotpoints.  There’s enough action to keep the pacing quick.  She does assume enough knowledge of Greek mythology that, while readers won’t be lost, they might not enjoy the novel as much if they aren’t in the know.  The myths Bevis actually retells successfully marry familiar myths with her versions of the characters.  The overarching plot that extends to the sequels is promising.

So basically, as Persephone renews the earth, Persephone renews her story.  What’s not to like about spring?  I recommend it.

 

(Review for the sequel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/daughter-of-earth-and-sky-daughters-of-zeus-2/)

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Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

 

Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

By: Lauren DeStefano

(http://www.laurendestefano.com/)

Simon & Schuster February, 2013

A young adult dystopian review

 

 

Revived from Fever, Rhine needs to snatch at second chances-a second chance to be honest, a second quest to find Rowan, a second turn to find a situation she can live with before it’s her time to die.  With so much to do and so little hope, Rhine finds that her world is still filled with things that can break.

DeStefano’s lyrical prose draws you right back into the story where we left off, enhancing everything with its beauty.  The pacing moves differently than one would expect, but everywhere DeStefano took us was somewhere I felt we needed to be.  There were some plot points that were brushed past rather briskly, but the strength of Sever’s atmosphere and Rhine’s mentality held it together.  It worked for me because at the end of the day, The Chemical Garden Trilogy has never been about action.  It’s always focused on the human consequences-the coping, the confusion, the chaos.  I’ve seen several disappointed reviews about this book and I think it’s because DeStefano sticks so closely to her theme.  I think for many people this kind of dystopian work, at least at the end, is about wish fulfillment-we’d like to think we could fight and overcome even horribly depressing circumstances and overwhelming odds.  Alternatively, it’s about perspective-being wrenched into feeling that whatever life you’re living now is favorable in comparison.  Sever hits none of those usual notes.  The last of Rhine’s story is real and therefore, less than fully satisfying because we’re left with a lack of finality, tainted victories, and pure hope-not fulfilled and without the comfort of endings.

Unlike its predecessors, Sever has more of an ensemble cast than focusing solely on Rhine’s views.  This significantly altered the feel of the read and heightened this conclusion because there are now more people’s feelings to deal with and more overall to hope for.  DeStefano made bold decisions with this book and I believe she left me feeling exactly how she intended me to.  Sever brings this series around from sex and death to the realization that life takes every bit as much effort and anguish and courage.  Rules break, people change, and we live surrounded by things that Sever.  I’d say this book is well worth the time.

Shadowfell

Shadowfell

By: Juliet Marillier

(http://www.julietmarillier.com/)

Alfred A. Knopf 2012

A young adult fantasy review

 

Neryn’s homeland of Alban brims with magical fairies, stonie mons, and other creatures.  Unfortunately, King Keldec has been systematically taking control of all Alban’s magic by turning it, and those who wield it, to his personal service for life.  Anyone who cannot be converted is ruthlessly stamped out.  Neryn, with her gift of seeing the fairy folk, knows about running, about hiding, and about the perils of trust.  What Neryn does not know is if Shadowfell, the fabled home of a resistance force, is real.    Yet, between the enemies that hunt her and the mysterious strangers who help her, Neryn becomes determined to make her own resistance count.  After all, battling Keldec’s oppression involves far more than a place.

Shadowfell includes many of the most recognizable themes concerning magical lands, tyrants, and discovering personal strength.  Marillier manipulates them into a modern, edgy atmosphere that balances the story’s tension against its familiarity.  The result is a story where the small events draw you in and keep you engaged despite the plot’s overall predictability.  It may be the type of story you’ve read before, but here it feels less like following a cast who knows they’re in a story and more like experiencing unsettling emotions applicable to real situations.  The personalities of Neryn and Flint center the story.  The relationship between the hunted girl and the mystifying man grows in complexities and questions as they near Shadowfell.  Seen through Neryn’s eyes, the dynamic is easy to empathize with and the shifts in the relationship are realistic.  Marillier deftly uses the relationship to illuminate the issues Shadowfell discusses.  Best of all, she does it without trying too hard.

Akin to a cross between the Tiffany Aching books and Legend of the Seeker, Shadowfell serves up a journey for those who like their protagonists to think.  For those who prefer lots of action or more light-hearted magical quests, this book might be a bit heavy.

 

Personally, I found myself drawn in after the rather stereotypical introduction.  I really enjoyed reading the book and I overall did like the characters.  Thinking back on it now, though, I cannot really recall why I liked it as much as I did.  It has a lot of qualities that I personally don’t care for, though they were turned to good account for those who like that sort of thing.  I can only hazard a guess that it was the balance between all the elements-I was never left with just one aspect long enough to get really unhappy with it.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy)

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)

By: Sarah Rees Brennan

(http://sarahreesbrennan.com/)

Random House (September 11, 2012)

A young adult fantasy romance review

Kami Glass has come to terms with the fact that she may be crazy.  After all, when the voice you’re constantly connected to in your brain is the friend who makes you feel sane, even craziness seems safer than losing them.  Particularly when Kami’s zest for investigation begins exposing her quiet English town as a disturbing place.  Unfortunately, the new discoveries are happening everywhere and they are not abiding by the rules.  The founding family has returned to the town, animals are being ritually sacrificed in the woods, and supernatural things seem to be happening.  But for Kami, the most unnerving thing of all is meeting her imaginary friend…in the flesh.

Brennan writes with charm and creates voices that are distinctly fun.  For all of the strangeness of Kami’s private world with Jared, Unspoken is cheering and easy to read.  The mystery element folds in nicely, turning up new information at a good pace without losing suspense from any of aspect of the story.  The world of Sorry-in-the-Vale fills the novel with a sense of place, with a fully-functioning society to support the important characters, and with an atmosphere that feels natural, no matter what eccentricities came to light.

Most importantly, Unspoken plays with the notion of individuality and what it really means.  In order to care about this overall theme, Brennan really had to bring it with her characters.  She succeeded.  Kami heads a cast of three-dimensional people with histories and secrets.  Specific stereotypes are deliberately smashed and issues of class and race are included as they really would be, integral underlying matters that don’t need a lot of focus to touch on everything.  The discussion of physical beauty and attraction mirrors and complements Brennan’s discussion of personality and perception in such simple ways it was almost painfully wonderful.

Unspoken meddles with so many things: romance, mystery, magic, meaningful questions.  This novel works through as many layers as Kami and Jared do in their relationship with each other.  The ending clarity felt nearly wrong, with so many layers of suspense and wonder lost in the final revelations.  On the other hand, this is only book one and I see several reasons why Brennan may have wanted the ending to feel that way.  If nothing else, it felt fitting.  This is the first Sarah Rees Brennan book I have read and already I trust her to ultimately provide satisfaction.  Like Kami, I feel “strongly that Fridays should not be full of disappointments.”  Luckily, Unspoken offered me none.

“Madame’s Turn” in Fever

I have read Fever, #2 of The Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano.  Suffice it to say (for now) that I loved it!  I plan to do a real book review soon, but I’ve been forced to put it off by my brain’s obsession with wanting to write Fever-inspired poetry. Naturally, the first subject is Madame!

“Madame’s Turn”

     Her world turns,

                                              -sweating scents.

    Reds, Greens, Lilac,

                                              -castoff innocence.

   Tilt up to the stars

                                        drug-over the ground

                                       where lust’s bargains sound.

 

 

Lights, twirls, giggles,

                                             -a happy, young picture.

    The fairground is old.

Illusions are told.

Hers is the life with the time to unfold

                                            (So why miss  her?)

 

 

Youth’s here to steal

                                           The whole world knows.

                                         But, with some, the fee grows.

Only death’s claim is real.

A circus of girls to show She shouldn’t feel.

 

 

 

 

The atmosphere’s Hers,

All perform to her thrall,

Men buy,

                     men come,

                                               they pay money for

 (Madame’s girls.)

Flesh spies,

                          blood thrums,

                                                           Madame says, “Ze l’amour.”

(The opiates start to unfurl.)

 

 

 

 

Colors swirl along the ground

heat and life with each pound

(of Madame’s shows.)

                                                             Cushions litter,

                                                             drugged-eyes glitter,

All the orb’s writhing hard, to absorb Madame’s rose.

 

 

 

 

Wheel comes up.

                                                          Madame’s skin-cold.

Warmth’s in the girls

Never Own, but they’re sold.

                                                         Now Madame’s richer,

                                                        (No effect on the bitter.)

Memories, like control, cause throes.

 

 

 

 

Calculate another price

Dresses, tents, keep the bazaar precise.

Let Her ignore

the past at Her core,

extend, depend nothing, expend with no one

(that matters) and Madame has won.

 

 

Only light eyes with malformed limbs

infiltrate victory, make it seem dim.

Kill the strange girl

                                                    who words never said

Why should she live when Her daughter is dead?

 

 

Madame beats back to keep Her illusion.

Maddie’s worth outside flesh was a painful intrusion.

The show must go on while Madame reigns there.

Gathering wealth that can outweigh gold hair.

 

 

All that we have is life and our lies.

But Madame has more,

In her realm by the shore,

for her Carnival lures with the prize:

of using up pretty, young things to realize

the illusion of Madame’s split-soul with their lives.

 

 

Her world turns,

                                        -perfumed scents.

Come to Madame’s

                                    -bright, dreaming tents.

Let loose your mind,

                                          let Madame’s smoke through.

                                          Delicious fever to wrap about you.