Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halloween Book Ideas for Adults and Children

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It's that time of the year again - last year I set myself huge reading challenges for Halloween, but it didn't work out as planned (the second half of Dracula made me lose the will to read). This year is faring much better - I'm on book 12 of the month (my Sky+ planner is full to the gills of stuff I haven't watched) and hope to get through a few more that I've been saving up for this time of the year. I'm going to give you some adult suggestions along with a couple of young adult and children's books, hopefully there will be something here to suit everyone, and you might find a book you'd like to read for Halloween!

Stephen King

Stephen King - my favourite horror writer. He's not perfect, but I love that he reads as much as he writes. He just lives and breathes books - there are many of us who started reading his books way too young, but I feel like I've grown up with him. I can personally recommend The Shining, Carrie, Misery, IT, and Revival. Any or all would be a great choice this October, although none mention Halloween in particular. The Shining is one of my favourite books of all time. If you've already read it, check out Doctor Sleep, in which we revisit Danny as an adult. Sometimes I forget that others aren't familiar with King's books, so here's a brief idea of what each book is about:

  • The Shining: A writer and his family move to a remote hotel for the winter where he takes up the position of Caretaker, but finds himself slowly going insane with a little help from some former residents. 
  • Carrie: A young girl with a very religious mother has the power of Telekinesis - she is subjected to horrible bullying incidents at school, but she gets her own back..
  • Misery: Writer Paul Sheldon has just written the conclusion for his very popular book series when he is involved in a car accident and rescued by his biggest fan Annie Wilkes. But Annie is not quite ready for her favourite series to be finished, or for Paul to leave her. 
  • It: An epic 1,000 page plus novel about growing up in a small town inhabited by pure evil, and a group of friends coming together one last time to defeat it once and for all. 
  • Revival: A boy keeps coming into contact with a Preacher at various stages of his life. Their lives intertwine until a final, terrifying conclusion is revealed. A story about addiction and obsession. 

Shirley Jackson

Shirley is someone I only discovered a year or two ago. In The Lottery, a short story just a few pages long, she delves into the concept of The Chosen One and turns it on its ear (a concept reproduced many, many times since). If you've seen the horrible movie version, you'll know this story - but it's definitely worth a read. I haven't read any of the other stories in that collection yet but hope to get to them this year. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we meet two sisters, one of whom has been declared insane by the villagers after an incident she was blamed for. When a cousin turns up and threatens the girls' way of living, it's up to eldest sister Merricat to get rid of him.

Young Adult

Horror is a genre that has always been popular in the YA world - how many of us cut our fangs on R.L. Stine's Goosebumps or Point Horror series? Goosebumps is still popular (in this house anyway), car boot sales and charity shops are goldmines. There are a number of Point Horror books available on Kindle, but in my opinion it's worth tracking down the old paper version, it just doesn't feel the same on a Kindle. Some other YA horror that I enjoyed are:

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender: a story about a 15 year old girl full of attitude trying to help her younger sister after she is possessed by an evil spirit.

The Doll by JC Martin: a short story about a creepy (and real) Mexican island that worships dolls, and what would happen if one left the island.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - a young boy suffers a terrible family tragedy and ends up in a small, strange Welsh village where he encounters strange children in an even stranger building. Littered with amazing vintage photographs, they're creepy and definitely worth a look.

This is a Film Too

I love reading books that were later turned into films - or in some cases, books that were written to tie in with films. Here are a couple of books-to-movies that would work great for Halloween

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson: I was a bit disappointed that this story of the legendary 1975 Amityville haunting wasn't scarier, but some of you might enjoy it more. How much of it is true? Well, the names are the same, but I would approach with an open mind!

Halloween by Curtis Richards: Written after the movie, this expands on the history of Michael Myers and gives us a better insight into his character. The paperback of this is very hard to find, so if you see it anywhere, pick it up! It's very easy to find a digital copy online, give me a shout for the link.

Rosemarys Baby by Ira Levin follows a young New York couple as they move into their dream home and become involved with some very scary people. When Rosemary find out the truth, it's already too late.

If you enjoy a horror movie, have a look and see if you can find a book. Nine times out of Ten, the book came first - The Omen, Psycho, Ring, The Exorcist, The Other, Children of the Corn, The Haunting, Frankenstein, Dracula - all books.

Halloween Books for Children

Demon Dentist by David Walliams - for children 10 and up, this is a favourite with my 11 year old. It's about a demon masquerading as a dentist in order to pull teeth from the mouths of children, leaving them grotesque 'presents' under their pillows instead. Approach with caution - some events may upset young or sensitive children.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman - a story about a young girl who finds an alternate reality in her home, including an alternate set of parents. But is the grass always greener? Talking cat alert! Readers 8-12 would be well able for it.

Meg and Mog  by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski - suitable for toddlers and up, Meg and Mog (written in 1975!) is the story of witch Meg and her cat, Mog. They intend on going to a great Halloween party, until Meg's spell goes wrong and turns all the other witches to mice. Great fun to read aloud.

The Witches by Roald Dahl - I read this around age 7 or 8, but it's up to parents if they think their children are old enough for it, it could be scary for younger readers (I always found the Quentin Blake illustrations scarier than the actual story). This story of a boy who infiltrates a convention of witches is still one of my own personal favourites.

And Finally...

A couple of other books I enjoyed -

The Crucible by Arthur Miller - originally a play, this is set during the Salem Witch Trials and draws on true events to create a story of paranoia, hysteria, and injustice. The book is great - but for the love of god, avoid the terrible film version.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman - a dystopian thriller/horror about a young woman who finds herself all alone with her two children five years after a terrible unknown event in Russia spread worldwide - people see something, then they go insane, killing each other and themselves. The only way to avoid it is to remain blindfolded. Now the woman has to make a decision - in order to escape to safety, she must leave her home with her children and go outside where she knows 'they' watch her. A really good psychological horror, the baddies are as scary as your imagination can make them.

Hopefully I've covered a wide range here, and that you can find something to enjoy over the rest of October and get you in a Halloweeny mood!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Black Cats and Witches and Stuff - An Ode to Hocus Pocus

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To really kick off my Halloween theme here on the blog, I decided to have a ramble about my all-time favourite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus.

Released in 1993, it wasn't supposed to be a big hit. It was intended to be a Disney Channel Original Movie and was a box office flop - but became a cult hit through home video. I first saw it around 1995/1996 on video. It was one of the first films I ever remember crying at (the end where Binx whispers in Dani's ear) and I have been in love with it ever since. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have seen it at least 50 times. At least.

Sarah Jessica Parker

The cast is just perfect. There isn't one dud. Not one. Thora Birch is fantastic as the slightly bratty Dani, Omri Katz was a huge crush of mine as a child after seeing him on Eerie, Indiana, and the three sisters couldn't have been played by anyone else. Sarah Jessica Parker irritates me in nearly everything she is in, but she is my absolute favourite Sanderson Sister. The movie could have been very different - Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Max to do What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Rosie O'Donnell turned down the role of Mary as she "wasn't comfortable playing a character who killed children."

The Best Mondegreen of All Time

Everyone can sing along with I Put a Spell On You - "I say, it's a pie, up and baby, up and die!" - right? Nope. Here's what she's really singing:

Ah say ento pi alpha mabi upendi
Ah say ento pi alpha mabi upendi
In comma coriyama
In comma coriyama

So that solves the mystery of why a song about babies and pie would make people dance until they died. 

It Started as a Bedtime Story

If you're a fan of the movie at all, watch this video. It's just under a half hour long, and it's a panel discussion held for the 20th Anniversary featuring Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw, Kathy Najimy, Thora Birth, Doug Jones and David Kirschner, who came up with the idea from a bedtime story he told his daughters.


See those moths flying out of Billy's mouth? They were real moths. Actor Doug Jones couldn't swallow them because of a type of mouth guard. Gross, yes? Also - no need to feel like a weirdo if you thought Billy was probably once a little bit hot. He was supposed to be. He also ad-libbed his famous "Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed mop-riding firefly from hell!" line. All he was originally supposed to say was "Bitch!" but he deemed it unsuitable for a Disney movie.

The Four Things That Still Annoy Me

This doesn't ruin my viewing - I can literally recite the entire film dialogue when watching it - but these four things still occasionally WRECK my head.

- How does the tub of salt last that long?
- At the start, the teacher tells the entire story and THEN says "so, the Sanderson sisters were HANGED!" but we had already seen them be hanged.
- How does anyone know that Binx was turned into a cat? The only people who witnessed it were the Sanderson sisters, so who knew he was a cat??! Why didn't he talk to his father?!
- When Dani meets Allison at her house, she says "There's a museum about 'em?" and then in the same conversation says "Max, I'm not going up there, my friends at school told me about that place" - why didn't she tell Allison that instead of pretending she didn't know?!

I'm pedantic. I know. It's a disease.

Was Venetian Princess Emily Binx? (NO)

This is like that Marilyn Manson in The Wonder Years rumour was - it will not die. Even IMDB credits the role of Emily Binx with Amanda Shepherd, said to be youtube star Venetian Princess' (now Ariella Grace) acting name - she has cleared it up multiple times, but still.......nobody listens.

There is NO Sequel

Sorry folks, it's not happening. Not yet, anyway. However, Sony ARE remaking The Craft, which I am disgusted about.

These Nails

This nail art by Madam Luck Nails is the best Hocus Pocus art I've ever seen - I made my own stab at it but it pales in comparison, this is just my absolute dream Halloween nail art. 

Satan and Medusa

Remember these? They have what is probably my favourite exchange in the whole film:

Satan: They call me master!
Medusa: Wait 'til you see what I'm gonna call you...

Well, they're brother and sister in real life. Penny and Garry Marshall. Garry was the director of both Princess Diaries movies, Pretty Woman, and Beaches (among others). 

I'll Just Leave This Here

Really genuinely going to watch it right now.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Books I Read in September

ARCs from Netgalley Included


Where on earth did September go?! The end of it appeared to have been replaced by the Summer we didn't get in June. October is here, which means my annual spooky reads month (I say annual - I did it last year for the first time), so here's my September roundup, I got through 11 books and one short story.

Rick O'Shea Book Club

I had already read one of the choices, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. The other choice was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and I could only read about a quarter of the way in before I had to stop, there was just too much medical jargon and I couldn't understand half of it. So I had no book club choice this month!

Richard and Judy Book Club

The Well by Catherine Chanter
I read one book from the Richard and Judy Autumn picks (you can find them on my book page here), the cover and title caught my eye immediately and I wanted to read it. Unfortunately it wasn't exactly as spooky or as thrilling as I thought - a couple move to an idyllic home in the remote countryside during a three-year long drought in Britain, only to discover that theirs is the only site in the world with water. Sounds dystopian and futuristic, but the drought wasn't even necessary to the plot. It was alright, but it was more of a look at a marriage and how it's affected by loneliness, grief and tragedy.

Review Copies

I requested lots of books from Netgalley after reading a few previews, I didn't think I'd get approval for the half of them but I did - leaving me with a case of both the guilts and pressure. I do this every single time I get my dashboard down to 3 or 4, I can't help myself. This month, I read three review copies.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories by Jesse Eisenberg
I'm not a fan of actor Jesse Eisenberg, but I wanted to read this collection of short stories based on a sample of the first in the collection, Restaurant Reviews From a Priviliged Nine Year Old. It was funny, witty, and full of social commentary. Sadly, the book went a bit downhill from there. This is along the same lines as David Sedaris' fictional short stories, but nowhere near as funny. My Roommate Stole My Ramen was good, it was more my kind of humour - dark, politically incorrect, black comedy. This definitely won't be for everyone. I LOVE David Sedaris and even I'm not always a fan of his fiction, so I don't think this stuff always works.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot
My first Christmas book of the year so far! I loved this so much. It was a story about a single mother and her nine-year old daughter going to New York City for Christmas. The mother overhears the daughter wish to meet her real father, and this is the real reason for the trip - Hayley is determined to find Angel's real Dad, but she meets Oliver, a billionaire CEO (a nice non-violent non-stalky version of Christian Grey). I just really enjoyed it, it was sweet without being twee. I don't think I rolled my eyes once!

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio
I know that this will have fantastic illustrations by Will Staehle, but my review copy was unfinished in that respect. This is a story for 8-12 year olds about a young boy named Warren who lives in his family hotel and has to find a treasure before his power obsessed Aunt finds it first. With a host of likeable characters and great villains, this was really enjoyable and I'll be picking up a finished copy for my eldest son for Christmas. Reminiscent of Coraline by Neil Gaiman or some of Sebastian Gregory's stories.


I'm trying to make an effort to clear some of the backlog of paperback books that I own, but for every one I read I seem to buy two more. Anyway - I read three paperbacks in September.

Her by Harriet Lane
I had such huge hopes for this one. It was sold as a thriller, a psychological page turner in which one woman stalks another - both have met before, but one doesn't remember. What it actually was, was a lukewarm portfolio of a psychopath who had no reason to stalk a woman she barely knew. The reason for the stalking was just ludicrous, the character Nina had major issues but nothing was really resolved or properly explained. I just didn't like this at all - I swore at the ending and flung the book across the room. How melodramatic am I? Shite.

Revival by Stephen King
A return to old-school King with this one. It follows one man through 60 years of his life, and documents his various dealings with a mysterious minister he first meets as a child. It's a great look at how one person can have such an influence on the lives of others, but it's also Stephen King - so it is gross in places. It's one of his small-town American twisty slow tales that culminates in an ending you really don't want to think too much about afterwards.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan
I've never read anything by Ian McEwan before, and after reading very mixed reviews on this book, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the story of High Court Judge Fiona and her crumbling marriage, interspersed with details of the various cases she must rule on. I HATED the direction it took about 3/4 of the way into the story, I thought that was highly unlikely, unbelievable, and made Fiona look silly. But overall it was a good read.

You Must Read This

Louise O'Neill is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. This is her second book. Her first, Only Ever Yours, was released last year and was one of my top books of 2014.

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill 
Emma is a teenager, she's beautiful, she's popular - but she's not particularly likeable. She's not a good friend, she has a mean streak, and she uses people to get what she wants. One night, she goes to a party. The next morning, there are graphic pictures of her all over the internet. Was she asking for it? Will anyone believe Emma didn't have it coming to her? This examines jock culture in Ireland as well as rape culture and it's just heartbreaking. It's not an enjoyable read - but it is an important one.

Not Recommended

I didn't enjoy either of these books - just personal taste, both have many excellent reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, they just weren't my cup of tea at all.

There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern
Also called A Place Called Here, this is a story about a woman who is obsessed with finding lost things. Until one day - she herself becomes lost, and ends up in a place with lots of other lost things. I had a huge issue with this book - the relationship of the main character with her therapist. I felt it was inappropriate and it led to me not enjoying the rest of the book. I find Cecelia's writing very hit and miss for me but I'll still probably read the ones I haven't read because I like her ideas.

He's the Man by M. Malone
This was free on Kindle, I think it was one of the BookBub offers. It wasn't great, but it's part of a series so I'm sure fans will enjoy. I read it after Revival because I wanted fluffy after the giant ants/all hope is lost thing, and fluff is what I got. Action man Matt is a soldier in need of some anger management and/or the love of a good woman - and that's what he finds in his "formerly pudgy" physical therapist. A good ride fixes everything, apparently.

Short Story

Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose
A short but punchy read, this is just over 20 pages on Kindle and it's a cracking little read. It's a post-apocalyptic story about a lone soldier trying to find some sign that humanity isn't extinct. Imagine being the only one left. A nice little ending and definite series potential.

I'm on the Bandwagon

The Martian by Andy Weir
I really want to see the film, so I thought I'd read the book first. I was disappointed by the writing style, it's written in logs - and they get very technical! If you love mathematics and engineering, you'll love this. The sciencey stuff was the stuff of science geek dreams. I found it hard to follow - Astronaut Mark Watney gets accidentally left behind on Mars and immediately seems to have his survival mapped out MacGyver style. I thought I would be more worried about a guy on Mars on his own, but I wasn't. I really liked the main character's sense of humour, he reminded me of a kind of Xander Harris character. The book really picked up for me when we started to get the POV of what was going on down on Earth too, so if you're also finding it slow do stick with it.

And that's it! October will be dedicated to all things spooky, horror and supernatural. Do let me know if you have any good Halloweeny recommendations, particularly things set in Salem or involving witches.