|Some spookiness to set the mood!|
But the festivities have changed for me this year. Because this is the first year I won't go Trick-or-Treating.
That's right. Last year people still gave me candy. But I also received some awkward looks, so I have decided to fork over the extra five dollars and get my own assorted candy. (I don't even like candy. But it's Halloween.) I've decided, though, that since I'm not Trick-or-Treating, I have to work extra hard to get my money's worth out of this holiday, so I've been enjoying some spooky books.
When it comes to the horror genre, I get scared very easily. As in, this terrifies me, and I find Casper the Friendly Ghost vaguely sinister. I suspect this might be a writer's problem; our imaginations are too active for our own good! So when I say spooky books, I really mean, for the most part, books that take place in the autumn.
Here's what I've got so far:
We Have Always Lived in The Castle, by Shirley Jackson:
One evening at supper, beautiful Constance Blackwood poisons the rest of her family with arsenic. Escaping punishment on a technicality, she, her surviving uncle, and her younger sister, Merricat, who was sent to bed without supper, live alone on their estate, dwelling apart from the villagers who fear and hate them. But when a little-known cousin appears with an eye on Constance and the family fortune, he stirs questions into light-- how did the Blackwoods died, and why did sweet, gentle Constance poison them?
Of the books on the list, this one scared me the most. It is told from the perspective of Merricat, who believes she lives on the moon, thinks she can hurt people with her thoughts, and buries knickknacks to protect her small family. This book is chilling. If you find yourself with the post Trick-or-Treating blues, try reading it.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken:
With no adult supervision except a murderous governess, Bonnie and Sylvia embark on a dangerous journey for freedom.
When I first came up with the Blogger Awards, I seriously considered having Worst Parents as a category. Because fiction about young people so often chafes under responsible conventions, authors must hunt for ways to free their characters from the yoke of supervision-- thus the careless parents trope is born. Seriously, Mr. and Mrs. Bonnie's Parents? You didn't stop to wonder if the governess was batty before you go on a three-month-long voyage?
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:
Ten strangers are invited to Indian Island on a glamorous retreat. They seem upstanding citizens-- a doctor, a judge, a governess-- but each hides a deadly secret. As accidents begin and the death count rises according to an ominous nursery rhyme, the characters must plumb their inner secrets to--
Oh, who am I kidding. I didn't like this book. Not. One. Bit. And I'm normally a huge Agatha Christie fan! But this one had too many characters to keep track of, and the deaths lost emphasis because they were so numerous and the characterization was so poor. Sorry, folks. I didn't like this one.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley:
Does this one even need a blurb? Suffice it to say that I haven't read it yet, but I hope to get to it before Halloween.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker:
Through a collection of letters and diary entries, Stoker paints an awe-inspiring tale of horror that traces from the depths of Transylvania to modern London...
I read this one when I was nine or ten. It was the first classical novel I ever loved!
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Lots of Jackson on this list! I'd love to give a blurb for this one, but in point of fact, I haven't read it yet. I might be too scared. How can someone with a name like Shirley write stories that are so sinister?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman:
A man returns to his childhood home for the first time in years to attend a funeral. The old, familiar environment brings back forgotten memories of terror, vulnerability, and love...
If you asked me a month ago, I would tell you that I hated Neil Gaiman. I was a poor, foolish child then. Well, not really. The truth of the matter was that I had only read American Gods and Stardust, to both of which I was indifferent and somewhat offended at the objectionable content. (The Ocean at the End of the Lane does have some uncomfortable scenes, but it is nothing compared to American Gods.) I did not plan on reading this book, but something about the cover-- which is really beautiful-- compelled me to try it, and I was floored. It is a vast, in-depth 100 page book, and it is utterly lovely. I became a staunch Gaiman fan, which led me right into...
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman:
(I'm tired of blurbs. Can we pretend I wrote one? Or-- you know what, just come here and read the actual one.)
I haven't finished this one yet! On the advice of many blogging friends, I checked out the audio book, narrated by the author, from the library. Ghosty warned me that Gaiman uses a scary little-girl voice, but honestly, I was so enthralled by the story that I didn't even notice he was switching voices. This story is delicious; it may find its way onto my top ten list. I got it on audio book so I could listen to it while practicing ballet, but I cheated today and listened to it while cleaning out my closet. : )
So there you have! Eight spooky books for Halloween. Are you doing any seasonal reading?
And I almost forgot to ask! Would anyone like to do a guest post in November? It doesn't matter if you have a blog or if you don't. I would interview you at the beginning of the post, then you can write about whatever you like, as long as it isn't politics. Either let me know in the comments, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm prepared to do multiple ones, so don't be shy!
Edit: Oh, oh, oh! I forgot again! You know what's a great, spooky, atmospheric read that takes place around Halloween? Chime, by Franny Bilingsley!