10 Best Books for Fall

Today is the first day of fall. And let me tell you… I’m ready for it.

Fall is my favorite season. After the unrelenting heat of summer, it’s nice to go outside and not instantly be sweaty and overheated. (I’d rather be cold than hot.)

Fall is such a pretty time of year too, with the leaves turning colors and the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Plus, fall has Halloween, which is the best holiday ever.

I used to look forward to the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, but since I’ve started eating healthier, all I taste is chemicals. 😦 I’ve tried a few recipes at home, and some other coffee shops, but I haven’t found anything I like as much as I remember. (If you have an awesome recipe for PSL, please let me know… I will be forever in your debt.)

I always hear about summer beach reads. I think autumn hammock reads and autumn forest reads should be a thing. My list is largely horror, but I did throw in a couple that aren’t. Think camping, falling leaves, colder days, ghosts, vampires, and monsters.

  1. And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich This is a wonderfully creepy YA book. Silla and Nori flee an abusive situation and go live with their aunt. But the house their aunt lives in is haunted. And the trees get closer every day. This would be a fantastic one to sit and read in the woods. And then wonder if that whispering through the tree branches is actually them getting… a… little… closer.
  2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker Count Dracula is evil; no sparkles here. If you’ve never read it, there’s no time like the present.
  3. ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King This is an underrated book of King’s, not one that gets talked about often. It’s the story of what happens when bad vampires take over a town.
  4. Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein This is a 5 book series. Of course, Mary Shelley’s original is wonderful, and everyone should read it. But this series is interesting, starting in modern day. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison begin investigating a series of strange murders. In the course of their investigation, they find that Victor Frankenstein didn’t learn anything the first time around, and that his monster has become more human than the man. Like most Dean Koontz books, they’ve got it all: fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, exploration of the nature of what it means to be human.
  5. The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern When I think of fall, I think of camping, haunted hayrides, music festivals– basically anything involving woodsmoke, apples, marshmallows, and that special crisp scent in the air. The Night Circus evokes those feelings. Bonus points if you actually read it while sitting outside by the campfire.
  6. Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake Cas Lowood kills the dead. For him, it’s not that big of a deal. But when he comes against Anna, it all gets more complicated. Because Anna’s ghost is not ready to stop killing. This is a two book YA series, with Girl of Nightmares following the first.
  7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black Vampires are real and confined to Coldtowns so they don’t infect humans. Still, humans don’t go out at night, because vampires don’t always follow rules. When Tana wakes up one morning after a party, she finds that all her friends have been slaughtered, and her ex-boyfriend has been bitten. A delirious vampire is chained up next to him. The vampires who did it are in the basement, asleep. For reasons even Tana doesn’t understand, she takes them both out of the house, intending to drive them both to the closest Coldtown.
  8. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski This book is long and complicated, and so worth it. It puts a spin on the idea of a haunted house. Johnny works in a tattoo parlor, and finds a book in the apartment of a dead man. It’s called “The Navidson Record,” and it details the story of a family who bought a house that grows and shrinks, with hallways going places they shouldn’t, and creatures living in the dark. Though it’s presented as fact, Johnny can’t find any evidence that the Navidson Record is real. His obsession with the record drives him crazy. The book is told in an experimental fashion, with pages you have to turn sideways (or upside down) to read, notes scrawled in the margins, sketches, different colored text, and different languages.
  9. A Long Fatal Love Chase, by Louisa May Alcott Rosamond lives with her bitter old grandfather and wants more from life. She declares, “I often feel that I’d sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” Not long after, a mysterious man (Phillip Tempest) arrives and romances her. She agrees to go away with him, if he marries her. He does, and they have a year of happiness. But when she finds out they were never really married, she flees, and Phillip pursues her, vowing never to let her go.
  10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed Following a divorce and the death of her mother, with no real camping or hiking experience, Cheryl Strayed impulsively decided to hike 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She traveled from California, through Oregon, into Washington, meeting new people and learning about herself. I have no idea if the movie did it justice, but this was a fantastic memoir about one woman’s journey to self-discovery.

Are there any on my list you agree or disagree with? Any fall reads you’d add?

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Our Dark Duet- A Review

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song. The first part of the review will be spoiler-free. I’ll warn you before you get to the spoilers.

I read This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab, last November, and I fell in love. I may have screamed in frustration when I found out there was going to be a sequel that wasn’t due out for 11 months! It had a fresh premise, interesting and flawed characters. And monsters. (I like monsters.) It also had moral dilemmas and was a thoroughly discussable book. I partially reviewed it here.

Our Dark Duet came out on June 13th, and I bought a Kindle copy immediately. The story picks up six months later, letting us know what August and Kate have been doing since This Savage Song ended. Kate’s been fighting monsters in another town, and August has been trying to save South City.

For me, Our Dark Duet is a solidly good book, though I didn’t love it as much as the first one. But apparently I’m in the minority there. Folks on Goodreads and Amazon have rated the second higher than the first.

The Spoiler Free Good

Our Dark Duet has all the things I loved about the first one, plus a new and fascinating monster. We get to see more from insight the Flynn compound, and wrap up with all the characters who were in the first book.

The Spoiler Free Bad

Part of what I loved in the first book was the relationship between August and Kate. It wasn’t just about chemistry and shipping them (though that was an element for me). It was also about how they grew to depend on one another. They’re separated for most of the second book.

*Spoiler alert below the picture, including discussion of the ending. You’ve been warned.*

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The Good, With Spoilers

I love that they finally try to kiss, and that it brings Kate’s soul to the surface. I loved that they explore moral complexity more. Kate’s soul is “stained” because she shot someone in self-defense. She admits that maybe she could have done something different, but she didn’t because she assumed the person was a monster. Previously, when August has been reaping a soul, the confession clearly shows that the person is a bad guy. But they reveal that other people have done bad things with good intentions, or that they did bad things previously, changed. I appreciated that acknowledgement, because ignoring that always bothered me in the first one.

The Bad, With Spoilers

I don’t love it that Kate and Ilsa die. I’ve been thinking about it (which is why this review is written almost 2 weeks after I finished the book), and it’s probably the right ending. But it feels so hopeless. Kate and Ilsa helped August keep himself sane and in check. They remind him of the best parts of himself. Having them die and then it just end makes me worry about what August will do going forward. Not that he’ll go dark or lose his way again. But just that we all need to connect with someone, or what’s the point? And I know August loves his parents (even though Henry is dying too… ugh), but it’s not the same. Ilsa and Kate were the people August connected to the most.

I guess the implication was that August and Soro are going to form more of a connection, but… I neither liked nor disliked Soro, so that’s not comforting to me.

It almost feels like a loose end to me, and I want to know what happens to August next. Even though, honestly, I probably wouldn’t like if the author tried to stretch the premise into another book. It’s over… but it doesn’t feel that way.

I don’t mind that Kate and Ilsa died; it kind of feels right to me. And it’s life, isn’t it, that sometimes we don’t get what we want, and endings hurt? I just… I guess I wanted more for Kate and August; a chance for them to see who they could be together when they were a team.

What did you think of this book or this series? Have there ever been books where you both loved and hated the ending?

F is for August Flynn

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

UnknownAugust Flynn is a main character in This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab.

Violent acts create real monsters, and the worst of the violent acts creates a very special monster. August Flynn is one of them.

He’s a monster who can steal someone’s soul through music. He doesn’t want to be a monster; he wants to be a good person. But you can’t choose what you are; you can only choose how you act.

The whole book is wonderful, but it was the monsters created by violence that really grabbed me. Imagine a world where those acts have real, concrete effects. Imagine being what’s created by those violent acts.

Being a teenager is hard enough without knowing that you were created from something awful.

Technically young adult, the story is multilayered and meaningful. But if you decide to read it, be warned: the sequel doesn’t come out until this summer.

 

A is for Anita Blake

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction. So let’s get to it, shall we?

IMG_8298I first met Anita Blake when I was a teenager, in the first Laurell K. Hamilton book in this series, Guilty Pleasures. Anita was my first encounter with a female character who was strong in this particular way. She was the best at what she did, and could keep up to the men in her life, yet she was still essentially female.

In so many books, if a woman is (excuse my language) kick ass, then she’s also basically a man in her attitude and her dress. Her femininity is stripped away. Anita Blake wasn’t like that. She was still insecure, looking for love, with nurturing tendencies. But she also wouldn’t hesitate to kill a vampire (or other monster). She didn’t back down if someone tried to intimidate her.

As the series progressed, Anita’s beliefs about vampires began to change, and it was interesting to see the evolution of her belief system in the face of new evidence. I loved that she wasn’t so stuck in what she believed to be right that she couldn’t change.

If you haven’t read it, the first 10 books in the series are wonderful. They’re books I own and re-read occasionally. There are currently 27 books, and I got less enthused about them as time went on. I think I’ve only read through about book 17. As with friends, sometimes as time goes on, you just grow apart. That’s what happened with this series.

It’s nothing personal; it’s just life, right?

I’ll always be grateful for the lessons she taught me, that it’s okay to both be tough and a girl. And to wear your scars with pride.

Any Anita Blake fans out there?

 

D is for Dracula

 

imagesI’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until last year (hangs head in shame).  I knew of it, of course.  I’d read Frankenstein and other classic horror, but somehow, I just never got around to Dracula.

That changed when I had an idea for a vampire story.  I started doing a great deal of reading on vampires on the internet, and pretty much smacked myself in the forehead when I realized that I’d skipped Dracula.  I had an idea what it was about, collected from other references, so I didn’t think it would offer me many surprises.

I ended up pretty much being wrong.  That’s the story of my life.

I never know if classic novels are going to be hard to get through or not, and this one turned out to be a really good read.  The creepy atmosphere gave me chills and made me want to stay inside after dark.  I didn’t sleep with a stake by the bed or anything, but… let’s just say I’m glad I enjoy garlic.

I’d gotten used to the modern vampire.  You know, the sexy one who can be domesticated and play nicely with humans.  I loved the fact that Dracula was straight up evil.  That he had his “human” personality, but when he was being a vampire, he could not be tamed, reasoned with, or seduced.  The only way out was to outwit him, use a stake, garlic, or a cross.

I don’t want my wolf to put on a sheep suit, sit at the table with me, and pretend that he’s not eyeing up my dog for dinner.  I want that wolf to have dripping fangs and red eyes, to growl and make his intentions clear.

Dracula reminded me of how scary horror can be.  Modern fiction wants antagonists who have motivation, who are understandable and maybe have sympathetic elements.  And while that’s great and all, sometimes, in fiction, I just want a bad guy to be a bad guy.

Life is complex.  Now and then, I just want my fiction to be black and white.

“How good and thoughtful he is; the world seems full of good men–even if there are monsters in it.”

-Bram Stoker, from Dracula