Blogtober Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology

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Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

Under My Hat is an anthology, featuring some of the best known voices in fantasy fiction. The stories are all based off the idea of witches, some with the traditional ideas we know but with a slight twist, others with more varied, unrecognisable characters, and each one a delight to read.

There are elements of fantasy and horror in here, but most lean away from horror, focusing on other aspects of witchcraft. The first (Stray Magic) is a really sweet, endearing story about a dog separated from her master. There’s a story about a young woman who has recently joined a wiccan coven, and is searching for her belief. A tale about a cursed girl takes an interesting twist when her dead grandmother is bought back to life to protect her. And a young man in a forest comes across a woman who seems to be half cat, half human.

The anthology is well written, really well put together, and none of the stories blur into the other. Each has its own voice, and its own unique charm, carrying you from one tale to the next and making the book as a whole quite difficult to put down.

Overall, this is a really strong, interesting collection of stories, one that’s perfect for spooky season, and one that takes what could be seen as a stock character, and adds layers upon layers to it, without making the witches completely unrecognisable.

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Blogtober Day Eleven: Witches

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Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

Another slight amendment from the list – the challenge notes ‘Witchy YA’, but I don’t read enough YA (I wish I did – I love YA!) to talk about that. So I’ll talk more about witches in fiction in general.

Firstly, I can’t do a blog about witches without mentioning Harry Potter. This series Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover.jpgreally got me hooked on reading, and reading about J.K’s struggles (I know, not as many rejections as they made out, but to 10-year-old me it was A LOT, not to mention everything else) made me think maybe it was something I could do, too. And the female characters (in the books, maybe not the films so much) helped me see how strong  and varied women could be, from Ginny to Hermione to Luna to Tonks, Lily, and even McGonagall. These were women to admire, and as a kid who loved nothing more than reading, Hermione was great to read about, and earned a place in my heart right next to Matilda.

The next book is one I’ve mentioned a few times this month, and I finally finished reading it last night! Under My Hat is an anthology about witches, fromunder my hat a variety of different authors. It’s a great collection of short stories, each story presenting something different, and the book itself was an absolute pleasure to read. From young teenage girls trying to protect their school, to older witches trying to ensure their family’s happiness, each story was intriguing and interesting in different ways. A book very fitting for spooky season,

Next, Equal Rites. It’s the third Discworld novel, and the first of the Witches series. This novel introduces us to Granny equal ritesWeatherwax, who travels with a young woman to the wizard’s university, trying to help her learn how to control her powers. It’s a fantastic book, full of Pratchett’s brilliant humour, and well worth a read.

The last book I’ll mention here is a bit different than the ones above. Although there are some elements of horror in Under My Hat, and really dark moments through the Harry Potter series, they aren’t full horror, unlike Hex (review and review-with-spoilers). This novel deals with a town held hostage by a witch who died a long time before. She wanders the streets, her eyes and lips stitched shut, and is very much part of hexthe town. But the townspeople cannot stay away for long, and the younger generation, fed up of this arrangement, look for ways to stop her. The book is eerie in ways that haunt the reader, especially with the imagery of the witch, standing in the corner of a living room, unseeing yet always watching.

So there we have it! Some of my favourite witches in fiction. Do you have any favourites? Have you read the books listed here? I’d love to know!

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Blogtober Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update

Blogtober Day Ten

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

Another one I’ve amended slightly – day ten on the list is Reading Challenge update, but I don’t tend to do reading challenges, so I thought I could take a look and see how things are going with the books I mentioned in my first Blogtober post.

The first book mentioned in the post was Under My Hat, an anthology featuring some of under my hatthe leading names in fantasy, all based around witches. I am currently just a few short pages away from finishing it. And it’s really, really good. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, and there are definitely some authors I’ll be checking out more from in the future.

The other book I was reading at the start of October was Laurel Hightower’s fantastic, eerie Whispers in the Dark. I finished that, and you can find my review (as well as an interview with the author) on Dead Head Reviews. You can also see more of my thoughts on thewhispers book, especially in relation to the trope of the strong female, in the Day Six post.

The other books I mentioned wanting to read were –

The Sea Was A Fair Master – Calvin Demmer

Danse Macabre – Stephen King

World Of Horror Anthology

Dear Laura – Gemma Amor

And, oops, I’ve not actually got to any of them yet! After Whispers, I ended up reading The Tunnelers by Geoff Gander and A Parallel Abyss by Kat Wicks (links included to reviews on Dead Head). I’m currently in the midst of In the Scrape, by James Newman and Mark Steensland. It really is a fantastic book, and it’s completely and utterly sucked me in!

With Dear Laura specifically, it’s just a nice, slim book, I’m tempted to save it for my upcoming Disney trip, as it’ll fit in nicely to my bag, so I might not actually get to that one until November. But we’ll see.

I kind of veered away from my Spooky TBR, but I’ve still read a lot this month! If you’re participating in a reading challenge for October, how are you getting along? Or have you made a dent in your own spooky TBRs?

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Blogtober Day 8: Five Autumn Reads

Blogtober Day 8

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

I love Autumn. I love the nights drawing in, the heating going on, the actually being able to get comfy because it’s not stupidly hot anymore feeling. Halloween approaches, followed by Bonfire Night, my birthday a week later and Christmas is just around the corner. In short, Autumn is amazing, and here are 5 books I think are great for this most wonderful season.

Under My Hat

under my hatOkay so I haven’t actually finished this yet, but so far this witchy anthology is proving to be a great start to the autumn season. It covers various kinds of witches, with each story presenting a unique and different view, and the authors involved are fantastic. Definitely well worth a read.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

hppoaThis book makes me think of Halloween more than any of the others, maybe because so much of it is about revealing Harry’s past, and it’s when the books start to take a darker  turn. Perfect for longer nights. FUN FACT: The second or third time I was reading this, I was in bed, curled up, when I got to the part where the dementors came onto the train and all the lights went out. And…all the lights went out. In my house. As they appeared. I legged it downstairs so fast to find my parents. Just a normal power-cut, but yeah, it was kind of freaky.

The Near Witch

the near witchMy Review

This atmospheric novel feels like a fantastic autumn read, with descriptions that will make you glad to be huddled down in your blanket. Schwab has quickly become one of my favourite authors, and if you haven’t read it already, now seems like the perfect time to pick up The Near Witch, full of creepy imagery, a compelling cast, and haunting prose.

The Cruel Prince

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I really loved this book, and something about fae and the world they inhabit makes me think of autumn, or at least the tail-end of summer, the in-between time as one season changes to the next. It’s another book with fantastic imagery and absolutely compelling characters, and a story to keep you riveted. And the last of the trilogy is out next month, so this seems like a perfect time to read The Cruel Prince and book 2, The Wicked King.

‘Salem’s Lot

salems lotI couldn’t do an autumn books list without including at least one Stephen King. King was the author who first got me into horror, and along with JK Rowling and Anne Rice, inspired me to start writing. Almost any SK book could be included on this list, but I went for ‘Salem’s Lot partly because it was one of the first King books I ever read, and I read it before I ever read Dracula. Which means I read it a long time ago, but I do remember it being eerie, sparking a lifelong search for books that would scare me. And it was one of my first exposures to vampires AS EVIL. I was a vampire obsessed teen, but until ‘Salem’s Lot, I’d only really read Buffy and a couple of Anne Rice books, both of which had vampires with the potential to be good, not just villains. And I remember staring out of my bedroom window at night, after putting the book down, and paying particular attention to the shadows outside.

Any books you think are perfect for autumn? Any recommendations for me to check out? Let me know in the comments!

Blogtober Day 1: My Spooky TBR

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I saw this Blogtober list over on Anniek’s Library, and thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I was a little caught up the last few days trying to make sure I got some other stuff written, so I am a little behind, but hopefully I can get a few of these up and try to keep up with it for the rest of the month!

The full list is at the bottom of this post, and definitely pop over to Anniek’s Library to check out the blog there!

Spooky TBR

My horror TBR has increased a fair bit recently, mainly because I’ve started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews, which is awesome as it means I’ve recently read some absolutely fantastic horror.

At the moment, I’m reading two books. One for the website, and one anthology. The anthology isn’t ‘horror’ as such, but it is all themed around witches. Perfect for October. under my hatThe anthology is Under My Hat, which includes authors such as Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Tanith Lee and Garth Nix. I’ve only read a few stories from it so far, but they have been really good.

I’m also reading Laurel Hightower’s Whisper’s In The Dark which, if you are any kind of horror fan, you really should pick up. Strong female MC, creepy but adorable kids, and scenes where I’ve literally had to put my Kindle down and take a moment. Which doesn’t happen to me a lot. I’m just under whispershalfway through the book, and I already absolutely, without a doubt love it.

For the TBR, there’s a few spooky books I’d like to get to this month, if I can.

The Sea Was A Fair Master – Calvin Demmer

Danse Macabre – Stephen King

dear lauraWorld Of Horror Anthology

Dear Laura – Gemma Amor

It’s doubtful I’ll get to read much more than that, but I will try! And of course, you can look out for my reviews of the books I’ve read on this blog, Dead Head, and on Goodreads.blogtober.png

 

The Near Witch – V.E. Schwab [Books]

the near witchI only recently started reading Victoria Schwab’s novels. I started with City of Ghosts, then read A Darker Shade of Magic, shortly before going to an author event in Waterstones, Cardiff, where I picked up the next two Shades of Magic books and The Near Witch, money being the only thing stopping me from picking up everything else.

From the moment I started City of Ghosts, I absolutely fell in love with the writing. All the books I’ve read are vastly different, but carrying the same talent.

For anyone not aware, The Near Witch was Schwab’s first novel, which went out of print, and has recently been re-released.  Which is honestly a brilliant, great thing, because this book is an absolute delight.

For any fans who have read later books, it is well worth reading The Near Witch. There are some elements sprinkled throughout which feel like they have taken root, and branched out into other books, such as the Shades of Magic series.

The Near Witch takes place in the town of Near, where Lexi lives with her sister and mother. The people are afraid of anything unusual, including the witches who live on the town’s edge. A stranger appears one night, and shortly after, children start disappearing.

Near is described so well, it’s easy to imagine the town, and it really comes to life with the various characters dotted here and there, as Lexi explores and tries to discover exactly what happened to the children. Atmosphere plays a key role, and even the weather itself feels like an additional character, helping or hindering the characters as they move along their journeys.

The characters all feel real and fully realised, including Lexi’s family and Cole, the stranger. And as to the disappearance of the children, the reader is kept as on their toes as Lexi, trying to work through the puzzle and figure out if a fairy-tale really has come to life.

Overall, I loved The Near Witch for the same reasons I loved City of Ghosts and the Shades of Magic trilogy. For the atmospheric settings, the colourful characters, and the intriguing plot. Highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good, haunting novel.

HEX – Thomas Olde Heuvelt [Books]

hexI’m actually going to do two posts for this novel, because there’s a fair bit I want to talk about which would contain spoilers. This is the spoiler-free review of HEX, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

In the English language version of HEX, the story takes place in Black Spring, a town situated not too far from New York in the USA. Black Spring seems like a pretty normal town, with normal, small town type characters. The novel mainly focuses on the Grant family – Steve, Jocelyn, Tyler and Matt. As newlyweds, Steve and Jocelyn moved to Black Spring, with no idea what awaited them. Because Black Spring has a secret, known to the townspeople, but kept hidden from Outsiders.

That secret is the witch, Katherine van Wyler.

Katherine has a tragic history – accused of witchcraft, forced to do something horrific, and killed for it. The townspeople believe they are under Katherine’s curse – she wanders through the town, her eyes and mouth sewn shut, appearing in people’s homes and disappearing at will.

Katherine is creepy. Her presence is creepy, and Heuvelt does what any good horror writer should do – he takes what is normal, even if that normality is different for the characters than for us – and twists it. We come to accept Katherine’s presence, but similar to Stephen King’s Derry, there are trails of the curse in the town, in the population. It makes us question whether this is a result of the curse, or if people are just shit.

One of the things I really loved about this book was that the characters, and their problems – even where they involved Katherine – were so damn real. The characters are human, and relatable, from the teenager who just wants to live a normal life, to the father who would do anything for his son, and the woman just trying to protect herself and her son after an abusive relationship.

All the characters are, essentially, trying to make the best out of bad situations. But, well, it’s a horror novel. Things happen that change Katherine’s ‘routine’, and the tension kicks in, rising up until we hit the climax.

Overall, I really liked this book. The setting has been transported from the original setting to the USA, and works really well, allowing the more American elements and history to bleed into the novel. The horror is handled brilliantly, with the tension not just rising from the supernatural, but the more mundane issues of the Black Spring residents, as well.

There are some issues, a few strange moments, but these were easy to overlook amongst the strengths. A really fantastic horror novel, and one I would definitely recommend.