Monday, October 28, 2013

Ghosts & Monsters & Witches, Oh My! #bookreviews

Who doesn't love being scared half to death for Halloween?

Actually, I don't. Bag full of candy? Sign me up. Dress like a slutty [nurse, teacher, librarian, Cinderella]? Already there.

Line up to watch Halloween or Friday the 13th, Part One Billion?

Oh, hell no! I'm a total Hallo-weenie.

I'm terrified not real big on spiders or bats, either, though I have to admit, some of the latter can be awfully cute.

via trunkinthetrunk

However, I have discovered that at this time of year I do enjoy reading a good story that includes classic Halloween elements: ghosts, monsters, and witches.

I even wrote a super-short ghost story myself. Follow this link to read The Haunting of Julia.

Here's some of my recommendations. Links are to my reviews on Goodreads.

Ghost Stories

Ghostwriter, a sexy romance set on a small island off the North Carolina coast. It's a blend of historical (WWI) and contemporary, sent chills down my spine, and ends with a very different Happily Ever After. Setting: Small island off the North Carolina.

The Lantern, a modern Gothic romance set in a crumbling house near the lavender fields of Provence, France, with flashbacks to the 1940's. It's a very sensual callback to Daphne DuMaurier's classic Rebecca.

Dream Lake, a contemporary romance set in a small town (Friday Harbor) on the shores of a lake. This is a very unusual ghost story in that the ghost starts out being attached to a place, and somehow gets attached to a person. Also, the ghost has been ghosting around so long he's forgotten who he is or why he's still in the land of the living.

Green Darkness, set in 1968 and Tudor England - the time of Protestant Edward VI, Queen Jane Grey (the Nine Days Queen), Catholic Mary I (Bloody Mary), when you could be executed for adhering to Catholicism one day, and Protestantism the next. From our end of history, that period of time appears compressed into a historical footnote, but for the people living then, as in Nazi Germany, it meant daily uncertainty and terror. You never knew when they were coming for you and your family, and as in George Orwell's 1984, what "the right belief" was, kept shifting.

American Celia Taylor and Sir Richard Marsdon fell in love-at-first-sight on board the Queen Mary, but something's gone very wrong in their new marriage. They seem to be haunted and cursed by echoes of their previous selves: a half-noble, half-bastard servant girl, and a monk sworn to chastity, whose forbidden romance met with a violent end. To not only save her marriage, but her life, Celia must relive the past for herself and Richard or is it Stephen? There is such richness and an almost tangible quality to the scenes set in the sixteenth century, that I keep going back to this book every few years just to breathe it in.

Ghost Stories and How To Write Them is a short Kindle-only combo of both short ghost stories, and tips by the author who sold them.  (Because if you write, wouldn't it be nice to sell your work, for money?) Being me, of course, I wrote my own ghost story(ies) first, and decided to learn the craft. afterward.


Lily Munster
Lily Munster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've always been more of a Munsters fan than a monsters fan. Did anyone else ever get the brilliant idea to "dust" the living room like Lily Munster, using talcum powder and a big puffy?

My mother was not amused.

Septic Zombie, is an adorably cute children's book written by an adorably cute then-seven year old.

Frankenstein, of which I've watched about a dozen different movie and TV versions, but the book? It's really worth reading to discover what was original, what was vastly changed in the various versions, and if you're a writer, the structure of how it was written is quite interesting. It would be significantly edited, and very differently, today.

And imagine, if there had been no Frankenstein, there would have been no Young Frankenstein. No Frank-N-Furter? No picnic? No Time Warp?

I'm afraid so, Janet.

I realize there are other monsters. Vampires, mummies, swamp things, werewolves, etc., but they mostly get their own category.

Vamp It Up

I've read vampires who are lesbian sorority sisters (Better Off Red), vampires who are rednecks (Rednecks 'n' Roses), vampires who run BDSM sex clubs (The Seeking Kiss), and of course, the original vampire (Dracula).

Here, Wolfie Wolfie

I've read werewolves who are sexy business execs (Perfumed Heat), Navy SEALs (A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing), Cinderella (A Bite's Tale), and one Jersey Girl werewolf in group therapy for her hoarding (Coveted).

Do you have a favorite type of monster story?

Which Witch?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond - this MG/YA book was the first book I remember reading about "witches," though it's actually more about prejudice and small-mindedness, with some coming-of-age and romance thrown in. Setting: 1680's Connecticut colony.

Born Wicked - in this alternative history YA, 16 year-old Cate Cahill is the eldest of three sisters, all powerful witches, in late 1800's America.  Since their mother died, Cate has been doing her best to raise her sisters and protect them, but they have other ideas. Witchcraft had been real and celebrated, until a group called The Brotherhood came to power, and since then it's been something that could get a girl killed - or locked in the insane asylum. Girls are expected to marry at 17, or declare an avocation for the Sisterhood, which appears to be something like a convent... or is it?

Witches of East End - Freya's a bartender who decides to mix in some actual love potions with her specialty drinks; sister Ingrid's a librarian with the gift of healing infertility and creating charms for fidelity. While those two gifts might slip under the radar, their mother Joanna can raise the dead - and none of them are supposed to be using their powers. Add in an environmental disaster, a murderer or two running around the small community, and suddenly it looks like Salem all over again. Setting: modern day hidden town on Long Island, New York.

Witch Hill  - most people are familiar with Marion Zimmer Bradley's  The Mists of Avalon, or her Darkover sci-fi series. Many would say that this book tiptoes across the line from paranormal romance to straight erotica.

I wouldn't say that. I would say that Witch Hill straddles the line with her legs spread gleefully wide. Since I enjoy erotica, not a problem for me. While it's copyrighted 1990, it was clearly written much earlier - the time clues (no cellphones, beepers, or computers, the love interest drives a VW bug) place it in the 1970's, a time of free love and much drug experimentation. A line frequently repeated is, "All witches are promiscuous," and the latest incarnation in a long line of witchy Sara Latimers is not going to be disproving that anywhere in these pages.

If you like reading about creepy, faux-witchy rituals, drugs, sex, and orgies that include all three, you may enjoy this book. Setting: 1970's back-country New England., in a neighborhood first created by H.P. Lovecraft.

Have you read any of the above books?
Do you have a favorite Halloween-y read or movie?
A favorite paranormal being?

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