For the last two years, our book club has picked a theme for the month, and that’s where our book selections come from. It started last year, when someone suggested we read a creepy book for October. That first selection was a Lovecraft story, and we liked the idea so much we just kept it going. We’ve had lots of fun themes – I think my favorite was the month we chose a vegetable.
Anyway, we choose a theme for the following month, and then everyone comes with book suggestions. Of course, we did Halloween books for October again this year, and as I was researching books to suggest, I realized my list had grown to about 7 books. I was excited about all of them, and decided then and there to dedicate October to my own personal Halloween-themed reading month. (Incidentally, we picked one of the books I had on my list as one of our book club books, even though it was someone else who suggested it!)
I left it pretty open in terms of what qualified as a Halloween book. It didn’t have to be horror, though most of them ended up falling into that category (which is much broader than I initially thought – it simply means intended to unsettle, scare, or horrify.). I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d enjoy the month – I don’t typically read horror, and I don’t read much supernatural stuff either. I knew if I had to, I could always fall back on cozy mysteries since there are a bunch of witchy cozies, but I also sorta wanted to step outside my comfort zone.
Guys, I LOVED it. It was definitely different for me. I read a few that had been on my to-be-read list for ages, as well as a couple I came across recently. Towards the end of the month, I realized I didn’t want it to end because there were still books I wanted to read. Goal met.
I started with Interview with the Vampire. No sense in starting off easy, right? I’d had this on my list forever – I think it was one of the first 20 or so books I added when I joined Goodreads in 2010. It’s hailed as the quintessential modern vampire novel. To me, it fell a little flat, though I can appreciate it for being the first novel in which vampires are more or less humanized and not seen as monsters. I just thought it was boring! I’m glad I read it, but don’t feel the need to continue the series. (We did try to watch the movie afterwards, but I found Tom Cruise hysterical and realized that probably wasn’t the intent, so we turned it off.)
From Interview, I went right into Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Oy vey. I initially marked this one as abandoned after struggling through half of it. The story was interesting enough, actually, but the prose is so outdated. I really had a hard time staying focused on what was happening. I ended up picking it up here and there, reading a chapter or two at a time until I finished it. It’s another one I’m glad I read and can appreciate…but to say I enjoyed it is a bit of a stretch.
For my third book, I needed something easier to get through. Well. I almost got it. I chose Libba Bray’s The Diviners – I like Libba Bray, and had been recommended this one by several friends. While I enjoyed it considerably more than the first two October reads, it was long, and at times, incredibly boring. I also felt like a few things weren’t really handled well (plot holes and such), but to be fair, it’s the first book in a series. I might read the second eventually. To be honest, what I enjoyed most about this book was the setting – Bray did a great job making me feel like I was living in the 1920s!
Book four was one of our book club picks, another Bradbury, this time The Halloween Tree. It’s a kid’s book, so much easier to get through. I loved the idea of this story, and thought the imagery was beautiful. And the second chapter, where Bradbury describes Pipkin, is one of the most amazing character descriptions I’ve ever read. I want someone to describe me like that. I also really appreciated the introduction to other cultures and their versions of Halloween, something I didn’t really know much about. As I read this, though, I kept thinking it would make a fabulous play – there was so much going on that it was honestly a bit hard to follow, and I think paring it down some would do wonders for the story. Either way, with book four I felt like I was moving in the right direction in terms of entertainment value!
After Bradbury 2.0, I picked up Gail Carriger’s Soulless on a whim. I was skeptical – while it’d been on my TBR list, from the description it did NOT sound like my cup of tea. But comfort zone, right? Right. Plus, I liked the cover. I was so wrong. This book was so much fun! The main character is such a breath of fresh air. The only thing that got a little weird was all the nibbling going on, but I suppose with werewolves that’s what you’re gonna get. I liked the world Carriger created, and really enjoyed all the secondary characters. This is definitely a series I’ll continue reading, and makes me want to read more steampunk.
Next I reached for a classic that I can’t believe I didn’t read before now, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Ok, so not even remotely Halloweeny, but give me this one stretch. It had witch in the title. Truthfully, I find the whole Salem Witch Trials era fascinating (morbid, I know), so this was right up my alley anyway. But I thought Kit was great – she was brave and spunky and grew so much as a character throughout the story. I’m not sure why I hadn’t read this before – I suppose it just never got listed in our “required reading” as a kid, but I’m so glad I finally made the time for it.
Our second book club pick was Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Let me tell you – this is one creepy book. It’s a relatively quick and easy read, but the characters are kind of…horrible. Castle is the kind of book though, that makes you really think – what’s going on, why are these girls living like they are, what really happened…and how much of what the narrator tells us is true? I didn’t expect much going into it, but I think this is going to be one of my favorite book club picks, simply because there was so much depth to it. It’s creepy in an entirely realistic, unsettling way. Definitely read this one next Halloween!
Finally, I picked up World War Z, since it was another that had been on my list for years and I figured I might as well get around to reading it. I’m not really into zombies. Several people I respect loved this book though, and it has a super high rating. Sigh. I had a really hard time getting into it. I like the format though – I don’t think I’ve ever read another book composed of vignettes (or if I have, I’m drawing a blank). It worked much better than I thought it would. I expected to be lost, not really be able to follow the story, but that wasn’t the case. I think my issue with it was simply that I didn’t really feel like I connected to any of the characters – that’s typically a turnoff for me. I’d start to care, and their vignette would end. And because there were so many, if I ever saw the same character twice, I didn’t remember. So this one wasn’t quite a win for me, though I’m glad to mark it off as read!
As for audiobooks, I picked The String Diaries, namely because it was free and when I started it, I’d already used my audiobook credit for the month. This is a great book to listen to – probably also a great book to read, but I will caution you that every.single.chapter ends with a cliffhanger. It’s brilliant really, but also maddening. It took me a while to finish it, since I pretty much only listened in the car on the way to and from work. This one is a stretch for October, I’ll admit that. Though it is classified as horror….ok actually no, thinking about it, the idea of a bad guy who can look like a loved one is sort of terrifying. So this is totally Halloweeny. Anyway, the only complaint I have with it is the climax/ending felt a little rushed, and I’d like to know what happens next. There is a second one, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one. Oh, but one thing to know if you listen to the audio – you can hear the narrator swallowing and it’s REALLY distracting.
I also listened to The Raven Boys, another free audiobook. I’m torn about Maggie Stiefvater – I loved Shiver, felt the series went downhill with Linger, and ended up abandoning Forever. I’ve been reluctant to try any of her others because of it, though I’ve wanted to read Scorpio Races for a long time. I’m not sure that’s entirely her fault, though – it seems like a lot of YA, and trilogies in particular, follow a similar downhill trend. A lot of it, in my opinion, is because of that blasted love triangle people insist on writing into their books. Sorry, I’m ranting, and that’s unrelated. There’s no love triangle in Raven. Anyway. This one wasn’t terrible. That’s about all I can say for it. I finished it because I’m finding it easier to finish a book I listen to, but I don’t need to know where the story goes from here.
So what didn’t I get to? I really wanted to read Frankenstine, but I knew it’d be dense – and after the way the month started, I wasn’t really up for that. Rebecca is another that I’ve had on my TBR for years, and keep trying to work up the courage to read. Since I told myself the whole point was to step outside my comfort zone, I deliberately stayed away from cozies….and there are at least three I’ve been dying to read, including the newest Wishcraft mystery. (So you can be assured that’s what I’m reading next.)
But looking back, I got through 10 books, which is pretty awesome, and half of them were books I’d wanted to read for ages. I read some that were way outside my normal reading habits, and found a couple of new authors I want to read more of. Even though I struggled with a couple of them, none of my October reads had lower than a 3-star rating.
I think it was a success!