It’s finally October! Though the cooler temperatures come and go in Baton Rouge this time of year, we still embrace the autumnal spirit. Halloween is approaching, and spooky vibes are all around. If you want your reading to reflect the season, then pick a couple of these ghastly and witchy titles. I don’t read a lot of horror or gory books, but I do like a little mysticism and mystery every once in a while. I have found the following books to be a perfect balance of eerie tone and just enough gasps. Supernatural fantasies, magical realism, and haunted houses all appear in the following books to get you in the spooky mood.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Instant classic. I was completely immersed in Gaiman’s magical graveyard. I loved it so much that I got it for my sixth grade son to read at the library. He loved it, too! I have always enjoyed a walk through a cemetery, paying special attention to the names and epitaphs. The idea of a boy growing up there among the ghosts transfixed me.
Summary: A baby boy is the only remaining member of his family after a violent tragedy. He finds his way to the graveyard where he is adopted by a kind ghostly couple who never had children. A guardian is appointed who can go between the dead and the living. The boy is named Nobody, Bod for short, and he grows up in the graveyard with all sorts of mystical and supernatural adventures. While he adventures within the gates, a dangerous killer lurks outside the gates, hunting the boy. Bod experiences enough to learn how to love and survive..
The Graveyard Book is spooky yet gentle. The underlying message is one of love and tenderness. I felt similarly while reading this as I did when I read A Wrinkle in Time. So beautiful and marvelous. A must read for anyone who loves fantasy, history, coming-of-age tales, and mystery.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E.Schwab
This is a marvelous and haunting book about the power of belonging and being known. Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is an outstanding escape full of darkness and wonder, fantasy and history, hope and love.
Summary: Addie, in 1700s France, makes a deal with the god of darkness to live forever and be free, but the raw part of the deal is that she can never be remembered by anyone or leave a mark on the world. Then one day in a bookstore, she meets someone who remembers her and their stories intertwine. Despite her love relationship, Addie cannot shake the god of darkness who wants her soul.
Addie harkened me back to two of my other favorite books, Sacre Bleu and Forever. Addie travels all over the world through time and experiences art, music, heartbreak, and beauty, but is never remembered. It is marvelous and I want you all to read it!
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic, a marvelously seasonal October read, is a fun ride. Although I much prefer the rich history and dynamics of Rules of Magic and Magic Lessons, I can appreciate the beginning of the story here. When it comes to the order you read the Hoffman Magic series, I would say it’s a bit like Star Wars, you choose how you want the story to develop. All in all, a witchy and magical series that I highly recommend!
Summary: Gillian and Sally are children when they show up to their mysterious aunts’ house in Massachusetts. The girls soon realize their aunts are in no way normal. Witchy herbs and tonics fill the garden and kitchen. As the girls grow up, their paths diverge, and the Owens family curse finds them quickly. Magic becomes a part of their destiny, and Gillian and Sally must use the wisdom of their aunts to get out of peril.
Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
New York. 1960s. The magical Owens family embarks upon a path of discovery that will change their families’ lives. The three siblings, Franny, Jet, and Vincent, live a sheltered life in Manhattan until they go visit their Aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts and learn who they really are.
Summary: The three siblings endeavor to break the love curse over their family and get involved far beyond their abilities. This novel is full of 1950s and 1960s details as well as consuming magical twists and turns. Each character is unique, and their stories build as you read. The expansive story extends from New York to Massachusetts to California to Paris.
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
I could not get over this magical escape by Alice Hoffman. The origins of the Owens curse are revealed in this stunning, mystical novel. Magic Lessons is a beautiful, sweeping story of women surviving all odds in seventeenth century England, Curaçao, Salem, and New York. Words are magic, and this novel has cast its spell.
Summary: Maria Owens, the original Owens ancestor, begins her life in the 1600s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England. Hannah Owens, a single woman proficient in the “Nameless Arts,” takes Maria in and raises her among the herbs and tinctures she creates. Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift, and she teaches the girl all she knows. Years later, when Maria is abandoned by the man she loves, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts, where she invokes the curse that will haunt her family.
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman created the Owens family and gave us a fantasy world where women unite for love and sisterhood. Alice Hoffman weaves the previous three books and the family histories perfectly. All the storylines converged, and nothing was wasted from any volume. Every piece of the Owens family history factors into the plot whether the characters are In Massachusetts, Paris, England, or New York. I also really appreciated the depth of the new characters introduced like Ian.
Summary: This novel picks up about 10 or so years after Practical Magic. When Jet realizes she is nearing the end of her life, she readies the Magic resources for her sister and nieces. Around the same time, a tragic accident changes Kylie’s path, and she sets out for England to break the tricentennial curse that has plagued all Owens women and men. The entire family joins together to rescue Kylie from a devious relative who has ties to the family heritage.
What I loved: THE HISTORY! The strength and power of women, the landscapes, the cures and herbs, the emphasis on love and connection, triumph of good over evil, family bonds, the mystery, the entire fantasy world of Alice Hoffman.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
This lovely gem is a treasure! I completely lost myself in the voices of the three women who tell this mysterious and enchanting story that weaves between 1791 and present day. I related so much to Caroline’s love for history and lost stories. You wouldn’t think a book about poison would be so liberating and enchanting, but somehow it is!
Summary: Caroline, reeling from discovering her husband’s infidelity, finds herself wandering along the Thames in London. She finds an apothecary vial that captures her imagination. Her search for the vial’s story leads her to a possible lead for the famous apothecary murders from centuries ago. Nella, an apothecary who sells poisons to desperate women in 1791, meets a woman and a girl who will change the course of her life. The girl, Eliza, also has a motive to learn the apothecary skills, and she and Nella connect in a powerful way. All three stories intertwine for a historical and mysterious ride.
The Change by Kirsten Miller
I am completely obsessed with The Change. The Change is First Wives Club meets Practical Magic with some SVU thrown in. Three gifted and powerful women work together to solve a haunting murder and punish the violators, but it’s so much more than that. This novel captivated me with the twisty plot, the vivid and incredible characters, and the theme of feminist power in the next phase of womanhood.
Summary: Mattauk, New York is a small beachside community that’s home to three spectacular women, each with a unique gift. Harriet, the fashionable advertising exec, discovers her relationship to plants and her herbal powers after her divorce. Jo, the women’s gym owner, is trying to channel her newfound energy and strength to defend the weak. Nessa, the widowed nurse, hears the voices of the dead who need to be laid to rest. These three women form a mighty trio to defeat the perverse patriarchy and corrupt system in their town. Each character’s story has a dynamic dimension, and their work together is compelling.
I loved the ferocity of each character. Harriet is the ultimate boss. Jo is the badass. Nessa is the tender ghost whisperer. I loved the Hamptons-like setting, the fierce females, witchy vibes, the ghost appearances, their fight for justice, the magical realism, the relevant topic of sex trafficking, the quest for creative vengeance, and the bold and frank discussion about women’s bodies. I could not put it down. Warning: sexual assault, trafficking, high body count, drug use.
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
This thriller was so captivating and enjoyable. The Book of Cold Cases was quite a deviation for me. I usually don’t read thrillers or true crime mysteries, but I took a chance and could not put it down. This novel is the perfect combination of haunted house, a mystery, and personal growth.
Summary: In 1977, two brutal murders shock a seaside Oregon town, and even more startling, the killer is a young woman. The only suspect in town is rich and beautiful Beth Greer, an orphaned heiress. Forty years later, Shea Collins is a true crime blogger and survivor of a child assault who is obsessed with the Lady Killer murders. After a chance encounter, Shea interviews Beth about the crimes. Secrets unfold and terrors ripple and crash all around Shea once Beth enters her life.
If you love ghost stories, haunted horror houses, and strong female protagonists, guaranteed this will be a fun ride. Stylish suspense galore with a heavy dose of supernatural.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
I gobbled this mystery up! I don’t read many thrillers, but I had seen this book everywhere and wanted to try it. I’m so glad I did. The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell is an immersive page turner with some surprising twists. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Jewell surprised me again. If you want to get lost in a plot, try this British puzzle.
Summary: Kim, a 40-year-old grandmother, is watching her grandbaby while her daughter Tallulah is on a date. Her daughter and her boyfriend never return home. One year later, detective novel author Sophie upends her London life and moves into a quaint English country town with her boyfriend, the head of a posh residential high school. While on a walk at the edge of the forest, she discovers a sign that says Dig Here. This sign will lead Sophie to unraveling the mystery of Kim’s daughter’s disappearance.
Multiple POVs and alternating timelines lead the topsy-turvy journey towards several gasp-worthy reveals. I loved the Britishness, the winding story, and the detective vibes. Perfect novel to get lost in during the fall.