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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2017/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: beauty and the beast, , halloween, , , spooky costumes   

    Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide 

    Gather ‘round the Cauldron, because Halloween is almost here! From costume inspiration and hosting tips to party-appropriate chit-chat, we’ve got your bookish Hocus Pocus survival guide right here.

    1. Playing Dress Up on a Dime

    The most intimidating thing about Halloween is by far the costumes. Some people go ALL OUT! But when inspiration fails, you can always turn to books (and your own closet) for the perfect part to play. Got black pants and a black polo shirt? Braid your hair to the side and buy a cheap Mockingbird pin…voila, you’re Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games! (Bonus: this same costume works for Tris from Divergent—just add some combat boots and a temporary tattoo!)

    Pair a long black coat, a bright colored scarf, some white gloves, and an umbrella for an easy turn as Mary Poppins! (Bonus points if you bring her magic overnight bag filled with goodies for the party, see below for suggestions.) Another classic book character just needs a white button down, black skirt, black flats and some knee high socks—tease your hair and top with a pink bow to dazzle the crowd as Eloise!

    Let’s not forget the guys, who, let’s face it, always have it easier. Got a nice black suit you never wear? The costume options are endless: splash some fake blood on your face for a look from American Psycho; buy some black-rimmed glasses for Clark Kent and hide a superman T shirt underneath; buy a deerstalker hat online and you’re Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.

    1. Cast Spells…I Mean, Play Party Games

    Every party needs some quality games! Using books as inspiration, write down the names of famous book characters on index cards. (You can even keep it Halloween themed and stick to magical ones.) Then, have someone select a card and place it on their forehead facing out, so they can’t see who they are. Then, it’s a classic game of twenty questions to find out whether they are Severus Snape, Frankenstein, Jamie Fraser, or Wonder Woman! (You can also play this game as charades, because who doesn’t want to see their friend’s best Edgar Allen Poe impression?)

    Murder mystery parties are always popular, and there are kits online you can buy to get started! And last but certainly not least, once you have a few literary-themed libations inside you, telling ghost stories will be equally horrifying and hilarious.

    1. Let Them Eat Cake (or Chocolate Frogs)

    It’s impossible to survive Halloween without snacks. As they always say, you can’t go wrong with Harry Potter-inspired snacks: some chocolate frogs, golden snitch cake pops, and butterbeer ice cream will do the trick! Throw a tea party by way of Alice in Wonderland, with tea sandwiches and cookies decorated like playing cards, or go full Regency Jane Eyre style with seed cake, trifle, white soup, and poached salmon. Finally, you could always serve wedding cake with the Game of Thrones wines, but be careful there are no Lannister loyalists present.

    1. Be Our Guest (and always bring a gift)

    If you’re not hosting the party, but attending instead, it’s always polite to bring a gift. If the party is bookish-themed, why not bring your favorite tome? For witchy parties, Practical Magic is perfect. For horror bashes, some vintage Goosebumps books would be fun! If Disney is the theme of the day, the Beauty and the Beast DVD is a great choice.

    1. Staying In Can Still Be Spooky

    If Halloween parties aren’t your thing, but you still want to celebrate, go all out! Buy some classic horror movies like Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, and Hocus Pocus and go to town (and still get to bed before the moon is full.)

    Happy Halloween, bookworms!

    The post Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 7:30 pm on 2016/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: , halloween, happy halloween!, , , ,   

    The Best Books That Scarred Us For Life 

    What’s scarier: seeing something jump out at you, or knowing that it could, and imagining how and when? My bet’s on the latter. Anticipatory fear is the worst. As such, I always find the book version of a spooky tale more frightening than a film or TV show, because my mind will conjure up horrors no special effects team—no matter how good—could touch. With that in mind, here are some of the best books that scarred us for life, from junior high onward, just in time for Halloween.

    The Dollhouse Murders, by Betty Ren Wright
    “Dolls can’t move by themselves, she told herself, and felt goose bumps pop up on her arms.” You’re not alone with those goosebumps, Amy. This blast from the Scholastic Book Club past is a freak-tastic middle grade novel in which almost-13-year-old Amy agrees to spend a week with her aunt in the long-abandoned, secluded country house where her (murdered) grandparents once lived. Angsting over family troubles, Amy is grateful for the change of scenery. She’s also delighted to discover an intricate, beautiful old dollhouse in the attic. Did I mention the dolls inside look like Amy’s family members, and spend their evenings reenacting their own horrible, unsolved demise?

    Audrey Rose, by Frank De Felitta
    The Templetons, Bill, Janice, and their 10-year-old daughter, Ivy, live an idyllic, carefree existence in 1970s Manhattan, playing board games in their lavish apartment, listening to opera, and drinking gallons of scotch. Their dream life turns into a nightmare when Elliot Hoover enters their lives. He’s been stalking the Templetons because he believes Ivy is the reincarnation of his 5-year-old, Audrey Rose, who died in a fiery car crash the exact moment Ivy was born. What makes the book so terrifying is that sooner or later you’ll believe it, too, no matter how much you want to fight against the idea.

    It, by Stephen King
    An unputdownable story that deserves its spot in pop culture history. Creepy Clown? Check. (Let’s face it, Pennywise is the reason so many of us fear them.) Abusive bullies? Check. Small town imbued with ravenous evil, affecting generation after generation? Check. Ingeniously, the “It” in It assumes different forms based on what each adolescent member of the “Losers Club” fears most. For Ben, the creature is a mummy. For Richie, it’s a werewolf. For Mike, it’s a flesh-eating bird. And for Beverly, it’s her father. Yeah, that’ll stick with you. The upcoming two-part film (with Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise) ensures fresh frights for years to come.

    American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
    My husband knew this book would disturb me to my core, so he marked the most shocking sections I could skip over without losing plot threads. Did I heed his warning? No. It has been more than 10 years since I read the book and I still regret this. The film version (starring Christian Bale and Reese Witherspoon) is whimsically adorable in comparison to the book and did not prepare me one iota for the experience of reading it. Depending on your point of view, it’s a brilliantly dark satire about 1980s consumerism and pop culture, or a sadistic murder spree in which the victims are almost entirely young women and children.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Four fresh-faced, semi-Ugly Americans and one German are vacationing in Mexico when they decide to ditch the beach and check out an off-map archaeological site. Once there, they are surrounded and trapped by frantic locals who draw weapons as soon as one of them fatefully steps into the vines at the edge of the ancient ruins. Unable to leave the site, and at the mercy of sinister forces, our heroes turn into a bickering, hysteria-fueled mess. Written with a sense of terrifyingly plausible, slow-motion, “this can’t be happening” dread that paralyzes the reader, the horror stems from what the main characters do to each other to stay alive amid a psychologically torturous situation.

    Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
    Damaged kleptomaniac Libby Day (portrayed by Cherlize Theron in the film adaptation) survived her family’s massacre as a child, and even identified her older brother, Ben, as the murderer. But then an underground club of true crime aficionados convinces her Ben wasn’t the culprit. Chilling, ghastly, desperate figures abound in this book—particularly in flashbacks—as the truth is revealed about what really went down the night of the killings, and why.

    The Other, by Thomas Tryon
    Thirteen-year-old twin boys Holland (the shy one) and Niles (the hellraiser) Perry have been left to their own devices ever since the shocking death of their father. Mom is bedroom-bound, unable to deal with widowhood, so the boys’ grandmother, Ada, sweeps in with a supernatural, inherited “game” (which Game of Thrones fans may recognize as one of Bran’s talents). The rural Connecticut farm where they live in the 1930s turns into a psychological horrorscape, and the book requires a second reading after the complex web of lies and distortions is untangled.

    The post The Best Books That Scarred Us For Life appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2015/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: cat winters, halloween, , , , , the uninvited   

    The Uninvited Author Cat Winters Talks Ghosts, Romance, and All That Jazz 

    Morris Award finalist Cat Winters loves a good ghost story. Her knockout young adult debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, tackled World War I, the Spanish flu, séances, and the weight of souls. In her The Cure for Dreaming, 1900 Oregon was the backdrop for a tale of young woman freeing her suppressed independence during the rise of hypnotism.

    This year, Winters brought her exceptional blend of supernatural, romantic, historical fiction to adults with The Uninvited, a 1918-set ghost story overflowing with gin and jazz, which the San Francisco Book Review called, “eerily haunting, beautifully tragic.” It centers on Ivy Rowan, a survivor of the influenza epidemic of 1918, who has the unwanted ability to see “the uninvited”: ghosts whose presence signals death’s approach. For your Halloween delectation, we asked Winters to tell us why she’s drawn to the turn of the century, and what her favorite ghost stories are.

    While researching The Uninvited, what was some of the more shocking information you uncovered about the time period?
    What shocked me the most was discovering the mistreatment of and violence against German Americans and other immigrants during the WWI period. I set The Uninvited specifically in Illinois because of a real-life lynching of a German-born coalminer named Robert Prager in April 1918. He was killed by a mob of approximately three to four hundred men for purportedly making “disloyal utterances against the United States.” Eleven men went to trial for his murder on June 1918. All eleven were declared “not guilty” and freed. Prager’s murder wasn’t the only 1918 act of violence committed against an immigrant in the name of patriotism, unfortunately. I don’t think we hear enough about the paranoia that gripped the nation during this war, but I think we could learn a lot from it.

    Having previously written about the Spanish flu and WWI for your debut YA novel, the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was it enjoyable to revisit that era? Are there any aspects of life in that time that you wish were still in play today?
    Revisiting the Spanish flu itself was a little dark and intense, but I was approached by HarperCollins specifically to write an adult novel set during the pandemic after my editor, Lucia Macro, found a copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds in an airport bookstore. I didn’t get to incorporate all of my WWI-era research into In the Shadow of Blackbirds, namely the prejudice against German Americans, so I felt I had another 1918 book in me, and I did enjoy returning to the era. The time period is rife with conflict, which makes it a fantastic setting for a novel. I wouldn’t want too many aspects of the era to still be in play, but I will say I love the clothing and the music of 1918.

    Since you’ve written for both teen and adult markets, what was the most challenging or unexpected part of switching “voices” for your adult story? 
    I made it slightly easy on myself by making the protagonist of The Uninvited a 25-year-old woman who’s just now leaving her parents’ home and truly experiencing life for the first time. In some ways it’s still a coming-of-age novel, like my YA fiction, although Ivy has gone through a few more experiences that give her a little more maturity. It’s interesting because I struggled for 15 years to find a publisher for my adult fiction before switching to YA Back when I first started writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds I worried I wouldn’t be able to pull off a teen voice, but I quickly and comfortably slipped into a younger point of view. I’m actually having a harder time with the voice of the adult novel I’m currently writing. In that book, my protagonist is in her late twenties, and she’s been out on her own for a while. It’s been challenging to infuse her voice with experience after writing about characters still figuring out how to become adults.

    Jazz music plays a central role in The Uninvited. Were you a fan of jazz prior to writing about it, or was it a new experience for you? Do you have a favorite artist or song?
    I grew up near Disneyland and fell in love with Dixieland jazz (or “hot jazz”) when I heard musicians playing it live all the time in New Orleans Square. I’ve also been to the real New Orleans and was blown away when I heard the music played right there in the city where it all started. Many people associate the birth of jazz with the 1920s—the “Jazz Age”—but the musical style emerged much earlier. I can’t remember exactly how I decided to flood The Uninvited with WWI-era jazz, but the music quickly became an integral part of the novel. I listened to dozens of original recordings from the teens—artists such as the Original Dixieland Jass Band and Jelly Roll Morton—which I thoroughly enjoyed. I particularly love the song “Tiger Rag.”

    Although the story is very sad in some ways, the characters experience joy, and purpose, and transcendence. When you write, are you conscious of balancing their emotions (and the actions that cause them), or does this naturally occur for you as part of the narrative?
    Yes, I’m definitely aware of balancing characters’ emotions. I tend to write about horrifying moments in history, and I know I would depress readers if I didn’t include a great deal of hope and transcendence. It also comes about naturally as the book evolves. All of my novels, thus far, have involved characters who face the darkest moments of their lives and struggle to persevere and come out on the other side in one piece. I feel that humor, joy, love, and an urgent need to rise above the chaos are all integral aspects of survival stories. Otherwise, the characters, and the readers, would simply give up.

    What are some of your favorite ghost stories?
    The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters; A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb; The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill; A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving; and Affinity, also by Sarah Waters. The very first ghost novel I ever read was The Ghost Next Door, by Wylly Folk St. John. My mom ordered it for me through my school’s Scholastic book program.

    The Uninvited is a love story as well as a mystery. Did you originally write the book with a certain reveal in mind, or did that evolve later, as you got to know your characters?
    The reveal came about early. When the original, basic idea for the book first showed up in my head, I knew the character of Daniel Schendel had some secrets he wasn’t telling. Within a week of coming up with the plot, I knew what those secrets were, and it made writing the book all the easier.

    Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming YA book The Steep and Thorny Way, and also what’s next for you in adult fiction?
    Yes, definitely. The Steep and Thorny Way is a reimagining of Hamlet set in 1920s Oregon. My Hamlet is a biracial 16-year-old girl named Hanalee Denney who’s dealing with the death of her father in a region shaped by Prohibition and the rise of the KKK. The novel involves murder, intolerance, the struggles of biracial and gay teens in the 1920s, love, forgiveness, Shakespeare, and a ghost. It’s out March 8, 2016, from Amulet Books/Abrams, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

    I’m currently finishing up the first draft of my next adult novel, Yesternight, which HarperCollins acquired this year. That one is also set in the 1920s, but it involves a school psychologist who’s investigating the case of a seven-year-old girl who claims she lived a past life as a brilliant young Victorian woman. I’m waiting to hear the estimated release date of that one.

    The Uninvited is on sale now.

  • Sarah Skilton 5:00 pm on 2015/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: halloween, , lock the doors, , , vicki pettersson   

    7 Reasons Vicki Pettersson’s Swerve is a Perfect(ly Terrifying) Halloween Read 

    New York Times bestselling author Vicki Pettersson is perhaps best known for her urban fantasy books (the Signs of the Zodiac series and Celestial Blues trilogy), but that was before Swerve, her first out-and-out thriller, arrived this summer. If you missed it in July, grab a copy this month, because Swerve is a raw, dizzying, horror show of a road trip in which Las Vegas physician’s assistant Kristine Rush must fulfill a madman’s scavenger hunt to save her fiancé’s life. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, here are 7 more reasons Swerve is a perfect Halloween read.

    1. It redefines the term “page turner.” Who kidnapped Kristine’s dreamy, wealthy, jazz-loving fiancé Daniel at that creepy-as-hell rest stop? Why did they do it? And most importantly, how can Kristine save the man she loves within the impossible time span she has been given? Long after your trick-or-treaters have departed, Swerve will keep you up reading till 4 a.m., gulping back candy and coffee as you brave out one killer ending.

    2. It’s chock full of terror. During certain scenes, my eyes darted around the page, as I frantically hoped to land on a less pitiless sentence. Jump scares abound. Read it with all the lights on.

    3. The phone call might be coming from inside the house. A central tenet of the book is that the people we ought to be closest to are often the most dangerous. Kristine’s parents have proven time and again they aren’t reliable. So who can Kristine really trust?

    4. It’s shockingly fast paced. The almost nonstop action takes place over two days, perfect for experiencing in real time. If you’ve ever binge-watched a season of 24 in 24 hours, this book is for you.

    5. There are triple twists. Each time a new facet of the story is revealed, three more lie in wait for you like traps about to spring. Sure, you might figure out one or two of ’em, but odds are Pettersson is still 37 steps ahead of you.

    6. The setting will give you the shivers. During the day, the Mojave Desert is barren and deadly, home to scorpions and rattlers, but at night it’s an especially eerie, soulless place. Most of the action takes place on or near Interstate 15, the blisteringly unforgiving freeway that connects Las Vegas to Lake Arrowhead. As Pettersson describes it early on, “The sun is a heat lamp with no off switch, the blacktop road a cast-iron griddle, and any living thing caught between the two is just meat set to singe on high.”

    7. The main character is no run-of-the mill “final girl.” Kristine was raised in the “arid, barren desert,” and her teenage years were miserable, involving an underground mine and an ominous figure known only as the Coal Man. But the fact that she has survived a living nightmare once (or twice…) before means Kristine has reserves of strength that not many heroes or heroines do. In short, she and her tormentor may be evenly matched.

  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2015/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: edward gorey, halloween, , the shivers   

    Creepy Fiction for Edward Gorey Fans 

    The Pumpkin Spice Lattés are afoot. Hocus Pocus is on the television. Candy is everywhere you look. That can only mean we’re deep into October, and all we’re in the mood for is the ghoulish, the spooky, and, the pumpkin-spiced.

    If ever there were an author for October, it’s Edward Gorey, the prolific writer and illustrator of unsettling tales of Victorian and Edwardian misfortune. Nothing illustrates his distinctive, delightfully morbid style better than The Gashlycrumb Tinies, who treat us to a tour of the alphabet by being killed in progressively bizarre ways. (From “A is for AMY who fell down the stairs,” to “Z is for ZILLAH who drank too much gin.”)

    As The Toast’s guide to whether or not you are actually in a Gorey novel puts it, “your fondest family memories involve the moors, and the faintest sense of dread.” Hooray! While Gorey left us with an immense catalog of his works—my personal favorite is The Willowdale Handcar—you might still be looking for some supplements to get you through this creepy, kooky month. In that spirit, here are some picks that keep it grim and Gorey.

    The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, by Tim Burton
    I firmly believeTim Burton has some Gorey somewhere in his DNA. The influence is never more apparent than in this illustrated book of poetry that introduces a grotesque group of oddballs like The Pin Cushion Queen, The Boy With Nails in His Eyes, and, of course, Oyster Boy, whose death comes at the hands of his own parents’ appetites. It’s a real pick-me-up.

    Cautionary Tales for Children, by Hilaire Belloc
    Parodying the moral tales so prevalent in the 1800s, Belloc’s turn-of-the-century work includes 11 stories of the woes of wretched children, like Rebecca, “who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably.” Later illustrated anew by Gorey himself, this sharp-witted collection is a natural fit for any fan. And maybe, just maybe, these stories will keep us all from chewing bits of string and dying in dreadful agony.

    Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
    While it differs slightly in tone—and certainly in length—from Gorey’s works, there’s something undeniably creepy about Rigg’s peculiar, photo-stocked series. And it certainly hits all the right notes when it comes to oddball children and the terrible things that happen to them. Told through vintage photographs and the perspective of 16-year-old Jacob, we unravel the mystery of an abandoned orphanage, seemingly stuck out of time, and of its inhabitants’ assorted strange powers.

    Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
    Coraline stumbles through a door in her new house to find a version of the life she left behind—strangely similar to , but seemingly better. Her discovery of Other Mother, Other Father, and their pastures of plenty is the fodder of a cautionary tale in and of itself, but Gaiman doesn’t merely dabble in darkness. His version of macabre relies on the light as well, and Coraline has to use her wits to return herself and her world to buttonless-eyed normality. (For extra creep factor—again, buttons for eyes!—check out the graphic novel version.)

    Heap House, by Edward Carey
    One look at the book covers in Carey’s Iremonger series, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. The story of Clod Iremonger has all the hallmarks of antique moroseness as Gorey’s work, with a touch of mystery. That’s to be expected from a novel centered on a family whose mansion rests upon heaps of garbage, oddities, and forgotten relics. While each Iremonger is assigned an object they identify with, Clod has it worst of all, in that he can actually listen to these objects, and they’re doing more than whispering.

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