Time flies and it’s October — witchy season is upon us! Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons — the need for a nice sweater and thick blanket, the ability to enjoy a nice fire, the smell of rain in the air, the bright colors of changing leaves. It’s a perfect season. Halloween just makes it doubly so. As a family, we always were into decorating with pumpkins and skeletons and all things spooky. We ran the Carnevil Driveway for a decade, giving away over a hundred pounds of candy in a night. We invited all of our friends and neighbors to participate as creeps (term of art for those employed by a carnival) in full costumes and wearing fun personas as they scared (in a nice way) the little boys and girls that came out to Trick-or-Treat to our door.
To this day, our basement in full of decorations: a wall of heads, corpse in a trunk, iron hands holding a severed head, tons of black lights, and thousands of other big and small props that go bump in the night. There were even a few years when we put together two of these — one in our driveway on Halloween and one at our kids’ elementary school fair. It was great fun, even as we were left to recover for weeks afterwards.
Our kids are fully grown now, so we stick to just a dozen or so pumpkins, some headstones, a few ghouls, and just a dozen or so pounds of candy — we scaled way down. And by eight in the evening, we close the doors, turn off the lights, put on our capes, and walk the neighborhood to check out how the next generation took up the neighborhood responsibilities to entertain the children of the fog. You see, we live in a neighborhood that is mostly flat, the houses close-enough together, and streets with few cars — an ideal Halloween night haunt. And our neighbors really did pick up the slack — there is music, and monsters, and enough candy to satisfy even those who are glutton for sweets. We are a good hood.
Halloween cookies made by our kids in some year past.
But one evening (even full of carbohydrates and costumes) is not enough for all of the spooky goodness the season should bring. So here come some book recommendations. Yes, I feel like I’m stuffed full of literary candy! But reading is an escapist endeavor, and I endeavor to escape into a good book most days of the year. Reading gives us a pathway into another’s life or into a science article, or even into the current historical events. Although lately, I prefer a limited dose of newsy books. So here goes — a few books about witches and demons with a large dose of romance.
Here is a fun trilogy by Deborah Harkness: “All Souls Trilogy.” It’s a strange love story that spans many centuries with plenty of supernatural intrigue and characters, including the main hero who is a Bishop — that Bishop — from Salem, Massachusetts. It was a fun and easy read. Perfect for Halloween. You might want to skip book 4, but the original trilogy was very satisfying.
“Magic Lessons” by Alice Hoffman is another book taking place partly in Salem and managed to mention a Bishop. It’s a prequel to “Practical Magic”, a book I haven’t read and a movie that I never watched. “Magic Lessons” is a fun story — a love conquers all in the end kind of thing, good for this time of year. I wasn’t a big fan of the way it was written, I guess I like more direct writing. But, all in all, a nice witchy story.
Here are the rules of magic:
Do as you will, but harm no one.
What you give will be returned to you threefold.
Fall in love whenever you can.
These are not bad rules to live by, witchy or otherwise.
I found a story about a library in hell and its long suffering librarian very enjoyable and unexpected. While “All Souls Trilogy” felt a little like “Twilight” for grownups and “Magic Lessons” was a bit too predictable for my taste, “The Library of the Unwritten, Book 1 of The Hell’s Library” by A. J. Hackwith was original, unpredictable, and written in an active voice. “The Hell’s Library” is also a trilogy: “The Library of the Unwritten,” “The Archive of the Forgotten,” and “The God of Lost Worlds.” I loved the characters — a human soul of an unsuccessful writer condemned to mind a library in hell that holds a collection of all unwritten works humans managed not to write, a failed muse, Death, a fallen angel, a few demons, and a hero that escaped from his story. The setting was loads of fun as well. Hell certainly is the most entertaining of the realms, as attested by Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.
So these are my fun reads recommendations for the month. I’m always grateful when you pick up my stories, of course, but it is much faster to read a book than to bring one to life (as the library in Hell shows). Writers are never in competition with each other. We just hope you keep on choosing to read as a form of entertainment for at least as long as we write our stories (and beyond).