It’s that time of year – cooler breezes, even in Missisippi, pumpkins everywhere. I get a fresh burst of energy and also, I’m ready for reads that give me a few shivers up my spine. How about you? I grew up as the biggest scaredy cat – you couldn’t tell me a ghost story, I was so scared. But thankfully, I’ve outgrown it. I dress up like a witch every year for Halloween; I even watch zombie shows, much to my husband’s delight. So, here are some reads that let us hold hands with Macbeth’s witches, chanting ”double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…”
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. I am re-reading this right now, actually, and had forgotten how good it is. Quentin Coldwater, a teenager from Brooklyn, finds his way into a magic college. Well, he’s invited, but suddenly he’s in a place where magic is real and yes, he has the capacity to become a real magician. This is no Harry Potter, it’s dark and adult and scary. There’s a whiff of Donna Tartt’s A Secret History to it – lots of students studying, drinking and finding trouble along the way. At Brakebills College, you can find darker forces more sinister than Voldemort, it seems. There’s also a sequel, The Magician King, that I am going to plow through next.
If you want witches AND vampires – and who doesn’t? – then you will delight in A Discovery of Witches. It involves a scholar, Diana Bishop, finding an alchemical manuscript that kicks up a firestorm in the paranormal world. There’s a handsome vampire (and he doesn’t sparkle, y’all) who woos her, which breaks old taboos and REALLY pisses people off. This is a wonderful combination of history and romance and the paranormal. And, you’re so lucky, because the second book in the series is also out – Shadow of Night. As you can guess, that’s on my to-read list that’s several miles long.
Because I obviously can’t get enough of witches, we’re going to add Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman to the stack. Really, any time you want magic, just reach for Alice Hoffman. I’m sighing just thinking of how much I love her! And you can even watch the movie and then dance around your living room to “Put Your Lime in the Coconut” shamelessly. But back to the book – there are two sisters who are raised by their kooky aunts, and who slowly come into their own powers. That’s always a problem – when you’re a witch and do not WANT to be a witch! What’s a girl to do? If you want to read about ancient Israel and perhaps some magical women, then pick up Ms. Hoffman’s latest, The Dovekeepers. I warn you – this book will rip out your heart. The Dovekeepers is about the real history of Masada, when a group of 900 Jews were standing against the Roman army. The historian Josephus recorded that two women and five children survived, and this is the fictional account of those survivors. A devastating masterpiece, truly.
For lighter, frothier reads – you can never go wrong with Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. They are a guilty pleasure - go ahead and buy the first three or four. Just do it, because they’re like candy and easy to read on a weekend or on a plane trip. Don’t be scared by the show that’s based on the books – True Blood, that has truly jumped the shark, by all accounts – it’s a whole different experience than the books. I also really loved her Harper Connelly series, which is about a woman who, after being struck by lightning, can find dead bodies. She senses them, and turns this into a useful career. I say these are light, but both heroines usually end up pretty beat up at one point or another. Charlaine has issues, what can I say? Don’t we all.
Two more magical to-reads on my list: Among Others, by Jo Walton – I am hearing nothing but amazing things about this book. Advent, by James Treadwell – another trilogy in the works, of a boy who discovers how magic was lost in our world. One last MUST READ: Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. READ IT.
Happy spooky reading, y’all!
Samantha is the "creative director" of her household, which consists of a guitar-playing husband, a 5-year-old train-and-Lego-loving son, and a sweet, terrible brown dog named Moose. There's always laundry waiting to be done and dishes in the sink. She's a ragamuffin Christian, unapologetic book lover, fierce Southern feminist, and considers Madeleine L'Engle, Anne Lamott, and Barbara Kingsolver to be her patron saints. She believes in the healing powers of a good song, a good story, and a community to hold us all together.
Connect with her at her blog and through Instagram (username = samanthalang). And check out her books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/229340-samantha-l