Witches, Vampires, Monsters, Ghouls…They’re Not Just for Halloween, You Know

I must apologise. I had grand plans for all kinds of Halloween book posts last week; well…for the last 10 days of so. But my life had gone a bit manic, other work beckoned and I wasn’t feeling so great. Hey…it happens. So I’m playing a bit of catch-up here. And witchy wanderings, monstrous deeds, ghoulish goings-on and voracious vampires…they’re not just for Halloween, you know. Not in the book world. So here’s a few fantastically fun books I meant to post earlier.

In Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes; perfectly illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Simon & Schuster; 16 September 2021), we learn that there are rules, even for the Undead. Being a vampire is harder than you’d think. It’s true that you have incredible powers like hypnotism and beastly strength…and you have the ability to Grimwalk. But these are all governed by very strict regulations. And young Leo, an 11-year-old vampire (111, if you want to be precise) is about to break rule number one; and quite a number of others; as she undertakes her first solo human hunt. She can’t see any way around it. The Rules for Vampires don’t tell you what to do when you make a ghostly enemy, or accidentally restart an ancient war. Her mother is going to be so angry. And you don’t want to make her mother angry…or her older baby sister. Leo had better fix the mess she’s made pronto! With nail-biting action, deliciously dark, creepy situations and wickedly funny, laugh-out-loud humour, a moving tale of unlikely family and friendship.

GhostCloud by Michael Mann (Hodder Childrens Books; 7 October 2021) is one I reviewed earlier (check the Middle-Grade page for the full review.) 12-year-old Luke has a miserable life. He has been kidnapped and forced to shovel coal in a blackened, half-bombed power station on the outskirts of London with little hope of seeing daylight, or his family again. When Luke discovers he can see things others’ can’t…namely a ghost-girl named Alma, things take a very interesting twist. Luke is half-human, half – something else. And when together they learns the terrible truth of why children are being kidnapped and forced to work in the power station, and he becomes even more desperate to escape. In a wonderfully reimagined, dystopian London landscape, an incredible magical adventure with plenty of chills and heart. Perfect for the spooky season, or any time of the year.

A brilliant, magical adventure awaits in The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury Childrens Books; 5 August 2021.) Cordelia and her triplets, Rosalind and Giles have lived safely in the castle at the centre of the forest all their lives, protected by the spells their mother has woven. But Cordelia, a shape-shifter is different. She has a wild, untamed magic that gives her the freedom to fly beyond the great stone walls. But then one day the outside world comes to them. Two rival dukes and their soldiers have come for the triplets – because whoever is the eldest is the heir to the throne. As their mother and older brother are imprisoned by the Dukes and the triplets find themselves on the run across a dangerous new world, there is a deep, dark magic at work, driving Cordelia towards a destiny that could tear her family apart, take away her freedom forever. But Cordelia may just be the only one who can save them all and heal the kingdom. Thrilling, gripping, and oozing with magic.

Please, please read Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting by Robin Bennett (Firefly Press; 18 February 2021.) It’s hilarious! Max is really just a slightly scruffy, ordinary kind of boy…until he burps and turns into a huge, hairy monster who can leap over buildings, roar really loudly and eat entire dustbins. Max has made a super-hero kind of vow to only “protect and do good stuff.” But when something starts causing a lot of damage in his neighborhood and Monster Max gets the blame. If only that pesky kid, Peregrine…a kid Maxs’ age who has invented a portable operating omni-prison machine (or POOP, for short), would stop stalking him, Max might be able to uncover the real vandal. Full of action, drama and a hefty amount of monster-sized heart.It speaks to the little monster-hero in everyone. Full review on the Younger Reader page. And there’s a new Monster Max adventure coming soon, so you’ll want to catch up.

And here a few favourites that just keep getting better each time I read them.

The Wild Magic Trilogy by Celine Kiernan (Walker Books)  began with Begone The Raggedy Witches; a story that crackled with atmosphere and enchantment from the very first line…really wanted to live in Mups’ world and stand by her side throughout the twists and turns of the magical adventure as she journeyed through a land that was her legacy and was being destroyed by her grandmother, the Old Queen. Then after the triumph of driving the Old Queen away, came The Little Grey Girl.  Witches Burrough is living under a Snow Queen-esque curse and the echoes of the cruel past through its’ ghosts. Hurt and angry, they are determined to lash out in a punishing rage on Mups’ family, ensuring their pain and suffering will not be forgotten. Mup summons all her courage, her wits and her magic to try to put things right, or it will all be for nothing. And then we come to the end. In The Promise Witch, the endless winter has gone. But the beauty of spring turned into a searing heat with not a drop of rain. Every ounce of water driven deep underground by the Old Queens’ latest curse. Witches Borough is dying, and with it, everyone and everything that Mup holds dear. There is only one way to end this. Mup must fulfill a promise and finally face her grandmother… The whole series…completely magical!

And then there’s the phenomenal The Ghouls of Howlfair and it’s sequel, Molly Thompson and the Crypt of the Blue Moon by Nick Tomlinson (Walker Books.) From the first meeting with Molly as she set off investigating the strange happenings in Howlfair caused by a ghoulish uprising (which none of the current residents believe still exist…surprise for them!), her uncovering the brewing of a ghastly plot in the town and the workings of a truly sinister Ghoul Queen…it had me gripped in its’ spell. Then Molly has to engage in a battle of wits with two peculiar journalists who are a little too interested in a local legend of a phantom known as the Silentman. And they want Molly to help them find a hidden crypt that was never meant to be opened…Intelligent, intriguing and uniquely imaginative…. and loaded with ghouls, of course.

But if you’re really hankering for some Halloween mischief, you have to read the Samuel Johnson Vs. the Darkness Trilogy by John Connelly (Hodder Paperbacks; 29 October 2020.) Previously published as three books; The Gates, Hells’ Bells and The Creeps, these have been put together in one volume and it is fabulously thrilling and hilariously entertaining! The mystery all begins in The Gates. Trying to get a head start on trick-or-treating, Samuel and his trusty canine companion Boswell accidentally discover his new neighbour, Mrs trying to open the gates of hell. It’s up to Samuel to stop her, except nobody will believe him, and time is running out. In The Infernals (previously Hells’ Bells) they are pulled through a portal into Hell. But Mrs Abernathy has reckoned without their bravery and cleverness, or the loyalty of Samuel’s friend, the demon Nurd, and Mr Merryweather’s Elves. Summing it all up in The Creeps; Samuel and Boswell are to be guests of honour at the opening of the greatest toyshop. A splendid time will be had by all, as long as they can ignore the sinister statue that keeps moving around the town, the Shadows that are slowly blocking out the stars, murderous elves, and the fact that, somewhere, a rotten black heart is beating a rhythm of revenge. So actually…we can safely say this is the perfect eerie collection to see us through from Halloween to Christmas. Nail-biting, filled with science, history and footnotes that must be consumed, a horror story with a real difference.

Now…that should keep you on the edge of your seats for a while.

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