Safe House by Jo Jakeman

I was sent a copy of ‘Safe House’ by Jo Jakeman as part of its blog tour. I was rather excited, as it is the first time I have had the chance to take part in such an event. And, wow, what a novel to start with.

‘Safe House’ is an excellent contemporary thriller, the perfect novel for these dark nights. Charlie Miller is ready to start a new life in Cornwell; it has been a difficult couple of years and it is time to shake off the ghosts of the past. Steffi Finn was that past, but Charlie knows she has to be long forgotten, as does the relationship she had with the now convicted murderer, Lee Fisher. However, how ever far she goes, she can not shake the feeling that the past is following her.

The thriller has all the ingredients of an excellent tale. A colourful collection of characters, an excellent atmospheric setting, and a number of twists and turns that take you on quite an adventure with Charlie as she tries to start a new life.

I could not put this book down, as the story is told through the past and present, which means there are two tales being told. You are drawn in, wanting to know what forced Charlie Miller to want a safe house so far from everything she has known before…and who she was.

This is a five-star read for all of you who are fans of a chilling thriller. So, I would suggest picking up a copy of Jo Jakeman’s novel and finding a cosy place to settle down and read on these dark nights.

And, as a bonus, the ebook of ‘Safe House‘ will be 99p, on Amazon, throughout November – so why not treat yourself?

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Fantasy is a genre that I am never sure if I enjoy or not. I am a fan of the likes of Harry Potter and Narnia, but I rarely advance on that. Yet, I had seen a lot of hype about ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ and last year it was Foyles Children’s Book of the Year.

So, again I am a little late to the party (story of my bookish life, it would appear) but I am glad I have picked this book up. It seemed like an ideal October read with its dark and mysterious cover. As I started it, I was a little put off by the length of the book – I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its length – as I often worry that it can cause a novel to lose momentum. However, this was not the case here; the narrative was broken down into individual chapters focusing on three of the central characters, Zelie, Amari and Inan, which kept up the pace of the tale. There is also so much action packed into the pages as the maji fight to have the rights they deserve and reinstate their place in society.

The novel tackles some excellent topics that are always part of the society we live in. The story addresses the fear of difference caused by lack of understanding – how easy it is for history to be moulded to suit those with power adn suppress those considered the enemy of the power. For me, it is always a clever book and talented author who can make readers think, not only about the book, but also about bigger issues.

I am intrigued where these stories continue to go. They are excellent for young adults and adults alike – especially as there are stong female lead characters in Zelie and Amari, who are keen to fight for what they believe in.

Fantasy fan or not, I would suggest giving ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ a read, because it is more than a fantastic YA novel.

The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie

Short stories are not usually my thing, although as I have got older, I have become less averse towards a collection of shorter tales. Ones from the pen of Agatha Christie are sure to be a crowd-pleaser – especially if they are spooky at this time of year.

However, for me, this was not a classic from Agatha Christie. In fact I was a little conflicted by this book. Some of the tales were excellent – especially those that had a crime element. I love a bit of supernatural mind games, especially when there is another twist for the culprit. The traditional ghostly tales were good too. Yet, I found a few of the stories did not hold my attention and when I had reached the conclusion, I was not sure I had taken in what had happened.

This was October’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ choice, which means I was again encouraged to pick up a title by Agatha Christie that I may have otherwise missed. I am glad that I have read this book because I am a fan of Christie’s work but can risk falling into the trap of only reading the famous titles. This just won’t go down as one of my favourites.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

C J Tudor is another author that I immediately associate with October. I read ‘The Chalk Man’ this time last year, so when I saw that ‘The Taking of Annie Thorne’ was out, I had to add it to the October reading list.

C J Tudor certainly knows how to write an atmospheric thriller. This novel does not disappoint as a gripping page-turner, with quite some twists and turns. It is a novel woven from the past and present of the central character, Joe Thorne, as he is drawn back to his old home town and is forced to face up to the events of the past. Can he stop history from repeating itself?

For me, the only issue is it leaves a big question unanswered as reach the conclusion. I suppose that can add to the mystery of the novel, however as I am quite a fan of detective-style mysteries, I like a clean and finished story – not a question mark.

This does not take away from the fact that this is a brilliant book for these dark autumn nights. It will certainly chill and thrill you as you read it, and you will want to know what happened – past and present.

I do hope that there is more to come from the pen of C J Tudor, as I feel her novels need to be a regular feature of my October reading list.

Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

This may not be a spooky read (although I don’t fancy being chased by a goat) but how can a graphic novel called ‘Pumpkin Heads’ not be read in October?

Graphic novels are hard to review because, let’s be honest, the beauty is in the illustrations – which you will have to trust me are absolute beauties. However, this story was beautiful too – I read it in one sitting.

Deja and Josie have worked together for many seasons at the Pumpkin Patch. They are indeed Pumpkin Heads, especially Josie, who can’t seem to accept that it is his last shift at the Pumpkin Patch. Deja decides that they are not going to waste this opportunity to experience everything that there is on offer at their place of work. However, it becomes more of an adventure of self-discovery which neither was quite expecting.

Throughout the book, there are so many little nods to where the tale may be going, which makes it even more wonderful to read.

This is just a perfect graphic novel that brings some light and light relief in these rather turbulent times.

Now, all I need is a Pumpkin Patch with so many treats and fun and games to add to October adventures.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirely Jackson

I have only ever read Shirley Jackson books in October. She is just an author I associate with these Autumn nights since picking up ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ last October. I am also going to make a bold statement – ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is better than ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.

‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ may not be as openly ‘horror’ as ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, but Jackson’s excellent writing builds a chilling tale with excellent black comedy. As I read this novel, I enjoyed the fact that you never know exactly what is ‘reality’. There is so much mystery surronding the Blackwood family and their dark secret – and they let it engulf them such that, even as the reader, there are points where you don’t know if you can believe what you are reading.

However, there is also a lot of charm to this book as you build empathy for the characters. After all, if the village you live in has isolated you from society, then that could well skew your idea of quite how live should be. And, just as with Hill House, the Blackwood House is as much of a character as the ‘people’ of the book.

Throughout the story, there are hints to the truth. Although, by the end, I think there are still some loose ends – depending on how you take the tale.

For me, the thing that really freaked me out was the little spider icon at the close of he novel. After all, I really do not like spiders.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

It is October and I am trying to ensure that all my reading has a thrilling or spooky the to it.

So, my first choice was the new YA novel from Kiran Millwood Hargrave: ‘The Deathless Girls’. Before I even talk about the story, I have to talk about how absolutely beautiful the cover is. It immediately evokes a Gothic atmosphere with its dark background, gold and autumnal hues, and symbols that represent various themes of the tale. Simply, it is stunning and really represents the contents of the novel.

And now to the tale – Kiran Millwood Hargrave has decided to tell the story of the Brides of Dracula; those women who do not have a voice in the myth of Dracula. She does this beautifully; you are involved in the story from the start. The twins Lil and Kizzy are captured by Boyer Volcar, forced away from their Traveller community and frightened. However, there is an even darker cloud hovering over them – the myth of the Dragon and the young girls that he takes as gifts. When Kizzy is taken, Lil must find her sister before the worst might happen…

There is so much wonderful tension in this book because the atmosphere is created through the beautiful writing. It is truly the perfect novel to read on these dark nights, especially by candlelight.

Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy

I have mentioned before the fabulous Victorian Sensation Bookclub; a great bookstagram community who buddy-read a Victorian classic. September’s read was ‘Desperate Remedies’ by Thomas Hardy. Now, I will be honest, I was not sure about a Hardy novel. He has always been an author I had been intimitated by. I am not sure why – possibly becuase there seems to be a huge community of dedicated Hardy fans out there, and I was worried I would not become one.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by my Hardy reading experience. I will admit that it took me a while to get the hang of the style – I mean, why use a simple description when you can have an over-complicated one? However, when I reached the description of the mathematical angle being the cause of an event going unobserved, I decided I was well and truly sucked into Hardy’s world.

‘Desperate Remedies’ has everything that makes a Victorian Sensation exactly what it should be. There is mystery, intrigue, secrets, murder and adventure. I absolutely adored every moment of this book once I had got the hang of Hardy’s style. I found myself dragged into the drama and keen to know where the adventure would take me next.

I don’t want to share any spoilers, so I do not want to go into the details of the plot. However, I would recommend that people who enjoy a good bit of drama pick up this book.

So, I feel – or hope – I am a Hardy fan and I am ready to read more of his novels. Fingers crossed, I am not disappointed. The question is – what should I try next?

Evie and the Animals by Matt Haig

I am always in awe of those authors who show their talents in so many different ways – Matt Haig is one of those authors. Haig can write with such style, not just for adults but also for children (and even then he can adapt his style).

‘Evie and the Animals’ is a book I believe was inspired by his daughter’s love of animals. It is a great story – in my opinion, for all ages – of a girl who has a love of animals and a special talent that allows them to communicate with her, and vice versa. There is a wonderful emphasis on the importance being special in your own way – that there is no need to try and be like everyone else.

Evie can gather great strength when she knows the truth about her past. And she goes on to use that to save those that she loves – human and animal alike.

This is a glorious adventure with brilliant illustrations from Emily Gravett, which bring even more life to this novel.

We should all remember that we have our own special talents and that they make us the individuals we are today.

Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James

This is a book that I could not wait to read, having read the first one earlier this year. And this book did not disappoint at all.

Anna James has created the best world for bookworms young and old. As Tilly and her best friend Oskar are bookwanderers and enter books, make friends with characters, and go on adventures. However, as with all great stories, there is an element of danger and mystery along the way.

This time, Tilly and Oskar find themselves caught up in fairy tales. An unusual story, as they do not always have a clear original source but they still hold all the magic of stories. They are a little bit of a mystery but certainly need to be saved for everyone to enjoy. Even if there are those who simply want the magic for themselves.

I genuinely adore these novels; I feel they are like my ultimate fantasy book. We all enter stories every time we open our books and let our imagination take us in an adventure – but, let’s be honest, we would all like characters to really be our friends.

Even better, this is a book that sparked a conversation between me and a bookseller as we discussed how fabulous Anna James’ tales are (and, if I am honest, neither of us are the target audience).

The illustrations and presentation od thse books are stunning, and I can not wait until we go on another adventure with Tilly.