The Conspiracy of Magic by Harriet Whitehorn

Before I can even comment on the novel, I have to talk about the cover of ‘The Conspiracy of Magic’. It has a cover that makes me want to not only read the book, but become part of the tale. (Even if ice skating is not my strong point, but that is part of the joy of reading – you can do anything).

I was lucky enough to be given the chance to review ‘The Conspiracy of Magic’ by Harriet Whitehorn thanks to the fabulous Dark Room Tours. And I am so glad I had that chance.

This book has everything that a great story should have. As the title suggests, there is magic, adventure, intrigue – and, most importantly, a strong female lead in Cass. An obtuse (not affected by magic), in a world where magic is considered dangerous, as it is powerful. Which, of course, is something that does not go down well with all the residents, and magical forces start to target the royal party that Cass is charged with protecting. This leads Cass on quite an adventure, encountering a collection of colourful characters along the way.

For me, I really enjoyed that the strength for Cass comes from the fact that she isn’t magical. She has to rely on her wits and strength to protect and fight for what she loves.

It reminded me of classic adventure tales, full of great characters, magical settings, as well as humour and emotion. Certainly the sort of book you can imagine diving into and fighting alongside the characters in a classic tale of good versus bad.

This novel is a sequel, the second in the ‘The Company of Eight’ series, however it can be read as a standalone book without any impact on enjoyment. Although, you will want to read more.

So, if you are a fan of adventure, whatever your age, then pick this book up. It would also make a fantastic Christmas gift for avid middle-grade readers.

Go on, try something new!

Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

This is a book that I challenge you not to read in the Jonathan’s dulcet tones – in fact, he even makes reference to the fact that, as a reader, you may be doing exactly that.

Anyway, down to business: book two of ‘Non-fiction November’ is ‘Over The Top’ from another star of my beloved ‘Queer Eye’. Jonathan Van Ness is responsible for grooming on the show (just in case you have never seen it – which, of course you have). However, he does not make his tale about ‘Queer Eye’. I mean, do not get me wrong, it gets a mention, but it is not the full focus of the book. This is a bit of a warts-and-all telling of the journey Jonathan Van Ness has been on to become who he is today.

This not a book for the faint-hearted, as Jonathan is honest about the demons and struggles he has had in his life. However, it is told, at times, with humour and always with strong emotion. This is not a sob story, but it will allow you to build even nore respect for Jonathan.

An interesting point was that Jonathan presents meeting Karamo very much as Tan did in his book. And the way that they talk about their time on the show suggests they are really the team that we see on the screen – which makes me happy!

I feel that putting this book together was an important step for Jonathan Van Ness on his journey, and I am so glad that he has put pen to paper, because it will be a story to help others.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

I love Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ – my dream would be to hang out with the Fab 5! But, as that it is all it is – a dream – I will have to read books from the boys instead!

So, I have started that journey with Tan France and his autobiography, ‘Naturally Tan’. I loved every single second of this book and if I had to take a break from the book I could not wait to get back to it.

This is an insprirational read as Tan so openly shares his experiences about growing up in the North of England: the horrible experiences of racism, but also the confidence that he had in who he was (even if that was not the person culture dictated to him). However, he did exactly what he wanted to do, found his place, found his husband and has been on quite a journey finding his place in the Fab 5. Although, the first impressions he had of the boys is quite a revelation. Thank goodness those impression changed – and Antoni is defintely good looking – haha!

Throughout, Tan also offers fashion advice (of course he does); my favourite is the fact that the perfect jeans don’t exist. (This is an important lesson after 35 years). Although, the most important is the fact that confidence and what makes you feel confident will always present the best you to the world.

Tan France has certainly come across as an inspiration. Someone who values love, values the success he has achieved and the friends he has made.

So…be more Tan!

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.