Spooky, fun and freaky – 3 books to help your Halloween withdrawal symptoms

Still kind of wishing it was still Halloween? Here’s a couple of books to keep this autumnal holiday alive!

I’ve not read much spooky fiction lately – I’ve been too busy freaking myself out with non-fiction about the current state of the world. But when I unexpectedly got approved for 2 ARCs on NetGalley, and a graphic novel I’d been eagerly awaiting arrived in the post, I jumped at the chance to get in the Halloween spirit!

So first up:

The Strange Casebook – Syd Moore (Point Blank)

This is a small collection of 6 short stories by the author of the Strange Magic mystery books. I’m sad to say they didn’t have much impact on me. As a collection, it felt quite rushed and like it hadn’t really been given much thought. But a couple of the stories themselves were quite fun. I enjoyed “Death Becomes Her”, a story about a woman who can see Death, and “Snowy”, a simple but poignant tale about a woman and her cats.

On the whole, all of the stories had elements that were entertaining and interesting, but it just didn’t pull together as a whole collection of ghost stories. I haven’t read the Strange Magic books, and I understand some of the characters are pulled from that. This could be affecting my perception of the book.

Moore does a decent job with a wide variety of voices, and even though I didn’t like this book, I’ll still be giving the Strange Magic series a go. I think her writing will have more impact in long form.

Moonstruck Volume 1: Magic to Brew – Grace Ellis (writer), Shae Beagle (art)

I love Image Comics, and this didn’t disappoint. How can you not love a comic with a werewolf lesbian couple and a non-binary centaur?

The main character Julie is a werewolf barista whose just started seeing Selena, another werewolf. Something happens to Julie’s friend Chet, a centaur, when the friends visit a magic show together. Cue a bit of drama but a LOT of hilarity as everyone tries to work together to fix the problem and save the day.

The volume collects issues 1-5. The plot is relatively straightforward but what I loved about it were the characters, the gorgeous artwork and blush tones. Everything about this volume is super cute. It’s also nice to see a comic really working on its diverse representation – the characters aren’t only diverse in LGBT+ terms, but come from different backgrounds, and are different shapes and sizes. It’s great to see a fat main character in a book where the focus isn’t on that. She’s just existing in her body making no apologies, and that’s great.

There were a couple of sections where I didn’t quite understand character’s motivations, but overall I loved Moonstruck, it’s thoroughly entertaining and I can’t wait to get the second volume next year.

My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)

I was so pleased to get an advanced copy of this (thanks, Atlantic Books). The paperback version is out on 28 November, so not long to wait now! In my opinion, it is worth the wait.

Set in Nigeria, Korede’s sister Ayoola has killed 3 of her boyfriends, and every time Korede has been there to help her cover it up. Ayoola claims each time that it was self-defence, but Korede (understandably) isn’t all that convinced. Things get even more complicated when the doctor Korede works with at the hospital, and who she’s madly in love with, falls under Ayoola’s spell.

This book is very fast-paced – I read it in no time, and I’m a notoriously slow reader. The chapters are short, so the snappy writing and dark humour mean you just fly through it. Books like that can sometimes feel like they lack depth, but that’s not the case here. The characters were really human and so well-developed. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Korede, even while realising she probably wasn’t an entirely reliable narrator. She’s frustrated by her sister’s behaviour but will ultimately do anything to protect her, and as the story progresses you begin to understand why she is this way.

Ayoola is also an interesting (and frustrating) character – you never know where you stand with her and so you’re constantly questioning whether she’s being honest, even by the end of the book.

It might sound like dark subject matter, but Braithwaite does an excellent job of keeping it light – there are some genuinely amusing moments. But the humour doesn’t detract from the humanity of the characters and you can’t help but want to know what will happen to the two sisters. You can’t help but root for them.

I’d love to hear what you think of these books, let me know in the comments!

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