Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten MORE of My Favorite Halloween Children's Reads

Three years ago, I rang in the Top Ten Tuesday Halloween blogpost by talking about the many, many children's books we pile onto our coffee table every major holiday, and sorted through my Top Ten, in order to give you a glimpse at what's there. But that was so long ago, and so much has changed since then...

That's why for today's Top Ten "Halloween Freebie," I decided to tell you about even more options for my favorite spooky-but-relatively-tame reads for kiddos! 

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1. How to Make Friends with a Ghost, Rebecca Green
Equal parts sweet and spooky, and surprisingly earnest, this adorably illustrated children's book became a recent favorite last year.

2. and 3. Disney Parks' The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean sing-along books
Being that I've had the words to "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" down pat since approximately the age of 5, you'd think these additions to the family lineup wouldn't impress me too much. However, these reads - which you can only get from the Parks - are not only colorfully illustrated, with plenty of jokes included just for Disney superfans, but come complete with a CD so your little monster can listen along with the book!

4. The Dark, Lemony Snicket
A sweet, short, and charmingly-illustrated story about a boy learning how to share his house with an unexpected guest: the dark.

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5. The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed, Patrick Rothfuss
Fans of Fantasy juggernaut Patrick Rothfuss will surely be pleased with this simple collection of short, cliff-hanger packed stories about the Princess, and her stuffed teddy bear, Mr. Whiffle. Guaranteed there will be at least plot twist you don't see coming!

6. Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, Ludworst Bemonster
A riff on the family favorite Madeline series, this take on the classic "twelve little girls in two straight lines" follows the escapades of little nightmares, rather than Parisian schoolgirls. The illustrations are cute, the rhymes are simple, and these misbehaving monsters might just make for the perfect Halloween bedtime story!

7. The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House, by Mary Chase
This one might be geared more for middle grade readers, but the vintage copy we have - from my mom's own childhood - has been sitting on our coffee table for what feels like forever. Move aside, Roald Dahl's The Witches... this is the vision in my head as to what those foes look like.

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8. and 9. Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume One: The Fearsome Foursome and Volume Two: Midnight at Madame Leota's, Amicus Arcane
I was always a fan of middle grade short-form horror, and these books fall squarely in line with exactly the sort of things that would have interested me as a kid. Divided up into short stories, these tales - set inside and around the Haunted Mansion itself - have been an unexpected favorite to pick up on Disney vacations. (And apparently there's a third volume out now... guess we have to go back!)

10. The Art and Making of ParaNorman, by Jed Alger
Okay, so technically this isn't a Halloween book... mainly because I keep it out on my coffee table in my room year round! ParaNorman isn't just one of my favorite Halloween movies, but one of my favorite movies, period, and this fun and informative tome detailing aspects of its creation is obviously one, too.

What's in YOUR Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Villains

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Let's be real: who doesn't love a good villain? There's no story without an antagonist, and many of literature's great heroes are made all the more so, thanks to a strong offensive force. The glory of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, was generated from his ties to You Know Who, and the brilliant deductive mind of Sherlock Holmes was at its best when up against Moriarty. Of course, those two sterling examples are far from the only Big Bads present in some of my favorite books.

From smooth and deadly, to angry and dangerous, be it in a solo act or as part of a larger force to be reckoned with, here are some of my favorite villains, straight from my shelves!

1. Long John Silver, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island 
If you were to argue that my love of this character was shaped by my childhood adoration for both Tim Curry in Jim Henson's Muppet Treasure Island, as well as the cyborg space-dad from Disney's Treasure Planet, both answers would be correct.

2. The Firm, John Grisham's The Firm 
I haven't read this one since high school, but I think it's due for a reread... and what makes for a more formidable villain, than the entire company you work for, who controls every piece of your whole life?

3. Victor and Eli, Victoria Schwab's Vicious
There's nothing quite like a villain pursuing a singularly-minded goal, in a devastatingly deadly and effective way, to really get you to root for the good guy. The thing is, there isn't a good guy. The only person who's able to stop him... is another villain.

4. The House, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves
In the realm of contemporary horror, there are quite a few evil houses to choose between. From The Amityville Horror's haunted halls, American Horror Story's Murder House, to Monster House's possessed foundation, what you usually find, is a house controlled by spirits. This one's got ever-expanding walls, a darkened hallway that appears overnight, and a minotaur... or does it?

5. Frankenstein's Monster, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Can I be frank? (Pun intended.) We all know this guy's not really a villain. Sure, he murdered a few people, and typically, good guys aren't forced to jump ship and flee desperately across the ice after killing a dude, but Frankenstein's monster is not a villain. He's just a big, ol' murdery baby.

6. The Darkling, Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy 
While my brother's love of YA means there's quite a few things in the realm of books that we share, an appreciation for this guy's sense of style is one of the first ones we had in common. (Now, Leigh Bardugo is his favorite author, and I have to read Six of Crows soon, because he's zoomed through the rest of her novels without me. Sorry, Beau!)

7. The Doldrums, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
One of the most secretly insidious villains in children's literature. The colorless landscape that Milo finds himself trapped in shortly after the start of the book - a disorientingly gray, uninspiring place, difficult to escape on your own, filled with the cripplingly apathetic and lazy Lethargarians - became a familiar metaphor for me in middle school, when I started using it as a means of describing my depression.

8. Samuel Ratchett and The Murderer(s), Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express
No spoilers, for those who haven't read it. Then again, maybe you've seen the movie? I haven't, even though this truly jaw-dropping Christie finale is one of my favorites among her canon.

9. Insurrection and Harpies, and Literally Elliot's Own Terrible Ideas, Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands
This is going to sound a little nonsensical, but here goes: I love books that actually don't have a villain. While there's something inescapably alluring about a Big Bad, there's also a lot to be gained from packing your narrative with not-so-obvious opposition forces, who are operating with justifiable motivation, in a realistic way. From the rebellion within their own ranks of the camp, to the various conversations with the murderous harpies, to Elliot grappling with his own sense of right and wrong, what makes In Other Lands such a remarkable coming-of-age novel is its commitment to the idea that becoming a mature, independent person, has a lot to do with better understanding yourself and others.

10. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
To every single person who has ever described this book to me as a sweeping, epic love story, or Heathcliff as the epitome of a brooding, sexy, bad boy love interest: better call a toy detective, because you have completely lost your marbles. Catherine and Heathcliff were terrible people, who made terrible choices, and had terrible effects on the people around them, and they are totally the villains of Wuthering Heights.

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My OcTBR : My Inspo for Reading During the Spooky Season (Free Printable!)

Every major holiday, I make a countdown poster for my family, in order to keep track of how we're celebrating - especially in movie form - over the course of the season. I've made them as a part of our Christmas preparations for the past three years, but last year was the first time I made one to celebrate Halloween... and not only did it go over well, but people were so interested in it, that I figured I might do something a little different, this year, too!

Because various friends kept asking last year if I had a version to share, I decided that before I completed coloring in my 2018 Halloween Movie Countdown, I would actually use the Notes section of my iPhone, to scan it into a shareable JPG format. I upped the Brightness and Saturation levels, so that the lines would become thicker and more translucent, and boom! I had a shareable, traceable, printable of my Halloween Countdown!

On the countdown - which is themed like a spooky wall in a hallway, covered in various picture frames - there are 20 blank spaces into which you can write or draw whatever you'd like. If you don't need that many empty spaces, you can fill in the extra as you please (like I did), or, if you need more, you can add in frames in the spaces beyond... and because you're inking things in yourself, it will totally blend in! For instance, if you're not too into the movie countdown idea, you can simply add in 11 more frames, and make a countdown of days to Halloween instead!

And to accommodate everyone's different preferences, I blanked out the section in the title where I had written "Movie," in anticipation of something else I had in mind...

While my Movie Countdown is proudly displayed on the pantry door in our kitchen, I customized my little personal printable version to fit into my Book Journal, as a personal OcTBR lineup of sorts! 20 frames is a lot of books to try and tackle in one month - even if some of them are favorites pulled from the stack of themed children's books in our living room - so I'm using it as more of a source of inspiration, than an actual countdown.

Some of the titles included are old faves - like the Diviners series, from Libba Bray, which I'm trying to reread, so that I can mentally catch up with the latest installment, Before the Devil Breaks You, before I read that, too - while some are somehow even older faves (like all of R. L. Stine's Fear Street double feature re-releases I've been saving to read all summer!). Others, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, are some longer creepy reads that I might not want to read all the way through, but which might be worth dusting off and leafing through over the course of the month. From Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," to a favorite illustrated version of Mary Howitt's classic poem, "The Spider and the Fly," I've got quite a lot to choose from when it comes to enjoying spooky seasonal fare.

In addition, in between the frames, I wrote in various ideas I had for perfect Fall and Halloween themed #bookstagram photos, in case I need any kinds of inspiration in that category, too!

So, naturally, I want to make sure all my blogging friends can share in the fun: you can download your own version of my printable, too, and use it as either a source of bookish inspiration, use it to countdown Halloween favorites like my family, or do whatever you'd like! Just, you know, if you do, let me know about it: leave a comment down below with the deets on how you plan on using it, or tag me in any Instagram posts you make with my bookstagram profile, @playinginthepages! 

What's on your OcTBR this Halloween season? Did you download my printable? Let me know, in the comments below!