October 2023 Reading Wrap-Up

Welcome, book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

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Also, since the holiday shopping season is upon us, you may be planning on buying some books for your friends and loved ones. Book Outlet is a heavily discounted online bookstore, and if you use my link HERE, for your FIRST order, you’ll get $5 off when you purchase $25 or more.


In October, I had a really, really fun time with my book selections, but there are still SO many spooky, horror books that I want to read. There’s just never enough time to get to them all. Next year, I may have to give myself two months of spooky, horror books and start in September, so that I can get through more stories.

I had a wonderful reading month! I read some cozy mysteries, many spooky middle grade, and even a couple of supernatural, creepy adult books. In total, I read 12 standard books of which 8 were audiobooks. I also read 12 graphic novels, and a total of 12 NetGalley books. Plus, a newly published author reached out to me to read and review his new picture book. And then, I did have a couple of DNFs (or books I didn’t finish). There is some overlap, so in total, I read 34 books in October, my second-highest month of the year so far.

October Reading Wrap-Up

These books are listed from my least favorite to my most favorite of the month.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

My GR Rating: 1 – DNF’d (Did Not Finish)
Genre: Romance Fantasy
GR Nominee for Best Romance (2021)
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed-off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off-the-charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

Why I DNF’d This Book: I chose this book because I wanted to give a witchy romance a try, but this one did not work for me at all. I listened to about the first 15-20 minutes and had to turn it off. I got through the prologue and a little bit of the first chapter before I threw in the towel. 

I didn’t care for the language she used, it felt very immature and juvenile, almost like a YA romance, and it just sounded super cheesy and cringy. It felt extremely targeted for millennials, but I am not in that demographic. I just couldn’t keep going with it so I returned it, which I’m glad that I did because I read some reviews that it’s super spicy, which I don’t care for, and it just got worse, cringier, and cheesier. No, thanks!

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

My GR Rating: 1 – DNF’d (Did Not Finish)
Genre: Horror | Gothic | Fantasy
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: “Mom seems off.”

Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

Why I DNF’d This Book: This one surprised me because I’ve heard book reviewers raving about this author. I’ve been dying to read one of her books, so I thought I’d give her newest book a shot since it just came out earlier this year. I saw some BookTubers say that it wasn’t their favorite T. Kingfisher book but that it was still good. 

I listened to about 40% of it and then just couldn’t take it anymore, so I DNF’d it and returned it. Firstly, it was super boring. I was almost halfway in and NOTHING was happening. Secondly, I started to really dislike the main character. At first, she was okay. I thought she was a fun, sassy, funny gal, but then she started getting on my nerves and just got annoying and obnoxious. Also, she is an archaeoentomologist so there was a lot of science-y bug talk that I just didn’t care about. Then what was the final nail in the coffin was the wokeness that started to seep through. The character was obviously liberal and just started complaining about things not being PC. Then she accuses her deceased grandmother of being racist in the past but doesn’t even give any examples of her being racist, so I questioned if she truly was or if it was just the character judging her grandmother through her liberal lens, which I guess is the latter. This story takes place in the South, which is notoriously conservative, so it felt like anything Southern was racist, anything right-leaning was racist, and anything old or old-fashioned was wrong. 

I really debated on DNFing this book, thinking that if I could ignore the wokeness and focus on the spooky parts of the story, I could get through it, but nothing was keeping my attention, I didn’t care about any of the characters, and nothing spooky was going on. I also read some reviews on this book and everyone says it doesn’t pick up until 75% into the book, which is way too far in for anything to happen in my opinion. So I decided not to torture myself and just stopped and moved on. 

However, even though I didn’t like this one, I will give this author another chance. There are two other highly popular books that I want to try, both are audiobooks through my library, and they are available, so I’ll see if those are any better. If not, then this may be an author that isn’t for me.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

My GR Rating: 3
Genre: YA Fantasy | Short Stories & Novella
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin’s.

My Brief Review: I got this recommendation from a BookTuber that I follow who said she reads this book every year and that it’s a classic. I haven’t ever read anything by this author and went into it very blind. I really had no idea what it was about but thought I’d give it a try. After reading it, I found out that in the 90s, a short animated movie was created from this book. I do wonder if the movie is better than the book and would be better consumed in that format.

I listened to the audiobook. It was short and quick to get through, which was nice. The narrator did a wonderful job. He was extremely animated and had different voices for the different characters. It actually felt like I was listening to a Broadway play. It was very theatrical and delivered in a very dramatic way, which I found humorous. The writing was very lush and descriptive, which I also enjoyed.

The story, however, is where this lost me. I had a hard time following it, and it was kinda boring. I did finish it because I was interested to see how it would end, but it was pretty lackluster. There were eight boys in this group, and I felt like it was too many characters. There was a lot to keep track of, and I feel like the story may have been better with half that number of characters. But, I also realize that the number of boys coincides with all the different time periods they are taken to by Mr. Moundshroud.

What I did enjoy was the history lessons about Halloween. It was fun to travel through time and learn about how other countries and cultures celebrated Halloween throughout different time periods. Each costume that the boys wore was explained through this adventure to the past. 

There isn’t any character development in this story, but I did appreciate the camaraderie and friendships within the group of boys. They all cared about their friend Pipkin and wanted to find and save him. 

Overall, it was a weird but interesting read. It’s not something I would ever read again or recommend, but if it is considered a classic, I’m glad I have it checked off the list.

Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow

My GR Rating: 3
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Stephanie Sheh
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: When Yale Yee discovers her cousin Celine is visiting from Hong Kong, she is obliged to play tour guide to a relative she hasn’t seen in twenty years. Not only that, but her father thinks it’s a wonderful idea for them to bond by running a food stall together at the Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t cooked in years, and she hardly considers Celine’s career as a social media influencer as adequate experience, but because she’s just lost her job at her local bookstore, she feels she has no choice.

Yale and Celine serve small dishes and refreshing drinks, and while business is slow, it eventually picks up thanks to Celine’s surprisingly useful marketing ideas. They’re quite shocked that their bubble tea, in particular, is a hit–literally–when one of their customers turns up dead. Yale and Celine are prime suspects due to the gold flakes that Celine added to the sweet drink as a garnish. Though the two cousins are polar opposites in every way, they must work together to find out what really happened to the victim or the only thing they’ll be serving is time.

My Brief Review: This was a mediocre murder mystery. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a good job, but she’s not my favorite narrator. There was something about her voice I can’t quite explain that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think she was a good fit for me. 

The writing was decent but it was extremely detailed… to a fault. Things were over-explained and it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t need to know every little, single thing someone did, saw, ate, etc. Some imagination needs to be left to the reader. We don’t need to be told every exact detail. That got very frustrating as the story went on. 

The characters were not my favorite, so I had a hard time connecting with them; therefore, I didn’t really care about them. Honestly, I could’ve DNF’d this book, but I finished it just because I wanted to find out who the murderer was and watch the case get solved. Yale is an “old soul” with very “old school” ways, which was cute and quirky at first, but then it just got annoying. She didn’t own a car or a cell phone, and eventually, she needed those things. So her old-fashioned lifestyle actually came back to hurt her and became an obstacle for her. Then, her cousin, Celine, was the complete opposite. As a Foodstagrammer, she was way too connected to social media and all things technology. She seemed very superficial, shallow, and fake. I didn’t like her at all. But the two girls became closer by the end, and I did enjoy watching their relationship improve and their familial bond becomes stronger. 

The murder mystery was decent. I wanted to know whodunit. It had decent pacing, but I wish more happened. I know it’s a cozy mystery, but a tad bit more action would’ve been nice. There weren’t very many thrilling or suspenseful scenes. It could’ve used a few of these types of scenes to make it more entertaining. It was a bit boring for most of the book. 

This story takes place during fall, around Halloween, so it was seasonal, which I enjoyed. It fit my spooky season reading theme and definitely gave fall vibes. I also enjoyed the night market scenes. I’d never heard of a night market before, so that was something different to experience.

The highlight for me was learning about the Asian culture, and all of the delicious, mouth-watering Asian food descriptions. This story will definitely make you hungry, especially for Asian food. I’m also a boba tea addict, so I adored all the boba tea talk, and it made me want boba in the worst way! 

Overall, it was a tolerable audiobook, but for me, it was just meh. This is the first book in a series, but I probably won’t continue with the sequel.

Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

My GR Rating: 3 (3.5)
Genre: Mystery | Magical Realism | Romance Fantasy
Format: Audiobook – Narrators: Emily Rankin, Dan Bittner, Mark Deakins, Kimberly Farr, Ari Fliakos, Dawn Harvey, Carrington MacDuffie, Kirsten Potter, Oliver Wyman
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

My Brief Review: I chose this book because it was getting a lot of hype in the book community. I also heard that it was extremely atmospheric and very seasonal, giving lots of fall vibes. I thought it would be a perfect read for this time of year. The author seems pretty popular, and I had seen quite a few BookTubers talk about her in videos because she just released a new book a few weeks ago, The Unmaking of June Farrow. So I thought I would see what all the fuss is about. 

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. I listened to it on audiobook, and it was wonderful. This is a multiple-POV story, and there are nine narrators in this audiobook. So we have a full cast, and they all did amazing jobs. It helped to have the different voices because there were quite a few characters to keep track of, which got a little confusing at times. 

I feel so mixed about this review and a little upset because I wanted to like it more than I did. It’s also hard to review because the story feels like it didn’t know what it wanted to be – a fantasy romance, a mystery & thriller, fantasy with magical realism. It felt all over the place and messy. It’s definitely a mystery but not a thriller. There is some magic but it feels like an afterthought, and it just shows up randomly until it’s convenient for it to be part of the story. I wish there were more fantasy elements, more magic, and more thrilling scenes. 

It is a bit boring toward the beginning, and it dragged on a little too long for my liking. Overall, the story could’ve been shorter and tighter. It felt like your standard progression of a mystery with a surprise twist ending, which I didn’t expect. But I wish there was more to the story. It felt very dramatic for a lackluster story and a very anti-climatic ending about some apples. Maybe if there were more murders, it would’ve been more interesting. 

However, it is very atmospheric as everyone had said. It definitely gives you spooky, eerie vibes, which are perfect for a fall read. I loved the lush, lyrical prose. It is well-written and really immerses you in this island town. I loved the descriptive imagery and setting. I also loved the small town feel and close-knit community. If you like lots of secrets to unravel, people lying and betraying each other, and a mystery to solve, then you may enjoy this book. 

The main characters were likable and relatable, and there was a second-chance romance between them, but I didn’t overly care too much about them. There is quite a bit of foul language and one spicy scene, but it was pretty mild. 

Overall, it was just okay for me. It did feel disappointing for the hype it was getting. Again, a popular book that I didn’t think was that great – it’s getting to be a pattern for me. But, I am interested in trying more books from this author. I heard her newest book is better than this one, so I may get it from the library. I say give it a try if it sounds good to you. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the best either. It was very middle of the road for me.

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Half-witch Kiki never runs from a challenge. So when her thirteenth birthday arrives, she’s eager to follow a witch’s tradition: choose a new town to call home for one year.

Brimming with confidence, Kiki flies to the seaside village of Koriko and expects that her powers will easily bring happiness to the townspeople. But gaining the trust of the locals is trickier than she expected. With her faithful, wise-cracking black cat, Jiji, by her side, Kiki forges new friendships and builds her inner strength, ultimately realizing that magic can be found in even the most ordinary places.

My Brief Review: This was a very endearing, sweet, and cozy fantasy story. I enjoyed this world where it’s normal to have witches living among people, though not every town or city has a resident witch. It is a cute coming-of-age story about a very young witch who is trying to find her place in the world, come into her magic (and herself), and decide what she wants her life to be like, which is a heavy burden on someone so young and inexperienced. I thought 13 was rather too young for a girl to go out on her own and learn about the real world, but that is part of the rules of this universe, so I went along with it. 

Kiki is such a likable and relatable character. She makes a lot of mistakes and learns through trial and error. But she always figures things out. She’s quite clever and intelligent. She’s also pretty mature for her age, which we can observe when she creates her business even though she gets help from new friends that she makes in her new town.

There is quite a bit of humor in it. It’s a light, fast, and easy book that you could probably read in one day. It is a slice-of-life, slower-paced story, so if you like a lot of action, suspense, and thrill, this may not be the book for you. But it is super wholesome and whimsical. 

I also watched the Studio Ghibli movie after I read the book. In this case, I preferred the book over the movie. There was a lot more charm and whimsy within the book. I also enjoyed, after Kiki starts her delivery business and customers hire her, how each chapter felt like its own short story. The movie didn’t really show this part of the book, which I felt was lacking. But overall, the movie was fun to watch after reading the book. Definitely recommend the book!

Field of Screams by Wendy Parris

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Paranormal enthusiast Rebecca Graff isn’t happy about being dragged to Iowa to spend the summer with family she barely knows. But when she tracks a ghostly presence to an abandoned farmhouse, she starts to think the summer won’t be a total lost cause!

The trouble is no one believes her. Then Rebecca finds a note stashed in a comic belonging to her late father—a note that proves the same spirit haunted him when he was twelve. Suddenly she feels a connection to the dad she pretends not to miss, and she is determined to uncover the story behind the haunting.

But the more Rebecca discovers, the scarier the ghost becomes. Soon she is in a race to piece together the puzzle and recover a family legacy before it is lost forever and a horrible tragedy repeats itself.

My Brief Review: I really enjoyed this spooky mystery book. There were a lot of heartfelt and heartwarming moments in this story, which was a surprise that I loved. The writing was very descriptive and immersive. I really felt like I was there with the main character. It’s set on a haunted farm in Iowa and being a midwestern gal from Ohio, I appreciated the setting with its spooky cornfields and big, old farmhouses. 

While reading this novel, I got the same feelings I get when I read R.L. Stine’s middle grade books. It felt very reminiscent of his stories, which I enjoyed because I grew up reading his books. I would label this book as light horror, which is spooky and eerie but not so creepy that it would give kids nightmares. 

This book is your classic ghostly haunted house story with some fictional historical elements added in. I enjoyed the story within a story concept when Rebecca is learning about the past and her family through old letters and a diary. We are introduced to quite a bit of backstory and learn about what happened to a few of her family members. It helped to add depth to the book. 

Rebecca was a likable character as our main protagonist. She didn’t come across as angsty or bratty. In fact, my heart went out to her because she was dealing with a lot. She had lost a parent, her dad, at such a young age, and then her mom moved them to a new city and state for the summer to stay with some estranged relatives that she didn’t really know. So this book touches on grief and loss as she and her mom try to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. A few other themes or tropes that are explored in this book are friendship, family secrets, coming-of-age, and a mystery to solve. 

I also loved how Rebecca was into the supernatural and paranormal, like her father when he was younger, which made her feel closer to him. To me, she was a brave, courageous little girl. There are many scenes where she interacts with ghosts or paranormal elements, and I would’ve been scared out of my mind at her age, but she is determined to find out what happened in the past and solve this family mystery. She’s a great little investigator. 

This is also a very short and quick read. If you’re a fast reader, you could probably get through it in one day. It has a good amount of spookiness and creepiness to it, which is perfect for a Halloween read. Definitely recommend!

Spellbound: Curse the Day #1 by Annabel Chase

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Cozy Mystery | Fantasy
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Emily Lawrence
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: The only magic Emma Hart believes in is caffeine and the power of the dryer to lose one sock per load. A public interest lawyer buried under a mound of student debt, Emma’s whole life has been one turn of bad luck after another.

Her streak seems to continue when she gets lost on the way to see a client in the remote Pocono Mountains. A chance encounter with a suicidal angel lands her in Spellbound, a town where supernaturals have been cursed to remain for centuries–probably not the best time for Emma to discover that she’s actually a witch.

Between the recent murder of the town’s public defender, a goblin accused of theft, remedial witch classes, and the attention of one smoking hot vampire, Emma struggles to navigate this unfamiliar terrain without losing her mind…or her life.

My Brief Review: This was one of the most delightful cozy mysteries that I’ve read in quite a while. It also restored my faith in the genre. I read a few cozy mysteries back in June and didn’t really care for them. I thought this might be a genre that is not for me, but after reading some really good cozy mysteries in October, I have a newfound love for them. I think it really, really depends on the author and execution of the story. I think this will always be a hit-or-miss genre for me, but I’m happy to keep exploring. Also, I love the covers of cozy mysteries. They are so adorable. 

I listened to this audiobook and the narrator, Emily Lawrence, did a really good job. I think she helped bring this story to life and gave it those cozy vibes. I enjoyed the different voices that she used for all the characters, and there were a lot! I applaud her skills to keep so many characters distinct throughout the story. There were many to keep track of, which was one of the downfalls of this book, it was a pretty large world. 

Once we step into the world of Spellbound, we are whisked away to this magical realm and go on quite a fun adventure. Another book reviewer said it’s like Harry Potter and Halloweentown had a baby together. I’ve never seen Halloweentown, but it did feel similar to the world of Harry Potter. The world-building is incredibly immersive, painting a vivid picture of a community where witches, vampires, fairies, trolls, elves, and other supernatural beings coexist and live and act like humans, but there’s enough supernatural and fantasy elements included to make it feel whimsical and magical. The attention to detail is commendable, as the author expertly crafts a world that feels both fantastical and relatable, allowing readers to get lost in its charms. This town becomes a character itself, and it’s easy to feel like you want to explore every nook and cranny. I loved learning how this world worked. 

As for the murder mystery, it was interesting and kept my attention. I’m glad the plot didn’t solely focus on the murder case because it may have become stale and boring. But instead, we’re learning with Emma about this new world, her role in it as a new witch and a lawyer, where everything is, and who everyone is. I enjoyed the scenes when she’s in witch school with younger witches as she learns about her powers and magic.  

I also really liked Emma. She is a wonderfully strong, witty, and endearing character. Her determination to solve the mystery, coupled with her quick thinking and sharp sense of humor, makes her a protagonist you can’t help but root for. The supporting cast is equally well-drawn, each character contributing to the story’s richness and complexity. There are some fun witty and quirky side characters that are fun to learn about. There is also a bit of romance, which I hope we see more in the series.

Overall, this was a delightful and captivating tale that effortlessly blends mystery, humor, and a touch of romance.

Is this the greatest piece of literature? Of course not, but it was such a cozy, charming, and fun ride that I didn’t care if it was a bit cheesy and quirky at times. It was a lighthearted and whimsical story that I had a really good time reading. I definitely recommend to check out this series and give it a try. It was also perfect for Halloween and Spooky Season. 

It was for these reasons that I decided to listen to the second book, and now I want to finish the entire 10-book series.

Spellbound: Doom and Broom #2 by Annabel Chase

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Cozy Mystery | Fantasy
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Emily Lawrence
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Emma Hart hasn’t had a moment’s peace since her arrival in Spellbound. Her fear of heights hits an all-time high when she’s tasked with mastering a broomstick. It doesn’t help that Lady Weatherby seems determined to make basic witch training feel more like the magical ninja warrior championships.

When a werewolf is found dead and Daniel is named as the prime suspect, Emma takes the initiative to prove that the angel’s halo is firmly intact, once again stepping on the hooves of the cranky centaur, Sheriff Hugo.

The heat is on as Emma struggles to get a grip on her broomstick and identify the killer before it’s too late.

My Brief Review: I also enjoyed this sequel as much as the first book. Annabel Chase enchants her readers again with another spellbinding story with a mix of mystery, humor, and heartwarming moments I think fans of the supernatural and cozy mysteries alike will enjoy this series.

I don’t want to say too much about the sequel, but we continue to learn about this new world with Emma. She’s still in witch school, and in this book, she’s trying to learn how to ride a broom without getting sick. It’s pretty funny some of the flying scenes. She gets broom sickness, which is like car sickness. 

We meet new characters and interact with a few from the first book. We also get a new murder case to solve. I think I enjoyed this case better than the one in the first book. Emma is still getting acclimated to her new life, but she seems more comfortable in this story. It feels like she’s in more of a routine and getting to know people better. She’s definitely settling in nicely, which makes for another cozy read. 

I enjoyed this story a tiny bit better than the first book, but they both feel like they are on an even playing ground for me. I’m eagerly anticipating the next adventure in the Spellbound series, which I do want to finish at some point. It’s such a cozy fun time, and the audiobook is short, only about five or six hours. You could easily get through it in one day if you listened at double speed. I also think this would be a fun series to own, so hopefully one day I’ll collect all of the books to add to my collection.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Middle Grade Horror/Fantasy
Format: Paperback & Audiobook – Narrator: Renee Dorian
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man”–a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: “Best get moving. At nightfall, they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

My Brief Review: Another really creepy and spooky middle grade story that I absolutely loved reading. I read Field of Screams before this one, so it did remind me of that book while I was reading it, another spooky story among the creepy cornfields. 

This was another case where I started reading the physical paperback first but then moved to the audiobook, and I’m not sure if the audio improved the story or not. Honestly, it just helped me get through it quicker. But I don’t think it matters which format you choose for this book. They were both done very well. 

This book leans more on fantasy elements than horror, ghostly, or paranormal elements. It is a bit eerie and creepy, probably more so for kids or tweens than adults, but the fantastical scenes overshadowed any creepiness that I was feeling because it was so unbelievable and obviously fantastical. The ending got a little bizarre for me, and listening to the audio, it was hard for me to visualize, maybe the book would’ve been better to read, but there is quite a twist that I didn’t see coming. I feel like the resolution could’ve been a little stronger but it was still a satisfying conclusion.  

I enjoyed all of the characters, especially Ollie. She is a young girl who is grappling with the pain of losing a parent at such a young tender age, and then dealing with the challenges of growing up without a mother. I found her very relatable. Once she stumbles upon the mysterious woman attempting to throw a book into the river, things start to pick up and pace and Ollie’s life takes an unexpected turn. Soon, she finds herself at the center of a mystery that demands her bravery, intelligence, and wit. We find out that dark secrets and malevolent forces are at work.

Once the trio gets off the bus and heads into the woods, the pacing picks up and the story really starts to get interesting. There are some good action scenes, suspense scenes, and some spooky scenes. 

Overall, this was a fun story of magic, friendship, and courage that will enchant readers of all ages. Arden weaves a spellbinding narrative that effortlessly blends elements of mystery, fantasy, and adventure, creating a truly captivating reading experience.

This is the first book in a series, which I will continue. I have books two and three, still need to get book four. Highly recommend! Especially during Spooky Season or Halloween. If you wanna get scared by some creepy scarecrows, then pick this book up! 

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

My GR Rating: 4 (4.5)
Genre: Middle Grade Horror/Paranormal
Format: Paperback and Audiobook – Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

My Brief Review: I really enjoyed this middle grade ghost story. I had the physical book, which I started out reading, but then I moved to the audiobook. This was my first Lindsay Currie book and so far, I’m a fan. Her writing was very descriptive and immersive. For a children’s book, it is quite spooky, especially once I moved to the audiobook. There is a point where Claire hears whispers and when the narrator spoke the whispers, it made me jump a couple of times while listening to it (lol). It was creepy! 

I thought the author did a wonderful job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of a child in middle school. This is definitely a book written for its target audience, which I think kids in this age range would really appreciate and connect with. It was done very well. 

I also really enjoyed learning about the real history of Chicago sprinkled throughout the book. I love it when fictional stories incorporate true facts and real locations. It makes for a more interesting and fun experience. There is also a good message about not forgetting history. However, I wish we dove more into some of the hauntings that were covered on the bus tour. I would’ve liked to learn more about the different supposedly haunted sites that they went to. 

At times, the book started to sound a bit preachy in its messaging. It was very obvious that certain messages were being pushed in this story. I don’t feel that all middle grade books need to tell the lesson directly. I’d rather see it shown through the story than being told, but it still had good messages: everyone is scared of something but it’s about facing your fears head-on and dealing with those fears; allowing others to help, and trusting those you love; communicating with people you’re upset with; nobody’s life is perfect even if it looks like it from the outside; everyone has problems; and not judging others based on appearances.

I enjoyed all of the characters. We even get quite a bit of character development from Claire, the main protagonist, which was nice to see in such a short book. At the beginning of the book, Claire feels like she’s losing her best friend to a new girl in school. She begins to concoct many stories in her mind about them, which leads her to feel betrayed, abandoned, and alone. But Claire underestimated her best friend, Cas, and jumped to conclusions without even talking to her. So I enjoyed the dose of reality Claire got when she finally spoke to her friend and got the truth of what was going on between Cass and Emily. Then I enjoyed watching the development of the new friendship between Claire and Emily.

The family elements when Claire interacted with her parents and brother were delightful. I always love seeing family bonding. I absolutely loved the sibling bonding between Claire and her older brother. She began to confide in him when the hauntings started to increase and get more intense, and then he actually believed her and started to help her solve the mystery. We see their relationship grow stronger as the story progresses, which just warmed my heart (having two younger brothers myself and knowing about this relationship). That connection with siblings is so precious and special.

The ghost story was pretty interesting in this book. Once the kids come together and create this cute group that wants to solve the mystery of who this ghost is and what it wants, things really pick up and the pacing is a lot quicker. There’s not a ton of action scenes, but things start to happen and it gets more interesting. I enjoyed the ghostly aspects as well as the mystery to solve.

Overall, this was a wonderful introduction to this author. There was superb storytelling, a good amount of suspense, eeriness, and ghostly paranormal activity with a fun mystery to solve. At times, it reminded me of the old school R.L. Stine books that I grew up reading. I also loved the history included, family dynamics, budding friendships, and just enough adolescent angst, drama, and growing pains to remind me that I was reading a middle grade book without it becoming annoying. It also had unexpected heartwarming and emotional scenes that helped deepen the story and made it more immersive. 

This is also a perfect book for Halloween and the Spooky Season. It’s very atmospheric, spooky, and haunting.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Horror | Fantasy
Nominee for Best Horror (2019)
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Sean Patrick Hopkins
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Noah Turner sees monsters.

His father saw them–and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates.

His practical mother has caught glimpses of terrors but refuses to believe–too focused on keeping the family from falling apart.

And his eldest sister, the dramatic and vulnerable Sydney, won’t admit to seeing anything but the beckoning glow of the spotlight… until it swallows her up.

Noah Turner sees monsters. But, unlike his family, Noah chooses to let them in…

My Brief Review: I chose to listen to this book because I heard that it was a “graphic audio,” meaning it has sound effects and post-production elements. It was perfect to read around Halloween, and I absolutely loved all the sound effects and music that helped to tell the story. It was one of the best audio experiences I’ve had yet. I highly recommend consuming this book via audiobook. 

I haven’t read many horror books, so I’m very inexperienced with this genre and went in pretty blind to this novel, not having read the summary, which I’m glad that I didn’t because I had zero expectations about it and let the story take me where it was going to go, which was very unusual but in the best way possible. 

This is one of the most bizarre and unique stories I’ve ever read, and I absolutely loved it. At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but I just opened myself up to the experience and went on such a wild and interesting ride. However, this is a very HEAVY story that touches on many taboo and difficult subjects, like child abduction, murder, terminal cancer, suicide, and others. So please check trigger warnings before reading this book if you’re a sensitive reader. There is also quite a bit of language and a few spicy scenes. If this were a movie, I’d rate it “R.”

I don’t want to say too much about this story because I think it would be best to go in almost blind, but I will say that it’s not a scary horror book with gory or graphic body horror. This story lies within the boundaries of being unsettling, disturbing, creepy, weird, and extremely dark. There are a few traditional scary scenes but it doesn’t rely on any gore or grossness. 

The prose is lush, rich, and almost lyrical, which I loved. It was highly immersive and descriptive. Again, I think the audio effects really helped with this, and I felt completely transported to this world. It’s dark, sinister, and haunting. It feels raw and gritty, but also beautiful and poetic. 

This book has a more character-driven plot than action/horror-driven plot, so it is a slow burn and the pacing is drawn out. It focuses more on psychological trauma and inner demons, but it also includes fantastical elements that give a classic monster vibe. As weird as many of them were, I really enjoyed the monster scenes. I also liked the many pop culture references. 

This story is about a fractured family of five with heartbreaking stories. We follow them from inception (when the parents get together, all the way up to the present day). It was easy to connect with all of the flawed characters as we were taken through a linear yet non-linear timeframe. There are multiple POVs, which helped me to connect and care more about each character and dive deeper into their minds. I definitely felt compassion and empathy for each of the main characters and what they were going through. It’s not a happy story. Things get pretty grim, but it does have a satisfying ending. 

Overall, I feel like this book was an allegory for mental illness and depression, pain and suffering, and death and grief. There is a lot of symbolism to explore within this heavy story. It’s a brutal novel with heartfelt undertones, but I could also see the beauty in this mangled, menacing story. I never knew where it was going to take me but it kept me intrigued the entire time. If I had read the physical book, I wouldn’t have been able to put it down. It was so weird and alluring. I just had to know what was going to happen next and then how it was going to end. The way these heavy themes were dealt with was very impressive.

This was such an unexpected unique and memorable experience. I don’t think this book is for everyone, but I had a wonderful time with it. Now, I want to buy the physical book and reread it to pick out even more things I may have missed the first time from just listening to it. I will absolutely read more from this author. I definitely recommend this book to anyone willing to give it a try.

Murder at the Pumpkin Pageant by Darci Hannah

My GR Rating: 5 (4.5)
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Amy Melissa Bentley
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Lindsey prefers to keep her bakeshop’s Halloween decor light and autumnal, rather than gruesome and ghoulish. But everyone knows her lighthouse home is haunted. Some intrepid teens have even tried to break in to witness the resident ghost themselves. Dreading Halloween night, Lindsey reluctantly allows her influencer and podcaster best friend, Kennedy, to host a live ghost-hunting investigation in the lighthouse, conducted by a professional team. Protective of her ghost, Lyndsey is understandably nervous about what they might uncover . . .

The segment is uneventful—until things take a terrifying turn. The team freaks out. As Kennedy joins the mad dash outside, she bumps into what looks like the prankster teens’ creepy clown costume hanging from a tree. But when Lindsey’s dog, Wellington, begins to whine, they make a grim the clown is no dummy. It’s a corpse.

Now Lindsey and company will need to keep their cool if they want a ghost of a chance to solve the murder—and see another Halloween…

My Brief Review: I listened to this audiobook, and Amy Melissa Bentley did a fantastic job of narrating it. I loved her English accent for Kennedy, the best friend of Lindsey, the main character.

This was my first book by Darci Hannah. I know this is book #4 in the Beacon Bakeshop series, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything by not having read the previous books. This story does work as a standalone. But now, I do want to go back and read the others. 

I absolutely adored this cozy mystery. Is this the best piece of literature that I’ve ever read? No. Is this the best-written book I’ve ever read? No. But what made me round this book to five stars was how much I loved the feelings that I got while reading it, the characters, the mystery (that I wasn’t able to solve), and all of the cozy vibes and food descriptions. It was the entire package that made me give this a five-star rating. Plus, it is well-written and doesn’t feel cheesy like some other cozy mysteries. 

This story is set in Michigan, so as a mid-Western gal from Ohio (Go Bucks!), I absolutely loved the small town feel. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and it got a little confusing at times while listening to this book, but for the most part, I was able to tell who was who. But I loved the found family element, which is a favorite of mine, and how the community comes together to figure out who murdered one of their own. They are a close-knit town where everyone knows everyone and they look out for each other, and I just wanted to be part of their community and live there while listening to this story. Did I say how cozy this book is? It’s SOOO cozy!!! 

The story takes place around Halloween and into November, so this is the PERFECT Halloween read and gives all the fall vibes. There’s a fall festival, a pumpkin pageant, carving pumpkins, falling leaves, and crisp cool air. So if you’re looking for a book to get you in the mood for autumn, this is the one! 

But the real highlight for me was…the food descriptions!! This book will make you hungry and cause your mouth to water. You don’t just get food details, you get recipes and baking/cooking tips! They are amazing!! I think in the actual book, there are real recipes you can make at the end of the book. 

The murder mystery is also fun to solve. There are quite a few red herrings before the big reveal, which I didn’t expect. (I can never figure out murder mysteries!) I also enjoyed the unique place Lindsey lives – in a lighthouse. We also get some supernatural elements, which I always enjoy, especially for a Halloween book. 

This is also a very clean book – no language and no spicy scenes, which I really appreciated. It’s not labeled as Christian but there are a few moments where the main character says some prayers, which was a nice touch that I enjoyed seeing. There are also two adorable dogs throughout the entire story that I love as well. 

Highly recommend this one!!

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

My GR Rating: 5 (4.5)
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Reba Buhr
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead…and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger…

My Brief Review: I’ve read one of Victoria Schwab’s adult books, a young adult book, and now a middle grade book. I think her adult book was the best one so far, but this middle grade story was really good. She’s such a master writer that she can change her writing style and tone slightly depending on the age range that she is writing for. Pure talent! 

Her prose was lush and lyrical, not as much as the other two books I’ve read of hers, but still beautiful and descriptive. It felt very atmospheric and engaging. I definitely felt those eerie, creepy sensations while listening to this audiobook. It was also a quick story, around five hours or so. 

Anything dealing with ghosts, the supernatural, old myths and folklore, and haunted locations, I immediately gravitate toward, so once I read the description, I knew I had to check it out. This was a fun, immersive adventure that we went on with Cass and her friends. It was fast-paced and had a good amount of action in it. It’s also mysterious and suspenseful. It was exactly what I wanted during Spooky Season. 

I loved learning about Scotland and all its rich history, especially the ghost stories and myths. I read that the information about the hauntings and ghosts in this book are real-life true stories, so I appreciate how the author sprinkled in those real facts. I also enjoyed the explanation of different words used for different things in Europe compared to America. For example, an elevator is called a lift in the U.K. And what we call potato chips are called crisps. 

Cass is a really likable character who is relatable, charming, and sweet. She has an “old soul” way to her that makes her a delight to be with in this story. I love how curious she is about her new gift after her near-death experience. It seems like seeing ghosts doesn’t really scare her, and she is brave and courageous as she unravels the mystery. I also enjoyed her ghost friend, Jacob. He brought some humor to the story. Being her best friend, you can see how close of a bond they have formed, and he has become supportive and protective of her, which was really sweet. I loved their dynamic together. Cass is also a huge fan of Harry Potter, so I enjoyed those references throughout the story as well. 

This is book one of a trilogy, and I will absolutely read or listen to the other two books. Highly recommend!


Well, there you have it. That was my very full, very spooky reading month in October. I had a blast and really enjoyed reading these books.

Until next time, my story lovers, happy reading!

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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