Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles Book 2)

I’m rereading this series right now. I know I said I probably wouldn’t post full reviews this month, but after reading it, I decided “why not?” This review is posted on Goodreads as well.

Another excellent entry in The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. In this one, Tom and the Spook go to Priestown (it’s what it sounds like) to face the Bane, one of the most evil creatures the Spook has ever encountered. While there, they run afoul of the corrupt Quisitor (think Matthew Hopkins), who habitually burns innocent “witches” at the stake in order to profit from their deaths. Not only is he after the Spook, but he has Alice.

Alice is still my favorite character. The Spook himself is still frustrating at times, and my only complaint is how quick he is to anger in this one. He doesn’t always seem to tell Tom everything he needs to know. And while I understand why he doesn’t trust Alice, his treatment of her (and some of his comments about women in general) can be irritating. Still, that’s a fairly small complaint.

Although longer than its predecessor, Curse of the Bane is just as quick of a read, and it’s hard to put down. If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll like this too. But if you’re new to the series, start with the first one. These books are best read in order.

Favorites: Blackfin Sky

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis is an excellent supernatural horror novel set in the small town of Blackfin where strange things regularly happen. Despite the town’s general oddness, no one is prepared when Sky shows up two school one day…three months after her body was found, drowned and definitely dead. Sky soon discovers she has supernatural powers and that her history is tied to that of a burnt out circus in the woods near her town.

I discovered this book when I was still working at the library and decided to read it based on the cover and back cover blurb alone. I was blown away, even more so when I investigated the author afterwards and discovered this was her debut novel. I recommend Blackfin Sky to anyone who likes there supernatural with a good dose of mystery, and I am eager to check out Ellis’s subsequent work (her fourth novel is due out in 2020).

Favorites: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

My first pick is an obvious one. I’m sure most YA fans have at least heard of, if not already read, Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (or seen its unfortunately lackluster movie adaptation).

I first read this novel during my final semester at university, and I was late to (0r flat out missed) several classes while I was reading this, because I could never put it down once I’d picked it up.

The original trilogy (including sequels: Hollow City and Library of Souls) is excellent, although this first one remains far and away my favorite. Riggs is also about to release the second book in the follow up trilogy, although I haven’t delved into that one yet.

Note: Definitely read these in order. They will make little sense if you start in the middle.

Favorite YA Horror Novels

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while, and with the holidays here, it looks like I’m going to be super busy over the next month. So I’ve decided to do something a little different. Over the next few weeks I’m going to spotlight different favorite YA horror novels that I’ve already read. The posts won’t be long or incredibly detailed (as in some cases I haven’t read the books since I was a teenager myself), but will just show you some of the best (in my opinion anyway) that the genre has to offer. Happy Holidays everyone!

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit

Want some good seasonal reading to get into the Halloween mood? Here are some of my top YA picks for October.

The Wardstone Chronicles series by Joseph Delaney

These books tend to fall under both the Middle Grade and Young Adult categories, depending on where you are in the series. They’re fun, quick reads, and their universe feels eternally autumnal. Start with Revenge of the Witch. I dare you to be able to stop after just that one. I couldn’t.

Another middle grade title to check out is Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. You can read my recent review here.

Vivian Vande Velde is a reliable if not always phenomenal writer of children’s and YA fantasy, and her YA halloween collection, All Hallow’s Eve is a fun and quick read perfect for the season. Favorite entries include ghostly serial killer tale, “Morgan Roehmars’ Boys” and “My Real Mother” about an ungrateful adopted girl searching for her birth family.

Finally, I haven’t read Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt (not to be confused with the similarly titled and covered Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman) yet, but it’s supposedly a fun YA novel, and it’s set during the Halloween season. I plan on getting my hands on a copy and reading it soon and didn’t want to leave it off the list just because I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Also Ray Bradbury books are good for all ages. Some of his seasonally appropriate titles include The October Country, The Halloween Tree, From the Dust Returned, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

For some adult Halloween reading, check out my Final Women blog, here.

Small Spaces

Small Spaces is a Middle Grade offering by Katherine Arden (author of the YA fantasy, The Bear and the Nightingale). It is also the perfect read for the Halloween season.

Set during October in small town Vermont, Small Spaces introduces readers to Ollie, a sixth grader still mourning the loss of her mother a few month before. She copes with the pain by immersing herself in reading fiction and alienating herself from her classmates.

One day, Ollie finds a woman about to toss a book into the river. Ollie saves the book and begins reading it. The story in the book within our book tells of a deal with a devil at a small turn of the century farm. Events in the book begin to mirror real life when Ollie and her sixth grade class visit a local farm the next day, a farm that Ollie begins to suspect is the same one she’s been reading about. Soon, Ollie and two of her friends find themselves trapped in an alternate universe, hunted by creepy animated scarecrows.

With Small Spaces, Arden has written a legitimately spooky tale that should entertain readers of all ages. The October atmosphere is palpable; while reading I could almost smell the autumn air and feel the chilly breezes. I encourage readers to snatch this book up quickly. There’s no better time than the Halloween season to enjoy it!

The Fade

The Fade by Demitria Lunetta made me feel old. Being an adult who reads YA titles, this occasionally happens. Still none have yet hit me quite this hard, and it was all thanks to this one passage, where the heroine teases her sister:

            “Whatever, Sporty Spice.”

            She looks at me. “Who?”

            “You know, the Spice Girls. They were a girl group in the nineties…”

            I don’t bother to explain that I helped Mom rip all her old CDs to her computer…

This book was published in 2018, so it makes sense that the teenage characters wouldn’t be terribly familiar with the Spice Girls, but I was still surprised. I turned 30 recently, and the fact that I am now closer in age to the parents than the teenagers in some of the books that I read still hasn’t completely sunk in.

Other than this shock to my system, I really enjoyed The Fade. The story revolves around Hayley, who moves from Chicago with her parents and older sister to an old house in small town Wisconsin. Shortly after moving in, she begins to hear stories of the Grabbed Girls of Gladwell, four girls who disappeared about five years before. The girls were all from her neighborhood, and one of them had lived in her house. Hayley knows that the girls were actually killed, because she begins to sense the girls’ ghosts. The novel revolves around her hunt for their killer.

The Fade gets instant points for inclusivity. The main character is half Vietnamese, and there are several gay and lesbian side characters. For the most part the characters behave like realistic teenagers and are pretty likable, even if the fast pace of the story means that some character development falls to the wayside.

There’s also a few neat twists that seasoned horror fans may see coming, but the average YA reader might not. About halfway through the book, one twist takes the novel in a new and interesting direction. It’s unique enough that it allows The Fade to stand apart from many similarly plotted novels.

Ultimately, I highly recommend The Fade for older teens and adults who enjoy YA. The subject matter (which includes suicide, abuse, and murder) plus the somber tone of the latter half of the book might be too heavy for younger readers, but older ones should appreciate this novel’s unique take on the haunted house genre.