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Tag Archives: Halloween series

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Happy Halloween everybody!  I hope you are having a fun and safe holiday.  I am waiting for trick-or-treaters and trying to convince Reeses that Halloween costumes are not chew toys.

I really enjoyed The Woman in White!  It’s been a while since I read anything Victorian, plus it is really suspenseful, so it was perfect for Halloween reading.  The Woman in White is sometimes described as one of the first mystery novels.  Personally, it reminded me less of a traditional mystery and more of a Hitchcock movie.  Instead of trying to figure out “whodunnit,” the building tension and suspense of the story had me physically leaning towards the book, anxious to find out what would happen next.

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

There are quite a few characters in this book, all delightfully different.  The first narrator is Walter Hartright, a drawing teacher who meets a mysterious woman dressed in white late at night on the road to London.  His two pupils are half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, who happens to look almost exactly like the mysterious woman.  Together Miss Halcombe and Mr. Hartright discover that the mysterious woman is Anne Catherick, a woman whose past connects her both to the Fairlie family and Sir Percival Glyde, Laura Fairlie’s fiance.  In the second half of the book, we meet the Count and Countess Fosco.  Count Fosco is both melodramatic and menacing.  The variety of these characters makes the book a lot of fun.

If you’ve read a Victorian novel before, you might remember that they tend to be long.  Many of them were originally published chapter by chapter in magazines, and The Woman in White is no exception.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best examples of this genre I have read.  Sometimes these books can get a little repetitive, because the writer knew it had been awhile since the last chapter.  Because this novel is told from several viewpoints, it felt pretty fast paced to me.  I also was really impressed by the characters.  Although Count Fosco and Laura Fairlie in particular resemble familiar, melodramatic Victorian characters (think of Lucy in A Tale of Two Cities), they don’t take away from the drama of the story.  It is really very well-written.  I give this book four and a half stars, and I’ll be adding it to my list of great Halloween books!  ★★★★1/2

Little me and little Becca dressed up for Halloween

Little me and little Becca dressed up for Halloween

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Halloween Book Suggestions

Ok, it doesn't quite look like this yet, but we're getting close!

Ok, it doesn’t quite look like this yet, but we’re getting close!

Fall is finally in the air here, at least in my section of the East Coast.  The maple leaves are looking good, but we’re still waiting on the oaks to change colors.  With a little less than two weeks until Halloween, it’s the perfect time to check out a scary book!  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova   This is a fantastic novel.  You might want to read Dracula first, since its based on it.  Fair warning: this book will make you want to travel to central and eastern Europe.  I still have the travel bug to go to Slovenia, and it’s been at least four years since I read it….
  2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James   Quite simply the best ghost story I have ever come across.  If I had my way, it would be a core book for any basic American Lit class.  I listened to this as an audiobook (on the CraftLit podcast) and was absolutely amazed by James’s masterful plot.
  3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux   In junior high, my classmates and I were big fans of this book.  Try to ditch any expectations you might have as a result of seeing plays or movies-the original is different and well worth reading.  Interesting side note: the author, Gaston Leroux, is also credited with writing the first locked room mystery.  It’s called The Mystery of the Yellow Room, and I’ve been meaning to read it for years.
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker   I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one.  It’s a classic for a reason, and the handful movies I have seen don’t do it justice at all.
  5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen   If you’re not in to horror stories, how about a book making fun of gothic novels?  If you don’t want to lose any sleep over your Halloween reading, this is definitely a fun option.
  6. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright   This is a ghost story for older children or young adults.  I read it in second grade and it thoroughly freaked me out.  It’s a great book though, just probably better suited to readers over the age of 10.

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The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

Hello everyone!  Today I’m continuing the Print and Prose Halloween series with a new Halloween book: The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla.  It was originally on my summer reading list, but I decided to wait for October since it was a Halloween book.  (This required great restraint, since I have been a fan of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series for years.  In 2009, Becca actually mailed the latest book in the series to me in Europe so that I wouldn’t have to wait until the summer to catch up.)

Manzanilla (aka manchineel) tree

Manzanilla (aka manchineel) tree

The Pink Carnation series is set in the early 1800s, usually in England.  If you’ve ever read The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Orczy, these books are supposed to be about the spies who took over after the Scarlet Pimpernel’s retirement.  They are historical fiction with elements of adventure, mystery and romance.

In the latest book, Miss Sally Fitzhugh has gotten a little tired of life as a debutante in London.  Unimpressed by the latest society rumors that the Duke of Belliston is a vampire, she takes a dare to go into his gardens at midnight.  There, she unexpectedly meets the duke himself.  Lucien has recently returned to England to solve the mystery of his parents’ murder, which has haunted him since childhood.  It quickly becomes clear that someone doesn’t want him to find out what really happens.  When Lucien is framed for a murder, Sally tries to help, and begins to suspect the Black Tulip, a deadly French spy.

Readers of the series will happily recognize the reinforcements from the Pink Carnation’s league who arrive to help Sally and Lucien.  Sally is convinced to pose as Lucien’s fiancee so that an agent, posing as her chaperone, can investigate.  The duke’s relatives plan to celebrate the engagement with a masquerade ball on All Hallow’s Eve.  Can Sally and the duke solve his parents’ murder before the killer strikes again?  And what will happen to their pretended engagement if they do?

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I recommend this series to absolutely everyone, because I want to be Miss Gwen next Halloween.  🙂  I love this series, and if you like books that are smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining, please check out either this book or the first in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  I particularly recommend them to students.  Remember that dull ache in your head that you get when you’ve spent all week (or more) studying for midterms?  When I was an undergrad, I found that these books are the perfect cure!  I’ve been a fan ever since.  I give both the book and the series five stars.  I can’t wait for the next one!  ★★★★★

-Elizabeth
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The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Hello everyone, and happy October! Here at Of Print and Prose, we’ll be getting ready to celebrate Halloween by posting a Halloween-themed book review every Sunday. We’re starting with an old classic: The Castle of Otranto, the original gothic novel by Horace Walpole.

Cathedral of Otranto

Cathedral of Otranto

I have seen The Castle of Otranto and other gothic novels referenced in books before, so I wanted to read one for myself. I had an opportunity this summer to read it with a friend from my old book club. It was interesting to finally read a book I have seen mentioned so many times.

The Castle of Otranto has some supernatural elements, but it isn’t particularly scary or suspenseful. The basic premise is that unexplained events start happening to a family who may not have rightfully inherited the title and lands of Otranto. Everyone suspects the mysterious occurrences may be signs of divine retribution against the descendants of the usurper. Several mysterious strangers arrive and are caught up in the drama as the current Prince of Otranto tries to escape an old prophecy about his family.

This is an older novel than what I usually read, so it was a little challenging. In the edition I read, the punctuation, mainly the lack of quotation marks in dialogues, made it a little difficult to understand. Of course, Walpole also introduces the novel as a much older manuscript that he had discovered and edited, so it was meant to sound old-fashioned even to eighteenth century readers.

I would recommend reading this book mainly because it is the first of its kind. The whole genre of gothic novels and many horror novels were influenced by this book, so if you like having some historical context when you read, this is a great option. Also, if (like me) you felt you missed a lot of inside jokes while reading Northanger Abbey, this is the perfect place to start. I give this book three stars-I’m glad I read it, but probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it a second time.  ★★★

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Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll be reviewing a much more modern book!

-Elizabeth

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