When the temperatures cool down and the days get shorter, sometimes you just want to curl up with a good book. Personally, I tend to associate autumn with a good something mysterious or spooky – probably because I always think of Halloween. A lot of readers probably reach for the latest horror or thriller novel if they’re looking for something spooky. Me? I’m a bit of a coward. I enjoy a good scare here and there, but I’d prefer to avoid something that’s going to keep me up at night or make me afraid to go out in the dark.
The good news is that there are still plenty of spooky books for the faint-ish of heart, and I’ve compiled a list of my favorites in this post. These books cover a variety of genres, from magical realism to historical fiction. The one thing they do have in common: ghosts, monsters, or something just the slightest bit unsettling.
A quick note before we begin: though these books would likely not be categorized as “horror,” many of them still contain themes the some readers may find triggering or otherwise wish to avoid. I’ve included links to the content warnings for each book so that you can be informed if you choose to read any of these books.
In response to a, uh, certain annual book awards that’s just a glorified popularity contest, I’ve decided to approach my end-of-year reading wrap up a little differently than usual. So, welcome to the inaugural Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards! This is the best of the best books that I read over the past year. Each award winner has its own incredibly specific category, because we don’t do things by halves around here.
Without further ado: The 2021 Maggie’s Musings Choice Awards!
Tis the season to stress out about what to gifts to give your friends and family. I can’t help with your whole list, but if you happen to know a book lover (or if you are one yourself), I have just the thing for you.
You might think shopping for a reader is easy – just ask what books they like, click “add to cart” on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and then boom, you’re done! But if you’re like me and you want to support a small business or independent artist, or you want to give something a little more unique and special, I’ve got what you need. The list below covers alternatives to Amazon and other major booksellers, as well as online shops that sell a plethora of bookish goodies.
“Hey.” Annabeth slid next to me on the bench. “Happy birthday.” She was holding a huge misshapen cupcake with blue icing. I stared at her. “What?” “It’s August 18th,” she said. “Your birthday, right?”
The Last Olympian (pg. 372)
This is my third time rewriting this introduction, and this time I’ve decided that I’m just gonna be as weird as I want because this is MY blog and I do what I want.
Anyway, last weekend, my friend Rachel came up to visit and we threw a birthday party for a fictional character.
Now to be clear, this wasn’t just any fictional character, but Percy Jackson, hero and protagonist of the The Lightning Thief (which was recently named as one of Time‘s 100 Best YA Books of All Time), its sequels, and many spinoffs. For longtime readers of Maggie’s Musings, it should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. I grew up with these books, and even now as an adult, I still love re-reading them. They hold a special place in my heart.
I usually don’t remember dates like this, but Percy’s birthday just so happens to be the day after my brother’s birthday (speaking of which: Paul, if you’re reading this, IOU one (1) birthday gift and a cake or other treat of your choice). And since Rachel was already coming to visit that weekend and she also happens to be a Percy Jackson fan, we thought, why not? Let’s live the lives our twelve-year-old selves would’ve wanted us to have.
You smile. Maybe cry a little, either from relief or joy, or maybe both. You don’t scream even though you want to, because it’s 1:00 in the morning and you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re getting murdered.
You tell the only other person who’s crazy enough to be awake at this hour on a Sunday night (Monday morning?).
You export your document and save it to the cloud because your laptop had a near-death experience twenty minutes ago as you were writing the last three lines and you nearly broke down in tears. (Thank goodness for autosave). You don’t want to repeat that.
It’s strange how when the world comes to an end, you focus on all of the big things that change. When the plague (you know what I mean) first started ramping up in 2020, we knew a few things we could expect. We knew that our work and school schedule would be disrupted, we knew we’d have to adjust to a “new normal” (ugh, I hate that phrase) in our daily lives.
But I think as things in the U.S. start becoming more normal-ish, I’m realizing that there are a lot more “little things” in my life that have changed. And while it might seem silly, one of the things that’s definitely changed is my reading habits.
All genres of writing come with unique challenges, but fantasy writing (and speculative fiction in general) usually involves a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. Regardless of the subgenre you’re writing, there are plenty of times you need to rely entirely on your imagination. What are you going to call your squirrel-racoon-pigeon mutant hybrids that are terrorizing New York City?
Look, I’ve been there. Over the years that I’ve been working on Project Quest, I’ve found several useful online tools that have helped me generate ideas, visualize, and keep track of things in my fantasy universe. So whether you need a map of an alien planet, a timeline of world history, or you just need character names for your next D&D campaign, these tools can help you out.
In the interest of sharing things that are both useful and accessible, this list only includes tools that are either entirely free (ad-supported, etc.) or have a “free version” that allows use of all key features without additional payment.
You see, not only did The Legend of Zelda turn 35 in the last few weeks, Pokémon, another franchise near and dear to my heart, also celebrated its 25th anniversary the other day. The Pokémon Company (TCPi) released a delightful retrospective video as part of their celebration:
Anyway, more to the point, Pokémon was my first “real” video game, and it’s a franchise I have a lot of fond memories of, from battling against my neighborhood friends to hunting rare creatures on my college campus in Pokémon Go.
With nearly 900 of these cartoon creatures in existence, it seems nearly impossible to narrow it down to my top 25 favorite, but I’m gonna try it anyway.
I’m not quite old enough to remember when the first The Legend of Zelda game was released, but I still have many fond memories of the series. The Legend of Zelda series was one of the first video games that really showed me how much adventure and story could be packed into one “little” game. No matter which game I played, there was always something new to explore, and I fell in love with the each game’s world and its characters.
Yesterday (February 21, 2021) marked the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda franchise. Nintendo’s popular adventure series made its debut in 1986 on the Famicom in Japan, before coming to the United States a year later on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In celebration, I’ve collected a list of my favorite Zelda-related memories to share, in no particular order.
We talk a lot about first impressions in our day-to-day lives. You want to make a good first impression when you meet new people, or when you go for a job interview. The same goes for stories – you want your first chapter, first scene, or first episode to be a good one so that your audience is interested in seeing more.
What I think is less talked about is the importance of final impressions. They are just as, if not even more important than a first impression. A bad opening might scare your audience away, but a bad finale can ruin all of the work you’ve done so far. A poorly-written ending will live on forever as a disappointment in the minds of fans – especially in the age of the internet.
But how do you write a satisfying finale? And I mean satisfying – not necessarily “happy” – an ending that will leave your audience feeling like they just had a full serving of their favorite meal.
Today, I’m looking at two of my favorite TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (you’ll forgive me if I use acronyms for the rest of the post). Not only is each series consistently good throughout its run, but they also both end on what I feel is a satisfying note.
I’ve talked about both series before in passing, but since we’re talking about finales, it’s important that you understand each story’s premise as well. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!