The Bookworm: Scaring up some good reads for Halloween

Book on getting older might have re-rethinking the future

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Strange Weather”

By Joe Hill

c. 2017, Wm. Morrow

$27.99, $34.99  Canada; 433 pages

Sometimes, you just need a little fresh air. A gasp of ice on a sub-zero night. A whiff of sunshine and hot concrete. The smell of fallen leaves and crisp bonfires. Each inhalation reminds you of the season, so with the new book “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill, breathe deep. You’re about to scream.

Michael Figlione had known Mrs. Beukes for most of his life. She’d always lived just down the block and was his family’s housekeeper once but by that summer of ‘88, those days were over. By then, she could only wander the neighborhood, addled and half-dressed, mumbling about a man with a Polaroid camera. Thirteen-year-old Michael figured – as did every adult on the block – that she’d become some crazy old lady but, in “Snapshot,” the truth was nothing to say “cheese” about.

“Strange Weather” by Joe Hill (above) will leave you with an atmospheric chill but sometimes, you just need a little fresh scare.
“Strange Weather” by Joe Hill.

In “Loaded,” Randall Kellaway said he didn’t do it. He never put a gun to his six-year-old son’s head, never threatened his wife, but that accusation was the latest of a long string that began when he was kicked out of the Armed Forces in disgrace. Now he wasn’t even allowed to own guns and he certainly wasn’t allowed to have one at his mall security job; still, it was a good thing he was armed when a love-affair-gone-wrong turned into a bloodbath at the mall’s jewelry store.

Rand had shut the situation down and everyone was calling him a hero – everybody, except that female reporter from the local newspaper, who’d been digging a little too much into Rand’s past. She’d pay for that. She’d burn for it.

Aubrey loved Harriet. Though it wasn’t reciprocated, he loved her enough to parachute from a plane in honor of her best friend, who’d died. He didn’t love parachuting above the clouds, though, but he jumped anyhow and in “Aloft,” he fell … and landed on something frighteningly solid.

And finally, Honeysuckle Speck was over-the-moon that her girlfriend, Yolanda, was moving to Denver. Finally!  It even looked like a good day to do it: sunny, with sprinkles possible, but in “Rain,” the weatherman was dead wrong …

I need a new easy chair. I read “Strange Weather” and ruined the old one by repeatedly hanging on to the edge of my seat. That’s when I wasn’t clenching my teeth, grimacing or gasping, or forgetting that what author Joe Hill has written about is not real.

Or is it? Hill has a way of turning words to make them glitter, and casually speaking to readers to convince us that the world he presents entirely, physically exists. There’s actually a man with a camera. People are walking around on clouds right now. And guns … ?  Entirely plausible, considering current events, which only makes that story, and its three individual companion tales, psychologically tighter, OMG surprising, and hard to shake for hours after you’ve finished them.

Yes, these stories are creepy, but not too out there. They’re tense, and absolutely scream-worthy. “Strange Weather” will leave you with an atmospheric chill but sometimes, you just need a little fresh scare. 

“Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?”

By Joy Loverde

c. 2017, Da Capo Livelong Books

$17.99, $23.49 Canada; 313 pages

“I do it myself!” Those are words you’ve been saying practically since you were able to speak. You can get your own drink, button your shirt, pull on your britches, walk yourself downtown, drive yourself around, and figure out life. You’re independent, but in the new book “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?” by Joy Loverde, you might want to re-rethink the future.

As the author of three books meant for “old people,” Joy Loverde knows a few things about being ‘that age.’ One of the first, biggest truths is that “one in three baby boomers” is “separated, divorced, widowed, or never married” – in other words, alone. What happens, then, when solo living isn’t an option anymore?

"Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old" by Joy Loverde.

You can prepare for that near-inevitability, says Loverde, but you have to “promise” to be “completely honest with yourself about the fact that you are getting older.” Stop spouting cutesy things and remember that “60 is not the new 30.”

Think about where you are now, and imagine what life will realistically be like a decade hence. Know your sociability: do you like people? Can family be counted on to help?  Are you “frozen in fear”? (Hint on the latter: you’ve been through changes before, you know).

Remember that money is key to surviving old age. You’ll need to be financially savvy, and that includes knowing absolutely everything about your household situation. Talk with your spouse and take notes. Hire a lawyer or advisor to help; it’s imperative that you’re protected, smart, and you know where you stand.

Think about the obstacles you’ll encounter, should you need to relinquish independence. Make a detailed list of your life: online presences, passwords, bank accounts, and the location of personal papers. Know what you face if you fall ill. Consider finding an “age-friendly community” in which to grow old, and remember: “family” isn’t necessarily biological. It doesn’t even have to be human.

There’s a lot of help inside “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?” And there’s a lot of fluffy-work.

Initially, you’ll want to know that this book doesn’t stay exactly true to its title. Author Joy Loverde encourages readers to do a lot of prep-work, including a good amount of self-examination, well before getting to the information for which this book was likely sought. Impatient readers should be forgiven for chafing.

Once you’re past that, the tasks get hard-boiled and there’s a lot to think about. Loverde asks you to consider the thorniest questions about leaving home or staying, asking for help or stoicism, severe illness, death, and facing the truth about any other new situation you’ll encounter. There’s where the worksheets are extremely helpful; so are the websites and checklists.

Halloween books for 2017

“Boo” doesn’t scare you. Nope, not at all. Let someone say “Boo!” and you laugh because you’re too brave for that. You’re too smart to be scared of one little word.  But what about a whole bunch of scary words – in book form?  What about these great Halloween books … ?

The littlest kids (3-to-5 years old) will get gentle scares from “Herbert’s First Halloween” by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry. It’s the story of a pig who’s “not sure” about Halloween, as a whole. His father wants him to dress up and nothing feels right, until Herbert finds a costume that makes him roar! Or, if your little one can handle friendly (but rather icky) monsters, then look for “This Book is Full of Monsters” by Guido Van Genechten, an interactive book with pop-outs. You might also look for “Creepy Pair of Underwear!” by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown; it’s fun, too.

New Halloween-themed books for 2017.

Kids ages 5-to-9 – those who can handle more words in a story, or who enjoy group read-alouds – will go for “Ghost Cat” by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Kevin M. Barry. It’s the tale of Miss Maggie McCullen, keeper of the lighthouse, who’s beloved by one and all, but they worry about her. Isn’t Miss Maggie lonely, all by herself in the lighthouse?  No, because Miss Maggie has a secret pet, but it’s not your usual kitty. Children this age might also appreciate seeing “Bonaparte Falls Apart” by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Will Terry. It’s the story of a young skeleton who just can’t seem to keep things together – literally - and a boney kid can’t go to school like that, can he? With the help of his kid-monster friends, yes, he can.

For that in-between reader – the kid who’s chapter-book-ready but still loves illustrations – try “The Pomegranate Witch” by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. It’s the tale of a tree bearing the most delicious fruits and all the kids in the neighborhood want some – but it won’t be easy. This tree is “owned and guarded” by a witch who isn’t going to let them have one bite! Soon, a war is on and the kids have a few tactics to try… but so does the so-called “witch.” The National Geographic folks also have a great non-fiction book for kids in this age group: “Don’t Read This Book Before Bed” by Anna Claybourne includes real pictures and double-scary chapters.

And finally, for kids ages 10-to-17, “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods” by Hal Johnson, illustrated by Tom Mead will keep them up all night with twenty stories of horror, creepiness, and things that go “eeek” in the wilderness. Hint: keep this book on-hand for camping next spring.

There are a lot more scary, gross, creepy books available in your bookstore or library, and don’t forget to look for the classics and books you remember from your own childhood. Scares don’t expire and a good fright can last decades. As always, ask if you can’t find what you want, and have a boo-tiful Howl-oween.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.