Nothing quite like the end of October, with its jack-o-lanterns and orange, black, green, and purple decorations. In Madison, it’s always a mystery as to whether it will freeze before Halloween, but so far, so good!

I had high hopes this year to read a bunch of Halloween-themed books before this week, but as is often the case for freelancers, a few unexpected projects knocked my best-laid plans off-kilter.

So I’ll share the awesome book I read, and the handful of titles I hoped to get to.

If you’ve read any of these or decide to pick any up, let me know what you think!

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Are you familiar with Day of the Dead? I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and have always loved the art, style, and heritage that surround this mysterious and inspiring celebration.

While not exactly based on Day of the Dead, Zoraida Córdova’s recent release Labyrinth Lost is set in a wild and fascinating combination of Latin American and Afro-Caribbean religious and spiritual symbology and traditions. Alex is a bruja, the Spanish word for witch, and Córdova’s creative world building offers both a modern line of witches and a magical otherworld that Alex must battle in order to save her family.

The book has weaknesses. Some important scenes seem rushed, and the expected love interest pivots toward the end of the book without a lot of warning and only slight foreshadowing, slightly undermining the buildup of the central love story at the expense of the secondary one. Since one of Alex’s many identity struggles is sexual, it would have been nice to see that angle a little more publicized. The book is a YA title with multi-ethnic characters navigating sexual identity, and there’s not nearly enough of that kind of storytelling in the marketplace. (The Kirkus reviewer didn’t love it.)

But there is so much that is fresh and interesting about the world, the characters, and much of the plot that I’d recommend the book to anyone, especially readers who like to explore the idea of magic in its various forms and frames. Alex’s universal teen struggle of acceptance and feelings of alienation are enhanced by her aversion to her magic, yet her family’s fierce and unconditional love helps her find her place in the world.

A new kind of fantasy adventure, well worth reading.

PumpkinAs for the titles I didn’t get to… {sad face}.

The Cottage on Pumpkin and Vine - a collection of Halloween-themed stories that revolve around an annual party at a Maine bed-and-breakfast. There is an enemies-to-lovers story, a friends-to-lovers story, and a second-chance-at-love story, all wrapped up in autumn and kissed with a touch of autumnal magic.

I’m not sure how I heard about these Jane Austen retellings, but I was completely intrigued by Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet, another anthology of fall-themed stories, but also based on Austen’s titles. There is a whole set of Holidays with Jane (Spring Fever, Christmas Cheer, Summer of Love) that has few amazon reviews, but they’re all five stars. Since I love Jane Austen and holiday-themed anthologies, I have the feeling I’ll be diving into all of these at some point in the near-future. (Authors: Kimberly Truesdale, Rebecca Fleming, Cecilia Gray, Melissa Buell, Jennifer Becton, and Jessica Grey.)

I love author Jeanne Adams and have been waiting to see what she’d be doing next. She has just released The Witches Walk which begins a new series, The Witches of Haven Harbor, set in a fictional town founded by witches fleeing Salem and known for strange, spooky happenings. Add in a modern romance and a deadly mystery, and it sounds like a perfect combination of charming and suspenseful.

Halloween Treat (Adams also released a Haven Harbor anthology that features stories by romance favorites Barbara Devlin, Ellen Dugan, and Donna MacMeans, so I highly recommend you look into Welcome to Haven Harbor: A Haven Harbor Anthology too.)

Tiffany Reisz released a Halloween/fall-themed Blaze title, Her Halloween Treat, which looks like a great category friends-to-lovers read. (Does Reisz ever disappoint?) 

Popular indie author Hayden Hunt’s M/M romance Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice features a costume shop proprietor who meets a pumpkin patch owner during the Halloween season. Despite an instant attraction, the two are wary of getting involved, but then wind up helping each other navigate their own personal struggles during their favorite time of year. 

So what are you reading these days? And are you enjoying hot cider, pumpkin spice latte, or a nice cup of tea with your fall books?

#HappyReading #FallIntoRomance #LoveRomance