I’ve said in the past that I don’t read books based on the seasons or holidays. I’m a grown-ass woman and I read what I want when I want! Ahem. Anyway, I figured I’d give you a somewhat alternative (and utterly random) look at some Halloween season reads.
My criteria are that these books either scared/unsettled me, were gross or had monsters, but not necessarily all three, so some of these are definitely not scary. Whatever, I recommend what I want!
Per usual, these are in no particular order, the list isn’t comprehensive and it’s mostly the first books that came to mind.
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – Catherine’s seemingly charming boyfriend turns out to be angry, controlling and abusive and after years of a traumatizing relationship, he’s finally put behind bars. Catherine is doing her best to rebuild her life when she gets a call from her ex…
This might well have been the first true thriller I read, as it made a powerful and lasting impression on me. I’d certainly never read a book in this vein before and I was completely and utterly unsettled. I could hardly put this down and I was hearing noises and practically seeing things around every corner. I felt as though I was the one being stalked by a crazy, dangerous ex and Sweetbeeps though I’d lost my marbles. It was so powerful that I emailed the author to thank her for causing me to become immensely paranoid.
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington – This is the tale of two grave-robbing scoundrels living in the mid-1300s who set off to find the riches of Gyptland. They leave the only home they’ve known and embark on a journey where legends come to life.
This. Book. Is. Disgusting. And I love it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with more gross descriptions – if I have, I certainly can’t remember it. The Grossbart brothers are despicable pieces of shit, yet so compelling. Even though I wanted them to get their asses handed to them, I also wanted them to succeed on their quest. This is a book truly unlike anything I’ve ever read and if you love quests and anti-heroes and weird shit, you might also enjoy this.
The Witches by Roald Dahl – A young boy discovers the existence of witches when visiting a hotel with his grandmother and there’s nothing they hate more than children.
The movie scared the crap out of me as a kid – the witches were scary and gross and the ending wasn’t happy! Finally got around to reading the book as an adult, only to find the witches were scary and gross and the ending still wasn’t happy! Per usual, Dahl manages to be witty and dark and doesn’t spare the children from bad things simply because they’re children.
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill – There’s a Rolls Royce driven by a man named Charles Manx and he likes to take children for a ride to Christmasland, a world of magic and horror. Victoria McQueen is the only child to have ever escaped Christmasland and Manx has never forgotten her. Now he’s captured her son and Vic must use her special talent for finding things to save him.
This was my first experience with Joe Hill’s work and I loved it. The title caught my eye in the store and the premise was so strange, I had to buy it. This book brings the horror aspect to Christmas, the “most wonderful” time of year. Manx is a terrifyingly creepy character and had I read this book as a younger child I probably would have been scared of all things Christmas.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Ashley Cordova is found dead in a warehouse and her death is ruled as a suicide. Journalist Scott McGrath feels otherwise, knowing that Ashley’s father Stanislas is secretive and his films dark and unsettling. As McGrath investigates the Cordova’s the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur.
I bought this book from the library for a buck and it was the best deal I’ve ever found. This is a surreal crime thriller where the more the narrator finds out about this strange family, the less sense his surroundings make and it becomes hard to tell what’s real or imagined. In my copy, there are little symbols throughout the book where you can use an app to get more information, like images and disturbing audio files. I loved the mystery and sense of surrealism this book gave and it kept me guessing.
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver – Liesl lives in a small attic room, kept there by her stepmother after the death of her parents. She’s alone until a ghostly figure appears one night. Liesl and her new ghost friend Po quickly find themselves entangled with a young alchemist’s apprentice, Will, after he mistakenly takes home a powerful magical item.
You didn’t really think I’d make a list with no middle-grade books, did you!? This book! My feels! There are ghosts, so it makes the cut. I’ll use important-sounding words like poignant and moving and coming-of-age to try to tempt you into reading this if you haven’t yet. Seriously though, this is some dark middle-grade that deals with death beautifully.
Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin – Struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh finds his luck turned around when he makes a deal with the eccentric Joshua York. Finally able to build the boat of his dreams, Abner soon finds the deal he made put him and his crew in mortal peril.
Vampires. Vampires sailing on the Mississippi River in the late 1800s. An overweight, crass, dirty captain who turns out to be surprisingly lovable. Vampires on the Mississippi! If you’re looking for unconventional vampires, please check this out.
Bloodsucking Fiends (trilogy) by Christopher Moore – When Jody wakes up in a dumpster, with a burned arm, a sore neck and a thirst for blood, she begins to realize she’s no longer human. Jody struggles to adjust to her new life, but things change when she meets C. Thomas Flood.
More vampires! This is an excellent comedic trilogy about modern vampires living in San Francisco. The characters are awkward and lovable (like many of Moore’s characters) and surprisingly relatable, despite the fact that I’ve never been a vampire or lived in San Fran.
The Sparrow by Marie Doria Russell – When extraterrestrial life is picked up via satellite, a group of friends and colleagues lead by a Jesuit priest with a knack for learning languages, set off to make contact with the residents of a foreign planet. The lone survivor, Emilio Sandoz, must face judgment from his superiors and peers in Rome and tell the story of the tragedy that befell the party.
My hands! Every time I think about this book my hands hurt. An unsettling feeling crept over me almost immediately after starting the book. It was clear something went very wrong after the group from Earth made contact with another planet and I both wanted and didn’t want to find out what it was. This story is a slow burn, but it was still creepy (and also very sad). The less said about the plot, the better, I think.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – When Abby’s best friend Gretchen starts acting strangely after a sleepover gone wrong, Abby begins to suspect her friend has been possessed. Abby will do whatever it takes to save her friend…if she can be saved.
Who doesn’t want to read about possessed teenage girls in the 1980s? Amidst the sense of nostalgia, there’s a test of friendship, satanic verses and even vomiting. This story was more compelling than I thought it would be and while the build-up is a bit slow, the exorcism scene pays off.
Bonus picture mostly because I was goofing around with edits – like, ooh, they’re floating sideways or something!
*Cover images from Goodreads