Hey spooky friends.
What a wild, exhausting, rollercoaster of a November so far. I can’t believe we’re just one week into it.
That said, it’s really nice to have some good news this year. And if you’re in the US, or you just pay attention to our politics, it’s okay to take a deep breath. Something isn’t actively on fire for one second. Let’s enjoy it.
And maybe we can all get back to reading. Because I don’t know about you, but I started about 6 different books, and finished none of them. My brain is just way too full with all this world stuff.
So, instead of a review, today I’m talking about all the amazing books that I should have read this week.
First up, “A Head Full of Ghosts” by Paul Tremblay. Here’s the official description:
“The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.”
Readers on TheStoryGraph.com say that the top moods of this book are: dark, mysterious, tense, sad, emotional, and challenging. Basically, right up my alley.
Oh, and it won a bunch of awards. But, fair warning, readers on StoryGraph also added content warnings, and get a load of these: vomit, self harm, mental illness, child death, cursing, child abuse, and excrement.
As always, proceed at your own risk. And I’ll let you know how it is if I ever finish it.
Moving on, am I the only person who checks out ebooks from the library multiple times, thinking I’m in the mood to read them, but not reading them, but I keep optimistically checking them out, because I know I’ll like them?
I have an entire category of books that I’ve checked out more than once, and I really fully intend to read these. Seriously. Someday.
Like “And the Trees Crept In” by Dawn Kurtagich. I mean, just listen to this description:
“When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?”
It’s YA, it’s a mystery/thriller, it’s maybe supernatural, plus I love a good creepy old haunted house. I have chills just thinking about it.
Speaking of creepy old houses, also on this list, is “The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher. Another award winner,
“When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?
Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.
Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.”
Again, creepy family secrets, spooky old houses, though one of the book blurbs describes it as “The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show.”
And I have to say, for a book that came out in 2019, that description is bonkers. The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999, and the Andy Griffith Show ran from 1960 to 1968. Who is this blurb for?
I bet you’re asking “you’re reading all this horror, where are all the witches?” My favorite supernatural subgroup, that finally is having a big cultural moment again, and there are so many witch books!
I grabbed one from the library that is basically brand new: “The Scapegracers” by Hannah Abigail Clarke.
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.”
Do you even need the longer description? Okay fine, here it is:
“Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends.
Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?”
It just came out in September, so this one might be the hardest to get a copy of.
And finally, one of my most-checked-out already, is “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix. Sorry to all the horror fans in my library system who also want to read it, but I just know I’m going to love this one. Once I get to it.
Just listen to the description:
“Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.
Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.”
What more could you want? Plus, moms rarely get to be the star of the show when it comes to supernatural mysteries. Maybe that’s changing, and soon we’ll be hearing about the newest spin-off, Joyce: the Vampire Slayer.
If you’re surprised I have so many actual books on my list, don’t worry. I also grabbed several short story collections to check out, ranging from horror to, well, more horror.
But I feel like that description is almost like saying, “I cooked meat last night.”
I got one collection called “Slasher Girls & Monster Boys”, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke, with stories from Marie Lu, Nova Ren Suma, Kendare Blake, Leigh Bardugo, and many more amazing authors.
“Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.”
But I don’t think that collection will be anything like “The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares”, a collection of suspenseful short fiction by Joyce Carol Oates that I meant to read last month, and who knows where October went?
Not that October is the end of spooky season, of course, because what’s spookier than the dead of winter? Days get shorter and darker, and colder. And when it comes to traditional US holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas are full of family secrets, and ghosts.
Some of the reads on my list are “Christmas Dinner of Souls” by Ross Montgomery, “The Dark” by Karen Joy Fowler, “Dark Warm Heart” by Rich Larson, “Harvest” by Rebecca Roanhorse, and “The Mistletoe Murder” by P.D. James.
What are your favorite spooky end of year ghost stories? Do you prefer them with a tinge of hope, or lonely despair? What stories do you wish you saw this time of year?
Stay spooky, stay safe, and let’s try to keep reading.