(Trick or) Treat yourself this Halloween with spooky reads! Witches, graveyards, occult studies, monster-filled academies, experiments gone wrong (or right??), murders in Victorian streets, unsolved mysteries, magic legacies, and more; from my own personal collection of novels, here are some of my favorite spooky reads to pick back up again in the month of October!
Vicious & Vengeful - VE Schwab
Schwab's adult novels make the top of every list for me, so of course Vicious features on my Halloween-themed recs! The tone and content of her writing are perfect year round, but especially poignant leading up to Halloween.
In the same vein as Frankenstein meets Flatliners (the 2017 film), Victor and Eli are college roommates, "brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other." In their senior year, they begin experimenting on themselves to understand the perhaps supernatural effects of adrenaline on the body. When the results are more real than either expect, Vicious sparks to life on the page, pitting once-friends-now-foes against each other ten years after their experiments changed everything, including them.
The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
The tone and timing of this book is phenomenal, and Stiefvater remains one of my all time favorite authors, thanks to her writing style, plots, and the overall feel of her novels. The Scorpio Races happen at the beginning of each November, where men from the tiny island of Thisby (Welsh-inspired) claim their water horses and enter them into a race where only some make it out alive. The island is what sticks most in my mind when I think of this novel. It has the wondrous Autumn dying into winter feel, like magic hidden in the fog, and waves lapping at the edge of civilization, taking back dead leaves as the riders walk the sand. One rider is Sean Kendrick, the reigning champion who keeps too much held deep inside and must win for more than glory, another is Puck Connolly, the first and only young woman to enter the Scorpio Races, desperate to help herself and her shrinking family.
The Scorpio Races is where necessity and bravery collide. Where magic and danger exist together on the back of water horses that come to land to feed on flesh flesh. Where romance and survival and honor mix together and leave readers rooting for both sides when there can only be one winner.
Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalo
Maniscalo's four-part series is a pretty light take on dark histories. While it sometimes feels like she's a little loose on the histories, her characters really make up for it. In Stalking Jack the Ripper, Maniscalo drops a young woman, Audrey Rose Wattsworth, into the gruesome 1888 London of real-life murderer Jack the Ripper. The daughter of a lord whose facing a prim and proper life, Audrey Rose secretly retreats to her uncle's lab to study the new field of forensic medicine as it was when polite society saw it as nothing more than butchering corpses and dishonoring the dead.
The Complete Short Story Collection - Edgar Allen Poe
In the words of somebody on the internet (probably), "I'm a hoe for Poe," so here's a quote from one of my (and everyone else's) favorite Poe poems for the season!
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered— Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before— On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.” Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
The Haunting of Hill House -
Welcome to the world of gothic horror! While my first reaction to a spooky list is to add The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the list, I figured that had featured plenty of times on the review blog already. And being in the spirit of actual terror, The Haunting of Hill House fits perfectly on the list! Published in 1959 by Shirley Jackson, the novel focuses on four people as they settle in at Hill House. But ultimately, the house itself becomes a character in the novel, with far more sentience than anyone expected.
Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman
If you're familiar with the Sandra Bullock movie adaptation of this novel, you'll be unsurprised with the tone and quality of the novel itself. Hoffman tells the story of the Owen sisters, born and raised in small-town Massachusetts, where seemingly everything that goes wrong is pinned back on the Owenses for the last 200 years. Raised by their aunts in a typically witchy house and eager to flee from the stigma and symptoms of magic, the sisters leave, only to be pulled back by the bonds they share and more.
A Deadly Education - Naomi Novik
Novik is a new author for me, despite her huge list of previous books (speculative fiction), but I feel like A Deadly Education was a great place to jump into the fray of her work. The YA fantasy novel takes place in a magical school called the Scholomance, where the school is as dead as the creatures inside of it. Junior student Galadriel is fated to go dark, and her natural ability is seemingly eager to help her on her way to enslaving minds and taking over the world. Hiding her powerful heritage and her abilities from the students around her, El is eager to make her mark another way and secure a place in an enclave after graduation in order to protect herself from the monsters that want to kill and eat young mages. Her plan is just beginning to come together when Orion Lake saves her life and throws everything off track.
While the gloomy, dark, goth girl meets darling perfect boy trope might've been overdone by any other author, Novik put a new twist on it, making Galadriel and Orion's friendship a shock of light and humor in an otherwise dark (literally) academia novel. I found the characters refreshing, the worldbuilding solid, and the magic logical. It's one that I'll come back to for sure.
TBR Recs: (top of my TBR for October!)
*synopses from Amazon*
The Grave Keepers - Elizabeth Byrne
Lately, Athena Windham has been spending all her spare time in her grave. Her parents—owners of a cemetery in Upstate New York—are proud of her devoutness, but her younger sister, Laurel, would rather spend her time exploring the forest that surrounds the Windham’s’ property than in her own grave. The Windham girls lead secluded lives—their older sister died in a tragic accident and their parents’ protectiveness has made the family semi-infamous.
As the new school year begins, the outside world comes creeping in through encounters with mean girls, a new friend, and a runaway boy hiding out in the cemetery. Meanwhile, a ghost hangs around the Windham property—the only gravekeeper never to cross over—plotting how to keep the sisters close to home and close to her . . . forever.
The Diviners - Libba Bray
Evangeline O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is ecstatic. It's 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he'll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.
When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened....
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story. Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can't shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer? Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn't want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
City of Ghosts - Victoria (VE) Schwab
One of the clever things about Schwab is that she differentiates between her YA/children's books and her adult novels by using "Victoria" vs "VE". So we are starting and ending this blog with Schwab, this time with a children's fantasy novel!
Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn't like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost. So things are already pretty strange. But they're about to get much stranger.
When Cass's parents start hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her "gift," she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil -- and herself. And she'll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.