Is it ghosts? Or is it madness? Or maybe a little of both?
The Ghost Notebooks follows Nick and Hannah, a newly engaged couple at a crisis point in their lives and their relationship. Their careers are stagnating, and so is their bond. In hopes that a big change might help them out of their rut, they take jobs as caretakers for a house museum in upstate New York.
From the first, there’s something eerie and secretive about both the town and the house. The museum was the family home of a 19th century writer and philosopher who, it’s rumored, dabbled in spiritualism. As the days wear on in this remote and creepy new place, Hannah starts to unravel. She stops sleeping, hears voices at night, and becomes obsessed with researching the house and the writer. Nick can only stand by as something tragic happens.
While there’s some occult and spiritualist elements here, this is less a story about a haunting than it is about minds in crisis. Is Nick a reliable narrator? Is something nefarious going on? Or is everything seemingly supernatural simply the result of grief and trauma?
The narrative voice is often wry and funny, and there are a lot of humorous moments balanced against the heavy ones. If you enjoy just a maybe-sprinkling of ghosts around Halloween, or you’re fascinated by how human minds might create ghouls and goblins, give this one a look!
I love Hendrix’s books. I talked about Horrorstor and My Best Friend’s Exorcism on previous Halloweens, and I’m so glad he’s got a new book out just in time for this year’s countdown. While it’s not straight-up Horror, it’s definitely creepy, with plenty of biting social commentary and gory bits. It’s also got a ton of heart and hope.
Kris was the guitarist for a metal band back in the 1990’s. Now, she’s working at a Best Western and about to lose her house. Looming over her life is Terry, her once-friend and bandmate, who was responsible for the messy breakup of their band Durt Wurk, and now has a legendary solo career.
But Kris can’t remember the exact circumstances of the crazy night the band broke up. Craziest of all, Kris realizes that the trajectory of her life seems to be following the storyline of the album she poured her soul into, Troglodyte.
The songs on that album told the story of Black Iron Mountain, which controls the world, and the slave Troglodyte, who fights for freedom. Kris knows she has to fight for her own freedom as well as her soul as she crosses the country to get to Terry’s final concert out in the desert. Because Terry sabotaged a lot more than just the band all those years ago.
Menacing, full of black humor, heartfelt, and a love song to metal, this supernatural thriller is definitely one to add to your reading list this Halloween!
Tremblay is an old Horror Month friend. I especially loved his novel A Head Full of Ghosts. His latest is a tense, compelling, and intimate story about the end of the world.
Wen and her dads are vacationing at a remote cabin in northern New Hampshire when a group of four strangers arrives. They carry homemade weapons and insist that Wen and her parents have been prophesied to help them save the world from the coming apocalypse.
Stories about home invasion always make my skin crawl, and this one is no different. You’re as tense and frightened and uncertain as the protagonists, which always makes for the best scary stories. Later on, when you’re finally in the heads of the invaders, it’s even creepier.
For a Halloween read packed with some shocking violence, surprising humor, an eerie open ending, and a compulsively readable style, give this one a try!
If you’re the type who likes to curl up with a twisty, suspenseful Hitchcock flick on Halloween, here’s a novel you should try!
Anna Fox lives as a recluse in her New York City home. She spends most of her time watching Hitchcock movies, drinking, and spying on her neighbors. Then one night she thinks she witnesses a murder in the house across the street. From there it’s a downward spiral into trying to decide what’s real and what isn’t, who’s lying, and what Anna actually saw that night.
Anna isn’t very likeable, nor is she very reliable, but she’s compelling to read about. The Woman in the Window is a page-turner of a thriller, with quite elegant writing and an absorbing narrative voice. The twists and turns and reveals of the book are a slow build, and there’s a constant air of uncertainty and menace as events unfold.
The references to Hitchcock movies and other thriller/film noir pieces abound, and the book really does have the feel of a black and white psychological suspense film. Perfect for unsettling you on a Halloween night!
Nothing like some good old-fashioned paranoia and body horror come Halloweentime!
The Troop follows a group of scouts on a camping trip on an island. Scoutmaster Tim takes the troop out every year for a three-day camp in the Canadian wilderness. And this year, there’s a ravenous, sickly something at the campsite with them–and this something was created to infect as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
The scares in this story come both from the goriness of it (and it’s pretty cringe-inducingly gross!) and from the paranoia and claustrophobia of the island. The boys in the troop quickly find themselves on their own and open to infection–who’s still safe? Who’s been infected? Can they get themselves safely off the island, or are outside forces going to keep them there? It’s very reminiscent of the classic The Thing, though our monster originates far closer to home.
The Troop is a profoundly creepy and unsettling book, in the very best possible way. The characters are great, too–you’re really invested in each of these boys (uh, except one, but I won’t spoil it), and it’s both scary and sad to watch them all fight it out and try to survive.
If you’re an old-school Stephen King fan, definitely give Cutter’s work a look!
The four short novels in this collection are weird fiction at its finest–a little bit Horror, a little bit Dark Fantasy, a little bit Science Fiction, all creepy. If you’re not a “scary book” fan but you still want something dark for the season, Strange Weather might be just the thing.
Snapshot tells the tale of a tattooed man with a Polaroid camera that can steal memories. Aloft has an almost old-fashioned sci-fi feel to it–it’s about a man in a hot air balloon accident who winds up stranded on a cloud. Rain is a more contemporary apocalyptic story, with the original idea of the end coming from nails raining down from the sky.
The most realistic story, and thus the most terrifying, is definitely Loaded–it’s an examination of our country’s relationship with guns, and it is one that stays with you for a very long time after you read it.
Every story, each with a different feel, is compelling. They each pull you right into the action, and you just go with each tale’s flow until the disturbing conclusions. I love Hill’s descriptive powers and the mood he’s able to create.
Definitely give this collection a try for Halloween!
In 2017, Ella moves into a new house right next door to a crumbling mansion that is covered in DO NOT ENTER signs. Soon, she begins to see the shadowy figure of a girl in the windows and in the garden of the abandoned property.
In 1982, Mary keeps a diary of her days at an orphanage called Thornhill, in the very top room, all alone but for her puppets. She is tormented and bullied by another girl, referred to only as she. After months, as the orphanage is getting ready to close, Mary is finally pushed too far.
Ella has lost her mother and her dad is always at work, so when mysterious puppets begin to appear in the garden next door, left as gifts, she’s more than happy to accept them.
All Mary wants is a friend. And as scary story fans know, that’s never a good sign.
Yes, I’m a day early, but who cares? This is Horror Month, who can wait?!
My most favorite time of the year here at the Readers’ Corner Blog: Horror Month all October long! Stay tuned for the creepiest books I’ve read this year, a list of Halloween Staff Picks, and suggested reading!