Spooky Reads for a Scaredy-Cat

Every October I get the itch to pick up a book for spooky season. The only problem is that I’m a lifelong scaredy-cat. When it comes to horror movies or tv series, I can only handle small doses. But against all odds, I do enjoy reading an occasional spooky story. It all started when I picked up the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Somehow those tales of horror and things that go bump in the night were less creepy if they were just words on a page.

If you’re looking for some spooky reads, here are a few recommendations. Just remember to read them with the lights on.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The only thing keeping Patricia Campbell sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind–and Patricia has already invited him in. 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a ‘haunting’; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The Outsider by Stephen King

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens–Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?

The Shadows by Alex North

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree committed a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat. Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Paul learns that Detective Amanda Beck is investigating another copycat that has struck in the nearby town of Featherbank.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in the house, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

-Melinda

What we’re reading now…..

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 

 In the dystopian world of Celeste Ng’s latest novel, books are banned, children are re-homed, and Asian Americans are outcasts. Amidst it all, twelve-year old Bird is left with a handful of memories of his mother. Her presence and poetry have faded from his life, but a familiar image sparks his curiosity and forces him to revisit her disappearance. Melinda

The Making of Her by Bernadette Jiwa

Raised in a Dublin housing estate by an alcoholic father toward the end of the 1940s, Joan and her sister had to grow up fast. Working in a factory by age fourteen it made sense she would find the love of her life at eighteen. Martin Egan, son of a successful business owner, promised Joan the world until she became pregnant and he persuaded her to place the baby up for adoption. Thirty years later when their secret child makes contact, how will they each respond? Family relationships are seen from the women’s perspective and as we get to know the characters better, we understand how difficult and limited their choices truly were, making Joan, in particular, even more endearing. If you enjoy spending time with interesting characters, this is the book for you! Stacey

Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid

A sheltered wizard’s daughter falls in love with a ballet dancer while a monster stalks the streets and the bodies of brutalized men appear all over the city. A reimagining of the classic fairy tale “The Juniper Tree.” Shannon

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher 

Marra is a princess on a quest to save her sister with the help of a reluctant grave-witch and a dog she creates out of bone and wire. Along the way, their party grows, with the addition of Marra’s fairy godmother, whose blessings turn out to be curses and a loveable disgraced knight, whose heart is in desperate need of rescuing. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher is an adult, revenge-filled fairy-tale that is equal parts action-packed, humorous, and original – a perfect feminist fantasy novel.  Carol

The Divorce Colony:  How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White

In the 19th century, Sioux Falls, SD, became a haven for women seeking a divorce. Among the laxest laws in the country, women came from all the States and Europe to gain their freedom during a time that women had few rights. The book explores not only the  social drama but political and religious drama, while telling detailed and entertaining stories of the women who took hold of their futures. Christine

Murder in the Park by Jeanne M. Dams

This story takes place in 1925 in Oak Park, an affluent suburb of Chicago. Elizabeth Fairchild is a close friend of Mr. Anthony, owner of a quaint antique store. Mr. Anthony is found stabbed to death and the local police think they have the killer. Elizabeth and a few others, including Mrs. Hemingway are certain the police have arrested the wrong man. At this point in the story the search is on for the real killer. Please stay tuned… Emma

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

In post-WWII Japan, Detective Kindaichi is called and warned that the reading of a local magnate’s will is certain to set off a series of murders. Though skeptical of the prognostication, Detective Kindaichi travels to the small town and awaits the reading. However, immediately upon his arrival, he is witness to a life-threatening accident that portends the danger to the magnate’s family yet to come. The detective must first uncover the family secrets to unravel the mystery. Trent

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

The final installment in the Beartown trilogy, about the resilient and closely knit community that puts hockey above all else. Taking place over two weeks, Beartown residents must prove their love for each other and for their town, struggling to move on from the past in the wake of numerous changes. Told in Backman’s signature reflective style, it’s hard to put this one down. Linnea

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

When a 12-year-old girl goes missing in a rural Australian town during the worst heat wave in decades, tempers flare and townspeople with skeletons in their closets, and long histories together, begin to fall apart, and also to come together to search for the young girl. Kept me guessing for quite awhile. Sara

Bookstagram Made Me Do It

Too many books, too little time has always been the predicament for avid readers. With the introduction of book-specific social media, your TBR (to be read) list is probably a mile long. #BookTok and #Bookstagram are full of recommendations for every reader, but some books come up every time you log on. These trending titles have staying power on social media, so give them a try!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (YA)

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why — or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch — and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

Everyone from Wakarusa, Indiana, remembers the infamous case of January Jacobs, who was discovered in a ditch hours after her family awoke to find her gone. Margot Davies was six at the time, the same age as January–and they were next-door neighbors. In the twenty years since, Margot has grown up, moved away, and become a big-city journalist. But she’s always been haunted by the feeling that it could’ve been her. And the worst part is, January’s killer has never been brought to justice.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project–a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia–Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (YA)

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?

-Melinda

Five Readalikes for Fans of Colleen Hoover

Are you on the holds list waiting for your next Colleen Hoover (aka CoHo) read? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are hundreds of other readers discovering the queen of Booktok. While you’re waiting, try one of the following authors with similar writing style and feel.

If You Stay by Courtney Cole

Twenty-four-year-old Pax Tate is a tattooed, rock-hard bad boy with a tough attitude to match. His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart that he pretends isn’t there . . . until he meets Mila.

Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air that Pax has never known in his life. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her-but he quickly realizes that he’d better figure it out because he needs her to breathe. But is that enough to make her stay?

Twisted Love by Ana Huang

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world. Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape. But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest: A crack. A melt. A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember. But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want. Her brother’s best friend.

Most of All You by Mia Sheridan

Crystal learned long ago that love brings only pain. Feeling nothing at all is far better than being hurt again. Then Gabriel Dalton walks into her life. Despite the terrible darkness of his past, there’s an undeniable goodness in him. And even though she knows the cost, Crystal finds herself drawn to Gabriel. Except fate will only take them so far, and now the choice is theirs: Harden their hearts once again or find the courage to shed their painful pasts.

After by Anna Todd

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way. But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to. But he’s also rude–to the point of cruelty, even.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Four years ago Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, holding her boyfriend’s lifeless hand and listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, twenty-year-old Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami.

If your heart is set on a Colleen Hoover, make sure you’ve read It Ends With Us before the sequel It Starts With Us comes out on October 18.

-Melinda

From Page to Screen: Fall Releases

The storylines of this season’s blockbusters may seem vaguely familiar. Hollywood is drawing inspiration from the book world once again with a slew of streaming shows and movies based on books. From war epics to vampires, fall into the plot of a great book before you see it on the big screen. Here are a few highlights from this season’s upcoming releases.

September

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

The legend of Marilyn Monroe–aka Norma Jeane Baker–comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of Hollywood myth and heartbreaking reality. Marilyn Monroe lives–reborn to tell her untold history; her story of a star created to shine brightest in the Hollywood firmament before her fall to earth. Blonde is a dazzling fictional portrait of the intricate inner life of the idolized and desired movie star as only the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates could paint it.

Coming to Netflix on September 28.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been BFFs since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different.

And as the strange coincidences and bizarre occurrences begin to pile up, Abby realizes there is only one possible explanation- Her best friend Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not going to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend.

Coming to Amazon Prime Video on September 30.

October

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last–revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door–a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

Coming to Showtime on October 7.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . . This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

Coming to Netflix on October 28.

November

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both.

A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
 Coming to Amazon Prime Video on November 4.

She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power.

During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed.

Coming to theaters on November 18.

-Melinda

A Suspenseful Summer Read

The It Girl
by Ruth Ware

When Hannah Jones heads to Oxford to study literature, she expects her world to change. What she doesn’t expect is to be paired with a roommate like April Coutts-Cliveden. April has it all -she’s rich, beautiful, has an adoring fan club of young men and seemingly never has to study.

When April is found murdered in their common room, Hannah names Oxford employee John Neville as the man she saw leaving the crime scene. Neville is convicted for April’s murder, and traumatized and hounded by journalists, Hannah never returns to school.   

Ten years later, Hannah is now pregnant and married to one of April’s exes and living in Edinburgh. When she receives news that John Neville has died in jail, instead of feeling relief, she begins questioning whether or not she was responsible for convicting an innocent man. If Neville didn’t kill April, who did?

This fast-paced novel is the perfect academic mystery to sink your teeth into. It’s suspenseful, dark, clever and has excellent character development and an ending that this reader didn’t see coming. If you are looking for a perfect psychological thriller this summer, pick up The It Girl by Ruth Ware.  

-Carol

Read the Book First

Doesn’t it seem like every time you read a book you love, it is made into a film or TV show? Well, here is your head’s up -it is happening again.

The Wonder, a 2016 novel by Emma Donoghue, will be out sometime this year on Netflix and will star Florence Pugh. Why not read it first?

This historical novel takes place in the Irish Midlands in 1859, shortly after the end of the potato famine in Ireland. There, eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell has become a sensation. Anna has stopped eating, yet continues to live and appears healthy regardless. The girl’s actions create a stir. All who hear of her assume this must be a miracle and flock to witness it. Nightingale-trained Nurse Lib Wright is sent from England to investigate whether Anna is a fraud. Lib is sure she is there to expose a hoax, but as she spends more time with Anna, she begins to soften her feelings about the girl and question her own lack of belief.

Pick up this atmospheric, psychological thriller of a novel, based on real historical accounts of European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. And then, feel free to watch the film.

-Carol

New Historical Fiction

This is a dual timeline novel. One-part centers around the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (May 1 – October 31, 1897) in Nashville. The main character is twenty-five-year-old Priscilla Nichols. Her wealthy railroad investor family has spent lots of time and money on the celebration. Her father hires Luca Moretti to guide the family around the city and his sister Gia is hired to be Priscilla’s lady’s maid. Priscilla’s parents expect her to marry, the sooner the better, within their social class. In spite of that, Priscilla falls in love with Luca, and Gia mysteriously disappears.

The second part of the novel takes place in 1961. Audrey Whitfield, daughter of the Maxwell Hotel’s manager, leaves college after her mother dies. Her father needs help at the hotel and help with her special needs’ brother Emmett. By 1961, the Maxwell Hotel has become a residence mostly for elderly people. When a longtime resident suffers a stroke, Audrey along with the help of civil rights lawyer-in-training Jason Sumner pack up her belongings. They discover a fascinating scrapbook with souvenirs from the 1897 Exposition along with postcards never sent.

In the novel and in history, the Maxwell Hotel was destroyed by fire on Christmas night in 1961. People escaped with the just the clothes on their backs. Fortunately, Audrey was able to save the scrapbook and eventually connect the history behind it, Priscilla Nichols, and 1961.

~Emma

Check Out a New Mystery Debut

Pay Dirt Road
by
Samantha Jayne Allen

After graduating college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas –a place, she thinks, where nothing much ever happens. She begins working as a waitress while trying to figure out her next step when two murders happen on the same day. Sadly, one of the victims is her coworker Victoria, a newly single mother, who Annie had cancelled plans with just hours before her death. Annie is racked with guilt and the feeling that she could have prevented this tragedy. She gets a chance to redeem herself when Leroy, her grandfather and former town sheriff asks her to assist at his private investigation firm. Before she knows it, Annie dives head-first into the world of crime solving, even as her lack of experience gets her into hot water with locals who would prefer she look the other way.

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize, which is awarded to a previously unpublished author for a first mystery novel set in the Southwest. This slow-burning mystery is a solid debut with a surprise ending and refreshing and relatable characters, especially Annie, who bungles her way into dangerous situations as she learns the ropes of investigative work. Crime fiction fans in need of something new have just hit pay dirt, and this reader is hoping it will be the first in a new series.

-Carol

What we’re reading now, spring edition…

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Two soldiers on opposing sides of a war throughout time begin to fall in love via the letters they exchange. While it’s a short read, the book is dense with meaning and subtext, and readers will enjoy the romance and intrigue of this intergalactic Romeo and Juliet story. Shannon

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Faladé

Tells the story of the African Brigade, a unit of former slaves tasked with rooting out pockets of Confederate guerilla fighters in the Tidewater region of Virginia and in North Carolina’s Outer Banks through the eyes of formerly enslaved Sergeant Richard Etheridge of the African Brigade. Dori

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

It’s 1937 when Mila Pavlichenko a young history student, mother, and sharpshooter joins the Russian army. Her rifle skills are soon apparent and she becomes a sniper. She rises through the ranks and is put in charge of a platoon. Her job is to train others and to kill Nazis. Mila is very successful at her job. Americans are very curious about this lady sniper when she comes to Washington D.C.  as a guest of the White House. Is she for real? Emma

A Night at the Sweet Gum Head by Marty Padgett

A deep look at 1970’s gay Atlanta through the lens of the Drag scene, political activists, and the bars that brought them all together. Deeply researched and well written, this non-fiction gives detailed insight into how a community of people who just wanted to live their lives had to become leaders and inspiration in order to exist. Christine

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in 1920’s Georgia, this vivid horror story asks the question: What if the Klu Klux Klan was led by actual demons? Stray dog eating, multi-eyed, otherworldly demons. Three Black female demon hunters, led by Maryse, who gets her guidance from ethereal Gullah Aunties, must destroy the Klu Kluxes to stop the spread of White Supremacy. A beautiful and gory blend of historic events with a horror twist. Christine

Goodnight, Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

A thriller that does not hide the inspiration it takes from King’s Misery. As a newlywed couple tries to put down roots in a small town, tragedy strikes when the husband comes up missing and his wife has to beg the authorities to care all while it becomes more and more apparent that he has been lying to her this whole time. As he fights for his life through the only way he knows how, his wife has to reconcile the man she loves with the man she has uncovered. Christine

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

A touchingly funny book about a small bookstore in Minnesota run by a group of Native American women during the pandemic, and the community of unusual, crazy, genuine people whose lives are touched by this place and by each other.  It’s one of those books where you truly fall in love with the characters and more than anything, want them to find peace and happiness in their lives.  Sara