Nicole’s Top Ten of 2020

This year I stayed quite nicely tucked into my reading comfort blanket of weird, atmospheric, and dark reads for the most part. I read more than one collection of short stories, and one novella, which reflects my unpredictable ebb and flow of reading ambition the past ten months: some days I couldn’t focus on reading for more than fifteen minutes, while others days I was inspired to plant myself on the couch and read all weekend. Below you’ll find my ten favorite books I read this past year: including some supernatural thrillers, weird and beautiful science fiction, horror short stories, literary fiction, and more!

Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Stories of Horror Edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer

Bunny by Mona Awad

Circe by Madeline Miller

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

My Top 10 Favorite Horror Graphic Novels

As promised, I’m back this week to share some of my all-time favorite scary, spooky, and otherwise guaranteed to keep you up late at night books. It was so difficult narrowing this down, so I decided to share my top ten favorite horror graphic novels this week- saving my favorite traditionally formatted prose novels for next week.

Below you’ll find melancholy stories of hauntings and witches, disturbing tales of otherworldly creatures, horrific murder mysteries, and more tales that will leave you contemplating whats lurking in the shadows long after you close the book’s covers.

  1. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn
  2. Wytches by Scott Snyder
  3. Clean Room by Gail Simone
  4. Revival by Tim Seeley
  5. Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge
  6. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  7. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
  8. Outcast by Robert Kirkman
  9. Locke & Key by Joe Hill
  10. Redlands by Jordie Bellaire

Check out one of these great book today at the library or pop on over to Hoopla to read graphic novels without ever having to leave your couch!

Virtual Book Club – Spooky Sci Fi and Fantasy Books

What better way to celebrate spooky season than reading some scary books? This time, instead of your standard haunted houses and paranormal happenings, we’re looking at mash-ups of horror with science fiction and fantasy. 

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer catalog link

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer 

The Southern Reach trilogy is the creepy love child of science fiction and metaphysical horror. A group of women explore Area X, a mysterious, ever-expanding, and reality-warping region, where previous explorers have disappeared without a trace. Follow up this short book with the sequels, Authority and Acceptance.

Annihilation Overdrive link

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling catalog link

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling 

Gyre Price lied her way to a caver position on a strange planet. As she plumbs the depths of the caves, she realizes that something is off. Her handler topside omits information as it suits her, supplies aren’t where they are supposed to be, and Gyre can’t shake the feeling that someone is following her in the dark.

The Luminous Dead Overdrive link

The Luminous Dead Hoopla link

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins catalog link

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Carolyn and a dozen other children being raised by “Father,” a cruel man with mysterious powers, begin to think he might be God, so when he dies, they square off against each other to determine who will inherit his library, which they believe holds the power to all Creation.*

The Library at Mount Char Overdrive link


The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan catalog link

The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan

After discovering an unfinished manuscript hidden in an old house, Sarah becomes obssessed with the subject of the work–an ancient oak on a desolate corner of the property– and risks both health and sanity to uncover its secret.*

The Red Tree Overdrive link


The Changeling by Victor LaValle  catalog link

The Changeling by Victor LaValle 

Resolving to commit to marriage and parenthood unlike the father who abandoned him, Apollo Kagwa, who suffers from bizarre dreams, is shocked when his wife commits an act of astounding violence before disappearing, compelling Apollo’s odyssey through a world he barely understands.*

The Changeling Overdrive link


*Plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Check back next week for another installment of the Virtual Book Club!

Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager Review

Maggie Holt was five when her parents bought the sprawling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. The young family spent just three weeks in the house before they fled in fear, abandoning their belongs, never to return. The nonfiction account of the horrors and hauntings of Baneberry Hall, written by her father, was an international bestseller. While Maggie has no memory of the events that are outlined in the book, the story itself has haunted her for 25 years. She has never believed that the book was true, but she has never managed get her divorced parents to reveal to her what really happened in that house. When her father passes away she is shocked to learn that she has inherited Baneberry Hall. Why did her father still own the house? Maggie returns to a house she doesn’t remember with the intention of restoring it and selling, putting the nightmare forever in her past. Her arrival in town is not a welcome one. People that she knows a characters in the book are real people and they have stories of their own to tell. Maggie is interested in learning the truth, but as events outlined in the book begin to occur again in the house, Maggie is forced to consider that her father’s account may be more fact than fiction after all.

I went in to this book blind. I have read and enjoyed other books by Riley Sager, so I assumed I would also enjoy this one, despite my terror of haunted houses. Thanks, dad, for letting 5 year old me watch Amityville Horror. Totally scarred for life. But I digress…Anyway, we have a haunted house with a nonbeliever living in it. I want to be a nonbeliever, so I was onboard with Maggie’s goal to disprove the validity of her father’s book. Also, side note, I love a book within a book. But dang it, if that house isn’t creepy and probably haunted and it turns out a lot of the things in the book ARE true. Will Maggie finally learn why they fled in the middle of the night? You bet she does. Did I see the answer coming? NOT. AT. ALL. This is a perfect spooky season (aka, October) read that left me questioning everything to the very surprising end.

If you are into spooky, haunted houses, you should join us for Novel Scares, a horror book club. This month we are talking about another cursed how, The Good House by Tananarive Due. Register now to receive the Zoom link.

Happy Spooky Reading!

~Megan

What to Read During Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.

Read Before You Watch

Do you like to read the book before you watch the film or television adaptation? Or are you someone who doesn’t mind seeing the screen version and then reading the book? Or, perhaps you are one of those people who only does one or the other. I must admit, there have been times that I chose not to read a book because the movie was not that interesting to me (looking at you Divergent series).

We’ve got some great television and film adaptations to look forward to, and below are a few of my top picks for books you should read before their adaptations hit your screen.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

A brand new HBO series just launched based on this awesome book by Matt Ruff. I really enjoyed the book, a smart mash-up of historical fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and sci-fi fantasy elements. Readers follow a series of of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the 1950s, mostly taking place in Chicago, and their dangerous encounters with the supernatural (sorcerers, inter-dimensional portals, a haunted house) and the terrible, rampant racism they constantly faced during the Jim Crow era.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The film adaptation of this book is slated to hit Netflix September 16th so you have plenty of time to pick up this book (which is what I plan to do as I haven’t read it yet!). Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s, including a husband and wife team of serials killers and a disturbed war veteran. The book, Pollock’s first novel, was described as “violence-soaked” from it’s first pages by The New York Times Book Review, so be prepared for a dark and disturbing read.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This newly published horror thriller has already been put into development by Hulu according to recent news. The drama series will be based on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bestselling novel, and produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’ Milojo Productions and ABC Signature. Set in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic follows glamorous and young socialite Noemí from her home in Mexico City to the dismal grounds of High Place, a gloomy English manor styled estate in the Mexican countryside. She is there to check in on her newlywed cousin after receiving a frantic letter begging for someone to save her. What will she discover about this odd family and strange house?

Are there any big or small screen adaptations that you are really excited about this year? Share in the comments!


Book Review- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I recently finished Stephen Graham Jones’ latest novel, The Only Good Indians, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The book is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve read. Teetering along a fine line between literary horror (yes, there is some disagreement as to whether that exists but I strongly support the notion that it does), a straight-up revenge story, and multi-faceted narratives of various Native American experiences, it delivers some serious gore alongside real emotional pain. It’s wildly atmospheric and to put it plainly, weird. Weird in the very best way, of course.

The revenge plot centers on four Native American men getting their just deserts after disrespecting the sacredness of an elk herd while hunting on elder tribal lands. The group’s excessive spray of bullets decimates an elk herd that includes a pregnant elk, who struggles with every thing she has to survive for her calf. She succumbs to her wounds and the Blackfeet reservation’s game warden discovers their trespass which results in them being forced to leave all the elk meat behind, except for the cow who fought so hard. The four pals are banned from hunting on the reservation for ten years as further punishment, but their real punishment arrives years later.

Without spoiling too much of the story, because there are indeed some surprising twists and turns, I can say this moment of carelessness and disregard results in very serious repercussions for the four men, their friends and family, and even their pets. In the beginning readers increasingly question what is real and what is being told to us by an unreliable narrator. Eventually, through a very clever shift in perspective, readers see the truth of what is happening and the story really picks up speed as we hurtle towards a conclusion.

The Only Good Indians is a stellar example of how horror can also be literary, as Jones has crafted a deeply felt look at cycles of violence, identity and the price of breaking away from tradition, and perhaps most surprisingly, the power of forgiveness and hope. I can’t promise it will all make sense in a neat, tidy way in the end but it doesn’t really need to honestly. A #ownvoices title that is highly recommended reading for fans of horror, literary fiction, strong character writing, and twisty plots.

Trigger warning: When I say there is gore in this, I am not exaggerating. It does include some brutal ends for specifically dogs. I assure you, the book overall is worth reading and you can breeze past some of the grisly paragraphs if need be.

Check out the ebook here or request the print copy here.

The Only Good Indians is the November selection for Novel Scares book club, my book club devoted to all things horror. Please join us for a lively discussion on Zoom November 12th @ 7 pm! Registration for fall programs begins September 1st and you can register for Novel Scares here. This program is also part of the county wide One Community Reads, taking place now through September, inviting you to read and reflect about race, injustice, history, and a better future.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far)

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).

One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.

Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.

The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.

Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!