6 Spooky Books to Read at Halloween

With Halloween less than a week away, you might be craving a spooky read. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t do horror, but I do enjoy mysterious and suspenseful stories. I particularly love ghost stories.

If you’re looking for something a little spooky but without the terror, here are a few I’ve enjoyed.

6 Spooky Books to Read at Halloween

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

A well written ghost story with a super high creepiness factor. I loved the atmosphere of the 1980s, how the hotel and the town it’s in don’t seem to age. It took me almost halfway to really get into the story. Initially it felt generic with the missing girls theme. However, as Viv’s story in 1982 began to converge with her niece’s in 2017, I became invested and couldn’t wait to see how it ended. The writing is sharp and evokes vivid scenes. I enjoyed getting to know the main characters, although there were a lot of side characters to keep track of, and I had to flip around a few times to remember who someone was. I loved the role the concept of ghosts plays in the book, and how past and present generations were woven together.

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

While this one isn’t creepy in the traditional sense, it’s a young adult romance that explores the existence of ghosts. June has always been told to avoid the Angert family and to never swim at the nearby waterfall. She’s always followed those rules because her deceased father told her to, and she loved him more than anyone. Then she meets Saul Angert and sparks fly (literally) and nothing terrible happens, so she begins to question all the family lore she was taught. This is a moving story about grief and family. It has a lot of heart and magic involved.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

This one’s one of my top reads of this year. It’s a slow burn, the suspense builds beautifully with vivid imagery and lots of scares. But it’s so much more than a creepy novel. Our omniscient narrator takes the reader back and forth between two timelines, both focused around the supposedly cursed Brookhants School for Girls. One setting is the school in 1902, the other is the campus in modern day as it serves as a movie set. While it’s obviously about creepy goings-on, it’s also a story about sexuality and genre norms, about relationships, love, and family. There’s a lot going on here and the threads are maintained throughout. It’s an entertaining, gorgeous read that covers a ton of ground-there’s something for everyone.

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

This is an intense novel about a mother of a toddler who believes she’s turning into a dog. The writing is strong, vivid, and emotional. There’s a little bit of gore involving animals but I easily skipped over it. The author takes her reader on a wild rid where we’re left not knowing what’s real and what isn’t. There’s magical realism and a need for the reader to suspend her disbelief to truly get lost in the story.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

I usually don’t do trigger warnings but I think it’s important to know that this one is about a virus that wipes out humans. I absolutely loved it when I read it in 2019, but when I read the sequel this year it hit a little too close to home for me to enjoy it as much.

Our main narrator is a crow, and we get points of view from other birds, cats, dogs, polar bears, even an octopus. This is not a story for the faint of heart or easily grossed out reader. It’s not for soft hearted animal lovers who can’t handle reading about animals being harmed and doing/saying horrible things. I’m certain part of my love for this book comes from working with animals for decades, for loving them and also knowing they can be disgusting a-holes. The writing is magical, the story is complex and weird. The animal characters are well constructed, and the world they live in is brought to life with vivid imagery. It’s ultimately story of survival, but also an exploration of love, belonging, and acceptance.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Full disclosure, I didn’t love this one but I know a lot of people who did. What I liked about it is it’s trueness to the classic gothic horror genre. It follows a young woman who travels to the Mexican countryside to visit her cousin after receiving ominous letters from her about goings on in the house. There’s a mystery to be solved and many eccentric characters. It’s slow paced but mind bending and atmospheric. If that’s your kind of read, then you’ll enjoy this for sure.

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