In a field of dead wheat stalks, lapped at by frigid wind like raw meat to a starved predator, the trees reach taller than my limbs, the blood red moon hangs low above my fingertips; fog and murk and decay roil through the petrified grasses, through the fallen leaves that crunch against boots on a lonely Friday morning walk to school, through the veins of a heavy hearted wanderer carrying a bag of books against her boney shoulders. This is my autumn, but allow me to share my books with you…
(Forgive the nostalgic overture, but as you can obviously tell I simply ADORE fall.)
Here are some books I’ve been intending to read around this melancholy time of year— I find them either eerie enough to compliment a Halloween TBR or dark and chilling enough for an autumn night where I’d stay up reading. I have also added some books that I have already ready, but they should certainly be on your TBR. Enjoy! Let me know if you have any recommendations as well!
Autumn/Halloween TBR: Part I
Paper Tigers, Damien Angelica Walters:
In this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything—half of her body, her fiancé, and possibly her unborn child—to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.
Little Sister Death, William Gay:
David Binder is a young, successful writer living in Chicago and suffering from writer’s block. He stares at the blank page, and the blank page stares back—until inspiration strikes in the form of a ghost story that captivated him as a child.
With his pregnant wife and young daughter in tow, he sets out to explore the myth of Virginia Beale, Faery Queen of the Haunted Dell. But as his investigation takes him deeper and deeper into the legacy of blood and violence that casts its shadow over the old Beale farm, Binder finds himself obsessed with a force that’s as wicked as it is seductive.
The Barrens, Joyce Carol Oates:
In this gripping psychological thriller, Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-selling author and one of the most versatile and original voices in contemporary American fiction, delivers a startling, complex tale of a serial killer and the people that his ghastly crimes touchand transform. People like Matt McBride. Matt was barely out of junior high when the mutilated body of the first victima popular, pretty teenagerwas uncovered in the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens. Although he had hardly known the girl, Matt has long felt guilty at not having been able somehow to prevent the atrocity. Now another attractive young woman has disappeared, and Matt knew this victim, too. Just possibly he knew her more intimately than he is prepared to admit.
By degrees Matt becomes obsessed with a guilt he can neither comprehend nor assuage. His seemingly happy marriage begins to deteriorate, while his increasingly erratic behavior heightens police suspicions. It also draws official attention away from an artista man of limited talent but of fierce, demented visionwho signs his work Name Unknown. Under the spell of the missing woman, Matt follows a path that leads him out of the maze of tortured memory to a confrontation with not only the baleful Name Unknown but also his own long-unacknowledged self. The outcome is shattering. With “murder as an art and the serial killer as an artist,” National Book Awardwinner Joyce Carol Oates shows “how a murderer’s savage creations … transform a man’s life.”
(Read/ Rating: 5 of 5) The Secret History, Donna Tartt:
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Jay Kristoff:
A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.
Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.
Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill:
Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.
The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.
The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan:
“Then she opened her mouth to scream–and recognised me. It was what I’d been waiting for. She froze. She looked into my eyes. She said, “It’s you.”
Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you–and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.
Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide–even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.
The Heretic’s Daughter, Kathleen Kent:
Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha’s courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
(Read/ Rating: 5 of 5) The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.
Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.
(Read/ Rating 5 of 5) Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente:
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.
Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson:
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.
Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake:
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan:
In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her.
She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?