Halloween Reading List 2017

Someone (and I’m not sure if she wants to remain anonymous, so I’ll edit her name in if she’d like me to) suggested I do a general “book recs for Halloween” post. I think that’s a great idea. Yes, I know it’s NOT EVEN OCTOBER YET, but some of my suggestions might take time to track down, so I’m posting now in case anyone is inspired to seek out a used copy.

The List

  1. The Society (Forbidden Doors #1)
  2. The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1)
  3. Halloween Night
  4. Halloween Night II
  5. Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1)
  6. My Best Friend’s Exorcism
  7. Shallow Grave
  8. Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows

The Books

The Society (Forbidden Doors #1) calls for a digression: you know how sometimes you buy one or two items that have a “theme” of some kind, like a cow-shaped creamer and then some cow-patterned oven mitts, and then your friends and family make up their mindsocietys somehow that “Hey, she collects cows!” and suddenly you’re INUNDATED with cows. Everyone who sees a cow-ish knickknack immediately thinks of you, and as far as everyone else is concerned their gift-giving dilemmas are solved forever, and meanwhile you’re not even sure why you’re drowning in cows.

A while ago I reviewed a Christian-themed “horror” novel, and now people keep reccing other Christian horror series to me. I have gone from not even knowing these existed to personally owning books belonging to three separate series of them. Yikes.

Not gonna lie: this book, and the series to which it belongs, rank high on my “weirdest things ever read” list. I wasn’t raised by Evangelical Christians, so I’m not in the target market. Still, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise of the book, it’s fun and kind of creepy. The premise—that the people who own “New Age” bookstores belong to sinister societies and are heavily invested in forcing people to remain part of the group once they attend a meeting—is kind of a big ask, but once you get past that it’s fun, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into a different set of fears than are usually found in children’s/YA horror.

chilling adventures of sabrinaFollowing more logically than you might expect, The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1) gives us witches, and they’re the ACTUAL EVIL WITCHES of 1960s horror paperbacks: nothing harmless and well-meaning here. There’s rampant selfishness from parental figures, and blood sacrifice of innocent people, and it’s all horrifying and compelling. I’ve pre-ordered volume two (I may possibly have pre-ordered it twice, by accident).

Arguably everything I review on this blog belongs on a halloween nightHalloween rec list, of course, but I’ve made a deliberate effort to mostly skip listing the sort of vintage YA horror I recap all the time. One of my exceptions is Halloween Night, though (along with the sequel, halloween night 2Halloween Night II), because they’re both perfect examples of R. L. Stine and perfect “setting the mood” Halloween books. Provided, you know, that the mood you want to be in is “murderous rage directed at my cousin.”

Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1): The first volume of this series is the only one I’ve read, but I liked it well enough to immediately order the next three volumes. corpse party 1

It’s a grisly horror story set in a school (which is itself located on the site of another elementary school, torn down after a teacher’s death), and while I love all horror story school settings, this book has even more fun with it than usual. Right from the first lines I was hooked, because the haunted school is an elementary school, so it starts with “it was a dark and stormy…late afternoon,” and the dire warning that the ghost appears if you stay at the school after seven p.m. Ha. Seriously, isn’t that pitch-perfect for a haunted elementary school?

Mild warning: whoever drew this is under the impression that schoolgirls have larger breasts than is biologically or gravitationally likely. I wasn’t offended, but I did roll my eyes often enough that I’m lucky they didn’t get stuck that way. If that sort of thing gets to you, you may want to give it a miss.

my best friend's exorcismI love My Best Friend’s Exorcism so much that I have literally bought MORE THAN ONE COPY for MORE THAN ONE FRIEND. That’s right: I bought it for people, then fell in love with the paperback cover and bought it for THE SAME PEOPLE all over again. I’m not saying they have restraining orders out, I’m just saying I’d understand it if they did.

This book is epic and broad and sweeping. All the best and worst of the 80s is contained, or at least hinted at and summoned up to haunt you, in this book. It has my favourite exorcism scene of all time.

It also has a pet death, which I know makes it a hard NO for some people. That was the only scene I wish could be rewritten, because I am not up for sudden SAD when I want to feel nostalgic-yet-terrified. But other than that, it’s one of the most fun books I’ve read in the past year.

The Orca Currents books are designed for struggling or reluctant readers who have YA orca shallow gravelives and interests but don’t have the reading skills to go along with that. So they’re complex stories told simply, with surprisingly rich characters. Think “Degrassi” or “Bluford” and you’ll kind of get the moral and emotional tone of many of these books.

Before you dismiss these because you aren’t a struggling reader (or someone who works with struggling readers): I’m the readeriest reader that ever read, and I literally devour orca zombie scarecrowsOrca Currents by the handful. They’re stunning examples of controlled plot and “show don’t tell,” all deployed in fewer pages than seems possible for the sheer amount of character they offer. Curious yet? Shallow Grave is very much a traditional ghost story, set in the immediate present. It’s so Canadian you can hear the waves against the dock, I swear. On a somewhat lighter note, Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows features a kid trying to make a horror film for a class project, and stumbling across a murder plot along the way.



Nicholas Pine: Lights Out (Terror Academy #1)

Lights Out was more of a straightforward murder mystery than anything supernatural. So was Sixteen Candles, but Night School, which I’ll be reviewing next, has an actual vampire in it, so I’m hoping the series isn’t just “could possibly happen in real life” thrillers.

lights out

Like so many teen horror novels of the 80s and 90s, this feels like it’s taking place in the 1950s. Continue reading “Nicholas Pine: Lights Out (Terror Academy #1)”

Nicholas Pine: Sixteen Candles (Terror Academy #3)

Sixteen Candles sounds like such a sweet title, it struck me as an odd choice for inclusion in a horror series. But it works.

sixteen candles

I knew who the killer was, unfortunately, right from the beginning. But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.(And I’m going to be blunt about who the killer was, so SPOILERS BENEATH THE CUT). Continue reading “Nicholas Pine: Sixteen Candles (Terror Academy #3)”

J. R. Black: Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? (Shadow Zone #2)

Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? is kind of The Baby-Sitters Club meets Goosebumps. The main character, Annie Dubinski, is like an even-more-sporty, less business-oriented Kristy Thomas. Best friend Lily has Claudia’s hair but a lot of Mary Anne’s personality, only with two over-protective parents instead of one.

guess who's dating a werewolf

The answer to the title question, before I forget, is “Annie’s older sister Sara.” Sara’s painted as a little bit boy-crazy, but not in a way that makes that seem wrong, just…she’s a little older than Annie, a little less sport and outdoorsy, and therefore a teensy bit annoying to Annie. Continue reading “J. R. Black: Guess Who’s Dating a Werewolf? (Shadow Zone #2)”

Jay Bennett: The Haunted One

I don’t even think I can write a recap of The Haunted One; I think I’m just going to do a chronological list of how much I hate each and every character in this book except Joan (run, Joan, run: do not stick around to date the horrible main character) and possibly Jean (the main character’s sister).

(Aside from Joan and Jean we also have Jody and Jane. I’m not making this up. I think the writer was actively trying to make me hate this book.)

To be fair, the book was gripping enough that I didn’t rage-quit it, and it was well written. Unfortunately it was well written in that style that gets called “beautifully written,” which in this case means characters in this book feel a lot of deep emotions very vaguely and for no discernible reason. It’s like if Jonathan Franzen somehow pulled Holden Caulfield into the real world and reproduced with him. Continue reading “Jay Bennett: The Haunted One”

J. R. Black: Scream Around the Campfire (Shadow Zone #10)

This is one of two middle-grade series books called Scream Around the Campfire (the other one is a Graveyard School book).

scream around the campfire 2

Gina and Frank Giardelli, eleven-year-old twins, have been sent to Camp Slumbering Pines for the summer. Gina hates it. She feels invisible because all the other campers know each other, she thinks of the place as Camp Dork, she gets scared by a raccoon, and the girls in her cabin prank her by hiding a garter snake in her bag and shaking a baby rattle so she’ll think it’s a rattlesnake.

Gina is a city girl, unappreciative of all this nature. She also doesn’t appreciate Stacey, the Continue reading “J. R. Black: Scream Around the Campfire (Shadow Zone #10)”

Bryce Gibson: The Reading Buddy

The Reading Buddy is a new release, so as usual when I discuss new books, I’ll be doing a general review instead of a spoiler-laden recap. I like to try to give new books a little breathing room so they can find their audience.

reading buddy

Like the books by Paul Philips that I’ve been reading, this feels very much like a vintage Point Horror or Fear Street novel, with one exception (and this applies to Philips’ books too): instead of vague “craziness,” used to dismiss homicide or whatever, there’s a specific mental health issue (in this case, social anxiety; in The Housewarming Party, depression), presented intelligently and with empathy.

As much as I can roll with the 80s/90s style of dealing with the issue (unrealistically, for the most part), I have to say, it adds some realism to have characters who’re able to describe mental health issues 1) in a way that makes sense and 2) that arise out of events, and make future events make sense. And horror just works better when the world is believable.

The Reading Buddy has a lot going on, most of which I can’t discuss without spoiling things. There’s a murder in the background, which far from being over and done with still informs the main character’s reactions (seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas, who lost both his best friend and his stepfather in one horrific night). There’s the menacing reading buddy from the title, an online relationship Blake acquires at the urging of his therapist as a sort of first step as he eases his way back into social relationships. There’s Blake’s father, and weirdness surrounding his relationship with Blake’s (long deceased, and before that, divorced) mother. And there’s the girl next door, whose relationship with Blake is more complex than he realizes…

I virtually inhaled this book. I started it before bed last night, and got up and finished it this morning. It’s very readable, obviously. Things that I initially worried might be loose threads got picked up as the story progressed, which was satisfying.

This is definitely one for fans of classic YA horror, and I’ll be reading the author’s earlier book, as well as whatever he writes next.