Do you like to read scary books around Halloween? In this post I'm going to briefly talk about my favorite spooky novels and why I recommend them. (Pictured is most of my collection. Sequels not included due to lack of space.)
First, I should say: I don't like to read books, or watch movies, with strong horror . . . meaning anything that's really gruesome, graphic, or terrifying. I will never see Saw, and I won't be opening Bird Box. But I don't mind getting lost in a little mild horror, a la Pan's Labyrinth. I think Dracula (book/movie) is fangtastic, and I fur sure love The Wolf Man--the movie starring Benicio del Toro; I own the book adaption but haven't read it yet, forgot to include it when taking that picture. Oopsie.
Some of these books can't really be classified as horror, but they all have a monster of some kind in them. Here we go, from top left to bottom right:
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is my favorite adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. The "Belle" in this book (Harper) might not be a bookaholic but does have smarts and spunk. She's led a difficult life, and also has a disability that she doesn't let limit her . . . something I truly admire. We need more books with hero(in)es who persist despite disabilities! The book also gives a different take on the Beast, and it's a good one IMO. Don't want to spoil it. There's a third major character who absolutely stole my heart as well, but again, staying away from spoiler territory. The sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, is fantastic too. It has its own "underdog" heroine, whom I admire greatly and also identify with.
By These Ten Bones by Clare B. Dunkle is an incredibly atmospheric YA werewolf novel that partly inspired mine. It takes place in Medieval Scotland, though, so it has a totally different setting from the one in Hunter's Moon. The main character in BTTB is Maddie, a fifteen(?)-year-old girl living in a tiny, remote village in the Scottish highlands. Traveling merchants come to town, and one of them is a handsome but mysterious young man who doesn't speak but has incredible talent at woodcarving. Maddie soon finds out he's got a secret that would get him immediately killed if it came to light, and she becomes his helper and protector. They fall in love, but the curse that he's under means they can't be together. Until Maddie finds out there IS a way to break the curse. But she may have to pay the ultimate price to do so. . . . I've read this book about ten times; almost every October I pick it up again, because it is SO good. It's also a very different take on werewolves and has a great theme of sacrificial love.
Painter of the Dead by Catherine Butzen . . . hehe, I just had to plug my company's newest book. But we wouldn't publish it if we weren't all wrapped up in it!* It's a mummy romance, which there really aren't very many of, and it's an adventure story full of history and magic with another strong heroine who, like Maddie and Harper, saves her love interest. Yay for strong heroines! Butzen has clearly done loads of research on ancient Egypt, and she also describes Chicago and its museum scene with intimate familiarity, which makes you feel like you're there. Main character Theo (Theodora) is a lovably quirky artist; I also love her snarky friend and colleague, Aki. He cracks me up, especially in the scene in his apartment. All right, time for this plug to be pulled. . . .
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice . . . do I really need to describe this book? Doesn't everyone already know what it is and how awesome it is? It's such a classic, and this post is getting long. . . .
Bloodlist by P.N. Elrod is the first book in the Vampire Files series. The main character is a vampire living in Chicago in the Roaring '20s. He runs a nightclub and his BFF/roommate is a British detective who I think is very charming. These books need to be made into movies so I can hear his accent out loud! ;) Our heroes have frequent run-ins with the mafia, and the main character even steals one of their girlfriends. Love it. These books are fun and atmospheric and exciting, and it's been years since I've read them (I discovered them back in high school) and I really need to reread them!
Field of Blood by Eric Wilson is the first book in the Jerusalem's Undead trilogy. Wilson brings us a unique, Biblically inspired take on vampires: his are demons inhabiting bodies that were buried in the field where Judas Iscariot hanged himself and spilled his blood. The cursed blood of the infamous betrayer seeped down into the catacombs and allowed the demons to reanimate and possess the bodies. They're after a girl named Gina who doesn't know her father (at the beginning) or that he isn't exactly human--and thus, neither is she. If you love edgy speculative fiction with a Christian worldview (but it's not up-in-your-face Christian or preachy), then read these books! Wilson has some other excellent ones too, like Expiration Date and Dark to Mortal Eyes, that are loosely connected to this trilogy.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith . . . hehehe, this book looks awesome and I've heard it's hilarious, but I haven't actually read it yet. I just read some of its reviews, though, and it's a mixed bag, averaging 3.9 stars. Someone gave it to me, and I want to read it when I have time. Have you read it? What did you think?
Hunter's Moon, obviously, is mine . . . my firstborn book baby! If you're here, you may be a fan and have already read it. :) Yay, you're awesome, and thank you!! <3 If you haven't, well . . . you should read it, and buy a copy for all your friends, LOL!!! But on a serious/informative note: the werewolves in it are like the kind in Harry Potter and The Wolf Man and By These Ten Bones, not the kind that have fun as wolves like in Twilight. My werewolves are humans suffering under a painful curse that messes up their lives, and the main character (Melanie) is desperate to find a cure so she can get back to her normal college life. . . . Okay, I'll pull this plug too. ;)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling is my favorite of the series, and is another book that inspired mine. In fact, HM started out as an HP fanfiction. (It sucked. And had a different title, and you'll never find it. Bwa ha ha!) Aaaanyway, my favorite HP character, Remus Lupin, plays a major role in Prisoner of Azkaban, and I like Sirius a lot too. The Marauders--minus Wormtail--are my favorites. And POA is in the "sweet spot" of the series; Harry's maturing, Rowling has really hit her stride, but it's before all the really bad stuff starts to happen. . . . *sniffle* I also love that Rowling includes a theme of how you shouldn't judge marginalized people and if you get to know them, you may find out that they're wonderful and you can learn a lot from them.
. . . Okay, we've arrived at the last one--yay! Kudos to you if you're still here!
Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan is incredibly well-written and atmospheric. Klavan's fiction and nonfiction are both sublime (I have to mention how much I love his memoir The Great Good Thing). His writing voice puts you under a spell, pulls you into the story and you can't get out and never want to! From the title, you can guess the main character of this book is a cop; he gets bitten by a werewolf, and it's also the cursed type, although IMO not quite as terrible as in some books, and it helps him hunt down a truly evil gangster he and his partner are after. The characters are well-developed, it's atmospheric, it has a nice twist, and Klavan has a flair for describing things and people in unique ways.
Whew, done!! I hope you enjoyed this list and have a fun, safe Halloween! I think my city is still doing trick-or-treating; our county has had a really low number of COVID cases despite being near a big city. But I don't think I'll be handing out candy this year, just in case, since I'm high-risk and still mostly staying at home. Oscar and I will probably watch some kind of spooky flick--he's not a fan of hardcore horror either--like my favorite vampire movie, Daybreakers. (It's excellent, and you should watch it. There, I plugged a film for the movie-lovers!)
You know what? There's one more book I just thought of that would be great to read at this time of year: Bargaining Power by my friend Deborah J. Natelson. It's not horror per se, but it is a fantasy thriller with at least one weird, creepy creature in it, not to mention two cannibalistic children--though it's focused on a secretary-turned-spy who's trying to keep her country's king from being assassinated. It's intelligent, action-packed (with moderate-to-strong but not gratuitous violence), and has a smart & strong heroine and a very well-written plot that will keep you guessing. It's guaranteed to be like no book you've read before.
P.S. - Check out Deborah's video about her top 10 favorite vampire books.
* Are you catching all these puns?? :) Puns are the best, IMHO...tep. :D :D :D I gotta tell that one to Catherine!!
Sarah Awa lives in Ohio with two hairy guys and writes books about werewolves.