It’s that time of year again. This autumn has been spectacular – so many leaves of yellows and oranges and reds, like flames bursting from the trees. Bright days with just a hint of chill in the air. Cold enough to dig out your boots and scarves and blanket wraps, and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate of an evening.
I don’t know what it is about autumn, but it always puts me in a cozy, reading mood. Throughout the next few months, you’ll find me curled up on the sofa, tea in hand, cat on lap, nose in book, probably huddled under a blanket. But what am I reading this Halloween?
Let it be known that I am a bit of a wimp. This time last year, I read heaps of Stephen King, having never read anything by him before (I know, I know!). You can read all about my adventure here. I don’t like anything *too* scary, so my list is definitely for the faint-hearted.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Arguably the best book I’ve ever read, which is saying something. Meet Vicky, aka The Brat, and join her on her quest to rescue her son from the terrifying Christmasland. You’ll never be able to walk through The Range again.
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
Horns by Joe Hill
Yep, another Joe Hill book. What can I say? He’s great for Halloween. Horns is hilarious and just plain crazy. The film (starring Daniel Radcliffe, aka, bae 4 lyf) is also worth a look, especially if you fancy a laugh, but it’s nowhere near as good as the book.
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.
At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Approach with caution. Bird Box scared the living shit out of me. A brilliant yet utterly horrifying tale of epic proportions.
Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?
Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
No horror list would be complete without Stephen King. Pet Sematary is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read – made all the more creepier by King’s introduction, and explanation of how it was based on experiences of his own – and definitely up there as my favourite King book.
Sometimes dead is better….When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son — and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat. But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth — more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.
My Girl by Jack Jordan
Less horror, more horrifyingly fucked-up, My Girl is a terrifying thriller that will grip you from the outset.
Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.
She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.
Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?
Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.
But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
This is a lot of fun to read, as Oliva delivers a delicious twist on the popular apocalyptic wasteland story. The writing is fresh and enticing, and the story is probably everyone’s worst nightmare.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
More fantasy than horror, but with an apocalyptic twist.
Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.
With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.
This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
Like zombies? Like fresh takes on the over-done zombie theme? Then you’ll love this from YA writer Courtney Summers.
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a darker locale – populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it…
Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.
There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).
Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
Terrifying YA by a terrifying Irish man (just kidding, he’s a total sweetie. Don’t write me into one of your books!).
Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.
Could you survive the Call?
What will you be reading this Halloween? Let me know in the comments below!