Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.
Today is a Halloween Freebie, so following on from last year, here’s another list of creepy/spooky books, perfect to read as the nights grow shorter. Also like last year, this list is horror and horror-adjacent (aka creepy, but probably not sold as horror.)
1. DREAD WOOD, by Jennifer Killick
This year we are kicking this list of with some Middle Grade Horror! DREAD WOOD is the first book in a new series by a prolific MG horror writer that follows four children who find themselves in school on Saturday for a detention. Only to find that things on the school grounds are more certainly not right.
I loved how this book combined the common “ugh, school” and then gave a reason for really not wanting to go there (beyond just detention on a weekend!) And now I want to go and read her other MG horror books!
2. HIDE, by Kiersten White
The first adult book by a prolific YA writer, HIDE is about a hide and seek competition in an abandoned theme park (always creepy!) that doesn’t quite seem to be all it says it is. Strict NDAs aside, mysteriously vanishing competitors is not the norm!
This book strikes a brilliant balance between an omnipotent narrator who sees all and knows all, and also controlling information so that the sense of dread builds as there is just enough information withheld to really make it feel like there’s something out there stalking them, but not what or why.
3. THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES, by Fiona Bartlett
THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES is a dual timeline horror set in woods where a demon is rumoured to live. A group of parliamentarian soldiers flee into it after an ambush and are never seen again. In the modern day, a group of researchers head in on their trail to try to find out what happened all those centuries ago.
Another book that makes such good use of the feeling of being stalked rather than focusing on what is after them. Strange things happen in these woods, and finding out what happened in the past and getting out to tell the world are two very different tasks…
4. JUNIPER AND THORN, by Ava Reid
JUNIPER AND THORN is Ava Reid’s second book, a gothic horror rather than the fantasy of THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN. There is no quest to prop up or undermine a tyrannical king to be found here. Rather the book is one of close confines and suffocating entrapment in an industrialising city while something stalks the city leaving bodies in its wake.
This book is one that lingers on the uncomfortable aspects that society would like to brush out of sight, forcing you to confront them, with a biting, lush prose. It delves into the line between monstrous and angry.
5. WAKENHYRST, by Michelle Paver
Another gothic entry for the list! WAKENHYRST is a book about fear, superstition, and guilt, and how they can feed on each other to create a monster that may or may not be real. The book is set at the turn of the 19th-to-20th centuries in a grand old, isolated house where strange things are happening…
This is a book that, I think, can be read either as more of a horror or as more of a psychological examination of the subject matter, depending on what stance you take early on about the various happenings. Two book experiences in one depending on your inclination!
6. THE DEVIL MAKES THREE, by Tori Bovalino
THE DEVIL MAKES THREE is Tori Bovalino’s debut, a contemporary horror/fantasy about two students who accidentally find an ancient book that contains a devil, and let said devil out. And then the devil tries to claim them.
This is a book the plays between psychological and visceral horror – though it’s never gory. More like usually harmless objects take on much more sinister (and very visually so) characteristics that makes them that much more unnerving. If they do that in the book, what’s to say the item on your desk couldn’t suddenly try to kill you?
7. ONE DARK WINDOW, by Rachel Gillig
ONE DARK WINDOW is a gothic fantasy. It’s not a horror exactly, with gore or psychological elements, but it’s so atmospheric, dripping dark, dangerous unease that’s niggling the back of your mind throughout.
It is set in a world where mist encroaches on the land, triggering fevers that infect people with forbidden magic. The magic that is allowed is a great card-based magic that anyone can use but has teeth with dangerous consequences for the user – and also is used to harm others.
8. THE HAUNTING SEASON anthology
THE HAUNTING SEASON is a series of eight short stories about various ghosts and possessed houses. The authors are all really big name authors (I believe all British), and have different takes on the idea. Most are historical, which I really liked
The stories are on the longer side of what you usually see in anthologies, as there are only eight, and I really liked that. There’s much more time to sink your teeth into a story and world. Plus, with gothic tales like these, more time is good as it allows for more atmospheric set up to make the reveal of the haunting and its purpose a better pay off.
9. EQUINOX, by David Towsey
EQUINOX is an autumnal murder mystery set in a very inventive world that very quickly descends into creepy then into full on apocalyptic.
The central premise in this book is that two souls inhabit the same body, one awake during the day and one the night. The two souls have their own relationships (day person may not be married to the equivalent person at night, for example) but it also makes crimes hard to untangle and police. The main characters are a detective/artist paring in the same body and leads to a great, creepy investigation.
10. PARTING THE VEIL, by Paulette Kennedy
PARTING THE VEIL is a deliciously slow-burn gothic puzzle box of a book. A young American inherits a fortune and comes to England to claim it, only to fall for the neighbouring lord (who has something of a reputation but no one will say what.) After her marriage, she starts to realise that there are spirits in the house and her husband is not who he seems.
The mystery in this is so good, with many twists and turns that feel like homages to the classics while being completely its own thing. Not to mention the marrying of mortal and supernatural evil so Eliza is up against a lot of dangers.
What spooky books would you recommend for darker nights?