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Spooky Season Selections

Halloween is almost here, m’dears! I recently had the chance to do some traveling and get caught up on four horror/Gothic/spooky adjacent books from my TBR (To Be Read) list/mountain, and I want to share the bounty with you. We’ve got YA, we’ve got adult, we’ve got vampires, tree creatures, parasites, and more! So grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket and settle in for some spooky reads. Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas From the publisher: Vampires and vaqueros face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western from the author of The Hacienda.  I loved The Hacienda. I reviewed it for this blog back in 2021. And once again, Isabel is teaching me Mexican history via horror novels. This time the setting is 1840s Mexico near the Texas border. While The Hacienda was full of Gothic elements, VoEN is much more character Read more »

Book Review | Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

From the publisher: Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company. It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

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Book Review | A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan

From the Publisher: Remy and Alicia, a couple of insecure service workers, are not particularly happy together. But they are bound by a shared obsession with Jen, a beautiful former co-worker of Remy’s who now seems to be following her bliss as a globe-trotting jewelry designer. In and outside the bedroom, Remy and Alicia’s entire relationship revolves around fantasies of Jen, whose every Instagram caption, outfit, and new age mantra they know by heart.

Imagine their confused excitement when they run into Jen, in the flesh, and she invites them on a surfing trip to the Hamptons with her wealthy boyfriend and their group. Once there, Remy and Alicia try (a little too hard) to fit into Jen’s exalted social circle, but violent desire and class resentment bubble beneath the surface of this beachside…

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Book Review | Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

From the publisher: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

With a film adaptation releasing last week on Netflix, now is as good a time as any to (re)visit Samanta Schweblin’s 2017 novel Fever Dream, particularly given that we’re right smack dab in the middle of Spooky Season. Her concise but powerful work is indeed one of the creepier books to release in the past few years, if somewhat unconventionally so. It opens with a young mother named Amanda awakening in a clinic. She doesn’t know why she is there, she can’t see, she feels like worms are crawling all over and inside of her body, and she is being implored in whispered tones to “remember” and “go back to the…

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Book Review | Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From the publisher: An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . .

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has written quite a few novels, but this is the first of hers that I’ve read. I’m glad I read it, and it was a quick read, but it wasn’t blow-your-mind-amazing. It was predictable, pulling from many of the gothic foremothers and forefathers, but that set this up to be a softer texture of spooky. I wish I would have saved it for a cool fall evening, so if you’re reading this and I end up convincing you to read Mexican Gothic, please do yourself a favor and wait until it’s at least below 65 degrees and you have hot cocoa and flannels handy…

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Book Review | The Upstairs House by Julia Fine

From the publisher: In this provocative meditation on new motherhood—Shirley Jackson meets The Awakening—a postpartum woman’s psychological unraveling becomes intertwined with the ghostly appearance of children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown.

The Upstairs House is Julia Fine’s second novel, although it’s the first of hers that I’ve read. But by golly, I’m going to go pick up her first one now because this was so hard to put down, it should have been titled anti-gravity (get it? Because I couldn’t put it down?). Fine’s depiction of early motherhood and postpartum psychosis is stomach-churning and it feels so real–I’ve never had kids, never really wanted kids, and yet I felt a connection to this…

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Book Review | Basketful of Heads by Joe Hill

From the publisher: #1 New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill asks, “With a cursed Viking axe, what can you accomplish?” and June Branch is ready to answer!

It seems like Joe Hill is everywhere lately: his graphic novel series Locke & Key was adapted on Netflix, with the next season expected later this year. His novel NOS4A2Basketful of Heads, Hill returns to the graphic novel format for this horror gore-fest that reads like a combination of Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino.

June comes to Brody Island to visit her boyfriend Liam, who’s just finishing up a summer internship with the local police department. June’s peaceful visit is interrupted though…

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