With Halloween being ona Monday this year, I know I will be spending the night reading a spooky book and giving out candy to 100+ trick or treaters. This inspired me to put together a list of short and/or fast-paced books that I thought would be perfect to read on Halloween!
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
Number of Pages: 248
Her Body and Other Parties is probably my favourite short story collection and I think it is perfect for Halloween. I could see myself reading these stories throughout the day and being haunted by them. It has been years since I read this collection and I still think about many of the stories within. My favourite stories are The Husband Stitch, Inventory, Real Women Have Bodies, and Eight Bites, so if you don’t have time to read the entire thing on Halloween, those are the ones I would recommend checking out.
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
Number of Pages: 243
Is there anything better than reading a graphic novel on Halloween? I try to choose a different graphic novel to read every Halloween morning, but Mooncakes is the one that I often turn to. It is so sweet and charming and perfectly fall. It is also a standalone, so it is not a huge commitment. It is a love story between a witch and a werewolf, but there are so many important themes that are explored. I just adore it!
Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.
Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
Number of Pages: 287
There’s Someone Inside Your House has pretty low ratings on Goodreads, but I had a fun time with it. It is one of those books that you cannot take too seriously and reads like a teen slasher movie. Don’t get too hung up on figuring out who the killer is or trying to understand their motives because I think that is where the disappointment comes from. Just go with it and have fun! Loved the audio of this and think it would be the perfect book to listen to while giving out candy to trick-or-treaters!
Quinn Maybrook just wants to make it until graduation. She might not make it to morning.
Quinn and her father moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs to find a fresh start. But ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.
Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.
Number of Pages: 346
The last half of Clown in a Cornfield is everything that you want from a teen slasher, but you do have to trudge through the first half in order to get there. I thought there was too much setup here especially since I think anyone who picks this up is here for the clown killer, but it is worth it in the end. This is campy and fun and gory and almost reads like a parody. The killers’ motives were over the top, but I think that was the point. I read this in a day and almost wish I had saved it for Halloween since clowns are my biggest fear!
When Elton Irving turned Holly Liddell into a vampire in 1987, he promised her eternal love. But thirty-four years later, Elton has left her, her hair will be crimped for the rest of immortality, and the only job she can get as a forever-sixteen-year-old is the midnight shift at Taco Bell.
Holly’s afterlife takes an interesting turn when she meets Rose McKay and Ida Ripley. Having also been turned and discarded by Elton—Rose in 1954, and Ida, his ex-fiancée, in 1921—they want to help her, and ask for her help in return.
Rose and Ida are going to kill Elton before he turns another girl. Though Holly is hurt and angry with Elton for tossing her aside, she’s reluctant to kill her ex, until Holly meets Parker Kerr—the new girl Elton has set his sights on—and feels a quick, and nerve-wracking attraction to her.
Number of Pages: 256
The Lost Girls made me realize what I look for in these YA paranormal stories. I want them to be campy and something that I won’t take too seriously. This book delivered! It truly is John Tucker Must Die with vampires and I had a good time. This is another one that I read in one day and would recommend reading if you are looking for a vampire story with a touch of romance. There is also found family, which I loved!
One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?
The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.
When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.
Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.
Number of Pages: 342
Don’t Look For Me is one of the longer books on this list, but it is fast-paced and I do think you could get through it in a day, especially if you listen to it on audiobook. I listened on a walk and I was thoroughly creeped out but I could not stop. It is the kind of thriller that makes your heart race because you are following the victim and wondering how they could possibly survive.
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
Number of Pages: 187
I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the Wayward Children series, but I do appreciate the prequels and Down Among the Sticks and Bones is by far my favourite. I think it can be read as a standalone and the length and setting make for the perfect Halloween read.
Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.
Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairytale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.
Number of Pages: 208
I don’t even know how to begin to describe Follow Me to Ground. This is for a very specific type of reader- you have to be into weird body horror. If you want to read something on Halloween that you will continue to think about throughout the day and maybe give you strange dreams, this is the book for you.
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think—she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
Number of Pages: 218
Middle grade makes for perfect one-day reads, but they can also be pretty creepy, as Small Spaces proved to me. Katherin Arden is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and she certainly knows how to write atmosphere. If you weren’t scared of scarecrows before, you definitely will be after this one!
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.
Number of Pages: 146
Now is the perfect time to read We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson. It is a classic for a reason and it really got under my skin. It reads quickly but will haunt you all day long.
When a guest dies in the B&B she helps her aunts run, a young witch must rely on some good old-fashioned investigating to clear her aunt’s name in this magical and charming new cozy mystery.
For four hundred years, the Warren witches have used their magic to quietly help the citizens of the sleepy New England town of Evenfall thrive. There’s never been a problem they couldn’t handle. But then Constance Graves–a local known for being argumentative and demanding–dies while staying at the bed and breakfast Brynn Warren maintains with her aunts. At first, it seems like an accident…but it soon becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at work, and Aunt Nora is shaping up to be the prime suspect.
There’s nothing Brynn wants more than to prove Nora’s innocence, and it hurts her to know that even two years ago that might have been easier. Brynn, after all, is a witch of the dead–a witch who can commune with ghosts. Ghosts never remember much about their deaths, but Constance might remember something about her life that would help crack the case. But Brynn hasn’t used her powers since her husband died, and isn’t even sure she still can. Brynn will just have to hope that her aunts’ magic and her own investigative skills will lead her to answers–and maybe back to the gift she once thought herself ready to give up forever.
Number of Pages: 336
In the Company of Witches has officially become one of my favourite cozy mysteries! The fact that our main character is a witch makes it the perfect Halloween read. It is charming and delightful and magical and our main character can talk to ghosts. It is just a good time!
A tranquil village.
A poisoned cupcake.
A murdered vicar.
A simple case – or it should be. But all clues point to the Toot Hansell Women’s Institute, and Detective Inspector Adams is about to discover there’s much more to the W.I. than bake sales and jam making.
Alice Martin, RAF Wing Commander (Ret.), and current chair of the W.I., knows the ladies of the Women’s Institute are not guilty. But she has a bigger problem. Toot Hansell has a dragonish secret, and she needs to keep the police well away from it. And she’d really rather not be arrested for murder. Again.
Meanwhile, Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons and survivor of the days of knights and dragon hunts, knows even better than Alice that the modern dragon only survives as long as no one knows they exist. But he also knows friends don’t let friends face murder inquiries alone. Beaufort fully intends to Get Involved.
This investigation is about to take on dragonish proportions.
Best put the kettle on.
A funny cozy mystery (with dragons), for anyone that likes their mysteries gentle and well-stocked with cake, tea, and friendship. And dragons, obviously.
Number of Pages: 312
I have been recommending Baking Bad a lot lately simply because I want everyone to read it. If you are looking for a cozy with more fantasy vibes, read this one. It has all of the cozy mystery tropes but with dragons and I loved every single second of it.
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
Number of Pages: 176
I fell down a T. Kingfisher rabbit hole this year and I cannot complain. What Moves the Dead is my favourite horror of hers so far and it is the perfect length. If you are looking for something like Mexican Gothic but is much shorter, this is the book for you!
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.
Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.
Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?
Number of Pages: 272
Certain Dark Things is my favourite adult vampire novel and everyone needs to read it. If you have been wanting to try something from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, I think this is a good place to start. Her take on vampires is so original!
Everyone knows what happened to Alva’s mother, all those years ago. But when dark forces begin to stir in Ormscaula, Alva has to face a very different future – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…
Number of Pages: 300
Hold Back the Tide is my favourite YA horror novel and it makes me want to read more monster stories. Do you have any recommendations?
Welcome to Autumncrow Valley, where every night is Halloween. Enjoy your stay! But first, a few words of warning: Stay out of the forest. Never venture out after dark. And don’t stare too long into the shadows… you may not like what you see. Have a pleasant visit. We hope it won’t be your last…
Number of Pages: 169
I will be reading Autumncrow this Halloween. It is a collection of short stories set on Halloween and is available on Kindle Unlimited!