So fun story. I usually wait until the third week of the month to post my round-up, since I’m often still reading things I want to tell folks about. I was running a touch behind on polishing this post this month because of dayjob business, so it was actually going to be the week of. No problem, I had time, I could do it.
Then I got Covid Round 2 and all that went out the window. So here, a week into November, is your spooky Reading Round-up. Hopefully you’re still interested in horror. There are stories on here that are a little less hardcore (for people who want a tiny sip of horror) and stories that have a lot more questionable content, so I’ve tried to include warnings where appropriate for common issues folks might have trouble with.
Cackle by Rachel Harrison
This is the first book by Rachel Harrison I’ve read. Overall the best description I have of this book is simply delightful. It was creepy and nuanced, featuring the classic New England town with the classic ostracized but respected New England witch. Despite that, I honestly wasn’t sure how this book would end. Content warnings for vomiting, more specifically the vomiting of objects that no one swallowed in the first place. So if you’re not down for that, skim those sections — they are not the majority of the book but they are definitely there. Overall I really enjoyed it, and consider it on the lighter side of the Halloween spectrum. (Horror, Urban Fantasy)
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
I’ve finally gotten to Due! This book reminded me a lot of Wild Seed but I honestly preferred it to that text. The story follows a woman and her husband. She’s an investigative journalist, he’s a wonderful husband and father. But he has a very deadly secret, one that will ultimately destroy both of them. This book has a high body count, explicit depictions of slavery and child mortality, and the dog dies. It pulls no punches. But it’s a fascinating, engrossing page-turner, and if you’re here for horror you should definitely read it. (Horror)
Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Like many, I have really loved The Locked Tomb trilogy, though it took me a while to get into it. Muir is constantly surprising me as a writer, testing the boundaries of what we are typically “supposed” to do with story and story structure. Nona the Ninth, the third book in the series, is no exception. The book follows Nona, a new character who may be wearing a familiar skin. For most of the novel you’re not sure who Nona is, except that she is childlike and lovely, full of innocence in a world that is actively imploding. The whole story takes place in a city under siege and a planet that may be about to be eaten, so there’s a lot of bad going on around Nona, but she herself is fundamentally optimistic. Content warnings in this book predominantly for eating disorders, specifically anorexia. (Horror, Science Fiction, Adventure)
Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis
This book is a collection of short stories and offers some lighter but still holiday-appropriate fare. The main character is a mad scientist who can animate metal, who has moved in next door to a necromancer who quickly offers an alliance. It’s full of jaunty magic, Victorian fashion, misunderstandings and revenants. This is the book on the list that is the most approachable for folks who may not like as much edginess in their work, but still hits all those Halloween highlights. Content warning for parental abuse, largely verbal. (Romance, Steampunk)
“My Heart Struck Sorrow” by John Hornor Jacobs
I finished A Lush and Seething Hell this month, and this novella was part two of that book. While it was spooky and compelling, I can’t say I loved this novella. The novella tells the story of two men separated by time, both of them distinctly morally gray sorts. One is a widower dealing with the guilt of having cheated on his wife before her death. He finds the journal of a man who was traveling the US collecting folk songs in the 50s and who encountered something dark and esoteric. Things get pretty weird. Content warnings for.. pretty much everything, actually. There is child death, sexual assault, alcoholism, and murder to contend with in these pages. (Horror)
Hide by Kiersten White
This was my first book by this author, and it’s very well-written. A group of strangers are all accepted for a reality TV show event of hide and seek — but it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that the cost of losing this game is death. It’s an engaging premise made even more so by the abandoned theme park setting. Each of the characters are distinct and the author jumps through their interior monologues seamlessly. That said, I had a lot of feelings about this book, specifically brought on by the dedication at the end and the corresponding note from the author. They didn’t detract from my enjoyment and I don’t precisely disagree with the sentiments, but you should be aware going in that this novel is, according to the author, specifically thematically meant to be engaging with the rash of school shootings across the US and the ongoing lack of gun regulation. I think the book does successfully capture the frustration and immorality of living in a society that continuously sacrifices the future of its youngest citizens for the sake of some perceived luxury of the oldest and wealthiest elite, as well as the terror of being forced to hide and be still when something is hunting you. (Horror)