Halloween Reading Recommendations: Short Story Collections

Me getting ready to recommend some books during my favourite time of year:

Since this is a book blog for all things creepy, kooky, mysterious and ooky all year around it is safe to say that I have quite a few Halloween reading suggestions. So I have decided to break them up into different posts. Today I will be suggesting my favourite short story anthologies to get you into the Halloween spirit. Short story collections are my favourite kind of book to read in October. You can just pick out a creepy story you are in the mood for and get through it in one sitting. Creepy reading in bite sized chunks.

So in no particular order here are 5 of my favourites

The Mammoth Book of Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories Edited by Richard Dalby

The Victorian and Edwardian eras were the golden ages of ghost stories. This bind up collection contains over 40 of the best and creepiest tales from the time period.

I own a rather battered copy of this book because it was one of the first ghost story collections that I owned and I like to read a story or two from it every October. This is perfect reading if you are a fan of Victorian or Gothic literature.

Did you know that it was a Victorian tradition to tell ghost stories on Christmas?

 

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

A collection of horror stories from one of my favourite horror writers, Joe Hill.

A lot of this collection is more strange than Halloween style creepy, but it still makes for good, dark October reading. It is Simpson’s Tree House of Horror levels of weird at times.

My favourite story in this collection is the title story, 20th Century Ghost. It is so sad! If you end up reading just one story from this collection it has to be that one.

 

 

 

Dark Water by Kōji Suzuki

I have been a little addicted to Japanese horror novels this year so of course one of them is going to make it onto this list.

Kōji Suzuki is the amazing author behind the very famous Ring series, and you might just recognize the title of this book from another famous Japanese horror film with an American remake, Dark Water.

This collection is beautifully eerie and wonderfully well written. Dark Water is a collection of horror stories which are all linked with the theme of water. I love when writers have a theme in their short story collections, because they can cover so many fears and genres just by focusing on one small thing. This is one of the best horror collections that I have read this year and if you are a fan of Japanese horror, you need to check this one out this month.

 

The Travelling Bag: And Other Ghostly Stories

This book is perfect if you want ghost stories that are not too scary. Susan Hill’s work is based on old Gothic literature so many of her stories follow the logic of Crimson Peak. “Just a story with a ghost in it, not a ghost story.” She uses ghosts and creepy things to shine light on the horrors of humanity.

This would make perfect reading for a dark October night with unpleasant weather beating at your windows. When you have read all of the original Gothic ghost stories pick this book up for some that have been written in a more modern time period.

 

 

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

I was tempted to add Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination on this list but I decided that he gets enough love in October so I should give this spot to another Victorian horror writer who doesn’t get enough love. Ambrose Bierce.

Ambrose Bierce was a generally strange person who wrote non stop throughout his life. His stories are grim, strange and many were laced with that brilliant Victorian dark sense of humor and irony. If you want a “comedy” story about a man being buried alive and then beaten to death with a shovel this is where you need to look.

Bierce is one of my all time favourite Victorian writers. I dare say that I enjoy him more than Poe sometimes.

So those are my top picks for Halloween horror anthologies this year. Tell me what your favourite short horror story is because I am always open to suggestions. What is your favourite Halloween read?

Advertisements

REVIEW: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.”

Review:

(Note: I have started adding links to the cover images in my reviews so you can add things to your GoodReads to-read list a little more easily) 

Is it possible to set a horror novel in IKEA? Apparently so.

This is a novel that has been on my radar for a long time. Every time I would search my library’s audiobook section for horror novels it would pop up. I was a little reluctant to read it. A horror novel set in a fictional version of IKEA sounded a little stupid, but then I had a change of heart. I went from finding it stupid to potentially brilliant. Could this idea be so daft that it works? Well, after reading it I can officially say, it does.

Horrorstör has all of the brilliant elements of the modern haunted house story but it is all set at night in a fictionalized version of IKEA. It is fast paced, has tons of creepy moments and doesn’t shy away from gory moments. It might be a little stereotypical at times but in a good way. I was expecting this book to read like a parody of the horror genre but it ended up being one of the better horror novels I have read this year.

I think one of my favourite things about Horrorstör is the characters. They are so relatable and recognizable. If you have worked in retail you have probably met at least one, if not all, of these characters before under different names as your co-workers. You have the girl who doesn’t want to be there, the middle aged single woman who LOVES her job and is very friendly, the uptight manager, the artsy 20-something girl with brightly coloured hair and the young 20-something nice guy. These are the people who are tasked with solving the mystery of what is happening in the store at night.

I loved this book so much that I am going to break my current book buying ban for it. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel but I have seen the physical copy online and it is designed to look like an IKEA catalog. That sounds amazing so I need my own copy.

Warnings:

Mild gore: Mostly broken bones and blood, mild horror.

Rating:

 

 

4 out of 5 Skulls

This is a solid horror novel and I think it would make a brilliant Halloween read if someone wanted a simple and fast paced creepy book. Lots of ghosts and threat, but nothing too offensive. An older teen or the usual YA reader could handle this one.

ARC REVIEW: I AM BEHIND YOU By John Ajvide Lindqvist

Synopsis:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:

“A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.”

Review:

Creepy, disturbing and confusing, I am Behind You is a novel that will keep you guessing.

When I first heard of this novel I automatically thought of one of the first Stephen King stories I read and that was The Langoliers. The Langoliers was a bit of a bust to me personally but I still liked the idea of a group of strangers waking up to find themselves suddenly cut off from the rest of the universe, so I hoped that this book would give me what The Langoliers was missing. Did it deliver on that front? Heck yes it did. In spades.

Not only did this book actually have the twist I wanted to see in The Langoliers but it also had something else, a creep factor. While Stephen King focused more on the human element with The Langoliers and that fell into a pile of nonsense at the end, I Am Behind You gives you both them human and supernatural element of horror. The characters start seeing freakish creatures and figures and they get increasingly worse and more horrifying as the book goes on.

The only real issue I found with this novel was the changing view points. Normally I am fine with a novel that changes character perspective but this book did it constantly. It meant that I found myself getting one or characters confused because they were similar.

I would say that this would make a great Halloween read. If you don’t want ghosts, and ghouls, but you want a disturbing adult novel that will get you thinking I would suggest picking this one up.

I Am Behind You is scheduled for release on the 7th of September. 

Rating:

 

 

3 out of 5

This is a pretty solid three out of five. I enjoyed this novel a lot but I dont feel quite right giving it four starts for some reason.

 

ARC REVIEW: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.

Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.”

Review:

Creepy dolls, ghost children and needles in eyeballs, what else would you want from a horror novel?

I read the first book Frozen Charlotte earlier this year and I was left dying for a prequel. I needed to know more about these creepy dolls. Where did they come from? Why did they want to kill people? Did I get what I wanted? Yes and no.

I got my prequel and it was just as creepy as I expected, but at the same time it was just a more detailed writing of events that were mentioned in passing in the first book. I enjoyed that but I would have liked a few more new things thrown in. That is the only negative thing I found about it. Other than that it was a brilliant read.

Even if a lot of it was a rehash of events mentioned in the last novel the book did have one new thing that made it stand out: A scary ghost. Yes the dolls are frightening but in this book there is also a ghost who visually is frightening. I am not easily scared but I wouldn’t want to see this ghost in person. I am not going to give spoilers, but ghosts who have their expression frozen like a death mask, especially when their death was horrible, are chilling. Imagine choking to death and your face being stuck like that forever. A pleasant image? No. Stuff of nightmares.

Also unlike the original book this novel contained a very realistic romance. I am not normally one for romance in novels but when it is realistic and isn’t getting in the way of the plot I can happily enjoy it. It was kept very to the side and was rather mature for the main romance in a teen novel and those traits made it rather sweet. If you aren’t big on romance you can enjoy this one without the annoying YA style love tropes being shoved in your face the whole time.

Warnings:

Will frighten younger readers, horror, threat, gore, animal cruelty and abuse.

Rating:

4 out of 5

I LOVED this book almost as much as I loved the first one. I would happily say that an adult would enjoy this simple horror read if they wanted something quick to fill an upcoming October night with. The perfect addition to anyone’s Halloween to-read list, but I would say, read the first book first, but that is just common sense.

Dark Reads of the Month: July

July was a mixed month for reading for me. I blame the sunshine. I read 6 books this month but none of them were books that I planned to read because I kept getting distracted by pretty short story collections and rereads. At least I had a great time.

I will have a few interesting new releases for you next month because Random House and a few other publishers have sent me a small pile of upcoming horror releases to read. I am sworn to silence about some them until the start of September. Just in time for my next Dark Reads of the Month. The rest will have to wait until October.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


I know I promised to read Cujo this month but I ended up rereading a different book about a killer dog instead. I am pretty sure I have read this book ten times already.

I picked this for this list because even though Sherlock Holmes is not a gothic character many of his stories contain elements that are found in gothic literature. It is like the plot of a gothic novel is happening around a non gothic character. If you haven’t checked out the Hound of the Baskervilles yet you need to. It is easy to follow even if you havent read any other Sherlock Holmes stories previously, as this was published when Sherlock was canonly “dead”, and secondly Doyle sucks at timelines. The stories are all over the place and some are even openly flashbacks.

Random fact: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was so bad at remembering his own story details that James Moriarty has a brother called James.

Some day I will stop being a living Sherlock Holmes ad, but this is not that day.

Dolly by Susan Hill


“The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward’s equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone.”

This was another reread. I didn’t really enjoy this book the first time I read it but I ended up loving it the second time around. I think when I first read it I was expecting more creepy horror but got gothic literature instead which I wasn’t in the mood for at the time. Sometimes you just need to come back to a book later with a different mindset. If you didn’t know already, Susan Hill is the writer of The Woman in Black.

The only real flaw that I found with Dolly is that it is billed as a ghost story but isn’t a ghost story at all. Yes it is horror but more in the usual vague gothic literature sense of horror. If you read a lot of gothic literature you will know the sort of vagueness I am talking about. A simple and enjoyable story about how someone’s internal ugliness will always find its way outside.

Travelling Bag by Susan Hill


I loved Dolly so much that I ended up reading a second Susan Hill book right after it.

The Travelling Bag is a collection of short gothic ghost stories and they are some of the best I that have read in a long time. I will admit that they are not the most inventive stories but they are sweet and simple. Sometimes you just need a straight to the post ghost story to flick through on a summer’s night or to add to your upcoming Halloween reading list.

One of the best things about Susan Hill’s writing is that her stories cover various time periods. Some stories are obviously set in the past, while others are more modern, and some are simply timeless with no obvious time period. My favourite story in the collection was Alice Baker. A ghost story set in a modern office work place. There is something special about a gothic story being set in modern times. They are usually all about old manor houses and people in billowy dresses, not an office building.

If you havent checked out Susan Hill books yet you are missing out.

So what was the best book you read this month? Leave me a suggestion I am always open.

As always feel free to add me on Goodreads  to keep up to date with what I am reading throughout the months, and follow me on Instagram @Belle_and_Books , where I post photos of whatever I am reading and my various adventures, like eating sandwiches in cemeteries. Seriously though…

…Cemetery Sandwiches.

ReReading Goosebumps: Monster Blood

“While staying with his weird great-aunt Kathryn, Evan visits a funky old toy store and buys a dusty can of monster blood, It’s fun to play with at first. And Evan’s dog, Trigger, likes it so much, he eats some! But then Evan notices something weird about the green slimy stuff it seems to be growing. And growing. And growing. And all that growing has given the monster blood a monstrous appetite…”

It has been a while since I last reviewed a Goosebumps book. Don’t worry, I still have a large stack of them to read my way through.

I had no memory of this book when I started it. When it came to Monster Blood I remembered more of Monster Blood 2 because of the killer hamster. That thing was plastered all over the merchandise in the 90s and as I child I loved hamsters. Monster Blood 1 I had no memory of.

I had low expectations when it came to this book. Lets face it, it is about two kids who buy a questionable tub of that slimy goo you always wasted your pocket money on as a kid and horror ensues. What could you possibly do with that? It sounds like a rather dull idea, and a giant ad for that pocket money eating goo.

I can say that I got what I expected from this book. It was probably one of the most uneventful Goosebumps book I have read so far. It didn’t have the scare factor of Welcome to Dead House and wasn’t as eventful as Say Cheese and Die. But it did have something those books didn’t: A twist ending.

Yes, Monster Blood actually had a pretty decent twist at the end that I didn’t see coming at all. Well done RL Stine. I am glad that I kept reading until the end. Goosebumps has been out for years but I am still not going to spoil the ending, just in case. This is still a spoiler free blog even when it comes to books that have been out for 20 years.

This was a very tame book horror wise so I would say that this book is suitable for any child who wants to brave a Goosebumps book. I doubt they will have nightmares, unless they have an extreme fear of green slime. With hardly any threat, no death and a relatable premise, Monster Blood is a safe read for all young ages.

Did you read the Goosebumps series when you were a child? Tell me about it. Which book gave you sleepless nights?

TBR Spotlight: YA Horror

As some followers know normally I am not a fan of the YA genre. When it comes certain elements YA can be cheesey or straight up annoying, but there is one subcategory of YA that has surprisingly has never let me down so far and that is YA Horror. Yep, the usually neglected horror genre is a bright light in an age genre that is usually full of bland chosen ones, corny red flag romances, poorly thought out fantasy worlds and on going plagiarism battles. If you havent picked up a YA Horror novel you need you. They are usually easy to read and generally short novels. So, without further ado, here are 6 YA horror novels that have made it to my To-Read list.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

About:
“You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.”

The Girl from the Well is a novel based on Japanese folklore and horror. This book is probably one of the books at the top of my to read pile due to my obsession with all things Japanese horror related. It sounds like The Ring with some vigilantism thrown in, what’s not to like?

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

About:
“Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.”

What first drew me to this novel was that it has the same title as a favourite film of mine. (Shutter 2008 or 2004. Both the American and Thai versions are brilliant if you want a horror mystery film to watch) This book and the film are not related in the slightest but the matching titles were enough to make me read the blurb. At first I was put off by the use of the name Hellsing because I am sick of that trope by now but the mention of spirit photography kept me interested. Spirit photography is a bit of a hobby of mine as I like to collect old and new spirit photos. They are creepy and are like playing Where’s Wally with a ghost. Maybe I should write a post sharing my favourite photos some time, but that isn’t book related…but I guess it would be if I reviewed this novel.


The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

About:
“Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”

Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary – and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.”

When I read the blurb of this novel my first thought was “What the hell is going on?” It sounds confusing but in the way a mystery should be. I am also interested in how the story is made up of reports, testimonials, the diary and video footage. I want to see how they will tie all of that together to make the story.

Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

About:
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

I have heard a lot about this book and apparently it is a diverse horror read. I have been wanting to read more horror from other cultures so this book is right up my ally. Also I have heard that it contains a cult of some kind and that just adds to the creep factor.


Ten by Gretchen McNeil

About:
“It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?”

I will admit, this book sounds cheesy but sometimes you need a cheesy slasher book. This book reminds me of films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream. Sometimes you just need stupid teenagers running around being offed one by one until the killer is revealed. Mindless, violent and probably fast paced.

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

About:
“Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.”

I love when the blurb of a horror novel teases the fact that the whole thing could just be in a characters head. That sort of things always makes for a thoughtful read and reminds me of The Haunting of Hill House. (Another book you should really check out if you haven’t already) Where did the aunt go? What is the deadly legacy? And why is the cousin hearing voices? These are all questions I want an answer to.

Have you read any of the books mentioned above? If so let me know what you thought of them. Or suggest a good book. They don’t have to be horror or thriller, they can just be on the dark side.