Thursday, October 24, 2019

Abby and Liz Recommend Spooky Books


A Quick Reminder About What the Stars Mean:
1 Star-Hated it, 2 Stars-Disliked it, 3 Stars-Soft Like, 4 Stars-Hard Like, 5 Stars-Loved it

And these are general quality/enjoyment ratings not specifically "amazing writing style" or "contains only moral excellence" or "I promise you personally will feel the same way," they're just overall ratings.

Abby: Well hello everyone! My little sister and I thought we'd do a collab for you today. We've got a list of good books to read around Halloween: everything from lightly spooky and atmospheric to true crime to horror/thriller. We've got some new releases, some tried and true classics, and some titles you probably never knew were books before they were movies. We tend to be of the opinion that you shouldn't know too much about a scary book going in, so we're only going to provide short teasers and Expect You to Take Our Word For It *Cackling*.

In case you get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options we're about to present to you, we're going to give you our top recommendation up front.
It's short. It's a classic. And it's creeeeppppyyyy.

                                      The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Published 1948) *5 Stars* 

Recently made into a Netflix series, which neither of us have watched, this book is the Standard in haunted house stories. It's an absolute horror classic, and if you don't read Anything Else from this post, Liz and I both agree, you should read this. It's about a group of supernatural experts who take a holiday in Hill House in order to study it. And bad things happen. Obviously.
Do Not Read Alone In The Dark.

Spooky Young Adult Fantasy 

                   The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)    
                                   A Drop of Night

Abby House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Published August 2019) *4 Stars*
A nail-bitey retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this fairy-tale adaptation is briny and chilly and full of ghosts(?) and nightmares and pretty dresses and dancing slippers. It revolves around what may or may not be a deadly family curse, a suspicious death, and a wicked(?) stepmother. The seaside atmosphere of this book is fantastic; you can just Smell the salt. The plot wasn't the Greatest Ever, but it was a good time, and I recommend it for anyone who loves the fairy tale and the sea.

Abby The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (Published October, 2019) *5 Stars*

Vampires in post-civil war New Orleans. That's all you need to know. Booktube is raving about the resurgence of vampires, and I think they have a right to. I wouldn't say this book is scary, it's just vampires. And murder. No biggie.

Abby The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (Published January 2018) *4 Stars*

Dark fairy tale characters come to haunt the granddaughter of the woman who published their stories? Yes. Sign me up. This book examines the relationship between happy fairy tales and dark fairy tales, and between stories and reality. It's not scary exactly, but the deep-deep-woods-fairy-tale tone is unsettling and perfect for the season. Sequel arriving in 2020!

Liz The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayn (Published 2016) *4 Stars but only because they're not all by Stefan*

This is a collection of creepy, unsettling stories. Some of them are quiet and unnerving, but others will stick with you for years to come. I may be biased (I’m not biased), but Stefan Bachmann’s stories are clearly the best ones.

Liz and Abby A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachman (Published 2014) *5 Stars* 

I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a literary crush on Stefan Bachmann. Why would you say that? This book was amazing. It's about a group of kids studying an underground palace in France. Creepy stuff happens. I don't remember the rest it was kind of a blur. You should read it. 

Adult Thrillers

Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter Series #1)

Liz Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Published 1990) *5 Stars*

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie. Okay, put it down now, no one cares. Everyone’s seen the movie. But have you read the book? Have you read it, huh? Yes, the movie was good, but *transforms into raging bookwyrm* *breathes fire* the book was better. From the slow build, where everyone ignores vital details until the problem has progressed out of control, to the dramatic climax, the story is both an adventure in blind terror and an essay on cruel mathematics. I love how it calls us humans on our arrogance in assuming we can play God by controlling every aspect of our environment.

Liz Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (Published 2009) *5 Stars*

Most of you are familiar with Hannibal Lector. More specifically, most of you are familiar with the movie The Silence of the Lambs. But what some of you might not know *cough* Abby *cough* is that the character of Hannibal originated in a four book series, of which The Silence of the Lambs is the second book. Red Dragon is the first, and if you’re tempted to skip it to get to the action that is Silence, you’d be missing out. This book has it all: a serial killer you sympathize with, smart cops, impending doom, and so much more. And while Clarice is amazing, and I would never say otherwise, you haven’t experienced Hannibal until you’ve seen him reflected in Will Graham.

Liz I’m A Therapist And My Patient Is Going To Be The Next School Shooter by Dr. Harper (Published January 2019) *4 Stars*

If you are familiar with the thread /r/nosleep on Reddit, then you’ll know it’s a forum where people commonly post fictional horror and everyone pretends that it’s real, because it’s more fun that way. (Unless… *checks over shoulder* Unless it /is/ real.) Obviously, with threads like that, you have to wade through some junk, since everyone and their uncle are free to post, but you can find some really cool story concepts as well. That’s where I’m A Therapist And My Patient Is Going To Be The Next School Shooter originated, before the author self-published it and its sequel. While it is not perfect, and the sequel has even more plot holes and weaknesses, it is twisty and fascinating and references the dark web and sugar free Haribo gummy bears and everything else that’s a true nod to Reddit. What’s not to love, I ask you?

Abby Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (Published 2017) *5 Stars* SECONDED BY LIZ
Holy Crap. Is what I said when I finished this book. This is a magical realism novel with lucid dreaming and mysterious strangers. So good, though I will warn you that the plot turns on an extramarital affair. But trust me, no part of this book is suggesting that an affair is a good thing that will take you lovely places. Not at all. Not. At. All.

Stephen King Novels

                Needful Things  The Shining (The Shining, #1)  

Liz Needful Things by Stephen King (Published 1992) *Five Stars*

This book, guys. While everyone, including Abby, is getting distracted by mainstream Steven King books like It *Abby, don’t hit me, there are witnesses*, some of his other stories get overlooked. But seriously, you need to read Needful Things. It is, first and foremost, about greed. Is there something you need, more than anything else in the world? Is there one thing that can make your life perfect? You can buy it at Needful Things, for a price. Here’s the catch: maybe you didn’t know you needed it before, but once you see it in the shop window, you will be willing to do anything to acquire it, and anything to keep it, and when you have it in your possession, you will be so terrified of losing it that your life will fall to ruins.

Liz The Shining by Stephen King (Published 1980) *Five Stars*

Speaking of mainstream Stephen King books, The Shining is also pretty good. Of the books on this list, this one has the most spiritual horror, so if that’s something you shy away from, then be forewarned. When Jack brings his wife and son, Danny, to the Overlook Hotel, which they will take care of over the winter, they expect nothing bad to happen. But the Hotel is sentient and evil. It has fixated on Danny, and it will use anything, even Jack’s addiction, to claim him. In typical Stephen King fashion, the horror in this book comes less from the outside influences themselves, and more from the worst they bring out in the characters. P.S. The Shining's sequel, Dr. Sleep, has a movie that's hitting theaters soon.

Abby It by Stephen King (Published 1986) *Four Stars*
At the risk of quoting my own Facebook statuses...
I was terrified to pick this book up, both because I've heard horrible things, and because it's So Much Book. But honestly it wasn't that bad. I mean it was. But it wasn't.
Also I had to constantly lay it upside down when I wasn't reading because the cover was too scary.
I have issues.                   **Trigger Warnings for Everything**
Once you get through 1,000 pages of well-written documentation of the filth of the human condition the book is SHOCKINGLY Hopeful. There were a couple plot points that made me angry, and I wish they weren't there, but I'm not Stephen King, and no one asked me to help edit this book before it hit presses in 1986 before I was even born (I know, Rude). This is a book about a monster that's been living in the sewers of Derry, Maine for decades if not centuries. It comes out to play (*tear people to pieces*) once every 27 years or so, but this time the Loser's Club of Derry believes they've defeated it. Except they haven't. King tells this story in constant time-jumps from kids-fighting-It to grown-up-kids-fighting-It with interludes of other vile moments in Derry's history.
I would only recommend this book to those with reasonably strong stomachs and enough security in their own faith and morality to descend into the sewers of humanity (literally and metaphorically) and admit that the scariest thing living in the world is NOT INTER-DIMENSIONAL SHAPE-SHIFTING CLOWNS but human beings. But if you're willing to take it on, I promise it's worth it. So much to think about.
Real Life Scary

Liz Obviously we’ve been talking about fiction so far, but if you want some truly disturbing material (in case Stephen King isn't enough for you), you only have to look at real life. Here are some true crime titles to freeze your blood.

                                The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery   The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story

The Man From The Train by Bill James (Published 2017) *Five Stars*
I’ve talked about this one on my blog before, but it bears repeating. This is a chilling work of research. Bill James has taken a string of brutal ax-murders from the twentieth century, discovered additional murders that were never linked, and come up with a possible name for the perpetrator. Even if he is wrong (which I don’t think he is, but then again, I’m not a detective), his research is still impressive.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (Published 2011) *Five Stars*
A lot of you are very familiar with Ted Bundy, but maybe some of you don’t know that the popular true crime writer Ann Rule knew Bundy before he became infamous. (I didn’t.) It’s probably bad that I’m geeking out a little about this, but I like firsthand accounts, and I like books by people who know what they’re talking about, and this one sits in the middle of that Venn diagram.

Christian Thrillers


Abby But seriously, we really tried to bring you some Christian thriller recommendations. We both picked up Frank E. Peretti novels since Peretti is allegedly the Stephen King of the Christian Publishing World. But we did. not. like. what we read, and can't recommend it. We found the plotting poor, the spiritual aspects problematic, and the characters, particularly the female characters, flat.  We're not saying that all Christian thrillers are low-quality, we're just saying that we have yet to find any worth recommending, sorry. We do share an opinion that Christian thrillers tend to make a poor parody of the Powers of Darkness in an attempt to create jump scares. We find this concerning.

If you'd like to take our word for it, go ahead and avoid:

                                House (Movie Edition) by [Peretti, Frank]   Monster

I read House by Frank E. Peretti and Ted Dekker, and found the portrayals of demons, rednecks, women and retarded humans, to all be so problematic (for various reasons) that I gave this book 1 star out of sheer disgust. Liz read Monster by Frank E. Peretti, and found it both less problematic and less entertaining. She DNFed it, and she didn't rate it. It was simply not well plotted, in her opinion, which I trust or I wouldn't have invited her to collaborate on this post!

Speaking of...

Give it up for Liz, everybody! She had far more to bring to this post than I did, because she reads way more scary books than me. *Shocker* We actually had to cut a bunch of her recommendations for space, so if you're looking for more adult thrillers or true crime novels, hit her up, okay?

Have you read any of these titles? Planning to pick up one or two in the next couple weeks? Strongly disagree with any of our opinions? Have any recommendations for us? Leave a comment! 
Oh and please direct all hate mail to Liz at 140 B***REDACTED***



  1. So I always want to get into scary books, but I'm also such a child. XD I'm a little better with scary things now, so I might give some of these a try. Such a great list! The Haunting of Hill House sounds good. A Drop of Night and House of Salt and Sorrows is definitely going on my tbr list. And I've always wanted to read Jurassic Park and wondered how the book was in comparison to the movie. I'm not quite sure I can step into the world of Stephen King just yet. XD

    Love this post!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, Drop of Night is a good entry point if you want to be scared, but you don't like being scared. Let me know what you think!! I think I'll be reading Jurassic Park in 2020!

  2. Glad I'm not the only person who hated House! I really need to read the Hazel Wood. I watched the old movie 'It' not sure if I would want to read the book or not, Stephen King is great though.
    Fantastic list!

    1. Thanks Skye! I haven't seen either of the It movies...and I really don't think I want to...I find it easier to read about things at my own pace then see them played out on screen.

  3. I NEED TO READ HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE! I haven't seen the Netflix version but I've seen the old black & white movie and it was (frustrating as most classics are but also) amazing. Thanks for the recs!