NOTE: This is a guest article written by horror writer J.A. Sullivan. She has been a great friend of Effective Nerd since the beginning of the website. Enjoy!
Bookish Halloween Treats
From ardent horror fans to those with only a glimmer of interest in the genre, October is the time of year when we all have an appetite for the macabre. Spiders, ghosts, and zombies take over quiet neighborhood lawns. TV screens glow with scenes of haunted houses, low-lying mists, and creatures from our darkest nightmares. And, if you’re anything like me, there’s a pile of books with fantastically creepy covers sitting beside your candy.
While I am a complete horror movie junkie, reading is how I first fell in love with all things spooky and that love has never waivered. There’s something magical about sitting, wrapped up in a cozy blanket in your favorite chair, and drinking in dark words that transport you into dreadful situations. So, when Aaron was looking for some guest content to celebrate Halloween, I immediately knew I wanted to share some of my most cherished horror reads.
Since we all have different tastes, I wanted to present a variety of bookish suggestions, and asked my fellow reviewers at Kendall Reviews for some of their top picks. Not all these stories take place during this unholy holiday, but they all capture that Halloween feeling. Now, get comfy, turn the lights down, and find your next terrifying tale.
J.A. Sullivan’s Book Recommendations
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
In the witching hour of a late October night, a carnival arrives in a small Illinois town. Best friends, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, are at first wonderstruck by Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, but are soon terrified as they witness the true cost of granting wishes. This is my favorite Bradbury work. His words are poetic and delicious in this coming of age story, and I return to it often. Here’s a brief excerpt as a taste:
“…Beware the autumn people…For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind.”
Tunnels and Other Stories by P. J. Blakey-Novis
Serial killers, mysterious objects, haunted houses, things that scratch in the night, and other deadly encounters await the reader on every page of this short story collection. “Trick Or Treat” was one of the best stories and perfect for this time of year, following a group of teens daring each other to knock on the neighborhood haunted house. Once inside, two mysterious boxes appear, one containing tricks to be performed and the other fills with rewards after the task is completed. Beyond the creepy setting and disturbing tricks, there’s a great depiction of peer pressure and that awkward phase we all go through in adolescence. Blakey-Novis is a talented indie author, and I highly recommend checking out any of his works.
Recommendations From Other Creators
If my suggestions don’t tickle your fancy, try these picks from my fellow book reviewers.
A. S. MacKenzie [ Twitter ] suggests: The Pine Deep Trilogy by Jonathan Maberry. The series starts with Ghost Road Blues, then Dead Man’s Song, and finishes with Bad Moon Rising.
I’m pretty much a sucker for all things Maberry, but this series, Ghost Road Blues in particular, really showcased his ability to take a generic concept and make it his own. It follows an ancient evil vampiric thing, an undead killer, ghost of a blues musician, worshipping sycophant, a couple of ordinary guys, and one exceptional eleven-year-old boy. Yet, somehow it all turns into a story that doesn’t feel like a string of Halloween tropes. Fast paced, personal, exciting, creepy, and fun. Maberry won the Bram Stoker Award for Ghost Road Blues and he earned it.
Becca Futrell [ Twitter ] suggests: Kinfolk by Matt Kurtz
I have been singing Kinfolk’s praises since I devoured it earlier this year. When it comes to disturbing and very uncomfortable visuals, Kurtz nails it. There are some images from Kinfolk that I still remember so strongly, and let’s be honest, I wish I could bleach them from my memory. However, I loved this book for every ounce of discomfort it gave me. Kinfolk is a perfect read for those who enjoy the cannibalistic family horror sub-genre (i.e. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes). However, be warned that there is an extreme and graphic rape scene in the first chapter. If you can get passed that, then you’re in for a treat with the rest of the gore-filled and action-packed ride that Kurtz takes you on.
Michelle Enelen [ Twitter ]: Halloween Fiend by C. V. Hunt
C.V. Hunt takes the Halloween tradition of a small town and turns it black. Makes you wonder what you’d do if it was after you. Fight or feed the monster, only you can decide, because the rest of the town has grown complacent. Of course, they don’t take Halloween as personally as you do, after all it was your mother Halloween ate, wasn’t it?
I liked Halloween Fiend by C.V. Hunt because the story made you feel like a kid, but the tradition was all wrong. It made you look at the town, your family and inside yourself because the answer isn’t anywhere else. It’s a good, short Halloween treat, tart like a caramel apple, but beware. You may find it sticks to you, longer than anticipated.
Steve Stred [ Twitter ]: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
“She was awakened by the monster knocking at the door.”
The Only Child by Andrew Pyper starts with my all-time favourite opening line in a book.
The reason I am recommending this book is that it has it all.
The story follows a forensic psychiatrist who works in one of New York’s toughest facilities. One day a patient arrives who tells her he is the basis behind Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Victor Frankenstein’s monster. She is obviously skeptical, but when he breaks free and leaves her clues to follow, she finds herself propelled by some internal force to follow.
Pyper weaved such a gem of a book that it’s really sunk its hooks into me, even so long after reading it. The descriptions are detailed and lush, to the point that when I looked on Google Earth I found it was exactly how I was picturing it and as always Pyper develops characters like nobody else.
Highly recommend this for existing Pyper fans or for people wanting to read one of his books for the first time!
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About J.A. Sullivan
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could. Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology, and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
What are your favorite Halloween Books?
Are you a fan of horror literature? What are your favorite books to read during the Halloween season? Let me know on social media!