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Spooky Reads for Scaredy Cats

So I don’t like to be scared. I don’t like disturbing content, horror, excessive gore, blood, etc … but I do like witchy, atmospheric, spooky reads. Haunted forests are delicious. Creepy cabins that house wise “witches”. Ghosts and monstrous creature banishing, the odd, the unexplained … 

So for all those looking for a thrill and a chill, but want to avoid excessive triggering content, I offer you my recommendations for excellent October reads. Hey, if I can handle it, I know you can handle it! A little bit of everything from Literary Fiction to Middle Grade to YA … these are some of my favourite past “spooky-ish” reads for October. 

Check out this list of reads to ease into spooky season for more rec’s! 


Written by Rachel Harrison

Published by Berkley Books

I loved this story, just the right amount of contemporary, creepy, feminism, magic and witches. Small towns, lattes, festivals, haunted mansions, and a plethora of spiders … don’t worry, they’re nice … a funny, cozy story that focuses on the bonds of female friendship and the power of self acceptance.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Graveyard Book

Written by Neil Gaiman

Published by HarperCollins

Okay, the beginning chapter contains a wee bit of gore. But that’s it, I promise. And if you listen to Neil himself narrate the story, it takes on a quiet, relaxing tone … even with the content of said chapter! A story about a young boy who grows up in a graveyard and is raised by the ghosts that inhabit it, this is a surprisingly touching meditation on growing up and letting go, that actually had me weeping at the end! But it has plenty of ghosts, an evil man hunting down our main character, and a weird psychedelic trip to the underworld (not my fav part, admittedly). In short, it has it all.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock book coverThe Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

Written by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Published by Harper Perennial

This is not a Halloween spooky read by any means, but I add it here because it is for those that believe “house of oddities” and “strange things in jars” has a place in their spooky season reading. This is for literary fiction fans who enjoy a good chew of a book that combines historical fiction with creepy magical realism. The plot here is simple: On a chilly September night in 1785, the captain of one of John Hancock’s merchant ships returns after a lengthy delay at sea … with a mermaid. This mermaid is more Grimm’s than Disney – with sharp fans and creepy eyes. Against his better judgment he puts the mermaid in a tank and charges people to see her. The public is fascinated, money pours in, but so does madness as the power of the mermaid cannot be contained to her cage. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a weird, meandering, long and detailed historical fiction that travels from the brothels of 1700s London to high society to a strange mermaid exhibit.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

House of Salt and Sorrows

Written by Erin A. Craig

Published by Delacorte Press

This is an extremely popular YA novel that is a creepy retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set on a cold, rocky island. The oceanic setting adds such a sense of atmosphere in this story that, at its core, is a story of 12 sisters slowly being picked off, eldest to youngest, and our main protagonist is desperate to stop it. Haunted mansions, creepy oceans, romance. This is a really fun, October read.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Dark Days Club

Written by Alison Goodman

Published by Speak

Is it Young Adult or New Adult? … I can’t tell, but that this novel isn’t more widely talked about is surprising to me. I wonder if it hit just before the “regency craze” … looking at you, Bridgerton fans. Think Bridgerton meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Lady Helen realizes her ability to cast the demons infiltrating high society back where they came from, with the help of a certain, handsome Lord Carlston.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Clackity

Written by Lora Senf

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

A recent read, but a not to be missed read! When it comes to horror, I love a good middle grade. It keeps things on the delicious Goosebumps side of spooky without diving into the extraneous bloody detail that most gothic novels adore. Being a resident of the seventh most haunted town in America, Evie Von Rathe is used to ghosts. She lives with her aunt Desdemona who is an expert on the paranormal … but when she disappears into an abandoned slaughterhouse, Evie makes a “good deal” with a terrifying creature called The Clackity to get her back. Now travelling into an upside down world with a black sun and purple sky, Evie must battle through seven houses, each scarier and creepier than the last, and return the ghost of a serial killer to The Clackity! AHH! … it’s soooo spooky. You’ll love it.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Ophie's Ghosts book coverOphie’s Ghosts

Written by Justina Ireland

Published by Balzer + Bray

I simply loved this historical fiction middle grade with a paranormal twist! One terrible night in Georgia, 1922, Ophie’s father is killed, and she discovers she can see ghosts. Her mama and her move to Pittsburgh to stay with relatives and both get jobs at a grande manor … full of ghosts! At first she is reluctant to interact with the ghosts but Ophie eventually learns to help them, even befriending one. But this manor holds many secrets and not all ghosts have good intentions. The audiobook is absolutely excellent!

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Unlikely Animals

Written by Annie Hartnett

Published by Ballantine Books

Told from the main perspective of the dead in the cemetery of a small town in New Hampshire (and often within the minds of a fox and a dog), this story explores complicated family relationships, dementia, and the opioid crisis. A young woman returns to her small town after deciding against medical school, to reconnect with her estranged father whose dementia is advancing. Connecting them is their shared passion of finding her childhood friend. Everyone assumes that she simply died undiscovered of an overdose, but they believe differently. This story was absolutely charming and while the topics are heavy at times, there was always an air of lightness and humour. Is it spooky? … well we have talking ghosts and missing persons. I guess you’ll have to decide!

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Once Upon a River book coverOnce Upon a River

Written by Diane Setterfield

Published by Atria Books

If you’re a fan of historical fiction set in cozy 19th Century villages with a multitude of slowly connected characters, a lackadaisical pace, and a touch of gothic, you’ll happily curl up with Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon A River. On a cold wintery night, in a traditional English village pub, where people gather to pass the time through the telling of stories, a badly injured man crashes through the door carrying a dead girl and promptly collapses. Sometime later, the girl comes back to life, incapable of speech. Now the question becomes whose daughter is this – is she the lost daughter of Helena and Anthony Vaughn who was tragically taken one dark night? Is she the granddaughter of local farmer Robert Armstrong or maybe the lost sister of the local recluse Lily? The mysteries here are slowly revealed and the interconnectedness of the characters slowly builds together to a very satisfying result. While Diane Setterfield’s ornamented style of writing comes down to personal preference, her superior talent of characterization is undeniable.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Boneless Mercies book coverThe Boneless Mercies

Written by April Genevieve Tucholke

Published by Square Fish

I always recommend this knowing that for many, this could be one of their least favourite reads. Heck, I almost dnf’d it myself! Because it is slow slow slow … but if odd, dark tales slowly told are your thing and you didn’t mind the parts of The Lord of the Rings in which they wander through the forest and you are always game for some mythology and Viking-style violence … you’ll want to pay attention here. In The Boneless Mercies, Tucholke is able to maintain an ethereal, continual feeling of being told a spoken aloud folklore story. While definitely slow moving, there was always a real sense of atmospheric tension that kept me flipping page after page, just wanting to know where this would lead; completely wrapped up in the magic. The Boneless Mercies, an ancient all female sect, are responsible for killing the weak, the sick, and the old in this ancient Vorseland world. It is a brutal, lonely, exhausting work and Frey is ready to cast it aside. So when she hears of a murderous beast that is ravaging villages and leaving few survivors, Frey sees this as her opportunity to hand in her Mercy robes for a chance at independence, freedom, and glory. Together Frey and her tribe of three fierce female mercies – Ovie, Runa, and Juniper – and Trigve, their honorary male mercy and healer, will head on a cross country journey encountering evil Marsh witches, cruel Jarls, wolves with blood red fur, and witches of the sea before coming face to face with the Blue Vee Beast.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

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