Our favorite Halloween candy? Books, of course
Compiled by Shannon Purdy Jones
October is finally here, and we’re ready for jack-o-lanterns, jeans and maybe even a little pumpkin spice. Halloween will bring all things ghoulish and ghastly. Accordingly, we’ve compiled a collection of spine-tingling, gut-clenching, shadows-under-the-stairs-creepy new releases. And we’ve got something for everyone: From chainsaw-wielding horror vets to those who just want to watch Practical Magic on repeat for the entire month. No tricks here, just deliciously readable treats that go perfectly with spiced cider.
My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Gallery/Saga Press, $26.99) Seventeen-year-old outcast Jade Daniels lives in her own world. Half Blackfoot Indian, she was born to an abusive father and an absent mother, and yet she finds solace from an unlikely source: slasher flicks. Jade amuses herself by narrating the quirky history of her town, Proofrock, as if it, too, were a horror movie. But when blood actually begins to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, predicting exactly how the plot will unfold. Think Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th but with a triumphant twist.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Berkley, $26) In horror movies, the “final girls” are the ones left standing when the credits roll. They made it through the worst night of their lives . . . but what happens after? Like his bestselling novel The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Hendrix’s latest is a fast-paced, frightening and wickedly humorous thriller about six girls in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, working to put their lives back together. From chain-saw massacres to summer camp slayers, this novel pays tribute to some of our favorite horror films — and cleverly subverts them.
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow & Co, $9.99) In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has an incubation period of an hour or less. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying while quarantines are put in place. Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-30s, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Having been bitten by the same infected neighbor who bit and killed her husband, the clock is ticking for her and her unborn child. Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile and chaotic landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares.
Dream Girl by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, $28.99) Injured after a freak fall, novelist Gerry Andersen is confined to a hospital bed in his glamorous high-rise apartment, dependent on two women he barely knows: his indifferent young assistant, and a dull, slow-witted night nurse. Late one night, the phone rings. The caller claims to be the “real” Aubrey, the alluring but absolutely fictitious title character from his most successful novel, Dream Girl. Could the cryptic caller be one of his three ex-wives playing a vindictive trick after all these years? Or is she Margot, an ex-girlfriend who keeps trying to insinuate her way back into Gerry’s life? And why does no one believe that the call even happened? Isolated from the world and drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and a dreamlike state in which he is haunted by his own past. Chilling and compulsively readable, Dream Girl touches on timely issues including power, agency, appropriation and creation. The result is a superb blend of psychological suspense and horror that reveals the mind and soul of a writer.
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $15.99) One bisexual virgin baker with a curse? Check. A witch who avoids romantic entanglements at all costs? Check. Enough chemistry between them to cause literal sparks? Check, check. Danica Waterhouse, co-owner of Fix-It Witches, is a fully modern witch. After a messy breakup that involved way too much family feedback, Danica and her cousin make a pact to keep their romantic affairs hidden from the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Three blocks down from Fix-It Witches lives Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past 30 and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone. That is, until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. For her, he’s a firebomb thrown into the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever? This adorably witchy rom com is like Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls.
Other notable Halloween reads: Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar (Gallery Books $28); A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (Unnamed Press, $17); The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (Tor Nightfire, $27.99). OH
Shannon Purdy Jones is store manager and children’s book buyer at Scuppernong Books.