I had good intentions to get this stack posted up earlier in the month, but it always seems I don’t get around to them until the 2nd week of the month. So far my reading for November is going pretty slow. I managed to read less than 100 pages over the last 4 days, which isn’t like me. I thought I would have a less busy month now that the weather is cooling down, but nope!
I’ve managed to finish 2 books so far this month, BURNT OFFERINGS and THE PUSH via audio. I’ve also started 5 other books because well, it’s me and that’s what I do! I’m tackling FIRE & BLOOD, which will likely stretch over this month and next. I’m also slowly reading bits from MONSTER, SHE WROTE and listening to parts of DANSE MACABRE here and there. For regular choices I’ve decided on REPRIEVE, which I’m finding to be quite interesting, and just picked up INVISIBLE GIRL for my commute audio this morning.
What books are you excited for this month? I’m equal parts nervous and thrilled to have BOOK OF ACCIDENTS in my stack. I’m thinking once I finish my books I rolled over from October (CLOWN IN THE CORNFIELD and THE ELEMENTALS) I’ll get started on it!
BURNT OFFERINGS by Robert Marasco: Ben and Marian Rolfe are desperate to escape a stifling summer in their tiny Brooklyn apartment, so when they get the chance to rent a mansion in upstate New York for the entire summer for only $900, it’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. There’s only one catch: behind a strange and intricately carved door in a distant wing of the house lives elderly Mrs. Allardyce, and the Rolfes will be responsible for preparing her meals.
But Mrs. Allardyce never seems to emerge from her room, and it soon becomes clear that something weird and terrifying is happening in the house. As the suspense builds towards a revelation of what really lies behind that locked door, the Rolfes will discover that their cheap vacation rental comes at a terrible cost . . .
The basis for a classic 1976 film adaptation and an acknowledged influence on Stephen King’s The Shining, Burnt Offerings is one of the most original and scariest haunted house novels ever written. This edition, the first in decades, features a new introduction by award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones.
THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain: Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.
But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.
Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.
Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.
FIRE & BLOOD (A Targaryen History #1) by George R.R. Martin: Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen–the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria–took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.
What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel’s worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley–including five all-new illustrations exclusive to this edition. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.
DANSE MACABRE by Stephen King: From the author of dozens of #1 New York Times bestsellers and the creator of many unforgettable movies comes a vivid, intelligent, and nostalgic journey through three decades of horror as experienced through the eyes of the most popular writer in the genre. In 1981, years before he sat down to tackle On Writing, Stephen King decided to address the topic of what makes horror horrifying and what makes terror terrifying. Here, in ten brilliantly written chapters, King delivers one colorful observation after another about the great stories, books, and films that comprise the horror genre—from Frankenstein and Dracula to The Exorcist, The Twilight Zone, and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers.
With the insight and good humor his fans appreciated in On Writing, Danse Macabre is an enjoyably entertaining tour through Stephen King’s beloved world of horror.
REPRIEVE by James Han Mattson: A chilling and blisteringly relevant literary novel of social horror centered around a brutal killing that takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room—a provocative exploration of capitalism, hate politics, racial fetishism, and our obsession with fear as entertainment.
On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.
Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.
An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.
MONSTER, SHE WROTE by Lisa Kroger & Melanie R. Anderson: Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.
Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.
Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.
INVISIBLE GIRL by Lisa Jewell: Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.
In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.
Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.
Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.
THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS by Chuck Wendig: Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.
HOUSE OF HOLLOW by Krystal Sutherland: Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.
Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.
As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.
The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.
THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN (Wayfarers #4) by Becky Chambers: With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.
At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.
When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.
THE ELEMENTALS by Michael McDowell: After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier — and is now ready to kill again . . .
CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD by Adam Cesare: Quinn Maybrook just wants to make it until graduation. She might not make it to morning.
Quinn and her father moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs to find a fresh start. But ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.
Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.
MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones: Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.
My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph
HOUR OF THE WITCH by Chris Bohjalian: Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
THE HIDDEN by Melanie Golding: One dark December night, in a small seaside town, a little girl is found abandoned. When her mother finally arrives, authorities release the pair, believing it to be an innocent case of a toddler running off.
Gregor, a seemingly single man, is found bludgeoned and left for dead in his apartment, but the discovery of children’s toys raises more questions than answers.
Every night, Ruby gazes into Gregor’s apartment, leading to the discovery of his secret family: his unusually silent daughter and his mentally unstable wife, Constance, who insists that she is descended from the mythological Selkies. She begs Ruby to aid in finding the sealskin that Gregor has hidden from her, making it impossible to return to her people.
DS Joanna Harper’s investigation into Gregor’s assault leads her to CCTV footage of the mother-daughter pair from town. Harper realizes she knows the woman almost as well as she knows herself: it’s her estranged daughter, Ruby. No matter the depth of Ruby’s involvement, she knows she will choose her daughter over her career.
CHASING GHOSTS by Marc Hartzman: Ghosts are everywhere—whether you believe in them or not. Every town has its local legends, and countless books, movies, and TV shows are haunted by their presence. But our obsession with ghosts runs deeper than we know—and is embedded in the very fabric of American history.
Writer and historian Marc Hartzman dons the mantle of tour guide, taking readers on a fascinating journey through supernatural history, including:
• The Fox Sisters and the rise of Spiritualism
• The supernatural obsessions of famous figures like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
• Famous haunted sites like the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia and the LaLaurie House in New Orleans
• Famous ghosts like the Bell Witch of Tennessee and the Greenbrier Ghost of West Virginia
• Paranormal investigators like Ed and Lorraine Warren
Deeply researched and highly entertaining, with archival images and black and white illustrations, Chasing Ghosts will satisfy believers and skeptics alike.
Disclosure: A huge thank you to William Morrow, Doubleday, Crooked Lane, and Quirk Books for sending me free copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.
Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.