Spooktober: Books Based On Your Favourite Halloween/Horror Creatures

When it comes to Halloween everyone has their favourite supernatural creatures, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy them within the context of horror books. For that reason, I thought it might be fun to bring together books based on some of the more popular monsters & creatures. For variety purposes, I’ve tried to include a mix of different books – YA/Adult, genres, tones, etc.

As usual, let me preface this by saying that I have NOT read all of the books mentioned here but I’ve done my best to research and ensure I’ve correctly allocated them.


Ghost & Ghouls

I love me some ghost-y shenanigans. After all, what’s more Halloween than a haunted house? Good ghost stories always seem to expertly walk the line between spooky and emotional and I think that’s why we enjoy them so much.

  • THE SUN DOWN MOTEL – SIMONE ST. JAMES: In dual timelines (1982 & the present), two women work the night shift at a haunted motel whilst investigating the disappearances & murders of other young women in the small, run-down town.
  • THE DIVINERS – LIBBA BRAY: In 1920s New York, a group of young people with psychic abilities and the owner of an occult museum help investigate a serious of ritualistic murders that may be being committed by a violent spirit.
  • NINTH HOUSE – LEIGH BARDUGO: Alex Stern, gifted with the ability to see ghosts, joins the mysterious ‘Ninth House’ at Yale, tasked with keeping the secret societies’ occult exploits in check. She finds herself investigating a murder on campus with potential links to them.
  • THE SHINING – STEPHEN KING: After taking a job as the off-season caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, writer Jack Torrence moves his family to Colarado. However, his uniquely gifted 5 year old son begins to notice something sinister about the Overlook.
  • KILL CREEK – SCOTT THOMAS: Four master horror authors agree to spend a night in The Finch House, one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses. What starts out as a publicity stunt soon becomes a fight for their lives as the horror follows them home.
  • THE DEAD AND THE DARK – COURTNEY GOULD: After teens go missing, Logan moves with her ghost-hunter dads to Snakebite, Oregon. She teams up with Ashley Barton (who is being haunted by the ghost of her boyfriend, Logan, the first boy to disappear) to investigate.

Demons & The Devil

What’s Halloween without the occasional loose demon causing havoc or a visit from the devil in the form of a body breaking possession? Well, if hellish vibes are what float your boat, here are a few reads with demonic flair.

  • THE DEVIL MAKES THREE – TORI BOVALINO: While working at her school library for the summer, Tess makes a bargain with the headmaster’s intolerable son, Eliot, which results in them discovering an ancient grimoire and accidentally unleashing a book-bound demon.
  • THE EXORCIST – WILLIAM PETER BLATTAY: Two priests and a desperate mother fight to free the soul of 12-year old Regan from an evil supernatural entity. I’m sure you know the movie.
  • GOOD OMENS – NEIL GAIMAN & TERRY PRATCHETT: A fussy angel, Aziraphale, and a fast-living demon, Crowley, team up to avert the apocalypse based on the prophecy of a 17th century witch. Only problem is, somebody has misplaced the Antichrist.
  • HORNS – JOE HILL: Following the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Ig finds himself the town outcast, convicted in the court of public opinion. However, after a night of drinking, he wakes up with a set of horns growing from his skull and some special abilities to go with them.
  • MY BEST-FRIEND’S EXORCISM – GRADY HENDRIX: Abby & Gretchen have been BFFs since 5th grade. After Gretchen disappears during a night of fun, she comes back…not right. The conclusion: She’s possessed by a demon. And so, Abby embarks on a quest to save her.
  • KINGDOM OF THE WICKED – KERRI MANISCALCO: After her sister is murdered, Sicilian witch Emilia uses dark magic to summon a demon prince, Wrath, for answers. The two make a deal and set out to find who or what is killing women on the island and why.

Vampires

Nothing beats a classic blood sucker book. Maybe you like them brutal, bloody and terrifying? Or perhaps brooding and in the midst of a moral crisis? Or MAYBE you just want to get your lust on? Well, either way, there’s a book for you.

  • DRACULA – BRAM STOKER – The classic vampire novel. Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to do business with the noble Count Dracula only to discover a horrifying secret. To thwart Dracula’s evil designs, Jonathan and friends, led by Professor Van Helsing, must embark on an nightmarish adventure. 
  • LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST: In 1981 Blackberge, Sweden, bodies begin to show up drained of blood. Meanwhile, bullied,12-year-old Oskar makes a new friend in Eli – a girl who only comes out at night, smells odd and has never seen a Rubik’s cube.
  • THE PASSAGE – JUSTIN CRONIN: A series of military experiments on a group of prison inmates go horribly wrong, resulting in a vampire apocalypse which wipes out all but a few pockets of humans in North America. Their only hope might just be a little girl from Iowa.
  • INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE -ANNE RICE: Vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac tells his 200 year life story to a reporter. He details his turning by the sinister Lestat, his bond with a child vampire named Claudia, and their travels across Europe to meet more of their kind.
  • THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES – GRADY HENDRIX: A book club of Charleston mothers investigate a mysterious newcomer to town after several local children go missing, only to discover that vampires are terrifyingly real.
  • DEAD UNTIL DARK – CHARLAINE HARRIS: Cocktail waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse’s life changes suddenly when a handsome vampire comes to town and her neighbours start turning up dead. There are heaps of vampire romances out there so I thought I’d include one I’ve read & liked.
  • VAMPIRE ACADEMY – RICHELLE MEAD: Couldn’t resist including my fave YA vampire series. When psychically bonded best friends Rose & Lissa return to Saint Vladimir’s, a school for good vampires (Moroi) and their future half-vampire bodyguards (Dhampirs), it soon becomes clear they’re in danger from more than just the evil vampires (Strigoi) outside the school walls.

Witches

All about that old black magic? Well, here are some magical reads. There were a heap of witch-y books out there that I could have used for this post but I decided seven would be plenty.

  • THE RULES OF MAGIC – ALICE HOFFMAN: The Owens family is bound by a centuries old curse that kills anyone they fall in love with. The book follows siblings Franny, Jet & Vincent growing up in 50s/60s New York and discovering their magical heritage and abilities.
  • PAYBACK’S A WITCH – LANA HARPER: In a small town during a spell-casting competition, three witches come together to enact vengeance on the warlock who broke all of their hearts, only for two of them to end up falling for each other.
  • SERPENT & DOVE – SHELBY MAHURIN: Lou, a thief & witch in hiding from her coven, ends up wed to a witch hunter, Reid, in a world in which humans and witches have long been at war. Despite the secrets between the two of them, they fall in love.
  • THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING – ALEXIS HENDERSON: In a strictly religious community, outsider Immanuelle begins to question the teachings of the Prophet when the spirits of dead witches gift her a journal previously belonging to her dead mother. Accidentally triggering a revenge curse, she must then choose whether or not to save the townspeople.
  • THE WITCH’S HEART – GENEVIEVE GORNICHEC: Re-imagining Norse Mythology, this book tells the story of the witch Angrboda, exiled by Odin for refusing to reveal the future and mother to three of Loki’s children. Angroboda must decide whether to accept fate or fight it.
  • THE NATURE OF WITCHES – RACHEL GRIFFIN: Clara, an Everwitch, is special in that her magic is connected to every season. When other witches start to lose control of their magic, sending the world toward an ecological disaster, Clara soon becomes the only hope of saving it.
  • BLOOD LIKE MAGIC – ESTELLE SAMBURY: To come into her powers, Voya must complete The Trial or risk her entire family losing their magic. The task: kill her first love. Voya signs up for a genetic matchmaking program only to be paired with the infuriating Luke. Soon it becomes a question of her heritage or her morality?

Werewolves & Shapeshifters

This was definitely the toughest category to find books for, mostly on the werewolf side because there don’t seem to be many well reviewed werewolf reads outside the romance genre. While I certainly included some romance picks, keeping my selections broad was challenging here.

  • SHIVER – MAGGIE STIEFVATER: After surviving a wolf attack as a child, Grace has long watched the wolves behind her house, fixated on one with yellow eyes. Sam lives two lives – human in the warmer months, wolf over winter. When the two finally, properly meet, Grace recognises Sam instantly and their relationship evolves. Can a cure be found or will they be torn apart by the dropping temperature?
  • THE WOLF’S HOUR – ROBERT R. McCAMMON: This book is basically like if James Bond had been working during WWII and happened to be a werewolf. Told in dual timelines, it follows MC, Michael’s, efforts to foil a Nazi plan called Iron Fist and his early years in Russia during which he was turned.
  • BITTEN – KELLY ARMSTRONG: Elena Michaels, the world’s only female werewolf, is trying to live life as a regular human when her former pack leader calls asking for help with a rogue wolf killing humans. This brings her back in contact with her ex/the man who turned her, Clay.
  • WICKED FOX – KAT CHO: In Seoul, Miyoung, a half-gumiho (nine-tail fox who feeds on the energy of men) accidentally loses her fox spirit after she saves a boy named Jihoon from a goblin attack. In the aftermath, the two form a bond, but when a shaman gives Miyoung the chance to reunite with her spirit, she must choose between immortality or Jihoon’s life.
  • IT – STEPHEN KING: Seven teens come together to face off against a supernatural entity killing children that disguises itself as a clown. 27 years later they are called back to town to fulfill their vow to fight IT again should it ever return.
  • THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS – STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES: Ten years after a hunting transgression, four American Indian men must fight for their lives as they are hunted by a vengeful shapeshifting creature known as the Elk-Head Woman.

Zombies & The Undead

Is death really the end? Not in these books, at least. If you’re someone who enjoys thinking about how they’d fair in a zombie apocalypse or likes tales of resurrection, this is the category for you.

  • UNDEAD GIRL GANG – LILY ANDERSON: When Mila’s best friend Riley and two others die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe it was a suicide pact. And so, armed with a grimoire, she brings them back to life. Now with only 7 days until the spell ends, she’ll need to wrangle the undead teens long enough to discover the identity of their murderer.
  • WARM BODIES – ISAAC MARION: R is a zombie with no life or memory of who he was before he was undead. Then he meets Julie – a living girl who brings colour to his grey existence and who, after consuming the brains of her boyfriend, R can’t help but want to protect.
  • GIDEON THE NINTH – TAMSYN MUIR: In a galactic empire of 9 planets, each home to a House practicing a type of necromancy, the house heirs and their bodyguards are invited by the Emperor to undergo a difficult and deadly trial to become Lyctors – his immortal disciples and living saints. This should probably be in the witch category but necromancy, so…
  • WORLD WAR Z – MAX BROOKS: Max Brooks provides an “oral history” of survivors’ experiences during the zombie apocalypse. Told in a series of vignettes, the book travels the world, detailing people’s accounts from the first discovery of African Rabies through to The Great Panic and beyond.
  • THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – M. R. CAREY: Set in a world in which a fungus turns human beings into mindless people eaters, Melanie and the children she goes to school with are special – while they are affected by the disease and eat human flesh, they retain their thoughts and emotions. Are they potentially a cure for humanity?
  • BRUJA BORN – ZORAIDA CORDOVA – After her boyfriend dies in a bus crash, Lula uses dark magic to bring him back. However, in doing so she turns all the bodies from the accident into casi muertos (creatures between living & dead). Now the only thing standing between them and freedom is Lula’s death.

Miscellaneous Monsters & Creatures

  • MONSTRUMOLOGIST – RICK YANCEY: In Victorian New England, orphan Will Henry is the assistant to Dr Warthrop, a man specialising in the study of monsters. The two are tasked with tracking down and removing a terrifying creature feeding on humans.
  • THIS SAVAGE SONG – V. E. SCHWAB: In the city of Verity, humanity’s darkest deeds result in the creation of monsters. Split into 2 independently controlled districts based on their approach to handling the monsters, there are fears the city will soon collapse into conflict.
  • A DEADLY EDUCATION – NAOMI NOVIK: At a school for mages with a low survival rate due to the constant influx of monster attacks, El Higgins does her best to survive the school year whilst keeping a handle on her talent for destructive (& potentially world ending) magic.
  • FRANKENSTEIN – MARY SHELLEY: Do I need to summarise this one? Consumed by ambition, Dr Victor Frankenstein builds a hideous creature out of human corpses and brings it to life. But which of the two is the true monster?

If I missed your favourite creature, I’m sorry! Really though, there were more I wish I could have included but this post was starting to verge on War & Peace levels already and we couldn’t have that.

What’s your favourite halloween-ish creature and what’s a book you enjoy that features it?

Music, Monsters, and Friendship: This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

4 stars

TSS

What if the worst deeds of humanity somehow created something living, breathing and equally monstrous?

It’s a simple concept, but it’s one that Victoria Schwab takes and, unsurprisingly, manages to turn into an engaging story full of shocking twists and interesting characters. Schwab herself describes TSS as: Sin City + Romeo & Juliet – Romance + Monsters, and to be honest, this is a pretty much perfect explanation of the book. The story is set in the troubled city of Verity, plagued by the existence of terrifying monsters which are formed by violent acts. The province is split down the middle between two very different controlling powers (or houses, if you want to use the R+J analogy). In the north, there’s Callum Harker, the powerful crime lord who has devised a way to control the monsters whilst demanding payment from citizens for continued “protection”. In the south lies the Flynn family, set on simply exterminating the monsters and who possess a zero tolerance for the individuals who create them. For some time there’s been a truce between the two families which has continued to grow increasingly rocky over the years, with a break down expected to be imminent. And so, when Harker’s teenage daughter Kate returns to the city, the Flynns send their youngest family member, August, to school with her to gather intel. As you can expect, this all gets very messy when an attempt is made on Kate’s life and blamed on the Flynns. But who’s behind it and is it as simple as it seems? If you guessed no, you’d be right.

Plot

I’m not sure what I expected going into TSS but it wasn’t what I got. I have a feeling I didn’t read the blurb properly, (probably too busy jumping for joy at the idea of having another Schwab series to read). The first part of the novel sets up our two main characters and establishes the flip sides of the pretty dystopian world they live in. From here, to my surprise, it moves into an almost typical high school setting involving classroom learning, social politics, and friendly banter over lunch. It’s a little odd to get used to at first amongst all the broader fear of getting brutally murdered. Yet, this section of the book provides essential scenes for the development of August and Kate’s relationship as well as their individual characters. We also never forget about the broader implications of what is happening inside the high-school ‘bubble’ as these scenes are balanced out by each character’s experiences outside of school hours. The last third of the book is a The Fugitive like section in which we see our two-some on the run. It’s during this part that we get some great action-packed scenes, emotional conversations between Kate and August, and entertaining twists which kept me entertained as well as drove me to pick up book two pretty quickly.

Characters

One of the best parts of the book is the sense of duality between August and Kate. Schwab has said that her inspiration for this story came from a line she wrote in Vicious:

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” 

It’s very easy to see how this was utilised to create her two main characters here. As the daughter of quite a monstrous person, Kate goes through a large part of TSS determined to live up to the reputation of her father. To not only survive, but rule, a place like Verity, Kate believes that she needs to be cruel, cold, and dangerous. In other words,  that she, too, needs to be a monster. Her father is the only family she has left and for reasons even she doesn’t fully understand, she desperately craves his approval and acceptance. The only problem is that Kate is a far better person than her father and he’s not in any way someone she should aspire to be. It’s something she comes to realise eventually but it takes time. The slowness of this development may come across annoying and unlikeable for some people, but looking at the underlying reasoning for her actions, I quite liked Kate and found her to be a good, strong character in the moments that mattered.

August, on the other hand, is a monster. A Sunai, August is driven to reap the souls of the impure which he achieves through the enchanting melodies of his violin. This is something he takes very little pleasure in, unlike that of his older ‘brother’, Leo, but it’s a process necessary to his existence. It’s a well-used trope, the monster who wishes he was anything but, and yet August never felt cliché to me. Instead of spending all his time moping about the nature of his existence, August simply tries to live his life as if he were the person he wants to be. It’s a serious case of denial, yes, which gets him into trouble later on, but it’s both sweet and endearing.

The friendship between Kate and August works so well because of their differences. They bring out the best in one another whilst also forcing each other to deal with the parts of themselves that they’d rather not. I read so many YA novels with underdeveloped romances which seem like they’re there just for the sake of ticking off a box. It was a wonderful change to read something that focused on building a solid and balanced, platonic relationship without any romantic elements. Yep, that’s right. You heard me. NO ROMANCE. None. Nada. Zip. And it’s a choice that works perfectly for this particular story.

Monsters

There are three forms of monsters in Verity – Corsai, Malchai and Sunai. Corsai, animalistic in nature, are born from non-lethal forms of violence and live off human flesh. Malchai, closely resembling vampires, are the result of murder and bare some of the warped characteristics of their creators. Last are the Sunai. Much more human-like in nature, Sunai are products of crimes involving the large-scale murder of innocents – massacres, bombings, and so on. They are akin to avenging angels who use music to reap the souls of those who have committed violent acts.

Despite the general similarities of each type of ‘monster’, there’s a great degree of variation within the classes which provides for some interesting character contrasts. This is particularly so for August and his adoptive Sunai siblings, Leo and Ilsa, who each have their own vastly different personalities and attitudes towards their role in the greater scheme of things. The differences among the Malchai don’t become prominent until book two, however, Callum Harker’s right-hand man (or monster, rather), Sloan, is still an interesting and frightening figure in this story.

To put it simply, the monster elements of the story are definitely some of the most interesting, and I absorbed every little detail like a dry sponge.

Writing

If you’ve read Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series, you’ll be satisfied with her still excellent writing here. However, do keep in mind that unlike ADSoM, this series fits solidly within the YA classification and as a result the descriptions are briefer, language is more to the point, and the plot speeds along far quicker.  It’s not a bad thing, nor is it unfulfilling, just different. Her worlds are still well constructed, characters distinct, and concepts sound. If you’ve loved her other work, you’ll at the very least like this.

This Savage Song was an enjoyable read with an engaging concept and interesting characters. Did I adore it as much as the ADSoM books? No. Did I speed through it, set on reading the sequel to find out what happened next?  Very much so. I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone looking for an entertaining YA fantasy read.

4 Stars

Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think?