Now that it’s spooky season officially, I thought I’d throw together a recommendation list for you! If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ll know that I am a big wuss when it comes to being scared. I don’t like it — I’d rather avoid it at all costs. However, I still love Halloween. So every time this season rolls around, I go searching for books that fit the season without giving me nightmares. Hence this list! Everything on here feels like Halloween without being scary enough to need a teddy bear at night! Just maybe…don’t read the last two books while eating anything. 💀
*Mind the content warnings on all of these. Most of these are adult books, with adult themes.*
A DOWRY OF BLOOD BY ST GIBSON
A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Vampires.
- SCARE LEVEL? Minimal. There are no real traditional ‘scary’ scenes, other than vampires feeding. You can read my full review here.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Blood, Toxic relationship, Sexual content
THE QUICK BY LAUREN OWEN
An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London
London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Vampires.
- SCARE LEVEL? TBH, It’s been years since I’ve picked this one up, so I don’t remember how scary it is. But I did enjoy it, so it must not have been that scary, or I definitely would have put it down.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Suicidal thoughts, Gore, Homophobia, Physical abuse
STRANGE PRACTICE BY VIVIAN SHAW
Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.
Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.
Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Supernatural Creatures.
- SCARE LEVEL? Almost none — this is all about helping the supernatural creatures rather than them scaring anyone.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Murder, Body horror, Medical content
JACKABY BY WILLIAM RITTER
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Supernatural creatures/beings and a ghost.
- SCARE LEVEL? Zero, pretty much. There’s a chase scene towards the end, but it isn’t scary.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Murder
THE NEAR WITCH BY VE SCHWAB
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
There are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Witches.
- SCARE LEVEL? There are definitely a few scary scenes involving magic forests, bones, and crows.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Kidnapping, Self harm, Confinement, Death
NINTH HOUSE BY LEIGH BARDUGO
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Ghosts, magic, and murder.
- SCARE LEVEL? There’s a few spooky scenes involving death magic.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, Sexual assault, Drug abuse
THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN BY KIERSTEN WHITE
Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.
Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.
But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? It’s about Victor Frankenstein’s origins.
- SCARE LEVEL? This is a dark book, and it can get pretty gross and gore-y, but I wouldn’t say this is scary.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Toxic relationship, Emotional abuse, Animal cruelty
WHAT MOVES THE DEAD BY T. KINGFISHER
What Moves the Dead is Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
- WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Nightmare mushrooms.
- SCARE LEVEL? This isn’t scary as in jump-out-with-a-knife scary, it’s the slow-creeping-dread scary. Check out my full review for more information. Definite body horror.
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Body horror, Animal death, Death
What would you recommend to someone who loves Halloween, but hates being scared? Let me know in the comments!