Scary Stories for Spooktober 2020

Ah yes. Another installment of Kat Reads Books. But this time, extra spooky!

October is the time of year where leaves clog the gutters, the summer garden dies back and every day is a new opportunity to break out the ol’ cosplay. Not only is October my favorite month, but it happens to have my favorite holiday – Halloween!

With the weather getting crisp and the nights getting long, what better time than now to cozy up under a blanket with a hot drink and some atmospherically dark classical music while reading a delightfully frightful story sure to haunt you while you try to go to sleep… Really, I can’t understand why this isn’t everyone’s favorite time of year. It’s thrilling to imagine all sorts of horrors hiding around the corner when you go to the lightless basement… Right?

Pffft. Anyway, let’s get on to the spooky.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If there’s one thing that axe murderers love more than killing teenagers, it’s… actually, no. That’s the only thing deranged psychopaths love best. So it should come as no surprise when an apparent serial killer with a taste for gore and puberty begins butchering high schoolers in tiny rural Osbourne, Nebraska. But with the small police force being spread too thin as it is, it’s up to Makani and her friends to find out who the killer is and stop them before they can kill again. If only they knew that the killer was right in front of them all along.

Witty and gory, with just the right amount of teenage angst, this is the perfect book for fans of Freddy, Jason and Michael. The story is fast-paced, the plot is clean and sharp, and the bloodshed is gruesome without being overly gross. Set during one of the drearier parts of the year in the Midwest, you can practically smell the rotted leaves and feel the sting of the chilly wind as Makani and her friends race against the clock to stop the killer before another one of their classmates gets murdered.

I found this book a very much nostalgic romp through all the teen slasher movies I love. It’s not anywhere near as cheesy as those movies tend to go (thankfully), and even though it’s geared toward a younger audience (young adult horror ftw!), this book still had the right amount of scare for me.

Read this if you’ve rewatched all of the Friday the 13th movies (yes, even Jason X, or as I like to call it “JASON IN SPAAAAACE!”). Skip it if you get queasy at even the merest mention of blood.

The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

There has always been murmurs about the Alban Family Curse, but I’ve never put much stock into it. Yes, there have been scandals and the odd disappearance here and there, but what rich, influential family as old as ours doesn’t have a skeleton or two in the closet? However, after discovering some old love letters of my mother’s, I believe that something suspicious did happen all those years ago when a famous author killed himself and my aunt Fate went missing, all at the annual Solstice party. Written off as just a random tragedy by others in the family, will I finally be able to get to the bottom of what happened that fateful night? Or are the details too muddied and the facts purposefully fabricated that I may never know?

Part ghost story, part long-hidden mystery, this book read like a cozy haunted house-style novel up until about two thirds of the way through. A house with secret passageways and a family with close-kept secrets is not so much my cup of tea as it is a nice change of pace from all of the slasher fiction I’ve been reading recently. It was slow to start, had several bumpy and exciting mini-climaxes, and then fell flat when the slightly dull characters didn’t quite live up to expectations. But, as that is on me, I don’t expect you to take my word for it.

About halfway through the story, it switches gears and becomes a search for a missing manuscript. Which, okay. That’s fun and intriguing, but the way the characters go about it is obvious and, again, flat. I wasn’t pulled into the plot, but instead I found myself just slowly ambling toward it for a lack of anything better to do. That being said, I did like it. I just probably won’t read it again.

Read this if you live in a haunted house, or have a friend who lives in a haunted house. Skip it if you find old family portraits tacky.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am not a Final Girl. I have moved past that time in my life, and I’m only looking to the future. I don’t want to talk about what happened to me and my friends in college; all I want to do is bake and blog and be normal, dammit! I will fight tooth and nail to remain this way, no matter what others think is best. Because I am on my own, no matter what anyone else would have you believe. But I can’t help but ask myself, why am I still so angry? And why do I like it so much?

I was so sure I knew who was what at the beginning of this. It was so obvious and compact and neat that even when another Final Girl shows up on Quincy’s doorstep, I still believed I was right and everything would work out exactly how I thought it should.

Holy shit, was I completely wrong.

There were no red flags, no warning signs, nothing to prepare me for the end. And boy howdy, what an end it was! I literally shrieked in surprise when I got to the last couple of chapters of this book. It had been so fucking obvious who the antagonist was, but as the story is told through the eyes of Quincy (a woman with more than one trauma under her belt, mind you), it comes as no surprise that not only was I wrong, but so was she. And that’s what made this book all the more compelling. Through all of the despair and trauma and a massive anxiety/depression combo, it’s easy to see how, even being privy to all of the same information that Quincy is, anyone could have missed the final blow.

Read this if you’ve never pretended to be someone else on the internet. Skip it if you hate surprises.

There’s a theme with this month’s reads.

It was purely unintentional, but hey, that seems to happen a lot around here, doesn’t it? And with it being the spookiest month of the year, it’s all the more perfect to read and review a bunch of scary stories.

By far, the one I’m most in love with this month is Final Girls by Riley Sager. When I first started in on it, it didn’t feel anything like a thriller; it started out very much like a story about a woman trying to overcome her bloody past. But once Sam, another Final Girl, showed up looking for information and something akin to friendship, that’s when shit truly hit the fan. After that, everything was a rollercoaster ride of anger and anxiety and mystery, and I wasn’t sure when (or if!) the ride was ever going to slow down or stop.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins was good. It felt like a callback to When a Stranger Calls, but with far less stupid decisions on the victims’ parts. Not only were the characters’ reactions believable, but the brutality and reasoning behind the murders was also bone-chillingly movie-accurate. I’d definitely pick this up at a thrift store if I came across it.

The one I liked the least this month was The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. Again, it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t what I was looking for this time around. With some of the stale characters, recycled plot and somewhat-needlessly-inserted sub-story, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.

That’s all I have for y’all this month. Check back next time for something a little less scary and a whole lot more cozy!

Maybe. And that’s a BIG maybe.

If you haven’t heard of any of the books above, I urge you to check them out! (Also, buy secondhand if you can’t get it from the library!!!) I’m all for supporting authors and whatnot, but times are tough and we need to work on reusing instead of buying everything new).

Pssst! Some websites I link to are affiliate links. It costs nothing extra for you (if you make a purchase), & it gives me a little something in return!

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