October 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

You all know me by now. I absolutely love spooky season. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I spent the month of October reading exclusively spooky books. And I had a marvelous time.

In total, I read seven books: four adult novels, one adult novella, one YA novel, and one children’s short story collection. The lowest rating I gave all month was 3.5, while the highest was a full five. Let’s talk about them!

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Summary: In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized— someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

My Thoughts: I had a lot of fun with this book! I appreciate the critiques of slasher films and final girls Hendrix has to offer. The novel feels meandering at times, but Hendrix pulls it together really well. He’s quickly becoming my favorite horror writer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca

Summary: Sadomasochism. Obsession. Death.

A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s— a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.

What have you done today to deserve your eyes?

My Thoughts: Honestly, I feel like I just wanted more from this book. It’s so short (which I knew going in) that I feel things move a bit too fast. It’s also not the kind of sadomasochism or body horror I was expecting. That cover is gorgeous though.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Summary: Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act… different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

My Thoughts: I had a lot of fun with this one too! It felt like I was watching a horror movie from the ‘80s in my head. Maybe the real exorcism was the friends we made along the way.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Summary: When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program— and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world— but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

My Thoughts: While reading, I wanted just a smidge more obvious horror; now that I’ve finished, I better appreciate the horror Giddings has crafted. At its core, this is a story of racism and dehumanization, and the horror is found in the gaslighting. This is definitely a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz & illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Summary: This spooky addition to Alvin Schwartz’s popular books on American folklore is filled with tales of eerie horror and dark revenge that will make you jump with fright.

There is a story here for everyone— skeletons with torn and tangled flesh who roam the earth; a ghost who takes revenge on her murderer; and a haunted house where every night a bloody head falls down the chimney.

Stephen Gammell’s splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozen scary stories— and even scary songs— all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark.

My Thoughts: I never read this book as a kid because I was a wimpy little creature riddled with anxiety, so I thought I’d be fun to read it now. For the culture. While most of the stories aren’t scary from an adult perspective, a few of them did get me. Mostly I just can’t stop thinking about the girl who straight up died of fright for a dollar. RIP girlboss 💔

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Summary: Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

My Thoughts: This book was fun, but was missing that extra something. I don’t think the twists were built up to quite well enough. Honestly, I feel like this book would’ve worked better as an adult novel in college, so Lee could’ve gone darker. I also feel like the characterization is a little inconsistent. Still, it was good and I had a good time reading it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Summary: Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

My Thoughts: I remember this book getting a lot of mixed reviews when it first came out, but I actually really liked it. It’s more black comedy than thriller, the central mystery of another story spoiled on the cover. I felt so strongly for Korede throughout the novel, taking her side even when she is wrong. Moreover, Braithwaite transports the foreign reader directly to Nigeria. I felt like I was there with the Abebe family and the rest of the characters. 

While this story may not give you what you want or expect, it will absolutely give you what you need. I’m honestly glad I put off reading this as long as I did because I’m finally in a place where I can appreciate it for all it is.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What did you read in October? Tell me about it in the comments!

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