Thursday, 28 October 2010

Spooky Reads for Halloween

It's that time of year again and so to celebrate I thought I would bring you my picks of the books you really should be reading at this spooky time of year if you want to feel a shiver run down your spine. Books that will make you jump with fright every time a trick or treater knocks on your door, or have you quaking under the bed covers at every creak, bump or thump in the night. I have split them into loose categories to help you make the perfect choice; nearly all have been reviewed on The Book Zone at some point during the past year.

For young readers:

The Scream Street series by Tommy Donbavand

In Scream Street, Luke and his parents discover a nightmarish world of the undead. Luke soon makes friends with vampire Resus Negative and mummy Cleo Farr, but he remains determined to take his terrified parents home. After liberating the powerful book Tales of Scream Street from his new landlord, Otto Sneer, Luke learns that the founding fathers of the community each left behind a powerful relic. Collecting together all six is his only hope of opening a doorway out of the street, so with the help of Resus and Cleo he sets out to find the first one, the vampire’s fang. But with Otto Sneer determined to thwart him at every turn, will Luke even get past the first hurdle alive?

These books are great spooky fun for younger readers, with a host of colourful characters. One read and your kids will be hooked.

Monsters galore:

Devil's Kiss/ Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda

Fifteen-year-old Billi SanGreal never meant to make history. Dragged at the age of ten into the modern-day Knights Templar by her father, the Grandmaster, Billi's the first girl ever to be a Templar warrior. Her life is a rigorous and brutal round of weapons' practice, demon killing and occult lore – and a lot of bruises. But then temptation is placed in Billi's path – an alternative to her isolated life. But temptation brings consequences. In this case – the tenth plague – the death of all first borns and so Billi must choose her destiny. And as she soon discovers, death isn't even the worst . . .

Sarwat Chadda has created a Buffy for the new millennium in his kick-ass herione Billi SanGreal. Devil's Kiss is a superb debut, but the sequel, Dark Goddess, is one of my stand-out favourites from this past year.

The Changeling series by Steve Feasey

Trey thought he was an ordinary teenager. Then he meets a mysterious stranger, Lucien Charron – luminously pale, oddly powerful, with eyes that seem flecked with fire and skin that blisters in sunlight. Somehow Trey finds himself in a luxury London penthouse, like a Bond villain’s lair. It’s the heart of a sinister empire, built on the powers of the netherworld – werewolves, vampires, sorcerers, djinns. And Trey himself has a power that’s roaring to break free. Is he a boy or is he a beast?

Werewolf vs Demons (and a particularly nasty vampire). 'Nuff said!

The Dead/The Dark by David Gatward

Lazarus Stone is about to turn sixteen when, one night, his normal life is ripped to shreds by a skinless figure drenched in blood. He has a message: The Dead are coming. Now Lazarus is all that stands in their way. To fulfil his destiny, he must confront not only the dark past of his family, but horrors more gruesome than even Hell could invent. And it all begins with the reek of rotting flesh ...

David Gatward is a relative newcomer to the YA book scene, but his first two books filled with demons and the walking dead are fantastic. This man really knows his horror.

The Enemy/The Dead by Charlie Higson

They’ll chase you. They’ll rip you open. They’ll feed on you . . . When the sickness came, every parent, police officer, politician – every adult – fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they’re fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city – down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground – the grown-ups lie in wait. But can they make it there – alive?

Zombies. Lots of them, and all of them adults. The children? Fighting to survive!


Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide by William Hussey

When a violent storm rages around the little village of Hobarron's Hollow, a young boy is sacrificed 'for the greater good'. His blood is used to seal a mystical doorway and prevent an apocalyptic disaster known only as the Demontide. Twenty-five years later, another boy, Jake Harker, is about to be drawn into the nightmare of the Demontide. Witches and their demon familiars stalk his every move, and his dreams are plagued by visions of a 17th Century figure known only as the Witchfinder. When his father is abducted, Jake must face the terrible secrets kept by those closest to him and a shocking truth that will change his life forever . . .

Quality YA debut from William Hussey featuring one of my favourite gory moments of the past year. All I will say is..... Jake's mum! And watch out for Gallows at twilight - the next in the series due out early 2011 - I have heard William read a gloriously nasty scene from the book.

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible Aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he has carried to his grave. Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from its sinister legacy.

Superb Victorian chills from another 2010 debut author. Evil birds, a creepy clown, and a gruesome circus all combine to make a fantastically chilling story.

Crawlers by Sam Enthoven

Ben is on a school trip. So is Jasmine. What they don't know is that not everybody in the theatre is there to watch the play and, in fact, they'll never get to see it . . . There is panic at the Barbican when the fire alarms start wailing, but the strangely silent theatre staff, trap them inside the building rather than letting them out to safety. Ben, Jasmine and their classmates soon discover that there's no fire - what's happening is much weirder, and much scarier. Strange spider-like creatures swarm through the building attacking people and turning them into vicious killers, and the kids have to run for their lives. But barricaded in an office, with these creatures waiting outsde for them, the children realise they're stuck. Will they ever get out? And, more importantly can they trust each other . . . ?

Mind controlling life forms at The Barbican. Great setting, great creatures, great writing.

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

Michael Vyner recalls a terrible story, one that happened to him. One that would be unbelievable if it weren't true! Michael's parents are dead and he imagines that he will stay with the kindly lawyer, executor of his parents' will ...Until he is invited to spend Christmas with his guardian in a large and desolate country house. His arrival on the first night suggests something is not quite right when he sees a woman out in the frozen mists, standing alone in the marshes. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself as he is kept from his guardian and finds himself spending the Christmas holiday wandering the silent corridors of the house seeking distraction. But lonely doesn't mean alone, as Michael soon realises that the house and its grounds harbour many secrets, dead and alive, and Michael is set the task of unravelling some of the darkest secrets of all.

The first full-length YA novel from the master of the terrifying short story. A brilliant Victorian set ghost story that will chill you to the bone.

White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick

It's summer. Rebecca is an unwilling visitor to Winterfold - taken from the buzz of London and her friends and what she thinks is the start of a promising romance. Ferelith already lives in Winterfold - it's a place that doesn't like to let you go, and she knows it inside out - the beach, the crumbling cliff paths, the village streets, the woods, the deserted churches and ruined graveyards, year by year being swallowed by the sea. Against her better judgement, Rebecca and Ferelith become friends, and during that long, hot, claustrophobic summer they discover more about each other and about Winterfold than either of them really want to, uncovering frightening secrets that would be best left long forgotten. Interwoven with Rebecca and Ferelith's stories is that of the seventeenth century Rector and Dr Barrieux, master of Winterfold Hall, whose bizarre and bloody experiments into the after-life might make angels weep, and the devil crow.

No review for this one yet as I have only just finished reading it. Not at all what I expected, but that's what Marcus Sedgwick does best. Really spine-chilling.

Hell's Underground series by Alan Gibbons

Late one night after a strange tube journey to Whitechapel in East London, Paul makes a new friend, John Redman - daring and enigmatic, just as Paul longs to be, away from his cloying mother (his only family - so he thinks). Redman charms Paul at once, but also a girl called Jude they meet on a night about town. A few days later, Paul learns that Jude has mysteriously died, and Redman has disappeared. Shortly after that, one of Paul's teacher dies suddenly - frightened to death - near where Jude's body was found. A link for sure. And Paul feels implicated, because both victims were known to him. He senses Redman, who comes and goes as it suits him, is involved as well. His new friend is dangerous. But so, we learn, is Paul. In uncovering the truth about Redman he learns shocking facts about himself. There's an evil curse loose in his family and Paul is the latest inheritor. The spree of death - camouflagued as copycat Jack the Ripper-style murders - will continue until Paul confronts the demon in himself head on.

One of my all time favourite horror series. A must read for any horror loving teenager.

Monster chillers (these three deserve a separate category of their own, as they are both full of monsters but the setting and/or storyline is particularly chilling):

Invisible Fiends series by Barry Hutchison

Kyle's imaginary friend from childhood is back! with a vengeance. Kyle hasn't seen Mr Mumbles in years. And there's a good reason for that: Mr Mumbles doesn't exist. But now Kyle's imaginary friend is back, and Kyle doesn't have time to worry about why. Only one thing matters: staying alive!

Mr Mumbles was brilliant. Raggy Maggie even better. In my opinion Caddie is one of the greatest ever creations in children's horror literature.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Will Henry is an assistant to a doctor with a most unusual speciality: monster hunting! In the short time he has lived with the doctor, Will has grown used to late night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was feeding on her, Will's world changes forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagi - a headless monster that feeds through the mouthfuls of teeth in its chest - and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Now, Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to consume our world and find the rest of the monsters before it is too late...

The perfect setting, great characters and written in a prose that will make your skin crawl.

The Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith

Beneath heaven is hell. Beneath hell is Furnace. Furnace Penitentiary. The world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. One way in, no way out. Once you’re here, you’re here until you die, and for most of the inmates that doesn’t take long - not with the sadistic guards and the bloodthirsty gangs. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, 'new fish' Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Only in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and as dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison. Together with a bunch of inmates - some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers - Alex plans the prison break to end all prison breaks. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that's hidden from the eyes of the world.

I only recently discovered the Furnace books but I now love this series. Nothing short of brilliant, and totally terrifying.

And finally, for older readers who are ready for something more adult:

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken. But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return - when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark.

I finished this at the weekend and it is still playing on my mind. One of the best ghost stories I have read in years.


So there you have it. I hope one of those takes your fancy and if so have a terrifying time reading it. Happy Halloween!


  1. These are great! THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST scared the pants off me, and if THE DEAD OF WINTER is anything like TALES OF TERROR FROM THE BLACK SHIP, I can hardly wait to read it.

  2. I have just finished reading the sequel to The Monstrumologist, called The Curse of the Wendigo. Possibly not quite as scary as its predecessor, but just as creepy.