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  • Olivia Swindler

Not So Scary Fall Reads

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that I am a wimp. That being said, it is almost impossible for me to go through the month of October without picking up a thriller or two. (As long as there is someone else in the house, I can blame noises in the middle of the night on...) If you, like me, find yourself searching for a not-so-scary (but maybe a little scary) read, here are a few of my favorites!






Survive the Night

This book is probably the scariest on the list. I listened to the audio version, and couldn't put it down.


From the publisher:

It’s November 1991. Nirvana's in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.


Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.


The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?


One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.


Rebecca

One of the first gothic novels, this book has had a lasting impact on the literary scene. The story is dark and twisted, perfect for October.


From the publisher:

The unassuming young heroine of Rebecca finds her life changed overnight when she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome and wealthy widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Rescuing her from an overbearing employer, de Winter whisks her off to Manderley, his isolated estate on the windswept Cornish coast--but there things take a chilling turn. Max seems haunted by the memory of his glamorous first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy is lovingly tended by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. As the second Mrs. de Winter finds herself increasingly burdened by the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, she becomes determined to uncover the dark secrets that threaten her happiness, no matter the cost.



Acts of Violet

The perfect audiobook, this book is perfect for any true crime podcast listener!


From the publisher:

Nearly a decade ago, iconic magician Violet Volk performed her greatest trick yet: vanishing mid-act. While Violet sought out the spotlight, her sister Sasha, had to be the responsible one. But Sasha can never seem to escape her sister's tumultuous orbit. Then there's Cameron Frank, determined to finally get his big break hosting a podcast devoted to all things Violet--though keeping his job hinges on an exclusive interview with Sasha, the last person who wants to talk to him. As the ten-year anniversary approaches, the podcast picks up steam, and Cameron's pursuit of Sasha becomes increasingly intrusive. Meanwhile, Sasha begins to experience an unsettling series of sleepwalking episodes and coincidences, which all lead back to Violet. Pushed to her emotional limits, Sasha must finally confront the most painful truths about her sister, and herself, even at the risk of losing everything.


Alternating between Sasha's narration and Cameron's podcast transcripts, interspersed with documents that offer a tantalizing peek at Violet herself, Acts of Violet is an utterly original, propulsive story of fame, deception, and forgiveness that will make you believe in magic.

The Cartographers

This book is a wonderful mystery mixed with some magical realism – I adored this book.


From the publisher:

Nell Young's whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell's personal hero. But she hasn't seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can't resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence...because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one--along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps...

Perfect for fans of Joe Hill and V. E. Schwab, The Cartographers is an ode to art and science, history and magic--a spectacularly imaginative, modern story about an ancient craft and places still undiscovered.

The Secret History

The classic secret society drama. Great if you love a slow burn and dark academia.


From the publisher:

Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.


Lincoln in the Bardo

This book is quiet and moving and takes a new angle on Lincoln's life.


From the publisher:

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.


From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state--called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo--a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction's ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?


The Maid

A wonderful cozy mystery with a cast of characters that are easy to root for!


From the publisher:

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.


Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life's complexities all by herself. No matter--she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.


But Molly's orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what's happening, Molly's unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black--but will they be able to find the real killer before it's too late?


A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different--and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

The Night Circus

One of my favorite sagas. This book is as much a love story as it is a story of a magical circus.


From the publisher:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.


But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.



The Flight Attendant

One of the few instances where the TV adaptation and the book are both wonderful. This book is easy to fly through and keeps you on your toes the whole time!


From the publisher:

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets.


Afraid to call the police--she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home--Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?


Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.



The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

One of my all-time favorite books. A mix of Clue, Christie, and Groundhog's Day, this book is imaginative and impossible to put down.


From the publisher:

The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man's race to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.


Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked-room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.

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