I’ve been having a fantastic time putting together my Curated Bookshelf every month, but there are some themes where I just can’t find 12 books for it (yet). So I’ve decided to share these shorter lists on Mondays (most Mondays, at least). I hope you enjoy!
I am, of course, not a fan of Halloween, so it should be no surprise I seem to not be drawn to books set on and around the day. But it’s also a little odd to me as the first story I wrote on my own, with an actual plot, was my aptly called A Halloween Story. It was about some siblings who end up taking home a haunted pumpkin that was supposed to go to a group of witches. Oddly enough, not many of these Halloween/Samhain books actually had a lot of pumpkins.
Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?
But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
This is the first in the Witches of Thistle Grove series, and each seems to take on a new season. While the second is set in the spring, this one is set during the days leading up to Halloween. It’s witchy and romantic with a sapphic romance that’s really at the heart of the book. But it’s also about a witch who left town and now tries to figure out whether to stay while serving as arbiter for the witchy tournament going on. There’s also a revenge plot, but, really, that was the smallest part of the book.
Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young
A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love
Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings. But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.
August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.
While this one wasn’t for me, it is set just before Samhain. It’s perfectly atmospheric and nicely sets the scene with autumn leaves skittering down the street and the last of apple picking days. There isn’t a strong sense that Samhain is coming as it mostly focuses on setting that autumn feel and reconnecting a former couple while they try to solve a couple of mysteries, but the upcoming holiday is mentioned now and then.
The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski
Never show their feelings.
Never spill their secrets.
Never admit to murder.
The annual Halloween block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul-de-sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plans the event for months.
Except the Ivy Five has been four for a long time.
When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet… until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.
As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They’ll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.
From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…
This is an interesting thriller about a small neighborhood and the group of moms who seem to run everything. It focuses on a mom new to the neighborhood who would do just about anything to fit in with the other moms, especially as Halloween is approaching and it’s quite a big thing in the neighborhood. But these moms are hiding something and, with Halloween around the corner, just about anything is willing to jump out of the closet.
Requiem, Changing Times by R.J. Parker
Clint and Corbin are having a weird day. Best friends for life, things are getting a little strange around their town, and at school. When they’re followed by a strange man looking for Clint and later attacked by an imp, it makes sense to retreat to the safety of home. But when strangers from another world, Banks and O’Neil, arrive with their medley of allies, things get even weirder. Why are they here? What do they want? And what is The Requiem that everyone keeps talking about? As Clint and his friends and family are drawn deeper into a thrilling adventure, only one thing is for sure. They may not be getting out alive. And class with Mrs Christenson will seem like a walk in the park after this.
Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of Halloween going on in this book, but it does mention an upcoming Halloween dance. It’s about two worlds colliding as beasts start to pour into our world and two boys and the siblings of one of them have to do something about it. It sounds like monsters and Halloween would pair perfectly, but I hardly remember much about Halloween coming up in this book. But perhaps it’s terrifying because this has been called MG, YA, and adult, but I felt it had too much adult content to really be considered MG, unless those books are not what I think they are.