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147: Our 2020 Spooky Reads Recommendations

episode graphic for episode 147, Spooky Reads

This week, Unabridged Podcast is launching into the Halloween spirit with some spooky recommendations. After our Bookish Check-in—featuring a guest appearance by Unabridged Ambassador Talie—each of shares a perfect October pick, and then (for our Give Me One) we talk about our autumn favorites.

What spooky reads would you recommend? Are you a seasonal reader? We'd love to hear from you on social media or in comments below!

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Nic Stone’s Shuri

Jen - V. E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Sara - Lamar Giles’s Not So Pure and Simple and Tommy Orange’s There There (listen to our Book Club episode, 146)

Talie - Hench (find Talie at or @talielovesbooks on Instagram.)

Our Spooky Reads Recs

Ashley - Kelly Keaton’s Darkness Becomes Her

Jen - Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic

Sara - Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door

Mentioned in Episode

Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep and Winterwood

Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark

Give Me One - Favorite Thing about Fall

Ashley - pumpkin carving

Jen - fall leaves/plants

Sara - crisp air, and getting to wear fall clothes

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Bookish Check-in

book cover of Nic Stone's Shuri

For her bookish check-in, Ashley shared a book by one of our favorite authors, Nic Stone. She said, "So I have just barely started this book. But I'm very excited to read it. This is Nic Stone's Shuri and is one of the of the Black Panther novels, and I am so excited. I love Nic Stone's work, and I also love Shuri as a character.

"I'm just really excited to start this. . . . It's really compelling. Again, I like everything about the Black Panther stories, and I particularly love Shuri's character... I think it's going to be great. Recently Comixology had an opportunity for people—in honor of Chadwick Boseman's death and recognition of all of the amazing things that he did related to Black Panther—they had an opportunity for people to . . . get the Black Panther comics, and that they were free and available to people."

book cover of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Jen was reading an egalley from NetGalley, which just released, V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which she said "is absolutely phenomenal. It flashes back and forth between France in 1714, when Addie reaches the age when her parents decide that it's time for her to get married, and she does not want to get married. She does not want that life for herself, so she basically makes a deal with the devil—it's an old god—and she doesn't totally realize what she's agreeing to. Basically, she agrees to, as soon as she leaves someone's presence, they forget her, they forget that she existed, and everything that she has impacted around her disappears so that there's no sign that she was ever there.

"So it's flashing back and forth between that situation in France in 1714 and current day New York. She's been alive for 300 plus years and is still wrestling with the fact—there's a lot she's become accustomed to—but she's still wrestling with the fact that she is just forgotten constantly. She can't really be hurt, she can't get sick, and so she just is this being who, there's no lasting impact on her and she does not have lasting impact on anyone else. It is just . . . I don't know how I can convey just how fascinating it is, but the writing is absolutely gorgeous. There are so many lines that I'm highlighting as I'm reading, and the story is just really, really good."

book cover of Lamar Giles's Not So Pure and Simple

Sara shared her current reading situation:

So I'm just gonna keep it real right now. I am having a really hard time getting any reading in.

"So I'm still reading some of the books that I've talked about in prior episodes. One is Lamar Giles's Not So Pure and Simple. I talked about that in a prior episode, and it is a YA novel. It's really good. It's just that I am having a hard time finding time to read. And then the other book that I'm reading is There There, which is our October Book Club pick. It is by Tommy Orange, and it follows 12 characters from Native communities that are all traveling to this big powwow, and it's all about their experiences. It's it's really compelling. The writing is gorgeous, as Jen would say, it's writing is beautiful, but I am just trying to plow through those to get them read. And I am not I don't have anything new to talk about, and I'm sorry.

"So by the time this episode releases, our October Book Club episode will have already released; it's Episode 146. So be sure to go back and listen to it. And again, loving the book just trying to to move through it so that I'm ready to discuss when we record."

book cover of Natalie Zina Walschots's Hench

Ashley then introduced our guest: "To finish up our Bookish Check-in today, we are thrilled to share a book review from one of our Unabridged Ambassadors. This is Talie with her book review of Hench. You can find Talie @talielovesbooks on Instagram or at And here's her review."

Talie said, "I want to tell you a little bit about a book I recently completed. Thank you to Harper Audio for the complimentary audio book. It is Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. . . . It tells the story of Anna, who works as an assistant to villains. She is a number cruncher. She loves her spreadsheets, she loves to do research. She lives in a world where superheroes and villains are out in the open to the world. Within this world of superheroes and villains, there are both top-tier and lower-tier heroes and villains, and they all have entourages and staff to keep up with their operation's running, and my favorite part? They have temp agencies, which is actually how Anna ends up getting her job.

"Needless to say, I really enjoyed the world building on this book. The basic premise behind the plot is that while heroes are supposed to be protecting people, the collateral damage that they do is often worse than the good accomplished, or arguably is. I'll leave the plot there so as not to spoil things. . . .

"If you're a fan of superhero movies or comics, you probably love this book. If you love Marvel films or DC films, you'll find this one entertaining as well. Overall, I give it a thumbs up."

Main Segment - Spooky Reads

book cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic

Jen said, "All right, so this book, I feel like we will probably all say this. It is going to be really tough to talk about without giving spoilers, but I read this with a buddy read recently and just absolutely loved it. It is Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic, and I talked about this actually on a Bookish Check-in. I was not very far in the book at that point, but it is—

I love Gothic novels. I love the atmosphere. And so I think when you have a brilliant writer, which I think Moreno-Garcia is a brilliant writer—who is writing a gothic novel, there's so much to build suspense and not knowing, and she is just a master at that.

"She is one of those authors who delves into all of these different genres, which I think is really amazing, and yet there's something about her style that transcends any genre. So that beautiful writing caught me right away."

book cover of Kelly Keaton's Darkness Becomes Her

Ashley shared, "The one that I am going to talk about is more . . . it's not really spooky. It has paranormal things in it, so I feel like it qualifies, but it's not bone chilling. As you said in the beginning, no spine tingles.

"This is Kelly Keaton's Darkness Becomes Her, and it has been on my unread shelf a long time, and so I had just been made to read it. I had my classroom library, and a lot of students really enjoyed it, and I had never gotten around to it. So it's a young adult novel. It is fast moving, it is the first in this series, but I did feel satisfied with the book. (I feel like sometimes I think that's relevant with series as to whether you are in it for the long haul or not, and I would be interested in reading more about it—I enjoyed it enough to continue the series—but I also felt some satisfaction with the way that this book stands alone.

"So this one is set in essentially kind of a post-apocalyptic New Orleans. There have been these horrific hurricanes that have really destroyed the community there, and it's very Southern Gothic. . . . The main character, Ari, is going there to find out about her family history. She has been through the foster care system and has been moved around a lot, and ultimately is kind of in a stable situation, finally, as a 17 year old at the beginning of the book, but she wants to find out these things about her heritage and about her parents. That's what leads her to make this journey. Then she gets down there, and I mean, I think it has a lot of the tropes that are really fun in this kind of story.

[Darkness Becomes Her] moves very fast. It was a lot of fun to read. . . . If you enjoy quick reads that hit on a lot of the Southern Gothic traditions, the paranormal traditions, and even dip into mythology, I think that this book does all of that. So I really loved it.

book cover of Riley Sager's Lock Every Door

Sara said, "Over this time that we've been spending at home, I was in a huge reading slump—not unlike right now—but in the March and April time period, I was in a huge reading slump. I just needed something that was going to grab me and be really quick and really fast. I have had Riley Sager's Lock Every Door on my shelf for a long time. . . . It met those needs for me. It was super fast. I wanted to know what happened. It was kind of creepy, and there was a lot of intrigue in it and some interesting characters. . . .

"The book is about Jules, who is kind of down on her luck. She's broke, and she needs a job, and she finds this really, so it seems, awesome job at this hotel in Manhattan called The Bartholomew, and she is offered this obscene amount of money for the amount of time that she needs to apartment sit in this particular apartment in the hotel. She thinks she has just hit the jackpot, but then there comes all these rules. She's not allowed to have visitors. She's not allowed to spend the night away from the apartment, she can't disturb or ask questions to the other guests, all of whom are pretty rich, or they're famous in some way. That all kind of piques her interest, and she doesn't understand why. . . .

"She starts realizing that the things at the hotel or the apartment complex aren't what what it seems, and she starts finding all these bizarre facts out and I will say, since we are in the middle of a global pandemic, there is some hat tip . . . to the Spanish flu, which was also a pandemic.

"So there were a lot of really intriguing elements about it, and I think that if you enjoy the genre, you will enjoy it. . . . I flew through it, and everybody knows I'm like the slowest reader ever. So I flew through it, and I was done in a day or two."

We ended the episode by sharing our favorite things about fall in our Give Me One segment.


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