Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait XI: The House in the Pines and The Light We Carry

In December, the popular upcoming fiction book was a thriller, and the non-fiction book was a celebrity memoir. And in January… it looks like people are hankering for more of the same! Get on those waitlists now, and check out our readalikes in the meantime!

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer—the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin. . . .

Continue reading “While You Wait XI: The House in the Pines and The Light We Carry”
Posted in Adult, Award Winners, Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers

Library Reads: Top 10 of 2022

Every December, hundreds of librarians from across the country vote for their favorite books of the year. This year’s picks include a romance in which the heroine’s fiercely career-driven outlook doesn’t get sacrificed for her love interest, a genetic scifi thriller, and a locked-room mystery set in an upscale hotel.

Top Pick: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city.

Continue reading “Library Reads: Top 10 of 2022”
Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait X: Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six and Spare

The books that everyone in Sheboygan is waiting for in December are a new thriller (always a popular genre to curl up with in winter) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, another celebrity memoir – this time from Prince Harry, coinciding with the new Netflix documentary. Both of these books have long waitlists, so get on them now – and, while you wait, check out some of our suggested read-alikes!

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare.

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

Continue reading “While You Wait X: Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six and Spare”
Posted in Adult, Film

Five Spooky Films You Might Have Missed

Halloween is just days away! In need of a scare and don’t want to get it from the news? Here’s a list of five new, unique spooky films that we’ve added to our movie collection that might not be on your radar.

Watcher

Watcher follows a young couple, Julia and Francis, as they settle into their new apartment. Julia copes with loneliness as she’s practicing her new country’s language. Then, Julie begins to notice a man watching her apartment through his windows. Feeling unsettled, Julie investigates and begins to see more and more of this unknown man. At the same time, there are reports that a serial killer, dubbed “the Spider” is on the loose. Could the watcher be the serial killer, Julia wonders? Julia tells her partner, her friends, and the police her fears as things slowly get creepier and creepier. No one believes Julia, causing even higher feelings of isolation and panic. This film perfectly captures what anxiety feels like and really showcases why we need to believe women.

Click HERE to see our catalog’s listing on this movie!

Bodies Bodies Bodies

If you’ve played the group card games Mafia or Werewolf, then you already know what the game Bodies Bodies Bodies is. If not, no worries. This movie follows a group of friends who are together for a weekend. They’re staying at a huge place and have a lot of substances. So, logically, they decide it’s smart to play a game of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. The game is supposed to be simple: someone is assigned the “killer” role and then the rest of the group has to figure out who that is before they get killed. While the friends envision the game being fun and safe, things get dicey when the literal bodies start piling. Of course, drama, scares, and laughs follow you through this horror/mystery/comedy film. Think And Then There Were None meets Mean Girls.

Click HERE to see our catalog’s listing on this movie!

The Amusement Park

Oddly enough, this film was made in 1975 but only just got a physical release. The film was directed by George A. Romero, the mind behind Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow, The Crazies, and more. The Amusement Park was intended to be for the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania as a teaching tool for elder abuse. After having a premiere at the American Film Festival in 1975, the movie was shelved when completed and literally went missing. The film was deemed lost until a 16MM print was, at long last, discovered. The DVD and streaming were released this year, which is why it’s still new in my book.

The story itself is about how scary aging can be. This thriller is unique in both its movie and history. Hopefully, it leaves viewers with a reminder to treat their elders with care.

Click HERE to see our catalog’s listing on this movie!

The Innocents

Now to go in total opposite directions, we have a film about children. The Innocents debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and has been getting great reviews since. No one says much about what you’ll see, just that you should see it. The movie is a supernatural thriller from Norway with a fairly simple-sounding plot: a group of children in Norway learns about their superpowers when adults aren’t looking. The film promises, according to IMDB, that “playtime takes a dangerous turn”.

Click HERE to see our catalog’s listing on this movie!

Fall

Hopefully, you’ll fall for this movie. (Hahahaha!) Two adventure-seeking friends decide to climb a decommissioned 2,000-foot TV tower in the desert to reconnect and reflect on where they are in life and how to be better. Because that’s smart. As you would expect, this doesn’t work out flawlessly and the two end up stuck on the tower. Water is in low supply and their cell phones won’t work. Yes, this sounds horrifying to me on multiple levels.

Click HERE to see our catalog’s listing on this movie!

Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait IX: Mad Honey and Live Wire

We’re back to the regular format of one fiction book and one non-fiction book this month! This time, we have a new entry in a popular series: Colleen Hoover’s new book is due to come out next month. The non-fiction book is another memoir – it seems like people can’t get enough of reading about people overcoming their past difficulties, especially if it comes with some Hollywood/celebrity drama!

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can trust him completely…

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Continue reading “While You Wait IX: Mad Honey and Live Wire”
Posted in Adult, eBooks & eAudio, Fiction, Mystery, Teen & Young Adult

Proper Ladies Buck Convention

Take a look at the list of books I have been reading lately. They each feature woman or girl protagonists who are in possession of indomitable spirits and a penchant for solving mysteries. While the books take place anywhere from 1815-1950, they are mostly set in Victorian England, and sometimes the old girl herself makes an appearance. The mysteries are usually murders, and in the cozy tradition, happen “off-screen” and are somewhat sanitary, as far as murders go. Each book listed is the first in a series, often with new titles still being published. 

The Body in the Garden (2020) by Katherine Shellman
Protagonist: Lily Adler
Setting: 1815 Edwardian London
Books in the series: three
Queen Victoria appearance: she wouldn’t be born for four more years
Lily Adler is unconventional because she is a young widow who prefers solving the mysteries of upper-crust London social circles she belongs to, rather than searching for a second husband. Completely cozy series with charming protagonists and ongoing story threads that connect book to book. The mysteries are complex, satisfying, and comfy like a warm bath.
Available on Hoopla in audio and e-book formats

Etiquette & Espionage (2013) by Gail Carriger
Protagonist: Saphronia Angelina Temminnick, age 14
Setting: 1851 Victorian London
Books in the Finishing School series: four
Queen Victoria appearance: yes
Yes, I’ve written about Gail Carriger in the past, and I will write about her again. This book is ridiculous in the best ways possible and the world needs to know. In this awesome steampunk version of Victorian England, vampires and werewolves are real and figure into parliamentary politics and society functions just like their human counterparts. Schools float in the sky. Pets are made of clockwork. Tea cakes are consumed with abandon. I loved getting to know the complex cast of characters over the four-book run, and then delighted in meeting them again in some of Carriger’s later work. The audio version is a particular joy if you enjoy the plummy tones of English society women. And I must ask, who among us does not?
Available on Libby in audio and e-book formats

Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975) by Elizabeth Peters
Protagonist: Amelia Peabody
Setting: 1884 England
Books in the series: twenty
Queen Victoria appearance: no, but expect to encounter real-life historical figures such as famous archaeologist Howard Carter.
This is the oldest series on my list, and while I am certain there are books about Victorian ladies striking out to fulfill their unconventional dreams published prior to this, Peters is for sure an OG refiner of the trope. Tropes include: unconventional lady inherits a fortune; has unbendable will; is the smartest person in the room; attracts an irascible male counterpart; is brave and resourceful to an almost sociopathic degree. One of the fun things about the Amelia Peabody books is that she ages from book to book as opposed to being rooted in a static, unchanging timespan. This beloved series is great for those who like a bit of ancient Egyptian history with their cozy mysteries.
Available on Libby in audio and e-book formats and on Hoopla in audiobook format

A Curious Beginning (2015) by Deanna Raybourn
Protagonist: Veronica Speedwell
Setting: 1887 Victorian London
Books in the series: seven with the eighth publishing in 2023
Queen Victoria appearance: yes
Oh, Veronica, how I adore her. If I had to choose a favorite character on this list it would be a toss-up between Veronica here and Gail Carriger’s Saphronia. Not only is Ms. Speedwell smart, tenacious, cunning, and ribald, she has a libido and a hilarious approach to men and love. Her handsome male counterpart, Stoker, provides a terrific foil to Veronica’s outrageous (at the time) actions and statements. The mysteries are extremely well-constructed and the running storyline is compelling. The audio production is so good I’ve listened through the series twice. 
Available on Libby in audio and e-book formats and on Hoopla in audiobook format

A Study in Scarlet Women (2016) by Sherry Thomas
Protagonist: Charlotte Holmes
Setting: Late 19th century London
Books in the series: six with a seventh publishing in 2023
Queen Victoria appearance: unsure, I have not read the whole series. 
One cannot throw a stone in a library without hitting a Sherlock Holmes adaptation (do not throw stones in the library plz). Along with Big Bird, Han Solo, and Frankestein, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizable and enduring fictional characters in the western world. We collectively cannot get enough of this prickly, seemingly omnipotent detective. My favorite adaptations gender swap the Holmes and/or Watson character (looking at you CBS’s Elementary) so naturally, I was drawn to The Lady Sherlock series. Part of the fun is recognizing the beats lifted from the source material and how they change from one interpretation to the next. Don’t fret if this Holmes adaptation does not appeal. There are a LOT more where that came from. 
Available on Libby in audio and e-book formats and on Hoopla in audiobook format

The Widows of Malabar Hill (2018) by Sujata Massey
Protagonist: Perveen Mistry
Setting: 1920 Bombay
Books in the series: three with a fourth publishing in 2023
Queen Victoria appearance: she had been dead for nineteen years in 1920
This is the farthest afield of the series on this list. Our protagonist, Perveen, is one of the first female lawyers in India. Given that Indian patriarchy persists to this day, her arrival to the legal scene was not met with great enthusiasm and often open contempt. I loved this book because I got to learn about Indian history, religions common to India, and the British Raj. The mystery itself is intriguing and the writing was beautiful.
Available on Libby in audio and e-book formats and on Hoopla in audiobook format

Cocaine Blues (1989) by Kerry Greenwood
Protagonist: Phryne Fisher
Setting: late 1920s Melbourne
Books in the series: twenty two
Queen Victoria appearance: nope!
Many are by now familiar with Phryne Fisher from the excellent Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Phyrne is the role model of our dreams. She drinks, dances, has adult dalliances to relieve stress, and carries a gold plated pistol. She’s basically the coolest lady ever. And she’s rich so she can get away with such shocking behavior for a woman of her station. This series gives golden age of detective fiction by taking us from squalid back alleys to glimmering cruise ships to speakeasies and beyond. Phryne might be the most glamorous unconventional lady on the list, and I think she would get on like a house on fire with Veronica Speedwell.
Available on Libby and Hoopla in e-book format

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009) by Alan Bradley
Protagonist: Flavia DeLuce, age 11
Setting: 1950 England
Books in the series: ten
Queen Victoria appearance: of course not, but I believe Churchill shows up sometime down the line
Eleven year old Flavia De Luce has grown up feril in Buckshaw, a crumbling family estate in a quintessentially bucolic English village. Her mother has been missing for years and her father is coping with the loss as well as his WWII experience in the stiff-upper-lip English way. Flavia is a precocious chemistry genius (one might even say mad scientist) who uses her innate curiosity and desire to impress the police Inspector Hewitt to solve baffling murders in the are. Flavia is an appealing character for many reasons, but I love that although she is a chemistry genius she often overlooks aspects of the case that any regular 11-year-old would miss. The forensic descriptions of Flavia’s observations are a little intense, but that’s part of the fun. I do NOT recommend the audio version of this series as the narration did not align with how I characterized Flavia’s voice in my own head at all. Too wistful, I think. Flavia is NOT wistful.
Available on Libby in audio and e-book format

If your reading whims differ greatly, not to fret. Mead Library has this rad book recommendation tool called Your Next Five Books. Take five minutes to fill out & submit and within a few days you will receive a personally tailored list of books based on your favorites. Not digging email as a way to reach out? Call us at 920-459-3400 option 4 to speak to a real live librarian. We can help with book picks, troubleshooting Libby and Hoopla, book requests, you name it. Anything to help you find a book you will love.

Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Nonfiction, Romance

While You Wait VIII: It Starts With Us and I’m Glad My Mom Died

We’re back to the regular format of one fiction book and one non-fiction book this month! This time, we have a new entry in a popular series: Colleen Hoover’s new book is due to come out next month. The non-fiction book is another memoir – it seems like people can’t get enough of reading about people overcoming their past difficulties, especially if it comes with some Hollywood/celebrity drama!

It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover

Lily and her ex-husband, Ryle, have just settled into a civil coparenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. After nearly two years separated, she is elated that for once, time is on their side, and she immediately says yes when Atlas asks her on a date.

But her excitement is quickly hampered by the knowledge that, though they are no longer married, Ryle is still very much a part of her life—and Atlas Corrigan is the one man he will hate being in his ex-wife and daughter’s life.

Switching between the perspectives of Lily and Atlas, It Starts with Us picks up right where the epilogue for the “gripping, pulse-pounding” (Sarah Pekkanen, author of Perfect Neighbors) bestselling phenomenon It Ends with Us left off. Revealing more about Atlas’s past and following Lily as she embraces a second chance at true love while navigating a jealous ex-husband, it proves that “no one delivers an emotional read like Colleen Hoover” (Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author).

Continue reading “While You Wait VIII: It Starts With Us and I’m Glad My Mom Died”
Posted in Adult, eBooks & eAudio, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Staff Picks, Thrillers

Books I Hated and What to Read Instead

Let’s get one thing straight up front: These are not BAD books. They’re actually wildly popular for the most part, and objectively well-executed, I just happened to hate them. Personal taste does not have to be rooted in reality or logic. We like what we like. For instance, I will put most books and movies down that feature a love triangle because they make my skin crawl. Below, I listed several best-selling books I was led to believe I would enjoy, but did not, and what I would recommend reading instead.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (2018) by Hank Green
Why I hated it: So, so, so many reasons. This is one of the only books I’ve ever rage-quit and had it been a physical and not audio copy I may have hurled the book into a different room so it would no longer offend my eyes. Based on this title alone, Hank Green cannot write female characters. The protagonist is a bisexual 20-something Asian woman. Cool, diversity is cool, but Green used this character’s sexuality like a cheat code for objectifying the other female characters in the story. Also, this book features giant robots mysteriously appearing around the world. How awesome, right? IT IS NOT the robots didn’t do SHIT. And the book ends on a cliffhanger, which I only know about because I looked up the ending online after rage quitting. Finally, the use of modern youth vernacular will NOT age well in this novel. I was wincing when I read it and the ink had hardly dried. 

Read instead:

A Master of Djinn (2021) by P. Djeli Clark
Why it’s great: Where Green totally biffed writing women characters, Clark excels. Most characters of consequence in this book are women. It blows my mind that in the year of our lord 2022 I am feeling grateful to encounter a whole book full of multidimensional female characters that don’t focus on their looks or a man to make their way in the world. Read this book for access to a mostly female cast of vibrant and memorable characters, gorgeous world building, and incomprehensible eldritch beings trying to cross into nice, semi-horror filled early 20th century Cairo. Did I mention Cairo is a world superpower because someone figured out how to let djinn and other spirits back into the world? And that’s not even a spoiler.

Nobody’s Fool (1993) by Richard Russo
Why I hated it: Sully, the titular character, is a perennial loveable loser who squandered his life being moored down by family trauma and a can’t-do attitude. Russo seems to be in love with his own prose as well as protagonist Sully, and I just don’t get it. Indeed, the writing itself cannot be beat, it was the ideas within however, which I took umbrage. For instance, a horrid racial epithet is casually bandied about at one point to describe the nature of work Sully engages in, and the level of male wish fulfillment appearing throughout was kinda gross. Every book its reader, and I am not the one. I made it about half way through the almost 600 page doorstop before I put it down. Save yourself some time and watch the 1994 screen adaptation of Nobody’s Fool starring the ever-wonderful Paul Newman instead of trying to slog through this brick.

Read instead:

Empire Falls (2001) by Richard Russo
Why it’s great: This is Russo’s Great American Novel. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction over a Jonathan Franzen book, thank god, because it deserved the honor. Now, I don’t normally stan boomer-age whiteguy authors, as they tend to write books for other men (see above for criticism of Russo’s earlier work), but this book shines with an undeniable light that we can all bask in. Empire Falls was adapted into a very passable miniseries for HBO starring Ed Harris. Watch the series for sure, but be sure to read the book too, so as not to miss out on an evil cat giving protagonist Miles a run for his money, amongst other things. 

The Spellman Files (2007) by Lisa Lutz
Why I hated it: Lutz published six Spellman books in the 2010ishes and all I could think about while reading the freshman installation was how badly this was not working for me so how could they possibly be popular enough to demand so many installations. Spellman strives to assemble a quirky and interesting family of private detectives whose dysfunction is more a feature and less a bug, but they come across as a watery Royal Tannenbaum situation with more severe antisocial disorders. And not in a fun way! While the protagonist was meant to be a daring and independent young woman, all I could see was somebody who would benefit from therapy, a reinforcing of boundaries, and maybe a damn hug. 

Read Instead:
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (2011) by Sara Gran
Why it’s great: I love a hot mess protagonist and where The Spellman Files falls short, Clare DeWitt succeeds in spades. DeWitt is the self-described world’s best PI who is obsessed with the work of obscure French detective Jacques Silette. In the City of the Dead, she has found herself in a recently post-Katrina New Orleans which DeWitt fled years earlier when her mentor was unceremoniously murdered. She is back to track down a missing DA as well as try to untangle her violent past. While none of that sounds earth-shattering, there is something about DeWitt and her unflinching self-destruction and devotion to Silette’s teachings that I found completely compelling. So far, Gran has graced us with three Claire DeWitt novels, and they get successively better. Read them in order for the best experience. If you’re a Mead card holder, all three are available in ebook and audio format on Hoopla, so no wait time for you. 

Lock Every Door (2019) by Riley Sager
Why I hated it: Some authors never resonate. This is the case for Sager. He is massively popular and has several titles that on paper seem like they’ll be right up my alley but in execution I can’t get into it. Lock Every Door initially appealed because it takes place in an early 20th century construction of a fabulous spooky Manhattan apartment building. There’s a Rosemary’s Baby vibe happening, but no Satanists, and buddy I got to tell you that was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever had in my leisure reading life. The solution to this “mystery” was pretty irritating and I wish I had the time back that I used to read this. I also read Lock Every Door which has a supernatural switcheroo as well, so maybe it’s a theme in Sager’s work. I dunno. It doesn’t do it for me. 

Read instead:

There’s Someone Inside Your House (2017) by Stephanie Perkins 
Why it’s great: First and foremost, before you read any further, take a moment to say the title of this book out loud. No wait, don’t just say it, SCREECH it. Try it, you’ll like it. Besides the very fun-to-yell title, this YA thriller has a brisk pace, interesting character arcs and juicy secret pasts to unfold. The creep-factor is high and the central mystery has a satisfying and hard to predict solution. Most who enjoy thrillers or mysteries would enjoy this highly consumable and appealingly candy-colored book.

Would I say my taste in books is highly individualistic and not based on any objective literary criticism? Yes, yes I would. That’s the beauty of leisure reading. We get to pursue what we like without justifying the reasons. Some people only read Amish romance. Some people only read nonfiction accounts of Arctic expeditions. Some people only read graphic novels and manga. Guess what, they are all valid in their reading pursuits because there’s no wrong way to leisurely read.  

If you are casting around for book recommendations consider using our reader’s advisory service, Your Next Five Books, by clicking HERE. If you are in need of ebook or audiobook troubleshooting, or help requesting books, please call us or stop in for help, and happy reading. 

Posted in Adult, Fiction, Mystery, Romance

While You Wait VII: Ugly Love and Going Rogue

It’s a little odd this month! One of the most popular and requested books is… Ugly Love, which was published in 2014! So rather than choose one fiction and one non-fiction, I’m going to give you that book with a couple read-alikes, and then the most popular and requested book that’s actually new (which is, unsurprisingly, Janet Evanovich!) Plus, this way you get a choice between romance and mystery.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Continue reading “While You Wait VII: Ugly Love and Going Rogue”
Posted in Adult, Fiction, Horror, Mystery

Spooky Books Best for Camping, or Laying in a Hammock, or Being Woods-Adjacent

Spookyass woods

Look, I don’t like camping, okay? Sleeping in a tent for more than one night is not restful. Being hot and stinking of bug repellent is not restful. Peeing in a hole is not restful. Plus, ax murderers live in the woods, which is not restful. The closest I ever get to camping is booking a creepy motel room that is woods-adjacent. Last year I drove up to Duluth and the scariest part was the last leg north of Spooner that is mostly pine forest and nothing else. NOTHING ELSE. This is not my element. I kept checking my gas gauge even though I knew it was full. Miles and miles would pass without seeing another car. Should my rental break down I was certain that murderers and sasquatch lined the highway, just beyond my line of sight, I knew it in my bones! Imagine my relief when I spotted Superior in the distance after cresting a hill. Civilization. Anyplace with Kwik Trip stations every three blocks is civilized, you see. While I personally do not cope well with the wide-open spaces, and being for-real scared, I thoroughly enjoy being pretend-scared from the comfort of a rented room while on vacation. If I can see woods from the room, all the better. Below, I listed several books with spooky woods featuring heavily in the plot. 

Small Spaces (2018) by Katherine Arden
Horror isn’t just for adults. That’s right, children can and should have the everloving hell scared out of them on the odd occasion. Books are a great way to scare your children. For instance, Small Spaces deals with the horror of grief as well as the more existential threat of wood-dwelling creatures that come out in the dark to eat you. Scary! Small Spaces is the first in a horror trilogy and I really think Arden gave us all a little gift with these books since parents and kids will both enjoy the series. The stakes are high and the woods are dark and dreadful. Age up with Arden and check out her gorgeous Winternight Trilogy which is basically Russian fairy tales updated for a mature readership. Save it for cold weather, tho. 

In the Woods (2007) by Tana French
This is the first book in Tana French’s beloved Dublin Murder Squad series. One of my favorite tropes in mystery fiction is when the traumatized youth grows up to be seemingly well-adjusted but then must confront the source of their trauma. In this case, the protagonist’s childhood friend vanished without a trace twenty years earlier and now a similar crime has happened in the same woods. Dublin Murder Squad books can be read in any order, but I think In the Woods is the right place to start this astonishing series. 

Near the Bone (2021) by Christina Henry
I love books about wreaking revenge on terrible men. I like books about monsters and being scared in the woods. Near the Bone combines all of these elements to great effect. A young woman and her husband live far away from civilization in the mountains. The man controls the woman’s every movement and has done for a very long time until an unseen and howling beast throws his carefully isolated life into chaos. Perhaps the unseen terror in the woods will mean salvation from the known horror of the young woman’s captor.

Watchers (1987) by Dean Koontz
This is not a good book, but it was a GREAT vacation read. The premise hooked me right away. Our protagonist crosses paths with a friendly golden retriever who manages to warn him from walking any further into the Oregon foothills. See, the golden retriever is super smart, see, and the laboratory that created him also made this super smart malevolent thing, right, that is basically the evil counterpart to the very good boy golden retriever, see. Oh and also the dog can tell if people are good or evil. And also also the creature has a psychic link with the dog! And it stalks the man and the dog! And there is a pretty lady in need of rescuing! I liked this book for a vacation read because it required very little brain power to enjoy or understand. My main criticism is that Koontz should refrain from writing sex scenes. This book came out in 1987 so maybe he got better at it, but lord was I a-cringing. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood (2015) by Ruth Ware
The best mysteries feature isolated locales, unreliable narrators, and lots of wild twists and turns. Ruth Ware has a knack for just such a mystery. In A Dark, Dark Wood takes place of course, in the middle of an isolated wooded English settlement. A group of old friends gathers for a traditional “hen do” and piss-up before one of them gets hitched. Things start out fun enough but then something goes very, very wrong. How did the power get cut off if no one can come in or out? If a stranger came into the house, where are their footprints in the snow? And it goes on like that. Most satisfying.

Here are some additional spooky woods-adjacent books to enjoy from the safety of your hotel room. Poolside enjoyment is also acceptable:

The Box in the Woods (2021) by Maureen Johnson

The Twisted Ones (2019) by T. Kingfisher

Spider Lake (2019) by Jeff Nania

The Shadows (2020) by Alex North

Uprooted (2015) by Naomi Novick

Please, enjoy camping on my behalf. Just like Homer Simpson, I prefer to be where my food and bed is. If none of the above titles hold any appeal, please reach out to us for book recommendations or consider using our book recommendation tool Your Next Five Books which will provide you with personalized book picks. Either way, we love hearing from you.