HALLOW-READS 2021: 31 Book Recommendations for the 31 Days of October

For more about the books pictured above, here are blurbs and lkinks to my reviews for buy links and all that:

  1. A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
    • Dracula’s brides retelling in which they fall in love bisexually and vampirically yeet their abuser
  2. The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller
    • Taking place in the city of Hudson, this horror has gentrification, Grinder tulpas, ghosts, gay disasters, and more
  3. Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo
    • An urban legend about a young Gothic lolita girl in the trash in search of a sibling has deadly consequences. Absolutely horrifying, especially as shit escalates
  4. Lakewood by Megan Giddings
    • To save her family from dire financial straits, Lena takes a job that looks great on paper but involves a lot of questionable medical research
  5. The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
    • Marriage of convenience turns spooky as a new wife spends the night in her husband’s literal haunted mansion; chaos magic ensues
  6. Near the Bone by Christina Henry
    • Marriage of convenience turns spooky as a new wife spends the night in her husband’s literal haunted mansion; chaos magic ensues
  7. The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
    • Being one of the only Black kids at a prep school is hard enough. Being haunted by the ghost of a mass shooter doesn’t help
  8. The Troop by Nick Cutter
    • Campfire stories & camping have a certain charm. But when a bioengineered rot terror shows up, things only get grosser and more thrilling from there
  9. The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
    • A literary horror about a young couple buying their first home together–and it’s haunted. Terror ensues.
  10. Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark
    • Dark historical fantasy in which the KKK turn into eldritch horrors and the only thing standing between them and Armageddon is a girl with a magic sword
  11. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
    • Childhood friends got greedy on a hunting trip and now, as adults, they’re haunted and hunted by a a mysterious elk woman
  12. Boogiepop and Others by Kouhei Kadono & Kouji Ogata
    • This light novel is about high schoolers disappearing only to reappear as the titular phantom or their enemy, the Manticore. Spooky and unsettling
  13. Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden
    • Ollie, Coco, and Brian are haunted by an entity known as the Smiling Man in a series of adventures perfect for fans of Over the Garden Wall
  14. Dai Dark by Q Hayashida
    • Zaha Sanko and his back paggy Avakian are constantly on the run from aliens who want to use Sanko’s bones to grant wishes. Perfect for people seeking to scratch that Gideon the Ninth itch
  15. The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor
    • Get your queer ace/aro werewolf fix here. After killing the wrong nun, Skythulf has to redeem himself by joining the Wild Hunt. Metal af with awesome illustrations
  16. The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
    • In which cleaning up your grandmother’s home reveals more secrets than you cared to know & makes rocks fucking terrifying
  17. The Hunger by Alma Katsu
    • One of my faves? One of my absolute faves. Character-driven retelling of the Donner Party tragedy horror
  18. Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard of by Harold Schechter
    • Greatest crash course in almost every fucked up thing with incredible organization according to timeframe
  19. Mieruko-Chan by Tomoki Izumi
    • A slice of life comedy manga in which the main character sees some of the scariest ghosts I’ve seen in any piece of art
  20. Butcherbird by Cassie Hart
    • Local woman goes back to clear out family farmhouse that is totes haunted and the family secrets might be even scarier
  21. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
    • In which a mother is having a hard time with her obstinate child, but we also get the kid’s terrifying point of view
  22. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
    • When Nella is no longer the only Black girl at the publishing house, conspiracy threatens to unravel the fabric of reality itself
  23. A Monstrous Love by Magen Cubed
    • A collection for those who like stories in which girls kiss and one of them may or may not be a literal monster
  24. A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers
    • It’s eat, pray, love, but more like love and eat the prey as a food critic recounts her more unsavory tastes
  25. Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
    • A teen girl is seriously fucked up from her father’s encounter of the alien kind, but there is so much more to it than that
  26. Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur
    • A particle physicist in the Antarctic is haunted not only by a literal ghost but also doomed to become one of the women from her mother’s folk tales
  27. Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
    • In which Andrew is haunted by his best friend Eddie’s ghost and that supposed suicide spirals into mysteries of the dark academic variety
  28. The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Marcus Parks, Henry Zabrowski, and Ben Kissel
    • Nonfiction & illustrated, serial killer heavy hitters galore
  29. Pan by Christopher Ruz
    • This retelling casts Peter Pan as the villain and has lived rent-free in my head ever since I read it
  30. Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
    • A group of friends spend the night in a blood-thirsty haunted mansion and it ends poorly
  31. The Bloodborne comic by Ales Kot and Piotr Kowalski
    • The unsettling joy of Bloodborne fully illustrated. Mind-bending and terrifying

June 2022 Reading Recap

My birthday month has come and past. Have I caught up on my reading goal? No. How is the writing going? It’s going. The highlight of this month was absolutely attending ALA AC 2022 in Washington D.C. with one of my best friends, Elliott, as part of the Zine Pavilion. Many zines were peddled, authors met, and despite the masking, things felt normal. I also accomplished holding a plank for a minute straight! It’s been a good time.

This month’s blog interviews were:

July has three authors interviews in store for me and all the ARCs from ALA arrived at my doorstep.

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Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol. 5 by Tomoki Izumi (2022)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2022
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, disturbing imagery

The ghosts continue to be horrifying and Miko is avoiding them with varying success. We get some more school insights, but the plot moves along nicely.

The female friendships in this series are so good. There’s the link between Godmother and Miko, there’s Yuria, Miko, and Hana as a trio, there’s also Hana and Miko as lifelong friends. The protection and care they show towards each other is so cute. I really liked the scenes of Miko trying to preserve Hana’s aura via snacks and meals.

Meanwhile, Yuria investigates Shindou Romm’s ghost tours. The ghosts are the scariest yet, and it’s unclear whether or not Romm can see them. The Ardyn Izunia-looking YouTuber has several tricks and grifts, and possibly blackmail, up his sleeve, and I’m so nervous for Miko teaming up with him to learn the truth about the mysterious shrine.

My 2021 in Reading: That’s a Lot of Things, Jo

I read 198 books this year in a split of: 39 ARCs, 59 audiobooks, 85 manga volumes, 9 physical copies, 2 light novels, and 6 eBooks. As my boyfriend said, “That’s a lot of things, Jo.” It is that time of year where I want to share my favorites, so please enjoy my top 20 2021 books, top 20 books from before 2021, and, a new feature, 5 manga.

I realize that I make lists for books I’m excited for and book I want to read, and failed on both those lists. So, my lists for 2022 books is mostly about boosting others works regardless of if I personally get around to reading them. That’s just how it is when you’re employed and vastly mis-measure what kind of focus you’ll have as the year goes on. Moving also robbed me of a bunch of my focus, which should not have been as surprising as it is. On top of working full time. On top of being in a relationship and trying to participate in the communities I’m a part of.

“That’s a lot of things,” indeed, self.

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November 2021 Reading Recap

November featured not as much reading as I’m used to. That’s because I finished my rewrite as my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project, rather than writing the requisite 50,000 words. I did it! I completed the rewrite, and it is now sitting in beta readers’ inboxes. The work took a lot out of me, so much so that I’m still feeling vaguely hungover.

December will feature some more things. But also, what do you mean it’s December already?

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Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol. 3 & 4 by Tomoki Izumi (2021)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2021
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

For some reason, I never rated Volume 3. Anyway, this continues to be a consistent delight. The ghosts are just getting scarier, the plot is starting to take shape, and the greater world of spiritualists unfolds.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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February 2021 Reading Recap

February is the shortest month and wow did so many things happen. I quit my dayjob because I got an offer for another day job more aligned with where I want to be and the things I want to do. My boyfriend got (and accepted) into a PhD program. I managed to do a lot of manga reading and a fair amount of audiobooks. All in all, it was a fine month.

There were three whole author interviews too:

  • Genevieve Gornichec celebrated her debut with The Witch’s Heart
  • Karin Tidbeck delighted us with some insight into the inspiration behind their latest, The Memory Theater
  • Sarah Gailey shared their process of choosing a near-future sci-fi setting where The Echo Wife takes place
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Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol. 2 by Tomoki Izumi (2021)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2021
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, disturbing imagery

It took so much of my self-control to not immediately inhale this as soon as it hit my phone. Continuing with the excellent ghost designs, this volume introduces new characters and new lore (?), while still keeping up the slice-of-life pacing.

I winced at every new ghost introduced here. They are larger, more intricate, but I really liked how Izumi introduces softer moments where maybe the ghosts aren’t all bad. In fact, helping them find closure Sixth Sense style might be a way for Miko to find peace with her new horrifying ghouls.

One of my favorite archetypes is the character who declares themself to be someone’s apprentice. Here comes Yuria, a fledging medium who wants to know why the old woman closed up her shop and what exactly is up with Miko seeing ghosts beyond ever her comprehension. I can’t wait to see how this relationship evolves, especially since Miko tries to maintain that she cannot see anything going on around her.

Manga Review: MIERUKO-CHAN Vol 1. by Tomoki Izumi (2020)

Genre: Slice-of-Life Horror
Year Release in English: 2020
Source: BOOK☆Walker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Ghosts, body horror, groping, disturbing imagery

This manga might be my new favorite thing. It follows a girl, Miko, as she goes about her daily life with one major problem: she can see ghosts. They are not friendly, and no one else around her can interact with them. Sometimes it’s funny, other times it’s horrifying, and I am so interested in where this story is going.

The ghost designs are so excellent. The art style really balances the slice-of-life and the ghostly terrors. They’re so inventive, and each one has me both terrified and unable to look away. The page-by-page jump scares are exquisite. I really enjoy Miko and Hana’s friendship, they do every day girl things that leave me convinced they are girlfriends.

There is a brief introduction of rules and lore, with the breaking spirit beads and visits to mediums. It’s light in this first volume, and I really hope it gets explored.