Hello and happy Monday, Epic friends! We hope the new season is off to an Epic start for you.
No announcements at the moment, so let’s dive into our reading chat!
I get to be your What Are You Reading guide through October (universally known as the best month of the year)?? It’s an honor, friends, a true honor!
Spooky Season calls for an exploration of horror. It’s an experiment that I’ve been lightly exploring in my reading life: where do I fall on the spectrum of scary? It’s true that I do tend to gravitate toward books that have a smidgen of darkness — I love a reading moment where I find myself holding my breath, maybe with a couple hairs standing on end — but it’s a delicate balance. I don’t want a book that will make me sleep with the light on. I don’t want a story that is creepy just to be creepy.
I know that I do love a gothic vibe and I do love when the creepy, dark element draws from — but does not demonize — folklore or legend. I love an ambiguous darkness that is not synonymous with evil.
In September, I unintentionally tested some of those boundaries. First with Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh. This one was not at all what I expected. I was thinking it would be more folkloric, and once I had finished it, I could see it for the bleak sort of fairy tale that it is and appreciate that mastery in crafting it. But I’ll tell you, with each page turn I was hoping with all my might that the story was going to take a drastic turn. It’s gruesome, disturbing, morbid. It feels folklore-adjacent in that it’s like a window into the worst parts of medieval life with elements of a pre-Disneyified fairy tale, but while I can handle uncomfortable moments throughout a book, this one had zero moments of relief and seemed to be daring me to DNF (which, respect).
Next, I tried The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce (which comes out October 4th). This one was much more my scene. What starts as a feud between two very unlikable characters — a “spiritual” wellness influencer-type and her (jealous) childhood best friend — over their shared interest in the history and legend of their town’s witch(?) many centuries ago, ends up with them both getting in far over their heads. This book built to the dark parts, and because it’s somewhat epistolary (written entirely in journal entries and Facebook posts), I loved that for much of the story I couldn’t rely on the narrators to know what was real and what was a dramatization.
Finally, I just finished reading The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. I can’t explain my full feelings about this one without spoilers. Much of the twist of this story is specifically something that bothers me as horror story material. However, if it must be done, I feel like Catriona Ward did a pretty good job of ending it on a note that I could feel okay with. I do love a story that keeps me disoriented and guessing until the end, and this one certainly delivered in that regard.
But I’m not sure if I’m going to continue the horror into October (you never know, my reading queue system leaves much of that up to fate). What I do know is that up next I’m finally going to complete Octavia’s Earthseed duology. I read Parable of the Sower a little over a year ago and needed a good year to sit with it before continuing on — I wonder how I would have felt about it in 1993 because in 2021 it felt a little too close to home. So with a deep breath, I’m diving into Parable of the Talents.
Are you having a scary reading month? What are you reading? Let us know in the comments!