Haunted Hardbacks: September 2023

Something wicked this way comes … It’s the September 2023 debut of Haunted Hardbacks, a new horror blog! In this post we're featuring horror books under 200 pages. Just some quick scares to get you ready for October. 

These titles may be available in other formats or languages. Check our catalog for availability. 

Heads up before you scroll! The covers of these books feature creepy art, blood, and body horror involving teeth. 

A note on content warnings: Generally, it can safely be assumed that characters in these stories are unsafe. Reviewers may highlight specific events in the books. For more content warnings, check the author's website. 

Title/Author: Linghun by Ai Jiang

Reviewer: Kris 

Content Warnings: Racism, child death, graphic violence

Cover of Linghun, which has an upside down spooky house and a large moon. Arrows point to key phrases: Cut-throat housing market, modern gothic classic, grieving with ghosts, and immigration, home, and longing.Summary: In the mysterious town of HOME, the dead live again as spirits, conjured by the grief-sick population that refuses to let go.   

Reaction: I devoured this book. Desperation and fury move the characters along, and it's difficult to put the book down until you know what happens to Wenqi and the rest. HOME is both repellent — the housing market is brutal on a literal level — and promising. What do we sacrifice to mourning, and what does it give us in return? Jiang also considers the separation inherent in immigration and the grief that this experience causes. 

Recommended for readers who love poignant gothic tales, and anyone who lives across a border from where they used to be. 

Title/Author: Waif by Samantha Kolesnik 

Reviewer: Amy 

Content Warnings: Mutilation, rape, abuse 

Cover of Waif by Samantha Kolesnik. Illustration of two white women in white dresses. Arrows point to keywords: splatter punk, does pain have meaning, body horror, and underground medical procedures.Summary: What’s better: an unhappy upperclass life or a dangerous descent into the underground world of film? 

Reaction: This book left me totally unsettled and disturbed. When Angela’s partner turns to a back-alley plastic surgeon to transform him into the man of Angela’s dreams, she must contend with the botched aftermath and what follows. Does all the pain that Angela goes through have meaning, at the very least? Kolesnik seems to suggest “no.” But the life she’s traded is now on her own terms, so perhaps that makes it easier to swallow. 

Recommended for those with a strong stomach and an interest in the splatterpunk subgenre. 

Title/Author: A Blackness Absolute by Caitlin Marceau 

Reviewer: Kris 

Content Warnings: Ableism, child death 

Cover of A Blackness Absolute by Caitlin Marceau. Illustration of a white woman's face with black liquid running out of eyes and open mouth. Arrows point to keywords: Short horror stories, wrong place, wrong time, cloying creepy atmospheres, and the cat is fine but other people are not fine.Summary: This anthology from Caitlin Marceau takes us into a claustrophobic cave, along a low road at high tide, and explores our vulnerability to forces out of our control.

Reaction: What I enjoyed the most about this collection was Marceau's evocative writing. It was easy to picture the characters lost in complete darkness and swept over by mud and waves. Some characters provoke their fates, while others balance on a desperate edge, but the horror of happenstance was especially chilling. There's little a protagonist can do when stuck in the path of outside events. 

Recommended for readers looking for a reason to worry about what's behind you in the mirror. 

Title/Author: The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson 

Part one of a completed trilogy, but can be read as a standalone. 

Reviewer: Kris 

Content Warnings: Graphic violence 

Cover of the Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson. Close up of a white woman's face with a nosebleed. Arrows point to keywords: Fast-paced sci-fi novella, practical body disposal, murderous doppelgangers, and what makes you, you?Summary: The rule is simple: don't bleed. Whenever Molly Southbourne bleeds, an identical Molly is born…intent on her destruction. 

Reaction: The action here moves quickly, and Thompson's writing grabs you right from the start. I loved the rich characters and worldbuilding. This is a science fiction novella, but I've always thought the logistical problems of being cursed made for fun reading, and Molly is as cursed as somebody can be. It definitely made me think hard about how easy it is to cut yourself, to make a simple mistake, and be faced with a complex problem. 

Recommended for anyone who enjoys complicated protagonists. 

Title/Author: Dirty Heads by Aaron Dries 

Reviewer: Amy 

Content Warnings: Homophobia, graphic descriptions 

Cover of Dirty Heads by Aaron Dries. Illustration of a white man with a grotesque mouth extending from the side of his face. Arrows point to keywords: coming out story, cosmic horror, gross imagery, the cat is not fine.Summary: “There are no gods, only teeth.” 

Reaction: Cosmic horror is used as a metaphor for Heath, our teenage narrator, to come to terms with his sexuality. Set in the 90s alongside a setting of video stores, nudie magazines, and mixtapes, there’s plenty left to be desired in Heath’s day-to-day. But the going gets good when both Heath’s father and cat go missing.  

While I wanted Dries to take the horror a little further, it’s still largely unsettling and the descriptions will leave you feeling grossed out.  

Recommended for those who want to know what would happen if your wildest imaginings became real.