KelleyAnn is a bookseller with a deep love for alt-history sci-fi, high fantasy, YA, and art history. Within the books she finds her favorites you can expect well-crafted, transporting world-building and beautiful, descriptive prose. When she’s not in a bookstore you can usually find her at a concert, in an Irish pub, or haunting speakeasies.
Featured Spooky Season Reads
KelleyAnn's Picks (Reviews Below)
Young Adult Picks
“I was made for him.” This is the thought Sophia wakes to every morning. She is the perfect wife for her perfect husband, in her perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood. But her husband is away working so often, which she knows is for her. To provide for her. But when he’s gone she can’t help but wonder about things she shouldn’t -- like the basement she’s not allowed in, the locked left drawer of her vanity, and how her neighbors can’t quite look her in the eyes when she asks questions. Sparse & slim but not lacking in descriptive, beautiful prose and plenty of twists, this new novella is Cat Valente at her sharpest.
In the land of Elidaen, the sun has not risen in 27 years and vampires can walk in the day. As a result, the world is crumbling under the conquering fist of the Dead. In a cell, imprisoned by the monsters he is sworn to kill, Gabriel de Leon - the last Silversaint, a holy order created to fight creatures of the night - recounts his life, loss, and quest for revenge and the one thing that could save the world -- The Holy Grail. Kristoff weaves a story of epic battles, devastating losses, treacherous hope, and found family in a world of true darkness and brutality. A world where there is horror and also hope, faith and also faithlessness, but where both the narrator and reader learn, hearts can never truly break, only bruise. The first in a new epic fantasy trilogy with beautiful black and white illustrations, this book will both have you on the edge of your seat and on the brink of tears.
The legend is well known -- Arthur will be crowned King of Camelot, only to be abandoned by his sister, the sorceress Morgana, and betrayed by his wife Guinevere and his right-hand knight, Lancelot. As his oracle and adviser, Elaine Astolat, the Lady of Shalott, alone carries the burden of knowing that this is the future that awaits the five of them, and how one day, they will all turn against each other in some irrevocable way. Told in the past, present, and future tense, Laura Sebastian breathes new life into Arthurian myth. At its heart, the driving force and strength of this book is Elaine, who in her struggles both internal and external, claims her agency and finds the power to reshape legends -- for the future is never set in stone until it becomes the past.
In his latest work, Jeff Vandermeer’s brilliant but morbid imaginative worlds creep ever closer to our own. Hummingbird Salamander is a thriller set in a day not far from our own -- when the earth is crumbling under the strains of human pollution, pandemics, and wildlife trafficking. “Jane Smith” mysteriously receives a key to an abandoned storage unit in which she finds a taxidermied extinct hummingbird and a clue pointing her towards a salamander. In taking the hummingbird she sets off a deadly chain of events that threatens the physical safety of those around her and forces her into hiding. Soon Jane finds herself drawn into a dangerous cat and mouse game, but she can’t help but wonder -- why was she contacted?
Puns! Swordplay! Lesbian necromancers in space! Gideon has lived her life in service to the Ninth and she has had enough -- with a few dirty magazines and her precious sword she prepares to run away. But the supreme bone witch extraordinaire, Harrowhark Nonagesimus won’t let her go so easily. Instead she is offered a bargain, her freedom in exchange for serving just a little while longer, as Harrow’s cavalier in a deadly trial of wits and skills to become one of the Undying Emperor’s immortal necromancers.
The necromancers are back and they are gayer than ever. Harrowhark has fought long and hard and lost much to gain her immortal place beside the Emperor in the eternal war. But her work is far from over -- her new immortal siblings and teachers might just be trying to kill her, her sword is making her ill, and her mind and memory might just be betraying her.
The third Welcome to Night Vale book just proves that Fink & Cranor just get better and better at writing novels. Fans of Welcome to Night Vale rejoice! Have you ever wondered where the faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home came from? Of course you haven’t because you don’t know she’s there. But Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor are here to tell you her story - one that weaves a swashbuckling, epic pirate tale set in the 1800s together with a present day awash in that uniquely-Night-Valian brand of strangeness and horror. With an ending that might leave you even more unsettled than you were at the start, this story is perfect for all readers who love a good creepy tale, whether you’re an avid Night Vale fan or a new to the universe.
The novelization of Alice Isn’t Dead, Joseph Fink’s podcast narrated by Jasika Nicole, is just as beautiful and atmospheric on page as it is to listen to. Parsed with little revelations about the main character's past and relationship - this story oscillates seamlessly between time frames of background and present. This book is so many things all at once - a deep scrutiny of time, human relationships, and conspiracy wrapped in a road trip wrapped in an intimate portrayal of anxiety in a way that does not imply that mental health is something that needs to be or can be "fixed" wrapped in a compelling horror. There are multiple instances in this book that made me jump while reading it late at night by lamplight - and scary is just the surface. Needless to say, Alice Isn't Dead is definitely my new favorite novel from the Night Vale Presents team.
The future American Southwest is a dystopia of controlled media, lone outposts in the desert, and gunslinging queer librarian spies just trying to do the right thing. A blazing and well-executed novella full of heart and rollicking adventure. What are you waiting for? Fight the good fight. Read it.
“I love you. In every world.” These are the words a stranger she’s never met before, says to Madison May shortly before murdering her. Felicity Staples is a reporter, covering the murder for the New York City newspaper she works at, when she unfortunately bumps into the suspect on the subway. After a close and dangerous encounter, she senses a shift in her reality -- discovering that somehow, she is now in another dimension. A dimension where Madison May is alive again -- but not for long. When this world’s Madison is killed, Felicity decides she must follow this serial killer through the multiverse in order to save Madison’s life… or lives, however many worlds it takes.
This book is the exact kind of high fantasy/epic that I’ve been craving. Every 10 years a girl from the valley is given to the mysterious wizard known only as the Dragon in exchange for protection against the sinister and encroaching Wood. Poetic, gorgeous writing, a strong sense of setting, and well-developed characters make a strong foundation for the plot, which snowballs one barely won victory into the next bigger disaster. All of the satisfaction of a good high fantasy series in a single standalone novel.
Miryem’s father is moneylender -- but a poor one, who has let others avoid paying their debt and thus dragged his family into poverty. So when her mother becomes ill in the winter, Miryem hardens her heart and sets out to collect their debts, saving her family from the brink of death. But her ability to turn silver into gold catches the attention of the dangerous Staryk, who’s white road and unearthly power over the cold dance ever nearer. Her story, woven with 5 other narrators, weave together a cold and refreshing retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Naomi Novik has a fantastic gift for channeling classic fairytale language in her writing and this book does not disappoint.
At the Scholomance, an exclusive school for magic full of deadly monsters called maleficaria that attempt to prey on young wizards for their magic, survival is the only teacher. With her affinity for dark powers, El could easily hold back the hordes but only at the risk of potentially killing all of her classmates in the process. Much to her displeasure, her class’s golden child Orion Lake seems to have no problem saving people from mals, herself included, with his flashy combat magic. I love Naomi Novik and this book was such a fun, fast read -- luckily it's the first in a new trilogy!
Somber, elegant, and spellbinding - the title of this book alone is evocative of its cold, unflinching beauty. Radiance takes place in an alternate history - in a universe where Old Hollywood is on the moon and interplanetary travel is as mundane as taking the subway. Using a mix of narrative, transcripts, and letters, the fragmented story within these pages is one in which you know the tragic ending from the start, yet cannot help becoming attached to.
6 different but connected stories told in unique, lyric, and just plain badass voices. Catherynne M. Valente takes a jab at comics from the perspective of comic book women whose deaths have been used to progress male storylines - a common plot device nicknamed being “refrigerated.” While technically creating her own new, original superhero-universe, she alludes to easily recognized, classic DC and Marvel plots, illuminating just how often female protagonists are pushed under in the comic book world.
Years ago, a silver baron forced the Crow people to give one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, to him in marriage. To them, a half-white, half-native child is born and in childbirth, Gun That Sings’s life ends. Tired of being hidden away for years, Snow White, mockingly nicknamed by her stepmother for the fair skin she will never have, packs her pistol and runs away to make her own way in the world. In a short but evocative novella, Catherynne M. Valente reimagines the tale of Snow White in the wild west in a way that is both familiar and refreshingly gritty.
In a masterful retelling of Koschei the Deathless, a fairytale like a Russian Hades and Persephone, Catherynne M. Valente weaves a story that is both familiar down to its bones and unlike anything else. Deathless will leave you entrenched in its magic, entwined in its labyrinthine, breathtaking prose & ghostly sense of déjà vu. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read and one of my favorites of all time, It is in short spellbinding, heartbreaking, and still has a hold on me.
A story of a man who, feeling lost, returns to the lane he grew up on and in returning begins to remember an improbable childhood - of a violent death that blurs the boundaries between worlds, parasites that slip through the crack, and the Hempstock women who saved him. A fairytale for adults that focuses on memories - how we remember and how we forget. A quick punch of a novel that will always be to me, an example of Neil Gaiman at his best. The new illustrated version lends a beautiful new visual element to the story without taking away from the imaginative aspect of Gaiman’s descriptions.
This novel must surely be its own piece of spell work – a beautifully crafted story around a circus that is only open at night. Dueling magicians, twins growing up on the road, living statues, cloud mazes, and more come alive between these pages. Morgenstern’s characters and finely built world are so imaginative they must be the work of magic – and is certain to enchant all dreamers and romantics.
This book had me within the first 30 pages. I have never read a book that has seemed to know my dreams so well or that I have fallen in love with so quickly. After seven years, Erin Morgenstern returns with a novel even more captivating than her first. The Starless Sea weaves magic and mystery into its modern fairytale of video-game playing grad students, men lost in time, evil secret societies, seas of honey, and masquerades.
In a city ravaged by Mord, a giant flying bear made by the Company, a biotech operation that has since fallen into ruin -- Rachel, a scavenger, finds Borne, who could be a plant or an animal or a weapon or a machine or all of the above. Jeff Vandermeer requires close and attentive reading but the payoff is incredible, incomparably strange eco-scifi that is also heartbreaking in its exposure of humanity. Made extra wondrous, clever, and familiar if you read Vandermeer’s novella “The Strange Bird” and short story “The Third Bear” beforehand.
This book is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Sure-footed and confident in a way that is often rare of a debut novel, the writing in this book is clear-voiced and remarkably intelligent. A mystery full of little twists and turns that reveal a multitude of criss-crossing, interconnected myths – Greek, Biblical, Norse, Voodoo, you name it – one by one like hands of cards being overturned. You’re bound to be delighted by the surprisingly familiar number of references you can mark out. Murdered gods, tricksters, tarot symbolism, and more abound against the simmering backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans.
Caught up in a cycle of abuse and drug addiction, Alex Stern is given a chance at a new life by a mysterious benefactor as an incoming freshman at Yale after she finds herself the sole survivor of a gruesome multiple homicide. But there’s a price - forced to confront her her ability to see ghosts she is tasked as the newest recruit of Lethe House. Struggling to stay afloat at Yale, Alex finds herself the latest (reluctant) guardian set in place to monitor the occult activities of Yale’s 8 secret societies, inevitably putting her at the center of another murder. In her adult debut, Leigh Bardugo manages the transition from writing in the YA genre to horror/fantasy with seamless grace. Mature, dark, and richly imaginative, Ninth House builds a world within our own - one that might not be so pleasant to find oneself in.
No one knows what “it” is, but seeing it for even a second drives people to grisly violence and ultimately, without fail, suicide. Bird Box is an unspeakable horror fraught with paranoia and palpable terror – caught between what you know and what you don’t know, this book will engulf you completely turning your imagination into your own worst enemy.
When read conventionally from front to back this book seems to be 3 different novellas/short stories. But read in an alternate chapter sequence (via a provided key) the stories become tied together to form a singular narrative about a pair of lovers lost in time whose souls can cross from body to body. An epic story of love, memory, and sinister societies that spans 150 years and 7 lifetimes.
In a last effort to escape an arranged marriage and a life stuck in her tiny hometown of Villon-sur-Sarthe, Adeline LaRue makes a desperate deal with the devil to live forever. However, in exchange she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets until one day 300 years later, a boy in a bookstore remembers her. This book is a stunning and sweet love story with an unexpected ending that plays out over centuries of books, music, and art.
In a war waged across time and space, in multiple strands of possible pasts, presents, and futures -- Red and Blue are two enemy agents who have struck up a dangerous, taunting correspondence via letter. Incredible poetic, and page turning, this book/novella does so much with so little crafting both a rich world and heartbreaking story full of clever references.
This book is Stephen King at his finest. Louis Creed, an emergency physician, and his family have moved to a small rural town in Maine, on a lonely stretch of highway that frequently claims the lives of neighborhood pets. When Church, the Creed family’s cat is killed on the road, their neighbor suggests Louis bury him in the wood beyond the “pet sematary.” By some horrific miracle, Church returns but is changed in a deep and unsettling way. Soon after, Louis’s young son Gage wanders onto the road… Pet Sematary might just be the scariest book I’ve ever read -- and the most chilling part, it’s based directly on events that happened in King’s life -- namely, moving his family to a small town with a road much like the one in Pet Sematary. Shortly after moving there, they lost their family cat to an accident and not too long after had a close scare in which King’s youngest son, barely 2 years old at the time, began running toward the road. In short, Pet Sematary is perhaps the most gruesome permutation of that dangerous question “what if” and one that King considers to be his most frightening work to date.
16 year old Ray Garraty is competing in The Long Walk -- an annual competition of stamina between 100 young men -- the winner receives anything they want forever. The rules are simple, walkers must maintain a steady pace of 4 mph at all times. Slow down under that you receive a warning. Receive 3 warnings and get a ticket. There is no finish line -- the walk ends when there is only 1 man left standing. Harrowing and compulsively page turning, this is as much a psychological thriller as much as it is horror and the best part to is that it will keep you wondering what happens next up to the very end.
Andrew and Eddie are more than best friends. More than adoptive brothers. But just days before Andrew is set to join Eddie in Nashville where they both will be pursuing a graduate program at Vanderbilt, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. Moving into the house Eddie leaves him, Andrew inherits a grim legacy -- a stranger for a roommate, dangerous friends he didn’t ask for, and a gruesome haunting. Andrew’s quest for answers will lead him to street racing, hard drugs, and hot summer nights spent untangling the secrets and lies Eddie left behind. Set against the backdrop of Vanderbilt and its surrounds, this book mixes southern gothic with dark academia. Simultaneously a tale of the dead and swelteringly alive, Lee Mandelo’s debut is violently gripping -- grappling with grief, queer adulthood, and race and social class in the academic world.
The Blackwoods have always lived in their grand house on the hill -- Mary Katherine, her sister Constance, and their ill elderly uncle, Julian. All the rest of the Blackwoods are dead. And the town below them froths with resentment and poisoned whispers -- accusing Constance of looking down her nose at them at best and being a murderess at worst. But the true darkness in this book comes not from within the Blackwood house, but the suspicious change that Mary Katherine senses coming. If you're a fan of classic, atmospheric Gothic, this classic is an absolute must!
Beatrice’s family is on the brink of financial ruin -- her father has spent the last of their money on buying her way into the bargaining season, where she must secure an advantageous proposal from one of the rich, eligible bachelors. Despite her lack of social connection and perilous financial status, Beatrice has strong magic, making her a desirable match. However, when women marry they are forced to wear a warding collar to protect their unborn children, which cuts them off from practicing any magic. Beatrice’s secret dream is to become the first woman to become a full sorceress and bind the power of a Greater Spirit to herself -- a dream that will be impossible if she marries. C.L. Polk re-imagines a world inspired by the Regency era but touched by magic in a way that is beautiful, tender, and romantic.
A deadly standoff between a motorcycle gang and an anonymous trucker, a bookmobile that brings new reads to the dead, and a carousel of monsters that come to life are just a few of the things found within the stories of Full Throttle by Joe Hill. Featuring a mixed bag of 13 horror/fantasy/scifi short stories, 2 of which appear for the first time in this book and 2 of which were co-written with Stephen King. I simultaneously read and listened to this on audio as each story has a different narrator, the likes of which include Zachary Quinto and Neil Gaiman. My favorites from this collection are -- “All I Care About Is You,” “Late Returns,” “Faun,” and “Throttle.”
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On the last day of hunting season, best friends Ricky, Gabe, Cass, and Lewis go on hunting spree that will ultimately change the course of their lives. Not only are they caught by the game warden and banned from hunting on the reservation, they have killed something that will come back with a vengeance. 10 years later, Ricky is dead and Lewis -- having married a white woman and left the reservation years earlier -- is stalked by visions of the young elk he killed on that fateful day. Meanwhile, back on the reservation Gabe and Cass are struggling to reconcile their cultural ties with the feeling of being stuck while Ricky and Lewis have “escaped” -- all the while not knowing that they are now being hunted. Jones’s writing is descriptive and dense in a way that works in this book’s favor making it evocative and deeply disturbing.
A young reporter freshly out of a psych facility visits her hometown to write on the murders of two young girls. But her mother’s hot and cold attitude, simultaneously unwelcoming but overbearing, and her reckless 13 year old sister seem to stall her at every turn by triggering her trauma, both purposefully and inadvertently. A homecoming wrapped in a murder mystery, the characters in this book are so complex and dark and real in a way that makes you wonder just how complicated people around you might really be. TW: self-harm and mentions of sexual assault
An excellent and gripping narrative nonfiction, SAY NOTHING is a brilliant work of investigative journalism that has haunted me unlike any other. Patrick Radden Keefe’s dedicated research and writing encompasses a massive scope -- covering multiple viewpoints from both sides of the conflict known as The Troubles, a guerilla war waged by the IRA in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s to 1998. Using the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, as a prism point, Radden Keefe illuminates both desperate, intense passion that led members of the IRA to “fight” and the unspeakable acts of violence they committed in the name of their cause.
Lottie Person is a fashion blogger in LA with the perfect life on camera. But really she has a humiliating secret - she has terrible allergies. Oh yeah, and maybe she killed someone? I absolutely love this graphic novel series (from the creator of Scott Pilgrim !!)
The perfect comic to immerse yourself in if you’re going through Stranger Things withdrawals. Something sinister is happening on Halloween night - mummy-like scavengers prowl the streets, spear-wielding soldiers on flying dinosaurs appear out of a wormhole in the sky, and people are going missing. 4 twelve year old newspaper girls caught in the middle of the conflict make a chilling discovery that launches them into 2016. Taking cues from 80s scifi and horror, this comic throws together twist after twist including alien invasions, time travel, and suburban angst.
Illustrated in a beautiful, insanely detailed art deco and steampunk art style and filled with 99% badass female characters and villains (really, there are maybe 4 male characters with speaking roles), Monstress is truly phenomenal and highly deserving of its multiple Eisner awards. It’s violent, twisted, and dark, all while tackling wider themes of feminism, oppression, genocide, and racism – not for the faint of heart or stomach.
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An iridescent neo-noir fantasy set in the glitz and grit of Los Angeles, volume 1 of Blackbird collects the first 6 issues of the new Image comic. Teal-haired heroine Nina Rodriguez knows something everyone else doesn’t – that powerful cabals of magic-wielders known as paragons hiding in plain sight rule over LA. But when her sister is kidnapped by a powerful demon known as The Great Beast, Nina finds herself caught in the middle of a territory war only to find that she might not know the truth at all. Filled with gorgeous artwork and magic spells, this series is definitely a new favorite of mine!
Alexis has a secret. She and her tight-knit group of best friends are magic. So when she accidentally kills a boy on prom night, whoops, she knows who she can count on to help fix her mistake. The wonderful thing about this book is that while magic is clearly a metaphor for being queer/a coming out story, it actually also has mostly queer characters and a wlw main romance. Being queer is completely normalized in this book and that is something I find so refreshing about Sarah Gailey’s writing.
Reeling from the sudden and tragic loss of her mother, Bree Matthews escapes her small town by enrolling in UNC Chapel Hill’s early college program with her best friend. But on her first night on campus she witnesses something she can barely believe -- magic. When its wielders attempt to unsuccessfully wipe the event from her memory, it unlocks a series of events, including a buried memory; someone planted a false memory in her mind over the night her mother died. In her quest to find answers, Bree uncovers a secret society claiming to be descendants of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, sworn to protect unsuspecting humans from demon attacks. This is the kind of YA book that hits all the marks for me and is incredibly thoughtful in its crafting and storytelling. A powerful reimagining of Arthurian legend with modern sensibilities about gender, race, and grief. Tracy Deonn writes with impact and the kind of weight that comes with writing about one’s own life experiences and that made this book emotionally gripping on top of being an incredible pleasure to read. While the plot follows a very typical first-book-in-a-series/trials-and-competition (think Throne of Glass), it does an immensely satisfying job of lining up future books and I can’t wait for the sequel.
Karou hides her secrets by telling the truth with a wry smile. On the surface she is just another art student in Prague, but she has no human family to speak of -- only Brimstone, and the other chimaera who work in his shop, who raised her from as long as she can remember. As his ward and sometimes errand-runner, Karou collects teeth - human and animal - from people who trade with Brimstone and are paid in wishes. When angels appear and start closing the doors to Brimstone's world, cutting her off from her family, Karou will do anything it takes to fight her way back to them, and in the process begins to unravel the secrets of her past.
When Karina Ahmed agrees to tutor Ace Clyde she doesn’t expect to get roped into pretending to be his girlfriend in front of his family. But Ace, surprisingly might not be so bad — he gets her coffee order right, gets along with her best friends, and even buys her a dozen books (a WEEK!) in exchange for agreeing to his facade. Karina and Ace’s story is a heart-warming, romantic, and relatable — on the surface it’s a tender love story but it’s also wrapped around frank discussions of anxiety and identity and finding the courage to be your own person, even if you’re afraid of what your family might say.
When girls leave the Merilance School for Girls, they are not allowed back. All Olivia Prior has is a journal that belonged to her mother which starts as letters written to her father who passed when Olivia was born and then seems to quickly spiral into madness -- until a letter arrives addressed to her from an uncle she didn’t know she had, inviting her to come home to Gallant. However, when she arrives she finds a manor with only two servants who weren’t expecting her and a hostile cousin barely older than her. With nowhere else to go, Olivia stays and accidentally discovers another Gallant on the other side of the garden wall -- one that is a dark mirror to her supposed home. Gallant is a lush and darkly enchanting read about carving out one’s place in the world, life and death, and the ties of family. This is a tale that is both tender and eerie, excellent for all ages and excellent for fans of Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE.