Cover of the Classic edition of Jackson's terrifying tale.

I still remember the first time I read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I was fifteen, sitting on a beach, and scared out of my mind by the malicious house and its increasingly insidious hold on its guests. It was wonderful and chilling, and probably best read on a beach, far away from deciduous forests. The trees in that story are terrifying.On this spookiest of all days (and nights), there’s nothing better than curling up with a supernatural tale. Here are a few recent titles that may spook and delight you.   Dracula in Love by Karen Essex (Doubleday). Using the familiar characters and locales of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Karen Essex creates an intensely erotic story of romance and obsession. Mina sleepwalks and is plagued by vividly erotic dreams. Her family, seeing her compulsions as insane, locks her in an asylum. In the name of her sanity, she’s subjected to all the grim horrors a 19th-century asylum can provide: plunges into icy water, restraints, terrible medicines, and other abuses—far scarier than Dracula at his worst. Pursuing Mina and haunting her dreams, the seductive vampire seems more like a star-crossed lover than a monster, promising eternal love and luxury. Who could resist?  A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Penguin Publishing). In this well-wrought fantasy, witches, demons and vampires not only exist but keep to themselves, trying to escape human notice. Diana Bishop, the last in a line of famously powerful witches, is staying further under the radar, denying her magic even while studying the history of alchemy at Oxford. She’ll use a spell here or there—to fix a broken washing machine, or pry open a stubborn book cover—but largely lives without magic. Then she finds Ashmole 187, a text that was magically sealed and believed lost. Witches, vampires and daemons fight over the book and its secrets, to the point of threatening Diana’s life. But Diana finds an unlikely ally and protector: Matthew, a vampire who’s studying biology at the university. While Matthew keeps her safe from menacing supernatural creatures, he encourages her to use her powers. Although A Discovery of Witches is a huge book, the story is so compelling that it doesn’t feel long at all. Harkness lays out her world of magic and intrigue so completely that the supernatural elements make sense. Because she captures Diana Bishop’s voice and observations so clearly, it’s easy to become invested in a story that combines unique supernatural ideas with what is essentially academic debate. Readers are drawn into the unfolding clues and Diana and Matthew’s budding, conflicted romance.
  Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker by Camille DeAngelis (Crown). Petty Magic is not so much scary as a fun invitation into the supernatural world, a whimsical blend of magic, romance and historical fiction. Evelyn Harbinger isn’t ready to act her age. Fortunately, a witch of 149 years has other options. With a little oomph of magic, she can appear as her younger self. Justin, a handsome young man, reminds her so much of a former lover from World War II that the deceptions she uses to woo him become increasingly elaborate. The background descriptions are delightful as well—witches can bake magical cakes that tastes like each person’s favorite flavor, for instance, and deceased relatives’ spirits live on as puppets offering sarcasm and pithy advice. DeAngelis weaves past and present storylines together deftly for a fun, fanciful read.

 

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