October 2023 TBR Book List – Spooky Middle Grade & Cozy Mysteries

Welcome, book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to this book list, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I also invite you to my Instagram post or X (Twitter) post, where you can tell me what you’re reading this spooky season or drop some book recs for me. I love to keep adding to my TBR lists and seeing suggestions from other readers.

We have finally made it my favorite month of the year! It’s also my favorite season – Fall. I love October so much because it’s such a beautiful time of year here in the Midwest. The leaves are turning colors, and it’s gorgeous in Ohio. The temps are starting to get cooler and sweater weather is right around the corner. I also have my wedding anniversary in the middle of the month. This year, we are celebrating 18 years together and 14 of those years being married. I also have a lot of fond childhood memories around this time of year. Plus, I love all the tasty seasonal treats and drinks as well as spooky movies and books. It’s just a magical season!

October Reading Theme

So originally, when I was planning this month’s book list back in August, I was going to read some modern horror books, some classics, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because I’ve never read them, mixed with some spooky mystery and thrillers and a couple of cozy fantasies. But then, I changed my mind. I had a pretty heavy reading month in August. The topics were emotionally draining and mentally demanding. So entering into September, I started to feel a bit fatigued. As September wore on, I was still feeling pretty exhausted from reading so much. I wouldn’t say I was heading for a reading slump but just some book burnout. I knew that I didn’t want to stop reading, but I needed lighter, shorter, easier reads. So that’s why September became the reading month that it was. You can listen to my previous wrap-up episode.

So then, I changed my plans because I wanted to lighten my mood and fatigue. So instead of reading those dark, heavy horror and thriller books, I’m opting to go the light, fun, and cozy route this month. I’m basically mood reading, but I still wanted this list to be seasonal, and this month, we celebrate Halloween at the end of the month. So I chose a few cozy mysteries, a few spooky middle grade, and quite a few graphic novels.

I’m really excited to read these books, especially the middle grade books. I haven’t read too many of these this year, and they can be so much fun. If you’re an adult and think these kids’ books aren’t as good as adult books, then you haven’t read a good one yet. Because sometimes, I like middle grade books better than adult books. They can be way more entertaining. If you’ve never really read any middle grade books, I invite you to give a few a try and see what you think. You may be pleasantly surprised. They also usually have great lessons to learn and messages for kids and adults in them. They can also be a bit creepy and eerie but on a lighter tone than adult horror books, which sounds perfect for my mood right now.

If you want more cozy mystery recommendations, I recommend watching these videos from Liv’s Library and BookLover Amanda.

October To Be Read (TBR) Book List

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Average GR Rating: 4.02
Nominee for Best Middle Grade & Children’s (2018)
Genre: Spooky Middle Grade
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think—she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Why I Chose This Book: This is a very popular series. This is book one of four. I love reading about kids going on adventures. This also sounds very ghostly and creepy. Anything that has supernatural elements in it, I will probably enjoy. A few BookTubers that I follow who read a lot of middle grade books have raved on and on about this series, so I’m excited to check it out. I actually have the first three books, so if I like this first one, then I can read the other two.

Field of Screams by Wendy Parris

Average GR Rating: 4.06
Genre: Spooky Middle Grade
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Paranormal enthusiast Rebecca Graff isn’t happy about being dragged to Iowa to spend the summer with family she barely knows. But when she tracks a ghostly presence to an abandoned farmhouse, she starts to think the summer won’t be a total lost cause!

The trouble is no one believes her. Then Rebecca finds a note stashed in a comic belonging to her late father—a note that proves the same spirit haunted him when he was twelve. Suddenly she feels a connection to the dad she pretends not to miss, and she is determined to uncover the story behind the haunting.

But the more Rebecca discovers, the scarier the ghost becomes. Soon she is in a race to piece together the puzzle and recover a family legacy before it is lost forever and a horrible tragedy repeats itself.

Why I Chose This Book: This book is by a debut author, and I always like to support new authors. Also, the cover art is beautiful and drew my attention immediately. It reminds me of the movie Children of the Corn, which completely freaked me out as a kid. But this sounds like fun because the main character is into the paranormal and she’s trying to figure out this mysterious family secret.

Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson

Average GR Rating: 4.01
Goodreads Choice AwardNominee for Best Middle Grade & Children’s (2022)
Genre: Spooky Middle Grade
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Halloweentown meets Supernatural in this spooky middle-grade series from the acclaimed author of the Storm Crow duology!

Thirteen-year-old Annabella Ballinkay has never been normal, even by her psychic family’s standards. Every generation uses their abilities to help run the Ravenfall Inn, a sprawling, magical B&B at the crossroads of the human world and the Otherworld. But it’s hard to contribute when your only power is foreseeing death.

So when fourteen-year-old Colin Pierce arrives at Ravenfall searching for his missing older brother and the supernatural creature who killed their parents, Anna jumps at the chance to help. But the mysteries tied to Colin go much deeper than either of them expects. . . .

As the two team up to find answers, they unearth Colin’s family’s secret past and discover that Colin has powers beyond his imagination. And now the supernatural creature, one with eerie origins in Celtic mythology, is coming after him. If Anna and Colin can’t stop the creature by Halloween night, the veil to the Otherworld could be ripped open–which would spell destruction for their world as they know it.

Why I Chose This Book: This book had me at magical B&B and a portal into the Otherworld. Again, it’s another mystery mixed with supernatural elements, which is right up my alley. Also, the cover art is gorgeous.

Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang & Kati Bartkowski

Average GR Rating: 4.13
Genre: Spooky Middle Grade
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: A young boy and girl who must protect their small town from otherworldly forces threatening to destroy it.

Rae’s father vanished without a trace—and Rae knows what happened to him. But no one believes her when she says that her father didn’t run off, that he was actually taken. Now, a year of therapy later, Rae’s mother decides they need a fresh start, and so they move to a new town in the hope that life can return to normal.

The problem is, there is nothing normal about the town of Whispering Pines.

No one knows this better than Caden. He’s lived in Whispering Pines his entire life, and he’s seen more than his fair share of weird—starting with his own family, as the town is the perfect home base for his mother’s ghost hunting business.

When several kids go missing and then show up like zombies with their eyes removed, many locals brush it off. Just another day in Whispering Pines. But Caden has a dark secret, one that may explain why someone is stealing eyes. And Rae, who knows how it feels to not be believed, may be just the person Caden needs to help him put things right.

Why I Chose This Book:

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Average GR Rating: 3.95
Genre: Spooky Middle Grade
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: A ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

Why I Chose This Book: I’ve heard SO many BookTubers go on and on about this author. Lindsay Currie is supposed to be one of the queens of spooky middle grade books, so I’m excited to finally get my hands on one. This is supposed to be pretty creepy and a good read. I love a good ‘ol fashion ghost story.

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

Average GR Rating: 4.04
Genre: Cozy Mystery | Cozy Fantasy
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: For four hundred years, the Warren witches have used their magic to quietly help the citizens of the sleepy New England town of Evenfall thrive. There’s never been a problem they couldn’t handle. But then Constance Graves–a local known for being argumentative and demanding–dies while staying at the bed and breakfast Brynn Warren maintains with her aunts. At first, it seems like an accident…but it soon becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at work, and Aunt Nora is shaping up to be the prime suspect.

There’s nothing Brynn wants more than to prove Nora’s innocence, and it hurts her to know that even two years ago that might have been easier. Brynn, after all, is a witch of the dead–a witch who can commune with ghosts. Ghosts never remember much about their deaths, but Constance might remember something about her life that would help crack the case. But Brynn hasn’t used her powers since her husband died, and isn’t even sure she still can. Brynn will just have to hope that her aunts’ magic and her own investigative skills will lead her to answers–and maybe back to the gift she once thought herself ready to give up forever.

Why I Chose This Book: When I first found out about cozy books, back in March, this was one of the first books that I bought. But then, I realized that it would be perfect for Halloween reading and decided to save it for this month. Then, I saw many, many BookTubers talk about this cozy mystery, so now I’m even more excited to read it. 

It sounds like a comfy, cozy good time with some supernatural elements, magic, and of course, a murder mystery to solve. I also love New England settings, especially during fall or in spooky stories, so this will fit perfectly. I’m expecting this to be sweet, charming, and entertaining.

Murder at the Pumpkin Pageant by Darci Hannah

Average GR Rating: 4.29
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Lindsey prefers to keep her bakeshop’s Halloween decor light and autumnal, rather than gruesome and ghoulish. But everyone knows her lighthouse home is haunted. Some intrepid teens have even tried to break in to witness the resident ghost themselves. Dreading Halloween night, Lindsey reluctantly allows her influencer and podcaster best friend, Kennedy, to host a live ghost hunting investigation in the lighthouse, conducted by a professional team. Protective of her ghost, Lyndsey is understandably nervous about what they might uncover . . .

The segment is uneventful—until things take a terrifying turn. The team freaks out. As Kennedy joins the mad dash outside, she bumps into what looks like the prankster teens’ creepy clown costume hanging from a tree. But when Lindsey’s dog, Wellington, begins to whine, they make a grim the clown is no dummy. It’s a corpse.

Now Lindsey and company will need to keep their cool if they want a ghost of a chance to solve the murder—and see another Halloween…

Why I Chose This Book: Honestly, the cover really sold me on this book. It’s absolutely adorable. Also, one of my favorite BookTubers said it’s really good, and I usually trust her opinion. It also takes place on Halloween, so that will be fun. I may try to read this toward the end of the month when we get closer to the holiday. 

Any story about food will win my heart over, and this book is about a woman who owns a bakery, so it sounded right up my alley. I also love the premise of ghost hunters trying to find ghosts but then finding a dead body instead. This one seems funny as well as spooky, cozy, and mysterious.

Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow

Average GR Rating: 3.50
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: When Yale Yee discovers her cousin Celine is visiting from Hong Kong, she is obliged to play tour guide to a relative she hasn’t seen in twenty years. Not only that, but her father thinks it’s a wonderful idea for them to bond by running a food stall together at the Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t cooked in years, and she hardly considers Celine’s career as a social media influencer as adequate experience, but because she’s just lost her job at her local bookstore, she feels she has no choice.

Yale and Celine serve small dishes and refreshing drinks, and while business is slow, it eventually picks up thanks to Celine’s surprisingly useful marketing ideas. They’re quite shocked that their bubble tea, in particular, is a hit–literally–when one of their customers turns up dead. Yale and Celine are prime suspects due to the gold flakes that Celine added to the sweet drink as a garnish. Though the two cousins are polar opposites in every way, they must work together to find out what really happened to the victim or the only thing they’ll be serving is time.

Why I Chose This Book: I’m absolutely obsessed with boba. If I could drink it every day, I would. So when I saw this title and this cover, I knew I had to check it out. Plus, another BookTuber recommended it. I also love this idea of a night market. I’ve never heard of anything like this, but it sounds fun.

Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond

Average GR Rating: 3.88
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale-like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig–or to be the next victim–Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.

Why I Chose This Book: Again, this is another recommendation from a BookTuber that I follow. The cover is gorgeous, and the story sounds really intriguing. I’ve never been to a murder mystery dinner theater, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I know many people joke about someone actually being murdered at these events, but that is what this story is about. I’m interested to see if it’s any good.

Curse the Day by Annabel Chase

Average GR Rating: 4.07
Genre: Cozy Mystery | Cozy Fantasy
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: The only magic Emma Hart believes in is caffeine and the power of the dryer to lose one sock per load. A public interest lawyer buried under a mound of student debt, Emma’s whole life has been one turn of bad luck after another.

Her streak seems to continue when she gets lost on the way to see a client in the remote Pocono Mountains. A chance encounter with a suicidal angel lands her in Spellbound, a town where supernaturals have been cursed to remain for centuries–probably not the best time for Emma to discover that she’s actually a witch.

Between the recent murder of the town’s public defender, a goblin accused of theft, remedial witch classes, and the attention of one smoking hot vampire, Emma struggles to navigate this unfamiliar terrain without losing her mind…or her life.

Why I Chose This Book: This is a popular series that spans ten books, so it must be good. It not only sounds cozy, but it also sounds like the perfect Halloween book. It sounds whimsical, mysterious, funny, charming, and just a good time. I love this idea of going to another realm or enchanted world where monsters and creatures live. I’m excited to check this one out and see if I want to continue the series.

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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