Book Club Nominees

5 Novels for Hot Ghoul Summer

by @jillyspins, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for August’s “It’s a Hot Ghoul Summer” category

I am not here for Hot Girl Summer. Instead give me Goth Girl Summer, Hot Ghoul Summer, Creepy Bitch Summer… you get the point. I want to wear my black clothes, read horror novels in the shade, and hiss at the local children basking in the sunlight. Really, I’m just here to remind you that just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it can’t be spooky season. I chose novels that take place in summer or under the oppressive southern sun. Just because the temps are warm and the sun is shining doesn’t mean there’s nothing lurking in the shadows.

Cover of A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

Sam Montgomery is worried about her mother. She seems anxious, jumpy, and she’s begun making mystifying changes to the family home on Lammergeier Lane. Sam figures it has something to do with her mother’s relationship to Sam’s late, unlamented grandmother.

She’s not wrong.

As vultures gather around the house and frightful family secrets are unearthed under the rosebushes, Sam struggles to unravel the truth about the house on Lammergeier Lane before it consumes her and everyone else who stands in its way…


I love the thought of a house and person being some intertwined haunted thing. It’s Southern Gothic, it’s mystery, it’s Kingfisher… need I say more?

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Cover of The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson

The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson

Nellie Gardner is looking for a way out of an abusive marriage when she learns that her long-lost grandfather, August Redfern, has willed her his turpentine estate. She throws everything she can think of in a bag and flees to Georgia with her eleven-year-old son, Max, in tow.

It turns out that the estate is a decrepit farmhouse on a thousand acres of old pine forest, but Nellie is thrilled about the chance for a fresh start for her and Max, and a chance for the happy home she never had. So it takes her a while to notice the strange scratching in the walls, the faint whispering at night, how the forest is eerily quiet. But Max sees what his mother can’t: They’re no safer here than they had been in South Carolina. In fact, things might even be worse. There’s something wrong with Redfern Hill. Something lurks beneath the soil, ancient and hungry, with the power to corrupt hearts and destroy souls. It is the true legacy of Redfern Hill: a kingdom of grief and death, to which Nellie’s own blood has granted her the key.


I love Generational horror and trauma stories in an almost masochistic way. But pairing Gothic atmosphere with supernatural horrors AND generations of pain – what’s not to love?

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Cover of Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six month later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.


I read some mixed reviews on this but ended up going with it because my best friend described it as “a queer, creepy, southern traumatic masterpiece” which sold me. I ordered it and will be tearing into it whether it’s the group read or not because how could I not.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

Cover of The Witch of Tin Mountain by Paulette Kennedy

The Witch of Tin Mountain by Paulette Kennedy

In Depression-era Arkansas, something wicked has come to a haunted mountain town in a novel of uncanny suspense by the author of Parting the Veil.

Blood and power bind three generations of women in the Ozark Mountains. So does an evil that’s followed them across the decades. 1931. Gracelynn Doherty lives peacefully on Tin Mountain, helping her adoptive granny work her cures. Despite whispers that the women are witches, the superstitious locals still seek them out, whether they suffer from arthritis or a broken heart. But when evangelist Josiah Bellflower comes to town touting miracle healing, full bellies, and prosperity, his revivals soon hold Tin Mountain in thrall-and Granny in abject fear. Granny recognizes Josiah. Fifty years ago, in a dark and desperate moment, she made a terrible promise.

Now Josiah, an enemy, has returned to collect his due. As Granny sickens and the drought-ridden countryside falls under a curse, Gracelyn must choose: flee Tin Mountain and the only family she knows or confront the vengeful preacher whose unholy mission is to destroy her.


Really I just love witches and folk horror and something about the Arkansas Ozarks just feels like the perfect eerie setting.

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Cover of Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

It’s the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, and five 12-year old boys are forming the bonds that a lifetime of changes will never erase. But then a dark cloud threatens the bright promise of summer vacation: on the last day of school, their classmate Tubby Cooke vanishes. Soon, the group discovers stories of other children who once disappeared from Elm Haven. And there are other strange things happening in town: unexplained holes in the ground, a stranger dressed as a World War I soldier, and a rendering-plant truck that seems to be following the five boys. The friends realize that there is a terrible evil lurking in Elm Haven…and they must be the ones to stop it. (StoryGraph)


A summer vacation of horror sounds like a thrill to me. Summer vacation is a piece of collective nostalgia for most of us. This story pulls in the school to create something arcane and evil and sets a bunch of kids with the unique freedom of summer against it. I’m sold.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

And The Winner Is…

Out of these five books, HOWLers voted to read Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo. Discussion starts on August 7, and you can read along by joining the Discord!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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