What a year it’s been. What a year. I lost my cat and my mom more or less one month apart. Almost to the day. Sarek died June 21, and my mom died July 20. So… needless to say, I didn’t have any favorite things for quite some time. I don’t want to say I feel better now. Better isn’t the right word. But I’m capable of enjoying things again, even though nothing will ever be the same. Without further ado, here are my October favorites.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
Felicity Morrow’s girlfriend, Alex, vanished last school year, leaving residents at Dalloway School (a prestigious, all-girls academy) with only rumors and speculation. Did Alex run away after suffering public humiliation? Or did Felicity murder her? Convinced she’s being haunted by Alex’s spirit, Felicity is determined to discover what happened to her — no matter the cost. When acclaimed writer Ellis Haley comes to the Dalloway School to research the Dalloway Five, an unsolved 18th century murder of five young girls, Felicity finds a new friend — and possibly more.
Lee centers their plot around queer characters without falling into the category of writing yet another coming out story or the dreaded ‘kill all your gays’ trope. Lee’s novel dovetails gothic horror and fantasy while confronting privilege and mental health head-on. A Lesson in Vengeance is an ideal starting point for readers new to the genre while providing enough depth for seasoned veterans of dark literature.
(I read this back in early September, but I still wasn’t emotionally ready to consider anything a favorite at the time. But! It was one of the first things that came to mind when I was putting my list together.)
Powdered Oak & Seven Metals by Ryan Kurr
Guided by Spirit, Nina relocates her coven to the small, snowy town of Nova, Colorado. Unfortunately for Nina, a change of scenery brings changes within the coven. Leo, her most gifted witch, ventures off on his own, causing the coven to splinter. With dangerous witches, haunting prophecies, and moral dilemmas abounds, Leo must choose between saving the world or saving his soul. What does this mean for Nina and the coven? How does the story end? We’ll have to find out in the third installment, which Kurr is working on now. (Type faster, please. Like… seriously.)
Kurr’s second book in the Esoteric Alchemy series is nothing short of triumphant as he leads us on an intricately plotted journey featuring rich characterization, dazzling prose, and the author’s expansive knowledge of the occult. The witchy and queer communities will particularly adore Kurr’s deep, insightful work, but even non-witches will cherish this twisty, unputdownable novel. While this novel is stylistically different from the first in the series, the changes feel natural and appropriate given the complex plot line.
(Fun fact: I’m a few dozen words short of being classified as a speed reader, so I plowed through this one in a couple of days. It’s dense, but it also comes with recipes and a grimoire, so it’s not as daunting as you think. 10/10, highly recommend.)
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
When a charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater) brings miracles and mystery to the remote fishing village of Crockett Island, the townspeople grapple with renewed faith, guilt, and unknown terror. Don’t let the religious content frighten you away — Midnight Mass offers cerebral, creeping horror set against a backdrop of Catholic mysticism. Witness the slow decay of a dying way of life, character-driven twists and turns, and a shocking ending you won’t see coming. The series relies more on weaving a pervasive dread throughout than it does on jump scares. Midnight Mass is a slow burn, and the final conflagration is worth the journey.
As the heart and soul of the series, Kate Siegel and Zach Gilford turn in sweet, vulnerable performances. Samantha Sloyan channels Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus as Beverly Keane, playing the role so perfectly you begin to despise the actor herself. Fan favorite Rahul Kohli shines as Sheriff Hassan, a New York transplant who shoulders racism and religious discrimination with grace. Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, and Robert Longstreet (frequent Flanagan collaborators all) ground the series with subtle, emotive performances. But Midnight Mass is ultimately Linklater’s vehicle, and he steers it with raw precision.
(Props to my brother from another mother for putting up with my numerous quips and incessant need to scream about my love for Kate Siegel, corn, plantain chips, and blueberry muffins during our binge. You’re an actual saint.)
Aesop Seeking Silence Facial Hydrator
If you’ve been around a while, you know I used to have the oiliest skin on the planet. When I turned a little older (and a lot drier), I had to completely revamp my skincare routine. With the weather taking a turn for the frigid and heaters blowing on high, we’ll all be facing the winter scalies. Made with Dunaliella Salina Extract (a microalgae packed with antioxidants), ginger root, Bisabolol (a colorless oil from chamomile), and Narcissus Tazetta Bulb Extract (which comes from daffodils), Aesop’s moisturizer soothes redness and irritation without leaving the skin greasy.
I have combination-to-dry skin, rosacea, and eczema, so I need extremely gentle, hydrating products that won’t irritate my skin. Unfortunately, I also have acne-prone skin, so I have to avoid certain ingredients. As a vegan, it’s also essential that my skincare products (apart from prescription drugs) are never tested on animals. Products can be vegan — lacking animal by-products — without being cruelty-free. If it comes down to choosing a vegan product or a cruelty-free product, I will always go for the cruelty-free one. Fortunately, this one from Aesop is cruelty-free and vegan.
(I got my brother hooked on this stuff, too! The rings seen in this shot are also my favorites. Since it’s kind of hard to review jewelry, I’ve linked them. Moonstone ring: Bloodmilk. Wheel of Fortune ring: Etah Love. Sarek ring: Acid Queen Jewelry.)
Adana Beauty Pacify Rosacea Oil*
Tapping into the wisdom of Ayurveda, Adana Beauty uses a calming blend of Ashwagandha oil, Safflower oil, Honey, Safflower flowers, Kulisha oil, olive oil, Chamomile flowers, turmeric, and cornflower petals to calm redness, irritation, and burning. While the original blend isn’t vegan because it contains honey, the brand makes each batch by hand. Message them and ask for a honey-free bottle.
Many of Adana’s products are vegan — they’ll be clearly marked on the website — and they all smell heavenly. I slather my skin in Pacify every night (and sometimes during the day if I know I won’t be leaving the house), and I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in facial redness. It also helps calm down the eczema itchies.
(*The brand kindly gifted me a box of goodies to try out, but I’m not being paid for my review. I’ll always disclose when I’ve received payment to review a product, and I’ll give my honest opinion.)
So those are my October favorites. What did you love last month?