Hi, lovelies! In the last two years, I’ve gotten into the horror genre. I’ve read some really great books that I was surprised to love. I’m excited that I gave horror a chance because I’ve found some really amazing stories to love. I’ve also chosen to DNF quite a bit of horror. I’m definitely learning what kinds of things I can and can’t read about when it comes to horror. I’m not super into gruesome and graphic horror, but I can read a bit of it if it’s relevant to the rest of the story.
The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Sundial by Catriona Ward
Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist
Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
I didn’t realize how much more adult horror I’ve read until making this list. I definitely added some new middle-grade horror to my tbr. For YA, I read a fair bit, but often they have endings that ruin things. Do you have any favorite horror novels?
Summary: Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways. Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review. Primal Animals follows Arlee who is being dropped off at the same summer camp that her mother went to when she was Arlee’s age. Her mother hopes that Arlee will make some life long connections, but Arlee is just hoping to survive her extreme bug phobia since she will be spending the summer in the woods. This summer camp is full of secrets and we follow Arlee as she reveals them and wishes she hadn’t. I think this author nailed the horror aspects of this book. Definitely do not read this if you have any sort of issues with bugs. And while I liked the summer camp setting, I really wish the plot had gone a different way. I think the story would have been way better had the plot leaned into Arlee’s phobia of bugs. Things just escalated very quickly plot-wise. Also, I could really relate to Arlee, but I actually didn’t like her very much. Overall, definitely, an atmospheric horror novel that involves a fear of bugs. The rich kid summer camp was a really engaging setting. I just wasn’t very compelled by the plot sadly. I also absolutely hated the ending. It had an ending similar to Wilder Girls by Rory Power or Horrid by Katrina Leno which is my least favorite kind of endings for books. I definitely think some people will really love this, but I’m not one of them.
Summary: A mystery about a girl whose family secrets are as threatening as the desert that surrounds her—but whose quest to expose the truth may tear apart reality itself. Rylie hasn’t been back to Twentynine Palms since her dad died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment means their family has to move, and now Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to, living in the house of a grandfather she barely knew. At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. And Twentynine Palms is so much stranger than Rylie remembers. There are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose, but it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels off—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night. Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to say, this book was freaking weird, but in a good way, I think. The story follows Rylie just after her family has moved back to Twentynine Palms (a military base in California). Weird things are happening here and Rylie can’t be sure if she’s remembering things from the summers she spent staying with her grandfather, or if she’s just losing her mind. I want to say that the mystery of this story was a good one, but I don’t know that it was. I was incredibly confused for most of this story and not in a fun, slowly putting the pieces together kind of way. I just genuinely had no clue what was going on. Rylie is having weird gaps in her memory, trying to remember with hypnosis, but remembering even weirder things that just don’t make any sense. I will say that when we find out what the big twist is, all of the confusion and weird puzzle pieces absolutely make sense. So, it’s a well-constructed mystery, I was just incredibly confused until the absolute last piece was revealed to the reader. I think the setting of the desert was an interesting one. I feel like I don’t see much outside of the fantasy genre with a desert setting. But I think it worked really well for this story. Overall, this story was absolutely bizarre. But I found myself unable to put it down until I learned what the heck was actually happening to these characters. Despite my confusion for most of the book, I was compelled to continue. The pace of the story felt quick even though things happened pretty slowly. The characters were interesting, but I didn’t feel any special attachment to them. I do think they were well developed with interesting personalities. I believe this is labeled as a horror story, but I don’t think it totally fits there. I think if anything this would be more science fiction than horror. But I want to know if anyone else has read this. If you have, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.
Summary: Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect. The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer. Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on. Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.
Review: Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. The Dead and the Dark is a creepy story that follows Logan, the daughter of the two stars of ParaSpectors. Her dads star on a ghost hunting kind of show and they claim that their next big shoot is going to be in Snakebite, Oregon where her dads grew up. But when Logan and her Pop arrive, they are anything but welcomed by the towns people. This story was suspenseful and mysterious. It was an excellent read for spooky season. I’m still not writing reviews that I’m super happy with, so, I’m going to change up the format again for this one.
Things I Liked:
I really liked the diversity. Logan is a lesbian. She has two dads. There’s also a character that’s unsure about their sexuality.
I liked the family dynamic. Logan gets along with her Pop way more than she does with her dad. There were reasons behind this, but I think Gould did a great job showing the love that this family has for each other.
The setting. I love books that have small town settings and this one absolutely didn’t disappoint in that regard. The setting of Snakebite really made this story what it was.
The mystery that this story is trying to solve was a fascinating one. We see a bad thing happen at the beginning, but the person’s identity isn’t revealed so I spent the whole book guessing who this ‘big bad’ was. I never did figure it out until the big reveal.
I grew to like the romance. Logan ends up having feelings for a girl that we’re led to believe is straight. She’s also kind of shitty in the sense that she spends all this time with Logan, but she doesn’t defend her to her local friends. But I think she grew enough that I did really end up liking her and Logan together.
I really liked the family history that we learned about. Both of Logan’s fathers grew up in Snakebite, so there’s so much that she doesn’t know about their childhood. We get to learn bits and pieces about what things were like for them as the story goes along.
Things I Didn’t Like:
At times, I didn’t like Logan. She was rude as hell to her dad but so nice to her Pop. There were reasons for the things her dad did and the was that he acted and she never took the time to even ask about it. She just let her negative feelings fester and I really didn’t like that.
I think the story was a bit slow at times. I’m not sure how to explain it other than that. I don’t think that I was expecting creepy things to jump out at me, but there was just something about it that couldn’t hold my focus.
The ending felt like it was a bit rushed compared to the slower pace of the rest of the story. There were so many plotlines that needed to be tied together in order to wrap up the story and I think it all happened really quickly and neatly and I didn’t love that. This story was messy, but the ending wrapped up in a nice neat bow.
Overall, this was a suspenseful and atmospheric story about a family that returns to a small town full of secrets. I really loved the ‘small town full of secrets’ aspect of the story. I would definitely recommend this book for spooky season.
Summary: Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned. As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
Review: Small Favors is a new release that I was extremely excited about. I got it as a gift for my birthday (Thanks, Antonia!) and I read it during my birthday weekend. This would have been an excellent book to read for spooky season (much like her debut novel, House of Salt and Sorrows). Small Favors follows Ellerie, who lives in a small town. She’s grown-up hearing myths and folklore about the monsters that used to live in the forest around the town. But most within the town never really believed them. When a supply party goes missing, those that believe in the old stories worry that the monsters have returned. The book follows Ellerie for a year, through all four seasons, so, as the seasons pass, strange things continue to happen. Are there really monsters in the woods? Or is there something else going on? Ellerie was a character that I immediately liked. The only thing that I didn’t like about her was her attraction to Whitaker (a name that she gave him because he wouldn’t tell her his actual name). There was something suspicious about him from the beginning, but Craig managed to tell his part of the story in a way that I felt bad for him and ultimately liked him and how things played out for him and Ellerie. Aside from not liking Whitaker, I really liked Ellerie. She’s the second born child. But her older brother, Samuel, is a bit of a shit. He isn’t following through with his responsibilities to the family and he continues to make selfish choices for most of the book. Ellerie really steps up as the head of her family when something happens to her parents. There were some parts of this story that were slow, following Ellerie just trying to keep herself and family alive. But just because they were slow, doesn’t mean that nothing was happening. There was something unsettling about this story. All throughout the story, there was an overall creepy feeling. A sense that something more was going on in this town than we were being led to believe. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a spooky feel to it, a mystery that was waiting to be unraveled. It’s a story full of questions just waiting to be answered. I really loved the characters. I liked the reveals of what was really happening to this town. I think it’s a fascinating story about how there is darkness in each and every person. I definitely would recommend this book.
Summary: Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds. Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her. Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.
Review: Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers. I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her. So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed. Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. Review:
First, I want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful friend over at Books in the Skye for gifting me the audiobook for Burn Our Bodies Down for my birthday. I found a new narrator that I really enjoy and this story was wonderfully weird. The story follows Margot as she’s searching for answers. She lives with her mother and has never known any other family. She wants to know who her family is and what her mother is hiding. She absolutely gets more than she bargained for.
Margot was a really interesting character. Her drive was just to find her family, to find someone that would show that they loved her. She just wanted her mother to choose her. I don’t think I really understood her though. When she finds and goes to her grandmother, she gets almost the same treatment as she did when she was with her mother. Her mother and grandmother both lied and hid things from her. I understood her desire to ferret out the secrets that she knew were hiding in her grandmother’s home, but I personally would have gotten the hell out of there and written off the whole family.
Overall, this book was spectacularly creepy. I didn’t see the end coming and it was absolutely disturbing. The mystery and suspense kept me going. I loved that Margot was a lesbian, but there wasn’t really any romance in the story. She made a friend, but there wasn’t a romance plotline and I appreciated that. I definitely cannot wait to see what Rory Power comes out with next.
GoodReads Summary: Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented. As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears…. Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid? Review: Horrid was one of my most anticipated releases for the spooky season. I’m really upset to say that I was very disappointed with this book. This book was another that was completely ruined by the ending. I am going to have a bit of a spoiler rant after the last paragraph. I will clearly label when I start with spoiler complaints. So, this story follows Jane and her mother Ruth as they move from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere Maine. This is a huge adjustment for Jane. But she’s also dealing with the grief of losing her father. This grief is a huge part of the story and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t just her father is gone, but it really talked about what that meant for Jane. Her father was the one that could help her calm her rage. Now that he’s gone, she’s fallen back into old coping mechanisms: eating pages out of books. This aspect of her character was weird but I sort of understood it on a comfort level. I liked Jane. I felt bad for her, but I liked her. I didn’t like how she clearly knew something was wrong with North Manor (where she and her mother had just moved into) but she wasn’t willing to ask for any real answers about it. It felt obvious that something was wrong and everyone in town knew it. I liked Jane’s relationship with her mother, Ruth. She was obviously closer to her father, but the love between Jane and Ruth is clear and I appreciated that they were doing their best to be there for one another. I also really liked the new friends that Jane made. She meets Alana and Susie at school. The three become fast friends. I liked them well enough, but the relationships weren’t too deep. I also like Jane’s friendship with her new boss at the coffee shop/book store, Will (who is also Susie’s older brother). They bond over books and coffee and I liked them even though it wasn’t a very developed relationship. Overall, I enjoyed most of this book. I really liked the spooky aspects, the possibility of a ghost in North Manor. I thought the suspense and the mystery were interesting (though a little obvious). I didn’t love how oblivious Jane was being. She knew there was something wrong in her house and she never pushed when she asked questions and that really bothered me. The ending is what killed my enjoyment of the book. Without spoilers, the book ended at the climax of the story. We’re finally getting all the answers we’ve been searching for the whole story and then we’re still left with so many questions because of the players that were present in the final pages. I’m just really mad about how the story ended and that anger makes it really hard for me to say I liked this book. I felt similarly about Wilder Girls by Rory Power, so if you liked that book, you might like this one. This book has a pretty decent rating on GoodReads, so don’t let this deter you from picking up this book. But if you don’t like unsatisfying endings, this book might not be for you. Now, I’m going to get to spoilers about the ending in the next paragraph. The spoilers are starting now. The final pages have Jane letting someone die, which is essentially murder, at the guidance of her sister ghost. But it’s never really clear whether the ghost is real or not. The ghost was pretty convincing, but there were hints here and there that made the reader think that there might never have been a ghost and it all could have been Jane. What I’m mad about is that we never got any sort of answers. The book literally ends in the climax of the story. Someone dies and the story just ends. The synopsis says “Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?” and the way that the synopsis is written makes it seem like we will find out whether it is one of those three things, but we don’t. We don’t find out what really happened or what happened in the aftermath and I’m very annoyed by this. I’m just angry and sad because I had really high hopes for enjoying this book. Okay, rage complaining is over. Thanks for reading!