The Fright Stuff

Finding Your Haunted Niche

Hey‌ ‌there‌ horror fans, ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ ‌Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌‌ you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ ‌community‌ ‌news,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.‌

So if you’ve been subscribed to the newsletter for a while now you know that I occasionally like to break up the weekly books recs to talk about something horror-related, or horror reading-related in this case – that has caught my attention. This week it’s reader burnout, finding your niche(s) in the genre, and having that be okay.

Horror is a massive genre. We have the full complement of subgenres, and our subgenres have subgenres/categories/things. Many of which overlap! That’s a lot of ground to cover for a newbie horror reader, which I was just a couple of years ago. It can be intimidating, like approaching a series with 13 books except it’s a whole genre with thousands of books. Picking a place to start, I have found, happens in one of a couple of ways. Some new readers slide in from other related genres like dark fantasy, true crime, or thrillers. Others decide that they want to try horror and they just dive in blind and start feeling their way around. Regardless of how a horror reader gets their start, one thing remains constant: it always starts with a book, that leads to another book. Then the next thing you know, you’re a horror reader.

And in the beginning, you want to try everything. Sample every subgenre, every writing style, every format from poetry to full-length novels. And that’s good! That’s exactly how you should go at a new genre because it’s the best way to figure out what you’re going to love, what you’ll only like, and what you will definitely not want. But, like I said, it’s a lot of open ground. Eventually you have to narrow your field, or you’ll keep trying to push yourself to read everything and you’ll burn out on the genre and all the fun will go out of your reading.

Ask me how I know.

I love horror. But I may, just slightly, have over done it in the last year. And suddenly I was looking at stacks of horror in my TBR and found that I had 0 interest in like 40% of them. I thought “Well. That’s it. So much for my newsletter. I’m off horror.” Which, I’ll grant you, was a bit of an overreaction but hey. 2021. Also known as 2020: The Re-twentying.

But my problem wasn’t that I’d gone off horror. It was that, without realizing it or at least without acknowledging it, I had refined my preferences in the last two years. I had realized what I loved and wanted in horror and what I didn’t. Yet I was stuck on this idea that I had to be reading ALL the horror, and it was throwing up a roadblock because in the end I just didn’t want to. There are some horror books that I’ve read that I regretted reading because they left me feeling gross, or disturbed, and put images in my head I’ll never unread. And some people want that from their horror, and that’s great! That’s their kind of horror.

But I don’t like feeling like that, which is probably one of the reasons that – as I’ve mentioned before – I like my horror to end on an upbeat note. And thinking that I had to read horror I didn’t want to read completely killed my fun. There’s no greater thief of joy than homework reading.

I guess what I’m saying – the point of all this – is that it’s okay to cherry pick your horror. It doesn’t have to interfere with your ability to read diversely! Whatever your horror poison of choice is, more likely than not you can find diverse recs for your reading list. That’s the beauty of a big genre that grows in diversity every year! You can pick the books you want to read and ignore the rest, even if “the rest” are bestsellers and the hot picks on everybody’s lists. You don’t have to read “the next big horror novel” if it’s not your thing, even if everyone else is reading it. Sometimes we get so caught up in being professional readers, especially if you’re a blogger or a reviewer, and we feel like we have to read what’s new when it’s new even if we aren’t feeling it.

So if you are one of those people, like me, who need permission: here it is! Read what you love and you’ll keep loving the genre you read.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Check out this gorgeous cover art for the forthcoming spec fic anthology Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, edited by Dave Ring and set to be published by Neon Hemlock in October!

This folk horror anthology being crowdsourced over at Unbound is absolutely gorgeous The illustrations are creepy and atmospheric, and as far as collectable books go it’s definitely worth checking out. Pledging closes on April 25th, so it’s not to late to join in and pre-order your copy!

Don’t mind me, I’m just somewhat mesmerized by these Fabergé organs. Technically they’re not real – they’re digital images created as part of a pro-organ donation campaign from Brazil – but aren’t they stunning!?

Lauren Blackwood’s Within These Wicked Walls (an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre) is WAY up there on my shopping list for this fall, and would you just look at this gorgeous painting of the heroine by @ArthShahverdyan. So good.

This announcement for Jessica Lewis’ forthcoming book, right? Oh 2022 why are you so far away?

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

April is for Terror, Not Just for Tulips!

Hey‌ ‌there‌ horror fans, ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ ‌Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌‌ you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ ‌community‌ ‌news,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.‌

If you can believe it, we are already at the start of another month. As much as time seems to lack all meaning these days, it certainly does seem to be flying. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but at least it means that spring has nearly sprung and warmth is on its way to this part of the world. Of course there’s another reason to celebrate the start of a new month: new books! As we’ve already seen, 2021 is going to be an amazing year for horror, and each month means a whole new crop of creepy to fill out our readings lists. So in the spirit of encouraging you to grow your own book collections, I thought we’d take this first Monday in April to celebrate some of the exciting new releases coming out this month!

Blessed Monsters by Emily A Duncan (April 6)

I ordered the books in this newsletter based on released date, not on how badly I want to read them. But I have to confess that I might have put this one first regardless, because I am desperate to get my hands on it. This also gives me a chance to once again recommend this dark fantasy series to horror readers looking for books that successfully bridge the genre lines. As much cosmic horror (so. many. eyes.) as it is dark fantasy, this Slavic-inspired setting is peopled with bloody magic, hungry gods, and (again) so SO many eyeballs. In places that eyeballs really should not be. Blessed Monsters is the final book in this trilogy, so if you’ve been looking for a completed series to marathon, now’s your chance!

Near the Bone by Christina Henry (April 13)

I’ve already had the pleasure of reading Near the Bone, and it is 100% everything I want in a horror novel. The isolation, the deep and growing sense of dread, it’s fantastic. Mattie and William have been living on the mountain for longer than she can remember, just the two of them. Until the day that Mattie finds a mutilated fox in the woods and realizes that there is someone or something on the mountain with them. Lurking in the trees, making terrible noises, savaging the wildlife with sharp teeth and claws. But when a group of strangers appears to hunt the creature in the woods they don’t just pose a threat to the monster. Their unwelcome presence makes William angry, and Mattie knows how dangerous it can be when William gets angry.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (April 20)

From the author of last year’s chilling The Silence of the Bones comes a new story about families, secrets, and deception. Hwani’s family and life have fallen apart ever since she and her younger sister vanished and were found unconscious in the forest on the edge of a crime scene. Though the family fled their small village to escape the incident, some histories are not so easily banished. Years later Hawni’s father, Detective Min, is drawn back to their hometown by the unsolved cases of 13 other girls who recently vanished under similar circumstances as his own daughters. But when he returns to investigate, he too vanishes, leaving Hwani to follow in his footsteps in an attempt to find her father and finally put an end to the mystery that tore her family apart.

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (April 20)

Based on the early reviews I’ve seen, Witches Steeped in Gold is going to be a deliciously dark edition to both the fantasy and horror genres. This Jamaican-inspired fantasy pits two enemy witches against a powerful queen, forcing them into an uneasy alliance in order to take her down. Iraya has lived her whole life in a cell, plotting her revenge. Jasmyne is the queen’s daughter, and determined not to be the next body in a long line of daughters sacrificed to strengthen their mother’s power. Though she and Iraya are sworn enemies, they are left with no choice but to combine forces and pursue, at any cost, the queen who threatens both their lives.

A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus (April 27)

Okay so by now we all know that I adore a short fiction collections, yes? And since I also have an obsession with themes of transformation in horror (thanks Mary Shelley), obviously I am super excited for trans author Callum Angus’ forthcoming debut collection A Natural History of Transition. Angus’ collection “disrupts the notion that trans people can only have one transformation” as its characters undergo incredible, unusual, and at times alarming changes, exploring what it means to “become”. Described as a mix of alternative history, horror, and magic steeped realism, Angus’ first collection promises to be a memorable introduction to a talented new author.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Need more titles to pad out your April reading list? Or maybe your 2021 TBR in general? The Ladies of Horror Fiction, Bloody Disgusting, and Night Fire all have 2021 new release lists for you to peruse!

Author Kate Doughty (The Follower) wrote a fascinating guest post for the Ladies of Horror Fiction blog about “The Alternate Reality of Internet Horror” and the way in which social media is being used to craft new, exciting forms of horror.

May 21st is the 5th Annual Stoker Con /HWA Librarian’s Day! This year it is also a part of StokerCon 2021, and $75 dollars will get you access to the whole con, not just Librarian’s Day. Becky Spratford has a fantastic thread over on twitter with all the details you need to get signed up as well as a full schedule for the event!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Getting Critical with Horror Nonfiction

Hey‌ ‌there‌ horror fans, ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ ‌Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌‌ you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ ‌community‌ ‌news,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.‌

This week we’re going to take a little detour out of horror fiction and into the world of horror literary criticism. Why? Because I’m a nerd. Specifically I am an academic nerd who buys critical texts for fun even though she’s been out of university of four years (or four hundred years if measured in COVID-19 time). But this is more than just me indulging in my fascination with critical texts and dissecting the genre I love – though I mean what better way to show your love of the horror genre than dissection, right? … Moving on.

The real reason that I want to spotlight critical horror texts this week is because I honestly believe that all readers can benefit, and come to enjoy, reading about their genre as much as they enjoy reading in their genre! Especially since most of us, at least once in our reading lives, have encountered the sentiment that genre fiction is not worthy of critical consideration or exploration. That it has no value compared to “real” fiction. But these authors and editors have put paid to that notion, giving the horror genre and its rich, complex history the depth of critical study that deeply deserves!

The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature edited by by Kevin Corstorphine and Laura R. Kremmel

Palgrave’s literary criticism texts are unparalleled, really. Just so good. The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature, specifically, is a fantastic in-depth examination of the horror genre. Each section explores the various origins and evolutions of the genre throughout its history, highlighting themes, digging deep into classic and modern texts, and considering horror through a variety of theoretical lenses. Many chapters discuss at length issues that we see the horror community grappling with daily: gender and sexuality, race, censorship and morality, disability, and more. For a deeper understanding of the horror genre, and as a jumping off point for future inquires into horror criticism, this handbook is where you want to start! It’s a but pricy, though, so reach out to your local librarian because I bet she can find a copy for you in a university library somewhere!

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Melanie Anderson and Lisa Kröger

At this point, every knows about Monster, She Wrote, right? This book took the horror scene by storm when it was published and rightly so! Though the breadth of its a subject matter vs its length means that Anderson and Kröger’s history of women in the horror genre can sometimes feel a bit cursory in places, where this book really excels is in its role as an invitation to further study. Diving deeper than the known mothers of the genre, like Shelley and Jackson, Anderson and Kröger said “here are some incredible women you may or may not have heard of, and here are some incredible books they wrote, go forth!”. Monster, She Wrote, explores lesser known historical speculative fiction authors like Margaret Cavendish (The Blazing World) as well as modern paragons like Helen Oyeyemi (White is for Witching).

Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror by Kinitra D. Brooks

Brooks’ Searching for Sycorax provides an in-depth study of Black women creators and characters within in the horror genre. Examining the works of women across the African diaspora, Brooks presents a racially gendered critical analysis of the genre that is unparalleled among modern horror criticism. Looking at both “canonical” horror texts and those by modern authors like Nalo Hopkinson (Skin Folk), NK Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), and Chesya Burke (Let’s Play White), Brook examines how these authors’ works interrogate and subvert the prejudices and anxieties of the modern horror genre.

paperbacks from hell

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

Or maybe your interest in the genre lies more in its fascinating paperback history during the horror boom of the ’70s and ’80s. Mass market paperback horrors were an astounding phenomenon that, for being relatively short lived, nevertheless laid the groundwork for the modern genre, shaping horror as we know it today. Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell is a beloved genre history (and an absolute stunner of a book, thanks to Quirk Books) that has not only draw attention to the lost titles of horror’s early heyday but has also lead to the rediscovery and republication of many of these incredible early authors and their works.

Obviously this is just a small sample of the critical texts on offer about the horror genre. And largely based around my own interests, I admit. But one of the most beautiful things about a critical texts is the reference list in the back. One book leads to 10 or 20 others and the next thing you know you’re down rabbit hole! Go forth an enjoy!

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Last thursday (March 25) was publication day for Stitched Lips: An Anthology of Horror from Silenced Voices, featuring works from Gabino Iglesias, Hailey Piper, Lee Murray, Lucy Snyder, and others! All profits from sales of the anthology will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose goal is the advancement of human rights for all people.

You know those gorgeous, rainbow spine trade paperback editions of Stephen King’s novels? The ones that pop up in painfully beautiful stacks all over your Instagram feed, but you can never claim them for your own because they’re out of print from their UK publisher? Well do I have some good news for you: Hodder & Stoughton are bringing them back!

Yesssssssssssssss. Listen. I love What We Do in the Shadows more than life. They can make as many spin offs of the original as they want. It’s fine. Take my money and sign me up.

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

By the Seaside, Ooooh, By the Beautiful Sea

Hey‌ ‌there‌ horror fans, ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ ‌Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌‌ you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ ‌community‌ ‌news,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.‌

It’s March, and up here in the dark reaches of the frozen North, we’re finally starting to see signs of spring. And when we hit that part of the thaw when the ground finally begins smell like ground again, and the rains come, the wind that blows up the river from the south takes on a distinctly salty tang, I start to crave the sea. My favorite place in the world is the seaside.

The best part about the ocean though? It’s the last unknown. It’s scary. It’s possibly haunted (hey you can’t prove me wrong). No wonder its vast and unmeasured depths should inspire as much fear as wonder. I mean, have you ever seen a lamprey eel’s mouth? And they’re not even the scariest thing in the sea. (Just one of my favorites.) So yes, whether you’re facing creatures from the deep, sailing across the waves, or living alongside its unplumbed depths, the sea is terrifying. Which is why this week we are celebrating the birth of spring (at least here in the northern hemisphere) with some fantastic sea-themed horror books that will make you think twice about your next sojourn into (or upon) the water.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

So I might be a tiny bit obsessed with Winter Tide. There’s something about the feel of it. It’s like I can taste salt. Like a post-Lovecraftian Innsmouth-inspired sea salt lick… ANYWAY. In 1928 the government relocated the people of Innsmouth, taking them as far as possible from their home ocean and their sleeping gods. They deposited them in dusty camps in the desert and left them to die. Aphra and Caleb Marsh were the only ones to survive their camp. Now, the same government that destroyed her people needs Aphra’s help recovering dangerous secrets they that they believe the Communists have stolen from Miskatonic University. A task that will lead her home to the ruins of Innsmouth and the sea beyond.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon definitely leans more towards sci-fi than horror on the multi-axis sliding scale of genre fiction. But there are moments frightening enough and themes dark enough to qualify as both, so I’m slipping it in here. Lagoon charts the fraught encounter between humanity and extraterrestrial life, as a massive object falls from the sky and lands in the ocean off the coast of Lagos. The descent of this impossible object unites the lives of three strangers–a marine biologist, a rapper, and a soldier–as they band together to save their country and their world.

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

You might recognize All the Murmuring Bones from last month’s list of forthcoming horror tiles for 2021. In fact it just came out a couple of weeks ago at the start of March! And, as with all things saltwater and scary, I’m all over it (or I will be… once I bust down the rest of my TBR a bit. I’m starting to feel like my unread books are judging me.) Many years ago, the Mer asked for one child of each generation in return for granting the O’Malley’s the guaranteed safety of their ships upon the sea. But by the time Miren O’Malley was born, her family had long since been unable to keep their side of the bargain and their fortunes have fallen. Miren’s grandmother will do anything it takes to regain the favor of Mer, even if it is Merin who may end up paying the price.

The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate

The Route of Ice and Salt is beautiful, haunting, and a real gem in the history of queer horror that has finally been translated (gorgeously) to English by David Bowles, thanks to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Innsmouth Press. Zárate’s cult vampire novella is a queer retelling of a small portion of the plot of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: the journey of the doomed Demeter. Varna to Whitby is a route the steadfast captain of the Demeter has traveled many times, alone among his men, dreams full of longings and pleasures he cannot permit himself. But something about this journey is different. Wrong. Rumors spread that something evil is stalking the captain’s ship and the crew are uneasy, looking to their captain to protect them.

I don’t have words for how much I loved this book. The prose is perfection. There are scenes that will stick with me forever. It’s like someone handed me a part of Stoker’s novel that was missing, and I can never unread this now. Not that I’d ever want to. Suggestion: Do yourself a favor. Buy The Route of Ice and Salt, and S.T. Gibson’s January release, A Dowry of Blood, and have yourself a queer Dracula fest. Please. It’s self care.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

March has been a busy month for new releases! Worried that you might have missed something? Never Fear! Nightfire has you covered. Check out their This Month In New Horror Books post and be sure you didn’t forget any can’t miss March releases!

You might remember me enthusing about Mina and the Undead earlier this winter and I am so excited to say that publication day is nearly upon us! Amy McCaw and Dawn Kurtagich are going to join forces for a virtual launch party on March 27th so don’t forget to register!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Cover Reveal: Rachel Harrison’s CACKLE

Hey‌ ‌there‌ all you bewitchers and bedevilers,‌ ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌ ‌you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ community‌ ‌news,‌ you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ ‌in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.‌

Oh do I have a treat for you today, hex fans. A little something witchy to brighten up your Monday. I’m sure you all remember Rachel Harrison’s oh-so-creepy 2020 horror debut, The Return, which instilled in me a deep and abiding suspicion of any hotel even the slightest bit more unusual than a Holiday Inn. Even if you didn’t get around to reading The Return (No shade intended. There are three and four year old books in my TBR that I bought when they were released. Yikes, Jessica.), you probably remember seeing its gorgeous, photogenic hot pink cover making the rounds on your social media feeds.

Well get ready, because Harrison will be making her way back to your TBR this fall with a brand new horror read and a cover that I have delighted to be able to reveal to you right here, exclusively on The Fright Stuff.

Break out your cauldrons, candles, and hex bags people, and get ready to meet Cackle:

Okay, can I just? I mean? I don’t even have sufficient words for how much I love this cover. The spider teacup? The bright, wicked witch green font. It’s so simple but so immediately compelling. You know me, I never say no to a witch-themed horror book, and since Harrison has already shown a propensity for creating truly chilling, character-driven horror, suffice it to say: my body is ready.

Annie is an ordinary woman, living a safe, ordinary life, until the day her longtime boyfriend dumps her flat and leaves Annie eager for a fresh start and a chance to do something more with her life. She leaves Manhattan behind in exchange for a teaching position in a small village in upstate New York – a town almost too good to be true. The town is picture perfect. The townspeople are vaguely reminiscent of the cast of a Hallmark movie. Even her apartment is instagram ready – except of course for the spiders. Still, even a persistent eight-legged infestation can’t put a damper on what looks like a shining start to her new life. Especially once Annie meets Sophie. Sophie who is confident, beautiful, charming, and independent. Sophie who wants to be Annie’s friend, and to help Annie start living her life. If the definitely-not-a-hallmark-cast-of-extras townsfolk seem a little frightened of Sophie, so what? So what if Sophie lives in a mansion in the middle of the woods, and seems a bit… unusual? What is there really to be afraid of? It’s not like witches are real. Right?

In the last few years the horror genre has been blessed with a veritable feast of witchy horror books. And, better still, we’ve seen a number of horror books – adult and YA – that explore how the figure of the witch has always been both a means of persecuting the unwanted and the outsiders of society, and a means for those targeted to liberate themselves. Witches are powerful. Witches are feared. It’s clear that Harrison intends to add Cackle to the ranks of witch-inspired horror fiction that explores what it is to find freedom, power, and friendship, even through the darkest means.

Cackle will hit bookshelves on October 5th!

Other Witchy Reads to Keep the Cauldrons Bubbling

Bubble, bubble, toil and – well you get it. October is a long way off, and as always it is shaping up to be a big month of horror releases. As we, as always, count down the days to that most revered of horror months, may I make a couple recommendations to tide you over?

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Yadriel is determined to prove to his traditional family that he is a real brujo so that they will finally accept his true gender. But when he sets out to find and free the spirit of his murdered cousin he accidently summons the ghost of resident school bad boy, Julian Diaz, who now refuses to leave him alone. Until Yadriel helps Julian find out what happened to him, Julian is determined that he isn’t going anywhere.

Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste

Odette knows the danger of crossing path with the witchfinders. Her whole family is gone, and her own life nearly lost at the same time. No amount of magic had been enough to save her mother and sister, and now Odette is alone. Five years after the fires Odette lives deep in the woods outside her village, swearing off magic and hoping only for peace. But, as far as the world is concerned, that’s too much for a witch to ask. When her magic begins to spin out of control, menacing the village, it summons the return of the witchfinders. And this time they will not leave until Odette is dead, leaving her no choice but to defend herself. By any means necessary.

Still not enough witches in your life? The contributors over at Book Riot have put together a ton of fantastic lists full of witch-themed reads. Enough to keep your TBR stocked clear through Halloween. Be sure to check out our witches archive over at Book Riot!

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Need more Gothic Romance in your life? (Of course you do. Is that even a question?) Make sure to check out this list over on Book Riot! I’m particularly excited for Clipstone’s Lakesedge. Yet another book for the October order list.

Speaking of forthcoming titles, Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is available to request on Netgalley! This one promises to be a real blood chiller!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Grab the Salt, We’re Having an Exorcism Party!

Hey there you lovers of all things scary and sacred, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

Demonic possession is one of my favorite horror tropes of all time. Maybe it’s the lingering Catholic in me, or maybe it’s just the allure of the timeless battle of good and evil. Who knows! All I know is that I never ever get tired of possession plots – or the good old fashioned exorcism fun that goes with them. Thankfully, if there’s one thing the horror genre doesn’t lack for, in film or on page, it’s demons and people dumb enough to pick up a planchette and talk to them.

So I thought I’d take a Monday in March and highlight some really fantastic possession books! I’m really happy with how this list came out because I think each book takes on the possession and/or exorcisms tropes from a unique perspective, and they’re all worthy of a place on your TBR.

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

That cover is so deliciously ’80s horror throwback neon and I love it – almost as much as I love this book. It’s gross, hilarious, nostalgic, and just a fantastic read. I picked it up one night intending to start it, and read it all in one sitting! Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since they were little kids, but a strange and frightening incident before the start of high school throws their friendship into jeopardy. No one really know exactly what happened to Gretchen that night in the woods, not even Abby. And when Gretchen’s behavior suddenly changes, becoming increasingly bizarre and alarming, Abby is forced to accept the one possible explanation that presents itself: Gretchen must be possessed.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

Even though The Girl from the Well is told from the perspective of a dead girl (and what an eerie, unique perspective it is), she is not directly involved in the book’s possession plot. Which is to say that she is neither the possessed (after all she has no physical form to be invaded), nor, as you might expect, the possessor. Okiku admits to having possessed people in the past, but Tark already has something dark and terrible living under his skin, he doesn’t need the extra help from her. A murdered spirit, unavenged and fated to walk the world punishing the murderers of children, Okiku seems like the least likely spirit to help Tark, but the two form an unexpected bond as they cross the world in attempt to free him from the evil that stalks him.

Goddess of Filth by V Castro

I preordered my copy of Goddess of Filth months ago and I am SO glad that it’s finally March. When friends Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline get together one hot summer night to drink and summon some fun, it starts out all fun and games. Until it’s not. “Not” being Fernanda Exorcist-crawling towards her friends, chanting in the language of their Aztec ancestors. Over the next few weeks Fernanda’s behavior just gets more frightening. The local priest, Father Moreno, is crying demonic possession but Lourdes has a suspicion that it’s something more powerful and much much older than that. She enlists the help of her “bruja Craft crew” and a professor to try and understand what is happening to Fernanda. Hopefully before Moreno’s obsession with her can lead to disaster.

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

AKA that time Jessica made an unplanned trip to the bookstore to buy a book just because Twitter promised her there was a creepy black goat in it. And I never regretted it! Quite the opposite, as I now considered Dawn Kurtagich to be one of my favorite horror authors. Teeth in the Mist is the epitome of everything I love: big, isolated Gothic houses located in vast, empty, weather-swept landscapes. Evil that seems to rise out of the land itself. Ominous goats (as promised!). Witches. The possibility of the devil lurking in the background. The novel uses its multimedia format to simultaneously tell the stories of three girls, separated by centuries yet bound together by the haunting presence of Medwyn Mill House. I do not have words enough to tell you know much I love this book, but I will tell you that if you are looking for a book that should not be read in a dark room, you want this one.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

I wanted to make sure that I left room for this book on the list, because I love the way that Tremblay flips the traditional exorcism script. Are we dealing with a teenage girl that is actually possessed by the devil? Or are we dealing with a mentally ill 14-year-old who one local priest decided to make his ticket to fame? When the Barretts’ 14-year-old daughter Marjorie develops what appears to be acute schizophrenia, and all medical attempts to help her fail, the family turns to the church for aid. But a local priest’s suggestion that he perform an exorcism on Marjorie is tainted with suspicion when he also invites a camera crew to accompany him. Then tragedy strikes. Fifteen years later, Marjorie’s little sister Merry agrees to an interview about the events of that night, and as buried memories surface it soon becomes clear that what she remembers, and what she’s been told, are two complete different stories.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Everyone loves book mail, particularly of the special, swag-filled subscription box kind. So check out this post over on Book Riot about the best horror book subscription boxes and fill your mail box with goodies and good reads.

This is looking like a busy year for the horror genre, and March is no exception. Check out this list from Nightfire of all the terrifying titles debuting this month. There are so many!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Looking for the Real Monster in Alex White’s ALIEN: INTO CHARYBDIS

Hey there Horror Fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

Fact: I am obsessed with the Alien franchise. Generally, I need very little excuse to start enthusiastically sharing my love for this series. It’s getting me to stop that’s the issue. This week, however, I promise I have a very good excuse, because Alex White’s epic second Alien book, Alien: Into Charybdis, came out last week (Feb 23) and I have Thoughts. Into Charybdis is a fast-paced, sci-fi horror dream of a book that any Alien fan would love. But it’s also a gripping look at the the real horrors of the Alien franchise, which run much deeper than the the shiny black exoskeleton of your friendly neighborhood xenomorph.

Here’s my unpopular Alien opinion. Ready? With a very few notable exceptions, I don’t really like the Colonial Marines. Maybe years of witnessing gun-toting hyper-nationalism in the real world have soured me on the yee-haw-god-bless-the-core space cowboy persona that is the Colonial Marines, and I’m just being a grouch? But Into Charybdis certainly made me feel validated in being wary of the franchise’s star-hopping military elite. White does acknowledge that – as with the real world military – there are honorable, well-intentioned people in the Colonial Marines. But there are also fanatics. And in Into Charybdis they introduce us to a particularly repugnant squadron known as the Midnighters.

Even among the Midnighters there are a few true hearts, who want to defend the galaxy against the hostile alien threat. But their nobility is no match for the virulent zealotry of their commanding officer and her loyal seconds. Because Captain Duncan and her men were designed to make your skin crawl. Their cruel, careless commentary, their racism, their sexism, their easy violence is meant to raise your hackles. They perpetrate war crimes with a joy that borders on religious ecstasy in short: they are meant to be the biggest monsters in Into Charybdis and we are meant to recognize them as such.

As Captain Duncan so proudly says: “We’re the Colonial Marines, Becker. Let’s fucking colonize.” (240).

Yee haw.

It’s a well known fact that the true horror of the Alien trilogy isn’t the Xenomorphs, it’s capitalism. Weyland-Yutani’s determination to make a profit from weaponizing a creature that is both a physical threat and a form of parasitic bio-terrorism, has been the instigating factor in almost every Alien plot since the Nostromo landed on LV-426. Facehuggers are creepy, but in the Alien universe it’s the capitalism that will kill you.

However, there’s another force at work in Into Charybdis that takes the franchise’s commentary on capitalism to a new depth: the enmeshing of capitalism and militarism. When your country’s military is used more to generate wealth for those in the defense industry or to protect financial interests than to serve the nation and the people, you have chocolate on your peanut butter, so to speak. But this particular combination isn’t tasty. And it raises serious concerns about who is actually controlling the country’s military. In the case of the Alien franchise, in 2184 the company clutching the military purse strings is Weyland-Yutani, and whether they’re sending the marines into situations to pave the way for company interests, or paying the marines to act outright in the company’s name, there’s no denying that the Colonial Marines aren’t exactly a force of good amidst the chaos of space (though that’s how they might want to be viewed). They’re a force for capitalism, colonizing the universe in the name of potential profit, with Weyland-Yutani following in their wake and planting flags.

And, as you might expect, this use of militarism for capitalist purposes is justified by pushing a narrative of aggressive nationalism: the good of the nation above all else, the superiority of the nation over all others. Us before them. Us over them. Throw in a soupçon of Christian extremism for flavor. (Duncan’s tattoo is going to haunt me forever. Just you wait, you’ll see what I mean.) Which allows Weyland-Yutani, in this case, to manipulate sympathetic mindsets in the Colonial Marines to their purposes, forming them into privileged special ops teams with limited oversight and unlimited expense accounts, united by a common, fervent ideology – like the Midnighters.

At one point Shy, one of the novel’s main characters, observes of the Midnighters that “They couldn’t have sent a more American squadron if they’d come in wielding hot apple pies.” (192), and she’s right. But the Midnighters came in wielding something even more familiar than apple pie, and far more sinister: a distinctly post-9/11, racist, anti-Muslim, good-old-boy attitude that would almost be satirical in its intensity if it weren’t so horrifically recognizable from recent headlines. Seriously, the attitudes and actions of the Midnighters in Alien: Into Charybdis make the Xenomorphs look cuddly by comparison.

There are so many elements of Alien: Into Charybdis that I could point to if I wanted to praise Alex White’s ability to bring the Alien universe to life. But it was their understanding of the true, real world horrors underlying the series’ nightmarish sci-fi plots that really sold me in the end. After all it isn’t the xenomorphs that make the Alien franchise frightening. It’s the people.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Grady Hendrix has a new book coming out in July of this year and I am absolutely in love with the blood-smeared cover of The Final Girl Support Group!

Tor Nightfire sat down with Tonia Ransom, editor, producer, and writer of the Nightlight podcast to talk about her career, the podcast, and celebrating the work of black authors in the horror genre.

Ciannon Smart, author of the highly anticipated Witches Steeped in Gold (April 20 from Harper Teen) has shared a sneak peek at the pre-order campaign for her book!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

2021 Adult Horror Releases by Women

Hey there Horror Fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

Welcome to the last Fright Stuff of this year’s Women in Horror Month! But remember, just because WiHM is ending, doesn’t mean you have to give the boot to the women in your TBR. 2021 is shaping up to be a truly phenomenal year in horror publishing, and some of the most exciting titles on my pre-order list are by the remarkable women of the horror genre! So, as promised, here is a list of forthcoming adult horror titles by women to help you move your reading list out of February and have the joy of reading horror by women all year long.

Dead Space by Kali Wallace (March 2)

Hey so if we haven’t breached this subject yet in the Fright Stuff, I am obsessed with space horror. I don’t know if it’s the vast vacuum of space, or the fact that said vastness isolates and confines you to the strict boundaries of what is basically a haunted house in space, or the tantalizing possibility of the unknown, but I love space horror more than life. So I am beyond excited for Kali Wallace’s forthcoming novel, Dead Space. Sometimes when your big life plans go awry you end up working a dead-end job in an asteroid belt. Hester Marley is a security officer for a mining company, spending her days on petty crimes, when an old friend resurfaces. They’re both survivors of the terrorist attack that ruined Hester’s life, but before she can learn what her friend claims to have discovered about their shared tragedy, he’s murdered. Leaving Hester to search out both his killer, and his secrets.

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall (June 22nd)

This forthcoming dark fantasy novel sounds like it’s going to be 110% my thing. Shadowy cabals, espionage, power, deceptions, violence? Yum. Elfreda Raughn can handle the day-to-day duties of serving the Sisterhood of Aytrium, no matter how gruesome. But she will do whatever it takes to avoid becoming pregnant and fulfilling her part in preserving the Sisterhood’s magical bloodline. There are different kinds of sacrifices, and in order to avoid the fate she most despises, Elfreda will have to choose a path that leads her into the upper echelons of the Sisterhood, and a lavish world of parties and power struggles. This is definitely going to be one of those reads where I’m up all night because I couldn’t put it down.

The All Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw (June 22)

Oh look. More space horror. I told you how much I love space horror, right? A team of former criminals, disbanded in the wake of a mission-turned-disaster, must rejoin forces if they want to uncover what really happened on their last, fateful last job. And if they want to rescue their missing team member. These women, half-clone and half-machine, must return to Dimmuborgir, the site of their past failure, but they are not the only ones in search of the planet’s secret. In a world where the universe’s AI have evolved into an independent force with their own agency and will, the team must face down not only their own pasts but also a sentient force determined to see that humans never regain control.

I mean she had me at sentient ships, so someone just give her my money and I’ll be over here waiting for June.

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (September 7)

I admit that I haven’t been able to find much information yet about Flowers from the Sea for all that, according to the publisher’s site, it is due out in September. But that just makes me more curious! I’m willing to wait because this novella sounds fantastic. Survivors of a flooded land exist in isolation, fighting for their continued survival on an ark. Supplies are dwindling, hungry, terrifying sea monsters circle – in other words, circumstances are NOT ideal. Among the survivors is Iraxi, pregnant with a child that may not be entirely human. The future of the ark and its survivors is uncertain, and Iraxi’s own fate may be darker still.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Catilin Starling (October 19)

You might remember me shouting enthusiastically about the cover of this book earlier this month, and it’s definitely not just the cover that I’m excited about. This promises to be the very height of Gothic horror goodness and I’m so excited. Jane Shoringfield has a carefully calculated plan: husband, marriage of convenience, the ability to remain independent and pursue meaningful work. She sets her mind on Doctor Augustine Lawrence, and the reclusive physician agrees with one (suitably ominous) condition. His family are the Lawrences of Lindridge hall, a (suitably crumbling heap of a) manor outside of the town, and Jane must never, never go there. But, as these things tend to happen in any good Gothic novel, fateful weather sees Jane stranded at the door of Lindridge Hall on her wedding night, and the haunted, paranoid man within bears little resemblance to the man she thought she married.

Please, universe, just put this in my eyeballs. October is so far away.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Need more books to fill out your 2021 TBR? Don’t forget to bookmark Nightfire’s excellent list of all the horror they’re excited about in 2021!

Here’s your reminder that the Horror Writers Association’s second Females of Fright panel has been scheduled for next Friday, February 26th and will feature authors V. Castro, Larissa Glasser, Alma Katsu, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Cynthia Pelayo, Sarah Read, and Danielle Trussoni!

Looking ahead to the rest of your reading year? The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Booklist, have announced their 2021 Summer Scares reading list so get those TBR’s prepped!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Getting Gothic for Women in Horror Month

Hey there Horror Fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

Gothic is, has been, and will always be the artform of my soul. In film, on the page, in music or dance – just give me that lush, dramatic, atmospheric Gothic goodness and I will be whole. I could (and often do – fair warning) talk about the Gothic year round with excessive enthusiasm, but there’s something about Women in Horror Month in particular that makes me want to shout my love of the Gothic from the rooftops. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because that, while there have been famous writers of the Gothic who were men, this genre has really always belonged to women. And I’m not just talking about Radcliffe, though I will forever lay candles at her altar as the Ur-mother of our genre, or her contemporaries. Or just the 19th century luminaries like Brontë, Gaskell, Perkins. It’s also the lauded authors of the 20th century like Toni Morrison and Shirley Jackson, and the largely unsung women authors who made up the serial Gothic boom of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s for lines like Dell and Ace, who have driven the subgenre forward. Gothic fiction may not be an exclusively female genre – no genre really is, not even romance – but there’s little denying that at its core it has been driven by women.

So with that in mind, in this third week of Women in Horror Month it is my great honor to celebrate some truly excellent, recent Gothic novels by women.

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

I have heard SUCH good things about this gloriously Gothic novel from Danielle Trussoni. So many that it’s possible just writing about The Ancestor for this newsletter may have resulted in a copy magically appearing on my kindle. How? Who knows. That’s the magic. It certainly felt like magic worthy of a fairy tale when Alberta “Bert” received a letter addressed to Countess Alberta Montebianco telling her that she inherited not only a title and a fortune, but also a castle in Italy. Talk about a Cinderella-style dream come true! Or not. Because what Bert has really inherited from her mysteriously ancestral line is a house full of history and dark secrets (and and expensive wine cellar so, I mean, worth it?) that threaten all she’s ever believed about herself and her family.

(Also, is anyone getting Castle Freak vibes? Maybe it’s just me. Horror Genre what have you done to me? I vaguely regret watching that movie. It was a LOT. A lot of what, I still don’t really know.)

catherine house

Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Chances are, you’ve heard of Catherine House. Elizabeth Thomas’ gothic novel about a Pennsylvania boarding school gone wrong is delicious dark academia in its finest form. In the vein of all good dark academia novels, it is as much about the horrors of toxic competitiveness in education as it is about the desire for knowledge to a dangerous degree. For three years students are given one of the finest educations available for completely free – but the price is three years of their life completely cut off from the world they left behind. No family, no friends, no contact with the outside world. Ines is ready to trade in her old life for a new world of intense study and discipline, but what she finds instead is a gilded prison of luxury and permissiveness. When tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the truth of Catherine house is not at all what it seems.

The Companion by Katie Alender

The implications of this cover are SO upsetting. I honestly can’t even look at it. Maybe it’s because I have stabbed myself a bazillion times with those little dressmaking pins and can only imagine what a spoonful would do to your insides? I don’t know. Big yikes, though. There have been some fantastic Gothic YA titles in recent years. Really some of the best, most atmospheric on offer, and The Companion is a perfect example. Margot, orphaned when she lost her parents in a terrible accident (classic Gothic orphan trope anyone?), has finally been taken in. The Suttons are a prestigious family with a large estate, and the other orphans in the group home think Margot couldn’t be more lucky to have been chosen to be companion to the Suttons’ daughter Agatha. But life in the isolated manor soon leaves Margot wondering if she’s really all that fortunate after all.

the deep alma katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Gothic on a boat? Well technically it’s Gothic on two boats with a whole lot of saltwater-ghost goodness in between. This book was so beautiful. If you’re looking for a tense, fast-paced read, The Deep is not the one you want. It’s excellence lies in it’s slow-building storytelling and creeping, dread-filled tone. What begins on the Titanic with a forbidden attachment and inevitable tragedy, finds its resolution on the equally ill-fated Britannic. Annie, on of the survivors of the Titanic, has brought her demons with her to her stint as a nurse on board the luxury liner turned hospital ship, the Britannic. The past has a way of clinging that even the sea can’t wash away, and when she comes across an unconscious soldier who she recognizes as young man who she believes could not have survived the disaster of the Titanic, Annie is forced to confront her past and question the very memories that haunt her.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

First up! The Horror Writers Association’s second Females of Fright panel has been scheduled for Friday, February 26th! Featuring authors V. Castro (Hairspray and Switchblades), Larissa Glasser (F4), Alma Katsu, Nicole Givens Kurtz (whose short fiction has been included in a number of fantastic anthologies such as Sycorax’s Daughters), Cynthia Pelayo (Children of Chicago), Sarah Read (Out of Water), and Danielle Trussoni!

Apex Publications is holding a Women in Horror Month Sale! 30% off all horror titles written by women, print and digital, so say goodbye to your book budget!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

2021 YA Horror Releases by Women

Hey there Horror Fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

I love YA horror. Some of the most talented voices in the horror genre at the moment are emerging in the field of YA horror and building a whole new tradition of teen terrors. As someone who cut her horror eye teeth on the remnants of the ’80s-’90s horror boom that she managed to dig out of her school library’s teen section, it brings me so much joy to see a new generation of horror arising for a new generation of readers.

So for Women in Horror Month this February, with a big, bright new year of horror ahead of us, let me shine a light on some of theYA horror titles by women that are sitting at the top of my to-buy list.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (April 20)

From the author of last year’s chilling The Silence of the Bones comes a new book about families, secrets, and deception. Hwani’s family and life have fallen apart ever since she and her younger sister vanished and were found unconscious in the forest on the edge of a crime scene. Though the family fled their small village to escape the incident, some histories are not so easily banished. Years later Hwani’s father, Detective Min, is drawn back to their hometown by the unsolved cases of 13 other girls who recently vanished under similar circumstances as his own daughters. But when he returns to investigate, he too vanishes, leaving Hwani to follow in his footsteps in an attempt to find her father and finally put an end to the mystery that tore her family apart.

Mark of the Wicked by Georgia Bowers (August 10)

So if you’ve ever seen the 2017 British psychological thriller Beast, you might know why the synopsis of Mark of the Wicked caught my eye: a young woman, infatuated with the mysterious new boy in her town, finds herself suddenly surrounded by death and violence on all sides. The guilty party seems obvious, but are things really as simple as they seem? Matilda has always been told that her magic is to be used only when necessary. But Matilda isn’t a good witch – she wants more from her life. She wants privilege and power. She wants vengeance, and conquest without consequences. When a spell gone wrong brings Oliver into her life, everything changes. As they grow closer, darkness piles up on either side and when a young girl dies all fingers point to Matilda. Matilda swears she isn’t responsible! At least… not that she can remember.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig (July 27)

BEES. Erin Craig has been promising horror bees on her Twitter feed ever since this book was announced and I need it. The Blackspire Mountain range is comprised of five sharp peaks bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest. And nestled amidst the Blackspires is the little town of Amity Falls. Visitors are rare and the wood is full of devils. This is Ellerie Downing’s home, and the quiet life she’s always known. But a sudden disappearance raises fears that the monsters the villagers once fought for survival may have returned, bringing with them honeyed promises of desires fulfilled. Asking only the smallest favors in return. Which, by the way, makes the hair on my arms stand up because oh my god do NOT strike deals with unknown creatures in the woods. Every nerve I have is screaming that this is some fair folk level nonsense. Of course I am excited.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (November 9)

Blackwood had me at “Jane Eyre retelling”, because there is no version of this reality in which I am not obsessed with that novel. Entirely. Which is why I am absolutely dying to get my hands on Within These Wicked Walls. A debtera is an exorcist who is hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. So Andromeda, as a debtera, is familiar with the shadowy corners of reality. Still, when Magnus Rochester hires her to cleanse his castle of the evil that haunts it, Andromeda soon realizes that she is up to her neck in horror far beyond what she has been trained for. But despite the risk to her life, Andromeda cannot leave Magnus to face down this evil alone.

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter (March 9)

Here comes Jessica again with her obsession with sea-themed horror and dark fantasy, but in my defense I offer: highly suspect mer folk who want your children for unspecified reasons. Or at least unspecified in the synopsis – I’m curious to find out what the real reason ends up being that the Mer asked for one child of each generation in return for granting the O’Malley’s the guaranteed safety of their ships upon the sea. Of course that was many years ago, and by the time Miren O’Malley came along her family had been unable to keep their side of the bargain and their fortunes had long since fallen. But Miren’s grandmother will do anything it takes to regain the favor of Mer, even if it is Merin who may end up paying the price. Briefly I refer you back to my statement about making deals with unknown entities in forests and extend that to ocean dwelling somethings as well.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Sarah Langan has written an article for LitHub about the archetype of the mother in fiction, and challenging that archetype in her new book Good Neighbors (Atria Books, February 2)

The Horror Writers Association is celebrating Women in Horror Month by presenting Females of Fright, the Zoom edition! The first of the two evening panels with members of the HWA is scheduled for February 12th at 8PM EST and is free to attend! Panelists include, among others, authors Christa Carmen (Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked), Sara Tantlinger (Cradleland of Parasites), Jessica Guess (Cirque Berserk), and Zoje Stage (Baby Teeth).

Speaking of Sarah Tantlinger, she’s conjured up a list of Horrormance titles if you’d like to make your Valentine’s day a little bloodier!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.