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.
Here we are, in the last week of September already, and it just occurred to me the other day that as of August it has been two whole years since I became the author of The Fright Stuff newsletter! I’d like to say time has flown— but we all know that for the last two years time has been a sucking, inescapable void that both rushes by us and drags on eternally.
But hey, we still managed to have some good times, right? No matter how bad things got, the one bright point in my life has been getting to be your guide to all things creepy and haunted.
So here’s to horror, and here’s to you.
King’s Books T-Shirt by Shirtmandude
Happy (slightly belated) birthday to the King of scares! As a horror fan and a Mainer, I couldn’t miss the chance to celebrate the day that gave us Stephen King. So this week’s bookish good is this fantastic “King’s Books” t-shirt, which not only pays homage to King, but also to his home town, the Queen City herself. Grab one for yourself, and spare a tear for the fact that King’s Books is, sadly, not a real bookstore. Sob.
House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
I am so excited to you all to read this book. I’m serious, it was everything I could want in a Gothic horror novel. It’s so indulgent and decadent, but underpinned with this pervasive imagery of rot and decay. In a world sharply divided by class, there are few ways for girls like Marion to escape her lot in life. But there is one guaranteed way, despised by some but often sought after by the desperate or ambitious: the Bloodmaid. A Bloodmaid gives her blood willingly to the nobles of the North who drink it to keep themselves young and healthy. In return, she is lifted into a world of luxury and comfort, set for life even when her days of bloodletting are over. When her circumstances take a sharp and violent downturn, Marion throws herself on the mercy of a stranger who has offered her a place as a Bloodmaid to one of the oldest, wealthiest houses of the nobility. But the court of the bewitching Countess Lisavet holds ancient and dark secrets that will consume more than Marion’s blood if she is not careful.
Leech by Hiron Ennes
Are we ready for “Jessica is really enthusiastic about this book” round 2? Because Leech blew my freaking mind. It’s a medical Gothic horror set in the frozen north, and I’m obsessed. Our narrator is a doctor. All of the bodies of the Interprovincial Medical Institute are doctors, actually, because for centuries the Institute has been systematically replacing all the unreliable human doctors with its superior bodies, whose mind(s) can overcome any challenge or puzzle the Institute might encounter. Until they can’t. Because the doctor narrating our story has been sent north, to the remote chateau of a tyrannical baron, to investigate the mysterious death of a fellow Institute doctor. And the parasitic creature lurking there in the cold might finally be a problem beyond the Institute’s ability to solve.
Honestly it’s even so much more than all that, but I don’t have the WORDS. Just trust me, and order yourself a copy.
For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!
Speaking of Round 2, it’s time for the next edition of Bloody Blood Backlist! Today we’re time traveling back to 2013 to check out some of the amazing horror books that hit the shelves 9 years ago. Get your wishlists ready, folks!
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
As many of you might remember, 2013 was kind of smack in the middle of a massive wave of “-apocalyptic/viral plague/zombie plague/quarantines and remnant societal enclaves” fiction. And among that outpouring of books, was Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans, about a post-apocalyptic Gulf Coast, devastated by storms and sickness. The initial outbreak of Delta Fever lead to the entire Coast being quarantined, and now, years after the fact, the rest of the country has given its inhabitants up for dead. But life still exists inside the quarantine zone, condensed into warring factions struggling for survival. When Fen’s tribe is murdered for their virus resistant blood, she and her tribe leader’s newborn child are the only two survivors. Determined to get the baby out of the quarantine zone to the Outer States, where she can have a better life, Fen teams up with a rogue scientist, Daniel, who’s found himself trapped inside Orleans and who may just posses the secret to its salvation. But only if the three of them can survive the perilous journey to the quarantine wall and make their escape.
NOS4A2 by Joe HIll
I mean, does this book even need an introduction? Yes, friends, 2013 was the year that blessed us with one one of the strangest, most frightening Christmas books you will ever read. Ho ho hell no. The unforgettable villain of the story, Charlie Manx, is a monster who preys on children, stealing them away in his Rolls-Royce Wraith (the one with the titular NOS4A2 plate) and transporting them clean out of this world to that hidden park of terrors and amusements: Christmasland. The only child who ever escaped him was Vic McQueen, who shares his remarkable ability to slip outside the world. After her narrow escape, Vic grew up determined to forget that Manx ever existed. But when Manx returns and kidnaps her son as revenge, Vic has no choice but return to the past she tried to bury. To take up her bike and follow the hidden roads, all the way to Christmasland.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
I realize that not everyone considers The Ghost Bride a horror novel because it’s not explicitly, “make you afraid of dark doorways” scary. But I think there’s always a place in the horror genre for darker books that aren’t overtly scary, but are still horror thematically, tonally, etc. (Though for those of you who prefer a good scare, I’ve heard that they upped the creep level in the Netflix adaptation.) The Ghost Bride is about a young woman, Li Lan, who’s limited prospects of a decent marriage result in her receiving a very strange offer from a wealthy and powerful family that normally wouldn’t consider Li Lan a suitable wife for one of this sons: the Lims need a Ghost Bride. It’s a rare practice in which a young woman is married to a deceased son of the house whose spirit is believed to be restless and haunting the family. In return, Li Lan will trade her uncertain future for a guaranteed a home— but security comes at a price. With every night that passes, Li Lan is drawn further and further in the frightening world of the dead that her betrothed inhabits, and unless she can unravel the secrets at the heart of the Lim household, she may find herself trapped in the afterlife forever.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Jessica. Really. Multiple vampire books two weeks in a row? Okay, but listen: I kind of love the idea of a vampiric viral plague leading to a vampire quarantine zone that’s basically one big blood orgy dance party that humans are too stupid to stay away from. Literally so stupid that they will walk through the one way door into Coldtown, knowing that— alive or not— they’ll never be coming out again. Of course, the quarantine isn’t optional for the vampires themselves, and it isn’t optional for people who have been bitten and exposed to the “virus.” Like Tana and her ex, Aidan, who were attacked at the same sundown party. Left with no choice but to make their way into Coldtown in order to protect their friends and loved ones, the two find themselves in a strange new world where consumption— extravagant, excessive, and fully televised consumption of all kinds— is the rule of the land.