The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

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Description

“The buzz…is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end.” —Stephen King

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

“The new face of literary dark fiction.” —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

My Thoughts

This book had me absolutely engrossed from the very first chapter. The author builds nerve-jangling suspense while unrolling an intricate and oh-so-horrifying plot revolving around a man who is living a real nightmare. The blend of horror, fantasy, and mystery creates an atmosphere that I haven’t felt since reading Stephen King’s The Shining or Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House..

Fans of tightly plotted, intricate psychological suspense will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Macmillan/Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling


Description

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.

Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.

Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

My Thoughts

Whoa, I did NOT expect this book to be what it is. I was expecting a 21st century version of the gothic horror/romance. What I found was this weird and terrifying blend of Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, and even a little of Castle of Otranto thrown in for good measure. Still not quite sure how I feel about it.

The characters of Jane and Augustine are well-developed, a task that becomes increasingly difficult and hard to follow as they descend into madness or whatever state the author intended at the end. Jane especially goes from confident, determined, buttoned-up partner (not wife initially) as she negotiates her future, to her highly emotional state at the end. (Not really a spoiler because the ending is just HOLY HELL!)

The text is somewhat dense, but not weighed down by the flowery descriptive conventions of 18th and 19th century gothics which can truly dull the senses until – WHAM – the author hits you with a scene that makes your hair stand on end. Starling follows that path, but her writing is far more accessible.

Fans of gothic horror will enjoy this.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull


Image showing cover of book No Gods, No Monsters: a Novel by Cadwell Turnbull

Description*

The first book in The Convergence Saga, a new series from Cadwell Turnbull, the award-winning author of The Lesson

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Review

I am slowly beginning to enjoy more urban fantasy, and this one is only making me enjoy the genre even more. There are monsters here, for sure, and the author does a good job of conveying the fact that there are REAL monsters of the hairy, dripping-fang variety but also monsters that live within us. Which monsters are the worst would make for a great book club discussion.

The characters and action are both vividly drawn, sometimes moving so fast I had to go back and re-read passages just to make sure I caught it all! The ending appeared to set the stage for a sequel and maybe even a series. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy.

So much hype for this book!

*An Indie Next Pick

*Included in Forbes Magazine‘s 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2021 According to Independent Booksellers

*Included in Marie Claire‘s 35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases by Black Authors

*One of Buzzfeed‘s 35 Amazing Fantasy Books Coming Out This Summer

*A GoodReads Most Anticipated SFF Novel of 2021

*Included in GoodReads’ roundup of The Year’s Most Anticipated Fiction by Black Authors

*A BookRiot Pick of 2021 Black LGBTQ Books To Preorder

*A Polygon Pick of Best New SFF Books to Read this Summer

*A Tor Pick of Most Anticipated SFF Books for the Rest of 2021

Recommended.

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published By: Blackstone Publishing
Thanks to *NetGalley for the review copy

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen


Description*

A haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind.

More than a decade ago, Mira fled her small, segregated hometown in the south to forget. With every mile she traveled, she distanced herself from her past: from her best friend Celine, mocked by their town as the only white girl with black friends; from her old neighborhood; from the eerie Woodsman plantation rumored to be haunted by the spirits of slaves; from the terrifying memory of a ghost she saw that terrible day when a dare-gone-wrong almost got Jesse—the boy she secretly loved—arrested for murder. But now Mira is back in Kipsen to attend Celine’s wedding at the plantation, which has been transformed into a lush vacation resort. Mira hopes to reconnect with her friends, and especially, Jesse, to finally tell him the truth about her feelings and the events of that devastating long-ago day.

But for all its fancy renovations, the Woodsman remains a monument to its oppressive racist history. The bar serves antebellum drinks, entertainments include horrifying reenactments, and the service staff is nearly all black. Yet the darkest elements of the plantation’s past have been carefully erased—rumors that slaves were tortured mercilessly and that ghosts roam the lands, seeking vengeance on the descendants of those who tormented them, which includes most of the wedding guests. As the weekend unfolds, Mira, Jesse, and Celine are forced to acknowledge their history together, and to save themselves from what is to come.

About the Author

Dr. LaTanya McQueen has an MFA from Emerson College, a PhD from the University of Missouri, and was the Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College. She is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Coe College in Iowa. Check out her website at https://latanyamcqueen.com

This is one of the few books I’ve read this year that I absolutely could not put down. There’s everything here – a mysterious backstory that is slowly revealed, characters who experienced trauma in the past and are now thrown together again after years apart, an old nightmare re-emerging, and the uber-spooky setting of an old South plantation haunted by the spirits of enslaved people.

McQueen is skilled at building tension by introducing just enough information to keep you turning pages. Her storytelling is electric and spine-tingling, with excellent character development and vivid descriptions of people, things, and places. Her use of the shameful past of the torture, murder, and degradation of enslaved people is horrifying enough, but the concept she introduces here about the spirits of those same people is terrifying (hence the title).

Fans of atmospheric horror will swallow this one whole. Check the libraries & bookstores for it this summer.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Published By: Harper Perennial
Thanks to Netgalley* for the review copy

Vathek by William Beckford


cover182066-mediumVathek, written in 1782, is a gothic novel that chronicles the fall from power of the Caliph Vathek, who renounces Islam and pursues a series of unspeakable activities designed to gain him supernatural powers. Instead of acquiring these powers, Vathek descends into a hell ruled by the fallen angel Eblis where he is doomed to wander endlessly.

I once wrote a paper on Vathek in high school during a time when I was immersing myself in horror literature. Re-reading it now, I am amazed that my English teacher allowed me to read it, given that I was a student in an all-girls Catholic school.

As Joe Lansdale says in the introduction, Vathek doesn’t exactly age well. The writing is typical of the time – flowery, overblown, and full of wonderful words one does not see in modern writing. Lonsdale also notes that William Beckford is rumored to have written this story over the course of three alcohol (and probably drug) soaked days. I can see how that could be true.

Reading this requires close attention but is well worth the effort. The story is still as sinister as I found it back in 1981. Vathek is, at his core, a narcissist who wants what he wants, when he wants it, and bends the truth to suit his reality. We’re all familiar with that today.

My library will likely not buy this as it still owns a copy of an older edition, and I doubt this newer version will gain much traction. However, publish a graphic novel version of this story and I think modern readers would gobble it up.

Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Published By: Poisoned Pen Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Night Country by Melissa Albert


cover173062-mediumThe New York Times bestseller! The Night Country is the highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved debut The Hazel Wood.

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors of The Hazel Wood. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors—and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and—if he can find it—a way back home…

I confess I found this sequel to The Hazel Wood hard to read. The grim and bloody violence was wrenching at times, and the story seemed a bit convoluted. However, all of the odd story strands were pulled tight and tied off in a pulse-pounding conclusion that will resonate with fans of The Hazel Wood and the Hinterland.

All that said, I really think I was not in the right frame of mind to read this. It was early days of “New York on PAUSE” due to coronavirus and my nerves were super-taut. I’m recommending it because the writing is awesome and the conclusion to the story begun in The Hazel Wood is highly anticipated by fans.

Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Published By: Flatiron Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Chill by Scott Carson


cover175799-mediumIn this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep…

As a New Yorker fascinated with local lore, I remember reading about the flooding of several towns and villages in the early part of the 20th century to create Great Sacandaga Lake in an effort to control flooding downstream. This has to be the basis for the fabulously inventive story told in The Chill.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a really good, bone-chilling, hair-raising, scary ghost story, so I reveled in this creepy story. The strong female protagonist, Gillian, is much appreciated and written realistically. The ghosts and what they do will make you shiver for sure. I’d love to see this as film. Well done.

“Wow! This is one terrific horror/suspense/disaster novel. Characters you root for and a story that grips from the first page.” —Stephen King, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Institute

Horror has a new name and it’s Scott Carson. The Chill is an eerie dive into the murky depths of the supernatural. A story that has you looking back over your shoulder on every page.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Night Fire

Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James


74F245B5-0819-4571-947E-528E80119335Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her Aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

The Sun Down Motel is yet another chilling ghost story from Simone St. James, who seems to surpass the level of shivers with each book. St. James’ style is an appealing blend of mystery and horror that straddles that gap between young adult and adult fiction. She consistently delivers some of the creepiest ghosts out there, and the vengeful ghost at The Sun Down is no exception.

The narrative bounces between present day with Carly and 1982 with Viv. Carly’s arrival in the small upstate NY town uncovers old secrets and stirs up some vengeful ghosts at the Sun Down Motel. This book will keep you hooked from the first chapter to the last.

Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Music Macabre by Sarah Rayne


cover171122-mediumResearching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder – and finds his own life in danger.

Music researcher Phin Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has – as anticipated – uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer’s past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel.

Just what was Liszt’s connection to Scaramel … and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin’s enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story – and plunge his own life into jeopardy.

I have never been disappointed in a Sarah Rayne book, but this time she has outdone herself!

Books about Jack the Ripper abound and I’ve read most of them, so I was not expecting the shaken-to-the-bone experience Rayne delivers here. She continues with the same convention of a mystery unraveling in the present tied to the actual events in the past.  We watch Phin try to solve the mystery of Scaramel and a strange, macabre song associated with the nightclub where she performed. At the same time, we follow the story of Scaramel and her lady’s maid Daisy as they live the history that Phin is researching.

Rayne has an uncanny ability to instill real fear in her readers. It’s been a very long time since I felt my heart racing as I read a passage as terrifying as Daisy’s encounter with Jack in the ghost river. Rayne is just as skilled at fleshing out her characters, and gives us a larger-than-life Scaramel, a saucy but respectful Daisy, tweedy academics, caring sisters, and colorful ordinary people. I also enjoyed the continued development of Phin, Arabella, and Tobey.

I would adore this series adapted for television. Netflix or Acorn TV, are you reading Sarah Rayne? If not, you should!

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Published By: Severn House Publishers
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill


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“If John Irving ever wrote a horror novel, it would be something like this. I loved it.” —Stephen King

Noah Turner sees monsters.

His father saw them—and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates.

His practical mother has caught glimpses of terrors but refuses to believe—too focused on keeping the family from falling apart.

And his eldest sister, the dramatic and vulnerable Sydney, won’t admit to seeing anything but the beckoning glow of the spotlight . . . until it swallows her up.

Noah Turner sees monsters. But, unlike his family, Noah chooses to let them in . . .

Yes, this book is as creepy and shivery as the description above implies and this will appeal to fans of psychological as well as anthropomorphic horror.

I confess. I am an end-reader. If I get halfway or more through a story and am a) getting bored with it, or b) *have* to know what happens to a certain character, etc. I will flip to the end and read the last chapter. What happens to Sydney about 1/3 of the way through is what made me flip to the end; what I found there sent me back for more.

The mark of an exceptional book is if, after reading the end, if I go back and finish the book.

Cosmology of Monsters is an *exceptional* book.

Initially, I read the story through the lens of mental illness, considering the action happening to the family as part of a struggle with serious illness and not flesh & blood “monsters.” As I progressed and the story “got real” I was so taken with the complex relationships built between Noah and his family, friends, and the monster that the mental illness aspect drifted to the background. This book is pure imagination. It takes the horror of Lovecraft and the psychological terror of King and blends them into this gorgeous, creepy, frightening slurry of human (and non-human) emotion. All the elements of a good story are here – primarily the hero with a quest – and Shaun Hamill steps confidently into the circle of horror masters. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Published By: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy