General, Historical, Horror, Psychological

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd


Description

Based on a true story, an epic historical novel from the award-winning author of Things in Jars that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.

1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks.

1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck…

With her trademark “thrilling, mysterious, twisted, but more than anything, beautifully written” (Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Jess Kidd weaves “a true work of magic” (V.E. Schwab, author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue) about friendship, sacrifice, brutality, and forgiveness.

My Thoughts

Jess Kidd continues to deliver absolutely stunning novels. The dual stories here of two young people, hundreds of years apart, are horrifying and gripping. The historical and modern settings are not the usual choices and create a fascinating ambience from start to finish.

What will keep you reading this story is Kidd’s ability to take you from the absolute worst of her characters to the best of the human spirit. The characters are childlike, playful, motherly, pompous, sly, clever, faithful, sadistic, confused, and eventually, at peace. There’s a touch of Lord of the Flies here which resulted in some scenes that were difficult to read.

Warning: there is some graphic horror here and the story is not for the faint of heart. If you can handle that, this is recommended.

Horror, Psychological

Little Eve by Catriona Ward


Description

From Catriona Ward, author of The Last House on Needless Street, comes the Shirley Jackson Award-winning novel Little Eve, a heart-pounding tale of faith and family, with a devastating twist.

“A great day is upon us. He is coming. The world will be washed away.”

On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.

The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.

A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.

And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered.

My Thoughts

Atmospheric, cunning, and with surprises all along the way, this early novel by Catriona Ward is wild. She writes in her forward that this was her second novel and it challenged her considerably. Now that she has published other novels and established her residency among the best horror writers of her generation, Little Eve has made a reappearance.

This is not the first book I’ve read recently where an established author has gone back and re-worked earlier stories. To a book, these re-workings have been some of the best work I’ve read, and Ward continues the trend with this masterful and haunting story.

Ward’s work often examines horror emanating from a human source. There are no mysterious monsters here – the monsters are all carried within the hearts of the characters. What will people do when driven to a point of madness? While there have been a few excellent tales told in recent years that feature remote villages and what can happen when even just one person becomes unstable and evil, Ward takes that trope and builds a fleshy, gruesome story that will haunt you.

Put simply, this is a goddamn great story. Read it on a cold, gray weekend and I bet you won’t sleep for a couple of days.

Ghosties, Horror

Gallows Hill by Darcy Coates


Description

The Hull family has owned the Gallows Hill Winery for generations. Their wine wins awards. Their business prospers. Their family thrives. People whisper that the curse has awakened once more.

The sprawling old house has long been perched on top of a hill overlooking the nearby town, jealously guarding the estate’s secrets.

It’s been more than a decade since Margot Hull last saw her childhood home. She was young enough when she was sent away that she barely remembers its dark passageways and secret corners. But now she’s returned to bury her parents and reconnect with the winery that is her family’s legacy―and the bloody truth of exactly what lies buried beneath the crumbling estate. Alone in the sprawling, dilapidated building, Margot is forced to come face to face with the horrors of the past―and realize that she may be the next victim of a house that never rests…

Darcy Coates brings you a brand-new horror novel that’ll take your breath away… Gallows Hill is perfect for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, lovers of ghost stories and anyone mesmerized by the twisted secrets of the past.

My Thoughts

You can always depend on Darcy Coates to deliver a terrifying story full of curses, ghosts, and flawed characters. She surpasses her best with Gallows Hill, which is one of the best horror/ghost stories I read in 2022.

There are familiar tropes here – the long-lost child returned to the family home, the faithful servants bound to the land, the terrible family secret, and the ghosts who won’t be forgotten. In Coates’ hands, these things blend into one of the more horrifying stories I’ve read. It’s definitely making me rethink drinking wine!

Recommended.

Children's, Ghosties, Horror

The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie


Description

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling story about a twelve-year old girl who must face down the most notorious ghost in her haunted East coast town to stop a centuries-old curse that threatens to destroy everything.

Mallory hasn’t quite adapted to life in her new town of Eastport yet. Maybe it’s because everyone is obsessed with keeping the town’s reputation as the most cursed town in the US. And thanks to the nightmares she’s had since arriving, Mallory hardly sleeps. Combined with the unsettling sensation of being watched, she’s quickly becoming convinced there’s more to her town. Something darker.

When Mallory has a terrifying encounter with the same old woman from her dreams, she knows she has to do something—but what? With Eastport gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of their first recorded legend Mallory is forced to investigate the one legend she’s always secretly been afraid of . . . Sweet Molly.

My Thoughts

There’s always one spooky middle grade book published every autumn that completely blows me away. The Girl in White is that book for Fall 2022. Currie spins a riveting and eerie story that will make even the bravest reader shiver and check their closet.

The ghost of Sweet Molly is at once scary and sad. Her connection to Mallory and Joshua is visceral and very frightening at times. Currie does an excellent job of developing her characters, building tension with floor creaks, lost time spent digging holes, and lots of unexplained and disturbing incidents that all come together in a wild, apocalyptic ending.

In addition to the terrifying elements of the story, Currie also builds some nice relationships between Mallory and her new friends, and also between Mallory and her parents. It’s the power of friendship, though, that really shines here

Those readers who revel in the crisp air and strange stories of autumn will surely enjoy this one. Recommended!

Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Published By: Sourcebooks KIDS
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Horror, Mystery

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney


Description

Alice Feeney, the New York Times bestselling Queen of Twists returns…with a family reunion that leads to murder.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

My Thoughts

While the dysfunctional family with the terrible secret is a familiar trope, Feeney turns it on its ear here by pairing it with an atmospheric, creepy setting reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s masterwork, And Then There Were None. She does a fantastic job of creating a serious claustrophobic tension that puts every single character on edge. The pre-pub comparisons to Christie’s work helped me guess one of the two big twists, but that did not disrupt my enjoyment of the story. Feeney explores the lifelong consequences of bad decisions and mixes karma with gleeful revenge.

Feeney has a way of peeling back the layers of her characters to reveal the worst. She writes some pretty horrible humans into her books, and gives us a couple of doozies here. (Daisy’s sisters are the worst.) Daisy’s relationship with her sisters reminded me a bit of the Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley, except Daisy’s relationship with her sisters is far darker. There’s a lot that’s been written about “unlikable characters” in books, but I think Feeney *wants* us to dislike these characters and, in the end, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not. It’s their actions that started the story and it’s there actions that will end it. None of the action would have been possible if the characters were likable!

Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will enjoy this dark and twisty mystery. I’ll be recommending this one a lot.

“Wow! Echoes of Christie’s And Then There Were None but turned into something wonderfully original and wrapped in a genuinely creepy dysfunctional family fairy-tale of a novel, this takes Feeney to the next level. I LOVED IT!”
—Sarah Pinborough, bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes and Insomnia

Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Published By: Flatiron Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Fantasy, Folktales, Horror, Magical, Women

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott


Description

In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore—a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs. 

Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home in Russia—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.  

An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is an immersive modern fantasy saga by a bold new talent.

My Thoughts

This is a remarkable story. Loosely based on the old Russian tale of Baba Yaga and full of symbolism, this tale will haunt you. Nethercott’s protagonists – brother & sister Isaac and Bellatine – are challenged to resolve trauma through generational memory as they inherit the infamous Baba’s house on chicken legs along with an age-old enemy out to destroy the house and those connected to it.

There are so many layers to unfold here – lots of references to Jewish history, family trauma across generations, magic and mayhem, and ultimately the power of story and the bond between family members.

Lately, I find my attention often wanders when I read, and there are few books that I’m unable to put down. This is one. The story is so intricate and beautifully rendered. IMHO, Nethercott immediately joins the ranks of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden with her glorious and deadly prose and an absolutely stunning story.

Publication Date: September 13, 2022
Published By: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: Anchor
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Fantasy, Horror, Magical

Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings


Description

“A wild and wonderful debut, teeming with music, family and art…This book is gorgeously written, with prose I wanted to eat off the page.” New York Times

Music is magic in this vibrant and imaginative debut novel set in a fantastical version of New Orleans where a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song. Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and enjoythis song for New Orleans, the city of music, magic, and dreams.

My Thoughts

This is one weird and wonderful book! I was reminded of Terry Pratchett‘s work – audacious characters and a multi-level plot that is pretty much impossible to follow so you just have to enjoy the ride. I admit it took me some time to accept this was not going to be a linear plot, but once I let go of that rigid expectation the prose just swept me away. The characters are poppin’ with siblings Perry and Brendy, each with their own special talents, but especially with Peaches, the totally badass girl who saves the day. I am hope, hope, hoping for a sequel where Peaches, Perry, and Brendy go after Peaches’ Daddy and free him from his chains.

“A hallucinatory wonder of a debut. Brimming with language and music, this phantasmagoric novel taps the deep root of multi-cultural, multi-racial life in, and beyond, New Orleans.” ―Walter Mosley

“Funny, wild, witty, and profound. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is the debut of a cosmic storm of talent.”―Victor LaValle

Books About Books, Fantasy, Horror, Psychological, Women

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean


Description

Truth is found between the stories we’re fed and the stories we hunger for.

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

My Thoughts

So many great debuts this year, but this one STANDS OUT!

Anyone who loves to read will be captivated by this wholly original story centered on the concept of books as actual food, overlaid with what turns out to be a pretty harrowing and fairly dark tale.

This is one the librarians will struggle to genrify – is it fantasy? Horror? Dystopian? Women’s Lit? This spectacular, original story is all that and more. Dean’s writing is some of the best I’ve read this year – tight and descriptive then flowing and expansive – all coming together in a whopper of a story.

Highly recommended.

“A darkly sweet pastry of a book about family, betrayal, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love. A delicious modern fairy tale.”— Christopher Buehlman, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author

Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Published By: Macmillan Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Children's, Horror

Gravebooks by J.A. White


Description

Return to the world of Nightbooks . . . if you dare. Dead stories—and dead witches—are back to haunt Alex and Yasmin. To find a happy ending, Alex will have to write it, in this sequel to Nightbooks from acclaimed author J. A. White.

Alex thought he was done with witches. But when Natacha, the witch who held him captive for scary stories, appears again one night, Alex realizes he’s trapped in a nightmare—literally. She’s found a way to enter his dreams with a new, terrifying familiar named Simeon. And they once again want Alex to write. Transported to a story graveyard with best friend Yasmin, Alex will have to complete an original scary story each night.

But what does Natacha plan to do with his finished stories? And what makes a story good enough? While Natacha might have control of the beginnings, only Alex has the power to write the ending.

Readers can delight in a spooky story while also exploring the craft of writing alongside Alex. As he writes his own scary tales, he learns about plot twists, active characters, identifying originality, and accepting feedback, as well as dealing with writer’s block—making this an ideal book to read for fun or use in classrooms.

My Thoughts

J.A. White’s sophomore effort finds aspiring writer Alex back in a nightmare world where his life once again depends on his ability to tell a tale. This 21st century version of Scheherazade has a decidedly macabre twist as Alex struggles with writers block and lack of confidence while trying to figure out how to best the bad folks.

An old enemy appears and plunges Alex and friend Yasmin right back to where they were at the end of Book 1. But, is everything as it seems? Of course not! There are plenty of twists and scary situations here to satisfy the budding horror fan.

Recommended for confident middle grade readers.

Publication Date: August 16, 2022
Published By: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Horror

Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne


Description

“YA horror has found a new standard-bearer.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Dark, gripping, and gorgeous, Wake the Bones will lead you into the woods and keep you up late. As lush and sweltering as a Kentucky summer… Elizabeth Kilcoyne is a force.” – Gwenda Bond, New York Times bestselling author


The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

“Seething with shadows, summer, and uniquely southern magic, Wake the Bones is a powerful debut that captures the ache of home being a place you simultaneously love and loathe.” – Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

My Thoughts

Holy Hell! I felt like I was reading Stephen King for the first time as I raced through this amazing story. Elizabeth Kilcoyne spins a story so full of terror that your nails will be bitten to the quick before you’re done.

Everything is here – the small group of ordinary humans battling great evil, an outcast with the sight, a small-minded small town, and the greatest evil of all – the Devil himself.

Everything written about this incredible debut is true. This would make an amazing movie. The special effects alone would be incredible.

Highly recommended for horror fans.

Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy