Lost to the wilds of war, death, and deceit, The Hacienda ensnares readers in its malevolent maw.
In Isabel Cañas’ debut novel, dread and unease snake up the spine of both the reader and characters in a tone as haunting as the mothers of gothic stories like Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne du Maurier. Continue Reading
“In the face of cruel madness, calm, sane steps must be taken.” – Ann Rule
Ann Rule once again proves she is the exemplar of true crime books. After reading Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, one of her most famous and intimately written true crime tales, I knew I had to read more of her work.Continue Reading
Even though it’s not fully dark outside and all the lights are on, the cottage always feels full of shadows.
I read C.J. Tudor’s The Burning Girls right after Adam L.G. Nevill’s Cunning Folk. Both have made me as obsessed with folk horror as their protagonists are with their town’s lore.
And readers can’t help but sense an ominous feeling of following hypnotic sinister shadows to their own entombment as they tear through this bloody mystery.
Following an entanglement of tragedy for protagonist Jack Brookes, Tudor takes readers to Chapel Croft, an insular village with a gruesome, twisted history built on the burning of religious martyrs, missing girls, and a series of questionable/unsolved deaths.
Here, Jack becomes Chapel Croft’s new vicar after her predecessor’s untimely and bizarre death. Jack envisions a fresh start for her and her teenage daughter Florence — Flo, for short — but quickly finds her heavy conscience and nagging trauma only adds fuel to the town’s ever-burning flames of chaos and suspicions.
What starts as misfortune and a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors becomes life and death for Jack and Flo. Haunted by headless, armless, burnt figures — the burning girls, which, according to the town lore, means something bad will befall them — Jack and Flo unveil a trail of conspiracies and buried secrets.
Tudor weaves a classic haunting tale for a new generation with imagery that felt like a revival of The Wicker Man and the brilliant pairing of horror and heart leveling up to Stephen King in Pet Sematary.
As Tudor always does, The Burning Girls exceeded my expectations. It’s like following a path of steps into an inkblot of darkness. The wind blows, and the warning sign of smoke is in the air. Yet, you have to see the spectral for yourself because you know, deep in your bones, it’s not a trick of the light.
Tudor’s The Burning Girls is my favorite novel from the author yet. Its unfurling chills and brilliant depiction of the ghost of grief and guilt seared together with burning questions of disappearances and murder made this one of my favorite reads of the year.
Tudor has made a life-long fan out of me. Fans of Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass and Cunning Folk by Adam L.G. Nevill, this one’s for you.
It seems impossible to turn something so pretty so ugly, but it’s not. Everything turns ugly after it’s dead.
? Ryan Douglass, The Taking of Jake Livingston
I stumbled on The Taking of Jake Livingston through one of my favorite YouTube channels, BowTies & Books. According to the channel host, BookTube collectively held its breath for the release of this YA horror story.
There’s an old saying that water can wear away stone, but only over hundreds of years. In a classic Stephen King novel, Christine, a character, argues that people are not stone, but mortal.
Spencer Hamilton’s Sister Funtime untethers this phrase from such limitations and instead strangles it into a festering devout, sinister power — something inhuman and hungry for flesh. Continue Reading
Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street promises a serial killer, a kidnapped child, a religious cat, and falsities scattered in every direction — one misstep and the trap snaps.
The main character, Ted, carries childhood trauma, a strange attachment to his abusive mother, and a dangerous, twisted side that reminds me of the real-world serial killer, Ed Gein, who went on to inspire characters like Norman Bates and Thomas Harris’ Buffalo Bill.
I immediately knew Adam Nevill’s writing style, and storytelling was for me within the first few chapters of Cunning Folk.
Nevill opens with a horrific scene of a man which readers can only guess spells misfortune for the protagonist, Tom, and his family (wife Fiona and daughter Gracey).
Nevill then takes us to present day, where Tom‘s family arrives at their new home in rural Southwest England. The property is a massive but ruinous-looking house, one in which the tragic history and condition made affordable.
“Too much power makes a woman dangerous. And that was her project, creation and power.” — Rachel Yoder
Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch is a horrifically brilliant mirage of Jekyll and Hyde meets the estranged relationship of women and society. The story follows a stay-at-home mother, aka Nightbitch (we never get her real name), who spends her days resenting the role she feels trapped in as a constant caregiver. She longs for the simplest of things — a shower, a glass of wine, to return to her artwork. Instead, Nightbitch plays trains with her son, cleans up his strand of messes in the house, and deals with his tantrums.
On top of it all, Nightbitch develops a thick coat of hair at the base of her neck, not to mention a matching tail.
In her transformation, Nightbitch finds an animalistic, protective connection to her son — who she begins to see as a pup — she hadn’t had before, and an odd sense of individuality.
Nightbitch is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. And yet, it’s among the most intelligent stories, alluding to the style of Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Franz Kafka.
Without outright belonging to the horror genre, Yoder lines the pages of Nightbitch with bloodthirst and an unsettling craving for carnage. And the best part, these animalistic qualities are all woman, or, rather, a grim and poetic depiction of the unspoken rage, exhaustion, and longing crashing the joys of motherhood.
While reading, I constantly felt torn between liberation and questioning Nightbitch’s sanity — a complicated and wildly entertaining tug-and-pull.
Nightbitch is certainly not for everyone, and it has a heavy philosophical weight. Though I enjoyed the literary qualities, I’d definitely have to be in the mood for such an interpretive read.
I wish more universities, particularly those studying feminist literary theory, would share this book with students. It’s a hell of a metaphor for modern femininity and the accompanying pressures.
I recommend Nightbitch for readers who enjoy literary fiction with dark fantasy and horror elements, such as monsters or the combination of lore and philosophy.
Haley Newlin’s Take Your Turn, Teddy is a dark, psychological horror story exploring the manifestations of early childhood trauma. Newlin uses themes of domestic violence, anxiety, and isolation to create a provocative landscape, The Shadow, for her characters to encounter and battle. A disturbing glimpse of how a broken spirit can unleash powerful demons of the soul. Absolutely captivating, I couldn’t put it down.Continue Reading