December marks about 6 months since I discovered the online/twitter/instagram horror community and horror family. Before that, I loved horror reading, but as we all know, a lot of the good stuff is not widely available unless you know where to look. So my reading was pretty much relegated to Stephen King, Joe Hill, Robert McCammon, Clive Barker, and a few others. In other words, all men, and they’re all wonderful authors but it’s a limited perspective. There were certainly a few women who had a home on my shelves, but it seemed to be a bit lacking.
Fast forward 6 months and I’ve discovered, been recommended, and read some truly amazing women writing unforgettable horror fiction. While this list is by no means exhaustive, and there are a great many more authors I hope to get to in 2020, I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to some ladies whose names I didn’t know last December, but who now reside in a special place on my bookshelf.
Dear Laura was a book that just kept coming across my screen, again and again and again. I learned real quick in this community that when that happens, you better get yourself a copy. This novella was one of my favorite reading experiences this year, and all the praise heaped upon it, and its’ author, was more than due. I’m currently in the middle Till The Score is Paid, and loving it. Gemma’s approach to short stories is every bit as unique as her approach to the novella. Cruel Works of Nature is waiting patiently in my Kindle, and Grief is a False God is sure to receive my undivided attention in the next few months as well.
You can read my review of Dear Laura here, and I’ll be writing one for Till the Score is Paid soon.
One of my first forays after starting to write reviews was the Horror Writers Association Summer Scares recommendations. These included Stephen Graham Jones, Brian Keene, and Tananarive Due’s My Soul to Keep. I wasn’t sure if it was something up my alley based on the synopsis, but I dove in and was instantly hooked. In my admittedly limited scope, Due has an uncanny ability to create mesmerizing three dimensional characters, and bring them to life. This talent is on full display during the course of My Soul to Take. I’ve also seen nothing but positives about The Good House, and I do believe I’m going to need it to grace my reading list pretty quick here.
You can read my review for My Soul to Keep on Goodreads.
Sterp is a consistent pleasure to interact with via twitter. She’s an avid reader, reviewer, and builder-upper of the horror community. When she was putting together a book launch team to promote The Cult Called Freedom House, it was my privilege to be included. I was really blown away by the book. It was gruesome, raw, heart wrenching, and an all around solid debut novel. Sterp has the follow-up Sophia Rey book in progress due to come out early next year, and I’m all kinds of ready for. At least I think I am.
Claire Fitzpatrick is an Australian horror writer who was gracious enough to share with me a copy of her short story collection, Metamorphosis. I’m forever grateful to her because she was one of the first authors or publishers to reach out and request a review after I started this thing up. I found so much to like in the collection, namely how incredibly honest and personal it was. Every story had a little something different to offer, and if this collection somehow flew under your radar, make sure to give it a look.
You can read my review for Metamorphosis here.
Whispers in the Dark is easily one of the best things I’ve read this year. It’s creepy, tense, and seems to be universally loved by the horror community. I could go on and on about this debut, and honestly I have since I read it over the summer, but Laurel Hightower the person deserves a shoutout too. She will follow you back on twitter, is generally good for a like on most things you post, and is a pleasure to know in an online capacity. Laurel also uses her newfound notoriety to review, promote, and build up within the community. If you have not listened to the episode of the Ink Heist podcast she’s featured on, you should most definitely unfuck that. Needless to say, anything Laurel Hightower writes, be it an article or a novel, is an instant read for me.
You can read my review for Whispers in the Dark here.
I’ve only read about 80 pages by Gwendolyn Kiste, and yet there was no conceivable way I could leave her off this list. When recommendations started pouring in for novellas to read in November, Pretty Marys All in a Row seemed to be a must-have. The story was very unique, and it was written in such a singular voice that after ten pages, I knew this was an author whose complete works needed to be part of my collection. I’ve got Gwendolyn’s collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe ready to go and The Invention of Ghosts pre-ordered on Kindle. Never mind the fact that her novel The Rust Maidens made Lit Reactor’s list of best horror novels of the decade.
You can read my review of Pretty Marys All in a Row on Goodreads.
Hailey Piper is deservedly on this list because of the way her novella, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, hit me. This book (or at least recommendations and reviews) promised something new in the possession/exorcism genre and it delivered with great fervor. I had so much fun reading this from front to back over the course of 90 minutes and soaking in the story as if I were watching a movie. Possession is another story that seems to be getting a lot of love from every direction. I’m excited to jump into An Invitation to Darkness next, and Piper also has Benny Rose, The Cannibal King coming out in January.
You can read my review of The Possession of Natalie Glasgow on Goodreads.
The Sisters of Slaughter
I’m so very thankful to have stumbled upon the work of Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason. The Sisters of Slaughter have such a wonderful collective voice and know how to tell stories that are engaging yet visceral. My first exposure was to Michelle via the Ink Heist podcast and after hearing her talk about Tapetum Lucidem and Isolation, they became day-of-release purchases. I was blown away by how different the two books were from each other while still retaining what definitely seems like some signature stylistic flare from Garza and Lason. On a side note, some twitter conversations and comments have lead me to believe that they may be some of the nicest people on this here planet.
I had the pleasure to read an ARC of Sonora Taylor’s October offering, Little Paranoias, and it really changed my outlook on what a short fiction collection could be/do. The short poem bookends offer a unique take on prologue and epilogue. The flash fiction pieces border the longer stories nicely and create something of a variety show. I think that what I like best is that everything contained within follows a central theme. It’s almost like reading a one-woman anthology. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have yet to dive into anything else by this author, although Without Condition will undoubtedly be mine one of these days. One of my many goals for 2020 is to make sure some more of Sonora Taylor’s work gets my attention, and soon.
You can read my review of Little Paranoias here.