Top Ten Tuesday Halloween Freebie: Favorite Female-Authored Horror
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, a weekly meme that now resides at That Artsy Reader Girl. The meme first came about because of a love of lists. Who doesn’t love lists? The original creators also wanted their lists to be shared with fellow book lovers and to ask that we in turn share ours with them and connect with other book bloggers. To learn more about participating, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!
This week’s topic: Top Ten Favorite Female-Authored Horror
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is actually a Halloween freebie – I think my topic is pretty self-explanatory!
I loved this book! Told in a format that alternates between two central viewpoints, the story is set in the Victorian era and follows Dorothea Truelove, a wealthy young heiress who visits women in prisons as part of her charity work, as well as Ruth Butterham, a sixteen-year-old inmate awaiting trial for murder. As you can imagine, the two women couldn’t be any more different. Raised in high society, Dorothea never wanted for anything growing up. Having long held a fascination for phrenology, Dorothea has been independently studying the relationship between head shape and morality, using her visits to the Oakgate Prison for women as research trips to gather measurement data and personal stories from the inmates. It is there that she meets Ruth, a young maid accused of callously murdering her mistress by deliberate and slow degrees. Unlike Dorothea, Ruth grew up in poverty as the daughter of an alcoholic artist and an overworked seamstress. From her mother she learned the art of sewing, and as it turned out, she was extraordinarily gifted at it. However, Ruth is convinced that her talent goes beyond mere skill, believing that she has the power to channel her thoughts and emotions into each and every stitch, so that the garments she makes are cursed items that bring bad things and death to those who wear them. In my opinion, The Poison Thread was damn near perfect. Fans of Gothic horror, do yourselves a favor and check out the work of Laura Purcell, who has now solidified her status as one of my favorite writers in the genre. (Read the full review…)
Since C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was a straight-up suspense-thriller, the horror/fantastical element in The Hiding Place might turn out to be a deal breaker for some, but as a speculative fiction reader by nature and habit, I welcomed it with open arms. The story follows Joe Thorne, a middle-aged school teacher who returns to his home town of Arnhill in order to settle an old score. It’s not what he wants—but it is what he must do. After hearing about a shocking murder-suicide involving a mother who brutally killed her teenage son before shooting herself, Joe fears what happened to him all those years ago is happening again. So he gets a job at the high school he used to attend, replacing the very same woman who committed the crime, and also starts renting an abandoned and dilapidated cottage in town, living in the very same house where the horror took place. All these decisions are calculated moves on Joe’s part. He has a plan, and it requires integrating himself back into the community so that he can track down a few old “friends” still living in Arnhill—those who were there on that day so long ago, when something terrible and strange happened to Joe’s beloved younger sister Annie. While the setup may require a bit of patience, I loved the measured way with which C.J. Tudor revealed information. I can see her becoming my new go-to author for thriller-suspense mysteries, especially if I’m looking for something with a good dose of creep factor. (Read the full review…)
The tragedy of the Donner Party is retold with a supernatural twist in The Hunger, a dark mix of historical fiction and horror. For context, in the May of 1846 a wagon train led by George Donner and James Reed set out from Independence, Missouri like so many other pioneer families hoping to settle a new life in California. Instead of following the typical route, however, the Donner Party opted to travel the new Hastings Cutoff, encountering poor terrain and other difficulties that slowed them down considerably, until they became trapped in heavy snowfall somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Many of the party died, and some of the survivors allegedly resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Alma Katsu’s re-imagining of this journey—while staying true to many of the real-life people, places, and events—also plays to the mystery surrounding the terrible fate of the Donner Party, injecting a speculative element in the form of supernatural horror. While one could argue that the facts are already horrific enough, the author takes the suffering, terror, and dread even further still in this Oregon Trail story from hell that makes dysentery seem like a cakewalk. The Hunger would be perfect for fans of dark historical fiction, especially if you are drawn to the period of American history which saw a great number of families leave their homes in the east for the west coast. Alma Katsu does not shy away from the details of hardship and sacrifice while on the trail, and readers with a taste for horror will probably enjoy this even more. (Read the full review…)
The Three is about four plane crashes that changed the world. They all happened within hours, on the same day, on four different continents. Terrorism and environmental factors are ruled out. In three out of the four catastrophic incidents, a single child survivor is found in amidst the wreckage. Reeling from the news of the disasters, the world struggles to come to terms with this. It shouldn’t be possible. No one could have survived those terrible crashes. People are calling “The Three” a miracle, while others are also coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories. Some fanatical rapture cults are even calling this the End of Days, claiming that the children represent three out of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Reports of the children’s behavior becoming increasingly disturbing aren’t helping matters, nor are the rumors of strange things happening around them. In addition to being an epistolary novel, The Three is also a book within a book, called “From Crash to Conspiracy” authored by the fictional investigative journalist Elspeth Martins. As its title indicates, Elspeth’s book documents the series of tumultuous events over the period of several months following the day of the four air disasters. The format proved remarkably ideal for this novel, considering the number of character perspectives involved on an international scale. (Read the full review…)
Don’t you just love it whenever a horror novel lives up to its promise? I actually had to stop reading this book at night because it got too disturbing for me. In the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon lives a ten-year-old boy named Stevie Clark. Ostracized by the other kids at school because of his speech impediment and the missing fingers on one of his hands, Stevie has no friends except for his cousin Jude Brighton. Then one day, Jude goes missing. The entire town mobilizes to try to find the boy, but after his bloody sweatshirt is found, the whole mood seems to shift. To Stevie’s frustration, no one seems to think they’ll find his cousin alive anymore. After all, the search has already been going on for three days with no luck, and the locals all know the story about Max Larsen, another boy who met a gruesome end in these woods years ago, after disappearing under similar circumstances. That story doesn’t get talked about much though, not unlike the reports going back for years about the dogs and cats that go missing from their owners’ yards. There’s a good reason why there are no veterinarians in Deer Valley. The Devil Crept In as a novel of three parts. Ahlborn uses the first to establish our main character, a boy who lives a troubled life. She follows up with a second part that brings on the full-on creeps. The third and final part brings everything all together, and the results are eerily satisfying. For a straight-up entertaining and chill-you-to-your-bones good read, I really can’t recommend this book enough. (Read the full review…)
I’ve always been drawn to stories about haunted houses, and the entire premise of The Family Plot is built around the subject. We begin with an introduction to Chuck Dutton, owner of a company that specializes in the stripping of old properties and then reselling the valuable pieces. When the stately Augusta Withrow walks through his office door offering him salvage rights to her sizeable historic family estate, Chuck decides to send a skeleton crew headed by his daughter Dahlia to undertake the project. Dahlia and her team all make the drive out together to the old house nestled in the backwoods of Chattanooga, Tennessee…and arrive to a veritable goldmine. With only a few days to complete the job, the four of them get down to stripping the place right away. Still, while the splendor of the Withrow estate is certainly everything that was promised, the crew soon uncovers a few surprises. For one thing, Augusta had failed to mention the small graveyard on the property, tucked away among the overgrown trees. To save time and money, the team has also decided to forgo hotels and spend the nights at the house, but strange things are happening and they only seem to get worse when darkness falls. Imagine HGTV’s Salvage Dogs meets Paranormal Activity and you have a pretty good idea of what The Family Plot is about. The book managed to hit every one of my buttons and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. (Read the full review…)
An atmosphere of gloom and despair settles like a shroud over this novel, which takes place in the economically hard hit city of Detroit. We follow the events of the investigation through the eyes of a handful of characters – the hardened and experienced Detective Gabriella Versado who has the role of lead investigator on the murder case morbidly codenamed “Bambi”; her daughter Layla, a precocious teenager who nonetheless finds herself tangled in different kinds of trouble while her mother spends most of her time on police work; Jonno, a journalist desperately trying to make a name for himself and getting lucky by stumbling upon the case while covering the underground art scene in Detroit; Thomas Keen AKA T.K., a vagrant with a good heart who just wants to forget his checkered past and stay clean going forward. And of course, every now and then we also get glimpses into the mind of the killer himself, and those snippets sure aren’t pretty. I really like these kinds of psychological thrillers, the ones that seek not to bombard you with blood and gore. Even though there are some graphic scenes in Broken Monsters, they are not gratuitous. Instead, the story worms its way down to unsettle the reader at a deeper level, stirring up a sense of dread that doesn’t go away as you’re reading. If you’re looking for a horror-thriller that’s a bit different, I would highly recommend this book. Characters, setting and themes all came together very nicely to deliver one hell of an experience. (Read the full review…)
Murder is the follow-up to Mayhem, the chilling paranormal horror novel by Sarah Pinborough that is sort-of-but-not-really about Jack the Ripper which cleverly combines historical fact and fiction intermixed with supernatural elements, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone. Following the life of Dr. Thomas Bond, a real figure in the British crime history best known for his work as the police surgeon on a lot of the Whitechapel murder investigations between 1887-1891, the story succeeds in bringing life and depth to the character. A lot of the gruesome events described in this novel also actually happened, even the line in the description about bodies of children being pulled from the Thames. Pinborough doesn’t hold anything back, flawlessly weaving a thread of supernatural into the tale. Clearly she knew what needed to happen, and she carried out the plot with a cold eye and sees it all through mercilessly. And honestly, it made for an amazing book, with some truly unexpected turns in the plot. At times, I couldn’t even believe it. You’ll be appalled and filled with hatred. Your heart will break. And you’ll also marvel at the amazing things accomplished here. Dark, disturbing, and full of tension — just the way I like my horror. (Read the full review…)
The Twisted Ones was a fun novel featuring the perfect blend of humor and horror. It follows protagonist Mouse, who rolls up to her late grandmother’s house at the behest of her father who wanted to see if anything could be salvaged from the property. One look, however, was enough to tell Mouse the answer. The place is filled from top to bottom with useless junk, but being the dutiful daughter, Mouse decides to stick around and help clean it out. Together with her loyal coonhound Bongo, the two get ready to settle in for the long haul. But soon, during her walks in the woods with Bongo, Mouse starts coming across impossible things, like a grassy hill where none was supposed to be, or odd stones carved with unnerving pictures and symbols. And then came the most frightening discovery of all—a gruesome effigy made of animal bone and body parts, hanging from a tree. Mouse knows she shouldn’t let her imagination get away from her, and yet she can’t help but feel the thing might have been alive—watching and waiting. Be sure not to let the cheery, affable nature and tone of the narrator fool you into thinking this is a light and airy novel, because this one was downright CREEPY. But to be sure, finding this balance between fright and fun was the best surprise, and what I loved most about The Twisted Ones. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a spine-chilling read this season that’s also tremendously entertaining. (Read the full review…)
Little Darlings is the story of Lauren Tranter, a new mom to twin boys Morgan and Riley. The birth was difficult with complications, further adding to her exhaustion and frazzled nerves. One night, in the maternity ward, Lauren is convinced that a strange woman was trying to get into her room and take her babies, even though everyone thinks the experience was all in her mind, a symptom of her over-tiredness and trauma. But Lauren knows what she saw, and the memory of the event has made her so anxious, she is afraid to leave the house or let her boys out of her sight for a second. Finally, her husband Patrick has had enough, persuading Lauren that she has to start going out and seeing people again. Lauren takes his advice and takes the now six-week old twins out in their stroller for a walk—a miscalculation that she ends up regretting forever. All it took was a moment of distraction, a few minutes where Lauren’s attention was elsewhere and suddenly, Morgan and Riley were gone. Thankfully, the police quickly found the twins by the river before anything could happen, and a person of interest was arrested. But rather than the joy of being reunited with her babies, Lauren feels instead a terror when she looks down into the twins’ faces. She knows with a mother’s instincts and every fiber of her being that these are NOT her sons. Little Darlings was chilling and addictive, a fantastic thriller if you want both a touch of horror and some mystery in one neat package. Great characterization, atmosphere and writing in this one! (Read the full review…)