Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Today, I'm doing my end-of-the-year wrap up by listing, all in one post, the worst horror books and the best horror books I've read this year. Note: not all of these books were published this year!
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Best of 2020:
It's 1992 in Bleak Creek, North Carolina- - - a sleepy little place with all the trappings of an ordinary Southern town: two Baptist churches, friendly smiles coupled with silent judgments, and an unquenchable appetite for pork products. Beneath the town's cheerful facade, however, Bleak Creek teens live in constant fear of being sent to the Whitewood School, a local reformatory with a history of putting unruly youths back on the straight and narrow- - - a record so impeccable that almost everyone is willing to ignore the suspicious deaths that have occurred there over the past decade. At first, high school freshmen Rex McClendon and Leif Nelson believe what they've been told: that the students' strange demises were all just tragic accidents, the unfortunate consequence of succumbing to vices like Marlboro Lights and Nirvana. But when the shoot for their low-budget horror masterpiece, PolterDog, goes horribly awry - - -and their best friend, Alicia Boykins, is sent to Whitewood as punishment- - - Rex and Leif are forced to question everything they know about their unassuming hometown and its cherished school for delinquents. Eager to to rescue their friend, Rex and Leif pair up with recent NYU film school graduate Janine Blitstein to begin piecing together the unsettling truth of the school and its mysterious founder, Wayne Whitewood. What they find will leave them battling an evil beyond their wildest imgainations- - - one that will shake Bleak Creek to its core. With a really good pace and great writing, this is a book I couldn't put down. It was unpredictable and had likable characters. If you love 'Stranger Things,' you will love this book!
In Beacon Hills, a mountain lion is blamed for a spate of vicious attacks; Scott McCall wishes the cause was that simple. Unfortunately, hiding his werewolf identity, especially from Allison Argent, while fighting his need to shift, is only one problem. Keeping his mysterious, murderous Alpha off his back (literally), avoiding hunters, deciphering strange dreams about flames and impending doom... is really eating into lacrosse practice and hang-out time. So when Jackson Whittemore doesn't show for his date with Lydia, Scott hopes that helping Allison track down their buddy will be simpler. Derek--- whose hunger for vengeance blinds him to the dangers that lie in wait--- and Stiles are also looking, but the worried teens' search is leading right to the preserve from Scott's nightmare. They aren't the only ones in the woods, and their little trip starts looking less like a rescue mission and more like an elaborate trap--- one that will force them to make the choice between killing and being killed.... I am a huge fan of the MTV series 'Teen Wolf,' so I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but the only setback for readers is that you have to watch at least season one to understand the book.
Max Mayfield doesn't fit in. She isn't soft or frilly like her mom wants her to be. She never seems to say the right thing. And she'd rather spend her days at the arcade than anywhere else. At least back in California she had friends, and her dad was only a bus ride away. But then Max's mom married Neil, and her stepbrother, Billy, entered the picture. Now Max and her new family live in Hawkins, Indiana. Her stepdad calls her Maxine, Billy is out of control, and her mom can't change things. Max keeps thinking she's found friends to replace the ones she left in California, but they all put up walls as soon as they start to feel vulnerable. That is, until Max discovers just how serious- - - and strange - - - things in Hawkins really are. Soon Max finds herself the newest character in a bizarre story featuring demodogs, a dangerous Mind Flayer, and a real live Mage. Max has to make some serious choices if she's going to save Hawkins from the darkest parts of the Upside Down - - - assuming violent, crazy, out-of-control Billy doesn't get in the way first. Although season three of 'Stranger Things' pretty much explained this novel, I did enjoy seeing more interactions between Billy and Max. This book is a must-read for the diehard fans.
A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate. An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- - - silent foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls...but worse, much worse, the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. Although I did get bored with the story and the ending was left wide open - - - it was written very well, and the idea was fascinating. If you love a good 'ol Victorian-era ghost story, you'll like this one.
Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie. But it's not just Morgan's death that has Sadie on edge. It's the eerie and decrepit old home they inherited. It's Will's disturbed teenage niece, Imogen, with her threatening presence. And it's the troubling past that continues to wear at the seams of their family. As the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of Morgan's death. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light. This was one of my favorite new releases from this year! I read this within a couple of days because I so invested in the story- - - I had to know what happened, and most of it was unpredictable! If you love a good mystery, read this one!
The laconic, atmospheric, and intensively researched narrative of the lives of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, and of the two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, who brutally killed them on the night of November 15,1959, is the seminal work of the 'new journalism.' Perry Smith is one of the great dark characters of American literature, full of contradictory emotions. 'I thought he was a very nice gentleman,' he says of Herb Clutter. 'Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.' Told in chapters that alternate between the Clutters house-hold and the approach of Smith and Hickock in their black Chevrolet, then between the investigation of the case and the killers' flight, Capote's account is so detailed that the reader comes to feel almost as if he were a participant in the events. This book will always be my favorite True Crime. The way that Capote writes sings to me, and the case along with the investigation is so well-written. Must-read for True Crime fans!
San Cristobal was an unremarkable city- - - small, newly prosperous, contained by rainforest and river. But then the children arrived. No one knew where they came from: thirty-two kids, seemingly born of the jungle, speaking an unknown language. At first they scavenged, stealing food and money and absconding to the trees. But their transgressions escalated to violence, and then the city's own children began defecting to join them. Facing complete collapse, municipal forces embark on a hunt to find the kids before the city falls into irreparable chaos. I loved how this story was told in a True Crime fashion, as if it actually happened. A nice change in fiction that isn't done properly very often.
The Patchwork Prince is a pell-mell misadventure involving drugs, sorcery, cannibalism, love and other necessary evils- - - experienced through asylum-tinted glasses. According to his medical file, Jean Du Pont is a failed suicide with brain damage, incapable of speech or self-care. In what passes for reality, he has telenovela-grade amnesia and spends his days locked inside his own broken mind. And inside a modern-day madhouse, to boot. When a routine sojourn to the asylum's padded cells sees two orderlies dead and another patient mauled, Jean is left leery of his perceptions- - - and his newfound superpowers. It is not impossible that a bad batch of Thorazine is responsible for everything. As his blackout subsides, he finds he has kidnapped his psychiatrist and committed a violent B&E. Years' worth of withdrawal begin to hold his mind hostage. The homeowner he hogtied to the toilet appears less than human and he himself is speaking in tongues (English and French being but two). Desperate for the clarity of a fix, he flees. Provenance, and the Audi that runs him over, take him to Paris. There, his pickpocketing hands run afoul of the wrong Albanian gangster. High on heroine meant for the sex slave trade, he accidentally rescues the heiress of a milieu don, one Natalie. Far from being grateful, her father orders Jean's death. He narrowly escapes into police custody... where he is promptly painted with a serial killer-brush. Jean is plucked from his predicament by an eccentric CEO, who is not at all what he seems. Pillowed on the breast of Big Pharma, Jean is forced to admit that the CEO, Zabat, is even crazier than he. The man talks sorcery and spells like they're stocks and commodities. Dangling knowledge of his past, Zabat tries to entice Jean into an unhealthy relationship. They have a falling-out. Literally. The billionaire does not handle the rejection well and sets out to seriously mess with Jean's day. Stumbling Stoned is the start of Jean's journey of self-discovery, reclamation and the inhuman effort of coming to grips with the outrageous delusion we call 'reality.' If you want a fast-paced version of 'Memento' meets a season of the TV series 'Fargo,' you have found your book!
In the grimy midnight world of the Australian suburbs, there are those who serve an unseen, wish-granting force that watches from a sub-spatial realm. A force known primarily as 'The Magician.' Mike Hadley is an Executive in The Magician's mysterious collective; a man with no past and no direction. A phone call at the end of every day wipes his memory clean. When a job goes bad, Mike is left for dead by his partner Tommy, and an opportunistic fugitive, Harper Ivey, rescues Mike - hoping to use him as a means to hit back at the organisation responsible for the disappearance of his sister. Without his daily phone call – Mike gradually recovers his haunted past in his dreams; discovering a bizarre world of dark science bordering on the supernatural: bio-organic broadcast nodes; flesh farms; psychic machines, and an enterprising businessman who just might have a way to truly fight the darkness lingering at the threshold – if he can be trusted...One of the best horror books I've read in a long time!
I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life. Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I'm concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I'm not joining his pack of adoring fans. I don't need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts - - - I'm probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I'll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world. At least, that's what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that's crawled out of the drains. Some times I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does. But the Scholomance isn't getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone's idea of the shining hero, but I'm going to make it out of this place alive, and I'm not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either. Although I'm giving serious consideration to just one. If you like Harry Potter, you'll love this one, but this one if more for adults.
Worst of 2020:
Devin Bradley has been plagued with nightmares of his best friend's murder. When he wakes at an unknown house, he begins to fear that the cult which sacrificed his friend are now after him. With visions of the past and future, Devin realizes there is a war going on between Heaven and Hell, demons and angels. Readers won't be able to imagine what can happen when the Destroyer of worlds finds a way to break through the boundaries that separate realms and universes! This book was so horribly written that it was nearly unreadable! In one part, the author spent an entire paragraph describing a young woman's hair...
The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives- - -the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. The worst part of this book was that it was promoted as a horror book with zombies, but it turned out to be a political thriller with very few zombies thrown into it. That wasn't the only reason I didn't like it: the author repeated herself constantly throughout the book, taking up page after page of the same information we had chapters ago; there were inconsistencies throughout (sometimes in the very next sentence), and a lot of little things that just made it an unpleasant read.