Hey there horror fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.
Welcome to the very first newsletter of 2023! I know the title of this week’s Fright Stuff might seem a bit ominous given the world we live in, but horror readers know that the fear we choose to feel by reading creepy books is the fear that helps us get through when the headlines are scarier than what’s between our pages.
So I am beyond excited for us to jump into what promises to be another amazing year for the horror genre. I’ve got a mix of new releases and some of my most anticipated forthcoming titles for you this week, as well as some fun, vintage-style stickers for all you fans of queer horror, so let’s go!
Queer Horror VHS Stickers by AtomicOctopusDesigns
As a kid of the late-VHS era, who has fond memories of weekend trips to the local movie rental place, I love the vintage, VHS-esque style covers that occasionally pop up on horror books. Like the paperback of Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, or Amy McCaw’s Mina and the Undead. So when I saw these great “Queer Horror” vinyl stickers in the same style, it was definitely love at first sight.
Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
The sequel to Ninth House is finally here! In the aftermath of the events of Ninth House, Galaxy “Alex” Stern finds herself faced with an all but impossible task, with very little help and even slighter odds of survival. Darlington is stranded in purgatory, and unless Alex is able to find a way into the underworld and successfully steal his soul back from hell, purgatory is where he’ll stay. She’s been forbidden to even try, so there will be no help from the Ninth House. It’s just Alex, Dawes, and the possibility of expulsion if they get got, or death if they fail. But as they plumb the depths of the Ninth House’s secrets, deadly happenings on the Yale campus around them suggest that something dark is at work, and dangers of the underworld may not be the only threat Alex will face before she can finally bring Darlington home.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
A long buried memory of childhood tragedy resurfaces, heralding a series of strange and disturbing happenings and forcing Mackenzie to give up her life in the city and travel north to her hometown in Alberta in search of answers. Why did she dream of a flock of crows and wake up with a severed crow head in her hands? Why did she dream of her sister Sabrina’s death over and over again, only to wake coughing up water? Why is a real life murder of crows haunting her steps during the day while someone pretending to be her sister sends Mackenzie threatening texts? But back in her home town, all she finds is a family still mired in their grief. And Mackenzie’s dreams just keep getting worse.
For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!
First off let me just say: wow, this was a hard list to put together! Because this is barely a fraction of the amazing books coming out this year that I can’t wait to get my hands on. So consider this just a taste to whet your appetite.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi (February 14)
Yes, please, I very much would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a gorgeous, Gothic novel about a crumbling manor full of decaying splendor and terrible secrets. When Indigo married her husband, she made him promise her one thing: he would never ask about her past. With her fortune, and their love, they would live happily ever after, and nothing about who Indigo was or where she came from mattered in the face of their beautiful future. Until word of a dying family member forces the newlyweds to return to Indigo’s childhood home. In the House of Dreams, the past that Indigo tried to leave behind surrounds the newlyweds, and how can her bridegroom not ask questions when so many of the house’s secrets seem to be Indigo’s as well.
The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw (May 2)
Speaking of books that I’ve been long anticipating and can’t wait to get my hands on! I’ve loved Cassandra Khaw’s work ever since I first got my hands on their novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth, and I’m so excited for their newest novella, The Salt Grows Heavy. A dark and fantastical tale about a mermaid and a strange doctor who set out together through the heart of the taiga, a wild subarctic forest*. Deep in the forest — as in all the best and most terrifying stories — our travelers come upon three surgeons charged with the keeping of a village full of eerie, ageless children and find themselves in terrible danger.
(*Yes I looked up what the taiga is, and yes I have a new biome to be obsessed with. Please give me all your boreal forest horror stories.)
The Alchemy of Moonlight by David Ferraro (May 30)
Give me all the queer retellings of classic Gothic novels, always. In The Alchemy of Moonlight, a retelling of Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, Emile escapes his aunt’s guardianship when she threatens to disown him for being gay unless he promises to marry and secure his inheritance. But while hiding out as a servant in the home of Count Montoni, Emile realizes he may be in as much danger among strangers as he was among family. A murder on the estate only furthers Emile’s suspicions, while also bringing two new men into his life — one of whom is Montoni’s nephew, Henri. When Emile’s identity is suddenly revealed, however, things take an even darker turn. Montoni forces the entire household out of the mansion and into the isolated and forbidding walls of Udolpho Castle. If Emile wants to survive with both life and love intact, he’ll have to find a way to escape and foil the sinister Count’s plans, because the longer he remains trapped in Udolpho, the greater the danger grows.
Mister Magic by Kiersten White (August 8)
After Hide completely blew my mind last year, there’s no way I won’t be preordering White’s 2023 novel, Mister Magic. There’s nothing better than a creepy “cult classic” children’s program that, while it lives on in the memories of its generations of devoted fans, mysteriously vanished without a trace after being shut down by a tragic accident. No recordings of Mister Magic, nor any clue as to who created it or why, survive. The remaining members of its cast remember, though, and they hold tight to the happiness they felt when all five were part of Mister Magic’s Circle of Friends. When they belonged. Thirty years after the accident, the five are reunited at a remote compound in the desert and it’s like they were never apart. Unfortunately, their reunion may be more than it first appeared. They all came to the compound by choice, but there’s a lot about that tragic day they don’t remember, and secrets about Mister Magic that they may have chosen to forget.
Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth
Grady Hendrix has a new book coming out this month, How to Sell a Haunted House, and it is so amazing. If you’re as excited about this book as I am, be sure to check out the virtual event the Barnes & Noble is hosting to celebrate the release on January 17. The signed book tier is sold out, but the general admission tier is free!
2023 will be the ninth year of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge! To find the list of 24 potential tasks and subscribe to our newsletter for tips and recommendations, visit Read Harder 2023.