The Fright Stuff

A Very Haunted Holiday: Gifts for Your Constant Reader

Hey there holiday 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

Raise your hand if holiday shopping is NOT your forte. I have never had the knack for picking out gifts. Part of my struggle definitely has to do with a lack of shared interests with my family members, but if you’re lucky enough to have a horror fan in your life to shop for may I make a few suggestions?


Always good. Particularly if you wrap them up with a healthy supply of your giftee’s favorite hot beverage. I mean, can you ever have too many mugs?

Final Girl Mug

The quintessential gift for the caffeine or cocoa consuming final girl in your life. Even better if that final girl is you. It’s 2020, we’re all final girls, treat yourself.

Harvest Campfire Mug

The Harvest may be over for the year, but the Harvest never really ends. A mug for the folk horror reader in your life! Mug nerd confession: I don’t know why, but the campfire style mugs are straight up my favorite mugs in the whole world.

Horror Love Mug

Ooooooooooooooh no. I may have to buy this one. It’s so pretty. And that King quote is so good. I mean take a look at my apartment sometime – I love skulls. They’re everywhere. But that is an exceptionally pretty skull and I love the way the quote is displayed.

Horror Novel Mug

It’s always good to warn people before they get between you and your morning coffee and reading time. And if they insist on ignoring your mug and intruding, well… you DID warn them.


There is no bookworm I’ve ever met – me included – who has enough bookmarks. I mean one minute you have a whole stack, the next they’re gone! It’s like that goblin that steals your left socks also has a thing for bookmarks. Clearly the only explanation.

A Stranger Dream Bookmarks

I have to send you off Etsy for this first one, because no one is as well known for gorgeous – and gore-geous – horror book marks as Karlee Patton of A Stranger Dream. The whole selection is worth browsing. Just feast your eyes on this gorgeous Lestat book mark! I can’t live.

Nature’s Garden Bookmark

This is peak horror aesthetic. The line work, the colors, UGH so pretty.

Zombie Hand Wooden Bookmark

Wooden bookmarks make fabulous gifts. They’re sturdier than paper bookmarks, their medium allows for all sorts of neat carving tricks, and they’re just so darn aesthetically appealing. If you love someone, why WOULDN’T you give them a zombie hand to celebrate this nouveau apocalypse of ours?

Wooden Bat Bookmark

Bat! Flippy flappy widdle batsy — ahem. Look, everyone knows that not only are bats perfect horror mascots, they’re also the cutest creatures known to man. All of them. Even the smushed face ones with the funny noses. All bats are babies.


I have an aunt who is obsessed with Yankee Candle, so I am set for life. I have so many jar candles I use them for bookends. But your holiday giftee may not be drowning in an abundance of balsam and cedar wax, and a bookish soy candle is always fun.

Get Fictional Candles

All of Get Fictional’s candles are amazing, but Frankenstein is my favorite. It smells of cedarwood, pine embers, balsam fir, warm spices, and frankincense (frankincense in a Frankenstein candle – I love it so much), and is just one of the wonderful horror themed candles you can purchase on their site. So be sure to check out the whole collection!

Cabin in the Woods Candle

The cabin in the woods is one of my favorite horror tropes in film or on the page. And there’s nothing like the smell of fir needles, smoked woods, crisp forest greens, and warm spices to make you forget that you came to a creepy cabin in the middle of nowhere of your own free will and are most definitely going to die.

Krampus Candle

Celebrate the spirits of the season! All of them. Smells like holly berry, fresh cut apples, and Christmas lilies with a hint of getting beat with a birch switch by a guy with goat horns. Some people might considered that a fun way to spend the holidays. Old Soul Artisan has a number of horror-themed candles, so be sure to check out their whole inventory!

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Still need gift ideas? Check out Tor Nightfire’s Horror for the Holidays shopping list!

Or just pre-order them a copy of this awesome illustrated anniversary edition of Masque of the Red Death that Raw Dog Screaming Press will be releasing in January.

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Try the Grey Matter, It’s Delicious

Coming to you mostly alive from the land of the living, 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 this week’s issue of The Fright Stuff or In Which Jessica Deals With Her Pandemic Anxiety by reading post-apocalyptic zombie horror books. Because 2020 might be the year on fire, but at least there aren’t zombies. (Yet?)

Bonus points to everyone who recognized the reference in the title and give a dark chuckle. Yes it is I, here to ruin beloved childhood films.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Alternative pandemics in which things could actually have been worse, take one. As the plague which caused the zombie apocalypse finally wanes, America is busy rebuilding and reclaiming lands overrun by the dead. What is left of the nation’s government is operating out of Buffalo, but they have their eyes set on a bigger prize: Manhattan. The tip of the island, south of Canal St, has been liberated, but even in Zone One there is still clean up work to be done. That’s where Mark Spitz comes in. He’s part of one of the civilian teams charged with eliminating the most docile of the remaining undead. But while the job itself is supposed to be easy enough, Spitz isn’t just slaying monsters in the street. He’s also battling them in his head, assailed by memories of his battle to survive the outbreak and struggling to reconcile himself with the devastated world he now inhabits. And when things start to go belly up in Zone One, he once again finds himself chest deep in the blood and ruin of the end of the world.

Feed by Mira Grant

Feed is the first novel in Mira Grant’s zombie-tastic Newsflesh Trilogy. Once again, the rider on the pale horse is making the rounds. In trying to cure humanity’s every ill, from cancer to the common cold, a terrible virus was created that spread unchecked. It took over bodies and minds and turned ordinary people into ravenous monsters obeying a primal, fundamental command to feed. 20 years after the virus devastated the population, Georgia and Shaun Mason are chasing the truth in a post-apocalyptic world. Who was responsible for the event now known as the Rising? How did it happen that something meant for good caused so much destruction and death? But when they discover the dark truth behind it all, Georgia and Shaun find themselves faced with an even more fraught situation: the truth will out, but getting it out there might just kill them.

The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus

When it comes to zombies who else do we turn to but the father of modern zombie tale? There is no denying that George Romero forever changed the zombie narrative, and without him some of our favorite undead adventures on film or page would not be possible. His passing in 2017 was marked with great sadness by the whole horror community. So when Daniel Kraus, a talented horror author in his own right, was tasked with completing George Romero’s last work – the unfinished The Living Dead – the buzz was, understandably, massive. And most reviewers will agree, Kraus out did himself and in doing so did justice to Romero’s legacy. The Living Dead begins, as zombie stories do, with a body that won’t stay dead. And since zombies are a bit like the rodents of the undead, their numbers quickly spread. Romero and Kraus’s novel follows several simultaneous stories through the incipient apocalypse – an African American teenager and a Muslim immigrant battling the undead in a Midwest trailer park, a death cult taking shape on a US aircraft carrier, a lone news anchor broadcasting to a world that might no longer be listening, and an autistic federal employee compiling data against an unlikely future. Who will survive until the end, and what the end will be, only time will tell.

cover of Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

In a crumbling, dystopian Toronto, young mother Ti-Jeanne helps her grandmother heal the people who live inside the barricaded city. The rich and privileged abandoned the inner city, blocking off the roads and retreating to the surrounding country side. Inside the walls there is no electricity, no modernity – the inhabitants have rediscovered older ways of living, growing food, bartering for goods, and healing through herb lore like that practiced by Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother. But when the rich outside the city start preying on those inside, harvesting their bodes for organs, Ti-Jeanne must embrace an ancient power to face down threats from both without and within the city walls. Even knowing how high the cost might be.

Bonus link: CBC Radio’s IDEAS Radio for the Mind ran an episode called “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse”, which featured Hopkinson as a guest. You can listen to the hour long program on the CBC website and I highly recommend that you do! It is both fascinating and horrifying.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

If like me you’re seeking catharsis in the form of worst case scenario narratives, make sure to check out this new list of Post-Apocalyptic book recommendations over at Book Riot.

On Episode 55 of Dead Headspace, Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower, and Cina Pelayo guest star to talk about their forthcoming anthology We Are Wolves, which you have heard me tale about before and which I am SO excited about.

The Midnight Society has announced that it is crowdfunding Volume II of The Midnight Pals! If you missed out on Volume I, or are just excited to get your hands on more campfire hijinks from your favorite hypothetical gathering of horror authors, make sure to get your contributions in. The deadline is in mid-December!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Bad Food, No Biting

Hey there hungry haunters, 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.

Obviously, Thanksgiving is not going to look the same this year as it has in the past. Many of us will be making our own dinners, and sharing them with our friends or families over video screens instead of eating around the same table. Thanksgiving, usually a day for joy, may be a source of sadness or loneliness for some this year. If nothing else the need for isolation – and the need for making one’s own green bean casserole instead of eating someone else’s – will mean that this Thanksgiving will be a weird one. So let’s do what we do best in horror when something is upsetting: Let’s make it WEIRDER!

Thankfully, there is plenty of fantastic horror about eating with which we can celebrate this most tasty of feasting days! Get ready for some truly stomach challenging titles of food horror meant to make you regret every bite of that turkey.

Please note that I did, through a considerable exercise of will, manage not to include Hannibal on this list. It was a struggle, I admit. But I contained myself. And besides, more than one cannibalism book seemed excessive – particularly when that one book is as horrifying as Tender is the Flesh. And particularly when I could just do a whole newsletter on cannibalism another day.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

You might remember me talking about Tender is the Flesh when it first came out back in August. It’s premise is a harrowing: in a world in which all animal meat has become poisonous to ingest, humans having become the new livestock of choice. It is a chilling look at how far humanity might go, if only they are given permission. Marcos makes a living processing this “special meat”, all the while trying to focus on numbers, consignments, and processing not on how it really is that he makes his living. Until the day he’s given a “gift”. But the longer he spends with this “live specimen of the finest quality”, the less he is able to see her as just another number and begins to see and treat her like a human being. And with that comes the need to acknowledge the truth of what humanity has become.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

I had to get one corn book on this list, obviously. Corn is ALWAYS evil and not to be trusted. And the corn that grows in Phalene, in particular, is not to be trusted. There is a reason that Margot’s mother left the town, and told her daughter nothing about where they’d come from no matter how often she asked. They had no family. No history. Until Margot found a photograph pointing her towards Phalene. But what she finds there is not at all what she expected. Her family’s roots, it seems, run deep and rotten beneath the town, and it soon becomes clear that her mother had good reasons for running.

Zombie Bake-Off by Stephen Graham Jones

Forget mutated viruses, radioactive fallout, or pestilences escaped from labs – apparently the real threat of a zombie apocalypse lies in a batch of infected donuts. The annual Recipe Days bake-off in Lubbock, Texas, was already a tense event when the usual crowd of soccer moms and grandmothers with baked goods in hand found themselves going toe to toe with a bunch of party crashing pro wrestlers. But when the suspect donuts transform most of the wrestlers into brain hungry zombies, things really get complicated. The doors to the conventions center are locked, the survivors trapped inside, and it’s mom’s against monsters to see who will survive the day.

Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up To No Good edited by Octavia Cade

This anthology collects 22 stories from authors who identify as female, non-binary, or a marginalized sex or gender identity, all centered around the theme of dark appetites. It explores the connection between food and violence in horror, the frequency of consumption as a theme in the genre, and the sometimes very thin line between eating and being eaten. The intersection is one that Cade is well versed in, being the author of Food and Horror: Essays on Ravenous Souls, Toothsome Monsters, and Vicious Cravings, which – if you’re interested in academic texts about the horror genre – is a fascinating read. From the dangerous culinary temptations of Hansel and Gretel to more modern tales of tasty terrors, Food and Horror lays the groundwork that the authors of the Sharp & Sugar Tooth anthology build their own narratives upon. Authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Damien Angelica Walters, Alyssa Wong, Betsy Aoki, Chikodili Emelumadu, and more.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Once you’ve made your way through this four course meal of food horror, may I recommend pairing this Ladies of Horror Fiction list of stomach churning books with your dessert? Guaranteed to make you wish you’d said no to that second piece of pecan pie.

Over at Book Riot, we’ve got CLOWNS people! *shudder* And horror in translation, if you were looking to take your scares international.

The Horror Writers Association wants to know if you’ve checked out their Haunted Library of Horror Classics lately. And if you haven’t, you definitely should! I’ve got my heart set on that edition of Phantom of the Opera. Sigh. Maybe for Christmas.

Horror author Kristi DeMeester has launched a line of horror inspired candles and I need one of each, please, thank you.

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

The Trees are Closer Today

Coming to you live from the dark forests of the North, 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

What is it about trees? They’re beautiful, they’re good for the world, and – if the books are to be believed – they’re damn creepy. Maybe it’s their size. Or maybe the fact that they outlive us all. Maybe it’s the way that they loom, or the way that they will slowly but inevitable reclaim anything left unattended at the forest’s edge. When they grow old and tall they become like pillars, reaching up to the sun, everything on the ground beneath them is lost to the dense moss. When they grow thin and dense they throw deep shadows amid their interwoven branches. The wind blows and the whole forest creaks and moans. Sometimes, depending on where you are, the forest even seems to breathe. And unlike being on a mountain top, or hiking across some vast open landscape, in the forest your line of sight is always broken. In any direction you look you can only see as far as the next tree trunk. Horizon, what horizon? When’s the last time you saw the sky? And who knows what’s lurking between the trees.

Okay so maybe I get it. Certainly anyone who has ever been in a forest knows that it can be one of the most disorienting, creepy landscapes to engage with. And even great trees standing alone in the field have a queer sort of magic and myth about them. They’re like old sentinels standing guard over the ghosts of the forests that used to be.

Whatever it is about the trees, one thing is guaranteed: ominous forests in dark fiction always make for good reading. So wander and get lost in these dark arboreal additions to your winter TBR.

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

If you’ve read some of my horror articles for Book Riot you are probably 0% surprised to see a Dawn Kurtagich book on this list, because I am mildly obsessed with her books. They are frightening, atmospheric, and so creative. While And the Trees Crept In does not share the mixed media/found materials format of Kurtagich’s other books, it is nevertheless a spiraling, psychological horror about two young girls in a big, crumbling house that is slowly being devoured by the forest that surrounds it. And the Trees Crept In, with its terrible Creeper Man, is a story of grief, anger, and the choice we make either to face the horrors in our past, or to let them crush us beneath their roots.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Anyone who read their fairy and folktales as a child knows that there is no place darker, more wild, more full of dangers and magic than the forest. So it’s no wonder that dark fantasy is dotted with forests full of frightening things. The titular forest of Lori. M. Lee’s Forest of Souls is the particularly unsettling Dead Wood, domain of the Spider King. It is an ancient wood possessed by the souls of the living, and he uses his influence over the forest to keep the peace between kingdoms. But the forest grows wild and restless. Only a soulguide has the power to hold back the trees, and Sirscha Ashwyn is the first of her kind since before anyone can remember. When she accidentally resurrects her best friend her power is revealed, and she must master her new abilities and force the forest back before the trees of the Dead Wood break free.

Pine by Francine Toon

I have been eyeing Pine for my TBR ever since it came out. It was the cover that first caught my attention. Probably because in Maine we’re born with two radars: deer and evergreens. (I’m joking. Clearly the correct answer is moose and blueberries.) But there was something eerie about even that simple image and I loved it. Then I read the blurb and I loved it more. “The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men”. So beautiful. Lauren and her father live in a small village in the Highlands, surrounded by a dense pine forest. But though the village is small, it’s not a simple place. Strange mysteries, vanishings, and unexplained deaths are common, and that includes the disappearance of Lauren’s mother 10 years ago. Everyone seems to know more than they’re saying, and when a local teen goes missing it becomes uncertain who in the tiny treebound village Lauren can trust.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

We are Wolves is a forthcoming anthology edited by Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower, and Cynthia Pelayo that I am super excited to get my hands on. As of yet it doesn’t have a fixed release date, but this is one to wait for. Sales of We are Wolves will raise money to help survivors of sexual abuse.

YA Horror author Ann Dávila Cardinal has put together a list over at Nightfire of five Latinx horror writers you should know. They’re all amazing authors but I definitely second her recommendation of Cynthia Pelayo’s work. Cardinal recommends Pelayo’s poetry collection, Poems of My Night, and I’d follow that up with a recommendation of Pelayo’s gorgeous collection of short stories and poems, Loteria. It’s out of print at the moment, but hopefully it will be available again soon!

Speaking of things I am beyond excited about, let me sing you the song of S.T. Gibson’s A Dowry of Blood, the queer Dracula’s brides retelling of my heart that yes I have already pre-ordered. A Dowry of Blood will be out in January 31st 2021 from Nyx Publishing.

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Time Will Tell

Coming to you live from a world not literally on fire (yet), 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

I mean… what do you even WRITE a newsletter about after a week like that? I have spent an alarming number of hours flipping between a election maps, state results, and the constant communal existential scream taking place on twitter. I haven’t spent hours reading, that’s for sure. I stare longingly at my TBR but I haven’t read a single page since Tuesday. Technically, I’m writing this to you from the past. It’s late Thursday where I am, and if you’re reading this it’s Monday where you are. So you might know more than I do right now about what the future is going to look like when all the votes finally come in. I’m still waiting.

So hey there from the past, and since we’re talking about the past, lets do some time traveling (and engage in some vital escapism) with historical horror!

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

Switzerland & Germany, Late 18th Century: So I didn’t pick this topic JUST so that I could talk about The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, but I have been trying to sneak this book into a newsletter for weeks. I am more than a little but obsessed with Frankenstein and all its adaptations, but Kiersten White’s YA historical horror is one of my favorite. White recenters Mary Shelley’s original novel around the figure of Elizabeth Lavenza, a hungry, abused, neglected child taken in by the Frankenstein family to be a companion to their strange, frightening son Victor. She grew up doing her best to become indispensable to the family, cementing her place in luxury and ease through her ability to manage Victor’s dark and dangerous moods. But behind Elizabeth’s calm, sweet, tame-the-beast exterior she has teeth and ambition of her own.

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

New York City, 1899: There is a monster stalking New York, draining the blood from its victims in a manner frighteningly reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula. It is almost as if the monster himself has stepped out of the page and haunts the dim streets of the Gilded Age America. Tillie Pembroke’s sister has become a victim of the killer, her neck punctured and her body exsanguinated (I really don’t get to use that word enough). Tillie is determined to discover the truth – human or supernatural – behind her sister’s death, but her desire for the truth wars with her increasing desire for the laudanum that dulls her pain. As hysteria grips the city and the killer’s trail of bodies grows longer, Tillie struggles to discern fact from fiction, reality from opium dream, and begins to wonder who and what she can really trust.

Helena by Claire L Smith

London, 1855: Helena Morrigan’s business is the dead, and the dead are anything but quiet. A mortician and funeral director struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of London, Helena can free the dead whose souls are trapped in the mortal world. She takes up residence in the home of the newly orphaned Eric, Audrey, and Christian Tarter because the old house is closer to the graveyard, and closer to the souls she seeks to save. But a killer is on the loose, and their violent crimes are complicating Helena’s work. Her business is booming, but she herself is coming under suspicion as the killer’s rampage continues. Soon she finds herself awash in a storm of secrets and blood that threatens to destroy all she has built, and take her life in the process.

the ghost bride cover image

Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Malaya, 1893: Li Lan’s family is bankrupt, which means that despite her genteel birth she has little chance at a comfortable future. Until the day she receives a strange marriage proposal from a wealthy and powerful family. Their only son, Tian Ching, died under mysterious circumstances, and now the family seeks a ghost bride to soothe their son’s restless spirit. It is a rarely used tradition, but one that would see Li Lan secure for the rest of her life. But security isn’t free, and Li Lan soon finds herself being haunted by Tian Ching, who every night draws her into the afterlife – a phantom world parallel to the waking world in which Li Lan finds herself falling for Tian Bai, now heir to the Lim’s in Tian Ching’s place. Torn between the living and the deadr, Li Lan must discover the dark secret behind Tian Ching’s death before she finds ends up trapped in the afterlife forever.

Blood Countess by Lana Popović

Hungary, 16th century: Anna Darvulia is a scullery maid in the of household the beautiful and terrible Countess Elizabeth Báthory. She catches the Countess’ eye and finds herself being lifted up through the ranks to become the Countess’ chambermaid. No more scraping by in the cramped, dirty servants quarters, unable to provide for her family. Now she is the Countess’ friend and confidante. But blinded by the glamorous Countess’ affections, unable to see how she has been groomed by her patroness, Anna realizes too late that she has been carefully cut off from everyone she knows and loves. And with the bodies piling up around her she knows that she will soon be next.

The second book in this series, Poison Priestess, will be out in April! It will be about Monvoisin and the Affair of the Poisons and I NEED it because I am unapologetically 17th century French garbage.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Short news week this week! (I wonder why…)

Over at Book Riot Emily Martin has put together a list of Horror Podcasts for you. After a stressful week of perpetual terror, go listen to something that’s actually supposed to scare you.

If you’ve been watching along with HBO’s Lovecraft Country, heads up! The first season is coming to DVD and Blu-ray in February. Not quite in time for the holiday season, but if you’ve been meaning to introduce someone to the series then there’s always Valentine’s/Palentine’s Day!

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Horror in Strange Pages: Dark Fantasy

The Dark Season is upon us my ghastly ones! 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.

As we (finally) make our descent towards the end of another year I’m realizing that it has been almost two years since I decided that I needed more horror in my reading life and started my first forays into the genre. And now I’m here, writing you this newsletter, and that’s a bit surreal. It was actually Dark Fantasy that served as my soft intro to the horror genre, and something about the bleak, dark days of winter (are we sensing that this isn’t Jessica’s favorite season) that always makes me crave that beloved intersection of fantasy and horror.

Sometimes horror is zombies and ghosts, sometimes it’s unholy magics, twisted monsters, and vengeful gods. You don’t have to choose! Part of the beauty of horror is its crossover power, able to fit into any other genre and make everything it touches that much darker and creepier. Whether it’s dark fantasy, or a particularly vicious romantic suspense novel, if it makes your skin do that crawling thing where it tries to physically move away from the book you’re holding, it’s also horror. So this week let’s celebrate those books both frightening and magical.

Beneath the Citadel

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Still the winner of the “most delightful cover ever” award, Soria’s dark fantasy novel features a city and a people ruled by the ancient prophecies of the elder seers, issued from behind the closed doors of the citadel even as the people wage a war in the streets. It has been over a decade since the last infallible prophecy came to pass and left unrest and anger in its wake. Now Cassa and her friends must solve the mystery of the final infallible prophecy before their city and all they’ve known is destroyed in its wake.

The Unspoken Name cover image

The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood

It’s dark, it’s queer, and I’m here for it. Csorwe, sacred tribute, turns her back on the Shrine of the Unspoken and the sacrifice that should have been hers. She follows the powerful mage who offered her her life in exchange for her assistance in his quest to destroy an empire and reclaim his power. But old vows are not easily broken, and gods have a nasty tendency to remember those who have betrayed them.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Lin is the daughter and former heir to her father’s throne, presiding over an empire controlled by mighty and horrible bone shard magic. When her father refuses to recognize her claim to the throne, even as his own power fails him and revolution threatens to split the Empire apart, Lin vows to master the dark power of the bone shard magic and surpass even her father in skill. But that much power comes at a terrible cost, and Lin must decided how far she is truly willing to go to claim her seat on the throne.

the monster of elendhaven

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

Giesbrecht’s novella is a delight of dark fantasy goodness. In the dying city of Elendhaven, on the edge of the sea, a monster stalks the shadows and does his master’s bidding. A creature in the shape of a man but who cannot die like one, twisted by magic and and shaped by his master’s cruel cunning. Together they will have their revenge on Elendhaven, no matter the cost.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Chupeco you might recognize as the talented author of the Girl from the Well YA horror series, and I’m happy to say that her dark fantasy Bone Witch series is every bit as dark and delightful. Also, there’s necromancy. And if you stick around here long enough you’ll realize that Jessica never says no to necromancy. Tea can raise the dead, but at a price. She has a gift for necromancy, which means that she is a bone witch, but though her abilities allowed her to resurrect her brother from the dead, they also mean that she is feared and shunned by those around her.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

You might remember Craig’s debut novel making the horror rounds earlier this year. It was even nominated this summer for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Best Young Adult novel. Inspired by the fairy tale of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, House of Salt and Sorrows is dark, Gothic, and filled with magic. Annaleigh lives in a manor by the sea with her sisters, her father, and her stepmother. Where there were once twelve sisters roaming the halls there are now only eight, and the tragic death toll just keeps climbing. Every night Annaleigh’s sisters sneak out and spend the night dancing at mysterious balls with unknown partners. And one by one they die. Who – or what – have they been dancing with?

Fresh From The Skeleton’s Mouth

In the realm of horror goodies over at Book Riot this last week, it’s all about snacks and shopping. Annika Barranti Klein has a list of horror baking books, because who says the horror snack fun has to end with Halloween? And if you’re kicking off your Christmas shopping for the year, check out these lists of horror-inspired socks and fantastic horror leggings for inspiration!

In honor of the hell that this winter is probably going to be, Salem Horror Fest tweeted asking everyone for their horror recommendations. If your “The World is Ending But At Least I Have Books” TBR is looking a little slim, check out the replies for an avalanche of fantastic reads.

Speaking of reading recommendations, House of Leaves Publishing, publishers of the recent critical text on religion in horror, Scared Sacred, have threaded a reading list of essential critical horror film texts.

For Bookstr’s latest 5×5 article, Samantha Jones featured five female horror authors and their answers to five bookish questions about their writing journeys and the horror genre.

On November 10 the Horror Writers Association will be holding their next Skeleton Hour webinar and you don’t want to miss it. This time they’ll be sitting own with the authors & editors of the anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, including Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Rena Mason.

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Extremely Suspect Boarding Schools

Class is in session, unfortunate souls! 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.

This week we’re going to indulge in one of my favorite horror tropes: creepy boarding schools. Of course the return to school is a quintessentially fall activity, but the schools on this list aren’t all ringing bells and bright futures. Think big, old rambling buildings full of secrets and (often quite literally) ghosts of the past.

catherine house

The Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Deep in the woods of Pennsylvania is an exclusive, experimental school for only the best and the brightest: Catherine House. For three years students are given one of the finest educations available for completely free – but the price is three years of their life completely cut off from the world they left behind. No family, no friends, no contact with the outside world. Ines is ready to trade in her old life for a new world of intense study and discipline, but what she finds instead is a gilded prison of luxury and permissiveness. When tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the truth of Catherine House is not at all what it seems.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Vermont. The Idlewild School for girls – for the troublemakers, the illegitimate, and the clever. Rumored to be haunted by the small town that surrounds it, Idlewild is the site of mysterious disappearances and strange happenings. In 1950, four roommates bonded together during their time at the school until the day one disappeared. Sixty-four years later, journalist Fiona Sheridan is investigating the death of another girl, her own sister, found dead in the fields near Idlewild’s ruins.

plain bad heroines by emily a danforth cover

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily. M Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines tells the linked stories of two sets of girls whose live are entwined in the history of a mysterious New England boarding school (It’s always New England, right? All we have up here are creepy small towns and creepy, isolated boarding schools, apparently.) In 1902 there’s Flo and Clara, who were students at the school and died tragically. Over a century later, Harper and Audrey are playing Flo and Clara in a horror film about their gruesome deaths and the supposedly cursed Gilded-Age school, only to find past and present becoming tangled together.

Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro

At Hailsham the students are cared for and nurtured, raised in idyllic peace in the English countryside and kept ignorant of and almost completely separate from the world outside. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grew up together safe inside of Hailsham, but when the time comes for them to leave the school they are forced to face the dark truth about Hailsham, its real purpose, and their own identities. Set in an alternate, dystopian England, the horror of Never Let Me Go is made all the more terribly by its subtlety and the resignation of its principal characters to their fate.

Enjoyed reading that? Watch this!

Sometimes you get on a reading trend… and then run out of books. The horror! (Ba dum tish) While there are plenty of other scary school books out there to enjoy, sooner or later (depending on how fast you read) you’re going to run out. So allow me to recommend some scary films to go with this weeks scary reads:

The Woods

Set in 1695, The Woods is about frequently-in-trouble Heather who has been sent away to an exclusive girls school located deep in the woods. And from the strange whispering she can hear in the trees, to the ominous disappearances of her classmates, it becomes clear that there is something terribly wrong at Falburn Academy. The Woods gets horror bonus points, by the way, for including a Bruce Campbell cameo as Heather’s somewhat negligent, but loving father.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

This is one of those bleak winter horrors where everything feels really washed out and intense. So of course I love it. I mean does it get more peak boarding school horror than two girls being left behind over winter break at their Catholic boarding school where the nuns are supposedly Satanists? (If you believe the student rumors and yes of course we believe the student rumors.) And who doesn’t love Kiernan Shipka, right?

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Over at Book Riot Rachel Brittain has put together a list of 10 Perfectly Creepy Supernatural Books for Halloween, and Dee Das is discussing Eerie Books by Asian Authors to add to your holiday reading list.

In an oddly coincidental but felicitous happenstance, Books in the Freezer Podcast’s most recent episode launched Tuesday, October 20th and they’re talking all about, you guessed it, Boarding School Horror! So for some fantastic book chatter and a longer list of boarding school titles, go and give them a listen!

We Are Bookish, NetGalley’s readers blog, has a list of 6 Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit. That includes Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang, which has long been on my to-read list because Dracula and Absinthe and dear god I am an easily pleased trash creature that exists solely on pretty horror things.

Diversity in Horror is doing a giveaway on their Twitter. The winner will receive copies of Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves and Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal, as well as a 4” goth rainbow sticker (so cute!?), a “Haunted Book Store” candle, a “Segrado Corazón” bath bomb, and some adorable resin bird heads! The details about how to enter can be found here and details about the prize makers can be found in the second thread of the tweet!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Ripped From the Pages

Hey there Happy Haunters, 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

We all know that Halloween is not going to be the same this year. All those parties and events that usually give you an excuse to dress to your creepy best have probably been cancelled at this point. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get your costume on! Even if the furthest you’re going this Halloween is your couch for a scary movie marathon, getting dressed up will keep you in the spirit of things. And if you can get your family or roommates to do it with you, all the better! If you’re short on ideas, these books will help you put a spin on some of the classic Halloween costumes we know and love.


Before you break out the pointed hat and green face paint, or steal the spare broom from the cupboard, dive into these witchy reads for some inspiration to innovate this most classic of Halloween costumes. Want that quintessential dark, atmospheric occult feel? Venture into the dark woods in search of witches with Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching, or strike a deal with a demon prince to avenge your eviscerated sibling in Kerri Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked. Prefer your witchcraft with a twist of dark academia? Grab a copy of Leigh Bardugo’s The Ninth House and choose your magical house in a process that has nothing to do with singing hats and everything to do with whatever creepy magic shit you get up to in your free time. (House Book & Snake represent. It’s all about that necromancy)


Forget the plastic fangs this year. Move away from the silk capes, but hang on to those tubes of fake blood. These vampire books put Dracula back in his grave and will take your vampire costume in new, frightening directions. For starters, pick up copies of these fangtastic (not sorry) new anthologies: Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, which contains eleven stories about all kinds of different vampires, and Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz which celebrates the vampires of the African Diaspora. Two anthologies, so many unique vampire concepts sure to put some new (un)life in your costume design. I wanted to recommend Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia as well, which introduces readers to a variety of vampire subspecies whose appearances and powers are influenced by where they come from and the vampire line they descend from. But sadly it is out of print. But HAPPILY, Tor Nightfire has already announced that they are “resurrecting” Certain Dark Things in May of 2021!

the deep alma katsu


If you want to cut holes out of an old bed sheet I will never stop you, that’s classic. But may I recommend taking it up a notch this Halloween? The saltwater-soaked, wrathful ghost of The Deep by Alma Katsu might entice you to find your best Titanic gown look-a-like and throw some seaweed over your head. Plus this beautiful, emotional historical read makes a great companion for the darkening days of autumn. Pop culture crossover points if you drag a prop door frame behind you and sob like Leonardo DiCaprio just slipped through your fingers. (Too soon?) If you want a plethora of ghosts to choose from for inspiration pick up the Echoes anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow. It’s 816 pages of ghost stories written by a host of popular authors. That’s a lot of ghosts, and a lot of costume ideas.

an illustration with a red-tinged silhouette of a wolf in the foreground and a standing person in front of power lines and a car against a yellow background


Grab your claws and splash on some Eau de Wet Dog, because a werewolf costume is as classic as it gets. But if watching The Wolf Man on loop isn’t inspiring your costume design, pick up one of these amazing, toothy horror treats instead. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones is a genre favorite, and probably one of the best werewolf novels of recent years. It’s a gristle between your teeth violent, dark, emotional story about a boy trying to find his place in the world and in the pack. In Romina Garber’s Lobizona, Manuela Azul is also on the hunt to discover her own story and her true heritage as she uncovers a hidden world of brujas and lobizones and struggles to find her place in a society where her very existence is illegal.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

The horror good times continue over at Book Riot with this line-up of fantastic Filipino Horror Books for Your TBR, a selection of creepy Middle Grade Horror for the Haunting Season, and 28 Frightening Folk Horror Books because it’s harvest time! Someone get the animal masks, chunky knit sweaters, and acoustic guitars. And if you don’t have enough existential dread in your life yet, I’ve pulled together a list of Modern Cosmic Horror Books.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Innsmouth Free Press are publishing Mexican author José Luis Zárate’s cult novella and Dracula prequel The Route of Ice and Salt in January 2021, translated into English for the very first time by David Bowles and presented with an accompanying essay by Poppy Z Brite. This book sounds absolutely amazing! Be sure to preorder so you don’t miss out. If your NetGalley account is up and running you can request a review copy now!

Horror Booktuber Cody Daigle-Orians, has put together a video about “Books That Slay”, featuring four amazing slasher/slayer horror books you won’t want to miss. Tune in for some stabby good times!

The Know Fear Podcast’s most recent episode is about Eco-Horror! For those of you who want to add a little dread to your excursions into the wild. Literally the only way to get outside here is to head for the woods and what’s the point if I’m not terrified the whole time?

Author Jessica Guess was on the Ladies of the Fright Podcast talking about ’90s Horror, her novel Cirque Berserk, and pursuing dreams. Have a listen!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

Of Final Girls and Monstrous Women

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

Grab your knives, your shovels, your claws, and your teeth, because this week we’re talking about the final girls and monstrous women of horror fiction. Whether surviving the unthinkable or reaping a little bloody revenge, women in horror are kickass until the end. You know what final girls and monstrous women have in common? Survival. They will kick and claw and shoot and scream their way through hell to save themselves or the ones they love. In fact if you look into the past of some monstrous women you might find a final girl who did what she had to to survive. Whatever she had to, whatever the cost. So clear some room on your shelves for these tales of women fighting and clawing their way to the finish line.

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

In this new anthology, Southeast Asian writers Nadia Bulkin, Rin Chupeco, Christina Sng, Lee Murray, and more come together to spin 14 dark and intimate tales exploring their own experiences of “otherness” and what it means to be an outsider. You know I love a good anthology, and Black Cranes really promises to be one of the top anthologies of 2020. Don’t pass on this one.

wilder girls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

I love this book so much. It’s emotional, it’s queer, it’s dark and absolutely teeming with flinch-worthy body horror. And it features my favorite kind of final girl: the one slowly becoming a monster herself. It’s been 18 months since Hetty and her classmates were trapped on Raxter Island by the Tox. Since then the students of Raxter School for Girls have been doing their best to survive on dwindling supplies in an increasingly hostile environment, as the unknown virus slowly turns their own bodies against them.

Cockblock by C.V. Hunt

Sonya and Callie just want a quiet night out at a restaurant together. However, that’s proving to be more difficult than anticipated. On their way to the restaurant they are verbally assaulted by a group of men, and what starts as an already awful incident quickly becomes a nightmarish race to the restaurant and safety. But once inside, it becomes obvious that what happened to them was not an isolated incident. Men everywhere have turned violent and the source seems to be a hate-filled screed against women being broadcast nationwide by the president. The only way to save themselves? Survive long enough to take out the source of the chaos.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

I am more than a little obsessed with this novella. For real. The Last Final Girl is a love letter to slasher films, and in particular to the glory that is ’80s horror. Homecoming Queen Lindsay is a final girl. She survived – barely – the brutal attentions of Billie Jean, the sadistic murder in a Michael Jackson mask who was determined to kill her. She’s a legend. But Billie Jean isn’t done with Lindsey, and Lindsey’s not the only final girl in town. When the masked killer slaughters her royal court, Lindsay replaces them with other final girls, stacking the decks in her favor. One psycho killer vs. a homecoming court full of final girls, all competing to be the last survivor standing when the credits roll.

All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma

Behold the short fiction collection that I am absolutely obsessed with, and which may be my top collection read for the year. Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts is a powerhouse of imagery and tone. All 16 stories in this collection are a glorious blend of the monstrous and the beautiful, full of nature and humanity, life, death, and transformation. But my personal favorite was “Pearls”, a continuation more than a retelling of the Medusa myth, and a lushly emotional one too. I also loved “Fish Skins” about a man whose wife came from the sea, and “The Sunflower Seed Man”, a harrowing look at the nature of grief and how we survive.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

I know most everyone already knows The Bloody Chamber. But I couldn’t make a list of books about monstrous women without Angela Carter’s legendary collection of bloody fairy tales. This book is my whole heart. The women in Carter’s collection are toothy, sexual, and bold. They are monsters, survivors, the wives of lions, and tigers in their own right. They’re clever and canny; they’re wolves with skin on the outside. If you haven’t read The Bloody Chamber, autumn is the perfect season. Or if, like me, it’s an old favorite of yours, autumn is also the perfect time for a reread.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Bit of a slow news week, folks, but we’ve got plenty of horror content for you over on Book Riot as blessed Halloween approach-eth. If you need a few more titles to fill out your Halloween TBR, I recommend this list of 15 terrifying reads, or this collection of 9 Gothic books to read this autumn. And while ye old Covid is keeping us at home this Halloween, and costumes may be a thought for the distant future, maybe snag one of these funny horror t-shirts to wear while you’re marathoning the scary content of your choice at home and downing candy by the handful.

Books of Blood is liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive on Hulu. If you need me, don’t need me, because this is all I’m going to be doing this holiday weekend.

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.

The Fright Stuff

New Terrors for October

Happy Season of the Pumpkin everyone! 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

Well my darling creeps, it’s the start of another month. But not just any month! Today we are 5 days into the most glorious, most haunted, and most delightful month of the year. It’s finally October, and even those of us who have been celebrating Halloween since September have an extra spring in our step and an extra scream in our souls. (Or maybe that’s a 2020 thing, not an October thing.) The start of a new Halloween season also means new scream-worthy horror! So here are a few of the titles I’m gleefully anticipating in this most hollowed of months:

halloween season by lucy snyder coverHalloween Season by Lucy A. Snyder (October 5)

Lucy A. Snyder has a new collection of stories all about our favorite time of year, and it was released today! So go forth at the beginning of this shiny new October and read of sweets and scares and parties and treats! The stories in Halloween Season run the gamut from chilling to hilarious, so there’s a little something for every reader.


the hollow places by t kingfisher coverThe Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (October 6)

Personally, if I found the ominous inscription “Pray they are hungry” inside a hidden bunker behind a wall of the house I was living in, I might consider not living there. Ever again. Kara doesn’t leave, though. Instead she becomes obsessed with the mysterious warning, and the strange bunker hidden inside her Uncle’s house. A bunker that, it turns out, contains portals to alternate realities full of strange, deadly creatures that can hear your thoughts and feed on your fear. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this title! In particular that it is SO scary. Like leave the lights on while you sleep scary. If you’re mourning the loss of your usual Halloween haunt experience, maybe pick up a copy of The Hollow Places instead.

slay stories of the vampire noire edited by nicole givens kurtzSlay: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz (October 13)

This is the second Vampire anthology we’ve been blessed with in as many months and I could not be a happier fangophile. Slay is the first of its kind, an Afrocentric vampire anthology that celebrates the varied cultural and mythological backgrounds of the African Diaspora. Each story in the collection centers on a Black protagonist, and narratives range from matriarchal vampire broods and immortal deities to hunters and heroes. If you love vampires stories be sure to pre-order a copy of Slay, out October 13th from Mocha Memoirs Press.

on sundays she picked flowers by yah yah scholfield coverOn Sundays, She Picked Flowers by Yah Yah Scholfield (October 18)

The Gothic has always been centered on the domestic, and Scholfield’s new Southern Gothic invests deeply in the thematic heart of the genre. A novel of transformation and healing, retribution and closure, On Sundays, She Picked Flowers is about Judith who comes to live by herself in a cottage in the Georgia countryside after having finally escaped her mother, and discovers beings in the woods beyond her home. Described as “a rollercoaster of emotion, dealings of familiar trauma, love, and mystery”, On Sundays belongs on the TBR of every lover of the Gothic.

plain bad heroines by emily a danforth coverPlain Bad Heroines by Emily A. Danforth (October 20)

Plain Bad Heroines tells the linked stories of two sets of girls: In 1902 there’s Flo and Clara, who were students at the school and died tragically. Over a century later, there’s Harper and Audrey, who are playing Flo and Clara in a horror film about their gruesome deaths and the supposedly haunted and cursed Gilded-Age school. When past and present get tangled up during filming what is real and what is fiction becomes increasingly uncertain.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Over at Book Riot we’ve got a fresh batch of creepy posts for your delectation and TBR destruction, from this list of horror manga by Erika Hardison to this collection of heart pounding survival horror novels compiled by K.W. Colyard. If you’ve ever wondered how to keep up with the latest horror releases and make your TBR truly undefeatable, make sure to catch up with Nicole Hill. And if you really want to stock up on terrifying books this October, Emily Martin has your back.

As part of this year’s online New York Comic Con, Hulu is holding a Cast and Creators panel on October 8th for the upcoming adaptation of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood! Subscribe to the NYCC Youtube channel so you don’t miss out on your chance to watch!

And since this newsletter is turning into all Clive Barker all the time party (sorry, not sorry) can we talk about the fact that we are now expecting a Nightbreed adaptation as well?!

HWA’s Halloween Haunts started Thursday, October 1st! You can find all the details, plus daily posts, book excerpts, and more on their website.

You are not going to want to miss this Scream Queens panel on Oct 20th being hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. Authors Gwendoly Kiste (Rust Maidens), Kathe Koja (The Cipher), Michelle Lane (Invisible Chains), and Sara Tantlinger (The Devil’s Dreamland) will be talking about about the history and future of women in Horror.

Sturgis Library’s Spooky Storytime will feature Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians) next week on the 8th of October. Check out the twitter thread for information on how to sign up and to get a look at the other authors participating!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.