Anticipated 2023 Thrillers

The Wonder State by Sara Flannery Murphy-

From the author of Girl One comes a spellbinding adventure about a strange power lurking in the Arkansas Ozarks, and the group of friends obsessed with finding it.

Five friends arrive back in Eternal Springs, the small town they all fled after high-school graduation. Each of them is drawn home by a cryptic, scrawled two-word letter: You promised.

It has been fifteen years since that life-changing summer, and they’re anxious to find out why Brandi called them back, especially when they vowed never to return.

But Brandi is missing. She’d been acting erratically for months, in and out of rehab, railing at whoever might listen about magic all around them. About a power they can’t see. And strange houses that appear only when you need them . . .

Told in two enthralling timelines, The Wonder State is a stunning, immersive follow-up to Girl One. Sara Flannery Murphy has created another dazzling, genre-blurring novel—an adventure story laced with nostalgia and magic, exploring belonging and the lasting power of community.

This sounds good to me because of those gothic, supernatural elements and its focus on female friendships

PRE-ORDER HERE


Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould- When Beck and her sister Riley arrive in Backravel, Arizona it’s clear that there’s something off about the town. There are no cars, no cemeteries, no churches. The town is a mix of dilapidated military structures and new, shiny buildings, all overseen by the town’s gleaming treatment center high on a plateau. No one seems to remember when they got there, and the only people who seem to know more than they’re letting on is the town’s enigmatic leader and his daughter, Avery.

As the sisters search for answers about their mother, Beck and Avery become more drawn together, and their unexpected connection brings up emotions Beck has buried since her mother’s death. Beck is desperate to hold onto the way things used to be, and when she starts losing herself in Backravel and its connection to her mother, will there be a way for Beck to pull herself out?

This sounds good to me because it has LBGTQ+ themes and relationships, supernatural elements, and thrilling details

PRE-ORDER HERE


Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film–and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood. Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their liveseven if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed. Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend. As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

This sounds good to me because Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books often straddle the line between thrillers and horror. Supernatural elements.

PRE-ORDER HERE


Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell

“Campbell has mastered the art of generating a sense of sustained unease.” The Washington Post. A new masterpiece from the master of suspense. Tower of Fear is a lost horror film starring Karloff and Lugosi. A film historian who locates a copy dies while fleeing something that terrified him. His friend Sandy Allan vows to prove he found the film. She learns how haunted the production was and the survivors of it still are. It contains a secret about Redfield, a titled family that owns a favourite British food, Staff o’ Life. The Redfield land has uncanny guardians, and one follows Sandy home. To maintain its fertility Redfield demands a sacrifice, and a band of new age travellers is about to set up camp there…

This sounds good to me because of the author, found media elements, fantasy, thriller, horror genre mash-up

PRE-ORDER HERE


The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni

Reality and the supernatural collide when an expert puzzle-maker is thrust into an ancient mystery—one with explosive consequences for the fate of humanity—in this suspenseful thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Angelology

“In short: The Puzzle Master = (The Da Vinci Code + The Silent Patient + sprinkle of Stephen King) x gorgeous writing.”—Angie Kim

All the world is a puzzle, and Mike Brink—a celebrated and ingenious puzzle constructor—understands its patterns like no one else. Once a promising Midwestern football star, Brink was transformed by a traumatic brain injury that caused a rare medical condition: Acquired Savant Syndrome. The injury left him with a mental superpower—he can solve puzzles, calculate equations, and see patterns in ways ordinary people can’t. But his condition has also left him deeply isolated, unable to fully connect with other people.

All of this changes after Brink meets Jess Price, a woman serving thirty years in prison for murder. Traumatized by the crime, Price hasn’t spoken a word since her arrest five years before. When she draws a perplexing puzzle, her psychiatrist believes it will explain the crime she committed, and calls Brink to solve it. What begins as a desire to crack a strange and alluring cipher quickly morphs into an obsession with the woman who drew the puzzle. Price soon reveals that there is something more urgent, and more dangerous, behind her silence, thrusting Brink into a hunt for the truth.

The quest takes Brink through a series of interlocking enigmas, but the heart of the mystery is The God Puzzle, a mysterious prayer circle created by the thirteenth-century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, one of the most controversial men in the history of Kabbalah. As Brink navigates a maze of clues, and his emotional entanglement with Price becomes more intense, he realizes that there are dark forces at work that he cannot escape.

Ranging from an upstate New York women’s prison to nineteenth-century Prague to the secret rooms of the Pierpont Morgan Library​, The Puzzle Master is a tantalizing, addictive thriller in which humankind, technology, and the future of the universe itself are at stake.

This sounds good to me because of the author, the aspect of these puzzles, thriller/suspense & historical fiction elements

PRE-ORDER HERE


Dead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano

On a creepy island where everyone has a strange obsession with the year 1994, a newcomer arrives, hoping to learn the truth about her son’s death–but finds herself pulled deeper and deeper into the bizarrely insular community and their complicated rules…Clifford Island. When Willow Stone finds these words written on the floor of her deceased son’s bedroom, she’s perplexed. She’s never heard of it before, but soon learns it’s a tiny island off Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula, 200 miles from Willow’s homeWhy would her son write this on his floor? Determined to find answers, Willow sets out for the island. After a few days on Clifford, Willow realizes: This place is not normal. Everyone seems to be stuck in a particular day in 1994: They wear outdated clothing, avoid modern technology, and, perhaps most mystifyingly, watch the OJ Simpson car chase every evening. When she asks questions, people are evasive, but she learns one thing: Close your curtains at night. High schooler Lily Becker has lived on Clifford her entire life, and she is sick of the island’s twisted mythology and adhering to the rules. She’s been to the mainland, and everyone is normal there, so why is Clifford so weird? Lily is determined to prove that the islanders’ beliefs are a sham. But are they? Five weeks after Willow arrives on the island, she disappears. Willow’s brother, Harper, comes to Clifford searching for his sister, and when he learns the truth–that this island is far more sinister than anyone could have imagined–he is determined to blow the whole thing open. If he can get out alive….

This sounds good to me because of the remote island, missing person, trapped-in-a-cult storyline

PRE-ORDER HERE

Upcoming Horror Dec. 13-Jan. 31st

A few more titles releasing at the end of 2022 and then we’re kicking it into high gear as we enter into January 2023 with some fresh, hot horror from some of the genre’s hottest stars, rising talent, and brand-new debuts. I’ve collected a few of them here and will provide a brief synopsis, a link to buy, and why the book appeals to me. – Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 14 by Ellen Datlow– From Ellen Datlow (“the venerable queen of horror anthologies” (New York Times) comes a new entry in the series that has brought you stories from Stephen King and Neil Gaiman comes thrilling stories, the best horror stories available.

What’s appealing? This book has stories from tons of talented horror writers. Most names I recognize and the ones I don’t will be worth checking out because Ellen knows her shit. An important release every year.


All the Prospect Around Us by C. S. Humble– Book Two in the Black Wells series. A mysterious symbol seen on the sign of a homeless panhandler leads two young men down into the darkest secrets of Black Wells, Colorado, and toward a harrowing, supernatural event that will threaten the life of one and the soul of the other.

What’s appealing? The Black Wells series is my favorite horror series since The Dark Tower. Read, All These Subtle Deceits and then head into Book 2 for more “horror with heart”.


The Hands of Onan by Chris DiLeo– Michael Stiffe has an addiction. Not alcohol. Not drugs. Masturbation. It ruined his marriage and has made it impossible for him to write the follow-up to his literary debut. But his personal problem has also put his friend in terrible danger.

Elizabeth Delrose’s husband, Drew, has abandoned her and their child to join the Worshippers of Onan, a cult of self-pleasure. She believes Drew’s disappearance is Mike’s fault and is determined to make him find her husband and bring him back. This will not be easy—the cult is shrouded in secrecy.

Mike will have to risk his safety, sanity, and even his life, confronting his personal demons, the traumas behind his onanistic addiction, and the murderous threat of fanatical worshippers who will do anything for their god.

Your friend’s gone, Mike is warned. You go after him, you might be gone, too.

What’s appealing? I’ve read Chris DiLeo’s work before (Dead End) and I have been eager to read more.


Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt- Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless is a dark, unflinching haunted house story that confronts both supernatural and real-world horrors through the lens of the modern-day trans experience.

“A triumph of transgressive queer horror.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“Easily one of the strongest horror debuts in recent memory.” –Booklist, STARRED review

What’s appealing? I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book. It’s also a re-release so the buzz comes from readers who have already read and recommended this title. I saw someone tweet about it ages ago and I bookmarked it then–I’ve read the first few chapters of my ARC and I’m hooked.


The Bonny Swans by P. L. Watts When Anne O’Donnell arrives on a dock in France in 1789 with no memory of her past, she allows herself to be renamed Marguerite and taken in as governess for Mellian, the petulant daughter of the rich merchant, Donatien Marais. But the chateau holds many secrets, some of them deadly.
The Bonny Swans is a work of impressive talent. Beautifully written and morally complex, this dark historical fantasy comes blazing to life through P.L. Watts’s deep insight into the bruised hearts and yearning souls of the women at its center. A gripping mystery of trauma and desire, The Bonny Swans will carry readers away.” 
Gordon B. White, author of Rookfield 

What’s Appealing? This is the 5th book in the My Dark Library line that I curated for Cemetery Gates. P. L. Watts’s prose is absolutely beautiful. It’s absorbing and compelling. I’ve never read anything quite like it.


How to Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix- New York Times bestselling author Grady Hendrix takes on the haunted house in a thrilling new novel that explores the way your past–and your family–can haunt you like nothing else.

Like his novels The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support GroupHow to Sell a Haunted House is classic Hendrix: equal parts heartfelt and terrifying–a gripping new read from “the horror master” (USA Today)

What’s Appealing? The cover and Grady Hendrix is one of my all-time favorite authors. An Insta-Buy


Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie- From the macabre mind of a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author, this heart-pounding novel of horror and psychological suspense takes a ghost hunting reality TV crew into a world they could never have imagined.

A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, and correspondence, this is the story of Episode Thirteen–and how everything went terribly, horribly wrong. “An epistolary descent into a living nightmare . . . well-written and genuinely unsettling. Fans of paranormal documentaries, ghost-hunting shows, and found-footage horror will lose their minds over this one.” –Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award winning author of Kin “A beautiful Russian doll of a story… Episode Thirteen hooks you, creeps you out, and then it overwhelms you. It’s House of Leaves meets Haunting of Hill House, in all the best possible ways.”–Peter Clines, NYT bestselling author of The Broken Room

What’s Appealing? The synopsis, cover, and I have enjoyed everything I have read from Craig DiLouie


Head Cleaner by David James Keaton- HEAD CLEANER is a hugely original blend of thriller, science fiction, and horror that takes our love of nostalgia to task for its morbid obsessions with dead media and dead-end jobs: Clerks meets Black Mirror (with a little Groundhog Day and Russian Doll thrown in for good measure)

What’s Appealing? The synopsis and the author also wrote The Last Projector which has a similar “found media” vibe.


All Hallows by Christopher Golden– New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. 
There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road? 
All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…

What’s Appealing? I’ll read anything by Christopher Golden. The cover is badass. And it’s horror on Halloween night! Check, check, check.


The Nightmare Man by J. H. Markert– T. Kingfisher meets Cassandra Khaw in a chilling horror novel that illustrates the fine line between humanity and monstrosity.

Blackwood mansion looms, surrounded by nightmare pines, atop the hill over the small town of New Haven. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend at the ancestral home to finish writing his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. Now, on the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life.

Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder: a family butchered and bundled inside cocoons stitched from corn husks, and hung from the rafters of a barn, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, along with his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the link to the book—and the killer—before the story reaches its chilling climax.

As the series of “Scarecrow crimes” continues to mirror the book, Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect. He can’t remember much from the night he finished writing the novel, but he knows he wrote it in The Atrium, his grandfather’s forbidden room full of numbered books. Thousands of books. Books without words.

As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors buried within the pages of his book.

What’s Appealing? I love the synopsis–serial killer mystery stuff. The cover is great. I have the ARC and will be checking it out soon.


Bad Cree by Jessica Johns– In this gripping, horror-laced debut, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.
When Mackenzie wakes up with a severed crow’s head in her hands, she panics. Only moments earlier she had been fending off masses of birds in a snow-covered forest. In bed, when she blinks, the head disappears. 
Night after night, Mackenzie’s dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death: a weekend at the family’s lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too–a murder of crows stalks her every move around the city, she wakes up from a dream of drowning throwing up water, and gets threatening text messages from someone claiming to be Sabrina–Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone. 
Traveling north to her rural hometown in Alberta, she finds her family still steeped in the same grief that she ran away to Vancouver to escape. They welcome her back, but their shaky reunion only seems to intensify her dreams–and make them more dangerous. 
What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina’s death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside?

What’s Appealing? Everything. I love a good mystery with horror elements. (If you’re a Night Worm, do not buy *wink*)


Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen

“A love letter to the power of music, this thoughtful, humorous exploration of what constitutes living versus mere survival sees Chen (Light Years from Home) at the top of his game.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

Being a vampire is far from glamorous…but it can be pretty punk rock.

Everything you’ve heard about vampires is a lie. They can’t fly. No murders allowed (the community hates that). And turning into a bat? Completely ridiculous. In fact, vampire life is really just a lot of blood bags and night jobs. For Louise Chao, it’s also lonely, since she swore off family ages ago.

At least she’s gone to decades of punk rock shows. And if she can join a band of her own (while keeping her…situation under wraps), maybe she’ll finally feel like she belongs, too.

Then a long-lost teenage relative shows up at her door. Whether it’s Ian’s love of music or his bad attitude, for the first time in ages, Louise feels a connection.

But as Ian uncovers Louise’s true identity, things get dangerous–especially when he asks her for the ultimate favor. One that goes beyond just family…one that might just change everything vampires know about life and death forever.

What’s Appealing? I love the synopsis and that cover and vampires and books about music.

Check out my Bookshop.org list to buy these titles. If the books were not available on that website, the titles are direct links to where you can purchase them.

-Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

Horror Fiction Starter Kit

If you’re new to horror and you don’t know where to start, ask for this “horror starter kit” for Christmas. (Providing you have heard of Stephen King already and you know he’s the godfather. Also Dracula and Frankenstein and Shirley Jackson)
.
-N0S4A2 by Joe Hill
-My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
-The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
-Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
-The Between by Tananarive Due
-A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
-The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
-The Ritual by Adam Nevill
-Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
-Bird Box by Josh Malerman
-Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
-Books of Blood 1-3 by Clive Barker
-Seed by Ania Ahlborn
-The Hunger by Alma Katsu
-I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
..
I think this is a great start for any new horror fan. A proper beginning to your personal horror library. From here, an anthology is a great way to find authors who have a storytelling voice you enjoy. I think one of the best anthologies I’ve ever read is Hark the Herald Angels Scream. It’s perfect for this month, every story is a success and all of the authors have books that I would recommend. Check it out!

Here’s my review:

Christmas is antithetical to horror. It’s the season of good cheer, merriment, friends & family, and generosity. We even have this spokesperson for Christmas called Santa Claus who sneaks into homes, eating cookies, drinking milk, and leaving presents–he’s jolly and kindly.
Or–he’s ripping his good-natured face off and revealing the insidious creature that *really* enters your holiday home in the middle of the night! (that cover!!!)
This Christmas-themed anthology edited by Christopher Golden (I’m a fan of his anthologies) has some of the best names in the industry:
including Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Michael Koryta, Sarah Pinborough, and many more.
Sidenote: I will buy any anthology with a Scott Smith contribution because The Ruins and A Simple Plan are just not enough. MORE Scott Smith!
I was so pleasantly impressed with this collection. Usually, anthologies are a mixed bag ranging from a total dud, to just OK with a few standouts.
This is an exception. Almost all of the stories are well above 3 stars with several 4 and 5-star standouts. My favorites were:
Absinthe & Angles by Kelley Armstrong
Christmas in Barcelona by Scott Smith (that ending!)
Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Not Just for Christmas by Sara Lotz (animal lovers will dig this)
Tenants by Josh Malerman
It’s a Wonderful Knife by Christopher Golden
Yankee Swap by John McIlveen
and
The Hangman’s Bride by Sarah Pinborough
A substantial collection. I will for sure cherry-pick through this anthology every Christmas and re-read some of my favorites because it really put me in the perfect mood! I can’t recommend this one enough.

Sadie Hartmann

December 2022

The Horror Category for the Goodreads Choice Awards

The Goodreads Choice Awards are live for voting: CLICK HERE

“The choice is yours. Vote for the best books of the year in the 14th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards, the only major book awards decided by readers.”

I haven’t had the chance to read many of the books on the list (I don’t think that many other people have either. Some of the nominations have only been out for a short time) Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison is a fairly new release.

I loved The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon and The Fervor by Alma Katsu. The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas might be one of the best books I’ve read all year. The Sundial by Catriona Ward had a few issues, but it was pretty entertaining.

House of Hunger is also a fairly new release and I have not read that yet.

The only book I read in the picture above is What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher and I loved it. Here’s my review:

We sent this book out with signed bookplates for Night Worms but I saved it for my Halloween read. This book is a reimagined telling of The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe (which I’m going to re-read right now). 
The novella length lends itself perfectly to sustaining optimum atmosphere and tension. Kingfisher is skilled at Gothic storytelling—I love the dark humor, sharp sarcasm and wit. Alex Easton is a new favorite protagonist. Loved, loved, loved my time in this tale on Halloween eve and Halloween day 🎃 perfection! 

On this panel, I read White Horse by Erika T. Wurth and Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin. You can read my review at GrimDark Magazine HERE

White Horse slightly edges out Manhunt because of its wider appeal to a general audience that enjoys a good supernatural thriller while Manhunt is a violent, apocalyptic horror story that your average reader likely won’t pick up at the bookstore

Make sure to cast your vote in round one and then continue to vote in future rounds until the winner is announced! I think this is a close race but I’m guessing White Horse or The Hacienda will take the category.

-Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

Western Adventure Horror Recommendations

When I think of the Western section at a used bookstore, I think of tired, roughed-up, pocket-sized paperbacks that have gone out of favor with modern readers.
Credit: HA.com

These books have great, pulpy, retro covers but I don’t think many readers are clamoring to read the stories. I think there are some niche collectors who likely still love this genre and would love to argue this matter with me, but for the sake of this blog post, I’m going to move on to my point. Which is:

Modern Western Adventure Horror has something to offer today’s readers. Here are some books you should add to your READ, PRE-ORDER, and BUY LISTS.

THE THICKET by Joe R. Lansdale (quintessential reading for this genre)

In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me – – the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called “as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm — or Mark Twain” (New York Times Book Review)


WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN by John Boden

This a rare opportunity for readers to fall in love with unlikely heroes engaging in an epic battle against the most formidable enemies you’ve ever read; both human and cosmic. I promise that once you start reading Boden’s work, you’ll become a junkie for it; craving his unique brand of horror that no other author can deliver”. – Sadie Hartmann (full Goodreads review)


Upcoming Adventure/Western/Horror series from C. S. Humble

These books will be coming out in 2023 from Cemetery Dance

THE MASSACRE AT YELLOW HILL

A RED WINTER IN THE WEST

THE LIGHT OF A BLACK STAR

Here is a snippet from my thoughts after reading Book 1

“Horror fans waiting for me to talk about the threat of evil…
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
You’re not ready. I wasn’t ready. I was utterly blindsided by the epic scope of madness simmering just below the surface. There are hints in the beginning, so pay close attention. You will meet a terrifying character in Big Spring (I hope we see more of Sigurd) and then later, Humble is going to fucking slay you with an intricately detailed, cosmic mythos and a secret occult society. 
That’s all I’m going to say about that but I know those words are enough for fans to get stirred up. I have dropped my entire TBR in order to binge this first book and now I’m moving on to book two. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Humble’s horror short story collection, MINOTAUR, and a still-to-be-released novel (more on that soon but it’s the book that turned my head). C. S. Humble is a name horror fans will be seeing all the time from me–so it’s best to just get in with me now. Especially if you like weird Western horror. This author is one to watch. Trust me.”


RED STATION by Kenzie Jennings (A Splatter Western)

My review from Goodreads:

Kenzie Jennings has a legit flare for cinematic storytelling. I could see the story play out in my mind. The character development and authentic dialog made for easy investment right up front. A group of weary travelers is offered a hot meal and the promise of a comfortable place to sleep for the night. Gracious to have rest on their long journey, they accept.
The intensifying dread and suspense are delicious.
Much like a well-paced horror movie, Jennings offers her audience little hints as to what’s coming. It’s so alluring. By the time the climax sounds off and chaos is in full swing, there is no way to put this book down. Some writers have a difficult time writing action sequences and the violence becomes muddy and hard to follow. What impressed me most about this book are the vivid, detailed, and colorful descriptions of all the nuanced movements so that the action is playing out with crystal-clear pictures.
I can’t stress how cinematic my experience was.
My favorite character, the woman in the red dress, Clyde Northway, emerged as a new, all-time favorite literary badass. I fucking love her and I want more of her, now. Jennings assigns this woman an amazing backstory–just enough to entice readers and leave them longing for a prequel or a sequel or both (PLEASE).
I feel like I must take this opportunity to express how exciting this Splatter Western series can be in the hands of capable writers. I’m sure there is an audience for Horror Westerns that skimp on story and character in order to give the spotlight to the violence but for me, I want some meat on my bones. I want something to sink my teeth into and let my heart get fully invested so that when horrible things happen, I feel it hard in my guts. I want flesh and blood characters that feel real so that every cut, every stab, all the torture is meaningful. I want to cheer for the good guys (and the baddies). I want justice and revenge. 
I need to feel my fucking feelings.
If a writer’s definition of “Splatterpunk” is just the splatter and none of the punk, it will always fall short for this reader.
As for RED STATION, this is the gold standard by which all is measured.


PARADISE SKY by Joe R. Lansdale

“My favorite aspect of Lansdale’s storytelling is authenticity. Everything feels so real because each character has their own distinct voice, carefully added details provide depth, the dialog is colorful and HILARIOUS, and the setting is vivid. My reading experience was immersive–I felt it all: Injustice, the kindness of strangers, grief, fear, love, rage…all the things that happened to Nat Love happened to me too. “


THE SURVIVAL OF MARGARET THOMAS by Del Howison

Coming Spring 2023 from Pandi Press

In this action packed debut adventure novel, Margaret “Peggy” Thomas’ peaceful life is turned upside down after the murder of the local sheriff, her husband, James. Author Del Howison has crafted a dark, nuanced tale about justice, found family, and the choices we make in the throes of desperation when we are faced with nothing to lose. The Survival of Margaret Thomas transcends genre into a tale of hope, heart, and revenge.


Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

Happy Birthday Joe R. Lansdale

Happy Birthday to Joe R. Lansdale. To celebrate, I’ve gathered my reviews of a few favorite Lansdale titles. We start with the first one I read,

THE BOTTOMS
I am in utter and complete awe of Lansdale’s storytelling ability. THE BOTTOMS takes place in East Texas, just after the devastating effect of the Depression in the 1930s. This was a difficult time for all Americans but nobody felt the effects harder than African Americans-especially in the deep South. KKK led lynchings and beatings were rampant.
Our story zeros in on a family living by a river-an area known as THE BOTTOMS. The father, Jacob (I love this man) is the local constable. He’s married to a strong, beautiful woman and they have two children, Harry who is like 12 or 13 and Tom (Thomasina) who is just a bit younger. The narrator is Harry and he’s telling a tale in flashback from a nursing home. I love Harry so much I could cry right now trying to explain how special he is. Lansdale wrote the most endearing and beautiful relationship between a father and son. It was so refreshing. I have read a lot of books lately where the father figure is an old, abusive, hypocritical drunk so it was such a sweet reading experience to hear Harry talk about his dad like the hero he was. In a time when segregation and racial prejudice is at an apex, Jacob-Henry’s father-teaches his family to treat people fairly and he doesn’t do this in a self-righteous preachy way, but he leads by example. This reminded me of what I loved about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. So if you enjoyed that book, you’d love this one (trust me).
Lansdale paints small-town life with exquisite and intimate details. The townies are bright and colorful. I especially loved Miss Maggie and the way she tells stories to young Harry. But this isn’t a “feel-good story” of good triumphing over evil all the time–this town is saturated in hate for African Americans and to add fuel to the flames, there’s someone out there murdering prostitutes. Our sweet kiddos, Tom and Harry stumble upon one of the first bodies and so dad, Jacob takes up an investigation. To tell you anymore would risk accidentally exposing some exciting discoveries so the rest of this review is just me urging everyone to read this book. Seriously. It’s everything you would ever want. Page-turning action, rich storytelling, dimensional characters you immediately fall in love with (Mose! Miss Maggie! Tom! Jacob! The dog, Toby! Grandma!) and a murder mystery that gets more and more intense as the story goes on. 
This book makes you wince, laugh, cry, scream out in agony, surprise, anger, shock, and then reading the last bit, you cling to every word–sad that it’s over. I’m so sad it’s over!! I will be reading this again and it will forever make every list I make of favorite coming of age stories, best-of lists and all-time favorites. I’m a sold-out Lansdale fan now. GIVE ME MORE!

EDGE OF DARK WATER

After reading THE BOTTOMS by Joe R. Lansdale, I had a sneaking suspicion he was using his stories to break my heart and after just finishing EDGE OF DARK WATER, this suspicion has been confirmed. Joe R. Lansdale is indeed trying to break my heart.
He’s coming after my soul.
He’s weaseling into my life and stealing retail space on my bookshelf.
Proof:
The thing is, I have fully surrendered. I’m allowing it. Game on. 

EDGE OF DARK WATER is the story of some kids growing up as best they can in rural Texas. The main character, Sue Ellen and her best friend Terry are out fishing with her father and uncle one day when they make a startling discovery that will change the direction of all their lives.
Sue Ellen and Terry immediately tell their friend Jinx and the three of them decide they need to get out of their small town before they end up beaten down and used up just like everyone else around them. Unfortunately, because of what they know and what they’ve seen–they will be followed on their perilous journey to California.

So I added three new child protagonists to my reader’s heart.
The quickest way to get me to fall in love is to give me some sassy-mouthed, take-no-shit, child protagonists in some kind of danger. My mom’s heart can’t help but fully invest in their story.
EDGE OF DARK WATER is no exception. This is coming of age at its finest. It doesn’t get better than this-sharing space with Lansdale’s THE BOTTOMS, King’s IT, and McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE. Comparisons to HUCKLEBERRY FINN and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD are not far off-there are strong themes of poverty, classism, racism, and the sad truth of how some children are just unwanted burdens or collateral damage.
Infused into the storyline are laugh-out-loud moments that I have come to expect from Lansdale. The characters are colorful, memorable, and full of life – the things that come out of their mouths sometimes are hysterical. 
In contrast, one of the characters, Skunk, is one of the scariest motherfuckers I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. My heart raced every time he made an appearance. 
I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. It made my heart sing with love for these children, fall down into my stomach with fear, and then come to a state of full satisfaction at the end. Lansdale is just the goddamn best.

FREEZER BURN

One of those “can’t put down” one-sitting reads. No words wasted. This is a little like the black-and-white movie FREAKS combined with a few signature details from EAST OF EDEN. The protagonist, Bill, is not a good person-he’s ignorant and self-centered so being in his head as he narrates is sad, offensive, and frustrating but there are a few characters that balance that ugliness out. I will never forget this story. All the atmosphere of a vintagey freak show carnival, Lansdale’s character development and storytelling style (laugh-out-loud moments and some gross, cringe-worthy moments), and non-stop action/drama. It’s basically everything I’ve ever wanted from my reading experience. 

MOON LAKE

Review originally published at Tor Nightfire:
https://tornightfire.com/moon-lake-is…
Moon Lake by Joe Lansdale is this year’s summer read. I hesitate to mention that I burned through several chapters in my backyard hammock because it sounds cliche, but I really did and it was magical. 

Lansdale’s storytelling voice feels like coming home and sleeping in your own bed. It’s welcoming, comfortable, and familiar. The main character, Daniel Russell, captures readers’ hearts immediately at age thirteen when the story begins. A sudden and life-threatening trauma leaves Daniel an orphan, and he is temporarily placed with an African American family who takes him in as though he were their own kin. 

The small town of Long Lincoln, Texas, in the late sixties, does not look favorably upon a young white boy assimilating so well into the home of a Black family, no matter how well they’re taking care of his needs or how happy he seems to be there. Lansdale does an excellent job exploring social issues while preserving Daniel’s naiveté as he comes of age.

I am a longtime fan of what I like to call ‘horror with heart’. Raised on the character-driven stories of Stephen King, I have developed a hunger for fictional people I can emotionally invest in. Horror is at its best when the lives of characters you care about are at risk. In Moon Lake, readers watch Daniel process grief, loss, first love, loneliness, betrayal, abandonment, and fear. We go through it with him. His struggle becomes our struggle. Ultimately, we want nothing more than to see Daniel get closure and find a community of people that will love him so that he can find some sense of belonging.

These basic human needs are at the core of every Lansdale story I’ve read. 

Moon Lake transitions into a Southern Gothic crime noir when grown Daniel returns to Long Lincoln after he gets a call from the local sheriff with some new information about his childhood trauma. Like any small-town horror or crime noir drama, once someone starts digging around in the past, peeling back layers and uncovering secrets, the townsfolk find out and put up their defenses. The town of Long Lincoln is a major character in itself. Just like Lansdale’s famous fictional town of LaBorde, Texas, from the Hap & Leonard series, Long Lincoln is rife with ingrown systemic racism and has a long history of corruption in local government. The townies don’t take too kindly to anyone stirring up trouble or asking too many questions.

Daniel Russell teams up with some vibrant characters to assist in his urgent quest to solve a decades-old mystery, both for his own sake and for the sake of everyone else involved. There is so much to love about this story–I especially enjoy Lansdale’s sense of humor that helps lend a certain authenticity to the narrative. Life is never serious one hundred percent of the time, and horror doesn’t have to take itself so seriously. Characters, even the ones you fall in love with as a reader, do not have to be morally pure or make the best decisions–they can be flawed and a little fucked up, because honestly, if they’re not, who can relate?

It’s easy to single out specific characters and assign motives and theories to their involvement in Daniel’s mystery. At the end of every chapter, Lansdale tempts readers to keep investing and stay hungry and curious. Moon Lake seduces its audience into a smoldering, tantalizing mystery peppered with humor and heart. Don’t miss it!

I also recommend The Thicket, The Hap & Leonard Series, Paradise Sky, and probably everything this man writes. Happy Birthday, Joe!

-Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

How to Love a Book in 5 Easy Steps

How to Love a Book in 5 Easy Steps

by Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

First, let me start off by saying that you can love a book in a totally secret way by storing your experience in your reader’s heart and never telling another living soul about it because it’s your treasure and you don’t have to share it. But if you want to love a book openly, here are 5 easy steps.

  1. Review it. Take a few minutes to share your unique reading experience online. Goodreads, Amazon, social media, anywhere you feel comfortable. Word-of-mouth advertising is like gold for your favorite book.
  2. Promote it. This is different than reviewing it. You can take photos of it and post them on Instagram. You can add it to a list of other books and share it on TikTok. You can recommend it to people on Twitter. Just talking about it, mentioning it, and photographing it helps the book be seen.
  3. Request it. This one requires a little extra effort on your part. You can request the book at your local library and bookstores. You can likely do both of them online but if you can’t, this is your new excuse to find yourself in a place where books might find their way into your home.
  4. Book Club. This one is fun. If you really love a book and want others to read it, start a book club! You can do it online or in person. Just invite family and friends to join your club and read it with them. Since you’ve already read it, you know what questions to ask each check-in time and how to lead the discussion when everyone is finished. Fun!
  5. Buy it. You can add your new favorite book to your list of good gifts to buy for friends and family on their birthdays or Christmas. Some people really don’t like books as gifts so you should really reconsider your relationship with them.

Those are some ways you can love your books. Have you loved one today?

Book Recommendations for Indigenous Peoples Day

WHITE HORSE by Erika T. Wurth

“This ghost story is a perfect example of new wave horror that will also satisfy fans of classic Stephen King.” —Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic

Erika T. Wurth’s White Horse is a gritty, vibrant debut novel about an Indigenous woman who must face her past when she discovers a bracelet haunted by her mother’s spirit.

Some people are haunted in more ways than one…

Kari James, Urban Native, is a fan of heavy metal, ripped jeans, Stephen King novels, and dive bars. She spends most of her time at her favorite spot in Denver, a bar called White Horse. There, she tries her best to ignore her past and the questions surrounding her mother who abandoned her when she was just two years old.

But soon after her cousin Debby brings her a traditional bracelet that once belonged to Kari’s mother, Kari starts seeing disturbing visions of her mother and a mysterious creature. When the visions refuse to go away, Kari must uncover what really happened to her mother all those years ago. Her father, permanently disabled from a car crash, can’t help her. Her Auntie Squeaker seems to know something but isn’t eager to give it all up at once. Debby’s anxious to help, but her controlling husband keeps getting in the way. 

Kari’s journey toward a truth long denied by both her family and law enforcement forces her to confront her dysfunctional relationships, thoughts about a friend she lost in childhood, and her desire for the one thing she’s always wanted but could never have…

WHITE HORSE by Erika T. Wurth-


NIGHT OF THE LIVING REZ by Morgan Talty

New York TimesTIME, The Boston GlobeOrion, Vulture, Boston.com, Daily Beast, Cosmopolitan,BuzzFeed, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Bustle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lit Hub, Chicago Review of Books, Book Riot, Do South, WBUR, WBEZ, and Debutiful Best Book of Summer
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.

In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. 

A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.


THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From USA TODAY bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a “masterpiece” (Locus Magazine) of a novel about revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition. Labeled “one of 2020’s buzziest horror novels” (Entertainment Weekly), this is a remarkable horror story that “will give you nightmares—the good kind of course” (BuzzFeed).

From New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a novel that is equal parts psychological horror and cutting social commentary on identity politics and the American Indian experience. Fans of Jordan Peele and Tommy Orange will love this story as it follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.


WINTER COUNTS by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. 

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.


EVIL WHISPERS by Owl Goingback

Robert and Janet Patterson and their young daughter, Krissy, went looking for the perfect getaway vacation spot. They found it in a backwoods Florida town. Far away from civilization. Quiet and peaceful. And terribly isolated.

Robert and Janet should have listened to the local legends. They should have heeded the warnings about the black water lagoons. And they should have listened to their daughter when she told them about the whispers in the woods. Because now, it’s too late. Krissy’s disappeared, and whatever took their little girl is coming back for more….


EARTHDIVERS by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones—New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw—makes his ongoing comics debut with Earthdivers! The year is 2112, and it’s the apocalypse exactly as expected: rivers receding, oceans rising, civilization crumbling. Humanity has given up hope, except for a group of outcast Indigenous survivors who have discovered a time travel portal in a cave in the middle of the desert and figured out where the world took a sharp turn for the worst: America. Convinced that the only way to save the world is to rewrite its past, they send one of their own on a bloody, one-way mission back to 1492 to kill Christopher Columbus before he reaches the so-called New World. But taking down an icon is no easy task, and his actions could prove devastating for his friends in the future. Join Stephen Graham Jones and artist Davide Gianfelice for Earthdivers #1, the beginning of an unforgettable ongoing historical/sci-fi slasher!


Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

Full Moon Book Recommendations

Alma Katsu, the visionary author of The FervorThe Hunger, and The Deep, brings readers a terrifying short story about monsters among men—and the thin lines that divide them.

Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.

But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.

With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?

Or has he been a monster all along?

Sadie’s Review:

“I just read this last night and I loved it! It’s available on Kindle Unlimited and less than $2 gets you into the Audible edition. In classic Alma Katsu tradition this is historical, horror fiction richly detailed and grounded in its place in time. In this case, World War II.
In just a short amount of time, Alma establishes an immersive setting, transporting readers to war-torn Germany. Our protagonist, Uwe, escaped the battlefield caring for his mother but the battle comes right to his door.
Uwe finds himself recruited by rogue extremists who will not go down without a fight. More beasts than men.
Alma Katsu tells the absolute perfect human monster story…
…a cautionary tale playing on the timeless theme of the proverbial saying absolute power corrupts absolutely.
As a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes. The depravity of man.”

SUCH SHARP TEETH by Rachel HarrisonA young woman in need of a transformation finds herself in touch with the animal inside in this gripping, incisive novel from the author of Cackle and The Return.

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown, even if it is temporary. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant, estranged from the baby’s father, and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.
 
Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver—and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else—something else, maybe even a monster. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside of her the key to acceptance?
 
This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage, and vulnerability.

Sadie’s Thoughts: I can’t wait to read this! You might want to check out the Night Worms theme reveal on Instagram today!

THE BEAST IN AISLE 34 by Darrin DoyleSandy Kurtz has problems. He’s got a baby on the way, his wife doesn’t love him, and he’s struggling to find passion or purpose at his big-box retail job. And, once a month, he turns into a werewolf.


In Darrin Doyle’s deft hands, Sandy’s story is a tall tale for our times, an absurd and darkly comedic take on toxic masculinity, small-town America, and the terror of not knowing who you are—or who you’re capable of becoming.


Join us on the trip. Feel the power of the full moon as it turns you into a carnivore capable of ruling the wilds of rural Michigan. Taste the rich blood of a pulsing animal heart; feel it cascade down your face as you transform into what you always wanted to be. Enter…the wolf.

Sadie’s Review:

“A delicious page-turning drama that will keep readers wondering what will come of The Beast in Aisle 34. Fans of John Landis’s American Werewolf in London and Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones will enjoy this original, witty character study wrapped in the blood-soaked pages of a horror novel. “


Older Titles:

THE WOLF’S HOUR by Robert McCammon– Master spy, Nazi hunter—and werewolf on the prowl—in occupied Paris: A classic of dark fantasy from a Bram Stoker Award—winning author.

Allied Intelligence has been warned: A Nazi strategy designed to thwart the D-Day invasion is underway. A Russian émigré turned operative for the British Secret Service, Michael Gallatin has been brought out of retirement as a personal courier. His mission: Parachute into Nazi-occupied France, search out the informant under close watch by the Gestapo and recover the vital information necessary to subvert the mysterious Nazi plan called Iron Fist.
 
Fearlessly devoted to the challenge, Gallatin is the one agent uniquely qualified to meet it—he’s a werewolf.
 
Now, as shifting as the shadows on the dangerous streets of Paris, a master spy is on the scent of unimaginable evil. But with the Normandy landings only hours away, it’s going to be a race against time. For Gallatin, caught in the dark heart of the Third Reich’s twisted death machine, there is only one way to succeed. He must unleash his own internal demons and redefine the meaning of the horror of war.

THE CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF by Stephen KingThe classic masterpiece by #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King—illustrated by the legendary artist Bernie Wrightson!

Terror began in January—by the light of the full moon…

The first scream came from the snowbound railwayman who felt the werewolf’s fangs ripping at his throat. The next month there was a scream of ecstatic agony from the woman attacked in her cozy bedroom. Now scenes of unbelievable horror unfold each time the full moon shines on the isolated Maine town of Tarker’s Mills. No one knows who will be attacked next. But one thing is sure. When the full moon rises, a paralyzing fear sweeps through Tarker’s Mills. For snarls that sound like human words can be heard whining through the wind. And all around are the footprints of a monster whose hunger cannot be sated…

SHAPESHIFTER J. F. Gonzales-Forced by a wealthy, powerful man to do his bidding, Mark Wiseman, who does not want his secret to get out, must use his curse to kill, but when he begins to lose control over the wolf within him, things take a terrifying turn. Original.

Sadie Hartmann

“Mother Horror”

Spooky Season Thrillers

Here are my 6 picks for thrillers that cross into horror and are perfect, page-turning reads for the spooky season starting now!


INSOMNIA by Sarah Pinborogh-

Summary: In this twisty, mind-bending thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes, Emma Averell worries that her crippling insomnia is a sign that she’s slowly going insane—like the mother she’s worked so hard to leave in her past.

My Thoughts: A race to the finish. This is one of the most stressful reading experiences! The pressure and anxiety building on the protagonist is directly transferred to the reader.


LITTLE SECRETS by Jennifer Hillier-

Summary: Overwhelmed by tragedy, a woman desperately tries to save her marriage in award-winning author Jennifer Hillier’s Little Secrets, a riveting novel of psychological suspense. 

My Thoughts: This one is so freakin’ good. Hillier does a great job developing characters and a strong sense of what they look like and how they interact with each other. The title, LITTLE SECRETS is perfect because it speaks to all the little “white lies” people tell themselves and others.
.
Marin, the main protagonist, felt natural to me and as soon as she was described as looking like Selma Hayek, that’s who she became in my head. In fact, I had movie stars picked out for all the characters. The storyline is SO FUCKING COMPELLING.


JACKAL by Erin E. Adams

Summary: A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last. . . .

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the setup as Liz gets reacquainted with old friends and makes new ones. Once the conflict is introduced, in classic thriller form, everyone becomes a suspect and you can’t help formulating theories as to what’s happening. But this one will surprise you. Erin E. Adams definitely goes in an unexpected direction. I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the big reveals, but I enjoyed the journey to get there. I will read more by this author for sure. 


NUMBER ONE FAN by Meg Elison

Summary: Terrifying and timely, set against the backdrop of convention culture and the MeToo reckoning, Number One Fan unflinchingly examines the tension between creator and work, fandom and source material, and the rage of fans who feel they own fiction.

My Thoughts: Perfect for modern horror/thriller fans this story goes off the rails into pretty dark territory. A female author is captured by an obsessive fan and imprisoned in his basement. The tension and anxiety are off the charts!


MOTHERTHING by Ainslie Hogarth

Summary: A darkly funny domestic horror novel about a woman who must take drastic measures to save her husband and herself from the vengeful ghost of her mother-in-law.

My Thoughts: I found Ainslie Hogarth’s storytelling voice compatible and comfortable. I slipped into my favorite “reading zone” where I am at peak levels of entertainment-the words on the page translating those visuals into my mind like a little movie.
And the humor! My goodness, this book is hilarious. Plenty of snarky, razor-sharp wit, and a way of using humor to diffuse hurt feelings.
Quirky, unexpected, and charming, Motherthing uses all the right ingredients combined in equal measure to ensure a delicious experience. 


GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan

Summary: Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

My Thoughts: This story is unhinged chaos! Readers will never guess how far these characters will go. The escalation, tension, and intensifying dread will have you on the edge of your seat!

Sadie Hartmann

“Mother Horror”