Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month: Novel & Novella Spotlight

Continuing our celebration of Black History Month, today we’ve put together a handful of our favorite novels & novellas by Black women writing in the horror genre. See what the team has to say about these fantastic reads below, and then add them to your TBR lists if you haven’t already gotten to ’em!

Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess

The summer of 1989 brought terror to the town of Shadows Creek, Florida in the form of a massacre at the local carnival, Cirque Berserk. One fateful night, a group of teens killed a dozen people then disappeared into thin air. No one knows why they did it, where they went, or even how many of them there were, but legend has it they still roam the abandoned carnival, looking for blood to spill.

Thirty years later, best friends, Sam and Rochelle, are in the midst of a boring senior trip when they learn about the infamous Cirque Berserk. Seeking one last adventure, they and their friends journey to the nearby Shadows Creek to see if the urban legends about Cirque Berserk are true. But waiting for them beyond the carnival gates is a night of brutality, bloodshed, and betrayal. Will they make they it out alive, or will the carnival’s past demons extinguish their futures?

Laurie says: Cirque Berserk starts right off with murderous mayhem and doesn’t come up for breath until the story ends. If you want a fun slasher set to an 80s soundtrack, you need this book in your life.”

Emily says: Cirque Berserk is a very fun slasher, and it’s exactly what I was hoping for.”

Alex says: “I had a great time from the first page through the end… and I still want more! Cirque Berserk is just my kind of book: slasher horror! I will always love the slasher sub-genre. But this is not your average or cookie-cutter slasher. Guess creates her own new formula and she executes it perfectly.”

Cassie says: “THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! I love classic horror slasher films, and this book had such similar vibes that it’s a near crime for it to not have already been adapted to the screen.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

photo by Tracy

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

Flowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Rosemary’s Baby by way of Octavia E. Butler.

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine. Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.

Tracy says: Flowers for the Sea showcases the skillset and magic that Zin E. Rocklyn is capable of bringing to the written word. It is not just another book to read, but an experience that must not be missed.”

Laurie says: Flowers for the Sea is a gorgeously told tale of rage, isolation, and all the unearthly hells that the sea and sky have up for offer in this bleak universe created by author Zin E. Rocklyn. The sea is angry, the sky is angry but most of all the heroine of this tale is angry. And justifiably so.”

Heather says: “The story is fast paced and it ends on such a high note and you are going to feel deeply.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

Invisible Chains by Michelle Renee Lane

photo by Cassie

Jacqueline is a young Creole slave in antebellum New Orleans. An unusual stranger who has haunted her dreams since childhood comes to stay as a guest in her master’s house. Soon after his arrival, members of the household die mysteriously, and Jacqueline is suspected of murder. Despite her fear of the stranger, Jacqueline befriends him and he helps her escape. While running from the slave catchers, they meet conjurers, a loup-garou, and a traveling circus of supernatural freaks. She relies on ancestral magic to guide her and finds strength to conquer her fears on her journey.

Tracy says: “If historical, southern, horror-ish fiction is your jam, you’ll love this.”

Cassie says: Invisible Chains is, at times, both brutal and beautiful–I loved the writing, but I will warn that you should check some content warnings beforehand because it gets intense.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Get Out meets The Stepford Wives in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

Janelle says: “Obsessed with this book!”

Audra says: “This is an incisive and insightful socially aware horror story. Harris offers a chilling and realistic tale of prejudice and anti-Blackness in the modern workplace. I can see Jordan Peele adapting this one for the big screen!”

Goodreads | Bookshop

The Good House by Tananarive Due

The Good House is the critically acclaimed story of supernatural suspense, as a woman searches for the inherited power that can save her hometown from evil forces.

The home that belonged to Angela Toussaint’s late grandmother is so beloved that the townspeople in Sacajawea, Washington call it the Good House. But that all changes one summer when an unexpected tragedy takes place behind its closed doors, and the Toussaint’s family history–and future–is dramatically transformed.

Angela has not returned to the Good House since her son, Corey, died there two years ago. But now, Angela is finally ready to return to her hometown and go beyond the grave to unearth the truth about Corey’s death. Could it be related to a terrifying entity Angela’s grandmother battled seven decades ago? And what about the other senseless calamities that Sacajawea has seen in recent years? Has Angela’s grandmother, an African American woman reputed to have powers, put a curse on the entire community?

A thrilling exploration of secrets, lies, and divine inspiration, The Good House will haunt readers long after its chilling conclusion.

Emily says:The Good House is my second read by Tananarive Due, and I absolutely love her books. This is a solid haunted house book, and I highly recommend it if you need a good creepy summer read.”

Tracy says: “As far as craft goes, Due is a masterful storyteller. She blends atmosphere, dialogue, and pace in such a way that a 400+ page paperback feels too short. Not because it didn’t end well, but because as a reader I just wanted to keep living in this world.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

An alien artifact turns a young girl into Death’s adopted daughter in Remote Control, a thrilling sci-fi tale of community and female empowerment from Nebula and Hugo Award-winner Nnedi Okorafor

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

Audra says: “Though this is more of a sci-fi read, I would definitely put it in the horror-adjacent category. It also has elements of folklore and is set in the not-too-distant future.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

Heather says: “This book was beautiful and well written. I spent a lot of my time yelling out loud about the injustice against the main character and how I wanted everyone to be rightfully punished.”

Alex says: “MSTSK has comedic horror elements along with those of dark fiction and thriller books. Satire and social commentary are definitely planted throughout the book – they are not always in your face, but I bet that most readers will see some of these subtle bombs that Braithwaite drops.”

Emily says: “I would label this one a horror comedy. Oyinkan Braithwaite is one to watch! This story is amusing, but still with a lot of depth, and I highly recommend picking it up.”

Laurie says: “{This book is] mainly a story about familial bonds and the lasting effects of childhood trauma with a bit of sociopathy thrown in there. I enjoyed every fascinating word of this complicated relationship and highly recommend it to every weirdo like me who enjoys similar things.”

Goodreads | Bookshop


Cassie is one of our core team members, and maintains our site interviews with authors and creating monthly themed content.

Find her online at her blog, Twitter as @ctrlaltcassie, or over at her Etsy store, where she sells clothing, coloring & activity books, bookmarks, art prints, DIY craft kits, & more!

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