Friday, August 25, 2023

First Half of the Year Favorites

Today we are sharing a (late) mid-year check-in with our favorite horror novels that we read in the first half of the year!


We Don't Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

She is the reason no one goes in the water. And she will make them pay. A chilling new novel for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson, Lamar Giles, and Ryan Douglass

From the author of BURN DOWN, RISE UP comes a chilling novel told through alternating voices that follows two cousins as they unravel their town’s sinister past, their family’s complicated history, and the terrifying spirit that holds their future captive.

Bronwyn is only supposed to be in rural Hillwoods for a year. Her grandmother is in hospice, and her father needs to get her affairs in order. And they're all meant to make some final memories together.

Except Bronwyn is miserable. Her grandmother is dying, everyone is standoffish, and she can't even go swimming. All she hears are warnings about going in the water, despite a gorgeous lake. And a pool at the abandoned rec center. And another in the high school basement.

Anais tries her hardest to protect Bronwyn from the shadows of Hillwoods. She follows her own rituals to avoid any unnecessary attention—and if she can just get Bronwyn to stop asking questions, she can protect her too. The less Bronwyn pays attention to Hillwoods, the less Hillwoods will pay attention to Bronwyn. She doesn't get that the lore is, well, truth. History. Pain. The living aren't the only ones who seek retribution when they're wronged. But when Bronwyn does more exploring than she should, they are both in for danger they couldn't expect.

We Don't Swim Here on Amazon | We Don't Swim Here on Goodreads


Chlorine by Jade Song

In the vein of The Pisces and The Vegetarian, Chlorine is a debut novel that blurs the line between a literary coming-of-age narrative and a dark unsettling horror tale, told from an adult perspective on the trials and tribulations of growing up in a society that puts pressure on young women and their bodies... a powerful, relevant novel of immigration, sapphic longing, and fierce, defiant becoming.

Ren Yu is a swimmer. Her daily life starts and ends with the pool. Her teammates are her only friends. Her coach, her guiding light. If she swims well enough, she will be scouted, get a scholarship, go to a good school. Her parents will love her. Her coach will be kind to her. She will have a good life.

But these are human concerns. These are the concerns of those confined to land, those with legs. Ren grew up on stories of creatures of the deep, of the oceans and the rivers. Ones that called sailors to their doom. Ones that dragged them down and drowned them. Ones that feasted on their flesh. Ones of the creature that she's always longed to become: mermaid.

Ren aches to be in the water. She dreams of the scent of chlorine--the feel of it on her skin. And she will do anything she can to make a life for herself where she can be free. No matter the pain. No matter what anyone else thinks. No matter how much blood she has to spill.

Chlorine on Amazon | Chlorine on Goodreads


A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A haunting Southern Gothic from an award-winning master of suspense, A House With Good Bones explores the dark, twisted roots lurking just beneath the veneer of a perfect home and family.

"Mom seems off."

Her brother's words echo in Sam Montgomery's ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam's excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

A House with Good Bones on Amazon | A House with Good Bones on Goodreads


This World Belongs to Us edited by Mike Phillips

This World Belongs to Us is an anthology of horror stories about bugs, writ large-we're not scientists, so spiders and slugs and scorpions (oh my!) are in here too. A child pays for a thoughtless action for the rest of her life. A lothario mistreats the wrong woman. A hunter tracks a horrifying monster to the edge of reality. Space larvae learn to be human. An influencer hawks this year's most popular accessory. A prisoner in solitary makes a new friend. And more, and more. This collection will terrify you with nineteen stories about the creepy-crawlies that were here before us and will be here long after we're gone.
Featuring stories by Bram Stoker Award winner Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award nominees Paula D. Ashe, Laurel Hightower, Cynthia Pelayo, and V. Castro, plus Octavia Cade, Felix I.D. Dimaro, Jaclyn Youhana Garver, Rowan Hill, C.B. Jones, Bitter Karella, Gwen Katz, R.M. Kidd, J.A. Prentice, Bert SG, David Simmons, Yvette Tan, and Kay Vaindal as well as a major rediscovery-John B.L. Goodwin's 1946 story "The Cocoon," one of the creepiest stories ever written but out of print for more than 40 years.

This World Belongs to Us on Amazon | This World Belongs to Us on Goodreads


House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

WANTED - Bloodmaid of exceptional taste. Must have a keen proclivity for life's finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.

A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power, in this dark and enthralling gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper, seeking a bloodmaid.

Though she knows little about the far north--where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service--Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery--and at the center of it all is her.

Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She'll need to learn the rules of her new home--and fast--or its halls will soon become her grave.

House of Hunger on Amazon | House of Hunger on Goodreads

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

What We've Been Reading | August 23, 2023

We have a creepy crawly recommendation and two unique stories that you'll want to add to your reading list!

Infested by Angel Luis Colon

The Taking of Jake Livingston meets Cemetery Boys in this YA ghost story about a Puerto Rican teen’s battle with a malevolent spirit targeting his apartment building and the all-too-real horrors of gentrification.

It’s the summer before senior year, and Manny has just moved from Texas to the Bronx in New York. So, instead of hanging with his friends and making some spending money, Manny is forced to do menial tasks in his new home, a luxury condo his stepdad is managing, while stressing about starting over.

Thankfully, he meets Sasha, who is protesting the building but turns out to be really cool. And he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mr. Mueller, the building’s exterminator. Maybe life in the Bronx won’t be so bad.

Then the nightmares begin. And Manny swears he has roaches crawling under his skin. When building contractors start to go missing, Manny and Sasha come to the terrifying realization that Mr. Mueller is not who he says he is. Or rather, he is, but he died decades ago in a fire exactly where Manny’s new building is located. A fire that Mueller set.

Now, in a race against time, Manny must rescue his family from a deranged specter determined to set the Bronx ablaze once again.

Tracy's Teaser Review

"Billed as YA horror, Infested is an excellent addition to any library or personal book collection. Different layers of entertainment, mature topics, and delicious, disgusting horror will fascinate a wide age range of readers. Recommended for fans of The Fly and The Troop."

Read Tracy's entire review at Goodreads.

The Merry Dredgers by Jeremy C. Shipp

Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious "accident." Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.

Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the left, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the right, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.

Goodreads | Amazon

Teresa's Teaser Review

"Delightfully weird, yet endearing cast of characters and darkly whimsical story. "

Read Teresa's entire review at Goodreads.

Dehiscent by Ashley Deng

As the world’s climate swings rapidly between oppressively hot and freezing cold, the remnants of civilization huddle in small communities to scrape together what they can to survive.

All except the Zhu family.

Yi has lived in her ancestral house her entire life, sheltered and safe from the scarcity that plagues her community. Her family enjoys a secret life of running water, electricity, and an abundance of food.

But as Yi seeks a way to share their fortune, she learns the terrible secret of the Zhu house.

DEHISCENT is an Eco-Horror tale of a future that has practically arrived, and the humanity that lurks in the most inhuman of places.

Cover art and illustrations by Ivy Teas.

Goodreads Amazon

Laurie's Teaser Review

"Yi is a compassionate, sensitive soul growing up in a world filled with devastation and death. She fears death at every corner and her fear is justified. This sounds incredibly depressing but there are seeds of hope here too. The world needs more Yi’s in it and more weird little stories like this one."

Read Laurie's complete review at Goodreads.

Thank you for joining us today! We hope you found something to add to your tbr list. Please share your recent reads with us in the comments below.

Our Reviewers

Tracy is a contributing reviewer.  You can also find Tracy on twitter as @tracy_reads79, on Instagram as @tracy_reads79 and on Goodreads

Teresa creates the Shelf Edition posts, creates bookish lists and is a contributing reviewer at Horror Spotlight. You can find Teresa on Goodreads, and on Twitter.

Laurie is one of our Horror Spotlight Admins. Laurie creates our review posts, coordinates review requests, helps out with our Instagram/Twitter accounts, and is a contributing reviewer. You can find Laurie on her blog Bark’s Book Nonsense, on Twitter as @barksbooks, on Instagram as @barksbooks, and on Goodreads where she never shuts up about the things she's reading.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Horror Spotlight Shelf Edition: Lauren Bolger

Today on the Shelf Edition, we welcome Lauren Bolger!

Do you have any recent favorite Horror Spotlight books?

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, Conjuring the Witch by Jessica Leonard, Whisperwood by Alex Woodroe, On Good Authority by Briana Una McGuckin, and The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.

A Horror Spotlight artist I wanted to highlight too was Gabriel Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s art in the graphic novel series Locke & Key is incredible. I love how he captured the speculative elements and the expressions of the characters through their violent, terrifying, and emotional moments. Below are some pictures of his work in the original series of Locke & Key.

Which Horror Spotlight books do you currently have on your TBR?

On my TBR, I’ve got The Shoemaker’s Magician by Cynthia Pelayo, The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, Backmask by o f Cieri, The Spite House by Johnny Compton, The Stradavarius by Rae Knowles, and Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan.

Where do you find recommendations? Are there any Horror Spotlight books that have been recommended to you that you loved?

A lot of recommendations come from authors promoting them on social media, or others saying they enjoyed someone’s work. Covers are a big draw for me, too. Another two would be the She Wore Black podcast with Agatha Andrews, and Talking Scared with Neil McRobert. Their insight, excitement and curiosity about the works when interviewing authors is incredible.

Are there any upcoming Horror Spotlight releases you're excited about?

I’m dying to read Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno Garcia, Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison, and Silent Key by Laurel Hightower. Camp Damascus too, by Chuck Tingle. That’s already out but I don’t have a copy yet. 

Let’s get a little adventurous. Answer one or both: What Horror Spotlight book (or story, or movie, etc) would you like to see turned into a Muppet Movie? And/Or Who would play you in a horror movie based on your life?

The Horror movies turned into a Muppet Movie is hard, because I keep trying to think of the Muppets doing some of my favorites and my mind just can’t make that leap. But they did A Christmas Carol and that was fun, and kinda spooky in parts.

Maybe something fun with no jump scares that doesn’t take itself super seriously? Maybe Blood Diner. That one’s a very funny, gory cult film, directed by Jackie Kong. Would be cool to see some fuzzy Muppet blood! Haha. Maybe they could shoot red yarn from a potato gun or something! (Please don’t come to me for official practical effects tips)

In a Horror movie based on my life. Aubrey Plaza maybe. Or Kristen Stewart. They’re the coolest. I’m not as cool as them, but it’s Hollywood, so for a movie you get to level up with someone hot who always knows what to say to people. Partially because they have a script, but still. :P

In regards to your own work, tell our readers a little bit about what’s new and/or coming up for you.

For me, Kill Radio is my debut novel that came out this past April with Malarkey Books. A single mom, a warlock, and a fisherman have to join forces to puzzle out why a crystal radio her son found has opened a portal to Hell. Her estranged ex and some parts on or inside the radio might be the key to finding the answer, but you’ll have to read it to find out! Occult/Supernatural with Romance!

Coming up, o f Cieri, Eric Williams and I co-edited a Horror zine for Malarkey Books. This will be the second volume of that zine; Hellarkey, volume 2, which will be out in October. I’m really excited for that one. We’ve got some great stories in there! 

Where can people find you on social media and/or find your work?

The place I’m most commonly found is Twitter, where my handle is @renbolger. I’m also on Bluesky with the same handle. More details on other works can be found at

Teresa creates the Shelf Edition posts, creates bookish lists and is a contributing reviewer at Horror Spotlight. You can find Teresa on Goodreads, and on Twitter.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Horror Spotlight’s Readalong September 2023

Horror Spotlight’s Readalong September 2023

In September we will be reading Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle for the readalong in the Horror Spotlight discord. You can join the discord with this link.

A searing and earnest horror debut about the demons the queer community faces in America, the price of keeping secrets, and finding the courage to burn it all down.

They’ll scare you straight to hell.

Welcome to Neverton, Montana: home to a God-fearing community with a heart of gold.

Nestled high up in the mountains is Camp Damascus, the self-proclaimed “most effective” gay conversion camp in the country. Here, a life free from sin awaits. But the secret behind that success is anything but holy.

Goodreads | Bookshop

The readalong begins September 1, and discussions will take place throughout the month of September on the Horror Spotlight discord server. Everyone is welcome to join. See you there!

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

What We've Been Reading | August 9, 2023

Today we're sharing two excellent horror novels and a book all about your brain on horror movies! We hope you find something new to add to your reading list.

Below by Laurel Hightower


While driving through the mountains of West Virginia during a late-night snowstorm, a recently divorced woman experiences bizarre electrical problems, leaving her with little choice but to place her trust with a charismatic truck driver. But when an unexplainable creature with haunting red eyes gets between them, she is forced to make one of the toughest decisions of her life. Will she abandon the stranger who kept her safe—or will she climb down below, where reality has shapeshifted into a living nightmare?

Jen's Teaser Review

"Below was such an unexpected read. It's part creature feature, part psychological thriller."

Read Jen's entire review at Book Den.

Laurie's Teaser Review

"This book is so damn unsettling. It’s been a few days and when I think about it now it still gives me a strong case of the creeps."

Read Laurie's entire review at Goodreads.

Conjuring the Witch by Jessica Leonard

There are witches in the woods.

These are the words the reverend of the Lilin Assembly of Our Lord repeats to his parishioners each week. Steve and Nicole Warby think it’s just a metaphor, until Nicole takes a walk in those woods and comes back changed. Something came out of them with her, and the simple small-town life they’ve always known is forever altered when they discover the dark secrets buried deep and those intent on keeping them there. Fearing for his wife’s sanity, and his own comfortable status in the church, Steve is unsure if he wants to help or ignore the problems. The reverend believes there are witches in the woods, and he thinks Nicole is only the most recent.

Conjuring the Witch is a dark, haunted story about what those in power are willing to do to stay in power, and the sins we convince ourselves are forgivable.

Goodreads | Amazon

Teresa's Teaser Review

"Conjuring the Witch is a delightfully snarky battle cry for women and others whose rights are constantly being stripped to the bone."

Read Teresa's entire review at Goodreads.

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films by Nina Nesseth

Nightmare Fuel by Nina Nesseth is a pop-science look at fear, how and why horror films get under our skin, and why we keep coming back for more.

Do you like scary movies?

Have you ever wondered why?

Nina Nesseth knows what scares you. She also knows why.

In Nightmare Fuel, Nesseth explores the strange and often unexpected science of fear through the lenses of psychology and physiology. How do horror films get under our skin? What about them keeps us up at night, even days later? And why do we keep coming back for more?

Horror films promise an experience: fear. From monsters that hide in plain sight to tension-building scores, every aspect of a horror film is crafted to make your skin crawl. But how exactly do filmmakers pull this off? The truth is, there’s more to it than just loud noises and creepy images.

With the affection of a true horror fan and the critical analysis of a scientist, Nesseth explains how audiences engage horror with both their brains and bodies, and teases apart the elements that make horror films tick. Nightmare Fuel covers everything from jump scares to creature features, serial killers to the undead, and the fears that stick around to those that fade over time.

With in-depth discussions and spotlight features of some of horror’s most popular films—from classics like The Exorcist to modern hits like Hereditary—and interviews with directors, film editors, composers, and horror academics, Nightmare Fuel is a deep dive into the science of fear, a celebration of the genre, and a survival guide for going to bed after the credits roll.

Goodreads Amazon

Laurie's Teaser Review

"I think any big horror movie fan will find something interesting here no matter your tastes because it’s pretty comprehensive."

Read Laurie's complete review at Bark at the Ghouls.

Thank you for joining us today! We hope you found something to add to your tbr list. Please share your recent reads with us in the comments below.

Our Reviewers

Jen is one of our Horror Spotlight admins. Jen manages the technical side of the Horror Spotlight website and keeps a spotlight on new horror releases each month.

You can also find Jen on her blog Book Den, Twitter as @bookden, Instagram as @bookdenjen, on Goodreads, and Letterboxd.

Laurie is one of our Horror Spotlight Admins. Laurie creates our review posts, coordinates review requests, helps out with our Instagram/Twitter accounts, and is a contributing reviewer. You can find Laurie on her blog Bark’s Book Nonsense, on Twitter as @barksbooks, on Instagram as @barksbooks, and on Goodreads where she never shuts up about the things she's reading.

Teresa creates the Shelf Edition posts, creates bookish lists and is a contributing reviewer at Horror Spotlight. You can find Teresa on Goodreads, and on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Horror Spotlight’s Readalong August 2023

In August we will be reading Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry for the readalong in the Horror Spotlight discord.


Evil lives in a traveling carnival roaming the Depression-era South. But the carnival’s newest act, a peculiar young woman with latent magical powers, may hold the key to defeating it. Her time has come.

Abandoned by her family, alone on the wrong side of the color line with little to call her own, Eliza Meeks is coming to terms with what she does have. It’s a gift for communicating with animals. To some, she’s a magical tender. To others, a she-devil. To a talent prospector, she’s a crowd-drawing oddity. And the Bacchanal Carnival is Eliza’s ticket out of the swamp trap of Baton Rouge.

Among fortune-tellers, carnies, barkers, and folks even stranger than herself, Eliza finds a new home. But the Bacchanal is no ordinary carnival. An ancient demon has a home there too. She hides behind an iridescent disguise. She feeds on innocent souls. And she’s met her match in Eliza, who’s only beginning to understand the purpose of her own burgeoning powers.

Only then can Eliza save her friends, find her family, and fight the sway of a primordial demon preying upon the human world. Rolling across a consuming dust bowl landscape, Eliza may have found her destiny.

Goodreads | Bookshop

The readalong begins August 1, and discussions will take place throughout the month of August on the Horror Spotlight discord server. Everyone is welcome to join. See you there!

Bonus Buddy Read for August

Also in August in the discord, we will be doing a buddy read of Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie! Starting August 18th. Come join the fun!

A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples... At a Hallowe'en party, Joyce—a hostile thirteen-year-old—boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the 'evil presence'. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer...

Goodreads | Bookshop