13 Books I Recommend
By Theresa Braun
Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen
In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems. From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.
Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks
This book is meant to be something you can gobble up in one sitting. And, the monster parts are loads of fun. The ending is definitely fitting for a horror story, reminiscent of an unsettling “Twilight Zone” episode. I don’t know if Hicks has considered it, but this is quite the set up for part two, or a prequel. I’d love to see how it all plays out.
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
Looking for an enchanting collection that will have you swooning at lyrical language while feeling a gamut of emotions? Look no further. These stories are their own unique escapes into poetic worlds that are often unnerving or heartbreaking.
Night of a Thousand Beasts by John Palisano
Palisano weaves a satisfying grisly adventure packed with moments of gore and bestial cringe-worthiness. Often the line between human and beast is blurred, which I’m sure is one of the many themes here. In short, there is much in this novel to be enjoyed by readers.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
When I heard about the concept of this book, I was like giddy up! This is going to be awesome! So many elements of this novel are spot on. Several times I thought to myself, Katsu did her homework. The time period and events are well-executed. Her treatment of the plight of early settlers and issues like gender roles is honest and sometimes brutal. Part of what hooked me into this read was the believability, which was amped up by the beautiful sentences. Holy cow, this author can wield the magic of the word. If this is something you can appreciate, you need to read this book.
Linden Manor by Catherine Cavendish
Cavendish is clearly a master storyteller, as I was so engrossed in this short read and was dumbfounded when it was all over. But in a good way. Kind of like when you realize you just inhaled a whole chocolate bar. Part of the reason is that we get so much characterization and setting in just a few words. The author makes every detail count. And, she makes us care about Lesley Carpenter in the process, which is a definite plus.
Weekend Getaway by Tom Deady
I challenge readers to not finish this book in one sitting. It’s next to impossible. Deady accomplishes quite a bit in this short, lightning speed read. To start, the protagonist is flawed but likeable. Furthermore, the story opens the present but flashes back and forth to that horrific weekend. With a few twists and turns. You’ll be dying to find out what happens. That blending of time frames is difficult to pull off in such a fast-paced book. Deady is able to do it well.
I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski
This was a very different and intriguing read. However, the writing execution is not for everyone. For example, the switches in point of view are disorienting/jarring, but that’s probably the point—and to give a broader picture of the setting. Somehow those pieces really help make this novel complete. Also, there are a few shout outs to the title throughout, but it doesn’t really come together until that last line. In fact, there are several elements of this book that might not hit you until you finish it. That’s actually one of the things that I really appreciate here: the satisfying aftertaste.
The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
Demmer’s adventures (sometimes at sea, as the title promises) winds us through the past, present, or future, using various perspectives, which is part of this author’s charm. Be sure to put on the brakes a little, though, and take a pause at Demmer’s clever titles. No detail is spared in this collection, so don’t miss it. Overall, the stories are an excellent lineup—some horror, some sci-fi, with some genre blending.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
I love the premise of this novel: mankind is suffering an apocalypse because of something that can destroy those who look at it. Here, Malerman capitalizes on one of our greatest fears—not only the unknown, but the unseen. As a result, we follow the characters through mass hysteria and the breakdown of society, including all news outlets. This escalates to full-fledged paranoia and desperation. Most valuable emergency item? A blindfold. Through it all, Malerman is always upping the ante. Possible intruders, conspiracy theorists, whether or not animals are affected, and two women about to give birth are just some of the additional obstacles the characters face. You will be biting your fingernails the entire way.
Experimental Film by Gemma Files
The author manages to offer us a profound kind of blow-your-mind ride. Also in part because the story is quite original. Furthermore, all the pieces come together in the end and somehow reach out and touch you. That’s not easy to do. Hats off to Files for that.
Monsters in Our Wake by J.H. Moncrieff
For horror fans, there is a lot of gore to drink up on these pages. There’s also a constant sense of dread as we wonder if the crew is going to survive the ancient creatures’ plot to destroy them all. A few chilling scenes are when the monsters show themselves to the crew, often with grisly results. Get yourself a copy of this gripping story and follow Moncrieff and her other dark works of fiction. You won’t be disappointed.
Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuck
I can’t recommend this book enough. The ending had me in all kinds of feels. Shock. Empathy. Sadness. Don’t expect a pick me up, here. But you will be forced to face some of society’s ills. And maybe even some of your own.
Theresa Braun has a Master's degree in English literature and lives in South Florida where she has taught literature and writing for over 20 years. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her short stories have appeared in several horror and speculative fiction publications, including The Horror Zine and Sirens Call. Her experiences living in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota have inspired her most recent book, Fountain Dead, released by Unnerving. Stalk her on Twitter: @tbraun_author.