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We want to introduce to you some spine-chilling tales that inspire concern, fear, or terror... of course accompanied with a delicious feeling of excitement. Walk on the darker side of life, discover wicked characters, eerie locations, and plots that encourage goosebumps to skitter down your arms. If you feel the need to leave the light on, or find yourself a little jumpy after reading these books, just don’t blame us!
This exquisitely creepy YA shocker whirls with gritty horror, witty one-liners, Insta-worthy visual conjurations and the menacing mystery of three bewitching sisters who vanished in childhood. “Dark dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters. We each had black eyes and hair as white as milk...We didn’t have friends, because we didn’t need them.” So explains the youngest sister, Iris. As children, the three sisters vanished one New Year’s Eve on the strike of midnight and reappeared with their hair and eyes a different colour, tiny baby teeth in place of their adult teeth, and no memory. “In possession of an alchemical self-confidence that belonged to much older humans,” Iris’ older sisters have “set off into the world, both bound for the glamorous, exotic futures they’d always known they were destined for”, leaving her alone in North London with her mother. Sinister bells toll when seventeen-year-old Grey, a supermodel and designer of decadent couture “who looked like sex and smelled like a field of wildflowers”, fails to turn up to middle sister Vivi’s punk gig in Camden, and then there’s the mystery of the man wearing a horned skull. There are books with unexpected twists, then there’s House of Hollow - imagine losing your way in a decaying fairy tale forest, where tangled tree roots trip you up, and you have no idea what terrors skulk within its ever-shifting mists. At times grisly and always eerie, this intoxicating cocktail of contemporary horror and mythic menace is a lushly-written feast.
A collection of short stories, ‘Ekleipsis’ contains five different stories that all focus on what happens when the characters turn their back on their humanity. The tension builds through each story builds, with gaps in information intriguing and encouraging the reader to complete the story and discover what happens. There’s a moment of grim realisation in the stories, where you know the horrifying twist that’s coming, but you can’t tear your eyes away from the pages as the dramatic twists suddenly unfold. I found each of the stories were perfectly sized - long enough to immerse you in the scene and surroundings, developing the characters and the setting well while also being succinct enough for you to read the whole story in a short sitting. This is a book you can dip in and out of, or, as I did, read the book from cover to cover, eager to know what the author has in store for you next. Each story is self-contained and covers a number of different themes and topics, from affairs and PTSD to much darker themes that would be too much of a spoiler to mention. A great read for fans of darker themed books, tension building thrillers and horror. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
Bold, provocative and thought-provoking, this is the fifth of the Six Stories series, however you can actually read Deity as a standalone. Scott King investigates the rumours and accusations against a pop star after his death. Each novel stands as an individual tale, though of course reading the first book, Six Stories, sets the scene beautifully and there are links to be found through the series. When I start a new Six Stories, it always takes a moment for me to settle in again, to sink into the differences that makes this series such a refreshing read. I almost feel that the transition from my reality to the beat of the story is a necessary one. It helps cement the voices I hear in my head and feel in my thoughts as I read. The individual characters appear with Scott King’s comments and asides, and allow you to ponder, to piece together your own understanding. The darkness within comes from the subject matter and the chilling folklore that weaves and wields its magic. I thoroughly enjoy this smart and thoughtful series, and Deity joins the ranks, standing as a linking but separate tale. So, a round of applause for Matt Wesolowski please.
Oh wow, this is a stunningly readable supernatural crime horror. DS Jamila Patel and DC Jerry Pardoe investigate suspicious and unexplainable happenings in the sewers below London. The Children God Forgot includes the policing team from Ghost Virus, though you can easily read this as a standalone, which in my opinion is always the mark of a great book within a series. I love horror like this, it feels so real you could almost reach out and touch it (though you seriously wouldn’t want to!). While I didn’t want to run screaming, there is enough to make the hardiest of people wince and flinch. There is a goodly amount of horrific gore to be found within the pages including supernatural violence involving pregnancies. Graham Masterton has created a colourful and believable London, fabulously relatable characters, and a supernatural shockwave that carves its wave through both. A number of story lines converge, and meld into one cracking tale. There is a fine balance on hand, plenty of blood and guts yes, there is also fabulous writing, smirky humour, and thought-provoking themes waiting to be found. Raw and smart, the blast of horror from The Children God Forgot makes you wonder what the heck is beneath your feet. Loved it so much, it just has to sit as a LoveReading Star Book.
Operation Bluebird follows DC Carrie Hart as she heads undercover in order to infiltrate the world of the Paradise Casino and one of London’s largest crime families. But will she be able to maintain her cover without succumbing to the tempation of the world around her? It starts at the end, drawing you in with questions and blanks in Carrie’s memory that pull you back in time and show you what unfolded during Operation Bluebird. I liked this opening, I had questions about the plot but I was reassured that they were about to be answered. We get to know Carrie gradually, with flashbacks to her relationship with Lucy, demonstrating her motivation to infiltrate the Casino and the Park family. As time goes on, Cara gets more deeply involved with the Park family, could an unadvisable romance be her downfall? This is a short but attention grabbing crime drama with twists, temptation, addiction and a forbidden romance. Crafted with interesting and well created characters and I would be interested in reading more about Carrie Hart.
What a gloriously dark and thrilling treat of a read this is! If I’m not careful I will go into exclamation mark overdrive as I adored every single moment spent with this novel, from the cover on the outside to the content within. Silhouette artist Agnes believes that her clients are being murdered, in an attempt to find answers she asks spirit medium Pearl to make contact with the dead. Victorian Bath is the setting with a dramatic and shadowy atmosphere that oozes from the pages. The characters are beautifully constructed, I found myself investing in their every word and move. The plot is fascinating, the uncanny elements thrilling, and yet it all feels so convincing, so vividly real. And oh, that ending, it gave me goosebumps in the best possible way! If you delight in a deeply satisfying story containing elements of the supernatural then this is the book for you. Slithering between thoughts into the darkest of places The Shape of Darkness is an eloquent, mesmerising gothic tale and one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Katie Hale is our January 2020 Debut Author of the Month. Click to find out more about Katie on our blog. Oh… my… word, this is one fabulous debut! I found a deceptively simple, and stark dystopian foray into a world blighted by bombs and sickness. Monster is completely alone until one day she finds a child. She becomes mother and passes on her knowledge, but are her mothering skills being received in the way she is expecting them to be? Told in the first person, Katie Hale has created short chapters where thoughts scatter, bounce, zigzag. I filed away feelings and emotions as I read, each within touching distance, lying in wait to prod and provoke. This feels honest, as though looking at a future just within grasp, or back to a history that has already happened. The feelings are raw, sometimes painful, yet relatable and believable. I found the premise of this novel absolutely fascinating, I explored interpretation of meaning, motherhood, and thoughts on the basic cycle of life. ‘My Name is Monster’ is poignant, moving and wonderfully different, it is also incredibly intimate, readable and surprisingly beautiful, I adored it. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
Discover the most deliciously chilling and foreboding contemporary Norwegian folklore-filled tale. When Lexi joins an English family in Norway as their nanny, she discovers the past holds worrying secrets, and an alarming presence haunts the here and now. The prologue beautifully set the tone and it stayed with me as I continued to read. As Lexi narrated her own tale I experienced glimpses of the world in-between. An essence of ancient sits on the edge of awareness and slips into thoughts, into dreams. The descriptions of the wilderness set me down on the forested floor and a wire noose of tension began to close. The Nesting is fabulously modern, yet overflowing with suspense and gothic atmosphere. It is a book to savour and I have fallen in love with this tale, not only is it a Liz Pick of the Month, it also slips into our LoveReading Star Books too.
Enthralling, chilling, challenging, and wonderfully readable, this story winds itself around a moment in history. In 1942 a fire started at Seacliff, classed as a lunatic asylum in New Zealand, and all but two of the patients in a female ward perished. C. D. Major uses the fire as a focus and begins the tale there. Edith was five years old when she arrived at the asylum, after the fire she is questioned and a new doctor begins to doubt the reasons for her being shut away from the outside world. Covering the years between 1927 and the 1940’s I found myself either fully immersed in ‘now’ or consumed by ‘before’. The plot itself twists, schemes, provokes, and ensures that this novel can’t be pigeon-holed by genre. The asylum sits brooding, biding its time, while the occupants become entangled and caught in the treatment and rules. Tension sweeps through the tale, and I found myself searching, questioning, hoping. Edith is a fascinating character, she is written with compassion and evoked so many emotions. The powerful ending made me exclaim, it truly spoke to me and has stayed in my thoughts. The author’s debut The Silent Hours was another emotional and impressive read and also comes as highly recommended. I have chosen The Other Girl as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, it has a haunting quality that ensures a compelling read.
Chock-a-block with chills, this supernatural thriller also beautifully evokes teenage feelings of uncertainty and how they travel with us into adulthood. Theatre usher Chloe witnesses the iconic musical Dust returning to the stage after 20 years, the very stage said to be haunted by the leading actress who was murdered in her dressing room. It feels as though this book, which crosses genres so successfully, could only have been written by Louise Beech. Her ability to delve into the deepest of emotions and describe them so they land with acute precision in your own thoughts, is handfasted with her knowledge of the theatre. The past collides with the present and boy does the tension increase with each time switch. I felt as though I was a teenager again, and with all the buckets full of feelings that Chloe has to manage, I could have gathered her into the hugest hug. While this is spooky as heck, it is also hugely considerate of emotional heartache and distress. Compelling, original, and unmistakably Louise Beech, I Am Dust glides onto my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
This is a series that keeps on delivering, here we are at the fourth book, and it is just as addictive and original as the first, Six Stories. I really love the premise for this one, a chilling mix of the occult and an internet craze join the fabulous six stories format with online journalist Scott King. Six podcasts are delivered to us, to digest and form our own opinion after 24 year old vlogger Elizabeth Barton is found dead in The Vampire Tower on the Northumberland coast. Three young men were convicted in what they called a prank gone wrong, are they responsible? With the Beast from the East weather system and vampires haunting the pages, questions started whirling in my mind. As I read I felt as though a number of truths were being set free. As always Matt Wesolowski keeps a fabulously tight rein on the different voices, which so easily could run wild. Each character is unmistakable and I was able to hear them with sharp clarity. Beast is another winner of a read for me, if you haven’t yet joined in, what are you waiting for?!