**Each year I compile a list of my personal favorite reads. The factors I use in determining these are ratings (naturally), originality, and that all-important “staying factor”–a book that keeps coming to my mind, making me think about it and its characters long after I’ve finished reading it, is a book well worth mentioning! These are my top 20 reads, followed by my top anthologies/collections.**
- 1. THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE, by J. H. Moncrieff. Released by Flame Tree Publishing. This book literally has everything I look for in a 5-star read. A blending of horror, historical fiction, and folklore, this novel shows two storylines that intersect–although you can’t really say that they weren’t <i>connected</i> all along… The characters were amazing–REAL–in my mind, and the way the story was structured worked so well for me. I’ve read this one twice this year, and it will definitely be re-read in the future!
- 2. VIOLET, by Scott Thomas. Released by Inkshares. Another indisputably 5-star read for myself. The first 2/3 or so of this novel was mainly character driven. The emotions painted were impossible to ignore, and I felt that really set the stage for a reader/character(s) connection. Once the more . . . <i>disturbing</i> . . . elements begin to manifest, you are already so invested that nothing could cause you to turn away!
- 3. SLASH, by Hunter Shea. Released by Flame Tree Publishing. This novel goes well above your 80’s “slasher book” formula! It has plenty of that, but in addition, Shea gives you the characters and emotions to take it to a much higher level. As for the “Wraith” . . . that’s just something you’ll have to read for yourself to believe.
- 4. NINTH HOUSE, by Leigh Bardugo. Released by Flatiron Books. The first book in the “Alex Stern” series, this was one of my surprise favorites of the year! As the first book I’ve read by this author, I had no idea what to expect. Mix in the Supernatural, occult societies at a prestigious college, and engaging characters, and you have a five-star combination.
- 5. THE RUST MAIDENS, by Gwendolyn Kiste. Released by JournalStone. This novel of “body horror” takes a completely original route of a town “stuck” in the past, and what happens to those who want something other.
- 6. FOREST OF GHOSTS, by J.H. Moncrieff. Released by DeathZone Books. This is the fourth book in the “GhostWriters” series. A standalone novel, with only the main characters in common with the other books in the series, this one has a location and atmosphere that REALLY bring the story to life.
- 7. TERMINAL, by Michaelbrent Collings. Released by Written Insomnia Press. This story takes place in one main location, and concerns itself with the characters therein. When an inexplicable fog isolates the people present, and an unknown voice instructs that only one may live–the rest must die–by unanimous decision, you know you are in for a dynamic read!
- 8. THE DARK GAME, by Jonathan Janz. Released by Flame Tree Press. Another fantastic tale of horror–involving horror writers–from Janz. This game is not one you want to miss!
- 9. NEVERNIGHT, GODSGRAVE, & DARKDAWN, by Jay Kristoff. I read all three of the “Nevernight Chronicle” books back to back, so I felt it only fair to link them into one recommendation. Honestly, once you begin this journey, you will NOT want to stop until the very end.
- 10. OUT BEHIND THE BARN, by John Boden and Chad Lutzke. Released by Shadow Work Publishing. There isn’t much I can say about this novella without giving away key plots. It will grip you with mystery and apprehension from the very start, and intensify those feelings up until the last statement. I sincerely hope to see more collaborations between these two authors!
- 11. FOREST OF THE DAMNED, by Lee Mountford. This atmospheric horror tale takes being lost in the woods to an entirely new, horrifying level! Scenes and ideas that you can not “unsee” makes this one stand out long after it’s been read!
- 12. WICKED SAINTS, by Emily Duncan. Released by Wednesday Books. Although marketed as “Fantasy” (elements of magic), I had a hard time differentiating this from “Horror”. The violence, blood, and concepts blur together perfectly, and I honestly feel this fits into the “horror” category just as well.
- 13. THOMAS’S WANT, by Latashia Figueroa. The second novella in her “Want & Decay” trilogy, I think I enjoyed this even more than the first! The stories are stand-alone, although there is a tenuous link that keen readers will note. I am anxiously awaiting the final novella in the series!
- 14. WHERE STARS WON’T SHINE, by Patrick Lacey. Released by Grindhouse Press. I can honestly say there hasn’t been a novel written by this author that I haven’t liked yet. A serial killer literally disappears from his holding cell, and an unlikely assortment of characters are being drawn together. The results are nothing you could prepare for…
- 15. THE THIRD GRAVE, by David Case. Re-released by Valancourt Books. This was a “forgotten gem” that I was thrilled to have brought back into print. The gothic setting does a fantastic job of implying more than it imparts, in sections. The implications of the “third grave” still gives me shivers!
- 16. THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD, by Sarah Reed. Released by JournalStone Publishing. This was the very first I had read from this author, and her gothic setting, characterization, and overall story left me begging for more. This is someone I expect to see on many “Best Reads” lists in the years to come!
- 17. THE EXTINCTION AGENDA, by Michael Laurence. Released by St. Martin’s Press. A horrifying thriller of worldwide proportions. Enough gory scenes to satisfy horror fans, while providing a mystery that I couldn’t wait to see the end result of!
- 18. SLEEP IN THE DUST OF THE EARTH, by David Hains. This novella was an unexpected gem! I had only read one other book by this author, and went into this one blind. Amazing details and characters, with a plot that still lingers.
- 19. ANTARCTIC ICE BEASTS, by Hunter Shea. Released by Severed Press. What starts out as a potential “creature-feature”, morphs into so much more! The characterization was top-notch, and the story turned from the usual, to the absolutely NEVER expected.
- 20. WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN, by John Boden. Released by Crossroad Press. This novella (by one half of the duo that brought us OUT BEHIND THE BARN), proves that there is still so much new to add to the horror genre. This practically defies explanation without giving anything away, but once you begin, you won’t want to stop!
Top Collections of 2019
- MIDNIGHT IN THE GRAVEYARD, edited by Kenneth W. Cain. Released by Silver Shamrock Publishing.
- LINGERING THINGS & Other Dark Tales, by Dana Noraas. This was my first taste of this author’s fiction, and I can not WAIT for more!
- I AM NOT YOUR FINAL GIRL (Poetry), by Claire C. Holland.
This concludes my 2019 wrap of of personal favorite reads. What books stood out to you as favorites?