After a bizarrely protracted gloomy spring, it feels like summer is finally here in New York. This means outdoor relaxation, longer days, and a copious amount of pool or beachside reading. When I prepare for summer weekends and put together my reading lists for vacation, I always instinctively gravitate towards… horror. Because what better books to read pool or beachside than a good old fashioned horror novel!? It’s an annual tradition for us Smugglers here at Kirkus (see our list of killer road trips)—so let’s dive right in, shall we?
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I recently finished this debut horror novel from Thomas Olde Heuvelt and was immediately drawn in by the book’s incredibly original—and horrifying—premise. Imagine a small, quiet, quaint town in the northeast, called Black Rock. For generations, the people of Black Rock have protected an impossible secret: there is a very real, very malevolent ghost who walks among them, every day. The spectre of an eighteenth century witch named Katherine, whose eyes and mouth are stitched shut, mysteriously appears in town square, in your home, in your bedroom. Katherine must never be photographed or acknowledged by the outside world—and her stranglehold on the townspeople of Black Rock is without parallel. Should any member of the town try to leave Black Rock’s borders for longer than a few hours or days, Katherine’s hex will make that townsperson kill themselves. Imagine this town—and the group of upstart teens who decide to open the world’s eyes to Katherine. You know how this story ends, right?
The Fireman by Joe Hill. I adored Joe Hill’s last novel, the deliciously horrific NOS4A2 about a killer car and the supernatural child-thief who drove it. In this, his new novel, Hill looks at a world in which a deadly virus that causes host bodies to erupt into flames has infected the world’s population. There is no cure to dragonscale, and as the infection rate rises, civilization is set and primed to burn. Only one man, the Fireman, has learned how to control the fire of dragonscale within himself—and has his own agenda to protect the infected or the weak, and burning vengeance for those who would stand in his way.
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. The third and final novel in the Passage trilogy, The City of Mirrors is a book that I’ve been anxiously awaiting for years. I loved The Passage—the pre- and post-apocalyptic novel about the end of the world due to vampiric virus, and humanity’s last stand against the darkness. I was not so happy with The Twelve, which felt bloated and less focused than its razor sharp predecessor. This third book closes the door on Amy and her friends as they stand against Zero—the one remaining master and father of the Twelve, who threatens life as we know it.
Rise by Seanan McGuire. Do you like blogging, politics, and zombies? Have you read Seanan McGuire’s Newsflesh trilogy? If you haven’t, then go forth immediately and buy Feed (in this current American election period, believe me when I say it’s a timely look at politics and zombies). Rise is the newest and most comprehesive collection of short stories and novellas that McGuire has written in her Newsflesh world—and includes some exclusive never-before-seen work, to boot.
Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty. I firmly believe that middle grade fiction is among some of the scariest and most effective horror I read—and Robert Beatty’s Serafina series is testament to that. In the first book, a man in a black cloak prowled the halls of the Vanderbilt estate and stole the souls of children. In this second book, young Serafina faces a new terrifying supernatural foe, who uses wolfhounds to attack, maim, and murder.
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf. Particularly if you are taking a trip this summer and staying at a high class resort, Security is the book you’ll want to bring with you. A brand new, California coastal luxury hotel with an impeccable security system, The Manderley Resort and its nimble staff is ready to open its doors. Over the course of twelve hours, and told in side by side narratives depicting camera footage, every soul in the Manderley will be murdered in brutal, gleefully sadistic abandon. You like a page-turning bloodbath? This one is for you.And that is it! Our list of recommended reading for horror fans this beach season. What titles have we missed, or are on your list?
Thea James and Ana Grilo are The Book Smugglers, a website for speculative fiction and YA. You can also find them on Twitter.