Part two of my need to tell everyone about spooky reads. 2020 features a wide spectrum of interesting horror/dark concepts from thrillers, dark fantasy, retellings, and other creepy stuff. 2020 is also the year for queer & POC rep in these kind of stories and I couldn’t be happier. You’ll notice most of these books feature both kinds of representation.
If you see anything you want to add to your TBR just click on the titles and it’ll take you to Goodreads!
COVER DESIGN BY PHIL BUCHANAN
Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.
#ownvoices rep for OCD and bi rep! Celtic mythology and witchcraft! Sounds fun! On a side note I do have some mixed feelings about the fact that the character is outed HOWEVER I’m glad that it actually states in the synopsis instead of people having to find out without warning, so applaud whomever wrote the synopsis for that.
A sly, witchy dark comedy about four teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.
Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.
MORE QUEER WITCH STORIES! Also I enjoy dark comedy which I know is very niche but if that is your cup of tea, join the club.
COVER DESIGN BY LAURA BENTON AND ART BY CHARLIE BOWATER
Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.
Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.
And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.
Unveiled as the first lightwender in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a lightwender can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.
Forest of Souls seems to lean more towards the fantasy genre but it still gives off horror vibes so it fits the bill. Spiders are spooky y’all. According to the author “this book features Asian-coded characters being warriors and shamans, queens and mentors, villains and friends, all within a secondary world fantasy.” Also I’m in love with the cover! So haunting and gorgeous.
COVER DESIGN BY JENNA STEMPEL-LOBELL & ART BY ALIX NORTHRUP
Shady Grove is her father’s daughter, through and through. She inherited his riotous, curly hair, his devotion to bluegrass, and his ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle.
That cursed instrument drowned with him, though, when his car went off the road, taking with it the whispering ghosts, nightmares, and the grief and obsession that forced her daddy to play.
But Shady’s brother was just accused of murder, and so she has a choice to make: unearth the fiddle that sang her father to the grave and speak to the dead to clear her brother’s name, or watch the only family she has left splinter to pieces.
The ghosts have secrets to keep, but Shady will make those old bones sing.
A Southern gothic story and it apparently takes place in Florida and features a Bi MC.
COVER DESIGN BY KERRI RESNICK & ART BY MICAELA ALCAINO
A debut fantasy duology pitched as The Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge, the story follows Hellfire House’s star showgirl who, haunted by a dark past, must enter a magician’s competition in order to secure her freedom from the handsome, enigmatic keeper of the club, even as mysterious accidents seem to plague her every move.
Not much to go on but Phantom meets Moulin Rouge is a very great way to get to read this. I’ve had this on my TBR ever since it was announced so I’ve been dedicated to this book for a long time. Also support Filipino authors!
When a girl with a troubled history of finding dead bodies investigates the murder of her ex, she uncovers a plot to put herself—and everyone she loves—on the list of who’s next.
Flora Calhoun has a reputation for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. After stumbling upon a classmate’s body years ago, the trauma of that discovery and the police’s failure to find the killer has haunted her ever since. One night, she gets a midnight text from Ava McQueen, the beautiful girl who had ignited Flora’s heart last summer, then never spoke to her again.
Just in time to witness Ava’s death from a gunshot wound, Flora is set on a path of rage and vengeance for all the dead girls whose killer is never found. Her tunnel-visioned sleuthing leads to valuable clues about a shocking conspiracy involving her school and beyond, but also earns her sinister threats from the murderer. She has a choice—to give up the hunt for answers, or keep digging and risk her loved ones’ lives. Either way, Flora will regret the consequences. Who’s next on the killer’s list?
So I am going to point out that there’s already a great horror film called You’re Next that I really like but this obviously seems to be very different. Also there seems to be some sapphic vibes so even better.
A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula
In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.
Historical YA horror is all I ever wanted and Elizabeth Bathory is the perfect subject.
COVER DESIGN BY KATIE KLIM & ART BY KASIQ JUNGWOO
I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.
June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.
This sounds so refreshing. A murder mystery set in 1800s Korea. This by far is one of the most interesting premises for a mystery I’ve read in a while. I also have to give props to the cover. The shades of blue make this feel so noir-ish.
Everyone out in Devil’s Lake, Michigan, knows the three Malloy sisters: perfect big sister Kit; tomboy Tessa, who shares more with Kit than most people realize; and Lilly, the baby of the family, determined to make her own mark. Yet as close as they are, there are certain things sisters don’t tell one another. And one of them is keeping a secret that will turn their little world inside out.
No one knows exactly what happened to Kit in the woods that night—all they have are a constellation of facts: icy blue lips and fingers cold to the touch, a lacy bra, an abandoned pick-up truck with keys still in the ignition. Still, Tessa, even in her fog of grief, is certain that her sister’s killer wasn’t Boyd, the boy next door whom they’ve all loved in their own way. There are too many details that don’t add up, too many secrets still tucked away.
But no matter how fiercely she searches for answers, at the core of that complicated night is a truth that’s heartbreakingly simple.
Told in lush, haunting prose, Frozen Beauty is a story of the intoxicating power of first love, the deep bonds of sisterhood, and a shocking death that will forever change the living
Horror stories with sisters is a great combination. I wasn’t even sure what genre this was until actually looking into the synopsis, but this sounds quite haunting indeed.
COVER DESIGN BY DEBRA SFETSIOS-CONOVER & ART BY LEVENTE SZABO
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried.
When Anna Cicconi arrives in the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened on New Year’s.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession’s is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?
Inspired by Serial and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this thrilling story of psychological suspense is told in three interwoven timelines, including the transcript of a fictionalized true crime podcast. ‘
I’ve had this on my TBR since it was known originally as Windermere. It’s interesting to see that podcasts have made their way into YA novels. I loved that aspect in Sadie by Courtney Summers, and I hope it works here too.
COVER DESIGN BY NICOLE HOWER & ART BY HELEN CRAWFORD WHITE
A fast-paced, well-plotted fantasy retelling of an ancient Scottish fairy tale ballad, this exciting debut will appeal to fans of Stephanie Garber’s CARAVAL, Shea Ernshaw’s THE WICKED DEEP, and Kendare Blake’s THREE DARK CROWNS.
Every year on Walpurgis Night, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a young boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.
Convinced her handsome brother is going to be taken, sixteen-year-old Lina Kirk enlists the help of the mysterious Tomas Lin, her secret crush, and the only boy to ever escape from the palace. Working together they protect her brother, but draw the Queen’s attention. When the Queen spirits Tomas away instead, Lina blames herself and determines to go after him.
Caught breaking into the palace, the Queen offers Lina a deal: she will let Tomas go, if, of course, Lina agrees to take his place. Lina accepts, with a month before the full moon, surely she can find some way to escape. But the Queen is nothing like she envisioned, and Lina is not at all what the Queen expected. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.
Sapphic. Witches. Scottish Fariy Tale. Enemies to lovers. What more can I say?
You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked.
And the wolf is angry.
Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.
Elana K. Arnold, National Book Award finalist and author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it.
Getting real here but I don’t often seek out retellings but I do find myself enjoying them especially if they subvert the original story’s ideas and themes and challenge them. This being a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, this has the opportunity to be fantastic or messy. This does sound promising.
Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?
This sounds like it’ll enemies to lovers and also full of morally grey characters so I’m into that stuff. Especially a female lead who is morally grey.
COVER DESIGN BY ERIN FITZSIMMONS & ART BY SAM WEBER
Kira Fujikawa has always been a girl on the fringe. Bullied by her peers and ignored by her parents, the only place Kira’s ever felt at home is at her grandfather’s Shinto shrine, where she trains to be a priestess.
But Kira’s life is shattered on the night her family’s shrine is attacked by a vicious band of yokai demons. With the help of Shiro—the shrine’s gorgeous half-fox, half-boy kitsune—Kira discovers that her shrine harbors an ancient artifact of great power . . . one the yokai and their demon lord, Shuten-doji, will use to bring down an everlasting darkness upon the world.
Unable to face the Shuten-doji and his minions on her own, Kira enlists the aid of seven ruthless shinigami—or death gods—to help stop the brutal destruction of humankind. But some of the death gods aren’t everything they initially seemed, nor as loyal to Kira’s cause as they first appeared.
With war drawing nearer by the day, Kira realizes that if this unlikely band of heroes is going to survive, they’re going to have to learn to work together, confront their demons, and rise as one to face an army of unimaginable evil.
YAY for more Japanese inspired supernatural stories. I know Courtney Alameda is known for her horror stories so I’m hoping to see that in this.
This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.
Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.
What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.
Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?
Okay this isn’t a book that high up on my TBR but its still a thriller and sometimes that’s all I need to know.
A YA fantasy anthology featuring fresh takes on old souls with vampire stories.
Vampires are here to stay y’all. Also the title is so perfect. I see a lot of great authors here and I can’t wait to see the different vampire stories we’ll get.
A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
Tattoo magic? This sounds so bizarre but so fascinating.
When she was a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that’s what she’s been told. She can’t remember anything from that day, and her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down.
But then Melody goes missing, and Cassidy thinks she may have information. She knows she should go to the cops, but she recently joked about how much she’d like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. And then she gets a chilling text from an unknown number: I’m so glad we’re in this together.
Now it’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened before the truth behind Melody’s disappearance sets the whole town ablaze.
Of course to really scare me just throw a creepy doll on the cover. If I’ve learned anything from scary stories about kid’s toys is to not mess with creepy baby dolls.