Ten sinister horrors to stop you sleeping

It’s Halloween! Obviously that means it’s time to share some of my favourite creepy books with you. Hopefully there are some here you haven’t heard of before, as well as some old favourites. (Includes links to both Goodreads and the Book Depository.)

Monsters by Emerald Fennell (Book Depository)25399706

A blackly comic tale about two children you would never want to meet.

Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not – a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand…

A book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids.

This is the only YA book on my list. I read it very recently, and it shot up to one of my favourite books of 2015. It’s intensely dark and horrifying in the funniest way, and the ending genuinely shocked me (which seeing as I guess most book endings – so much so that author friends have banned me from trying to guess what happens when I read their manuscripts – is saying a lot). If you’re a fan of Hannibal or Black Mirror you should definitely check this out.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (Book Depository)23197269

AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.
Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.
Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.
Now, we approach our destination. A new home. AURORA.

This isn’t actually a horror novel – it’s science fiction. But it’s so intensely creepy and unnerving, that it got deeper inside my head than any thriller could.

I highly recommend this for anyone curious about deep space travel – the stuff that comes after the journey. What happens to the descendent of the original voyagers, the ones who never chose to be in space at all?

The idea of being on a vulnerable spaceship trapped at the edge of the universe in orbit around a hostile planet, with nowhere to go and no way to talk to the rest of humanity, will freak me out forever.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Book Depository)89724

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

I saw a comic on tumblr based on the first paragraph of this book, and had to buy and read it immediately.


I fell in love. This book is a work of art. It’s disturbing and insidiously affecting and has a surprisingly happy ending. I don’t often reread books, but I will reread this many times.

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye (Book Depository)

13542949The village of Hemmersmoor is a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition: There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village’s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, evocative of Stephen King’s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm.

I read this last week, as someone recommended it to me as being similar to WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE. It was . . . a lot more intense than that. At times it goes a little for the shock factor, but it doesn’t hold back. It’s brutal and apathetic and the ending has left me cold. A short read, but I don’t think I could have handled it had it been any longer.

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (Book Depository)48037

You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.

When a mysterious carriage crashes outside their castle home in Styria, Austria, Laura and her father agree to take in its injured passenger, a young woman named Carmilla. Delighted to have some company of her own age, Laura is instantly drawn to Carmilla. But as their friendship grows, Carmilla’s countenance changes and she becomes increasingly secretive and volatile. As Carmilla’s moods shift and change, Laura starts to become ill, experiencing fiendish nightmares, her health deteriorating night after night. It is not until she and her father, increasingly concerned for Laura’s well-being, set out on a trip to discover more about the mysterious Carmilla that the terrifying truth reveals itself.

This is one of the original vampire stories, and stands the test of time very well. I recommend listening to the audiobook, which you can find for free here, as the book is in the public domain (along with many other classics! I hugely recommend Librivox as a site/app. Look out for any narrated by Elizabeth Klett, as she’s my favourite.).

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski  (Book Depository)

24800Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices. The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

I read this novel (piece of modern art?) when I was about seventeen, and it terrified me so much that I still shiver to think about it today. As well as being beautifully designed, it’s a many layered story-within-a-story book, each of which is affecting in different ways – my favourite being the house of leaves itself. A couple discover the dimensions of their new house don’t match up, and find mysterious appearing and disappearing doors. When they open one, they find a black and endless void. With the help of a cave exploration team, they venture inside . . . and I won’t tell you what’s in there. You’ll have to read it and find out. The house plotline would stand up as a novel on its own, so everything else is just a bonus, but as another incentive, here’s an example page of the book:


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Book Depository)

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…10692

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Another vampiric story-within-a-story, this will keep you hooked until the final page – and hopefully send shivers down your spine.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan (Book Depository)

86655Award-winning author Jennifer Egan brilliantly conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep-–the tower, the last stand-–is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story that seamlessly brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.

There are scenes in books which you remember forever, and the climax of this book – involving a secret dungeon underneath a castle – is one which I will never forget. There’s also an overgrown algae pool which was close to giving me nightmares when I read about it. Excellently cinematic.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Book Depository)18659623

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

A graphic novel with a monstrous twist, I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Here’s my favourite:


You can also read one of the stories here.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (Book Depository)

13129925Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

This is WONDERFUL. It’s up there with HOUSE OF LEAVES as one of the creepiest, most mind-consuming thrillers. During a night shift at what’s basically Ikea, strange things start happening – weird smells, new graffiti, strange men appearing. I read this in the dark on my phone, and I had to get up to turn the lights on. The second half is genuinely chilling.
It’s a little slow to start, and the first half is more retail-employee-satire than horror, but once it gets going it just goes and goes and goes. Some of the images will stick with me for a long time. I’m not sure I can go into an Ikea ever again. *shudders* The book is also laid out like an Ikea catalogue, which makes it extra special.

In other news: The Next Together is released in Australia on November 1st! You can follow my blog tour below if you wish.

Monday, November 9, Genie in a Book

Tuesday, November 10, Dymocks Bookmarked

Wednesday, November 11, Nicole Has Read

Thursday, November 12, Cassie the Weird

Friday, November 13, Imaginary Misadventure

Saturday, November 14, The Book Addict

I also have some new reviews and it’s THRILLING.

Smallish Magazine called it “Utterly gripping” and The Herald Scotland said: “The Next Together, is a rather clever piece of time-travelling science fiction meets romance, by debut author Lauren James. Katherine and Matthew are teenagers who meet and fall in love in numerous different time frames. Rather satisfyingly they come together for the “first objective”, a kiss, numerous times, and find themselves caught up in the violent dramas of history as well as the future. Smart and hugely creative.

The Lancashire Evening Post said “Funny, unique, filled with passion and danger, and utterly addictive, The Next Together is one of this year’s best young adult romances. James knows her audience and writes with the assurance and well-honed imagination of a seasoned novelist. No self-respecting teen would want to miss it!

So THANKS, Scotland and Lancashire!!

I also loved this so much I have to share it: Georgia at Teen Book Hoots wrote her own ‘next together’! I LOVE this idea – and I would not complain about being in her scenario either! 😉

And finally, because no Halloween blog post would be complete without a Brooklyn Nine Nine gif:

Brooklyn99Insider-Santiago-Halloween Less Unbearable 1

You can find a rebloggable version of this post here.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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