Top Ten Tuesday: Horror Books

Title in white on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

This week is a freebie, so I thought that it would be most appropriate to do something related to horror. I don’t read much horror – too easily scared – so this list represents most of the horror and horror-adjacent books I’ve read!

1. HOLD BACK THE TIDE, by Melinda Salisbury

HOLD BACK THE TIDE is Melinda Salisbury’s 6th book, a fantasy eco/cli-fi fantasy horror. It’s not an easy book to classify, but it is very spooky. There’s a tense, creeping dread across the whole book as the water level in the Loch lowers thanks to a sawmill and then horrific incidents start to pile up in the community.

It is a stunning book, and the ending is brilliant. It takes a bit of hindsight (to get past the NOOOOOO how can it end here?!), but it’s so perfect for the book’s themes and atmosphere. Plus the writing is gorgeous as ever from Melinda Salisbury.

2. IT’S BEHIND YOU, by Kathryn Foxfield

Book cover for IT'S BEHIND YOU: title in white on flecked black with a lightbulb dripping blood

Kathryn Foxfield’s second book IT’S BEHIND YOU, in my opinion, surpasses her debut, GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST, for sheer creep factor. Both are brilliant UKYA horrors, but the claustrophobia of the caves puts this book above the other for me.

Compulsively readable, a sceptical teen in need of money enters a scare show in supposedly haunted caves, and at first everything is cheap tricks and good lighting, but then the bodies begin to pile up and the cave itself seems to be pitting itself against them.

3. CITY OF GHOSTS, by Victoria Schwab

CITY OF GHOSTS is the first book in a ghostly Middle Grade series about a girl who can see ghosts – and whose parents have an obsession with all things paranormal, so Cassidy ends up seeing more ghosts than the average girl. While some ghosts are nice, like her best friend Jacob, some are malevolent. And it’s Cassidy’s job to send them onwards, but they won’t go without a fight.

I love this series, and I really hope there ends up being more books. None are announced, but the format has left space for at least another three. Fingers crossed!

4. MEXICAN GOTHIC, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Book cover for MEXICAN GOTHIC: girl in plum dress before patterned green walls

A very different sort of horror to the ones listed before, MEXICAN GOTHIC is very unsettling as it plays with your perceptions of what’s real and not. At its heart, it’s a mystery that slowly unfolds to reveal the truth behind the creepy, controlling family – and why Noemi cannot trust her own senses in their isolated house.

It’s a short book, but slowly paced. It’s a masterclass in how to create atmosphere and raise the hairs on the back of a reader’s neck. The slow, deliberate plod adds to the inevitability – a key part of the horror in this book. You know something bad is going to happen, but you know it cannot be stopped.

5. LAST ONE TO DIE, by Cynthia Murphy

Book cover for LAST ONE TO DIE: title in white and pink on blue-lit balconies

This UKYA straddles the horror/thriller line, and the paranormal ending is what makes it so hard to classify. I think I would have preferred if it had stuck to the non-paranormal, but that doesn’t detract from the tension created.

LAST ONE TO DIE needs a trigger warning about stalkers, as the book is about a girl who knows she’s being followed – but not by who. And there have been many incidents of late where girls looking like her have died. It plays on that fear of being out at night as a woman, which made it so uncomfortably realistic.


Book cover for MINA AND THE UNDEAD: title in white on red above a creepy house

I don’t watch horror movies, and I’m too young/not the right audience for all the references in this book, but if you’re a fan of ’90s horror, then pick up this book. MINA AND THE UNDEAD a romp through that decade, set in New Orleans in the middle of a horror fest and playing on the city’s long history of gruesome tales.

It’s also a vampire book, part of the current resurgence in vampires in fiction after their ten year lull. Though it’s set abroad, it’s a UKYA (the protagonist is a Brit on holiday) and technically a historical (the ’90s now count as historical fiction! Who else feels old?)


Book cover for WICKED LITTLE DEEDS: Title in yellow and pink on a figure fleeing down a blue corridor

Another UKYA set in America, this book is another book that straddles the horror/thriller divide. WICKED LITTLE DEEDS one plays more on the psychological horror element, making you question what exactly Ava is seeing – how much is true, and what explains the rest. It’s my favourite explanation for an unreliable narrator in a while.

There is also space for the reader to decide whether how large a part the paranormal elements play – if they’re real or if they can be explained away as being of this world. That was a nice little touch, and probably opens it up to a larger audience.

8. HOUSE OF HOLLOW, by Krystal Sutherland

Book cover for HOUSE OF HOLLOW: title in white on a girl's face wreathed with flowers

HOUSE OF HOLLOW is a fantasy-leaning horror, set in contemporary England about sisters whom strange things happen around. The form of horror is very much the corruption and wrongness of what should be the everyday, with a strong natural world element.

The cover image of the skin splitting to reveal flowers is a really good representation of the sort of body horror in this. It made me quite uncomfortable about everyday experiences at times and has a twisted fairy tale feel.

9. CUCKOO SONG, by Frances Hardinge

book cover for CUCKOO SONG: title in white besides a creepy doll and surrounded by apples

CUCKOO SONG is another fantasy with horror elements. It’s a historical novel, on the MG/YA boundary, set in the 1920s. Unlike most ’20s books, it’s not the roaring twenties, but the everyday life of middle class families – no big parties or glamourous clothes. I liked seeing that under-represented part of history.

The horror in this book is created by he fantastical elements being ignored by some and terrifies others, giving it a surreal feeling that only gets worse as Triss starts to wonder what happened to her on holiday and then goes investigating with her sister.

10. STALKING JACK THE RIPPER, by Kerri Maniscalco

Book cover for STALKING JACK THE RIPPER: girl in a green dress holding a dagger

I have yet to finish the STALKING JACK THE RIPPER series, and I wouldn’t say the third has horror elements. They are all predominantly historical thrillers, but the London streets (and eventual solution) of the first book and the shut in castle of the second do give those two books an unsettling feeling.

Audrey-Rose is a Victorian lady who’s interest lies in forensic pathology, but no one wants to let a girl do that. In each book, she gets caught up in a case that often has been labelled paranormal. That is leant into, while ultimately having a “real world” solution.

What horror and horror-adjacent books have you read?

17 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Horror Books

    1. I don’t recall thinking it was body horror (I’m not good with that either) – more creepy mushrooms taking over mind through drugs (I might be wrong though). Very creepy atmospheric story so of that’s what you like, I’d go for it


    1. Same, I like eerie books rather than gory (and preferably in another world!) so they tend to be called fantasy rather than horror


    1. City of Ghosts is so much fun! And yeah, my friend who’s watched enough films of the period to get the references loved Mina!


    1. Oh yeah, and then there’s the additional fear related to books not living up to hype! I wouldn’t have read it if a friend hadn’t leant me her copy

      Liked by 1 person

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