The last month of the year is officially upon us, which means my reading mood is a frantic hustle to read all the things I said I was going to read in 2021 and also read all the holiday-themed horror and crime fiction possible. Yeah, we can all collectively laugh at how massive my stack of possibilities for December is. I actually cut out a lot of books several times because my original list looked like I quit my job to take up reading full-time. Sigh…if only!
Last year I found out how fun holiday horror reads can be, so I wanted to make sure to have some fun options for this year. While I was searching I realized there was a novelization for one of my favorite holiday horror movies, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE. If you haven’t watched this movie yet you need to add it to you to do list! My plan is to read the book and rewatch the movie ASAP!
Speaking of movies…I’ve got a fun list started for the husband and I to watch throughout the month. Don’t worry there’s definitely going to be Die Hard watching too because…duh, the best Christmas movie ever!
Ok, back to books! I’m in the middle of THE SANATORIUM, which I plan to finish up this weekend. There are a lot of mixed reviews for this one, but I’m really enjoying it! I love locked room mysteries and this is just the setting I was looking for. I’m also still continuing through the second half of FIRE & BLOOD, which I didn’t throw in this stack. I also forgot to add in two novella possibilities that I’ll share in a later post.
What did you pick up first in December?
FIRE & BLOOD (A Targaryen History #1) by George R.R. Martin: Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen–the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria–took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.
What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel’s worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley–including five all-new illustrations exclusive to this edition. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.
THE SANATORIUM (Detective Elin Warner #1) by Sarah Pearse: Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .
LOCAL WOMAN MISSING by Mary Kubica: Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.
Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE by Katharine Turner: School’s out for the end of the world.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a horror comedy about a teenager who faces down a zombie apocalypse with a little help from her friends.
Anna Shepherd is a straight-A student with a lot going on under the surface: she’s struggling with her mom’s death, total friend drama, and the fallout from wasting her time on a very attractive boy. She’s looking forward to skipping town after graduation–but then a zombie apocalypse majorly disrupts the holidays season. It’s going to be very hard to graduate high school without a brain.
To save the day, Anna, her friends, and her frenemies will have to journey straight to the heart of one of the most dangerous places ever known, a place famous for its horror, terror, and pain…high school.
This novel is inspired by the musical feature film, Anna and the Apocalypse.
BITTER CHILLS by Jay Alexander: This Krampusnacht, usher in the cold season with a macabre collection of eerie winter tales. From treacherous Christmases to snowy hellscapes, we have it all — and more. Featuring all eleven stories from the first edition of Bitter Chills (many with new revisions and expansions) as well as bonus poetry, stories and sequels from the featured authors, this illustrated Holiday Edition promises to make a terrifying Christmas gift.
This book is available to buy from: Amazon
MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS by Francis Duncan: Mordecai Tremaine, former tobacconist and perennial lover of romance novels, has been invited to spend Christmas in the sleepy village of Sherbroome at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame.
Arriving on Christmas Eve, he finds that the revelries are in full flow – but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.
Midnight strikes and the party-goers discover that it’s not just presents nestling under the tree…there’s a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas.
With the snow falling and the suspicions flying, it’s up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit – and prevent someone else from getting murder for Christmas.
THE CHRISTMAS KILLER (DI James Walker #1) by Alex Pine: As the snow begins to fall, the body count begins to climb…
DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.
But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow.
As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next….
Can James stop the killer before they strike again?
SILENT NIGHT (Silent Night #1) by R.L. Stine: Welcome to Fear Street.
Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself…and see if its dark terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?
Don’t open that present!
If only Reva Dalby had listened to that warning.
But beautiful, cold Reva won’t listen to anyone. Reva thinks she can have whatever—and whoever—she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby Department Stores.
Now, someone has some surprises instore for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.
Holiday cheer quickly turns to holiday chills for Reva. Someone is stalking her, someone is trying to get to her.
Her money can’t help her. No one can.
After all, who can you turn to when murder comes gift-wrapped?
This book is available to buy from: Amazon
THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon: West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.
Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
DEAD SILENCE by S.A. Barnes: Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.
A GHOST SHIP.
A SALVAGE CREW.
Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.
What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.
Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.
SEASON’S CREEPINGS by Ronald Kelly: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… what lurks among thy branches…
Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year. Candy canes and hot cocoa. Snowmen and sleigh rides. The love and hope that the Nativity brings. Cold milk and warm cookies for Santa. Family, friends, and the cheerful laughter of children.
But, beneath the festive wrapping paper and the gleam and glitter of the lights and tinsel, things less jubilant may lie in wait. The holiday season can bring love, peace, and benevolence… but it may also spawn a darkness lurking amid the shadowy boughs of the Christmas tree, ornaments that should have never seen the light of day, let along hung on festive branches, and bones that jingle and dance, in search of Santa’s crimson suit… and the flesh that resides within.
In this collection of harrowing holiday tales, Ronald Kelly leaves ten frightful and horrific gifts in the Christmas stockings that hang from the mantle of your cheerful fireplace. Ghastly and gruesome presents that slowly unwrap and burst into life while you are tucked, snug and warm, in your bed and take on nightmarish form in the icy winter hours of Christmas Eve, turning comfort and joy into terror and dread.
A FLICKER IN THE DARK by Stacy Willingham: When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.
Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?
DEAD BY DAWN by Paul Doiron: Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is fighting for his life. Ambushed on a darkened winter road, he plunges his Jeep into a frozen river and must escape drowning beneath the ice. Surviving the crash is only the first challenge he faces in a nightlong battle to stay alive and one step ahead of his unknown, heavily armed pursuers. To outwit them and return to his friends and family, none of whom knows where he is, Bowditch must dissect the hours leading up to the ambush and solve two riddles: who are these people who desperately want him dead and what has he done to incur their wrath?
THE LOOP by Jeremy Robert Johnson: Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.
Turner Falls is a small tourist town nestled in the hills of western Oregon, the kind of town you escape to for a vacation. When an inexplicable outbreak rapidly develops, this idyllic town becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence as the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and Lucy and her friends must do everything it takes just to fight through the night.
DEVOLUTION by Max Brooks: As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.
But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing—and too earth-shattering in its implications—to be forgotten.
In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.
Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.
Yet it is also far more than that.
Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us—and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.
Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it—and like none you’ve ever read before.
ROCK PAPER SCISSORS by Alice Feeney: Think you know the person you married? Think again…
Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.
Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.
Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.
ONE BY ONE by Ruth Ware: Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?
When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?
KRAMPUS: SHADOW OF SAINT NICHOLAS by Michael Dougherty: Ancient folklore warns of a mythical counterpart to Santa Claus, who punishes naughty children every Christmas… his name is KRAMPUS. Michael Dougherty presents the official graphic novel based on his festive horror comedy, which expands the mythology of this iconic terror with an anthology of three deliciously twisted morality tales that will leave you praying you are not on the naughty list.
At the most wonderful time of the year, a drunken mall Santa comes under siege from some very mischievous Christmas spirits, a dysfunctional cop becomes trapped with the man who ruined his life and the wealthy town “scrooge” must face the shadows from his past as his home comes under invasion from the homeless. This Christmas, Krampus will make sure they all get what they deserve.
THE VISITOR by Sergio Gomez: On Christmas, during one of the worst snowstorms Indiana has ever seen, five strangers are forced to take shelter inside of a roadside diner. As the night progresses, the snowfall shows no signs of relenting, ice begins to build up on the roads, and the temperature seems to be dropping by the hour. But the worst has nothing to do with the weather, and everything to do with the sixth visitor coming to the diner.
The jolliest time of the year quickly turns bloody as the diners find themselves fighting for their lives. This Christmas won’t just be white. It’ll be red, too.
This book is available to buy from: Amazon
THE EASTON FALLS MASSACRE by Holly Rae Garcia & Ryan Prentice Garcia: US Army Veteran Henry Miller embarks on a hunt at the edge of the Black Forest, but strays from the path and finds himself too close to the East Cascade Mountain Range.
Something lurks in the forest on the other side of those mountains. An ancient race of Bigfoot that have kept to themselves for centuries, until one of them defies the warnings and roams too far from the safety of their home.
When these two intersect, alliances are broken and events set in motion that will leave residents of the town of Easton Falls, Washington, fighting for their lives.
This book is available to buy from: Amazon
Disclosure: A huge thank you to Minotaur Books and Tor Nightfire for sending me free copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.
Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.