Friday, December 18, 2015

Horror Maiden's Top Twelve Books of 2015

2015 has been a busy year here at Horror Maiden's Book Reviews. I have had the pleasure of reading a lot of fantastic books written by some really great authors. There were so many that I couldn't pick just ten,,,, so the Top Twelve Books of 2015 was born. The books on this list are all stories that crept into my mind and under my skin, staying with me long after the last page was read. I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with the people you love. I'll see you next year! 

12. Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

When Laurie was a little girl, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs. It was one of many rules imposed by her cold, distant father. Now, in a final act of desperation, her father has exorcised his demons. But when Laurie returns to claim the estate with her husband and ten-year-old daughter, it’s as if the past refuses to die. She feels it lurking in the broken moldings, sees it staring from an empty picture frame, and hears it laughing in the moldy greenhouse deep in the woods…

At first, Laurie thinks she’s imagining things. But when she meets her daughter’s new playmate, Abigail, she can’t help but notice her uncanny resemblance to another little girl who used to live next door. Who died next door. With each passing day, Laurie’s uneasiness grows stronger, her thoughts more disturbing. Like her father, is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something truly unspeakable happening to those sweet little girls?
 I have been a fan of Ronald Malfi ever since I shivered my way through Snow and Floating Staircase. Little Girls once again proves that Malfi is a master at crafting a great story.
What an incredible ghost story! Little Girls grabs you and drags you kicking and screaming down a dark and twisted path. The story is griping and atmospheric with a creeping sense of dread. I couldn't put it down. The main character, Laurie is incredibly realistic. When I first started reading I really didn't like her. I thought she was a cruel and self centered witch. As the story went on I began to think that maybe she was troubled, I started to feel bad for her and wonder what could have made her act the way she did to both her father and the rest of her family. By the end of the book I got it. Much like a 'real' person the twists and events revealed new facets of her personality and life which changed the way I viewed her and her actions. The things that are haunting Laurie are frightening and disturbingly realistic. It's not often that a story comes alive this way. If you're a fan of horror or just really great reads, do yourself a favor and grab this book! You might want to leave the lights on for this 5 star read.
Buy Little Girls

11. Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to eat candy whenever he wants and set his own bedtimes. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined.

What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life.

A new novella from the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE TURTLE BOY and KIN.

Sour Candy is a super creepy little story!! The thought of someone hurting a child is grotesquely horrific. But what if that child is a creature from another place? A creature that has alienated you from everyone you love and destroyed your life in a matter of moments? A creature that now wants the only thing you have left,,, You. That's what Phil Pendleton must face when Adam decides that Phil is his father. The thing that really makes this story work is the niggling doubt. Is Phil crazy or is Adam really the monster he seems to be. Even Phil isn't sure. This story has a sense of claustrophobic paranoia that grips you tight and won't let go until the last page is read. I couldn't put it down! Grab this fast paced and phenomenal 5 star read now.
Buy Sour Candy

10. Seeing Evil by Jason Parent

Fate in plain sight.

 Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

 In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.
Seeing Evil is a fantastic police procedural serial killer novel with a psychic twist. I loved this story!! It's well written and grabs ahold of you and won't let go. The action moves at a breathless pace leaving you hanging on every word. The characters are realistic and it's easy to care about what happens to them. Christopher Masterson is Evil (with a capital E) incarnate. He has all the gruesomeness and creep factor of Hannibal Lector without any of the charm. I think that one of the scariest things about him is that people like him are really out there. I loved both Sam and Michael. Their relationship is complex and moving. I hope that they appear in future novels because I would definitely follow their stories. Tessa broke my heart. I just wanted to hug her and tell her that things would get better. I really wanted things to turn out all right for her. You'll have to read the book to find out if they do. This is a book that will haunt me for a long time to come. If you are looking for a phenomenal story grab this fast paced and horrifying 5 star read.
Buy Seeing Evil

9. Cannibal by Jeremy Robinson & Sean Ellis

Still recovering from the tragic loss of a good friend, Jack Sigler, callsign: King, leads the Chess Team—a crew of former Delta operators—back into action. But what should be a routine snatch-and-grab to capture a drug cartel leader, escalates out of control, throwing the team into a challenge unlike anything they’ve ever faced. An enemy from their past, who is close to unmasking their identities, joins forces with the psychotic cartel kingpin, setting a trap that will shake the team to its foundations.
While the team battles enemies old and new, King’s fiancée, CDC disease detective, Sara Fogg, struggles to stop a strange outbreak that transforms the infected into ravenous, inhuman monsters. Once responsible for the disappearance of the Roanoke settlers, the disease now threatens to spread across the planet, ending human civilization in a bloodbath of violence.
Hunted by humans and monsters alike, King and the Chess Team face a desperate choice—sacrifice themselves or let the world bleed.

Cannibal, the seventh book in the Chess Team series, combines two of my favorite legends with the awesomeness that is a Jack Sigler thriller. The legend of the Lost Roanoke Colony and the Native American legend of the Wendigo are brought together flawlessly along with fast paced action and terror that will leave you breathless. Along with saving the world the Chess Team must also deal with an old enemy who is hell bent on destroying all of them, and just might succeed this time round. I love the way that Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis create a richly detailed world and fill it with characters that feel like old friends to those of us that follow this series. I always hate finishing a Chess Team novel because I don't want the story to end. I can't wait for the next one!! I would highly recommend that if you haven't read these books yet you RUN (not walk) to your nearest bookstore and get started. You are missing out on some amazing stories. A fast paced and fabulous 5 star read.
Buy Cannibal

8. Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry

From New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, the first in a thrilling series of novels based on Deadlands, a hugely successful role-playing game (RPG) set in the Weird, Weird West.
Welcome to the Deadlands, where steely-eyed gunfighters rub shoulders with mad scientists and dark, unnatural forces. Where the Great Quake of 1868 has shattered California into a labyrinth of sea-flooded caverns . . . and a mysterious substance called "ghost rock" fuels exotic steampunk inventions as well as plenty of bloodshed and flying bullets.
In Ghostwalkers, a gun-for-hire, literally haunted by his bloody past, comes to the struggling town of Paradise Falls, where he becomes embroiled in a deadly conflict between the besieged community and a diabolically brilliant alchemist who is building terrible new weapons of mass destruction . . . and an army of the living dead!
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers was my first foray into the Deadlands universe, but if this book is an example of the stories I'll find there I'll be going back soon and often! A combination of weird western and steampunk horror with a definite Lovecraftian feel, this novel had me hooked from the very beginning. The descriptions and action were so well written I felt like I was fighting along side the people of Paradise Falls. The characters were believable and easy to care about, feeling like friends by the end of the story. I loved Thomas Looks Away, Grey Torrance, and Jenny most although there were several other characters that were a lot of fun as well. The plot has a few twists that I didn't see coming that made the story even better and touching in places. Jonathan Maberry has once again captured my imagination and left me wanting more, proving why he is one of my favorite authors. A fast paced and fabulous 5 star thrill ride that fans of the weird west, steampunk and horror will love to be on.
Buy Deadlands: Ghostwalkers

7. Blood And Rain by Glenn Rolfe

The light of a full moon reveals many secrets. Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man's terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen. Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping. Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can't even comprehend? One night can-and will-change everything.
Anyone who knows me or follows my reviews knows that I adore a good werewolf story. Not the emo, poor me I'm a monster or the I'm here to claim you for my mate now lets get it on werewolves that we see so much of these days. I love the honest to goodness rip your throat out beast out hunting for its next meal. That's exactly what you get with Blood And Rain. This novel is a throwback to the golden age of horror complete with dark and stormy nights filled with the bloodthirsty howls of a werewolf or two. The action is non-stop and exciting as Joe fights to keep his daughter, Sonya, and the rest of his town safe from the rampaging beast. Glenn Rolfe excels at creating characters so realistic that you not only want to follow but you also care about. It makes the horrors surrounding them way more frightening. A terrifically spooky 5 star read just in time for Halloween. I highly recommend it!
Buy Blood And Rain

6. Wolf Land by Jonathan Janz

An unholy predator on the prowl!

The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil.

The werewolf.

The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded. And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. Because the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They’re experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. They’ll prey on the innocent. They’ll act on their basest desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land.
Wolf Land is not my first book by Jonathan Janz but it is my favorite so far. Fans of great werewolf stories will be slavering to sink their teeth into this well written and gruesome book. This is action packed horror at it's finest! As I read this novel I got extremely annoyed every time something would interrupt me, only the best books elicit that response. Some of the scenes in this novel were incredibly horrific and not for the faint of heart, but if you love your horror gritty and terrifying like I do you won't be able to put it down. Jonathan Janz has created a realistic world and peopled it with characters that could be people you know then introduces a whole new werewolf legend to rip them to shreds. I highly recommend this relentlessly fast paced story. A hair raising 5 star read.
Buy Wolf Land
Amazon    Barnes & Noble


 5. High Moor III: Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds


 The war has begun...
As the humans make their move against the werewolf threat in their midst, and civil war threatens to break the pack apart, John and Marie struggle to free the only person who can unite the werewolf factions against their common enemy: Marie’s brother, Michael.
However, their efforts may be for nothing. As tensions mount, the Moonborn prepare to combat the human aggression with an assault of their own. An attack that could spell doom for both man and werewolf alike.

High Moor 3: Blood Moon is a fitting end to the High Moor trilogy. I've been hooked on the story of Michael, Marie, John and Stephen since I opened the first book so now I'm sad to see this phenomenal series end. This action packed thrill ride is filled with enough chills and terror, along with an astronomical body count, to please any horror lover out there. The characters are fantastically written and believable. I liked revisiting my favorite characters and getting to know new ones like Rose and Sharron. I also enjoyed the fact that not all the monsters had fangs and fur. My two favorite parts of this story are the New Year's Eve crèche and the epilogue. You'll have to read the book to find out why. Graeme Reynolds is a master storyteller whose work will linger long after you've read the last page. Fans of werewolves and great horror should grab this fast paced and thrilling read. I just wish that I could give it more than 5 stars!
Buy High Moor III: Blood Moon

4. Q Island by Russell James

Epidemic! An ancient virus has surfaced on Long Island, NY, turning its victims into black-veined, infectious, psychopathic killers. Chaos and madness rule.
In desperation, the military quarantines the island, trapping Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden. Somehow Aiden survives infection. He could be the key to a cure…if Melanie can get him to the mainland.
Gang leader Jimmy Wade also survives the virus, but he’s acquired a hunger for human flesh. Believing consuming Aiden will make him all-powerful, he and his gang hunt the boy. Melanie and Aiden must evade both Wade’s tightening grip and the growing army of the infected in an impossible escape from what all call Q Island.
What a fabulous book! The story grabbed me right from the first page and led me to an apocalyptic world peopled by characters that I genuinely wanted to follow. I loved Melanie and her son Aiden, although there were times I wanted to smack her for the decisions she made that put her son in danger. Tamara and Eddie were my heroes throughout this book. The action was fast paced and well written. It never felt overdone as is the case in some apocalyptical fiction. Russell James is a fantastic story teller who has delivered a believable and engrossing look into the end of life as we know it. Do yourself a favor and grab this 5 star read before it's too late,,,
Buy Q Island

3. Unworthy by Michael LaPointe

"Ask me terrible questions, and I will tell you terrible things."

Unworthy is the story of Ezra Kale, the twisted offspring of thrill killers, born into a world of depravity, bloodshed, and cannibalism. From the Dustbowl of the Great Depression to a notorious lunatic asylum, Ezra reinvents himself as a revival preacher, traveling the American South and using his calling to conceal his true nature, leaving a trail of ruination and death in his wake. At Ezra's side is Sister Randa, a deeply damaged woman with an unthinkable past, who finds in Ezra the only person she has ever trusted, and for whom she would gladly kill.

Only Danny Bloom, a retired carnival performer with a yearning for a more fulfilling life, realizes there may be more to the self-proclaimed Savior than anyone would dare imagine and, in uncovering an unspeakable horror, finds his destiny. Unworthy is a thriller both timely and timeless, a savage journey into the darkest heart of evil perpetrated in the name of faith.
Have you ever read a story so engrossing that you are a bit surprised when you look up from the page and find yourself back in the real world? Unworthy is that kind of story! I was completely captivated from the very first paragraph. It's easily one of my top 5 best books of the year so far, and I don't think it's going to move off that list any time soon. The storyline is dark and very disturbing. I was extremely impressed by the way Michael LaPointe captures the hopelessness and despair of the depression era migrant workers and the fanaticism of Ezra's followers. The characters are completely believable. I loved Danny's character. He was easy to care about and root for. Unworthy is the kind of novel that stays with you long after the last page is read. This is Michael Lapointe's first novel, I can't wait to see what he does next! Do yourself a favor and read this fantastic 5 star read!!
Buy Unworthy

2. Tortures Of The Damned by Hunter Shea

First, the electricity goes—plunging the east coast in darkness after a devastating nuclear attack. Millions panic. Millions die. They are the lucky ones.

Next, the chemical weapons take effect—killing or contaminating everything alive. Except a handful of survivors in a bomb shelter. They are the damned.

Then, the real nightmare begins. Hordes of rats force two terrified families out of their shelter—and into the savage streets of an apocalyptic wasteland. They are not alone. Vicious, chemical-crazed animals hunt in packs. Dogs tear flesh, cats draw blood, horses crush bone. Roaming gangs of the sick and dying are barely recognizable as human. These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the tortures that tear families apart. This is hell on earth. The rules are simple: Kill or die.
What a fantastic book! Tortures Of The Damned is easily my favorite book by Hunter Shea so far. I sat down to start this novel and the next time I looked up several hours and all 439 pages had passed by in what felt like a few minutes. It's not often that a story will grab my attention the way that this one did. The story line is fast paced and exciting. I was totally absorbed by the story of the Padilla family and their neighbors Buck and Alexiana. I was rooting for these characters as if they were friends. My heart was in my throat several times as they fought their way through the attacking animals and gangs to try to reach a safe place. My only complaint was the way the story ended. What the hell Hunter Shea!?! Give me more of this totally entrancing 5 star read!!
Buy Tortures Of The Damned

1. Hunger by Jeremiah Knight

Desperate to solve a global food shortage, ExoGen scientist Dr. Ella Masse oversees the creation and release of RC-714, a gene that unlocks millions of years of adaptation and evolution, allowing crops to use long dormant junk DNA to rapidly adapt to any environment. The world's food supply grows aggressively, occupying every inch of earth, no matter how inhospitable. World hunger is averted. Humanity flourishes. RC-714 is digested, absorbed and passed on.

The Change affects small, fast breeding mammals first. They multiply with the same aggressive speed as the ExoGen plants, but a new, insatiable hunger drives them to violence. War between species breaks out. And then RC-714 reaches humanity, along with every other large creature on the planet. Civilization implodes, as every living thing that consumed the ExoGen crops begins to adapt to a world full of predators, accessing genes dating back to the beginning of life itself.

Peter Crane and his son Jakob survive the Change, living in their family farmhouse and eating non-ExoGen food from a biodome, one of many provided by Ella Masse, who discovered the ramifications of her breakthrough too late. The pair ekes out a living in a world full of monsters, surviving until Ella shows up on their doorstep with her daughter, pursued by desperate predators and men alike.

As the farmhouse falls under attack, Crane learns that the end of humanity, of life on Earth, can still be averted: if Ella Masse and her daughter survive, and if they make it to the other side of the country without being captured...or consumed.

Jeremiah Knight merges the science of Michael Crichton with the horror of Stephen King in this fresh take on the post-apocalypse, creating a true worst-case scenario for GMO crops that will have people reading labels before eating their next pepper, tomato or kernel of corn.

Hunger is a fantastic look at a post-apocalyptic world! I already knew within the first few chapters that I couldn't wait for the next part in this trilogy. The story is a believable, fast paced thrill ride. The creatures are terrifying, both human and otherwise. The Stalkers were terrifying and relentless but the intelligence of the Riders made them scarier by far. I found myself totally involved with the characters. I'm dying to know what's going to happen to Peter, Jakob, Ella and Anne! Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, Jeremy Robinson, or just great story telling should run to the nearest bookstore for this 5 star read, highly recommended.
Buy Hunger

Happy Reading from the Horror Maiden!


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