I’m sure you have all been hanging on the edge of your seat just waiting to see what novels would feature in my top 20 for 2016. It has been another bumper book year. My Goodreads challenge was met in September, and I anticipate cracking 200 books for this year (including novellas, anthologies and novels).
So, here are my top 20 novels for 2016, in no particular order. Most of them are horror books, because that is what I enjoy reading the most. You may agree with some of these, you may disagree. All that matters is that we all have our own opinions and enjoy different things. Feel free to comment at the bottom and add any books you feel I should check out.
Thanks to everybody who has contributed to this blog in 2016. I started it in March and it seems to be going from strength to strength. I am always trying to come up with new ideas for content to keep readers engaged. I don’t want to simply focus on book reviews, although I do enjoy doing them. What I really want is for writers to connect more with their readers and feel I have gone some way towards doing this with the interviews and the Storytellers feature. I have a couple of other ideas for 2017, so we will see how we go. Thanks for continuing to stop by here. It means a lot more than you will ever know. Thanks also to everybody that has provided me with ARCS. Publishers, authors, media people, you have given so much and I thank you all.
Anyway, let’s get stuck into it…
‘Children of the Dark’ was another blockbuster read from Janz; a writer who doesn’t seem as if he has a bad book in him. A coming of age story with fantastic characters, great writing, reminiscent of King in his prime and with enough blood and guts to satisfy even the most hardcore of horror fans. Janz is a master of horror and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in 2017.
‘Unger House Radicals’ is like a ‘Clockwork Orange’ for the 21st century. Chris Kelso went above and beyond with this brutal tale of ultra violence. It is a book that twists and turns, leaving you shaken and sickened. Chris Kelso is in a league of his own. He has a unique style that keeps you on your toes, whilst at the same time challenging you as a reader.
Paul Kane’s ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell’ could well have been a train wreck. Sherlock Holmes and Hellraiser mixed together sounds like it really shouldn’t work. It does, and then some. Kane easily blends the two concepts together, weaving a tapestry of horror the likes of which I don’t think will be beaten for some time. A remarkable book that stays true to both characters yet keeps things fresh and engaging.
I loved ‘The Fisherman’. Everything about this book oozes quality, from the writing, to the awesome cover. Word Horde released this great book in June to some great press. A story within a story, the book builds slowly, but never drags its feet, towards the second half when all hell breaks loose. Langan’s vivid imagery and excellent storytelling abilities were on display throughout. A great horror read.
The final installment of the plague trilogy saw Rich Hawkins bring things to a suitably bleak, apocalyptic ending that featured some horrific monstrosities. Hawkins writing is excellent and the feelings of despair and dread were rife in a book that got better and better as it went on. So often trilogies can lose their way, but not so with ‘The Last Soldier’. A fitting end to a brilliant trilogy.
‘The Ruin Season’ isn’t a horror book! It is a writer firing on all cylinders telling a story rich with emotion, great characters and an important message. This is the first book I have read by Kristopher Triana (Hey, Kris, I finally spelt your name right!!) and it is an absolute doozy. Buy it!
‘Mister White’ was an early contender for my book of the year. The short story of the same name whet the appetite, though nothing could prepare me for the horrors inside this excellent novel. Part horror, part thriller, ‘Mister White’ is a white knuckle spanning continents as a mysterious other-worldly entity brutally kills all who speak his name. Great stuff from Foster and Grey Matter Press.
Wow. Without doubt one of the best Werewolf novels I have read. ‘Black Goat Motorcycle Club’ is a brilliant book that reads like ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ meets ‘Dog Soldiers’. It’s a bloody ride as a small town is besieged by an outlaw MC who turn out to be Werewolves! A great release from Sinister Grin Press.
New (to me) author Dominic Stabile blew me away with this dystopian thriller that was part Hellboy and part Die Hard. A superb lead character in Stone helped this fast-moving sci-fi tale into the stratosphere. It’s action all the way, but not at the expense of being a great story featuring some great concepts and scenes. Rumor is that Stone will return in 2017 and I for one cannot wait. Top stuff from Mirror Matter Press.
Vincenzo Bilof’s book was certainly a challenging read. It is brutal, almost sadistic, violent and yet thought-provoking at the same time. I was never quite sure how far Vincenzo was prepared to go with this book and for that reason I was excited to continue reading it. It certainly won’t be for everyone but I thought it was one of the most original pieces of fiction I have read for a long, long while. Brilliant.
Ed Kurtz novel blew me away with its mix of noir and horror. Reminiscent of King’s ‘The Stand’ and yet a book very much in its own mood, ‘The Rib from Which I Remake the World’ is a triumph of cross-genre storytelling that kept me engaged right until its brilliant ending.
‘Tijuana Donkey Showdown’ is hands-up the funniest novel I’ve ever read, and I’m a hard man to please. Satire in books is something that doesn’t often work for me but Howe nailed it with this book. From the very first page I was in stitches. It’s something that shouldn’t work but does and it is definitely up there amongst the years very best, if not THE best!
‘Stranded’ had a lot of hype surrounding it and delivered in spades. I’d already seen the great reviews before I’d got around to reading for myself and I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I’d go as far as to say it exceeded my expectations. Perfectly paced and great characters made this sub-zero horror thriller a must read.
Aaron Dries and Mark Allan Gunnells succeeded in co-writing a superb novel which was released in early December through Crystal Lake Publishing. The artwork is stunning but not as stunning as the story which gave me the feels big time.
Australian author Brett McBean played me with this home invasion tale. Wickedly paced and featuring real life characters, this tale was both brutal and brilliant. I think this is the quickest book I have read in 2016. Could not put it down. Brilliant.
I loved everything about this book from Scott Adlerberg. ‘Graveyard Love’ is a story of infatuation and murder all wrapped up in a noir shroud. The narrator is absolutely bonkers and the ending to this was very satisfying indeed. Scott Adlerberg is the bomb and so is this book.
Whilst not pretending to be anything other than a good old-fashioned tale of revenge, ‘The Red Seven’ gave me a real Clint Eastwood style kick in the arse with its engaging protagonist The Ghost and his journey to rid the world of those that wronged him and his family. It was a welcome relief from horror and I loved every second of it.
Ghost wang was the order of the day for Jessica McHugh’s ‘The Train Derails in Boston’. An erotic horror novel that still has many images still lingering inside of my brain to this day. It’s unflinching, sexy, gruesome and totally out there, and it has a great cover too! You need to enter the McHughniverse if you haven’t done so already!
A bit of historical fiction from Adam Baker also makes the list. I loved this novel set in Japan as a lone samurai is sent on one final mission. Beautiful scenery, great fights and an all round wonderful story make this a must read. More in this series to come as well!
What a great, fun read this was from Stephen Kozeniewski. Dripping with blood and featuring some great humour too, ‘Hunter of the Dead’ made me excited to read Vampire horror stories again. This book has everything and is devilishly funny to boot. Read it.
Honourable mentions that came very close and are definitely worth your time include: ‘Hexagram’ Duncan P. Bradshaw, ‘Puppet Skin’ by Danger Slater, ‘A Living Grave’ Robert E. Dunn, ‘Ashes of Another Life’ by Lindsey Goddard and ‘The Bad Game’ by Adam Millard.
I’ve read heaps of really great novellas and anthologies this year too but to list them all would take far too long. ‘Woom’ by Duncan Ralston, ‘Mojo Rising’ by Bob Pastorella, ‘Alter’ by Philip Fracassi, ‘Rare Breeds’ by Erik Hofstatter, ‘The Ballad of Black Tom’ by Victor Lavalle and ‘Odd Man Out’ by James Newman are just a selection of some of the novellas I have really enjoyed. Grey Matter Press continued their great form with the ‘Peel Back the Skin’ anthology and ‘Lost Signals’ by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing also had some cracking stories inside. Adam Nevill showed all is wears with ‘Some Will Not Sleep’, a collection of sublime literary horror and Mike Griffin impressed with his debut collection ‘The Lure of Devouring Light’ as did Alan Baxter with his recent release ‘Crow Shine’, Israel Finn with ‘Dreaming at the Top of My Lungs’ and Michael Wehunt with ‘Greener Pastures’ whilst Edward Lorn’s ‘Others and Oddities is another collection I came across and loved. I have also recently finished ‘Bones are made to be Broken’ by Paul Michael Anderson, and trust me, this is a collection of stories you will definitely want to read!
Of all the anthologies I read this year there are two stories that really stood out for me: J. Daniel Stone blew me away with his dark tale in Grey Matter Press’ ‘I Can Taste the Blood’ anthology and I love anything by Betty Rocksteady, particularly her short story in the Word Horde anthology ‘Eternal Frankenstein’. Both these writers are going from strength-to-strength and I am expecting great things from them in 2017.
There has been talk of the death of genre fiction on social media recently and I couldn’t disagree more. Genre fiction is in a very good place with some extraordinary writers producing scintillating works of fiction. You just need to know where to find them.