November reading round-up

  • # of books read: 10
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • total page count: 1,782
  • year total page count: 38,498 / 40,280

I didn’t get as much reading in as I would have liked this month, because I was busy Nanowrimo’ing.

At the beginning of the month I was still working my way through this stack of horror novels I had vowed to read in October.  The Bargaining was kind of meh for me, while The Ravenous and Midnight Movie were full of gory thrills.  By the end, however, I was ready to read some non-horror.

The Good Girl was a paperback someone donated to the library, which I knew I had put on my TBR list a little while ago.  It’s similar to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, one of those twisty thrillers with not-especially-likable protagonists, and the word “girl” in the title.  A fast read that’s a bit unpredictable, although the ending and twist stretched believability.

I saw The Life She Was Given come across the library desk, and put it on hold for myself (but staggered out, so it wouldn’t interfere with my October horror binge). The story felt like a strange mash-up of Water for Elephants and Flowers in the Attic, if you can imagine such a thing. Of course I loved it.

Hopefully next month I’ll get more reading done – even if only because I’m going on vacation!

  • Best Overall: All the Crooked Saints
  • Best Audiobook: Eat the Dark
  • Goriest: Midnight Movie
  • Fastest Read: Forbidden Secrets (1 day)
  • Slowest Read: Boy Meets Boy (8 days)

The full list (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

  1. The Bargaining by Carly Ann West
  2. The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics
  3. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (audiobook)
  4. Midnight Movie by Tobe Hooper
  5. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (audiobook)
  6. Forbidden Secrets (Fear Street Sagas #3) by R.L. Stine
  7. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  8. The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
  9. Eat the Dark by Joe Schreiber (audiobook)
  10. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
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October reading round-up

  • # of books read: 11
  • audiobooks listened to: 2
  • horror novels read: 7
  • total page count: 3,149
  • year total page count: 38,498

The first book read this month was from the batch I got signed at the Boston Teen Author Festival.  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was just such a lovely book that I gave a rare 5 stars! The writing was poetic and the story was just beautiful.  I don’t have the words.

I’ll be looking for more of this author’s books, but I had to put that aside, because this month I had vowed to read all the horror!

It was a daunting stack.  But I currently have only 2.5 books left to go!  Which is great, considering some of these have been languishing on my TBR shelf for years.

My absolute favorite horror novel I read this month was Diary of a Haunting.  I loved how the mystery of the house unfolded and how the format of blog posts was affected by the haunting as well.  There were some great creepy moments.  The Women in the Walls was a close second.  Amy Lukavics really knows how to pull you into a story without fleshing out the setting, somehow.

Many of these seemed to be more thriller than horror (Blind Spot and The Creeping).  And sadly, I was a bit disappointed in There’s Someone Inside Your House.  I read so much horror that I was waiting for some new twist and did not find it.

Just finished reading this one – so good! #turtlesallthewaydown #johngreen #bookstagram

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Of course, I vowed to read all horror novels in October, but then this one came out, and I had to read it.  I’ve only been waiting years since his last book!  Luckily it was a fast one and had everything I’ve come to expect from a John Green novel: quirky characters, philosophical discussions, and endings that are not tied up in a neat little bow.

  • Best Overall: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • Best Horror: Diary of a Haunting
  • Weirdest Overall: Fiendish
  • Fastest Read: Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror
  • Slowest Read: The Copper Gauntlet
  • Best Audio: Highly Illogical Behavior

The full list (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  2. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
  3. The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
  4. Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano
  5. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (audiobook)
  6. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  7. The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy
  8. Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
  9. Blind Spot by Laura Ellen
  10. Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
  11. The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium #2) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare (audiobook)

 

May reading round-up

  • # of books read: 21
  • audiobooks listened to: 5
  • ARCs read: 1
  • total page count: 4,538
  • year total page count: 20,077
I managed to get tons of reading done this month!  My favorite reads of the month were Bang by Barry Lyga (about a boy who shot and killed his younger sister when he was a toddler), Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (a murder mystery set in space and involving clones), and Ten Count v. 1 (a manga that warmed my little yaoi heart).

I got through the top four books in this stack.  I enjoyed House quite a bit, though it was somehow completely different than I imagined.  Dissected was also pretty good!  I thought I would like The Last Final Girl and Tape better than I did, but hey – you can’t like everything.   All of these were super quick reads.  I got House and Tape via Thriftbooks (along with most of the others in this stack!) and the others I got at the library book sale.  Last year I only found one book at the book sale, so I was quite pleased with the selection this year.

The Revenge of Analog was an interesting look at how people, after several decades of movement toward a digital world, are gravitating toward the analog.  Whether it’s music on vinyl, film cameras, or simply handmade goods, I have seen this trend emerging both for myself (I own a typewriter again!) and among others of my generation.  Sure, it’s convenient to be able to load up my Nook for a trip, but sometimes it’s easier (simpler, and easier on the eyes!) to read a physical book.  I was thinking this was more of a hipster trend, but honestly I’m seeing this everywhere.

A nice day for beach reading #beachreads #sixwakes #bookstagram #murlafferty

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I’m not a big fan of sci-fi, but the horror elements of Six Wakes (“Six crew. One ship. One killer.”) intrigued me when this appeared at the library.  I also really liked the cover, because sometimes that’s how I judge books!  I had the opportunity to read One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus as an ARC, and I enjoyed that murder mystery just as much.  Maybe I like murder mysteries now?

Because the weather has been far cooler than usual for May, I’ve been listening to audiobooks like mad (normally, I’d have my car window rolled down, which makes it hard to listen to an audiobook while driving).  My favorite audio of the month was definitely The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.  It was a quirky kind of love story that takes place over the course of a day.  The alternating voices reminded me a little of Eleanor and Park – also the focus on music as a thing that brings the two together.  I also enjoyed Anna Kendrick’s memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody.

Three nonfiction books this month, WHAT?  I’ve had this on request for a while and it came in for me just as I was heading up to Acadia, Maine for the weekend.  It could not have been more perfect timing.  The Stranger in the Woods is the story of a man who lived alone and unnoticed in the Maine wilderness for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS.  As the author of the book pointed out, most people don’t go more than a few hours without speaking to another human being.  Even me.  I enjoy my time alone, but I also have the outlet of talking to people via the internet, even if I don’t leave the house at all, which is rare.  Usually I at least go to the gym or grocery shopping.  So while it sounds lovely to be alone for so long, I’m sure not even I could do it.

The complete list!  (links take you to my Goodreads reviews)

  1. The House by Christina Lauren
  2. Day 21 (The 100 #2) by Kass Morgan (audiobook)
  3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (ebook)
  4. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  5. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax
  6. Dissected by Megan Bostic
  7. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (audiobook)
  8. Tape by Steve Camden
  9. The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
  10. One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus (ARC)
  11. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  12. Bang by Barry Lyga
  13. Insanity by Susan Vaught
  14. The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey (audiobook)
  15. The Gathering (Shadow House #1) by Dan Poblocki (audiobook)
  16. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
  17. Ten Count, Volume 1 by Rihito Takarai
  18. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
  19. Blood on My Hands by Todd Strasser
  20. Deadly Attraction (Nightmare Hall #3) by Diane Hoh
  21. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (audiobook)

March reading round-up

  • # of books read: 14
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 3
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 3
  • total page count: 3,998
  • year total page count: 12,251

Well, I still haven’t beat that crazy reading streak I had in January.  It does seem that I’m reading roughly 4,000 pages a month, though, and I can attest that several of the books this month were really long (including one that will end up being in next month’s round-up).

Only 3 audiobooks this month.  The first was the YA novel Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, which I enjoyed despite its unevenness.  The other two audiobooks were both similar in genre and tone: Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me.  Both dealt with mothers and the hidden lives of their teenagers.  Both were also interesting character studies as not much by way of action happened, but kept me hooked until the end.

Darkly amusing #bookstagram #thedinner #hermankoch #justfinished

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The Dinner was recommended to me by a friend, and it was both short and disturbing.  I enjoy disturbing.  This was the kind of real-world disturbing, a scenario showing how thin the masks of polite society are, and how easily people descend into violent depths.

One of my favorite reads this month was Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  This series continues to keep me hooked on the complicated political world of supernatural creatures.  Of course, Mercy Thompson is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and this installment revolves around that reputation.  I finished off another series just today, the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle.  The final book, Dust to Dust, wrapped everything up nicely.  If you enjoy those ghost hunter shows, this series is for you.

I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” last month, and binge-watched both seasons.  The book doesn’t develop the characters quite so much as the show does, and is more about the randomness of possibility and choice rather than the concept of parallel universes, but it was a thought-provoking read. (I’ll have to include Girls on Fire in next month’s round-up, since I’m still only halfway through).

On the graphic novel front, I only read 3 and they were from the same series: Harrow County.  I had read volume 1 last spring and only now discovered that a.) there were 4 volumes out already and b.) my library consortium had them all!  These are kind of horror, but also strangely wholesome?  The main character Emmy is a witch, but she wants to use her powers to help people.  She also has a familiar in the shape of a boy’s skin that speaks to her, and an evil twin, and there are lots of “haints” around who are more than ready to do evil stuff.  (See what I mean about wholesome/horror?)

Two more books in the Throne of Glass series read this month: The Assassin’s Blade, a prequel which contains 5 novellas, and Heir of Fire, book 3.  It seems like each book in this series gets longer and longer… and Heir of Fire in particular felt long, more like a setup for a grand finale.  However, it’s still really good!  Only 2 books left to go…

Finally, I got around to reading Caraval, which I received via Owl Crate.  I was pretty psyched about this month’s theme, which was circus.  I was half-expecting to receive the book Freeks, which would have better fit the theme, but Caraval had its own charm.  It’s a fun read if you don’t take it too seriously.  It’s also a beautiful book, and receiving it through the mail with lots of luxurious little goodies fit the theme of the book.  I can’t wait for next month’s box!

I may decide to include a Wattpad reading round-up at some point in the future – but probably not next month, since I’ll be busy participating in Camp Nanowrimo and hopefully cranking out the third and final Wolf Point prequel!

What have you read this month that you enjoyed?

my top 10 werewolf books*

*that I didn’t write

Books about werewolves have a huge advantage over werewolf movies: they don’t have to deal with special effects, which means they can be great without needing a big budget.  That being said, there are a lot of cheesy werewolf books out there (and many of them are in the romance genre…).  This list includes both YA and adult novels.  

 

 

#10: Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann

6449596This book deserves a better cover.  I suppose here is where the idea of a budget affects werewolf novels in a similar way as movies.  This seems designed to appeal to fan of paranormal romance, but it’s actually more historical fiction or fantasy.

In the Middle Ages, an order of monks discovers a litter of werewolf pups, and kept them alive to use as weapons of God.  Years later, one of the weapons, Lilly, has escaped.  She’s found by Udolf, a man with one arm, who tries to help her.

I’ve read (or tried to read) other historical werewolf novels, and thus far Wolfbreed is unique for its time frame.

 

#9: Unleashed by Kristopher Reisz

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A gritty teen werewolf tale that broke away from the post-Twilight werewolf trend. The story is about more than changing into wolves and having superpowers – it’s about finding your voice rather than being a “hand-licker” or someone who tries to please other people.  If City of Bones by Cassandra Clare had more of a focus on werewolves, it might have made my list, but this novel has that same feel – the urban fantasy, about werewolves living in the city.

Fun fact, I named one of the werewolves in my Wolf Point series Misty based on one of the main characters in Unleashed.  (Another character is named Daniel, but he’s not named after the Daniel in this story).

 

#8: Frostbite by David Wellington

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One of the few true “horror” novels on this list, I had originally bought Overwinter (the second book in this two book series) before realizing I needed to read this one first.

There’s plenty of action as a woman named Cheyenne barely survives a wolf attack and is brought to a man named Powell for help.  When she learns Powell wants to kill her, she runs, and that is when she discovers that Powell is a werewolf, and so is she.

 

 

#7: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

49041You might think it silly, but I do think the werewolf culture presented in this series is strong and well-developed.  Yes, there has been controversy about this being cultural appropriation, but based on other instances of Native American culture in young adult literature, I find this to be one of the least problematic.

Jacob’s nature as a werewolf is only hinted at in the first book, and it’s New Moon where it becomes central to the plot.  New Moon is also where Edward is MIA and Jacob and Bella’s friendship begins to grow.  Jacob is literally the best part of New Moon, because he pulls Bella out of her months-long catatonia (or moping, as one might call it).

 

#6: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

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The Alex Awards celebrate adult novels with young adult appeal, and I was a new YA librarian when I heard about this particular book on the list.

Essentially, Sharp Teeth is an epic poem.  Unlike Beowulf or The Odyssey or other epic poems teens are forced to read in high school, this one is about werewolves.  Werewolf poetry is rare, despite some of the earliest works about werewolves being poems (“Bisclavret” by Marie de France was written in the 12th century).  So you get to feel like you’re reading something literary, instead of pulpy.

 

#5: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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This was the first book I ever read by Maggie Stiefvater and it made me a total convert.  Her writing is poetic without being over the top purple prose, and I loved the idea that these werewolves only changed when it got to be too cold.

I’ll admit that I read this shortly after reading Twilight, and there is a heavy focus on the romance.  But there’s no love triangle, and Grace and Sam are so sweet with each other.  Plus you get to hear both of their perspectives.  In later books, you get to hear from others in the pack, like Isabelle and Cole (who get their own book later in the series).

 

#4: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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You’ll hear me gush about Patricia Briggs later in this list, so it might not mean much now for me to say Jennifer Lynn Barnes is like the YA version of Patricia Briggs.

Bryn isn’t a werewolf, but she was raised by a werewolf alpha after he saved her from a werewolf attack.  And she has to work within the pack rules to figure out why everyone’s telling her to stay away from Chase, who was also attacked in a similar way as Bryn herself was.

Another bonus: this is a trilogy, not an endless series – although I would have gladly read more!

 

 

#3: Cry Wolf (and the entire Alpha & Omega series) by Patricia Briggs

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Just a note: I’d recommend reading the prequel novella “Alpha & Omega” (contained in the anthology On the Prowl) before reading the first book in this series.

Patricia Briggs has created a wonderfully complex world of werewolves.  Her other series explores the wider world – which includes fae, vampires, witches, and various other paranormal beings.  This series really focuses on werewolf politics and pack structure from the perspective of a werewolf alpha, Charles, seen by most of the werewolf community as an assassin, and Anna, a rare werewolf omega.

Omegas are so rare, in fact, that the pack who turned Anna believed she was simply the lowest of the low in pack order, when instead she’s actually outside the order.  This means Anna was abused in her pack, until Charles saves her.  And it’s their romance and the way they heal each other that makes this series so wonderful.

 

#2: Moon Called (and the entire Mercy Thompson series) by Patricia Briggs

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That’s right, another series by Patricia Briggs!

Don’t let this cover fool you.  This is the best werewolf series out there – and thankfully, the covers of the later books move away from the paranormal tramp-stamp aesthetic.

Patricia Briggs builds a fantastic world full of paranormal beings.  Mercy isn’t actually a werewolf, she’s a shapeshifter, but she ended up being raised by werewolves.  More specifically, she was raised by the Marrok, the head of all the werewolf packs in North America.  She is able to sense magic, and has ties to the werewolves through pack bonds, which makes her able to maneuver the many sticky situations she finds herself in.

There’s a ton of folklore in the history of the werewolves, which is explored in Shifting Shadows (a collection of the short stories and novellas based on this world). There’s also some romance, and realistic handling of things like rape and violence.  You don’t have to read this series to read the Alpha & Omega series, but it certainly helps.

The only reason I don’t have this series at the top of my list is because it did take me a while to get a feel for Briggs’ writing style.

 

#1: Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

30324This little book is my favorite werewolf novel.  Please, do not watch the movie (or, if you do, know that the movie bears very little resemblance to the book).  Published before the Twilight phenomenon, it’s a young adult story of a female werewolf, Vivian, who falls for a human boy.  What I really loved about this was that it didn’t hold back from exploring the savage lives of werewolves, where Vivian is expected to vie for the alpha’s attention (competing with her own mother), and she’s proud of what she is and expects the boy she loves to love her wolf form too. You’ll have to read it to find out how he reacts, but pretty much everything about this story surprised me.

 

There you have it!  My top ten favorite werewolf novels.  There were quite a few close calls – Hemlock Grove came thisclose to making the top 10, and I would have loved to add Sisters Red.  What is your favorite werewolf novel?

January reading round-up

  • # of books read: 20
  • audiobooks listened to: 5
  • ebooks read: 6
  • nonfiction read: 2
  • ARCs read: 1
  • books from the Experiment in Terror series: 4
  • books from the White Cat series: 3
  • vintage YA: 3
  • total page count: 4,376

I did a ton of reading this month.

In newer releases, I finished up Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, which was fascinating not quite in the way I had anticipated – I had thought Bellevue was mostly a mental hospital – but still learned a lot about the early days of medicine in America and about the various plagues that swept through New York City.

Freeks, by Amanda Hocking, was an impulse add to my reading list when a stack of new books came up from the library’s tech services and one I had forgotten to put on hold for myself, A List of Cages, was on hold for someone else… The circus/carnival/sideshow theme of course was calling to me.  I like her writing style – it’s easy to read, and fun.  This one took place in the 80’s so there were tons of 80’s references.  I personally think the title is a little cheesy but it fits.

I also read an ARC of Hellworld by Tom Leveen.  This was the kind of post-apocalyptic story I love, where monsters hinted at in ancient religious texts are unleashed – a sci-fi horror thriller.

Another newer book I loved was Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman – it completely deserves the National Book Award!

I blazed through 5 audiobooks.  Three of those were Holly Black’s White Cat series, which were narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, and were short and fun to listen to.  Patient Zero was much longer, and yet I blew through that one as well.  Then I listened to Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick – so, so good.  So quotable.

Three of the books I read this month were “vintage YA.”  The first was The Executioner, a book I thought I remembered reading as a teen back in the 90’s.  Not sure if I actually did… let’s just say the characters weren’t exactly memorable and the mystery didn’t make much sense.  The second, a donation that appeared in my box at the library, was Attitude Problem, which had even bigger plot holes and possibly even flatter characters.  The third was The Woman in the Wall, which was a bit of strange magical realism.  What all of these books made me nostalgic for were the days when you could read a book in a matter of 2-3 hours.

Stealing some reading time at the laundromat #reading #bookstagram #laundry

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I downloaded the rest of the books in the Experiment in Terror series, which I last left off in 2014.  Still just as good two years later.  The premise is two ghosthunters, each with the ability to see ghosts, team up for an internet show.  The sexual tension is insane, and finally I got to the part where Perry and Dex get together!  Naturally, not without Sasquatch, zombies, and plenty of ghosts.  (That’s Into the Hollow, book #6, that I’m reading at the laundromat above).  I also found myself binge-watching “Paranormal Lockdown,” which gave me the Dex & Perry feels.

And finally!  I got to read A List of Cages, which is officially my favorite book this month. Might be my favorite book for the rest of the year, too.  It was so heartbreaking and lovely.  Highly recommended!!

the YA horror novel aesthetic

You could say that every genre has its own aesthetic, but lately the YA horror genre has been taking aesthetic to a new level – beyond cover design, or even typeface and chapter headings.

The first YA novel that did this really effectively was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – a novel which some might argue isn’t really horror.  But even if it is fantasy, it’s super creepy fantasy with invisible monsters that eat children.

Using real photographs, Ransom Riggs created a story.  The photographs became a kind of evidence for the text.  Sure, you could read the story (or listen to it on audiobook) without looking at the pictures, and you’d still get a creepy fantasy tale.  But the photographs were what drew me in.  They were mysterious, and did I mention real?  Of course, they were originally created using Victorian-era special effects, but the idea of finding these strange images made me as a reader feel just like Jacob, sifting through his grandfather’s collection.  The page layouts were even made to look like scrapbook pages.  I’ll call this style the Old-Timey aesthetic.


Quickly after the publication of Miss Peregrine’s, I began to notice other YA horror books using images and elaborate page design to draw readers into the story.  The Asylum series by Madeleine Roux had images that looked like they were found on the tiled floors of an old asylum.  Also included were images of scribbled notebook pages akin to what the narrator was finding and/or writing.

I enjoyed the feel of this series even though I didn’t enjoy the story as much – and part of my lack of enjoyment of later books might have been reading them as ebooks, which made them feel somehow less authentic.  I also found that some of the images were clearly photoshopped which made them feel less authentic than those in Miss Peregrine’s.


In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters also uses photographs to great effect – a look at the copyright page shows that most of the photos are from the Library of Congress.  These photos are entirely separate from the story, but mirror the events: seances, spirit photography, army hospitals, and flu victims, all of which ground the story to the time period.  The author did a great job of doing that through her writing, but the aesthetic of the book took it that much further.  You can see that the chapter headings also had a 1920s flair.

YA horror novels about historical events have a great advantage by the ability to use photographs.  But there’s another YA horror aesthetic that doesn’t.  I like to call it the House of Leaves aesthetic, where even the words on the page are arranged to lure the reader deep into a troubled protagonist’s mind.

(If you haven’t read House of Leaves, it’s a very complex story within a story within a story (perhaps even two more levels deep here).  There are footnotes, there’s word art (see image on right), there are hidden codes.  It took me months to read this book.)

Dawn Kurtagich’s novels The Dead House and And the Trees Crept In (UK title: Creeper Man) were definitely inspired by House of Leaves and have many similar elements – the word art, and the story within a story.  There are journal pages and words crossed out.  In The Dead House, the novel is meant to look entirely like a compilation of files and journal pages and transcripts.

Both of these books are very psychological in nature, where the characters question their own sanity, and the disordered fonts/cross-outs reflect that – while the appearance of “official documents” and files lend an authenticity to the story.

This aesthetic isn’t limited to YA horror (see House of Leaves, also the horror/comedy novel Horrostor which is laid out like an IKEA catalog – the story takes place within such a store), and it certainly isn’t limited to horror, but it seems the genre most befitting this type of treatment are horror novels.

And I love it!

(Did I miss any other examples of YA horror aesthetic?  Please let me know in the comments!)