I can’t believe we’re already over halfway through the year! With a global pandemic on our doorsteps, it’s no surprise that I’ve been reading more than average this year, is it? I’ve grown especially fond of stories told in novella format, as it provides a quick escape from the real world along with the satisfaction of completing another book once you’ve finished, often just a little later in that same sitting!
I love feeling productive, I won’t lie. I value quality over quantity in my bookish endeavors for sure, but my time is often quite limited between juggling multiple jobs in the real world, my Etsy shop, commissions, my blog, and just normal daily life. Sometimes feeling so busy and being stretched so thin between different projects and responsibilities can take its toll on my mental health, and it’s difficult for me to unwind – I’m always checking my phone, my email, Twitter.
During really stressful times, it’s often impossible for me to get absorbed by a normal-length book. I love them and appreciate my books when they’re thick boys all day long, but they sometimes require a time investment for their stories to really build and pick up pacing – which isn’t a bad thing at all, but I’ve found that the ability to invest my time isn’t a luxury I’m able to afford at that moment, so I’ve been turning to shorter fiction.
With novellas, they’re short enough that the authors are almost forced to ensure that the story can fit into quick bursts to keep the reader’s attention, and to make the ending a worthwhile experience. I’ve seen some folks online scoff at shorter books, priding themselves for some weird reason instead on the number of pages they’ve read rather than the joy of reading for the enjoyment of the story itself, even if it’s short – and I just don’t get that kind of thinking!
To those people, and to everyone else as well, I’ve decided to put together a list of the 30 novellas I’ve read this year so far. While not every single one was an incredible 5-star read for me, the majority of them were ones I’ve given very high ratings to. Even the ones that received somewhat lower ratings from me are ones I would recommend checking out, because in all of those cases, the authors were people I’d still check out future releases from because the writing/stories weren’t bad – just not my favorite, for one reason or another!
I’m looking forward to seeing how many more novellas I’ll be able to read before the end of the year!
1) True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik
This one comes with a few trigger warnings, but if you’re able to handle topics like abuse (sexual & physical) and violence in your books, you will not be disappointed here. It’s one of my favorite novellas of the entire year! Unflinching and sometimes difficult to read, it’s one that’ll stick with you for a long time after you’ve finished it!
2) The Festering Ones by S.H. Cooper
This one features spooky creatures that I haven’t been able to forget since reading it! Loved it, and eager to read lots more by Cooper! This one has some cult-y goodness, too, if you’re into that – which I definitely am!
3) Skinwrapper by Stephen Kozeniewski
I read this one with the Night Worms review team for a book party, and it was a lot of fun! If you’re into space-y horror (think Dead Space, the Reavers from Firefly, etc), you’ll love this! There’s also a full length novel that goes with it, and I hope to read that soon.
4) Transfer by Terry M. West
I really like stories involving movies / video footage somehow, and this one was such a great spin on that!! I couldn’t put it down, and am happy to have two more novella-length books by West waiting for me right now on my shelf!
5) The Deep by Rivers Solomon
This is one of the few non-horror stories, but even if you’re a horror fan, you should check it out! It’s an incredible story with a really powerful message, especially considering today’s social climate. You should also listen to this song!
6) The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn
Here’s one that, while my rating for it wasn’t super high due to some troubles I had with the editing, I loved the idea behind. The author’s creativity shines through despite my issues with some of this book, and I’m going to be checking Book 2 out in this series because I’m eager to see there the story goes.
7) Benny Rose, the Cannibal King by Hailey Piper
Hailey Piper is one of my favorite writers – I’ve read novellas and short stories both by her, and I’ve loved every single one. This is actually the first of two novellas I’ve read this year (the other one is closer to the end of the list!), and it’s an excellent entry into Unnerving’s REWIND OR DIE series they’ve got going on right now (definitely check it out, and the rest of the stuff they’re publishing – lots of fun things!). Although this one has a Halloween setting, don’t wait til then to read it – or do, I don’t know, I’m not the boss of you! Just either way, buy it, haha. So good!
8) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy
This is a super cool folk-ish story about a “found family” community of inclusivity, and the giant animal creature god that keeps it running “smoothly”. If that sounds weird and awesome, that’s because it is – check this one out! There’s apparently also a sequel but I still need to get that one, so stay tuned for Part 2 of my novella lists at the end of the year. 😉
9) Tribesmen by Adam Cesare
Earlier this year, I read Adam’s CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD as an ARC, and I’ve been sitting on a review of that while simultaneously screaming to the heavens on social media about how everyone needs to pre-order it for ages because I wanted to wait a little closer to its release to post it – which is finally coming next month (SO GO PRE-ORDER IT!), which means my full review is going up later this month! After reading that one though, I bought a few more of the author’s books, and then also got a few on Audible to listen to while driving to/from work. TRIBESMEN and CON SEASON are two that I listened to, and both are SO GOOD! I’ve rambled enough here, so this is a two-parter:
10) Con Season by Adam Cesare
Cesare’s writing has a way of bringing the action on the pages to life so that you can almost see everything happening. With both TRIBESMEN and CON SEASON, we have a large-ish cast of characters, a whole lot of violence, and a fun as hell reading experience that could easily translate to the screen into fun, slasher-y horror movies. I would 10/10 recommend everything I’ve read by him!
11) The Roo by Alan Baxter
If you think a story about a killer kangaroo sounds wild, you’d be absolutely right – and Alan Baxter pulled it off with flying colors! This has so much going for it, even if the idea of it sounds totally preposterous. Lots of action, bloodshed, fun characters, and a hidden layer of mystery underneath all the gore! Plus, the whole concept behind this (and a few other titles!) was that a few writers would create stories about animals with the funds being donated to animal organizations around the globe! Super cool idea – the horror community is filled with lots of kind people! (Also, did I mention that I’m a character in this book? WANT TO KNOW IF I LIVE OR DIE? You’ll have to buy & read it!)
12) The Light Across the Street by J.D. Buffington
This is one of the shortest books on the list, but it’s one heavy with emotion and family love. Never let a short page count keep you from a fictional gut punch, friends!
13) Pizza My Heart by Frankie Love
Ahem. Look, we can’t all read horror all the time, okay? Sometimes we want to broaden our horizons and branch out with a ridiculous-but-hilarious romance novella filled with pizza pun-related smut and insta-love, alright? Judge not lest ye be judged, and all that, okay? Just move on!
14) Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering
I buddy read this with a couple of my favorite Twitter reviewer pals, and it was not what I expected, to put it mildly, hahaha, but I enjoyed it! It deals with some heavy themes like post-war stress, mental health issues, and drug abuse – so, it’s not for the faint of heart! But check it out if you’re not sensitive to those things for sure.
15) The Devil’s City by Sara Tantlinger
I love everything Sara writes and will buy all of her books forever, thank you very much. This was a part of a Kickstarter for a really cool game, and although the KS has ended (and was fully funded, yay!!!), this book lives on, and deserves to be read!
16) The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson
If you haven’t seen this amazingly pretty, colorful cover all over the bookstagram and bookish Twitter world by now, you aren’t following the right people! This is one of my favorite book covers of the year – maybe ever?! – and yes, I’m probably a little biased because of all the colors, but forgive me that and just look at it! Even in digital format, it’s gorgeous! I read this in a single sitting and although I had a couple issues with the ending, I’d still really recommend it – the majority of the book leading up to that gave me the absolute creeps, and I couldn’t pull myself away! And without saying anything spoiler-y, I didn’t think the ending was bad by any means – pretty much every other friend I have who has read it has loved it, ending included! I’m eagerly awaiting more by the author in the future.
17) Rites of Extinction by Matt Serafini
I love twists, and this one gave me a big shocker at the end – and that’s all I’ll say about that! If you also like twists, go buy & read this book – but don’t read too much about it! Going in without spoilers is for the absolute best!
18) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I’m going to just write this here: I will read literally anything Seanan McGuire writers, under any pen name, from this point until forever. If you haven’t read the Wayward Children series (which starts with this as book 1, and is up to COME TUMBLING DOWN, book 5, with a new release coming early 2021!), you need to. It’s a little fantasy, a little horror, a lot of portal worlds, diversity, and found families.
19) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
JUST READ THE SERIES, IT’S GOOD! I’m going to say this for every one of these.
20) Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
REEEEAD the series!
21) Scanlines by Todd Keisling
I love this spooky take on your classic haunting story – super sinister, and very compelling considering how many videos and ads we watch daily online, without even stopping to think about what they’re of or who’s being the posting. Also, let’s appreciate this cover – so cool!
22) In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
23) Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
24) Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is another one a little outside my normal genre wheel, but I read it because I loved the author’s other books – DAISY JONES & THE SIX and THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO. I wasn’t disappointed with this quick tale about infidelity told in letter format between two people, and I’d recommend it as an Audiobook if you’re looking for something immersive & quick to listen to!
25) Unboxed by Briana Morgan
This one is technically a play, but it’s novella-length and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a novella anyway! I love the play format – this was my first time reading a story written that way, and it was so unique and really helped me visualize everything going on! Loved it, and will read anything else by Briana, too.
26) Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess
This was so much fun to read and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since! It’s an over the top slasher with lots of blood, green apple bubble gum, and roller skating. Parts of it gave me really fun Harley Quinn vibes, and I couldn’t get enough! More books like this one, please!
27) An Invitation to Darkness by Hailey Piper
Remember how earlier I told you how amazing Hailey Piper was, and that you should buy all her books? This is another one you shouldn’t miss! This quick story went places I absolutely was not expecting, and I loved it – a lot of dread, a lot of tragedy, and a lot of creepiness! Plus I’m just super all about having queer rep in my horror fiction, so more of that please, forever thank you.
28) Yellow Jessmine by Caitlin Starling
I was lucky enough to receive an e-ARC of this one, and I was so happy for it because I loved Starling’s debut, THE LUMINOUS DEAD, and have been so excited to read more by her! This didn’t disappoint at all, and I’m excited for its release so I can snag a physical copy to keep on my shelf next to her other book.
29) Crossroads by Laurel Hightower
This is another one that isn’t quite out yet, but it will be soon and you don’t want to miss it! Laurel’s first book, WHISPERS IN THE DARK, was one I read with the Night Worms review team for a book party, and it absolutely blew me away – it’s so good! Full of action, badass lady heroes with troubled pasts, ghosts, and spookiness, I’ve been anticipating the next thing from the author since reading that one – and I’m so flipping thrilled about being sent an early copy because this is easily one of my most anticipated books of the entire year!
30) A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
I hadn’t actually read anything by Malerman before this – I know, gasp & shock from the rest of the horror community! I’ve seen BIRD BOX on Netflix, but never got around to reading the book – mainly because I don’t like movie tie-in covers, and could never find a copy without that since by the time I’d heard about it, it’d been out for awhile. Based on this, I’d love to read more by him – and I’m looking forward to doing so!!
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