Happy new year! Today we are kicking off our annual Ladies First challenge. To participate in the challenge, simply choose a horror book written by a woman as your first book of the year and share it with us on social media under #LadiesFirst22!
Here are the books some of our team members are starting the year reading:
Cassie | The Haunted by Danielle Vega
The Haunted (The Haunted #1) by Danielle Vega
From Danielle Vega, YA’s answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.
Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.
Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.
Emily | Lovelorn by April-Jane Rowan
Lovelorn by April-Jane Rowan
In Victorian England, within the sprawling countryside, a small village borders Lovelorn, a crystal kingdom inhabited by the Fair Folk that masquerades as a dense wood. Two unsuspecting mortals stray into the depths of this hidden world.
Harry, a disgraced jockey, stumbles upon a Kelpie and seeks to bind him, intending to use him to regain his former glory at horse racing. He is dancing a dangerous waltz however as Kelpies are a sly and deadly folk, his actions bringing him steadily closer to a grave at the bottom of a lake.
Mabel, a grieving wife abandoned by her husband, searches for her young son, Peter, who was stolen by the Fair Folk, simply wanting to bring her family together again. She makes a bargain with a knight from Lovelorn, entrusting her quest to him, all the while fearful that his word cannot be trusted.
Unbeknownst to them, their paths run parallel. They struggle to navigate the unbalanced and crumbling kingdom, while being opposed by creatures they thought resided only in fables. Can they play by the strange rules of the Fair Folk and win their freedom, or are they fated to lose themselves within the trees?
Jen | A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called “Pastoral,” this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.
Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.
Kathy | No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen
No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen
A mystery about a girl whose family secrets are as threatening as the desert that surrounds her—but whose quest to expose the truth may tear apart reality itself.
Rylie hasn’t been back to Twentynine Palms since her dad died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment means their family has to move, and now Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to, living in the house of a grandfather she barely knew.
At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. And Twentynine Palms is so much stranger than Rylie remembers. There are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose, but it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels off—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.
Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?
Laurie | To Offer Her Pleasure by Ali Seay
To Offer Her Pleasure by Ali Seay
After the death of his father and his mother taking off, it becomes clear to Ben that the only thing he can count on, is no one to count on.
Until he finds the book. One that calls forth a shadowy horned figure.
She comes with unexpected gifts and the comfort of a dependable presence.
She asks for very little in return, really. The more Ben offers her, the easier it gets.
Sometimes, family requires more than a little sacrifice…
Tracy | Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.
There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.
2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.
2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waves her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.
As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.
You can check out what the book community is reading by visiting the #LadiesFirst22 hashtags!
Jen is one of our LOHF admins. Jen manages the technical side of the Ladies of Horror Fiction website. She also keeps a spotlight on middle grade and young adult horror each month.