Book Club Nominees

6 Books That’ll Take You On a Much Needed Vacation

by @MrsReads, curator of HOWLS book club nominees for June’s “Just Passing Through” category

After being stuck inside my house for over a year because of COVID, I’m really itching to get away—almost anywhere—for a vacation. All I want to do is lie on a beach and read in the sun, or maybe rent a cabin somewhere quiet and enjoy relaxing in a hammock. While that idea sounds nice in theory, there is something unsettling about being away from home, in a strange place, sometimes surrounded by strange people. Can you ever really be sure you’re alone? Or safe? This collection of books will explore what could happen when we try to “get away from it all,” even if that means needing to “get away” from something else entirely…

Cover of Savages by Greg F Gifune. Cover image is a dated illustation showing a scantily clad blonde woman running through a red toned forest. There is blood splashed on the bottom corner of the image.

Savages by Greg Gifune

It began as a vacation to the Cook Islands. But when seven friends are lost in the South Pacific after their boat goes down in a storm, they must survive at sea for several days in a small raft. Blown miles off course from their original position, and deep into open waters, they eventually encounter a small uncharted island. Grateful to be alive, they begin their quest for survival, hopeful they’ll be rescued sooner than later. But the island is not the paradise it appears to be. Instead, it is a place of horror, death, torture and evil, of terrible secrets thought long buried and forgotten. And they are not alone.

I love a story about a group of people in a survival situation who struggle to come together to face-off against an enemy, and this book sounds like it has a great cast of characters to root for (or against, as the case may be). Reviews of the book use words like “frenetic,” “rollercoaster,” and “breathless” to describe it, which should make for a page-turning experience. Plus, this cover is amazing in its pulpiness! 

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Cover of The Forgotten Island by David Sodergren. Cover is an illustration showing shadowy figured under a glowing moon. The figures look like some kind of monsters. There are two figures in the background and one in the foreground.

The Forgotten Island by David Sodergren

When Ana Logan agrees to go on holiday to Thailand with her estranged sister Rachel, she hopes it will be a way for them to reconnect after years of drifting apart. But now, stranded on a seemingly deserted island paradise with no radio and no food, reconciliation becomes a desperate fight for survival.  For when night falls on The Forgotten Island, the dark secrets of the jungle reveal themselves. Something is watching them from the trees. Something ancient. Something evil.

This book caught my attention because so many reviewers said the book, and especially the ending, stuck with them long after they finished, with a few even describing it as a “soon-to-be-cult-classic.” This novel sounds like it will be a gory, creepy, fun read that has a creature-feature feel to it, which I’m an absolute sucker for in a horror novel. It also has an almost-unheard of 4.19 rating on Goodreads! 

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Cover of The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. Cover shows a white sky between bare tree branches. Blood is spattered around the edges of the cover, concentrated at each of the four corners of the image.

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn

Ryan Adler and his twin sister, Jane, spent their happiest childhood days at their parents’ mountain Colorado cabin — until divorce tore their family apart. Now, with the house about to be sold, the Adler twins gather with their closest friends for one last snowboarding-filled holiday. While commitment-phobic Ryan gazes longingly at Lauren, wondering if his playboy days are over, Jane’s hopes of reconciling with her old boyfriend evaporate when he brings along his new fiancée. As drama builds among the friends, something lurks in the forest, watching the cabin, growing ever bolder as the snow falls — and hunger rises. After a blizzard leaves the group stranded, the true test of their love and loyalty begins as the hideous creatures outside close in, one bloody attack at a time. Now Ryan, Jane, and their friends must fight — tooth and nail, bullet and blade — for their lives. Or else surrender to unspeakable deaths in the darkened woods.

This book has been recommended to me time and time again and, while I haven’t read this one yet, I have read several of Ahlborn’s other novels and novellas and enjoyed them all. The prospect of a classic “snowed in at a cabin while being hunted by something in the dark woods” trope in her hands sounds like a good time. 

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Cover of You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann. Cover is black with a red stick drawing of a mountain (so simple it almost looks like a triangle), and yellow text.

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann

A screenwriter, his wife, and their four-year old daughter rent a house in the mountains of Germany, but something isn’t right. As he toils on a sequel to his most successful movie, the screenwriter notices that rooms aren’t where he remembers them—and finds in his notebook words that are not his own.

This is a book that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I first heard about it last year, so I’m glad to be able to include it in this list. A horror trope I love is that of an unreliable narrator who isn’t sure of their ability to discern what is real and what isn’t. A writer slowly losing their grip on reality while at a remote cabin sounds like a recipe for disaster – – and a wonderful week of reading! 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Kill River by Cameron Roubique. Cover shows a group of young adults on a raft headed toward a set of water slides. The water slides lead into the mouth of a giant skull with bloodshot eyes.

Kill River by Cameron Roubique

In the summer of 1983, thirteen-year-old Cyndi and her three new-found friends Stacy, Zack, and Brad decide to sneak away from their summer camp in the middle of the night by rafting down the nearby rivers. After spending a tense night lost in the woods, the four teenagers stumble into a mysterious water park that appears to be completely empty. At first, they are thrilled to have the rides all to themselves, at least until one of them disappears. Soon they discover that they are trapped in the park, and a dark figure is stalking them from the shadows, picking them off one by one. Once night falls, Cyndi will have to fight to escape the park, a masked maniac, and a living nightmare.

As a former Girl Scout, a current troop leader, and resident at many a summer camp as a child,  I would be utterly remiss to not find a space for a summer camp in our vacation horror line up. This book does double duty by including both a summer camp *and* a waterpark in it’s pages, and features teens at the mercy of a masked killer bent on delivering both carnage and childhood nostalgia. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Worst Laid Plans, edited by Samantha Kolesnik. Cover shows a skull against a dark background. The skull is colored teal, yellow, and pink, and within the skull are images of palm trees.

Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror edited by Samantha Kolesnik

A fateful family trip to an amusement park. An island movie theater that takes more than the patrons’ cash. A cross-country drive with an unexpected encounter. A family man hellbent on making great time, no matter the cost.  Fourteen horror authors share terrifying and twisted tales of summer vacation gone wrong in Worst Laid Plans: an Anthology of Vacation Horror.

This anthology includes stories by V. Castro, Hailey Piper, Patrick Lacey, Scott Cole, Laura Keating, Malcolm Mills, Jeremy Herbert, S. E. Howard, Chad Stroup, Kenzie Jennings, Waylon Jordan, Greg Sisco, Asher Ellis, and Mark Wheaton, as well as a special introduction by Sadie Hartmann.

The list wouldn’t be complete without this anthology all about vacations gone wrong. This cover looks amazing and I love the idea of dipping into the minds of 14 different authors. It sounds like these stories range from weird to terrifying, so there’s bound to be something in here for everyone.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Worst Laid Plans edited by Samantha Kolesnik. Join HOWL Society on Monday, June 7, 2021 to begin discussion!

@MrsReads is a long-time lover of horror fiction and nerd extraordinaire from MI. While usually managing her Busy as a Bee book club on Goodreads or trying to sneak in reading while homeschooling her kids, she is occasionally online at MrsReads1 on Instagram and NextFaveBook on Twitter. 

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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