Book Club Nominees

5 Chances for the Elements to Ruin Your Day

by @Myrrh, curator of HOWLS book club nominees for June’s “Nature is Scary AF” category

Nothing is scarier than being at the mercy of nature. In these selections, the five elements—Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit—play a key role in each story, bringing various examples of the tragic and horrific.

I wanted to explore both novels and short stories that feature these elements, with both modern interpretations as well as horror classics. 

Cover of Everything That's Underneath by Kristi DeMeester. Cover shows an image of a woman in profile; the back half of her body morphs into a landscape of trees

Everything That’s Underneath by Kristi DeMeester

Crawl across the earth and dig in the dirt. Feel it. Tearing at your nails, gritty between your teeth, filling your nostrils. Consume it until it has consumed you. For there you will find the voices that have called from the shadows, the ones that promise to cherish you only to rip your body to shreds. In Everything That’s Underneath, Kristi DeMeester explores the dark places most people avoid. A hole in an abandoned lot, an illness twisting your loved one into someone you don’t recognize, lust that pushes you farther and farther until no one can hear yours cry for help. In these 18 stories the characters cannot escape the evil that is haunting them. They must make a choice: accept it and become part of what terrifies them the most or allow it to consume them and live in fear forever.

Taking Southern Gothic themes and dragging them through the dirt into modern times, Kristi’s stories explore the nightmarish ways expectation and tradition can corrupt and harm. Moving her stories from those crumbling plantations to diverse settings, Kristi’s short story collection is the perfect choice for #TeamEarth.

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Cover of The Whisper Man by Alex North. Cover shows a handprint in black on a white background.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town. After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town: Featherbank. But Featherbank has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night. Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window.

This is the only book on my list that I haven’t read, but the description alone is what sold me on it. With elements of both mystery & horror, not to mention the creepy-sounding titular character, I couldn’t not include it for #TeamAir! 

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Cover of The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling. Cover shows a guitar engulfed in flames.

The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling

Thirty years ago, a progressive rock band called The Yellow Kings began recording what would become their first and final album. Titled “The Final Reconciliation,” the album was expected to usher in a new renaissance of heavy metal, but it was shelved following a tragic concert that left all but one dead. The sole survivor of that horrific incident was the band’s lead guitarist, Aidan Cross, who’s kept silent about the circumstances leading up to that ill-fated performance—until now. For the first time since the tragedy, Aidan has granted an exclusive interview to finally put rumors to rest and address a question that has haunted the music industry for decades: What happened to The Yellow Kings? The answer will terrify you.

I’ve been reading Todd Keisling for years and it’s easy to see why there is so much hype, not just with this book but his entire catalog. With the combination of Todd’s signature style seeped in dread along with the rock ‘n’ roll backdrop, it was a no-brainer to choose this book for #TeamFire.

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Cover of Out of Water by Sarah Read. Cover shows an image of a woman's face, in profile and upside down. The image is tinted shades of blue and green. Inside the shadows of her face and neck is another image of a woman in a white gown, swimming in water, and releasing air bubbles toward the surface.

Out Of Water by Sarah Read

These are the stories of things out of water—of sea bed deserts choked with ghosts; of the lonely, roving children of the fen. Here your garden grows belowground. You will be born into a cradle of your own bones, shadows will burst from your eyes, and your mouth will fill with thorns. Storms will twist inside you, and the ghosts of your past will follow you and chart your future. Here, things are out of place—ectopic and unviable—and you will mourn the unborn, those underwater things out of water.

Another killer collection, Sarah’s works are always enticing and skin-crawlingly good. One of my favorite stories, “Endoskeletal”, is included in this collection for #TeamWater, one that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Cover shows an image of a horse drawn carriage traveling down a moonlit path to a very secluded, very large house in the distance.

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and most dreadfully–and for Kipps most tragically–The Woman In Black. The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler–proof positive that this neglected genre, the ghost story, isn’t dead after all.

If the name Eel Marsh House doesn’t draw you in, the hauntingly good writing from Susan Hill will. Where some feel it gets off to a slow start, I think Hill has shown how a slow-burn can be atmospheric and eerie, exactly what #TeamSpirit likes!

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these five books, HOWLers voted to read The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling. Join HOWL Society on Monday, June 21, 2021 to begin discussion!

Mary Rajotte

A resident of Toronto, Canada, author Mary Rajotte has a penchant for penning nightmarish tales of folk horror and paranormal suspense. Her work has been published in Shroud Magazine, and in anthologies from Library of Horror Press, Shroud Publishing, the Great Lakes Horror Company, Magnificent Cowlick Media and Fabled Collective. Mary is a member of the Horror Writers Association and was the recipient of the 2018 HWA Scholarship. Sometimes camera-elusive but always coffee-fueled, you can find Mary at her website

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