10 Dark and Gothic Summer "Beach Reads"

Ok, so most goths don't go to the beach. (If we do, we're slathered with ginormous amounts of the highest SPF sunscreen we can find, layered in clothing, and hiding under parasols). However, summer brings vacation time to many of us. Whether we're visiting relatives, attending Bat's Day or a goth music festival, or just touring about a new country, we'll likely have a bit more time to read.

Here are some of my favorite picks for my own skull-encrusted tote bag for Summer 2016:


Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, by Marjorie M. Liu.

"Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers."

I thought we'd start the summer off with a lovely dark comic book. I'm not normally someone who enjoys reading comics, but the artwork here has drawn me in, and I've heard the worldbuilding in the story is fabulous.

Monstress Comic, at Tumblr

Monstress #1 review, at Comic Book Resources

Monstress #1, at GoodReads

Monstress #1 Review, at PopMatters

Roses and Rot

Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard. (Published on May 17, 2016).

"Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire."

You all probably already know that I really enjoy dark fairy tales. I'm looking forward to exploring this one. It's nice that it's set in a school, rather than a "creepy old house" like so many other pieces of literary gothic fiction. The sisterhood theme will be interesting too, although my sister and I haven't gone through difficult or dark times together (fortunately).

Roses and Rot Review, at BookPage

Roses and Rot, at GoodReads

Roses and Rot Review at Speculative Herald

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts, by Colleen Oakes. May 3, 2016.

"The first novel in Colleen Oakes’s epic, imaginative series tells the origin of one of the most infamous villains—the Queen of Hearts. This is not the story of the Wonderland we know. Alice has not fallen down a rabbit hole. This is a Wonderland where beneath each smile lies a secret, each tart comes with a demand, and only prisoners tell the truth."

It will be fun to read this sometime this summer after seeing Alice Through the Looking Glass.! I do enjoy "villain origin" stories. I imagine it was a challenge to reenvision this character as anything other than a cookie cutter mean shrieking villainness! Not sure how dark this is, but I'm still interested.

Queen of Hearts, at GoodReads

Queen of Hearts Review at Good Books and Good Wine

Queen of Hearts Review at Kirkus Reviews

The Children's Home

The Children's Home, by Charles Lambert. (Published on January 5, 2016).

"In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

"Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind."

Publishers Weekly says this book is "replete with gruesome and wondrous images." Ok! You had me at "gruesome." I think I need to read this to get the Miss Peregrine books, which I did not happen to enjoy, out of my brain.

The Children's Home Review at BookPage

The Children's Home on GoodReads

The Children's Home Review at Kirkus Reviews

The Children's Home Review at St. Louis Dispatch

The Children's Home Review at Washington Independent Review of Books

Black Rabbit Hall

Black Rabbit Hall, by Eve Chase. (Published February 9, 2016).

"Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.

"More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Penraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate."

Yes, I admit, I can't resist "creepy old house" books. Perhaps I just read The Secret Garden too many times as a kid, but I love reading descriptions of "labyrinthine" manors.

Black Rabbit Hall Review at BookPage

Black Rabbit Hall at GoodReads

Black Rabbit Hall Review, at Kirkus Reviews

Black Rabbit Hall Review, at Publishers Weekly

Lost Among the Living

Lost Among the Living, by Simone St. James. (Published on April 5, 2016).

"England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex's wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

"All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie's husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

"And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…"

I never can resist a book where the premise is "All is not well at _____ House." Add "cursed family" into the mix and you've got my attention! I notice that a lot of my picks this summer are set in the 1920s. Huh.

This book is treading very near the "paranormal romance" genre boundary, just to warn you if that's not your cup of tea.

Lost Among the Living at GoodReads

Lost Among the Living Review, at Dear Author

Lost Among the Living Review at Historical Novel Society

Lost Among the Living Review at Romantic Historical Reviews

Lost Among the Living Review at Rainy Day Ramblings

The Secret Language of Stones

The Secret Language of Stones: A Novel (The Daughters of La Lune), by M. J. Rose. (Comes out July 19, 2016).

"Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone."

"So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans. But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave."

This pick might be a little too "woo woo" and out there for most people here. Still, the part about jewelry involving necromancy intrigued me a bit, so I've included this anyway.

The Secret Language of Stones at GoodReads

The Secret Language of Stones Review at Kirkus Reviews

The Broken Hours

The Broken Hours: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft, by Jacqueline Baker. (Published April 26, 2016).

Of these ten books, this is the one I'm most looking forward to diving into. When every single reviewer uses the word "haunting" to describe this novel, I'm so there!

"In the cold spring of 1936, Arthor Crandle, down-on-his luck and desperate for work, accepts a position in Providence, Rhode Island, as a live-in secretary/assistant for an unnamed shut-in. He arrives at the gloomy colonial-style house to discover that his strange employer is an author of disturbing, bizarre fiction. Health issues have confined him to his bedroom, where he is never to be disturbed. But the writer, who Crandle knows only as “Ech-Pi,” refuses to meet him, communicating only by letters left on a table outside his room. Soon the home reveals other unnerving peculiarities. There is an ominous presence Crandle feels on the main stairwell. Light shines out underneath the door of the writer’s room, but is invisible from the street. It becomes increasingly clear there is something not right about the house or its occupant."

I'm definitely thinking this is a good, creepy book to read during reassuring sunlight hours, sitting in front of the air conditioning on a hot day; rather than alone in the autumn or winter in front of a fireplace!

The Broken Hours Review at Antigonish Review

The Broken Hours at GoodReads

The Broken Hours Review at Publishers Weekly

Jacqueline Baker Interview at Lovecraft Zine

Shadows in Summerland

Shadows in Summerland, by Adrian Van Young.

"Boston, 1859. A nation on the brink of war. Confidence men prowl the streets for fresh marks. Mediums swindle the newly bereaved. Into this world of illusion and intrigue comes William Mumler, a manipulating mastermind and criminal jeweler. Mumler hopes to make his fortune by photographing spirits for Boston's elite. The key to his venture: a shy girl named Hannah who sees and manifests the dead and washes up on Boston's harbor along with her strange, intense mother, Claudette."

I'm intrigued to read this especially because earlier this year, I hosted a class over at Dark Side University about the history of spirit photographers. (Otherwise known as con men). The progenitor of this movement was William Mumler, so as he's a main character here, I will find it very interesting to read this fiction novel.

Shadows in Summerland came out on May 17.

Shadows in Summerland Book Trailer, on YouTube

Excerpt from Shadows in Summerland at Vol 1. Brooklyn

Shadows in Summerland Review at Strange Horizons

Shadows in Summerland Author Interviewed at The Reading Life

The Port Wine Stain

The Port Wine Stain, by Norman Lock. (Coming June 14, 2016).

"Norman Lock recounts the story of a young Philadelphian, Edward Fenzil, who, in the winter of 1844, falls under the sway of two luminaries of the nineteenth-century grotesque imagination: Thomas Dent Mütter, a surgeon and collector of medical “curiosities,” and Edgar Allan Poe. As Fenzil struggles against the powerful wills that would usurp his identity, including that of his own malevolent doppelgänger, he loses his mind and his story to another."

Yes, I think I do want to read a story about someone losing their mind! Is it wrong of me to be so intrigued? I can't think of another instance of literary fiction featuring the main donor to the Mütter Museum. (I'm getting a bit bored of fiction based around the life of Edgar Allan Poe, I have to admit.)

The Port Wine Stain Review, at Kirkus Reviews

The Port Wine Stain Review, at Publishers Weekly

--Copyright 2016 Goth Shopaholic


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  1. As soon as I saw "Wych Elm House" I wondered if the story took inspiration fro this real-life case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_put_Bella_in_the_Wych_Elm%3F


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