Steve Stred’s Top Reads From 2021
You’ve probably seen my list of my top reads of 2021 NOT from 2021 as well as my top anthologies/collections I read in 2021 over on my own site. Well, today, Kendall Reviews brings you my top reads of 2021 FROM 2021. That’s right, each of these books was released since January 1st, 2021!
When Gavin first asked if each of us could cobble together a list of our top five or ten books, I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Still laughing. So, here’s my list of the top books I read in 2021 released in 2021.
It’s more than ten.
Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham
(Released September 1st, 2021)
I never expected this book to be what it was, but wow, is this a thing of beauty. We get an amazing setting, a phenomenal ‘book within a book,’ and we get some of the best characters and banter that I’ve read in some time. I loved this book so much and am so happy that others are discovering it. One of the best things I’ve ever read.
Come With Me by Ronald Malfi
(Released July 20th, 2021)
The opening of this book will destroy you. The loss of life that is described just rips your soul away. And then, Malfi picks up the pieces, guides the readers along, as we unravel the truth about what one’s partner was investigating and we’re left breathless. This was such a perfect read and the palpable excitement leading up to the release was completely warranted.
Red X by David Demchuk
(Released August 31st, 2021)
Imagine crafting a story that is so amazing and powerful and brutal, and releasing it to the world, knowing that more than half of the story is true and that all the aches and sorrows and sadness you deal with on a daily basis is about to be shared? That’s just what Demchuk did with ‘Red X,’ a book that will keep you guessing but also have you sobbing your eyes out over and over again. Stunning.
Oracle by Andrew Pyper
(Released August 17th, 2021)
Released as an Audible Original, Pyper’s newest is a psychological thriller that has one of the darkest, creepiest creatures I’ve encountered in some time. The FBI aspect really allowed for this book to expand its scope and Nate Russo made for a great character, one we can both root for but loathe at the same time.
Gulf by Shelly Campbell
(Released April 27th, 2021)
Campbell caught me off guard with this fantastic dark fiction/fantasy story. We get great family dynamics at play, a cabin that isn’t what they normally rent and a door that can’t be opened. But when it is finally opened, wow. I loved how fresh this story felt and how there’s this massive world on the other side of the door that isn’t exactly what it appears to be.
The Perfect Victim by David Sodergren
(Released July 19th, 2021)
In ‘The Perfect Victim’ Sodergren once again gives us a strong, never-give-up female main character. From page one, Sodergren brings the tension and it was great to see the banter that occurs after the kidnapping happens. I’m a huge fan of David’s work and with each release you know you’re in for a bloody good time, pun intended.
The Restoration by J.H. Moncrieff
(Released October 19th, 2021)
A novel based upon the authors actual experience staying in a haunted house, you know going in that this book will unnerve you and leave you unsettled, and no surprise here – Moncrieff accomplishes that time and time again. Within a few chapters we have the atmosphere set and as things unfold, the story grows darker and darker. An outstanding novel.
Ten Years Gone by H.P. Newquist
(Released November 1st, 2021)
Each year, on the same day, a local kid is killed, left to be found in the woods. Newquist takes that idea and throttles the reader with short, snappy chapters, great character interplay and a small town that feels wholesome and sinister. This one is pedal to the metal from page one and showcases just how fantastic of an author Newquist is.
Cunning Folk by Adam Nevill
(Released September 13th, 2021)
New house, new neighbors, what could go wrong? Well, it could be taking place in an Adam Nevill novel, where the neighbors are odd, the forest behind the house is creepy as hell and guess what? The house has a horrible history. As with every Nevill release, things go from bad to worse and damn if we don’t get the ever-loving hell scared out of us a dozen times.
Almost Ruth by Tyler Jones
(Released October 29th, 2021)
A book that’s going to make you feel dirty and sad, Jones gives us an aching story that is one part slow-burn and one part layered mystery. I loved the setting of this novel and as the story continues to unravel and more chess pieces get moved into place, Jones ensures that the reader is going to be gutted, emotionally and physically.
Dire Branches by Brian Fatah Steele
(Released July 13th, 2021)
Fatah Steele is an author that always blows my mind with his imagination and where he takes each story. In this case, we get a group of friends on summer vacation, renting a cabin. Simple right? Enter Baba Yaga, horrendous creatures, friends ripped and shredded and a nightmare that never seems to end. One of the very best things Fatah Steele has released.
The Opening by Tim McWhorter
(Released April 14th, 2021)
An abandoned movie theatre is being reopened. Nothing could go wrong right? I mean, this small town needs some good news and a reason to bring in more tourists. Well, McWhorter gives that idea a massive middle finger and we get a haunted location, paranormal entities that are out for revenge and a heartbreaking discovery that brings this one home. Fantastic stuff.
These Ghosts Bleed by Christy Aldridge
(Released June 8th, 2021)
After a man’s wife kills herself, the husband tries to move on. But this is a horror novel and things are never that simple. Aldridge writes with a sadistic grin on her face throughout this one, giving us some chilling scenes as well as moments of stomach-churning joy. This was such a fantastic read and one I snagged purely because of the cover.
Glass House: A Novella by John Palisano
(Released June 22nd, 2021)
When a man accepts a house-sitting job he isn’t expecting to have his darkest memories unlocked, but he does and Palisano makes sure to make them as black as a really black thing. Told with aching prose, we get some deftly placed poetry throughout to really ram the emotional elements into the reader’s eyeballs. Outstanding stuff.
The Samaritan by Dave Jeffery
(Released July 7th, 2021)
The third book in Jeffery’s fantastic A Quiet Apocalypse Series, The Samaritan tests loyalties, suggests not all that we know is true and real and makes the reader digest some tough questions. The answers were given may not be what we wanted to know, but boy is Jeffery creating this world with glee. Another outstanding entry.
The Briar by Craig Wesley Wall
(Released September 1st, 2021)
Sometimes it’s best to not go back home. Wesley Wall gives us a creepy take on a small town in the Pacific Northwest that has a secret. That secret is fantastic and when a young boy returns as a teenager, years after moving away with his mom, things get revealed and carnage is unleashed. This was a read that kept me transfixed from word one until the bloody end.
The House of Little Bones by Beverley Lee
(Released September 21st, 2021)
Writing as though her pen was on fire, Lee delivers a truly creepy story about a writer who heads to a small cottage to escape controversy and focus on writing his next novel. Of course, the house shouldn’t be occupied, things are discovered and when all is said and done, the reader is left wishing they’d decided to read something else, instead of being destroyed in only the way Lee can. Great stuff.
Midnight in the Chapel of Love by Matthew R. Davis
(Released January 29th, 2021)
There’s a place in the woods where something happened but nobody knows what. So, naturally, we get characters that go to find out just what happened. This book was beautiful. Brutal. Memorable. I loved how this one played out and the characters and scenarios that Davis crafted were so well done. Outstanding work and a novel that will have you thinking about it well after you’ve finished.
The Wired City by Yolanda Sfetsos
(Released January 29th, 2021)
With ‘The Wired City’ Sfetsos gives us a sci-fi/cyber-punk story that will have fans of Philip K. Dick smiling. This covers a lot of ground and we get to see her imagination run wild and take us places that you’ll never expect. The scenes where Tolliver begins to remember specifics and come to term with what is happening was phenomenal.
When the Cicadas Stop Singing by Zachary Ashford
(Released September 8th, 2021)
A mash-up between a post-apocalyptic story with a creature feature that Ashford absolutely owns. We get tension, action, thrills and an emotional aspect I didn’t expect. Ashford delivers a story that makes you breathe and feel the jungle air and trees closing in around you, but don’t forget something lurks out there. Great stuff.
Infinite (Ghostland Trilogy Book 3) by Duncan Ralston
(Released November 19th, 2021)
The epic conclusion to Ralston’s sprawling, cinematic trilogy, ‘Infinite’ delivers by not only answering a million questions we had but by also confirming just how well done and thorough Duck Falls is. This is storytelling at a masterful level and knowing the scope of books one and two leading into book three, Ralston never let up and gave us the finale we all hoped to get. Amazing.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here