A grim, disconcerting tale of ghosts and supernatural assaults.

THE GHOSTS OF WINWORTH MANOR

A 200-year-old spirit in search of a bride torments members of a family both living and dead in this paranormal thriller.

Michael Winworth has haunted the Winworth Manor for two centuries. He yearns for a bride but can only travel so far within his New York seaside town. So he coerces help from Mayor Jonathan Gilmore, over whom Michael has leverage. The ghost killed his wife, Karen, for planning to demolish the manor and now owns her soul. He’ll free her if the mayor brings him Jonathan’s 16-year-old niece, Sarah. Michael is enamored of her and vows to kill anyone who would act inappropriately toward her. A practitioner of dark magic when alive, Michael becomes a voice in Sarah’s head and appears before her inside her unconscious mind. He also has sex with her by force and by “lowering” her inhibitions, acts that the teen rightly deems rape. But when Sarah later faces living human menaces, Michael responds homicidally. Local cop Lt. Eric Johnson investigates and, notwithstanding Sarah’s ghost story, looks for a flesh-and-blood killer. Meanwhile, Michael threatens to murder Sarah’s dad, Robert, if she doesn’t willingly marry him in an eternal union. Drighton’s paranormal tale is frequently disturbing. Most notably, the narrative during Michael’s rape of Sarah is in the style of erotica: "This caused her opening to reveal more of her most forbidden fruit, and he longed to taste her sweet nectar.” But Michael’s villainy is unquestionable, as he periodically tortures his brother Jason’s soul. The dialogue-laden story is fitting for scenes with spirits, including Michael and Sarah’s mother, Helen, who tries helping her family. Things get progressively darker as certain characters become seedier and Michael eventually takes over someone’s body with unnerving results. Readers will likely anticipate more mayhem in the book’s final chapters.

A grim, disconcerting tale of ghosts and supernatural assaults.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68470-750-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A strange, dramatic novel where all’s well, or not well, or perhaps both.

ALL'S WELL

A chronically ill theater professor upends her life when she stages Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.

After a freak accident, Miranda Fitch—who was a dazzling, up-and-coming stage actress—loses her acting career, her marriage, and her formerly pain-free life. Working at a university’s “once flourishing, now decrepit Theater Studies program,” Miranda is spiraling out of control. Her days pass in a flurry of pills, doctor appointments, and dissociative conversations; she struggles to manage her chronic pain and to make others believe the extent of her suffering: “On vague fire in various places, all over, all over. Burning too with humiliation and rage.” Awad is particularly deft in describing the hellish nature of pain and the ways those living with chronic pain are often misled, dismissed, or derided. During a particularly tumultuous appointment with one of her doctors, Miranda says she knows what he thinks of her: “One of those patients. One of those sad cartoon brains who wants to live under a smudgy sky of her own making.” For the student production, Miranda wants to stage the “problem play” that took everything from her: Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. But her students—her lively, limber, and treacherous students—want to put on Macbeth, and it looks like they will get their way until Miranda meets three strange men in a bar. In exchange for “a good show,” the men offer her what she’s always wanted: no more pain. Once Miranda realizes how to transpose her pain to others, her luck begins to change—or does it? As her physical aching dissipates, almost everything else in her life becomes more vibrant. However, when no longer tethered to her pain, Miranda becomes unmoored from reality in increasingly dangerous and deranged ways. Imbued with magic and Shakespearean themes, the novel swings wildly between tragedy and comedy and reality and unreality. Although the novel sometimes struggles under the weight of its own surreality, Awad artfully and acutely explores suffering, artistry, and the limitations of empathy.

A strange, dramatic novel where all’s well, or not well, or perhaps both.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982169-66-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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