Potent, memorable stories that will fluster some readers and terrify others.

SLEEPING WITH THE MONSTER

STORIES

Martin’s debut collection amasses 12 horror tales featuring surreal creatures and discombobulating dream worlds.

The book opens with “A Girl and Her Dog,” which follows high schooler Cassie and her beloved collie, Daniel. A strange woman, whom Cassie refers to as “Old Crone,” convinces her that when Daniel shakes in his sleep, it means that “the Evil Man” is tormenting him in his dreams. She urges Cassie to wake the dog during his nightmares, and this leads to the young woman having an unexpected encounter. Other characters in other stories enter dreamlike or hallucinatory states, as well; in both “Sensoria” and “Grass,” the protagonists’ drug use offers a possible explanation for their respective visons of an undead man and a green, slimy monster. The author shows a distinct H.P. Lovecraft influence; “Resonator Superstar!” and “The Prince of Lyghes” even originally appeared in Lovecraft-themed anthologies. However, all the stories here display the author’s knack for indelible, unnerving passages. In “The Prince of Lyghes,” for instance, a woman is shocked by an assortment of caged, eccentric beasts: “Some spread razorblade teeth and sashayed left to right on scaly chicken-like legs that weren’t quite in the right places.” Many tales have supernatural elements (magic in “Jehessimin”; a ghost in “Window”), but others have more tangible monsters, such as an abundance of boxelder bugs in “Boisea Trivittata.” The book’s highlight is “The Un-Bride or No Gods and Marxists,” a clever play on the real-life origin of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which sprang from a conversation with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. In Martin’s tale, Hollywood actress Elsa Lanchester relates her own story of bringing the dead back to life, addressing it to her actor spouse, Charles Laughton, and Frankenstein film director James Whale.

Potent, memorable stories that will fluster some readers and terrify others.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59021-700-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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