SOUR LAKE

OR, THE BEAST

In McCandless’ debut horror novel, a ragtag crew sets out after a killer leaving a gruesome trail through the East Texas wilderness.

In 1911, something is killing people in the howling wilderness area of East Texas known as the Big Thicket, and it’s not just killing them in a conventional way—it’s ripping them apart, partially eating them and draining them of their blood. A motley posse not fit for a B-western, consisting of a slow-on-the-draw sheriff, an erudite black doctor, a mysterious Texas Ranger and a Forrest Gump-clone, among others, determines to hunt down the thing before it can get somewhere really remote and replicate in anticipation of an assault on humanity. What they discover on their quest, and who they discover is in league with the creature, adds even more spice to this entertaining and often creepy tale. McCandless wisely doesn’t burden the book with a typical main character/hero dripping with save-the-day traits and ironic one-liners; instead, the author fleshes out each of the characters that make up the not-so-merry band of hunters. Even the victims aren’t just dealt with in the one-chop-and-out method common to bad entertainment; they are given back stories and more purpose than just serving as creature fodder. The author channels his inner Bram Stoker at times and moves the story along via letters, newspaper accounts and other indirect narrative devices. A Texan himself, the author bases a lot of the story on studies of regional folklore and oilfield legends. The quickly paced tale is graphically gory in spots, and the book’s back cover contains a warning to that effect, as well as an advisory that the book is not recommended for readers under the age of 18. A well-executed journey into the macabre that should give anyone pause before walking through a desolate area at night.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615544861

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Ninth Planet

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2012

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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