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SUBURBAN MONSTERS

An assortment of jolts, abominations, and shaken nerves that readers won’t soon forget.

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The suburbs are a breeding ground for malevolent entities and hideous sights in this debut collection of horror short stories.

In “Green Eyes,” the first of 13 tales, an outcast at school lives alone with her mother. The two have an unusual remedy when one of them is sick, which only turns scarier as the story continues. Throughout this collection, the seemingly harmless either precedes something sinister or proves to be the source of horror. For example, Phil works at Darryl’s comic-book store in “Origin Story.” It’s hardly surprising when their conversations entail hypothetical superpowers, until it leads to a frightening reality. In the same vein, the tales’ settings are familiar, typically welcome places, such as a retail store, a nighttime beach, and a kids’ birthday party. Hawkins grounds so many of these stories by integrating relevant concerns, from low-income housing to body-image issues. Bullying, too, plays a part in some of the characters’ lives, including the blue-collar narrator of “Carpenter’s Thumb.” After he crushes his thumb with a hammer swing, his co-worker Carl laughs mercilessly, just one sign of the two men’s increasingly destructive relationship. Narratives will draw readers into characters’ mindsets; even when they’re nameless or they fear something intangible, it’s easy to tremble right alongside the players. That’s certainly true for Carol when her young daughter becomes obsessed with a cult children’s show in “The Stumblybum Imperative” (“The screen was awash with bright colors as the characters huddled in their costumes…Oversized heads made of felt and foam pressed together, barely fitting inside the frame”). Although Carol finds herself mesmerized as well, it’s still unsettling when one of the bubbly, plushy-costumed Stumblybums turns inexplicably erratic right there onscreen. The author’s pithy writing churns out chilling scenes that feed on suspense and don’t linger on the gory bits for long. Regardless, the book’s highlight is the potent, cringe-inducing “Storms of the Present.” In it, one person goes to terrifying lengths to lose weight—and that’s merely the beginning of a dark descent.

An assortment of jolts, abominations, and shaken nerves that readers won’t soon forget.

Pub Date: March 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781937346126

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Coronis Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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THE GOD OF ENDINGS

A new and contemplative take on the vampire novel.

Following a vampire across more than 200 years, this novel considers “whether this world and life in it is a kindness or an unkindness, a blessing or a curse.”

At the age of 10, Anna faces illness and death daily as an epidemic sweeps through her town. After the deaths of her father and brother, and when she's at her sickest, her grandfather arrives. Just as she’s about to succumb to the illness that killed her whole family, he transforms her into a vampire like himself. When she asks him why he did it, he replies: “This world, my dear child, all of it, right to the very end if there is to be an end, is a gift. But it’s a gift few are strong enough to receive. I made a judgment that you might be among those strong few, that you might be better served on this side of things than the other. I thought you might find some use for the world, and it for you.” The years that follow are difficult and often wrought with loss for Anna. She lives many lives over the centuries and eventually takes on the name Collette LaSange, opening a French preschool in Millstream Hollow, New York. Chapters alternate between Anna’s life beginning in the 1830s and her current life in 1984 as Collette. Notable points of tension arise when Collette tries unsuccessfully to sate her hunger, which is becoming increasingly unbearable, and as her interest in the artistic growth of a student named Leo deepens. Through decadently vivid prose—which could have been streamlined at times—this hefty novel meditates on major themes such as life, love, and death with exceptional acumen. The final questions in the book—“How presumptuous is the gift of life? What arrogance is implicit in the act of love that calls another into existence?”—serve as an anchor to meditations on these themes found throughout.

A new and contemplative take on the vampire novel.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250856760

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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HIDDEN PICTURES

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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