The literary equivalent of a slasher movie, one that garners its biggest frights with mere implication.

GRIMM WOODS

A demented murderer—inspired by a summer camp’s fairy-tale theme—hunts young counselors in this horror outing.

Scott Mamer is one of several first-time counselors for the upcoming three-month stint at Camp Crownheart, but at 21, he’s also the oldest. Losing out on six weeks of construction work and with rent due, Scott responded to an ad for the camp, which caters to troubled kids and resembles a fairy tale, with cobblestone paths leading to huts instead of cabins. Abiding by owner Charlotte Becker’s rule to “behave impeccably” means Scott will temporarily have to give up his beloved cigarettes. But things are looking up once he sparks a conversation with striking blonde and fellow counselor Brynn. The next morning, however, when the first busload of kids arrives, two counselors are noticeably absent. They both turn up dead from an apparent accident, but Charlotte has no plans to shut down the camp, believing that would be more harmful for the hundreds of children who’ll be attending this summer. Sadly, later deaths are unmistakably at the hands of a killer, whose murders recall fairy tales: not the family-friendly variety, but the original, violent stories à la the Brothers Grimm. The generally indifferent Scott will have to decide whether he wants to help others or only himself. Melhoff (Turkey Town, 2014, etc.) hits all the trademarks of a slasher film, from the camp setting to a horde of sex-starved teens. This includes the occasional pratfall: most of the would-be victims, even the protagonist initially, are unsympathetic, seemingly interested in partying above all else. Regardless, the author shrewdly gives prominence to suspense over the murders, often shown after the fact. Tension builds with copious scenes in the woods at night, ominous sounds like hooting owls, and silhouettes lurking in the shadows. At the same time, Scott’s likability gets a significant bump when he conquers his obvious discomfort around children and becomes a protector. And while the killer’s identity isn’t immediately known, there’s likewise mystery surrounding Scott, who receives a cryptic message from the murderer that may have him revisiting a stowed-away memory.

The literary equivalent of a slasher movie, one that garners its biggest frights with mere implication.

Pub Date: June 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9921331-3-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bellwoods Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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