Strange poems and an intriguing tale for die-hard horror fans.

VISIONS, DARKNESS, AND LIGHT

Poetry and a novella mix biography, history, and horror.

Snodgrass’ “poetry novel” brings together more than 60 prose poems and a novella that centers on eerie, supernatural occurrences on the infamous Trail of Tears in 1830. The title poem, the first piece in the collection, alludes to Edgar Allan Poe and Rod Serling: “ ‘Nevermore!’ he cries alone. As you slip into life’s twilight zone.” It’s an apt combination for the poems that follow, which bear titles like “The Mummy,” “Poltergeist,” and “The Lycan.” The author crafts some disturbing and mournful imagery here, drawing heavily from pop-culture bogeymen and his own personal history. Between lines like “The freak show is coming to town; got Nosferatu and a very evil clown,” he pauses to dedicate slower, more somber pieces to his mother or grandmother: “I see your smile upon the wind when I close my eyes and go to sleep....I hope you are smiling—and Grandma, I’ll see you soon.” Reinforcing this alternating rhythm are the accompanying uncredited photographs, some of family members, others of desolate landscapes, and even shots of Snodgrass himself. The blend of popular genres and poetry is unusual and unexpected, but the author’s rather standard rhyming patterns tend to hold his pieces back from achieving something truly bizarre and surreal: “Are you an angel, or the devil’s slave? Or just a whisper beyond life’s grave?” This predilection for imbuing horror in unexpected places feels much more natural and effective in the historical novella Ouijawa: Trail of Tears, which follows a medicine man named Nvda Ama as he invokes supernatural forces to fight against the white Army and militia men cruelly herding his tribe out of their native lands in Georgia. Along with delivering some genuinely spooky passages, Snodgrass displays here some skill at perspective, playing with both the soldiers’ and the Native Americans’ inner turmoil during a horrific situation made even darker.

Strange poems and an intriguing tale for die-hard horror fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-7899-6

Page Count: 178

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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IF IT BLEEDS

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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