edited by Joe M. McDermott ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2020
Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2020
Ten spooky stories pay tribute to the wicked delights of classic and modern gothic horror fiction in this anthology.
Editor McDermott combines aspects of horror and fantasy in this deliciously dark volume probing the depths of the unexplained and the nature of evil. The collection immediately evokes an edgy rather than an overly frightening tone with Stina Leicht’s moody “Forgiveness Is Warm Like a Tear on the Cheek.” The tale features a man wrestling with ghosts from his past in a reputedly haunted, three-story Victorian house where spirits reside in an adjacent cemetery. In order to bury the unresolved demons in his past, he must confront some present-day scares (and a few apparitions) first. Fans of deep blue ocean waters will appreciate the murky mystery emerging from the depths of the Mediterranean in fantasy writer E. Catherine Tobler’s superbly disturbing “Blue Hole, Red Sea.” A female archaeology diver confronts an ominous hieroglyphic obelisk and a majestic temple honoring female gods. McDermott’s story selections conjure a devilish panoply of players, ranging from the desperate actor in Rhiannon Rasmussen’s vampiric fantasy “The Maidens of Midnight” who finally gets her big break playing a “monster and a lesbian” to a magician prodded to teach an eager follower “real magic” in Adam Gallardo’s “The Ultimate Secret of Magic” and the young, wildly imaginative writer and Ayn Rand fan who spends her summer vacation crafting a horror novel in Molly Tanzer’s “Summer Camp Would Have Been a Lot Cheaper."
Vampires, even those who are killed only to be resurrected by their younger counterparts, reign supreme in Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s menacingly comic monster mashup “Hammerville.” The story references the British movie production company responsible for the gothic “Hammer Horror” films of the 1950s through the ’70s. Most tales immediately sweep readers into their atmospheric nightmares, like Craig Laurance Gidney’s “Myth and Moor,” which stars a child who seamlessly converses with a witch and the ghost of a missing kid on the heath outside her home. Still others are masterful in their slow-burn narrative setups that then spring horrific denouements on unsuspecting readers. This is true of the haunted, Maine-based B&B featured in Haralambi Markov’s cinematic gorefest “The Midnight Feast,” where a final, breathless countdown spells sheer terror. In this volume, McDermott, a co-editor of the collection of futuristic crime short fiction The Way of the Laser (2020), combines novelettes with shorter vignettes to an impressive extent. His anthology will appeal to readers of both modern horror fiction and the classic genre yarns derived from the black-and-white and early color film eras. A character in A.C. Wise’s ghost-story homage to classic horror, titled “A Thousand Faces Minus One,” says a timely, eerily relevant mouthful when she quips: “People love hidden histories and conspiracy theories.” These same readers and many more will savor this collection of the sinister, the kooky, and the creepy.Plenty of standouts are on display in this gruesome grab bag of literary terror.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020
Page Count: 372
Publisher: Vernacular Books
Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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by Colleen Hoover ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 8, 2020
A unique story of transcendent love.
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
Page Count: 301
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020
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