A slew of gloriously disturbing, well-told tales to unnerve readers.

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Nightmares Unhinged

TWENTY TALES OF TERROR

Viola (Luna One, 2014, etc.) amasses a series of blistering horror stories, including a few of his own, from authors who tell of vampires, demons, killers, and things better left hidden in the dark.

Steve Rasnic Tem opens this collection with “The Brollachan,” a Lovecraft-ian narrative in which a creature’s evil may live on through its lineage. The stories here are largely traditional with contemporary touches. Some take familiar setups in unexpected directions. In the post-apocalyptic world of Stephen Graham Jones’ “The Man Who Killed Texas,” for example, a guy makes a harrowing decision to protect the Lone Star State from a plague; and humankind survives an alien invasion in Mario Acevedo’s “Zôu Gôu” only to discover that the horror may not be over. Others play with the relative safety of modern settings: a golfing buddy disappears from a golf course in Sean Eads’ “Lost Balls,” while the office Christmas party in J.V. Kyle’s (a pseudonym for Viola and Keith Ferrell) “Bathroom Break” takes a ghastly turn. The prose is consistently outstanding, and there isn’t a single dud here. A few stories, however, do stand above the rest. Ferrell’s Poe-esque “Be Seated” turns a simple chair into a macabre entity; Jason Heller’s “The Projectionist” features a beast that’ll make readers quiver or queasy or a little of both; and in Viola’s “The Librarian,” a man who checks out and returns the same six library books every week isn’t even the eeriest part of the tale. A couple of stories are predominantly tongue-in-cheek: there’s a vampire curious about a batch of especially delicious victims (Kyle’s “Fangs”), and guess what stoners do with a magic lamp in Acevedo’s “Gurgle. Gurgle.”? All 20 stories, disconcerting in their own ways, leave impressions individually as well as collectively. Illustrations from artist Lovett[b1] —searing images that look as if they’ve been etched in stone and spattered with blood—precede each story.

A slew of gloriously disturbing, well-told tales to unnerve readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9855590-9-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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