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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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