Smart, invigorating, and, like the best zombie stories, relentlessly creepy.

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GEHENNA RISES

Following a worldwide zombie plague, a survivor relates his personal account of a new menace more terrifying than swarms of the undead in Boote’s (EXIT, 2015, etc.) horror yarn.

Years after the Zombie War, Jay Boam is cast in a Hollywood film. The movie, set during the zombie outbreak, is about Beeston, which had been a safe haven during the war in Cheshire, England. History lionized the survivors at Beeston, a village and its castle, where an event known as the First Emergence ultimately led to victory over the undead. Knowing Hollywood’s penchant for altering facts, Jay decides to get the real story from Alec Mitchell, a Beeston survivor and the movie’s on-set adviser. During the zombie outbreak, Alec, an Anglican priest, used his background in science to research the undead’s reanimation with Beeston’s vet/doctor, Jennifer Edwards. Weeks into their work, the two recognized a zombie as someone from a nearby stronghold, so Beeston’s leader, Henry Jackson, sent a drone to survey the area. He then dispatched a group that found death and destruction, but the apparent attack didn’t seem to be the result of either an undead horde or living raiders. In fact, a dying girl at the stronghold claimed the devil himself had attacked them. Back at Beeston, Alec and others stumbled onto something they had never seen before, with the capacity to be far deadlier than zombies. As Beeston was ill-equipped to defend itself against this new threat, a vicious battle for survival ensued. However, present-day Alec, who doesn’t believe he deserves his status as hero, has a confession for Jay. Boote’s engrossing zombie tale is primarily Alec’s first-person story told to Jay, with occasional prompts from the latter. It’s a believable narration, entirely from the perspective of Alec, who even in retrospect doesn’t know what others were thinking. His account, told chronologically, likewise offers a few surprising plot turns, most notably the nightmarish evil described in the book’s latter half. The story shows a world enduring, as well as adjusting to, the zombie plague, not unlike George A. Romero’s series. Beeston’s harrowing fight is wrought with tension and occasionally grotesque. Fortunately, Boote (via Alec) is thoroughly descriptive: “From the matted mass of grey hair at the peak of his crown a dirty brown line traced a diagonal trail across his face, disappearing below where his right ear would have been, had not everything above that line been sliced clean away.” Footnotes clarify Alec’s copious references to historical events surrounding the war and zombie pandemic. These do nevertheless make some characters a literal footnote. We meet one in particular seconds before death, so readers may have trouble sympathizing. Regardless, other characters are outstanding, especially Henry and British Army Sgt. Peter John Rule, whom the government assigned to assist Beeston. The power struggle between these two further escalates suspense: Henry evidently hopes for a haven independent of the government, and Rule represents the authority he’s trying to escape. While the wrap-up provides sufficient insight into Alec on an emotional level, the novel concludes with an unforgettably unnerving and lasting impression.

Smart, invigorating, and, like the best zombie stories, relentlessly creepy.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-916187-21-4

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Ingram Spark

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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