Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

TINY NIGHTMARES

VERY SHORT STORIES OF HORROR

Forty works of flash fiction guaranteed to inspire nightmares.

Michel and Nieto collaborated previously on the story collection Tiny Crimes (2018), and here they apply the same basic guidelines—stripping stories down to about 1,500 words—and transpose them to the horror genre to fantastic effect. These are achingly brief but exquisitely crafted fragments of horror, some real, some imagined, and some incomplete. Divided into four sections—heads, hearts, limbs, and viscera—the book is delightfully unpredictable. In an elegant introduction, the editors observe, “Fear is also, for better or (more often) worse, the dark force that shapes society. Whether it’s politicians spreading hatred to scare up votes or the passive fear that keeps so many of us from risking change in our lives, our communities, and our world.” The opener, Meg Elison's “Guess,” features a protagonist who knows how everyone will die. In “Jane Death Theory #13,” Rion Amilcar Scott tackles the horrifying history of people of color who have died from gunshot wounds while arrested, cuffed, and secured in the back of a police car—annotated with real-life examples. There are a plethora of creepy creatures, such as the inhuman thing in “We’ve Been in Enough Places To Know” by Corey Farrenkopf; the demon that lives in the art exhibition in “The Blue Room” by Lena Valencia; or the puppy that morphs into a human baby in Hilary Leichter's “Doggy-Dog World.” Other horrors are psychological: In "Lone," by Jac Jemc, a woman who fears men makes a horrifying discovery while camping alone while in Kevin Nguyen's “The Unhaunting,” a man desperate to be visited by his dead wife is told by an amateur ghostbuster that she doesn’t want to see him. There are plenty of iconic frights here, among them vampires and werewolves, but it's surprising how very different all of these stories are, especially given their limits. Iván Parra Garcia's "The Resplendence of Disappearing" is translated from the original Spanish by Allana C. Noyes into spare, brittle English that recalls Cormac McCarthy. "Candy Boii" by Sam J. Miller delves into the dangers of social media, with graceful passages like “The real danger is how we open ourselves up. What we let in, when we believe ourselves to be safe." There's quite a lot of body horror, too, so squeamish readers are forewarned, but fans of innovative horror films like Get Out and Us will have a blast.

Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948226-62-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Black Balloon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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