Enthralling drama permeates this extraordinary sophomore novel.

BEYOND THE THRESHOLD

A lawyer’s sighting of a strangely familiar boy stirs up memories of his troubled past in Ristau’s metaphysical sequel novel, set in 2001.

By all appearances, Ricky Williamson has made a good life for himself as a single 35-year-old attorney living in the Midwest. However, he’s still recovering from the trauma of being beaten and raped at summer camp 25 years before. During a morning run, he finds a boy floating face-up in a lake, apparently in trouble. He pulls him to safety and sees that he looks a lot like he did when he was 10 years old. The lawyer’s mind keeps pulling him back to his days at camp; since that time, he’s suffered bouts of depression and has been prone to violent outbursts. He’s also having problems at his latest job, where he’s unearthed shady business practices. However, the amnesiac boy, whom Ricky takes in, helps him to reexamine the life he’s led and think about changing it for the better. Ristau’s follow-up to A Hero Dreams (2017), like its predecessor, is a painstaking character study. Ricky’s ever winding path from childhood to adulthood features bright moments and dark troubles. His hostility toward his enemies, such as a boss who bullies him, builds up through the years, and in 2001, he seems on the verge of exploding. The sharply written narrative gives Ricky a shot at making better choices; the latter half dives deep into his memories and fantasies, sparking an indelible dreamlike section as Ricky revisits the trauma that’s long weighed on him. Moreover, real-world history plays a significant role in the plot, including the looming 9/11 attacks. Although it’s not a necessity, readers should read the earlier book in the series first, as it further enriches this one, which may pave the way for a third installment.

Enthralling drama permeates this extraordinary sophomore novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64343-794-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

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

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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