A horror tale by a gifted storyteller that, despite minor flaws, delivers a wickedly good ending.

A DEMON'S ULTIMATUM

A Texas woman considers accepting a demon’s proposal of marriage in order to save her family in Bastaros’ (Life Near the Sea, 2011) supernatural thriller.

Stacy Buchanan doesn’t know what to make of her disturbing dreams, in which she’s in a dark tunnel, unable to reach a crying baby. Her husband, Todd, attributes them to her natural concern for their 3-year-old daughter, Angel, but Stacy instead thinks that their house may be haunted. This belief is magnified when she starts seeing images of a menacing, demonic figure in windows and mirrors. The demon turns out to be Ayda, chief demon “from underground,” and she has an agenda: Her son, Anoushek, is so attracted to Stacy that he wishes to marry her. Stacy realizes that she doesn’t have much of a choice, particularly when Anoushek threatens to destroy her family if she rejects him. She has 10 days to decide whether to become a demon wife or to watch her husband and child die. This short novel’s mingling of demons and a married woman has shades of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967), but Bastaros adds fresh elements to the mix. For example, Stacy sees Ayda as unquestionably horrific in appearance, but she finds the pale-skinned Anoushek, a demon/human hybrid, rather handsome. Her impossible decision gives the story a component of drama, as well as suspense, although the author disappointingly skips over much of the 10-day countdown. The story is further enhanced by its general sense of uneasiness, courtesy of a creepy neighbor, Mrs. Heffernan, who freely admits to seeing ghosts. Later, Stacy experiences her dream in real life; this time, it includes another mother, whose veil can’t quite hide her “bulging red eyes.” The book does have some structural and grammatical issues: Ashour, Anoushek’s father, makes an early, sudden appearance but isn’t properly introduced until later; and Ayda, at several points, confusingly appears to be male. There are also other errors, such as when the story introduces Stacy’s mother, Lauren Silverman, as “Lauren Sullivan.” Overall, however, the author’s enthusiasm shines through, leaving readers with lasting images, such as two demons sitting on a sofa, waiting to interrupt Stacy’s psychiatrist appointment.

A horror tale by a gifted storyteller that, despite minor flaws, delivers a wickedly good ending.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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