DEATHREALM

SPIRITS

A solid compilation that will satisfy avid fans of a range of horror subgenres.

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The editor of the award-winning 1970s and ‘80s horror magazine Deathrealm presents a collection of eclectic stories.

Rainey helms this set of spine-tingling and sometimes stomach-churning works from 20 authors. As with many anthologies, not every tale works, but it hits its stride in its third offering, Timothy G. Huguenin’s “To Fear and To Rage,” about a father and son whose remote mountain town is slowly overrun by unsettling faceless, eyeless creatures. Later, readers are transported to the Wild West in Larry Blamire’s “The Murder Wagon,” which ends with an unexpected and satisfying twist. David Niall Wilson’s “I Was Going to Tell You Tonight” is a delightfully disgusting foray into body horror, telling of a twisted relationship between two pest exterminators—one of whom has an increasingly strange obsession. The standout of the collection, Maurice Broaddus’ “The Running People,” is unflinchingly tense and brutal in its story of a mother’s daily run to the suburbs from a sequestered cabin in the woods to pick up rations for her and her daughter; it masterfully blends themes of inequality, bigotry, climate change, and cosmic horror in an all-too-believable postapocalyptic setting. “Bloody Roots” by Brian Keene is a fun, inventive twist on classic haunted-house stories with its tale of an ex-Amish exorcist/medium/occult detective who’s called in to rid a family of malevolent force terrorizing their home, and Kasey Lansdale's “The Disappeared" is an effectively atmospheric study in suspense in which two young girls investigate a mystery after discovering a body at a local creek. Others are a mixed bag, with some premises that don’t meet expectations or endings that lose momentum. Overall, though, this is a serviceable anthology for readers looking for a scare.

A solid compilation that will satisfy avid fans of a range of horror subgenres.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9781959565178

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Shortwave Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2023

LAYLA

A unique story of transcendent love.

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. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

THE BOOK OF LOVE

This book has many enchantments and moving moments, but it would have been better, and more magical, if it were shorter.

A master of short fantasy offers her long-anticipated first novel.

Link has a genius for combining the mundane with the uncanny, diving into the dark currents where dreams grow and bringing up magic-encrusted jetsam, pearlescent ideas that coil and shock. The story takes place in a coastal New England town with the beautifully ambiguous, typically Link name of Lovesend. (Love’s end? Love send?) There, four teenagers—sisters Susannah and Laura, their bandmate Daniel, and Susannah’s friend Mo—are caught up in a struggle with deities who control access to death. As the book opens, Laura, Daniel, and Mo have been dead for months; in her grief, Susannah smashes her sister’s guitar. Soon, the teens, along with a mysterious companion, return from the dead, reanimated by their high school music teacher, Mr. Anabin. Another supernatural person, Bogomil, appears, taking various human and animal forms (a wolf, a rabbit). He writes a message on the music classroom blackboard with his fingernail: “2 RETURN 2 REMAIN.” Mr. Anabin gives the revenants a series of tasks, which they believe will allow two of them to stay alive while the other two, they presume, will die again. As they perform the tasks, readers get to know their families and personal struggles: Laura and Susannah’s father left the family when they were little, and the two contend with sibling rivalry and family roles (Laura’s the good girl, Susannah’s the rebel); Daniel, who has a compulsion to be liked, is a loving, caretaking big brother to a gaggle of mixed-race siblings; Mo, a gay orphan and one of the few Black kids in town, has lost his beloved grandmother while he was dead. Meanwhile, increasingly dramatic magical events transform their hometown—the weather goes hot and cold, carousel horses turn into wolves, the goddess of the moon erects a temple in the middle of the bay—as the characters rush endlessly back and forth, arriving at last at an almost mechanically tidy ending. Although all the fabulous Link elements are here, at more than 600 pages, the story is unwieldy and overexplained.

This book has many enchantments and moving moments, but it would have been better, and more magical, if it were shorter.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9780812996586

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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