A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

RABBITS

The creator of the absorbing podcast Rabbits expands its mythology about an ancient and potentially deadly game.

Debut novelist Miles is known for creating hit podcasts, and while this peculiar augmentation doesn’t quite stick the landing, its premise is spellbinding. Its namesake podcast is a missing persons mystery, but this sidequel digs far deeper into the mysteries surrounding the clandestine alternative-reality game at its heart. The narrator identifies himself only as K, and he’s fascinated by any threads of information about the unnamed game, known to players colloquially as “Rabbits.” Egged on by a video-arcade owner named the Magician, K, his girlfriend, Chloe, and pal Baron search out more information about the game as things get more dangerous for all of them. There’s not much to go on: The first recorded modern instance of the game emerged in 1959; a fractured recording lays out a few more clues, and readers learn more from interstitial notes by Hazel, the winner of the eighth iteration. Things start getting serious when K is approached in the arcade by the alleged winner of the sixth game, Alan Scarpio, “a gazillionaire playboy who hangs out with Johnny Depp,” who nonchalantly says, “Something is wrong with Rabbits, and I need you to help me fix it.” It’s believed that the game’s 10th iteration has ended, and a new round seems to be beginning when players solve a series of obscure riddles, followed by a cryptic pronunciation: “The door is open.” While not as pop-culture inundated as Ready Player One, the book nods to eccentric influences like the urban legend Polybius, about a mind-altering arcade game; the novels Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; and, most tellingly, the cult movie Donnie Darko: “The Venn diagram of people interested in Rabbits and in Richard Kelly’s sci-fi thriller from 2001 is essentially just a circle.”

A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984819-65-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

HIDDEN PICTURES

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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