A blockbuster portrayal of the zombie apocalypse and a fitting tribute to the genre’s imaginative progenitor.

THE LIVING DEAD

The last testament of the legendary filmmaker is a sprawling novel about the zombie apocalypse that dwarfs even his classic movie cycle.

Though this long-simmering novel was unfinished when Romero died in 2017, his estate turned its completion over to Kraus, an adept novelist and collaborator with Guillermo Del Toro. The result is a satisfying, terrifying chronicle of the zombie crisis that includes explosive set pieces and moving character beats in equal measure. Just before Halloween, the first cadaver appears in the lab of San Diego medical examiners Luis Acocella and Charlie Rutkowski, asking the pair “Shall we dance?” even as Charlie holds his heart in her hands. In rural Missouri, teenager Greer Morgan soon learns society’s rules have been drastically altered by the rise of the dead. The growing severity of the crisis is seen at a national television studio in Atlanta, where conceited anchor Chuck Corso finds the danger growing closer and closer. On the aircraft carrier USS Olympia, helmsman Karl Nishimura and pilot Jenny Pagán join forces when they’re trapped between the resurrected dead and the zealous chaplain convinced God wants him to lead a death cult. These harrowing survival stories are marked by cinematic spectacles—a bloody escape by jet fighter, a school shooting, and fragments told from the zombies’ point of view are among the memorable episodes—but Kraus injects a dramatic dose of human pathos into the mix as characters bond, fight for survival, and frequently die so that others may live. By the time these disparate characters converge in the last act after a significant time jump, readers will know them so well that each loss takes on more emotional weight. Less soapy than The Walking Dead and less inventive than Max Brooks’ World War Z, it’s still a spectacular horror epic laden with Romero’s signature shocks and censures of societal ills.

A blockbuster portrayal of the zombie apocalypse and a fitting tribute to the genre’s imaginative progenitor.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30512-1

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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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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