A treat for fans of The Evil Dead or Zombieland, complete with affordable solutions for better living.

HORRORSTÖR

A hardy band of big-box retail employees must dig down for their personal courage when ghosts begin stalking them through home furnishings.

You have to give it up for the wave of paranormal novels that have plagued the last decade in literature; at least they’ve made writers up their games when it comes to finding new settings in which to plot their scary moments. That’s the case with this clever little horror story from longtime pop-culture journalist Hendrix (Satan Loves You, 2012, etc.). Set inside a disturbingly familiar Scandinavian furniture superstore in Cleveland called Orsk, the book starts as a Palahniuk-tinged satire about the things we own—the novel is even wrapped in the form of a retail catalog complete with product illustrations. Our main protagonist is Amy, an aimless 24-year-old retail clerk. She and an elderly co-worker, Ruth Anne, are recruited by their anal-retentive boss, Basil (a closet geek), to investigate a series of strange breakages by walking the showroom floor overnight. They quickly uncover two other co-workers, Matt and Trinity, who have stayed in the store to film a reality show called Ghost Bomb in hopes of catching a spirit on tape. It’s cute and quite funny in a Scooby Doo kind of way until they run across Carl, a homeless squatter who's just trying to catch a break. Following an impromptu séance, Carl is possessed by an evil spirit and cuts his own throat. It turns out the Orsk store was built on the remains of a brutal prison called the Cuyahoga Panopticon, and its former warden, Josiah Worth, has returned from the dead to start up operations again. It sounds like an absurd setting for a haunted-house novel, but Hendrix makes it work to the story’s advantage, turning the psychological manipulations and scripted experiences that are inherent to the retail experience into a sinister fight for survival.

A treat for fans of The Evil Dead or Zombieland, complete with affordable solutions for better living.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59474-526-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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