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Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror

Edited by Christopher Golden. Gallery, $18 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8309-3

The notion of the romantic vampire is transcended to chilling and even heartbreaking effect in this stellar anthology of tales collected by Golden (Tin Men). The best is Laird Barron’s atmospheric, Alaska-set “In a Cavern, in a Canyon,” in which one woman examines her past as she confronts a very present horror. Other highlights include Michael Koryta’s “On the Dark Side of Sunlight Basin,” in which one vampire meets his match; Seanan McGuire’s dark and lovely “Something Lost, Something Gained”; Brian Keene’s restrained, heart-wrenching “The Last Supper,” in which a vampire’s loneliness eclipses his need to feed in a plague-devastated world; and Rio Youers’s “Separator,” set in a typhoon-devastated Philippines where a land developer gets a brutal taste of local legend. These stories move smoothly from the subtle to the horrifying, often shot through with a thick vein of irony, and there’s enough variety and talent to make up for the few stories that aren’t quite as strong. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Double Life of Liliane

Lily Tuck. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2402-9

National Book Award winner Tuck (The News from Paraguay) blends history, biography, memoir, and fiction in this gleefully chaotic metanarrative, which closely parallels the author’s own life. Tracking the emotional and intellectual development of its protagonist, Liliane, who is born in France in the 1930s but raised largely in the U.S., the novel encompasses many of the early 20th century’s most monumental—and most horrific—developments. Sections centering on Liliane’s parents and family members offer insights into the tribulations faced by European Jews during World War II, as well as the experiences of migrants to the U.S. in the years during and after the war. Along the way, the novel, restless and roving, delivers reports on Liliane’s impressive family history (celebrity relatives include Moses Mendelssohn and Mary, Queen of Scots), while mapping the various places her peripatetic clan has called home (Peru, Italy, and Tanzania among others). While stretches of the novel verge on seeming crammed and distracted, Tuck succeeds in balancing the bounty of the information she relays with playful, buoyant prose and poignant scenes—particularly those between Liliane and her mother, Irène—that quicken the heart. Of her mother’s scent, Liliane thinks at one point, “Joy, the most expensive perfume in the world; an ounce consists of ten thousand jasmine flowers and three hundred roses.” In Tuck’s prose—messy, lively, dizzy, happy—one gets a contagious sense of fun that she has transmuting life into words. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?

Stephen Dobyns. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-17145-1

Gold Dagger Award–finalist Dobyns’s genius for dark comedy makes this intricate crime novel a triumph that will appeal to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen fans. An arch, omniscient narrative voice draws you in, setting the stage for a grim death in New London, Conn. A dump truck backs onto the street just as a motorcycle rider passes by, cutting him in half. The identity of the victim and whether the incident was an accident are initially mysteries. The tragedy allows gradual introductions of an eccentric but plausible cast of characters, starting with Connor Raposo, a visitor from San Diego, Calif., who witnesses the accident. Others include police partners who have an antagonistic relationship and a group of con artists who bilk the gullible by soliciting charitable donations for organizations such as the Holy Sisters of the Blessed Little Feet and Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction. Dobyns (The Burn Palace) skillfully interweaves the various plot threads, such as the picaresque exploits of a homeless man named Fidget and threats to a resident suspected of being a federally protected witness. Frequent instances of wry humor and direct addresses to the reader are a plus. Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Methuselah Project

Rick Barry. Kregel Publications, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8254-4387-9

In this science fiction–tinged novel, Barry (Gunner’s Run) volleys between two seemingly disparate story lines. Roger Greene is a World War II fighter pilot shot down over Nazi Germany in 1943. Katherine Mueller is a freelance editor living in Atlanta in 2014. In captivity, Roger’s Nazi captors perform experiments as part of the Methuselah Project that alter his physiological makeup—a secret project that continues long after the war is over. Katherine suffers as her uncle Kurt, who became her guardian after the death of her parents, strives to influence every aspect of her life. As Roger’s story moves from mid-century to the present day, he finally encounters a sympathetic ally. Sophie, a scientist assigned to the Methuselah Project, assists in his escape. When Roger’s trajectory intersects with Katherine’s, neither realizes how dangerous their partnership will become. Roger frequently recalls being admonished as a child to “always remember to pray,” but the book’s organic spiritual elements are rare despite Roger’s professed faith. Barry crafts a plausible scientific explanation for Roger’s condition, but it’s often inconsistent in the details. Despite an interesting premise, the story’s inspirational message is weak and the plot fails to surprise. Agent: Linda Glaz/Hartline Literary Agency (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Memory Weaver

Jane Kirkpatrick. Revell, $14.99 paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2232-6

Kirkpatrick (A Sweetness to the Soul) fictionalizes events surrounding the Whitman Massacre of 1847 in the Oregon territory through the voices of Eliza Spalding Warren and her mother Eliza Hart Spalding, wife of missionary Henry Spalding. The younger Eliza, at 10 years old, was among hostages held by members of the Cayuse Indian tribe—captured after a Cayuse raid on Marcus Whitman’s Waiilatpu mission. Told through journal entries, the mother’s story vividly depicts an arduous life on the western frontier. While Kirkpatrick briefly describes the brutalities of the murders and subsequent standoff, the story is primarily about the personal relationships. Pushed by her father’s demands, Eliza marries a man with his own dark past and gives birth to her first child before turning 19. The men here all have strong character flaws; the women, on the other hand, are stalwart and wise, and Kirkpatrick brings their abilities to the forefront of the story. Kirkpatrick provides empathetic characters and historical elements that ring with accuracy. This is a fine interpretation of a little-known group of pioneering Christians. Agent: Joyce Hart, Hartline Literary Agency (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Falling like Snowflakes

Denise Hunter. Thomas Nelson, $12.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7180-2371-3

On the run from her husband’s murderers, Eden Martelli and her young son pack their bags and leave for Summer Harbor, Maine. Reluctantly, Eden takes a job working for a family-owned Christmas tree farm in the quaint seaside town and quickly begins to intrigue her new boss, former sheriff deputy Beau Callahan. While Eden helps care for Beau’s ailing aunt, suspicions arise about Eden’s vague story. But are Beau’s misgivings strong enough to slow his growing feelings for Eden? While Eden tries to focus on keeping her son safe, Beau must wrestle with his own family tensions and emotional turmoil. Their relationship grows, fraught with danger but also filled with quiet moments approaching emotional and spiritual wholeness. With her usual deft touch, snappy dialogue, and knack for romantic tension, inspirational romance veteran Hunter (Married ’til Monday) will continue to delight romance fans with this first Summer Harbor release. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Inside Out

Lia Riley. Forever, $12 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4555-8579-3

Riley (Sideswiped) delivers an emotionally touching, not-to-be missed conclusion to the Off the Map trilogy. Series protagonists Talia and Bran both narrate this book with angst, sensitivity, and passion as they realize that “sometimes, it’s in the unexpected where the magic happens.” Talia didn’t plan on a serious medical condition cutting short her Peace Corps assignment, and Bran wasn’t expecting to put his dream of exploring Antarctica on hold for her sake. Though Bran doesn’t think twice about traveling to Sacramento, Calif., to be by Talia’s side, he is troubled by her reverting to old behaviors. But he isn’t without his relapses either, putting their relationship once again on a see-saw path. Tension is high as family drama, ghosts from the past, and job insecurities plague the couple. As they realize it’s their love that makes them strong, they embark on another soul-searching adventure that will leave readers cheering. Riley writes a captivating story from beginning to breathtaking end. Agent: Emily Kim, Prospect Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Crosstown Crush

Cara McKenna. Signet Eclipse, $15 ISBN 978-0-451-47605-0

An incendiary visit to the world of kinky cuckolding kicks off McKenna’s (Give It All) new Sins in the City series. Married couple Samira and Mike Heyer, having indulged Mike’s roleplay fantasies of catching Samira with a more virile man, decide to up the stakes by placing an ad for someone to seduce Samira for real while Mike watches. The ad attracts handsome exhibitionist Bern Davies. Though the protagonists are barely sketched beyond their fantasy roles, McKenna satisfies the reader with scene after gloriously filthy scene of detailed play-by-plays and dirty talk, while also giving a real sense of the appeal of the cuckold dynamic for all parties. But the tension suddenly falls apart when the story takes a sudden, ineffective turn toward the romantic for Samira and Bern—and toward true jealousy for Mike. The character development comes too little and too late for this otherwise effective niche erotica. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Avelynn

Marissa Campbell. St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-06393-9

Campbell’s conventional fiction debut begins in the year 869 C.E. in Wessex, Britain, and follows Avelynn, daughter of the Earl of Somerset. Avelynn hopes to marry for love, but her father betroths her to Demas of Wareham, whom she dislikes. Avelynn, somewhat unbelievably, is secretly a pagan; after slipping away for a ritual, she encounters Alrik, a Viking boat captain on his way to Ireland. The two fall in love, but Demas’s machinations, the looming Viking invasion of Britain, and Avelynn’s station in life conspire to keep them apart. Though the novel is adequately researched, the heroine’s anachronistic attitudes are grating, and Campbell’s prose is clunky. The plot moves well, but characters change their minds about major issues seemingly at whim, and the complexity and depth of the political history is not written as well as the romance—which, although fairly well executed, is predictable at its heart. Agent: Margaret Bail, Inklings Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Begging for It

Lilah Pace. Berkley, $15 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-425-27949-6

Pace’s erotic sequel to Asking for It features the dark side of a kinky romance that might offend the squeamish reader. Twenty-something Vivienne Charles suffered a traumatic sexual encounter at the age of 14. Its residual effects have left her seeking therapy—and romantic acceptance—for her fantasies of being raped. Meeting Jonah Marks turned out to be the silver lining within an otherwise bit of bad luck. A good man, he has an equally disturbing yet complementary kink. However, despite being able to trust each other with blindfolds and ropes, they take longer to open their hearts. When the same bit of bad luck that brought them together threatens to destroy them, the tension builds. Both plot and characterization gain strength as Vivienne and Jonah deal with multiple conflicts—personal, mutual, and external. Though the story needs some tightening, it’s still a worthwhile read for its insightful (though graphic) portrayal of people with rape fantasies. Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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