Goodnight Moon

goodnightmoonSet in a dystopian future in which genetically engineered animals have devoured humanity, GOODNIGHT MOON is told from the perspective of a unseen, dying victim of the ravenous hordes. As he reflects on the scene with his last breaths, MOON provides a terrifying eulogy for the human race.

Margaret Wise Brown’s approach to the apocalypse is a minimalist one. Leaving only vague hints about the world in the wake of DR. MOREAU-style takeover by anthropomorphic animals, the slowly expiring narrator describes his deathbed — a seemingly normal bedroom and its mundane, but symbolically sinister furnishings.

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Bite Marks: A Vampire Testament

bitemarksWith every genre literary fad (the singularity, zombies, armaggeddon or, in this case, vampires) it’s easy for veteran (read: jaded) readers to disregard all but established writers when looking for novels regarding that particular subject. There’s heaps of “me, too” junk and empty hype out there, making it tough to pick a gem out of a garbage pile without help (hello there!).

As of Oct. 12, a quick, dirty and totally unscientific search for “vampire” in Amazon’s books section reveals 102 titles released in the last 30 days, 319 released in the last 90 days, and 67 coming soon. So just in time for Halloween, amid a frenzy of awful cash-ins and TWILIGHT rip-offs, is BITE MARKS: A VAMPIRE TESTAMENT by Terence Taylor, and it’s surprisingly pretty great.

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House of Reckoning

housereckoningOld favorite John Saul is back with his 36th novel, HOUSE OF RECKONING. This one’s a paranormal thriller with a nicely cinematic haunted house and villains so mean-spirited, you’ll zip through the pages in anticipation of what you hope will be their justly earned fates.

Sarah Crane is 14 years old. Her mother’s been dead for several years and she lives on a small Vermont farm with her dad, Big Ed. Since his wife’s death, Ed has become a bit too fond of the bottle as a way to put his problems on hold, and one night, he gets into a fight and unwittingly kills a man.

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Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves

supermanvampSUPERMAN AND BATMAN VS. VAMPIRES AND WEREWOLVES may have one of the best titles known to man, but I’m afraid the contents themselves constitute a well-intentioned but poorly executed dud. Even the introduction from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON director John Landis is a tad disappointing.

Written by Kevin VanHook and illustrated by Tom Mandrake, the six-issue collection finds Batman on the trail of a vampire in Gotham City. But, wait, as they say on TV, there’s more! Werewolves and Lovecraftian tentacled creatures are also on the loose, and they can all be traced to this bespectacled occult scientist Dr. Herbert Combs.

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The Vampire Book / A Practical Guide to Vampires

vampirebookHow many vampire overview books does a kid need? No telling, but given the current state of media saturation by the bloodsuckers, I’m guessing they’ll clamor for even more, which is good news for two new entries in the field.

Sally Regan’s THE VAMPIRE BOOK promises to delve into “the legends, the lore, the allure.” It comes from DK Publishing, so you know right off the bat (no pun intended) that it will be: a) loaded with facts, b) loaded with photos, and c) exceedingly well-designed. And it is, all in full-color, all on heavy paper. Initial pages made me fear it was going to be geared toward the girly vampires of TWILIGHT, but that worry has for naught.

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Ghost Stories Deck: 50 Spine-Tingling Tales to Tell After Dark

ghoststoriesLooking to give the kids a good scare without terrifying them too terribly? Pick a card — any card — from the GHOST STORIES DECK: 50 SPINE-TINGLING TALES TO TELL AFTER DARK, which is basically a book in a box from S.E. Schlosser. In fact, the contents of the cards come culled directly from his SPOOKY STORIES anthologies.

The tales entail a lot of retellings of urban legends, like the car being pushed out of a train’s way by ghost hands, or the killer with the hook for a hand, or the mirror game of Bloody Mary. With one story to a card, each is rated on a level of scares via one to four skulls. Even the highest won’t do more than elicit a chill up a young one’s spine, so worry not; fun — not fright — is the name of the game here. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

Archenemy / Hatter M: Mad with Wonder — Volume Two

archenemyAnother popular fantasy trilogy comes to a close as Frank Beddor delivers ARCHENEMY, the final chapter in his LOOKING GLASS WARS series. You may find it shelved in the young adult section at your local bookstore, but it’s to be equally enjoyed by adults, especially those more familiar with its source material.

And that’s Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND. In Beddor’s rebooted world, though, Alice is Alyss, a young queen out to save her kingdom in a land ravaged by war — not for property, nor riches, but imagination itself. Given that Wonderland’s soldiers fight with card-shooting weapons like the AD-52 (as in Automatic Dealer, 52 cards to a deck), imagination is one thing ARCHENEMY is full of.

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Blood’s a Rover

bloodroverFrom James Ellroy, the author who once gleefully referred to himself as “the demon-dog of American letters,” BLOOD’S A ROVER is the final installment of his “Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy,” a massive retelling of contemporary our nation’s history that began with AMERICAN TABLOID and THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. Like both previous works, this novel is ambitious in scope, daring and often shocking in its perspective, and, in equal parts, both a joy and a chore to read.

Ellroy breaks no new ground stylistically or in his narrative technique with this work. That’s probably good news to his countless fans. Anyone else who’s ever read any of his novels pretty well knows what to expect. The sentences are short and crazy for alliteration and hipster-tinged lingo. The violence is plentiful, outrageous and often presented with almost slow-motion intensity. And it is a long book, clocking in at almost 650 pages.

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Inherent Vice

inherentviceThomas Pynchon is one of America’s greatest living writers. His THE CRYING OF LOT 49 should be required teaching in high school, and his MASON & DIXON is one of the truly great underrated masterpieces. But his recent dip into genre fiction, INHERENT VICE, may lead some readers to worry: Will it be as literarily obscure as GRAVITY’S RAINBOW, or could there even be a level of condescension present?

Well, no worries, chaps. INHERENT VICE is one of the author’s most accessible and books, all while maintaining the expected Pynchonian level of description, misdirection, humor and undeniably intricate plotting. The novel is set in the Los Angeles of 1970, at the tail end of the psychedelic ’60s and the beginning of the brand-dominant ’70s, all the details of which Pynchon spreads liberally throughout, referencing TV shows, California idiosyncrasies and historical milestones, thoroughly submerging the reader into the stoner culture of his characters.

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My Dead Body

mydeadbodyIf literary characters have feelings, it’s a fair bet to say none of them is especially glad to end up in Charlie Huston’s books, because nobody comes out of them intact. Whether the abuse he inflicts is emotional or graphically physical, characters sitting in this imaginary green room know that they’re in for it when they hit the page. And while this is true across all of Huston’s output, things are especially tough for the denizens of his Joe Pitt casebooks, being set in a New York City lousy with vampires and all.

MY DEAD BODY is the fifth and final of these casebooks, which revolve around a conflicted vampire antihero/noir-detective type who spends most of his time sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong … and consequently getting that nose smashed to pulpy bits over and over again.

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