Bram Stoker Awards
2011 (Best Novel)
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Joe McKinney
2011 (Best Nonfiction)
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Rocky Wood

Library Journal Freelance writer Wood (Stephen King: The Non-Fiction) has assembled an alphabetized primer on Stephen King's finished and incomplete short stories, screenplays, and novels. Alphabetized entries detail specific works and characters. Each entry also discusses the origin of the work and the reappearance of characters or related themes elsewhere. Engaging and informative, this essential reference for horror and fantasy collections complements Bev Vincent's more biographical Stephen King Illustrated Companion.-Savannah Schroll Guz, formerly with Smithsonian Libs., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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2010 (Best Novel)
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Peter Straub

Library Journal Forty years after a horrific event experienced by a group of high school seniors, the now middle-aged participants individually review what happened. In 1960, under the spell of a charismatic, slightly older man who claimed special powers, the teens had been led to share what may have been a delusion or an actual, spectacular murder. The author's well-recognized skill in building suspense and subtly revealing aspects of character strengthens this complex plot. The basic question-is evil innately human, or is it something external?-is appropriately and perhaps disturbingly left for the reader's speculation. While hints of the presence of supernatural beings are dropped frequently, there are repeated but only brief mentions of bloody slaughter rather than the extensive juicy depictions that TV and videogame addicts might expect. VERDICT Bram Stoker Award winner Straub's (Ghost Story; Lost Boy; Lost Girl) latest offering in new wave horror will thrill his many fans and attract new readers. A very good choice for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/09.]-Jonathan Pearce, California State Univ. at Stanislaus, Stockton (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Student demos and cop riots weren't the only spectacular events in Madison, Wisconsin, back in 1966. A footloose occultist guru blew into town and gathered a following of four high-school seniors and two UW frat boys, eventually to join him and his blonde-stunner girlfriend in a ritual in a disused field belonging to the ag school. The ceremony succeeded, but killed one collegian, made the other disappear, and drastically altered each of the high-schoolers' lives. Four decades later, novelist Lee Harwell, whose girlfriend and eventual wife was one of the four high-schoolers, and who might have been in the field that day but for his profound skepticism of the guru, is jogged by a most un-Proustian memory-trigger into finding out from each of his old pals just what happened and writing it up. Hence, this book is rich with well-realized characters and incidents, and as dazzling a literary performance as anything Straub has ever written. Particularly impressive this time is the way Straub alters the texture of the prose as Harwell's research progresses from initial murk through successively clearer atmospheres and brighter tones until, just before the last eyewitness testimony, his wife's, it's almost too shiny and slick. Then, with her account, which partially remystifies things, the book ends in the normal, reassuring light of day. Quite a performance.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In this tour de force from bestseller Straub (In the Night Room), four high school friends in 1966 Madison, Wis.-Hootie Bly, Dilly Olson, Jason Boatman, and Lee Truax-fall under the spell of charismatic "wandering guru" Spencer Mallon. During an occult ceremony in which Mallon attempts to break through to a higher reality, something goes horribly awry leaving one participant dead. Decades later, Lee's writer husband interviews the quartet to find out what happened. In Roshomon-like fashion, each relates a slightly different account of the trauma they experienced. Straub masterfully shows how the disappointments, downturns, and failed promise of the four friends' lives may have stemmed from this youthful experience, and suggests, by extension, that the malignant evil they helped unleash into the world has tainted all hope ever since. Brilliant in its orchestration and provocative in its speculations, this novel ranks as one of the finest tales of modern horror. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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2010 (Best First Novel)
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Benjamin Kane Ethridge
2010 (Best First Novel)
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Lisa Morton
2010 (Best Nonfiction)
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Gary A. Braunbeck
 
2009 (Best Novel)
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Sarah Langan

Publishers Weekly Langan's lackluster third horror novel follows emotionally stunted, mentally ill Audrey Lucas as she moves into the Breviary, which seems the perfect Manhattan home for an up-and-coming architect. Rent is cheap; the building's Chaotic Naturalism architecture is rare and intriguing; and it lets Audrey get away from her troubled first romance. After learning that the apartment's last occupant drowned her four children before committing suicide, Audrey still opts to stay, but as apparitions and the building's other residents urge her to "build a door," her sanity begins to slip. What follows is a slow, uninteresting story full of dead-end digressions, with nothing to keep a reader engaged. Langan (The Missing) knows how to write strong prose, but the story lacks punch and likely won't even appeal to fans of haunted houses. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Langan's The Keeper (2006) garnered a Bram Stoker Award nomination, and its sequel, The Missing (2007), favorable comparisons of her to horror fiction's most established authors. Now she offers an even better, finely crafted character study of an obsessive-compulsive woman's battle with ghosts and personal demons in a haunted New York apartment building. When budding architect Audrey Lucas abandons her live-in boyfriend for a flat in the Breviary, an architectural landmark on Manhattan's Upper West Side, her newfound freedom comes at a price. Her apartment's gruesome history includes a deranged mother who drowned her children in the bathroom's claw-footed tub. Yet ghosts and the strange habits of her eccentric fellow tenants of the building are nothing compared to the horrors she unleashes within herself when, after sleepwalking during torturous dreams, she starts constructing a door in the middle of her living room. Langan's idiosyncratic blending of supernatural horror and character-driven, psychological insight proves captivating and pleasurably bone-chilling.--Hays, Carl Copyright 2009 Booklist

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2009 (Best First Novel)
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Hank Schwaeble
2009 (Best Nonfiction)
 
2008 (Best Novel)
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Sarah Langan

Publishers Weekly In her second novel, Langan delivers a powerhouse creepfest that recalls, in the best way possible, the early work of Stephen King. Corpus Christi, Maine, was once a town of affluence, but since the mysterious paper mill fire in the neighboring town of Bedford (depicted in last year's well-received debut, The Keeper) released dense sulfuric clouds that killed the surrounding forest, Corpus Christi has been in steady decline. When fourth-grade teacher Lois Larkin takes her class on a field trip to the now-abandoned Bedford, they're exposed to a deadly virus that transforms the infected into ravenous, flesh-eating monsters. Rather than stick to zombie lit convention (mindless undead, endless chases), Langan invests her plague with a sinister intelligence of unknown origin, maintaining a skin-crawling tension as the vivid cast of characters succumb to murderous insanity, hunting down and tearing apart animals, neighbors and loved ones. Langan has the control of a pro, parsing just enough horrific details to allow the truly gruesome scenes to play out unbound in the imagination; this solid sophomore effort proves that The Keeper's disturbing ability to burrow into readers' heads and stay there was no fluke. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Best First Novel)
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Joe Hill
2008 (Best Nonfiction)
 
2007 (Best Novel)
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Stephen King
2007 (Best First Novel)
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Jonathan Maberry

Publishers Weekly Maberry supplies plenty of chills, both Earth-bound and otherworldly, in this atmospheric horror novel, the first of a trilogy. Thirty years after the citizens of Pine Deep, Pa., killed the serial killer known as the Reaper, the town enjoys a quiet idyll and a tourist-friendly reputation as "the most haunted town in America." But gearing up for its annual Halloween celebration, the town is unprepared for the real haunts stirring in their corn fields, seeking to finish what the Reaper started. Switching among a large cast of characters, Maberry builds suspense by degrees, in the process exploring the community of Pine Deep. Showing his smalltown Americans at their worst-through domestic abuse, religious fanaticism and cowardice-Maberry proves how everyday, evening -news-grade sadism can dovetail neatly with capital-E Evil and the supernatural big guns that carry it out. This is horror on a grand scale, reminiscent of Stephen King's heftier works (The Stand, Needful Things) and just as dense with detail; though it simmers a bit too long, and the payoff doesn't quite measure up, Maberry can be forgiven-as long as he fulfills his grisly promises in the sequel. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2007 (Best Nonfiction - tie)
 
2007 (Best Nonfiction - tie)
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Kim Paffenroth

Publishers Weekly You don't have to be a fan of zombie movies to learn from them, but it probably helps. Paffenroth, an associate professor of religious studies at Iona College, is one fan who has turned his fascination into a detailed narrative analysis of the George Romero zombie films (Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead; Land of the Dead), which he calls "secular descendants of Dante's Inferno." He finds ample social criticism and illustration of old-fashioned "sin" in each film, which gives him optimism for the future of the zombie genre. Written with academic rigor but not with academic jargon, Paffenroth invites us to search the sometimes silly and profane zombie films for deeper religious meanings about how we, the living, act with less humanity at times than the "undead." Paffenroth weaves Christian theology, social criticism and allusions to Dante's Inferno throughout his discussion of films that feature cannibalism, mayhem and terror-a feat that probably has to be read to be believed. This is an excellent resource not just for fans of low-budget zombie films, but for anyone who wants to understand the appeal of the genre. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Best Novel - tie)
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David Morrell

Publishers Weekly Morrell takes a creative kind of breaking-and-entering as the premise for his latest thriller (after Nightscape), a gripping story that demands to be read in a single sitting. Disguising himself as a journalist, Frank Balenger, ex-U.S. Army Ranger and Iraqi war veteran, joins a group of "Creepers," also known as infiltrators, urban explorers or city speleologists-men and women who outfit themselves with caving gear to break into and explore buildings that have long been closed up and abandoned. Though what they're doing is technically illegal, participants pride themselves on never stealing or destroying anything they find at these sites. They take only photographs and aim to leave no footprints. Balenger joins a group of four: the leader, Professor Robert Conklin, high school teacher Vincent Vanelli and graduate students Rick and Cora Magill. This gang infiltrates the Paragon Hotel, an abandoned, seven-story, pyramidal Asbury Park, N.J., structure built in 1901 by eccentric, hemophiliac Morgan Carlisle. Balenger and the professor have a special agenda, but the others are there simply for the thrills. Things quickly begin to unravel in life-threatening ways once the intrepid infiltrators penetrate the building-they aren't the only ones creeping around the spooky hotel. Morrell delivers first-rate, suspenseful storytelling once again. Agent, Jane Dystel. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Frank Balenger is a New York Times reporter doing a Sunday magazine profile on urban explorers, better known as creepers. It's an illegal activity but a very popular one, in which adventure seekers invade crumbling old structures in search of thrills and perhaps a glimpse of the past. Frank joins a team of four as they prepare to enter the long-shuttered and mysterious Paragon Hotel. They surreptitiously enter as darkness envelops the city, planning to emerge before dawn none the worse for wear. At least that's the plan. Initially they encounter the expected assortment of crumbling furniture, magazines, and rats, but soon they realize they are not alone, and their counterparts are not friendly people. It turns out that Frank's group has a hidden agenda involving treasure, and their rivals are after the same loot. Throw in an even more unfriendly kidnapper and his captor, and you have a nightmare in the making. Veteran thriller writer Morrell gleefully and shamelessly cherry picks from several genres (crime, horror, adventure, western) and blends them into a violent, claustrophobic nightmare. There's the survive-the-night-in-a-haunted-house plot starring a Norman Bates villain; there's a Treasure of the Sierra Madre cast that would rather die than give up the loot; and there's a version of the classic western in which the outlaws and the homesteaders join forces to battle the Indians. An unabashedly entertaining thriller that has blockbuster movie written all over it. --Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Why would a college history professor, three of his former students, and a reporter with questionable credentials willingly embark on a journey that requires them to lower themselves into a manhole on a late October night? Because they are, according to Morrell's (First Blood; Extreme Denial) latest offering, urban explorers known as "creepers." These modern-day adventurers spend countless hours crawling through storm drains, transit tunnels, and the like in search of abandoned vestiges of civilization: factories, brickworks, railway stations-even military bases. In the case here, it is a hotel built in 1901 by a wealthy eccentric. During this adventure, the group encounters not only the dangers of decaying structure, but also other less-than-scrupulous urban speleologists and, finally, a demented kidnapper. Despite Morrell's reputation for fast-paced action and the distinctive setting he has created here, the book's momentum slows from the implausibility of the situations invented solely for the sake of plot enhancement. Recommended to die-hard fans and curiosity seekers in larger public libraries.-Nancy McNicol, Ora Mason Branch Lib., West Haven, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Best Novel - tie)
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Charlee Jacob
 
2006 (Best First Novel)
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Weston Ochse
2005 (Best Novel)
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Peter Straub

Publishers Weekly In Black House, Straub and Stephen King wrote of "slippage," whereby the borders between reality and fantasy blur. This entire brilliant novel is an act of slippage. In this sequel to last year's lost boy lost girl, and further chapter in the ongoing adventures of Straub protagonist Tim Underhill (Koko, etc.), the most intellectually adventurous of dark fantasy authors takes the apparent slippage of the prequel-in which Underhill's experience of a slain nephew's survival at the hands of a serial killer was indicated to be compensatory imagining by Underhill-several steps into the impressively weird. Underhill, an author, here encounters not the mere survival of a dead relation but the existence of a character he's creating in his journals. Dark fantasy cognescenti will remember that King employed a somewhat similar device in The Dark Half, but Straub's approach is distinctly his own, directed at mining the ambiguous relationship between nature and art, fact and fiction, the real and the ideal. The character Underhill has brought into being is Willy Bryce Patrick, a children's book author soon to be married to coldhearted financier Mitchell Faber, at least until Willy discovers that Faber had her first family murdered. Willy, whom Tim meets during a bookstore reading of his latest novel, lost boy lost girl, believes she is real (as does the reader for the book's first third), and learns otherwise only through Tim's painful, patient revelations. The two fall in deeply in love, but their passion seems doomed-not only is Willy's existence tenuous, but the pair are being pursued with murderous intent by Faber and his goons, as the former is in fact one form of the serial killer of lost boy lost girl, Joseph Kalendar; moreover, a terrible angel is insisting that only when Underhill makes an ultimate sacrifice, righting a wrong he did to Kalendar in lost boy lost girl, will matters resolve. Moving briskly while ranging from high humor to the blackest dread, this is an original, astonishingly smart and expertly entertaining meditation on imagination and its powers; one of the very finest works of Straub's long career, it's a sure bet for future award nominations. Agent, David Gernert. (Oct. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal Giving us the creeps again (after lost boy, lost girl), Straub concocts the tale of two authors who seems to be getting important communications from the beyond. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Straub's just-previous book, lost boy lost girl0 BKL S 1 03, is his best novel. But it isn't perfect, as horror novelist Tim Underhill, who for the purposes of fiction actually wrote lost boy lost girl0 , learns from an e-mail sent to him by the spirit of an ancient Byzantine, who explains that the daughter of one of the serial killers in lost boy 0 lost girl wasn't murdered by her father, as Tim supposed; that the exceedingly strange fan who cornered Tim in his local breakfast hangout is an embodiment of the wronged murderer's spirit; and that, yes, that was an angel Tim saw fly away over Manhattan while he walked home. Meanwhile, over in New Jersey, YA novelist Willy Patrick is about to marry mysterious Mitchell Faber when she comes upon evidence that he is responsible for her husband's violent, gangland-like killing. She flees Faber's estate, pursued by his minions, to New York and into a reading-signing appearance by Tim. There is a catch to this, for Willy's plot is that of the new novel Tim has been writing; that is, a character Tim created has emerged in his reality. As Tim and Willy repair to their hometown, Millhaven, Illinois, to slake the murderer's spirit, his real and her fictive worlds converge toward an ending that promises, like that of lost boy lost girl0 , the transcendent redemption of violated souls. Inventive and moving, though not as dazzling as its predecessor. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

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2005 (Best First Novel)
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John Everson
 
2005 (Young Readers - tie)
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Clive Barker

Publishers Weekly Favorite characters from lands near and far return in a multitude of fall sequels. Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War arrives as the follow-up to Clive Barker's Abarat. PW said of the first book, "[Barker] cooks up a surreal stew of character portraits." Here, Candy, the human heroine of the first book, and Malingo the geshrat avoid Otto Houlihan (aka the "Criss-Cross Man") and Christopher Carrion, the Prince of Midnight, as they travel across the strange landscape. Candy discovers new abilities and insights into the battle between the Night-world and Day-world. Once again, Barker's paintings of the creatures help draw readers into this fantastical realm. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Gr 7-10-In this sequel to Abarat (HarperCollins, 2002), Candy Quackenbush is fighting for her life in the mysterious world of the Abarat. The powers of darkness, Christopher Carrion and his murderous grandmother, Mater Motley, plan to overtake it and make it a world of perpetual midnight. As Candy and her friends rush through various adventures, Carrion's obsession with finding her grows, along with his rage and frustration. He hires the Criss-Cross Man, Otto Houlihan, to hunt Candy down. A group of adventurers, including John Mischief and his brothers, continues to look for dragon-hunting hero Finnegan Hob. Candy learns Abarat's history and begins to understand the role she may play in its future. This second title relies on exposition from the first; readers without that grounding may find themselves lost in Abarat's complications. The threads of the narrative take a long time to weave into a unified story, but it's worth the time it takes. With a large cast, a complicated plot, and such varied geography, Barker keeps readers busy juggling, but all that work pays off as the suspense and tension mount. Candy and her allies are engaging characters, if uncomplicated; Carrion and his grandmother are more mustache-twirling than interesting. The Abaratian world is the jewel of this novel, dense and vividly rendered in both striking description and Barker's vibrant artwork. Fans of the first book, as well as of other robust fantasy titles like Garth Nix's Sabriel (HarperCollins, 1996) and Diana Wynne Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm (Greenwillow, 1998), will enjoy it.-Sarah Couri, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Gr. 7-12. The whimsy is back in full force in the sequel to Abarat (2002), but this story is quirkier, much darker, and laced with real horror. Candy Quakenbush of Chickentown, Minnesota, and the geshrat Malingo are traveling the islands of Abarat, taking in all the fantastic sights. Unfortunately, the Lord of Midnight and his evil minions are in hot pursuit. He is obsessed with Candy, but he knows she must die to prevent her thwarting his gruesome plans. The mystery of her birth haunts her as she gradually finds herself remembering things she shouldn't know, including magic, and she begins to wonder if the struggle between the Night-world and the Day-world is at the heart of why she is in the strange land. Barker lovingly and graphically describes the wonders of a magical world, and his vivid scenes of near captures, deaths, and a climactic sea battle that ends in Chickentown will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Once again, more than 100 unusual, full-color paintings by Barker enhance the story. --Sally Estes Copyright 2004 Booklist

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2005 (Young Readers - tie)
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Steve Burt
2004 (Best Novel)
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Peter Straub

Publishers Weekly For its high artistry and uncanny mix of dread and hope, Straub's 16th novel, his shortest in decades, reaffirms the author's standing as the most literate and, with his occasional coauthor Stephen King, most persuasive of contemporary novelists of the dark fantastic. This brilliant variation on the haunted house tale distills themes and characters from Straub's long career, including two of the author's most popular creations: Manhattan novelist Tim Underhill (from Koko, Mystery and The Throat) and Tim's friend, legendary private detective Tom Pasmore (from Mystery and The Throat). Written from multiple viewpoints, the narrative shuttles disturbingly through time and space as Tim travels home to Millhaven, Ill., to attend the funeral for his sister-in-law, a suicide. In that small city based loosely on Straub's hometown of Milwaukee, Tim spends time with his callow widowed brother, Philip, and his nephew, sensitive Mark, 15, who found his mother's naked body in the bathtub, wrists slit and a plastic bag over her head. Meanwhile, a serial killer is snatching teen boys from a local park, and Mark and his sidekick, Jimbo, begin to explore a nearby abandoned house. Mark grows obsessed with the house, eventually revealed as the rotting source of the evil that stalks Millhaven, but also as the harbor of a great marvel. When Mark disappears, Tim pursues his trail and, with Tom Pasmore's help, that of the serial killer who may have taken the boy away. Straub remains a master of place and character; his insight into teens, in particular, is astonishingly astute. His myriad narrative framings allow multiple interpretations of events, making this story work on many levels, yet they also increase the urgency of the story, up to its incandescent ending. With great compassion and in prose as supple as mink, Straub has created an exciting, fearful, wondrous tale about people who matter, in one of his finest books to date. 100,000 first printing; 6-city author tour. (Oct. 7) Forecast: Straub's last book, the King-coauthored Black House, hit #1 on bestseller lists. Readers will remember Black House and The Talisman, as well as Straub's earlier major solo bestsellers such as Ghost Story, Floating Dragon and Koko. The book's brevity may draw new readers, as should strong reviews and, down the road, inevitable award nomination. This title has the potential to be Straub's biggest seller in years. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal Straub brings back his writer hero Tim Underhill (Koko; The Throat) in a lightweight, occult horror mystery involving a suicide and a missing nephew. The story involves not one but two Jeffrey Dahmer-like serial killers who prey on teenage boys. The point of view oscillates between Tim Underhill, the investigator, and Mark Underhill, the lost boy. There is a haunted house, some ghosts, creepy moments, and an unusual ending that uses supernatural email and web pages. Compared with Straub's other works of horror, this is something of a minor diversion, but it is bound to be popular. Recommended for public and university libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Once more, Straub employs the scene (Millhaven, Illinois) and the protagonists--'nam-vet novelist Tim Underhill and rich, super-attentive and -intuitive P.I. Tom Pasmore--of his hefty best-sellersoko (1988), Mystery (1989), and The Throat (1993). Relegating Pasmore to the secondary cast and using Tim as both first-person recorder of events and third-person general narrator, Straub explores two appalling tragedies. Tim's sister-in-law, Nancy, an appealing woman whom many pity for marrying ill-tempered Philip Underhill, kills herself for no apparent reason. Mere days later, Philip and Nancy's handsome 15-year-old, Mark, disappears. Since a serial killer has been "disappearing" middle-teen boys from the park in which Mark and his best friend,imbo, hung out nights, the worst is feared. With Pasmore working behind the scenes, Tim sets out to understand his two losses. Mostly, he must getimbo to reveal all that he knows. As he succeeds with the boy, Tim discovers that in the abandoned house across the alley from Philip and Nancy's are the keys to the puzzles of her death, Mark's vanishing, and other mysteries. Much of what Tim learns is hideous, but some of it points to transcendent redemption for Mark and a girl who disappeared long ago in even grislier circumstances. This is the great novel of the supernatural Straub has always had it in him to write, one as beautiful, moving, and spiritually rich as the best stories in his dazzling collections Houses without Doors (1990) and Magic Terror (2000). --Ray Olson Copyright 2003 Booklist

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2004 (Best First Novel)
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Brian Keene

Library Journal The world has changed and the dead are rising up as intelligent zombies. Jim Thurmond, one of the few living humans, goes on a frantic journey across the country to save his son. Aided in his quest by a former prostitute, an ex-preacher, and a scientist driven by guilt, he travels through a broken landscape of once-human monsters. Not for the squeamish, this title by the author of No Rest for the Wicked is a marginal purchase for horror collections. Illustrations not seen. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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2004 (Young Readers)
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J.K. Rowling

Library Journal Just in case you missed it in all the media, the fifth installment of the Harry Potter series is flying your way on June 21. It's one-third longer than Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Dumbledore promises to tell all. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Book list No, you can't put it down, but believe me, you'll wish you could. This is not an easy book to lug around. Its worldwide hype aside, the fifth installment in Harry Potter's saga should be judged on the usual factors: plot, characters, and the quality of the writing. So how does it fare? One thing emerges quickly: Rowling has not lost her flair as a storyteller or her ability to keep coming up with new gimcracks to astound her readers. But her true skills lie in the way she ages Harry, successfully evolving him from the once downtrodden yet hopeful young boy to this new, gangly teenager showing all the symptoms of adolescence--he is sullen, rude, and contemptuous of adult behavior, especially hypocrisy. This last symptom of the maturing Harry fits especially well into the plot, which finds almost all of the grown-ups in the young wizard's life saying one thing and doing another, especially those at the Ministry of Magic, who discredit Harry in the media to convince the citizenry that Voldemort is not alive. Rowling effectively uses this plot strand as a way of introducing a kind of subtext in which she takes on such issues as governmental lying and the politics of personal destruction, but she makes her points in ways that will be clearly understood by young readers. To fight for truth and justice--and to protect Harry--the Order of the Phoenix has been reconstituted, but young Potter finds squabbling and hypocrisy among even this august group. And in a stunning and bold move, Rowling also allows Harry (and readers) to view an incident from the life of a teenage James Potter that shows him to be an insensitive bully, smashing the iconic view Harry has always had of his father. Are there problems with the book? Sure. Even though children, especially, won't protest, it could be shorter, particularly since Rowling is repetitious with descriptions (Harry is always angry ; ultimate bureaucrat Doris Umbridge always looks like a toad). But these are quibbles about a rich, worthy effort that meets the very high expectations of a world of readers. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Year five at Hogwarts is no fun for Harry. Rowling may be relying upon readers to have solidified their liking for her hero in the first four books, because the 15-year-old Harry Potter they meet here is quite dour after a summer at the Dursleys' house on Privet Drive, with no word from pals Hermione or Ron. When he reunites with them at last, he learns that The Daily Prophet has launched a smear campaign to discredit Harry's and Dumbledore's report of Voldemort's reappearance at the end of book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Aside from an early skirmish with a pair of dementors, in which Harry finds himself in the position of defending not only himself but his dreaded cousin, Dudley, there is little action until the end of these nearly 900 pages. A hateful woman from the Ministry of Magic, Dolores Umbridge (who, along with minister Cornelius Fudge nearly succeeds in expelling Harry from Hogwarts before the start of the school year) overtakes Hogwarts-GrandPrE's toadlike portrait of her is priceless-and makes life even more miserable for him. She bans him from the Quidditch team (resulting in minimal action on the pitch) and keeps a tight watch on him. And Harry's romance when his crush from the last book, Cho Chang, turns out to be a major waterworks (she cries when she's happy, she cries shen she's sad). Readers get to discover the purpose behind the Order of the Phoenix and more is revealed of the connection between Harry and You-Know-Who. But the showdown between Harry and Voldemort feels curiously anticlimactic after the stunning clash at the close of book four. Rowling favors psychological development over plot development here, skillfully exploring the effects of Harry's fall from popularity and the often isolating feelings of adolescence. Harry suffers a loss and learns some unpleasant truths about his father, which result in his compassion for some unlikely characters. (The author also draws some insightful parallels between the Ministry's exercise of power and the current political climate.) As hope blooms at story's end, those who have followed Harry thus far will be every bit as eager to discover what happens to him in his sixth and seventh years. Ages 9-12. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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2003 (Best Novel)
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Tom Piccirilli
 
2003 (Best First Novel)
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Alice Sebold

Library Journal Sebold, whose previous book, Lucky, told of her own rape and the subsequent trial of her attacker, here offers a powerful first novel, narrated by Susie Salmon, in heaven. Brutally raped and murdered by a deceptively mild-mannered neighbor, Susie begins with a compelling description of her death. During the next ten years, she watches over her family and friends as they struggle to cope with her murder. She observes their disintegrating lives with compassion and occasionally attempts, sometimes successfully, to communicate her love to them. Although the lives of all who knew her well are shaped by her tragic death, eventually her family and friends survive their pain and grief. In Sebold's heaven, Susie continues to grow emotionally. She learns that human existence is "the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human feeling as you went, groping in corners and opening your arms to light all of it part of navigating the unknown." Sebold's compelling and sometimes poetic prose style and unsparing vision transform Susie's tragedy into an ultimately rewarding novel. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/02.] Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal The heroine of Sebold's first novel (after the memoir Lucky) is already dead, but that doesn't keep her from talking. Teenager Susie Salmon looks down benevolently from Heaven as her family heals and her murderer is run to ground. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Sebold's first novel after her memoir, Lucky is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising,. Agent, Henry Dunow. (July 3) Forecast: Sebold's memoir, Lucky, was the account of her rape in 1981, at Syracuse University. It is, of course, impossible to read The Lovely Bones without considering the memoir, but the novel moves Sebold effortlessly into literary territory. A long list of writers including Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen blurb The Lovely Bones, and booksellers should expect the novel to move quickly; the early buzz has been considerable. Foreign rights have been sold in England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and Sweden, with film rights to Film Four. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Adult/High School-"I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973," says Susie Salmon in this intriguing novel. Teens will immediately be drawn into this account of a girl who was raped and killed, and tells her story from "heaven." She realizes gradually that she is in an interim heaven until she can let go of her earthly concerns. The place is like school with Seventeen for a textbook and no teachers. On Earth, her mother needs to leave the family for a time, her sister seems to have Susie constantly in her thoughts, her young brother grows into a pensive preteen, and her grief-stricken father spends much of his time seeking out the murderer, even after it seems that the police have given up. The narrator observes the disparate ways her family and friends cope, and finally sees that they are resolving their grief as "the lovely bones" of their lives knit themselves around the empty space that was her life. While the subject matter is grim, the telling is light and frequently humorous-Susie remains 14 even though 8 years pass in the other characters' lives. This novel will encourage discussion. There is a slight feeling of magical realism, but there is grounding in real adolescence.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list Few novels, debut or otherwise, are as masterful or as compelling as Sebold's. Her heroine, 14-year-old Suzy Salmon, is murdered in the first chapter, on her way home from school. Suzy narrates the story from heaven, viewing the devastating effects of her murder on her family. Each member reacts differently: her gentle father grieves quietly, intent on finding her killer; her aloof mother retreats from the family; her tough younger sister, Lindsey, keeps everything inside, except for the occasional moment when she tentatively opens up to her boyfriend; and her four-year-old brother, Bucky, longs for his older sister and can't comprehend her absence. Suzy also watches Ray Singh, the boy who kissed her for the first time, who represents all of her lost hopes, and Ruth Connors, who became obsessed with death and murder after Suzy's passing. Under Suzy's watchful eye, the members of her family individually grow away from her murder, each shaped by it in their own way. In heaven, Suzy herself continues to grapple with her death as well, still longing for her family and for Earth, until she is finally granted a wish that allows her to fulfill one of her dreams. Sebold's beautiful novel shows how a tragedy can tear a family apart, and bring them back together again. She challenges us to re-imagine happy endings, as she brings the novel to a conclusion that is unfalteringly magnificent. And she paints, with an artist's precision, a portrait of a world where the terrible and the miraculous can and do co-exist. --Kristine Huntley

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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2003 (Young Readers)
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Neil Gaiman

Library Journal When Coraline's family moves into a new home, she explores every corner and closet, looking for adventure. On the other side of a locked door is a new world and a new set of parents waiting to care for her.Figures with black button eyes, they want to make her their own little girl "for ever and always"; all they need is a needle and thread. On returning to her home, Coraline discovers that she must save the souls of her real family from her "other" parents. Why It Is Great: Neil Gaiman (American Gods) takes his dark mastery of horror down a peg for younger readers but keeps the tension alive. Why It Is for Us: Busy parents beware. What magic can your children get into while you have your back turned? [A new edition, illustrated by P. Craig Russell, has just been issued: ISBN 978-0-06-082543-0. $18.99.--Ed.] Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly British novelist Gaiman (American Gods; Stardust) and his long-time accomplice McKean (collaborators on a number of Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels as well as The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish) spin an electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons. After Coraline and her parents move into an old house, Coraline asks her mother about a mysterious locked door. Her mother unlocks it to reveal that it leads nowhere: "When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up," her mother explains. But something about the door attracts the girl, and when she later unlocks it herself, the bricks have disappeared. Through the door, she travels a dark corridor (which smells "like something very old and very slow") into a world that eerily mimics her own, but with sinister differences. "I'm your other mother," announces a woman who looks like Coraline's mother, except "her eyes were big black buttons." Coraline eventually makes it back to her real home only to find that her parents are missingDthey're trapped in the shadowy other world, of course, and it's up to their scrappy daughter to save them. Gaiman twines his taut tale with a menacing tone and crisp prose fraught with memorable imagery ("Her other mother's hand scuttled off Coraline's shoulder like a frightened spider"), yet keeps the narrative just this side of terrifying. The imagery adds layers of psychological complexity (the button eyes of the characters in the other world vs. the heroine's increasing ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not; elements of Coraline's dreams that inform her waking decisions). McKean's scratchy, angular drawings, reminiscent of Victorian etchings, add an ominous edge that helps ensure this book will be a real bedtime-buster. Ages 8-up. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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2002 (Best Novel)
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Neil Gaiman

Book list Shadow, a strong, silent, Steven Seagal type, has kept his head down while doing time for creaming the guys who ran off with his share of a heist. He is about to be released, ticket home in hand, thanks to his lovely wife; then his departure is pushed up a few days--unhappily, so that he can attend her funeral. Weather forces his flight down in St. Louis, and he winds up on a short hop seated next to a mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who informs him that his once and, he had hoped, future boss is also dead. Would he like to work for Wednesday, instead? The guy is too creepy by half but, as it happens, hard to refuse. And after Shadow meets some of Wednesday's equally creepy friends, becomes an accomplice to a clever bank robbery, and gets coldcocked and kidnapped by black-clad heavies, he acquires a certain job loyalty, if only to find out what he has signed on for--an upcoming battle between the old gods of America's many immigrants' original cultures and the new gods of global, homogenizing consumerism. The old gods are trying to live peaceably enough in retirement, which is the predicament Wednesday (i.e., Wotan, or Odin) must overcome to rally them. After two sterling fantasies, the dark Neverwhere (1997) and the lighter, utterly charming Stardust (1999), Gaiman comes a cropper in a tale that is just too busy and, oddly for him, unengaging. His large fandom may make it a success, but many of them, even, will find it a chore to get through. --Ray Olson

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal In his latest novel, Gaiman (Neverwhere) explores the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America. The antihero, a man of unusually acute intellect through whose eyes we witness the behind-the-scenes dynamics of human religion and faith, is a convict called Shadow. He is flung into the midst of a supernatural fray of gods such as Odin, Anansi, Loki One-Eye, Thor, and a multitude of other ancient divinities as they struggle for survival in an America beset by trends, fads, and constant upheaval an environment not good for gods. They are joined in this struggle by such contemporary deities as the geek-boy god Internet and the goddess Media. There's a nice plot twist in the end, and the fascinating subject matter and impressive mythic scope are handled creatively and expertly. Gaiman is an exemplary short story writer, but his ventures into novels are also compellingly imaginative. Highly recommended for all libraries. Ann Kim, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intriguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia. (One-day laydown, June 19) Forecast: Even when he isn't in top form, Gaiman, creator of the acclaimed Sandman comics series, trumps many storytellers. Momentously titled, and allotted a dramatic one-day laydown with a 12-city author tour, his latest will appeal to fans and attract mainstream review coverage for better or for worse because of the rich possibilities of its premise. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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2002 (Best First Novel)
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Michael Oliveri
2002 (Young Readers)
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Yvonne Navarro
2001 (Best Novel)
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Richard Laymon

Publishers Weekly Like the vampire he celebrates so often (Stake, etc.), this talented writer's career, once dead in the States though not overseas, has risen anew--thanks largely to Cemetery Dance, which has issued his work (Cuts; Come Out Tonight; etc.) even as no mainstream American hardcover publisher would touch it. The author's fall after his successful run in the 1980s was due to several factors, including his writerly predilection toward excess sex and violence. Here, Laymon takes those elements in hand, not so much abjuring them as putting them to artful use as he tells a wickedly involving story of three 16-year-olds and their life-changing encounter with the road show of the title. It's hot August 1963 when narrator Dwight, along with his pals--overweight Rusty and pretty (female) Slim--note flyers for the Traveling Vampire Show, featuring a purported real vampire, Valeria. Intrigued, the trio sneak onto the backwoods site of the show and there tangle with a vicious dog; after the others leave, Slim watches the spooky show troupe spear the mongrel to death. This, plus a long buildup to the show (spinning on whether troupe members are after the teens) forms most of the long narrative. Unusual for Laymon, the emphasis is on atmosphere rather than action, and he sustains a note of anticipatory dread throughout, made particularly resonant through his expert handling of the social, particularly sexual, tensions among the three teens. The novel's climax is the show itself, and here Laymon lets out the stops in typically ferocious fashion. In its understanding of the sufferings and ecstasies of youth, the novel carries some of the wisdom of King's The Body or Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life, but the book, Laymon's best in years, belongs wholly to this too-neglected author, who with his trademark squeaky-clean yet sensual prose, high narrative drive and pitch-dark sense of humor has crafted a horror tale that's not only emotionally true but also scary and, above all, fun. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal In the latest novel from Laymon (The Midnight Tour), 16-year-old Dwight and his two pals, male Rusty and female Slim, decide to add some excitement to an otherwise boring summer day in 1963 by sneaking into "The Traveling Vampire Show." This adults-only act, featuring "Valeria, the only known vampire in captivity," is visiting their rural town of Grandville for just one night. Dwight narrates the events of that day, all the way through to the terrifying finale. The three friends are for the most part typical teens, but they are tested that day in ways none of them could ever have imagined. Although the protagonists are high school age, this novel is so replete with graphic sexual situations and violence that it would not be suitable for young adult collections. It is, however, a well-written story that will appeal to fans of horror fiction. Recommended for large public libraries.DPatricia Altner, Information Seekers, Bowie, MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2001 (Best First Novel)
2001 (Young Readers)
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Nancy Etchemendy

Book list Gr. 4^-7. Etchemendy's intriguing fantasy handles some powerful, big questions about life, the universe, and everything in it. Gib begins the tale throwing spitballs in math class with his science lab partner, Rainy. Rainy is supposed to baby-sit Roxy, Gib's spirited little sister, while Gib's parents go dancing and Gib and his best friend, Ash, go to the carnival on a long-planned excursion. But things go wrong, and Gib finds himself in the woods near his house with a strange, yet oddly familiar old man who smells like lightning. The man hands him an "unner," a rather badly made machine that can send Gib back in time. Gib thinks this is a great idea, especially after the trip to the carnival goes horribly wrong. In trying to right matters, Gib tackles free will, memory, the bending of time, and contradictory impulses in a way that will sound fairly logical to middle-schoolers. For children not quite old enough for Norma Howe's Adventures of Blue Avenger (1999), this book deftly handles some eternal philosophical questions. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 4-8-Who wouldn't want the ability to undo a mistake, an accident, or even a tragedy, after it happens? Once he has the Unner, a makeshift creation of old parts and electronic gizmos, middle-schooler Gib Finney has that power, but first he has to figure out how to use it. His practice time is suddenly cut short when his little sister is hit by a truck and ends up in a life-threatening coma. If the Unner really works, it could save Roxy's life, but there could be far-reaching consequences to rearranging links on the chain of time, and Gib is just beginning to realize how interconnected they are. The setting could be any small town in America, some decades ago. Most of the characters neatly fit stereotypes common to such settings-the happy nuclear family, loyal best friend, mysterious carnival fortune-teller, and more. While Gib is the only fully developed character, the unique and interesting plot featuring a practical look at the possibilities and results of planned time travel make up for the otherwise shallow characterizations. As the story gathers speed, suspense builds to a surprising and satisfying conclusion with room for more than one sequel. The book's themes and plot twists take it beyond the conventional, resulting in a delightfully thought-provoking science-fiction story.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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2000 (Best Novel)
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Peter Straub

Library Journal The "Mr. X" of the title is the shade that seems to follow Ned Dunstan through life. Ned is the only son of Star, a part-time lounge singer and itinerant artist who comes from an unusually talented family. As Ned states early on in the book, he was always looking for his shadow. He doesn't know his father growing up but learns the truth about him in the course of the book. What Ned eventually finds is the crux of the plotÄsuffice it to say that his discoveries are unsettling. Mr. X proves that Straub (The Hellfire Club) is worthy of his reputation as a master of horror. Compelling writing and well-drawn characters make this novel very readable, but the labyrinthine plot seems forced; it does include some sexual situations and some violence. Recommended for all suspense/ horror collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/99.]ÄAlicia Graybill, Lincoln City Libs., NE Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Since the publication of Koko in 1988, Straub has specialized in macabre mysteries dense with the details of small-town life and cast with ordinary people who find that the extraordinary crimes they investigate raise doubts about their own moral integrity. In this bravura new outing, he returns to his horror roots, lacing an ingenious whodunit with an intoxicating shot of the supernatural. From childhood, Ned Dunstan has experienced precognitive visions, a recurring dream of being tethered to a shadow and "the sense that something crucially significant, something without which I could never be whole, was missing." Summoned home to Edgerton, Ill., by a premonition of his mother's death on the eve of his 35th birthday, Ned finds himself implicated in a tangle of felonies and murders, all of which point to someone strenuously manipulating events to frame him. Digging into local history, he finds reason to believe that the mysterious father he never knew, or possibly a malignant doppelg?nger, are pulling the strings. Meanwhile, Mr. X, a homicidal misanthrope who reads H.P. Lovecraft's otherworldly horror fiction as gospel, cuts a swath of supernatural destruction across the country, en route to a showdown with his son, the "shadow-self" whom he must annihilate. Discerning readers will recognize this surprise-filled tale of tortuous family relationships as a modern variation on Lovecraft's classic shocker "The Dunwich Horror." But Straub turns his pulp model inside out, transforming its vast cosmic mystery into an ingrown odyssey of self-discovery and a probing study of human nature. His evocative prose, a seamless splice of clipped hard-boiled banter and poetic reflection, contributes to the thick atmosphere of apprehension that makes this one of the most invigorating horror reads of the year. BOMC main selection. (Aug.) FYI: This spring, Subterranean Press published a chapbook, Peter and PTR: Two Discarded Prefaces and an Introduction, that includes framing material that Straub wrote for, and then cut from, Mr. X. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Book list Ned Dunstan goes home to Edgerton, Illinois, because he feels certain his mother is going to die there. Star Dunstan, a drifting jazz singer, left after Ned's early childhood, yet there she is, in an ICU with a stroke. Before she dies, she tells Ned the name of his father and another name, Robert. It turns out, in Straub's lumbering, ramshackle thriller, that Robert is Ned's twin, whom Star was sure she was bearing but who didn't turn up after labor. Robert is a shadow, a doppelganger, who has mastered the Dunstan family trick of self-teleportation. Unfortunately, so has their daddy, a psychopath who believes H. P. Lovecraft's horror stories are not fiction. He is Mr. X, capable of lethally materializing and dematerializing to leave only the splashed blood of his eviscerated victims behind. He means to destroy Ned before, he believes, Ned somehow destroys him. Ned first has to find him, which involves much family secret-divulging, amateur shamusing, and sack-time for Ned with the book's best-lookin' babes. As frosting on the cake, Ned eventually learns the other Dunstan family trick, willed time-travel or, as they call it, eating time. Self-important small-town millionaires, cops corrupt and honest, the crusty elder Dunstans, and red-light district lowlifes join the aforementioned babes in the crowded cast of what is essentially a spooky detective yarn, the sort of thing 1950s genre hands like Fredric Brown and Robert Bloch could turn into a crackerjack 192-page paperback. Straub's treatment still amuses, but someone should send him a blue pencil for Christmas. --Ray Olson

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal In Straub's latest, a return to the supernatural, Ned Dunstan discovers some spooky things about his identity when he hits 35.

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2000 (Best First Novel)
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J.G. Passarella

Library Journal In the historic town of Winfield, MA, a cyclical evil arises to feed its thirst and seek hosts for a new incarnation, drawing the townspeople into a nightmare of blood and terror. Passarella's tale of the struggle between white and black magic combines scenes of graphic violence with psychological terror in a blend that should appeal to fans of the genre. Sympathetic male and female protagonists add depth and emotional impact, making this title a good choice for most horror collections.

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Book list Windale, Massachusetts, is a small town known for Danfield College and a grim bit of American history. Three women were hanged 300 years ago, when witchcraft fever swept New England. In the 1990s, the chamber of commerce cashed in on this ugly event, renaming two streets Theurgy Lane and Familiar Avenue and holding a Frost Festival and parade every Halloween. Unfortunately, there was more behind the hangings than hysteria and superstition, and this fall three undead creatures stalk Windale again. Wendy, the college president's 19-year-old daughter, is a student of feminine spirituality, meditation, and herbal medicine. When she conducts a private ritual in a forest clearing, she attracts one of the three witches. The others close in on a little girl and a pregnant English professor, respectively, and the men involved with the chosen victims seem destined to be no more than prey. A made-for-TV movie plot is enhanced by appealing characters, especially Wendy and her shy, would-be boyfriend Alex, who battle with brave ingenuity. --Roberta Johnson

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Sabrina the Teenage Witch goes to college in this atmospheric, generally suspenseful horror story. Wendy Ward is a white magic practitioner who dresses in shades of black, and an unconventional freshman at exclusive Danfield College in Massachusetts, where her father is president. Windale, the town where Danfield is located, has been promoting its past persecution of witches as a tourist draw, hoping to cash in on the popularity of nearby Salem. On the eve of the King Frost Halloween Parade, Wendy performs an empowering ritual that goes awry, unleashing dark forces hundreds of years old. Three murderous Macbethian witches, led by the semi-immortal Elizabeth Wither, begin to haunt Wendy's dreams, as well as those of a pregnant English professor and an eight-year-old girl. As it becomes apparent that there is a curse on Windale, Wendy desperately attempts to reverse what she's started and finds herself drawn ineluctably toward the evil she's trying to control. While the authentic arcana of witchcraft provides background, the plot is derivative, with hints of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist. Yet the college setting adds an interesting dimension, and the characters are nicely delineated. Although this unusual mix of horror story, thriller and college romance is likely to draw protests from serious followers of ancient wicca rites, readers who savor supernatural menace will enjoy its edge. (Feb.) FYI: J.G. Passarella is the pseudonym for two Hollywood writers.

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2000 (Young Readers)
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J.K. Rowling

Publishers Weekly Rowling proves that she has plenty of tricks left up her sleeve in this third Harry Potter adventure, set once again at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Right before the start of term, a supremely dangerous criminal breaks out of a supposedly impregnable wizards' prison; it will come as no surprise to Potter fans that the villain, a henchman of Harry's old enemy Lord Voldemort, appears to have targeted Harry. In many ways this installment seems to serve a transitional role in the seven-volume series: while many of the adventures are breathlessly relayed, they appear to be laying groundwork for even more exciting adventures to come. The beauty here lies in the genius of Rowling's plotting. Seemingly minor details established in books one and two unfold to take on unforeseen significance, and the finale, while not airtight in its internal logic, is utterly thrilling. Rowling's wit never flags, whether constructing the workings of the wizard world (Just how would a magician be made to stay behind bars?) or tossing off quick jokes (a grandmother wears a hat decorated with a stuffed vulture; the divination classroom looks like a tawdry tea shop). The Potter spell is holding strong. All ages. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Gr 4-8-Isn't it reassuring that some things just get better and better? Harry is back and in fine form in the third installment of his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His summer with the hideous Dursley family is cut short when, during a fit of quite understandable rage, he turns his Aunt Marge into an enormous balloon and then runs away. Soon, it becomes quite apparent that someone is trying to kill him; even after Harry is ensconed in the safety of fall term at Hogwarts, the attacks continue. Myriad subplots involving a new teacher with a secret, Hermione's strangely heavy class schedule, and enmity between Ron's old rat, Scabbers, and Hermione's new cat, Crookshanks, all mesh to create a stunning climax. The pace is nonstop, with thrilling games of Quidditch, terrifying Omens of Death, some skillful time travel, and lots of slimy Slytherins sneaking about causing trouble. This is a fabulously entertaining read that will have Harry Potter fans cheering for more.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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1999 (Best Novel)
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Stephen King

Library Journal King's first novel with new publisher Scribner is a traditional ghost story that proves heavier on sentiment and a bit lighter on horror than most of his previous work. At the novel's outset, we find best-selling suspense novelist Mike Noonan (a self-described "V.C. Andrews with a prick") mourning the untimely death of his wife. Plagued by vivid nightmares, writer's block, and ghostly visitations, Noonan nonetheless becomes willingly involved in a bitter custody dispute between a beautiful young woman and a wealthy computer magnate. All is not as it seems, however, and Noonan soon finds himself and his charges pawns of forces seeking revenge for an unspeakable, century-old crime. In typical King fashion, the narrative is sprinkled with coy references to characters from previous novels. Although not as entertaining as Desperation (Viking, 1996), Bag of Bones is tightly plotted, and King orchestrates the rising tension with the deft touch of a maestro. Needless to say, this will fly off the shelves of popular collections. [BOMC main selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/98.]?Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"

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Book list It never rains but . . . First, 35-year-old pop novelist Mike Noonan's wife, Joanne, dies suddenly. Then, no sooner does he finish his current book-in-progress than he comes down with severe writer's block. How severe? How about sweating, chest pains, and, finally, explosive vomiting when Mike merely looks at his word-processing program? Fortunately, Mike has three complete, unsubmitted yarns in a safety deposit box, so his one-a-year schedule isn't immediately disrupted, and he doesn't have to tell anybody he is hung up. As the fourth year winds down, Mike revisits the lake place he and Jo kept and, after meeting a little girl and her young, widowed mother, stays on. Which puts him in harm's way, for he hears voices in and around the place--a child crying and Jo's voice, too--and his new friends are menaced by the richest man in town, the dead father's father, who wants to take the child from the mother and who, despite being old and wheelchair-bound, is as good at ultraviolence as any King heavy. Except in word count, this is half the book that one of King's best (e.g., 'Salem's Lot, Delores Claiborne) is, or that the classic ghost romance that haunts Mike, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, is. King's attempt to write an American lumpen bourgeois cognate to du Maurier's masterpiece founders because of a couple of his constant temptations: too many words and too much vulgarity. But remember, this is a Stephen King book: libraries have to have it. --Ray Olson

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Carrying galley copy that avoids the h(orror) word while touting its "O. Henry Award-winning author," King's latest novel features a marketing campaign in accord with the distinguished pedigree of his new publisher. But has King written a book that ranks him as a literary heavyweight? Indeed he has, though not by forsaking his roots: the novel is a classic ghost story. It opens quietly as narrator Mike Noonan, 40, bestselling author of romantic suspense potboilers (and latest in a line of King novelist-heroes, cf. Misery and The Dark Half) describes the death of his wife four years back and his consequent grief and writer's block. Mike has kept the block hidden from the publishing world?limned in delicious detail, with real names?by annually pulling one of his own, unpublished mss. from a safe-deposit box. Now that he's out of old novels to submit, he resolves to work through his troubles at Sara Laughs, his country house in backwoods Maine. Arriving there, Mike nearly drives over a three-year-old girl. She is Kyra, granddaughter?by way of beautiful young widow Mattie?of mad computer mogul Max Devore, who is hellbent on snatching the girl from her mother. Taking up Kyra's cause, falling in love with Mattie, Mike gears up for a custody battle. Invigorated, he breaks through his writer's block; but great danger, psychological and physical, awaits, from Max Devore but especially from the spirits, mostly malevolent, that haunt Sara Laughs due to hideous crimes committed by Devore's ancestor a century earlier. Violence, natural and supernatural, ensues as past and present mix, culminating in a torrent of climaxes that bind and illuminate the novel's many mysteries. From his mint-fresh etching of spooky rural Maine to his masterful pacing and deft handling of numerous themes, particularly of the fragility of our constructs about reality and of love's ability to mend rifts in those constructs, this is one of King's most accomplished novels. It is his most personal as well, revealing through Mike's broodings the intimacies of the creative writing process: a passionate gift from a veteran author to all who care about the art and craft of storytelling. 1.26 million first printing; BOMC main selection (Sept.) FYI: Bag of Bones is the only hardcover Scribner will publish in September.

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1999 (Best First Novel)
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P.D. Cacek
1999 (Young Readers)
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Ellen Steiber
1998 (Best Novel)
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Janet Berliner
 
1998 (Best First Novel)
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Kristen Bakis

Book list In Bakis' first novel, the "monster dogs" of the title have intelligence, voice boxes, and human hands, thanks to mad Prussian scientists working to perfect "dog soldiers" in a secret town in Canada, frozen in the year 1882, though the story is set in 2008. The dogs massacre their masters and move to New York, where they become celebrities. The narrator, Cleo Pira, is a struggling NYU student chosen as the dogs' human scribe by Klaue ("Claw"), their paranoid, power-drunk leader. She also befriends Ludwig, the monster dogs' historian, and Lydia, a gentle Samoyed. Cleo must learn about (and from) them quickly: the dogs are reverting to animal states for increasing intervals. This parable imagines society's privileged as dogs and explores how power and wealth corrupt (they corrupt Cleo, too) and how traditions and values fade. Journals, dreams, letters, and even a libretto vary the tale telling, though the writing suffers from occasional heavy-handedness and foreshadowing that leaves few surprises. Still, this book will delight those seeking fantasy and intrigue. --Kevin Grandfield

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Book list In Bakis' first novel, the "monster dogs" of the title have intelligence, voice boxes, and human hands, thanks to mad Prussian scientists working to perfect "dog soldiers" in a secret town in Canada, frozen in the year 1882, though the story is set in 2008. The dogs massacre their masters and move to New York, where they become celebrities. The narrator, Cleo Pira, is a struggling NYU student chosen as the dogs' human scribe by Klaue ("Claw"), their paranoid, power-drunk leader. She also befriends Ludwig, the monster dogs' historian, and Lydia, a gentle Samoyed. Cleo must learn about (and from) them quickly: the dogs are reverting to animal states for increasing intervals. This parable imagines society's privileged as dogs and explores how power and wealth corrupt (they corrupt Cleo, too) and how traditions and values fade. Journals, dreams, letters, and even a libretto vary the tale telling, though the writing suffers from occasional heavy-handedness and foreshadowing that leaves few surprises. Still, this book will delight those seeking fantasy and intrigue. --Kevin Grandfield

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Cosmopolitan Manhattan of 2008 embraces a new breed of immigrant in this weird, fanciful tale of surgically enhanced, talking, bionic canines out on the town as they search for their history and place in the world. Conceived by 19th-century Prussian mad scientist Augustus Rank as an army of superior, fiercely loyal dog soldiers, the monster Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans and other sturdy breeds became fully empowered only many years after his death. Rank's followers, secluded in a remote Canadian village, continued his work, ultimately developing a race of super-intelligent, longer-living dogs trained from birth to use surgically attached mechanical hands, speak fluent German via a mechanical voice box, walk erect and dress in the elegant human fashions of the 1880s. NYU student Cleo Pira develops friendships with a few of the dogs in New York and becomes their liaison to the human press, writing insider articles for Vanity Fair and other chic magazines. Cleo narrates the novel, incorporating excerpts from the papers of Ludwig Von Sacher, the dogs' historian. First-novelist Bakis holds the reader in thrall for much of her imaginative tale, but, disappointingly, the dogs never emerge as strong characters. Though the reader gains some understanding of Ludwig through his writing, Cleo's conversations with the dogs are uniformly abrupt and anti-climactic. Instead, Bakis offers more of a dream vision that, ultimately, might be all in Cleo's head. Fortunately, that vision is engaging in its own right and, through Bakis's storytelling skill, makes for an audacious, intriguing and ultimately haunting debut. (Feb.)

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Library Journal A clever, compelling Frankenstein story for the millennium, Bakis's first novel draws the reader into an improbable near-future phenomenon and makes it beguilingly real. In 1897 German scientist Augustus Rank flees with his followers to a remote Canadian location, where they labor in secret toward Rank's dream of engineering an advanced race of soldier dogs. A century later, the dogs are perfected?natural but hyperintelligent canines fitted with voice-boxes and prosthetic hands, trained in human pursuits and standing erect. They revolt, destroy their makers, and, dressed in 19th-century formal wear, find their way to 21st-century New York City. This book is the story of New York's experience of these now-peaceful marvels, of their history and misleading glamor, and, particularly, of the relationship between human narrator Cleo Pira and the wise and troubled canine historian, Ludwig von Sacher. This classic monster story, tragic and philosophical, is simply marvelous. A poised and accomplished debut; highly recommended.?Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio

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1997 (Best Novel)
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Stephen King
1997 (Best First Novel)
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Owl Goingback

Publishers Weekly The energy of a grade-B monster movie pervades Goingback's debut novel. So do that genre's clichés, including the tired theme of the Indian curse. When Hobbs County, Mo., is besieged by the Crota-a brain-munching, bone-crunching bogey of Creek mythology-familiar characters surface: Jay Little Hawk, the Native American game warden who knows the creature's history and vulnerabilities; Skip Harding, the local sheriff whose reacquaintance with his own Native American roots is the linchpin for defeating the Crota; and a host of faceless types who appear just long enough to become the monster's prey. Goingback puts all of them through predictable paces in a novel that's little more than a standard chase-and-capture scenario played out above and below the ground of the small town of Logan. The narrative high points are the accounts of Indian history and legend, which have the flavor of the authentic oral tradition. These clash with descriptive prose that would have been stale in the days of the pulps (a stewardess has "a pair of legs that seemed to go on forever"), but Goingback keeps the action brisk and knows where to put the necessary lucky coincidence or happy twist to distract readers from his tale's unwavering simplicity. (Apr.)

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