Tongue-in-cheek literary amendments, all done without ridicule or a pretense of improving the beloved original.



Laidlaw (400 Boys and 50 More, 2016, etc.) revamps Shelley’s horror classic to include a bevy of monsters throughout the entire narrative.

Laidlaw presents readers with an ambitious Minimum Monster Guarantee—“At Least One Monster Per Paragraph,” he claims. He further promises that Shelley’s original text is intact, with all the new material merely additions. While the novel is in the mashup style of Stephen Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Laidlaw changes very little of the Frankenstein story. Many references to creatures are superficial, albeit amusing. For example, Victor Frankenstein notes that his love Elizabeth’s illness puts her “in the greatest danger it was possible to be in without a vampire feeding upon her or an alien chest-burster actually shooting out of her breast while she lay abed.” Still, the expanded tale is often humorous, and some of the modifications are outright shocking, including young Felix, who has an affinity for torturing animals. Laidlaw, meanwhile, effectively fuses his voice with Shelley’s. Accordingly, his contribution to the opening of Chapter 10 genuinely sounds like Victor’s woeful narration: “After a morning spent screaming in horror, I spent the following day roaming through the valley.” Monsters don’t make it into every paragraph; readers on occasion will have to suffice with lurid adjectives like “hideous” or the blunter “monstrous.” In the same vein, there are myriad horror films and TV shows cited, which reaches a crescendo in gleeful absurdity when Victor describes a castle as “something out of a Dracula or Frankenstein movie.” This likewise allows for an encyclopedia of horror icons mentioned, from literary (H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu) to cinematic (Godzilla and the Xenomorph aliens). Nevertheless, it’s hard to miss a few inconsistencies. Movie character Freddy Krueger’s name is spelled three different ways, and a pledge to avoid “random obscenities” is contradicted by preceding and subsequent expletives.

Tongue-in-cheek literary amendments, all done without ridicule or a pretense of improving the beloved original.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2017


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Freestyle Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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