Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix


Amy is living paycheck to paycheck in suburban Ohio, while working at the Ikea knockoff store Orsk. When the store manager, Basil, asks her to work an overnight shift to see who is sneaking in the store and messing with merchandise at night, she takes the opportunity to make some extra pay in cash. Amy is working retail as “just a job” but Basil fully believes in the teamwork and pride of working there. Amy is dreading her night shift, but there is no way she could predict how the night would end up. As she is working the shift with Ruth Anne, a loyal employee who treats everyone like family, they notice fellow team members Trinity and Matt have snuck in the store overnight to do some ghost hunting. They join up and at first, the mysterious things happening in the store are attributed to a homeless man named Carl, but the group finds that things are not as they seem.

The layout of such a mega store is meant to be disorienting to customers to get them stuck in a shopping loop, but several characters start to get stuck and turned around more often than not in the familiar-to-them store layout. As the creepy factor turns up, it’s hard for the employees to determine if it’s a person or a ghost. The plot thickens as we find out that Orsk is built on the site of a former prison, where the warden was convinced that he could cure criminal minds with forced labor. The amount of terrifying things happening dramatically increases as the “warden” takes control of the store and the inmate ghosts are torturing the Orsk employees. The warden strikes a psychological chord with Amy as he calls out her troubled spirit and aimless life. As the frightening night goes on, she starts to see why Basil values the teamwork of Orsk and learns leadership from him. She fights her way out, but Orsk corporate is determined to keep what happened under wraps. The book is left open for a follow up, which will no doubt be another great story

TL:DR- A quick to read, yet exciting horror book with a deep look at the retail world, purpose, teamwork, and leadership.

Publication Date: September 23, 2014                                                               Page Count: 248

ISBN: 1594745269                                                                                               Publisher: Quirk

Buffalo Lockjaw By Greg Ames


James, a somewhat uninspired son, goes back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York for Thanksgiving to see his parents. While there, he comes face to face with his mother’s dementia and possible impending death. While it is not initially painful for James to visit his hometown, it is not really a joy. He is a mostly mellow character who works for a greeting card company in NYC and is getting by. Once he is home and sees his mother, Ellen’s, current condition he starts to remember a past conversation with her in which she mentioned that if it came to it, she would want assisted suicide to be an option. As a nurse, James knows that she has thought this through. His father, Rodney, is against the idea and doesn't want to discuss it. He is a stereotypical male baby boomer, with the generational traits of a hard worker who swallows his problems and doesn’t complain. As James describes it, “talk about Buffalo lockjaw. He could teach a master class”. There is a nice foreshadowing in the writing about how James will come to find beauty in life’s cruel situations. The cast of his friends and family in this novel help him see his situation differently and add enjoyable depth to the story. Though James has trouble connecting with his father, and it is tough for him to deal with his mother’s decline, the book has a surprising and satisfying ending.

TL:DR- A thoughtful, melancholy, and yet uplifting look at the inevitable and tough choices in life.

Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.

Publication Date: January 1, 2009                                                    Page Count: 304

ISBN: 1401309801                                                                              Publisher: Hachette Books

The Miles Between Me by Toni Nealie


Exploring nostalgia, loneliness, heritage, and race; Toni Nealie will make your heart ache with this collection of essays. She beautifully examines distances, both literal and metaphorical, between people and cultures. There is a big distance from her homeland of New Zealand, when she moves to the states with her family due to her husband receiving a career opportunity. This meant Nealie had to leave her job, which held a good part of her identity. Her identity was also linked to New Zealand through friendships and self purpose. Once she is living in a near Chicago suburb, she is isolated and feels “suburban neurosis” after being separated from her support network; yet she ends up learning to be resilient without her familiar structure.

 Her thoughts on identity also continue in the essay titled “Meditations on Brownness”. She is called names by strangers, assumed to be a nanny to her own children, or even a criminal. It can be summed up in this line by Nealie: “whiteness could see, often did see, brown as less than”. Her feelings on identity also change once in America because of unspoken social code. She wants to stand up to the person making a racist joke in conversation, but they’ll say she can’t take a joke. Not a win-win situation. She admits her New Zealand accent helps, which is another unspoken part of the code. She describes different shades of brown in the most beautiful and heavy hearted poetic way. Going over a vast array of her life experiences, Nealie’s collection of essays are all beautiful and thought provoking

 TL:DR- This collection of essays will move you and open your perspective on loss and longing. Pick this book up when you want some deep and beautifully written thoughts on distance that cannot be measured in miles

Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.

Additional info on the book: 
Curbside Splendor
Toni Nealie

Publication Date: May 3, 2016                                          Page Count: 200

ISBN: 194043078X                                                           Publisher: Curbside Splendor Publishing