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 Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Translated by Christina MacSweeney

Mixing art and literature, surrealism and reality, this book by Valeria Luiselli will have you devouring every detail of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez’s story. We see into the mind of Highway and how he chooses to interpret his life, and later what the reality truly was. Set in Mexico, we follow Highway as he goes from working in a juice factory to taking courses to become an auctioneer. As his style develops, we start to realize that what value something has can vary, importance is tied to meaning. This is a story about stories. Being inside Highway’s mind is like an oral history that changes details each time it’s told, you start to forget what the original details were, but it doesn’t really matter. With this book, Valeria is challenging art and the ideas of translation, ownership, and value.

As Highway is enjoying some time in Miami after working an auction, he winds up at a contraband memorabilia auction and purchases Marilyn Monroe’s teeth (which of course are fake). After being ashamed of his crooked teeth, these are now his most prized possession and has them immediately implanted to replace his own. An enjoyable part of the book is when he reviews his large collection and chooses to auction off his old teeth at a church to benefit both himself and the church. Each tooth, or lot, is sold using the hyperbolic method and each spiel he gives becomes it’s own short story within the chapter. The Hyperbolic method, which is described as “a fissure in the relationship between style and reality”, is essentially how Highway lives his life. There are a series of odd events, which are very entertaining surprises. These lead up to Highway meeting a writer named Jacobo de Voragine. Highway offers him lodging and an education of the town’s stories in return for him writing the autobiography of his teeth. The last chapter is from Voragine’s view and the distortion of Highway’s reality becomes apparent. Seeing this other side, now we feel equally sad and happy for Highway’s life.

TL:DR- Highway lived life how he auctioned, he wasn’t lying, but he was transcending the truth. A fascinating story intertwining art in a subtle yet prominent way.

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

Publication Date: September 15, 2015                                       Page Count: 195

ISBN: 566894093                                                                        Publisher: Coffeehouse Press