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review 2017-10-06 18:30
Halloween Carnival Volume 4, edited by Brian James Freeman
Halloween Carnival Volume 4 - Kealan Patrick Burke,C.A. Suleiman,Ray Garton,Brian James Freeman,Bev Vincent

 

It's that time of year again and my pile of books to read is towering! I had to choose which of the Halloween Carnival books I was going to request because I knew I wouldn't have time to read all 5. The reason I chose Volume 4 was because of 2 authors-Kealan Patrick Burke and Ray Garton. They didn't disappoint! These and another story stood way out for me, and here's a bit on each of them:

 

The Mannequin Challenge by Kealan Patrick Burke is the first story and it's killer. Maybe it's because I love the kind of tales that are just plain weird and offer NO explanation-they just ARE. A quiet and reclusive man decides to attend the Halloween party at work, just this one time. What will he find? You'll have to read it to find out! This one made me laugh out loud with delight.

 

Across the Tracks by Ray Garton was a blast. For whatever reason, to me this tale had a distinct Ray Bradbury feel to it, but I think the ending might've even blown Bradbury himself away. What fun!

 

The Halloween Tree I've seen Bev Vincent's name around and I am friends with him on various social media, but I believe this is the first time I've read one of his stories. I enjoyed it! Any kid with an imagination can make something scary from an inanimate object. In this tale, it's a tree. But what made this story different was how the kids dealt with the problem. I found this to be the most surprising story in the bunch and it made me smile.

 

I did enjoy the other two stories in this anthology, but these three stood tall and they alone are worth the price of this book. The other two are just the gravy on top!

 

Recommended!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: Halloween Carnival Volume 4

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and to Hydra for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-09-25 18:45
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two- edited by James Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two - Nevil Shute,Mary Elizabeth Braddon,Michael P. Kube-McDowell

 

Once again, the gentlemen over at Valancourt Books knocked their anthology out of the park-maybe even out of the state! Last year's Volume 1, (click to read my review), was outstanding and Volume 2 is as well. My favorites of this volume are as follows:

 

Stephen Gregory's never before published: "The Boys Who Wouldn't Wake Up" was poignant and, in a way, beautiful. It was also very much unlike any other Gregory story I've read. I'm a huge fan of this author and this tale did NOT disappoint. 

 

"The Nice Boys" by Isabel Colegate was a spectacularly eerie story, set in a relentlessly foggy Venice, Italy. A young woman heads there to vacation away a recent bad break up and meets two young men. As the tension grows the reader is drawn in, but the vivid and disturbing scene towards the end ensures this story will not soon be forgotten. 

 

"Herself" by M.E. Braddon involved two of my favorite tropes-haunted houses and haunted mirrors. I'm not sure which it was, exactly,  but I'm going with  a combination of the two. I love these types of stories-where people are called in to help but are rendered helpless by circumstance and can only witness as bystanders the evil that occurs.

 

"Halley's Passing" by Michael McDowell. It's no secret that I adore Michael McDowell. (You do too, if you love Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas.) This tale, however, is shocking and extra bloody which is unusual for him, but at the same time: so much FUN.

 

"The Elemental" by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Another FUN tale featuring a psychic that no one takes seriously. At first. 

 

"Samhain" by Bernard Taylor. Taylor is an author that I was unfamiliar with until Valancourt Books republished some of his work. I am now an unabashed fan and stories like this are exactly why. Everything is going along, you think you have a handle on things, and then BAM! He punches you right in the face. It's often a bloody punch too, and this is no exception. I laughed out loud at the ending because I was surprised, it was bloody and I loved it!

 

"The Bell" by Beverly Nichols. A beautifully told tale about a man who was completely dependent upon his valet/butler and what happens when that butler dies. Who will then come to the insistent ringing of the bell? 

 

Just like with Volume 1, I could list each and every story as a standout, because they were ALL just that good. Also like with Volume 1, is the fact that most of these stories have not been published over and over again. I'm not sure if it happens with all genres, but the same horror stories often appear ad nauseam in anthologies and it's irritating. With the cost of books these days, it's disappointing to buy an anthology only to discover you've read half the stories already in other anthologies. Rest easy, because that is not the case here. 

 

Each story in this volume is prefaced by a bit of background on the story and on the author, many of whom were not known for writing in the horror genre. I think that fact brings a certain freshness to this collection that is often lacking in others. The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two is simply EXCEPTIONAL and belongs in the collection of any serious fan of the genre. 

 

My highest recommendation!

 

You can pre-order your copy  here: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two

 

*This book was provided by Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

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review 2017-09-25 06:50
Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries - Martin Edwards

One of the British Library Crime Classic anthologies recently published, this is a collection of - as the title says - short mysteries that take place at country houses of the nominally wealthy.  I haven't read the whole of the collection, but what I have read was almost uniformly excellent.

 

Below the list of stories I read, along with a few quick thoughts about each:

 

 

The Copper Beeches - Arthur Conan Doyle:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It's Sherlock Holmes, of course it's excellent.  It's one of the more far out story premises, but it's fantastic.  If you haven't read Sherlock Holmes yet... um, why?

 

The Problem of Dead Wood Hall - Dick Donovan: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

One of two I liked the least.  It's an inverted mystery, so really, not a mystery as far as I'm concerned.  There was no puzzle to be solved here, only what feels like an opportunity for the detective to boast.

 

Gentlemen and Players - E.W. Hornung - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ok, I'm going to kind of contradict myself now, because there's no mystery here either, but it's Raffles!  I've been wanting to read a Raffles story for ages, and I've finally got my chance.  It was fun, the writing was amusing, the pace quick and lively and the ending... I saw that ending coming but it was still everything I hoped it would be.  I need more Raffles in my life.

 

The White Pillars Murder - G.K. Chesterton - ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The other one I liked the least.  Chesterton and I are not destined for the author/fan dynamic.  I did not like The Haunted Bookshop because it took me forever to figure out that it wasn't a ghost story, and that what little plot it did have was drowning in the author's exposition.  I didn't like this one either; the prose was less superfluous, but the plot was... I don't know what the plot was.  I don't know what his point was in writing this, honestly; a cautionary tale to all P.I. hopefuls?  A slag off at Holmes?  Who knows, but it's strike two against this particular Golden Age writer for me.

 

The Same to Us - Margery Allingham - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

More 4.5 stars.  Very short story, and again, less mystery than a satire, but it was incredibly well written and humorous. There was never any doubt in my mind from the start what the ending was going to be, but that last 1/2 star was purely for the last line of the story.

 

The Murder at the Towers - E.V. Knox - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Martin Edwards mentions this story in his The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books in the chapter "Making Fun of Murder" and it's one of the stories I particularly wanted to read.  It did not disappoint.  It was hilarious; Knox doesn't try to be subtle, his humour is... well, to quote the first line of the story:

 

"Mr. Ponderby-Wilkins was a man so rich, so ugly, so cross, and so old, that even the stupidest reader could not expect him to survive any longer than chapter I. Vulpine in his secretiveness, he was porcine in his habits, saturnine in his appearance, and ovine in his unconsciousness of doom. He was the kind of man who might easily perish as early as paragraph 2."

 

I was in love from the start - and laughing.  The rest is also pure farce, but Knox manages to get a humdinger in at the very last line, and it left me laughing and shaking my head.

 

There's a few other stories in this collection that I want to make a point of reading in the near future; some authors that I'm only learning about whose work I want to check out.  I'll definitely be coming back to this one soon, and I'm looking forward to reading the other anthologies Edward has put together.

 

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review 2017-09-15 15:30
Dark Screams Volume Eight
Dark Screams: Volume Eight - Bentley Little,Kealan Patrick Burke,Richard Chizmar,Frank Darabont,Brian James Freeman

 

Another entry in the, (overall), excellent DARK SCREAMS series is here, this time with a few surprising authors. I've listed what I thought were the standout tales below.

 

My favorite story in this volume has to be WALPUSKI’S TYPEWRITER from Frank Darabont. Known for his work directing movies like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, I had no idea the man wrote stories. This one was dedicated to Stephen King and it even has that SK vibe to it-reminding me a lot of King's early story THE MANGLER . In this case, the machine gone-wild is a typewriter and Darabont doesn't hold back. I LOVED this tale!

 

Coming in a close second for me though, was Kealan Patrick Burke's THE PALAVER. Those of you who have read Kealan's work in the past may already be familiar with the town of Milestone and be as happy as I was to return. There is something about human hair that creeps me out and Kealan takes that creep factor and amps it up to eleven. Just thinking about it makes me shiver, (and a little bit ill)!

 

I enjoyed THE TUMOR by Benjamin Percy as well. I believe this is the first story I've read from this author and I'm going to have to track down some more.

 

DARK SCREAMS 8 delivers the goods once again. Not all the stories resonated with me, but that's not unusual. The ones that did resonated deeply and that's what keeps me coming back to this series again and again.

 

Recommended!

 

Available on Halloween! Pre-order yours here: Dark Screams Volume Eight

 

 *An e-ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-09-13 08:41
Inside the “Outsiders” — An Anthology with stories by Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Joe Landsale, & Poppy Brite
Outsiders: 22 All-New Stories From the Edge - Brian Hodge,Neil Gaiman,Tanith Lee,Bentley Little,Lea Silhol,Michael Marano,Jack Ketchum,Freda Warrington,Elizabeth Massie,Brett Alexander Savory,Melanie Tem,Yvonne Navarro,Steve Rasnic Tem,David J. Schow,Katherine Ramsland,Elizabeth Engstrom,Thomas S. Ro

 

 

Below, I mention how I liked each story and include a favorite quote:

 

The Empty Chambers by Neil Gaiman

A poem. Very creepy but I’d rather have read a Gaiman story.

 

The Company You Keep by Steve Resnic Tem

Walking among us are the members of a secret company. I don’t know what I took away from this story if anything.

 

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Scarabesque: The Girl Who Broke Dracula by Tanith Lee

This was actually an excerpt from one of Tanith Lee’s novels. It was also the first time I read anything by her. I liked the imagery that her words created. For instance:

 

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Under the Needle by Lea Silhol

You’d appreciate this story more if you focused on how it was written rather than the plot. I did and I ended up liking it!

 

Expanding Your Capabilities Using Frame/Shift(TM) Mode by David J. Schow

A literally visceral story about a man who discovers his remote can do much more than change channels!

 

Cat and the Cold Prince by Freda Warrington

A story that brings to mind dictatorships and restrictive regimes, such as the Prohibition in the Cromwell era. Oh, and a girl falls in love with a tiger!

 

Faces in Revolving Souls by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This one was about a splinter group of people who left their human status behind by choice fighting for their rights.

 

Lighten Up by Jack Ketchum

Smoking is banned. Smokers decided to retaliate.

 

Pit Boy by Elizabeth Massie

The beginning of the story is set up to deceive the reader. The end is one of the saddest endings I have ever read!

 

The Country of the Blind by Melanie Tem

A blind girl will accept you into her family but she needs a sacrifice first.

 

Ruby Tuesday by Kathe Koja

A hidden cult in the midst of the society and a boy with a dying mother looking for a place to fit in.

 

Running Beneath the Skin by Brett Alexander Savory

Can you even said to be alive, if your insides have been replaced with metal? No, this isn’t about Wolverine!

 

Grim Peeper by Katherine Ramsland

There’s necrophilia and there are grim peepers. Read this story, if you love being grossed out.

 

Craving by Yvonne Navarro

This story is based on a certain type of “outsiders” who like to watch accidents.

 

Violent Angel by Thomas S. Roche

A planned hit where the hitman isn’t on the complete plan.

 

…And the Damage Done by Michael Marano

Beautiful imagery is one of the characteristics of this story. The other is heartbreak!

 

Pop Star in the Ugly Bar by Bentley Little

Simply gross but a fitting addition to this collection. A wannabe pop star ends up in a gore-hardcore bar. She doesn’t make it out.

 

Miss Singularity by John Shirley

A teenager’s depression comes out to play!

 

The Working Slob’s Prayer by Poppy Z. Brite

The going ons in a restaurant with some very interesting characters thrown in!

 

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If I Should Wake Before I Die by Brian Hodge

Expectant mothers miscarry all around the world. No one knows why until we reach the end of the story…*shudder*

 

Honing Sebastian by Elizabeth Engstrom

A sad story about the dreams of those below being crushed by the powers that be. This line from the story says it all:

 

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Another favorite quote:

 

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The Shadows, Kith and Kin by Joe R. Landsale

A broken man tired of being put down by the whole world makes friends…with shadows…who talk to him…

 

My Favourites

Lighten Up by Jack Ketchum

Pit Boy by Elizabeth Massie

Miss Singularity by John Shirley

The Working Slob’s Prayer by Poppy Z. Brite

 

Have you read this anthology? Which ones are your favorites?

 

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Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on September 13, 2017.

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