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review 2018-10-17 18:45
DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES by Joe Lansdale
Driving to Geronimo's Grave and Other Stories - Joe R. Lansdale

 

DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE: AND OTHER STORIES is a shining example of how skilled Joe Lansdale really is. Not one of these tales is like the others-they're all different, all unique and all showcasing why Mr. Lansdale has been called the Champion Mojo Storyteller.

 

The title story is the first here and it's set during the Great Depression. A young man and his sister are tasked with picking up the corpse of their dead uncle and bringing it back home so they can bury him with the proper respect. Being that this is a Lansdale story, things don't go quite as planned. I loved this tale, I loved the characters and I especially loved smart-mouthed Terri. 5*

 

IN THE MAD MOUNTAINS: Mr. Lansdale's homage to Lovecraft was better than most of the actual Lovecraft I've read. I don't even know what else to say because this story was so imaginative-I think each reader needs to have it unfold for them. It had a pulpy feel to it on top of the Lovecraftian base-a unique combination that worked well for me. 5*

 

WRESTLING JESUS: A bullied boy and a bullied man, (albeit a very different kind of bullying), both come together in this tale of wrestling, love gone wrong, and a relationship much like that of father and son. 4*

 

ROBO RAPID: This is a pulp adventure-type story set in the future with a delightful young woman, Sheann, as the protagonist. Years after an invasion here on earth, robots have killed her parents and stolen her siblings. She makes it her mission in life to get them back. Along the way, she makes a friend, sees a musical, and learns that she's braver than even she realized. 5*

 

THE PROJECTIONIST: I first read this story in Lawrence Block's collection IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. At first this seems to be a tale about a young man lusting after a beautiful young woman. Then it turns into something else entirely. 5*

 

As an aside about THE PROJECTIONIST: it's fascinating to me that an author can gaze at a painting and come up with an entire backstory for it. In this case the painting was The Usherette by Edward Hopper and here it is:

 

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The last tale in this book EVERYTHING SPARKLES IN HELL brings us to visit Nat Love. A black cowboy featured in the novel PARADISE SKY and a few other novellas, Nat returns as a bounty hunter tracking down two no-good men. (Loosely based on the real man, yes there were black cowboys, despite their absence from most American history books.) Along the way he meets up with Chocktaw, (a tracker of some renown), and the biggest she-bear either of them has ever seen. I loved visiting with Nat again and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

What I especially loved about this collection are the tidbits from the author himself revealing how the stories came about. In the digital review copy I received, these came after the stories rather than before, and I liked that. (It seems that, in previewing the finished copy online, these are now forewords to the stories, rather than afterwords.) I enjoyed reading them after reading the tales themselves and seeing how the ideas germinated in the head of the author, sometimes sprouting out fully formed, according to him. Once again, I find myself fascinated by Mr. Lansdale's writing process and abilities.

 

I was pretty sure I was going to love this collection of stories even before I started reading it, and I was right. It's the skilled writing of Mr. Lansdale that gets to me every time. No matter what he writes about, it can be counted on to capture and hold your attention. It can be counted on to contain some humor and real life observations. It can be counted on to satisfy. Because his characters are so true to life- complicated and diverse, they make me feel connected not only to them, but to the world as well. It's a gift and Joe has it. That is all I can say.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

*Thank you to Subterranean Press and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-10-08 18:45
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM edited by Christopher Golden
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Christopher Golden

Christmas! I really can't stand it, but this anthology appealed to me for the following reasons. 1. The killer cover! (For which I got to host the exclusive cover reveal on my blog, Char's Horror Corner, and it was very exciting!) 2. It was edited by Christopher Golden and I've had good luck with anthologies he's edited in the past. I'm happy to report this one was no exception!

 

This book was chock full of stories, nearly 400 pages worth, so I can't get into all of them here, but I will briefly talk about the tales that stood out for me:

 

YANKEE SWAP by John McIlveen. Wow! We go from a woman trying to avoid her sexually aggressive boss at a Christmas party, to her getting knocked over the head and waking up tied to a chair. This tale had it all-violence, surprises and plot twists along with a satisfying conclusion. Bravo! 5*

 

CHRISTMAS IN BARCELONA by Scott Smith. I loved Scott's A SIMPLE PLAN, but this tale was completely different from his usual stuff. I was able to guess the end just before the story got there, but that didn't spoil the fun at all. 4.5*

 

THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE CHRISTMAS HOTEL by Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe Lansdale. This was a perfect "ghost gets revenge" type story and I loved it, as I do most anything he writes.4.5*

 

 

LOVE ME by Thomas Sniegoski. This twisted little tale reminded me of the Tribble episode from Star Trek. What fun! 4*

 

GOOD DEEDS by Jeff Strand. I don't even know what to say about this one, but it's Jeff Strand. What else do I have to say, really? 4*

 

IT'S A WONDERFUL KNIFE BY Christopher Golden. I figured out the conclusion early on, but that didn't spoil the fun getting there. 3.5*

 

HOME by Tim Lebbon. This was a twisted little tale of the end of the world and Santa, albeit a Santa you would never recognize in a million years. 3.5*

 

Lastly, THE HANGMAN'S BRIDE by Sarah Pinborough. Sarah's books have quickly become some of my favorites in recent history, (and I'm glad I have a good-sized backlog to catch up with), but this tale really took the cake. My second favorite in this anthology, with a distinct Dickensian feel, young William and his soot-filled lungs stole my heart. 5*

 

Most anthologies are hit and miss with me-very rarely do all the stories hit their mark. In this case, though, it was pretty close to doing so, therefore I gave it a four star rating overall . Even if you hate Christmas, and you "Bah Humbug" with the best of them, this anthology has something for everyone-the variety is outstanding. So as the title suggests HARK people! Come and hear the angels scream!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this anthology in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2018-09-04 18:45
DOORBELLS AT DUSK: HALLOWEEN STORIES edited by Evans Light
Doorbells at Dusk: Halloween Stories - Adam Light,Gregor Xane,Josh Malerman,Jason Parent,Evans Light

DOORBELLS AT DUSK: HALLOWEEN STORIES was an above average anthology that challenged me to take my time and savor the tales of Halloween mischief. I failed that challenge!

 

There are 14 spooky tales included within, and these were the ones that stood out the most for me:

 

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES by Jason Parent. I just adored this story of Halloween thieves picking the wrong house to burgle. I laughed out loud at the eyeball scenes. (Not sure what that says about me.)

 

VIGIL by Chad Lutzke. This wasn't a gross-out or even a very scary story. (Unless you're a parent.) It was poignant though, something Chad has mastered in his tales.

 

THE FRIENDLY MAN by Thomas Vaughn. I don't even know what to say. This story was so darkly macabre that even though what was happening was just AWFUL, I found myself gleefully turning the pages. This was my favorite story in the book. Well done!

 

OFFERINGS by Joanna Koch. I absolutely loved the concept and execution of this story. It's not complicated but it is MESSED UP. The take away? Don't escort any trick-or-treaters to your bathroom whilst others are briefly left unattended at your front door.

 

TRICK 'EM ALL by Adam Light. A disturbed and misguided (?) boy. A talking Jack O'Lantern. What could go wrong?

 

THE RYE-MOTHER by Curtis Lawson. This tale spoke to me more loudly once I finished this anthology, because it was unlike every other story and because it kept popping into my mind at weird times. It has staying power. (Also, I'm opting out of the corn maze this year.)

 

I had a great time with this anthology and liked almost all of the stories included within, which is pretty rare for me. Evans Light did a great job of bringing these authors together and the stories flowed well from one to the next. If you're looking for a great anthology to fill out your Halloween reading this year, make it DOORBELLS AT DUSK: HALLOWEEN STORIES. (Oh, and stay away from those corn mazes!)

 

Highly recommended!

 

*I received a paperback ARC of this collection in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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text 2018-08-24 12:42
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review 2018-08-23 18:45
OCCASIONAL BEASTS: TALES by John Claude Smith
Occasional Beasts: Tales - John Claude Smith

 

For a few years now, I have been a big fan of John Claude Smith's twisted view of the world. This collection of tales only serves to remind me how skilled, (and twisted!), he really is.

 

I'm not going to get into each tale, as there a total of 14 stories in this volume, but I am going to touch briefly on the ones that affected me the most:

 

DANDELIONS: There was something about this story that put me in mind of Shirley Jackson. Maybe it was the feeling of the characters that something was wrong with the geometry in the hotel in which they stopped for the night? Other than that portion though, I doubt Ms. Jackson would have recognized the warped reality to which Mr. Smith delivered us, kicking and screaming. Bravo!

 

PERSONAL JESUS: Be it Depeche Mode or the Johnny Cash version, I will never hear this song again without thinking of this story. Creepy. Imaginative. Horrifying!

 

THE JOHNNY DEPP THING: Perhaps some would find it tasteless of me, or maybe even inhuman, but this story had me gleefully chuckling the whole time. It's just messed up.

 

THE GLOVE: I felt a bit of a Science-Fiction vibe from this tale, and I'm not sure why. Whatever the genre label, all I know is that if I come across a stray glove somewhere? I'm not touching it! (Also, fake psychics suck.)

 

Both THE WOUNDED TABLE and THE LAND LORD I've read before in another collection. Even though I was already familiar with them, I mention them both again here because they're still fantastic tales of...intensity? Both give the reader peeks into that aforementioned warped reality that belongs to John Claude Smith alone.

 

Now that he's again sharing that reality with us, I think any dark fiction lover would be remiss by not stashing a copy of of OCCASIONAL BEASTS on their shelves. It will call to you, and you will be unable to resist!

 

Highly recommended! *I received an e-ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it. *

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