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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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review 2016-10-09 15:38
Detritus in Love by Mercedes M. Yardley and John Boden
Detritus in Love - Mercedes M. Yardley,John Boden

A ghost named Blank with Xs for eyes, and a ghost named Shultz-these are the only friends of Detritus; and they both know the "Opposite" is coming. What a strange, sad and surreal story this was. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, other than that I loved it.

 

Detritus is a young man who has nothing in life, not even a nice first name. With a meth head for a "mother", (which, believe me is using the term loosely), and whoever her boyfriend is for the week, Det's life in the trailer is barely tolerable. It's really no wonder that he has ghosts for friends. 

 

But time with his spectral buddies is limited because they all know/feel that the Opposite is coming and he's coming for Det. For everything lovely in Det's life the Opposite chalks up something horrible in his life. It's some kind of insane world balance. But the Opposite NEEDS Det, or at least he believes he does, and this is where the story lives. 

 

I want to mention the use of language, it was often just gorgeous. I loved this passage when Det was telling Blank how he felt about her: 

 

 "He told her he had a hole in his heart just her size. He told her all those things lonely people long to hear, and they were scented lavender words." 

 

Doesn't that pull on something inside you? It does for me. 

 

I loved this novella, somber and dark though it was, and I urge you to try it out for yourself. It's a surreal, shadowy little treat and even though you might have questions, I bet you'll enjoy it just the same. Sometimes it's best to leave some things to the imagination. 

 

Highly recommended! Purchase your copy here: Detritus in Love

 

*I was provided a free e-copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review. This is it. In addition, I do *know* John Boden, (on-line only), and consider him to be a friend. This has not affected the outcome of this review.*

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review 2015-08-19 13:05
Those of My Kind by Jennifer Loring
Those of My Kind - Jennifer Loring

 

Horror After Dark Giveaway of 1 Signed Copy

 

I hope that there will be a sequel to this book, I enjoyed it that much!

 

This is a tale of strong women that have been abused, raped, beaten, totally ignored and who knows what else. Two of these women, almost girls really, become Hunters and the other a monster of epic proportions and, of course, there is an epic battle between them in the end. Who comes out the winner? You will have to read this to discover the answer to that question.

 

"Love and its constant companion, sorrow, birthed this atrocity of a world."

 

Hunters serve mankind though humans remain unaware of their sacrifices. To do this, Hunters must shun friendships and love, lest the objects of such be used as weapons against them. Hunters also have a bloodlust, one that can only be quenched by the blood of humans. To survive and accomplish their goals, Hunters only drink the blood of the human filth they seek to destroy.

 

There is magic, there are skills, there is testing...but so many questions remained unanswered for this reader. The single problem I had with this book is that I wanted more answers.

 

One thing I do have an answer to is this "How was the writing?" I thought this book was extremely well written and I found myself highlighting quite a few quotes throughout. One that particularly struck me was this one:

 

"Hell was real, Tristan thought, but it wasn't some burning pit in the afterlife. Hell was reliving all your regrets and failures over and over in one never-ending instant. Hell was not appreciating what you had, and only dwelling on what you didn't. Hell was not being able to forgive yourself."

 

Overall, I loved this book. It was different. It was fast paced. It had a unique story-line. It had strong women. It had an antagonist that was truly monstrous, yet the reader was compelled to pity her as well. These characters were well drawn, complicated and believable. What more could a reader ask for? A sequel, that's what!

 

Highly recommended for fans of dark fiction, horror, and excellent writing!

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text 2015-08-14 22:05
Reading progress update: I've read 15% of Those of my Kind and...
Those of My Kind - Jennifer Loring

I'm getting that feeling. You know the one. It starts out a little bit like a tingle. Like-" damn, that was a good chapter, I hope things continue on this way." Then the tingle becomes more of an itch, so you read a little more just to scratch it. Then it turns into a full blown rash and you just want to sit down and read the rest of the entire book in one shot. 

 

In the past I've had this feeling about a book early on, but then things went south. I hope that's not the case with this one! 

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review 2014-04-02 18:41
Autumn in the Abyss by Jean Claude Smith
Autumn in the Abyss - John Claude Smith

 

Balance in the world and in the universe is a recurring theme in this collection of five stories. What does it take to achieve balance? And who, or what, gets to decide what constitutes balance? The tales in this volume address these questions in a highly entertaining way.

 

The Autumn in the Abyss- Can words change the world? Not just your world, but the entire world? Sprinkled with quotes like "The Word is a living thing" and "Language is a virus from outer space", this is a beautifully written tale that is hard to describe. Can words summon things, things not of this world, things that thrive on human suffering?  Can words twist things around so much that you hardly even know yourself anymore? You will have to read this to find out. 

 

 "All paths are paved with the carcasses of experience."

 

Broken Teacup-This was a short, nasty little tale, reminiscent of the bizarro genre  or of hardcore horror authors like Edward Lee. In this story, Mr. Liu makes his first appearance. Think of Mr. Liu as a warped ambassador of the cosmic. Always trying to achieve balance at the behest of his superiors. I believe balance was achieved here. 

 

La mia immortalita -  Involved in his latest art project, Samuel's dismissive and arrogant personality is on display here. The more frustrated he gets with his work, the more unlikable he becomes. Mr. Liu makes yet another appearance after Samuel  proves once and for all that he is a most despicable human being. As Mr. Liu himself states: "Those who require balance within the universe have a perverse sense of humor, Mr. Nisi. I am their liaison here on earth." We'll just say that Samuel's art sculpture did not come out as he'd originally planned.

 

 "People-what a pitiable race to be associated with."

 

Becoming Human-I think this was my favorite story of the bunch-deep, dark and wicked, but with a sense of hope (against ALL odds), that shines through and in the end, wins. 

 

Where the Light Won't Find You-This was a relatively short story that showcased a scary insect-like thing in a movie theater. In the dark. In the chair behind you. Yeah, it was good.

 

Overall, this collection was well above average. It features cosmic horror with undertones of Barker and Lee-a combination not often found.  It showcases outstanding prose with fantastic ideas hiding within the words. I have no reservations highly recommending this collection to fans of horror, most especially fans of cosmic and/or literary horror. 

 

I was provided a free copy of this book to honestly review for Horror After Dark. 

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