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review 2017-10-31 19:32
Halloween Carnival Volume 5, edited by Brian James Freeman
Halloween Carnival Volume 5 - Lisa Tuttle,Kevin Quigley,Norman Prentiss,Richard Chizmar,Brian James Freeman

In this, the last entry of the Halloween Carnival series, Hydra hands us a great group of stories that couldn't possibly be more different from each other. This is a good thing!

 

Richard Chizmar's DEVIL'S NIGHT, impressed the heck out of me. The only thing of his I've read is his collaboration with Stephen King. Now I'm going to have to read more of his work. 4*

 

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle was a neat little story with no explanation. The characters were very well drawn for such a short tale and I found myself thinking more about them after I finished the story. This one grew on me, but after the fact-if that makes any sense. ?Look, all I know is I'm not entering any houses with tower rooms, okay? 3.5*

 

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss was a twisty little tale, with half told secrets taking place between a learned man and his eager to learn interviewer. Little does he know that he isn't as smart as he thinks. 4.5*

 

SWING by Kevin Quigley. This was a sad and poignant tale and I enjoyed it. I just didn't see what it had to do with Halloween? 3*

 

PORKPIE HAT by Peter Straub. Let me preface this by saying Straub's Ghost Story was my favorite novel for a few years-I just loved it so much. Shadowland and Floating Dragon followed and I liked those too, and don't even get me started on how much I loved The Talisman. But since then, not much of his work has appealed to me. Until now. I ADORED this story. It has jazz, musicians, a student/reporter/nobody, and a subtle back story packed with racism, double standards, adulterers fear and loathing. I loved how PORKPIE HAT unfolded like some kind of origami animal and I just had to have some peace and quiet to read it in its entirety. For me, this was the star of this collection. 5*

 

I didn't have time to read all of the Halloween Carnival entries, but of the ones I did read, this is my favorite. I like all kinds of dark fiction stories and I loved the variety here. I didn't think even one of them was a clunker, but of course your mileage may vary.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to Hydra and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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text 2017-10-31 15:11
The Land Without Shadows by Abdourahman Waberi
The Land Without Shadows - Abdourahman A. Waberi

I read this short book (only 80 pages of text, plus a 20-page introduction) for my world books challenge, as a book set in Djibouti. I’m not sure I really “got” it, hence the lack of rating. Though billed as a collection of 17 short stories, most of these pieces are better described as a description, or an extended metaphor. Other reviewers have referred to them as essays, but as most of them seem to exist in fictional space (though often without plot and sometimes even without real characters), rather than advancing an organized argument, that description too seems not quite accurate.

Obviously I can only judge this work as a foreign reader and can’t predict the reactions of those who share the author’s cultural background. But I had to push myself through this one, and didn’t connect with it. The short pieces are highly stylized and often hard to understand, and only a couple, the ones with a recognizable plot, had me at all interested in the fates of the characters. However, the book did show me something of Djibouti. The pieces are set throughout the country’s history: dealing with legends, with the lives of nomads, with the colonial period, with modern war and disenchantment. Unfortunately for a reader unfamiliar with Djibouti, they are not organized chronologically. The introduction did help me understand these pieces and their context a bit better, and for other foreign readers I’d recommend reading that first; this isn’t the sort of book where spoilers are much of a concern. (Academics generally seem to assume that every single reader already knows how every single book ends and that no one gets any enjoyment from discovering the story as they go, so I typically read introductions last if I read them at all, to avoid massive spoilers. But here the introduction can serve as more of a readers’ guide.)

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review 2017-10-20 22:30
The Travelling Grave by L.P. Hartley
The Travelling Grave and Other Stories - L.P. Hartley

 

I very much enjoyed this collection of Gothic and creepy stories originally released in the 1940's. I generally prefer short tales that pack a punch, and these are definitely not that. However, they often have a good deal of humor and that sense of atmosphere in which I love to wallow.

 

The standouts to me were:

 

A VISITOR FROM DOWN UNDER was, for me, a beautifully told ghost story/tale of revenge.

 

PODOLO A nice little day trip to the island of Podolo takes a nasty turn. This one reminded me that feral cats may not be worth the effort.

 

THE TRAVELLING GRAVE was quite the funny story involving a misunderstanding involving perambulators. (Is that word even used anymore? It's a shame if it's not because it's a word that rolls nicely off the tongue.) Anyway, the humor of the situation quickly changed to horror at the gruesome ending. Always be careful playing hide & seek!

 

CONRAD AND THE DRAGON I wasn't sure what to make of this fairy tale like...tale. It didn't have the usual fairy tale ending, but I found it to be totally charming.

 

THREE OR FOUR, FOR DINNER was another tale involving some humor and a practical joke gone wrong.

 

This was my first experience with L.P. Hartley and I'm so glad I gave this collection a try! Recommended!

 

*Thank you to Valancourt Books for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-10-12 22:05
The Best of Saki
The Best of Saki - Saki

I picked up this book after reading “The Open Window” online; the strong writing and clever twist made me curious to read more from Saki. These are bite-sized stories, only a few pages long, but this doesn’t prevent them from feeling complete and being quite engaging. Though their subjects are well-off Englishpeople at the turn of the twentieth century, they aren’t as tame as you might expect: common subjects include elaborate practical jokes and people (including small children) being killed by animals. A few even have an unexpected supernatural bent.

There appears to be more than one collection with the same title but slightly different tables of contents (stories cited by other reviewers here are absent from the volume I read), so I’m not sure if the book I will be describing is the same one you’re likely to read. But I have some doubts about whether the volume I read actually contains the “best” of Saki’s short stories: it includes a selection of 38 stories from five different collections, which improve markedly as the book progresses. The first three, very brief, stories are simply monologues from a clever and smug young man. After that the stories quickly develop tight plotting, which remains the case for the rest of the book. They are often quite clever, though emotionally cold; only in a few places in the collection does one character seem to genuinely care for another, and without the story making it ridiculous. A long stretch of stories feature the aloof, sardonic Clovis, a practical jokester with as much regard for others as your average sociopath. Toward the end the stories seem to be thawing a bit, as well as diversifying. Unfortunately, the author was killed in World War I, so we don’t know what he might have written next.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection: the stories are well-written, interesting and clever, although often darker than expected. And this particular grouping allows the reader to see a writer’s development if nothing else. I would read more from Saki, but I would choose his later collections.

 

 

The table of contents from the version I read:

Reginald
Reginald at the Theatre
Reginald on House-Parties
Reginald’s Drama

Reginald in Russia
The Reticence of Lady Anne
Gabriel-Ernest
Cross-Currents
The Mouse

The Chronicles of Clovis
Esme
The Match-Maker

Tobermory
The Background
The Unrest-Cure
The Jesting of Arlington Stringham
Sredni Vashtar
The Quest
The Easter Egg
The Peace of Mowsle Barton
The Talking-Out of Tarrington
The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope

Beasts and Super-Beasts
The She-Wolf
The Boar-Pig
The Brogue
The Open Window
The Schartz-Metterklume method
The Seventh Pullet
Clovis on Parental Responsibilities
A Holiday Task
The Stalled Ox
The Story-Teller
A Defensive Diamond
The Elk
The Lumber-Room

The Toys of Peace
Louise
The Guests
The Penance
Quail Seed
The Seven Cream Jugs
Hyacinth

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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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