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review 2017-04-10 18:55
Elizabeth by Ken Greenhall
Elizabeth: A Novel of the Unnatural - Jonathan Janz,Ken Greenhall,Jessica Hamilton

 

NEVER have I been so unsettled reading a book narrated by a 14 year old girl. But perhaps that is because Elizabeth is not your ordinary teenager. She's descended from a long line of witches and is now discovering the power within her. Or is she? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

The prose in this book is simply outstanding. It's chilling at times because the narrator seems to have no feelings whatsoever. She talks about sex, acts of violence, and eating breakfast all in the same tone. Sometimes I would need to read a sentence or paragraph over again to be sure that I read it correctly.

 

Then, there's the sex. It's not graphic at all, there are no mentions of sex organs or the mechanics of the act itself...it's just there. Perhaps that is why it never bothered me, as sex between a 14 year old girl and adults should. Then again, perhaps it is because Elizabeth herself never expresses any feeling about it, she only mentions it as a...tool, (please forgive the half-hearted pun), to get what she wants.

 

The entire time I was reading, I was wondering if Elizabeth, indeed, possessed supernatural powers. Was everything going on simply a matter of coincidence and her overactive imagination? Or were these things actually happening because of her actions? (In this regard, Elizabeth reminds me of one of my favorite books, THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by Anne Rivers Siddons.) It was the masterful writing of Mr. Greenhall that had me turning this fact over and over again in my mind. I know what conclusion I came to, I'm interested in yours!

 

This novel reminds me of why I became a horror fan in the first place, it wasn't the gore or the blood, (though those DO have their place and I love them too), it's human nature and what people can be capable of, underneath their ordinary facades. These days we have tons of books and TV shows about sociopaths/psychopaths/personality disorders-all of which are trying to explain things to us. Mr. Greenhall wrote this back in the day, (the 1970's), before FBI profiling and Criminal Minds. Even without all of those studies and the psychiatric manuals, he had this criminal profile down PAT.

 

Is Elizabeth continuing on her family's tradition of witchcraft, or is she another type of animal altogether? I HIGHLY recommend you read this book, and then come talk to me. We'll discuss it together!

 

*Thank you to the most awesome Valancourt Books for the free review copy in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

 

**Furthermore, thanks to Valancourt for bringing back these horror gems that may otherwise have been entirely forgotten. Bravo, guys! Bravo!**

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review 2017-03-22 18:50
Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall
Hell Hound - Grady Hendrix,Ken Greenhall,Jessica Hamilton

 

In the late 70's, I started reading horror in earnest, and I honestly thought I was familiar with most horror writers of the time. I was wrong. I'd never heard of Ken Greenhall until Valancourt Books brought him to my attention. Now, I want to get my hands on everything he's written.

 

Baxter, the bull terrier, is a sociopath. But he's just a dog, you might say! It's true, but he's observant, willful and extremely dangerous. With some portions of this book being from his point of view, the reader gets a clear look into what's going on in that doggie head of his. I know this book sounds cheesy, and perhaps like a rip-off of Cujo, but the facts are that it's not cheesy at all, and it was written before Cujo. Featuring keen insights into human behavior, precise but spare prose, and bringing to the reader a growing sense of dread and horror, I'm pretty sure this will be among the best books I will read this year.

 

My highest recommendation! You can get your copy here: Hell Hound

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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text 2017-03-21 17:35
I've read 50% of Hell Hound and...
Hell Hound - Grady Hendrix,Ken Greenhall,Jessica Hamilton

 

I'm torn between racing through to the end or slowing down to savor every word. I'm not sure how I missed Ken Greenhall back in the late 70's, since that's when I began to read horror in earnest. I only know that I will now try to track down everything he's written.

 

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review 2016-10-30 16:48
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume One
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories - Professor of Strategic Management Bernard Taylor,Michael P. Kube-McDowell,Christopher Priest

 

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume One is one of my favorite collections of this year, and that's saying a lot because I've read some STELLAR collections in 2016. This is one of the rare times that every. single. story. worked.

 

The stand-outs to me were: Miss Mack by Michael McDowell. It's McDowell. How could it not be good? This starts out as such a nice story about a friendship between two women and then it takes a sharp turn into darkness. Permanent darkness.

 

Furnished Apartments by Forest Reid (I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent intro to this little known author's story. This, and the story itself made me want to immediately read more of Reid's work.) This is a creepy little story about (surprise!) a furnished apartment for rent.

 

A Psychological Experiment by Richard Marsh Most known these days for his novel, "The Beetle", Richard Marsh wrote over 80 books and 300 short stories. This particular tale is a delicious story of revenge featuring some creepy crawlies. I absolutely loved it.

 

The Progress of Arthur Crabbe by Stephen Gregory Stephen Gregory is another favorite author of mine. He's not as prolific as I wish he would be. Valancourt somehow dug up this nasty tale, (which, once again, features a bird), originally published in the Illustrated London News back in 1982. I am so glad they did! I have read everything I could get my hands on from Mr. Gregory. Without Valancourt, I would never have had the opportunity to read this gem.

 

California Burning by Michael Blumlein Michael Blumlein is another author introduced to me via Valancourt Books. They published his collection: The Brains of Rats which contains one of the most disturbing short stories I've ever read. Once again, Blumlein knocked my socks off with this story of a man whose bones would not burn.

 

The Terror on Tobit by Charles Birkin A beautifully written tale and one I found to send chills up my spine. Not only because of the spookiness of the story, but because of the amazing prose. I've never even heard of this guy before, but now I want to read everything he's written.

 

The Head and the Hand by Christopher Priest Probably most well known for his novel The Prestige , Christopher Priest's contribution to this collection was superb. It reminded me a bit of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love and makes me wonder if she ever read The Head and the Hand. It's a rather weird tale, but I loved it. Plus it made me REALLY want to read The Prestige which has been sitting on my Kindle for well over a year.

 

I could go on and on, because as I said every story in this collection worked for me. I can't write a review that's a long as the book though, so just a few more things. The intros to these stories were excellent. Many of them talk about how these authors were prolific back in their day and now have been forgotten. I love that Valancourt is dedicated to bringing these authors back into the public eye. I'm going to do my best to read more of the authors that appealed most to me, like Priest and Birkin.

 

This collection receives my highest recommendation! Every single story is thought provoking and even the introductions to the tales are well written and informative. Plus, these aren't a bunch of stories that you've already read in countless other collections and anthologies. Valancourt worked hard to bring you enticing pieces that will likely be unfamiliar to most contemporary horror readers. All I can say to that is BRAVO! (And MORE, PLEASE!!)

 

Get your own copy here: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories

 

*A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. This is it!*

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review 2016-07-19 22:05
Spectral Shadows by Robert Westall
Spectral Shadows: Three Supernatural Novellas (Blackham's Wimpey, The Wheatstone Pond, Yaxley's Cat) - Robert Westall

Spectral Shadows is a collection of three novellas written by Robert Westall. This is my third story collection from Westall and I've loved them all.

 

Blackham's Wimpy is the story of a haunted plane. There's lots of English slang, but it's easy to glean the meanings from the surrounding text. Now that I've read this masterfully told story, I wonder why no one else has thought or wrote about a haunted warplane before? Perhaps it's not really as easy as Westall makes it look, but it's one helluva story!

 

The Wheatstone Pond-is a nifty tale, returning to the framing device of a mature antique dealer, a technique Westall used in his collection Antique Dust (Click to see my review). It worked for me then, and it worked for me now. Also, it's just interesting to think about the history of things only recently unearthed, (or in this case unwatered?) Who did they belong to and how did they get there? Sometimes, curiosity kills the cat.

 

Speaking of which, Yaxley's Cat is the last story here, and even though I didn't care much for the main character, this one was my favorite of the bunch. I'm a sucker for evil in a small town stories and this one certainly fits the bill. An abandoned home in a small village becomes the vacation destination of a young married woman, her son and daughter. Even though there's no electricity, her children beg her to stay and stay they do. I can't say much more without spoiling things, but I thought this tale was fun, even if a bit predictable.

 

Robert Westall is an author I would have never discovered without the aid of Valancourt Books. He was a treasure that I somehow missed and I'm glad he was finally brought to my attention. His stories are usually genuinely creepy and family friendly. I like that and find it refreshing.

 

I highly recommend this collection of novellas and if you decide to give it a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

*A free e-copy of this book was provided by Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

 

20 Books of Summer: Book 18

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