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review 2017-11-14 18:45
Childgrave by Ken Greenhall
Childgrave - Ken Greenhall

 

CHILDGRAVE is a beautifully written quiet horror story, with a sketchy small town lurking in the background. By the time the secrets of the town are revealed, it's too late for the reader to turn back.

 

As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to quiet horror. I can do without gore and torture and all that if I have a tale that's well written and atmospheric. I also need compelling characters and CHILDGRAVE has that in spades. The main character, Jonathan, is a widowed photographer. He, his daughter Joanne, and his housekeeper Nanny Joy, are so well drawn I feel as if I know them personally.

 

When Jonathan's photos of his daughter seem to show specters in the background, while at the same time Joanne seems to have developed some new invisible friends, Jonathan is intrigued. Are the two events connected? Who is Conlee, the name of Joanne's new invisible friend? Lastly, what is Chilegray and how is connected to Conlee? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I'll get it out of the way now-this is a slow moving story. What kept me interested was the quality of the writing and the characters. Jonathan is a quirky man. He has few friends and little interest in fashion or modern day trends. His housekeeper Nanny Joy loves jazz and Jonathan's daughter, but is concerned about the appearance of Conlee and the specters in the photographs. Jonathan's agent Harry is hilarious and his girlfriend, Lee, is interesting as well. NYC of the 70's is the main setting, and it was fascinating to read about the city during that time of social upheaval and change.

 

I was inexorably drawn to the conclusion which leads the reader to a small town hidden in a valley. "Evil in a small town" is one of my favorite tropes and Greenhall knew how to deliver it in a chilling and shocking- yet believable way. You find yourself wondering what you would do in such a situation and I continued to think about it all night long...hours after finishing the book. I can't say that I blame Jonathan for the choices that he made.

 

While CHILDGRAVE isn't the psychological, fast moving story that both ELIZABETH or HELL HOUND were, it was excellent in its own quiet and compelling way. Slowly drawing the reader down into the valley where secrets are kept for generation after generation, Greenhall deftly brings things to a head and left this reader wishing for more.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: CHILDGRAVE

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for providing this e-book free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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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 2017-09-25 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 2017-04-10 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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