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review 2020-01-06 18:45
BLACK AMBROSIA by Elizabeth Engstrom
Black Ambrosia (Paperbacks from Hell) - Grady Hendrix,Elizabeth Engstrom

 

BLACK AMBROSIA is exactly what I hoped it would be, plus some! Here's the synopsis:

 

"Angelina is a killer. You'd never know it to look at her--until you look into her eyes. Angelina doesn't kill out of hatred or fear--she kills out of love, bringing solace to her victims, guided by the seductive Voice that speaks only to her. Angelina offers you eternal peace--at the cost of your soul!"

 

Quiet horror is more to my liking these days, and this book fits the bill. Don't get me wrong, violent and gory scenes appear throughout this book, but most of the picture comes from the reader's imagination rather than with blow-by-blow descriptions.

 

This review has to be rather general to avoid spoilers, but here I am going to wander into spoiler territory for just a moment. I'm a huge fan of a book called SOME OF YOUR BLOOD by Theodore Sturgeon. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of that one.

 

Specifically how the reader is left wondering if this is, indeed, a case of a vampire or is it a case of mental illness, instead?

(spoiler show)

This book is horrific, no matter how you would answer that question.

 

Perhaps a little slow to get going, but once Angelina leaves home things start to pick up. The whole time leaving you wondering, is she or isn't she? I prefer to think she is, but you'll have to read this to find out!

 

Highly recommended!

 

Get your copy here: BLACK AMBROSIA

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for the e-copy of BLACK AMBROSIA in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2019-12-11 19:15
ON DARK WINGS by Stephen Gregory
On Dark Wings: Stories - Stephen Gregory

Stephen Gregory knocked me off my feet with his novel,THE CORMORANT.  Since that time I've tried to read everything he's written. Valancourt Books has been the sole reason I discovered this author. For that, and many other reasons, I am grateful to them.

 

These stories have one thing in common and that is winged creatures. Be they cormorants, (the seed for that novel is a short story in this volume), moths, sparrows or crows, they're all here. Not all of these stories are horror or dark fiction either. Some of these tales are light hearted, some just quick literary vignettes and others, like THE BOY WHO WOULDN'T WAKE UP are beautifully written and almost brutally poignant, (it was my favorite story in this collection)

 

THE PROGRESS OF JOHN ARTHUR CRABBE, THE DREAMING PIG, THE DROWNING OF COLIN HENDERSON, and THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG were my other favorites, but to be honest, all of the stories were good.

 

ON DARK WINGS is an elegant, exquisitely written collection of tales. There is something about Gregory's descriptive talents that pulls me in, each and every time I read his work. A wide range of tales, not all horror, and some not dark at all, but all involving the wings of...something. Here it's Gregory's writing that soars.  At this point, I would read his grocery list.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

Get your copy here: ON DARK WINGS

 

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

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review 2019-06-25 18:45
THE REAPING by (the AWESOME) Bernard Taylor
The Reaping (Paperbacks from Hell) - Herb Errickson,Bernard Taylor

Bernard Taylor-I LOVE the guy! SWEETHEART, SWEETHEART is still my favorite from him, (and one of my favorite quiet horror tales of all time), but THE REAPING is another fine example of horror at its best!

 

An artist and father is invited out to a country manor to paint a portrait. Thomas is offered quite a bit of money to leave his family and business to come do this and his every need will be met while he is there. Upon his arrival, though, his surroundings, the family and the servants all begin to unnerve him. Young Catherine, his model for the portrait seems a bit...off as well. Will he finish the portrait and collect his generous fee? Will he happily return home afterward and resume life as he previously knew it? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

Books like these are the reason I got into the horror genre in the first place. Somehow I missed Bernard Taylors' works back in the day, but thanks to Valancourt Books and the phenomenon of a book written by Grady Hendrix and Will Erickson, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, many of these older books are coming back into print. Just in time to delight a whole new generation of horror readers!

 

Bernard Taylor's work is surprisingly well written. He takes his time setting up the story and he writes so deftly that you cannot see where the story is taking you. What you DO see, (and feel) is an atmosphere that nearly suffocates. The tension thrums as the mystery finally unravels and there is no way to put this book down after a certain point. No. Freaking. Way. !!

 

Once again, a Bernard Taylor story gets my highest recommendation! Don't let this one get away!

 

Get your copy here: THE REAPING or at http://www.valancourtbooks.com/

 

*I was provided an e-ARC of this excellent book by Valancourt, in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2018-12-11 18:45
THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES VOL. 3 ed. by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume Three - Charles Beaumont,J.B. Priestley,James Purdy

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES: VOLUME THREE is the latest entry in Valancourt Books' excellent anthology series. I certainly hope they continue this outstanding tradition next year!

 

What I like best about all of these anthologies is the fact that I haven't read any of the stories before. Introducing me to new authors, some I enjoy, some not so much, Valancourt has expanded my reading horizons and for that, I will always be grateful.

 

I can't get into all of the stories but I will mention those that had the biggest effect on me:

 

THE PARTS MAN by Steve Rasnic Tem. This man is a legend and he's a national treasure as far I'm concerned. This short story had wonder and grief all mixed together and I thought it was somehow both beautiful and sad. BRAVO! (This story is original to this collection.)

 

DON'T GO UP THEM STAIRS by R. Chetwynd Hayes. I loved the tone of this tale so much I bought one of his other books from Valancourt as soon as I was done.

 

THE FACE IN THE MIRROR by Helen Mathers. A terrific little ghost story wherein the lady saves the day!

 

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY by Charles Beaumont. A sad tale of an acne-ridden boy at a school dance. The introduction to this one states that it's partly autobiographical.

 

BLOOD OF THE KAPU TIKI by Eric C. Higgs. A creepy little story with an ending that made me chuckle.

 

THE BOTTLE OF 1912 by Simon Raven. A man returns home after WWII after serving as a spy. He returns with the hope of seeing his family again and celebrating with a special bottle of wine.

 

BEELZEBUB by Robert Westall. Next to THE PARTS MAN , this was my favorite story in the collection. Robert Westall was super talented and I wish he had written more tales in the dark fiction vein because I've loved every one of them I've read.

 

Once again, Valancourt Books knocks it out of the park! Consistently full of rare stories that offer up a diverse range of horrors-this anthology has something for everyone. This, the third in a series of anthologies containing authors that Valancourt has already published, is as much of a MUST-READ as the first two.

 

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES: VOLUME 3 receives my highest recommendation!

 

You can order it and other fine books directly from Valancourt here, with FREE shipping from now until the end of 2018: VALANCOURT BOOKS 

 

 *I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* 13 likes

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review 2018-10-11 18:45
THE FUNGUS by Harry Adam Knight
The Fungus - Leroy Kettle,John Brosnan,Harry Adam Knight

Mushrooms: I'll probably never eat one again! THE FUNGUS is a fast paced, funny and disgusting 80's horror story that contains everything you'd ever want from a fungi-based creature feature. 

 

I recently read another book by this author, (two authors, really, using the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight. Get it? HAK?), called SLIMER. I liked that one slightly more than this because there was no real science, just a fun, slimy, creature. In this narrative, we do have an attempt to be science-y, but not overly so, which I appreciated.

 

We follow several characters from the beginning, including the scientist who accidentally created this rapidly mutating fungi. Before we know what hit us, all of London is infected and not just people either. There are several types of fungi attacking concrete and other building materials eventually resulting in the literal crumbling of the city. Will any of the plucky characters survive? What about the doctor who created this mess? Will London itself make it through? You'll have to read THE FUNGUS to find out!

 

These two authors, John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle were actually very talented, (I say were, but one is still alive-Leroy Kettle,) and they knew how to write a creature feature without getting too bogged down in the fake science. Just enough to make it plausible to non-biologists is fine. Of course, using the old trope of science making a mistake and thereby destroying humanity is always rich with possibilities, maybe even more so these days than back in the 80's when this was written.

 

Being that this book was written back then, there are some sexist views, (a few racist ones too), and a few other things that don't fit in with today's culture and attitudes. There are also a few extraneous sex scenes thrown in there, because hey-in the 80's that's how the horror genre rolled. None of which bothered me much because this tale is just. that. much. fun.

 

Valancourt Books is dedicated to bringing back these out of print books, some of which have become nearly impossible to find. (If you are lucky enough to find one, you'd better be prepared to pay through the nose.) Over the years I've watched as they've become more and more popular and with their forthcoming PAPERBACKS FROM HELL series, I think they'll have reached the pinnacle as far as retro horror publishers are concerned. (They publish other lines as well, if you're interested, check out their website.)

 

THE FUNGUS isn't trying to masquerade as scientific or serious, it's just trying to provide imaginative, fast paced, creature feature fun. It has succeeded!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Valancourt Books provided me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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