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review 2017-03-06 15:36
The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
The Secret of Ventriloquism - Jon Padgett

 

The genre of fiction that I identify as weird tales has always appealed to me, though it's hard to describe. There are also...flavors of weird tales, they're not always the same, even though they may belong to the same genre. For instance, Thomas Ligotti may be described as an author of weird fiction. While I love his style, I often find his work too nihilistic for me. Laird Barron could be described as an author of weird fiction as well, though his style generally leans toward cosmic horror. Lastly, Robert Aickman is admired as an author of weird fiction, but I often find his stories to be rather...unsatisfying. Jon Padgett, however, satisfied ALL of my wants and needs as a reader of dark and weird fiction. These stories have a clear beginning and end, (though some continue on, in other stories), and are as utterly satisfying as short fiction can be. In fact, I'd call them brilliant. That's right. BRILLIANT!

 

Starting with the appealing cover, (what horror fan could resist it?), and ending with Little Evie singing, in the story "Escape to the Mountain," (which makes me shudder just thinking about it.) These amazing stories are beyond impressive, each and every one of them.

 

After "Origami Dreams" I will never look at folded paper in the same way again. I will never see the word "appendage" again and not think of Solomon Kroth and his endless research in the University Library. I will not pass the abandoned paper mills in nearby towns without thinking of those ugly "paper mill days" and the filth they spewed upon the town of Dunnstown. I will never again pass a swamp without thinking of the room in "Indoor Swamp":

 

"Perhaps there is a room that contains a worn vintage tea party set with frilly dressed dolls, but one of those doll's heads gradually rotates completely around, going from an expression of knowing, smiling perversion to an open-mouthed, silent O of horror and back again."

 

I cannot possibly give this book a higher recommendation. As you read it, you may feel dizzy at times, or maybe even a little sick.

 

"You may begin to imagine you hear something that sounds like static or even the roar of an airliner. you may feel lightheaded like you are going to pass out. Ignore these feelings. They are normal."

 

They are a trifle. YOU are a trifle.

 

If you want to fully understand the meanings of these things, you MUST read this book. For me it started with the cover. It was the cover that made me BUY this book, rather than accept the free copy submitted for review to Horror After Dark. That's right, I bought it. You should too. Seriously. Right. Now.

 

Go here: The Secret of Ventriloquism

(You can add the audio for only $1.99 more!)

 

Usually this is where I say I was provided a free copy in exchange for honest feedback. However, (see above), I bought this book, and this is my honest opinion.

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review 2017-02-09 19:28
Fatale Deluxe Edition, Volume 2 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Fatale Deluxe Edition Volume 2 (Fatale DLX Ed Hc) - Elizabeth Breitweiser,Ed Brubaker,Sean Phillips

Fatale: Deluxe Edition, Volume 2 is a stunningly beautiful piece of cosmic horror meets noir.

 

This one has two essays at the end, like the first one did, both by Jess Nevins. This time around the subjects are H.P. Lovecraft, (again), and Aleister Crowley. I found both to be interesting and informative.

 

 

In this volume we learn more about where Josephine has been and where she's going and of course there are a few sexy times in between, most especially when she does a video for the rock band Amsterdam. As always happens with Jo, the good times start rolling into dark times at the flick of a switch, and they keep on rolling right down to the depths of hell.

 

 


I can't recommend these enough-especially if you enjoy classic tropes turned on their heads and lots of tentacles in your artwork.

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review 2016-11-10 16:47
The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee
The Secret Life of Souls: A Novel - Lucky McKee,Jack Ketchum

 

What an incredible read! I've loved the work of Jack Ketchum ever since I read his book The Girl Next Door. In The Secret Life of Souls Jack teams up once again with Lucky McKee and together, they knock this one right out of the park.

 

The Cross family is as dysfunctional as they come. Pat and Bart, (mom and dad), are busy trying to make their daughter Delia a star and her brother Robbie is mostly ignored. The family dog Caity more or less belongs to Delia alone, and it doesn't take long for the reader to discover that Delia and Caity have a special connection. Caity lives to serve the Cross family, but other than Delia and Robbie, they don't deserve this loyal dog. I'm going to leave off the plot here because this story should be absorbed as the authors intended, not interpreted by a lowly blogger like me.

 

This book is fast paced and well written. These authors know how to pull on your heart strings and they are not afraid to do so. The characters of the Cross family are so well developed but the more you get to know them-well, you'll see. The dog, though? The dog is the star of this show, and with portions of the story from Caity's point of view, it is no mystery how she's feeling. Many times I found myself wishing I could reach out and pet Caity and call her a good girl. (Who's a good girl, Caity? You are!)

 

I'm not sure this is a horror story, though parts of it are certainly horrific. What it is for sure though, is a fantastic novel that takes the reader through the full spectrum of emotions: from full blown happiness to acute sadness and all the stops in between. This may even be my favorite book of the year so far. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more sure I am that it will be.

 

Highly recommended for everyone, but most especially to dog lovers. I think you'll adore The Secret Life of Souls.

 

You can buy your copy here: The Secret Life of Souls: A Novel

 

*Thanks to Net Galley and Pegasus Books for the free e-arc of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

Find this review and others like it at HorrorAfterDark.com.

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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 2016-10-28 12:45
Last Train From Perdition by Robert McCammon
Last Train from Perdition (I Travel By Night) - Robert R. McCammon

 

Trevor Lawson. His business card reads: 

 

All Matters Handled

I Travel by Night

 

A civil war veteran, wounded during the battle of Shiloh, he is made into a vampire against his will. Trevor tries to make the best of things and becomes something of a private investigator, operating out of the Hotel Sanctuaire in 1886 New Orleans.

 

In the first story of this trilogy, I Travel By Night, (click to see my review), we learn that Trevor wants out of the vampire way of life. As such, he refuses to drink the blood of humans unless it's absolutely necessary. He constantly battles the urges within his own body-the urges that makes his jaw want to unhinge and his fangs to come out. He searches for the Dark Society and his maker, LaRouge, for he's been told that if he drinks the ichor of the one that made him, he can return to a life of humanity. Trevor is a  strong, noble man and he's VERY good with guns. 

 

In Last Train From Perdition, Trevor is summoned to Omaha for a possible job. His trusty assistant and fellow gunslinger, Ann, travels with him. "Hers were the eyes that could bear the steely heat of the sun. They were as black as charcoal and fixed with an intense purpose that could frighten even a vampire." Together Trevor and Ann make a formidable team. 

 

In Omaha, they are tasked with finding the son of a prominent member of society-a young man who went to Montana to search for gold, threw in his lot with a bunch of low-life thieves and killers and now cannot escape. So begins Trevor's latest adventure. Together with Ann, he travels to the Montana Territory, turning this narrative into a true horror western with all the greatness that entails.

 

Some of the scenes in Montana, most especially once Trevor and Ann are on the return train to Helena, are among the most intense I've EVER read. This is where Robert McCammon's writing really shines. With a cast of characters that all stand out in my mind, (most especially a young boy that will haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life), Mr. McCammon draws the reader into that train car, and then unleashes all of hell upon them. Ann and Trevor find their man, but will they be able to return him to his father safely? You'll have to read this book to find out!

 

Last Train From Perdition earns my highest recommendation! A vampire gunslinger, fighting to retain and fully return to his humanity is an entirely new concept, and a fascinating one; Robert McCammon tackles it head on and WINS all the stars!

 

Available on Halloween, here: Last Train from Perdition

 

 

*Huge thanks to Net Galley and Subterranean Press for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is it!* 

 

 

 

 

 

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