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review 2018-06-12 21:38
California Creatures by Clasman & Anthony
California Creatures - David Anthony,Charles David Clasman

Note: Even though this is Book #3 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

This is another great collection of spooky tales for the whole family. I expected great things from this book since Frightening Florida was so wonderful and I was not disappointed. Some tales are based on local myths or legends while others have a more modern bend to them.

A few of the tales stood out for me. I loved the tale that have grandparents who claim to be monster hunters (The Boot). I didn’t know until the very end whether the grandparents were going to be heroes or villains. I also loved the opening tale (Tar Pit Terror) because who doesn’t love a scary story that features a skeleton and this skeleton comes out of a smelly, gooey pit. Toll to the Troll was also awesome. I will never look at Alcatraz the same way again.

This collection of tales has a good balance of humor and scary. For instance, The Man in the Gray Suit had me laughing over the corny surfer slang. Often the various characters, almost all of which are kids, tease each other adding a few chuckles to even the scariest stories.

California Creatures is great for all ages as any sad ending to the heroes is left off scene and merely implied in the ending. I liked that most tales left things open ended so I can imagine my favorite heroes escaping at the last second… or being eaten or such if I felt they needed a dramatic ending.

The collection is full of little surprises. A dragon!?! Some weird fountain of youth? A zoo for movie monsters? The authors’s imaginations are on full display with these tales. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Neil Holmes gave another great performance. I love his range of voices, from little girl to gruff grandma to questionable security guard to impatient troll – he has a different voice for them all. His female voices were feminine and his little kid voices were well done. I loved all his emotion too, especially for the scared surfers. I did notice a few small technical issues with the recording – a few times I think I heard paper rustling and once there was a line that partially overlayed another line. None of these small issues detracted from my enjoyment of the book. 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2018-05-07 18:45
TERROR IS OUR BUSINESS: DANA ROBERT'S CASEBOOK OF HORRORS, by Joe & Kasey Lansdale
Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors - Kasey Lansdale,Joe R. Lansdale

 

Joe Lansdale always delivers and now we know that Kasey Lansdale does too!

 

In the foreword, the "Champion Mojo Storyteller" shares with us a little bit about his character Dana Roberts, and how she came about investigating what she calls the "supernormal." This being what most people call "supernatural," but what Dana believes are just events that science cannot yet explain. I enjoyed her tales a LOT, mostly because I loved the framework of Dana being asked to share her stories with a group of skeptical men, (and sometimes women), in a smoky club. In the last two tales, Dana hires Jana, (Kasey Lansdale's creation), and they investigate a few cases together. While Dana is the skeptical, professional and beautiful lead "investigator," Jana is the irreverent, less polished, but also beautiful, sidekick. Having these last tales be from her POV was brilliant, giving us a different look at Dana's work while also highlighting the fact that Dana is kind of hoity-toity and not as willing to get her hands dirty as this reader first thought.

 

My favorites of the bunch were:

 

THE CASE OF THE LIGHTHOUSE SHAMBLER I'm a sucker for haunted lighthouse stories and this one was a doozy.

 

THE CASE OF THE FOUR ACRE HAUNT was the tale of a haunted house. What made it special for me were the descriptions of the shadows; some of them honestly gave me the heebie-jeebies, and that doesn't happen often. Well done!

 

 

THE CASE OF THE ANGRY TRAVELER featured one of my favorite tropes-the whole city discovered beneath today's city type-thing. Now you know that Dana and friends found something down there, but what was it, exactly? You'll have to read this book to find out!

 

Of the two Jana and Dana stories, THE CASE OF THE RAGMAN'S ANGUISH stood out the most for me. This was more of a novella than a short story, but there were different aspects to it than in the other tales, (I won't say what those aspects were), which made it unique and my favorite story of the bunch.

 

TERROR IS OUR BUSINESS was just plain fun and reminded me of the flat-out horror tales Joe Lansdale wrote back in the day. Joe's famous sense of humor may not be the prominent one in this collection, but Kasey's, (or Jana's) humor is, and it turns out? She's funny too!

 

Highly recommended for fans of short, scary stories that have a healthy side of humor and skepticism!

 

*Thanks to the authors and to the publicist at Cutting Block Books for the chance to read this book free, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-04-29 00:38
4/5; would recommend
Creatures of Will and Temper - Molly Tanzer

Victorian London is a place of fluid social roles, vibrant arts culture, fin-de-siècle wonders . . . and dangerous underground diabolic cults. Fencer Evadne Gray cares for none of the former and knows nothing of the latter when she’s sent to London to chaperone her younger sister, aspiring art critic Dorina.

At loose ends after Dorina becomes enamored with their uncle’s friend, Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotton, a local aristocrat and aesthete, Evadne enrolls in a fencing school. There, she meets George Cantrell, an experienced fencing master like she’s always dreamed of studying under. But soon, George shows her something more than fancy footwork—he reveals to Evadne a secret, hidden world of devilish demons and their obedient servants. George has dedicated himself to eradicating demons and diabolists alike, and now he needs Evadne’s help. But as she learns more, Evadne begins to believe that Lady Henry might actually be a diabolist . . . and even worse, she suspects Dorina might have become one too.

Combining swordplay, the supernatural, and Victorian high society, Creatures of Will and Temper reveals a familiar but strange London, in a riff on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that readers won’t soon forget.

 

Creatures of Will and Temper is an engaging book that takes the reader on a journey fueled by desire and passion. This book invites readers to appreciate beauty in its many forms and asks them just how far they’d be willing to go to experience life like never before. What sacrifices would they make to live a life that transcended the mundane? How far would they go to achieve their deepest wish?

 

Molly Tanzer has a pleasant writing style and is able to transport readers to a version of Victorian London that is overflowing with sensation. Her characters are nuanced, her descriptions vibrant, and her plot - while simple - is enjoyable and compelling.

 

I enjoyed reading Creatures of Will and Temper; one of my favorite parts of reading well developed characters is sussing out the things they’re hiding before we - as readers - are given that information. Even more delightful is when I am able to uncover a piece and still be surprised by the depth of said secret. Tanzer managed to accomplish just that, with carefully placed hints leading to a satisfying reveal.

 

Overall, I would gladly recommend this book to fans of adventure, the supernatural, and romance. The beginning is a bit slow, with the first third of the book dedicated primarily to character development. This becomes a bit of a detriment when one of the point-of-view characters is hard to stomach but as we enter part two and the plot begins to move along I found myself more willing to endure said character. So, while the beginning was slow, the middle was enjoyable, the climax exciting, and the ending satisfying.

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text 2018-04-28 03:06
Part 2 Finished: Continued Impressions
Creatures of Will and Temper - Molly Tanzer

Things certainly picked up in Part Two! It’s in this section that we’re introduced to the plot. The characters we met in part one continue to develop, and there are new characters introduced, but for those less interested in character development, this is probably where the story really starts.

 

Briefly, I’ll update you on how our point-of-view characters have developed for me:

 

Lady Henry: remains my favorite; she is nuanced, with part two giving us more insight into the intricacies of her personality and philosophies. While both Dorina and Evadne are largely struggling against external forces, Lady Henry’s battles are internal as doubt, guilt, grief, and desire vie for supremacy.

 

Dorina: The more we see of Dorina, the more I appreciate her tenacity and hunger for knowledge and new experiences. That being said, in any situation that level of passion, absent restraint, can be dangerous. In a Victorian Gothic novel, it can be disastrous. Dorina encompases the experience of many young adults, trying to discover who they really are and what they want out of life. At times, her surety about her desires is shaken and she questions herself, at other times, she plows ahead and accepts any challenge she comes across. Where Lady Henry personifies the appreciation of an experience, Dorina is  that experience.

 

Evadne: Well, the man has appeared and she has become more bearable for his influence. However, I am never satisfied. I have made predictions concerning Evadne’s point-of-view arc and have put them on record with a friend so I won’t put them here for fear of spoilers but let me simply say that I think something is afoot. Evadne, as a character, is a good foil for Lady Henry and Dorina; all three are intense and passionate but the passions of Evadne are hard and violent (metaphorically as well as literally) compared to the softer, but in many ways equally energetic passions of the other two.

 

If I had to assign a cardinal sin to each of our point of view characters (and I’m going to, because: demons…) I would say Lady Henry is pride, Dorina is lust, and Evadne is wrath. I was tempted to assign Evadne envy, but I think, if it comes down to it, wrath would win the day.

 

Now, the plot! It is still heavily character driven, with each POVs ambitions and desires driving the plot more than any external device or entity. It is not a particularly complicated plot; it’s largely spelled out in the synopsis and though it promises to be an engaging and interesting journey to reach conclusion, I don’t expect to be significantly surprised before we get there.

 

As I mentioned above, I will refrain from posting my predictions on character or plot developments here for fear of being proven right and accidentally spoiling something. However, I am recording them and sending them to a third party, and may make a separate post for them before I finish the book.

 

Overall, I would still recommend this book to anyone with a penchant for the Victorian Gothic genre. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, especially as the pace of the story has increased.

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text 2018-04-20 18:31
Part 1 Finished; impressions so far
Creatures of Will and Temper - Molly Tanzer

Overall, I'm enjoying the book. It's well-written with lovely descriptions and distinct character voices. The plot is centered primarily around character development so far, which suits me fine. The characters themselves are a bit of a mixed bag for me. There are three point-of-view characters, Lady Henry, Dorina Gray, and Evadne Gray - listed in order of my current appreciation for them. As this is, thus far, a novel heavily focused on character development, I'll dedicate most of my first impressions on them.

 

Lady Henry: So far, she's the most compelling character for me. There is this idea that our favorite characters say something about who we are (or who we want to be) and in this case, I can see it. Lady Henry and I share some basic philosophies; an appreciation for aesthetics, an understanding of the fluidity of existence, the near-sacredness of a person's ability - and right - to forge their own path, and a firm grip on the notion that we can only be responsible for our own actions. That being said, there are certainly many sides to Lady Henry that we have not seen, questions yet to be answered, and in all likelihood, something sinister resting beneath the surface. As I said, she's the most compelling character to me, which (if my record has anything to say about it) means that she's either a deity-in-disguise or a particularly cunning villain. 

 

Dorina Gray: She is an amusing character for me; the kind of character that I like having in a story if only because her boundless enthusiasm for discovery drives the narrative in a pleasant, if not reckless, manner. She is the youngest of the POVs and it shows, but she is written in a way that makes me want to give her room to explore and see what trouble she can get herself into. That being said, her tenacity and naivety are a dangerous combination; you don't even need to read the synopsis to figure that out. I appreciate her cunning - even if she seems a bit out of her depth compared to Lady Henry - and the small ways we see her expanding her mind and examining her own behaviors. 

 

Evadne Gray: She has been exasperating to me. When I read the synopsis of this book, and then Evadne's first chapter, I was concerned that her story would involve some man swooping in, curing her of her insecurity and awkwardness by showing her how special and unique she was and then the pair would ride off into the Victorian fog. Now, I'm hoping that man arrives soon because she is driving me up the wall. My instinct is to be sympathetic, Evadne and I are the same age and much of her insecurity about being the odd-one-out resonates with me. Her social awkwardness and discomfort with unusual situations/surroundings is something many people can relate to. However, her coping mechanisms for these negative feelings are starting to get to me. She compounds her discomfort with internal negativity and presses that negativity onto those around her. I think we all have that friend/acquaintance who never seems to have anything good to say about anyone or anything; well Evadne is that friend. To her credit, she recognizes when she's been especially rude. To her discredit, the realization spawns a wave of guilt and internal promises to make amends (promises which she has not yet kept). Despite realizing that she's reacting in ways that often make matters worse, she is - as of yet - unable or unwilling to make changes in her behavior. Despite all that, I do have some hope for her. She has the potential to be a vibrant, compelling character but it really is going to take someone to help draw her out of her negativity and begin to accept and embrace her own strengths. 

 

With part one finished, I'm excited to move on to part two and, as of now, would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys character-driven novels and has a penchant for Victorian-Gothic fiction. 

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