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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 2016-05-12 19:43
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror - Joyce Carol Oates

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror. The problem here lies with the "Tales of Terror" part of that title, because it's a bold statement and I'm afraid these stories never did reach that level.


Don't get me wrong-all of these tales were well written and a few of them were extremely creepy, (such as The Doll-Master and Big Momma), but for me it was always easy to see where the stories were going to end up and they were NEVER scary. (I guess a lot of my problem with this collection is with the title. My expectations were raised; I was ready and excited to be terrorized, and instead I didn't even get any goosebumps. I cannot hide my disappointment.)


Again, this book was well written, hence my 3 star rating, but I can't heartily recommend it to experienced fans of horror and dark fiction. If you're just starting out in the genre and want to dip your toes into the dark water, this would be an okay place to start. Afterwards you can check out the short fiction of King or McCammon, or the old masters like E.A. Poe or Arthur Machen and then you too, will see what I'm talking about. Terror is not a word to be tossed around lightly and I'm sad to say that's what happened here.


*Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley for the free e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2016-03-10 18:10
Magic by William Goldman
Magic - William Goldman


This novel was a lot of fun. There's an evil vent dummy, (just look at that face on the cover!), and a somewhat wishy-washy magician. Put them together and what have you got? A total blast!


This book seems a little tame compared to the horror that abounds today, but back in the 70's when it was written, I'm sure it was a shocker. And perhaps because I was a criminal profile junkie back in the day, the origins of the psychological issues in this story didn't quite ring true for me. But geez, it's a vent dummy story, right? Lighten up. 


In that regard, this tale hits all the right notes. It's entertaining, fast paced and compelling. Goldman is also the author of The Princess Bride and The Marathon Man, so the guy knows how to write a story and this one is no exception.


If you're looking for a tale about a magician and a dummy, and you're not going to think too hard about it because you just want to have a good time, this is the book for you! Grab it and see if you can see the magician's lips move! I dare you.

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text 2016-03-08 22:05
Reading update: I've read 117 out of 248 pages of...
Magic - William Goldman

...Magic by William Goldman. What fun!


I vaguely remember the seeing the movie with Anthony Hopkins when I was a kid. I also have a vague memory of reading the book-but honestly? If I did, I just don't remember it now. 


I have recently discovered that Goldman not only wrote The Princess Bride and Marathon Man, he also penned the screenplay for Stephen King's Misery. So yeah, this guy has some writing chops. 


Anyway-back to Magic. It's fun and it's fast paced so far. Plus, there's an evil vent dummy!

What more could you ask for?

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review 2015-03-03 16:47
Antique Dust by Robert Westall (II)
Antique Dust: Ghost Stories (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Orrin Grey,Robert Westall

 (I had the incorrect edition in my original review. How could I have done that? I wanted to bring to your attention this kick-ass cover which perfectly matches my favorite story from this collection: The Doll. So please forgive my repost of this review.) -Char



This is one fantastic short story collection! Dedicated to M.R. James, these stories do have a James-ian feel to them that I loved.


As in James' collection "Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" , these stories have a connecting thread. Instead of finding lost manuscripts and that type of thing, in this book the connecting thread is one Geoff Ashden, a combat veteran and an antique dealer. He is sometimes featured in the tales and sometimes just relating them.


I found Mr. Westall's writing skills to be wonderfully accessible while still beautiful. I also loved his observations throughout, which all rang true for me. For instance this quote:

"In madness, there are no rules; or you might say the mad make up their rules as they go along and they never bear any resemblance to your rules."

Or this little tidbit which rings true for this cat owner:

Mirabelle is my cat, or rather the cat that drifted in and took me over.


And lastly from the final story as Mr. Ashden ages, this bittersweet line:


"But odd things still happen to people, even though they no longer seem to happen to Geoff Ashden."


This collection of 7 stories was excellent. Without being pretentious, this collection packs in the scares and goosebumps along with literary, but simple, language. The stories are diverse and one is not really even a supernatural story, but that didn't matter to me, because I enjoyed all of the tales SO much. I think my favorite story had to be The Doll. Who doesn't love horror stories that feature dolls?


This edition has a wonderful introduction by Orrin Grey, which relates some background information about Robert Westall. I found the intro to be an interesting enhancement to this this outstanding collection.


My highest recommendation to short story fans, and most especially to fans of M.R. James!


*I received this copy free from Valancourt Books in exchange for an honest review. This is it!*

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