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review 2018-12-11 18:45
THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES 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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text 2018-12-11 00:38
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review 2018-12-10 00:16
24 Festive Tasks: Door 7 - Mawlid, Book
Candy Cane Murder - Leslie Meier,Laura Levine,Joanne Fluke,Suzanne Toren

Well, let's just say that none of these three ladies is anywhere near Donna Andrews's league when it comes to cozy mysteries, plotting, character creation, dialogue, and a writer's craft in general.  And if I thought Joanna Fluke's entry was disappointing (mediocre plotting and dialogue, character responses that felt forced / didn't make sense, and one of my no-go TSTL behavior tropes as the "big reveal" cue (though I have to hand it to Fluke, the setting and overall scene of the final confrontation with the murderer was inspired)), I'm sorry to have to say that Leslie Meier's contribution did even less for me -- you could scratch off the Hallmark sugar coating with a shovel, virtually NONE of the characters' actions and responses bore even the slightest semblance of realism,  and she managed to make 1980s rural Maine come across as more backward than it probably was even in the 1940s and 1950s (while also looking more dripping-with-saccharine-style-homely than any Norman Rockwell picture -- and for the record, I like Norman Rockwell.  Or at least I like his Christmas pictures.)

 

Laura Levine's entry fared a bit better (I'd call it the book's highlight if such a term were appropriate for a muted glow in the midst of two seriously dulled lights); at least she took me right back to L.A. inside my head and the plotting was halfway decent.  But her story seriously suffered from an overabundance of quirky characters, not-very-subtle hints at the MC's padded waistline and her resolutions to do something about it (in which she predictably fails on every single occasion -- and yes, I know this actually is an L.A. thing; been there and would have bought the T-shirt, too, if I'd found it funny then, but the last thing I want is to have this sort of fad jammed up my nose with a sledgehammer in a book) -- and an equal overabundance of wannabe hipster slang and coloquialisms ... everything from repeated exclamations like "ugh!", "oh golly!" and "drat!" to "bet my bottom cupcake" (and yes, even there she goes again with the calorie stuff).  Oh, and the MC's conversations with her cat and said cat's female-Garfield act got old pretty soon as well.

 

Oh well.  If nothing else, this has made me appreciate the consistently high quality of Donna Andrews's writing even more -- I'll happily be returning to her for my cozy contemporary Christmas mysteries (I just hope she'll reliably continue to produce them for the foreseeable future).

 

I may try some of the recipes included in this book eventually, though.

 

Since the audiobook I listened to has a green cover, I'll be using this as my book for the Mawlid square.

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review 2018-12-09 16:43
Dragons and more dragons, but...
Sunshine in the Dragon's Heart - Jaime Samms

I have to say these dragons are not like the rest...

 

I love dragons...we all know Karen loves dragons so when I saw this one...well, my little dragon brain said...Ooooohhhh!!!! What's this...dragons...me wants! Plus Jaime Samms... an author that writes a damn fine story. So, yep, I was all in before I even read the story and oh yeah, before I forget it's set in northern Ontario!!! And ironically that's where I was when I read this one.

 

So let's start with Sunny. He's not a dragon, just a mere mortal like the rest of us and although it's been a year since his parent's died...he's having a hard time dealing with things. It's with his sister's help that he moves to northern Ontario hoping that being with nature and away from all the pitying looks of the people he knows back in the concrete jungle will allow him to begin to heal from the loss of those he loves most.

 

I liked Sunny. He was grieving but his character wasn't whiny or annoying and I guess having lost my own parents I understood his feelings. While most of this story is between Sunny and Emile (he's our dragon...or at least the main one). 

 

Emile was probably the most unique dragon, I've encountered in a while...actually let me clarify...not just Emile but the dragons in this story in general are unusual and not presented in quite the same way as dragons are generally presented to us...not so much so that I was left thinking...'What the hell? These are not dragons...nope if was more of a 'well this is an interesting take on dragons and magic in general...me likey! 

 

While magic is probably the part of fantasy that has the widest range of interpretation I really liked how it was dealt with in this one and most of all the fact that for me it was shown with two different aspects there was the magic that belonged to one side of the fold (other stories call this the veil or the fade...it's basically the barrier between the world of the mundane...humans and the world that contains the creatures of magic) and then there's the magic as it manifest on the other side of the fold. 

 

'Sunshine in the Dragon's Heart' is about what happens when the barrier between the two worlds is crossed and the magic from the world of fantasy meets the magic from the world of man. 

 

I admit that in part how easily I was drawn into this story was because...dragons!!! they're a favorite of mine so of course I wanted to read the story, but I can also say with a certainty that just because there were dragons didn't mean the story being good was guaranteed. Sad to say I've read some not so great dragon stories, but this one isn't one of them. While I was admittedly a bit confused at the beginning I just had face and continued to read and sure enough as I read things fell into place for me and my tiny bit of confusion over a couple of things was easily sorted out and I was left having read a very enjoyable story about a man, a dragon and the magic of love.

 

So maybe, this wasn't quite a 5 star read but still a very enjoyable and different story that I would recommend to anyone looking for a story that's different and has dragons, magic and love...one really large salamander named Glimmerglass, brownies, sprites, dryads and one really awesome sister.

 

*************************

An ARC of 'Sunshine in the Dragon's Heart' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-12-09 15:06
Review: "The Silent City" (The Rifter, #8) by Ginn Hale
The Silent City - Ginn Hale

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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