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review 2017-10-31 19:32
Halloween Carnival Volume 5, edited by Brian James Freeman
Halloween Carnival Volume 5 - Lisa Tuttle,Kevin Quigley,Norman Prentiss,Richard Chizmar,Brian James Freeman

In this, the last entry of the Halloween Carnival series, Hydra hands us a great group of stories that couldn't possibly be more different from each other. This is a good thing!

 

Richard Chizmar's DEVIL'S NIGHT, impressed the heck out of me. The only thing of his I've read is his collaboration with Stephen King. Now I'm going to have to read more of his work. 4*

 

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle was a neat little story with no explanation. The characters were very well drawn for such a short tale and I found myself thinking more about them after I finished the story. This one grew on me, but after the fact-if that makes any sense. ?Look, all I know is I'm not entering any houses with tower rooms, okay? 3.5*

 

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss was a twisty little tale, with half told secrets taking place between a learned man and his eager to learn interviewer. Little does he know that he isn't as smart as he thinks. 4.5*

 

SWING by Kevin Quigley. This was a sad and poignant tale and I enjoyed it. I just didn't see what it had to do with Halloween? 3*

 

PORKPIE HAT by Peter Straub. Let me preface this by saying Straub's Ghost Story was my favorite novel for a few years-I just loved it so much. Shadowland and Floating Dragon followed and I liked those too, and don't even get me started on how much I loved The Talisman. But since then, not much of his work has appealed to me. Until now. I ADORED this story. It has jazz, musicians, a student/reporter/nobody, and a subtle back story packed with racism, double standards, adulterers fear and loathing. I loved how PORKPIE HAT unfolded like some kind of origami animal and I just had to have some peace and quiet to read it in its entirety. For me, this was the star of this collection. 5*

 

I didn't have time to read all of the Halloween Carnival entries, but of the ones I did read, this is my favorite. I like all kinds of dark fiction stories and I loved the variety here. I didn't think even one of them was a clunker, but of course your mileage may vary.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to Hydra and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2017-10-20 22:30
The Travelling Grave by L.P. Hartley
The Travelling Grave and Other Stories - L.P. Hartley

 

I very much enjoyed this collection of Gothic and creepy stories originally released in the 1940's. I generally prefer short tales that pack a punch, and these are definitely not that. However, they often have a good deal of humor and that sense of atmosphere in which I love to wallow.

 

The standouts to me were:

 

A VISITOR FROM DOWN UNDER was, for me, a beautifully told ghost story/tale of revenge.

 

PODOLO A nice little day trip to the island of Podolo takes a nasty turn. This one reminded me that feral cats may not be worth the effort.

 

THE TRAVELLING GRAVE was quite the funny story involving a misunderstanding involving perambulators. (Is that word even used anymore? It's a shame if it's not because it's a word that rolls nicely off the tongue.) Anyway, the humor of the situation quickly changed to horror at the gruesome ending. Always be careful playing hide & seek!

 

CONRAD AND THE DRAGON I wasn't sure what to make of this fairy tale like...tale. It didn't have the usual fairy tale ending, but I found it to be totally charming.

 

THREE OR FOUR, FOR DINNER was another tale involving some humor and a practical joke gone wrong.

 

This was my first experience with L.P. Hartley and I'm so glad I gave this collection a try! Recommended!

 

*Thank you to Valancourt Books for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-10-06 18:30
Halloween Carnival Volume 4, edited by Brian James Freeman
Halloween Carnival Volume 4 - Kealan Patrick Burke,C.A. Suleiman,Ray Garton,Brian James Freeman,Bev Vincent

 

It's that time of year again and my pile of books to read is towering! I had to choose which of the Halloween Carnival books I was going to request because I knew I wouldn't have time to read all 5. The reason I chose Volume 4 was because of 2 authors-Kealan Patrick Burke and Ray Garton. They didn't disappoint! These and another story stood way out for me, and here's a bit on each of them:

 

The Mannequin Challenge by Kealan Patrick Burke is the first story and it's killer. Maybe it's because I love the kind of tales that are just plain weird and offer NO explanation-they just ARE. A quiet and reclusive man decides to attend the Halloween party at work, just this one time. What will he find? You'll have to read it to find out! This one made me laugh out loud with delight.

 

Across the Tracks by Ray Garton was a blast. For whatever reason, to me this tale had a distinct Ray Bradbury feel to it, but I think the ending might've even blown Bradbury himself away. What fun!

 

The Halloween Tree I've seen Bev Vincent's name around and I am friends with him on various social media, but I believe this is the first time I've read one of his stories. I enjoyed it! Any kid with an imagination can make something scary from an inanimate object. In this tale, it's a tree. But what made this story different was how the kids dealt with the problem. I found this to be the most surprising story in the bunch and it made me smile.

 

I did enjoy the other two stories in this anthology, but these three stood tall and they alone are worth the price of this book. The other two are just the gravy on top!

 

Recommended!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: Halloween Carnival Volume 4

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and to Hydra for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-09-25 18:45
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two- edited by James Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two - Nevil Shute,Mary Elizabeth Braddon,Michael P. Kube-McDowell

 

Once again, the gentlemen over at Valancourt Books knocked their anthology out of the park-maybe even out of the state! Last year's Volume 1, (click to read my review), was outstanding and Volume 2 is as well. My favorites of this volume are as follows:

 

Stephen Gregory's never before published: "The Boys Who Wouldn't Wake Up" was poignant and, in a way, beautiful. It was also very much unlike any other Gregory story I've read. I'm a huge fan of this author and this tale did NOT disappoint. 

 

"The Nice Boys" by Isabel Colegate was a spectacularly eerie story, set in a relentlessly foggy Venice, Italy. A young woman heads there to vacation away a recent bad break up and meets two young men. As the tension grows the reader is drawn in, but the vivid and disturbing scene towards the end ensures this story will not soon be forgotten. 

 

"Herself" by M.E. Braddon involved two of my favorite tropes-haunted houses and haunted mirrors. I'm not sure which it was, exactly,  but I'm going with  a combination of the two. I love these types of stories-where people are called in to help but are rendered helpless by circumstance and can only witness as bystanders the evil that occurs.

 

"Halley's Passing" by Michael McDowell. It's no secret that I adore Michael McDowell. (You do too, if you love Beetlejuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas.) This tale, however, is shocking and extra bloody which is unusual for him, but at the same time: so much FUN.

 

"The Elemental" by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. Another FUN tale featuring a psychic that no one takes seriously. At first. 

 

"Samhain" by Bernard Taylor. Taylor is an author that I was unfamiliar with until Valancourt Books republished some of his work. I am now an unabashed fan and stories like this are exactly why. Everything is going along, you think you have a handle on things, and then BAM! He punches you right in the face. It's often a bloody punch too, and this is no exception. I laughed out loud at the ending because I was surprised, it was bloody and I loved it!

 

"The Bell" by Beverly Nichols. A beautifully told tale about a man who was completely dependent upon his valet/butler and what happens when that butler dies. Who will then come to the insistent ringing of the bell? 

 

Just like with Volume 1, I could list each and every story as a standout, because they were ALL just that good. Also like with Volume 1, is the fact that most of these stories have not been published over and over again. I'm not sure if it happens with all genres, but the same horror stories often appear ad nauseam in anthologies and it's irritating. With the cost of books these days, it's disappointing to buy an anthology only to discover you've read half the stories already in other anthologies. Rest easy, because that is not the case here. 

 

Each story in this volume is prefaced by a bit of background on the story and on the author, many of whom were not known for writing in the horror genre. I think that fact brings a certain freshness to this collection that is often lacking in others. The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two is simply EXCEPTIONAL and belongs in the collection of any serious fan of the genre. 

 

My highest recommendation!

 

You can pre-order your copy  here: The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories: Volume Two

 

*This book was provided by Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

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review 2017-09-15 15:30
Dark Screams Volume Eight
Dark Screams: Volume Eight - Bentley Little,Kealan Patrick Burke,Richard Chizmar,Frank Darabont,Brian James Freeman

 

Another entry in the, (overall), excellent DARK SCREAMS series is here, this time with a few surprising authors. I've listed what I thought were the standout tales below.

 

My favorite story in this volume has to be WALPUSKI’S TYPEWRITER from Frank Darabont. Known for his work directing movies like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, I had no idea the man wrote stories. This one was dedicated to Stephen King and it even has that SK vibe to it-reminding me a lot of King's early story THE MANGLER . In this case, the machine gone-wild is a typewriter and Darabont doesn't hold back. I LOVED this tale!

 

Coming in a close second for me though, was Kealan Patrick Burke's THE PALAVER. Those of you who have read Kealan's work in the past may already be familiar with the town of Milestone and be as happy as I was to return. There is something about human hair that creeps me out and Kealan takes that creep factor and amps it up to eleven. Just thinking about it makes me shiver, (and a little bit ill)!

 

I enjoyed THE TUMOR by Benjamin Percy as well. I believe this is the first story I've read from this author and I'm going to have to track down some more.

 

DARK SCREAMS 8 delivers the goods once again. Not all the stories resonated with me, but that's not unusual. The ones that did resonated deeply and that's what keeps me coming back to this series again and again.

 

Recommended!

 

Available on Halloween! Pre-order yours here: Dark Screams Volume Eight

 

 *An e-ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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