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review 2018-12-11 18:45
THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES VOL. 3 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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review 2018-11-26 20:28
Some Stories Are So-So, but Ultimately 4 Star Short Story Review
Christmas Magic - Cathy Kelly

I am switching this one out for International Day of Tolerance. Sorry, there's not a lot of books I don't read so couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. 

 

So as I always say, writing short stories is an art. I thought this ultimately this collection was very good, though there were some weak stories here and there. I ultimately think that sometimes there wasn't even development of characters, or the endings were a bit weak. 

 

Christmas Magic (4 stars)-I loved the idea behind this one. An elderly woman (Genevieve) receives a book about magic and then goes a head to decide to use it in order to start taking some risks. There is a side plot with her next door neighbor dealing with the realization that his wife is not who he thought she was. It didn't really work I thought and think the story lost something when it shifted away from Genevieve. 


Anniversary Waltz (3 stars)-Nope. Nope. Reading about a woman (Felicity) having to deal with her selfish 22 year old daughter who is angry that her mother is trying to move on with her life after separating from her cheating louse of a husband. Most of this story is Felicity trying to think of ways for her daughter and mother to stop piling on her about her terrible ex. The anniversary waltz comes into the play at the end. This story ultimately felt a little rushed with romance and the ending was just eh after all that build-up. 

 

Madame Lucia (4 stars)-Women at a traveling agency end up seeing the psychic upstairs. It's left unsaid why the woman (the psychic) appeared and what she was after though which kind of left a hole in the story. 

 

Love in the Aisles (3 stars)-A young woman, Sarah is pretty much fed up with ever meeting someone. Due to her being tall she feels like most men prefer her more tiny and perfect sister. This story didn't hit the mark with me at all. Sarah eventually comes to find out what fool she's being acting like she's not attractive, so there's that. 

 

May You Live in Interesting Times (5 stars)-I liked this one. Thirty-nine year old Ruby Anderson knows she should be content. But after her neighbors drop bombs about moving to Australia and having affairs, she starts to wonder if she shake up her life. Ahem, why would you listen to anyone telling you having affairs is a good thing in a marriage? Still pretty funny though. 

 

A Villa by the Sea (5 stars)-Marcella ends up being the shining star in her family and is there to encourage on her sisters. It kind of made me laugh that her parents were totally oblivious to how she kept her younger sisters up and motivated. I did like how Marcella had a great career and realized that she was going to need to step back and think about herself after making sure her sisters were steered to more greener pastures. 

 

The Gap Year (3.5 stars)-Frankie feels lost after her only son leaves the nest. Though she usually doesn't get along with her mother, she's there to help her through it. 


Cassandra (5 stars)-I could have seen this one being a novel. The title character is Cassandra, best friend to Molly. Molly is constantly there to get Cassandra out of jams, do her homework, and "let's" her steal her boyfriends. One wonders what is Molly thinking. Things come to a head after they both start working a magazine together. I still found the ending a bit too unsatisfying, cause Cassandra needed a kick in the ass for the stuff she got up to. 

 

Letter from Chicago (5 stars)-A family has very little time to prepare for relatives coming from America. After finding out that her mother has told lies to her aunt about the state of her home, job, and children, Kim has to pull it together with her family and sister in tow to make the house presentable. 

 

Bride and Doom (4 stars)-Lily rightfully has a thing about weddings after getting left at the altar. There a comedy of errors, she ends up meeting a guy who may change her mind about them. 

 

You've Got Mail (4 stars)-Through email we found out that a woman (Millie) is dating a terrible person. At least things end up in a happily ever after. 

 

Christmas Post (4 stars)-A woman (Alice) and her family who had to deal with the death of her husband through the years. Alice and her family sound great. Her sister in law is a pain, though we get to see a more human side to her in the end. There is a weird plot with the next door neighbor's child that made zero sense. 


The Trouble with Mother (3 stars)-Not really trouble with the mother. Trouble with two stuck up daughters angry that their mother can ruin all of their plans by being boisterous and showing that they are from humble beginnings. I liked the other two siblings. The ending was weird though. It needed another paragraph to just say how things ended up. 

 

The Paradise Road Book Club (3.5 stars)-Okay I guess. Some of the local women who formed a book club are up in arms when they think that one of its members is dealing with her husband leaving her. That's not what is going on though. 

 

The Angel Gabrielle (5 stars)-Two women become fed up by their family (Claire) and married lover (Shelley). They end up meeting each other and another woman Gabrielle (really named Peggy) who encourages them to come to her annual holiday party.  

 

Lizzie's Fling (5 stars)-A woman gets her groove back when she starts a harmless flirtation with a coworker in another office location. 


Thelma, Louise, and the Lurve Gods (3 stars)-My least favorite of the short story collection. It went on forever and I didn't like the main character, Suzanne. She and her girlfriend seemed to not really care about the love interests in this book besides how hot they were. I didn't get any chemistry from what I was reading between Suzanne and Liam. 

 

The Office Christmas Party (5 stars)-Cracked up at a story taking a look at an office Christmas party. Though I liked this one, I was more interested in the side stories we heard about (a woman throwing up in someone's purse). When the office is able to have a bigger to do than what last year's was, Larissa, is a bit hesitant. However, she meets someone and then does her best to dress up in disguise so he doesn't recognize her later. There's a whole thing about why she does this, and it made no sense to me really, but was funny to read about. 

 

A Family Christmas (5 stars)-I thought this was a realistic look of a woman dealing with depression and finally finding her way out of the other side. Things may take a possible turn though, when she finds out that she and her husband have to host his family for Christmas. I thought it was great though how she find out some things she didn't realize about her sister-in law though. Which goes to show you never know what another person is dealing with. 

 

 

 

Book: Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.

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review 2018-11-26 17:32
Stories Revolving Around Christmas Don't Always Lead to Happy Endings
This Year It Will Be Different, and other stories - Maeve Binchy

Going to have this count towards Melbourne Cup Day! Some of the stories take place in Australia! Lucky me! I will make sure that I identify them below. 

 

You all know that I love Maeve Binchy. She wrote some fantastic short story collections that I always recommend to people. I hit a nasty reading slump and started reading some of her collections/books that I have been meaning to get around to some day. 

 

The First Step of Christmas (5 stars)-revolves around a stepmother who is trying to deal with throwing her and her husband's annual Christmas party. We find out that Jenny (the stepmother) has not been able to get through to her husband's daughter (Alison). The story sets it up as if Alison has been a pain throughout her courtship and marriage. I honestly just felt badly for her especially when you find out that her mother died. I did like how this story ends though with Binchy showing that Alison is a lonely girl who misses her mother. 

 

The Ten Snaps of Christmas (5 stars)-Yikes. This one made me think of The Family Stone movie. Pretty much everyone is awful and you want it to be over. The mother (Maura) in this one pushes for her daughter (Orla) to get a voucher for clothes. The dad ix-nays that whole thing and they buy her a Polaroid camera. Why you would by a teen this is beyond me. Eventually Orla takes 10 pictures that shows what her family is really like when not pretending to be perfect for the holidays. 

 

Miss Martin's Wish (5 stars)-This one takes place mainly in New York though the story begins with Miss Martin as a teacher in Ireland. We eventually find out that she has left practically at the altar and the plan was for her and her ex-fiancee to go to New York together on their honeymoon. She eventually travels there and meets someone (not in a romantic sense!) and I liked how this story ended.  

 

The Hard Core (4 stars)-This one takes place in Melbourne, Australia. The main part of this story is that the owner of an old age home (Kate) is taken away during the holidays after her mother suffers an accident. The Hard Core refers to a group of elderly residents who cause no end of suffering by the staff cause they are pretty much jerks. Kate has to ask a staff member about staying behind to watch The Hard Core. I don't know if I found this one very realistic, but I still enjoyed it all the same. 

 

Christmas Timing (5 stars)-I maybe laughed through this whole story. We have two people, Chris and Noel (guess which is the woman and which is the man) who are engaging in an affair. They think that the other one is the love of their lives, but Noel is not ready to leave his wife and children, because the children are too small. Sure Jan. These two fools love to take magazine quizzes that affirm their love for each other. This Christmas is different though when they both take a quiz that forces you to fill out answers. I maybe laughed hysterically about what the answers revealed. 

 

The Civilized Christmas (3 stars)-I really didn't like this one. The stepmother in this one (Jen) is just a martyr through and through and I got tired of it. She has a stepson (Stevie) who she is constantly taking back and forth to her husband's first wife's home. Jen is jealous of Tina and thinks that Martin and Stevie are comparing their lives at the home they share with Tina. I mostly felt pity for Stevie cause I can see in future stories Jen being angry if Martin shows more affection and love for Stevie than for her. 

 

Pulling Together (5 stars)-It doesn't take place in Australia, but the main character Penny writes a weekly air mail to her friend Maggie in Australia. Kangaroos are mentioned. This is another short story about adultery though. Penny never goes away to see her family or friends since she wants to be on "call" in case her married lover can come and see her. When she pushes back about being there for the holidays he makes her feel guilty about leaving him to his family. Yeah. He sounds like a jerk. Penny eventually ends up finding out surprising things about a student of her's (called Lassie) and a fellow teacher (Ms. Hall). I liked how the three of them end up needing each other for the holidays. 


A Hundred Milligrams (5 stars)-This short story shows the aftermath of an affair on a couple and the woman's mother. Having this mess go on during the holidays makes me yearn to hide from people. 

 

The Christmas Baramundi (4 stars)- This one takes place in Pyremont, New South Wales, Australia. Apparently this has a fish market that sets the stage for another tale of adultery around the Christmas season. I felt pity for the main character in this one (Janet). She seems to have a lot of dreams left unfilled and decides to rest them all on a dude she meets (Liam) when they were both trying to buy a baramundi. I would be off fish for life.  

 

This Year it Will be Different (5 stars)-A mother finally gets fed up for doing everything around the holidays for her lazy husband and two sons and daughter. She doesn't get the exact result she wanted, but you are left with the ending of how she plans on changing things in the future. 

 

Season of Fuss (5 stars)- About the Doyle family and them getting their mother who loves to fuss to settle in and enjoy Christmas. I did love that Binchy shows that once the mother is left with nothing to do, how her personality changes and starts to dwell on her dead husband. 

 

A Typical Irish Christmas (5 stars)-  This one takes place in the New York, but eventually moves to Ireland. A man (Ben) who wants to be left to his own devices for the holiday after the death of his wife. Ben decides to go to Ireland to leave behind all of the well being people who want him to come to their homes instead. 

 

Traveling Hopefully (5 stars)- Meg is traveling to Australia for the holidays to meet her son and his new wife. She is apprehensive since she feels like she doesn't know her son much these days. She ends up striking up a friendship with Tom who is also traveling to Australia to meet up with his daughter. I thought this one was so cute and I liked the ending. 

 

What is Happiness? (3 stars)-Another aftermath of an affair with the other woman hell-bent on wrecking her ex-lover's life. Told from the POV of the young son. 

The Best Inn in Town (5 stars)-This was a good way to end the book. Avril and Noel both have mothers who are bossy and nasty towards the other. For some reason both grandmothers come to them during Christmas which causes no end of making sure that nothing is done to upset them. They eventually get fed up with it and hard shrug about making Christmas preparations for them. I loved how the kids were portrayed in this one. I also laughed at the reference to The Empire Strikes Back. 

 

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review 2018-11-19 18:30
THE FREAK SHOW MURDERS AND OTHER STORIES by Fredric Brown
The Freak Show Murders - Fredric Brown

Despite my taking such a long time to read this relatively short collection of mysteries, I enjoyed it quite a bit!

 

These mysteries were originally published back between the early 40's and the early 50's. As such, they contain language and slang of the time. This made them even more of a hoot than they otherwise would have been.

 

Most of the stories here are light in nature, other than the title tale and one other SEE NO MURDER. I didn't have a chance at solving any of these crimes, but I still had a great time reading these mysteries, especially THE FREAK SHOW MURDERS. (This tale came with a little glossary of carney-speak that made me giggle a bit, especially the description of "cooch" and the "cooch dance".) Brown knows how to plot a good mystery while still keeping his quirky sense of humor and bits of dialogue.

 

Thank you to my friend here at Booklikes, Tigus, for the gift he sent me a while back, which included this book. (I apologize for taking so long to read it!)  I really enjoyed it and I like looking at the cover too. This book will have a prominent place on my shelf so I can gaze at it from time to time.  I appreciate your gift, good sir!

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review 2018-11-15 14:10
BETWIXT HEAVEN & HELL ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1918)
Over and Above - Captain John E. Gurdon, DFC

"OVER AND ABOVE" is a matter-of-fact and at times gripping novel based on the author's wartime experiences with a 2-seat fighter squadron of the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force (RFC/RAF) on the Western Front during the spring and summer of 1918. Originally published in 1919, this is a novel that captures both the absurdity and tragedy of war on a uniquely personal level.

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