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review 2019-01-16 17:30
THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER by Calvin Demmer
The Sea Was a Fair Master - Calvin Demmer

THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER is a top notch collection of flash fiction!

 

I have always thought that flash fiction consisted of stories that were only a few sentences long. For example: "The last man in the world heard a knock at the door." That type of thing. I was wrong. Apparently flash fiction can be super short stories-say a page or two. Four to five. Six to seven. Now that I know the correct definition of flash fiction, I'll say this: I love it!

 

I read a ton of single author story collections and multiple author anthologies throughout the year. I've done this since about the age of 12. It seems to me that stories back then were shorter than the tales these days. The last one I read had two stories that were the length of novellas. Not that I'm complaining, but I like my short stories to actually be short. These are!

 

What I liked most about the tales here is that they were all dark, they had lots of variety, and they were ALL GOOD. Seriously, every single one of them made me feel something, made me think, made me chuckle, or made me marvel at how well written they were.

 

My absolute favorite was YARA. Incredibly poignant and super short. It's amazing to me that such feeling and emotion can be communicated in only a few pages, but Calvin Demmer is a master at doing just that.

 

LETTING THE DEAD GROW and HUMANS OR SNAKES were another two stories with disturbing imagery while at the same time being wildly creative. UNDERNEATH, BLIND TEDDY, REVENGE OF THE MYTH and VOODOO CHILD round out my absolute favorites.

 

Usually I would tell you a little about each story, and/or about why I liked them so much, but these bite-sized pieces of entertainment are so short, I feel you need to go into them blind, as I did, and take from them what you will. I hope, (and I'm pretty darn sure), that you're going to like them as much as I, (and nearly everyone else who has read this book), did! If you like your short stories to be short, original, and have occasional punches to your gut? I doubt you could find a better volume than this.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

Get your copy here: THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER

 

*I bought the Kindle version of this book with my hard earned cash, but then the author offered to send me a paper copy with no strings attached, and I accepted.*

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review 2019-01-02 18:45
A DEEP HORROR THAT WAS VERY NEARLY AWE by J.R. Hamantaschen
A Deep Horror That Was Very Nearly Awe - J.R. Hamantaschen

The work of J.R. Hamantaschen has been on my radar for years now, beginning with YOU SHALL NEVER KNOW SECURITY. A DEEP HORROR THAT WAS VERY NEARLY AWE is another short story collection from this author and this is his best yet!

 

It's easy to see how his work has matured in the depth of these tales and in the range which they cover. We have everything here from mental illness to strange, unknown things in a men's room stall, dissolved marriages and bullied teenagers.

 

Of all the stories here though, 7099 BRECKSVILLE ROAD, INDEPENDENCE, OHIO was my absolute favorite. Creepy and atmospheric, it was not what I've come to expect from this author at all. I love to be surprised, don't you?

 

I'm not going to get into each story, (there are eleven of them, total), but I will say that none of them are like the next-they're each stand alone creations. They often have strange titles, which I enjoy, for example one title was: STORY TITLE REVEALED ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH.

 

This author is quirky. I like that! I never fail to read the blurbs he has listed in the front of the book, because they're never all legit. He'll slip things in there that are funny to discover and they also make me laugh. Even the copyright page has a little bonus.

 

The only criticism I have, and it's a small one, is that a few of these stories verge on the title of novella, rather than short story. As I said, it's a small beef. That's all I got!

 

A DEEP HORROR THAT WAS VERY NEARLY AWE was dark, soul crushing, beautiful, funny and intriguing all at once. J.R. Hamantaschen always delivers-just maybe not quite in the way you expect. The variety on display here shows how diverse he can be and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: A DEEP HORROR THAT WAS VERY NEARLY AWE

 

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

 

 

**A special thanks to Goodreads for deleting all of my reading updates on this book. All my story notes *poofed* away which I did NOT find helpful.**
 
 

 

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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 2018-11-12 17:55
WELCOME TO THE SHOW edited by Doug Murano
Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories – One Legendary Venue - Somer Canon,Rachel Autumn Deering,Brian Keene,Jeff Strand,Matt Hayward,Glenn Rolfe,Patrick Lacey,Matt Serafini,Adam Cesare,Jonathan Janz,Kelli Owen,Doug Murano,Mary SanGiovanni,Robert Ford,Bryan Smith,Booth Tarkington,John Skipp,Alan M. Clark

 

WELCOME TO THE SHOW is a themed anthology with all of the stories revolving around, (or involving in some way), a rock n' roll club named The Shantyman. That's it! There's no hard thread connecting all the tales other than the club itself. That makes WELCOME TO THE SHOW different because there's no one "bad guy" to blame things on. In this case, the "bad guy" is anyone or anything the writer wanted them to be. In this regard, I think the authors involved had a lot more leeway as far as the direction each story would take and I think that resulted in an above average anthology as far as the quality AND the variety of the stories within.

 

I can't get into all of them here, because I don't want this review to be as long as the book itself, but the tales that stood out the most to me were:

 

WHAT SORT OF RUBE by Alan M. Clark was a perfect start to this book, providing a bit of history and setting the tone. (I've never read any of Clark's work before, but he's on my radar now.)

 

NIGHT AND DAY AND IN BETWEEN by Jonathan Janz. This story went in a totally different direction than what I had expected. Loved it!

 

TRUE STARMEN by Max Booth. I'm not sure that it was supposed to, but this story cracked me the hell me up! It's the first time THE SHANTYMAN hosted pod-casters instead of a band, and the results just made me laugh.

 

OPEN MIC NIGHT by Kelli Owen. The 27 Club-you know, those singers and musicians that never made it past that age? I thought this anthology would be a shoe-in for stories about that club, but this was the only one. I was glad because it made this tale stand out even more.

 

PARODY by Jeff Strand. Zany Chester and his plans to be the next Weird Al fizzle out before they even got started. (It's birdies, not bodies!) Chester had to go to a few back up plans, actually, and none of them were pretty.

 

DARK STAGE by Matt Hayward. This tale spoke to me in a personal way which made it that much more horrifying at the end.

 

A TONGUE LIKE FIRE by Rachel Autumn Deering. The end was NOT what I was expecting at the beginning. Usually I can see that coming..in this case I saw something coming, but not what I got. Well done!

 

Brian Keene's tale RUNNING FREE made me laugh at the premise before it got all serious. (A man trying to run himself to death by heart attack, thereby evading death from the cancer already running through his body. Come on, that's kind of funny! [All right, I know I'm messed up.]) Anyway, this story didn't go the way I thought it would and I loved how it tied into previous tales in this book.

 

WE SING IN DARKNESS by Mary SanGiovanni. This story had everything that I've come to expect from Mary's work. A terrifying future where music is banned is only the beginning.

 

I enjoyed this collection and even though it was a little uneven throughout, the variety and quality more than made up for that. I liked that everyone didn't have quite the same view was to what was going on at The Shantyman because that allowed for more creativity in the tales. Variety is the spice of life and all that, you know?

 

I read a lot of collections and anthologies over the course of a year and there is no doubt in my mind that WELCOME TO THE SHOW will be among the best I've read this year. For this reason, I highly recommend it!

 

You can get your copy here: WELCOME TO THE SHOW

 

*11.12.18 We are currently reading this book, along with most of the authors in the Horror Aficionados Group at Goodreads. Feel free to join us, read along, and ask questions of the writers, if you like! (Our read continues until the end of this month.) Here's a link: WELCOME TO THE SHOW at Horror Aficionados

 

**I bought this book with my hard earned cash and these opinions are my own.**

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review 2018-10-17 18:45
DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES by Joe Lansdale
Driving to Geronimo's Grave and Other Stories - Joe R. Lansdale

 

DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE: AND OTHER STORIES is a shining example of how skilled Joe Lansdale really is. Not one of these tales is like the others-they're all different, all unique and all showcasing why Mr. Lansdale has been called the Champion Mojo Storyteller.

 

The title story is the first here and it's set during the Great Depression. A young man and his sister are tasked with picking up the corpse of their dead uncle and bringing it back home so they can bury him with the proper respect. Being that this is a Lansdale story, things don't go quite as planned. I loved this tale, I loved the characters and I especially loved smart-mouthed Terri. 5*

 

IN THE MAD MOUNTAINS: Mr. Lansdale's homage to Lovecraft was better than most of the actual Lovecraft I've read. I don't even know what else to say because this story was so imaginative-I think each reader needs to have it unfold for them. It had a pulpy feel to it on top of the Lovecraftian base-a unique combination that worked well for me. 5*

 

WRESTLING JESUS: A bullied boy and a bullied man, (albeit a very different kind of bullying), both come together in this tale of wrestling, love gone wrong, and a relationship much like that of father and son. 4*

 

ROBO RAPID: This is a pulp adventure-type story set in the future with a delightful young woman, Sheann, as the protagonist. Years after an invasion here on earth, robots have killed her parents and stolen her siblings. She makes it her mission in life to get them back. Along the way, she makes a friend, sees a musical, and learns that she's braver than even she realized. 5*

 

THE PROJECTIONIST: I first read this story in Lawrence Block's collection IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. At first this seems to be a tale about a young man lusting after a beautiful young woman. Then it turns into something else entirely. 5*

 

As an aside about THE PROJECTIONIST: it's fascinating to me that an author can gaze at a painting and come up with an entire backstory for it. In this case the painting was The Usherette by Edward Hopper and here it is:

 

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The last tale in this book EVERYTHING SPARKLES IN HELL brings us to visit Nat Love. A black cowboy featured in the novel PARADISE SKY and a few other novellas, Nat returns as a bounty hunter tracking down two no-good men. (Loosely based on the real man, yes there were black cowboys, despite their absence from most American history books.) Along the way he meets up with Chocktaw, (a tracker of some renown), and the biggest she-bear either of them has ever seen. I loved visiting with Nat again and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

What I especially loved about this collection are the tidbits from the author himself revealing how the stories came about. In the digital review copy I received, these came after the stories rather than before, and I liked that. (It seems that, in previewing the finished copy online, these are now forewords to the stories, rather than afterwords.) I enjoyed reading them after reading the tales themselves and seeing how the ideas germinated in the head of the author, sometimes sprouting out fully formed, according to him. Once again, I find myself fascinated by Mr. Lansdale's writing process and abilities.

 

I was pretty sure I was going to love this collection of stories even before I started reading it, and I was right. It's the skilled writing of Mr. Lansdale that gets to me every time. No matter what he writes about, it can be counted on to capture and hold your attention. It can be counted on to contain some humor and real life observations. It can be counted on to satisfy. Because his characters are so true to life- complicated and diverse, they make me feel connected not only to them, but to the world as well. It's a gift and Joe has it. That is all I can say.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

*Thank you to Subterranean Press and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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