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review 2020-05-27 19:00
THE TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS by Brian Lumley, narrated by Joshua Saxon
The Taint and Other Novellas - Brian Lumley,Joshua Saxon

Welcoming the chance to get my Lovcraftian horror on via the excellent narration of Joshua Saxon, I tore into THE TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS. What fun!

 

A collection of 5 novellas which were written back in the mid to late 1900s, these tales do not have the polish of Lumley's later works, like the Necroscope series. These stories are more the work of a writer starting out, (while serving in the military), a writer bewitched by Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. The fun parts of the mythos are here, but they lack the racism and other issues of Lovecraft's work.

 

My favorites of the 5 were: LORD OF THE WORMS This tale featured Titus Crow, a name I remember from back in the day, though I can't quite remember the tales in which he featured. In this story, he's invited to a home under the pretense of cataloging a large book collection at an old estate. Of course nothing is as it appears. Throw in some mesmerizing hypnotism, (see what I did there?!), some maggots and some spiked wine and you have yourself a great time!

 

THE TAINT was a fun tale involving fish-men. That's right, fish-men. With all the creepiness inherent in that phrase. It's not as much a pulp tale as one would think, with just the right mix of horror and perhaps a bit of social commentary, (but that's just my take.)

 

Finally, the last story THE TEMPLE HOUSE takes the form of a man inheriting an old estate from his uncle. He takes a friend and goes to Scotland to inspect his inheritance, and soon finds a letter from his uncle asking him to destroy the place. Why? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

Regarding the narrator, Joshua Saxon-I've only listened to one other performance of his, which was the excellent THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja. In that book he was voicing only one character while in this collection, he voices all kinds of people and he does it quite well. English, American, Scottish, he does them all and never for a moment did I doubt the origins of any of the characters. Well done, sir!

 

This was a collection full of fun Lovecraftian monsters, fish people, maggots and worms. If these are the things that delight you, then you'll enjoy the hell out of this volume!

 

Recommended!

 

You can get your audio here: THE TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS

 

*I received this audio download free from the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2020-05-15 17:00
DOUBLE BARREL HORROR: VOLUME 3 edited by Matt Weber
Double Barrel Horror Volume 3 - Matthew Weber

 

The Double Barrel series features two stories by each author, and these collected volumes put them all together in one handy paperback. Volume 3 features 6 authors, most of whom I've read before.

 

From Christine Morgan, (whose novel WHITE DEATH I've previously read and enjoyed), we have EYE SEE YOU, and it knocked my socks off. What a great way to kick off a collection!

 

From Robert Essig, (an author I have not had the pleasure of reading prior to this), we have FROM UNCLEAN SPELLS. I always have enjoyed tales about calling up ancient beings and/or casting spells and this one is a doozy.

 

Mark Matthews is an author I've followed for years now and his two stories were very different from each other, but GOODWIN wrecked me. It seems like it's easy for Mark to rip my heart out and it happened yet again with this tale of guilt, motherhood and death.

 

Theresa Braun is an author I've followed on social media for a while, but I believe this is my first exposure to her work. Both of her tales were AH-MAZING, but STILLBORN-wow. Just... WOW.

 

Calvin Demmer's short stories are nearly works of art. He's wonderful at toying with the feelings of the reader. Both of his tales here were great, but HIGHWAY HUNGER is one that's going to stay with me for a long, long time.

 

I'm familiar with and have even read some of Glenn Rolfe's work in the past, but it seems to me that he has grown as a writer since that time. THE HOUSE ON MAYFLOWER STREET was fun and creepy and makes me want to read some of Glenn's more recent work, and soon!

 

I liked the About the Author sections after their stories, and I liked that the covers from the previous individual issues were featured before each author's tales. The artwork on them is kind of cool and has something to do with the tales within.

 

Overall I had great fun with DOUBLE BARREL HORROR VOLUME 3 and I recommend it, especially to those readers looking for new authors. Collections such as these let you discover new voices in the genre without spending an arm and a leg, or investing lots of time buying and/or reading novels only to discover that a certain author isn't right for you. I know that I'll be adding novels, (if they've written them) from a couple of these authors, (Robert Essig & Theresa Braun, I'm looking at you!!), to my To Be Read pile. Honestly, I look forward to reading more from all of these writers!

 

Get your copy here: DOUBLE BARREL HORROR VOLUME 3

 

*Thanks to Calvin Demmer and Pint Bottle Press for the paperback copy with no strings attached. I freely chose to review it and I'm glad I did!*

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review 2020-05-11 18:30
OF MICE AND MINESTRONE: HAP AND LEONARD THE EARLY YEARS by Joe R. Lansdale
Of Mice and Minestrone - Joe R. Lansdale

Hap and Leonard are among my favorite fictional characters and I'm always excited to be reunited with them. Of Mice and Minestrone is fun and enlightening, especially if you're like me and wanted to know a bit more of Hap and Leonard's history.

 

The first few stories are from Hap's point of view and they added to my perspective of him. It seems that he was born with his sense of right and wrong. His parents are barely mentioned but they must have had a big impact on his life, because by his teen years he had a clear sense of what was justice and what wasn't. I enjoyed watching him put his beliefs into action, even when the end result wasn't what he expected.

 

The high points for me in this collection were two-fold-the first being THE SABINE WAS HIGH. We join with Hap as he picks up Leonard, fresh back from combat in Vietnam. I loved this story so much, because at its heart is a friendship between two people that shouldn't even be speaking to each other at that time in history, never mind being best friends. With Hap being a Vietnam War protester, and having gone to prison for his beliefs, everything we've ever been told about Texas, the South in general, about war protesters and war veterans, between straights and gays, all of it goes out the window. There is a true love there, transcending all the labels and ugly things, and that love is beautiful.

 

SPARRING PARTNER was the other standout tale for me. Both Hap and Leonard had experience boxing early on-just working out, and with Hap learning some martial arts moves. Here, though, the outside world learns a lot about the skills both of them possess. Filled with the humor and dialog that I have grown to love over the years, this story once again brought home Hap and Leonard's unique sense of justice.

 

There are 6 tales here, but the last one features Kasey Lansdale and some recipes for the foods eaten throughout this volume.  Even the recipes are funny, "beat it like you're running from the police", (not an exact quote as I'm not allowed to quote directly from the book with an ARC), but you get the idea. It's not everyone that can make recipes funny.

 

I originally rated this 4 stars, but thinking about it overnight-I decided to change it to 5. I didn't think about the corona virus at all when reading this, and I read it over two days, but could easily have done it in one. I wanted to savor the experience. I think you should too! The only caveat to that would be that I recommend you reading the Hap and Leonard series in order. If you do, these tales will be that much more meaningful-providing insights into the lifelong friendship of Hap and Leonard.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

Available May 28th 2020, but you can pre-order here: OF MICE AND MINESTRONE

 

*Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing an e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!

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review 2020-04-30 19:30
DEAD OF WINTER by Kealan Patrick Burke
Dead of Winter - Kealan Patrick Burke

The weather here in the northeast right now is making it feel like we're still in the dead of winter. Going through the stack of books in my TBR, this title stood out like a sore thumb and here we are.

 

This collection centers around winter horror. Those short days when, after the snow has fallen, it's eerily quiet...sound has been dampened, and there's an illuminating glow from that snow after the sun goes down. Just enough of a glow to make shadows where there were none before. But, I ramble.

 

All of these stories were enjoyable but I especially loved DOOMSDAY FATHER CHRISTMAS. (To be honest, I really can't stand Christmas, so I agreed with Santa's feelings about it. Well, mostly.)

 

VISITATION RIGHTS was another special story that might not have worked in the hands of a lesser author.

 

Make no mistake, this book is dark. Grief and guilt are Kealan Patrick Burke's forte, he writes about them like no one else. These emotions are woven into his words, but the reader doesn't always know it at the time. It's when the story is over that it hits you like a freight train, or a bullet between the eyes.

 

Thankfully, I have a few of Mr. Burke's other books in my to be read stack. I am rationing them because I don't want to run out. It's great to have an author you know you can count on for entertaining stories.

 

Recommended! 

 

You can get your copy here: DEAD OF WINTER

 

*I bought this book with my hard earned cash.*

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review 2020-04-26 21:04
DARK CELEBRATIONS by Calvin Demmer
Dark Celebrations - Calvin Demmer

 

Having been totally knocked out by Demmer's THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER, (it was my favorite collection of 2019), I jumped at the chance to read his latest, DARK CELEBRATIONS. I don't regret it for an instant!

 

In this volume, which tells tales of celebrations and/or holidays from around the world, I found a wide variety on offer, and most of them worked well for me. My favorites were:

 

THREE DEAD MEN captivated me because it went nowhere near where I thought it was going. Think Kill Bill with mummies. That's right...mummies!

 

SPRING OUTBREAK was another tale that ran in the opposite from my preconceived notions. Picture spring break with zombies. That's right...zombies!

 

PROM SCREAMS had me thinking the main character was a real jerk and that he should just own up to what happened. I also found myself thinking about Charlene ,(Charlie), McGee and what could have happened to her later in life. (If you don't know who she is, look her up!) This story lead to so many different thoughts, I have to leave it there. I dug this one a lot!

 

UNIDENTIFIED FATHERLY OBJECT had cool ties to the earlier stories and that I enjoyed. It was a bit out there, (I WANT TO BELIEVE), just as the title suggests.

 

INDEPENDENCE DENIED: I was captivated because of its Lovecraftian feel. In the times we're in now, I wouldn't be surprised at all if natural disasters started to surge. It seems like that would be a perfect fit for the apocalyptic-feeling with which COVID19 has blanketed us. At the same time, this tale was entertaining enough to make me forget about that for a while and I'm thankful to Mr. Demmer for the brief escape.

 

The only reservation I had with this collection is that the first few stories didn't pique my interest as much as the later ones did. That could be because, admittedly, my expectations were high. It all worked out though, as for me, the stories got better and better until the phenomenal last act of INDEPENDENCE DENIED.

 

Once again Calvin Demmer wows us with a set of tales that are thoughtful, dark, sometimes funny, sometimes gory, and sometimes homages to H.P. himself. Once again, I found myself enthralled, most especially in the later stories, and I was happy to turn myself over to be thoroughly entertained.

 

Recommended!

 

Get your copy here: DARK CELEBRATIONS

 

*Thank you to Calvin Demmer for the paperback in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* (less)

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