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review 2017-07-18 14:10
Gary Gianni's Monstermen and Other Scary Stories
Gary Gianni's Monstermen and Other Scary Stories - Gary Gianni,Gary Gianni

Gary Gianni's Monstermen and Other Scary Stories was a real treat! I knew nothing about what to expect from this volume, (knowing nothing about the Hellboy series, in which these comics were originally released), so I went in with no preconceptions. I was seriously impressed. Here's why:

 

First, I LOVED the stories! The first 2/3 of this are different comics featuring a movie director named St. Lawrence, (who looks a lot like Vincent Price, BTW, and who you would think belonged in the 30's expect for the occasional glimpse of technology), and his friend Benedict a member of the Corpus Monstrum guild. Benedict is an immortal knight and always wears his knight helmet and a tuxedo. (I need to learn more about the background of this character because he was a blast to read about.) Together they fend off plagues of falling skulls, and other monstrous creatures.

 

 

 

 

Second, the last third of the book contains illustrated classic stories by the likes of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and William Hope Hodgson. I LOVED these! When reading these short stories, I couldn't help but notice how the first 2/3 of the book carried the exact same pulpy, adventure feel that these classic stories originally created. I think Gianni did a beautiful job of carrying on that feel in his comics and in his illustrations of these pulp shorts. In a way, I feel like these were his way of paying tribute to what came before, while also making them his own.

 

Again, I went into this with no preconceptions. I came away with much admiration and respect. I'm going to eventually read the Hellboy comics and I'm definitely going to search out Mr. Gianni and see what else he has on offer, because whatever it is, I'm in!

 

Highly recommended, especially to fans of the classic pulp short stories and to fans of incredible artwork.

 

You can get your copy here: Gary Gianni's Monstermen and Other Scary Stories

 

*Thank you to Edelweiss and to Dark Horse Comics for the e-ARC of this volume in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2017-07-11 01:48
Halloween Carnival Volume 1
Halloween Carnival Volume 1 - Lisa Morton,Kevin Lucia,John Little,Brian James Freeman,Robert R. McCammon

 

Halloween Carnival Volume 1 is a tasty treat for horror lovers everywhere!

 

First off, I have to mention the opening story, Robert McCammon's Strange Candy. I'm a huge McCammon fan and this story was originally found in the FANTASTIC collection Blue World. Poignant and sweet this tale will always remain one of my favorites.

 

With that out of the way, the story that impressed me the most here was Kevin Lucia's The Rage of Achilles, or When Mockingbirds Sing. What started out to be a story of the difficulties of parenting a special needs child turned into a story of such bittersweet pain and love, I thought I heard my heart crack. Beautifully written with prose that cuts straight through your chest, this was the star of Volume 1.

 

La Hacienda de los Muertos by Lisa Morton was a neatly wrapped up tale about shooting a movie in Mexico. And maybe a ghost?

 

John Little can always be counted on to deliver and that he does with Demon Air. 

 

 Lastly, Mark Allen Gunnells' #Makehalloweenscaryagain was my first read of this author's work. While I generally don't care for hashtag anything, and even though I partially guessed how this story would end, I still enjoyed the journey and I look forward to reading more from Gunnells in the future.

 

Other than Strange Candy, I am not sure if these other stories have been published elsewhere previously. If so, I haven't come across them. I enjoyed the fact that these tales were mostly gore free, quiet horror since that's the type I prefer these days.

 

If quiet but powerful horror is your thing, I highly recommend this collection-especially for your Halloween reading pleasure!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: Halloween Carnival Volume 1

 

*Thanks so much to Hydra and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. This is it!*

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review 2017-07-04 17:44
Tender by Sofia Samatar
Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar

This is a beautiful, original, often surprising, and yes, tender, short story collection by a fantastic author. Samatar’s novels are lovely, but I think she may excel even more in the short story format, which combines her exquisite writing with compressed plots that necessarily move briskly. And her wide command of genres is impressive: fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, fairy tales, contemporary, young adult. Most of the stories are sci-fi and fantasy, and while I love fantasy I typically avoid sci-fi, but I absolutely would read more if Samatar wrote it. Her stories never use characters simply as a long-winded way of examining an idea or making a point; instead the characters are the point, and no matter how inventive their settings, the stories are about the people, their lives and relationships. And to the extent they’re about larger issues, they are issues that matter in human society today, like race and religion.

But then there are stories that break the mold I would expect from a genre author. “Olimpia’s Ghost” is a work of epistolary historical fiction set in 19th century Europe, involving a relationship that may or may not have existed between two real people (I won’t say who since figuring it out myself was so much fun), while “Those” is an answer to Heart of Darkness, written in a similar vein but with the frame story narrated by a mixed-race character, which changes everything.

There are a lot of fantastic stories in this collection, and from perusing the reviews it looks like different readers have different favorites, which is a sign of strong writing. I’ll mention my favorites here:

“Selkie Stories Are For Losers” – A young woman in the contemporary U.S. builds her life in the shadow of a fairy tale. This could easily be a novel and I’d love to read it.

“Walkdog” – This is an epistolary story written with a certain amount of deliberate inelegance, since it’s meant to be by a typical high school girl. It’s an achingly sad story about love, bullying and social conformity, with a bit of mythology wrapped in. Unlike in a lot of YA, which seems to be a weird adult vision or fantasy of teenagers, I completely believed this one; no one would want to admit to making Yolanda’s choices, but they feel realistic.

“Honey Bear” – This is a lovely post-apocalyptic tale. In the tradition of my favorite short fiction, it’s a story you’ll want to read twice, because everything comes together at the end in a way that changes your entire view of the story, and so you re-read it with new eyes and understand all those references that didn’t quite make sense before. But despite the post-apocalyptic world, the story is closely focused on its main characters, and its heart and primary source of tension is a couple who react to changed circumstances in very different ways.

“How to Get Back to the Forest” – I’d classify this one as dystopian; it reminds me of Never Let Me Go, with young people raised in superficially pleasant institutions, slowly and imperfectly discovering how their world really works. The key difference is that here the characters resist, at least in small ways.

“Request for an Extension on the Clarity” – This is superficially science fiction, but it’s really about race and immigration and isolation; the protagonist finds refuge in the stars from a world where she doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. The collection includes several stories with similar themes, but this is the one that brought it all together for me.

“The Closest Thing to Animals” – Straight-up science fiction, set on a quarantined world, but about a character whose abandonment issues cause her to see rejection where it doesn’t exist and prevent her from seeing the ways in which others need her. The story is lovely and so are the weird images of its world.

“Fallow” – This is a novelette, by far the longest piece in the collection, set on a world inhabited by refugees from a self-destructing Earth. It’s a meditation on religion (eventually we’re given enough information to figure out what group is involved) and social pressure, hearkening back to the Puritans despite its otherworldly setting.

Of course, as with most collections, I didn’t love all the stories; some seemed opaque or didn’t quite land for me. In particular, there’s a stretch from “Tender” through “Meet Me in Iram,” of stories dealing with alienation and characters feeling out of place in their own skin – sometimes, though not always, related to immigration – that I bounced off of until I reached “Request for an Extension on the Clarity.” A few of the other contemporary or parable-like stories also didn’t strike any particular chord with me. But these are skillful stories that clearly landed for others, so I’ll chalk that up to my limitations as a reader rather than Samatar’s as a writer.

Overall, I loved this collection and would absolutely recommend it, probably even ahead of Samatar’s novels to those with any liking for short fiction. To my surprise, I especially loved Samatar’s science fiction and hope to see much more from her along these lines in the future.

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review 2017-07-04 16:19
Dark Screams: Volume Seven
Dark Screams: Volume Seven - Brian Hodge,Bill Schweigart,Richard Chizmar,Brian James Freeman,Robert R. McCammon

The Dark Screams series comes along with this, Volume Seven, and continues to be one of the most solid anthology series' out there. 

 

Going into this, I fully expected the Robert McCammon story to be my favorite, as he's one of my favorite authors and never fails to satisfy my story urge. However, I have to hand it to James Renner because his story A MONSTER COMES TO ASHDOWN FOREST (IN WHICH CHRISTOPHER ROBIN SAYS GOODBYE) not only knocked the ball out of the park, it knocked it out of town! To see the Pooh stories turned into dark fiction pleased me to no end! Five FAT stars!

 

That said, I did love McCammon's Lizardman. In a way this story reminded me of that TV show I've seen previews of-The Swamp People? But then the tale took a strange twist and landed somewhere totally different. 4 stars!

 

 

WEST OF MATAMOROS, NORTH OF HELL by Brian Hodge was a strange tale where mythology and real life blended into a torture chamber of sorts. Never pray to the skeleton saint. 4*

 

I enjoyed the rest of the stories as well, just as not as much as these 3-and these 3 alone are well worth the price of admission! Highly recommended!

 

You can pre-order your copy here: Dark Screams: Volume Seven

 

 

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

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review 2017-06-09 13:45
Dis Mem Ber by Joyce Carol Oates
DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense - Joyce Carol Oates

Dis Mem Ber is an excellent collection of stories previously published elsewhere. The only threads they have in common is that they are all from a woman's point of view, (except for WELCOME TO FRIENDLY SKIES!), and they are all unsettling.

 

My favorite had to be the first story, DISMEMBER, in which a young girl narrowly escapes what could have been a nasty end.

 

HEARTBREAK was the story of two sisters, one beautiful and the other, not so much. Sometimes jealousy can get out of hand, before we even realize we are jealous.

 

I also enjoyed BLUE HERON quite a bit. This is the story of a widow dealing with her grief while trying to avoid her scummy brother-in-law who wants her to sell her lake-house.

 

Lastly, WELCOME TO FRIENDLY SKIES! had to be one of the funniest stories I've read in years. I'm not going to say anything further about it, as I think it's best to go into it cold.

 

Overall, this was a satisfying collection of stories from one of the masters of American short fiction. Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and Mysterious Press for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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