Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White

This original compilation presents chilling tales of terror by an unjustly neglected author. Inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe as well as his own vivid nightmares, Edward Lucas White (1866–1934) weaves a tapestry of weird stories populated by ghouls, monsters, a witch doctor, and creatures of ancient myths.
The collection features White's most famous story, "Lukundoo," a gripping fable of an American explorer who incurs the wrath of an African sorcerer. Other tales include "Sorcery Island," an uncanny foreshadowing of television's The Prisoner, "The Flambeau Bracket," "The House of the Nightmare," "The Song of the Sirens," and five other stories. Additional selections include the haunting poems "Azrael" and "The Ghoula" and an essay in which the author reflects on the influence of dreams in his fiction. Editor S. T. Joshi provides an informative Introduction to White's life and work.

I had never heard of Edward Lucas White which I suppose is not surprising considering he lived a century ago. The description intrigued me, since as a child I watched those old Vincent Price movies that were based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe and then later read everything by him that I could find in the library. I did enjoy these stories though you must keep in mind that people spoke (and wrote) differently all those years ago. I especially loved the first story Nightmare House about a man who seeks shelter in a run down house after an accident. The Message On The Slate was also very good, about a woman unhappy in her marriage who seeks advice from a clairvoyant who is a self proclaimed charlatan. I loved Lukundoo which concerned a curse. It gave me chills. In The Pig-skin belt a circus comes to town, as does a man with some strange and mysterious habits. My absolute favorite was The Picture Puzzle, in which a man and his wife find solace and perhaps something more when they occupy their time with puzzles after their daughter is kidnapped. I also loved The Ghoula, a poem about a female ghoul.
All in all well worth a read. 4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates


An eclectic mix of short stories, part thriller, with elements of horror.
"The Doll Master" is a  tale of a young boy who “finds” his own dolls to play with after his father decides to take away a much beloved toy he kept after his cousin passed away. A fairly good story, I would give it 3 and a half out of 5 stars

"Soldier" concerns a murder trial in which elements of racism are a factor, reminiscent of the Zimmerman trial and made me wonder if the author followed the TV coverage. 3 out of 5 stars

In "Gun accident" a young teen has a terrifying experience while house sitting. I would give it 3 and a half out of 5 stars

"Equatorial" is the story of an insecure wife visiting the Galapagos with her husband. Maybe she is paranoid... or maybe he really is out to get her.
4 out of 5 stars

"Big Momma" is the story of a lonely girl who is somewhat neglected by her mother. She is fairly new to the neighborhood, where an alarming number of children and pets have gone missing. When she is befriended by Rita Mae and her father she couldn’t be happier, until........well you will have to read it and see. 5 out of 5 stars

"Mystery Inc"  concerns a book store, and the man who wants to possess it.  I just could not get into this story at all  2 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Liar by Rob Roberge

About Liar

An intense memoir about mental illness, memory and storytelling, from an acclaimed novelist.

When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are.

As Liar twists and turns through Roberge’s life, it turns the familiar story of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on its head. Darkly funny and brutally frank, it offers a remarkable portrait of a down and out existence cobbled together across the country, from musicians’ crashpads around Boston, to seedy bars popular with sideshow freaks in Florida, to a painful moment of reckoning in the scorched Wonder Valley desert of California. As Roberge struggles to keep addiction and mental illness from destroying the good life he has built in his better moments, he is forced to acknowledge the increasingly blurred line between the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves.

This book was not at all what I expected from the description. It is unlike any memoir I have ever read, in that it is written in second person. That in itself took some getting used to. Also it reads less like a book and more like a disjointed list of events. It begins in 1977 and then jumps to 1912 and the sinking of the titanic before moving ahead to 2009 and then 2002. It's like dropping a photo album, shuffling the pictures and putting them back in no particular order. It was difficult to follow. That is not to say the events themselves were not book worthy, but the writing style was just not for me.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio


Thursday, March 24, 2016

But You Scared Me the Most: And Other Short Stories by John Manderino

This collection of twenty-six dark but often humorous short stories features a pantheon of disturbed and disturbing characters, human and otherwise. Many of the stories are modern takes on classic monsters crafted with twisted plots. For example, “Wolfman and Janice” is about a werewolf  who is doing the best he can under very trying circumstances, especially when confronted with eating his elderly neighbor’s cat. There’s an adolescent vampire-wannabe who is suffering badly: in love for the first time. “Frankenstein and His Mother” is a terrifying story of a grown man who wears a Frankenstein mask and lives with his mother watching TV and eating corn chips all day while being afraid of work.  “Dracula’s Daughter” turns a pretentious hippie into an honest ghost. And Bigfoot—lonely, sexually frustrated—tells all. Other stories feature characters who seem perfectly normal until they're alone. Phil, for instance, is never so happy as when he’s with his inflatable girlfriend Vanessa—until she tells him the devastating truth about himself. Elderly Ellen is running out of patience with her dead husband George, who’s turned prankish. “Bob and Todd” tells the story of a hitchhiking ride gone bad that will have readers squirming in their seats. More than just standard monster stories, the tales in But You Scared Me the Most reveal much more about human nature and will appeal to a wide range of fans of smart, funny short fiction.

This was a quick read, I believe just over 200 pages. I was able to finish it all in one night. It's hard to review each story individually without giving too much away but I will say the description was quite accurate and there is much humor in these odd ball characters. If you like short stories and dark humor I'm sure you will find something enjoyable in these pages. Some are disturbing, others thought provoking, and a few I must admit just didn't make a lot of sense to me. Several were quite good. My favorites were Too Old  To Trick Or Treat Too Young To Die, Otto and the Avenging Angel, Wolfman and Janice, Bigfoot Tells All, Self Portrait With Wine, The Mummy, and A Matter of Character, which was a bit longer than some of the rest.  I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How To Date Dead Guys (Under The Blood Moon #1) by Ann M. Noser


College sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts.” But when cute Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn’t the only one…

Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a young man determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand…at first. More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.

Inspired by the controversial Smiley Face Murders, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will appeal to the secret powers hidden deep within each of us.

***Note: classified as New Adult due to the college-aged main character, but material is appropriate for those in 10th grade and up.***

Emma is a painfully shy college student, living in the dorms with no real friends. She has acquaintances but nobody that she is really close to. She believes that she is "boring"  or at least as boring as you can be while having the ability to see dead people!
When she blames herself for the death of a boy she has a crush on, she is willing to give her own life to bring him back. Not knowing how to use her new found abilities causes things to go a bit haywire but as it turns out maybe things work out the way they are meant to.
This was a very enjoyable book and I am glad to see it is the first of a series because I will definitely be looking for more! This was part fun, part spooky ghost whisperer type adventure and I loved it. Though it is categorized as young adult I know plenty of 40somethings, myself included who can enjoy a good story without the typical vulgarity and explicit sex that would be found in books geared towards an older audience. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sex in the Museum: My Unlikely Career at New York's Most Provocative Museum by Sarah Forbes

Sarah Forbes was in graduate school when she stumbled upon a museum dedicated to . . . sex. The anthropology student hesitated when her boyfriend suggested she apply for a job, but apply she did, and it wasn’t long before a part-time position at New York’s MUSEUM OF SEX lead to a gig as the museum's curator. That was over twelve years ago. Now Sarah—a married mother of two—proudly sports her title as Curator of Sex.

In SEX IN THE MUSEUM, Sarah invites readers to travel from suburban garages where men and women build sex machines, to factories that make sex toys, to labyrinthine archives of erotica collectors. Escorting us in to the hidden world of sex, illuminating the never-talked-about communities and eccentricities of our sexual subcultures, and telling her own personal story of a decade at The Museum of Sex, Sarah asks readers to grapple with the same questions she did: when it comes to sex, what is good, bad, deviant, normal? Do such terms even apply? If everyone has sexual secrets, is it possible to really know another person and be known by them? And importantly, in our hyper-sexualized world, is it still possible to fall in love?

This was a fascinating and enlightening memoir. Well written and highly informative even if you think you know all there is to know I guarantee you will be surprised by at least a few of the facts found in these pages. I grew up in an age where talk shows were more than just celebrity gossip and  tests for paternity, so I was probably 16 the first time I saw a chubby man waddle onto a tv stage to proclaim he was leaving his wife because he found a woman willing to change his diapers and breast feed him. I suppose I am saying that to make it clear that I have not led a sheltered life and I am quite aware that for any repulsive thing you can think of somewhere there is a person who is as turned on by it as you are disgusted by it. Yet I had never heard these rumors about Cleopatra, nor did I know there were animals that participate in necrophilia. I've learned a multitude  of new words such as sploshing and merkin and am now aware of which creature has a penis on it's head!
Aside from the informative and entertaining aspects of the history of sex the author also shares with us a bit of her own life, which was quite interesting as well. Although this is not usually the type of book I reach for I must say it was quite well done. 5 of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Daughter by AR Simmons


Blue Creek's "golden girl" is gone.

Two days ago, Shara McGregor, the girl whose face adorns the junior college billboard on the highway, headed west to Springfield. A bright future lay ahead. After she completed her undergraduate degree, her mentor, former State Senator Willis Sparkes would pull the right strings to get her into a good law school. Despite her humble origins, the small-town girl seemed destined to be among the "movers and shakers." However, Shara never made it to Springfield.

Yesterday, two counties away, three drunken teenagers found her car hidden in the woods near an abandoned cemetery in the Irish Wilderness area. Having lost the keys to their own car, they "borrowed" it to go home for another key. When a deputy stopped them, he found blood in the car--lots of blood.

Since the girl came from Blue Creek, Hawthorn County has jurisdiction. Deputy Richard Carter begins what he assumes will be a short investigation. After all, this wasn't criminal genius at work--or was it?

The more he learns about the girl, the more Richard becomes emotionally involved. She seems one of his own, one of the "good people." The obsessive-compulsive ex-Marine pours his soul into the investigation, spurred by an irrational fear that something similar could happen to his own seven-year-old daughter Mirabelle someday.

Except for Shara's blood in the car, there is no physical evidence: no murder weapon, no crime scene, no body, and no one with a motive. There are no suspects and no motive. Everyone liked the girl, and she had no history of high-risk behavior. What happened to her shouldn't have. She wasn't that kind of girl.

Don't imagine that everyone in a small town knows everything about everyone else. There are secrets. And there is evil to match anything in the wider world.

If Shara had a secret that cost her life, what was it?
Maybe it was someone else's secret.

If you're looking for a good mystery with lots of twists and turns this is it.
When a pretty and popular teen disappears, leaving behind her abandoned blood soaked car, keys and all it doesn't look like things could possibly end well.
With a cast of characters full of shady pasts and their own agenda thrown into the mix this story will keep you guessing til the end.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill


In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in and no one comes out, and it's been that way for 50 years, until the night a watchman hears a disturbance after midnight and is drawn to investigate. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever. Soon after, a young American woman, Apryl, arrives at Barrington House. She's been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumors claim Lillian was mad, but her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago. Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming, evil force still inhabits the building, and that the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying.
This was a good old fashioned horror and I loved it.
It was very atmospheric and descriptive, almost poetic. On the one hand we have Apryl who has arrived alone at Barrington House to clear out her Late Aunt's apartment which has been left to her in the will. People suggest that her aunt was perhaps a little batty but all is not as it seems.
Also at Barrington we have Seth who is experiencing some odd and ghostly occurrences of his own.
This was a very well crafted tale and I would rate it 4 out of 5 sinister stars.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tell Me A Secret (Tales of the Unexpected #3) by Ann Girdharry


Deceit, lies and hidden secrets…
How well do we know those closest to us?

Jared and Nalini have been married for eighteen months. They enjoy an affluent lifestyle but all is not as it seems. Nalini is a complex character, emotionally fragile and with a troubled past. Jared has his own failings, not least a passion for alluring women.

Their past lives are fast catching up, along with old deceptions and lies. When a stranger comes to stand sentinel outside their house, time is up for Nalini and Jared.

Awarded Readers' Favourite 5 Star Seal.
Tell Me A Secret is about the treachery of human emotions, the impossibility of love and the worst deception of them all. A psychological suspense and a short story of 8000 words. This is the third, stand-alone story in the Tales of the Unexpected, Mystery and Suspense series.

This was a short story and a fun read.
Jared and Nalini are a newlywed couple who have it all, including dark pasts and secrets they have kept from each other. But those secrets don't stay hidden long when he meets Vanessa, the strange woman who stands peering at their window each day. It's hard to say too much without giving it all away but it reminded me a bit of an old movie I saw many years ago called Diabolique.

I received a complimentary copy for review
It is also currently free at amazon so check I out if you are so inclined

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to Grow an Addict by J.A. Wright

Randall Grange has been tricked into admitting herself into a treatment center and she doesn’t know why. She’s not a party hound like the others in her therapy group—but then again, she knows she can’t live without pills or booze. Raised by an abusive father, a detached mother, and a loving aunt and uncle, Randall both loves and hates her life. She’s awkward and a misfit. Her parents introduced her to alcohol and tranquilizers at a young age, ensuring that her teenage years would be full of bad choices, and by the time she’s twenty-three years old, she’s a full-blown drug addict, well acquainted with the miraculous power chemicals have to cure just about any problem she could possibly have—and she’s in more trouble than she’s ever known was possible.

This is my first time reading anything by J.A. Wright, and honestly I'm blown away.
How To Grow An Addict is an expertly crafted realistic look at a dysfunctional family and all it's ugly consequences. It made me laugh one minute and broke my heart the next. Poor Randall grew up with an abusive hard drinking father and a mother who popped pills to calm her nerves. From the time she was old enough to mix a drink she was playing bartender and fetching her mother's pills, and sometimes helping herself to one or 2 so she could calm her own nerves and get some sleep. Almost always made to feel unwelcome in her own home she looked forward to spending time with her Aunt Flo and Uncle Hank, until tragedy took even that small measure of comfort away from her. This was an amazing story. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy for review

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Makings of a Fatherless Child by Chandler Alexander


The Makings of a Fatherless ChildThe Makings of a Fatherless Child by Chandler Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled over whether or not to leave a review for this book. I have mixed feelings about it. I have issues with much of the narrative and some of the dialogue. First the good...

This is a dark, gritty, brutal story. A coming of age tale in a poverty stricken city. Amel has known nothing but hard times his whole life. His father wants nothing to do with him, his mother is abusive and too wrapped up in herself to care or notice that Amel's clothes stopped fitting him years ago. He has hopes and dreams for a better life but circumstances, poor choices and his own temper conspire against him time and time again, dragging him down into a future that looks more and more bleak. This was a good story that could have been much better if only it had just a bit of polishing up before publication. The author states that they are a writer of "realistic fiction." Now I am sure that is where much of the dialogue fits in. It is raw, gritty and I suppose realistic. I am sure there are people who speak the way the characters in the book do, with mother****** and nigg** peppering every other word. You feel me? Aight? Some may take offense to the vulgarity, obscenities or ghettosims laced through-out but "I'm not even gone go there witcha." That was not what bothered me. However the constant typos and grammatical errors did begin to get on my nerves. Yes it is "realistic" to the way some people speak. But sometimes it seems the author forgot who they were even speaking about. For example seeing a man who had "my arm" around somebody's throat instead of his own arm. Or "I smiled at my little champ standing there crying, looking passed the big not on his head" "I said with a grimmest" "I threw a red brick on his body so there wouldn't be any figure prints" Not to even mention the woman who is wearing her "night grown" or having a "meth addition" I could go on but there is no point. Suffice it to say there are typos, misspellings and/or grammatical errors on every page.

At this point I actually reached out to the publisher to ask if these had been corrected. I did not get a response so today I went to amazon and downloaded the sample of the kindle edition which is currently for sale, and am sad to say that no these have not been corrected. I probably would have rated it 4 stars if corrections had been made even though some of the "realistic" parts are pretty outlandish.

If you can overlook this, it is a book worth reading.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Night Show by Richard Laymon


Friday, March 4, 2016

A Dark Assortment by Mikey Campling


This was a quick read. I do love short stories but I am not a big fan of "flash fiction" and at barely over a page long several of these would fall into that category. I'm not even going to pretend that I understood the stories that were that short. However if you like flash fiction this may be the book for you. There were a few gems mixed in with the bunch, that were longer and that I did find enjoyable. Among those were "Listen" which is a modern version of the Tell Tale Heart, "Focus" about a blogger who is too wrapped up in himself to notice life passing him by, and "Christmas Comes But Once, about a man who has lost the holiday spirit but may have found himself. Or at least that is my interpretation.  I could very well be wrong. If you read it let me know what you think.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Devil's Serenade by Catherine Cavendish

Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen. She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room. As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.

As a young lonely child Maddie looked forward to her time spent at Aunt Charlotte's house. Maddie is an only child but her imagination creates the siblings she wishes she had. She is often scolded for talking to herself, but at Aunt Maddie's house she is free to chatter away to her imaginary brother and sisters while her parents are off on Safari. Now that Maddie is a grown woman and has inherited her Aunt's house she struggles to remember what happened the summer she turned 16 and why she never visited Charlotte again. Strange things are seen and heard in the house and rumors abound concerning Aunt Charlotte and the previous owner. Maddie begins to wonder if she is losing her mind or if something more sinister is at work. I would rate it 4 out of 5 spooky stars.

I received an advance copy for review

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Can You Keep A Secret by R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine has built his legacy on scaring children and teenagers. Now he's back with another spine-tingling tale of horror in this new Fear Street book about temptation, betrayal, and fear.

Eddie and Emma are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emma discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it's safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emma's family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There's only one problem. When Emma returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.

Packed with tension and sure to illicit shivers in its readers, this new Fear Street book is another terrifying tale from a master of horror.

Emma is a typical teen aside from the strange dreams she’s been having about wolves. She thinks they might be caused by something that happened when she and her sister Sophie visited their aunt as very young children and she was bitten by a dog. However neither she nor Sophie can really remember the dog bite and there is no scar. Strangely enough there have been some wolf attacks in town. One night Emma sneaks off with her boyfriend and some of their friends for a camp out in the woods. When they find a brief case full of money stashed in a tree greed and distrust among the friends may become a problem. Meanwhile there is more then one secret going on that needs to be kept.. or discovered. This was a fun read although a little less on the spooky side than some of the others by R.L. Stine
I received an advance copy for review