Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Year They Burned the Books by Nancy Garden

By the author of Annie on My MindWhen Wilson High Telegraph editor Jamie Crawford writes an opinion piece in support of the new sex-ed curriculum, which includes making condoms available to high school students, she has no idea that a huge controversy is brewing. Lisa Buel, a school board member, is trying to get rid of the health program, which she considers morally flawed, from its textbooks to its recommendations for outside reading. The newspaper staff find themselves in the center of the storm, and things are complicated by the fact that Jamie is in the process of coming to terms with being gay, and her best friend, Terry, also gay, has fallen in love with a boy whose parents are anti-homosexual. As Jamie's and Terry's sexual orientation becomes more obvious to other studetns, it looks as if the paper they're fighting to keep alive and honest is going to be taken away from them. Nancy Garden has depicted a contemporary battleground in a novel that probes deep into issues of censorship, prejudice, and ethics.


A coming of age story that deals with accepting one's own sexuality in a world in which it's not always safe or comfortable to be yourself. In other words the world we all live in right now.
Jamie, the editor of the school paper, and her best friend both feel they might probably be possibly maybe gay (I believe that is how they put it.)
The school has recently adopted a free condom Friday policy which has upset some of the parents, and particularly those who believe sex is sinful. Things escalate as books are removed from the library and some want to adopt an abstinence only policy for sex education.
It was an enjoyable although simplistic story that I don't feel quite grasped all the complexities of the subject matter but keeping in mind it is intended for a YA audience I am rounding up my 3 and a half stars to 4.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 Edited by Brian James Freeman.

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong—and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t—nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar—and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think . . . before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets—secrets best left buried in the past.


In this last installment of the 5 part Halloween Carnival anthology there are some real winners and a couple of clunkers. I was hoping the final volume would end with a bang. Instead it just kind of fizzled out.

I like Peter Straub a lot but I am just not a big fan of Pork Pie Hat. I know someone must really love it, since it's been published so many times, but that somebody is just not me.

For me,  only 2 stories  really made this  anthology worth reading. DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar in which an ordinary school teacher gets wrapped up in murder and mayhem on a windblown Friday, the night before Halloween.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle was another 5 star read for me. Two old friends, each of them a grandma now, who haven't seen each other in many years happen to bump into each other on Halloween. Their granddaughters hit it off immediately. What seems like a happy reunion soon turns into a nightmare. I loved this story.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 4 Edited by Brian James Freeman

Description


 


 

 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

For Better, or For Worse: Eight Stories by Josh Craven

Description

In For Better, or For Worse, Josh Craven offers up eight unsettling stories of the macabre, the supernatural, and the worst of human nature.

•"For Better or for Worse" - When Jacob’s world is derailed by a tragic accident, the hot-shot young attorney finds practicing law is easy compared to practicing his new life.
•"Tongue Lashing" - Two junior-high boys alone in an East Texas pasture on a broiling hot afternoon. What could go wrong?
•"The Hungry House" - In an effort to get his life straight, Davy takes a road trip to put the past behind him for good. But he finds his childhood home has been waiting for his return.
•"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" - Having to go in to the office on a Saturday is bad enough, but commuting on the public rail system can be… well, murder.
•"Attrition" - When looking for a job in the brutally competitive world of big law firms, John Nichols finds that getting through the hiring process can be survival of the most desperate.
•"Cake and Smokes" - A young couple buys the perfect starter home, but they find the elderly prior owner wasn’t quite ready to leave the house behind.
•"The Past Never Dies" - Through the daily entries in Barney’s grief journal, a terrible secret from his past is revealed.
•"The Last Photographer" - First her parents, then her husband—Kat has trouble letting go of those she loves, but she soon finds there are fates much worse than death.



For Better or For Worse is a curious collection of bizarre tales, that range in nature from Sci-Fi in the title story, to psychological thriller, to horror. The first few were just not for me but the last 5 more than made up for that. In "Attrition" several job applicants show up to interview at a law firm that has but a single job to offer. Times are tough and they all desperately need this opportunity. Desperation can be a dangerous thing! I loved this one.

In "Cake and Smokes" an elderly woman puts her house on the market but tries her damnedest to not get put out of her home. This one was super creepy.

"The Past Never Dies" was my absolute favorite. It's about love and loss and grief. Barney has recently lost his wife, and begins a daily journal to deal with his emotions and to tell his wife all the things he can no longer say. Strange things begin to happen as Barney is haunted not by his wife but by his own past.

"The Last Photographer" also touches on grief as Kat tries to face the fact that her husband is losing his battle with cancer. When she tries to both hold on and let him go she learns that some things are far worse than death.

All in all a good solid collection. 4 out of 5 stars from me.
I received a complimentary copy for review

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 3 Edited by Brian James Freeman

Description
Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, and Greg Chapman unleash the unsettled spirits of the past in five frightening stories collected by celebrated editor, author, and horror guru Brian James Freeman.

THE WAY LOST by Kelley Armstrong
The kids in Franklin don’t ask questions. Each Halloween, one of them disappears into the forest. Dale promised his mother he’d never go into the woods alone. But the kids in Franklin also lie.

LA CALAVERA by Kate Maruyama
The Día de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Cemetery used to be ours. Now, without Jasmine, it’s only right that I go one last time in her honor—before I let her go for good. . . .

THE DEVIL’S DUE by Michael McBride
Pine Springs, Colorado, has prospered for generations by honoring its traditions and its promises. Then one man refuses to do his civic duty—and the price he must pay is fatally steep.

A THOUSAND ROOMS OF DARKNESS by Taylor Grant
Samhainophobia: an irrational fear of Halloween. Phasmophobia: an irrational fear of ghosts. For Anne, these terrors are more rational than she knows.

THE LAST NIGHT OF OCTOBER by Greg Chapman
Every year, one little boy wearing a grotesque Frankenstein mask comes knocking at Gerald’s door. Gerald has always managed to avoid him . . . until this year.
  


"Every Halloween, one child in Franklin lost his way and never came home."
These words began my dark and delightful foray into Halloween Carnival 3. I was looking for scares and I certainly got them. Volume 1 and 2 were good but this is the best so far of this 5 part anthology series that will be released in time for Halloween.
Oh my gruesome goodness! Every one of these tales was amazing. I would not even be able to choose a favorite as I normally do with short stories because every single one gave me chills. From ghosts to demons to twisted psychological terror this anthology is a horror lover's dream.
5 out of 5 fright filled stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 2 Edited by Brian James Freeman

Description
Available for pre-order at Amazon

Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio bring the ghouls of the most haunted night of the year to life in a chilling collection of stories curated by master of horror Brian James Freeman.

MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg
Halloween is more than just a holiday in Clarkson, Montana; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. Only this year, the ghosts of the past may just be a little closer than usual.

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MY SISTER by Lee Thomas
When David was young, he believed in magic. In fact, he wanted to become a magician himself. But meddling in the forces of the mind has consequences beyond what an eleven-year-old can see.

MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein
Cabbage Night, Goose Night, Devil’s Night—they’re all the same. Before the treats come the tricks. It’s all in good fun . . . until someone gets hurt.

THE GHOST MAKER by Del James
When people need to disappear, I make them vanish. The catch? I’ve always got to be on guard—because that knock at the door may not just be a little monster looking for candy.

THE PUMPKIN BOY by Al Sarrantonio
When boys start going missing, Detective Len Schneider is determined to make it right. But his partner knows that there are worse things out there than a dead kid.


This is the second in a series of five anthologies that will be released next month, in time for Halloween.
Like the first volume it contains 5 short stories which are perfect for Halloween reading or any time of year when you'd like to enjoy a little bite of horror and dark fiction. My absolute favorites were the first 3. Not that the others weren't good but I have previously read all of Al Sarrantonio's Orangefield books (so should you!) and this one is just not dearest in my heart.
The Ghostmaker by Del James was just not my type.

Living in a small town where local legends abound (I live in the same town as the real Conjuring house) my favorite story had to be MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg in which everyone has heard of the infamous carnival that is rumored to appear only on Halloween but none of them has ever attended. Stories about it abound, but there are no first hand accounts of what really goes on there. Perhaps it is just a myth and doesn't really exist. This year Professor David Roemer is about to find out.
THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MY SISTER by Lee Thomas was more of a psychological/mystery/suspense
Something horrible has happened to David's estranged sister. We don't know what, only that he is called to rush to the hospital, where slowly we learn how events from childhood led to the suffering of today.
MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein When a man in an alcoholic stupor goes to investigate a noise in his basement what could possibly go wrong?
A solid 5 stars to each of those 3 stories and highly recommended for all fans of dark fiction.

I received an advance copy for review.