First I have to thank the very good people at LibraryThing & the publisher for my copy.
A short-story cHoly bleeping bleep. In a beyond-good way.
First I have to thank the very good people at LibraryThing & the publisher for my copy.
A short-story collection from Argentinian author Mariana Enríquez, Things We Lost in the Fire is a tough book to describe. It is a mix of realism and just sheer utter terror, where the author writes about contemporary society within the framework of the horror/supernatural fiction genre, which seems to allow her a good deal of flexibility in discussing gender, relationships, women's issues, poverty, crime and other often-horrific realities in contemporary Argentina. And while it's not stated so overtly, in pretty much every story there are echoes of Argentina's past, which is never far away from its present, as she notes in this quotation from "No Flesh Over My Bones" :
"We walk all over bones in this city, it's just a question of making holes deep enough to reach the buried dead."
It doesn't take long for the book to affect you -- you need turn no further than the first story "The Dirty Kid" to see just how chilling these stories are. While reading that one, I was on the dark, frightening streets of the city in a neighborhood where just taking a walk at night could feasibly get you killed or worse. And trust me, that was the least of the narrator's worries in this tale.
Definitely disturbing, and there is not a bad story in the entire book. The final tale, in fact, "Things We Lost in the Fire," is so damn good, so utterly powerful in what it has to say, but at the same time it is so squirmworthy that you just can't look away.
This book is so intelligently done, so completely out of the box, and so very well written that I can't speak highly enough about it. It is one of the best contemporary books I've read this year. It is also a very welcome surprise -- Enríquez brings a fresh new voice and perspective to the realm of horror/dark fiction and does so with purpose.
Sadly, this book will not be out until February of 2017, but the good news is that people have something to look forward to. Highly, beyond-highly, recommended.
Hands down, one of the best vampire novels I've ever read. Hats off to Valancourt once again. One more thing: I know I tend to get overly enthusiasticHands down, one of the best vampire novels I've ever read. Hats off to Valancourt once again. One more thing: I know I tend to get overly enthusiastic about these old books, a feeling I know is not shared by everyone and I apologize about babbling so, but seriously, I can't help it. I know when I've got my hands on something good, and well, this one definitely is among the cream of the crop.
There are just some books that make me feel like I've been wrapped up in a cocoon of perfect happiness while reading them, and this novel is one of those. Not only is The Delicate Dependency a fun story with a number of unexpected twists and turns, it also has that Victorian-style pulpy aesthetic that I love so much. Once I started reading it, I was beyond happy that it turned out not to be your average vampire novel, but something that moved well beyond the same old same old and into the realm of just pure reading pleasure.
What's lovely about this novel is that there are so many twists and turns here that as soon as I thought I had it figured out, everything changes, and then once I thought I had it sorted "this time", I was happily and completely wrong. And as I said earlier, the novel has that amazing Victorian ambience complete with elements of that pulpy aesthetic that I just love -- an old dark house with lots of secrets, a very well-sequenced set of pursuit-and-evasion scenes that I think I held my breath through, and much more, all leading up to a stunning conclusion.
I was happy as a little clam curling up with my succession of chai lattes and this novel , which is so very different and actually more satisfying than any other vampire novel I've read in a very long time. Readers who are looking for the standard sinking of fangs into the neck may not find this one to their particular tastes, nor will readers looking for yet another vampire romance likely find satisfaction here. Talbot has written a fine, intelligent book here, but most of all, it's just plain fun.
Obviously, very very highly recommended if you enjoy older, forgotten books like I do. This one definitely has my name on it. Caution: do NOT read the intro first, and whatever you do, do NOT read any reviews that give away the show. I'm not even going to go into subtext here because it will wreck what happens, and the fun is most definitely in watching things unfold.
Another good one from Valancourt. Then again, I'm a quite partial to haunted house stories; add in the "benighted" aspect that is part of this novel aAnother good one from Valancourt. Then again, I'm a quite partial to haunted house stories; add in the "benighted" aspect that is part of this novel and Devil in the Darkness made me crazy happy -- sometimes I'm just in it for story and this book did not at all disappoint.
The author of this book is no fly-by-night dude who decided one day to write a book about a haunted house. Archie Roy was a celebrated scientist, and in his introduction to this novel, Greg Gbur notes that
"what we have in Archie Roy's Devil in the Darkness is a truly unique novel: a haunted house tale written by a man who was simultaneously a professional physical scientist, a professional author, and a professional paranormal investigator."
While that's interesting to note, the real draw is the story itself -- it's one I couldn't put down until I'd finished the entire book.
Set in Scotland, a newlywed couple on the way to their honeymoon destination find themselves lost and caught up in a horrific snowstorm. As the road begins to deteriorate, as the windshield wipers fail, and as the couple is unable to turn around to make it back to safety, Paul and Carol Wilson decide that it's time to take shelter anywhere they can find it. In the darkness they see a light, leading them to Ardvreck House. The man who answers the door informs him that he and Carol are welcome to stay, and that all of the people currently in the house are "strangers." Other than that bit of information, no one tells the newlyweds who are they are, where they're from, or why they're there in the house, but since the Wilsons plan on leaving in the morning, it doesn't seem too important at the time. The newlyweds are given a room, where they bed down for the night. At about 2:20 a.m., Paul is awakened by strange sounds from the room above theirs, goes up to investigate, and finds nothing. The next day, they depart, but return to the house when they discover that the road ahead is no good, and they're stuck for the duration. It is then when their housemates reveal what they're doing at Ardvreck House, and it is not long at all before the Wilsons become witnesses to strange events taking place there. Discovering what lies at the heart of these dark doings becomes a quest for everyone in the house, but whatever it is that shares the house with these people isn't going to make things easy for them.
Greg Gbur in his introduction goes on to say that the revelation behind what's going on in this house "clearly draws upon Roy's own investigations and theories about hauntings," which makes the story even more fun to read, knowing that it comes from the mind of someone who's spent a lot of time in reputedly-haunted houses. While it may not be the best haunted house story I've ever read (the honor there goes hands down to The Haunting of Hill House), it's definitely fun with a good, solid mystery at its core. And when all is said and done, it's also highly satisfying and just oozes atmosphere.
With no gore and no guts spilling out anywhere, Devil in the Darkness reminds us that blood doesn't need to be splashed all over a horror novel's pages for it to provide good, solid entertainment and a story that will keep its reader turning pages. I had a lot of fun with this book and once again, a salute to the Valancourt guys for liking it enough to re-introduce it into the reading world. I liked it enough to immediately buy two other books by Archie Roy, so that should say something right there.
recommended to readers of haunted-house stories. ...more
The synopsis of this novel sounded like something right up my horror-reading alley, and it had potential to become a definite s brief plot etc: here.
The synopsis of this novel sounded like something right up my horror-reading alley, and it had potential to become a definite spine chiller had I not felt like I was reading a twisted Japanese version of the movie Poltergeist. Not only was this book a "been there, done that" sort of thing for me, but it moved at a snail's pace -- while some weird things happened, they did so sort of piecemeal, with a lot of space in between which for me only deadened any sort of creep factor I was looking for. Acknowledging that it did have its moments, these were not enough to make the sense of horror at all sustainable over the course of the novel. By the time the "last thirty pages" came along, which were supposed to have readers "holding your breath" according to the back cover blurb, I was just ready to be done and to leave the Kanos to their fate. I'll also say that there was a major opportunity to make this a stronger horror novel that was missed and if anyone wants to talk about it after reading, let me know. (view spoiler)[It has to do with the so-called "dark secret" alluded to on the dustjacket blurb (which actually, everyone except the Kanos' neighbors knew about already so it wasn't actually a secret at all - who writes this stuff?) and a certain memorial tablet and shrine that somehow forgot to be taken care of... (hide spoiler)]
Once again, I see that I'm the proverbial fish swimming upstream against the tide, since this book seems to be making horror readers everywhere happy people. I really, really wanted to like it, but the truth is that it just didn't wow me. I had decided to read a more modern horror story to prove to myself that I wasn't a one-trick pony taking pleasure only in vintage chills, but it just wasn't the right one for me. That doesn't mean it might not be someone else's cup of cha, but in this case, it just wasn't mine....more
Based in part on an old Catalan legend, this novel is set in 1918 as the Spanish Influenza is raging across thelike a 4.5 or so. I hate star ratings.
Based in part on an old Catalan legend, this novel is set in 1918 as the Spanish Influenza is raging across the United States. The action takes place in the very small town of Incarnation, Texas, where a young boy has been left alone for various reasons and finds himself facing a legend come to life. He has seven nights to guess the real name of this horrific creature, the muladona; if he fails, the creature promises to drag him to down to hell. For seven nights the muladona visits and tells our young hero stories which contain seeds of information that the boy must somehow fit together to make the right guess. As time begin to winds down, well ... let's just say my stomach was in knots wondering if he'd make it.
Eric Stener Carlson dazzled me with his The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires, and now he's won me with this book as well. Muladona is original, fresh, and above all, it is a thinking person's horror novel, which I genuinely appreciate. It's not some slapdash book that's been thrown together -- au contraire -- it is very nicely constructed, well thought out and intelligently written. Don't miss this one -- mine is the hardcover copy, but there is an e-book available as well. Highly, highly recommended for readers who enjoy the work of excellent writers and for people who like their horror novels more on the cerebral side. This is a good one, folks.
I absolutely love this small indie publisher, and Valancourt's done it again with Volume One of The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, which, as the dustjacket blurb says, is a "new collection of tales spanning two centuries of horror," and is a mix of stories that range from "frightening to horrific to weird to darkly funny." It is exactly as described, and given how much fun I had with this book, I can only imagine the great time James and Ryan must have had in choosing the stories that went into it. As an added bonus, at the beginning of each chapter there are informative notes about each story, the author, and the titles that Valancourt has published by each writer making an appearance in this book.
This book is tailor made for someone like me who thrives on vintage chills. Some of these stories I'd classify as true horror, some are more on the psychological side, there are ghostly tales, and one even made me laugh out loud. While I get that not everyone appreciates or shares my old-fashioned horror-reading sensibilities, and that horror is indeed in the eye of the beholder, for me this collection was just about perfect. I'm a VERY picky reader, so that says a lot.
Please bring out a Volume Two! I loved this book!!!!!!...more
I hate trying to come up with a star rating for this book since, looking at what others here have said about this book, it just goes to show that horrI hate trying to come up with a star rating for this book since, looking at what others here have said about this book, it just goes to show that horror is indeed in the eye of the beholder. This time around, there were far more stories I liked than stories I didn't, and in the latter category, it was pretty much based on personal preference. The few stories I didn't care for go way more into real-life horrors than I care to go in fiction; these are likely better suited for readers who like their horror more on the edgy side than I do. While the writing is not an issue (it's quite good, in fact), the subject matter and especially the level of violence in these particular stories just made for uncomfortable reading. When it comes to this violent, newpaper-headline, too-real sort of horror, I'd rather just say no thank you and move along to something more tame. But that's me.
Looking at the bigger picture, the choice of title for this collection is absolutely spot on, for indeed, the majority of these stories are truly the stuff of modern nightmares. Squirmworthy might also have been an appropriate title, since some of these stories were disturbing enough to the point where I had to put the book down, do something else, and then pick it up again. There's no way I could have read this book in one sitting -- I'm sure that if I had, I'd have ended up with my own collection of nightmares and they still wouldn't have been as disturbing as what's between the covers in this book. It's definitely not for the faint of heart.
I've posted about this book at my reading journal , with a list of stories complete with small one/two -line descriptions about each and no spoilers.
Nightmares is one of those anthologies where there's pretty much something for everyone. The only suggestion I might make for the future is to include more work by authors whose stories don't usually make it into these anthologies. In my very humble reader person's opinion, an anthology should work to showcase the best of what's out there, but when I'm seeing the same authors pop up over and over again in these collections, it makes me wonder who else may be out there whose work may be going unrecognized but who may be just as good of a writer as the ones whose work is found here.
For me this book is most certainly filled with enough quality material that I can easily recommend it to any horror reader. It's a beyond-good collection on the whole, very satisfying and downright chill producing. For me it's a yes.
A fun, very cool mix of horror, pulp, mystery all brought together in one volume.
While I'm not really a big reader of werewolf fiction, I made an excA fun, very cool mix of horror, pulp, mystery all brought together in one volume.
While I'm not really a big reader of werewolf fiction, I made an exception with this book since I enjoy and appreciate David Case's writing, what little of it there is. In a pride-swallowing sort of way that acknowledges my prejudice against "monster" stories, I have to admit that these stories were not only entertaining and frightening, but intelligently written to the point that it's nearly impossible not to miss the subtexts lying beneath the chills. I always thought that werewolf stories would be same-old same-old, full-moon-turns-poor-victim-into-howling-wolf sort of thing but I have to bow my head here and stand corrected.
I might have guessed from the title alone that these stories would center on transformation -- going to a random dictionary site online to look up the word "transmorphic" brings up "the evolution of one thing from another, the transformation of one thing into another." Each and every story in this collection carries that idea forward, while remaining unique in its own way.
Michael Dirda briefly touches on this book in a Washington Post article of October 2015, and he sort of sums up the lot perfectly when he says that
"Case injects more overt psychosexual frissons into tales that deliberately confuse the humanly horrific -- serial murder, rape, -- with incursions of the supernatural."
In each of the stories in this book, we learn what it is that brings out the "beast within", and what it is that triggers this transformation. In this sense, I'm reminded of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, which delves deeply and delightfully into the same sort of idea.
The Cell and Other Transmorphic Tales is not only a fun read perfect for getting a reader into the Halloween spirit, but it's also worthwhile for Case's examination of the darker side of human nature. In short, it ticks my buttons both on the horror side of things and on the side of my own inquisitive nature that wants answers to the question of what it is that makes people do what they do. Personally I think horror fiction (or dark fiction) is a perfect vehicle for discovering the answers. The trick is in finding authors who share that fascination, and this book is a good place to start.
I actually read this back in December during a stormy day, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot, spicy chai in hand -- it was, as I mcatching up:
I actually read this back in December during a stormy day, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot, spicy chai in hand -- it was, as I mentioned somewhere, a perfectly ahhhh sort of Saturday experience. There are two eerie tales in one volume here: the title story, "The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral," and a story that has never before seen the light of day in the US, "Brangwyn Gardens." My personal favorite is the latter, but both are quite good, and I have absolutely no qualms in recommending this little book.
Sadly, to tell is to ruin so I'm not going to be giving away much in the way of plot, most especially for "Brangwyn Gardens." In "The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral," we have a first-person narrative going on via a steeplejack named Joe Clarke, whose company has been offered a job fixing the southwest tower of the titular cathedral. It's not the sort of job Joe's company is regularly asked to do -- as he notes, "Cathedrals were for the big boys," -- but the company that is usually commissioned seems to be busy elsewhere for the entire summer; the other company is not available because one of their men has a back injury. The first clue we have that something just ain't right here is Joe's remark about "lying sods," and about the "big boys" knowing something he didn't. Alarm bells started ringing in my head about then (and that's just on page two), so I knew this was going to be good. How right I was -- the rest of this story begins once Joe is high up on the Cathedral's tower, as he senses some creepiness emanating from of all things, one of the gargoyles found there. Joe, though, is the consummate professional, extremely proud of his work and the family tradition of steeplejacking, so he sort of shakes it off until one night when his young son goes sleepwalking and is found at the tower...
That's all I'll reveal about the story now, except for the fact that once Joe goes delving into the tower's history, he discovers something from its past that has made its way into the present. While normally this sort of thing isn't my typical reading material, I loved this story, which proceeded to put knots in my stomach the more I got into it.
On to "Brangwyn Gardens," which is set in 1955 London, beginning when a young student (Harry Shaftoe) with a sort of cavalier attitude about life takes a room in an attic in a house in Brangwyn Gardens. This tale is a story about obsession that grows from his discovery of a wartime diary kept by a young woman, Catherine Winslow. As he reads through the diary, he comes to realize that this girl had a secret longing for a "dark and dangerous man" whom she eventually finds. As he is drawn more deeply into her story, he begins to notice signs that perhaps the past lives on at number eleven Brangwyn Gardens, and his obsession begins to take hold, drawing him back in time...
This story is much more in my reading line -- a very poignant and downright haunting story that for some reason made me think of Virginia Woolf's "A Haunted House" even though the two are very, very different. I can't say why exactly this tale made me go there in my head, but it did. I absolutely loved "Brangwyn Gardens." In reading over reader reactions to this story, I discovered that many people felt a bit let down at its ending, but not me -- a) I love stories like this one where the past tends to collide with the present and b) without sounding mushy here, it was a sad story that touched me on a very human, emotional level. I won't say more, because it is something a person must experience, but I will say that I thought about "Brangwyn Gardens" for days after I'd finished it.
I'd never read Westall before because I thought he wrote mainly for children, but there is nothing at all childish about either of these two stories, which although vastly different from each other, are connected with their focus on the past and how it lingers on into the present. Recommended, although perhaps more for people like me who seem to appreciate old-school sort of horror and supernatural stories....more
Not only is Experimental Files a book that pushed every single one of my horror-loving buttons, it is also a story very welVerdict: Simply excellent.
Not only is Experimental Files a book that pushed every single one of my horror-loving buttons, it is also a story very well told, one that grabbed my attention on the second page of chapter one and didn't let up, not for one instant. And it was done without tentacles, walking dead, or splatter, although, as the main character of this story reveals more than once, there are most certainly cosmic forces at work in this tale:
"...the world is full of holes behind which numinous presences lurk -- secrets no one should ever have to see, or want to. And those who do will never be the same."
If you want the basic plot outline with absolutely no spoilers, I've posted more about it here.
The very haunting story in this book is an absolute hackle raiser that had me flip flip flipping pages, but at the same time, there are also a LOT of interesting things going on here outside of the creepy elements. There are the main character's experiences as the mother of an autistic child, the novel's focus on films, on writing, on art in general and much, much more. After reading about the author just briefly, it seems that she's pouring out parts of her own story into these pages, something that when done well tends to augment an author's work, and here it brings an added layer of life to this book. I loved one line in particular where she says that "doing your art -- your work -- can help you save your own life," and that idea most certainly comes across in this book.
As a plain-old, average but a bit picky sort of reader person, I'll just say that this book has everything that I could possibly want in a modern horror novel; considering that my real obsession is in works from the past, that's saying a lot.
The back cover blurb of this book says that Mercer
"channeled his antiquarian interests and his love of GothI really liked this one. I liked it a LOT.
The back cover blurb of this book says that Mercer
"channeled his antiquarian interests and his love of Gothic literature into November Night Tales (1928), a volume of highly imaginative weird tales in the mode of M.R. James."
I went into the book as I normally do, without expectations, but it wasn't too long into the first story, "Castle Valley," when I started thinking "I've read something like this before." Sorting through all of the clutter in my head, I realized that in its own way, "Castle Valley" sort of reminded me of James' "View From a Hill." In James' story, an archaeologist gets a view of the past with the help of some rather sinister binoculars; here, a painter and his friend discover a scrying stone that does much the same. But this doesn't mean that November Night Tales is a James ripoff -- au contraire -- it is quite an original collection of stories that should be read and appreciated on its own merit. This book gathers together many facets of Mercer's personal interests: the natural landscape, local legends, mythology, and above all, castles. As the introduction notes,
"Indeed, to Mercer, the very presence of a castle suggested an almost infinite number of possibilities. 'Castles, Castles, Castles -- Where do their stories begin or end?"
As happens often with James (especially in his Antiquary stories), Mercer's characters tend to find themselves in the position of coming across something they probably shouldn't be messing with, but are all the same compelled to explore further in hopes of some sort of satisfactory, rational answer. In the process, these people end up discovering that there are often things that exist well beyond their understanding, but they also tend to realize something about themselves as well.
The table of contents is as follows (I won't go into each story here, since it's best to discover Mercer on one's own):
"Castle Valley" "The North Ferry Bridge" "The Blackbirds" "The Wolf Book" "The Dolls' Castle" "The Sunken City" "The Well of Monte Corbo"
I will say that while I thought all of the stories in this book were quite good, I found three I enjoyed just a bit more than the others. There's "The Dolls' Castle," a great gothic haunted-house sort of story that was just downright creepy, as was "The Wolf Book," which starts in an old monastery in the Carpathians. I don't know about anyone else, but the combination of old text, monastery and the Carpathians is a definite draw for me, a scenario I can't resist; there were other very cool historical bits in this story as well as a look at how local legends and myths can transform a community. "The North Ferry Bridge" was also quite fun, with a little dark, pulpy creeposity in the telling which was a definite plus for me; added to that aspect, I also got the horrific tale of an escaped madman, another story type that I can't not read. While these three elevated my heart rate for a while, all of the stories in November Night Tales were definitely "highly imaginative" and "weird," as promised. Then, of course, comes the added bonus of finding a previously-unknown (to me) author and reading his work ...
While the stories may not exactly scare the pants off of readers, they are highly intelligent, well written and they set the brain into high gear while reading them. These are dark tales for thinking people who don't need everything spelled out for them and frankly, they're just plain fun.
As always Valancourt, thanks for bringing the obscure back into the light. ...more