Saturday, January 30, 2016

January Reading Wrap-Up & Book-of-the-Month Selection

Puppet Graveyard - Tim Curran Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination - Rampo Edogawa, James B. Harris The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M. Cain, Stanley Tucci Click-Clack the Rattlebag - Neil Gaiman Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories - China Miéville You Shall Never Know Security - J.R.  Hamantaschen Flesh and Coin - Craig  Saunders Come: A Short Story - E. Lorn, Edward Lorn Hell House - Richard Matheson

January was a stellar month for reading. I finished a lot of fine books this month (but didn't necessarily read every page of every one of these in January). Here's the list:


Puppet Graveyard, by Tim Curran - This novella is quick and nasty, with great imagery. It was leavened with humor. And, of course, it had creepy puppets. Who doesn't love creepy puppets?


Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, by Edogawa Rampo - This was an impulse buy. I got it on the cheap from Amazon mainly because I liked the cover. While reading the introduction, I thought the book was some sort of hoax when it claimed the author's pen name was basically a phonetic spelling of the name 'Edgar Allen Poe' spoken with a Japanese accent. I immediately looked the dude up and found out that he was the real deal and very influential in Japanese mystery fiction. Sorry, Japan. I did not know. And, man, I'm sure glad I know about this author now. His story "The Human Chair," which kicks off this collection, is simply fantastic. The remainder of the tales were very good, too, surreal and mysterious. I'll be reading more from Rampo.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain - I listened to the audiobook version of this classic noir tale, read by Stanley Tucci. Highly recommended.

Click-Clack the Rattlebag, by Neil Gaiman - This was a short freebie I downloaded long ago. If you downloaded it from Audible, a donation went to charity. It was a pleasant enough little horror story, but Gaiman's narration is a bit too treacly for my taste. (Note: This doesn't appear to still be available from Audible.)

Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories, by China Miéville - This was an excellent collection. After reading Miéville's first collection, Looking for Jake, I thought that perhaps he just wasn't a short story guy. This one proved me wrong though. I love Miéville for his imagination, his original ideas, and the way he's able to communicate some of the craziest concepts so effectively through prose. This book won't be for everyone. Some of these stories are experimental, many are abstruse, and many more are like wonderful unresolved mysteries. 

You Shall Never Know Security, by J.R. Hamantaschen - This is the second collection I've read by Hamantaschen in two months, which should tell you something. I enjoy the author's unique voice and the unrelenting hopelessness of his tales. They are so bleak that you have to throw up your hands and surrender with bewildered and uncomfortable laughter. I think of his stuff as being a sort of cross between Sam Pink and Laird Barron.

Flesh and Coin, by Craig Saunders - I am envious of Saunders's Spartan prose. It's always efficient and often poetic. I'll be reading all his stuff. Oh, the story? Yeah, yeah, that was good, too.

Come, by E. Lorn - A vicious little piece of viscous, passive-aggressive nastiness. 

Hell House, by Richard Matheson - I've been meaning to read this one for years. I shouldn't have put it off. Was it scary? Not really. But I  didn't expect it to be. Nor did I expect it to be so fantastically lurid; I was pleasantly surprised. 


My pick for Book-of-the-Month? It's exceedingly hard to decide, but I'll have to go with Miéville's Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories. It wins by the sheer brute force of imagination on display. 



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Monday, January 25, 2016

Tipping Sample

Click the cover to start reading the sample.


*Seeing how this new little embedded sample gizmo works. Carry on.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jason Parent Story on 2015 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot

I'm pleased to report that Jason Parent, my Bad Apples compatriot, has his Bad Apples 2 entry Dia de los Muertos listed on the preliminary ballot for the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards.


Congratulations, Mr. Parent! This story's inclusion is well-deserved, and congratulations to all of the creators whose work made it on the Stoker long-list this year.


Click here to view the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot.



Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Prince of Nightmares, by John McNee


Prince of Nightmares - John McNee

Full disclosure: I do not know the author of this book, but I do greatly admire his collection Grudge Punk, and when he approached me with a review copy of this novel, I couldn't turn it down.

First off, Grudge Punk is one of my favorite books. Did I like Prince of Nightmares as much? Frankly, no. And I'm not quite sure they are comparable entities. One's a collection of intertwining stories set in a shared hard-boiled universe populated with rough characters made of metal, flesh, and plastic bits. The other is a novel which brings to mind the dark and icky kind of '70s psychological horror films in which you'd find a rather worn-down and unsavory Donald Sutherland. That type of film but directed by Ken Russell after he'd peered into the future to view Clive Barker's Hellraiser.

To me, Grudge Punk is a unique and exciting thing, whereas Prince of Nightmares isn't quite as fresh. Sometimes it even seems to be an homage (not in itself a bad thing at all). Don't get me wrong, Prince of Nightmares isn't a bad novel by any stretch. I'm just taking the long way around in saying that, to me, it suffered by comparison to his earlier work that I enjoyed so much. Also, I must admit that crazy shit like Grudge Punk is more my bag anyway. I can easily see differently wired individuals preferring this work over the other.

Some things that didn't bother me but I know will bother some readers:

1. Lack of sympathetic characters. 2. Dreams/nightmares are a huge part of the premise, so you're going to run into the 'is this or is this not a dream?' scenario at some point in the narrative. That's a given. If that bothers you, stay away.

What I would have liked more of:

Honestly, I'd love to read a prequel to this book. The backstory at times was more interesting to me than what was going on in the present.

Elements I really enjoyed:

1. The main character is a man in his eighties. 2. The imagery in this book is visceral and fantastic.

John McNee is an author to watch, and I'll be buying his next book on day one.

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