Friday, May 25, 2012

Horror For Good

     There is something for everyone in Horror For Good, from the staccato prose of Ray Garton to the poetic style of G.R. Yeates, the stories found in this collection are as varied as they are chilling. In fact, that variety extends to include all aspects of the horror genre; stories that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, ones that evoked the sadness of the loss of a loved one, to dark humor, to science fiction with a dark twist, everything the horror genre has to offer can be found here. 
     I should mention I was a slush reader for this anthology. I was honored to be able to help, along with two other wonderful women. However, I did not get to read every story in here prior to publication. Many of these were new to me, and I enjoyed getting to read them for the first time. There are also a few reprints in here that are very hard to come by, but were offered thanks to the generosity of the authors in the horror community. That same generosity is what led to the number of stories that came pouring in, and allowed the editors to pick the best of the best for this anthology. I want to highlight a few of the stories here; a mix of reprints and originals. 

Dead Letters, by Ramsey Campbell was a chilling story told by a master. As the story progresses, you have some vague notion of the direction Campbell is taking you, but at the end there is still that element of surprise that makes you stop then reread the story because you have just realized all the clues had been neatly laid out, if you had just taken the time to notice them. Campbell manages to build the tension and suspense in just a few short pages; there is good reason why he is an award winning author. 

Mouth, by Nate Southard was one of those stories that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was a very original story, where you learn things a bit at a time about the new conditions of life on the planet. There is a new organism, and it has demands that must be met. I don't want to say more than that, as what makes this story great is its slow build up to a very frightening end. 

The Lift, by G.R. Yeates was another unique and very well written story. Yeates uses his signature poetic prose to evoke a nightmare world that is contained in an office building, but it all originates from the lift. This bleak story evokes what a truly hellish job with no hope of any redemption would look like. Nightmare merges with reality in the world Yeates has created.

The Apocalypse Ain't so Bad, by Jeff Strand is an example of the dark humor that can be found in a few stories in this anthology. In this humorous but gruesome story, the zombie apocalypse has occurred, but our main character is fine with that since he can do what he wants, or at least he can until a rather unfortunate incident occurs.  Strand's sense of humor had me laughing out loud at this quirky, bloody story. 

Solution, by Benjamin Kane Ethridge is a perfect example of how science fiction and horror marry so well together. Things are slowly revealed in this tale; the reader learns most things as the main character does, but by the end you know exactly what has happened and it is a very frighting prospect. 

Returns, by Jack Ketchum was one of the sad stories of loss. This was a very moving story, that again, surprised me with the direction it ultimately took.  But with that surprise came a deeper emotional response, Ketchum has an amazing ability to tell a story and also make you think about what really matters in life. 

     To say I enjoyed this anthology would be an understatement. This is one the finest collections of horror stories I have seen. The editing was superb, the groupings of stories flowed smoothly from one to the next, with the perfect ones at the beginning and the end. The fact that all the profits are going to a wonderful charity, amFar, is simply an added bonus. Highly recommended. 

I give it five cocktails.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Movable Feast/ The Paris Wife

     I recently read A Movable Feast for a book club, and I will admit it is the first thing I have read by Ernest Hemingway.  Even though these are his memoirs, his abrupt style of prose that he became famous for is readily apparent, and it took me a few pages to get used to it. But once I did, I was drawn into his memories of Paris in the 1920s. What was interesting to me was to compare this with a novel I had read on the same subject. The Paris Wife, by Paula Mclain, is a fictonalized account of Hemmingway and his first wife, Hadley. It starts off with Hadley's childhood and goes on to describe her first encounter with Hemmingway, then their years together in Paris where he met and befriended several literary giants. This was all before he became famous himself and their relationship came crashing down.
      I'm not sure how I would have felt if I had read his memoirs first; I think I enjoyed them more because I had already read A Paris Wife. No matter if you read one or both of them, they offer a fascinating glimpse into the life of an American literary icon and Paris in the jazz age.

I give both five cocktails.  

(I think Hemingway would approve of my rating system) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog

I have a bit of an announcement to make. I have been asked to write reviews for the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. I will still be doing reviews on booze and books, and they will still include horror books for those of you that enjoy things here.

The HHHB is a fantastic blog and I was honored to be asked to be a part of the team there.  So I may occasionally be posting links on here to the HHHB, and I encourage all of you to check them out and subscribe to the site. My first review on the site was for The Eyes of the Dead, by G.R. Yeates, and all of you who follow this blog know he is a favorite of mine.  You can read the review here.  Happy reading and may your cocktails never run dry!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Amery House

     Amery House by Samantha J. Moore is a story of five women who were forced into a life of prostitution for  various reasons in the beginning of the 1930's. They find themselves living in a brothel in the French Quarter in New Orleans, and it is in this insular location where most of the novella takes place. Being from New Orleans, I am always both hesitant and curious to see stories set here, but Moore was able to weave a believable story. I could easily picture the house she described and the corrupt cops and gangsters of the time period.
     These are interesting characters and Moore makes a point to tell the story of each one, and to emphasize their humanity and their will to live no matter what the costs. Amery House explores the various cruelties that can be committed against people, and what they do in response. This is not a happy redemptive tale, and I think it is stronger because of it. Overall, it was an interesting quick read.

I give it three and a half cocktails.

The Respectable Face of Tyranny

     The Respectable Face of Tyranny by Gary Fry is the first in a line of novellas to be published by Spectral Visions, which is a division of Spectral Press. I have done a review of Spectral Press and had many fine things to say about them; you can read it here. There are two versions of this novella, one that is in hardcover and limited to 100 signed and numbered copies that had sold out prior to publication, and one that is available through Amazon in paperback.  The hardcover edition also includes a bonus novella, titled World Wide Web.

     The paperback contains the title story, and it is well worth getting. This is the first thing I have read by Gary Fry, but his wonderful flowing prose and fully realized characters ensures that it will not be the last. This is a story of economic loss that is all too easy to relate to during these trying times; the main character, Josh, is seeing the ancient monsters that are the seeming cause of all the chaos every time he looks at Saltwick Bay. But what is he really seeing? What is really plaguing him? This novella is weird fiction at its best. It encourages the reader to think of the possibilities within the story but also leaves the reader with that creepy feeling that you may have just seen something out of the corner of you eye...or did you? 

    The bonus novella, World Wide Web, is one the many reasons why you should always pre-order things from Spectral. This was a wonderful Lovecraftian tale that was an excellent match to the weird fiction of The Respectable Face of Tyranny. I won't give away any surprises to those of you who will be lucky enough to read this one. I think it is sufficient to say that the tension builds slowly, with those oblique glimpses of a monster that you know is coming at the end. I found myself reading faster and faster as I got to the end of this story, and was left feeling very satisfied by the chilling conclusion.   

I give it five cocktails.


Friday, May 11, 2012

My Lord Wicked

    My Lord Wicked is a Regency romance by Cheryl Bolen. This is a more serious romance story, and I will admit not the type of thing I normally read. I did find it to be enjoyable though. It is a very character driven story, and I think that Bolen did a good job of fleshing the characters out and making them seem true to the time period, as opposed to the way a more modern couple would have behaved. The story begins with one of the main characters, Freddie, looking to escape her current situation as a poor relative living with her aunt who doesn't seem to like her. From here, she is able to appeal to her guardian whom she has never met to take her into his household. The plot then goes on in a somewhat predictable way; since this is a romance we know that they will fall in love even though he is twenty years her senior. However there were a few twists and turns that made this more interesting, such as the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his first wife. My only problem with the book is that these plot twists were tied up a bit too quickly at the end.

     Overall I would say this is a good read for any lover of Regency romance, and it is likely I will be reading more of Bolen's work in the future.

I give it three and half cocktails.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fruity Margaritas for Cinco De Mayo

     So, here in the United States we celebrate Mexican heritage today, and in New Orleans this means lots and lots of people will be having margaritas.  Since it is also strawberry season, I thought I would share a recipe for strawberry margaritas, and a few other fruit flavors. I hope you have a wonderful time enjoying these light libations; I know I will!

Frozen Strawberry Margarita:

8 to 10 oz of fresh strawberries, with the tops cut off of course
4 oz Tequila (if you are blending or mixing, Jose Cuervo is fine)
1 1/2 oz of Triple Sec
1 1/2  oz of lime juice
About 2 cups of ice
Lime slice for garnish

Put ingredients in a blender, and hit blend (this part is not rocket science), and then you have enough for two to three drinks. 

Frozen Mango Margarita:

1 1/2 cup peeled ripe diced mango
3 oz white tequila
1 oz Cointreau 
2 oz fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
2 cups of ice

And again, throw it all in a blender, and blend until smooth.  I think a lime slice works well for a garish here, or you can use an orange slice. Of course, you can always get really fancy and start adding flowers like this picture I found; I'm sure that it would look even lovelier in person.  

Pineapple Margarita 

4 oz of tequila 
1 1/2 oz of Triple Sec
3 oz of lime juice
4 oz (1/2 cup) of pineapple juice
2 teaspoons sugar
crushed ice

Add ingredients to cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. 
Pour into chilled glass, garnish with lime slice.