Review – Vampires Don’t Sparkle!

Vampires Don't Sparkle! Needing some holiday reading (what, you don’t read horror at the holidays!?) I got myself a copy to read over Christmas, and can I just tell you how wonderful it is! It is! So wonderful! I mean that. It’s dark. The vampires are evil, depraved creatures. The people are terrified and bloody. It’s full of all that is awesome about vampire stories.

I used to love vampire stories. I say used to because they lost the wicked that was part of the myth. These are evil creatures hunting and feasting on humans not kind vampires who are happy chasing down wildlife and feeling guilty about it. Cruelty has been reinserted into their personalities once more with this collection. And I like it. Happy go lucky vampires are not my thing.

The stories and authors in this collection:

A New Life by J. F. Gonzalez

What Once was Flesh by Tim Waggoner

The Darkton Circus Mystery by Elizabeth Massie

Robot Vampire by R. J. Sullivan

Beneath a Templar Cross by Gord Rollo

The Weapon of Memory by Kyle S. Johnson

The Excavation by Stephen Zimmer

Skraeling by Joel A. Sutherland

Dreams of Winter by Bob Freeman

Dracula’s Winkee: Bloodsucker Blues by Gregory L. Hall

I Fuck Your Sunshine by Lucy A. Snyder

A Soldier’s Story by Maurice Broaddus

Rattenkönig by Douglas F. Warrick

Vampire Nation by Jerry Gordon

Curtain Call by Gary A. Braunbeck

Favorites, because I have a few:

The Darkton Circus Mystery by Elizabeth Massie — A traveling circus full of wonders but what if one of those wonders is a blood sucking beast kept hidden and abused? What would happen if the mystery were solved?

Beneath a Templar Cross by Gord Rollo — How far will someone go to exact revenge? Far.

Skraeling by Joel A. Sutherland — Vampires in a frozen wasteland. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about.

Rattenkönig by Douglas F. Warrick — What if things, unexplainable things, appears in your house? Would you fight? Or would you succumb?

If you crave vampires without the sparkle, go ahead, get lost in this book like I did. Another great thing about this book, a part of the proceeds will go to support cancer research.

No sparkles, if it pleases.

Thanks to Andrea at Little Red Reviewer for mentioning this one.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle

Edited by Michael West

Seventh Star Press

ISBN: 9781937929602

 

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Review – The Book of Apex: Volume 4

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When I got an email from Andrea at Little Red Reviewer saying that she was organizing a blog tour for The Book of Apex, I readily agreed because it was on my list of books to purchase and it sounded like all the awesome.

Luckily, the publisher was willing to share a copy with me and I read it like the obsessed reader I can be. Except for when I got down to the last few stories, in which I drug my reading feet. Seriously, getting to the end was a joy but also sad because all the stories, which are so amazing, different, macabre, scary, creepy, and excellent were over. But the good news is that I now get to talk about them.

First, I’m going to share the full list of stories because there are some amazing writers in this anthology and all deserve a mention.

Table of Contents:

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

The Leavings of the Wolf by Elizabeth Bear

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak

Faithful City by Michael Pevzner

So Glad We Had This Time Together by Cat Rambo

Sweetheart Showdown by Sarah Dalton

Bear in Contradicting Landscape by David J. Schwartz

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise

A Member of the Wedding of Heaven and Hell by Richard Bowes

Copper, Iron, Blood and Love by Mari Ness

The Second Card of the Major Arcana by Thoraiya Dyer

Love is a Parasite Meme by Lavie Tidhar

Decomposition by Rachel Swirsky

Tomorrow’s Dictator by Rahul Kanakia

Winter Scheming by Brit Mandelo

In the Dark by Ian Nichols

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu

Ironheart by Alec Austin

Coyote Gets His Own Back by Sarah Monette

Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan

Murdered Sleep by Kat Howard

Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine

Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro

Weaving Dreams by Mary Robinette Kowal

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci

Sprig by Alex Bledsoe

Splinter by Shira Lipkin

Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman

Labyrinth by Mari Ness

Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell

I want to talk about every single story here because they were all that good but in terms of space, here are a few of my favorites.

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak — This story will bring out all the feels. It traces the 24 hour life of boy as seen through the eyes of his older brother, who is only a child himself. The baby, then unruly teenager, and then old man, is so sad and absolutely amazing at the same time.

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise — A man gives his body, and his soul, to a woman he loves — an artist who doesn’t even see him as a person, only a canvas for her art. She calls on him when she needs to expel personal demons, and he answers her call each time.

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu — A Young man wants to know the secret of the finest silk in all the world. He finds his answer, right next to his broken heart.

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci — A zombie story, but a zombie story where the zombies are, well, more than just zombies. They evolve.

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro — Your planet is about the be destroyed and we have a message for you. We are here to tell just how horrible your last few minutes of life will be. Aliens, please stay away.

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster — Trixie, a godmobile, and farting pandas. I laughed so hard at this one. A vengeful god, a self-doubting god, a god with farting pandas.

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell — This is the last story in the anthology and it’s simply one of the most amazing. It’s also terrifying. A performance artist puts herself on display, downloads herself into a machine, and becomes the installation.

If you missed it, I posted a few thoughts from author Cecil Castellucci earlier this month. Take a look.

Final thoughts: buy this one.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4

Edited by Lynne M. Thomas

An Apex Publications Book

ISBN: 9781937009205

Review – Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce BrownDarrow is a driller, a Red — a member of the lowest class of humanity — living below the surface of Mars toiling in hot tunnels all for the greater good of human civilization. A displaced person of a conquered Earth, he’s among the settlers mining the precious minerals that will be used to make the surface habitable for future generations. He’s always stretching the limits of what he can do, knowing he’s the best driller in his group and wanting to prove it. What he really wants though is to win the laurel and be able to provide more food for his family.

Just when Darrow thinks he’s won the laurel, everything changes. His wife opens his eyes to another world — a world he didn’t know existed and one he wishes he could instantly forget. When his wife is sentenced to death for showing Darrow the surface world, and the truth about class distinctions, his life shatters. Sentenced to death days after his wife’s public hanging, Darrow finds death isn’t so easy to come by. Taken in by a rebel group, he becomes part of the revolution — transforming into a Gold, the highest class of society on Mars, to infiltrate and bring down the system from the inside. With his wife’s death as motivation, Darrow assimilates into Gold society learning to live among the decadent and immoral people he didn’t know existed, and couldn’t even imagine in his previous life. He’s physically changed through surgery, learns a new language, and becomes, for all purposes, a new person — a person who must now win a game to find revenge for his wife, and his family.

When children are of age, the Golds enroll their children in an institute where survival is more than just an academic term. In order to earn sought after positions in society, the Golds fight their way through a game of life and death, all striving to be at the top. Darrow understands very little about the people and situation he’s been thrown into but quickly takes to the game becoming one of the most conniving and fierce players the institute has ever seen. His unpredictable nature works for and against him propelling him to an end he seeks but doesn’t necessarily want.

Darrow understands the game better than any of the other students and has much more at stake. He’s also slightly unlikable and unreliable. He knows who he is at heart but he also knows he needs to be a killer to survive. He has no problem holding himself above the others believing that what he’s doing is for a greater good. Darrow is now a man with a purpose even if he’s a man who no longer recognizes himself. He’s internalized being a Gold — he’s dark, cold, and mysterious to those around him.

This game that’s being played among the students, and the Gold society in general, is just brutal. You quickly understand the players and what they need to do to survive and even though some are thoroughly unlikable, you like them anyway because the situation is absolutely vile. Reading this book is like watching a fight to the death cage match. Brown’s Mars is a dark and unforgiving place where death is always close, especially for Reds like Darrow.

It happens but I wish it wouldn’t — book comparisons. This book is a mix of things — The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and The Lord of the Flies. There’s a competition among the students, it takes place on Mars, and well, in the end, it is mass chaos; students killing students all in the name of winning a game that can’t be won. What that means for the reader is that time will disappear as soon as the first page is read, because once you start, you’re not going to put this book down until the end.

Red Rising is the first book in a planned trilogy.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Red Rising

Pierce Brown

Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345539786

 

Let me tell you about a place

The Black Fire ConcertoA post-apocalyptic place unlike the world we know. Where people eat the flesh of ghouls under the misguided belief it will prolong their lives. Where magic, light and dark, exist. Where machines are a thing of the past but knowledge of their misuse has shaped the sad state of the present. A place where humans hide not wanting to live out a half-dead fate if bitten by a ghoul. A place ruined by storms that scorched the land and transformed its people. A place where music can shape destiny. A place of creatures shaped by magic. A place full of fantastical landscapes. A place to instill wonder and fear.

This is the world of The Black Fire Concerto.

Erzelle is 12 years-old and a captive on a riverboat called the Red Empress. Imprisoned when she came aboard with her parents — musicians invited to play for guests  —- Erzelle waits, knowing she will one day meet the same horrible death. While she waits for that day to come, she plays her harp while guests feast on the flesh of ghouls. When a new guest, a fellow musician named Olyssa, befriends Erzelle, her life changes forever. Once they escape the Red Empress, Erzelle accompanies Olyssa on her journey to find her sister. Along the way, Olyssa teaches her new music — music fueled by magic that can tame ghouls and kill their enemies. Music that will forever change, not only Erzelle, but their world.

I listened to the first part of this book when it was featured on Tales to Terrify. It was wonderfully creepy and I had a picture of this world in my head so when the book arrived I was anxious to get started. The world of Erzelle and Olyssa held true and I found myself rushing through this story full of ghouls, flesh eaters, magically driven harvesters of the dead, and creatures in hiding from a terror that will bring on a long and sad death.

One thing I wanted more of, well, was more of the story. At less than 200 pages, The Black Fire Concerto packs a lot into it’s few pages. I was satisfied by the end but I wanted more. It was just that good and I was so sucked into the story by this point that when the end snuck up on me, I wasn’t ready for it. That’s a good thing.

If you’re the type of person that likes to hoard creepy books for October, this is one more. I should caution though, reading this book during lunch will probably make you want to stop eating. Descriptions of stretched sinew and joints popping aren’t conducive to eating. Just a warning.

Thanks to the author, Mike Allen, who sent me a copy of this book for review.

If you’re interested, some other thoughts on The Black Fire Concerto:

Little Red Reviewer

Lynn’s Book Blog

Lynn also asked Mike a few questions too.

Review – Clockwork Phoenix 4

Clockwork Phoenix 4Clockwork Phoenix 4 is a collection of 18 stories edited by Mike Allen. Who, I will tell you now, is a master editor. And the authors, all masters as well. This collection is really fantastic. I took my time reading it and was rewarded each time a new story began. You can call it speculative, fantasy, science fiction, but what it is, is good reading. After each story, I was left thinking of the characters and settings which were believable and yet unbelievable at the same time. I’m not always a fan of short stories, and soon after the book arrived, I become a little apprehensive and worried I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I shouldn’t have worried. There are stories in this collection that I’ll go back to again and again. They are so rich and detailed I know I’ll find something new each time I pick up a story.

Not to give away anything, I’ll do a short sentence or so about each because I feel each story deserves a mention. You’ll note I have many favorites.

Our Lady of the Thylacines by Yves Meynard – A Girl learning the value of life from the Lady. A slightly dark tale containing that all important lesson of the value we place on life. This is a great story to start the collection.

The Canal Barge Magician’s Number Nine Daughter by Ian McHugh – Behra is the ninth daughter of the Canal Barge Magician and she is full of the magic her father harnesses for his use. When she finds her magic and learns to use it, all bets are off and she wants out. Fantastic piece — I love stories like this. Blood magic is used in cruel and vicious ways in this story and the world building is amazing. A favorite of mine.

On the Leitmotif of the Trickster Constellation in Northern Hemispheric Star Charts, Post-Apocalypse by Nicole Kornher-Stace – A post-apocalyptic world full of ghosts and the person who collects and catalogues them. I had a bit of trouble following this one but it’s such an interesting concept that I think I will go back and re-read it. A world ravaged yet full of ghosts is appealing.

Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl by Richard Parks – Do the dead get lonely? A drowned girl floating away her days wonders much about the world after meeting the beach bum. There’s a creepiness to this story but not the creepy you think of when you think of ghosts. I think it’s the idea of floating around, never knowing where you’ll land or what will happen that’s creepy. Maybe it’s just the great unknown and how scary it can be or maybe it’s just me. It’s a wonderful story though.

Trap-Weed by Gemma Files – A heart-broken selkie running from loneliness is captured by a collector. I love tales of sea creatures and the magic infused in this story is perfect. It rocks you slowly along bringing you to a bittersweet end that’s a strange metaphor for life and where we should place our trust. A favorite.

Icicle by Yukimi Ogawa – A half human, half snow-woman leaves the only home she’s ever known to look for her father and finds a love she can’t have. Oh, is this one a hard lesson of family life. Heartbreaking and yet wonderful. A favorite.

Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story by A.C. Wise – Two hungry ghosts haunting the world in the only way they know how. This is such a sad story but instead of disliking the ghosts, I just pitied them. When you open yourself to love, you open yourself to heartbreak. So good.

What Still Abides by Marie Brennan – Throw some Norse gods and the undead together and what do you get? This story. It’s told using Germanic derived words, according to the author’s website. Yes, I looked that up. I needed to know. In fact, the language makes this one. It brings it to a whole other level. Reading this one is an experience.

The Wanderer King by Alisa Alering – A post-apocalyptic world of the dead and dying and two women looking for a way out and the king that can get them to a new world. Oh, what a wonderfully sad, terrifying world. It’s brutal and full of menace. A favorite.

A Little of the Night by Tanith Lee – Fleeing from a murder, a man comes upon an evil place, and instead of continuing to run, he feels compelled to search for the source of that evil. He becomes drawn to it. A great, great story. A favorite.

I Come From the Dark Universe by Cat Rambo – Sex in a far off place. A brothel manager takes in a woman who says she came from the dark universe but offers no more. She’s quiet, mysterious, and maybe just the right bit of love needed for another lonely soul. Love in a whore house is so complicated. Eventually, what we come to learn is that there’s a love for all of us, if we’re willing to be patient. It’s hard to describe this as romantic (brothel and all) but it’s the best way to describe this so I’m going with it. It’s my absolute favorite in this collection. It’s one I will read again and again.

Happy Hour at the Tooth and Claw by Shira Lipkin – A witch who can switch between realities and is happy to play around with the boundaries of love but shies away from her own heart. Zee, the witch, is such an intriguing character and I love how she plays around with everyone else’s heart and ignores her own. It’s a keeper and by that I mean it’s another favorite.

Lilo Is by Corinne Duyvis – Being a single mother of a spider-girl can be interesting, to say the least. Oh, my god. So wonderful. I laughed my way through this one thankful I didn’t need to deal with a spider-girl. Mostly I laughed nervously because spiders completely freak me out. I went back and re-read parts too. Love it. You’re tired of reading this, I know, but, a favorite.

Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer by Kenneth Schneyer – A critic takes us on review of an artist’s work. It’s such a strange story but very interesting. The descriptions make you see not just the artwork but the artist. A good read.

Three Times by Camille Alexa – Do you know what it means to be alive? An entity takes human form to learn what it feels like. Sweet, sad, than utterly heartbreaking. A lovely little gem of a story.

The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – A universe of replicated humanoids each with a role. When one being begins to die, she undergoes surgery only to wake with a chest full of bees where a heart should be. This reminded me of The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A strange world that not only confuses but fascinates. A great story.

The Old Woman With No Teeth by Patricia Russo – A scribe attempts to note the life of the Old Woman, who constantly interrupts and berates him. It’s amusing, warmhearted, and slightly sad. A good story.

The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff – An extended family gathers for a Seder, and in doing so bring together the universal soul. The history of soul 2065 evolves, and in turn, becomes a most wonderful story. Spanning 70 years, the soul changes but never forgets. An amazing way to end the collection. A favorite.
Ask me what this collection is about and I’ll tell you it’s about life, it’s about love, it’s about tragedy, it’s about the alluring nature of sex, it’s about the feeling of belonging. There’s so much more to these stories than you think there will be. Go and read them. That’s all I have left to say.

Mike Allen shared a copy of Clockwork Phoenix 4 with me for review.

Clockwork Phoenix 4

Edited by Mike Allen

Mythic Delirium

ISBN: 9780988912403

 

Review – At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of MadnessThis turned out to be a difficult review to write (one of the reasons why it’s taken me so long to post it). After reading The Shunned House, also by Lovecraft, I had very high hopes for At the Mountains of Madness. Unfortunately, I’m torn. I alternately liked and disliked this book and I’m not at all sure what to say about it.

There is one thing this man can do really well and that is freak you out. I read several chapters of this book before bed one night and woke up every hour with the strangest dreams. I stopped reading it in bed after that. While the story is slow, it’s a re-telling of an Antarctica expedition that went bad, it does have some great parts. Notably, the descriptions of alien-like cities, worlds, and creatures left behind. The expeditions to and explorations of these alien cities are some of the most interesting parts of this book. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the equipment on the expedition. I know that sounds boring but it’s not. Don’t forget, this is a recounting of an expedition so these details are important to the story and while they may seem boring, they set the scene, if you will.

What I didn’t so much enjoy was the slowness of the story. I know I should’ve had sympathy for the narrator who was having trouble telling his story but I wanted to poke him and tell him to move it along. The tension does build this way and you do end up wondering what happened because he doesn’t come right out and tell you. He holds back; obviously the story is terrifying for him and re-living the story isn’t something he wants to do. You need to stay with him and listen carefully because those details provide a much larger and scarier picture. The problem for me was that I didn’t have much patience for the character and I wanted to know more about the aliens before he was ready to divulge info. Yes, the story does provide ample time to use your imagination but mine didn’t seem to be working when I was reading. This happens.

The version I borrowed from the library had an introduction by China Mieville, a favorite author of mine. But thanks to schedules and the library wanting their books back, I didn’t have the chance to read his breakdown of the story which I think would’ve gone a long way for me in thinking more deeply about the story itself. I was saving it for the end and never got to it since it took me longer to read than anticipated. I’m thinking I might need to request this again to read that introduction.

I still want to read more Lovecraft though. Is there something you’d recommend?

At the Mountains of Madness

By H.P. Lovecraft

The Modern Library

ISBN: 0812974417

 

More Mini Reviews

More mini reviews. I’m beginning to like these short takes. Be warned, you might see more.  This time, a short story about a boy and a book about the Loch Ness monster. Enjoy.

The Year of the Big ThawYear of the Big Thaw

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

A Gutenberg Project Ebook

Superman. That’s what I thought about as soon as I finished this short story. A boy is found and raised by a caring farmer and his wife who tell no one about the boy’s appearance and let everyone guess as to where he came from and how he came to live with them.

This is an interesting little story and if you’re a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I suggest giving this very brief story a try; it’s only about 25 pages. I always forget that she wrote more than fantasy along the lines of The Mists of Avalon, that being my favorite of her works. But I know she’s written a lot of science fiction, most of which I haven’t touched. I should read more of her science fiction and thanks to the Gutenberg Project, where I found this little beauty, I’m going to make that happen.

If you’ve read some of Zimmer Bradley’s science fiction, suggestions on where I should start?

 

The LochThe Loch

By Steve Alten

Tsunami Books

ISBN: 0976165902

Zachery Wallace is a marine biologist who is called back to Scotland to help out his father who has been arrested for murder. How does a marine biologist help an absentee father who is accused of murder? By proving the Loch Ness Monster exists, of course. Yep, Angus, Zachery’s father, claims a monster ate the man he’s accused of killing and Zachery needs to get over his fear of the water, a great trait in a marine biologist, and anger directed at his father, to prove his innocence.

I read this book in October 2012 as part of my regular creepy Halloween reading. It fit the bill. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was silly and entertaining. I always enjoy anything Loch Ness related so that was a plus. And it was fun. The story is farfetched but I read it in one afternoon curled up on my couch so I don’t have much of anything bad to say about it but I’m writing this review months later and not much of the story remained with me either. If you like stories like this, I say go for it. Spend a weekend and entertain yourself with a story of the Loch Ness monster, if you like that sort of thing.