Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Honest Reviews of Blood in the Rain 3 and The Misbehaving Dead

Since Amazon doesn't allow authors to review anthologies that include their work, I've made a habit of posting my reviews here on my blog.

Title: Blood in the Rain 3
Theme: vampire erotica, with a dark/horror bent
Publisher: Cwtch Press
Editors: Cecilia Duvalle and Mary Trepanier
Number of stories: 19
Pages: 312
Price: $14.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle

Favorite stories: "His Angel of Death" (about a war-time nurse who falls in love with a recovering soldier) by Jordan Monroe was the runaway favorite. "Tanteo" by Victor H. Rodriguez (dark and terrifying), "Master and Slave" (suspenseful) by Zoe Woodard, and "The Stories We Tell" (very hot!) by Mary Trepanier were also quite enjoyable.

My story: "Erotic, Aquatic" follows the sexual exploits of an adventurous couple aboard a steamer travelling across the Black Sea. They run afoul of the crew, who throw them--and a pale stranger who attempts to intercede on their behalf--off the ship. There is some hot action aboard the lifeboat, but dawn is approaching, and none of them will get a "happily ever after."

Final thoughts: I give the anthology a B. There's nothing specifically wrong here. All the stories are good. In a few, the horror aspects overwhelm the erotic portions of the story. In a few others, the erotica is merely hinted at. Only a few were really hot, though all were well-written. I think the key, for maximum enjoyment, is to read this and pace yourself. Read some other stuff at the same time. Don't read all the stories back to back or the impact of each story will be diminished. That said, however, the editors did a great job choosing a variety of places, time periods and settings, and a variety of situations (m-f, m-m, f-f, ffm, mmf).

You can order Blood in the Rain 3 here.

Title: The Misbehaving Dead
Theme: ghosts, zombies, and others who should be dead but...
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Editors: Jack Burgos
Number of stories: 23
Pages: 202
Price: $12.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle

Favorite stories: "Sisters of Midnight" by Kim Munsamy (at first I thought this was set back in the 'olden days' but it's contemporary. That said, this premise and these characters, kept my interest and left me wanting to read more); "The Stray Bones Trap" by Chris Kuriata (perhaps the most interesting 'monster', visually, in the anthology); "Girls From Jumbo" by John T. Biggs (this guy is a fantastic writer. If you've read and enjoyed Joe R. Lansdale's humorous and horrifying East Texas tales, you owe it to yourself to check out John T. Biggs. Man, does he have a great 'voice.' This story is one of his best.); "You Must Not Be Yourself" by Joseph Shelton (speaking of writers with great voices, Joseph Shelton is another frequent Murder of Storytellers contributor who deserves a wider audience. This story is certainly the most literary in the anthology--in multiple ways!).

Besides those four, I also enjoyed the stories by Lynda Clark, Deb Jannerson, and J.A.W. McCarthy.

My story: Mara hunts and harvests zombies in a post-apocalyptic near-future where dried human brains are the hottest drug on the market in "Encephaloshrooms." She faces a heartbreaking decision when she encounters a long lost family member while out on one of her hunts.

Final thoughts: I give the anthology a B-. The story selection, and the stories themselves are a bit uneven. The worst-written story I have ever read in a Murder of Storytellers anthology (typos, grammar issues, and all telling, no showing) is followed by perhaps one of the BEST stories I've read in years. The Misbehaving Dead features a couple very literary tales alongside several that I felt were aimed at young adult/teen readers. So while there are highlights, there are also some lows.

A note about the cover: it looks good pictured here, but the actual cover is darker and grayer. The rib cage is not visible, and the words on the back cover are very hard to read. Maybe a glossy finish instead of matte might have helped.

You can order The Misbehaving Dead here.

And you can read my reviews of other A Murder of Storytellers anthologies by clicking the links below:

The Book of Blasphemous Words

Broken Worlds

Now Playing in Theater B

For a small indie horror press, they sure have a knack for discovering and publishing some fantastic authors.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Honest Reviews of The Book of Blasphemous Words and Ink Stains #5

Since Amazon usually doesn't allow authors to review anthologies that include their work, I've made a habit of posting my reviews here on my blog.

Title: The Book of Blasphemous Words
Theme: horror and supernatural fiction based on religion, deities, and zealotry
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Editor: CJ Miles IV
Number of stories: 29
Pages: 281
Price: $12.99 paperback, $2.54 Kindle

Favorite stories: "A Hole in the Head Reveals the Secret Nature of All Things" by Joseph Shelton (I think he's a brilliant writer with a great voice), "Sack Race to the River" by Chris Kuriata (terrifying ending), "The Unearthed Thing" by Ben Larned (gorgeous use of language), "The Sign" by John Biggs (he never disappoints) and "The Annunciation of Josie" by Jack Burgos (seems like this story could actually happen...)

My story: "Hero Worship," in which a "Christian" heavy metal singer and an impressionable fan exchange a series of emails. The story reads backwards, with the newest email first, and obviously things do not end (or start?) well for the young fan.

Final thoughts: I give the anthology an A-. The publisher, A Murder of Storytellers, always produces excellent anthologies featuring talented authors. I'm never disappointed. Kudos for them always turning out a fine product. And Joseph Shelton and John Biggs deserve a wider audience. Let's start with YOU.

You can order The Book of Blasphemous Words here.

Title: Ink Stains 5
Theme: literary dark fiction
Publisher: Dark Alley Press
Editor: N. Apythia Morges
Number of stories: 12
Pages: 193
Price: $15.95 paperback, $3.99 Kindle

Favorite stories: "Agents of the Seraphim" by Michael Pico, "Dick and Ruth Forever" by Paul Tanner, and "Pleased to Meet Me" by Peter Emmett Naughton. I also want to praise the layout of this book. It's gorgeous and I appreciated the special attention to detail and extra effort that sets it apart.

My story: "Always Confined" in which Johann, an elderly survivor of Nazi-occupied Germany, receives a gift from a well-meaning relative that forces him to relive one of his darkest moments.

Final thoughts: I give this anthology a B. Very solid overall, and I loved the layout. With only 12 stories, I didn't quite LOVE enough of them to give it an A. But it's good, no doubt about it.

You can order Ink Stains #5 via this link. (See what I did there?)