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    Dinner With the Cannibal Sister by Douglas Clegg

    4.5-5 stars for this one, absolutely loved it

    This was an excellent novella. Shortly into the story I thought that it had been too long since I read something from Clegg. The writing in this story is crisp and smooth, making the story easy to follow and digest. The story isn't what I was expecting, but that doesn't matter because the story told here is excellent and satisfying. I found the end to this one to be perfectly suited for this story as it leaves certain things unanswered, allowing the reader to use their own imagination to imagine the answers for themselves.


      Review for The Ruins temporarily housed here, now moved back to original spot at beginning of thread.
      Last edited by bugen; 03-22-2015, 09:09 PM.
      “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
      -John Barth


        Originally posted by RJK1981 View Post
        Dinner With the Cannibal Sister by Douglas Clegg

        4.5-5 stars for this one, absolutely loved it

        This was an excellent novella. Shortly into the story I thought that it had been too long since I read something from Clegg. The writing in this story is crisp and smooth, making the story easy to follow and digest. The story isn't what I was expecting, but that doesn't matter because the story told here is excellent and satisfying. I found the end to this one to be perfectly suited for this story as it leaves certain things unanswered, allowing the reader to use their own imagination to imagine the answers for themselves.
        I agree with you about Dinner. While I've found Clegg ' s work to be rather hit or miss in the past, this novella has Clegg on fire. Atmospheric and haunting, but not in the way you would expect.

        I would also like to point out the fantastic book design. From the art to the page layout to the endsheets, the design feeds into the story, enhancing the mood and helping set the time and place. Kudos to CD for knocking it out of the park with this one!


          Originally posted by bugen View Post
          This is a great review, Sock Monkey. You've got me looking at both Alice Walks and Seven Deadly Pleasures. Thanks for posting!
          Thanks, bugen. I would suggest picking up Seven Deadly Pleasures first to get a real feel for his work. I might do a longer review of that book soon.


            I don't read many short stories, but after reading Alice Walks (which I still gotta write a review for) I am very tempted to get Seven Deadly Pleasures


              The Last Argument of KingsJoe Abercrombie

              Everything beautiful has a dark side, and some of us must dwell there, so that others can laugh in the light.

              Tying together the threads of the adventures of all characters, good and bad, but mostly bad, The Last Argument of Kings is a bold masterpiece.

              The Bloody-Nine comes into his own as the most dangerous fighter known, the wizard Bayaz’ plans are revealed, and the First and Second laws are broken as demons are called and human flesh is consumed to garner greater power. The Seed is finally found and put to use to end the war. Logan in particular bears special note here as his character is fully developed and shaded deeply – we want him to be our hero. Is he? There is a fight between Logan Nine-fingers and Fenris the Feared that puts Abercrombie’s battle-chops on display in full glory.

              I call the book bold, because the author uses mainly negative elements known throughout the history of man weaved together to form the tapestry of this novel, and that’s generally not done – not even in horror. Counter-balances are generally used to alleviated the stress of negativity. Violence, distrust, death, grime, magic, demons, demi-gods, and even radiation poisoning dominates the story, in the fantasy genre normally populated with hard-won companionship. There is little camaraderie here, and while the theme surfaces occasionally it’s just another illusion.

              It’s a masterpiece in no small part because it is just illusion much of the time, though you must read through to discover how, especially concerning the character’s relationships. In this final book Abercrombie takes the time, in Tolkien fashion, to further the story and show the remnants of the battles and the way forward for our characters long after the main conclusion to the trilogy is revealed. It is this furthering of the story, a kind of extended epilogue, that sheds light on many of the illusions in the trilogy.

              As mentioned in comments on his previous books, the vast majority of Abercrombie’s world is spent in the dirt, staring at the ugly reflection of humanity in a puddle of muddy water, with occasional gasps of clean air spread through to make the darkness bearable. A masterpiece because it is these occasional gasps of clean air that are, in the end, the illusions.

              Not too much to say here. I am struck numb by the weight of the trilogy. You have to be realistic about these things.

              5(-) stars

              Notable quotes:





              Last edited by bugen; 02-22-2016, 07:21 AM.
              “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
              -John Barth



                Seven Deadly Pleasures-Michael Aronovitz

                I don’t put a lot of stock in a book’s foreword or introduction. I’ve read more than enough of them to realize that the amount of praise heaped upon the author and his/her work by the person writing the foreword doesn’t mean that I’ll actually wind up enjoying the book itself. More than once, I’ve finished a book, flipped back to the foreword and re-read all the glowing admiration and thought, “I want to read the book that guy read.”

                So when S.T. Joshi advises that the reader should only read one of Aronovitz’s stories a day due to the emotional content, and then moves on to discuss all of Aronovitz’s strengths as a writer and how great the stories are in the collection, I, being the cynic that I am, did the mental equivalent of a shrug and said, “Okay, now prove it.”

                Oh, sometimes, I am such a silly, silly little man…

                “How Bria Died” kicks off the collection and it wasn’t long into the story that I realized that I was in very capable hands. The story about a substitute teacher and the innocent retelling of an urban legend starts off slow. Like Ramsey Campbell or Glen Hirshberg, Michael Aronovitz isn’t interested in hitting you over the head with a baseball bat. He’s more interested in slowly easing you into a world populated by real people with real problems before dissolving the barriers between the natural and the supernatural, between the commonplace and the weird, the safe and the horrific. By the end of the story, Aronovitz has steadily built the tension one sentence at a time, until he delivers the chilling payoff.

                But Mr. Aronovitz isn’t just interested in mere scare tactics. Each story has a deftly handled subtext that seems to explore both the world around us and within us without coming off preachy or pedantic.

                Take for instance, his story “The Clever Mask”, which is ostensibly the dark comedy version of the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar. A man makes a deal with Death that he can live for two hours without any filter between his brain and his mouth and if he does this, Death will spare him. Let’s just say that those two hours start off kind of funny and then get dark, real fast. But throughout the silliness and madness, Aronovitz actually has something interesting to say about our relationships with each other and the lies we tell to maintain order. It is this quality that makes each of these stories haunt the reader long after the final words are read.

                This is not to say that the collection is perfect. “Quest for Sadness” was a little too transparent in its trajectory and the aforementioned “The Clever Mask” didn’t quite hit the high bar set by the rest of the tales, but those are minor quibbles.

                My personal favorite of the collection was the novella, “The Toll Booth”, which also happens to be one of the best novellas I have read in recent memory. It is at once chilling, suspenseful, and creepy beyond belief, but also sad, melancholy, and heartbreaking. All in the span of ninety pages, this novella brings together the combined strengths shown in the previous six stories and ends the collection on the highest and most devastating of notes.

                After finishing the collection, I looked back at Joshi’s foreword and I have to agree with both his assessment of Michael Aronovitz’s work and with his sentiment that the book shouldn’t be read all in one sitting. Not just because the emotional content is strong, but because the sheer quality of the writing is. Like anything good in life, these tales should not be swallowed in huge tasteless mouthfuls, though in this you might be tempted. Time should be taken by the reader to savor every last bit.

                4 stars (out of four)


                  Cage of Bones & Other Deadly ObsessionsJohn Everson
                  I’m married to two incredible women – one dead and one alive. Is this bigamy?

                  Mr. Everson writes a particular brand of horror, and it’s so effective he single-handedly ushered me back into the horror world with his novel Covenant. That Stoker-winning novel brought something to the genre I wasn’t too familiar with – the combination of horror and erotica. The sequel to Covenant, Sacrifice took sex even further and I realized this to be a theme with the author.

                  Cage of Bones was read over a period of many months, and all or nearly all of the stories within further the themes of sex and horror. I didn’t find a dud in the bunch, but the squeamish will surely disagree. Of the 20 stories contained I classified 4 as fair, 11 as good, and 5 as excellent.

                  What I felt to be the top story, "Dead Girl on the Side of the Road", has a man forcibly seduced by a 12 year old apparent accident victim as he tries to help her survive her injuries.

                  Others of note were "The Last Plague" (post-apocalyptic, seduction), "Anniversary" (werewolf love & murder), "When Barrettes Brought Justice to a Burning Heart" (supernatural revenge for rape of daughter), and "Tomorrow" (a crippled, psychic prodigy terrorizes his parents).

                  Not nearly as highly rated, but a ridiculous, well-written tale of insanity was "The Mouth," featuring a mysterious prostitute and a sexually frustrated man. Crazy. And more than a little gross.

                  A solid collection hammering home Mr. Everson’s specialty, this is not for everyone. Avid horror readers will be fine, but use caution in regards to your significant others unless they are used to it. If easing in to this type of thing I’d highly recommend the novel Covenant. As for this collection, Cage of Bones and Other Deadly Obsessions pushes against the boundaries of sex and horror and is quite enjoyable.

                  3 stars

                  Cage of Bones.jpg
                  Last edited by bugen; 05-12-2016, 02:54 AM.
                  “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                  -John Barth



                    For anyone interested I was notified a few minutes ago that the Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions Amazon e-book is discounted to $0.99 and will remain so for the next 6 days.

                    Last edited by bugen; 10-03-2014, 09:27 PM.
                    “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                    -John Barth



                      This book is out this month. Not sure of the date, but I'm thinking the 16th:

                      An English Ghost Story – Kim Newman

                      The Naremores are a family strained. Daughter Jordan’s thoughts center on a year into the future and her plans to leave home, attend school, and be with her boyfriend Rick. Son Tim is constantly glued to his handheld gaming device, playing wargames and approaching everything in life like a military campaign. Mum and Dad – Kirsty and Steven – are simply trying to not get swept away by life’s currents. Their struggles of daily living are exacerbated by their quest to find a new house.

                      That all seems to change the moment they lay eyes upon The Hollow, a sprawling old country farmhouse, sections of which date back for hundreds of years. The Naremores see only perfection, though; there seems to be something inherently magical about the house and the surrounding land.

                      They are just as enchanted with the inside. The previous owner, Miss Louise Teazle, had been the author of children’s ghost stories many years ago, and the house is much as she left it. Mum mentions that she had read the books as a young girl, and recognizes that much of the house and its environs had been incorporated into the stories.

                      They move in at the beginning of summer, and from day one odd things happen. A moving man asks about the silent little girl in a straw hat that he saw by the fireplace. Mum finds an old chest-of-drawers that in Miss Teazle’s stories had magical properties. For a lark she experiments with it and discovers it does exactly what the books describe.

                      Jordan tells Dad about the old rocking chair in her room that sometimes gently rocks on its own. Tim has set up a base of operations in the yard and happily spends his time patrolling and protecting the grounds. For this he is rewarded with odds and ends left at his base: apples, arrowheads, colored stones, and even a slingshot.

                      They family agrees that these things are peculiar, but not threatening or even scary. Indeed, they feel as if the house has welcomed and accepted them and is glad for their company. They feel comforted and life is perfectly fine, better than it has been in years.

                      As summer progresses, however, tiny cracks begin to appear in the utopia that is The Hollow, allowing small suspicions and resentments to sprout up like weeds to slowly alter the landscape.

                      Jordan invites Rick for a visit. He accepts but fails to show up, and Jordan’s initial disappointment gives way to anger. Tim finds some physical damage to his base and suspects that his sister is the cause.

                      One day a visitor arrives in the form of Mr. Bernard Wing-Godfrey, president of a society dedicated to Miss Teazle and her works. The society sees the house as something of a pilgrimage site and would like permission to visit now and then. Perhaps the Naremores would consider turning the house into a museum? The society would be willing to provide funding and advice as they are all experts on Miss Teazle. Mr. Wing-Godfrey’s knowledge of and interest in The Hollow seems to border on obsessive and intrusive, but the more he talks, the more Mum finds herself agreeing with him.

                      Dad is not interested, however, and soon he and Mum seem to be at odds over most things, with Mum resenting his efforts to exert a measure of control.

                      The family begins to drift apart. Tim starts to feel like an intruder, and no longer a welcome part of the landscape. Conversations between Mum and Dad are forced and strained. Jordan largely alternates between anger and apathy, though it is she who gives voice to the suspicion that the house no longer seems to like them.

                      How did their once-perfect home becoming a breeding ground for resentment and ill will? Why did their paradise turn on them?

                      Kim Newman has crafted an intriguing ghost story with a fine sense of mystery and suspense about the things that go bump in the night. It is also an exploration of family dynamics as Newman tweaks the concept of hauntings and what may or not may not compel ghosts to act the way they do.

                      “An English Ghost Story” is a perfect Halloween read, so lock your doors, warm up some cider, and prepare to be haunted.


                        Argh! "The Boy Who Drew Monsters" - I will be unable to write a review for it because I could not stand it. It was torture, and not in a good way. Yuck.


                          Originally posted by marduk View Post
                          Argh! "The Boy Who Drew Monsters" - I will be unable to write a review for it because I could not stand it. It was torture, and not in a good way. Yuck.
                          What was so bad about it?


                            Originally posted by RobertJohn View Post
                            What was so bad about it?
                            Well, I'm in the process of summarizing my thoughts about it, to see if I can dig a review out of it somehow. In a general sense, I just thought it was way too slow, too repetitive, not spooky or scary. Might have worked as a short story, but at 273 pages it seems more bloated than the corpse I've got stuffed in my attic.


                              Blackwater volumes 1-6 - Michael McDowell

                              “How children survive their parents,” sighed Sister, “is a thing I will never understand.”

                              Blackwater is a sweeping, epic family drama with some horror and supernatural elements. While all 6 novels contain some of these elements, they’re mostly second-fiddle to the drama, with the possible exception of the sixth and final entry. It works perfectly.

                              Blackwater 1 – The Flood

                              Elinor, a mysterious young woman, is introduced to the town of Perdido by being rescued from a mostly submerged hotel during a flood that buried the town. The flood took her money, her credentials, her history, and she’s here to teach the 4th grade. Months pass as the townspeople recover from the disaster and Elinor endears herself to much of the town, with the notable exception of her new husband’s domineering mother. Elinor wields a dark power that is not to be stopped, however, and eventually hatches a plan to get her husband and herself out of the mother-in-law’s house and into their own, with only few lives sacrificed along the way.

                              4 stars

                              Blackwater 2 - The Levee

                              Elinor and her husband move into their new house by Elinor agreeing to give up her first-born to the domineering Mary-Love, her mother-in-law. Mary-Love believes she’s finally gotten the better of Elinor by trapping her in this way, but quickly realizes Elinor doesn’t seem to care. An engineer moves to town to construct a levee that would prevent future flooding, and while Elinor initially opposes the plan she eventually comes around near its completion. Elinor and Oscar have a second child, Francis; this one they can keep.
                              Very little of the supernatural is present in The Levee, until the end, when horror rears its head for a few pages and we’re reminded this isn’t Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a badass horror novel and one hell of a project.

                              4- stars

                              Blackwater 3 – The House

                              The saga of the Caskey family continues with the levee finished. Years pass while the children grow up, with Elinor’s first child that she gave up to Mary-Love proving to be a spoiled brat, and Elinor’s second child, whom she raised herself, is sweet, kind and often battling illness. James Caskey’s late wife’s sister Queenie moves to Perdido to be cared for by the Caskey family, and is followed to town by her murderous husband. Mary-Love and Elinor continue their societal war, which comes to a head when the Caskey’s leave for vacation while Mary-Love is fallen ill with Elinor home to care for her. Mary-Love expires under Elinor’s care and Elinor’s spoiled first daughter Miriam stands to inherit a great deal of money.

                              4- stars

                              Blackwater 4 – The War

                              The Caskey’s lives continue as the Great Depression ends and WWII begins. Another beautifully rendered vision of a time past, this book probably contains more horror elements than any of the preceding novels, with the main focus remaining on the day to day lives of the characters. The war effort makes the Caskeys far richer than they were as the lumber-mills are finally operating at capacity and the large purchases of land by Oscar orchestrated through his wife Elinor pay huge dividends.

                              Perhaps most important in this book is the emergence of Elinor’s second daughter into monsterdom. Little Frances is one of the sweetest, gentlest, down-homiest monsters I can recall. Travis Gann, a former friend of Queenie’s son, imprisoned for a convenience store holdup, returns to Perdido and rapes the fully grown and beautiful Lucille, Queenie’s daughter. Frances, unable to control herself, manifests her alternate form and brutally kills Carl immediately afterward in the Perdido river. Lucille recovers and moves to a remote farmhouse with her friend, and soon to be lover, Grace.

                              Elinor’s first daughter, Miriam, goes off to school, graduates and returns home to live in Mary-Love’s old house, taking up work with her father at the mill.

                              The matter-of-fact way in which Elinor finally explains a few things to her daughter Frances is a high point, while the passing on of James Caskey is a certain low.

                              Frances marries.

                              4 stars

                              Blackwater 5 – The Fortune

                              An ex-army serviceman named Billy has become familiar, end eventually enamored with the Caskey family, and after marrying Frances Billy begins to work on the Caskey fortune with the idea of expanding it beyond anyone’s dreams. Miriam becomes more and more entrenched at the mill, and Oscar eventually realizes she is handing all of the day-to-day responsibility. Elinor continues to pressure everyone to buy land, and huge portions of worthless swampland are purchased based on Elinor’s assertion there is oil underneath. Miriam, having developed into quite the businesswoman, believes in her mother while everyone else doubts, and begins the process of getting big Texas oil companies involved in the land. Oil is abundant, and the Caskey wealth grows to the point no one knows what to do with the money.

                              Frances gives birth to twins with her mother Elinor and servant Ivey as nursemaids (no doctors), and one little girl is normal while the other shares the qualities of Elinor and Frances. Elinor and Frances tell the family the 2nd baby died in childbirth and give the child to the Perdido River, where Frances cares for her daily during her long swims in the turbulent waters. Frances becomes more and more attached to her child of the Perdido, and while she does have affection for her ‘normal’ child the river calls to her. She has increasing difficulty in transforming back to her human form after her time in the water, and Frances eventually decides to go back to the river permanently to care for her other child there.

                              4+ stars

                              Blackwater 6 – The Rain

                              The saga of the Caskey family comes to a close. I’d like to avoid details here, but it’s not really a surprise ending. What it is, is beautiful, tragic, dark and human. Over the course of this sixth novel I misted up a few times, and by the end had a full-blown spec of sawdust in my eye.

                              5 stars

                              Final thoughts:

                              We meet and live with 3 generations of the Caskey family as they move about their lives, gaining money, trading their children, battling each other, loving each other, and living and dying. The family drama has a Legends of the Fall feel, along with the many of the wholesome qualities of Little House on the Prairie. But there is no mistaking these as other than horror. Just because we spend a few hours dealing with sibling rivalry, power struggles, infighting and animosity between family members who deep down (mostly) love each other, doesn’t mean someone is not about to have their limbs ripped off.

                              My attachment to these characters became profound, and the books are written with the skill of a master storyteller. We need the men, women and children that populate the work to be OK, because we love them.

                              An astounding, massive project of love and loss, the monsters that inhabit the story only add to the main focus – human relationships.

                              Slightly greater than the sum of its outstanding parts:

                              5 stars






                              Last edited by bugen; 05-12-2016, 02:57 AM.
                              “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                              -John Barth



                                Sympathy for the DevilTim Pratt (Ed.)

                                "I don’t think there was a nine-year-old that ever lived who would have been able to convince his father he’d seen the Devil come walking out of the woods in a black suit." -Stephen King

                                In terms of average rating, I’d call anthologies significantly harder to pull off than single author collections. Anthologies have so many voices from so many authors the sheer breadth of variation ensures a reader will like some material, dislike other, and everyone will be able to find something that works for them.

                                This is one of the highest rated anthologies I’ve ever read, and all of my short story judgments are based on an average rating. There is only one story here that I truly hated, and it’s from an author I have serious issues with anyway. The rest range from fair to pure “Oh My God Go Read Right Now” genius.

                                Opening with probably my favorite Gaiman tale, ‘The Price’, the book immediately hooks you as a man finds a stray cat at his rural home, begins to care for the animal, and daily sees the cat’s injuries mount due to skirmishes with the Devil each and every night. The anthology ends 35 stories later with Dante himself, and this was one of my least favorite tales. Nearly everything in between has serious merit.

                                Each story deals with some permutation of Lucifer. Both of my favorite Gaiman tales are here. The book contains Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Stross, Charles de Lint, Jonathan Carroll, Robert Bloch and Dante, to name a few (but not all of) the highlights. It is NOT just the highlights that are of note, either. Natalie Babbitt, David Ackert and Benjamin Rosenbaum deliver show-stopping tales, and I’m completely unfamiliar with these writers.

                                There are grand slams, home-runs and triples all over the place:

                                1 star stories (bad) – 1
                                2 star stories (fair to good) – 4
                                3 star stories (good to really good) – 14
                                4 star stories (excellent) - 12
                                5 star stories (drop everything, go read) – 5

                                A couple more quotes to chew on:

                                “As always, the Devil tried to be reasonable.” -Scott Bradfield

                                “When I fell from heaven, I knew I was in for a poorer class of associate. . .” –John Kessel

                                “I am everything bad about you and if you want to look that square in the face then go ahead. But I warn you, looking your own evil in the eye is as bad as looking at Medusa. It will wreck you, turn part of you into stone.” –Jonathan Carroll

                                A who’s who gathering of writers exploring possibly the single most interesting character ever put to paper – what could possibly go wrong?

                                4 stars

                                Last edited by bugen; 05-12-2016, 08:27 AM.
                                “Reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
                                -John Barth