Book Review: Nights of Blood wine – Exquisite dark vampire shorts

Nights of Blood Wine – Freda Warrington

5 star read

Why I read: Vampires! Vampire tales written by one of my favourite authors. I knew I was in for a treat.

Book blurb: “”Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!”?”

Select passage: “They split women in half, good and bad, virgin and whore, submissive and disobedient, Eve and Lilith, Odette and Odile. But we are all one. Lilith’s crime was her refusal to be dominated. She is rage and freedom and sexuality, all the things women are not meant to be, even today because men fear those things so greatly. Yes, she is dark, but darkness is only the essential complement of light. It is mystery, not evil. How people fear mystery!” My Name is Not Juliette, Freda Warrington

 

My review

Reading this book was pure indulgence for me. I loved the Blood Wine series as a teenager and this took me right back there into the addiction. Beautiful yet dark vampires, complex stories filled with emotion and depth, a touch of eroticism, all wrapped up in lavish prose.

Nights of Blood Wine consists of 15 short stories. These are dark tales of vampires, fantasy and horror that weave mythology into a breathtaking new vision. They can be read as stand alone tales so no previous knowledge is needed of her previous works. All my old favourites are back, Karl and Charlotte, the vampire twins Stefan and Niklas and Violette. 5 other tales not inspired by the Blood Wine novels make up the rest of the shorts including an intriguing story featuring Dracula.

Freda Warrington’s vampires are far away from sparkly “Twilight” teen romance vampires. Her “romance” is a sprinkling of adult eroticism, dark and disturbing visions of blood and cravings. Her vampires are complex, multi-layed beings some capable of both pure evil and others spellbinding empathy towards humans. She writes women beautifully, mixing good and bad, strength and vulnerability into complex, realistic and compelling characters. This work has an element of feminism but its there in the background and the richness of all her characters, male and female rather than pushed at you. Each story gives an exquisite glimpse into the characters lives and takes you into a wonderful fantasy world of vampires. I only wish some of the vampire stories were longer as I loved re-visiting that world.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, vampires, horror, fantasy, dark tales

*****

Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by Telos
About the author:   Freda Warrington is an award-winning British author, known for her epic fantasy, vampire and supernatural novels.

 More about Freda Warrington and her other books can be found on her website: http://www.fredawarrington.com/

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated

 

Book Review – Halloween Carnival Volume 1 – Spooky Shorts

Halloween Carnival Volume 1

Why I read:  Horror short stories

Book blurb: ” Robert McCammon, Kevin Lucia, John R. Little, Lisa Morton, and Mark Allan Gunnells put the horror back in Halloween with a quintet of devilishly delightful tales, curated by acclaimed author and editor Brian James Freeman.

My review

Halloween Carnival volume 1 is short collection of Halloween spooky tales.  At only 165 pages its a nice length to sample a few new authors.   All well written entertaining stories themed around Halloween with an urban legend vibe to them.   They were original and fun peeks at the darker side of life. However I found them spooky rather than scary.     I especially enjoyed the modern feel of #MAKEHALLOWEENSCARYAGAIN with its references to social media.   These stories would be perfect to curl up in front of the fire on a stormy winter night.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys short spooky horror stories.

***

  • I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Ebook | $2.99
Published by Hydra
Expected Publication  Oct 03, 2017 | 165 Pages|
ISBN 9780399182037

Book Review – Colt Harper: Esteemed Vampire Cat – Hilarious

Colt Harper: Esteemed Vampire Cat by Tyrolin Puxty

Why I read:  Vampire cat.

Select Sentence “If it makes you happy, then you succeeded already.” – Colt Harper: Esteemed Vampire Cat

Book blurb: “As a self-proclaimed master vampire cat, Colt never imagined he’d be sent to community service at a revolting community theater. And for what? Killing humans who don’t buy the expensive brand of cat food? Talk about unfair.

Still, working with a nervous werewolf and a monster addicted to tickling wasn’t on his to-do list.  What’s worse, is he’s falling for a human. Sure, she has green eyes. Sure, she fosters stray cats. But she’s still a disgusting human.  So why is he risking his own life to save her from the chasers?”

My review

A quirky book filled with humour.  A vampire cat is sentenced to community service for killing a human.  Throughout his journey he meets a bunch of weird characters including werewolf, tickle monster, demons, shapeshifter.  We follow his escape from human chases (humans who seek out and destroy monsters) in this wonderful book which is told from the point of view of the monsters.

The author plays with what is good or bad in a delightfully amusing way.   I loved seeing the humans as the bad guys whilst the monsters justified their actions.   Filled with crazy antics which turns the everyday into a quirky delight. Colt’s bluntness, cheekiness and mission to kill any human that harmed a cat were hilarious.  The quotes at the start of each chapter were especially brilliant. Colt Harper is now my favourite bad boy vampire cat as it was such fun to see the world through his eyes.  This is lighthearted tale filled with humour perfect to make you smile.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys humorous fantasy, demons and cats.

***

Paperback, 170 pages  (NB I read a PDF advance version).
Expected publication: June 27th 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press

 

 

Book Review: Eating Robots – bite sized visions of dystopian futures

Eating Robots: And Other Stories by Stephen Oram

Why I read:  I’m fascinated by AI and ideas of dark dystopian  futures.

Book blurb: “Step into a high-tech vision of the future with author of Quantum Confessions and Fluence Stephen Oram. Featuring health-monitoring mirrors, tele-empathic romances and limb-repossessing bailiffs, Eating Robots explores the collision of utopian dreams and twisted realities in a world where humanity and technology are becoming ever more intertwined.
Sometimes funny, often unsettling, and always with a word of warning, these thirty sci-fi shorts will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.”

My review

Bite sized visions of dystopian futures. The book contains 30 very short stories featuring robots, AI, electronic credit systems, radical body modifications and more. Marvellous snippets that make a big impact on you as you read. At the end of the book are a series of responses to the stories from robotic experts which were an interesting addition.

These were powerful stories that stay with you long after you close the book. The fascinatingly eerie takes on the near future were well-crafted to give you nightmares. Some shorts were only a few pages long which I felt were a little too short to more than glimpse at an idea and the briefness of the stories did not lead to much character development or extensive plots. But many were just the perfect size for a quick reading break to devour the thought provoking ideas often with twisted endings. The book contained a wide range of interesting concepts that Id like to read expanded versions of in a longer story by the author.

I loved this dark glance upon the future which reminded me of the TV series Black Mirror. Very imaginative, sometimes disturbing sometimes humorous but all brilliant examples of possible futures that were scarily recognisable.

****

I received an ARC from Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 138 pages
Expected publication: May 31st 2017 by SilverWood Books
ISBN 1781326223 (ISBN13: 9781781326220)
An introduction to the book from the author and readings of a few of the stories are  available on : http://stephenoram.net/eatingrobots/

 

 

Book Review: Spanky – a fun Daemonic read

Spanky by Christopher Fowler

Why I read:  Who can resist reading about a daemon called Spanky…..

I loved the original cover when I first read this book in the 90s so had to include this.  (The e-book is more modern):

Book blurb: “23-year-old Martyn has a dead-end job, a miserable family, few friends, and no love life. Then he meets a Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae, his own personal demon. Spanky’s friendship brings confidence, the good life, a better job, a girlfriend. But Spanky is a demon, and Martyn has a price to pay.

My review

A fun twist on the Faustian Pact.  The story has the soul and greed of 80/90s London, the cravings for an expensive perfect life filled with wine, women and wealth. It reminded me of my first delightful horror reads as a teenager, very tongue-in-cheek but with some cringy descriptions of women.   Darkly British humour, some graphically violent passages, a sprinkling of sex, and social commentary are all mixed together to form an entertaining cocktail that was a quick and easy read.

Martyn’s short-sighted naivety made him hard to have sympathy for but certainly fit into the plot.  I loved  the daemon Spanky, in my head he was a cross between Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, all delicious swagger, a true cheeky bad-boy. Definitely the star of the book.  Is it wrong that I was rooting for the deamon to win?

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys fun, light-heart 90s British horror.

I received a free ARC of this book via Netgallery and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

***

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352 pages    Ebook    ISBN: 9780399180439 Expected Pub Date: 20 Jun 2017

We had some glorious weather in London last week so I couldn’t resist going out for a coffee and sitting outside to read this fun book.

 

 

 

Agents of Dreamland – Weird Fiction Novella

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Select Sentence “Their language works its way into your brain, digging in and lodging in the convolutions of the cerebrum, burying into the fine groves of the cerebellum, threatening to hijack all reason and even the basest animal instincts.”

Book blurb: “A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.

In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible — the Children of the Next Level — and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.

A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.

And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity”

My review

I was so excited when I saw this book that I purchased and read it straight away.  And I was not disappointed one bit.  This is a short book only 120 pages but it packs a punch, filled with imagination, darkness and conspiracy theories.

Agents of Dreamland is a weird-fiction novella. A dark twisted Lovecraft tale of alien invasion and zombie fungus. The Signalman, a government agent is tracking down a cult leader but instead discovers a horrific crime scene. Immacolata looks through time and observes these events and through her? eyes we glimpse the madness and horror of the future as she searches for a way to save humanity. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s beautiful prose gives us glimpses of an apocalyptic future ripped straight from a nightmare.

This is not a linear story but rather twists and turns, weaving through time and back. You have to piece together the story as you go. But this just adds to the mystery and horror of the book. The characters are interesting especially Immacolata, who appears outside of time.  The book had a X-files vibe about it with sci-fi and government intermixed into the dreamland.   I only wish the book had been longer so i could read more of the weird fascinating prose.

A must read for horror fans.

*****  5 star-read

112 pages Published February 28th 2017 by Tor.com

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An excerpt of the first few pages can be read on Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/2017/01/27/excerpts-agents-of-dreamland-caitlin-kiernan/