Monday, June 1, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: Reviews of the Horror Anthologies: "Dark Screams: Volumes 2 & 3"--Edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar

Short story anthologies are much like eating a box of chocolates--some of the fillings you adore and want more of, some are good and satisfy just enough, and there often one or two that however well-made, just don't hit the spot for you. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am reviewing the horror anthologies: Dark Screams: Volumes 2 & 3, and similar to the variety in that box of chocolates, some contributions frightened, most entertained, and I was definitely drawn to some of the stories more than others. With ten different authors and their takes on the horror genre, it's a great way to explore and see which bites capture the imagination and inspire that buzz of suspense and a tingle of fear. 

Published by: Hydra, March 3, 2015
eBook: 138 Pages

Dark Screams Volume 2: 

Robert McCammon, Norman Prentiss, Shawntelle Madison, Graham Masterton, and Richard Christian Matheson scale new heights of horror, suspense, and grimmest fantasy in Dark Screams: Volume Two, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the renowned Cemetery Dance Publications.

THE DEEP END by Robert McCammon
Everyone thinks the drowning death of Neil Calder in the local swimming pool was a tragic accident. Only his father knows better. Now, on the last night of summer, Neil returns in search of revenge.

INTERVAL by Norman Prentiss
Flight 1137 from St. Louis by way of Nashville has gone missing. As anxious friends and family gather around the gate, a ticket clerk finds herself eyewitness to a moment of inhuman evil.

IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK by Shawntelle Madison
Eleanor has come from New York City to prep an old Victorian house in Maine for America’s Mysterious Hotspots. Although she’s always thrown herself into her work, this job will take her places she’s never dreamed of going.

THE NIGHT HIDER by Graham Masterton
C. S. Lewis wrote about a portal that led to a world of magic and enchantment. But the wardrobe in Dawn’s room holds only death—until she solves its grisly mystery.

WHATEVER by Richard Christian Matheson
A 1970s rock ’n’ roll band that never was—in a world that is clearly our own . . . but perhaps isn’t, not anymore . . . or, at least, not yet—takes one hell of a trip.

My Review: The Deep End started this collection off with a bang. If you have ever cringed when something swept by you in the water and you could feel it but not see what it was, you will be creeped out by this story of a father battling something in the public swimming pool. A quieter fear builds in Interval, as an airline ticket clerk realizes the true evil that can exist as hope dies--more chilling than scary. The fear ratcheted up in If These Walls Could Talk--Gothic, creepy house, I won't say more but I will probably be trying not to look closely at any strange portraits and hunting scene pictures. After the pinnacle of If These Walls Could Talk, The Night Hider, while it had its moments (creepy burned man coming out of a wardrobe at night), was a bit of a letdown for me. Maybe because I was never a Chronicles of Narnia superfan and its ties to C.S. Lewis felt a bit forced. The strong start to this book with The Deep End made the ending fall flat for me with Whatever. Not every horror story has to frighten, but I just couldn't find the point (or any building of anticipation or suspense) with this story about a 70's rock and roll band that's told through articles, memos and interview notes. It just didn't seem to match the mood of the rest of the collection. So, high marks for the first three stories, lowered for the last two (they were the cherry nougat and maple nut cream in my chocolate assortment). ;-) Still, it introduced me to a few authors (Robert McCammon, Norman Prentiss, Shawntelle Madison) that I want to read more of and will seek out.    

Published by: Hydra, May 12, 2015
eBook: 108 Pages

Dark Screams Volume 3:

Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Jacquelyn Frank, and Brian Hodge contribute five gloomy, disturbing tales of madness and horror to Dark Screams: Volume Three, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the celebrated Cemetery Dance Publications.

A mere child yet a precocious writer, young Freddie records a series of terrifying encounters with an inhuman being that haunts his life . . . and seems to predict his death.

GROUP OF THIRTY by Jack Ketchum
When an award-winning horror writer on the downward slope of a long career receives an invitation to address the Essex County Science Fiction Group, he figures he’s got nothing to lose. He couldn’t be more wrong.

NANCY by Darynda Jones
Though she’s adopted by the cool kids, the new girl at Renfield High School is most drawn to Nancy Wilhoit, who claims to be haunted. But it soon becomes apparent that poltergeists—and people—are seldom what they seem.

Charlie Pearson has a crush on Stacey Wheeler. She has no idea. Charlie will make Stacey see that he loves her, and that she loves him—even if he has to kill her to make her say it.

When Marni moves in next door, the stale marriage of Tara and Aidan gets a jolt of adrenaline. Whether it’s tonic or toxic is another matter.

My Review: I was more familiar with some of the authors in Vol. 3 like Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, and Darynda Jones, so I expected to like this volume more. I did, but it ended up being a bit of a mixed bag as well. I was surprised by Straub's The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero. The concept of a child's writing of his encounters with a scary monster was solid and intriguing but the execution of it--writing in the style, vocabulary and spelling of a child--ended up annoying me while I was trying to read it. I just couldn't get past attempting to make out what was being said to appreciate the story itself. I thought it was my mood and went back to read it again later. Nope, just as irritating. Ketchum's Group of Thirty was better--not necessarily scary, but it built anticipation and had an interesting twist at the end--although it fizzled a bit. What actually drew me to the Dark Screams tour initially was that there was going to be a story from one of my favorite authors, Darynda Jones, as I dearly love her Charley Davidson Series. Her offering, Nancy, was definitely my favorite story from the book--set in high school where a new girl wants to fit in with the popular crowd but tries to also befriend the class pariah--who has some unique troubles. Nancy had an excellent twist, and like the best champagne truffle, it left me wanting more from the characters. The high school horrors continued with I Love You, Charlie Pearson, a stalker tale with a very different and demented spin at the end--another favorite. I am not sure that I would have closed this volume with The Lone and Level Sands Stretch Far Away. Although I liked it, it had a quiet intensity and I didn't get that strong feeling of foreboding I was looking for.    

Overall, I enjoyed both collections--they are great indulgent treats to have on your eReader to dip into when you want just a taste of a horror tale without committing a lot of time and effort. I went back and purchased Volume 1 to read, and I am scheduled to review Volume 4 in August. Good creepy fun. 

I did not pair a recipe with these two anthologies but if I did, it might be a glass of the sweet tea from I Love You, Charlie Peterson or maybe it would be a decadent little box of chocolate treats--like this one from one of my favorite local chocolatiers, Choco le'a, where I have yet to encounter a chocolate that I didn't like. ;-)


Note: Review copies of "Dark Screams: Vol. 2 & 3" were provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


1 comment:

  1. That first story sounds completely creepy! It's making my skin crawl just thinking about it.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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