A Mixed Bag of Blood – David Bernstein

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A collection of short stories from David Bernstein. Here we go:
The Trojan Plushy –

Another revenge tale that combines the werewolf with witchcraft and the Trojan Horse. Has a Twilight Zone-kind of feel.

4 out of 5 stars

The Booglin –

You’ll think twice the next time you have a booger stuck and it won’t come out. Fun, silly story.

4 out of 5 stars

Eaten Un-Alive –

Life isn’t easy when you’re a vampire in a zombie apocalypse.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
It’s Nice Not To Have To Share –

Georgia shares everything with her sister Gerri, but some things she wants to keep to herself.

3 out of 5 stars
Invasion –

Aliens plan to overtake earth by imitating a cockroach and using the neighborhood adolescent psycho.

4 out of 5 stars

Samurai Zombie Killer

A zombie contagion in the water supply of the local samurai warrior.

3 out of 5 stars

Small Town, Big Trouble –

The werewolf legend to help explain Sasquatch. I love it.

5 out of 5 stars

Bad Cutlery –

When good knives go bad. A fun possessed object story.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Potty Mouth –

This is one messed up story! I won’t even try to explain it. It’s simply something you’ll have to experience for yourself. Kudos to Bernstein for probably the most far out there original tale I have ever read! You need professional help, sir!

5 out of 5 stars

STD –

If you weren’t convinced to practice safe sex before, you will be by the time you finish this story.

5 out of 5 stars
All in all, a nice collection of macabre tales. There were only a couple that didn’t do it for me. The rest were fun and there were even some that I have to question Bernstein’s sanity or blood alcohol level. Good stuff.

Overall:

4 1/2 Bags of Blood out of 5
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The Grave – Charles L. Grant

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I enjoy the slow burn of Grant’s storytelling. If you know anything of him, you know that he doesn’t bludgeon you over the head with nonstop gore and action. He teases you with the horror, slowly building up into a final crescendo. I’ve been reading his Oxrun Station series in chronological order and The Grave is my latest in the journey. Up until now, my complaint has been the weak, shallow and helpless female characters. The kind that have a conniption if they break a nail or are helpless unless a big strong male rescues them. I realize that this stereotype was common in quite a few horror novels from the late 1970s. It still doesn’t help me enjoy it. In The Grave, the female characters can stand on their own two feet and even though the male lead is kind of a dingbat, he’s not so bad that he’s annoying. But what has always been Grant’s strength – a wonderful slow burn of a strong storyline – is miserably empty of plot. In an attempt at being murky to keep you guessing, it actually is an exercise of patience. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happened until 40% into The Grave and then the plot was muddy and incoherent at best. This continued on and on and then at the end, it felt like Grant tried to explain it all as quickly as possible so that he could bring the story to a close. Unfortunately, the explanation doesn’t help or make it any more interesting. You’re just kind of “meh” and closed the book.

2 Unmarked Graves out of 5
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Relic of Death – David Bernstein

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When two mafia hit men have their luxury SUV breakdown in rural upstate NY after disposing of a body, they come upon a house on a dirt lane. They beat on the door to no avail. No one is home. The door is reinforced and won’t budge. They try to shoot their way in. No dice. They end up bludgening the door open with the blunt end of a splitting maul. Once inside, they find a safe that is just begging to be cracked. Inside, they find only a briefcase. However, this briefcase is full of diamonds. What the hit men thought was their lucky day only turns out to be the beginning of death and destruction for all who possess the briefcase.

Bernstein takes us down a rabbit hole where the naughty briefcase goes from person to person in a roller coaster ride of mayhem that will remind you of shades of the Twilight Zone, Tales From the Darkside, and Friday the 13th the Series. Great story and highly recommended.

4 1/2 Temptations out of 5.
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I Kill In Peace – Hunter Shea

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Peter gets a strange message at work warning him that he is going to be fired at the end of the day. The message is from someone labeled as AO. He doesn’t know anyone by AO and writes it off as a prank and at the end of the day, guess what happens? That’s right. His self-righteous prick of a boss calls him into his office and gives him the axe. Who is this AO and how did they know about it? Later on that day, AO sends him another message telling him to get ready to kill his ex-boss and that he’ll send a red Mustang for him to use. Peter has no desire to follow through with AO’s demand and refuses. As a result, he is greeted with the most excruciating, debilitating pain in his head. Seeing the Mustang pull in at the rendezvous point, Peter stumbles over to it to kick whoever this AO is ass. Whipping the door to the running muscle car open, he finds that there is no one inside and as soon as he sits in the car, the headache is instantly gone. Is Peter going crazy? How is this AO able to communicate with him and provide the means to kill his boss? Will Peter really go through with what AO demands?

I Kill in Peace is a fast paced tale from Hunter Shea that keeps you turning the pages so fast that they almost become a blur as you try to discover what is really happening to Peter. It is a tight story that you should let yourself have fun with. You’ll be glad you did.

4 Holy Marys out of 5
** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Firestarter – Stephen King

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Andy and his daughter Charlene, Charlie for short, are on the run. A government agency known as The Shop are after them. Years ago, The Shop was responsible for administering a secret experiemental drug into the veins of Charlie’s parents when they were broke and naive college kids. The drug, called Lot Number Six, went helter-skelter through most of it’s test subjects causing carnage which required a massive government effort to coverup the mess. For Charlie’s parents, something in the drug altered their body chemistry. Her mother possessed a mild form of ESP where she could occasionally move things with her mind. Her father, Andy, could now “push” people into believing and doing what he wanted. Falling in love after being brought together by this strange experiment, they had Charlie and if you thought her parents had special abilities, wait until you get a load of what Charlie can do! The girl is a human flame thrower. She can create fires simply by using her mind to push it out and, as she got older, her powers became stronger. Now the government wants to control her ability and will stop at nothing to capture it.

Firestarter seems to be an under appreciated tale, if such a thing were ever possible, from Stephen King. It never seems to be on any list touting his greatest works. It is, however, a very worthy story with strong characters mixed with a story that feels like it’s smack dab out of the late 1970’s TV show, In Search Of. ESP and government conspiracy cover ups were huge back then and, with how little people trust the government currently, it doesn’t seem to be out of the possibility now. While its way too easy to say that this is simply a watered-down derivative of Carrie, Firestarter is much more and definitely worth checking out.

4 1/2 Hot Potatoes out of 5
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Vicki Beautiful – Somer Canon

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Brynn and Sasha, along with their spouses, head to Vicki’s beautiful home to celebrate, with her and her husband, Vicki’s 40th birthday and that she’s cancer free. The house is immaculate, the table is set flawlessly, the food is done to perfection. All of this is to be expected. Vicki is known for her never ending quest for all thing in her life to be beautiful. What is it expected is her announcement that her cancer is back and that she doesn’t have very long to live. Even worse is what she asking her friends to do for her after she is gone.

Vicki Beautiful is the debut novel from Somer Canon and she shows promise in what could be a very nice writing career for her. With Vicki Beautiful, she seems to have carved out a story that could very well described as Glamour magazine meets American Psycho. I literally was gagging as Brynn and Sasha were struggling to honor their friend’s last wishes. My advice is to give the story a try and stick with it. The journey ends up being the shining star of the story and not necessarily the destination.

3 1/2 Leg of Vicki out of 5
** This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review
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