Tag: Brian James Freeman

Book Reviews

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 5 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume Five
Authors: Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, Peter Straub, Brian James Freeman
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 141
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong—and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t—nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar—and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think . . . before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets—secrets best left buried in the past.


You would think with a high profile author like Peter Straub contributing to this anthology, it would have been better. But nope.

We start off with Devil’s Night. It wasn’t the greatest story, but it wasn’t a horrible one either. It was a little bit on the messy side, but hey, it was a short story by an author I’ve never heard of before. The slight plot twist was pretty cool but I felt the ending was a bit on the rushed side, like the author ran out of steam or ideas and just wrote whatever came to mind first.

The Last Dare is, well, weird. Every city/town has that one house that everyone says is haunted. This one has a house with a chest that apparently eats kids? I was never quite sure what was going on with this story, to be honest. And the ending just left me completely unsatisfied because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Not a fan of this one at all.

The Halloween Bleed was another “huh?” story for me. I spent a good portion of the time trying to figure out what was going on. It seemed to me by the end it was some sort of “wizard vs witch” magic shootout? I honestly have no idea and honestly, I was so bored during this story I don’t want to know.

Swing was… interesting. Honestly, it seems to me that it was written from the perspective of a Grim Reaper who deals exclusively in suicide victims. Which was pretty cool. It also seemed to me that said Reaper wasn’t particularly thrilled with his or her job and was quite sad about it. I liked this one, but it wasn’t enough to save this book.

And last but not least, we have Pork Pie Hat. I would have thought a story by Peter Straub that took up almost half the book would have been better. Instead, I found myself bored and wondering when the story would be over. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that this is one of his early works. Because otherwise, I just can’t with this story.

This one was just as bad as Volume 4. It gets 1 star because it just wasn’t a good anthology for Halloween stories.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 4 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume 4
Series: Halloween Carnival
Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke, Ray Garton, Bev Vincent, C. A. Suleiman, Paul Melniczek, Brian James Freeman Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 131
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Kealan Patrick Burke, Ray Garton, Bev Vincent, C. A. Suleiman, and Paul Melniczek treat readers to some spooky tricks with a hair-raising assemblage of tales gathered together by author, editor, and master of the macabre Brian James Freeman.

THE MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE by Kealan Patrick Burke
For some, office parties are the highlight of the season. For others, they can paralyze with dread. Theo is determined not to let his anxiety stop him from attending—though maybe he’s right to be afraid.

ACROSS THE TRACKS by Ray Garton
The candy’s always better on the other side of town, even if it means crossing paths with bullies. But a rich house with an unlocked door might just be too good to be true. . . .

THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Bev Vincent
Every town has one: a house or a field or an old tree that just gives off a bad vibe. Of course, those feelings are just silly superstition, nothing to take seriously. Right?

PUMPKIN EATER by C. A. Suleiman
Peter loves Halloween—almost as much as he hates his wife. Luckily, his favorite holiday presents an opportunity to fix his problem. After all, putting his wife in her place should be as easy as pie.

WHEN THE LEAVES FALL by Paul Melniczek
Haverville always seemed like a typical town to me: a place where people work hard, and no one ever really leaves. Until the night I went to Graver’s Farm—and discovered what Haverwille was really hiding.


I have no words. This anthology in the Halloween Carnival series was terrible. Literally, the only story that was in any way particularly memorable was The Mannequin Challenge. Even that story wasn’t all that great.

The Mannequin Challenge was the best story in the book. Even then, it seemed like I’d read it before – definitely not in Volume 4 as unlike Volume 1, I’ve only read Volume 4 once. No, it seemed I’ve read this one before in another book – or perhaps a story similar to it. Honestly, I don’t understand the ending or how any of the people were able to just hold their positions through what was being done, but whatever.

Across the Tracks was just dumb. Straight out dumb. The ending made zero sense and honestly, there really wasn’t anything creepy or scary about the story at all. It was just dumb.

The Halloween Tree was another one that was just plain dumb. A bunch of kids who are scared of a tree because they think it’s going to grab them. And what they do when it does. Big deal. This one reminded me of something a kid would write. I have no idea why Brian James Freeman thought this was one of the stories that was the epitome of Halloween.

Pumpkin Eater was OK. It was better than some of the others, but it still wasn’t great. It did have a nice plot twist toward the end, which is the story’s only saving grace. Again, I don’t get why this was chosen, but maybe I just don’t have the same taste as the editor.

When the Leaves Fall was the longest story in the book and frankly, I just don’t understand what was going on. Everyone says to stay away from a particular farm, yet everyone is basically working for this farm? What? Why? How? Not a single one of those questions is answered. The main character even says none of his questions were answered. What kind of story does that? Seriously, just no. Especially when you take half the book to tell your tale!

I was highly disappointed in this second-to-last installment of the Halloween Carnival series and gave it 1 star.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 3 by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume 3
Series: Halloween Carnival
Author: Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, Greg Chapman, Brian James Freeman
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 141
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, and Greg Chapman unleash the unsettled spirits of the past in five frightening stories collected by celebrated editor, author, and horror guru Brian James Freeman.

THE WAY LOST by Kelley Armstrong
The kids in Franklin don’t ask questions. Each Halloween, one of them disappears into the forest. Dale promised his mother he’d never go into the woods alone. But the kids in Franklin also lie.

LA CALAVERA by Kate Maruyama
The Día de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Cemetery used to be ours. Now, without Jasmine, it’s only right that I go one last time in her honor—before I let her go for good. . . .

THE DEVIL’S DUE by Michael McBride
Pine Springs, Colorado, has prospered for generations by honoring its traditions and its promises. Then one man refuses to do his civic duty—and the price he must pay is fatally steep.

A THOUSAND ROOMS OF DARKNESS by Taylor Grant
Samhainophobia: an irrational fear of Halloween. Phasmophobia: an irrational fear of ghosts. For Anne, these terrors are more rational than she knows.

THE LAST NIGHT OF OCTOBER by Greg Chapman
Every year, one little boy wearing a grotesque Frankenstein mask comes knocking at Gerald’s door. Gerald has always managed to avoid him . . . until this year.


Ok, so this one was better than Volume 2, but not quite as good as Volume 1. But I will say, Halloween Carnival Volume 3 is a solid offering for horror fans and for those who prefer more tame Halloween stories.

The Way Lost was one of my favorites out of Volume 3. I found it to have a plot twist, more than one actually, that really threw me for a loop. While this one wasn’t scary – I’d call it more of a mystery than horror – it was a damn good story and one I read over and over.

La Calavera was all right, but it a bit too predictable in my opinion. I had the ending pretty much pegged less than halfway through the story. Maybe I’ve just read too many stories that work like that, but I wasn’t surprised nor did I think it was particularly creepy. The only reason I can think of for it being included was the Halloween theme.

The Devil’s Due was a damn good story. I just wish the ending would have been better. I don’t know, it just seemed to me that the story could have had a much more exciting ending than it did. I felt that the ending was disappointing after the action that happened before it. Maybe it was just me. I’d love to see the story edited and a better ending added.

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness was an awesome story. The idea of someone being terrified of both ghosts and Halloween is just unreal to me, but when you add in the plot twists toward the end it all makes sense. And those plot twists are to die for. Trust me on this one. You’ll love them… because you definitely won’t expect these!

The Last Night of October was the longest story as I recall and honestly, it wasn’t that scary to me. Some of the things in it didn’t make a lot of sense, at least not to me. And let me say – in my humble opinion, the “it is my fault _____ is dead and now they’re back to haunt/take me” trope is just over done. I would rather have seen it be something else like “it is my fault _____ is dead and now they’re back, but if I apologize or tell the story of what happened they’ll go away and leave me alone.” I mean, really, I would, because that never happens.

This one got 4 stars because The Way Lost, The Devil’s Due, and A Thousand Rooms of Darkness were great stories.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Two by Brian James Freeman

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume Two
Series: Halloween Carnival
Authors: Glen Hirshberb, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, All Sarrantonio, Brian James Freeman Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 130
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio bring the ghouls of the most haunted night of the year to life in a chilling collection of stories curated by master of horror Brian James Freeman.

MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg
Halloween is more than just a holiday in Clarkson, Montana; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. Only this year, the ghosts of the past may just be a little closer than usual.

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MY SISTER by Lee Thomas
When David was young, he believed in magic. In fact, he wanted to become a magician himself. But meddling in the forces of the mind has consequences beyond what an eleven-year-old can see.

MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein
Cabbage Night, Goose Night, Devil’s Night—they’re all the same. Before the treats come the tricks. It’s all in good fun . . . until someone gets hurt.

THE GHOST MAKER by Del James
When people need to disappear, I make them vanish. The catch? I’ve always got to be on guard—because that knock at the door may not just be a little monster looking for candy.

THE PUMPKIN BOY by Al Sarrantonio
When boys start going missing, Detective Len Schneider is determined to make it right. But his partner knows that there are worse things out there than a dead kid.


While I loved Halloween Carnival Volume One, I wasn’t quite as impressed with Halloween Carnival Volume Two.

To my idea, the best story in this batch of five stories was Mr. Dark’s Carnival by Glen Hirshberg. It added a twist at the end that I honestly didn’t see coming. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t see it coming. It was awesome, creepy, and just like when I watched The Sixth Sense, there were clues that I didn’t realize pointed to the ending.

The Facts in the Case of My Sister by Lee Thomas wasn’t too bad either. I kind of figured what was going on, but there were a couple of subtle things that startled me that had nothing to do with the actual story line, but were just awesome things to see in the story. While this story was predictable, it was very good.

Mischief Night by Holly Newstein wasn’t even memorable enough for me to remember what the story was about. I literally finished the book less than 24 hours ago and have no clue what that story was about.

The Ghost Maker by Del James wasn’t scary or creepy. It didn’t even fit as horror, sci fi, or fantasy. There was nothing horror about it. It was so straight forward that I just didn’t see the point in it being there.

The Pumpkin Boy by Al Sarrantonio was just plain weird. I have no idea what the author was going for, but I’m assuming weird wasn’t it. It had a plot twist that just didn’t make a lick of sense because you didn’t know enough about the backstory. I think it could have been a better story if the backstory behind it had been better fleshed out.

All in all, the only reason this collection didn’t get 2 stars was because of Mr. Dark’s Carnival – that was a great story and I’d love to see more like that in Volumes 3-5.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Halloween Carnival Volume 1

Title: Halloween Carnival Volume 1
Series: Halloween Carnival
Author: Robert McCammon, Kevin Lucia, John Little, Lisa Morton, Mark Allan Gunnells, Brian James Freeman
Genre: Horror, Sci Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Hydra
Release Date: October 03, 2017
Format: Kindle
Pages: 149
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

STRANGE CANDY by Robert McCammon
Chocolate bars and sour suckers are trick-or-treat staples, but beware the odd sweet at the bottom of your bag. You never know who it’s from—or what it might do to you.

THE RAGE OF ACHILLES by Kevin Lucia
Father Ward should have heeded the warnings about hearing confession on All Hallow’s Eve. Because a man is about to tell him a secret more haunting than any he has heard before.

DEMON AIR by John R. Little
Fear of flying is not uncommon. But on this transpacific airline, the real danger isn’t the flight itself. It’s whoever—or whatever—is up in the air with you.

LA HACIENDA DE LOS MUERTOS by Lisa Morton
Trick McGrew, former cowboy star of the silver screen, has never believed in tall tales. But down in Mexico, the land of La Llorona, he’s about to find out just how real urban legends can be.

#MAKEHALLOWEENSCARYAGAIN by Mark Allan Gunnells
Some people will go to any lengths to rack up retweets, likes, and follows on social media, no matter who they end up hurting . . . or even killing.


Halloween is my favorite holiday. This is something that anyone who knows me will tell you. I am a Halloween fanatic. So when given the chance to review books with stories based on Halloween and Halloween traditions – and those books are horror novels, you can bet I jumped at that chance. Halloween Carnival Volume 1 is the first of five volumes of Halloween short stories, each in the horror category.

Volume 1 starts off with a story that isn’t so much scary as weird and sad. It’s a great story and one that I’ve read twice now – in fact I’ve read the entire book twice now – and I have to say that it’s just as weird and sad each time. The book ends with a story that I think belongs more in a mystery & thriller compilation than a horror/Halloween compilation. Again, it’s great story and I’ve read it twice, but I just don’t think it fits so well with the idea of a Halloween/horror story.

The stories are all well written and I think they’d make a great addition to anyone’s Halloween reading list. It takes around 3 hours to finish the book if you read at an average to above average speed, so you could technically get through more than one of these volumes in a day.

I gave this one 4 stars because the stories have a good Halloween creepy vibe to them and they work well for those wanting a quick Halloween-themed read.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.