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Book Review: Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold by Sarah Deckard

Tapestry of Tales   Tapestry of Tales

Book review by Sarah Hayes

A young woman cloaked in red visiting her grandmother is warned to beware of wolves. A prince and his aide venture through the countryside to free a sleeping princess from a castle surrounded by thorns. For the love of a human man, a mermaid sacrifices her tail and her voice. At night, twelve princesses dance so much and so long that their shoes fall apart on their feet. These may sound like the typical characters of your everyday fairy tale – but they are not. In fact, with a little twist of the words on the page, the heroes and heroines of stories long past turn into something brand new but just as enthralling.

As Tapestry of Tales shows, even the oldest of stories can be looked at in a new way. Sometimes, when you change the perspective of the story, the heroine doesn’t seem so fair or the hero so noble and sometimes the villain comes out looking rosier than her detractors. Like in real life, every story has two sides and more than one way to tell it. When you see the witch holding the beautiful princess captive isn’t evil at heart and the woodcutter lending a hand to the little lost girl in the woods isn’t innocent – well, it makes you wonder what other fairy tales hide another facet to them.

With this book, Sarah Deckard has put some creative and decidedly dark spins on classic fairy tales – from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Her writing style is lavishly descriptive and thick with vivid imagery that seems apropos for her rehashed fables, which have all taken on a somber (if not outright sinister) accent. Some stories have an effective punch, while others get lost in their own detailed prose and lack impact. Having said that, the stories with the most striking affect are the ones that linger in the mind long after that particular tale is done; I found the retakes on Little Red Riding Hood (Beware of Wolves) and Sleeping Beauty (The Prince and the Thorns) the most effective of the collection. Deckard has shown, as illustrated in the final tale of this volume, that new things can spring up out of things old and forgotten – and that out of the fairy tales of olden times, new ones can still be dreamt of and told to generations to come.

Book Review: Paradigms of Suffering: Bloody Seconds by Greg Dixon

Paradigms of Suffering: Bloody Seconds

Book Review by Sean Chambers

Paradigms of Suffering: Bloody Seconds is a collection of short stories created by Greg Dixon that is definitely not for the squeamish. Dixon seems to take delight in using a pallet of violent language to paint his morbid tales.

Bloody Seconds contains four original stories and one unique vision of Ed Gein’s life. The characters presented in the stories very quickly experience all the raw and unbridled violence Dixon’s mind is capable of creating. An unfaithful wife, a prison inmate, a group of drunken buddies—no one is safe from the macabre that fills each and every story.

In the end, Bloody Seconds is reminiscent of the exploitation films of the sixties and seventies. The stories use ultraviolence and taboo subject matter in place of plot and character development. This double-edged sword makes the stories fun but forgettable. At its short length of only one hundred and fifty pages, though, it’s worth checking out.

Book Review: Blood Orchard by S. D. Hintz

Blood Orchard by S. D. Hintz

Book Review by A. R. Braun

Blood Orchard, a twisted horror novel by S.D. Hintz, pulls no punches as far as gore, bad language and sex—in my opinion the perfect novel! There’s no limit to the twisted goings-on in Onward, where old-west-type “justice” prevails and mercy is hard to come by.  The tome delivers mayhem in a fresh, thrilling form of originality.

Coren Raines has moved to the small town of Onward just outside Chicago, but is he ready to face the ghosts and the murderous past that wait for him there? A recently divorced man who makes a living by stock trading on the Internet, he’s soon visited by the town’s sadistic sheriff, Paul Pritchard. He soon endeavors to force a false confession from Coren about set of triplets that have recently been kidnapped.

When reporter Jay Donovan comes on the scene to uncover the real truth about the missing triplets, he finds he’s taken on more than he can handle after getting knocked off his motorcycle by the sheriff. When Prichard tells him to move on, Jay refuses to leave until he unearths the mystery of not only the three missing babies, but also the sheriff’s triplets who disappeared when they were seventeen years old. Jay interviews a resident and uncovers the sheriff’s daughters’ infamy. Can Jay finally write the story that will give him the fame and the recognition he deserves?

I was captivated till the end, finally satisfied that there’s a horror author sick enough to be a no-limit soldier on the written page, enjoying the graphic, original bad language and the over-the-top gore. The plot stood strong throughout, weaving the tale of what happened to the sheriff’s triplets piece by piece the further you read on. The book also makes a statement about bad habits and small-town philosophy. Any true horror fan would be a fool not to pick up a copy of Blood Orchard.

Book Review: Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold by Sarah Deckard

Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold
Book Review by Amber Stults

Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold by Sarah Deckard is not for children unless you want to scare them into staying awake. The tone of her stories perfectly mimics the cheery tales of old but very few have “happily ever after” endings.

More than one character wonders if the fairy tales they’ve heard are told from the wrong point of view or have incorrect details. They find out firsthand if the tales were correct or not. For instance, Sleeping Beauty’s tale is retold from the prince’s point of view. He’s a wanderer and uses his lover to find out more information about the fortress protected by magical thorns to prevent a prince from wakening the princess inside.

Other tales are alternate versions. Snow White goes to live with a family of odd Dwarves with names like Trippy, Sappy and Freaky. One story which stood out for me was “Beware of Wolves”. In this tale, Little Red Riding Hood discovers wolves come in more than one form. It’s a dark interpretation and days later won’t leave my mind.

Book Reviewer Wanted

Niteblade is looking for another book reviewer or two. That reviewer could be you if you:

  • Enjoy reading small press publications and sharing your opinion about them
  • Are familiar with (or willing to learn) how to post blog entries via Word Press
  • Can write clearly
  • Are not looking to get rich

Unfortunately we can only afford a token payment for reviews ($1, plus a .pdf copy of each issue of Niteblade as they come out) so you will not get rich doing this job. I encourage reviewers to aim for one review a month as a minimum.

If you’re interested please email me at rhonda @ with a sample book review (of any book you’ve read recently) that follows our reviewer guidelines under the cut. Use the word ‘Reviewer’ somewhere in the subject line of your email, please.

There is no ‘application deadline’ or anything like that. The first couple reviewers who seem to be a good fit will be welcomed to the team.

Thank you!

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Review: Tapestry of Tales by Sarah Deckard

Tapestry of Tales

Book review by A. R. Braun

In Tapestry of Tales, Sarah Deckard gives us a multitude of protagonists and antagonists to entertain us deep into the night with the timeless writers’ question, What if? What if the elder brother of twelve sisters becomes a necromancer and tries to destroy them by dancing them to death? What if when a princess kisses a frog, it brings her to ruin? What if waking Sleeping Beauty invites a sanguine doom?

Sarah’s warped fairy tales bring to mind yarns I learned in school with a fresh and evocative twist. The lusty, violent and sometimes perverted plot twists are something you’ve never read before, though you’ve perused the basic plots. “Zodiac Dancers” brings the reader to a hidden underworld of dangers. “The Enchanted Kiss” makes the reader question selfishness. “The Sleeper” ends in a way you won’t see coming, showing her expertise when working in the dark fantasy genre.

I found the collection quite refreshing, a genre I don’t usually read but was able to enjoy whole-heartedly. The tome is not predictable or tiresome, the stories bringing to mind morals, questioning avarice and narcissism and evoking surprise and sometimes shock when the endings are revealed. I definitely recommend this to any fantasy aficionado.

Review: Shadow of the Antlered Bird by David Sklar

Shadow of the Antlered Bird
Book review by Amber Stults

Shadow of the Antlered Bird is about Tam.  Born of a fairy mother and human man, he’s at an age where he wishes to strike out on his own and learn more about the human side of himself.  He uses the knowledge of magic gained from his mother to keep her from finding him.  It’s not that Tam is superior at magic or his mother’s ability is inferior.  In fact, she’s quite powerful.  He uses different materials in his spells in order to obfuscate his mother’s ability to track him.  As a result of her interference with one of Tam’s spells, something is released that has desires of its own.  And it wants to have Tam’s life by any means. 

April, a human, joins Tam on his cross-country trip simply because he’s her friend.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s kind of cute too.  She teaches him more about being human than he was able to learn on his own.

The fairy world of David Sklar’s making is not like the others I’ve encountered.  Many have dark undertones in their dealings with Tam but they aren’t malicious.  They recognize whatever is after Tam is powerful and they’re more worried about self preservation than about angering Tam’s mother. 

The themes in Tam’s story are timeless ones told with humor and honesty.  Shadow of the Antlered Bird is an engaging read that happens to be a page turner.

Review: Unholy Embrace by Neil Benson

Unholy Embrace
Book review by Amber Stults

Unholy Embrace by Neil Benson is the tale of what happens to Frank after he meets a vampire in a bar.  Frank is an architect in his 30’s who spends his spare time oil painting or drinking Heineken.  He does not believe in vampires, werewolves or other supernatural creatures.

His mind changes after meeting Nessa, a Hungarian vampire who is several hundred years old.  Whatever his intention when he enters the upscale vampire nightclub, he leaves with Nessa and a chance at love.  His association with Nessa brings him into contact with werewolves and other supernatural creatures he never imagined he’d meet.

Chapters vary between Frank’s and Nessa’s point of view but mostly the story is told from Frank’s viewpoint.  The plot is solid but the characters didn’t come alive for me.  Their interactions with other people are minimal.

Benson’s back story for Nessa is solid and believable.  At first it’s difficult to see what Nessa finds attractive about Frank.  The attraction is probably his skepticism and his loyalty.  This book has action sequences and love scenes but is not a straight horror or straight romance so keep that in mind if you’re not a fan of both.

Review: Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold by Sarah Deckard

Review: Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold
Author: Sarah Deckard

Reviewer: Kari Wolfe, Imperfect Clarity

Did you ever wish you could change the ending of the fairy tales you read as a child?

In “Tapestry of Tales: Classic Fairy Tales Retold,” Sarah Deckard has taken a large dose of fairy dust and sprinkled it liberally on her keyboard.  Using fairy tales such as “Rapunzel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “The Little Mermaid,” she has rewritten them, changing the narrator’s point of view, their ends and even the story themes themselves.

Ms. Deckard has done a great job of keeping the original spirit of each author alive in the stories she has chosen.  The themes chosen fit seemlessly into each setting as you might remember and add a surprising touch and modern twist to the stories.  For example, in “The Gilded Cage,” a spin on the story of Rapunzel and her long hair, we see a more independent Rapunzel who slowly realizes the world isn’t necessarily what her rescuing prince tells her to be.

The stories I enjoyed most were the ones I had read as a child such as “Little Red Riding Hood,” Ms. Deckard’s version entitled “Beware of Wolves.”  In this adaptation, we learn that sometimes it’s not the wild animals that you need to watch out for.

Being partial to books that draw upon my own reading experiences, it was fun to try and determine what the original fairy tale was and then to see how Ms. Deckard took the characters and made them her own.  Ms. Deckard has brought the childhood world of the fairy tale to adulthood.

Hiram Grange and the Digital Eucharist

                                            Hiram Grange and the Digital Eucharist

                                                   Book Review by A. R. Braun

Hiram Grange is an unlikely hero. With a penchant for loose women, drugs and booze, who would expect him to be a demon hunter? But that’s exactly what he is, fighting to keep the demons in hell and off the streets. A long-haired, gun-toting protagonist who loves hard-loving, young chicks? You know I’m all over this series!

In Hiram Grange and the Digital Eucharist by Robert Davies, Hiram shows up with his cohorts, preventing a demon named Giblis from entering our world. He does so, but not without sacrificing the life of his now worst enemy’s girlfriend, a lithe, supple beauty. The other survivor gives him The Scorpion’s Kiss, a bomb blast of a drug stash, hoping it will do him in. Hiram must go up against the Occultionist’s Tower, a deadly corporation helping the demon, Giblis, come back into the world . . . and now he’s hunting Hiram, the man responsible for preventing his entry last time. Will Hiram have to drink The Digital Eucharist, a symbiotic potion primed to take the conscience of man away, to gain entry and fight the demon?

I enjoyed the raw humor and the subject matter. It wasn’t a bad novella by any means. Some of the description at the end I felt a bit anticlimactic. Everything else was rock solid, nothing boring and tedious. There’s plenty of gripping, gory details and amazing artwork throughout the graphic novella. The non-cumbersome ninety-seven page read held my attention throughout. It’s definitely the best graphic novella since Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. I could have done without the author’s comment at the end, saying mimetic writing is for wimps when talking about writing of lobster girls and laser beams. Seeing as two other writers wrote the first two books, this comment doesn’t make sense to me. Otherwise, a quick, fun read that kept my attention.

A. R. Braun