“The cottage was nestled in a nook of thick bamboo. It was aged and weather beaten. The front porch clanged with moon-shaped wind chimes. Twin, Fu-Dog statues guarded the entranceway. Black smoke bellowed from the chimney and a horrible stench came from the open windows. Crows cawed, like bad omens, from the branches of oak trees—Kenji’s sense of dread rising.”
From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.
This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.
“He’d imagined doing bad things to people, his neighbors, kids in his class, and it didn’t scare him. In fact, it excited him to the point of ecstasy, where he could get lost while thinking about slitting the throat of his teacher or the old man who lived down the block, the one who always said hello to him. It was getting caught that gave him pause, made him wake up in the middle of the night, sweating. Jail was not a place he wanted to go when he was older. He wondered if he was going to be a serial killer when he grew up. The tendencies were there; he was like many of the psychos he’d read about.”
Like the title suggests, nay, warns, this read is a mixed bag of blood. It hits on the darkness, it nails the disgusting, and taps on all points in between. Definite kudos to Mr. Bernstein for offering up a smorgasbord of differing tales, showcasing the many angles with which he can come at you. A lot of collections (a lot of authors period) tend to keep things at a constant theme throughout, so it’s nice, as my first David Bernstein read, to get a gamut of his styles, to see what appeals to me personally, but also to see what doesn’t.
Let’s get this out of the way first. I am not a fan of stories that rely heavily on the bodily function gross-out horror (book or film). I can’t tell you why other than simply, it’s doesn’t appeal to me. Never has. So deciding on a score for this book is tough when three out of ten of these stories lost me rather immediately (The Booglin kinda won me back, but that one was more weird than gross). Potty Mouth & STD, nope, not my bread and butter.
Of what remains is a handful of fun, violent, twisted each in their own way, set of yarns. There are a lot of enjoyable, memorable moments to satiate your bloodlust, rattle your nerves, or simply make you smile and nod your head.
Small Town, Big Trouble is my favorite piece overall. I was really into the main characters and their legacy, their burden. This is the story I would have loved to be longer as I was invested into the towns plight immediately. Samurai Zombie Killer, self explanatory title, is another fun piece. I would have also liked to spend a little more time in this world, but as is, it’s wet, chunky and satisfying. Invasion with its twisted protagonist, The Trojan Plushy with its arguably justifiable revenge, are two other tales that piqued my interest quickly. Tapping into hunger for a solid, grisly encounter.
While A Mixed Bag of Blood may not, as a whole, be fully compatible with everyone, if you are a reader of jarring dark fiction then there will definitely be something here entice you, push your buttons. I dig David’s style, the twists he brings to tried and true themes are entertaining and I’ll definitely read more from him in the future, with a couple of titles I already have my eye on. I’ll just steer clear of the gross-out stuff, but you, yeah you, just may be into it. Check it out.
“It was the moment I realized I’d never have anything to myself, except for my thoughts. The deep, dark, ominous feelings, torturing my every breath, making me hate my sister—myself.”
Overall personal score: 3/ 5
Weighted score for the fans that dig gross-out as well: 4/ 5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.
David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror. He loves hearing from his readers. You can reach him on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/david.bernstein.3. Visit him at his website: davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com email firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @Bernsteinauthor.
“Dave Bernstein let his mind wander and his pen write where I know you’ll want to read. With an introduction by Kristopher Rufty, this is a reason to stay at home and read on a pleasant Saturday afternoon like I did.” –Cat After Dark
Praise for David Bernstein
“David Bernstein delivers a fast-moving tale of desire and destruction that gives new meaning to the words, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Relic of Death twists reality and will leave you reflecting on your own personal Achilles heel long after you finished reading…” —Allan Leverone, author of Mr. Midnight
“A fascinating, unpredictable, ever-shifting tale of greed and desperation. Highly recommended!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure
“Fast-paced, cinematic, and excellent. Horror fans gather around, it’s time for another chilling tale from David Bernstein.” —Keith Deininger, author of Within and Ghosts of Eden
“A harrowing, brutal thriller, Skinner is Bernstein at his best!” —Peter Giglio, author of Shadowshift
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