I read a book: Peculiar Monstrosities, A Planet Bizarro Publication

Planet Bizarro was founded toward the end of 2021? Whaaaat? I guess my brain is still in that weird pandemic time warp because it feels like they’ve been around a lot longer. I’ve been reading bizarro a lot longer anyway.

Peculiar Monstrosities is a bizarro horror anthology comprised of 14 wild stories by 14 different authors, some well established and some new, who absolutely shine in the genre. Each story is unique and everything you want from a good bizarro story.

Before I get into the actual content, I want to talk about the narrator. Despite being a fairly prolific audiobook narrator, Talia Carver is a new voice to me. Her voice changes to suit the characters she reads in a way that brings the stories to life without being distracting. That is a big deal for me. I don’t like full cast audiobooks because I find them to be way too distracting, and the ones where they just read can be monotonous. This style is a happy medium and Carver pulls it off skillfully. Her narration is a pleasure to listen to.

Let’s talk about some of my favorites. This collection starts off strong with a story called The Colour Leeches, by Tim O’Neal. Saving the world from shadow monsters who are hungry for pigment? Yes please. I found the solution to the colour leech problem to be pretty clever and the ending satisfying. For the Children, by Joshua Chaplinsky describes a cartoon character brought to life and the consequences of doing so. The Thing She Carried, by Shelly Lyons caught my eye because of the title’s similarity to an old favorite, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Of course that is where the similarities end. This story was honestly hilarious. Imagine being on a camping trip with your lover, stopping to fuck when the mood hits, and suddenly he dies and is face is stuck in your lady bits. And now you have to figure out how to get back to civilization and deal with weird shit along the way. Jukebox Heaven, by Zoltan Komor also had me rolling. A man goes to a match making service to find a wife and is paired up with a jukebox. Please insert coin. Man/jukebox sex. And then it gets weird.

I particularly liked the pet-centric stories. The Cat Factory, by Tim Anderson describes a world where cats are hand crafted by artisans until someone gets the idea to start mass producing them and things go awry. Kevin J. Kennedy’s All I Wanted Was a Little Friend is another pet story, but instead of cats, the pet is a blob of some sort. Pet breeding and ownership are strictly controlled and the reason for that becomes evident almost immediately after the main character acquires a pet. And then it gets weird.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Most of these stories can be described as a series of somewhat weird events happening, and then it gets weird. It’s what I like about bizarro and why I think bizarro fans should read Peculiar Monstrosities.

You can buy Peculiar Monstrosities on Amazon or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. I bought the kindle version of this book when it was published in March of 2022. Planet Bizarro offered free review copies of the audiobook last week, effectively moving Peculiar Monstrosities to the top of my TBR. Thank you for the review copy, Matt Clarke/Planet Bizarro.

I read a book: Songs About My Father’s Crotch, by Dustin Reade

I won this from a Planet Bizarro Press giveaway celebrating 500 likes on Facebook. How they’re just reaching that milestone, I’ll never know. I love bizarro and I’ve loved every Planet Bizarro Press book I’ve read. Bizarro is such a niche genre, but I’m sure there are more than 500 people who are into it.

As much as I love winning giveaways, I also love supporting authors by doing things like writing reviews and buying their books. Songs About My Father’s Crotch was recently released on Audible and I snatched it up immediately. I think it’s important to include a quick note about the narration when reviewing a book. So here’s a quick note about Garry Messick’s performance. I found it quite enjoyable. Messick treats narrating like he’s a one man show, taking on different accents and cadences for each character.

This collection of short stories is great. Each story is stranger than the last and the progression is fast. It starts with a story about a guy who discovers that he loves wrestling with furniture and moves on to one about a couple who absentmindedly eat each other while watching movies. The story that stood out to me was Night Butterfly, a tale of a bromance between a guy and a moth. There’s some guy/butterfly sex, so if that squicks you out, maybe skip this story. The Unbearding tells the story of one guy’s beard causing a chain reaction resulting in a weird beard obsession in the whole town. Living houses with assholes and buttcheeks. Cloud people. Roald Dahl? There is so much packed into this small collection of short stories.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This review doesn’t adequately describe the levels of weird in this collection of stories. I loved it. Super fun. Bizarro is one of those genres that some people just don’t get. That is apparent when you read Goodreads reviews of books like this and find a bunch of people asking what the whole thing had been about. In the words of the fictional Roald Dahl in Clouds and Feathers, “Some stories are just fun to read, y’know?” That’s how I feel about bizarro and why I always rate them so highly. They’re just fun to read. If you’re a fan of bizarro and you haven’t read Reade’s work, you should get on that. Don’t miss it. Or do. Whatever.

Big thanks to Planet Bizarro Press for sending me my copy of this book. You can get Songs About My Father’s Crotch on Amazon for a couple bucks. Also available on Audible.

To the author: Sorry for googling you after 2am. I do most of my reading and writing in the middle of the night. I hope I didn’t keep you up too late.

I read a book: Goddamn Electric Nights, by William Pauley III

I’ve written reviews for a few of William Pauley III’s books in the last year. I like his brand of weird. I feel right at home on Eighth Tower Block. I have owned the kindle version of Goddamn Electric Nights for a while now. I picked up the audiobook (and one other) on NetGalley a few weeks ago when my kindle had died an untimely death, having seen its existence there as a sign to revisit Eighth Block Tower. I have a new kindle now, thanks to the thoughtful generosity of my bff, so I followed along on that as I listened to the audiobook.

Once again, Connor Brannigan’s performance is great. I really enjoy his voice and delivery of the material. The only exception is the last story. It was like listening to Robert Stack narrating Unsolved Mysteries, a quality that was not bad in the observation parts of the zombie story but not quite fitting Spin Doctors Mixtape. I still love Brannigan’s narration though.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite in this collection of strange tales. Killing Teddy was a neat concept with a great ending. Does anyone ever really win? Parts of $5 Electric Suzie cracked me up. Imagine falling in love with a VCR with a taste for human flesh. Now imagine the levels of love and obsession that would drive a man to murder for 50 years to keep his love sated. I guarantee you’ll never look at a VCR’s, uh, lips the same way again.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I love Pauley’s writing. His stories are vividly descriptive and take you to worlds you never imagined. This collection gives a little more insight to how the mutants of Eighth Block Tower came to be and how they continue to exist and I want more.

Big thanks to William Pauley III, Doom Fiction, and NetGalley for providing an audio ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can read Goddamn Electric Nights as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Or just buy the book. The eBook is only a couple bucks and the print version would look great on your shelf. Do yourself a favor and grab the audio companion while you’re at it.

Monthly roundup – December 2022

Last monthly roundup of the year. I read fewer books this month than usual due to the untimely demise of my kindle and some trouble focusing in general, but I still got to lots of great books. Mantis was my favorite, followed closely by both issues of The Obituaries and The Astronaut Dream Book. Not a bad one in the bunch though.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Mantis
The Obituaries #2
The Obituaries #3
The Astronaut Dream Book

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The rest

No rating:
One that I won’t name.

So let’s talk about some of these books. I read a lot of weird stuff. Some of it is weird by definition. Anything labeled bizarro is going to be super weird. I knew I was going to love the favorites listed above because I have loved everything I’ve read by those authors so far. But then there are books like the Pet Project series. The first book was recommended to me by Amazon or Goodreads (I don’t remember) because I read a lot of alien porn. This series was not alien porn, but it is solid sci-fi and I really enjoyed it. The series got better as it progressed. There’s a pretty significant time jump between books, but it feels like the natural progression of events.

I also read a lot of zombie books. I know a lot of them are the same story told by different people, but that’s part of why I like them so much. Still, when I read a book that takes a different approach to zombies, I’m all in. Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series is one of those. The series follows a young woman who was turned by a cop who found her dying of an overdose. The zombies in this world are not mindless and go on to live normal lives. Well, as normal as can be expected for someone who needs to consume brains to keep from turning into flesh eating monsters. Not a bad book in this six volume series. I loved it, and even though it took me a year to get around to reading the last volume, I’ll miss Angel Crawford.

Monster romance is a relatively new genre for me. I’ve never really cared for traditional romance or smut and mostly just didn’t read it because the few that I’d tried were disappointing at best and boring at worst. About a year and a half ago, I saw Ice Planet Barbarians on my Goodreads feed. The person who was reading the series usually reads less fluffy stuff, but I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read based on her ratings so I gave IPB a go. And promptly fell down that rabbit hole. It turns out I do enjoy romance and smut, I’m just not interested in humans. Go figure. This month’s monster porn, Grunge and I’m in Love with Mothman, were excellent. More mythical creatures, please.

All in all, a great month of reads to wrap up a great year.

I read a book: The Astronaut Dream Book: The Bedlam Bible #3, by William Pauley III

I have read the first two books in this series and I loved them both. They are delightfully weird and completely engaging. So when I saw the audiobook available for review on NetGalley, I knew it was time to revisit Eighth Block Tower. And while I do own the kindle version, my kindle suffered an accident yesterday and no longer works. Seeing this book on NetGalley almost felt like a sign from the cosmos reminding me that even though I did most of my reading on that kindle, it’s going to be okay. So I’m sitting here in my office listening to the audiobook and following along on the kindle app on my phone.

I’ll start with a note about the narrator. I found Connor Brannigan’s narration to be quite enjoyable. His voice is deep and smooth and just really pleasant. I could listen to him speak far longer than the two-ish hour run time of this book. Fortunately for me, he narrates several of Pauley’s books that are already on my tbr.

If you’ve read the first two Bedlam Bible books, you are familiar with the strange things that go on in the Eighth Block Tower. Each book is a bunch of stories that are not one cohesive story, but they are intertwined. Everything that goes on in that tower is interconnected. This book is much the same. In the beginning, we learn of the prison deep within Eighth Block Tower that has only one prisoner. The stories that follow are his dreams about astronauts. The chapter called Apokalypsis. Wow. It’s a letter of warning to anyone who may find themself at the Church of Death and Nothingness detailing the astronaut’s journey leading up to the point where he is writing that letter and waiting for death. I found the letter to be quite moving.

But are these stories really dreams? Part 2 will have you wondering as the over arcing story comes full circle. The boy who encountered the prisoner in the beginning is back and his mother is ready to confront the “dog man” who bit her son. But in the words of the astronaut in his letter or warning, their journey didn’t stop there. Instead, things got weird. What the hell is going on in that tower? All I know is that I want more.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. If you’re into the weird and absurd, you’ll love William Pauley III‘s doom fiction. He’s a fantastic writer with the ability to write stories that are sometimes absurd, horrifying, and touching.

You can read The Astronaut Dream Book as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Or just buy the book. The eBook is only a couple bucks and the print version would look great on your shelf. Do yourself a favor and grab the audio companion while you’re at it.

I read a book: The Flock, by J. Todd Scott

The Flock, by J. Todd Scott was Book Lovers Cafe’s November book club selection. It was not the one I voted for, but it was already in my kindle library from a previous Amazon First Reads. Book club seems to be the only way I care enough to read those even though they are usually pretty good. Usually.

This one has an interesting premise. It’s the story of a former cult member making a new life for herself and her daughter long after her cult days. She has a whole new identity, but her old life catches up to her and the rest of the book takes us back to the remaining bits of the cult. Sounds interesting, right?

I’m not sure why, but I expected this to be more firmly rooted in reality (despite being fiction). Like one of those biographies of real former cult members. A tell all type thing. It is not. Stuff that the cult believes in starts happening. Birds are falling out of the sky dead, the world is on fire, and a kid is performing miracles. The story jumps between time periods and narrators and it’s not really difficult to follow, but I found myself having a hard time caring about some of them. Meh. Maybe my reception of this book is a result of my expectations. I expected it to be something it never claimed to be and I didn’t particularly enjoy what it is.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Not bad really, despite my gripes. Some of my book club really enjoyed it. It just wasn’t for me. If you like thrillers with a religious/cult flare, it might be right up your alley.

You can buy The Flock, by J. Todd Scott on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Monthly roundup – October 2022

Spooktober was filled with mostly great reads. I read horror year round, so this month wasn’t really different except that I hosted two Book Lovers Cafe group reads because my first choice didn’t win. My insistence on exposing the masses to extreme horror (and doing 31 days of horror movies) did get in the way of my usual schedule, so I didn’t get to everything I had planned. However, I did get to a bunch that have been on my tbr for a while (and they were amazing!) so I consider it a win.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
A Soul to Keep, by Opal Reyne
Full Brutal, by Kristopher Triana
The Troop, by Nick Cutter
Gyo, by Junji Ito
The Girl on the Glider, by Brian Keene

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano
The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates
Lil’ Bastard, by Matt Shaw
The People Look Like Flowers at Last, by Charles Bukowski
Morning Glory Milking Farm, by C.M. Nascosta

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Against the Lockers, by Aiden E. Messner
Jokes to Offend Men, by Allison Kelley, etc
When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun
Heartstopper Vol 4, by Alice Oseman

The rest kinda sucked. Two were Halloween themed monster romances that are actually pretty well liked on Goodreads. They just didn’t do it for me. One was straight up bad. Honestly don’t even remember how I came across the Hucow stuff. I don’t think I’ll do that again. And the last one was Little Women, but with vampire references woven in. I was not impressed.

Pictured but not rated: Island of the Dead, by Brian Keene. This is not actually a book, it is a Kindle Vella series. The story was interesting, but I kinda hate the serial format.

All of my four and five star reads have been on my tbr for a while and all were amazing. Several of those authors were already on my insta-buy list and now the rest are as well. Beyond that, the only one I’m interested in reading again is Messner. I feel like they’re gonna be one of those writers who just gets better. Time will tell.

On the agenda for November? One book club read (thriller), two Cool Ghouls books, the backlog of loaners from my enabler, the next Duskwalker Bride book, and hopefully several from my NetGalley shelf. I have a few Thanksgiving themed horror books and movies to share. Holiday baking. Dragonflight! Lots of fun stuff coming up.

I read a book: Motherthing, by Ainslie Hogarth

I knew almost immediately that I was going to like this book. I enjoyed it immensely. As usual, I judged this book by the cover before hitting that request button on NetGalley. I mean who wouldn’t be drawn in by that cover? It’s grayscale on Kindle, of course, but the physical cover is boldly colored and resembles a comic book.

Because I hadn’t finished reading this book before the publishing date, I picked up the audiobook during the last Audible sale and read along with it. Top notch performance from narrator Adina Verson.

Content warning: suicide, depression, mental illness. Probably others, but those are the big ones.

I have heard of the dreaded monster-in-law, but having never been married (and not met many past partners’ mothers), I have not had the (dis)pleasure of experiencing one. This book takes that concept and expands it beyond the grave. That said, this is not a horror book as I expected. This is more a psychological horror, the monsters being grief, depression, and trauma. The story follows the lives of Ralph and Abby Lamb, who move in with Ralph’s mother to care for her just before she commits suicide. Naturally Ralph is consumed by grief and falls into a deep depression, all the while insisting that his mother is still alive and in the house. There are some disturbing scenes, plenty of weirdness, and lots of laugh out loud moments. But that may just be my dark sense of humor.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This was my first Ainslie Hogarth book, but it won’t be my last. I love her writing style. It’s easy to read, flows well, and I love the dialog. The book is full of these little conversations between the main character and her husband and they’re just delightful. Then again, I tend to read more extreme horror and my sense of humor is a little warped, so the idea of a conversation about brown eyes resembling pools of diarrhea seems natural and fun.

Big thanks to Ainslie Hogarth, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Motherthing, by Ainslie Hogarth on Amazon or any major bookseller.

Monthly roundup – September 2022

September reads. So many good ones, it’s hard to pick favorites…but I will anyway! Uzumaki, Future Skinny, The Obituaries, and Motherthing were soooooo good. Highly recommend them to lovers of all things weird and creepy. Also super excited that the author of one of my September favorites, Peter Rosch, shared my post to his insta story. I write my reviews mostly because it helps me remember the books better, and I like to share the ones I loved. I know most of the time I’m the only one reading my full posts. But I get a little thrill when an author I like takes notice, even if it’s something as minor as a like on my post. Shout out to Peter Rosch, both for his fan interaction and his mad storytelling skills. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of my September reads.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Uzumaki, by Junji Ito
The Obituaries Issue #1, by Aron Beauregard, Kristopher Triana, and Daniel J. Volpe

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch
Motherthing, by Ainslie Hogarth
Flor’s Fiasco, by Ruby Dixon
The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride, by Ruby Dixon
Heartstopper Vol. 2, by Alice Oseman
Like Me, by Hayley Phelan
Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse, by David Mitchell
The Way Back Home, by Courtney Peppernell
The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young
The Creeper, by A.M. Shine
The Librarian and the Orc, by Finley Fenn
Heartstopper Vol. 3, by Alice Oseman
Unknowing, I Sink, by Timothy G. Huguenin

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Everything else. Well, most of them.

A couple of those ratings are spoilers for reviews I haven’t finished yet. I got distracted for a couple days, then sick for a couple more, and I fell way behind my self imposed review schedule. I may not meet the deadlines I laid out, but I’ll make an effort to catch up before the end of the month. This is the busiest month for my NetGalley queue.

So you may notice that some of my favorites were not top rated. I have to say that most of my 4 star ratings are actually pretty close to 5 stars, but I am sometimes a bit judicious with my stars. Sometimes less so. I mean, splatterpunk and orc porn aren’t exactly highbrow literature, but they make me happy. I guess what I’m saying is take my star ratings with a grain of salt. A 4 today might be a 3 or 5 tomorrow, but I’m not going to go changing my posted ratings every time I think about it. What you get is my initial reaction. Pretty much all of the books on my collage were pretty great. You should read them.

On the agenda for October? Six horror ARCs, one poetry ARC, two book club reads, two more Cool Ghouls books. A deeper dive into the monster romance genre. It’s about to get weirder ’round these parts.

I read a book: Bloodletting, by J. R. Curtis

I received an Audible code for a review copy of J. R. Curtis’s book Bloodletting from the author last week. He offered review codes in one of my favorite book groups on Facebook and I happily requested one. I looked up the kindle version, as I like to read along with audiobooks, and found that I already owned it. Good sign! I found the premise of this book interesting enough to have acquired it twice! And so I read my first western themed horror novel.

The story begins with the description of a handcart company starting their journey and getting caught in a blizzard. Winter is harsh, and the group is in desperate need of food and supplies. Three men take on the task of traveling ahead to an old army fort to find help. The journey is long and difficult, and they find themselves overcoming the obstacles of weather and hostiles to get to their destination. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I was on the edge of my seat as one thing after another attacked them. Poor Caleb…that kid just couldn’t get a break! The three travelers make it to their destination, only to find the fort completely empty. This is where the story goes from survival story to an otherworldly tale of horror. As the title implies, it is graphic and bloody.

Come to think of it, none of them can seem to catch a break. We learn all about each of their tragic backgrounds as they try to survive in the abandoned fort.

There is a lot I loved about this book. The whole concept of western horror scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. The writing is descriptive in a way that makes the reader really feel the cold, isolation, terror, and despair. There is nowhere for our travelers to run, and that feeling is conveyed effectively. The audiobook narration was really good. Slow enough that even though I increased the playback speed quite a bit, it didn’t sound like chipmunks. And the narrator had just the right voice for this type of story. It had that same atmospheric feel that I got from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

That said, I feel like this book could have benefited from a little more time in editing. It gets repetitive at times. The dialog feels unnatural. But overall, it’s a good book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, 3.5 rounded up for star rating. I’ll definitely be reading more of Curtis’s work.

You can find Curtis’s books available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible. Borrow Bloodletting on KU or just buy it like I did!