An extreme horror Turkey Day

I love Thanksgiving.

I love turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pies, and those little brown and serve dinner rolls. Gravy. Oh, the gravy. I love the food and the subsequent turkey coma. I love the long weekend.

But there is a dark history surrounding Thanksgiving. It is a day of mourning for some Indigenous Americans. I have a lot of thoughts regarding that history and the way it is perpetuated still, but this post isn’t about that. So when I say that I love Thanksgiving, know that I am referring to the food (both eating and cooking) and long weekend, not the actual holiday.

Long weekends mean time to catch up on chores, get the kid out of the house, and more time for reading. A splatterpunk Thanksgiving reading list feels appropriate for a holiday with bloody beginnings. I’ll get to the chores and outings tomorrow. Tonight is for turkey coma and books!

In preparation for the holiday weekend, I scoured the horror book groups for seasonal reads and picked up the three most recommended titles. Thanksgiving Day Massacre, by Brian G. Berry, Gobbler: F*ck Your Thanksgiving, by Judith Sonnet, and Am Extreme Turkey Dinner, by Sea Caummisar. Three short and brutal bites to satisfy my hunger for holiday horror.

I started with Thanksgiving Day Massacre. This is my first Brian G. Berry book, but it won’t be my last. Holy cow. This one hit the ground running. This tiny town is busy prepping for the Thanksgiving Day parade when a guy wearing a turkey mask goes on a murder spree. From the moment he strolls into town, it’s just blood and guts everywhere. You know it’s gonna be brutal when the very first kill scene involves a guy’s scalp used as a cum rag and a woman cut in half right down the middle of her body. The cover looks like a cheesy 80s slasher flick (which I love!), but this book is not that at all.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. Berry is a master of graphic imagery. Some of the dialog felt a little clunky, but that added to the slasher appeal. There are scenes that will push your limits. Splatterpunk is supposed to do that.

Next up, I bit into Gobbler: F*ck Your Thanksgiving. This is a brand new novella by Judith Sonnet. She’s been on my radar for a while but I hadn’t read any of the handful of her books in my kindle library yet. What can I say, my TBR is out of control. I admit that part of my decision to read this one was the title. It reminded me of a local pie shop that sells lunches along with their many sweet treats. My favorite savory pie is called The Gobbler, a turkey pot pie sitting on a bed of stuffing and topped with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a cranberry compote. The Gobbler in this story was nothing like that tasty pie, but the story was a treat. We meet the Gobbler immediately. He’s preparing his costume and thinking back to his own tragic backstory. His family forgot to say Grace before cutting into the turkey one year and he believes that they were slaughtered by god to teach him a lesson. Each year after, he dons his weird costume and sets out to teach another family a lesson about celebrating the holiday the way god intended. This novella is the story of one such lesson. The Gobbler is…an artist. His lessons are tailored to his students masterfully.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. If splatterpunk and extreme horror is your thing, if you like vivid gory imagery, don’t sleep on Judith Sonnet.

My last Thanksgiving treat was An Extreme Turkey Dinner, by Sea Caummisar. This one has been sitting in my kindle library for a while now. Caummisar is a very prolific author, and I own many of her books, having picked them up on various sales over the course of the last year. This is the first one I’ve read. This is the story of a woman with a lot of trauma who decides to go the revenge route rather than forgiveness. She’s been through so much and her revenge is unexpected, exacting, and brutal. It’s a bloodbath, much to Angie’s dismay. It’s great.

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃 for me. I really need to read more of the Caummisar books in my kindle library. Truly enjoyed this one.

My long weekend is over. I’ve finished my Turkey Day horror reading list. This was my first experience with each author and I feel like I’ve been sleeping on all three. Splatterpunk and extreme horror are not for everyone, but if that’s your things, add these books to your holiday reading list.

I read a book: Popsicle, by Christa Wojciechowski

This book is weird and wonderful. I love it. We meet the main character, Andre, gnawing on a man’s face with his pants down in a sewer. He doesn’t know what he’s doing or how he got there, or even who the man is, but he knows something is terribly wrong and he needs to figure out how he ended up in this predicament. He finds something implanted in the guy’s neck and realizes that he has the same implant. In an effort to piece together the events that lead to this moment, he starts going through his internet history and social media posts.

The implant. Have you ever read The Murderbot Diaries? You know how everyone is connected to a network via tech and Murderbot hacks his way through the universe and so on? The implant in Andre’s neck is sort of like an alpha tester of that kind of device. We learn that he is participating in the testing phase for a big fat paycheck. At this stage, no one is hacking security systems. They’re mostly vegging out doing internet things like googling shit and participating in social media.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Popsicle is exciting and well written. Wojciechowski’s writing makes the reader feel like they’re a part of Andre’s journey. The pacing fits the novella length and the author leaves out no details. Sometimes novellas of this length move too quickly and leave a lot of gaps, but that is not a problem present in this one. The story is imaginative and absurd and full of dark humor that matches my own sense of humor.

Big thanks to Christa Wojciechowski and BookSirens for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Popsicle, by Christa Wojciechowski on Amazon for a couple bucks.

I read a book: Her Orc Warrior (Black Bear Clan #3), by Zoe Ashwood

This is the third book in the Black Bear Clan series by Zoe Ashwood. Normally I wouldn’t start a series at book 3, but this is an ARC and I’m on a deadline. That said, books in this series read well on their own. While there are references to characters from other books, the stories stand alone fine.

As I’ve mentioned in most of my monster romance reviews, I read Ruby Dixon’s entire catalog over the course of a year and have been chasing that vibe ever since. I’m looking for well written stories with cinnamon roll male main characters and interesting female leads. They can be grumpy. They can have issues they need to work through. In fact, I prefer it. But I don’t like the whole alphahole trope that seems to be wildly popular. That extreme possessiveness and jealousy just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t want to read about men who are unkind to women, even if they don’t mean to be. I have come across that with other orc or alien series and didn’t continue beyond the first books of those series. It’s so nice to come across orcs that are kind and loving but still fierce warriors bent on protecting their own. Ashwood’s Black Bear Clan checks off a lot of boxes for me.

This is the story of a woman (Hazel) who grabs her young child (Wren) and runs in hopes of escaping her life of crime and abuse and sparing her daughter of the same. They hide in covered wagon, hitching a ride out of town unnoticed by her gang boss and authorities. She is not unnoticed by the driver though, an orc named Vark. Naturally Hazel is frightened and plans to run from him as soon as possible. She only knows orcs by the stories she’d grown up hearing and none paint orcs in a positive light. It takes her a while to trust the orcs, especially after Vark tells her that she is his fated mate, but she gives it a chance.

I loved most of the characters. Hazel is strong and independent. She finds herself attracted to Vark but doesn’t jump straight to the HEA. She struggles with her feelings. Vark is kind and attentive in all things. He is also dealing with his own feelings of inadequacy. He knows that she is his mate but does not push her. He never tells her that this is how it is and she has to deal with it, as is often the case in other fated mates type stories. He and the other orcs slip into caregiver roles for Wren naturally. There is no big conversation about it, it just happens. Hazel and Wren need help and the orcs take them in happily. Vark is drawn to Hazel by the fated mates thing, but there is never any condition on her to cooperate in exchange for their safety. I also liked that it doesn’t end in pregnancy. A fated mate that isn’t all about popping out more babies is my kind of HEA.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I really liked this book. It left me feeling happy and hopeful and that’s the best way to feel after reading a romance book. I’ll be going back to read the first two and following the series as it moves forward.

Big thanks to Zoe Ashwood and Booksprout for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Her Orc Warrior on Amazon and begin reading it on November 11. This will also be available as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Musical Tables, by Billy Collins

I picked up this book because of the cow on the chair and the color scheme of the cover art. The muted green adds to the serenity of the cow seated with its legs tucked beneath its body, looking comfortable like a cat in loaf mode. Billy Collins is a familiar name to me, but I hate to admit that it is only the barest familiarity.

“Whenever I pick up a new book of poems, I flip through the pages looking for small ones. Just as I might have trust in an abstract painter more if I knew he or she could draw a credible chicken, I have faith in poets who can go short.”

Billy Collins

I admit I do the same when I pick up a book of poetry at a bookstore. I flip and read a couple of the shorter poems, and if they make me feel things, the book comes home with me. This method rarely fails me and I have loved nearly every book chosen in this way.

Unfortunately I don’t think the short form works so well as a complete collection. Most of these poems are a couple lines long, mere quips rather than fully formed thoughts. Some are amusing and made me crack a grin. Others are more heavy hitting. Some of my favorites are Headstones, The Code of the West, Teenager, A Small Hotel, Jazz Man, Divorce, and Carpe Diem.

No more heavy ball,
just the sound
of the dragged chain
with every other step.

Divorce

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This wasn’t my favorite, but there are some real standouts that make it a worthwhile read. Billy Collins is a former United States Poet Laureate and prolific writer and I don’t believe this is representative of his work, so I will be reading more to get a better feel for him. If you like short form poetry that isn’t haiku nor limerick, you’ll enjoy this.

Big thanks to Billy Collins, Random House Publishing Group, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Musical Tables on Amazon and begin reading it on November 15, 2022.

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: The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, by Franny Choi

If the title sounds familiar, that’s because the titular poem of those collection was published in Poetry Magazine December 2019 issue. That said, I was not familiar with Franny Choi’s poetry before picking up this book. I chose it based on the title alone because I think that the idea of constantly feeling like the world is ending but then carrying on is something we can all relate to. It felt like words I’d spoken myself. My kiddo likes to ask me how it feels to live through big life changing events every time something happens (another school shooting, pandemic, war, racial injustice and protests, political attacks on basic human rights for marginalized people) and I always tell her that the world has been ending my entire life. I was her age when the shooting in Columbine happened, a little older for 9/11, and there’s a different outbreak every other year. Certain lawmakers and special interest groups have been working hard at erasing social progress for years. How do you know so much about such and such, she’ll ask. And I’ll respond, because it’s not a new fight.

Every once in a while I read a book that makes me want to go back and read every word the author has ever written. This is one such book. I don’t usually read collections of poetry in order, or even in full, but this one is something else. Choi covers a lot of hard hitting themes in ways that don’t make you feel like you’ve read these poems before. Lots of people write about things like war and race and social justice, but not everyone gets it right. There’s also the idea of where one fits in and togetherness strung throughout. Who are we? Who am I?

Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but
not the catastrophe.
Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in.
I want an excuse to change my life

Catastrophe is Next to Godliness

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Poetry can be difficult to rate because it doesn’t follow the same structural and grammatical rules as novels. There is no plot to follow, no twists to surprise you. So I rate poetry based on how I feel when I’m finished and how often I find myself thinking about it during and going forward. Topics are both relatable and timely. I truly enjoyed this collection.

Big thanks to Franny Choi, Ecco, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Book The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On directly from the publisher, or on Amazon in multiple formats and begin reading it on November 1, 2022.

I read a book: Against the Lockers, by Aiden E. Messer

I don’t know much about Aiden E. Messer, other than what they post on Instagram. They write extreme horror with LGBTQ+ characters and read and review lots of extreme horror. And sometimes they see my review previews on Insta and tap that little heart. Which is cool. I love author interactions. I downloaded a sample of Against the Lockers the first time I saw their name on my notifications.

I finished up Full Brutal, by Kristopher Triana a little while ago. Since the work day is half over, I didn’t want to dive into another full length book that would only end up put aside until the weekend once the work day is over. So I scrolled through my kindle looking for something to kill an hour or so and there was that sample. It’s time.

Content warning: sexual assault, blood, gore

My first thought is that it could benefit from another round of editing. There are a few typos and inconsistent verb tenses. There’s some odd paragraph formatting. None of this takes away from the story, but some readers are nitpicky about stuff like that. I am not bothered by that stuff because my brain autocorrects, but I do notice.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This story has a good premise. The idea of a sexual assault victim getting revenge on their rapist in the most brutal fashion is quite appealing, but I wish it was more fleshed out. This feels like it’s not quite finished. I would have liked to see more details, more descriptions of the impactful moments. The revenge is great. The reactions of some of the supporting characters like the dean, the police, and a couple of Colin’s friends feels pretty realistic. It is not uncommon for authorities to ignore or downplay sexual assaults, particularly of LGBTQ+ people. And sometimes friendships don’t survive difficult times. And if real life judges go on the record saying that victims’ bodies can prevent rape, it is certainly believable that fictional characters would also believe that a victim has control over their bodies’ responses. So yes, this is a good story. It’s just missing a little something to make it a great one.

For a buck and a half and an hour of your time, Against the Lockers, by Aiden E. Messer is a no brainer. It could use some fine tuning, but it’s still a good read.

Afterword

Aiden, if you read this, I hope you don’t feel like my review is too harsh. On my personal rating scale, 3 stars means I liked it! I look forward to reading your future works.

Best,
Monica at Totally Normal Human (aka @mononorama on the ‘gram)

I read a book: Full Brutal, by Kristopher Triana

If Kristopher Triana wasn’t already on my insta-buy list, he would be after reading this book.

There is so much to say about this book. To say that it is brutal is an understatement. It begins with a couple of quotes, one about the cruelty of man by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and a second seemingly glib remark by Jeffrey Dahmer. “I carried it too far, that’s for sure.” — Jeffery Dahmer. Don’t you just love it when you finish a book and then reflect on the quotes on the first page and understand their significance in relation to the book?

This Mean Girls meets American Psycho type tale features a teenage girl who has it all. Kim White is a popular cheerleader, she’s beautiful, all the girls envy her and want to be her. There’s just one problem. She’s bored af and ready to check out if something doesn’t happen soon. After a conversation about the life changing effects of losing your virginity (har har) with her friend, Kim decides that that’s exactly what her life is missing. She could fuck any boy her age she wants, but she sets her focus on her teacher. He is a weak man and it doesn’t take much for him to give in. She finds that it isn’t the sex itself that gets her out of her funk, it’s the instant regret of her teacher and the knowledge that she can destroy this man on a whim. She feeds on despair. She goes from threatening to expose him, to destroying his family, to going on a full on rampage. Because of who she is (and her careful manipulation of people), no one suspects her of any wrongdoing, which just makes it easier to escalate. When it’s all said and done, the reader is left thinking about Kim and how her father and her peers will react, just as we watched her peers react to all of the shit that went down in the book.

I listened to the audiobook as I read, as I often do. The narration was spot on. Solid performance by Dani George.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I loved it. It’s got everything. Drama. Murder. Cannibalism? Yeah. There is so much to say about this book, but if you are into extreme horror and splatterpunk, you should read it for yourself. In the words of Jeffrey Dahmer, she “carried it too far, that’s for sure.”

You can get a signed copy of Full Brutal at Kristopher Triana’s website, or grab a digital version on Amazon.

I read a book: The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates

This is the book that Book Lovers Cafe chose for October book club. It wasn’t the one that I wanted, so I’ve been reading just about everything else before deciding to start this one. I started this morning and probably would have finished before the work day is over if it wasn’t for an afternoon staff meeting. It is way more interesting than I expected. Fair warning, there may be spoilers in this review.

I’m generally not into ghost stories. Ghosts are one of those things that I have trouble suspending disbelief enough to enjoy. Other monsters are fantastical. No one believes zombies or vampires are real. But there are plenty of people who believe in ghosts, because most religions include some kind of afterlife. I am still nowhere near on board with the whole afterlife thing, but I’m loosening up on my stance on ghost stories. After all, I did love the show Supernatural, including the huge angels vs demons arc. Maybe I can accept ghosts as a fictional monster without considering the real life implications.

That said, (minor spoiler) this isn’t even a ghost story. It’s not a haunting in that sense. Not really. I mean it is, and it isn’t. This is the story of a young woman named Adrienne who inherits an old house in a little town from an old relative she met only once as a small child. Because of the tragic deaths of the family who once lived there (her elderly aunt’s family), the townspeople believe the house is haunted. After a series of strange inexplicable (and terrifying) events, Adrienne learns that the house is in fact haunted, just not in the way she thinks. Things get pretty scary for our heroine for a while. Will the evil forces at work triumph? There were parts that I definitely didn’t see coming. I engaged in discussion before getting too far into the book and a big part of it was revealed to me, which was fine by me because I actually love spoilers. I actively seek them out. This spoiler fueled my interest, because as I mentioned earlier, I’m not big on ghost stories.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I’m glad I read this book, despite the fact that it wasn’t my first choice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m happy to see that Darcy Coates has a large catalog and many of her books are available as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Jokes to Offend Men, by Allison Kelley, Danielle Kraese, Kate Herzlin, and Ysabel Yates

A modern, feminist take on the classic joke book to amuse and empower readers who are tired of being the punchline…A cutting, cathartic spin on the old-fashioned joke book, Jokes to Offend Men is a refreshing reclamation of a tired form for anyone who’s ever been told to “lighten up, it’s just a joke!”

If you go into this expecting funny hahas, you will be disappointed. While it is formatted like a joke book, the jokes are not funny. It’s mostly sad observations of the differences between how men and women are treated in different circumstances. Much of it is relatable, but I wish it wasn’t. And I guess that’s the point.

Some of the jokes tickled my dark funny bone. Why did the dad cross the road? Because the neighbor called him a chicken and he just couldn’t let it go. While my dad doesn’t care about someone calling him a chicken, he doesn’t let things go. Particularly when it comes to the neighbors. What did the “lady killer” grow up to be? Ted Bundy. What did Ted Bundy grow up to be? Played by Zac Efron. Isn’t that something.

Courtney Love, anyone?

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Decent read. Not particularly funny, but I think that’s intentional. Nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not alone in your experiences.

Big thanks to the authors, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Jokes to Offend Men on Amazon and begin reading it on October 25, 2022.