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.

I read a book: The Girl on the Glider, by Brian Keene

I am one of a handful of moderators for one of the larger book groups on Facebook, Book Lovers Cafe. While I do love the group (modmin team especially), it suffers the same problems many book groups do. The feed follows Booktok or random celebrity book club trends, which lately is a lot of Colleen Hoover, Fredrik Backman, and Where the Crawdads Sing. I have nothing against any of this, but I like to try to get people to read some of the stuff I like and have been running a book club for horror lovers like myself within the group. I call it the Cool Ghouls Book Club, and I tend to choose titles that I never see in the mainstream book groups.

The Girl in the Glider is the beginning of my way of introducing the group to Brian Keene and the beginning of my Splatterpunk Awards series. Granted, it is very different from much of Keene’s catalog (no zombies or monsters). It is a great example of his writing and storytelling skill though. As one of the co-founders of the Splatterpunk Awards, it felt appropriate to start with him.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I loved this novella. I didn’t know what to expect, but it is so good. I know and love Brian Keene for his zombie stories. I’m generally not into ghosts for the same reasons Keene states when he’s trying to come to terms with what he’s experiencing in The Girl in the Glider. This was a very personal story. I feel like I got a demonstration of Keene’s thought process. It’s a weaving of truth and fiction. When the story ends, keep reading because the afterword is where he gets real with the reader and offers a powerful life lesson. Keene’s other books are great because he is a master at his craft. The Girl in the Glider is great because he’s sharing parts of himself without hiding behind fictional characters.

To be honest, I didn’t even know this novella existed until Keene offered it at a discount on what he’s calling his Reader Recession Relief program. He sells a different ebook at a discount every week and shares it on his Facebook page. The Girl on the Glider was Week 1. If you like his work and want to collect the ebooks, follow him on social media for the announcements.

Next up for the Cool Ghouls Book Club is J.F. Gonzalez’s Survivor, followed by a couple award winners and then the second co-founder, Wrath James White.

I read a book: Lil Bastard, by Matt Shaw

Just finished one of Matt Shaw’s many novellas. Lil Bastard is told from the perspective of a baby who remembers being being other people and is bitter and angry as fuck. He spends his days plotting to kill, but of course he is a baby so his options are limited. That doesn’t discourage him though. The story takes an unexpected turn, but comes full circle. I laughed out loud at several points. The baby talk translations cracked me up.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 read for me. This is not for everyone, but it is for me. If you like extreme horror and dark (really dark) humor, you’ll like this.

You can read lots of Matt Shaw’s work through your Kindle Unlimited subscription, or buy his books on Amazon.

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.

I read a book: When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun

I went into this book completely unaware of the background of this author. She’s young. In fact, she is a well established child actor in Indonesia. And at 18 years old, this isn’t even her first published collection of poetry. Here I am pushing 40 struggling to keep up with my review schedule and this person has a couple books and over 100 movies under her belt. So says the blurb on her newest book’s Amazon page, though a quick google search does not confirm that claim. Still, even one movie and a pile of poetry is an accomplishment for anyone. Good for her!

When the Dark Spoke to Me begins with a trigger warning. This book contains themes of Death and suicidal ideation, reader discretion advised. As a person who often thinks about death and suicide, this was appreciated. Sometimes you just don’t want to deal with those themes and that’s okay.

Sometimes though, I’m feeling numb and want to feel something, so I read stuff that may break my heart. Sometimes I want that.

Unfortunately this is not what I was hoping. I read reviews that said it reads like it was written by someone wise behind their years, but I’m not seeing it. It reads very much like it was written by a teenager, because it was. Reading this reminded me of reading my old Livejournal posts. Cringe city. There’s a whole section addressed to Death, referring to Death as her first love that reminds me of being a teenager and exploring darker themes while learning to cope with depression.

There are also glimmers of…something. She is asking questions and writing her way to the answers she seeks. There’s one called The Gifted Kid Burnout that sets the stage for the rest of the collection. You can tell she is trying so hard not to burn out while processing her trauma at the same time.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. It’s not bad. I think younger readers in the same stage of their lives as the author would find this collection more relatable.

Big thanks to Christabelle Marbun, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun on Amazon in multiple formats beginning October 11.

I read a book: The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young

The Magpie Coffin is an unrelenting tale of revenge, with precise brutality and extreme violence – the first in the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press.

My first experience with the splatter western genre was a book called Bloodletting, by J.R. Curtis. I thought it was great and decided that I needed more of the author and more splatter western in my life. It’s been a minute since I read that book though, and was finally able to pencil in another splatter western by making it one of the Cool Ghouls Book Club selections. My ever growing unending TBR sometimes demands that I do this to push some books to the top of that list. Cool Ghouls is currently doing a series of 2022 Splatterpunk Award winners. Enter The Magpie Coffin, by Wile. E. Young, winner of Best Novel in 2021.

As I often do, I judged this book by its cover. That amazing cover art helps set the stage for me. It gives off old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western vibes that only got stronger as I read. I imagined Salem Covington carrying himself like every old west Clint Eastwood character, with his outlaw hat tilted low, hiding his trademark snarl and stony gaze. When I was a kid, we had one television in the house and Dad’s beloved copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on 2 VHS tapes. I remember him putting it on fairly often, much to my siblings and my chagrin. Even now, old westerns are common background noise in my home. Of course now I love those old movies. And while it might be a weird thing to say about a splatter book, it was giving me all the feels. I was a kid again, watching Clint Eastwood take bloody vengeance on the people who’d tortured and killed his mentor. Covington uses a combination of black magic and his special Gun, which is capitalized to emphasize the fact that it’s not a regular gun. It speaks to him, reminds him of how many souls he owes, and encourages him to kill.

There are some things that I felt were lacking in explanation. Maybe I missed it. That happens. But I never really understood how Covington got into his deal in the first place. Who was the coffin maker? There were mentions of souls owed. But to who? Why? How? We know that he is unkillable by all guns except the one he carries and the one that used to belong to his brother. He learned the way of the People from his shaman teacher, Dead Bear, and there are mentions of how he perverted the teachings to suit him. He picked up other black magic from other teachers. There are questions, but the story flows and wraps up in a way that doesn’t require answers. I’m left wanting more. It has all of the fast sharp brutality I love in a good spatter novel with an old western flair.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. I want more Wile E. Young. I want more splatter western. This was a great start for Death’s Head Press‘s Splatter Western series and I will be reading more of them.

You can get The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young on Amazon, Godless, or directly from Death’s Head Press.

I read a book: Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard

I spent some time browsing the poetry section of NetGalley on my break this morning. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I admit I am more likely to click a title with interesting titles and cover art. Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard has both of these elements.

While the description is a bit vague, the poetry itself is not. Hubbard employs elements of modern poetry that I enjoy; poems are short and straight to the point without a ton of flowery language. While it does not tell you directly how you’re supposed to feel, it is written in accessible language without obscure references.

Proof of Life had me laughing unexpectedly. I found myself rereading it and smiling to myself. It reminded me of the conversational poetry of Justin Grimbol in a way. I really like Justin Grimbol. This poem was the only one reminiscent of Grimbol though.

Despite its wordy title and having been completed over the course of 10 years, this book clocks in at a slight 68 pages. Don’t confuse brevity with value though. There are some real gems in this small volume. This verse from In a Time Lapse 2 is one of my favorites.

A solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Big thanks to Wayne David Hubbard, Atmosphere Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe on Amazon and read it beginning on October 8, 2022.

I read a book: Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak

Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak is wildly popular in the book groups on Facebook right now. The waitlist in Libby was super long. Months. I wasn’t sure I’d get to borrow before the Cool Ghouls Book Club group read was over, but the library came through and here we are.

I’m not sure what I expected going into this, but it’s not what I got. It’s was really good, but usually the books I see hyped in Books of Horror are significantly more horrifying. This felt like horror-lite, horror for people who don’t necessarily want to be scared. Which is fine. I enjoyed the book, it just wasn’t what I expected.

This is the story of a recovering addict named Mallory who takes a job as babysitter to a young boy in an affluent neighborhood. She loves everything about the job, the little boy, the parents, her cottage in their back yard. Everything about this job is perfect, up until the little boy’s drawings take a dark turn. He goes from drawing happy images of the family and animals to darker things like a man in a forest dragging a woman behind him and dropping her in a hole in the ground. Not only does the subject of the drawings change, the skill level changes drastically as well. He was drawing stick figures and clouds with smiley faces and suddenly is drawing realistic fully shaded things that make Mallory suspect that something is amiss. She learns of the story of a woman who was murdered in the very cottage she is staying in and naturally assumes the place haunted or the boy is possessed. Mallory thinks she’s figured it out and goes on a quest to find proof to present to the parents, accompanied by her new friend, the gardener. The pair does find the information they were looking for, but it is not the solution they’d hoped for.

There are some things that I felt didn’t really add anything to the story, namely most of the things the neighbor lady says. She rants about liberal parents, rapist Mexicans, atheist know-it-alls, etc. all in her first conversation with Mallory. Is this meant to establish that she’s a bit of a kook like the Maxwells say? Is this the author inserting his own narrative under the guise of character building? Who knows. There’s also the juxtaposition of the main character’s religious beliefs and the Maxwells’ atheism. They are very quick to dismiss Mallory’s concerns and have her convinced that she’s losing it, despite things we learn about them toward the end of the book.

The plot is fairly predictable, even with the twists. But don’t let that dissuade you from reading this book. Even my paragraph of gripes isn’t a huge part of the story. As a know-it-all atheist liberal parent of rapist Mexican descent, I can safely say that while none of that adds much to the story, it doesn’t really detract from it either. I’ve seen some reviews say that certain parts were just not believable, like the one twist about the little boy. How would a babysitter not know, they say. To that, I say that this is a ghost story. Horror. Remember all those old horror movies where you see the teenage girl go outside in her underwear to investigate a scary sound and you’re screaming at the television for her to quit being an idiot? This called suspension of disbelief and is present in nearly every work of fiction, even moreso in horror with supernatural elements. Shit’s not gonna make sense in the real world and that’s okay. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Certainly not the scariest book, but it’s well written and engaging and has enough of a twist to not be completely predictable. I would recommend it to people looking to dip their toes into horror but not get too wet. And if you read a lot of darker books, this is a nice palate cleanser.

You can find Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak at all major retailers and many libraries (though you might have to wait a bit).