I read a book: My Weird Nightmare Baby, by Riley Odell

I want to be dentures.

Confession time. I suffer the same affliction as our main man, Neil. Infantophobia. I don’t like babies. I don’t think they’re cute (newborns look like wrinkled potatoes). I don’t want to hold them. I don’t understand the baby smell thing. Baby powder is always covering up a poo smell, and I’m not about to take in a deep whiff of baby. In short, all babies are weird nightmare babies. Are you a baby hater? I don’t hate them, I just don’t want to be around them. So Neil’s reaction to a perfectly normal baby approaching him had me rolling.

This bizarre tale begins in a factory where meat is turned into dentures. I guess it’s wide open because Neil seems to be kicking people off the conveyor belt throughout his shift. I want to be dentures. He tells his coworker that it’s good to have dreams, but he needs to get back to work. I feel like that’s a phrase that will stick with me. It’ll be another reference that I come back to that my friends don’t understand, much like that Nick Swardson bit where he explains his use of the work party. It’s all downhill from here.

Anyway, like most of my favorite bizarro tales, this one can be described as weird presenting as mundane, and then it gets weird. Perfectly normal things like procreating or not wanting to procreate are depicted as exaggerated parody of their real world counterparts. Everyone is baby crazy. Babies are everywhere in great quantities yet the general population seems to think there aren’t enough babies being born. There are SO MANY babies. Literal avalanches of babies. Babies peeking out from vaginas at inopportune times. Baby making robot cashiers. This book is more than a bizarre tale about man with baby related trauma who doesn’t want kids of his own but somehow ends up raising a demon baby bent on destruction as punishment for…not wanting babies. It’s commentary on the pervasiveness of social and familial pressure to procreate and participate in the child rearing of others. I know, I have the bad habit of sucking all the fun out of what is a hilariously unhinged story by talking about real world stuff. Folks who don’t want children (or those who had them because that’s just what you do) will find much to relate to and even more to laugh about. Some folks are going to take issue with the content in this book, but I reckon the bizarro crowd will understand. I loved it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Bizarro is one of my favorite genres and this one hits just right. This story hits the ground running and really doesn’t let up at all, so if you pick this one up, expect to read it in one sitting because Odell doesn’t let you come up for air. If you like bizarro horror that makes you think, you’ll like this one.

Big thanks to Riley Odell and Planet Bizarro for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy My Weird Nightmare Baby, by Riley Odell on Amazon for a couple bucks. Do it.

I read a book: Brad, Unwound: A Puppet Scorned Yarn, by Jamie Kort

Jamie Kort is back with a new puppetrotica origin story for A Puppet Scorned‘s leading sock puppet, Brad. That’s right, sock puppet erotic horror. A Puppet Scorned was great, so I was excited when Kort announced that he was working on another sock puppet story and positively thrilled when he offered me a review copy.

So let’s talk about Brad. If you remember his role in A Puppet Scorned, you’ll remember that he is a knitter. In his world, that means more than just creating beautiful things out of yarn. Knitting is erotic. Knitting is procreation. And much like the knitting I know, it as frustrating as it is rewarding. How often do you undo half a project because it wasn’t coming out how you hoped? Oftentimes you get pretty far into a project before you have that realization. In this sense, Brad is no different. He knits and knits in his attempts to perfect his project. We get a glimpse into Brad’s thought process throughout.

And then we are introduced to the human component of the story. Brad refers to them as The Hoarder and his bitch, as though they are animals. We observe them through Brad’s eyes and his perspective is intriguing. He doesn’t quite understand what he’s witnessed and thinks of it in terms that he can comprehend. Are the beasts made of wood, and is wood a type of hard yarn? Is he living inside a giant beast that’s been woven together? This event that Brad has witnessed inspires him. If the beast can rebuild his mate, surely he can knit his perfect love-knitting partner. Will the pattern revealed to him by The Holy Yarn be what he has yearned for? One thing is certain, Brad is definitely unhinged…er, unwound.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I was recently inspired by a yarn clearance sale to pick up my crochet hook and try again, so I find myself tickled by all the yarn puns and twisted knitting terminology weaved into this story. Like A Puppet Scorned, this prequel has all the elements of a great bizarro horror story. It’s well written, and Kort’s use of knitting terminology shows that either he is a knitter or he did his research. I really enjoyed this.

Big thanks to Jamie Kort for the review copy. I look forward to more sock puppet erotic horror. You can buy Brad, Unwound: A Puppet Scorned Yarn, by Jamie Kort on Godless for 50 cents. Just do it.

Monthly roundup – April 2023

April reads. Lots of bizarro, horror, Chainsaw Man, and a couple memoirs. Overall a good month of reading. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. As usual, books with full reviews will be linked, but all have at least a brief review on my Goodreads page. That said, there were some standouts. Her Orc Protector was so good. Loved the characters. You Sound Like a White Girl had me thinking about my life and identity as a mixed race woman. I won’t be writing a full review on that one because that is a whole conversation that I think a lot of people aren’t ready to have and a book review can’t do it justice. Stay tuned for some discussion though. Check out my full breakdown.

Her Orc Protector, by Zoe Ashwood
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The Novelization, by Jeff Strand
Chainsaw Man, Vol. 11: Go Get ‘Em, Chainsaw Man, by Tatsuki Fujimoto
If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse, by Wrath James White
You Sound Like a White Girl, by Julissa Arce

Russells in Time, by Kevin Shamel
Stillborn Gallery, by Axl Barnes
They Take Your Skin, by J.R. Curtis
Her Orc Mate, by Zoe Ashwood
Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
Chainsaw Man Vols 5-10, by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Unrated due to pending review:
Am I a Monster, by J. Boote
Fight Tub, by William Pauley III
The Ballad of Old Joe Booth, by William Pauley III
Bound in Flesh: An Anthology of Trans Body Horror, by Lor Gislason
The Best of Bizarro Fiction: Vol. 2, by Planet Bizarro

Three of those pending reviews are ARCs, so they absolutely will get full reviews by the end of the week. They’re almost finished. I have a few others that are being published this month that I will get to soon as well. I will come back and edit in some links and put them in their proper spot on the ratings list once they’re ready, but I don’t want to tease with stars right now.

I finished up as much Chainsaw Man as I could find via Libby. I think there is a 12th volume, but it is not available to me just yet. I will say that I enjoyed the series much more than I expected. I would rate the series 4/5 overall, with the last volume I read being the strongest. My kid has already handed me a new stack of books to read, Vols 1-4 of Sailor Moon. She loves it when I share in her interests and I’m happy to oblige. So next in my exploration of manga is Sailor Moon.

I’m still dreaming of zombies, so I will get my fix ASAP. I had an author reach out to me via contact form and it just so happens that he writes zombies, so I’ll check that out. I do read every message and spend some time looking up books, but I rarely respond because the books I’m being pitched are not stuff I would pick up organically. I’m not big on fantasy and I’m picky about my romance/smut. And anything with a religious slant is not for me. I make a point to not pick up books that I know are not my thing because I want to be fair and honest in my reviews. But if you offer me zombies…well, who can resist zombies?

I’ve also started making some progress on the BoH Indie Brawl reading list. I’d already read 4 out of 32. Today I read another and tomorrow I’ll start on another. In an effort to motivate myself, I’ve resurrected the Cool Ghouls Book Club in Book Lovers Cafe. My horror selections don’t get a lot of attention because it’s not a horror oriented group, but every once in a while someone lets their freak flag fly and joins me for a buddy read. Maybe I’ll catch a few more over the next several months.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my stuff all over the internet. So yeah. Read some books and let’s talk about them.

I read a book: Russells in Time, by Kevin Shamel

Kevin Shamel is not a new name in the bizarro scene. I recently read Porn Land, or as I have dubbed it, Phil and Zed’s Sexcellent Adventure. I loved it. It was pure fun and totally bonkers. Shamel set the bar for absurdity ridiculously high and after reading Russells in Time, I am convinced this man sets that bar at a level only he can surpass.

Let’s talk about the premise of this book. It is called Russells in Time: Land Squid vs Dinosaurs and the title is a mini synopsis. The Russells (Kurt, Keri, and Brand) are transported forward to a time when giant technologically advanced land squids rule the earth and are at war with even more technologically advanced dinosaurs. The squiddies want the Russells to fight on their behalf using some ancient combat suits that apparently can only be activated and controlled by the long extinct humans, hence the time travel. They tell the Russells one version of events and the dinosaurs tell them another. All Kurt and Keri want to do is find a way to get back home. Brand doesn’t care one way or the other, the whole thing is one big joke to him. When it becomes clear that the Russells aren’t playing by the rules, new players enter the game and all hell breaks loose.

Which side is telling the truth? Who wins this war? Do the Russells ever get home? You’ll have to read it to find out.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I love the wacky premise. The whole thing is absurd and totally hilarious. The Russell Brand character was a perfect caricature of the real Russell Brand. All of the celebrity jokes and references were on point. This book is super fun.

Big thanks to Kevin Shamel and Planet Bizarro Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Russells in Time, by Kevin Shamel on Amazon for a couple bucks. Go on now. Read a book. Read this one.

I read a book: Stillborn Gallery, by Axl Barnes

My first encounter with Axl Barnes’ writing was his book of horror poetry, Strangled Epitaphs. It was morbid yet hauntingly beautiful, much like the artwork punctuating the collection. Before Strangled Epitaphs, Barnes published a collection of short stories called Stillborn Gallery. Like Strangled Epitaphs, each story is accompanied by an illustration by Thomas Stetson. His haunting artwork is the perfect accompaniment to Barnes’ brand of nightmarish horror.

This collection starts with a little retail horror story called Numbskull. It’s not a humorous story, but I found myself laughing at the absurdity of some parts. I’ll never look at a watermelon the same way. The retail horror theme throughout the book reminded me a bit of The Night Stockers, by Kristopher Triana and Ryan Harding. It is not the same, but my brain couldn’t help but make the comparison. Come to think of it, there is a lot of retail horror. What does that say about retail work?

I think my favorite of the bunch is A Perfect Day. David was having a perfect day. Everything was going right and all of the annoying little things that usually ruin his day just didn’t happen. Everything was perfect. And then he remembered and fixated on a childhood medical incident. He insists the memory didn’t dampen his mood, but a switch flipped and he went from making plans for a holiday with his loving partner to something darker and more solitary. Sunday Exit was another favorite. It felt like I was sitting in that apartment partaking in conversation and pizza and weed. I knew where this story was going, but I enjoyed the journey. I think it might have been more impactful had it ended with Evelyn, but it’s very good as is.

This collection took me a while to read, not because it was bad, but because it made me confront some difficult thoughts and feelings that I never really outgrew. I guess this is where this becomes less a book review and more me just rambling about the darkness inside my head. Depression is a lifelong companion. Some days are my perfect day and I could be David. I’ve never had cancer, like Evelyn in Sunday Exit, but I have thought about how that would affect my will to live. I’ve always had an exit plan, and while over the years the wanting to die feeling has dulled to just wanting to not exist and coping with a flawed existence through dark humor, I still find myself counting down the years every so often.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This is a solid collection of horror shorts. It’s dark and brutal and peppered with the right amount of dark humor. There are no happy endings here. It is also extreme leaning, so if you’re not a fan of extreme horror, this might not be for you. I love extreme horror.

You can buy Stillborn Gallery, by Axl Barnes on Amazon for a couple bucks, or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. If you’re into bleak introspective type stories, check it out.

I read a book: If You Died Tomorrow, I Would Eat Your Corpse, by Wrath James White

Poems of the Erotic, the Romantic, the Violent, and the Grotesque.

I’ve been meaning to read something written by Wrath James White for a while now. While he is better known for his work in the horror, splatterpunk, and even bizarro realms, I opted for one of his books of poetry. It is National Poetry Month, after all, and I do have a soft spot for horror poetry. That, and I find something about the title incredibly romantic, in a ghoulish sort of way. What can I say, I’m a bit of a ghoul.

This collection of poetry is everything the description says and more. It is dark and beautiful. It’s haunting and heartfelt. And while I’m not sharing any of the spicier poems, it is decadently spicy. If vanilla is your favorite flavor, steer clear. It is an intimate look into Wrath James White and his wife’s sex life. Reading this feels like voyeurism. That is not criticism, it is a testament to the levels of intimacy experienced while reading these poems and shorts.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it. It is honest and pure emotion. It’s not pretty or tender, but it’ll make you feel things. This book has earned a permanent spot on my poetry shelf. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m ready to delve further into White’s catalog.

I read a book: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The Novelization, by Jeff Strand

While I mostly write about books, my love of horror began with old movies and branched off into comedy horror shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters. The more ridiculous the premise, the better. Enter Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s been forever and a half since I last watched the movie, but I do remember that ridiculous is an understatement. The fact that it inspired multiple sequels, a children’s cartoon, two video games, a comic book, a couple of similarly themed books, and now this novelization written by Jeff Strand and audiobook narrated by Joe Hempel is actually pretty amazing considering the poor reception of the movie in its time.

Let’s talk about the audiobook. Joe Hempel is a treasure. Like the movie, the audiobook is speckled with songs and faux advertisements and that one awful puberty song. Hempel narrates with gusto and paired with Jeff Strand’s humor, this audiobook is a joy to listen to.

As for the book itself, if you’ve seen the movie, you know the story. Humanity comes under attack by constantly mutating killer tomatoes. Everyone is an idiot and there’s little hope that humanity will figure out how to survive, except for maybe China and their secret weapon, Bruce Lee. It is ridiculous and hilarious. I know it’s cliche to say the book is better than the movie, especially when the book is a novelization of that movie, but it’s true. Characters that didn’t get much screen time, like master of disguise Sam Smith, come to life in this book. Jokes that barely registered in the movie are amplified. Imagery that were probably cost prohibitive to produce in a movie are elevated by Strand’s colorful writing.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This book is 233 pages or 5 hours of pure fun. This book filled in a lot of gaps that the movie left wide open. I particularly enjoyed all the fourth wall breaking commentary. The whole thing was just so funny.

Big thanks to Jeff Strand, Joe Hempel, Encyclopocalypse Publications and BookSirens for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can preorder Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The Novelization on Amazon or Audible for its April 14, 2023 release.

I read a book: They Take Your Skin, by J.R. Curtis

I’ve read two other books by J.R. Curtis. I don’t remember much about Satanico. Bloodletting was pretty good and introduced me to a subgenre of horror that I didn’t know I needed in my life, horror westerns. And now I’ve read They Take Your Skin. I have owned the kindle version for a while, but when the author offered Audible codes in exchange for honest reviews, I moved it up to the top of my TBR.

Before I get into my thoughts about the book, let’s talk about the Audible narration. Curtis tends to take his time setting up his stories. He is meticulous with his world building and while it can feel slow, it pays off when everything falls into place and all the action happens and you find yourself sucked into that world. Some narrators, like the man who narrated Bloodletting (John Gladden), are well suited to this descriptive style of storytelling. It’s a style that is difficult to get right, and unfortunately the narration of They Take Your Skin fell short for me. Sherry L. Neiman is a narrator I haven’t come across before, and while I did listen to the entire audiobook, I had to speed it up considerably to make it palatable. Her reading is painfully slow, lacking rhythm, and there were some pronunciation issues, particularly her pronunciation of one of the main character’s names (Guzman). I don’t expect perfect pronunciation of Spanish language names, but putting emphasis on the correct syllable goes a long way to looking like you made the effort.

That said, They Take Your Skin is the best J.R. Curtis book I’ve read yet. He recently released a new one that I haven’t read yet, but right now, this is my favorite thing he’s written. Since the big bads in this book are aliens, I’d classify this one as a sci-fi horror. This story takes place in a small mining town and follows the usual small town cast of characters. There’s the sheriff who is a little too big for his britches and the deputy who follows him blindly. There’s the troubled teen with the alcoholic father and the teacher who tries to reach him. There’s the old man who isn’t taken seriously until it’s too late. There’s the visitors who become instrumental in defeating the town’s dark secret. And of course, there’s the dark secret. In this case, the town isn’t hiding anything as they are unaware of what is lurking deep underground, and I feel like that makes this story unique. The descriptions of the aliens peeling the skins off their victims and then wearing those skins are visceral enough to make a person flinch but not in a gratuitous way. One character calls them peelers and the name catches on. There’s an old horror movie vibe (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers) about this book that I find really appealing.

Get it? A-PEELing? I crack myself up.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. If I have one complaint, it’s that it can be a bit wordy. Verbosity can become tedious if you’re not careful. It’s one of the reasons I just can’t get into Stephen King. Other than that I really enjoyed this book. I think it would make a great movie. Not sure I’d listen to this narrator again, but I will read more Curtis.

Big thanks to J. R. Curtis for providing an audio ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy They Take Your Skin, by J. R. Curtis on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Her Orc Protector (Black Bear Clan #4), by Zoe Ashwood

You may remember the Black Bear Clan of orcs from my review of the previous volume of this series, Her Orc Warrior. I loved that everything about that one and to the surprise of no one, I loved the follow up, Her Orc Protector. It’s not really fair to call it a follow up though. Each book in this series can be read as a standalone. Characters from previous books do appear, but you don’t need to have read them to be able to follow the story in this latest volume.

This story starts off with a woman named Ivy being dragged into the forest in the dead of winter by a couple of men from her village who have been tasked with executing her on suspicion of being a witch. She pleads with them to let her go, and when that doesn’t work, she plays into their fears and curses them as they tie her to a tree and leave her to be eaten by wolves. They run away, hoping to avoid the same eaten by wolves fate, and Ivy is left hoping she will freeze to death before the wolves get to her.

Just as she’s resigned herself to her fate, she hears someone approaching. Is it the wolves? Have the men come back to finish the job? Not quite. A pair of warm green hands releases her from her bonds and carries her to safety. She goes with him willingly but warily, because like all humans, she has heard stories about orcs and is certain that his kindness comes with a catch. He is nothing but kind, caring, and respectful as she heals from her injuries in his care.

I love all of the characters. Ivy is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man. She has vast knowledge of herbs and healing remedies. No wonder they thought she was a witch. Lots of women who did nothing wrong other than being able to handle their own lives were accused of being witches before we knew better. She is suspicious but open minded. She allows people to prove themselves despite her preconceptions. And Korr is everything. He is strong and he is vulnerable. He does his best to allow her to heal without dumping the whole fated mates thing on her until she pushes for answers, and even then, he allows her the time and space to figure out how she feels about it. Kudos to Zoe Ashwood for writing another story that empowers the heroine by giving her control over whether the pairing will result in pregnancy or not.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Once again I am left feeling happy and hopeful. There was a little gap in the getting to know you phase of the relationship, but you get the feeling that they are very compatible and complement one another in a way that betters both of them. If you like monster romance with likable characters and HEA, read this series.

Big thanks to Zoe Ashwood and Booksprout for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Her Orc Protector on Amazon or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Monthly roundup – March 2023

March reads. Cthulhu Fishing, Troll, Orchard of Skeletons, and The Cursed Among Us were all great. All Fall Down was mildly disappointing, but not bad really. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary was adorable and hilarious. Good month overall. Check out my full breakdown. Books with full reviews will be linked, but all have at least a brief review on my Goodreads page. I started doing that when some asshole in a book group asked me how I can possibly retain the many, many books I read. I don’t need strangers to question my cognitive abilities, I do that enough myself thank you very much. Anyway. Let’s talk about these books.

Troll, by Matthew A. Clarke
Orchard of Skeletons, by Eli Wilde
Cthulhu Fishing Off the Iraq Nebula, by Chris Meekings
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary, by Junji Ito

The Cursed Among Us, by John Durgin
Chainsaw Man Vol 1-4, by Tatsuki Fujimoto
R’jaal’s Resonance, by Ruby Dixon

All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner

I want to reiterate the fact that I don’t consider ⭐️⭐️⭐️ a bad rating. I would definitely recommend a three star book to someone I think would enjoy it more than I did. Jennifer Weiner is a talented writer whose work I usually love, but this one just didn’t hit the mark for me. Maybe the subject matter is too close to home and it didn’t illicit the feelings I expected.

I don’t read a lot of manga. It’s never been my genre/format of choice, but I have dipped in on occasion at the recommendations of my teenager. Chainsaw Man is one of those recommendations. It started out as a goofy story about a teenager (who happens to be inhabited by a chainsaw devil) on a quest to cop a feel. It went on like that for a couple of volumes. The plot was barely there. There was plenty of killing and humor, but the plot wavered. Then toward the end of volume 3, the inklings of a story began and really started to come to fruition in volume 4. I was on the fence about whether I would continue or not, but now I definitely will and have already checked out volumes 5 and 6 on Libby. It’s too bad my kid doesn’t like reading digital format. Manga really eats a hole in my wallet!

Speaking of which…Junji Ito. I could read those on my tablet as well, but those are more my wheelhouse and I do want to own them. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary tickled my funny bone. It was adorable and had little hints of the Junji Ito horror that I know and love. I am happy to have this one on my shelf.

Last but not least, R’jaal’s Resonance, the first volume of Ruby Dixon’s new blue alien series. I liked it quite a bit. It is delightfully spicy. I felt like some of it was a little rushed, but I still feel it’s a good start of a new series. I’m looking forward to meeting all the new people and learning about the ancestors, who are not actually ancestors as they are still alive.

So what’s next for me? I feel the call of zombies niggling at my brain. I am itching to get into another multi volume series and actually just bought the entire Undead Possession series by Justin Boote. I freaking loved the first one and I am ready to dive back in. I have a couple of ARCs to get to first though. And I want to finish reading Stillborn Gallery because I’ve had that one started for a long time. I just get lost in short story collections, even the really good ones. It’s too easy to read a story from one book and then another from another book and then you have a bunch of started short story collections.

Other than books and reviews, I’ve picked up my neglected crochet hook and gotten into that again. I’m working on a blanket, despite living in the year round inferno that is Texas. And because I can’t get away from book stuff, I’ve started making bookmarks. The first one I completed was a dusty rose colored cat with a gold collar. My kid said it looks like a penis and I can’t stop seeing that now. I am eager to give away a few cat/penis bookmarks to my friends and coworkers.

Anyway, read some of these books. Or any books really. Go read something and let’s talk about it.