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.

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: 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 Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano

Today’s theme is dentophobia. Earlier I watched a movie called The Dentist. Now I’m finishing up my review of The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano.

Remember that episode of Ren and Stimpy where Ren has a toothache and ends up grinding his teeth and waking with broken shards that shatter and fall out completely, leaving behind stinking gum holes? Listen, I don’t really fear dental work, but I have had that dream. The one where your teeth all fall out. You know the one.

The Tooth Fairy is the story of two people from different worlds who end up crossing paths, both getting more than they bargained for. Johnny Hawk is trying to get a fresh start after finding his wife with another man. He gets his business partner to buy him out so he can go road tripping until he figures out how he’s going to start over. Somewhere along the way, a niggling tooth pain becomes a big deal and he needs a dentist asap. He meets Wendy and things start looking up for him. What he doesn’t know is that she is a deeply disturbed woman with a dark past that is threatening to resurface. When he sees through her facade, he finds himself drugged and strapped to a dentist chair. I could tell you more, but where’s the fun in that.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This was a pretty good read. I was a little worried that it was going to be some kind of supernatural story with a tooth fairy boogeyman but it’s actually a psychological thriller humans are the monsters type horror story, and I love those. I look forward to Tarsitano’s future work.

Big thanks to Davide Tarsitano and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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: 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: 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).