I read a book: They Are All Monsters, by J. Boote

Hot off the presses from the man who forever burned things like demon possessed sex with zombies and the subsequent pregnancies in your brain is the extreme horror novel, They Are All Monsters. This is the story of a pair of detectives leading the hunt for a serial killer who is targeting children who stay out after dark. This serial killer is especially brutal, mutilating his victims and leaving them where they drop.

Before I get any further into this review, if you have any triggers (namely violence against children, murder, gore, cannibalism), this book is not for you. Boote did his research while writing this book and all of the horrors within have been in the headlines at one time or another. Thankfully this is fiction and no one was hurt in the making of this story.

This book starts out like your average run of the mill detective drama with Clive Watson braving a dark and dreary night lurking around Belton, a small village currently being terrorized by a ruthless serial killer and an equally ruthless copycat, in hopes that he might finally crack the case. And he very nearly does, but the killer runs off and Clive is left to deal with the not yet dead young victim. He knows the kid doesn’t have much time left, so he loads him in his car and begins to drive. It seems like he might take the kid to the hospital, but he takes him to his home instead. Uh oh. At this point, my gears are turning and I’m wondering if we are learning the identity of the killer so early in the book. One thing is certain, if you’re thinking you’ve got it figured out already, you are wrong. This book is full of twists and turns. We get the story from the perspectives of Clive, his fellow detective Jeff, and the killer. Everyone has secrets and they are all monsters. Great character development and the story is engaging and keeps you guessing. And the descriptive language will make you squirm.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It is not often that a book (extreme horror or otherwise) makes me wtf. At around 30%, I paused and made a note stating that I would provide content warnings for this one and I rarely do that. This book kept me up way too late chasing that ending and left me hoping for a sequel.

Big thanks to Justin Boote for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Imagine my surprise when I found my name among the other ARC readers in the acknowledgments at the end of the book. I am humbled. Nearly every author who has seen one of my reviews of their books has been friendly and gracious, but this is the first time I’ve seen my name in a book.

You can pre-order They Are All Monsters on Amazon and begin reading it on January 25, 2023. It’ll also be available as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. If you love extreme horror and getting in the minds of serial killers, read this book.

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.

Monthly roundup – November 2022

November was a month of great reads. I got in a good amount of horror and poetry, and even some with seasonal themes. And I read 6 ARCs, which is super productive for me. Nevermind that two of their reviews are incomplete. I’ll get them published eventually. Since I rated so many of them ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, I’m not going to do a full breakdown. However, I will talk a little about my favorites.

My favorite in the monster romance category was Desire in His Blood, by Zoey Draven. Draven is already an author I know I like, so when I saw this first volume of a new series, it was a no brainer. Downloaded it immediately. There’s so much I like about this book. The heroine is so great. Able to adapt to any situation. Gemma takes care of her father’s financial problems and shields her sisters from all the things that are stressing her out. This whole marriage to a wealthy (scary) alien was her way of protecting them in the long term. She learns to navigate her new, sometimes frightening, husband and her new home. Of course she didn’t understand what she was getting into and what secrets she’d learn and what wrongdoings she’d eventually find a way to fix. Because that’s who she is. She’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. Azur is hard and cold on the beginning, having arranged this marriage with nefarious intentions. It doesn’t take long for him to catch feelings and he spends a lot of time wrestling with his emotions. There’s a lot of conflict. And spice. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t continue. But I will say they get their HEA and we get more of Gemma’s cleverness and Azur’s heart. Her Orc Warrior, by Zoe Ashwood was also really enjoyable! You can read my full review here.

In the horror category, Night Stockers was the standout. I haven’t read a book with Kristopher Triana’s name on it that I didn’t love, and now I want to read more Ryan Harding. It is an extreme horror offering, but it’s more than just torture porn. Don’t get me wrong, it is brutal af, but the characters and the story are interesting and honestly pretty fucking funny. If that makes me a weirdo, so be it. This was a tough category though because all of them were so great. Several were my first tastes of new (to me) authors and they all left me wanting more.

The poetry was also mostly great. I would say The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On was probably my favorite because I found it most relatable. I found myself rereading poems in nearly every collection though. 4 out of 6 poetry collections I read in November were ARCs and all but one were fantastic.

As I mentioned earlier, I read 6 ARCs in November. That’s some kind of record for me. Even more impressive to me is that 5 out of 6 of them were amazing! Poetry ARCs are hit or miss for me but these were so good. Only one was underwhelming. Anyway, no one is reading this. I’m done rambling. Read some books.

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: 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: 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.