Review: Guillotine: Poems by Eduardo C. Corral

51541967. sx318 sy475

Buy Here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Guillotine traverses desert landscapes cut through by migrants, the grief of loss, betrayal’s lingering scars, the border itself—great distances in which violence and yearning find roots. Through the voices of undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents, and scorned lovers, award-winning poet Eduardo C. Corral writes dramatic portraits of contradiction, survival, and a deeply human, relentless interiority. With extraordinary lyric imagination, these poems wonder about being unwanted or renounced. What do we do with unrequited love? Is it with or without it that we would waste away?

In the sequence “Testaments Scratched into Water Station Barrels,” with Corral’s seamless integration of Spanish and English, poems curve around the surfaces upon which they are written, overlapping like graffiti left by those who may or may not have survived crossing the border. A harrowing second collection, Guillotine solidifies Corral’s place in the expanding ecosystem of American poetry.

Review:

I have been expanding my library, adding some different types of books to my collection, thus reading some things I would not have picked up in the past. One of them is buying and reading poetry. I do not know much about poetry in a clinical sense, but I can tell what I like and don’t like due to content and impact. This means I have to review poetry more on content than on execution. If you are not much of a poetry reader, but want something that will really knock you down, Guillotine is that short collection. I read it in one day, sometimes reading a poem more than once, and by the end, I was in love.

 Eduardo C. Corral starts the collection with a long poem called “Testaments Scratched into a Water Station Barrel.” These thirty pages surround a stationary item in the middle of the desert that many immigrants use as a marker while moving toward the American border. This poem is more of a cycle with many different voices and different perspectives. The anguish and sadness in these pages burn, and by the end of it, the reader cannot help but think that anyone who tries to make this crossing is filled with courage and strength. The  emotions that Corral brings out of these pages, even with the anti-immigrant scrawlings of the border patrol, are expressed in a way that makes every poem scorch your heart.

The next section of poems scorch in a different way. Many are personal poems about desire, love, and lust. Corral brings the same intensity. The danger and longing he brings with “Testaments Scratched into a Water Station Barrel” resurface in “Guillotine”, “Autobiography of My Hungers”, “Black Water”, and “To a Straight Man” particularly. 

“1707 San Joaquin Avenue” is another heartbreaker toward the end, a poem inspired by newspaper articles of the immigrant men found in drop houses in Arizona. These pages are tough to read and are proof that there is more horror in the things we do to each other than in the outside world.


I can talk about every poem in this collection, break it down, and do my best with understanding the emotion and meaning behind each word. I could read this over and over. I could loan it to people who are harsh critics of the border crisis. I could also recommend Guillotine to anyone who does not read poetry but wants a good collection as a start.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

30183198

Buy it here: Bookshop Amazon

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Madeline is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Madeline as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.

And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Madeline finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand. Over the course of a few days, Madeline makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Madeline confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do—for the people they love.

Review:

History of Wolves is tough to describe but even tougher to review. Rarely do I look at other reviews to see what other people have said because I do not want my thoughts and opinions to be swayed by others. This is one of those books that breaks all of the rules. I read several professional and reader reviews to try to sum up my feelings on this novel. After some time, my best description of History of Wolves is that it is like a beautiful piece of furniture, a couch or a chair, that you buy because it looks amazing with everything, but once anyone tries to sit on it, they realize that the chair is actually pretty uncomfortable.

The story revolves around Madeline (or Linda) when she is fourteen, as narrated by her  when she is thirty-seven year old. Two big things in her life happen that year, Mr. Greirson becomes her history teacher and gets arrested for having child pornography and inappropirate conduct with another student, Lily. This dashes Linda’s hopes of having someone who she can trust. At this same time, the Gardners move into a cabin across the lake from her, Leo, Petra, and their son Paul. They employ Linda as their babysitter and as she gets to know them better, the emotional attachment becomes stranger and stranger.. 

The telling of the story is the uncomfortable part. There are many times when the story wanders away, through the woods, and comes back much later. Linda gets sidetracked with the things that are happening in her current relationship, and it almost reads like the story of her with the Gardners is one she has trouble telling because her feelings about that time are complicated and she still has trouble figuring it all out. She gets easily distracted and the entire novel reads like someone with ADHD trying to avoid telling the whole story. 
But it is in such a beautiful package. History of Wolves is written in such a poetic way, that there are many times when I did not even care about the story anymore. I just wanted to read more sentences.  I caught myself reading paragraphs and pages over and over. There were a few times when I backtracked ten to twenty pages to read everything again. For as much as I enjoyed reading the passages, the actual story was just kind of mediocre to me. Maybe I was waiting for something bigger to happen that never happened. Maybe because the ending was a little abstract and confusing. Or maybe because we never get a real sense of Linda as a person because she is something of an unreliable narrator. Any angle I look at it, I can say that if I enjoyed the writing but I did not enjoy the book that much. It is a beautiful piece of furniture that really isn’t very comfortable to sit on.

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Buy at Bookshop and Amazon

Syopsis:

Beauregard “Bug” Montage: husband, father, honest car mechanic. But he was once known – from North Carolina to the beaches of Florida – as the best getaway driver on the East Coast. Just like his father, who disappeared many years ago.

After a series of financial calamities (worsened by the racial prejudices of the small town he lives in) Bug reluctantly takes part in a daring diamond heist to solve his money troubles – and to go straight once and for all. However, when it goes horrifically wrong, he’s sucked into a grimy underworld which threatens everything, and everyone, he holds dear . . .

Review:

There was a great deal of buzz about this book when it came out. It seemed as if everyone was reading it, and even though I thought I should join the club, I was not too impressed with the description. I have read more than my share of caper novels, and most of them are fun but just that. The expectation was that I would enjoy it like I enjoy an action movie with fast cars and jewelry heists. 

The difference between Blacktop Wasteland and many of these other crime, pulpy novels is the heart. The main character, Beauregard Montage, is in a tough position. A failing business, bills, a mother who is about to get booted from her nursing home, an estranged daughter that he wants to send to college, and no money to do any of these things, motivates him to do one last job as a driver so that he can get ahead in life. Of course the job doesn’t go right and things get worse, but in the end, the motivation for this job, for everything that Beauregard does is to better his family. This sense of responsibility might hit a little harder with male readers who are trying to provide for their families when money is tight, like we can respect him for the actions he takes and the care that he uses to try not to get caught. 

One of the real things I notice in S.A Cosby’s writing is the care that he uses with Beauregard, making sure that he uses his brains that thinks of everything before the jobs are to be done, using him as the character of the professional who is trying to work with amateurs, making his head and shoulders above the rest of the characters. This is also greatly explained by the fact that he is chasing the ghost of his father, Anthony, who was a wheelman criminal of his own, who was doing the same types of jobs when Beauregard was a child. It is possible that he inherited this ability to have a criminal mind, just as he inherited his knack of driving cars.

There are many novels like this one, but Blacktop Wasteland stands out with the character development and the way that the story unfolds. Many people have felt a connection with Beauregard, and this is really what makes Blacktop Wasteland stand out among the rest. 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino by Julian Herbert

50403463

Synopsis:

Virtuosic stories by one of “the more interesting and ambitious prose stylists of our time” (Los Angeles Times)

In this madcap, insatiably inventive, bravura story collection, Julián Herbert brings to vivid life people who struggle to retain a measure of sanity in an insane world. Here we become acquainted with a vengeful “personal memories coach” who tries to get even with his delinquent clients; a former journalist with a cocaine habit who travels through northern Mexico impersonating a famous author of Westerns; the ghost of Juan Rulfo; a man who discovers music in his teeth; and, in the deliriously pulpy title story, a drug lord who looks just like Quentin Tarantino, who kidnaps a mopey film critic to discuss Tarantino’s films while he sends his goons to find and kill the doppelgänger that has colonized his consciousness. Herbert’s astute observations about human nature in extremis feel like the reader’s own revelations.

The antic and dire stories in Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino depict the violence and corruption that plague Mexico today, but they are also deeply ruminative and layered explorations of the narrative impulse and the ethics of art making. Herbert asks: Where are the lines between fiction, memory, and reality? What is the relationship between power, corruption, and survival? How much violence can a person (and a country) take? The stories in this explosive collection showcase the fevered imagination of a significant contemporary writer.

Review:

Julian Herbert is someone whom I have never read, but the title of this short story collection, Bring Me The Head of Quentin Tarantino, made me preorder it immediately. In my teenage years, I was a much bigger fan of Tarantino than I am now, so the title has two different appeals to me. One is that it refers to a director whom I am largely familiar with, and two the loathing of this director might be something I can agree with. (I didn’t know at the time that the title is a riff on the 1974 Sam Peckinpah film Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia).When I started to get into this collection of stories, I was more interested in the style and stories Herbert told than the actual title.

Julian Herbert writes about everything. From crack addicts to gangsters to zombies to finding a pastry on the train and wondering whether or not to eat it, all of these stories are very interesting, have a surreal quality to them, and are very entertaining. Reading about his life and some of his interviews, he is versatile, writes everything, in every genre, and feels like no one should limit what they write. In an interview from November 3, 2020 in The Southwest Review, Herbert states:

“One of my favorite descriptions in sport is something said about the Dutch soccer squad during the 1974 World Cup: “They all defend and they all attack.” In Mexico sportswriters called the team The Clockwork Orange. They used to say that they played “Total Soccer.” I’d like to be able to write literature in that way, not thinking too much about genres (or my position on the field), but trying to do everything at the same time, as writers did in Rabelais’s day.”


This philosophy is really apparent in Bring Me The Head of Quentin Tarantino. This is one of those short story collections where you do not know what is coming next because there is so much variety. The title story, the longest by far in the book, is a little over 60 pages. “Z” the story about the man who is living with zombies and has one for a “psychoanalyst” is 10 pages. The story before that is 4 pages. What I love most about this collection is that he also knows when to stop a story, right at the point where the reader is settling in and is ready for more. Every story in this collection is masterful, and with so many different themes and varieties, it makes me think about some of his other books and how I feel like he might be one of the best living Latin American authors.   

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Guest List

Buy it Here: Bookshop, Amazon

Synopsis:

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? 

Review:

I picked this up as an extra in a Book of the Month box, where I get novels I normally would not pick up on my own. The premise of The Guest List is one that I thought I would like, a wedding on a private island, and the tagline that includes that “But Someone Will Not Survive it.” If I had a niche plot that I think is very underwritten and right in my wheelhouse, it would be wedding thrillers and horror. A wedding is a joyous occasion, even if there is a great deal of tension and drama behind the scenes, the bride and groom are happy, people drink, eat cake, dance, and celebrate. For someone to bring horror and murder into this joyous occassion is right in a sweet spot that is very attractive to me.

The Guest List does not disappoint. We are firmly planted in the middle of a wedding on a private island between Jules, a magazine publisher, and Will, a survival TV personality. The book is written in alternating narrative, most of them being secondary characters in the wedding party, but eventually the picture becomes more and more clear. The way that the story closes with more and more focus on the center of the story (the “But Someone Will Not Survive it” of the story) keeps me engaged and interested throughout. There is no point where the tension lets up, and for 300+ pages, we are pulled closer and closer to the truth. 
The best way to sum up this entire book is the island itself. At one time inhabited, the only people who live on it now are Aoife, who happens to also be the wedding planner and Freddy her husband. The island is also rumored to be haunted, with ghosts and bogs and graveyards, but this is a set up for the real haunting, the real ghosts that all of the guests bring onto the island with them. Once there is no sort of authority, and all of the guests are on their own, and that secrets start to come out, all bets are off. There are many reasons for the guests to kill one another, and when the final acts are revealed, there is satisfaction in the ending and the entire premise of the book. There are a few things that seem a little far fetched, some guests who draw conclusions that are really thin on evidence, but this is also how people react sometimes. We sometimes connect the dots way too easily, and this leads to assumptions and mistakes, but as a whole, the moments that do seem a little bit of a reach play on human nature. The Guest List is a fun and wonderfully fast paced book, and I have highly recommended it to my friends.

Posted in fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Nunchuck City by Brian Asman

57537289. sy475

Buy it here: Brian Asman’s Website, Amazon

Synopsis:

You better nun-check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Disgraced ex-ninja Nunchuck “Nick” Nikolopoulis just wants to open a drive-thru fondue restaurant with his best friend Rondell. But when an old enemy kidnaps the mayor, and a former flame arrives in hot pursuit, Nick’s going to have to dust off his fighting skills and face his past. Plus an army of heavily-armed ninjas, a very well-dressed street gang, an Australian sumo wrestler with a gnarly skin condition, giant robots, municipal paperwork, and much, much more! From the rooftops to the sewers, Nick and his ex-girlfriend Kanna Kikuchi are in for the fight of their lives!

Also featuring the backup story “Curse of the Ninja” by Lucas Mangum! 

Review:

While preparing for this, the third and final book by Brian Asman that I am reviewing this week, I took an expedition to find the grand sensei book reviewer that lives as a recluse in a mountain temple surrounded by books, disciples, and a lot of opinions. I looked for this person for an entire afternoon before deciding to just watch the first half of the movie adaptation of Double Dragon instead. I still might be a little underprepared, but I know I will come out of this fight as a winner.

Nunchuck City is the newest novel by Brian Asman, the second on his own Mutated Media publishing imprint. I have listened to a few interviews about this book and the thing that he reiterates the most is that this is a love letter to the martial arts video games that many of us grew up playing, like Double Dragon, Bad Dudes, and Streets of Rage. I loved playing these side-scrolling, repetitive fighting games growing up, so this really does feel like one of the plots to one of those games. The hero of the story, Nunchuck “Nick” Nikolopoulis, is trying to get the paperwork to open up a drive thru fondue restaurant, and he needs his license signed by the mayor, who has just been kidnapped by an old enemy from his youth. Another ghost from the past, an ex-girlfriend who also has been pursuing this bad guy all over the world, only to circle back to the city where they all grew up to have a final showdown.

The plot and action of this book plays out like a video game or an action movie that you watch on those nights when you want to give your mind some brain candy, and this is what I love most about it. Through the three books that Brian Asman has published and after listening to some of his interviews, I feel like the best thing about his work is that his voice is unique, strong, and very recognizable. It seems like he has an attitude where he says he is going to tell a great story, have as many funny, action packed scenes as possible in it, and make the reader feel satisfied after they have read the last page. This style, where he takes the story telling seriously but makes sure that the story is not serious, is a style that many people try but very few succeed.

Brain Asman is one of those authors that has a game plan, has his next few books already planned, his next book Comic Sans is already an ad in the back of Nunchuck City. The book after this one is a haunted house story tentatively titled Man, Fuck this House, which is the best haunted house title I have ever heard. If you are smart, you should jump onto the Brian Asman train early so you can be “one of those people” who read everything  by him before he became a household name.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Jailbroke by Brian Asman

56853597. sy475

Buy it here: Brian Asman’s website, Amazon

Synopsis:

Future slacker Kelso’s got the easiest gig in the galaxy, working the Gordita Especial! pod on board an interstellar cruiser, although that doesn’t stop him from complaining about it to anyone who’ll listen.

Cyborg Security Officer Londa James spends her days wrangling idiot tourists and keeping an artificial eye out for any passengers or crew who might be on the verge of snapping from space sicknesses.

But after a colleague is brutally murdered, Kelso and James are going to have to work together if they want to survive! Man-eating machines, cybernetically-enhanced badasses, septuagenarian toddlers, an opioid algorithm-addicted bucket of bolts, a cult that worships the reincarnation of a 400-year-old God Genius, and one very unusual sex robot come together in JAILBROKE, a heartwarming/ripping tale about what it means to be human in a galaxy run by artificial intelligence.

Review:

In Brian Asman’s second book, and first for his own publishing imprint Mutated Media, he takes on a word that is hundreds of years in the future. A murder takes place and some human flesh gets into the Gordita Especial! Mix that the modified robot humans love to eat. When these robots eat human flesh, they get a hunger for it and start to think on their own, thinking that eating more people is probably the best idea. Kelso, a gordita chef and Londa James, a security officer have to team up to stop the  robots from eating everyone on the ship.

I actually read this one after his other two books, I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today  and Nunchuck City, and I will say that I think this is the best of the three. Not only do we have the heavy action of the robots, we have a great deal of world building that Asman does. He has not only set this hundreds of years into the future on a spaceship, but he gives us a glimpse of what life could be like. Sure everyone spends money on body modifications to make human/robot hybrids, but there is cultural significance to them, a status that is placed on people who have the most. I also like that Elon Musk has become a significant part of the leadership of the world and that there is a religious aspect to the way the people revere him. I like that society has not change much but advanced into the people that do not seem too far fetched (sex robots anyone?)

The significant difference between I’m Not Even Supposed to be Here Today and Jailbroke is that the voice is much stronger, much looser, and more of his own. This is glimpses of how he plans to write all of his books–fast paced, funny, clever, and focused on action. The action is nonstop, and character development does not get in the way. There is not a great deal of back story to any of the characters, but in a book like this, you really do not want to slow down the pace and the action. 
So far this is the one that I would recommend first to the thousands of people asking which Brian Asman book he or she should read first. Jailbroke has a great world built into a well-rounded, fun and funny story. 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today by Brian Asman

Buy here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

“Sometimes you stop by the convenience store for a slushy and the world just goes straight to hell, and takes you along with it. I haven’t had this much fun watching terrible stuff happen in a long time.” -Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels

A Bizarro fiction tribute to the Kevin Smith cult classic CLERKS.

After a killer surf session, Scot Kring stops into his local Fasmart for a delicious, icy Slushpuppy. But before he can leave, a homeless guy outside has a stroke and accidentally recites an ancient Latin phrase that summons a very hungry demon, who just so happens to look like filmmaker Kevin Smith.

Now Scot’s stuck in a time loop along with the other occupants of the convenience store who may or may not be demonically possessed and he’s fighting back with nothing but a fistful of greasy hot dogs and a souvenir Slushpuppy cup as the giant menacing kaiju Kevin Smith threatens to kill them all.

I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today is a demon apocalypse comedy for the slacker generation.

Review

This week I will be reviewing all three of Brian Asman’s available books. His first novella, I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today was released in 2019 by Eraserhead Press as part of their New Bizarro Author Series. The short novella centers around Scot Kring, a car stereo installer who is returning from work from an afternoon of surfing. He stops at a Fasmart for a Slushpuppy when a homeless guy outside is having a stroke, starts to mumble and summons a demon, who also looks like Kevin Smith.

This is such a short novel and much of it is fixed on the action more than the character development, but that is fine. There is a great amount of violence mixed with humor, so these two things carry the story. If Asman would have stopped to talk about Kring or Skater Girl more, the momentum would have slowed down, and this novella is all about pacing. The breakneck speed of the action makes this a fast read, but Asman’s writing and humor is what keeps the reader engaged and entertained. This feels like a strong beginning of his novels and novellas, like his creativity and voice are very developed but not where it will be in the next two books.


I like Kevin Smith movies, and I have seen almost all of them. I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today might limit the appeal of some people because Smith can be a polarizing filmmaker. Asman seems to be aware of this so he does have the deep cuts for the true Smith fans, but the actual Kevin Smith aspects of the story are based on his most popular works. Even the title is very recognizable as a line from Clerks, a movie that if you have an opinion on Kevin Smith films at all, Clerks is on the radar. This means that I’m Not Even Supposed to be Here is not an alienating book, one that is only for true fans. It is a fun little story, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes demons, Kevin Smith, or Slushpuppy drinks.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: “Beautiful/Grotesque” edited by Sam Richard

Buy it here:

Godless, Weirdpunk Books, Amazon

Synopsis:

Five authors of strange fiction, Roland Blackburn (Seventeen Names For Skin), Jo Quenell (The Mud Ballad), Katy Michelle Quinn (Winnie), Joanna Koch (The Wingspan of Severed Hands), and Sam Richard (Sabbath of the Fox-Devils) each bring you their own unique vision of the macabre and the glorious violently colliding. From full-on hardcore horror to decadently surreal nightmares, and noir-fueled psychosis, to an eerie meditation on grief, and familial quiet horror, Beautiful/Grotesque guides us through the murky waters where the monstrous and the breathtaking meet.

They are all beautiful. They are all grotesque.

Review:

Beautiful/Grotesque is something of a different anthology for WeirdPunk Books, who have done previous anthology inspired by the Misfits, G.G. Allin, and David Cronenberg. This is an anthology assembled and edited by Sam Richard, inspired by the image of a Zdzisław Beksiński work “Untitled Drawing, 1968.” The idea was that approached some of his friends and authors formerly published by WeirdPunk Books to write stories on this theme. The five stories in this anthology really showcases the level of talent and horror that WeirdPunk Books is consistently releasing. I have read and reviewed all but one of these authors and it is fitting to just go through each story.

“God of the Silvered Halls” by Roland Blackburn

The author of Seventeen Names for Skin, starts off the collection with a strong, traditional horror story. I could see this as comparable to someone like Joe Hill or Josh Malerman. Blackburn delivers a strong, well written, and fun horror story about a medical examiner who gets too involved with a strange case of a woman hit by a train.  

“Threnody” by Jo Quenell

Jo Quenell offers a story about a woman hired to sing at a dead child’s funeral. The story is about transition and grief, and if you have read Jo Quenell’s novella, Mud Ballad, you will recognize that there is a little bit of grime in every story that she tells. 

“The Queen of the Select” by Katy Michelle Quinn

I have read one story by Katy Michelle Quinn (“Mall Goth Lazerdick Explode-A-Thon III” in the anthology LAZERMALL.) Her entry here, “The Queen of the Select,” follows a cop who goes to private parties to have sex with transgender women, and the guilt and anger he feels about this desire. This makes for a gut-wrenching, devastating extreme horror story. It is hard to choose my favorite story in this collection, but this is the one that brought the most emotions out of me.

“Swanmord” by Joanna Koch

This is by the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, and based on this novella, I expected it to be surreal, confusing, and stunning. I was not disappointed. This is the story of Hayden and Trillious, partners in a slippery narrative about love and transformation. Koch’s writing is difficult yet rewarding in the ability to make you think long after the story is over.

“The Fruit of a Barren Tree” by Sam Richard

The final story in this short collection is by Splatterpunk Award-winning author Sam Richard. Most of his writing is saturated with grief and loss, but he has a way of writing that makes us feel all of the things the characters are feeling. This is the most somber story in the collection, and a great way to end the anthology. 

As a whole, if you have read any of these authors or any of the books published by WeirdPunk Books, Beautiful/Grotesque fits right in with the rest. If you have not read these authors before, I can say that this is a great representation of the types of stories that they tell. Sam Richard has said before that he is going to be working on more short anthologies like this, and if he continues gathering stories with this level of quality, he will continue to find success as one of the premiere indie publishers of great horror.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

55511726. sy475

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…

Review:

When I started this novel,  I did not really know what I was getting into. (This happens most of the time with me. I rarely read synopsis, reviews, or blurbs until I am halfway through any book. I decide what to read based on author, publisher, and sometimes cover design. Since The Last House on Needless Street is one of the flagship titles of Nightfire, a new horror imprint of Tor, I picked this up rather quickly.) I just knew the first line of the synopsis is, “This is the story of a serial killer.” When the first chapter is from the perspective of the serial killer, I knew that I was hooked. The voice of the Ted, from the very beginning sucked me into the story. Most readers of horror have a bit of an obsession about serial killers so for a novel to start from the perspective of a killer, instead of a cop or even a victim, is a gripping start. After reading further, the three main narrators, separated by chapters, are Ted, the killer, Dee, a woman who is looking for the man that killed her sister and has tracked the suspects down to Ted, and Olivia, Ted’s cat. Olivia’s chapters are almost feline but also insightful in a way that reflects the thoughts of what a cat might be like when they stare at you. 

The last house on Needless Street, Ted’s house, is boarded up, dark, dusty, and a little surreal. There are things in the house that hold memories that influence Ted’s behavior, and as a whole, it does not feel like there is anything concrete about the house, Ted’s life, and the story as a whole. Everything seems to be very slippery. Catriona Ward writes this is such a way that makes it as confusing for the reader sometimes as it is for the characters. There are some great passages that do not make much sense. There are details of the house that shift and change based on the narrator. There are events that change based on the perspective of the one telling the story, like to the point where sometimes one character is completely wrong about what just happened. Sometimes this story feels like a large puzzle that has been dumped on the floor, and we have to take the time to put it all together. 

If you are a reader that likes a straight forward plot and do not like being completely confused by the story, this probably is not the book for you. Fortunately many readers like the challenge of not really understanding everything that is going on, hoping that the ending reveals the whole picture. In the case of The Last House on Needless Street, this happens in a solid way, but there are so many nuances that Ward uses that this book begs to be reread. The first experience is mind-blowing, but the second could make this your favorite book of all time.

I have received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment