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Friday, June 4, 2021

Review: The First Ten Years: Two Sides of the Same Love Story by Joseph Fink & Meg Bashwiner

 Before reading this book, I had never heard of Joseph Fink or Meg Bashwiner. I had heard of Welcome to Night Vale, the international hit podcast, but I had never listened to it. What drew me to the book, you may ask? The squirrels on the cover caught my attention, but the description of Bashwiner and Fink’s dual perspective love story hooked me from page one.

In The First Ten Years, Bashwiner and Fink write about each year of their relationship, and eventual marriage, from 2009 through 2019. To make it even more interesting, neither of them consulted each other about what they were writing, leaving them free to write anything they wanted.  Each year has a chapter devoted to it, with first Joseph’s recollections and then Meg’s. It was interesting to see what moments stood out to each of them and see how often their stories meshed and even echoed each other.

 The ensuing ten years of their relationship saw professional highs for both, with Meg working the New York Neo-Futurists theatre group and Joseph creating what became the hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale.  The podcast became insanely popular and allowed Bashwiner and Fink to both leave their day jobs and work on their creative pursuits. They coordinated multiple nationwide and worldwide tours of Welcome to Night Vale, Bashwiner opened Neo-Futurist theatre groups in San Francisco and helped a friend start a theatre company in London. Bashwiner and Fink were also honest and open about the low moments in their relationship-the death of Fink's father and the challenges and difficulties associated with their careers.

I really enjoyed this book. As I stated above, I went into the book blind with a vague idea that this was a book about a couple who created and toured Welcome to Night Vale.  This book was so much more than that.  I have never read a memoir with a dual perspective before this one.  I love how well the book flowed and how well each writer’s recollections matched each other.  I love the honesty in their story, how two young adult creatives can come together, support each other, and still achieve their goals as long as they have each other.

I now feel like I know who Joseph Fink and Meg Bashwiner are, and I’m a big fan.

Thank you to Harper Perennial and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4/5 Stars

#HarperPerennial #OliveInfluencer #TheFirstTenYears #MegBashwiner #JosephFink #WelcomeToNightvale #Memoir #Nonfiction #lovestory #NetGalley

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Review: Good Southern Witches edited by J.D. Horn

Good Southern Witches, edited by J.D. Horn, is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of 24 tales of witches—good, bad, female, non-binary, old, young, gay, and straight. There are stories here for every fan of witch lore: you have granny witches providing tonics for wealthy clients, generations of witches welcoming their heir into her powers, spiteful witches to claim lives to free her own, Earth witches protecting the environment when trees are to be destroyed, and a couple of cozy witches keep a balance between our world and the unknown.

I really enjoyed this anthology, not every story was my cup of tea, but that is to be expected in any collection of short stories.  This was my first time reading any release by Curious Blue Press, now I will be looking forward to anything and everything they release. I loved that the authors selected for this anthology were not names that I have seen over and over in other publications. I now have new writers to check out. I really appreciated the LGBTQIA representation in this collection, not a lot of presses will make that a priority.


4/5 Stars

Thank you to #NetGalley and #CuriousBluePress for providing me with an eARC for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review: Starving Ghosts in Every Thread by Eric LaRocca

Filled with guilt over her ruined future and the untenable grief of her father’s death, Teddy’s life is unraveling. Literally. Her body begins to unravel unless she feeds on the emotions of those around her. In a small town like hers, it is only a matter of time before she runs out on people to feed from. 

Her days are spent working shifts at the local market; her nights tending to her neurotic mother who is convinced the cure to her own necrotizing skin condition is the scorpion venom Teddy gets from their eccentric next-door neighbor. On one such visit to procure a new scorpion for venom harvesting, Teddy meets a new girl named Kiiara, who has a secret of her own. Drawn into Kiiara’s web, Teddy is on a collision course to destroy what bit of normalcy she still has in her life.

When I first started reviewing books, I began hearing others talk about Starving Ghosts in Every Thread and its author Eric LaRocca. Imagine my shock to find out that this is his first work of horror fiction. This book is amazing, full of gorgeous prose and imagery. The book is just so beautiful and haunting. I cannot wait to see what Eric creates next.

Disclaimer: I received ARC of Starving Ghosts in Every Thread from the author in exchange for honest reviews. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

5/5 Stars

Friday, April 9, 2021

Review: Irish Gothic by Ronald Kelly


Irish Gothic, the latest release by southern horror author Ronald Kelly, pays homage to his Irish roots and shares some of the best creatures and cryptids found in the Emerald Isle.

The anthology contains seven stories, all engaging and descriptive. I especially found the Irish Celtic Creatures & Cryptids as well as the Gaelic/English Translation Guide very helpful as there were a few terms that I was not familiar with.

All in all, this was a quick and enjoyable read for me. This was the first book of Mr. Kelly’s that I have read, and I look forward to reading more based on the strength of this book.

Disclaimer: Thank you to author Ronald Kelly for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: Snow White's Shattered Coffin by Cynthia Pelayo


In her latest horror love letter to her beloved city of Chicago, Cynthia Pelayo shares with us the short story “Snow White’s Shattered Coffin.” This bite sized piece of horror fiction is loosely based on the story of young Inez Clarke, who is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

A young girl wanders off from her uncle’s funeral, entranced by a glass enclosed funereal sculpture of a young girl around her own age. A mishap at the site of the sculpture leads to an unimaginable curse that will have life altering consequences for the girl.

Once again, Pelayo has woven a tale that makes you feel like you are in her Chicago, again in a fairytale combined with urban legend. The story was deeply engrossing and ended in a way that has stuck in my mind ever since. Illustrator Vheto Gutierrez Vazquez’s beautiful monochromatic artwork is the perfect compliment to this story and adds to the eerie atmosphere created by Ms. Pelayo.

“Snow White’s Shattered Coffin” is available in a limited quantity of 200 copies, signed by both Cynthia Pelayo and Vheto Gutierrez Vazquez and will be a beautiful addition to any horror lover’s book collection.

Disclaimer: Thank you to It Came From Beyond Pulp for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

5/5 Stars

Review: The Black Veldt by Michael Reyes

Jose Carvel is a dirtbag reprobate, but he wants to be a better person. Really, the guy can’t help what he has become. Abandoned at a very young age and abused in every respect, and without a name of his own, Jose struck out on his own as a young teen. He took the name Jose from a trucker, “who didn’t molest me,” and the last name Carvel from a man in Kansas, “who didn’t make much use of the name.” He has little to no memory of his early life and what he does come from nightmares and flashbacks. Jose has spent his life running from the unknown and the compulsion to commit violence.

In his broke down East Side neighborhood, he befriends street kids and feeds stray cats by day, scores cocaine for himself and heroin to sell to his manager and co-workers at the bookstore. At night, he tries to get some words down on paper as an aspiring writer. Drugs, strip clubs, and booze abound in Jose’s life in New York during the Summer of Sam.

Out on the town in New York City, he sees bewildering sights, runs into people who recognize him and call him by other names than his chosen one. On one of his nights of debauchery, Jose sees a familiar girl at the train station where he likes to hang out and watch people. He’s pretty sure he’s seen her before, and when he did, she was committing suicide and in possession of a bag full of photos of missing people from around the country.

When he and Javonka finally connect, he is shown a world of demons and learns that they have dominion over him. He also learns that Javonka is his soul mate, and he will do anything to be with her, even fighting Hell and darkness itself.

I loved this novella; it had the perfect mix of depravity and dirtiness that was the perfect setting and perfect for the time it is set in. Jose isn’t meant to be liked, he does a lot to prove this point, but you still feel for the lot in life he has drawn. I wouldn’t change anything about the length or content of the story, to take anything away would make the story less effective.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of The Black Veldt for review. I also read this book through my own Kindle Unlimited subscription, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

5/5 Stars


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Review: Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy by Hailey Piper


While I have read other works of Hailey Piper’s, this was my first collection of short stories written by her. Like her other work, I was not a bit disappointed. Hailey is famous for creating consistently excellent writing. This collection has 18 stories, a little something for every taste, be it body horror, queer horror, cosmic horror, dark fantasy, and more.

With it being a collection of short stories, I thought that I would be able to jump from story to story, but this was not the case. Some stories required deep thought and reflection.

As with all her writing that I have read, there are deep themes of trans rights and gay rights, of love, of isolation and loneliness, of longing for acceptance, and despair upon being rejected. Themes of tearing yourself apart and rebuilding yourself into the person you were born to be.

For me, the standout stories of this collection were “Feast for Small Pieces,” where a woman brings home a man who comes on to her sexually, only to use the best parts of him to heal others who are sick or broken, “The Law of Conservation of Death,” tells the story of a ghost who pursues the woman he claims to own him throughout her every reincarnation, and “Candyland”, my favorite in the collection, where teenage girls make themselves “sweet” to be valuable to aristocrats for whims until they are consumed by them.

I could go on and on about this book. I highlighted and copied so many quotes that spoke to me, but I will not add them here because this review would be nothing but quotes. You will get something from every story in this collection, some deeper truth that will strike you when you read Hailey’s words.

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Review: The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell


In 1952, while on a school trip to France, Dominic Sheldrake believes something is not quite right with his teacher. When they return home to Liverpool, Christian Noble’s strange behavior continues and concerns not only Dominic and his best friends Jim and Bobby (Roberta), but also their parents and the headmaster of the boys’ Catholic school. There are also rumors that Mr. Noble is a Spiritualist and has begun leading a congregation to believe that he can help them communicate with their dead loved ones. And when the church tires of him, Noble announces his intention to begin a church of his own.

Dominic, Jim, and Bobby investigate Mr. Noble. They watch his house, follow his movements, and even fake a chance meeting in a park with his wife to try to get information from her. Once his church is established, Dominic makes a discovery more monstrous and dangerous than they ever dreamed possible.

The Searching Dead is my first Ramsey Campbell book, and I didn’t really know what to expect from his writing. When I chose it, I was not aware it was the first book in a series of three. Initially I had difficultly and even considered DNF-ing it because it felt very slow to me. Now I know that the story was so slow because he was building a world and a backstory that will carry over to the other books in the series.

There are some creepy and chilling moments that raised chill bumps as I read. It does not have loud, grotesque scares; instead, it relies on quiet horror to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. To me, those are my favorite kind of scares.

Mr. Campbell did an excellent job building his world, his descriptions of post-war Liverpool make you feel like you are their seeing the bombed-out buildings, dealing with the difficulties of rationing, and the excitement of new advancements in technology as they were in 1952. I love that he created characters that are easy to identify with, the relationship between Dominic and his parents, the strict structure of the priests at the all-boys Catholic school, and the sinister way Mr. Noble interacts with his own family, particularly his young daughter Tina. Above all, I love the camaraderie between Dominic, Jim, and Bobby, or as they refer to themselves, the Tremendous Three. I am hoping they are still close in the later books.

I was not the biggest fan of this book in the beginning, but now I am looking forward to seeing how Mr. Campbell carries this saga forward in the next two books.

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4/5 Stars

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

Disclaimer: Thank you to Nyx Publishing for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Left for dead by the soldiers who pillaged her village, a peasant girl is given the gift of eternal life by consuming the blood of a stranger. Raised from near death and renamed Constanta, she becomes the bride of an immortal king, the unnamed Dracula.

In the ensuing centuries together, Constanta becomes jaded and bored with their life as aristocrats. Tired of all of the time alone while her husband studies both the living and undead for answers to their very being. Traipsing throughout Europe and fleeing wars, he seeks to add more brides to their relationship, the beautiful aristocrat Magdalena and the gorgeous and fiery Alexei, much to the initial dismay of Constanta. What starts out as anger and jealousy, quickly turns to love and passion and a sense of family between the four characters.

Still not sated with his brides, the never named Dracula becomes increasingly violent and cruel to those he professes to love. That cruelty creates consequences that force Constanta to chose between love and devotion to her husband or to protect lives of those who she has also grown to love.

The novel is told in first person point of view from Constanta's viewpoint. It is clear that the story itself is being told to the never-named Dracula.

This is a gorgeous piece of gothic horror- it is dark, tortured, blood drenched, and has steamy sex scenes between all four characters. Each character was well fleshed out and interesting in their own right. I would love to read this story from the point of view of the other characters.  A lush retelling of the brides of Dracula story with a polyamorous relationship, A Dowry of Blood is the spiritual successor to Anne Rice's Vampire series, in my opinion. 

With the blessing of the author, I am adding the trigger warnings that she included for the novel. A Dowry of Blood contains depictions of  and/or references to: emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner abuse, gaslighting, war, famine, and plague, blood and gore, consensual sexual content, sadomasochism, self harm, body horror, violence and murder, alcohol use, depression and mania, sexual assault, drug use, and drowning.

 5/5 Stars

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Polis Books for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Detective Lauren Medina, reeling from the recent death of her father and an impending divorce, is called out to a murder scene of a teenaged girl. Expecting but not finding evidence of gang violence, Medina is stunned to see a piece of graffiti that reads PIED PIPER. Her partner thinks nothing of it, insisting that it is a new tagger trying to get his name out, but it stirs feelings of dread in Medina as that same symbol was seen at the scene of her younger sister's tragic death years before.

As there are cases of kids killing other kids, and more and more sightings of the PIED PIPER graffiti all over Chicago, Lauren is racing to find out how the cases of murdered kids are connected and how the Pied Piper is connected to it all.

This book is Cynthia Pelayo's love letter to her beloved Chicago. It is honest and unflinching, invoking both Walt Disney and Frank L. Baum in contrast to H.H. Holmes and The Chicago Strangler. The way she weaves the history of the city in with the stories of crime gives Chicago itself the feeling of a gritty fairy tale.

The book is gripping and fast paced and there are dark, gory elements that will get your heart pumping. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, gripping story and didn't want it to end. 

5/5 Stars

#ChildrenofChicago #NetGalley



Review: Moon Child by Gaby Triana

Thank you, Gaby Triana, for the eARC of Moon Child in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

From the first time I saw the cover of Moon Child on Twitter, I was intrigued. When I read the description of The Craft meets The Shining, I was sold. When the opportunity came up to be able to review Moonchild, I jumped at the chance and I'm so glad I did.

Moonchild, is the story of Valentina Callejas, known to family and friends as Vale, and her struggles to free herself from her strict matriarchal Catholic upbringing, while embracing her growing connection to the occult. In a move shocking to even Vale herself, she abandons her yearly Catholic youth camp stay, and returns home to face her mother and grandmother's anger and concern. Tired of their controlling nature, their aversion to her growing interest in the occult, and the secrets they keep regarding her father's death, Vale turns to the only other person she can trust, her illegitimate half-sister, Macy.

At Macy's home in Central Florida, Vale finds peace and freedom to explore her growing psychic powers. One night, she is visited by a wolf and led through the woods to the derelict Sunlake Springs Resort, where she finds four young clairvoyant squatters who claim that they have been awaiting her arrival to complete their circle.

As she jumps into learning about her psychic powers, she is subject to terrible sights and experiences, as well as threats from one of the Clairs she is seeking to help. She in a fight to learn the truth about her father and his mysterious death, the truth of what the Clairs are seeking from Sunlake Springs Resort, and in the end, what Sunlake Springs Resorts wants from them.

Right off the bat, I am a sucker for Southern Gothic horror, and Gaby knows her stuff.  I live close to the area where the novel is set in Central Florida and she 100% has her descriptions of the weather and appearance of the areas around Vale and her friends down.

One of the main aspects of Moon Child that I loved was the amount of representation in it. The main character and her immediate family are Latinx, her half-sister is also a woman of color, and there is LGBTQIA representation within the group of Clairs. I hope more books take Moonchild as an example of how to make their books more inclusive.

 The story has a slow growing sense of dread and the tension is palpable right up to the very last page.  I was hooked from page 1 and finished in one sitting because I had to know how it ended. 

5/5 Stars

Review: The First Ten Years: Two Sides of the Same Love Story by Joseph Fink & Meg Bashwiner

 Before reading this book, I had never heard of Joseph Fink or Meg Bashwiner. I had heard of Welcome to Night Vale, the international hit po...