Book reviews from incredible Indie reviewer & the awesome co-host of the Mothers of Mayhem podcast, Christina Pfeiffer.
When You Become A Body
By Michelle Butcher
Michelle is a quiet force in the community and I’m about done with that. I’m going to be loud, obnoxious, and overly annoying about this short story. This is your warning.
David is dead. Stella, on the other hand, is not. David loved Stella so much he wanted to help her with her grief and have an at home body disposal. But… does… Stella? Agent 164 is only a call away and there is lasagna for everyone!
Michelle. Michelle. Michelle. I had hoped for more literary fiction in 2023, and by God, you delivered! WYBAB is what happens when your loved one tries to help and you have to desecrate them. OK, maybe there is more to it than just this but it boils down to: is death about the loved ones wishes or the living’s grief process?
… and that is where the genius lies with WYBAB. Butcher gives us heartfelt, catharsis , and shows us dark humor while exposing vulnerability to our own morality. She had me asking myself questions throughout. Could I do what Stella has to? Did David do the right thing? Would I be strong enough? But it also shows the beauty of true love.
Such an easy 10/5 stars. Yes, that’s right. She wrote something off of my star rating.
By Kristopher Triana
Triana can write some brutal, insane, depraved shit (ex. AND THE DEVIL CRIED and NIGHT STOCKERS w/ Ryan Harding) and his newest continues this trend.
Jonathan Zain is a washed up has been horror movie villain. After 15 movies, a new director has a vision that doesn’t include Jonathon. Meanwhile, sisters, Ellie and Rachel, are at a week long summer camp experience that just so happens to be the exact camp in the original Lunatic movie, starring, you guessed it, Zain. Will the reboot go off without a hitch? Who will be yelling cut at the end of this slasher?
Triana takes the slasher trope and somehow makes it meta as fuck, which I loved! He also has a colorful cast of characters so the reader can attach themselves to any one of them (I liked Zed and Brianna the best). He also takes a look into the movie/fan world and it’s kinda creepy (says the chick who refreshes her feed for new release info on books all the time). If you love slashers, blood, more blood, insane villains, and some final girl action thrown in, EX-BOOGEYMAN is for you.
What Good Girls Do
By Jonathan Butcher
Ooooooh buddy. Let’s just dive into WGGD.
Girl is “f****d in her smooth c**t” by her Daddy and other Daddy’s. Serenity is getting some alone time with her husband while her oldest son bathes their twins. The only problem is, Girl has escaped Daddy and has some issues to work out. Like a lot. And Serenity’s family is at the center of her working through them.
OK. Um… So. Wow. I listened/read WGGD at the same time and it is an experience. Butcher does not shy away or pull any punches with descriptions. It is graphic, unnerving, anxiety inducing, and I couldn’t stop reading it! But… that ending. I have read over 500 stories/novels in this genre to date and very few make me not only speechless but want to scream at the characters. WGGD ranks as my number 1 “what the fuck just happened and why am I not OK?”. It’s something special and will stay with me for a very long time to come. I cannot wait for the sequel.
5 stars without hesitation.
By Jason Nickey
Jason started out as a reviewer in the community and that’s where I stumbled upon him. Little did I know, he would quickly become one of my favorite new authors and his newest collection solidifies why. With seven stories, there is something insane for every one of us. Let’s check each of them out…
The Bachelorette Party - Pre-Wedding Jitters Part 1 - Moral of the story: always listen to your gut, strippers are the devil (no matter how hot) and be on the lookout for omens. Oh, and always have a clever DJ. This one is insane from beginning to end!
The Bachelor Party - Pre-Wedding Jitters Part 2 - Old men are unforgiving jerk faces and so are old vices in the city of sin!
The Christmas Guest - Don’t expect to stop by a cemetery near Christmas and not pick up a new “friend”. Prepare for whiplash with this story.
Night of the Living Sex Doll - Even when not flesh and blood, women are possessive. Also, put your “toys” away or your kid might find it.
The Maid in the Mirror - Four high school friends come together for a weekend but when they play an old game, who gets out alive. (Bonus: I die in this.)
Past Due - Utility Horror Part 1 - What happens when your gut feeling is ignored, and you develop Stockholm Syndrome Hillbilly edition.
Final Notice - Utility Horror Part 2 - Jonestown 2.0 mixed with Smile. A great short to end the collection. (I wish it was longer.)
Any way you go, this is a superb collection! Nickey has a way of sucking you in and even though the endings are satisfying, you wish there was more.
By Edward Lee
Are you a lover of Hell tropes? Well… if so,
Cassie gets caught doing something that was going to be scandalous, but her twin sister Lissa takes care of things before it does. After Cassie finds three “friendly” ghosts in her house, it is revealed she can take little jaunts into Hell, but Lucifer wants to have an eternal sleepover and needs Cassie’s powers.
It’s Lee, so you know it’s amazing to start with. This is a quartet so be prepared to be in for the long haul. I’m starting the third and I cannot get enough! The vivid descriptions will be stuck in my mind for a long time to come. (Fun fact: Mephistopolis shows up in other Lee works, just putting that out there.)
The characters are rich and well developed for the first in a series and while there is an obvious cliff hanger, (it’s a freaking quartet, people, that’s not a spoiler), it doesn’t piss you off. You’re more like, “YAY! let’s move on to the next one.”
By Edward Lee & Ryan Harding
Let’s stay with Edward Lee and bring in his partner in crime (or chyme as their co-authored chapbook is appropriately titled), Ryan Harding, and sit a spell while I talk about Header 3. (Disclaimer: You can absolutely jump into the trilogy with this one or be normal and start with Header).
Three rich boys head (ha) to somewhere between Luntville and Crick City for a weekend of cheap debauchery. What they find is a hock party (more about that later), a golf ball job, and all kinds of absolute shenanigans. Oh… and a header or two.
There is no secret that I’m a fan of both Lee and Harding. But putting them together… well, friends, that’s the real treat. When I first read it, the hock party was a trigger. But now… it’s a possible new kink to try. Header 3 is the perfect continuation with some unforgettable characters and situations. One header will stay with me for a very long time.
It just recently (within the past week or so) became available as an audiobook and friends, when I tell you you really need to listen to the hock party scene through your ear holes, it’s the only way to go. This is one to not be missed.
Hate To Feel
By Chandler Morrison
Oh, Chandler. How did you write this 6+ years ago and make it so personal to my life today? Time traveler? Possibility is there.
Derek is not so lucky with the ladies until he meets Scarlet Hester (A Scarlet Letter reference (?)) and his life changes… but not exactly for the better. Can their love endure or are they doomed?
I have been in an emotional spiral for over two weeks because of this book. It read too much like a mirrored reflection and I was not prepared for that. Give me baby munching and forced Q-tip eating (IYKYK), don’t give me emotional damage where I’m sobbing while highlighting quotes. What I don’t understand is how this novel doesn’t get near the praise that Dead Inside does. This is brutal, raw, and well, personally unnerving.
You want some quotes that will ruin you in the best of ways? Here you go:
“And besides, feelings are feelings. You can’t control them, even if you’re only supposed to have them for one specific person. I just don’t think the heart always works like that.”
“And since you clearly don’t love Amy, you should stay with her. You can’t get hurt in a loveless relationship. You don’t have anything to fight for. Nothing is at stake. With love, everything is at stake.”
“Even in the face of recent cruelty and spiteful outbursts, I love her more than yesterday, and less than tomorrow.”
BUT! This book also has the signature Morrison themes, reoccurring characters, and hidden Easter eggs. Oh, and people do die in very fucked up ways. So, it’s not all a sob fest. And there is so much catharsis throughout. I could go on for hours about it, but I won’t.
5 stars. Obviously.
By Patrick C. Harrison, III
I haven’t read much by PC3 as he likes to be called but this one, I’m glad I picked up.
Bartholomew (or Bart) Bartley is having some lady troubles. He can’t seem to find “the one”. Or even one that will give him the time of day. He knows his statistics aren’t good but he tries anyway. When fate puts the seemingly perfect woman in his path, he takes the chance… but is she his 100% match?
100% MATCH… look. I love statistics. I’m a nerd on more than just words. Give me some numbers and a percentage sign behind it and BAM!, you got a fan. Add to that absolute mental insanity and a healthy dose of perversion and I’m done. Stick a fork in me. This one is short, so you can have on the go perversion if you so choose. I really wish it was longer though but I can’t have everything I want. No matter the percent chance of me either pouting or being annoying and that percentage is high. I was super impressed by this. 5 /5 stars (that’s 100% in case you didn’t get the joke, ha).
By Ronald Malfi
I have read one other by Malfi but this is so different than COME WITH ME, and I’m so glad for that. GHOSTWRITTEN is four novellas that have a common theme among them. Let’s look at each one.
The Skin of Her Teeth - this was, by far, my least favorite (but don’t panic, I promise it gets better!) An author is assumed to be writing the great screenplay from his novel but… things definitely do not go as planned.
The Dark Brother’s Last Ride - two brothers, Tommy and Danny have been tasked with getting a locked briefcase from point a to point b but there are conditions: only to use the map provided, don’t open the briefcase, and for God’s sake, don’t touch whatever is inside. Will they get to point B without any problems or will they get more than they bargained for?
This Book Belongs to Olo - a young boy with no friends invites some neighborhood kids to his 10th birthday party. His Mom is a famous author and Olo wants to be just like her so he has a special book all of his own… but don’t read or touch it! Can his “friends” hide their way to safety or will Olo seek them?
The Story - Grady and Taryn hosted a podcast about spooky shit. Well, at least until Grady left. When Sammy calls with some bad news, Grady starts trying to solve a mystery that he will wish he left alone. (This was my favorite story and wish it was a full length novel.)
It starts out rough but if you can power through the first one, I promise you will grow to love it. There are so many fun interweaving of themes and little Easter eggs in the stories that it makes it all worth it. 4 stars.
Bob's Pest Control
By Ryan Hyatt
Ryan Hyatt is quickly becoming my new stalkee (is that the right word, meh). When I see he has a new release coming and I refresh my timeline for more information, a preorder link, anything. Well, I was lucky when he asked if I wanted to check it out. I calmly (obviously, because I’m the calmest person on the planet) said yes.
Bob is an exterminator. Actually I should probably put “exterminator”. Yeah, that feels more Bob like. He was a conjoined twin until his Doctor Mom separated him and brother Rob. Well, Bob has a special formula for dealing with … pests that he makes in his own garage. Look, he just wants his hometown to go back to the way it was … in the 80s. Is that too much to ask?! With his malpractice loving brother, LA will never be the same. And neither will his … exterminations.
What a breath of fresh air, Hyatt is! Seriously. This one focuses on nostalgia of the 80s, (I have almost a whole page of references, it is jam packed) and the yearning of a simpler - to Bob at least - time. Social commentary is something Hyatt does and does well. It’s a shortie at 37 pages so grab a Tang drink and enjoy your date with Bob. I know he would appreciate your slap bracelet collection. Again, an easy 5 stars.
By Lucas Mangum
Lucas Mangum can do no wrong in my eyes. He writes anything from semi-autobiographical novellas such as AMERICAN GARBAGE to absolute insanity with PANDEMONIUM (with Ryan Harding). So, of course, I had to buddy read MANIA and friends, I was not disappointed.
William is a filmmaker who has heard some crazy stories about a cursed screenplay. (It’s OK, stay with me here). People die or lose their minds whenever the film is set to be made. Will William become another notch in the ghost’s proverbial belt or will he finish the movie unscathed?
I’m not easy to scare in books. I mean, it’s a book. Movies, I’m a wuss though. But there is a scene with Rachel and a mirror that made me want to yeet this book across the room because I’m not about that life. (IYKYK). Mangum weaves a scary story with something that feels like it could actually happen and that speaks to his ability as a writer. I’m not exactly sure why this one hasn’t received as much hype because I’m going out on a limb to say (and this hurt me) that this is better than SAINT SADIST, and I LOVED THAT ONE! The atmosphere in this is oppressive. Even during the happier scenes, there’s this lingering dread. Pick it up if you want to have a jump scare or two. An easy 5 stars.
Nympho Nurses Ton-Up Terror
By Peter Caffrey
Peter is a genius. The man can write poetry, novels that feels like Waiting For Godot, and absolute full-on insanity like Nympho Nurses Ton-Up Terror and friends, you are in for a treat.
The gals at St. Hilda’s Hospital just want their yearly motorcycle club ride to go off without a hitch. Fanny Batter, Dawn Double Dee, and Ginger Bush have been looking forward to this but when Dr. Dick Thrust tries to ruin it, they are all in for a rude awakening… a sexual awakening. The military, in all of their genius, is also transporting a sex plague chemical and well… it doesn’t make it to the intended recipients. Who will survive the shag of the century? Tune in and find out.
I listened and read this one. (Twice, it’s that good.) Peter has that perfect British accent that just lulls you to sleep until he starts talking about glistening vaginas and monster penises. I cackled out loud so many times during it, I’m telling you though, listen to it. Its Garth Marenghi meets Grindhouse Quention Tarantino and I’m here for every word. Love it and Caffrey’s style. 5 stars.
Less Than Zero
By Brett Easton Ellis
Everyone knows my love of Chandler Morrison and this was one had been recommended to me to get a bit more into the inspiration of his works. Well, friends, let me tell you, I wasn’t prepared for the heavy boots this one forced upon me.
Clay comes home from an Eastern university to Blair and his other friends on the West coast. During his 4 week break he goes through (continues) walking like a ghost among those around him. Relationships are ruined. Secrets are forced into the open. And nothing will be the same.
There is so much in this novel. It’s so bleak and heavy and just kicks you into the abyss of hopelessness. I read it days ago and I’m still in this weird existential, self-loathing, life questioning spiral. I love it. All I ask from books is to feel something, anything. And this one delivered in so many ways. It’s shorter and it will stay with you for a long time to come. 5 Stars!
The Comfy Cozy Nihilist
By Nathan Ludwig
I LOVE COLLECTIONS! I don’t care who you are (minus like 3 people), I will read them. And Nathan won my heart over with his LOVE POTION #666 released last year. There are eleven stories so let’s get into them.
Fuck Fangsgiving - Kel and Dom come home for Thanksgiving and they have noticed that their family may be hiding a secret. (HILARIOUS!)
Welcome to the Show - Being tourists isn’t always a good thing. Relationships. Donkey shows. (Hot).
For My Next Switch, I’ll Need a Volunteer - Clowns. Doppelgängers. And scared assistants.
Recompense - Fallen demons. ‘Nuff said.
It Was Probably Just the Wind - What does a haunted house and an Only Fans account have in common? Freddie inside of them. (A FAV!)
In Here, With Us - Demons. Narcissism. Catholic Church. Confessional booth. (I LOVED THIS ONE SO MUCH!)
Me, The Jury - 12 jurors enter, only one can remain. Need this as a novella and I have already threatened rioting. You’re welcome that I take all the risks and YOU reap the rewards. (MY FAVORITE OF THE COLLECTION).
The Fourth Wheel - Being nice is sometimes Something of a killer.
Is That You? - Doppelgängers are to die for. Also, I share the same fear of doppelgängers.
Mick Wilkerson’s Awfully Big Day - A game show you would die to be on.
I’d Hit That - What do you do with 5 self-clones… try to keep them from fucking themselves to death and you. (I cackled through this whole story.)
You will be hard pressed to find a better collection out right now. This is a banger from the first story to the last. And Jesus, look at that cover! 5 stars!
Cold Case Corpse
By Ash Ericmore
Alex Cole is one of my favorite characters in fiction. He is the common man’s killer and I love him. So much. Like, I may have an actual crush on the character.
Alex is up for his license reissuing and must talk to a psychiatrist. If he doesn’t sign off, Alex is doomed to a life of grocery stocking and trust me, he’s not about that life. So, weekly he has to share what he has been doing, think confessional booth but with a lot more deaths. Does he get to keep his license? How many people die in this one? Read it and find out.
It’s Ash. So obviously it’s hilarious. Cole really has some perfect one-liners in this one. Here are a few favorites:
“The windows all shabbily covered by rotten looking curtains… you could almost smell the sexually transmitted diseases.”
“You know,” Phillips said, “you really should try to treat women more like people.” / Alex looked blankly at him, “Okay.”
There is a certain actor referenced (like 90% of Ash’s stories), tons of blood, gore, and absurdity. I have been told I have a recency bias but this one is by far my favorite. I really, really hope there are more Cole stories to come. Ha, come. Alex would love that.
By Jeremy Wagner
“The zombie novel is done. It’s oversaturated in the market.” I call bullshit. There will NEVER be enough zombie novels and RABID HEART proves that (written in 2012, published in 2018).
Rhonda is not living her best life. The necro-rabies virus has ravaged the planet and taken her mom and boyfriend in the process. On a routine mission to find food and any Cujo stragglers, Rhonda finds more than that… she finds Brad, her zombified boyfriend. When they go AWOL from the comfort of the Camp Deadnuts headed up by her dad, Colonel Kenneth Driscoll, and head for warmer weather, what could go wrong?! Cannibalistic raping midgets, children hardened by the new world, and supplies running out aren’t her only worries. Will they live happily ever after?
I love when zombie stories are completely not what I expect. RABID HEART has well… heart. It’s the quintessential love story; two lovers ripped apart by circumstances beyond their control, reuniting, and there are bumps in the road (in this case, at least, it’s dead bodies). Rhonda’s love for Brad is at times infuriating because you want her to let him go. But that’s the genius to this novel, we ALL have held on in a relationship for longer than we should. Comfort and fear of the unknown are to be blamed, and this is no different. It also plays into the idea of letting go of the old ways/world and moving on into the unknown future. Pretty fucking brilliant.
The climax is one of THE best I have read in a zombie novel, absolute and utter pandemonium. I was so stressed by the end of it my shoulders and jaw hurt from the tension. I recommend this one to anyone who loves zombies and/or love stories. You get both!
And for extra bonus points, check out Wagner’s band, Broken Hope. Personal favorites for albums are Swamped in Gore and Omen of Disease.
(It was also nominated for Best Horror Novel, 2019 Splatterpunk Awards!)
Available on Amazon in eBook and physical.
The Things We Bury
By Philip LoPresti
“But what do you do when you yourself are your only enemy?” Thus begins the latest read that ruined me for days. LoPresti was a recommendation read for me and I’m like, “OK, I will give him a shot…” and friends, I am 100% in literary crush heaven! This is my second from him (the first being A GOD OF FLIES AMONG THEM, buy that one immediately too).
Fenton works for some bad guys and most recently has been tasked with retrieving a duffle bag. What’s in it? Think Pulp Fiction and the briefcase. Well, not so shockingly, things go terribly wrong. While he holes up in a seedy motel waiting on the calvary, he meets Analise, and things get even more complicated. Dealing with the deaths of loved ones, mental illness, and insecurity as a father, Fenton must make decisions that will force his life on a different path.
TTWB… Jesus. Let’s start with the characters and how absolutely flawed and unsaveable (maybe not a word but it is today) they are. The main characters aren’t trash (completely) but they just exist in a world that doesn’t completely understand them.
How LoPresti pulls me into such a dark, bleak world and yet I can find beauty is something refreshing in my reads. Imagine Flannery O’Connor and Mike Ennenbach have a literary love child and you have LoPresti’s writing. It’s raw, dark, and gothic, but leaves you falling in love with the written word all over again. His characters fall in love too; with the past, present, love, death, loneliness, hope, and despair.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“If it weren’t for these fuckin’ nightmares, I could just sleep myself to death.”
“I’d rather not go to my grave screaming and heavy with regret.”
“When you first meet someone, you never think, I’m just borrowing them, but that’s exactly what it comes down to.”
“… and you certainly don’t choose who you fall in love with.” (Personal favorite.)
I need you to read this. I need you to experience the stunning prose and understand the totality of the damaged characters where as you read, you find yourself deep in their bones.
Available on Amazon in ebook and physical.