Review: Bone Parish, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn (Author), Alex Guimaraes and Jonas Scharf (Illustrators)

Cover of Bone Parish Volume 1Bone Parish, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn (Author), Alex Guimaraes and Jonas Scharf (Illustrators)
BOOM! Studios (May 2019)

112 pages, $10.83 paperback; $9.13 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Bone Parish is described as a “chilling necromantic horror story.” The Ash is a new, popular drug sweeping the underground scene of New Orleans. As with any new drug, rival gangs and interests are fighting over the supply, while few know the true secret of its origin — it’s made from the ashes of dead bodies. The visions The Ash produces are spectacular and unique, literally allowing the user to experience someone else’s life, until they overdose and die from the high. Writer Cullen Bunn is able to combine the traditional Gothic milieu of New Orleans with a horror story of necromancy and a typical drug dealer anti-hero story into one really interesting experience for the reader.Continue Reading

Review: The Bedlam Philharmonic and Other Poems by Steven Withrow

The Bedlam Philharmonic and Other Poems by Steven Withrow
Lulu.com (March 2020)

52 pages, $6.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Steven Withrow is a poet, author, and teacher from Falmouth. He is also a reporter for the local Enterprise newspapers. His poems for children and adults have appeared in journals and anthologies worldwide, including the National Geographic Books of Animal and Nature Poetry, Calliope, and Cape Cod Poetry Review. He visits schools and libraries throughout New England working with students and teachers in reading and writing verse. He is a graduate of Roger Williams University and Emerson College. His newest collection is The Bedlam Philharmonic and Other PoemsContinue Reading

Review: Keeping Score: Angry Tanka by Susan Burch

Cover of Keeping Score: Angry TankaKeeping Score: Angry Tanka by Susan Burch
Velvet Dusk Publishing (December 2019)

46 pages, $8.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Susan Burch is a prominent composer of English Language Tanka.  She began writing tanka in April 2013 after reading winning contest poems on the Tanka Society of America website. She loved the brevity of the form and submitted to Ribbons, which published her first tanka and encouraged her to keep writing. Since then she has placed in Mandy’s Page’s tanka contest, the World Tanka Competition, Diogen contests, the Haiku Poets of Northern California contests, the British Haiku and Tanka Awards, the TSA’s Sanford Goldstein tanka contest, and most recently, the Fleeting Words tanka contest. Her most recent collection is keeping score: Angry Tanka.Continue Reading

Review: The Apocalyptic Mannequin by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Cover of The Apocalyptic Mannequin by Stephanie WytovichThe Apocalyptic Mannequin by Stephanie Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press (September 2019)

114 pages, $13.95 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

The Apocalyptic Mannequin is a collection of poetry about the apocalypse, and those who survived. Wytovich attempts to tap into the emotions of survivors with her poetry, creating a cast of characters who explore their fears and pain; however, while there are some really inventive ideas and clever survivor stories in this collection, the majority of the poems ultimately fall short due to craft issues.Continue Reading

Review: Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press (December 2017)

162 pages, $14.52 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and her newest collection, also nominated for the Stoker Award, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare.Continue Reading

Review: When the Night Owl Screams by Michael H. Hanson

When the Night Owl Screams by Michael H. Hanson
MoonDream Press (October 2017)

154 pages, $12.95 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

When the Night Owl Screams is a collection of dark fantasy and horror poetry. It’s a wonderfully designed book with a very appealing cover, and features some very clever ideas. The poems, however, are clunky. Ultimately, this is a weak collection of poems.Continue Reading

Review: Frankenstein in Baghdad

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
Penguin Books (January 2018)

288 pages, $10.87 paperback; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary film maker. He won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for Frankenstein in Baghdad, which was recently translated into English and published by Penguin.

Frankenstein in Baghdad is a Dickensian novel, focused on multiple characters. The titular character, also known as Whatsitsname, comes into being when Hadi, a junk dealer, collects the body parts of bombing victims throughout Baghdad and sews them together in order that there be a body to bury and perform holy rituals for. This piecemeal body gains consciousness and begins to take revenge on the people who are responsible for the death of its individual parts; however, once an individual part is avenged, it begins to disintegrate, requiring the body to constantly be updated with new parts. This starts a vicious cycle of finding parts quickly enough to replace the disappearing parts, and soon the bodies of terrorists and criminals are used, which causes a madness in the creature. Continue Reading

Review: Zombie Apocalypse in Ditmas Park

Zombie Apocalypse in Ditmas Park by Kristine Scheiner
CreateSpace (May 2017)

32 pages, $6.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Zombie Apocalypse in Ditmas Park: A NYC Coloring Book Adventure for Ghoulish Hacks to Chillax is exactly what it sounds like. New York is invaded by zombies, and the rich blew up the bridges, so Brooklyn is left to fend for itself. Readers follow the adventures of the Scheiner sisters as they prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse Party. What ensues is a joyful romp through a zombie-filled wasteland rich with in-jokes that would make any zombie fan or New Yorker proud.Continue Reading

Review: The Lay of Old Hex by Adam Bolivar

The Lay of Old Hex: Spectral Ballads and Weird Jack Tales by Adam Bolivar
Hippocampus Press (October 2017)

328 pages, $20 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Adam Bolivar is a Romantic poet, specializing in the composition of metered and rhymed balladry, a traditional poetic form that taps into haunted undercurrents of folklore to produce spectral effects seldom found in other forms of writing. His poetry has appeared on the pages of such publications as Spectral Realms and Black Wings of Cthulhu VI, and a poem of his, “The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,” won a Rhysling Award for long-form poetry. His collection of weird balladry and Jack tales, The Lay of Old Hex, was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.Continue Reading

Review: Breathe, Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Breathe, Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Unnerving (October 2017)

176 pages, $13 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi  is an author, writer, journalist, editor, marketer, public relations professional, and photographer. Her first collection, Breathe, Breathe, published by Unnerving Magazine, was released to wide acclaim. This collection of short stories and poetry reached #2 on the Amazon paid Hot New Release Bestseller list, right behind New York Times Bestseller Rupi Kaur’s second book that came out at around the same time. It is a very accessible collection, though it often fails to deliver in terms of craft.Continue Reading

Review: Diary of a Sorceress by Ashley Dioses

Diary of a Sorceress by Ashley Dioses
Hippocampus Press (October 2017)

170 pages, $15 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Ashley Dioses has established herself as one of the leading voices in contemporary weird poetry. Known for her meticulous use of rhyme and meter and her melding of the strange and the romantic, Dioses has gathered some of her recent poetry into her first collection—a scintillating assemblage of nearly 100 poems short and long, published and unpublished. Titled Diary of a Sorceress, it is a really exciting collection of weird and dark fantasy poetry sure to appeal to any reader.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Black Bottle Man’ by Craig Russell

Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell
Great Plains Teen Fiction (February 2012)

176 pages, $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Black Bottle Man is a young-adult horror story based around the traditional “deal with the devil” plot. Russell, however, makes the plot seem fresh with his historical take. He also twists the traditional roles of the devil’s bargain into a unique novel which is sure to entertain audiences.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead’ by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree

The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead by Cullenn Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree
Oni Press (March 2017)

152 pages, $9.99 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

The Damned Volume 1: Three Days Dead can only be described as horror noir. It’s set during prohibition, when mobsters and criminal organizations build fortune peddling vice to the citizens of the city. However, those sins are controlled not by human gangsters, but by rival families of demons. The long-standing feud between two of the families is about the come to an end thanks to a brokered deal to consolidate power. But before things can be finalized, the bookkeeper tasked to brokering the deal is kidnapped along with a ledger that could spell doom for all the families.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The High-Maintenance Ladies of the Zombie Apocalypse’ by Melinda Marshall and Christine Steendam

The High-Maintenance Ladies of the Zombie Apocalypse by Melinda Marshall and Christine Steendam
Hazelridge Press (October 2016)

127 pages, $10.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

The High-Maintenance Ladies of the Zombie Apocalypse is exactly what the title conveys, a humorous attempt to pit pampered fashionistas against brainless, flesh-eating hordes. Taken in that spirit, this book is a complete success. It is at times silly, gory, irreverent, suspenseful and all around fun. Co-authors Melinda Marshall and Christine Steendam have concocted some clever heroines and given us insight into their survival skills. Overall, this is a quick, fun read that’s worth pursuing.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Lilith’s Demons’ by Julie R. Enszer

Lilith’s Demons by Julie R. Enszer
A Midsummer Night’s Press (December 2015)

64 pages, $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

For those who don’t know, The Alphabet of Ben Sirach is a medieval rabbinic text famous, amongst other things, for its reference to Lilith. Lilith is the woman that, according to Hebraic lore, God made before he made Eve; she was Adam’s first wife, but refused to submit to him sexually, so she flew off and became mother of demons. Julie R. Enszer builds on this mythos in her book, Lilith’s Demons.Continue Reading