Title: Slush
Author: Glenn Rolfe
Synopsis: Four young boys pick up a coin and welcome its curse. A sweet romance ends in a shallow grave to be revisited again and again. A girl's field hockey team exacts revenge on their coach and her dreaded 'whistle of the damned'. Parker Stephens discovers that some paths are not safe to walk after sunset.
In these twelve dark and powerful tales, Glenn Rolfe, author of The Haunted Halls and Boom Town, welcomes you to the dark side.
Take his hand and slip into the shadows...
Publisher: Alien Agenda Publishing

I bought this book simply based on a booksta photo.  This cover is insanely gore-geous. I don't normally enjoy short story collections and I had never read the author before, but fuck it! 

Slush is a twelve story collection.  As most collections do, some where meh, some were good, and a couple were WOW! "Jackie Boy" and "Ballad of the Best-Selling Author" were those stories for me. Let me start with those:

"He chewed and smiled, enjoying every slippery, slimy chunk before swallowing."
"Jackie Boy"
Totally gag-alicious.
A boy has a strange hunger that he can't satiate. This one made my eyes tear up and my gag reflex remind me who is boss.  I loved it!

"Jackson said, 'You know why Stephen King steers clear of zombies?'
'Because he already wrote Cell?' Betrand said."
"Ballad of the Best-Selling Author"
I completely relate to Jackson.  Zombie stories are overdone and often not done well. So this one surprised me a bit.  
⭐⭐⭐⭐+.5 star for the LGBT+ rep!

Now I will rate each story in order they appear in the collection:

Skull of Snakes ⭐⭐⭐
A boy finds a cursed coin and death spreads.  Not the most original of stories but still enjoyable.

Sweet 16 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Gives credit to the phrase, I love you to death.

The Curse ⭐⭐⭐
Witches, Bullies, and Field Hockey! Oh MY!

The Delicous Death of Parker Stephens ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Kids! Dinner is Ready! Side Note: never let someone's child walk home alone.

I'm in Here ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the short version of my biggest fear. Creep factor to 11.

Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ok wow.  Does this method work for unwanted fat?

Something Lost ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This tugged at my heart strings a little ❤

Candle Magic ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Witchy vibes! I'm loving it!

Flaws ⭐⭐⭐.5
Well written.  Horrible personal view of a killer. But I am confused on what his "flaws" were.

Halloween Worm ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A story of sweet, sweet revenge. 

Overall score of 3.8 rounded up to 4!

Edited by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Cover Art by Jason Lynch, Cover design by Glenn Rolfe

Dead Clown Barbecue

Dead Clown Barbecue
Author: Jeff Strand
Synopsis: A man who finds a severed nose on a plate on his dining room table. A bell that can summon Satan (maybe). Casual Fridays at work that get out of control. A cheery outlook on the post-apocalyptic landscape. The final thoughts of a doomed skydiver. A girl punished by having to share a bed with her grandmother’s corpse. Revenge via baking a tarantula into a cake. A shocking look at where those awful computer-generated book covers come from. And the lost tale of Fangboy.
These are only a few of the demented stories in DEAD CLOWN BARBECUE, a collection of thirty gleefully macabre tales, seven of which were written just for this collection. There’s even a brand new one about a ventriloquist dummy. Those things creep you out, right? You’ll laugh. You’ll scream. probably won’t actually scream, unless you already had issues before you started reading, but you might cringe and get a little spooked.
Publisher: Dark Regions Press

"They can take away my freedom. They can take away my arm. They can take away my life. But they won't take away my smile until they eat my lips."

Jeff Strand brings us another collection of comedic horror in Dead Clown Barbecue, filled with 29 short stories that do not disappoint. I found each of the stories unique and innovative and many were burst out laughing funny. 

The introduction. The Introduction! It was perfect.  We get Strand humor right off the bat, with a side of marital bliss.  

Pett Senmuteary: Oh, poor Tipsy. This story tells of the joys of living by the Pet Cemetery and wanting to please your wife.

Comeuppance: Curse you Tom Booth! Destroyer of mediocre men!

The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad: An optimist and the apocalypse.

The Bell...FROM HELL!!: "Love conquers all, but in a pinch, you can fake it."

Work/Life Balance: With freedom comes great responsibility.

Stop Stabbing Me: Wanna play a game?

Eight-Legged Vengeance: Please do not ever bake a spider into a cake.

The Drop: What would you think about if your parachute didn't open while sky diving?

Here's What Happened...: Who ordered the turkey sandwich?

Pregnancy Test: If pee sticks could talk...

Mr. Twitcher's Miracle Baby-Chopping Machine: Stand up for what you believe in!

The Carver: Want to hear a joke?

Push the Button: Would you push a button to collect $1,000,000 but someone you didn't know would have to die?

My Knife Collection: Serial killer caught by serial killer

Drain Bamage: Do NOT drop the baby!

Gramma's Corpse: You better study harder.

Burden: Please remember to always wear your seat belt.

Rough Draft: More notes than story. Cute concept.

Fangboy and the Troll: Here, eat this.

Dead in the Water: Zombies and a jet ski.

Immunity: Getting bit, with a twist.

The Big Bite: 65 foot vampire!
Specimen 313: Feed me Seymour!

We Believe: Grandma got ran over by a reindeer.

Poor Career Choice: If you're going to put out a hit, pay more than $50.

True Hero: 

Chomp (A Cautionary Tale): Ha, ha! You lost an arm!

The Severed Nose:

Dummy: I'm a real boy!

Overall score: 105/140 3.75 rounded up to 4!


Octavia E. Butler
Grand Central Publishing

Continuing with my commitment to reading diversity, I picked this one up. As my first Octavia Bulter experience, Fledgling surprised me.  I have enjoyed vampire stories since my Bunnicula days and usually they have a heavy accent and super pale skin.  Vlah! Vlah! Vlah!

"I don't say Vlah Vlah Vlah!"

In this beautifully told tale, Butler builds us the world of the Ina, a species of vampire that live just on the outskirts of human civilization for over ten thousand years.  Many common vampire rules are thrown out. And then there is her exploration of power dynamics in relationships which at times could be very uncomfortable.

The story begins with Shori, a young girl with severe memory loss, that will walk us through the discovery of who she is, what she is. She has the appearance of a preteen African American child, and since her skin is dark, she can survive sunlight; something other Ina cannot do. 

Ina live in families.  They are born, not made.  There human symbionts, humans whose blood sustains them, but they don't kill, live among them in a symbiotic relationship. As the story continues, Shori learns what she is and finds Ina and humans to start her own family group.  Some of her kin start to tell her what happened, the terrible attack that killed her entire family and left left her alone, afraid, and without memories.  After finding out what she is, she must take the next reasonable step, find out who is responsible.

Since Shori looks like a child and has sexual relationships, this book is often labeled problematic or endorsing pedophilia in a healthy way.  I saw it that way at first, but she is actually 53 and that is just a young Ina.  I flopped back and forth with the disgust of child sex and the fact that some women can look like a 12 year old as an adult.  I know a few.  So where do we draw the line? I perfer to just let the reader figure that out for themselves. 

In Fledgling, Butler uses the Ina people's prejudices and fears as a stand-in for our own culture's inherent racism.  The last several weeks have been busy with a racial revolution.  This novel shows us clearly why it needs to happen.  I could rant about how white treat BIPOC and LGBT+ in America, but I think you'd only have to go outside and open your eyes to see everything.