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Hershey: The Dog from Hell!

In life, she gave Jerry Palmer hell.

In death, she gave the devil hell.

Now she’s back and raising hell!

The Melancholy Strumpet Master

The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck is a captivating work of fiction that will leave you thoroughly entertained. The story follows Gilmore Crowell, a Ph.D. student struggling to find new research material for his anthropology doctorate. Gil’s original study about Tijuana street walkers had been approved, but he is now stuck in an academic slump with deadlines looming over him. In an effort to get more material, Gil joins a juvenile center. He pays streetwalkers to speak with him, leading him to make connections with Mexican prostitutes and, ultimately, to conceive the idea of creating a website that promotes their services for free.

Set in 2002 Tijuana, Beck expertly applies references from that time period, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the story. Despite the book being eventful and covering Gil’s work life, academic life, and research pressures, it remains easily digestible and engrossing. Beck’s ability to incorporate the struggles of grad school life, tough work environments, and deadlines into the story makes it incredibly relatable. Seeing Gil persevere in the face of adversity is truly inspiring. Beck’s witty writing style is a highlight of the book and adds to its comical nature. The main character, Gil, is intriguing. The cast of side characters, including his boss Bertram and the various prostitutes who advise him on anthropology, are all well-developed and add to the story’s overall charm.

Overall, The Melancholy Strumpet Master is a humorous and uplifting book that will put you in a good mood. Fans of Dark Humor will immensely enjoy this story, and those that are looking for action and intriguing plotlines will not be disappointed.

Pages: 260 | ASIN : B0BW825D2M

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Godsmack Part I

Godsmack Part 1: The Mother Earth is an intriguing book that combines a criminal gang, spirituality, love, and regret. This suspenseful book follows the story of Yahn Marynugh, who, in his quest for a simple life, ends up in the heart of a dark plot (or so it may seem!). After leaving his day job, he embarks on a journey of peace and natural living. Meanwhile, a group of heroin producers, under surveillance by the police, wreak havoc on themselves and those around them.

I really enjoyed Josie Peterson’s writing style. She writes formally and ornately, which is a pleasant change from most crime thriller literature. This formed a nice contrast to some of the controversial topics covered, such as drugs and violence. In addition, it was interesting that the majority of the characters in the book were homosexual men, especially considering the book’s direction.

The whole story is unique and makes the reader work hard to uncover the details. This fast-paced story is filled with suspense and exhilarating moments. The plot takes twists and turns when readers least expect it so readers should be fully engaged if they want to follow the action. I think that readers would benefit from an author’s note to explain the relevance of the first chapter and its overall meaning to the story. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, but each has its own backstory that adds to the plotline. I especially like the way that Josie Peterson developed each of their personalities, creating a mix of empathy and somewhat disdain for most.

Godsmack Part 1: The Mother Earth is a stimulating crime novel laced with dark humor. Readers who enjoy life’s darker side and an engaging crime novel will find this one hard to put down.

Pages: 357 | ASIN : B0BFNN1KBM

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Khaos Has Come

Fast-paced events, swift yet meandering dialogue, and hilarious wit combine with a convoluted yet wonderfully wacky plot in Simon Carr’s Khaos Has Come. The next book in the Apocalypse Blockers series, this science-fiction book can be read independently without feeling too lost—the nature of the plot and the dialogue ensures that.

The entertaining book is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s universe-building. Rick Toenail, leader of a small group of people known as the Apocalypse Blockers, and his team are desperate to stop Khaos from taking over Earth in all its versions and simulations. To do this, they must stop Khaos from crossing over from the realm of information into the material realm. The team comprises various characters (two priests, a Goth girl, a vampire, a blob, and a seventeenth-century English scientist, to name a few). It picks up several others along the way, not restricted to humans (Evil Mouse, the kangaroo being one such). The directness of the writing, along with the sometimes deliberate repetitions and humorous stating-of-the-obvious, certainly puts the reader in mind of Adams’ writing, and the side-splitting laughter on account of the Pratchett-esque wit of subtlety and ribaldry makes this book utterly gripping.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Khaos Has Come. The characters were well-drawn, the dialogue was rambling and delightful, and it juxtaposed nicely with the fast-moving plot. I also especially liked how the author breaks the fourth wall and makes known his feigned exasperation with readers who pick up the nineteenth book in a series and expect to understand all references. I’d most definitely go back to read the previous nineteen books!

Khaos Has Come is a rousing dark humor science fiction novel that will have readers laughing and also asking, “what just happened here” as the characters take them on a journey they will not forget. This addition to the Apocalypse Blocker series is sure to keep readers of the series coming back for more.

Pages: 403 | ASIN : B0BJC6H589

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Tales From An Odd Mind

Tales From an Odd Mind is a collection of somewhat strange short stories and poems that may seem to have little in common at a glance. Still, on deeper examination, they explore the same overarching theme of death and present an emotional portrait of humanity in all its effervescent diversity. The author chooses to write anonymously, under the name of ‘Nom D Plume,’ literally meaning pseudonym or pen name, but is known to firmly deny their works from having any autobiographical elements. So, it is interesting to note how personal and intimate each character appears to be, with detailed habits and traits established well within the short stories despite their brevity.

The most attractive feature of these stories is their unpredictability. Every dialogue or plot detail gives the illusion of leading us somewhere, only to surprise us with a sudden turn of events that is totally unanticipated by the reader. In the first story, for instance, we never expect the introduction of a new character towards the end of the story, but what makes it even more intriguing is how the ultimate effect of the story is never compromised. This deliberate way of an absence of foreshadowing gives the pieces their distinctive mysterious, and enigmatic nature.

However, as a reader, we are often left wanting more. Each story begins with a lot of promise and then collapses in on itself. Although deliberate on the author’s part, one must admit that the stories seem a little incomplete, given their abrupt endings. Are they written only as a means to an end, experimentation with the form of writing, with no interest whatsoever in the several different character developments that take place? Do they simply follow a preordained series of steps that build up with no goal to reach and no message to be delivered?

Perhaps, that is where the beauty lies, in trying to find meaning where there might not be any. Particularly poignant to this context is the back-and-forth dialogue between origin and dandelion; we struggle to understand the depth of their conversation, which is peculiarly reminiscent of pre-programmed responses of a chatbot or AI entity. Dabbling with various genres, this collection has some really powerful and compelling narratives. Recommended for all those who like reading fantasy, science fiction, or tales of reunion beyond death. 

Pages: 148 | ASIN : B08CZSX412

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Doing Time in California

Nearing the end of his jail sentence, Kimo decides to make a quick escape for the weekend. Holding the image of golfing with friends in mind, he walks off the premises during yard duty. A chance encounter with the alluring Rachel turns his solo getaway into an adventure for two. They meet up with Kimo’s best friend, Frank, Frank’s brother, and his wife, who has long been the love of Kimo’s life. Kimo’s perspective shifts as he learns of tragic developments that have occurred since his incarceration, and his free days are now filled with a purpose more significant than golf.

Doing Time in California is an entertaining, humorous and thought-provoking novel by Dwight Jesmer. This is an ensemble story that plays out like a road trip story, but the characters are more compelling than some B movie comedy and the exploration of life throughout the novel feels meaningful. The characters are unique, and their various quirks compliment each other in fun and funny ways.

The tone throughout the book is friendly and lighthearted, so even as we navigate morally complicated subject matter it’s a pleasurable experience for the reader. Throughout the story, Kimo references events from his past, but the storyline stays firmly rooted in the present; which makes it easy for the reader to feel like they are along for the ride with Kimo, experiencing everything in real time with him.

Through themes of sin and penance, the author threads questions of morality into the story, so that readers are constantly considering the goodness of the protagonist. This question of right and wrong serves as the main device that drives the drama forward throughout the novel. Though nontraditional, I found it very interesting to follow the story in this manner. I heartily enjoyed this story and the creative examination of morals but I would have enjoyed a deeper exploration of the minor characters because I found them all so fascinating. Doing Time in California is a charismatic and evocative novel that will appeal to anyone looking for a story with depth but keeps things light.

Pages: 282 | ASIN: B0BM3BV8NS

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Childproof by Michael Noonan is a dark comedy about Rose and Will, a couple who love to throw parties; in fact, their lives revolve around them. They have, in fact, constructed the perfect party group composed of three other couples who fit their strict requirements. Life is a whirlwind being the center of attention, being praised for their parties, but one day that all ends when one of the couples announces their pregnancy. One by one, the other couples follow suit, leaving Rose and Will alone in their childless lives. Over time the pair comes to miss their old lives so much that they decide to go to great lengths to get their friends back, even if it involves murder.

The first thing I liked about this book was that it gave a definition of dark comedy, which I feel also serves as your warning that this book is a dark comedy, which is an excellent thing it did. Said comedy starts at the very beginning, as the couple contemplates ending their lives in a spectacular newsworthy fashion. Please don’t consider following in their footsteps. The book did contain a couple of memorable lines that’ll stick with me, which I always find a plus. It’s hilarious how Noonan also gives us the thoughts of animals and babies in this book; it’s great getting their input on each situation.

I found the backstories, and while informative and funny, they made me forget their original point. Then there are the backstories within the backstories that made for a disorienting reading experience. A couple of characters featured throughout the book were annoying, and while that was their point, I found they were so much so that their scenes grated on my nerves.

Childproof is a full-on dark comedy that will entertain and shock readers. It pulls no punches and leaves no insult unused. You’ll constantly be saying: “Did they really make a joke about that?” If you like your comedy extremely dark, then this is your book. While the darkness of the comedy could be a bit much for readers, it was a well-penned book.

Pages: 266 | ASIN : B0BF4PCBTW

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Not Entirely Wicked

Christopher Fried
Christopher Fried Author Interview

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo follows a college sophomore whose life gets turned upside down by a whirlwind of events he did not see coming. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Since I had graduated from college in 2007, I had noticed what I view as questionable trends in university life. It seemed like there was an increasingly censorious nature on college campuses. This is abetted by social and news media outlets wanting to push scandal stories without getting the facts and background on the situations, as well as campus administration, faculty and student governance moved by mob mentality, weak wills, or even spite. However, I didn’t want to write an overly somber story, so I tried to include the humorous tone of 1980s popular cinema, such as Steven Spielberg and John Hughes films, and 20th century English comedic authors like Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh. I wrote and revised the novel in 2014, but set it aside until 2020 when I hired a new editor go over it and had it published myself.

The characters in your book were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

It’s important for characters to have a life outside the pages of a story, especially in a novel. This means that though the story focuses on life in 2011-2012, it’s important to show that the characters have lived before the timeframe, and will live after the last page. I tried interweave minor details of the characters’ pasts that might point to the reason why they’re reacting in the current situation. Also, even though a number of characters act or think in ways that are suspect, or destructive, from my point-of-view, I tried to draw them as foolish, or capable of doing bad, but not entirely wicked. They may have zeal, and that is usually a good quality, but it’s for the wrong thing, or it’s taken too far. Conversely, for the more positive characters, even if they make the better choice in the end, it’s rather dull if they don’t stumble or express doubt along the way. I think even heroic characters should express cowardice at times, otherwise it can be hard for us to relate to them as readers.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

As mentioned above, campus culture, especially around topic of excessive judgment, thought conformity, and free speech. The notion that the university as it was intended to be is in a state of decline. T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland took the reader through a succession of images showing civilization in disrepair. I wanted to take the reader through a similarly nightmarish journey of contemporary academia from the eyes of the protagonist Troy Thomas (hence the subtitle) that sadly is all too real. However, on the positive note, I wanted to show the value of individuality and loyalty. I also highlight the importance of art (books, films, paintings, etc.) as a unifying factor. That’s why I include references to highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow materials.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Currently, I’m not working on a book, though I do have an idea that has been circulating in my mind. Though it’s not as firm so as to start sketching characters and an outlined plot. I don’t like getting involved in something then quitting mid-way due to lack of interest or other reasons. Outside of work, my time has been taken up by writing poetry and non-fiction articles, something I was involved in before I went into fiction. Also, as a supporter of 1980s culture and lover of science fiction, I’ve been serving as an advisor to an upcoming documentary on 1980s science fiction films, In Search of Tomorrow. Once it finishes and is released, I encourage all 1980s and sci-fi fans to check it out. It’s a bit of positivity in a sea of negativity.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

It’s Fall 2011, and Troy Thomas and his best bud Ian Mueller, a top college lacrosse recruit, are enjoying life as sophomores at Central Ohio University. Living each day without serious care, they spend their free time hanging out with friends and attending parties. However, one evening Ian makes a serious social faux pas at a gathering that offends a few and embarrasses much more. Soon after, the campus is in an uproar. A whole slew of shenanigans ensue as Troy tries to make sense of not only his friend’s actions, but that of the reactions and behavior of the college community, which causes ripples throughout the state. During this chaos, Troy tries to discover who he is in a community gripped by social unrest and finds out whether friendship will crumble amid such division.

Darkly satiric, but touched with a nostalgia for 80s and early 90s pop culture, a tragic situation turns into a resounding comedic affirmation of individuality. Though inspired by twentieth century wits such as Kingsley Amis, Anthony Powell, and Evelyn Waugh, it’s a twenty first century piece of modern Americana: a timeless story conceived in a timely era.
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