Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

★ 1.5 Stars

Genre: Romance / Erotica
Publication Date: May 25th, 2011
Publisher: Vintage

Volunteering to read Fifty Shades of Grey is like volunteering to be waterboarded, except with poor writing in lieu of water. Just when you think the torture might be over, another faceful of metaphor slurry and childish dialogue floods into your lungs. You knew what you were in for, and you knew exactly how fun it would be, and yet some irrational seed nudged you into doing it anyway.
In a way, Fifty Shades does succeed at being the ultimate act of sadomasochism. It actively hurts to continue and yet you remain compelled to. This is not so much out of intrigue, as trying to figure out what value anyone could possibly see in the experience. Why was there such a mysticism and phenomena surrounding this chunk of fanfiction? That’s all it is, really, and reading the entire series I imagine would be something akin to spiritual suicide.

At the height of Fifty Shades of Infamy, I saw what I’m pretty sure were middle-schoolers toting copies of this stupid book. Which, by the way, the physical design shocks me. The cover is as aggressively uninteresting as its innards, and looks like an early vanity press churn-out. It has that same plastic, filmy feel and cheap JPEG texture to the design. I couldn’t believe Vintage published this! Their books are typically beautiful. It’s like they were subtly trying to inspire you to avoid it, but were stuck promoting it at the same time.

Fifty Shades of Grey, as you likely already know, revolves around a closet serial killer, Patrick Bate– I mean, Christian Grey, who, in his spare time between being a pompous entrepreneur and being a Criminal Minds villain, seduces a blushing idiot named Anastasia. They get into a relationship that borders on abusive and a series of embarrassing euphemisms ensues. What is supposed to be steamy deflates quickly as it begins to come off as creepy.
The more mundane scenes aren’t much better, full of nonsensical pseudo-economics and a general dull lack of realism I shan’t bother going into, because you might fall asleep on your keyboard. On the other hand, you might accidentally type out a better book than this if you do, so maybe I will…

I am a survivor of Victorian in-joke Irene Iddlesleigh, so in fairness, Fifty Shades is hardly the worst book I’ve ever read. Sure, it’s tedious and insulting, and romance readers deserve better, but it is at least a functional book that humans can read easily using their eyestalks. But that’s a bare essential, not a compliment.
Everything about this novel is boring. “Boring” is the deadliest of the seven book sins. Rarely, the amateurish writing has the good grace to be amusing, especially with the “sex scenes”, which are almost the exact antithesis of sexy, coming off as peculiar, awkward and strangely prudish, despite trying their maximum try-hard level of hardest to be edgy. But mostly, Fifty Shades of Grey is more like Fifty Shades of Brown, because it’s about like watching molasses drip. It’s not even fun to parody, as you’ll notice if you look through the plethora of equally boring parodies that were churned out in its wake. Continue reading “Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James”

“The Dominant” Featured in Infernal Ink

A poem of mine, “The Dominant”, was featured in the Spring-Summer 2019 edition of indie magazine Infernal Ink, if you’d like to check it out. Not a collection for the youngsters, obviously, not with that tagline. Some pretty sultry and gruesome themes. This poem will probably also appear in another compilation of mine that I’ve got planned for this summer.
To be honest, I don’t remember when, why or where I wrote “The Dominant”. I think it was circa 2014 or so, maybe later. It’s one of my numerous, numerous writings about the disturbing sensuality of food and hedonism. This is the Kindle edition, there are also paperbacks available on Lulu if that’s more your style.

Infernal Ink Spring-Summer 2019

Follow my poetry on Tumblr.
Get my newest book on Amazon.

Book Review – Better the Devil You Know by Bey Deckard

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Paranormal
Publication Date: October 1st, 2015
Publisher: Independent

Wherever the soul lies, I feel mine has been vivisected to shrivel in shame just for being familiar with this novel. I don’t even feel good about writing a review, and I write gruesome stuff for a living.
It’s pretty controversial, being banned from a handful of book outlets, notably Smashwords. Quite ironic, considering Smashwords is known for not rejecting much in any genre.

Better the Devil You Know is a straight-up Alighierian horror dressed up as an erotic romance. A knife-wielding demon in the skin of an unusually flirtatious angel, if you will.
I admire Deckard’s bravery in publishing this book, but am tortured in giving it a good rating. To say it is “disturbed” is an understatement. Calculated and extreme violence abounds.
The reason I think I liked it in spite of its gut-churning details, is because I find novels on the facets of human cruelty to be poignant and more potent than other novels.
A heartwarming book will be kind and remembered fondly now and then, but a heart-crushing book will survive time and not allow you to forget it. This one definitely won’t.

Bey Deckard is a talented writer, especially with characterization. This makes the extreme violence that much more unpleasant because the author builds a sense of sympathy for even the characters you know will die.
Well, except for the protagonist. There is no sympathy for him. I hesitate to call Byron Danielsen a “pro“tagonist, as ending up in an enclosed space with this man is a fate worse than death, but that’s what he is.

Byron is the source of the book’s controversy and discomfort, a serial killer and torturer with no emotional scale in particular. Karma won’t even touch the man with such a hostile, almost alien set of mannerisms and even when he dies and goes to Hell, the devil himself is like:
“Is this even a human being?”

The religious themes when Byron goes to Hell bothered me some. It’s very Inferno-esque, but it’s not that the themes are offensive (though they easily could be, fair warning) but that they’re not handled that well. I think in trying to steer more towards realistic fiction than paranormal, a lot of the underworld-building was handwaved away. Hell is basically like a bunch of office buildings that are perpetually on fire or otherwise buried in stone.

Better the Devil You Know is outrageous and revolting, but also a little tragic. It’s egregiously mislabeled, so much that it seems trolling – I found that it was categorized under “romance” – and is definitely more cut out for someone who like disturbing thrillers. Sure, this is emotionally strong and painful, but it is NOT a love story. Unless you consider demons posing as a man’s victims to torment him romantic.

If Better the Devil looks like something that’s up your alley, go for it. It is in all fairness a well-written and original book, but don’t say I never warned you. Graphic content abounds and I’ll note a trigger warning for torture and dark sexuality.

Art Book Review – Autopsyrotica by Chad Michael Ward

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Photography / Horror
Publication Date: May 1st, 2006
Publisher: NBM Publishing

Ward’s art is daring and sinister. Its human skin is sepia, like an antique photograph found in a secondhand music box stolen from a dead woman’s vanity.
As for horror, it’s subtle and leans more towards gothic burlesque and steampunk than anything, with a touch of Victorian occult smeared in there. I found Autopsyrotica (how exactly is this pronounced?) by chance. My buglike antennae start beeping whenever oddball horror artbooks are present, so I was intrigued when they scouted this out.

The positive is of course, the photography. It looks straight out of a back alley surgery or a seedy velvet-curtained stage in an alternate early 1900s. Wherever Ward found all these rotten experiment chambers and unhallowed vampire tombs, his work on capturing their residents is darkly beautiful.

Image result for chad michael ward autopsyrotica

For the negative, it seems awfully small for its cover price. The paper quality is decent, but half of the book is blank-ish pages with a small blurb of commentary on them. As if to tease you further, the last page is a collage of artworks that weren’t fully pictured in the book. Cruel.

Book Review – The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Thriller / Erotica
Series: The Original Sinners
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018
Publisher: 8th Circle Press

Enter decadence through a gilded looking glass…
The Chateau is like rich gâteau and jazz in the hours of the night when all sin is absolved, and a sensual-sinister echo of the Decadent Movement with modern sensibilities. Mostly.

Lieutenant Kingsley Boissonneault is tasked with infiltrating a secretive cult when his commanding officer’s nephew has been drawn into it, whether by will or force he’s not sure. The cult itself seems to Kingsley like a reverse garden of Eden, a haven of open decadence that is his ideal, if he’s honest, but it’s no stranger to a deeper darkness, and he knows there has to be a catch that both the officer’s nephew, himself, and the other men living there have fallen prey to.

It’s not my usual genre, but I liked its colours as both a mystery-thriller and darkest romance – it spares neither blood nor honey. I’m a sucker for the paradox of opulence and torment, and this has it in spades, especially with Kingsley, who could be its posterchild. A flawed and selfish protagonist, oh yes, but a bad protagonist he’s not.
The ice-blue, nightmarish dreams of his one past love are absolutely haunting.

The pace drops to a brisk walk in the second half, but its language is as luxurious as gold always, even when it’s rolling in the worst gutters of relationships. I think that more erotica should be like this – unafraid but intricate. The Chateau is a wink laced with twisted secrets and gleaming with an overdose of paradise. It sticks to your thoughts like sugar.

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Valentine’s Quick Fix – Dark Romance Recommendations

If you like a bit of blood in your sugar, these are a few book recommendations I have for the month of Valentine’s – a sweet but sinister mix of love and the macabre.

❤️ The Splintered Trilogy by A. G. Howard

One of my personal favourites, a creepy yet emotionally-infused retelling of Alice in Wonderland, crawling like the worms on a dead hare with surreal horror and beautiful writing. Also see my full reviews of Ensnared and Unhinged.

❤️ The Forbidden Game by L. J. Smith

Nightmare meets reality – by far one of the better YA paranormal books, though I feel the first entry is the best. An otherworldly dream-crafter grows an obsession with a human girl, trapping her in a bizarre world of his creation.

❤️ Merry Gentry Series by Laurell K. Hamilton

A sensual, decadent romance of Faerie. To me it seems much darker than your average eros, but for the better, if occasionally over-the-top.

❤️ Kwaidan by Jee-Yun

Kwaidan is an rather obscure graphic novel, despite being utterly beautiful. Fully printed in lavish ink and watercolour, reminiscent of traditional Japanese art. Star-crossed lovers reunite when they are reborn as a blind artist and a girl born without a face. An unusual mix of folktale and gruesome drama, with ill-fated love at its core.

❤️ Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

See my full review of this novel. Loosely inspired by the film Labyrinth, a surprisingly deep, eloquent and melancholy story about a romance encased in bitterness. It might as well be poetry.

❤️ Legend of Me by Rebekah Purdy

It’s not out until September, but I received an early copy for review and already recommend it. My full review will be up soon. Legend of Me is a young-adult novel with a definite Grimm flavour to it, just laced in lovely imagery and with solid characterization.

Book Review – Mistletoe Red by R. Kitt

★★★★ 3.5 Stars

Romantic, sly and intriguing. A “mistletoe” who can control and spawn plants from thin air, Sunday Merkwood, falls into a forbidden love with the beautiful blood-sucker Jamie Tepes. In the shadow of Romeo & Juliet, their families have long-standing animosity still flaming between them, and to make matters worse, Sunday’s family have already begun to arrange her marriage to another.

I enjoy the fresh concepts – different types of vampires comingling with other, more unusual magical sorts like the “mistletoes”. There are no mortals, either. Not one mundane old human to be found in this book! It’s truly difficult to add new facets to the vampire myth, so I like that this one changes it up.

For me the biggest positive was the dialogue, which is great fun. It’s like a tennis game of back-and-forth coy remarks. As for any negatives, I would’ve liked further explanation on the mistletoes and their abilities. It is somewhat a mystery even by the end.

Book Review – Ax : A Collection of Alternative Manga by Sean Michael Wilson (Editor)

★★★★ 4 Stars

“From deep within the damp earth, rotten tree roots and strange demons, comes a fetid gasp and a scarlet stare. Come, come closer and discover my mystery…” – From “Into Darkness”

A great menagerie of equal parts deliberate grotesque, schizophrenic stray thought and a bit of surreal fever dream. That 4-star is a very unevenly rounded star. It’s more like a blobby mass of squashed mushrooms than it is a star.

About a third of these short manga are aggressively “WTF” – drawn for the sole purpose of being offensive. People can draw what they like, but in my opinion that is still one of the worse reasons to draw something. Doesn’t keep some of them from being enjoyable, but keep in mind that they are quite out-there, and shy away from nothing.

The other two-thirds were creative and boggling of the mind, in the best way of course. A broad and for the most part, quality showcase of alternative artists working in gekiga (lit. “dramatic pictures”) and its evil twin ero-guro, genres that seem sadly to be in perpetual obscurity outside of Japan. Some that stood out, for good or bad:

“Into Darkness” by Takato Yamamoto – A piece of nightmarish poetry set to Lovecraftian, BDSM-ish imagery. It is also unabashedly beautiful in every aspect. The fact that this is the only widely available work by this artist is an outrage, because wow! Easily the best of the collection. 5/5

“Conch of the Sky” by Imiri Sakabashira – This is where the true fever starts to kick in. A comic interpretation of a literal nightmare. There is no linear plot as would be in a nightmare, but really well-written and with a fascinating art style. 5/5

“Mushroom Garden” by Shinya Komatsu – So adorable! Everything about this comic is amazing – a very cool (and shockingly mild compared to the previous) short about a boy who decides on a whim to abandon his rock-collecting for growing fungi. 5/5

“Six Paths of Wealth” by Kazuichi Hanawa – Wonderfully raunchy horror story about two women who become the size of ants after an encounter with a strange being. The ink work in this is superb. 5/5

“Rooftop Elegy” by Takao Kawasaki – A mystery short with a fantastic twist and interesting art that looks more like a Western comic than a manga. 4/5

“Les Raskolnikov” by Keizo Miyanishi – Fascinating and surreal, elaborate and utterly beautiful drawings as well. 4/5

“Twin Adults” by Kotobuki Shiriagari – Simple but funny, with some insightful social commentary. 4/5

“A Broken Soul” by Nishioka Brosis – Drab-humour short about a man who loses his soul unexpectedly, so tries to revive it by sticking a hand drill into his brain. Apparently he also lost his knowledge of basic human anatomy. The art style is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s. 4/5

“Inside the Gourd” by Ayuko Akayama – Gentle and sweet. A man raises a cocoon inside of a gourd, which turns into a butterfly who leads him to the woman he will marry. 4/5

“Alraune Fatale” by Hiroji Tani – A man rescues a beautiful woman who dissolves to death those she seduces. Strange and provocative, if it did go a little over-the-top. 4/5

“Puppy Love” by Yusaku Hanakuma – A (human) couple tries to raise a litter of puppies who are actually their children, by some baffling defiance of biology. Kind of cute… in a demented way, and an unusual analysis on parenthood. 3/5

“The Watcher” by Osamu Kanno – Started out intriguing, then random nude dance routines ensue and it falls to pieces. The hyper-realistic detail on the characters’ faces is also oddly clashing with their stringy, unrealistic limbs, but the art is not terrible. 1.5/5

“Arizona Sizzler” by Saito Yunosuke – Probably the worst of the lot. It’s like if you extended restroom graffiti into many panels. 1/5

5/5 – “Into Darkness”, “Six Paths of Wealth”, “Mushroom Garden”, “Conch of the Sky”, “Les Raskolnikov”
4/5 – “A Broken Soul”, “Rooftop Elegy”, “Alraune Fatale”, “Twin Adults”, “Inside the Gourd”, “My Old Man & Me”, “Enrique Kobayashi’s Eldorado”, “The Rainy Day Blouse”, “Tortoise and the Hare”, “Up & Over”
3/5 or 3.5/5 – “A Well-Dressed Corpse”, “Push Pin Woman”, “The Neighbor”, “The Brilliant Ones”, “Black Sushi Party Piece”, “Love’s Bride”, “Stand By Me”, “Kosuke Okada and His 50 Sons”, “Home Drama: The Sugawaras”
2/5 – “Sacred Light”, “Me”, “300 Years”, “Haiku Manga”
1/5 – “The Watcher”, “Arizona Sizzler”

General Score – 4/5 Stars

(Would recommend 17+ – while a few of the stories are mild, most of them are extremely graphic in most aspects.)

Artwork Batch #2 – December 2017

Reap of Goblin HarvestThe last art post before the end of 2017, and we’ve only just gotten started! Come visit the remodeled gallery. These are the new pieces, also available on my Deviantart page.

  • “Halo of Samael”
  • “Childish Desires”
  • “Plasmata”
  • “Dandelion in Bitter Breeze”
  • “Midnight Showing – Live Twin Corpses”
  • “Gutsplicer Country”
  • “Sweet Saccharide”
  • “Reap of Goblin Harvest”