Apropos of the season, I just finished Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör. I saw this book on display at BEA14 and was lucky enough to snag a review copy from the lovely people at Quirk once it the review date loomed.

Horror as a genre isn’t typically my thing because I’m am the biggest wimp that ever wimped. But there is no resisting this book. It screams “pick me up and never put me down.”

Welcome to Orsk, the European box-store to which American suburbanites flock en masse for affordable some-assembly-required furniture and home goods. Start off on the showroom floor, following the Bright And Shining Path, which will usher you through your shopping experience onto the market floor where you will mindlessly fork over all your money ever. The store environment is expertly designed to subtly disorient and keep shoppers moving and spending, but what if something more sinister is at work?

Every morning shop partners at the Cuyahoga Orsk open the store to find broken furniture, graffiti, and smelly, unidentified substances smeared on displays. Before a corporate review, some employees will take an overnight shift to get to the bottom of these midnight mysteries, but what they discover is more baffling — and horrifying — than they could ever imagine.

Who among us hasn’t had the momentary fear of being lost in an Ikea forever? Horrorstör takes that fear, along with about every other fear you’ve ever had, and twists it into one masterful work.

Bonus points go to this book for the packaging. At first glance it looks like an Ikea catalog, with a glossy cover and illustrations of various furniture pieces with vaguely European and/or Scandinavian-sounding names. As the story progresses, the furniture begins to look more and more like torture devices, which is just a spectacular touch.

Horrorstör is at turns hilarious and terrifying, but always riveting. I definitely recommend it. And what better time to read a creepy book than on Halloween?

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Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is another book that I initially heard about on the Book Riot podcast (I might be saying that a lot — I finally managed to catch up on roughly a year’s worth of episodes and my TBR list is noticeably longer as a result).

I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you that I really liked this book. So much so that I’m planning to buy a physical copy of it at some point (I read a copy from the library). That being said, I get the impression that this book isn’t for everyone.

“The wife” used to exchange love letters — postmarked Dept. of Speculation — with her husband. The book is a glimpse into the joy, despair, and uncertainty of relationships and life.

It reads as a very internal and personal reflection, not quite stream-of-consciousness, but edging toward that border.

Lungs Full of Noise is a mesmerizing short story collection by Tessa Mellas. I first heard about it while listening to the Book Riot podcast. I’ve been trying to explore more short story collections recently and this one sounded so fascinating that I decided to give it a shot.

Many of the stories in this collection have a weird, creepy, almost sinister sense to them. They remind me of Karen Russell’s work, but a bit darker.

The Goodreads blurb gives a good idea of what to expect

This prize-winning debut of twelve stories explores a femininity that is magical, raw, and grotesque. Aghast at the failings of their bodies, this cast of misfit women and girls sets out to remedy the misdirection of their lives in bold and reckless ways.

Mellas explores the struggles and relationships in women’s lives with an edge that makes the stories all the more exciting to read.

I really enjoyed Lungs Full of Noise and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to read some fantastic short stories with a little edge. These stories might not be everyone’s thing, but if you really enjoy Karen Russell and slightly twisted fiction this might be in your wheelhouse.

John Niven’s Straight White Male is another one of the books that I picked up at BEA 2014.

The titular straight white male is Kennedy Marr, an Irish novelist of the high-functioning alcoholic, womanizing, roguish asshole variety. He has a number of Hollywood script projects that are delinquent and he’s in the midst of a terrible bout of writer’s block, not to mention all the back taxes that he owes to the IRS. Then Marr is unexpectedly awarded the W. F. Bingham Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Modern Literature — a prize that could fix all his problems, but comes with a catch: the honoree must teach English for a year at the awarding university. And guess where his ex-wife works.

Straight White Male is kind of just about Kennedy boozing and womanizing and, maybe occasionally trying to be a slightly better person while dealing with growing older, but definitely not wanting to grow up.

Not a whole lot happens in terms of character development, or even plot really, but it’s an entertaining enough read if you enjoy this sort of character. Marr is someone who I would be inclined to punch if I ever actually met him in person, and while he is often insufferable in text, it is somewhat interesting getting into the head of such a character.