The Worst Reviews of the Best Books (Part 1 of 4)

Welcome to my complete lack of objectivity and creepily plagiaristic response to some of the amazing books I’ve read this year. I’m offering the disclaimer that I rarely review books now that I (attempt to) write them, because:

  1. I’m a moody reader. Maybe I don’t give a shit about how much you loved your grandma today. Hit me up tomorrow. With cookies.
  2. I can’t help “shopping” – aka guessing what you’re going to do and thinking how I’d twist your ideas in my own work. (In the world of visual art, “original” is pure nonsense. Everything’s been done before, so don’t sweat about stealing.)
  3. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – especially a friend’s – with a badly placed word or a clumsy comment. My opinions and reactions are just that-opinions, reactions, impressions.

Without further ado, join me in butchering the reputations of some of my favorite people who wrote books this year! You all know the big name authors, so here’s my selection of a few books by working writers who care about the craft that I’m keeping my eyes on.

“The Possession of Natalie Glasgow” by Hailey Piper took a bit of time to get going for me, and then hit me so hard at the end. The secret of the possession, and the story revealed once it’s told, is poignant and shocking and bordering on the mythic. It flips opens a level of parallel worlds between mothers and daughters in a way you don’t see coming, and speaks to an experience of human love beyond the romantic or sexual. Horror and violence born from love? Yeah, you know I’m there for it.

The fact that the cast is all female struck me as so important in our burly he-man world of horror. This book is an answer to female horror tropes. Rather than possessing her pre-teen girl with nameless pea-soup spitting evil, Piper develops a monster we can care about and identify with. I’ve been reading more of her work since “Possession,” and I admire the realism she shows in relationships between women, the thoroughness of character development, and her perfectly smooth technical writing chops. (Yes, punctuation and spelling matter.) I admire her skill with depicting the subtleties of female friendships in a way I’m not sure I’m capable of. Okay, I’m a bit jealous. Piper is the feminist writer I think I should be, but I’m too busy grabbing all my characters in the crotch.

In summation, start with “The Possession of Natalie Glasgow” and keep reading Hailey Piper. She’s going to start winning awards soon. I think she has the magical ability to write diversity in an orderly and wholesome way that seeps through ignorance to beguile the masses and kindly, gently change minds for the better. And to be spooky as hell at the same time.

Here’s the link: “The Possession of Natalie Glasgow”

Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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