Rain falls on an open jar lying on its side. Slips of paper spill out; each slip has a penny taped to it. Text: "Robert Ford. Matt Hayward. A Penny for Your Thoughts."

Creepy Reads: A Penny for Your Thoughts by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward


Fresh from a stretch in prison, Joe Openshaw is living at home with his father and trying to get his life together again. He has let go of old habits, especially the ones that turned him into an addict and helped land him in prison.

On a hike along the Lowback Trail, Joe stumbles on one of the town’s oldest secrets buried long ago, if not forgotten.

It’s an unusual but safe enough treasure a jar of old pennies. What interests Joe isn’t the pennies themselves, but the pieces of paper taped to every coin a child’s handwritten wish on each one.

When the first few wishes come true, they are simple things. Fun. Harmless.

Except as time goes on, Joe realizes they aren’t really wishes at all…they’re exchanges, and the bill was racking up.

Nothing is free in life.

Sooner or later, you always pay.


  • Title: A Penny for Your Thoughts
  • Authors: Robert Ford and Matt Hayward
  • Cover Artist: Ben Baldwin
  • Publisher: Poltergeist Press
  • ISBN: 1999341988
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2019
  • Content Warnings: substance abuse/addiction

I’d like to thank Matt Hayward for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.


I often find that my writing style mirrors the style of the book I’m reviewing: if the language was rich and complex, I wax rhapsodic using ridiculously long sentences; if it was short and sweet and brutal, my writing is a little punchier. After having read A Penny for Your Thoughts, I’ve discovered that when I’m ambivalent about a book I opt for the tried-and-true “Pros/Cons” review format. I’d like to end the review on a positive note, so I’ll start with what I didn’t like about the book.

I’m not going to lie to you I almost DNF’d this book at about the 5% mark. One of the fastest ways to get me to stop reading your work is to overuse italics, and this book uses italics like it uses articles and conjunctions. I’m sure some of you will say, “Why are you getting so hung up on grammar and punctuation? It’s the story that matters.” Yes, but the grammar and punctuation are what hold the story together. I find an overly italicized style of writing incredibly distracting, and it takes me completely out of the narrative. I feel like writers who italicize every other word don’t trust the audience to parse the text properly, so they lead the reader by the nose and tell them every single word that should be emphasized in a sentence. It’s irritating as hell.

The casual, disgusting misogyny also bothered me, especially the frequent use of the charming phrase “split bottom” and similes like the one at the end of the following sentence:

If my parole officer came sniffin’ around the shop, it wouldn’t do much good to have him peer through the glass and see the place covered in cobwebs and dust like an old woman’s abandoned cooch.

There were many, many more examples like this most of them with gratuitous italics and random quotation marks but you get the picture.

If you read that quote and thought “So what?” and if you don’t share my punctuation pet peeves, then this book will probably be right up your alley. But if things like that annoy you, let’s see if my Pros list makes you more inclined to check out this title.

So here’s what I liked. The story is original and intriguing. I love the authors’ questioning of an idea that most of us never think anything about: you throw a penny into water, you make a wish, and your wish comes true. That’s just how it works, right? But as Robert Ford and Matt Hayward point out in their story, one measly cent is an awfully low price to pay for the universe taking your deepest desires and turning them into reality. There has to be a catch somewhere. Ford and Hayward explore the true cost of the magic of granting wishes through a compelling story with some magnificently creepy moments. You don’t learn much about the entity that turns these wishes into reality, but what you do learn is enough to keep you up at night. It’s a great example of not showing too much of the monster, and I really appreciated that unknowable aspect of the cosmic forces at play.

Ultimately, A Penny for Your Thoughts is an idea that I like written in a style that really, really isn’t for me. That’s one of the great things about horror, though: there’s something in the genre for everyone. No matter what style you like or what subject matter makes your pulse quicken, there’s a book out there that you will love. Based on other reviews I’m seeing, there are a lot of people who adore this book; unfortunately, I’m just not one of them.


I give this book 3 out of 5 coffins.

3 Coffins


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