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🍂Fall Blogging Events 2017🎃

SeptOctTBRBase2

Autumn is an embarrassment of blogging riches for me. Horror and mysteries are the genres I gravitate toward so I love that fall has become a celebration of all things spooky. This year R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril will again be joined by Bloggers Dressed in Blood for the duration of September and October. There is also Gothic September and, in October, the FrightFall Readathon and Season of the Witch over at Castle Macabre. And of course the next Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is Oct. 21st. I swoon in bookish ecstasy.

TBR

Progress

Continue reading “🍂Fall Blogging Events 2017🎃”

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It’s Monday, What Are You… (9/18)

…Reading?

Bird Box Chicago Magic: A History of Stagecraft and Spectacle Slade House

As expected, it didn’t take me long to get behind on my big, annotated Dracula, so that’s going on the back burning for the moment. I’m about a third of the way through Bird Box and I don’t know what I think. I didn’t expect so much of a post-apocalypse/survivalist vibe. Not a genre I’m keen on. I’ll also be reading Chicago Magic, which I picked up through my newly acquired hoopla access. I derailed an entire day looking though hoopla’s catalog. I’ll probably also start Slade House this week after I finish Bird Box.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

We’re finally in the midst of break from the heat. (I hesitate to say we’re done with the heat.) Daytime temps are still around 100F, but the nights have been down in the 70s. So much nicer. And therefore, it’s time for more Halloween in my work space.

What Was I Doing?

Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “The Witch”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Witch” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 3
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
Johnny is traveling by train with his mother and baby sister. Since the train car isn’t very full, Johnny is sitting on his own across the aisle. He says “Hi” to passersby and imagines seeing witches outside the window and telling them to go away. Johnny like to tell the occasional fib (“What is your name?” “Jesus”), but surely that’s what four-year-olds do. His mother is enjoying some quiet reading time in between taking care of Johnny’s sister. All is well until a man with a cigar stays to chat with Johnny. “Shall I tell you about my little sister?” the man asks.

“I bought her a rocking-horse and a doll and a million lollipops,” the man said, “and then I took her and I put my hands around her neck and I pinched her and I pinched her until she was dead.”

Of course, this rattles Johnny’s mother. The man continues. Johnny is amused. Mother is appalled. Finally, she manages to shoe the man away. “He was teasing,” she tells Johnny.

And we’re left with another mother in a Shirley Jackson story who isn’t a bad mother, but we wonder if this happenstance (could it have been prevented?) will leave some terrible scar on her child. And what are we to think of Johnny’s lying? There is a very thick feeling of judgement in these stories even though nothing is explicitly stated.

Peril of the Short Story

Review ~ Universal Harvester

Cover via Goodreads

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa—a small town in the center of the state, the first “a” in Nevada pronounced “ay.” This is the late 1990s, and while the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: It’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets—an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns She’s All That, a new release, and complains that there’s something wrong with it: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious. But he takes a look and, indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blinks dark for a moment and She’s All That is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, She’s All That is back. But there is something profoundly unsettling about that scene; Jeremy’s compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto Targets are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks much like a barn just outside of town.

There will be no ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same . . . (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Was cruising the horror section at the elibrary and was attracted by the cornstalks. Iowa? Creepy videos? These were both selling points (or rather borrowing points).

What Worked
Iowa and creepy videos were also the best things about Universal Harvester. This is a book with a very strong sense of setting (small rural towns) and a good peg on the people who live in them. There is a certain biographical short hand that can be given to each other, if you live in a state like Iowa or Nebraska (where I’m from), based on where you live. To live in Ames or Des Moines or Omaha is different from living in Nevada, Cresent, or Giltner. But you might know someone who moved to the “big city” or maybe your college roommate was from a farming town, so you suddenly have connectedness to those people and those places.

Part one of this book is about that dynamic and the very unsettling videos that Jeremy finds. For a while, we’re not given too many details about the videos except that they really throw Jeremy, and other characters, for a loop. Are they stuff films? Something Blair Witch-y? A deadly VHS video curse that needs to be passed on? The cover blurb (and, well, the title of the book) seems to imply some sort of cosmic horror. The point of view of the story is a very removed first person omniscient with a narrator who occasionally comments, somewhat intimately, on the events in the story, but doesn’t seem to be a character in the story. It is rather disconcerting.

What Didn’t Work…
Everything that wasn’t Iowa or creepy videos. The last two-thirds of the book somewhat explains what’s going on…somewhat. We flash back a generation for the history of a character that we have barely met and follow through her personal tragedies which in some ways mirror the tragedies in other character’s lives (notably, the loss of mothers). There was some level of menace to this, but mostly it was fairly unremarkable in comparison to the first third of the book.

Overall
The through line of the plot doesn’t quite work for me. Despite the long character histories, there are really very few answers given about what happened—why the videos were made, why people chose to participate in them, why they were spliced into random VHS tapes. Any conclusions I came to are nebulous. I’d say, if you’re looking for a literary novel that has a slight tinge of horror to it, this might be for you. I was really expecting something different.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/Overdrive, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 7, 2017
Acquired: Tempe Overdrive Digital Collection
Genre: literary, horror

Hosted by Kate and Kim at Midnight Book Girl

Hosted by Andi @ Estella’s Revenge and Heather @ My Capricious Life

Writing Update, 9/13

Progress (and other stuff)
Awww, two tweets from Wicked Witch, Retired about Hanna and Kelvaro. Who are not romantically entangled. Actually, this is something I’ve gone back and forth on. I don’t really want these two together. Hanna had a crush on Kelvaro, but that’s faded into friendship. Kelvaro isn’t interested, but appreciates Hanna as the generally smart, independent woman she is. But the writer/publisher part of me says, “Katherine, wouldn’t some romance in this book make it more marketable?” I suppose it might, but I’ve never been one to make things easy on myself.

Manuscript is back over 50K words. Our heroes are in the middle of a daring rescue.

What is This?
Wicked Witch, Retired is my current writing project. It is the sort-of sequel to a flash story I wrote, “Wicked Witch for Hire,” which is currently available in the anthology Bounded in a Nutshell.

#sunscribbles is a Twitter event hosted by @DragonspireUK . Every Sunday writers share a line of their current work-in-progress based on a theme.

#1lineWed is a Twitter event hosted by @RWAKissofDeath. Every Wednesday writers share a line of their current work-in-progress based on a theme.

Down the TBR Hole #2

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

alt text A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells

Hmm… I can see why I added this to my list, but my views on farce have changed. GO.

alt text Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne Valente is a writer who has been all over my TBR and I still haven’t read her!  Like farce, I’m a little off of fairy tale retellings and the eLibrary has two of her other books. GO.

alt text Grand Deception: The World’s Most Spectacular and Successful Hoaxes, Impostures, Ruses, and Frauds by Alexander Klein

I have quite a few books like this on my list, and it’s fairly old, but it is available through the Open Library. KEEP.

alt text The Town That Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey

I actually don’t remember adding this to my Wishlist, but as a “gothic thriller,”  it sounds great! KEEP.

alt text Breed by Chase Novak

Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth with this book a few times. Sometimes, it sounds like the best thing ever; sometimes, eh, not so much. Today is one of those latter times. GO.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

Deal Me In, Week 36 ~ “Where the Heart Is”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Where the Heart Is” by Ramsey Campbell

Card picked: 3
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer & Peter D. Pautz

The Story
Our narrator (unnamed) is writing to the current resident of what had been his house. He relates his circumstances: He sold the house after his wife died, but he increasingly regrets the decision. He is troubled by their renovations; memories of his life with his wife seem to have disappeared along with the wall they removed between the dining room and living room. He knows about this change because he *did* make an extra key. He is, in fact, writing this at the dining room table. He intends to stay in the house…

Now this is a story that lives up to my hopes for this anthology. Delightfully unsettling. Through our narrator’s memories, the house feels like an actual place rather than a prop. And it plays with the notion of a haunted house, one that will just become more haunted.

Peril of the Short Story

Perilous Updates, Week 1

Peril of the Short Story

This week’s short story is part of Gothic September: “Berenice – A Tale” by Edgar Allan Poe. (According to a note “Berenice” rhymes with “very spicy.”)

I believe this is the first time I’ve read this story or, if I have previously, it was a long time in the past. Egæus, our narrator, tells of his cousin Berenice. As they grew up together, she was always the vital, adventurous one while he was more than content to remain in the library. Indeed, Egæus’ obsessive interests in various subjects often drive him to distraction. Alas, a sickness strikes Berenice and afterward she isn’t the same. Her behavior changes as well as her appearance. Egæus assures us that he was never in love with his cousin, though he knew she was beautiful. After her illness, he finds her repulsive…especially her teeth.

In many ways, this is a quintessential Poe story. Narrator suffering from monomania? Check. Doomed female cousin? Check. Illness with death-like symptoms? Check. Zinger ending? Check. What sets “Berenice” apart is the narrator’s self-awareness (before concluding events) of his obsessions. This is one of Poe’s earlier tales, written in 1835, but I can see how Egæus might lead one day to Dupin.

I had chalked Berenice’s change to general, ill-defined, sudden sickness while reading the story. The rest of my perilous week lead me to wonder about…vampirism!

gothic sept button

Hosted by Michelle @ Castle Macabre

Continue reading “Perilous Updates, Week 1”