Review ~ Nothing to Devour

This book was provided to me by Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley for review consideration.

Nothing to Devour cover

Nothing to Devour by Glen Hirshberg

Librarian Emilia is alone in a library that is soon to close its doors forever. Alone save for one last patron, his head completely swathed in bandages, his hands gloved, not one inch of skin exposed. Emilia feels sorry for him–like her, he is always alone.

Today, he sees, really sees, Emilia.
What he does to her then is unspeakable.

Thousands of miles away, another victim rises—a dead woman who still lives. Sophie is determined to protect the people she loves best in the world—but she is a monster.

To Jess, it doesn’t matter that Sophie was once as close to her as her own daughter. It doesn’t matter that Sophie’s baby died so that Jess’s grandson could live. It only matters that Sophie is a vampire.

Vampires can’t be trusted.
Even if they love you.

Aunt Sally loved all the monsters she’d created in the hundreds of years since she died and rose again. She loved her home in the bayou. When her existence was exposed to the human world, she didn’t hesitate to destroy her home, and her offspring, to save herself. Herself, and one special girl, Aunt Sally’s last chance to be a perfect mother.

These people are drawn together from across the United States, bound by love and hatred, by the desire for reunification and for revenge.

In their own ways, they are all monsters.
Some deserve to live.
Some do not. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Glen Hirshberg is currently my favorite horror author.

What Worked
One of the strong points of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was its themes of family set among a group of monsters. That novel (and its sequels) only barely scratches the surface in comparison to Glen Hirshberg’s Motherless Children trilogy, which concludes with Nothing to Devour. As a Gen X writer, it’s not surprising that Hirshberg begins with a base of found family on which to build his monsters.

In the aftermath of Good Girls (book 2), Jess flees with  her grandson and the remaining survivors, including orphan Rebecca, to a remote island in the Pacific northwest. What she establishes isn’t quite family, but it’s all she, and they, have. Their relationships are a contrast to Emily’s strong family ties, though she is trying to grow-up and away from her parents. That’s before her “Invisible Man” intervenes.

Don’t misunderstand, this trilogy isn’t all family drama. Not in the least. Hirshberg doesn’t shy away from shock and gore. He just makes sure you care about the characters first.

What Didn’t Work
I really wish I would have reread Motherless Child and Good Girls leading up to Nothing to Devour. This *is* the final book in a trilogy. It doesn’t stand alone and its cast is large enough that I didn’t entirely remember who was who at the beginning of the book.

I also still maintain that Hirshberg does his best, most unsettling, work in shorter forms. While these novels are solidly horror, they lack the gnawing chills of stories like “Struwwelpeter” or “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” (from his collection The Two Sams).

Overall
I had pretty much put a stake into vampires as a good literary monster before Motherless Child. The entire Motherless Children trilogy is a great resurrection of the trope.

Publishing info, my copy: Epub, Tor, release date: Nov. 6, 2018
Acquired: NetGalley, 7/24/18
Genre: horror

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#NonFicNov 2018, Week 1 ~ My Year in Nonfiction

My favorite spooky book blogging events lead into my second favorite book blogging event: Nonfiction November! Each week a new host will present a new topic.

Week 1: (Oct. 29 to Nov. 2) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

As is usual for me, I’ve read quite a few books on magic. The Secret History of Magic by Jim Steinmeyer & Peter Lamont has been a stand out, even if I was a little disappointed by some aspects. I also seem to have read a bit more historical crime this year. The Burglar Was Caught by a Skeleton by Jeremy Clay was a fun romp through sensational newspaper stories of the past, and Heaven’s Ditch by Jack Kelly provided an in-depth look at the history of New York as the Erie Canal was being built (and the murder and double-dealing that went along with that).

But my very favorite of the year, thus far, isn’t from either of those categories. It’s  The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and I’ve recommended it a few times since I finished reading it a few months ago.

I love Nonfiction November because it’s a chance to geek-out about a “genre” that sometimes doesn’t get much love and find the next book or subject that I didn’t know I wanted to know about. And spend sometime reading nonfiction too!

My November TBR

Memoirs of an Elusive Moth: Disappearing Nightly with Harry Blackstone and his Show of 1001 Wonders Magic in Theory: An Introduction to the Theoretical and Psychological Elements of Conjuring Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz

Deal Me In, Week 43 ~ “The Fish of Lijiang”

DealMeIn

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

“The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu

Card picked: 4
Found at: Clarksworld

It’s the fault of that damned mandatory physical exam. On the last page of the report were the words: PNFD II (Psychogenic Neural-Functional Disorder II). Translated into words normal people can understand, they say that I’m messed up and I must take two weeks off to rehabilitate.

Our narrator is sent to Lijiang to “rehabiliate.” While he is there he is not allowed to have his personal electronics, not even a watch. He’s left to laze about, maybe take in some traditional Nixi music (now played by robot bands), and theorize about the strange, ubiquitous stray dogs. That is until he meets a mysterious woman, a special care nurse who is also doing mandatory rehab.

The science fiction elements in this story are very light. Robots, holograms, time dilation and compression: they’re all used in a sort of depressingly mundane way. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty lukewarm about this story. With an unsympathetic narrator, not enough setting, and an only okay plot, I’m glad it wasn’t longer.

The Black Cat, No. 1, October 1895

Welcome to the first issue of The Black Cat and the first post of the Black Cat Project!

Something that I find interesting about 19th and early 20th century fiction magazines is that most of them were not “niche.” While there were plenty of specialized nonfiction periodicals, genre magazines don’t seem to gain traction until the late 1910s. So, a short story magazine of the this period might include stories of different genres. What we’d now classify as mysteries, adventures, romances, horror, and science fiction might all be included in one magazine that a subscriber might read cover to cover.

Stories

“In Gold Time” by Roberta Littlehale

A western-ish story set in Gold Rush era California. While a contractor and an civil engineer ride through the desolation of Northern California, one tells the tale of two men vying for the hand of the most/only eligible woman in San Francisco. More of an anecdote than a solid story, but Littlehale does a nice job setting the stage with a night-time ride. Robetra Littlehale will appear again as a Black Cat author, but I wasn’t able to find any other information about her.

“The Unturned Trump” by Barnes Macgreggor

Oh, 1895, your prejudices are many… In this story, while adrift on the foggy and iced-over East River one morning, several men sit down to an impromptu game of euchre. Before the trump is turned though, the supplier of the cards goes on a tangent about a story he heard of an American who was travelling in Syria and ended up being taken captive by a group of blood-thirsty (and not too bright)  “Mohammedan” robbers. Turns out he was the American. Macgreggor will be a return author as well, but also otherwise did not have much of a writing career.

“The Secret of the White Castle” by Julia Magruder

Julia Magruder was known outside of the pages of The Black Cat. The Virginia author had a fairly successful career as a novelist and children’s writer. “The Secret of the White Castle” is a nice piece of gothic literature. Our unnamed narrator rents the Chateau Blanc in hopes of curing his melancholy. The house appealed to him due to the strange picture of the previous owner that hangs in the bedroom and the stuffed pet swan that somewhat floats on the lake. He’s sure there is a mystery to these objects…and there is!

This was my favorite of the issue. I might even seek out some of Ms. Magruder’s novels.

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” by Granville Sharpe

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” is a nice little mystery too. Miss Wood’s story is related by Detective Gilbert as a story she told him bout a job she was hired to do. Abruptly, she was from her stenography school classes because she is proficient in sign language (her little sister is a deaf mute). She is sent to take down the dying words of a metallurgist. Since his sister-and-law and nephew believe  Miss Wood is deaf as well, they freely discuss their plan to gain the old man’s secret formula for smelting steel-hard copper. I’m going to assume that the author, Granville Sharp, is not the same Granville Sharp as the abolitionist who died in 1813…

Runner-up for favorite story of the issue.

“Her Hoodoo” by Harold Kinsabby

This is actually a rather sweet story about “a real Rocky Mountain cow-girl, in all her glory”. Our narrator is a tender-foot who goes to Colorado to “hunt ozone” for his bad lungs. He gets lost in the wilderness and is found by the cow-girl, a woman educated at Wesleyan, but type-cast locally due to her soft heart and affinity for animals, especially a naughty, spotted heifer.  Kinsabby has a couple stories in future issues, but I find no other biological references to him.

“In a Tiger Trap” by Charles Edward Barns

“The royal Maylay tiger is no gentleman” begins this adventure anecdote, which seems to be a general form of story in this era. And it pretty much details a story of attempting to retrap a tiger that had already been captured and let loose once. Thankfully, this story isn’t too cringe-worthy toward the peoples of Malaysia. Charles Edward Barns was a writer, journalist, astronomer, and publisher. He has at least one more story included in a future issue of The Black Cat.

“The Red-Hot Dollar” by H. D. Umbstaetter

A newlywed accidentally misses his train (is bride sent on without him) and ends up becoming obsessed with a silver dollar he is given as change. Why? We don’t know until the last page. Actually, “The Red-Hot Dollar” could have been a really nice mystery if it had been told a little better…maybe through the wife’s point of view. I suppose the reader is meant to wonder and try to puzzle out what’s going on, but we’re not really given enough information. H. D. Umbstaetter is the editor of The Black Cat as well as being a contributor.

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Not many ads in the first issue. American Hair Cloth Company had pretty much the entire last page. Click to read all about their “light as air” crinoline.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 1, October 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Fall Readathon 2018 Wrap-Up & Mini Reviews

Well, I didn’t make it the whole 24 hours, but I came close! I threw in the towel (the bookmark?) at 2:30am during hour 22. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and sleep sounded *so* good.

Books Finished (and Not)

I decided to read only “fresh” works this time—books that I didn’t already have in-progress. I also decided to go with shorter works since I’m a slow reader. That kept me moving forward all day long.

The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow cover The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper

Something is possessing Natalie Glasgow and her mother needs to find a solution, even if it means trusting a new-age-healer-witch.

I started the readathon with this novella, and it was the standout of my day. Great tension, good twist. This would definitely be my rec for future readathoners. (Novellas are a good way to go anyway, imo.)

Strange Detective Mysteries cover Strange Detective Mysteries, vol. 1-4 by Terry Pavlet (Created & Cover Art by), Dam Gafford (Created & Written by), Rosaria Battiloro (Interior Art by)

In 1902, a group of luminaries (Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H. G. Wells, Nikola Tesla, and Bat Masterson) is recruited to decipher a notebook that belonged to Edgar Allan Poe.

Stories with this many famous characters can go horribly wrong, but I think comics is the perfect place to do it. Strange Detective Mysteries is a fun bit of alt-history science fiction. Unfortunately, some of the faces were really similar. Would a less face-blind person have an easier time?

Edgar Allan Poe's Spirits of the Dead cover Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead by Richard Corben

I didn’t (yet, and might not) finish this graphic story collection. Corben has an interesting style of adapting and illustrating Poe’s works. He gives the stories a sort of Tales from the Crypt feel. Which I like. But I’m not sure I really care for some of his anatomy choices. Men have no shoulders and women have silly-round boobs. Not designed for the female gaze, I guess.

The Grip of It cover The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

James and Julie, a perfect couple, move into a perfect new (old) house. Except that it’s obvious from the beginning that James and Julie turn a blind eye to their relationship problems as well as problems with the house. And then there are all the creepy things: the noises, the staring neighbor, the secret rooms, the kids in the woods playing “Murder.”

I kind of felt like this story lost focus around the 2/3rds mark. Creepy became muddled. Since it’s written from the first person present POV of both the main characters (switching back and forth roughly every other chapter),  I guess that’s to be expected as the characters become sicker/more unbalanced/more haunted.

Magician's Wife cover The Diary of a Magician’s Wife by Geraldine Conrad Larsen

This book wasn’t on my TBR. At 1-ish AM, I decided I didn’t want to start anything too heavy. I have a mystery by Geraldine Larsen, but I read in the introduction to that book that she’d published a “memoir” as well and that it was available through Hathi Trust.

I wish this book had been crunchier. Written in the 40s, it has a very “oh, I’m such a silly woman” vibe which for me takes away from any truth in the anecdotes she relates.

Closing Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Aside from hour 22 when I pooped-out, hour 20 was pretty bad. My shoulder and neck were really aching (not a readathon related injury😜).
  2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read! See above!
  3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners? The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper was really good. It was a nice way to start the readathon. Piper is an independent author; I look forward to seeing more from her.
  4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you happy? I kind of miss having challenges begin throughout the challenge (and giveaways each hour), but that’s because I like “mystery boxes.” “What new thing will start this hour?” But I totally get that this makes the challenges more equitable and super-duper cuts down on work! So, no worries!
  5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep? Definitely will participate again!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, Fall 2018

All the Readathon Info

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is pretty much what it says on the tin. A readathon, lasting 24-hours. It officially starts 5am on October 20th in my time zone. Am I going to get up at 5am and read all 24 hours? Prooobably not. I like to read, but I also like to sleep. 🤷‍

Dewey’s Readathon comes around twice a year, but it’s the fall version that is my favorite. Not only do I get to read all day, but I can also revel in the other fall reading events like Readers Imbibing Peril (#RIPVIII). I have a few books in-progress, but I have a whole list of great spooky things to read for Saturday.

TBR

Ebooks

  • The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper – Finished! Creepy novella with a great twist.
  • A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw
  • The Grip of It by Jac Jemc – Finished! That…was…
The Haunting of Natalie Glasgow A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata, #2) The Grip of It

Audio & Comics

  • Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits Of The Dead
  • Strange Detective Mysteries – Finished! Fun, alt history mystery.
Daughters Unto Devils Edgar Allan Poe's Spirits of the Dead Strange Detective Mysteries

Am I going to get through all of these? Of course not! But it will be fun trying.

Progress

Challenges

Pre-Readathon Survey:

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Tempe, AZ. The high is supposed to be 90F today. Boo!
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Grip of It – It’s been a while since I’ve read a good haunted house book.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? I didn’t buy any special snacks this time around, but I do have fixings for grilled cheese, which I’m looking forward to.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I love reading and writing about stage magic, but I have absolutely no interest in doing magic myself. I also really love reading 19th century genre works. In fact, I edited an anthology of classic stories featuring automata (human seeming robots) which is available free on my author web page.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’m not going to read anything I had “in-progress”—It’s a whole fresh TBR stack for me!

Bad Book Mini-challenge

Guess the book by their one-star Amazon reviews. I won’t give away my guesses, but it’s a pretty fun challenge. Check it out!

Escape the Angst

What book helped me escape the angst of my teenage years. My teen years weren’t super angsty (I reserved that for my early 20s), but a book that wasn’t Interview with a Vampire or Hamlet was 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

84, Charing Cross Road

Deal Me In, Week 42 ~ “The Frolic”

DealMeIn

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

“The Frolic” by Thomas Ligotti

Card picked: K

David felt his own words lingering atmospherically in the room, tainting the serenity of the house. Until then their home had been an insular haven beyond the contamination of the prison, an imposing structure outside the town limits. Now its psychic imposition transcended the limits of physical distance.

David is a psychologist at a prison hospital. Over after-dinner drinks, he tells his wife about one of his patients, a child killer known only as John Doe who claims to have let himself be caught.* Doe won’t give his real name and claims that he has many names, thousands even (or maybe legions?). While Doe’s case is interesting, David has decided he needs to leave the job, especially considering what John Doe said to him at the end of  the day’s interview.

I’m not sure this story really worked for me. The dialogue has a stilted, heightened feel to it that takes away some of the story’s tension. I haven’t read any Ligotti before despite his reputation in the horror community. I don’t know whether that’s indicative of his style or only this story.

* This was  six years before the movie Seven in which a serial killer known as John Doe lets himself be caught. As far as I can tell one was not an inspiration for the other. They are fairly different stories, but I found it interesting in light of the controversy over season one of True Detective: it seems possible that the writer of the show lifted some of Ligotti’s bleaker ideas.

This story counts for Peril of the Short Story!

Perilous Details