Monthly Archives: September 2021

Reading Challenge Check-In, 9/30/21

Haven’t done a proper reading challenge check-in since the beginning of July. I’ve been blogging so much about movies lately that one might even wonder if I still read! I do, but I really enjoy movies too.

The Classics Club

Goal: 10 Books by 12/14/21
Progress: 7/10

✅ I’m more or less on track, but with no room to spare. I am also about a quarter of the way through The Devil’s Elixirs (I forgot that my version is in two volumes.)

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

Shelf Maintenance / Unwieldy Library

Goal: Abstain from acquiring books; read at least 21 books from my shelves.
Progress: I’ve acquired 14 titles (including six ARCs and a preorder), 12/21+

❌ By the middle of July, I had cataloged all my owned books, both physical and electronic. On July 15th, I owned 561 unread titles. Right now, that’s down 551, mostly due to some short story titles I blew through. It’s doubtful that I’m going to get to 21 full length books by the end of the year since I’ve been distracted by so many ARCs and library books!

Additional note: I’m pretty much no longer using Goodreads. I’m keeping track of my “currently reading/read” myself (which I’ve always done), cataloging my “owned” library at LibraryThing, and only keeping “wishlists” on various library accounts. This might cause me to look at my own shelves before borrowing or buying, but it hasn’t worked that way yet.

I Read Horror Year-Round

Goal: Read 6 books from 6 categories.
Progress: 4/6

✅ On-track. I have books that would cover two more categories on my fall TBR. So far I’ve read:

  • A body of water (featured in story, on cover, or in title): The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson
  • Written by a woman: Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren
  • Ghosts or spirits: A Thin Ghost and Others by M. R. James
  • Historical horror (must be an historical novel written by a contemporary author) Slewfoot by Brom

Dune Read-through

Goal: Read Herbert’s six Dune books by October.
Progress: I read 5 of the 6 and am voluntarily stopping with Heretics of Dune. So, I’m considering this a win! ✅

Nonfiction

Goal: Read at least 30% nonfiction.
Progress: By my reckoning, I’m currently at 37% and am reading a non-fiction book as well as a fiction book currently. ✅

Short Stories

Goal: Deal Me In each week.
Progress: Again, I have been reading my weekly Deal Me In stories, if not posting about them. I’m more likely to mention them on Twitter. 😬

Monday Miscellanea, 9/27/21

Gourd harvest – Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com
Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

What’s Going On?

The power supply on my desktop died on Saturday, so I’m using the laptop for everything. Definitely the weaker, smaller computer, but I sure am glad we have it. Eric ordered my a new power supply and it should get here next week. In times past, we would have gone to Fry’s Electronics. Sad that they closed their AZ store.

League draft was last night. The team Eric and I ended up on is a mix of people we know (as in one guy we play pick-up with every week) and people we don’t know. Of course, too soon to tell how good we’re going to be. As a Monday team, our first game isn’t until the 11th!

How’s the Weather?

Beautiful! We had a pretty mild summer, but the autumn switch has been thrown! Our highs for the next week should be just shy of 90 and our lows around 70. Time to turn the water heater back on!

Watching

Going to try and catch all of Midnight Mass before my Netflix subscription runs out. Though I’ve liked most of Mike Flanagan’s projects, I wasn’t too interested in this one until I realized the Hamish Linklater plays one of the main characters, and a bad guy(?) at that!

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Vampire

“Clarimonde” by Théophile Gautier – My original Classics Club pick for September was The Devil’s Elixirs by E. T. A. Hoffmann. At about 30% of the way through, I realized that I had kind of lost track of characters. The story is *very* Gothic with many characters and secret relationships between characters. For the time being, I’ve put The Devil’s Elixirs aside, to be visited more gradually with pen and paper in hand. To keep up RIP momentum and still cross a title off my Classics Club list, I chose a short title that I thought would still work for Gothic September. “Clarimonde” was perfect.

Published in 1835, the vampire tale “La Morte amoureuse” (“The Dead Woman in Love”) or, “Clarimonde” predates Le Fenu’s “Carmilla” by over 35 years. Our titular vampiress tempts a priest, but is, alas, eventually overcome. I found it surprisingly racy for the 19th century, though the parting “moral” of the story is, “Men, beware of women . . .”


“Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” by Stephen King – I read “Jerusalem’s Lot” and was confused. Wasn’t this Stephen King’s vampire story? While nosferatu get name-checked, the end of the story seemed to suggest something much more Lovecraftian in nature. And then I realized that King had also written a novel called ‘Salem’s Lot. I had heard of ‘Salem’s Lot but more in the context of the movie adaptation. I thought it was just the clever sales way of giving the project a more evocative title. But, no! Two separate projects, though both in King’s literary universe. Yes, there are vamps in Jerusalem’s Lot. We just don’t see them in their full vamp glory in the short story. For that, we have to go down the road to Tookey’s Bar in “One for the Road” and try to save some out-of-towners from the Lot’s denizens during a blizzard.


Abraham Lincoln: Vamipre Hunter

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rated: R

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper

Initial: Oh, why not . . .

What Did I Think:
If you take this movie as a bit of fun, it’s ridiculous, but not really a *bad* movie. The action is a little too CGI, but you don’t really need to exactly follow what’s going on in any of the fight scenes. The plot adds a little to vampire lore and it’s fun to imagine vampires in the burgeoning United States before Dracula.

But if you think about it a little too long, it could be a little problematic. Is this film really saying that the South was full of slave-owning vampires and not slave-owning people? I guess they’re going for allegory and I’m missing it(?) Also, full of factual errors (aside from the vampire thing). This isn’t the movie to watch for history.

Monday Miscellanea, 9/20/21

Yellow leaf on green-gray background.
Photo by hiwa talaei on Pexels.com

Getting Back to It

We’re just a couple days from the equinox as I write this. The weather this summer has actually been pretty nice, but the cooler nights are wonderful. I’ve had my Halloween decorations up for a while and have been enjoying the fall reading events. (And watching events. ‘Tis the season for all things perilous.)

College football is back, and I’ve been harried the last couple weeks by fall frisbee league registration. Eric and I will be playing this time. We haven’t played in a league since spring of ’20. Summer league had a few games at the park in my neighborhood, so I picked up with them. Eric joined once too. We’re relying on the effectiveness of the vaccine as well as the ultimate community’s general good sense.

Watching

There hasn’t been a Cinema Saturday post in a while. 80s in August transitioned to my using Saturdays for RIP bingo posts. Here are a few notes on some movies that probably won’t get a full post. Title links to a trailer.

Dark City (1998) – rewatch. Dark City has a great style. Directed by Alex Proyas with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who worked together on The Crow (1994), it also heavily pulls from Lang’s Metropolis (1927). It came out a year before The Matrix and the two movies have a lot in common plot-wise, but one thing the latter does so much better is exposition. You can info dump in movies, but you have to balance it very carefully with story. The Matrix does a very good job, while Dark City doesn’t. (Don’t quiz me on how the Matrix sequels managed their exposition. I’ve seen them once and that was enough…)

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) – I alternately find the character of Harley Quinn grating and charming, so occasionally Birds of Prey annoyed me somewhat. But it was also kinda fun. It’s very ridiculous, but clever here and there. In fact, I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would.

Ford v Ferrari (2019) – If I have a guilty pleasure, it’s long movies about a group of men doing things. The Right Stuff (1983)? Love it. Zodiac (2007)? One of my favorites. (See also, sports movies.) So, yeah, this was the second movie I watched with my brand spankin’ new HBO Max subscription. (Also, it was “leaving” the service on the 18th…) This is a well-made movie, dramatic and grand.

Reminiscence (2021) – I like Hugh Jackman. I like Thandiwe Newton. Unfortunately, Reminiscence doesn’t entirely work. It too is burdened by its exposition with Hugh Jackman’s voice-over filling in details that don’t really need filling in. Also like Dark City, this film bares ill-comparison to a film that is quite a bit like it: Strange Days (1995). Both plots rely on “playback” of events that uncover corruption as well as solve a crime (in typical noir style).

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Creepy Fungus

Picture of orange mushroom.
Photo by Joe on Pexels.com

“Come into My Cellar” by Ray Bradbury

I first read this story when I was about ten years-old. It put me off mushrooms for a long while. Not that mushrooms were a common ingredient in my mother’s cooking, but I was well into college before I began to appreciate mushrooms on my pizza and an occasional grilled portabella on my hamburger.

This story begins as many of Bradbury’s do: in the picturesque suburbs. Hugh, the head of the family, is fairly happy with his life, but feels like something is a bit off. His friend and co-worker, Roger feels it moreso. In fact, Roger starts acting weird, abruptly leaving his wife and calling Hugh to warn him about express mail packages. The only express mail package Hugh’s family has received is a mail-order mushroom farm that his son sent away for. Surely, Roger doesn’t that? His own son has the same mushroom farm…

“Gray Matter” by Stephen King

“Gray Matter” is an interesting contrast to Bradbury’s story. It does end up being a much more direct variation on the theme of some sort of fungus taking over a human, but King’s treatment of family is quite different. Richie, also the head of his family, has become something of a ne’er-do-well since his accident. The only contact the community has with him is through his son, whom Richie sends on beer runs. And in this case, some bad beer, not a mail-order scheme, sets off Richie’s transformation.

Don’t worry. This story won’t put me off beer…


In the Earth

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: Ben Wheatley

Writer: Ben Wheatley

Stars: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires

Ringworm is a type of fungus. A mycorrhizal mat is formed by a type of fungus connecting the roots of trees. Mix these two concepts together and add a dash of folk horror in the form of a woodland legend and you have In the Earth. Plus, the world outside the forest is being ravaged by a deadly virus and scientists in the forest want to…communicate with the forest? The intentions here are all a little fuzzy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The main characters don’t quite know what’s going on either. On the “scary” end of things, there is some body horror, though I think Martin gets along awfully well for a guy who gets a couple of his toes chopped off. There are also some extended scenes with flashing lights and jumpy images which might be hard for some people to get through.

Review ~ Slewfoot

This book was provided to me as an eARC by Tor Nightfire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover: Slewfoot by Brom

Slewfoot: a tale of bewitchery by Brom

Connecticut, 1666.

An ancient spirit awakens in a dark wood. The wildfolk call him Father, slayer, protector. The colonists call him Slewfoot, demon, devil. To Abitha, a recently widowed outcast, alone and vulnerable in her pious village, he is the only one she can turn to for help. Together, they ignite a battle between pagan and Puritan—one that threatens to destroy the entire village, leaving nothing but ashes and bloodshed in their wake.

“If it is a devil you seek, then it is a devil you shall have!”

Summary via NetGalley

It’s my understanding that the published version of this book is illustrated. My eARC was not. If you’re familiar with Brom’s art, you know a little about what such illustrations might entail. If you’re not familiar, there are few pieces shown at his website. So, this review is based only on the text…and that’s just fine. The story stands perfectly well on its own two cloven-hooved feet.

I can’t speak for the historical accuracy of the setting or of Abitha’s attitude. I would like to think that there was a give and take between Puritanism and old superstitions and cures, but this isn’t something I know much about (yet). It didn’t bother me too much if there are inaccuracies. While Abitha is a vivid character, this is more Slewfoot’s story (I’ll stick with that name for him).

Brom’s take on the “devil” is one that I hadn’t really encountered. In this case, Slewfoot is a spirit, though powerful, who is vulnerable to being manipulated. The wildfolk want him to be one thing, the Pequot people want him to be something else, and the Puritan settlers believe he is the Devil of Christianity. And maybe he’s all these things. For Abitha, he’s both compassionate and a tool for vengeance. While theology often gives the Devil (and God) many names, we don’t often think about the ramifications of this, or the identity crisis it might cause.

There are moments of horror in his book. Women, taken for witches, are tortured for confessions. From nearly the beginning of the book, men meet pretty grim fates. And that’s beside the scheming and wrong-headedness. Still, I didn’t any of this particularly gratuitous. Despite the concepts and depictions, Slewfoot went down very easily.

Recommended reading for the autumn season!

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Necromancy

Early 20th century poster for magician "Joseffy: Necromancer"
A poster for one of my favorite “necromancers.”
Magicians have a penchant for hyperbole.

I chose/happened across several works this week that fit the prompt of necromancy about as well as the magician Joseffy fit the title. But then again, Joseffy’s most famous trick was Balsamo, the Talking Skull.

Picture of Joseffy, the magician, performing with his Talking Skull, Balsamo.

“The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng

I chose this story because it won this year’s Eugie Award and all the nominees are on my short fiction TRB lists. It’s not exactly a tale of necromancy, but sort of a remix of necromantic ideas with a little bit of far-fetched science thrown in. And at the heart of the story is a mother-daughter relationship that isn’t going too well…


Series: Brand New Cherry Flavor

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1 season, 8 episodes
Rated: TV-MA

Creators: Nick Antosca, Lenore Zion

Stars: Rosa Salazar, Catherine Keener, Eric Lange

Initial: Decided to try out one of Netflix’s original series, especially since it fit R. I. P. (because I need more reason to watch horror…).

Production Notes: Based on a book by Todd Grimson, which is pretty much out of print. You’d think everyone involved would want an available tie-in, but what do I know?

What Did I Think:
This series is full of the reanimated dead, so it reasonably fits the “necromancy” category. I’m not sure I can say anything else very definite about Brand New Cherry Flavor.

Comparisons have been made to the works of David Lynch and, yeah, I can see that. I don’t really consider that a good thing. Lynch always feels a little too random and chaotic to me. BNCF isn’t quite as annoying as a David Lynch film, but there are definitely a few cases where what I assume to be rules of this world are inexplicably violated. The other comparison is to David Cronenberg’s works; that’s mostly because there is a pretty strong body horror aesthetic going on. I don’t mind body horror.

Story-wise, I don’t mind a morally ambiguous protagonist, but there is a moment of change-up that seemed false to me. Maybe it’s because we’re not given much hint that there’s something bad in Lisa Nova’s past until that’s important or that the parallel between her past and current circumstances is never fleshed out.


“The Necromantic Tale” by Clark Ashton Smith

Not very necromantic at all despite the title. In fact, it’s sort of libromantic, since our protagonist reading a book sets off a chain of events that is side-tracked by reminding himself that he’s reading a book. Nice and creepy though.