Posted in Other Media, Readathons-Challenges-Memes, Short Story

Yuletide 2022, Check-In #1

Read

Cover: "A Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens
Cover: The Night Before Christmas: A C is for Cthulhu Holiday Tale by Jason Ciaramella, illustrated by Joshua Janes

I haven’t done too much Yuletide reading yet. I listened to “A Christmas Tree” by Charles Dickens, which, of course, is a little creepy. Our narrator reminisces about his childhood Christmas tree and goes on may tangents about Christmas and the dark evenings of winter. I also read The Night Before Christmas: A “C is for Cthulhu” Holiday Tale by Jason Ciaramella, illustrated by Joshua Janes. This is a delightful board book; the ebook version was a contest freebie. The illustrations are cute and colorful and the thought of cute, colorful eldritch horrors would probably make H. P. Lovecraft spin in his grave. That makes me happy. Not very “hooked-on-phonics” friendly, though. 😉

Watched

Happiest Season (2020)
I didn’t realize before watching Happiest Season that it was written and directed by Clea DuVall, whom I’ve always enjoyed as an actress. There are conceits that you have to accept when watching most Christmas movies. The primary one: there will be a happy ending. And, oh, that all are holiday family trouble could end as happily as in Happiest Season . . .

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Honestly, The Christmas Chronicles has been on my TBW for a while. The concept of Kurt Russel as Santa Claus was appealing to me. This movie is ridiculous and a lot fun. Honestly, it presents a Santa mythology that is fairly well worked out. (I mean, as a kid, I never understood how Santa was going to visit because we *didn’t have a fireplace*.) I laughed, sniffled at the sappy parts, and finished the movie thinking, “My grandmother would have loved this.”

Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Nonfiction, Short Story

Reading Notes, 10/20/22

(I’m playing around with my blog organization once again. This post will be a review and some repetition of my Monday post.)

Cover: Teller of Tales by Daniel Stahower
Cover: My Hear is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Cover: It came from the Closet

Read

Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower

I purchased this book in 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin. We were in Madison for the World Fantasy Convention and during an introvert recharge break, I wandered around downtown and into a quiet bookstore. At the time, I hadn’t gotten into stage magic and spiritualism, so I bought Teller of Tales only due to my long-standing love of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. As this book sat on my shelves for a few years, I developed a couple questions about Conan Doyle.

First, how could Conan Doyle have so much disdain for his most famous creation? As a struggling writer, Conan Doyle’s ingratitude for his success struck me as arrogant. Teller of Tales showed me the breadth of Conan Doyle’s writings. I didn’t realize that, in addition to his voluminous non-fiction, Conan Doyle wrote well-researched historical fictions, which were his pride and joy. For example, he spent two year researching and writing The White Company, taking a month off to write Sign of the Four for the money. Which have you read? So, I get it. A little. But I’m still annoyed at Conan Doyle for believing that genre works are inferior.

Second, how could Conan Doyle create the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes, but be so uncritical of spiritualism? I had always assumed Conan Doyle’s involvement in spiritualism was mostly due to the death of his first wife and the family’s losses during WWI and the 1918 flu epidemic, but his interest preceded those events. He had long been disillusioned with traditional religions and by 1918/1919, he had become an ardent believer in spiritualism. And there really isn’t an answer for it.

Stashower is obviously a fan of Conan Doyle, but the narrative remains pretty even-handed. Teller of Tales is very readable. I enjoyed it and took my time with it.

Short Stories

Been reading from this list from Book Riot. So far, the stand out has been “There Are No Monsters on Rancho Buenavista” by Isabel Cañas. I’m a sucker for a good folk horror.

Reading

As I mentioned on Monday, this Saturday is Dewey’ Readathon. I’m not going to make it the full 24-hours (I’m a realist), but I’m looking forward to it. I finished the Conan Doyle book this morning, so I’m kind of between books. On my TBR for Readathon:

  • My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
  • It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese
  • Plus, the last couple short stories from the Book Riot list and more that I’ve bookmarked.

Challenge Updates

Beat the Backlog

Goal: Read 25 books from my own shelves. Avoid creating future “backlog.”
Progress: Teller of Tales makes book 21 for Beat the Backlog. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get 20 read, it’s all win from here. And it’s been 7 days since I acquired a book.

Posted in Female Author, Mixed Anthology, Novella, Short Story

Reading Peril, 10/12/22

Cover: Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Cover: Famous Modern Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

I feel like Nothing But Blackened Teeth has been on my TBR list for years, but it was only published this year. More likely, after reading Khaw’s Persons Non Grata novellas, I’ve been meaning to read more of her works.

I liked Nothing But Blackened Teeth well enough. I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligiea” recently and Khaw’s use of architecture in Teeth is very comparable, and I love architecture in stories! In many ways, this story reads like a J-horror film, full of vengeful ghosts and yokai just at the edge of sight. In fact, our narrator Cat often refers horror tropes as events unfold.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories, ed. by Dorothy Scarborough

“Modern” is, of course, a relative word. This anthology was published in 1921, so Scarborough’s picks are from 1830-ish on. Included are many stories that very much have survived the test of time: “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev, “The Shadow on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Bowmen” by Arthur Machen, and “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe. If I hadn’t read these stories before, I knew of them.

There are also a couple gems with modern touches: “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar is written from the ghost’s point of view and “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W. F. Harvey could easily be Thing’s great-grandfather.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories has been on my Kindle for a good long while and thus counts for my Beat the Backlog challenge. And it’s of course available at Project Gutenberg!

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction, Short Story

Reading Notes, 6/2/22

Read

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood has been on my TBR list for a good long while. I’m pretty sure the copy I have is from Paperback Swap, and it’s been ages since I’ve used them. For a time I contemplated writing a true crime book myself, so it seemed incongruous that I hadn’t read one of the most famous true crime books; one that is often cited as a great American work of literature.

It was quite different than I expected. The writing is breathless and occasionally lurid. I actually kind of have trouble completely calling In Cold Blood nonfiction due to its style as well as due to accusations of literary license by people involved. I didn’t dislike the book, but I can tell that my taste for true crime has soured. It’s hard for me to take much enjoyment from the tragedy others.

Deal Me In, Week 20

7❤️, “Barleycorn” by Cae Hawksmoor – I don’t encounter enough folk horror. The setting is top-notch.

Reading

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers has been the perfect read to kick off 20 Books of Summer. What’s better than creepy pirate horror? I also question my decision to have not included Treasure Island on my initial books of summer list.

Still keeping up with my poor friend Jonathan Harker via Dracula Daily.

Posted in Female Author, Novel, Short Story

Reading Notes, 5/5/22

Read

Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith

About mid-April, I was in the mood to read something neither old (19th century) nor new (21st century). I also wanted to actually finish a book for Spring into Horror. Mystery counted for the theme, so I picked the slimmest Patricia Highsmith novel that I had on my shelves.

Ray’s wife commits suicide early in their marriage. His father-in-law blames Ray and attempts to kill him. Several times. The majority of this book is Ray hiding out in Venice and trying to decide what to do about his angry in-law. Not much happens, really, yet I wanted to know more about the characters. Having read some of Highsmith’s Ripley novels, characters are obviously Highsmith’s strength. She write messy, complicated characters, which of course makes them feel real.

Since there was a bookmark from The Antiquarium tucked in it, I probably bought Those Who Walk Away there. The Antiquarium was chaotic, over-stocked used bookstore in downtown Omaha, NE. The store moved to Brownville, NE in 2006. Since I never visited it after the move, chances are I’ve owned this book since before 2006.

Deal Me In, Week 17

A❤️ “The Sycamore and the Sybil” by Alix E. Harrow – I read Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium to Portal Fantasies” a few weeks ago. Both were on my Eugie Awards list. This is a lyrical if depressing story. I know the end is meant to be victorious, but I get so tired of men being portrayed as wolves, even if they are wolves sometimes.

Reading

  • Bloodlines : Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale – This is my morning reading.
  • The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker & Leslie S. Klinger – If you know Dracula, you know that it’s an epistolary novel (at least in part) told in the form of letters and journal entries. About a week ago I came upon Dracula Daily, which emails parts of Dracula to you on the day they happen in the book. I’ve done this on my own in the past, but I was up for another reread of good ol’ Stoker’s masterwork. Also, I have this big, fat annotated edition that I bought and hadn’t read.
Posted in Female Author, Readathons-Challenges-Memes, Short Story

Deal Me In 2022, Week 1

Deal Me In logo pic

All the Deal Me In details.

Card Picked: 5♠️
Story: “Drip” by Shreya Vikram
List: Recommended by Nightfire

Thoughts:
Well, I started the year off with quite a story. Nightfire is Tor’s horror imprint and they post a monthly “best of” of horror stories published online. I haven’t in the past availed myself of their lists, but if this story is an indication, their picks are good ones, heavy on the horror.

I can’t say I totally understood everything going on in “Drip.” The narrator is definitely deranged and in an abusive situation that is pretty over-the-top. He becomes obsessed with dripping of the dirty faucet. Or at least the sound of it, which seems to only be in his head. Everything in this story, including the faucet and the basin below it, is dirty and spoiled. The only freedom for the narrator and his many brothers is when their father is gone, laying in mourning over the grave of his father and father’s fathers. I suspect the faucet and the drip are allegorical (is the faucet their . . . mother?), but none of my theories exactly fit.

The story reminds me of the X-Files episode “Home,” though that family was infinitely more loving.

Other Short Stories

I feel like I read more short stories this week, but really I only read one aside from any in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown.

“Sheer in the Sun, They Pass” by Hester J. Rook – There are many, many takes on hauntings and ghosts and this was a new one on me.

Posted in Male Author, Other Media, Short Story

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.