Something Wicked This Way Comes: Halloween Reads!

Happy Halloween, readers!! We hope that you had a good weekend filled with parties, candy, tricks, and treats! We know that we sure did….

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Cheryl Tunt and Faline send their regards.

Now on the day itself, we are coming to you with our favorite spooky, ghostly Halloween Reads! These books that really get us in the spirit (get it?) of this fun filled holiday!

17238Book: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Publication Info: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897

Though not the first vampire novel, “Dracula” is considered to be the work that redefined vampirism in modern literature. Unfolding in a series of letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles, “Dracula” tells the story of an Eastern European vampire count, his invasion of England, and the band of heroes that come together to defeat him. “Dracula” is on this list because it’s a classic in gothic horror that has long influenced the horror genre well into the start of the 21st century. It’s also a rather progressive work when looking at feminist issues, as Mina Murray Harker was a very active participant in the downfall of the Count, at least by Victorian standards. “Dracula” stands the test of time and should be read by every horror fan.

11588Book: “The Shining” by Stephen King

Publication Info: Doubleday, 1977

The classic haunted house story gets twisted, turned, and amped up in King’s classic novel. The tale of the Torrence family, trapped for the winter in an ominous, haunted hotel, is one that has become burned into popular culture, thanks in part to the movie of the same name but loose interpretation. The original King novel doesn’t have the same subtleties that Kubrick brought to it, but it has some seriously scary moments. The ghosts that are haunting the hotel  are all very scary, and then you add in the threat of Jack Torrence losing his damn mind and it becomes that much more horrifying. Read this one with the lights on, and wait until all the snow in your area is good and melted…

474073Book: “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman

Publication Info: Harper Collins, 2002

Though not particularly scary (it is for children after all), Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” is still deeply unsettling. It’s the story of Coraline, a girl whose family has moved into a new home. Feeling neglected by her parents, Coraline  is a bit morose, but then finds a new world with the “Other Mother”, a woman who looks just like her mother, but with buttons for eyes. The Other world seems pretty okay, but it suddenly becomes all too clear that Other Mother has more sinister plans in store. This story is both very creepy, but also is filled with a lot of heart. Gaiman knows how to capture childhood, from feelings, to experiences, to fears.

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 Book: “Midwinterblood” by Marcus Sedgwick

Publication Info: Indigo, October 2011

We read this book for bookclub a few years ago, and it is one that has stuck with me. Comprised of seven parts, the story unfolds throughout the centuries on an isolated island with a mysterious past. Each new story seemed only to add to the suspense and dread that slowly builds throughout the book. Re-reading it, one will still find connections between the stories that were missed the first time. It is as tragic as it is unsettling, and yet we loved every bit of it. The lyrical, almost fairytale-like, quality of the storytelling only makes the building sense of horror that much more shivery!

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 Book: “Anna Dressed in Blood” by Kendare Blake

Publication Info: Tor Teen, October 2011

This book could be marketed as a young adult, novel-version of the television show “Supernatural.” Featuring a teenage hunter named Cas Lowood who is in the “family business” of killing the dead, the story is surprisingly creepy for a young adult story. Blake doesn’t pull her punches with the spook factor or the body count. The ghost “Anna” is somehow both creepy and sympathetic at the same time. Don’t make any mistake, she is no “Casper the Friendly Ghost” as Cas and Co. learn to their detriment!

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Book: “Help for the Haunted” by John Searles

Publication Info: William Morrow, September 2013

We got to meet John Searles at an ALA convention a few years ago (he had some great stories, but we will rave about that at a different time) where he was promoting his new book. We immediately chose it as yet another bookclub story, and it was a big hit. Sylvie Mason’s family help “haunted souls” for a living until the night they are lured to their death in a church. A year later, Sylvie is still piecing together her memories of the night and dealing with her parents’ bizarre legacy. For what could be easily categorized as a mystery/thriller novel, “Help for the Haunted” has some very creepy elements and is definitely worth checking out!

What are your favorite Halloween reads? Share in the comments below!

 

 

 

Serena’s Review: “The Last Camel Died at Noon”

66528Book: “The Last Camel Died at Noon” by Elizabeth Peters

Publishing Info: Warner Books, 1991

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Amelia and her dashing husband Emerson set off for a promising archaeological site in the Sudan, only to be unwillingly drawn into the search for an African explorer and his young bride who have been missing for 12 years.

Review: And we’re back for another Amelia Peabody mystery! (I have decided that I need to begin pacing myself with these books so that I can better relish the experience and save them for low reading points when I know I can depend on the next one to be a solid, fun read that might get me out of a slump!)

This book marks a distinct change up in the typical rhythm and flow of previous Amelia Peabody novels, and I found it to be a welcome change! The book description for this one is very light, so…depending on your sensitivity for spoilers, I may be giving a way more of the plot early on in this review just to set the stage some, since, as I said, it’s a step away from the usual narrative.

So, yes, Amelia, Emerson, and Ramses (much to Amelia’s annoyance, as she wanted him to got to boy’s school, but they wouldn’t take him. Shocker!) are back on another excavation. Or, at least, that’s what they had planned on doing until they become caught up in the search for a lost African explorer which leads them to discover a lost civilization hidden in the desert. While it is an archeologist’s dream location, having been cut off from society for centuries and thus still retaining much of ancient Egyptian culture in its arts, history, and religion, the Peabody/Emerson family end up entangled in the middle of a political battle they do not understand and which could have deadly results!

I really enjoyed this change to the story. While I was still greatly enjoying the series as a whole, the last book did feel a bit too familiar during the murder mystery section and seemed to need to resort to relationship drama to keep things fresh (not my favorite remedy). But here, Peters recaptures the magic by creating a mystery that does not revolve around murder, but around political intrigue and cultural misunderstanding.

I particularly enjoyed the clever way she kept readers off balance with the ever-changing and evolving alliances and motivations for different parties involved. There were many points in the story where I was legitimately thrown on who to believe about what, and given that this is well into the series, I count this as a big accomplishment! The side characters are all interesting and appropriately double-faced at times, leaving readers guessing, along with Amelia and Emerson, over who to trust.

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“I am Amelia Peabody, and your petty political squabbles do not intimidate me!” (source)

There were also several layers to the story alongside the mystery (an escape attempt!) that added to the narrative in a unique way for this series. There is also the introduction of a new character towards the last third of the book who seems to be set up to play an even greater role in the story going forward, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing how this will evolve.

The one detractor I have for the story is, surprisingly, again perhaps a lack of page time for Ramses! For a character who I started out on the fence about, Ramses has grown to be one of my favorite characters, and this makes two books in a row where his role seems more minimized. But I have strong hopes for that changing in the future.

Overall, I think this book is a particularly strong entry in the series. It shows a marked difference in plot, highlighting that Amelia is great in any circumstance and thus opening up the door for many new adventures. And a new character is added who may play an important role going forward and bring many new elements to the story. If you have enjoyed the series thus far, definitely don’t skip this book!

Rating 9: I really enjoyed the new setting and change in narrative this book brings to the series!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Last Camel Died at Noon” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Lost World Narratives” and “Agatha Mystery Award Nominees and Winners.”

Find “The Last Camel Died at Noon” at your library using WorldCat.

Previously Reviewed: “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” and “The Curse of the Pharaohs” and “The Mummy Case” and “Lion in the Valley” and “Deeds of the Disturber”

Kate’s Review: “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places”

28815491Book: “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” by Colin Dickey

Publishing Info: Viking, October 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: I bought it.

Book Description: An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country’s most infamously haunted places–and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America’s ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and “zombie homes,” Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as “the most haunted mansion in America,” or “the most haunted prison”; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget. With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living–how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made–and why those changes are made–Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we’re most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Review: As a person who loves history and learning about our culture through a historical lens, finding a good book on America’s past is always an exciting thing for me. I’m also a huge fan of haunted places and scary stories, as I am a hardcore Fox Mulder in that I want to believe (even if the Scully side of me butts in and usually pulls me from the total brink of belief). So when I found out that there was a book that combined both of these topics, I was so excited I couldn’t wait for the library to get it, and bought it myself. “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” by Colin Dickey is truly a perfect read for the month of October, and for Horrorpalooza. Because these are ‘true’ ghost stories! Sort of. It’s more trying to find out why certain places get haunted reputations, outside of a place actually being haunted by a restless spirit. Going into this book I thought that it was going to be a bit more about the latter with American history serving as a back drop, but what I got was a deeper exploration of our country’s past and all of the baggage that comes with it.

Dickey travelled from haunted place to haunted place in America, not only telling the reader about the story behind the place, but also telling an in depth exploration of the non haunted history of that place and the implications that surround it. While there were numerous stories in this book that I had at least heard of in passing (or in the cases of the Winchester Mystery House and the city of Savannah, Georgia, actually been to), the actual background of those places were almost always unfamiliar to me, either because I just never learned about it at all, or because I’d believed the ‘haunted’ history that time has elevated. This had two reactions from me as I read the book. The first reaction was from the history buff in me, which was

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(source)

But the second reaction was from the Fox Mulder in me, which was

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(source)

At one point in this book, Dickey speaks on the fact that the belief in the supernatural vs the disbelief in it are always going to be at odds with one another, because you aren’t going to convince a skeptic that ghosts exist, just as you aren’t going to convince a believer that they don’t. As I read this book, even though I had this in mind, I found myself falling into that exact trap. When Dickey would explain the actual history behind a haunted place, such as the Winchester Mystery House, I would write off the things that didn’t fit with my thoughts as sometimes dismiss them completely. No, I don’t necessarily believe that Sarah Winchester was told by a medium that she had to move west and keep building a house to trick the spirits from cursing her. BUT, I ALSO don’t believe that she built this strange house for years and years and years at a huge financial expense just because she was experimenting with architecture. Does a tourist site like the Winchester Mystery House have a vested interest in hyping it’s haunted reputation at the expense of the actual history of Sarah Winchester? Of course it does. But I wholly believe that there was something else going on beyond an enthusiastic woman enthralled by her design creativity. It was times like these that I felt that this book was a little less than thrilling for me. Just because there wasn’t a record of a mental problem going on doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one.

But Winchester Mystery House aside (and it’s good that Dickey didn’t go all in on Savannah outside of saying it’s a tourist city hoping to protect and promote it’s ‘brand’), I really enjoyed reading “Ghostland”, because Dickey did bring up a lot of good points about American history and culture, especially when it comes to how these places and hauntings reflect our value systems. I especially liked that he brought up the fact that so often, the ‘ghosts’ that haunt these places are very Western centric and white, except when it comes to mass tragedies that our country perpetuated and both feels guilty over while also ignoring them. Specifically, slavery and the genocide of the Indigenous Peoples. While there have been stories of Thomas Jefferson haunting Monticello, a ghost that the site can embrace, you very rarely hear about ghosts of slaves and those that Jefferson wronged wandering it’s halls. On the flip side of the coin, the idea of the “Ancient Indian Burial Ground” is a trope that has been used repeatedly in horror stories, but it serves as little more than a way to Other multiple distinct groups while assuaging our guilt that we don’t really like to think about. In our stories it’s a revenge that is understandable, and yet we are still predisposed to sympathize for those (usually non-Native) people being haunted rather than the reason the haunting is happening in the first place. I had never really thought about these things in depth before reading this book, and boy did it really make me think.

Dickey also did a fair amount of research going into this book, with a fair amount of source notes that tie it all together. He did a good job of presenting a lot of information without it ever dragging or seeming dry, which is a true talent when dealing with the complexities of American history. He has a serious penchant for storytelling and kept things interesting while keeping them solidly anchored in historical context. And I do appreciate that Dickey postulates that even if they are overblown, hyped, and in some cases patently untrue, these ‘true’ hauntings do serve a larger purpose beyond just entertaining the masses. Sometimes they help us cope, or serve as warnings, or just help us understand what we’re seeing before us.

While “Ghostland” may not have changed my mind about the possibility of ghosts (though that wasn’t the intention at the heart of it), I did really find it a fascinating read and completely perfect for this time of year. I can’t recommend this book to history buffs enough, especially those like me who love a good ghost story. So if you want to learn some potentially new ghost stories and get some context as to what functions they serve in modern society, pick it up!

Rating 8: Though it sometimes downplayed a bit too much, “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” is a fascinating read with a lot of insight to American history and society and the ghosts that haunt us.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” isn’t on many Goodreads lists yet, but it would fit in on “Best Nonfiction Ghost Books”, and “Understanding History”.

Find “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Thousand Names”

15810910Book: “The Thousand Names” by Django Wexler

Publishing Info: Roc, July 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

Review: I honestly don’t remember how this book came to be on my to-read pile, and I also had very little to zero memory of what the basic premises was when I picked it up. A fantasy novel…ok…got it. So, without much preparation or expectation, it was an adventure discovering this book and a pleasant surprise, especially considering it was not the type of fantasy I typically read.

As readers of this blog may have picked upon, my fantasy reading tends to veer towards the “fairytale-like” and medieval fantasy. This is decidedly not that. It can only be described as military fantasy, and, surprisingly, I kind of dug it. Our two chapter perspective characters, Marcus and Winter, both serve in a regiment of the army that is stationed in a far-away outpost, only now seeing action after an uprising of the native people have pushed their army to the sea. They meet up with the newly-arrived Colonel Vhalnich, and while at first skeptical of this eccentric new leader, both, in their own way, come to discover that he may be a military genius…and also caught up in some other nefarious plots! My use of the ellipses is intentional.  The military genius portion is by far the more emphasized part of the story than the mystical plots.

Hats off to Wexler for making such a military-focused story appealing to even casual fans like myself. While it took a bit longer for me to become invested in the story and to fully realize (and accept) that this is what this book was going to be, ultimately, by halfway through the story, I was thoroughly enjoying even the most detailed of military strategy. Most likely this was due to the fact that by this point I was thoroughly invested in our main characters (Marcus/Winter), and almost equally invested in their subordinates (Bobby, Graff, etc) and was frantically urging them to “form square!” and “pull back!” and dreading each page turn where surely one of them wouldn’t make it through.

I also really enjoyed Colonel Vhalnich. We never get a chapter from his perspective, but in many ways he is the Sherlock to Marcus’s Watson. And I always love a “Sherlock-esque” brilliant character! He even throws out “Just wait and see, my dear lad, all will be clear in time!” lines! This may be a very specific joy of mine and not mean much to others, but I loved it.

Marcus was a decent protagonist, fairly straightforward and reminiscent of a “knight in shining armor” character. While I admired his devotion to his friends, there were plenty of times where I just wanted to smack him upside the head at the idiocy of some of his gallantry. There were a few twists that I saw coming a mile away that I couldn’t quite forgive him for missing (though I’m pretty sure we were supposed to be surprised as readers as well…ah all, this is what comes from reading so much of the same genre!).

Winter, however, was a completely unique and thoroughly enjoyable character to find in this type of novel. A run-away young women who has disguised herself as a man and been hiding out in the army for years as a form of survival and, almost, self-penitence for failing her lover Jane in a critical moment years before. I’ve come across the warrior-women-disguised-as-a-man character plenty of times before, but what is notable about Winter is not only sexuality (we avoid many of the romance tropes with other male characters in the military this way) but also her general reluctance to be there. It’s more a survival tactic than some deep-seeded desire to be a combatant. Her arc and growth was the most compelling part of this story.

The first half of the book is, as I said, very firmly rooted in its military tactics, and while this emphasis continues to a point throughout the whole story, I was happy when we got into a bit more of the magic and  mystery towards the second third. The history and players in this set-up were interesting and new. However, by the time the book wrapped itself up, I was still left with a lot of questions. I’m unsure whether this is a good or a bad thing. It is clearly set up as the first in a series, so not all secrets should be told. But, especially with regards to the title object itself “The Thousand Names,” I found myself still largely confused about what exactly it was and how it was important.

Overall, for a story that was pretty far out from my usual preferences, I found myself very much enjoying this book. Winter was a refreshingly new lead character; it was fun to be annoyed with Marcus’s “idiotic nobility” moments; and, as I’ve said many a time, I like genius characters like the Colonel. So, while I won’t be in a mad rush for the second book, I will definitely include it on my “get to it eventually” list. But if you like military fiction more than I do, definitely check this book out!

Rating 8: A surprisingly engaging read, though perhaps not sticking the landing and reveals as well as I might have liked.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Thousand Names” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Military Fantasy” and “LGBT Sci-fi and Fantasy.”

Find “The Thousand Names” at your library using WorldCat.

Kate’s Review: “We Eat Our Own”

27276249Book: “We Eat Our Own” by Kea Wilson

Publishing Info: Scribner, September 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: An ambitious debut novel by an original young writer, We Eat Our Own blurs the lines between life and art with the story of a film director’s unthinkable experiment in the Amazon.

When a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate: he flies to South America, no questions asked. He quickly realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s replacing another actor who quit after seeing the script—a script the director now claims doesn’t exist. The movie is over budget. The production team seems headed for a breakdown. The air is so wet that the celluloid film disintegrates.

But what the actor doesn’t realize is that the greatest threat might be the town itself, and the mysterious shadow economy that powers this remote jungle outpost. Entrepreneurial Americans, international drug traffickers, and M-19 guerillas are all fighting for South America’s future—and the groups aren’t as distinct as you might think. The actor thought this would be a role that would change his life. Now he’s worried if he’ll survive it.

Inspired by a true story from the annals of 1970s Italian horror film, and told in dazzlingly precise prose, We Eat Our Own is a resounding literary debut, a thrilling journey behind the scenes of a shocking film and a thoughtful commentary on violence and its repercussions.

Review: Has anyone out there heard of the movie “Cannibal Holocaust”? Let me give you a quick rundown of this movie and it’s notoriety. And I mean NOTORIETY. So “Cannibal Holocaust” is one of the first ‘found footage’ horror movies. It is about a group of people who go into the Amazonian rainforest to make a documentary about indigenous cannibal tribes, but then disappear. Their footage is found by a professor and the canisters contain many, many horrors including animal cruelty, arson, rape, and murder. When this movie was released, the director, Ruggero Deodato, told the main actors, largely unknown, to lay low for about a year so as to continue the illusion that they did actually disappear and meet terrible fates in the jungle. Which worked too well, as Deodato was arrested and charged with making a snuff film. The actors did come out of obscurity to clear him, but still. Yikes. So what is MY experience with this infamous horror movie? As a huge and avid horror fan, I wanted to show how edgy and hardcore I was and watched that movie a couple years ago. And let me say,  an hour and a half of gratuitous violence and multiple graphic rape scenes isn’t the best way to spend a day off, especially if you are feverish.

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I take it back, I’m neither edgy nor hardcore (source)

I was absolutely disgusted and repulsed by this movie. BUT, when my mother sent me an email about a new book called “We Eat Our Own”, it sounded very familiar. It sounded like the behind the scenes malarkey that went on during the filming of “Cannibal Holocaust”, but in the form of a horror novel. Okay, FINE, as much as that movie made me sick to my stomach, this premise had me TOTALLY SOLD!!!! A horror novel about the production of a “Cannibal Holocaust”-esque film? This clearly is going to be totally screwy and nasty and kind of fun and over the top, right?!

Well, not totally. Kea Wilson’s “We Eat Our Own” is very much based on the filming of “Cannibal Holocaust”, but it’s written in so many interesting ways that it felt less like a horror novel and more like an experimental literary one. For one thing, there are no quotation marks around the dialog, nor are there always indents when a new person is talking. But the most glaring experiment is that whenever the chapter is about the Unnamed American Actor, who is referred to by his character’s name (Richard), it is written in the second person (“You get a call from your agent, you go to pack your bags” etc), giving us an immersive experience for about half of the content of the book. While at first I thought that a second person perspective would limit the reader, Wilson worked around it by saying “you know this, but what you don’t know is that…”, and then tell us about the other characters in the scene or what’s going to happen to “Richard” in the future. I will admit that at first it was hard for me to wrap my mind around these devices. After all, I was kind of expecting a straight forward horror novel about a doomed production team (why I assumed everyone would actually die when that is not what happened in it’s real life inspiration, I couldn’t tell you). Instead I got a writing experiment that touched on more than just what was happening to the production team. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me a little bit of time to really get into this book because of this style, but once I figured it out I actually really liked it, especially the parts where it would say “what you don’t know is that this extra is going to be running away and escaping her circumstances…”, because it found a really great way to learn more about these other characters without compromising the device.

The other chapters that aren’t “Richard’s”/the reader’s POV focus on other characters involved in the circumstances, be they that of crew members, the other actors, or the locals who are dealing with their own violent circumstances. Wilson takes the time to address not only the quagmire that is happening in the jungle at the time, but also the tenuous political situation that is simmering in Colombia. While an Italian filmmaker and his predominantly Western crew are trying to make a movie about cannibalistic and stereotypical tribal violence, there is unrest in the town that they are in, as a group of M-19 guerrillas are starting to boil over with tension, as they have a kidnapped Venezuelan attaché in their custody and are trying to plan an attack. An American who has set up shop in town has hooked them up with a cartel, and now things are on the brink of an explosion of violence. While it was great to see an acknowledgment of the ills going on in Colombia at the time, some of which were the result of remnants of Western colonialism and the drug trade that fueled Western noses at the time, these were the parts of the story that were the hardest for me to get into. The writing style is jumpy and at times haphazard enough, so to jump completely from one storyline to another was harder for me to follow. That being said, Wilson did a great job of showing how all of these characters are connected, and masterfully weaved them all together. There were times that we would get the conclusions to some storylines of other chapters through the eyes of another chapter and the character that it was following, which I really liked. It was also really biting to show an Italian filmmaker and his crew making a movie that perpetuates a brutal and dangerous stereotype about a group of people in Colombia (specifically the Yąnomamö), only to find themselves in a violent situation that has been built up by Western greed and entitlement.

Thinking about this book more and really dissecting it, I quite enjoyed “We Eat Our Own”. Don’t go in thinking that it’s your run of the mill horror novel. It’s definitely more complex than I expected it to be, and I think that Kea Wilson is definitely an author that I am going to be on the look out for as time goes on.

Rating 8: A complex and twisty exploration of both politics and a filmmaker’s obsession, “We Eat Our Own” is a compelling work of literary horror, and a love letter to one of horror’s most infamous movies.

Reader’s Advisory:

So the two Goodreads lists that “We Eat Our Own” is on are very broad and vague and have nothing to do with the story itself. That said, I think that it is quite reminiscent to “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James in tone and political message, and I also think that the list “Amazon Rainforest” might have similar themed books on it.

Find “We Eat Our Own” at your library using WorldCat!

Boo(ish)!: Some Good, Not So Scary Halloween Movies

All Hallows Eve is nearly upon us, readers, and while we’ll be putting some scary stories out there for you to think about on Halloween proper, this week we have a selection of some good Halloween movies. But maybe not the too scary kind. After all, we can’t all be scary movie junkies like Kate is, as not all of us like being scared. But there are plenty of non scary movies that are perfectly appropriate for the Halloween season. And we thought we’d share some of our favorites with you. Whether they have Halloween settings or spooky themes, these movies are milder, but just as fun to watch during the season of the witch.

mv5bmty4mjq2mzu1ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwntm2mjc3ode-_v1_Film: “The Craft”

Premiere Date: May 3rd, 1996

What do you do when you infuse a 90s movie with a healthy dose of witchcraft and teen angst? Why, you get “The Craft”, aka the movie that almost every Goth girl in the late 90s and early 2000s took as a how to guide (including Kate). It’s a story of four teenage girls, Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle, who find out that when they are together they have magical powers. Though they hope to use magic to make their lives better, it becomes all to clear that sometimes magic is too hard to control and has unintended consequences. All four of the actresses do a good job, but the stand outs are Robin Tunney’s Sarah, who plays reluctance and strength with subtle edges, and Fairuza Balk’s Nancy, whose desperation makes her both tragic and terrifying. It’s “Mean Girls” meets “Macbeth”‘s Weird Sisters, and it drips 90s girl power like few other films from that time do.

mv5bmweznmuxztmtzjy0my00ognmlwiyndctodm2yzzjm2ywzwewxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_sy1000_cr006831000_al_Film: “The Lost Boys”

Premiere Date: July 31st, 1987

Joel Schumacher may be remembered these days for his campy and much reviled Batman films (“Batman and Robin” in particular). But the camp and schlock he is good at really added a certain something to the 80s cheese o-rama that was “The Lost Boys”. When brothers Sam and Michael (Corey Haim and Jason Patric) move to a small seaside town in California, they run afoul a group of vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland’s David. They enlist the help of two teen vampire hunters (one of whom is Corey Feldman) and hope to save themselves from the danger they’ve found themselves in. “The Lost Boys” may have some tense moments, but it’s so overwrought with earnest campiness that it isn’t terribly upsetting, just a lot of fun.

mv5bodq5ndq0mjkwmf5bml5banbnxkftztcwndg1otu4nq-_v1_sy1000_cr006731000_al_Film: “Tucker and Dale vs Evil”

Premiere Date: December 9th, 2010

There are many classic tropes in horror movies, and two of the most overused are backwoods hillbillies, and remote cabins in the woods. “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” takes both of those tropes and makes a movie with a lot of laughs and a whole lot of heart. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two guys who are excited to renovate Tucker’s new vacation home, a cabin in the middle of the woods. But when a group of college kids arrives and makes assumptions about who they are based on their ‘hillbilly’ appearance, a comedy of errors (with some grisly deaths) ensues. Though this is kind of a gory movie, both Tucker and Dale are so hapless and bemused by their situation there are many laughs to be had.

mv5bmtuwode3mde0mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwntk1mji4mze-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Film: “Beetlejuice”

Premiere Date: March 30th, 1988

Maybe this is an obvious one, but “Beetlejuice” is a classic haunted house tale that is far more funny than it is scary. When the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) die in a tragic accident, their house is bought by New York yuppies with no taste. They enlist the help of an obnoxious demon named Betelguese (portrayed famously and perfectly by Michael Keaton), but then have second thoughts when the goth and morose teenage daughter of the house Lydia (Winona Ryder) is far sweeter than they anticipated. Filled with lots of Tim Burton staples and dark humor, “Beetlejuice” is an enduring classic that stands the test of time. And will never make you look at “Day-oh” the same way again.

mv5bmmqyymy5ztmtm2jkni00nmm2lwe3zmetywyzzmrkzdm0ztdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_Film: “Hocus Pocus”

Premiere Date: July 16, 1993

I mean, of course. “Hocus Pocus” is quite possibly the Grand Queen of non-scary Halloween movies. The story of the Sanderson Sisters, three Salem Witches awakened in 1993 to the (then) modern world, is a cult classic. The witches may be fish out of water, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to take the souls of Salem’s children to grant themselves eternal life. But three kids and a talking cat named Binx are out to stop them. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy bring the hilarious, and sometimes genuinely creepy, Sanderson Sisters to life with unforgettable performances. We would be remiss to leave them off our list, because it is not officially Halloween until “Hocus Pocus” has been watched.

What about you guys? What are your favorite non scary (or scary!) movies to watch during the Halloween season? Let us know in the comments!!

Serena’s Rev-Up Review: “Tower of Thorns”

22567177Book: “Tower of Thorns” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Roc, November 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: I bought it!

Book Description: Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Review: In preparation for the release of the third book in the “Blackthorn and Grim” series this November, I’m charging forward with my reviews of the series so far. In the first novel, “Dreamer’s Pool” I fell in love with our main characters, Blackthorn and Grim, but questioned Marillier’s decision to include a third character perspective in that story. She followed a similar pattern with this novel, but, perhaps due to a stronger mystery, I found myself enjoying this book even more than the last.

Blackthorn and Grim have settled into their quiet life. Blackthorn, curmudgeony and reserved, providing her healing service to the countryside in which she resides, while waiting out her seven-year bargain to not pursue revenge on the man who destroyed her life. And Grim, faithfully devoting himself to helping her, and his neighbors, however he can, silent and steady, but deeply broken. But when asked to accompany Oran and his pregnant wife, Flidais, to a neighboring providence, Blackthorn can’t refuse and finds herself once again caught up in a fantastical mystery.

As I said, I enjoyed this book even more than the last. Having already been introduced to the characters, I enjoyed reading about Blackthorn and Grim’s continual struggles to adapt to a life that they feel disconnected to and a world that often feels distanced from their own experiences. Their stories are tragic, and the beautiful relationship they have formed is so lovely. In particular, we get more background on Grim’s story in this novel, which was important at this stage. In the first story, we know that something happened, clearly, but there were very few clues as to what. I very much enjoyed this backstory and how it fleshed out Grim’s character.

I also enjoyed the increased involvement that Blackthorn undertook in solving the mystery in this story. Being the recluse that she is, in both books she is extremely reluctant to become involved, but I did appreciate the increased action on her part in this story. The added layers to her relationship with and understanding of Grim were all fantastic, and I’m excited to see where Marillier is taking their relationship. Will it stay platonic? Will it become romantic? I feel like it could go either way, and honestly, I would be satisfied with either approach, which, when you think about it, is a pretty remarkable feat for an author to pull off.

And, as I said in the beginning, I did enjoy the third character perspective more in this story than in the last. Lady Geiléis’s chapters are devoted to spinning another tale that neatly ties in to the primary mystery. Perhaps as a more “shades of grey” character, her perspective was simply more interesting than that of Oran who at times came across as a bit of a milksop. The mystery regarding the howling creature and the tower was also much more compelling than Flidais’s story in the first book. By halfway through the book, I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down (which was a bit inconvenient since I was visiting family over Thanksgiving last year when I was reading it and was probably very rude and antisocial due to this book!). The story was decidedly darker than the first, and I was legitimately creeped out by parts of it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and it is always exciting to find a series that seems to be improving as it goes. I’m so excited (and slightly nervous given the high expectations!) for the third book’s release! I already have my copy pre-ordered.

Rating 9: Fantastic! A more compelling (and creepy!) mystery, and added layers to our main characters and their relationship.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Tower of Thorns” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Fantasy with Old-School Fairy Tale Vibes”and “Books for Fans of Robin McKinley.”

Find “Tower of Thorns” at your library using WorldCat.

Previously Reviewed:Dreamer’s Pool”