September 17, 2014

The Lake by Tananarive Due: Review

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The Lake

The Lake by Tananarive Due is a short story, super short at 20 pages or so, and part of an anthology titled The Monster’s Corner. I picked The Lake because I wanted to read a spooky story for A More Diverse Universe that would work for Carl’s RIP and Jenn recommended Ms Due. I hadn’t read anything from Tananarive Due so this short work was a place to start and, hey, it’s FREE.

In The Lake, a new teacher comes to the town of Graceville, Florida. Abbie LaFleur has come from Boston to start anew and what better way than to buy an old house on a beautiful lake. What no one tells Abbie is that swimming in the lake is dangerous and not just because of the gators. Abbie has secrets but so does the lake.

I don’t want to give too much away; it’s a short story and a lot of its punch would be lost. At its heart, The Lake is about monsters but are the monsters just humans in disguise? I was impressed at how Tananarive Due is able to manipulate the reader by using Abbie’s point of view. At first, I was sympathetic towards Abbie. People must have really had it out for her, and then…oh…what did you do in Boston, Abbie?

I will definitely read more from Tananarive Due. If not this week, then sometime soon.


September 16, 2014

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix: Review

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Three employees of the Big Box store Orsk, an Ikea knockoff, choose to spend the night in the store in order to catch a suspected intruder. Basil, the store manager, recruits Amy with a promise of a transfer, and Ruth Ann who would do anything for her “family” at Orsk. For weeks, the morning crew has discovered broken and even soiled merchandise. Someone is in the store at night. At least one of the store’s problems would be solved. The Orsk at Cuyahoga has had issues since its opening with technical difficulties and abysmal sales. The layout is disorienting but even the most experienced employee gets lost on the showroom floor. It’s as if the store doesn’t want anyone to leave.

This was fun! First the layout of Horrorstor is clever. It’s part catalogue, part novel. There’s an item description at the beginning of every chapter that get weirder further into the book. I had high expectations just based on design alone.

The plot itself plays out like a horror movie. True to form, there’s a small group of characters with particular personality quirks. Basil is a company man, a by the book kind of guy. Seeing him try to apply his corporate training to this situation was entertaining. Ruth Anne is a devoted employee with a big heart. Amy is our heroine, the black sheep of the Orsk family. She believes Basil sees her slacker ways and has it out for her. Every good horror movie needs a haunted house, or an insane asylum, or a vampire’s castle. In Horrorstor, it’s the Orsk store, a disorienting labyrinth with a secret history. As for the movie monster, I think that’s something to be discovered as you read it.

Even though Horrorstor is a horror novel, it’s also a parody of Big Box companies. Slogans like “It’s Not Just a Job. It’s the Rest of Your Life.” are less inspiring than the company believes. Is it a job or a prison sentence? They work hard to make the “partners” (employees) feel like a part of a big family but when it comes down to it, people are dispensable.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix is a quick and easy read with a bit of gore, though that gore is somewhat ridiculous. Instead of spending a Saturday afternoon at Ikea, spend it at Orsk!

(I wonder if I’m the only one who wants to order the Kjerring (bookshelf) on the cover.)

Thanks to Quirk Books for sending Horrorstor for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

September 15, 2014

Media Madness Monday: Goth and Austra

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media madness monday

I'm a media junkie, not just books, but TV, movies, music, podcasts, and internet nonsense. Every Monday I discuss something that's caught my interest this past week.

This Monday I mostly want to discuss music I’ve listened to this week. I’m always checking out the new Songza playlists* and this week they had an interesting one titled: All-Night Goth Pop, which is perfect as your RIP IX soundtrack. It’s got some old favorite bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, Joy Division, and new bands like Crystal Castles. Some of it does sound a bit like Ross Geller and His Keyboard Live at Central Perk though. (Omg, The Damned Don’t Cry.)

One band that I’ve never heard of before caught my attention: Austra. Austra is an Electronic from Toronto. The band’s name, Austra, comes from the Latvian goddess of light. Like them already. I checked out their albums on itunes and bought Feel It Break which includes The Beat and the Pulse. Here’s a recording of a performance of the song from CBC Music.

Lead singer Katie Stelmanis has a beautiful voice that reminds me of Susanne Sundfor and Kate Bush. The music itself it sort of old school New Wave and Techno. It’s very moody at times like in songs like The Noise, and the spooky Spellwork, and sometimes fun like in Shoot the Water. It’s different and I hope you give it a listen.

*Yes, I use the music streaming service Songza. The radio here is terrible. I would never have found 50% of the music I bought from itunes if not for Songza. I usually buy songs right after I hear them because I have no patience and they have a Buy button on every song that directs to itunes.

September 9, 2014

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (Audiobook): Review

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mountains of madness

In At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, William Dyer, an old geologist dude, is pretty freaked out over a new expedition to Antarctica. Some time before, he himself was a part of an Antarctic expedition… that went terribly wrong. This is a Lovecraft story, so of course.

Dyer’s colleagues went digging around and found the remains of fourteen ancient creatures. These aren’t like mammoths or T-Rexs or anything. These creatures are too evolved to be where they are on the time scale. Those colleagues, who found the creatures by travelling further into the previously unknown mountain ranges of Antarctica, lose contact with Dyer’s group. Crazy winds whip at the camp and keep Dyer’s men from flying out to find them. Finally, Dyer and a guy named Danforth grab a plane and head out. At the other camp, they find a terrible scene of carnage. After taking it all in, they scoot off into the mountains.

Dyer and Danforth are overwhelmed by the scale of the mountains, taller than the Himalayans, and bugged out by the strange whistling the wind makes. They notice cube-like structures and realize that the mountains hide a city. Inside the city, the pair find art in tunnels that explains the entire history of the dead creatures they call Elder Things, including a struggle that wiped them out. After some time, they feel something is still alive in there with them. 

At the Mountains of Madness is more Science-Fiction than horror. The scientists are the variety in fiction who are too curious for their own good. You know that if you go poking around in caves, or under Paris, nothing good will ever happen. The same can be said for Antarctica. Leave it to the penguins, boys. Dyer drones on and on about drills and eras and blah-blah. I zoned out a few times. He also has a habit of saying things like, “I can’t even put into words the terrible thing I saw, but I must.” Just get to it, man!

Let’s get to the monsters. I like Lovecraft’s monsters. However, it was way too convenient that the whole evolutionary history of the creatures was displayed in the “decadent” art. I say decadent because Lovecraft uses that and “queer,” and “grotesque” about a thousand times. If you are going to use “decadent” that often, it better involve chocolate.


This wasn’t my favorite Lovecraft story. I’m not sure if it was the setting or that it wasn’t as scary as some of his earlier books. There was something missing for me. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t aged well. We know what Antarctica looks like because of exploration and satellite imagery. We have Google Earth now, there are no mysterious mountain ranges. That takes some of the wind out of it.

About the audio: At the Mountains of Madness is narrated by Edward Herrmann (Lorelei Gilmore’s dad). He uses a very professorial accent. It was an enjoyable listen.

Let’s hear what Sparky Sweets has to say about it.

September 8, 2014

Media Madness Monday: The Outlander Edition

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The Starz series Outlander is finally being aired here in Canada on the Showcase network. Why they chose to air it three weeks behind the American station is beyond my comprehension. It’s really stupid. Anyway, it’s here now. I’ve watched the first two episodes the day after they air. The show is on so late Sunday nights I’d need a caffeine IV to get me through the next day. So DVR I must.


As for the show itself. I’m tentatively optimistic. I’ve been reading the Outlander series since 1992 (yes, I’m that old) back when I was younger than both Claire and Jamie. I’ve grown into adulthood and beyond with it. So, it’s scary to see the book on television. First, I know that the books are pretty rapey and I don’t like watching those scenes on TV or movies. So far, it’s been…ok. The scene with Jenny was icky.

A quick outline of Outlander, if you’ve managed to avoid it: Claire Randall goes on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, to Scotland just after the Second World War. After witnessing a ceremony at some standing stones, Claire stumbles into a Time Warp situation and is propelled in time to 1743. There she falls for Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser.

The actors playing Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan) are super hot, though older than in the book, not that I have a problem with this. Dougal is much better looking than I imagined. Frank is…Frank. The scenery and setting is gorgeous. How can you go wrong with Scotland though? The clothes Claire gets to wear are so pretty, though uncomfortable looking. I love the scarves she wears. 

The first episode was slow going, much like the book. Frank explains a lot of stuff to Claire about the exact time period she gets sucked into and that information is useful later but makes for dull TV. By the end, things have picked up with Claire navigating the 18th century like a boss. Claire also narrates her thoughts in a voice over. This could be annoying but I think we’d all be lost without it.

I’ve been reading Roxane Gay’s recaps on Vulture and they are hilarious. She’s new to the series altogether and it’s interesting to see her reactions to the show. Check that out.

Now is the time for this series, as womencentric shows are gaining critical acclaim. We have characters like Olivia Pope, The Clones of Orphan Black, Lesley Knope, and now Claire Randall. Hurray for ladies!