Lazy Sunday Thoughts

Hey all! What’s shaking?

It’s supposed to be Sweater Weather but I think it’s looking like Shorts and Sandals Weather today. I think I need to go for a drive later. It’s gorgeous!

It’s been a slow reading week. I’m still working on The Scapegoat but I also moved onto The Golden Calf by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (of Lady Audley fame). It’s the best example of male entitlement I think I’ve ever read. These guys, they’re awful!

Since I don’t have a lot to say, how about some links?

*Have you heard? Dear Author is being sued by Ellora’s Cave for reporting facts. I will not being reading anything from that publisher. I hope their writers can get themselves untangled from that whole mess. Jane herself is a lawyer so this seems like a bad move on Ellora Cave’s part.

*Go and read Trish’s thoughts on some of the commentary about diverse reading. The relationship between reader and what they read often falls under the heading “It’s complicated.”

*Want to see some weird Adam and Eve medieval art? Sure you do! My favorites are “Just crawling naked through the grass” and “Let’s take a bath with a giant monster.” (Public Domain Review)

*Here is the book trailer for Horrorstor. Enjoy!

Thoughts On Two Short Stories from Monstrous Affections

monstrous affections

Monstrous Affections edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant is a collection of short stories written by the best authors in YA and Speculative Fiction. Each story involves encounters between humans and supernatural beasts. The anthology contains short works by writers such as Holly Black and Patrick Ness. However, today as part of A More Diverse Universe I’ll be reviewing the short stories of the two POC contributors.

Left Foot, Right by Nalo Hopkinson. Jenna buys a new pair of red pumps, but they are not for her. They are for her sister who died in a car accident which Jenna survived but left her with mind numbing guilt. Jenna hasn’t taken off the one remaining red shoe since the accident. As she heads to the river that took her sister, she has an experience that will have a lasting effect on her own life.

Left Foot, Right is a rather strange but sad story of loss and dealing with being a survivor. Jenna was close to her sister Zuleika, so close Zuleika knew her innermost secrets. Jenna has an assortment of emotions to work through before she can return to her regular life. The question is whether what happens at the river is real or part of her grief.

Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim. A group of teenaged girls forge an unlikely friendship over the summer. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they are all Korean adoptees. When one of the girls finds a book of magic, the girls conjure up their real “Mom.” The girls enjoy having Mom in their lives until she gets a little too demanding.

Teenaged girls and magic are never a good mix as anyone who has ever seen The Craft will tell you. These girls get more than they bargained for with Mom. Mom can see and hear their thoughts. She fulfills the role of the Korean mother they all wished they had. Not only are the girls trying to navigate the difficulties of teenage life but doing so as adopted children living with a family of a different race. One girl tries too hard to please her parents, another rebels in the hopes of being seen. Despite the fact that Mom is a being beyond their control, they end up learning about themselves and their place within their homes. There are a lot of complex issues at play within this short and wry story.

Although both stories have supernatural elements, they deal with some serious, and real, issues that many teens face. Whether that’s a tragic loss or fitting in, the problems within them are relatable without the creatures.

I haven’t read too much beyond these two stories and I’m looking forward to reading the rest! The cover illustration is by Yuko Shimizu and isn’t it fantastic?

DIVERSE

The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell (Audiobook): Review

 Grey_Woman_1010

This review originally appeared on Project Gutenberg Project. I liked the story so much I wanted to share my thoughts on The Grey Woman with readers of Chrisbookarama. Enjoy!

The Grey Woman is an excellent Gothic story with a Bluebeard twist. There’s a castle, a damsel in distress, and a husband with a secret. However, the hero of this story isn’t a dude on a white horse but a bad ass older woman: Amante.

A traveller visits a mill/coffeehouse in Germany and notices a portrait of a pale lady.
“It was that of a young girl of extreme beauty; evidently of middle rank. There was a sensitive refinement in her face, as if she almost shrank from the gaze which, of necessity, the painter must have fixed upon her.”
The traveller asks to know her story.  The owner replies, “Well, it just so happens that she was my great-aunt Anna and she wrote a manuscript explaining how she ended up so white. Here, read it.” As you do. The traveller sets down to read it, then the story is told in The Grey Woman’s own words.

When Anna was a young lass, her father remarried and the new lady of the house was anxious to get rid of her. Instead of marrying a local yokel, Anna accepts an invitation to her rich friend Sophie’s estate where she meets a handsome French stranger. Monsieur de la Tourelle appears to be a gentleman. He has his sights on Anna. She dances with him at parties when he asks. She’s too shy and overcome by his charms to say no.

tourelle
Anna, you in danger girl!

One day Sophie’s mother tells Anna that she’s written to her father about her impending engagement. Anna is shocked! How could she be getting engaged and not even know it?! She’s informed that it’s too late for protests now. Anna received Monsieur de la Tourelle’s attentions without complaint and that means she’s given herself for life to a perfect stranger. Oh well, what can you do when it’s 1789 and women have no rights. *shrug*

So Anna marries her Frenchman and he ships her off to some castle in the middle of nowhere with no friends or family. He immediately exhibits signs of an abuser. He demands that she keep to only one area of their home where he can keep an eye on her. He’s jealous of even her love of her family and she is never allowed to visit them. Unsurprisingly, she becomes depressed.

In an uncharacteristic act of compassion, Monsieur hires a lady’s maid to keep her company. Amante “tall and handsome, though upwards of forty” instantly takes on the role of Anna’s bodyguard. She runs interference between Anna and the surly servants. Amante is especially helpful now that Anna is pregnant.

Amante discovers that Anna isn’t getting her mail and the two hatch a plan to break into Monsieur’s apartments to retrieve them. In the process, Anna learns her husband’s secret, a secret so terrible that it sends Anna and Amante into hiding!

Amante is The Boss! She’s quick thinking and always one step ahead of the bad guys. She protects her mistress with her life, even changing her identity to protect her. The pair have many hair raising close calls but Amante keeps her head. Talk about a Strong Female Character! Amante is it.

mrs s
Amante: Possible prototype for Mrs S of Orphan Black?
As for Anna, I’m not sure why this wet noodle inspires such devotion but the heart wants what the heart wants, I guess. Perhaps it was because of the baby. Amante did love that baby.

Part of why I love blogging for Project Gutenberg Project is discovering long lost gems like this The Grey Woman. Sure, it’s soapy and melodramatic with a Villainous Villain but it’s pure entertainment with some feminism thrown in. Anna and Amante, a disobedient wife and a maid, outwit and outrun ruffians. Courage and cleverness rule the day.

This was another Librivox recording I took in.

Lazy Bloggiesta For Lazy Sunday Thoughts

I had no intentions of doing Bloggiesta this time around but ended up participating in two Twitter chats. I’m a sucker for Twitter chats! I did write half a review, updated my Review page, and backed up my blog. Bloggiesta always reminds me to do that.

As for reading, I read two short stories from Monstrous Affections for Diverse Universe this weekend. Hopefully by tonight I will have reviewed them for next week. I am trying to get into The Scapegoat but I have no idea what is going on in the story.

I listened to a Librivox recording of Colette’s Barks and Purrs and it was delightful! I’ll review that for Project Gutenberg Project soon. At the moment, I’m listening to The Golden Calf by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I’m a bit obsessed with Mary right now. Victorian Sensation novels are my jam.

Summer is nearly over and it’s time to see how the garden did this year. The beans did so well that I think I’m going to plant more varieties next year. The tomatoes were okay. The carrots are just starting to show their worth. I have a love hate relationship with growing carrots. My lettuce and radishes were terrible. Not enough mild spring weather to get anything out of them. Beans were the definite winner in this version of The Hunger Games.

TINY HARVEST

Now I’m off to cook these bad boys to have with pulled pork sandwiches. Later!

The Lake by Tananarive Due: Review

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.

DIVERSE

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix: Review

horrorstor

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.

Media Madness Monday: Goth and Austra

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.

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

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.

decadent

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.

Media Madness Monday: The Outlander Edition

media madness monday 1

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.

outlander

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!

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Getting Organized

SEPTEMBER

Hello, Sunday readers! How was your week?

I’m settling into my job while getting my kid adjusted to a new school. There was some bussing trouble that needed fixing. Plus, the first week of school means sign ups for afterschool activities. I haven’t had any time to blog.

I did read two books though! I finished Horrorstor over a weekend and listened to At the Mountains of Madness during the week. I’ll have some reviews up soon. I also started listening to a Librivox recording of The Camp of the Dog by Algernon Blackwood. Here’s the thing though, I stopped listening to it.

The story starts out well enough. A group of Brits go camping on a Swedish island. There is a girl who is born for the outdoors. She’s tough and, of course, she can’t be pretty because she’s not delicate, you know. Fine. Camping with her and her parents is a pale Canadian that Nice Guy’s her the whole time and she can’t tell him to beat it because it would break his sad little heart. Ugh…okay. Then a wild dog starts stalking her in the night. Instead of leaving like sensible people they call in some old paranormal scientist dude. Why? Just leave! The scientist dude diagnoses Werewolf. Then it got real racist and I bailed. I can usually put up with this for ole timey books. My co-bloggers over at Project Gutenberg Project and I even discussed this before but I couldn’t tolerate the racism disguised as science, and bad science at that.

oprah-shakng-her-head

So it’s a DNF for me. For a better werewolf story read Alexandre Dumas’s The Wolf Leader.

I’ve moved onto The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell and it is pure Gothic storytelling. It’s got everything: damsels, castles, murder, that thing where there’s a manuscript within the story. I hope to have better luck with this one.

Even though it’s been a hot and humid and not at all fallish weekend, I did see pumpkins at the grocery store. The cool weather is coming! Bring on the Pumpkin Spice Lattes!