Thursday, October 27, 2016

RIP READS: Ray Bradbury's October People

We are closing out the month with our final guest for RIP Reads.  Please welcome Dinara of Reading My Way Through Life.  


Credit:  Abigail Larson
Ray Bradbury's October People
by Dinara Tengri

“Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees. In dark clock-springs of hair, Dog fetched goldenrod, dust of farewell-summer, acorn-husk, hair of squirrel, feather of departed robin, sawdust from fresh-cut cordwood, and leaves like charcoals shaken from a blaze of maple trees. Dog jumped. Showers of brittle fern, blackberry vine, marsh-grass sprang over the bed where Martin shouted. No doubt, no doubt of it at all, this incredible beast was October!” 

Nobody knows October better than the grandfather of fantasy, Ray Bradbury. No other author that I know of, can capture the climate, the air and the spirit of this dark and chilling month like this guy right here. The excerpt above is from The Emissary, a wonderful little short story in Bradbury’s short story collection, The October Country. I reviewed The October Country last year, on my blog, but since I love it so much, I wanted to share my love with the readers of BBI.

While preparing for this article, I thought about different ways I could discuss The October Country. And believe me, there are many. The beauty of any good piece of fiction is that there are so many layers you can choose to dissect and discuss. In the case of The October Country, I could talk about how personal this collection has been to the author. I could also write a whole essay on Bradbury’s language and how he transforms the simplest weather phenomenon such as the wind into a magical, dreamlike dance.

Eventually, I settled on a topic that has been very rewarding for me to write about. And that is how all the stories and the characters in them can be viewed as the reflection of the human soul.
“October Country… that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…” 

In Bradbury’s fictional Universe, October is more than just a month, astronomically speaking. It’s more than foliage in every shade of red and yellow, and air that smells like overripe apples and cinnamon. It is a mystical time of year; a season that at the same time symbolises death and the beginning of a new life. The colours are bright and yellow, but also dark and grey. There is place for every emotion, from childlike joy over approaching Halloween, to deep despair over a lost love. It’s important to mention that not every story in this book takes place in autumn too. In this respect, October is not a time of year, but a place in the human heart. A place that is dark and lonely. A place where our deepest and most unclear fears can be realised.

In The Emissary, the boy – Martin – is suffering from an ailment that has chained him to his bed indefinitely, and his only lifeline, his only connection to the outside world is his beloved Dog. After frolicking outside all day, Dog comes running back to Martin, bringing with him the smells and little artifacts of the world in his fur. This way Martin can still experience the fresh bloom of spring, the heat of the summer and the musky spice of autumn.

It’s not a perfect system, but it works. Until one day, when Dog doesn’t come back. Heartbroken and crushed, Martin starts questioning loyalty and love – the very things that have made his life bearable so far. Why did his best friend abandon him? Why do your loved ones leave and never come back? And just when you think that life couldn’t get any worse for Martin, there’s a knock on the door one night.

The Emissary captures the tone of The October Country perfectly. There is the happiness that Martin feels when he’s playing with Dog; there is the anger that we feel about the boy's situation; there is the kaleidoscope of smells and images of autumn that Dog brings with him and that Bradbury describes with loving thoroughness. There is the grief and despair that we experience with Martin when Dog doesn’t come back. And finally, there is the chilling, thrilling horror of the third act. The ending is textbook Bradbury. It is both a satisfying payoff and a merciless gut punch. It left me horrified, excited and angry the first time I read it. (More on the topic of horror later.)

Martin learns the hard way how unfair life can be. But unlike most of the other characters in this book, he’s an innocent child (which makes the outcome of the story even more infuriating). The rest of the colourful menagerie of Bradbury’s characters are not as innocent or pure as young Martin.

The characters we meet here are deeply flawed. They become victims of their own weaknesses and vices. In Skeleton, a self-pitying hypochondriac falls prey to a dangerous charlatan. In The Next in Line, a woman deals with her greatest fear of being buried alive in the Mexican catacombs, while her emotionally abusive husband insists on ignoring her. And in The Scythe, a man who accidentally becomes the grim reaper, is faced with an impossible task.

These characters make bad choices. But they’re not bad people. They’re just people. And they deal with their problems the best way they can. And we can see ourselves in them, and in the mistakes that they make, which makes it easier for us to forgive them and to relate to them.

Coming back to the subject of horror, I will never get tired of pointing out that Bradbury doesn’t rely on blood and gore in his horror. His stories are among the scariest I’ve read, and I always marvel at his ability to invoke fear and a sense of unease and “creepiness” without spilling one drop of blood, or giving a detailed description of the monster under the bed. The horror lies in what’s untold. It’s the implication of the violence that is scary. It is the most rewarding way to write horror because it leaves so much to our imagination. It’s our imagination and our own fears that fill in the blanks. And nothing can scare us more than the products of our own subconscious.

Perhaps I’m way off in my interpretation of The October Country. Perhaps I’ve turned into one of those critics who think they know a book better than the person who wrote it. And since I can’t find any support for my interpretation in anything that Bradbury himself has said, I remain positive that this is something that I’ve conjured up in my fangirlish mind. But it is the complexity of these stories that opens up for the possibility of many different interpretations, my own included.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate my point is with another story. The Jar is about a farmer who buys a jar containing some unidentifiable tissue, a piece of goo. He brings it home, and invites all his neighbours to marvel at his new purchase. And every single person in the room, except for the main character’s wife cannot tear their eyes from the jar. What’s interesting is that everyone sees in this piece of goo exactly what they want to see. One woman sees the remains of her dead baby, another man sees the kitten he was forced to drown when he was but a boy. A third, more philosophically inclined man sees the origin of all life on Earth. And by saying what it is that they see in this jar, these people bare to us their souls. And here they are, naked, exposing their darkest fears and their deepest regrets. All this from a small glass jar.

And in a way, The October Country is kind of like this jar. Different parts of these stories speak to us, and we take from them what we want to take. What we need to take. These stories touch us on a personal level, and speak to our hearts. Reading this book almost makes me feel the cold touch of the wind, even though I'm all snuggled up in my room.

And I cannot talk about The October Country without mentioning the fantastic gothic illustrations by Joe Mugnaini for the 1996 edition.

The October Country is perhaps my favourite book by Ray Bradbury. And that says a lot.

What about you? Is there a book out there that speaks to you personally? Do you have any favourite "autumn books"?


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

RIP Reads: 10 Creepy Audiobooks

Welcome back for another great RIP guest, Stacy of The Novel Life.  
Today, she is here to chat with us about the scary on audio.  
I can't wait to try a few of these myself!


Credit:  Abigail Larson
10 Creepy Audiobooks

I was staying by myself at a campground the evening I downloaded this audiobook. The door to the camper was locked. My faithful standard poodle, Obie, was taking up almost the entire bed. And I had a free credit, plus a penchant for something gothic.

Although it was early October the cooler weather was well on its way to settling in to the small North Georgia mountain town. I could not have dreamed up a more perfect atmosphere for a creepy ghostly tale.

The moment I started to listen to Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I knew I was in for a scary night. There’s something about listening to a well-made production audio that feels completely immersive. Any of the audiobooks below will satisfy your desire to get in the mood for Halloween, Fall and Goth!

Side note: The key to audio I have found is in having a quality narrator. Several of the novels below have multiple releases and narrations. I can vouch for the quality versions/narrators below.


Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Narrator: Daniel Weyman
Run Time: 7 Hours and 30 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: Atmospheric, creepy and the narration adds to the timeless ghostly appeal of Marina. This audiobook is what sold me on listening to audio!


Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Narrator:  Justine Eyre, Paul Michael
Run Time: 26 Hours and 11 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: Not your typical vampire novel but one that feels almost entirely plausible! The narration will keep you sufficiently scared of things going bump in the night.


Author: Justin Cronin
Narrator: Scott Brick, Abby Craden, Adenrele Ojo
Run Time: 36 Hours and 52 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: An epic trilogy that will keep you thinking long after completion. The narration is like listening to a radio show. Not to be missed.


Author: Anne Rice
Narrator: Kate Reading
Run Time: 50 Hours
Why You Should Listen: Kate Reading is a phenomenal narrator taking you deep into the lives and horrors of The Mayfair Witches. Though the audiobook is the longest audio on this list, listening as opposed to reading will leave you afraid to turn out the lights! Promise!


Author: Max Brooks
Narrators: Christopher Ragland, Rupert Farley, Nigel Pilkington, Jennifer Woodward, David Thorpe, Adam Sims, Robert Slade
Run Time: 14 Hours
Why You Should Listen: As this is “an oral history” the story is told as a series of interviews. This translates well on audio, giving World War Z almost an Orson Welles, War of the Worlds feel.


Author: Jan Anson
Narrator: Ray Porter
Run Time: 6 Hours and 27 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: As long as you don’t get hung up on whether the story is true or not, this narration will scare the pants off of you. The narrator is top notch, creating a sense of eerie horror with each passing event. This one will give you nightmares if you let it!


Author: Erin Morgenstern
Narrator: Jim Dale
Run Time: 13 Hours and 39 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: Not your typical scary tale as The Night Circus is more fantastical with hints of goth, but it’s Jim Dale. You can’t miss out on anything Jim Dale reads - Jim Dale of Harry Potter audiobook fame! Dale takes every audiobook he narrates to an entire new level. The voice he uses for each character is unique and thrilling. You can’t go wrong with this one!


Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Craig Wasson
Run Time: 30 Hours and 44 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: The most remarkable audiobook I’ve ever heard in life. Not the scariest on this list by far, but it is a Stephen King novel so be prepared for creepy. Craig Wasson becomes the protagonist Jake Epping in a way that you feel like Jake is your new best friend sharing what happened when. . .


Author: Dan Simmons
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Run Time: 9 Hours and 49 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: A supernatural ghost story made all the better by Bronson Pinchot’s narration. When Dale Stewart, the protagonist, becomes stressed {ie, terrorized}, Pinchot’s narration reflects that inner turmoil. The setting is atmospheric and perfect, taking place on Halloween in Stewart’s long-deserted boyhood home. If you like a slower buildup with a supercharged ending, then this audio is for you.


Author: Caroline Kepnes
Narrator: Santino Fontana {Hans from Frozen - yup, that Frozen!}
Run Time: 11 Hours and 6 Minutes
Why You Should Listen: I hesitated adding this one to the list. It is gritty, explicit and downright disgusting in places but oh my gosh the narration takes this novel to an entirely new level. I both read and listened to You. The audiobook of this one will leave you breathless, looking over your shoulder and wondering if you’ll ever be the same again.

I’d love to know your favorite audiobooks! Do you find some narrators either make or break the book for you? Let’s discuss!


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

RIP READS: Prologue - The Misunderstood Hero

Today, our special guest is taking 
a little different perspective on RIP Reads.  
Please give Uma of Books. Bags. Burgers. 
a warm welcome as she talks about . . . 


Credit:  Abigail Larson

Prologue - The Misunderstood Hero

Have you ever wondered what makes a thriller click? What creates the suspense that makes a thriller novel unputdownable? If you have, you probably came up with answers like plot, compelling characters, action scenes etc etc. Today I am going to add to this list an unlikely plot device.

The Prologue.

Yes, you heard me right. The prologue; something that most writers do away with and most readers skip. I personally love prologues. And by prologue I don’t mean Info-dumps, excerpts from inside the novel, a synopsis of the story or a completely unrelated (to the novel) piece of writing that exists for the sake of existing. As a matter of fact, these are the reasons prologues have gained a bad rep over the years.

By prologue, I mean a well crafted piece of writing that draws the reader into the story and keeps them hooked. Very often I’ve picked up a book because it had a compelling prologue that made me want to read the whole story.

So what makes a thrilling, suspenseful prologue? Today I will be discussing just that with the help of some amazing examples.
‘Message: My name is Jocelyn Esperanza Albrecht. I am the eldest daughter of Illeana Marques and Grayson Albrecht. At Camp Holliwell Research Facility, I’m known as Sunday Cashus- Sunday, because that was the day I woke up after my family died in an accident, and Cashus, because I am the ward, patient and test subject of Dr.Laurence Cashus. My parents were longevity scientists. The irony is that due to their scientific breakthroughs, I now have a life expectancy of twenty-one. I just turned seventeen. That leaves about four years. Three good ones...If I’m successful tonight.’-        Glimmer by Tricia Cerrone

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen is how a thrilling prologue starts. Can any of you not want to read Glimmer now? 

The author introduces the protagonist and gives us all the necessary details in one paragraph! While there is so much information in that one paragraph, it does not feel like an info dump. The protagonist, in very simple words lets the readers know her name, where she is, who she is and why she is. That is one of the things readers look for at the start of the know the main character, a reason to connect with them. The prologue sets the tone of the book. With just a couple of words, the author lets readers know the book is certainly going to be thrilling.


‘“At first we didn’t know what to call them. Most called them zombies, but it didn’t seem right, because unlike their fictional counterparts, they didn’t hunger for flesh. Others called them demons, sent back from the underworld to the world of the living after a lifetime of sin. Ghosts, spirits, the possessed, one thing was certain: the dead were dead no longer” – A.J.Hill
-        Rise of the Chosen by Anna Kopp

Rise of the Chosen is one of my favourite Thriller/dystopian books and I personally love the prologue! Author Anna Kopp begins the prologue by introducing us to a futuristic Earth. I love how she gives us the necessary information through quotes by the people in her world. The prologue has two more quotes that don’t just provide us the information but also gives us an idea of people’s reactions to The Waking.

Prologues are a great way to introduce readers to an unfamiliar setting and give them the basic idea of it. The world Anna Kopp creates is scary and you know it at the very start of the prologue.


‘My gift is the future.
My gift is salvation.
My gift is Inferno.
With that, I whisper my amen . . . and take my final step, into the abyss.’

-        Inferno by Dan Brown 

From the master of suspense himself, the prologue of Inferno ends with an ominous note. Someone has jumped to his death; taking with him a huge secret. Here too, the prologue sets the tone of the novel. I love action in prologue as there is so much show than tell.

I personally like prologues that make a hundred questions pop one’s head. Such kind of prologues are catchy and makes the reader want to read the rest of the book just to find out the answers to the questions.

So basically, in the prologue of a Thriller or a suspenseful book, we readers look for relevant information without it becoming an info dump. We like the suspense to begin at the prologue. We love it when the prologue brings up interesting questions whose answers will be revealed in the course of the story. We love action in prologue. We want the prologue to give us a reason to STAY and FINISH the whole novel.

And also, I’m pretty sure everyone has realized by now that I have an unhealthy obsession with Dean Winchester but can you blame me? I mean...

Thanks to Tif for having me here at Book Bloggers International today!

Feel free to visit my blog Books. Bags. Burgers. for Book reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts and more!



P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

RIP READS: The Horror Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Folklore of South Wales

Let's give Robert Davies of Book Mongrel a warm welcome today, as he is here to chat about the horror of South Wales!


Credit:  Abigail Larson

The horror fiction, non-fiction and folklore of South Wales
by Robert Davies of Book Mongrel

Wales has an enormous wealth of literature which stretches back as far as the 11th century in the form of praise poetry and saga/epic poetry, but today I’ll be focusing mainly on the theme of horror within Welsh writing. Welsh horror can be found in Welsh poetry, prose, non-fiction and folklore, and I’ve outlined some of the major themes in the list below. I’m certainly no authority on Welsh literature, but within this post I will mostly write about the literature which primarily concerns my native area of Wales, the south Welsh valleys. I hope you enjoy!

Industrial Horror
George Borrow (b. d.)

“Merthyr can show several remarkable edifices, though of a gloomy horrid Satanic character. There is the hall of the Iron [...] from whence proceeds incessantly a thundering noise of hammers. Then there is an edifice at the foot of a mountain, half way up the side of which is a blasted forest and on the top an enormous crag.  A truly wonderful edifice it is, such as Bos would have imagined had he wanted to paint the palace of Satan. [...] I stood staring at the diabolical structure with my mouth open.”

George Borrow travelled through Wales in the 1850s, documenting his journey which eventually was published in 1862 as Wild Wales. The book is lighthearted in tone, but the later section of the book, as he travels to the increasingly industrial south, contains the dramatic and demonic imagery of hellish Welsh industry. The quotation above is taken from Borrow’s first experience of my home town, Merthyr Tydfil. The satanic imagery and Borrow’s descriptions of such things completely solidifies the backbone of true Welsh horror: Wales being an uncanny country with a wondrous landscape beauty, as well as potentially being a place of extreme, diabolical terror.

Later in his journey, Borrow encounters a “bedevilled” woman, “with grizzled hair hanging in elf locks”. The woman tells a story of her past which involves her meeting with “a monstrous woman, half-naked, and with a long staff in her hand” who places a curses upon her with the words:

“May the Mass never comfort ye, you dirty queen!”

The “bedevilled” woman scurries off to Merthyr Tydfil, but Borrow has again managed to encapsulate another important aspect of Welsh horror: folklore, legend and witchcraft. Wales in particular has a wealth of historic folklore, and here Borrow developed Welsh horror even further by including in his book not only his descriptions of the devilish iron forges of the towns, but also by highlighting the contemporary folk customs and beliefs of witchcraft, curses and devilry that extend far back into ancient Welsh legend.

As a quick aside, this satanic imagery penetrated not only local legend and literature, it also appeared in academic writing, as the following except from a 1921 edition of medical journal The Lancet shows: [Merthyr] has become the centre of a great manufacturing district where many thousands have been brought prematurely to the grave - martyrs to the Moloch of modern industrialism. From the centre [of the town] terrible volcanic eruptions constantly occur that suggest an invasion from the lower regions.”

Supernatural Horror
Arthur Machen (b. 1863, d.1947)

“They said afterwards that men of the hills, twenty miles away, heard that cry and that singing, roaring upon them on the wind, and they fell down on their faces, and cried, "The offering is accomplished," knowing nothing of what they said.”

Machen is probably one of the most famous writers of Welsh horror. His novels influenced many horror writers and filmmakers of the 19th and 20th centuries - H.P Lovecraft and Guillermo Del Toro, to name just two. I recommend his novel The Great God Pan as a precursor to what would later be called “weird fiction”, but the quotation above is taken from his 1915 story The Great Return. This story concerns a small coastal Welsh village in the throes of some strange visitation or mass hallucination. Ultimately the visions turn out to be for the good of the people, as a benevolent “fiery rose” encompasses the community and rids it of its ills, but the suggestion of horror permeates this story nonetheless, especially regarding the appearance of the three mysterious spirits cloaked in red (the “three saints” of Llantrisant?) at the end of the tale:

“There were a few who saw three come out of the door of the sanctuary, and stand for a moment on the pace before the door. These three were in dyed vesture, red as blood […] And the third heaved up high over the altar a cup that was red with burning and the blood of the offering.”

Elsewhere in this tale is the suggestion of the “strangeness” of the Welsh countryside. Machen writes that the narrator of this tale experiences a weird otherness when travelling from London to the glorious Welsh coastline, again reinforcing the mixture of mysterious horror with sublime beauty.

Community or “Home” Horror
Glyn Jones (b. 1905, d. 1995)

“His face was hideous. The flesh of it looked as though it had been torn apart into ribbons and shoved together again anyhow back on to the bones. Long white scars ran glistening through the purple skin like ridges of gristle.”

Glyn Jones was a prolific poet and translator, but he also wrote wonderfully unsettling short fiction from the 1930s to the 1970s. There is no outright terror in his stories, but the palpable dread, depression and violence in his fiction does well to represent Welsh horror in the valleys - his style is more Shirley Jackson than Stephen King. His short fiction includes events like suicide attempts, pit explosions, catastrophic mudslides and dark mysterious men with strange motives (outlined in the quotation above, from his short story Jordan), but I’d like to highlight his story The Saviour from his 1944 collection The Water Music. This story is a very good example of the mingling of the rural tranquility of the Welsh countryside with the darker, foreboding behaviours of men and women of the community. A farmhand decides to rescue a crazed woman from the clutches of her ogreish mother.

“The girl screamed at workman’s blow and the sight of her mother’s falling figure, she heard the thunder crash over the stone roof of the house like the waves smashed open upon the rocks. In the light of the scribbled lightning the blood spouted out of her mother’s divided face in a loop of heavy drops.”

The story is a mixture of “home” horror, religion fervour and urbanity versus rurality, but the image of the sickly daughter kept captive by her monstrous parent, only to be saved through violent means is one of pure Welsh horror.

Horror in Folklore
The Gwrach y Rhibyn

“The spectre [of the Gwrach y Rhibyn] is a hideous being with dishevelled hair, long black teeth, long, lank, withered arms, leathern wings, and a cadaverous appearance. In the stillness of night it comes and flaps its wings against the window, uttering at the same time a blood-curdling howl, and calling by name on the person who is to die, in a lengthened dying tone”

Wales has a great wealth of legend and folklore, and within this mythology can be found numerous references to demonic beasts that terrorise the country and the people of Wales. Above, a quotation taken from Wirt Sikes’ British Goblins mentions the figure of the banshee in Welsh folklore, in particular the Gwrach y Rhibyn (The Witch of Rhibyn). This monster is described as a powerfully ugly creature, forever screaming for her husband or her child much to the distress of the townspeople. A more complete picture of the Gwrach is found in Cambrian Superstitions by W. Howells:

“Its shriek is described as having such an effect, as literally to freeze the blood in the veins of those who heard it, and was never uttered except when the ghost came to a cross road, or went by some water, which (if a female) she splashed with her hands, making at the same time the most doleful sounds…”

The image of this “ghost” is, to me at least, much more terrifying than the cartoon image of witches of old with their green hair, comedy cackle, broomstick and so on. This witch, based on the descriptions above, is completely repulsive, threatening and violent. It’s interesting to note that the image of the dishevelled hair and lank withered arms seems to now be the image of the “classic” witch in most new horror fiction and film.

I’ll wrap this post up here, as I’ve already written far more than I expected I would. You can take this list and this post as something of a “brief guide to a brief guide of Welsh horror” - I’ve merely scratched the surface. However, I hope some of the recommendations above are enough to pique your interest in Welsh horror, as there really is so much incredible dark literature from Wales that just deserves to be read.

I’m hoping to cover more Welsh literature and Welsh horror in the coming months on my blog, Book Mongrel. Thanks for reading!


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RIP READS: Autumn Calls to the Dark Side

Today, we are changing things up a bit with our RIP Reads with our guest, Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit.  She is here to share a bit of the season via poetry! 


Credit:  Abigail Larson

Autumn Calls to the Dark Side

Leaves start to lose that green color, turning red, yellow, orange, and finally, that crunchy brown. They fall from the trees and become piles and piles ripe for children to jump into and scatter them again. Autumn can be this carefree, but it also means the sun is gone earlier and shadows rise up sooner. It means fireplaces ablaze, and if you’re camping, ghost stories are a must.

Every year around this time, the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge brings the community together around things that go bump in the night, the mysterious murders in alleys, the imps hiding in the dark, and other scary things. What’s scarier at this time than Edgar Allan Poe?

Most people think of Poe as the king of dark, horror tales, but his poetry has a definite dark side. Take “The Haunted Palace,” spirits are all that is left of a great estate, both beautiful and sorrowful. And everyone will recall that incessant “tapping” at the chamber door in “The Raven.” Many of his poems are in the dark, very little light, and haunted by the past or loss. One of his most disturbing poems, I think, is “The Conqueror Worm,” in which:

          “But see, amid the mimic rout
               A crawling shape intrude!
          A blood-red thing that writhes from out
               The scenic solitude!
          It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
               The mimes become its food,
          And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
               In human gore imbued.”

William Blake tends to have poems that are both light and dark, as can be experienced in Songs of Innocence and Experience. Many of these poems served to illustrate the repressive nature of religious teachings at the time. Take for example, “A Poison Tree,” in which the speaker is angered by a friend and that anger abates, but wrath against his enemy grows. “I watered it in fears/” and “I sunned it with smiles/and with soft deceitful wiles//” Finally, his wrath turns into an apple his enemy cannot resist. “And into my garden stole/” and “glad I see/my foe outstretched beneath the tree.//” Much of this collection is accompanied by Blake’s own illustrations. These serve to demonstrate these opposing natures in man.

Poetry that embraces the dark and science fiction, mystery, and more, is not relegated to the classic poets. Jeannine Hall Gailey is a prime example of a poet not afraid to explore the darkness in humanity. In The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Gailey explores the fine line bordering scientific experimentation, one that scientists often cross, leaving the rest of us to contend with the consequences – including those of radiation left by those involved in the Manhattan project. She uses real life scientists and their experiments, as well as comic book characters, to explore science. From “America Dreams of Roswell”:

          “The scientists were unsure
          about igniting the whole earth’s atmosphere, nevertheless

          the violet light demanded goggles; the shadows of
          ranch houses burned into the ground.”

In “They Do Not Need Rescue,” “No one needs rescue here in America’s Secret City./…/Not the children/dying of leukemia quietly in hospitals funded/by government grants, uncounted because/their numbers might seem damning.//” Gailey’s poetry could satisfy your need for some science-fiction, even if that science is a little less fiction than we’d like it to be. In her new collection, Field Guide to the End of the World, Gailey continues to look at mortality, but in a new way, a more humorous way. Think of the zombie survival guides; imagine a guide that could help you survive the end of the world. What would be in it? Perhaps some poetry should be there to guide you through, and it could be fun for this year’s R.I.P. Challenge, too.


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

RIP READS: Short & Dark - Stories to Keep You Up At Night

Let's get this month of RIP Reads started with a short list of recommendations 


Credit:  Abigail Larson

Short & Dark : Stories To Keep You Up At Night

Happy Fall! Halloween is looming and so is my immersion into Horror Fiction. Living in California it’s often hard to get into a Fall State of Mind but Horror and Thriller reads really transport me to Fall.

Here are some of my favorite short stories that I have read recently and return to time and time again.

Edgar Allan Poe

I realized this month that a great chunk of my Poe knowledge has come from movies and television adaptations. So I recently read The Pit And The Pendulum, Murders In The Rue Morgue and Masque of The Red Death.

I was really impressed with the dramatic tension and spookiness of these stories despite them being written so long ago. I also read The Black Cat, though I’ll admit the celluloid adaptions of the story are more thrilling.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill 

This anthology has a touch of Fantasy and Science Fiction Elements to it but the stories are stunning.

Pop Art, a story about a friendship between boy and inflatable boy. The Cape about superpowers ending up in the wrong hands and Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead which is kind of self explanatory.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman 

This entire book is stunning but Baby Cakes and Vampire Sestina are two of my favorites.

I’ve also recently purchased these stories on my Kindle, all have thrilling and classic horror feels to them:

Ponies by Kij Johnson 

The Complete H.P Lovecraft Collection 

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson 

Hope you give these stories a try. Happy Reading!


P.S.  For more information on Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) Reads, check out the challenge here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Reading for the Season!

Credit:  Abigail Larson
The months are getting cooler.  The days are getting shorter.  And during this time of year, readers tend to gravitate towards particular reads.  Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings describes it best with his RIP Challenge -- Readers Imbibing Peril.  Let me share his exact words . . .

Speaking of imbibing, eleven years ago I embarked on a quest to bring a community of readers together to enjoy the literature most associated with the darkening days and cooling temperatures of Autumn: 

Dark Fantasy 

I wanted to be able to use the well-worn graveyard acronym, R.I.P., so I came up with the name “R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril’. And for over a decade that is what we have done, imbibed together.

Throughout this month on Book Bloggers International, we are honoring these very RIP Reads with guests focusing on all those darker tales.  We already have a fabulous line-up for you, but we still have a few slots available for those who may want to share the darkened love.  If you are interested in sharing your own love for the peril, email us at bookbloggersintl (at) gmail (dot) com, attention to Tif.

Until then, be watching for some great RIP posts coming your way!  And, get those TBR piles ready to grow!