Spring! Into Terror!

It’s that time of year again. Our rain and snow have been viciously dried up and our precious blanket of comforting grey clouds has been mercilessly burned away by a fiery ball of gas that hangs ominously in the vastness of space.

Soon the wind will come, blowing the alluring smell of flowered fields (in which to frolic and be attacked by insects). Or the sound of the constantly pounding surf may be heard, calling us all to light-drenched beaches only to eventually be forced to dig relentless sand out of our various crevasses.

 

But we need not heed those calls.

 

Go back inside, pull your shades down tight, and prepare to nourish your cells with a little Vitamin Dread.

 

Black Moon

Kenneth Calhoun

The entire world has begun to suffer from insomnia. Within days, the structures that govern our world fall to pieces as madness, anger, and delusion consume the world and the few remaining people who can still sleep cower in fear of those who cannot.

This is a fantastic, disturbing-as-hell novel that keeps you up late reading it and then makes you worry that you’ve stayed up too late reading it and now you won’t be able to fall asleep and what happens if suddenly you can’t ever fall asleep again and you turn into a murderous rage-monster who will stop at nothing for a just a few seconds of peaceful sleep!!

But that certainly isn’t going to happen now so you might as well read a few more paragraphs and then…..

 

Coldbrook

Tim Lebbon

Amazing things are happening at Coldbrook, a top secret laboratory buried deep in the Appalachian Mountains  A doorway to another world — a parallel Earth — has been opened and a team of scientists are eager to be the first ones through to explore this strange, new world. But then something on the other side decides to come through first….

This is top-notch zombie storytelling at its finest. Sympathetic, believable characters. Horrifying, blood-thirsty zombies that are actually called zombies and not “walkers” or “roamers” or anything like that. A neat sci-fi twist with a plot that jumps between a post-apocalyptic wasteland of a world and a currently-apocalyptic soon-to-be-wasteland of a world, this is a fantastic addition to the growing horde of undead literature.

 

Lovecraft’s Monsters

Edited by Ellen Datlow

 

Nobody did monsters like Lovecraft. Werewolves, vampires, and even my beloved zombies, have got nothing on the shambling, tentacled masses of terror that lurk in the spaces between realities. Lovecraft knew what scared you and wasn’t afraid to hit you full in the face with it.

And neither are the authors in this collection. Neil Gaiman, Thomas Ligotti, and Joe R. Lansdale are just a few of the authors in this anthology of crawling, creeping creatures that only consider humanity to be, at best, a light snack.

 

Bunnies and Kitties

Cate Holly

 

I’m serious. You shouldn’t spend all day cooped up in the dark reading scary stories. You have to pace yourself and the best way to do this is to step outside every few minutes and look at awesomely adorable pictures of kittens and bunnies frolicking and being super-cute.

Once you’ve recharged and read a few silly captions and laughed at nuzzling bundles of fur you can go back inside and subject yourself to some more….

 

Horror!

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

 

In the age before the Comics Code Authority, comics were a lurid place filled with rotting corpses and unsettling monsters. It was awesome.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who had already made a name for themselves with superheroes and crime stories, teamed up to write some of the most sophisticated and harrowing tales of terror to ever grace a funny-book stand. This collection of short, sharp stories represent some of the best horror comic writing ever and should be on the shelves of every dusty, grime-laden crypt in the underworld.

 

-Rich

When You’re the Best of Friends

I grew up devouring Nancy Drew books–devouring them to the point where the spunky titian-haired heroine had to be rationed out to me by my mother (this in order to maintain something resembling a budget in our household). Strong female leads are a big selling point for me. I mean, what self-professed feminist wouldn’t be drawn to a strong female character? It’s more than that, of course: when you find a character you can watch grow emotionally and evolve as a person throughout a series, they become part of your life and start to feel like one of your best friends. I’ve shared just as many giddy first relationships, devastating breakups, monumental life accomplishments, and horrific losses with my fictional girl posse as I have my real-life, flesh-and-blood girlfriends (yes, I have real friends, honest, now hush). Since I’m a generous person and all, let me introduce you to a few of my besties:

Mary Russell

(The Beekeeper’s Apprentice)

Oxford educated Russell first met the “retired” detective Sherlock Holmes in 1915 when she was 15 years old, wandering the Sussex downs, her nose stuck in a book. She, quite literally, stumbled across Holmes, who mistook her for a boy (granted, she was dressed in one of her late father’s suits) and launched a cutting remark in her direction that resulted in a match of wits so impressive she found herself being invited back to his cottage and being served tea by none other than Mrs. Hudson. Russell and Holmes’ relationship evolves from protege to apprentice to partner throughout the course of the first book. I adore Russell for her brains and her amazing self confidence. Her loyalty to Holmes is so intense she actually takes a bullet for him. When I say this is my favorite series and my favorite character ever, I mean it.

Aimée Leduc

(Murder in the Marais)

Aimée is sooo French (and everyone needs a fabulous fashionista as a best book bud, right?). Plus, she is beyond resilient and whip-smart. Her father was a police officer killed in the line of duty, and her mother abandoned her long ago, which has given her the means to handle trauma and the confidence to rely on her own wits to see her through. Having inherited and re-imagined her grandfather’s private detective agency as a cyber detection and security firm, Aimée quickly finds out that her desire to stay safely behind her computer screen is not what the fates have intended for her life. Of course, all of her cases are unravelled while she looks perfectly Parisian-chic.

Alexia Tarabotti

(Soulless)

Alexia is soulless. At least that’s the somewhat derogatory term the supernatural community of Victorian England has bestowed upon her, due to her natural ability to negate their powers. Werewolves and vampires become mortal in her presence and ghosts can’t stomach her. Alexia’s fantasy-punk world was more than enough to draw me into this series, but I stayed for her ability to be so feminine and ladylike while still refusing to be subjugated for being female. Anyone that can hold her own while facing down an alpha werewolf or a vampire queen and become best friends with a cross-dressing French inventor is my kind of gal. Plus, she has the most tricked-out parasol ever (and steadfastly refuses to succumb to her friend Ivy’s incredibly questionable taste in hats).

Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar

(Mistress of the Art of Death)

Adelia’s a doctor, which wouldn’t be nearly as impressive were it not for the fact she was trained in Salerno, Italy in the 12th century. When Henry II of England calls upon his cousin to send him the best “master of the art of death” Salerno has to offer in order to help unravel some horrific murders being perpetrated in Cambridge, the best pathologist turns out to be a woman. Henry II is in a quandary about how to use her skills while preventing her from being accused of witchcraft in a highly superstitious England. The (sometimes hilarious) method Adelia chooses is to pretend her eunuch manservant/bodyguard is the physician and that she must translate for him. She also gets her very own knight in…well, rather dull armor in the end. Watching Adelia forge her way as an independent woman, single mother, and groundbreaking physician as the series progresses is truly inspiring to me.

Katherine “Kit” Craig
(The Taken)

Fair Warning: hanging out with Kit for an extended period of time will have you craving a rockabilly wardrobe and killer red lipstick. She’s a modern day reporter with a love for all things retro and has filled her life with good friends, gumption, and a some spot on repros in Las Vegas. Her easy and perfect life quickly gets shaken up when her friend is violently murdered during an undercover investigation…and the killer’s sights are set on Kit. Intervening on her behalf is real-life guardian angel (and I do mean angel in the most literal sense of the word) Griffin Shaw, who may have just been whacked by the mob in 1960s Vegas. Kit is pure fun. Her unwavering commitment to her rockabilly lifestyle makes her seem like a true retro reporter. I can’t help but picture Lois Lane while I’m reading her and Grif’s adventures.

What about you? Who are your fictional besties?

- Brandi

Read Aloud Favorites

When I was growing up, my family had a “special book drawer,” and when we, the children, were particularly good (we were often particularly good), we were allowed to select a book from drawer and my mother would read the book aloud to us.

Among my favorites were the following:

Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

A friend of mine picked up a copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day while at my house and started to read aloud from it (really, it is a book that demands to be read aloud), and I was surprised to find the words being read differently.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Read aloud, books beget tradition. For me, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has always been voiced with a particular rhythm and cadence every member of my family is able to recite by heart. If I could post an audio clip I’d share it with you (although there’s a chance it would shock you as much as listening to my friend read the book shocked me).

Working in a bookstore, you can’t help but listen to stories and read passages aloud to others.

“Oh, listen to this!” is a common phrase here among the booksellers, and we all wait, in rapt attention, for the reading that follows.

I’ve never outgrown my need to listen to stories. I don’t think any of us have. Whether it’s listening to clips on This American Life, The Wire, audio books, or attending a reading, this need is pretty easy to see.

In my house we are currently reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit aloud. I think it’s a book that was meant to be read that way. Here are a few of my other read-aloud favorites and staff read-aloud recommendations for the older readers and listeners in your life:

 

DublinersDubliners by James Joyce
This novella has words and phrases you want to eat, and really, the closest you’re going to get to that experience is to read it aloud. A classic well worth sharing.

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse by Max Brallier
This one is a choose-your-own-adventure story for adults. It’s scary (no, really), offers many opportunities for discussion, and features zombies. What more could you want (aside from a blanket to hide under)?

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I just finished listening–yes, listening–to this book, and I am smitten. This story tells of Achilles through the eyes of his companion and lover Patroclus. Epic hardly begins to describe the wonder of this book.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
If you haven’t yet heard a Sedaris story read aloud, you haven’t yet experienced the stories fully. Seemingly made for audible enjoyment, these stories will have you chortling if not laughing aloud.

The Thing Around Your NeckThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie
If you want to share a bit of brain food, this book is great! Expect to read fantastic stories you’ll need to discuss after you’ve finished.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume ISherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
With all the Sherlock-based movies and stories being produced, going back to the original stories is a wonderful way to delve further into the world of one of the best-loved detectives. The stories themselves sound great read aloud and promote great discussions!

My Family and Other AnimalsMy Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
This book is a nature essay meets family memoir and will have you and your audience laughing and shaking your head in turns. A great family great for those who understand that one’s kin are often a source many oddities.

The Feather RoomThe Feather Room by Anis Mojgani
This poetry book is written by a slam poet, which means the work is meant to be read aloud or performed. Both energetic and tender, this is a wonderful collection well worth sharing.

Letters to Kelly Clarkson by Julia Bloch
We first came upon this book when a customer ordered it as a special order. Since then, we’ve become fascinated with this collection of unrequited correspondence, these prose poems addressed to Kelly Clarkson. There’s a certain intimacy in these pages we can’t quite put our fingers on but adore.

Alright, so there are a few read aloud recommends from our staff. What are your favorite read-aloud books?

-Justus

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff – Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror

Millennium People
by J. G. Ballard (Norton)

What if the middle class decided it was the new proletariat—became a group so oppressed and restless that they refused to pay their mortgages, set their BMWs ablaze, and pulled their kids from private school—rioting in the streets over the price of parking, and the incessant mendacity of dinner parties? The unveiling of J.G. Ballard’s posthumous publication, Millennium People, will explore the possibilities of how and why such a revolution could occur, and might just make you wonder why it hasn’t already. -Candra


The Last Werewolf
by Glen Duncan (Knopf)

Vampires…please. Zombies…so 2006. Here at last is the novel that gives werewolves their depraved literary due with a toothsome lupine grin (but also a genuine heart). Although, at their basest, these creatures are but beasts who fornicate incessantly and eviscerate innocent victims to slake their monthly bloodlust, they are also part human, which elevates them with superior intelligence and emotional complexity. This humorously macabre debauch follows the exploits of Jake Marlowe who is precisely the type of impeccably dressed, perfectly coiffed werewolf you might see drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s—although in Jake’s case it would probably be a Scotch. -Jamil


Embassytown
by China Miéville (Del Rey)

On Arieka, a distant planet populated by humans and an indigenous race called the “Host,” a delicate balance is kept between species. Genetically enhanced ambassadors are the only people who can communicate directly with these enigmatic, seemingly benevolent creatures. But when a new ambassador arrives in Embassytown, the equanimity that once reigned may never be again, and Avice, a human colonist recently returned to Arieka, may be the lone voice of reason. Miéville turns his inimitable eye to science fiction in this tale of the machinations of aliens and men, proving that whatever subject he takes on will thrill literary audiences. -Casey S.


The Map of Time
by Félix J. Palma (Atria)

Our omniscient narrator takes us on an adventure in Victorian London with author H.G. Wells and Time as our central protagonists. This is genre-busting historical fantasy of the first order, in which three different narratives cross one another. Wells’s own novel, The Time Machine, has made the public desire time travel, and showman Gilliam Murray comes along to fulfill that desire. Can this be for real? What happens if the fabric of time is messed with? To find out you’re going to have to read Palma’s glorious “scientific romance.” -Greg

Stay Vigilant…Monsters Are Coming

Autumn. That time of the year dedicated to enjoying warm cider and watching the leaves on the trees turn to calming shades of yellow and brown. A season for warm sweaters, chilly winds, and shambling legions of undead. Vampires stalk the streets while tragically cursed werewolves roam the fields. So this year, as Halloween slowly creeps up on us, enjoy a few of these spine tingling volumes that just may save your life…

 

Pariah by Bob Fingerman

After a devastating zombie outbreak, a small group of slowly starving survivors begin to think that the victims who died early were the lucky ones. Just as all seems lost, hope arrives in the form of a mysterious girl who is able to move freely through the hordes of undead. But how can these survivors rest easy around someone who repulses even flesh eating monsters?

 

Four Color Fear edited by Greg Sadowski

EC Comics weren’t the only game in town when it came to terrifying children with tales of misery and gore in the 1950’s. Collected here are some of the best stories from a bygone era known for its creepy goodness.

 

 

 

Werewolves and Shapeshifters edited by John Skipp

Following up last year’s wonderful collection of undead tales, Zombies, John Skipp has turned his attention to creatures that are a little less rotten but a lot more hairy. Featuring new tales of body altering horror as well as classic stories that will (I’m sorry for this) leave you howling at the moon, this is an anthology not to be missed.

 

Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

Before you watch the premier of AMC’s new television show based on this fantastic comic series check out the original story about a group of tired people trying to find a place to settle down after a horrifying zombie plague wipes out most of humanity.

 

 

-Rich