Horror


cover for HalloweenI think I’m going to put on my crusty curmudgeon hat and say “I hate Halloween”. I’m the sort of person who when kids come trick or treating says “your costumes look neat but we don’t do Halloween here”.

Why? Well let’s start with:

  • When did we start celebrating Halloween? Only in the last 10 or 15 years when the chain stores realised there was a buck to be made. Then they started promoting it like it had always been a Kiwi thing.
  • Allegedly it’s a time for kids to have fun but really it seems more like a thing for adults. They are either having Halloween parties and dressing up, or they are dressing up their kids.
  • It represents the triumph of American culture – Halloween is very much an American tradition which we have seen in films and television.
  • In many parts of the world All Saints Day is a time to remember the dead – not scary ghouls but real people you loved and who have died. The commercial takeover seems crass.
  • Halloween rituals make sense in the northern hemisphere where bonfires and lanterns are light against the encroaching darkness of the long Northern winter. Not so much in springtime New Zealand where the days are lighter and longer.

How do you feel about Halloween?

cover for Celebrating the southern seasonsAn alternative to Halloween which is green and rooted in Aotearoa’s cycle of seasons and cultural influences is suggested: National Green Day. Perfect for high spring: planting rituals like getting your tomatoes in, planting and enjoying fragrant native plants, harvesting the ti (tea tree), the return of pipiwharauroa (the shining cuckoo), enjoying the song of the riroriro (grey warbler).

Anyway grumps over – if Halloween is your bag we have lots of stuff to help celebrate the day:

I learnt of a new genre this week and fell in love with a zombie for the second time. Zom-Rom-Com is a romantic comedy featuring a zombie as a leading romantic lead.

He’s cute, endearing and with a droll and funny sense of humour. He’s ‘R’ and he’s the zombie hero of Warm Bodies, a great Young Adult book by Isaac Marion that I really enjoyed last year, and is now a great new movie out in the theaters at present.

We have all got used to the lovable if troubled vampire, via the  True Blood television series, the books it was based on by Charlene Harris, and of course the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer that spurned a generation of movie vampire heart throbs.

But Zombies? They eat people, and they’re dead, so where’s the appeal? R doesn’t remember his past, just a shuffling existence around a deserted airport terminal in a post apocalyptic world. The remaining humans who have been spared the virus that has turned most of the world to zombies are holed up in a fortress and when R meets Julie, the daughter of leader of the human resistance, something sparks his humanity and he spares her, and becomes determined to save her and in the process saves himself.

The humour is great. In the movie there is a scene where ‘R’ tries to remember what life was like before, his voice over talks of a romanticised view of people connecting, loving, enjoying each other’s company, and we find ourselves looking at a busy airport terminal where everyone is connected alright, but to phones, computers, i-pods, all together but disconnected.

In both the book and the movie, the horror that is usually at the core of Zombie-hood is not at the core of the story, but love, acceptance and taking risks for others are.

Warm Bodies is a great story and has been made into a great movie, a faithful film recreation of a unique written story that is often hard to find.

Search catalogue for I remember youWhat sort of book makes a grown woman sleep with her light on? I have to admit I am only three-quarters through Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s book I Remember You and I am not sure I can complete it. When you get up half way through a sentence to make sure all the doors are locked and the windows closed then you know rather than enjoying the written word you are bordering on a panic attack.

Based partly in an isolated village (of course) in the Icelandic Westfjords we watch as three friends try to do up a derelict old house when they realise they are not alone. In the light of day you may accuse me of being a wimp but when you are snuggled up in bed at night all it took was a creak somewhere in my house for  me to question if my heart had stopped beating. I will finish this book – but only in daylight. If you are braver than me and love the feeling of all the prickly bits on the back of your neck standing up then check out this author.

Are there any other authors out there I should avoid reading at nighttime? I don’t have the nerve endings I once had!

Tired of searching for stuff to read? Fret not, for there is a whole new way: let the books find you.

It’s easy as – just take a deep breath, calm your racing heart and step into a library, secure in the belief that the right book will, if not exactly jump off the shelf at you, at least seep in your direction.

Cover: Knit Your Own ZombieHere’s three of the books that found their way to me this month:

First up was Knit your own Zombie by Fiona Goble. A lovely colleague pointed this book out to me when I confessed that I would soon be knitting for my first grandchild. He steered me firmly away from the cute little knitted bunnies that I’d been eyeing, to this book of  eight full zombie characters who come with escaping entrails and velcroed appendages.

Forget stress balls and meditation and discover the insane pleasure of tearing their 100 percent little wool heads off.

Completely unsuitable for bebe on so many levels, but you gotta love the new craft movements that take old skills and whack them, with attitude, into the twenty-first century!

Cover: How to Be GayThe next shelf-jumper was How to be Gay by David M. Halperin. This is the sort of book that you don’t especially want to be seen clutching at in public, irrespective of your sexual orientation. But it is a great (albeit quite academic) read. The author is the founder of the LGBTQ course at the University of Michigan. His main argument is that gayness (particularly male gayness) is much more than a sexual orientation and is, in fact, a learned cultural orientation:

Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one.

Halperin’s studies have incensed conservatives, fundamentalists and many gays as well. If you thought you were going to get décor hints and help to become a more stylish dresser, or that this read would be a fun romp that would help you blend in at the next Gay Parade, then this is not the book for you.

Instead, you might prefer the quintessentially British Hedge Britannia by Hugh Barker. Sub-titled A curious history of a British Obsession, this book lured me in at Fendalton Library – Christchurch’s Hedge Cover: Hedge BritanniaHeartland. It is a delightful read in which I learned all sorts of useless facts: that hedgerows have been around since Neolithic times and that Rockingham Castle has a stunning, rolling elephant hedge.  Wars over hedges haven’t been fought… yet, but hedge rage runs rife, and peeing on certain hedges can kill them.

I’d never have searched out these books because I didn’t even know they existed. So, a big thanks to all the wonderful displays put up by library staff around Christchurch, you help the books find me.

How about you, read any good shelf-jumpers lately?  Share, please do!

I seem to be on a visual kick at the moment – I have managed to gather a huge pile of graphic novels recently, and am finding some real gems. I don’t know whether it’s an attempt by my poor pre-Christmas brain to cope with the insanity of all the lists in my head, or the fact that there’s so much tinsel everywhere I’ve just given in and succumbed to the visual madness.

Luckily for me, other people seem to be thinking the same way – many of the books I’m reading have been returns from other customers, and I’ve just scooped them straight off the Recent Returns shelf.  Others have been ordered by our clever buying team, and appear on my holds shelf. A few are old favourites, some are titles I just didn’t manage to read when they were first published, and some are brand new.  Here’s a few of the titles I’m loving right now.

  • Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series – consistently great story-telling, lovely artwork, and a steady supply of titles make this one of my consistent favourite graphic novel series
  • Staying within the family, dad Stephen King’s current graphic adaptation of The Stand. I think I’ve had a wee moan before that some of the other adaptations of King’s work have not been so great, but this series is outstanding.
  • Kick Ass 2 – this is one I never got around to reading when it was first published.  Book 1 is fab, as is the movie (although as with most of the titles in this post, needs to be read/watched away from young and delicate minds).  Here’s hoping with book 2.
  • Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always. I’ve always loved Clive Barker, although sometimes he scares me – I’m hoping that this graphic novel will do the same! Also the cover reminded me of one of my favourite movies – Monster House – so that’s got to be a good thing …
  • The Underwater Welder arrived on my holds shelf as highly recommended by someone or something I can’t remember. The title confused me every time I looked at my reserve list – visions of some unholy mixture of Jacques Cousteau and that ’80s music video from Flashdance, but reviews are glowing and the artwork looks promising.
  • Memorial is another one that I must have seen and requested at some point. Again, I don’t know much about it, but it looks pretty, and sounds weird – just my cup of tea.
  • And finally, Tune.  I’m reading this already, and adoring it!  I may even try to squeeze it on to my Best Of list. It’s rude, and clever, and laugh-out-loud funny.  The art is perfect, it’s full of nerdy pop-culture references, and basically what I’m saying here is: find it, read it, and love it!

Halloween is great fun for adults and kids alike. It’s not far away so it’s time to make crafts and decorations and think about some spooky food and costumes for your celebration.

Other cool stuff:

See if your local library has their decorations up.

Ah, Halloween: the celebration I love to hate. When I’ve finished locking the doors and closing all the curtains so the wee kiddies can’t peer in the windows and make unreasonable demands, I love to sit down with a great book. A scary book, filled with tension, drama, heart-stopping horror and dismembered body parts. Also Vom the Hungering, who lives in Diana’s closet, a small dachshund called Boswell, and the Bride of Frankenstein, currently running a B&B in Whitby.

I’ve written before about horror – good horror – and how truly wonderful it can be.  I could also go on for days about just how bad horror can be when written badly. This week’s collection of titles, however, is all about the burps.  There’s a small but fab group of writers who make me laugh. Out loud. In public. And interestingly many of these clever people choose to write in a genre that is more often linked to pants-wetting terror.

A Lee Martinez consistently produces clever, funny, heart-warming stories about monsters, zombies, robot detectives, and the end of the world – Chasing the Moon was one of my top reads last year, and even now I’m sitting here thinking I might go find it and read it again.  Who wouldn’t want a collection of odd monsters living in their apartment, devouring everything they can find, and bickering with each other?

When he’s not writing Doctor Who books, Paul Magrs takes familiar stories and characters and turns them upside down, adding extra crunchy bits on the way. 666 Charing Cross Road is (obviously) about two people living on different continents who swap letters and books back and forth.  The difference with this version is that one of the books turns out to be a manual to bring back the greatest vampire spirits of the world, who then set out to invade New York and London, in an impeccably dressed, tres chic sort of way. Magrs is also well-known for his series featuring Brenda, the Bride of Frankenstein, and her best friend Effie.

In Tom Holt’s Barking, the scariest creatures in existence turn out to be … lawyers. Opposing firms of lawyers who are either werewolves or vampires. Poor old Duncan is caught up in their rivalries when he is asked to join the law firm founded by an old school friend, and finds himself running around London under a full moon, being chased by a snow-white unicorn who seems to have less-than-good intentions.

And finally, one of my favourite grown-up writers has recently turned his hand to writing for teens, and is in the middle of producing a delicious wee series about Samuel Johnson, whose neighbour Mrs Abernathy seems to be doing very odd things in her basement, and who smells suspiciously like sulphur. Samuel and his faithful companion Boswell the dachshund must overcome all manner of evils in order to save the world and stop the gates of Hell from opening next door.  Chock-full of REAL science, the Hadron Collider, and stuff about QUANTUM, this is an absolutely adorable series, and makes me love John Connolly even more (although be warned – his grown-up books are written in a much darker vein).

Here’s a selection of covers from our Fantasy newsletter for October. You can subscribe to this monthly email newsletter to get it direct to your inbox.

Book cover: Death warmed over : Dan Shamble, zombie P.I. Book cover: 7 wonders Book cover: The map of the sky Book cover: The Troupe Book cover:The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age Book cover: Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer

Sometimes I come home from the library with armloads of new titles, new authors, debuts, ‘first’ books. This week, it seems, is Week of the Sequels. And it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, really.

A while ago I read the first in the Dog-faced Gods series, A Matter of Blood, and LOVED it. Book 2 was also a really good read. Book 3, sadly, has gripped me so little and annoyed me so much that I can’t even be bothered finishing it. It’s somewhere in the house, half-read and likely to remain that way until I find it and take it back to the library, destined to remain ever only half-finished.

Louise Penny’s series set in the tiny Quebecois town of Three Pines and featuring Detective Inspector Gamache was recommended to me by a friend. It’s been a long time since I read a ‘normal’ detective series, and I was a bit hesitant, but there’s just something about these books that I really like. I devoured Book 1, Still Life, and number 2, Dead Cold. Yesterday the third title arrived for me, and I can’t wait to pick it up. Interesting – there’s no zombies, mysterious inexplicable events (apart from the obvious murders), odd twisty interdimensional portals or much of anything really, apart from just damn good mystery writing.

I’ve only recently discovered Sarah Rayne, and I think I wrote about her somewhere here too … yup, here.  To my surprise and delight, she’s picked up and kept some of the characters from Property of a Lady, and they feature in recent release The Sin Eater. This was just as good a read as Property, and I’ll be a happy girl if this turns out to be an ongoing series.

I love FG Cottam’s books, and have just finished The Magdalena Curse.  While not a series in the strict sense, the more I read of these books, the more I see character and story patterns - impetuous but well-meaning intelligent man of action gets into sticky (often supernatural) situation, where only the interest (and then love) of a beautiful and super-sensible woman can save the day.  This sounds a bit naff, but truly isn’t – I really do like these books, and will continue to find and read them, but maybe I should take a bit of a break for a while, so the ‘pattern’ fades a bit.

Waiting on the shelf and still to be read is the second in writing team Preston and Child’s latest series featuring Gideon Crew.  The Agent Pendergast series by these guys is one of my most favouritest EVER series, and I had high hopes for Gideon, but I found book 1 to be pretty much bog-standard adventure.  I have been putting off picking up Gideon’s Corpse (!), because I am frightened it will confirm how I felt about book 1.

I’m also still on the waiting list for the next-in-series from Jim Butcher, Simon Green (two different series), Cassandra Clare, Ben Aaronovitch, and a heap of others including The Twelve  – the highly anticipated follow-up to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, a huge success with lots of readers from a couple of years ago.

What sequels are you waiting for? And what have you been thrilled or disappointed by recently?

CoverI’m a Children’s Librarian and I read a lot of Children’s books, but I’m also an adult. An adult who isn’t actually that surprised if it turns out at the end of the book that the creepy boy that no-one else ever sees is actually a ghost <gasp>! I don’t shriek in horror at the thought of a slightly sad ghost horse hanging around a pony club or recoil in dread if a ghost only has one arm (but no bloody stump). BUT there have been a couple of ghost stories for kids that have genuinely freaked me out -

 A woman stood in the kitchen with her back to Coraline. She looked a little like Coraline’s mother only…Only her skin was as white as paper. Only she was taller and thinner. Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark-red fingernails were curved and sharp. “Coraline?” the woman said. “Is that you?” And then she turned round. Her eyes were big black buttons.

Buttons! I dare you not to feel a bit of a chill at the thought of your Mum being replaced by a stand-in with buttons for eyes.  That was from Coraline by Neil Gaiman. If you’ve only seen the movie or played the (awful) game, you should definitely check out the book, but this post isn’t about Coraline, it’s about a series of books by Chris Priestley called Tales of Terror… .

It started out with Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, then Tales of Terror From The Black Ship and I’ve just finished  Tales of Terror From The Tunnel’s Mouth.

“Don’t worry,” gurgled Peter. “I’m here, brother. I’ll always be here.” His mouth widened into a dimpled grin and mud oozed horribly between his teeth and down over his chin. He opened his mouth further and the mud flooded out, pouring down his chest in an unending glutinous stream.”

What books got your hiding under the covers when you were a kid, and still might as an adult?

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