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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Becky’s First Horror Reviews in IndiePicks!

IT’S ALIVE!!!!! [As you can imagine, I have always wanted to say that for real.]

As I have been mentioning here on the blog and on Twitter, IndiePicks Magazine, is very close to being a reality, so close in fact, that they have put their first ever review columns on their website-- my horror column and Robin Bradford’s romance column.

In case you have missed the news below is more information from Naomi Blackburn, Publisher of IndiePicks from the “Our Story” page:
Being the dedicated bibliophile I am, I am also a fan of my library. I couldn’t afford to read as much as I do if wasn’t. I often tried to seek out some of my favorite “outside” authors and was always told that the libraries didn’t carry them. I researched why and although the reasons made sense, I knew there had to be a solution; one that was a win for the authors, addressed librarians’ concerns, and met industry requirements.  
As I plunged deeper into studying the availability of books, other areas popped up and I saw the same issues related to both music and film. There were a number of great recording artists and movie producers who chose not to go with a traditional studio, but didn’t scrimp on quality.  
I wanted to do something that would serve both industries. To achieve this librarians had to be the ones to review the works. I knew that for a review to have credibility, it had to have the librarian seal of approval. Our editor, Rebecca Vnuk, comes to IndiePicks Magazine with over a decade of library experience, including the American Library Association’s Booklist. If our librarians wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing the work for their own catalog, we won’t recommend it for your reading list.  
As I got to know the independent authors and artists, I found they were just as passionate about their craft as those Big 5 authors and major studios. These people became my friends and I knew in my heart, if I could do ANYTHING to help them I would.  
I understood library policy and knew librarians wanted to work with authors outside the Big 5. I heard the call from the ALA to open their libraries to these works, but the lack of a recognized review source was still at the forefront of the problem. In searching out a solution my mind went back to my favorite little review magazine and the concept of IndiePicks was born.
Just like with my Booklist reviews, I will be posting my IndiePicks reviews here too. And just like those posts, I will add my “Three Words” to the post. Unless there was something I couldn’t fit in the review, however, I will not add more readalikes or appeal statements. I get a little more room in these columns than normal reviews, so we should be good.  They will also be archived and cataloged on the horror blog for easy retrieval by author last name.

I am contracted to provide at least 3 horror reviews per month, but I know for a fact that in future issues I will have more content than that. [But, that being said, I am the only horror reviewer and I only have space for 3 reviews a month, so please be patient with me.]

And now, here is my first IndiePicks review column. Buy all of these books for your library. They are all out right now!


Bracken MacLeod is on quite a roll. Last year he released Stranded, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, and this year he follows up with an utterly original and chillingly realistic take on zombies with Come to Dust (JournalStone/Trepidatio Publishing, $17.95, ISBN 9781945373664). Mitch is an ex-con who lives for his toddler niece, Sophie. He is her unofficial guardian since her mother abandoned her, but he doesn’t mind because this little girl is his everything—until she tragically dies in her sleep. But Sophie’s death is not final. Soon after she dies, children all over the world begin to rise from their graves. The children who return, including Sophie, seem normal (except for varying states of decay) but they also have a terrifying power—one that is not apparent at first. As governments and religious leaders debate what to do about this unique zombie problem and how to regulate these undead citizens, Mitch and his girlfriend go on an adventure to save Sophie from danger and find a safe place for families like theirs to survive in this new world. With a fast-paced, thriller style of storytelling, an emotionally intense premise which will hit anyone who has ever loved a child right in the gut, and a twist that makes it feel fresh, Come to Dust is a story that does not disappoint. Fans of M.R. Carey, Dean Koontz, and The Leftovers will find this a sure bet.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast paced, emotionally intense, chillingly realistic


Also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award last year (in the Best First Novel category) were Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, twins who are better known as The Sisters of Slaughter. In their second novel, Those Who Follow (Bloodshot Books, $14.99, ISBN 978-0998067995),  the Sisters employ their trademark style of holding no punches on the bloody details in a way that never feels gratuitous. Here we have two alternating storylines about two young, troubled women, twin sisters who do not know of the other’s existence. Celia has been kidnapped in the Arizona desert by Byron, a very evil man with an unknown supernatural power. Held captive with others in an abandoned church, Celia has had the year of her capture (age 14) carved on her forehead. Casey is living in a mental institution. Her behavior is getting more erratic until one day, the number 14 appears scratched into her forehead out of nowhere. Casey and Celia are special girls, with a connection to each other, and the power to overthrow the monster Byron—but will they find each other in time to save themselves (and the others)? They don’t even know what or who they are each looking for. The back-and-forth narration transitions smoothly and keeps the dread and the pace steadily building. There is necessary setup here, but it is all worth it, and the payoff is fantastic. Those Who Follow is a great choice for readers who miss the early 2000’s Leisure Horror line or the horrific tales of the late Richard Laymon.

Three Words That Describe This Book: parallel storylines, intense dread, violent but not gratuitously 


Speaking of fantastic, Hematophages (Sinster Grin, $15.99, ISBN 9781944044558) by Stephen Kozeniewski is one my recent favorites. Paige, an academic who has never left her space station home base, gives the reader insight into a new world of the future where the male gender is extinct, corporations have replaced governments, and most humans live off-Earth. Paige is hired as a historian, part of a team sent on a salvage mission to find a ship that has been lost for centuries. As they travel to their destination, readers meet an intriguing cast of characters and get a tutorial in the intricate workplace politics (remember, this is a world controlled by corporations). When the team reaches the lost ship, the true terror begins, a terror which springs from the hematophages, lamprey-like creatures who attach onto their prey and suck out their insides for nourishment. And these sentient creatures particularly enjoy the human brain. Hematophages has a direct and snarky narration and a seamless inclusion of accurate science which never intrudes upon the fast-paced storytelling, only enhancing it. But because this novel is also horror, it also has terrifyingly awesome and gross scenes of the creatures as they take over the crew, one by one. While this novel is perfect for fans of classic horror movies in space like Alien or Event Horizon, it is also equally influenced by twenty-first-century horror classics like The Rising and The Ruins with more than a touch of the humor of Office Space. All that and a perfect horror ending means that the only problem you will encounter as you hand-sell this book to readers is how to pronounce the title and author’s last name.

Three Words That Describe This Book: dark humor, great world building, terrifying

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Annual Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Spotlight in Booklist

August is Horror's chance to shine in Booklist, and since I write for them, I always have a heavy hand in this issue.

This issue is one of your biggest resources as you plan for the October horror onslaught, so pay attention whether you personally like horror or not!

I posted my three reviews in this issue here and have added them to the Horror Review Index here:

I also never announced the addition of another review in a previous issue that has now been added to the Index:

These are stories written in the Romero universe. It is an excellent collection on it's own and with the passing of the influential director's death it is a must buy for all library collections.

Also in this issue you can find my interview with Les Klinger, the author of The New Annotated Frankenstein (review above). It's entitled, Leslie S. Klinger and the Fine Art of Annotation. You may think this sounds boring, but I got to spend time with Les and we talked about annotating and why it is so interesting and cool. All librarians can learn from him. He has annotated Gaiman's Sandman series, Sherlock Holmes, HP Lovecraft and he is about to release an annotated Watchmen. In other words, click through and read my article.

Not involving me at all, but very important is the Top 10 list of the best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror on audio. Click here for the list which includes a lot of horror.

Finally, this issue also has the Booklist Horror Top 10 for the past year. The list was chosen by horror author and Booklist Editor, Daniel Kraus. He starts with the starred horror reviews from the past year and then he has full control to pick the lists from that narrowed down field. I am proud to say that 8 of the top 10 are books I reviewed. It makes me so happy to help these books get into libraries. Speaking of, if a book is on this list, you should buy it for your library. It represents the bare minimum of the latest horror you should own in any public library collection.  Here is the link for the full list and annotations. I have also listed the titles below; those with an * were reviewed by me and can be found in the Horror Review Index or with the link provided:

This should be enough to keep you busy for a while. Halloween is only 89 days away.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

YA Horror Novels of 2017 via Stacked

Click here for Kelly Jensen’s run down of 2017 YA horror.

Kelly runs one of the best and most comprehensive YA books sites on the web- Stacked- and she loves horror.

Remember that YA horror is often perfect for adults who don’t want too much blood and gore but still want to feel the fear.

Personally, I am not a huge YA fan. I get annoyed by the whiny teen protagonists, but then again I am living in a home with 2 teens so....

But not with YA horror. I really enjoy it. I feel like sometimes, it is better than adult horror because the authors can’t just fall back on blood and guts, they have to work to create the anxiety, fear, and terror.

I have said it a million times, Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry is one of the best zombie novels ever written.  I also like Amy Lukavics whose newest book is on Kelly's list.

Since Kelly likes YA horror so much, she has a lot of posts about it. And since she is a “reformed” librarian [her words], she has it all well cataloged. Just click here and you can pull up every horror post from Stacked.

Monday, July 17, 2017

2016 Shirley Jackson Award Winners

Over the weekend, my favorite awards were announced-- the Shirley Jackson Award winners.

For those new to the game here is all the info on this amazing cross-genre award:

Boston, MA (July 2017) — In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. has been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. 
The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology. 
The 2016 Shirley Jackson Awards were presented on Sunday, July 16th at Readercon 28, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Naomi Novik hosted the ceremony.
The winners for the 
2016 Shirley Jackson Awards are: 
Winner: The Girls, Emma Cline (Random House) 
Foxlowe, Eleanor Wasserberg (Fourth Estate-UK/Penguin Books-US)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout)
Lily, Michael Thomas Ford (Lethe)
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow)
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown) 
Winner: The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com) 
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com)
“Maggots,” Nina Allan (Five Stories High)
Muscadines, S.P. Miskowski (Dunhams Manor)
The Sadist’s Bible, Nicole Cushing (01 Publishing)
The Warren, Brian Evenson (Tor.com) 
Winner: “Waxy,” Camilla Grudova (Granta)) 
“Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees,” Laird Barron (Autumn Cthulhu)
“Angel, Monster, Man,” Sam J. Miller (Nightmare Magazine)
“Breaking Water,” Indrapramit Das (Tor.com)
“The Night Cyclist,” Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)
“Presence,” Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours) 
Winner: “Postcards from Natalie,” Carrie Laben (The Dark) 
“Animal Parts,” Irenosen Okojie (Speak, Gigantular)
“The Apartments,” Karen Heuler (Other Places)
“Postcards from Natalie,” Carrie Laben (The Dark)
“Red,” Katie Knoll (Masters Review)
“Things With Beards,” Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld) 
Winner: A Natural History of Hell, Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer Press) 
Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, D.P. Watt (Undertow)
Furnace, Livia Llewellyn (Word Horde)
Greener Pastures, Michael Wehunt (Shock Totem)
We Show What We Have Learned, Clare Beams (Lookout) 
Winner: The Starlit Wood, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Saga Press) 
Autumn Cthulhu, edited by Mike Davis (Lovecraft eZine Press)
The Madness of Dr. Caligari, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Fedogan and Bremer )
Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories, edited by Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay (Exile Editions)
An Unreliable Guide to London, edited by Kit Caless and Gary Budden (Influx Press)
BOARD OF DIRECTORS AWARD to Ruth Franklin in recognition of the biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.
Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work.Congratulations to all the winners.
Please make sure you take a look at the long list here [and above] as all of the nominated titles are fantastic and many would not be noticed anywhere else because they do not easily fit into a single genre.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

IT Re-Read With Daniel Kraus on Booklist Reader- Updates Every Monday

Click here to join in on the evil fun
Want to brush up on horror before October comes along?

Follow along [if you dare] with Daniel Kraus as he leads a re-read of IT every Monday on Booklist Reader.

Look I know many of you are scared to try to read horror for yourself but you want to understand why you patrons like it. Reading these weekly discussions will help you improve your service to horror readers without giving you nightmares.

Now the more adventurous among you may decide to also read along. But if IT is too much for you, there are plenty of other horror books I could suggest for you to try. Let me know if you need some help finding the best one for you or a patron.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review Index Update: Ararat and Skitter

I added reviews of two new books to the review archive:
  • Golden, Christopher.  Ararat (2017)
  • Boone, Ezekiel.  Skitter (2017)

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Sometimes Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You" via Tor.Com

Another day and yet another wonderful essay on Tor.com about the appeal of horror. As I mentioned just a few days ago in this post, Tor.com was already one of my preferred resources for horror info, but even they are outdoing themselves with a flurry of great posts recently.

Today's essay on their site about the appeal of horror is a repost of a 2013 piece by Leah Schnelbach entitled, "Sometimes Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You," and is about what Stephen King and his work has meant to her over the years.

I say it a lot, but people who belittle the mainstream appeal of horror are just plain dumb. Stephen King is one of the highest selling authors of our times and every single one of his books [no matter the genre] invokes fear, dread, anxiety, and often, terror-- the staples of horror. Millions of people love his books, yet a large portion of those same readers say that they "don't like horror."

Well, they are liars- every single one of them.

But again, I tell you this all of the time. Why not read someone else's argument?

This post has been tagged, Why I Love Horror. Use that link to see other authors and library workers share their personal love of the genre and what it means to them.