RA for All...The Road Show!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Joe Hill Talks Comics

Here is the link to his live appearance in NYC on the Comic Book Club Podcast. 

He talks quite a bit on how to write horror that works.  He explains the appeal of how to best scare readers in text and comics.  He compares good horror writing to bad horror movies, and how Locke and Key corrects those problems.

I am thrilled to hear him make many of the same arguments that I have made in the new book about the appeal of horror.

Also, he gives a few story line spoilers, including one that hits at one of the biggest trends in 21st Century horror...no character is safe.

For the record, if you listen you will see that I am not the only one out there who thinks Locke and Key is THE BEST comic series in the world!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is the Zombie Apocalypse Here?

Okay, first I must have full disclosure.  I am reading the last book in Mira Grant's Newsflesh series which is all about a world where the cure for the common cold mixed with the cure for cancer has caused a small zombie problem. So although everything in this post is factually correct, please understand I am in a zombie apocalypse frame of mind.

But, oh my, did you see this article in the Miami Herald this past weekend about the naked guy who was eating another man's face.  It took 6 shots to make him stop.  He only stopped when he died.  Seriously.  Sounds like a zombie to me.

And I read this first in The New York Times.  It doesn't get any more serious than that.

And then, courtesy of io9, I saw this Tweet from the University of Illinois: "Hazardous materials released at Institute for Genomic Biology.  Escape area if safe to do so.  Otherwise seek shelter."

First Miami and now my home state.  Freaky....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thank God For My Husband's Esquire Subscription


From Joe Hill's Twitter:

"Yeah, did a story for the June/July Esquire with my dad. Beyond that, I can't say nuttin until @Esquiremag sez so."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Backlist Not to Miss: Castaways

One of my guilty TV pleasures is Survivor.  Even when I tell my husband I am going to stop watching it with him, I keep going.  I begin each season hating it and by the end, I am totally absorbed. It is the same pattern every season, for 23 seasons.  I know, I should know better by now, but it has become a habit by now.

Brian Keene must also have a similar tormented relationship with the show because in the 2009 novel Castaways he imagines a Survivor like show which urns deadly.  From my original review:

Here is the plot... A television crew and contestants in a Survivor-esque reality show are literally caught in a fight for their lives-- the island they have been left on is populated by an indigenous tribe of bloodthirsty monsters! Castaways is a grisly page-turner.

The reality TV slant in this novel is genius! The contestants are on an uninhabited island and a cyclone is approaching. All but three crew members are evacuated and the contestants are left alone to ride out the storm. That is when the horrors begin. This is a bloody book, but Keene's ability to add humor and his well enough described band of characters makes this novel a good choice for a wide audience. As a warning I should say there are a few brutal rape scenes, but they are necessary to the plot. And even though many, many people die and are torn limb from limb (literally), our main characters make it out alive and live happily ever after. Although, I dare you not to be rooting for the monsters to get a certain Welsh contestant.
Keene uses gore and snarky humor in equal parts.  This is a great read for anyone who loves or hates Survivor.  It is also an excellent choice for fans of the late, great horror-master Richard Laymon, as Keene's monsters here are a direct homage to the devolved monsters of some of Laymon's best work.

So, with another season of Survivor having just ended this past Sunday night, why not give this fun and frightening backlist title a try for yourself.

For more Backlist Not to Miss posts, go to the Features Archive.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RA for All Road Show: Horror in Mundelein


In case you haven't noticed, my new book is out.  I have been busy making the rounds to promote it.

Today, I am stopping in at the Fremont Public Library District to present the 3 hour version on the book in a program I call "Thrills and Chills @ Your Library: How to Help Your Scariest Patrons."

Use this link to access all of the handouts.

Remember, if you want me to come and get your staff ready for Halloween, I am currently booking for September appearances on a first come first serve basis.  Contact me for more info.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Childrens' Book Week: Horror Style

It's Childrens' Book Week, and although I work with adult horror readers, I also known that children love a great scary story.

I volunteer at my kids' elementary school library 2x a month and I get at least one request for a "scary" book each and every time I am there.

I am not even close to an expert on horror picks for kids, but in honor of Children's Book Week I thought I would share a few ideas and then point you to where you can find more information.

Of course, R.L. Stine is the master of the scary kids story.  If you have never read a Goosebumps tale you are missing out.  Also, in terms of working with horror readers as they grow up, knowing what they read as kids (probably these books) helps you to find them a book as they grow up.

Alvin Schwartz is another master of the scary story appropriate for a kid.  My kids love his short story collections.

But that is about where my expertise ends.  That's okay though.  Like the good librarian I am, I know who does know...Monster Librarian.

Click here for for their annotated list of scary books for kids 12 and under and here for their teen selections.

Try a horror book for kids in honor of Children's Book Week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Author Obituary: Michael Louis Calvillo

Here is the official word from Dark Fuse.

Review: Allison Hewitt is Trapped

This is a cross post with RA for All:


Allison Hewitt is Trapped [herein AHiT] by Madeleine Roux is a first novel in what will become a loosely based series of novels following different people, in different parts of the country as they deal with a zombie apocalypse and its aftermath.

The appeal for readers here is that the novel begins in a book store.  Allison is a few years out of college and struggling to find her place in the adult world.  She passes her time working in a bookstore in Madison, WI.

And then, the zombie apocalypse comes and Allison finds her calling...killing zombies!  She begins with a ragtag group of employees at the bookstore as they learn to kill zombies (with Allison in the lead) and finally make their way out into the devastated world.

Giving more plot would ruin it because the story is all about Allison's emotional and physical journey to safety.  In terms of the plot, though, it unfolds like many of today's zombie stories.  [Click here for more by me on zombie novels.]

However, what I want to focus on in this review is why AHiT is different from other zombie novels; in other words, why you would or would not want to read it for yourself.

The most striking thing about this novel is its format.  The entire novel is written as blog posts which Allison writes on the run and publishes when there is access to the government's emergency wireless.  So each chapter is a post and they end with comments.

Not only then are Allison and her group's actions part of the plot, as readers we also start to follow the shortened stories of those who leave comments.  This adds an interesting layer to the story in that we see Allison and her struggles in detail, but we also get a glimpse into the struggles, heartbreak, and dilemmas of many others all over the world.  This was a great addition to the plot, action, anxiety, oh just to everything.

There is a further level of depth to the story here too.  The entire "novel" is presented to a publisher many years after the zombie apocalypse as an example of a first hand account of one survivor.  The books begins with the submission letter by a young professor (whose Dad the reader later meets as a child in the story) and ends with the publisher's response (which definitely adds a twist to what we just read and rooted for).

It is also important to note that Roux initially wrote AHiT as a series of blog posts before it was published in book form.

On a side note, as I mention in the new book, horror novels often use an interesting frame like letters, official documents, or blog posts to further enhance the unease and anxiety of the story.  Here it works quite well as not only are we worried for Allison's safety as readers, but we are also concerned with the safety of her laptop.  Without it, we will never know what happened to her!  Roux knows this and makes sure how Allison AND the computer escape each new trial are both clearly explained in the story.

And yes, this novel does fit into the horror genre, but it is on the tamer side.  In fact, I could see chick lit fans who don't mind a little blood and guts really loving this book.  Roux writes better than average horror action sequences.  They are scary, bloody, detailed, and action packed.  You are on the edge of your seat following the gruesome action.  But it is not over-the-top gratuitous.  In other words, it is a lot more than Sookie Stackhouse or Twilight but a lot less than an all out zombie horror scarefest like those by Jonathan Maberry or Brian Keene.

And like all good horror novels, AHiT has both supernatural and human bad guys.  Very bad human bad guys, both men and women.

Overall, I would call it a horror/women's fiction/humorous meld.  AHiT is an excellent reading option for someone who wants something a little scarier, but not too gory.  It is also a great option for horror readers looking for a strong female lead.

AHiT has great characterizations.  Besides Allison, there are many well rounded characters here.  In fact, during the times when Allison and her friends are a bit safer the characters carry the story.  I should note that these slower times also help to build the anxiety of what is to come.  The reader knows that a zombie apocalypse is a bad thing.  Safety is relative.  Just like Allison and her crew, we are all waiting for the next time they all have to race away from certain death.

Speaking of certain death, like any believable zombie horror novel, there is a high body count here.  Characters you grow to love will die.

I know I mentioned chick lit fans above.  I should expand.  There is a strong theme here of Allison looking to find her place in the world AND a looking for love angle.  There is a strong romantic story line between her and someone she meets.  It has all of the trapping of a romance novel: they meet, fall in love, his wife returns, Allison runs away, he ditches wife and finds Allison, they live happily ever after.  I could have done without this part of the story myself.  I found Allison and her quest to find safety, and possibly her mother, compelling enough without the romance angle, but I can appreciate how it would rope in a whole other subsection of possible readers.

AHiT is a very quick and fun read.  I would not give it to a hardcore zombie fan, but I will give it out to  my patrons who are tiring of paranormal fiction and want a little more "teeth" in their stories.

Three Words That Describe This Book: zombie apocalypse, darkly humorous, character centered

Readalikes:  For readers who want more novels which are horror (not paranormal romance) with zombies and dark humor, I would also suggest:

For those who want more horror with female protagonists, I would highly suggest:
Finally, although I don't think it is a readalike, I should mention that Justin Cronin's The Passage is similar to AHiT in that both are written as a series of found documents looking back on the early days of the apocalypse and the exploits of those involved.  The Passage is much more detailed and literary than AHiT, but if a reader really likes this aspect then The Passage or World War Z by Max Brooks are the perfect suggestion.  Just make sure you are clear that both of these suggestions are more literary, less overtly humorous, and definitely more methodically paced.