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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 31-- Entry Points for Horror

Our Trick or Treat Greeter
Happy Halloween!  Phew, I made it to Day 31.  Well, I still need to make it through tonight with four, 9 and 10 yr old boys sleeping over our house.  Thank goodness there is plenty of candy!

I had a great time talking to everyone about horror, yesterday.

As I discussed in the presentation, my specialty is helping librarians feel more confident as they help horror readers, but there are plenty of you out there who don't usually read like horror and want to give it a try.

How do you help the horror newbie?

One answer to that question can be found here in a post by my fellow ALA Editions author and Genre blending expert, Megan McArdle.

The post is appropriately titled, Horror for Beginners.

Don't forget to keep using this blog as a resource all year long.  Horror fans read scary books all the year through.

HAVE A FUN AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 30: Time for a Halloween Pep Talk

As I posted a few days ago here, today is your chance to hear me talk about why reader's love horror...for FREE. 1pm Eastern/Noon Central. 

I have planned 30 minutes of talking and am willing to take questions for 30 more minutes, so bring your tough horror questions.


The presentation with the live links is available here, or just click on the first slide below.

Can't wait to give you the Halloween pep talk!

POST TALK LINKS: 
Use the slides to find a way to contact me.  I don’t hide in the shadows.


Click the slide to go right to the presentation

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 29: Horror Graphic Novels

We currently have three horror related displays going at the BPL due to demand.

  1. Our general horror display
  2. A dystopian fiction display for the "not quite horror" bunch
  3. And this small quick display on horror graphic novels that John  threw together on Monday.
It got me thinking about how much I love horror graphic novels.  In fact, I love them so much that I somehow have used 2 different tags to catalog the posts here on the blog: graphic novel and graphic novels.

So today, I want to talk about horror graphic novels.  The history of horror comics is a tumultuous one.  In fact, back in 2011, I wrote review of an excellent book on that history, The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! 

But now, the modern horror comic has rebounded. I have argued in public that some of the best graphic novels today period, regardless of their genre classification, are horror comics [Locke and Key]

From an RA standpoint, however, you cannot simply give every horror reader a graphic novel. They have to be okay with "seeing" the horror in a visual format.  Also, while the story line itself may seem like a perfect fit to a specific reader, if they do not like the artist's style or how the story is laid out on the page, they will not be satisfied.

So, do not just book talk graphic novel options to potential readers, you also need to show them a a few pages too.

Besides the links provided above, here are a few more opinions for the best in horror comics:
In my book I also have a list of 10 Graphic Novels for Horror Readers (pg 133).

Don't forget to sign up for my horror webinar tomorrow.  It's free.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 28: Flashback to 2009

Today I am going to expound on one of my favorite topics when it comes to providing RA in a public library setting...the backlist.

Readers of RA for All and anyone who has ever attended one of my talks knows that I am a huge proponent of the backlist. In fact, here is a direct quote from my own lecture notes:
Promoting books, specifically the backlist those titles that are great reads, but out of the spotlight, and incidentally, filling most of your shelves just waiting for the perfect reader, meaning they are there right now for that reader who “has nothing to read,” is actually quite easy to do virtually.  The one thing the library has in stock that bookstores do not is the backlist.  We try to focus a large portion of our book promotion on the backlist.  That gem of the library; the thousands of great reads just waiting on the shelf to be matched with just the right reader.  In fact, backlist books are your best bet to target your virtual promotion of books, as I will show you.  The new books are all over the web on other sites, but your backlist is a great asset and it is unique to the library.  What do you do with your best asset?  You play it up people!
Publishers spend most of their time marketing the newest materials and trying to get you to buy the new (hardcover, so higher profit margin) titles.  Even to libraries their marketing is mostly about the newest books.  Once in a while there is some backlist marketing for book discussion purposes, but that is about it.
As I say above, there are thousands of options we can market to people at the library, options that are no longer easily available to browse at a bookstore, but we librarians have to create the buzz on our own.
To that end, as I am wrapping up the final week of this self imposed marathon of daily posts, I was day dreaming back to a time when I did not do a post a day during October because I did not have the horror blog. [Yes, back when I had time to do more than post, eat, and breathe during this month.]

Seriously though, back in 2009 I composed a three part series on the best horror of the year and posted it on RA for All.  I happened upon the post by mistake yesterday and was so excited.  There are a lot of good books here; books that I currently have sitting on my shelves at the BPL; books that I can put in the hands of readers RIGHT NOW, in time for Halloween. Because even I have a hard time finding enough books to meet demand each October.

So here is the link to the three part series.  Please note, I have not checked if all of the links still work, but the posts do include a short blurb about each book [with credit to where I got it if I did not write it myself], and the titles and authors did not change, so you could still look them up yourself.

But they are all excellent backlist options that will make your patrons happy.  And hey, that’s what I try to do on this blog...provide a timely resource that helps you help your horror readers.

You’re welcome.

Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 27: How Are You Going to Celebrate Halloween?

This is a cross post with RA for All.

We are in the home stretch now. It is time for the Monday Discussion one last Halloween themed time.

Today's question is easy, how are you going to celebrate on 10/31/14?

Me first.

I have a lot planned this year.  Friends from out of town are bringing their 2 yr old to watch my 4th grader (who will be going as a zombie doctor) in his school parade. I love watching the 600+ kids trot by one after another.

Then after school, his friends are coming over for some gross grub and trick or treating with 2 dads supervising.  I usually make a very chunky and red chili for Halloween.  It looks gross but tastes yummy.  However, with 4 little boys over who may be picky eaters I am switching to a giant pot of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs and broccoli chunks. Still looks gross, but will be better suited to a 9 and 10 yr old palate.

My 7th grader (going as a mime) will be out with friends trick or treating.  I am glad she still is getting dressed up and participating.  It helps that the Jr High threw a Halloween costume party this past weekend.

I will be answering the door in a scary mask with a witch hat thrown on for good measure, while drinking a zombie dust beer and toasting that I have made it through yet another crazy October.

Here at the BPL, we will also have trick or treating at all of the service desks available all day on the 31st.  Feel free to dress up and show off your costumes here at the library.

What about you.  Are you dressing up? What as?  Do you have special plans since it is on a Friday this year?  Share them here.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 26: Review of The Quick

Today I have a review of a book that is part Gothic novel, part vampire horror novel-- The Quick by Lauren Owen.

It’s Halloween time and even though vampires are not as popular as other monsters in horror these days, many readers still love the lore of the vampire. It is a go-to character for many readers at this time of year, and what is perfect about Owen’s debut novel here is that it is truly half Gothic, Victorian novel and half old fashioned vampire story. It is truly a Halloween read with wide appeal.

Set in a Dickensonian, Victorian England [a setting well known to many readers], The Quick is the story of a young poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated world of the secret Aegolius Club. The novel has the leisurely pace of the Gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but readers who sit back and take in the well drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot, are in for a great ride.  

We begin the novel meeting a brother and sister who live in a falling down estate. When their father dies, their Aunt takes them in. Then the two are separated as James, goes to the city and Charlotte stays behind in the country.

What follows is a story of Victorian London’s underground vampire world and James and Charlotte’s roles in it. It is important to note that James and Charlotte and their sibling bond is what ultimately drives the story here. In fact, the opening chapters are slower, but the reader reaps an excellent reward for reading through them as they set up the final chapter perfectly. The end of this novel is moving and satisfying because of the well crafted sibling bond and those slower opening chapters.

This is an extremely detailed novel that unveils its story through multiple points of view. We see life for different people on all of the vampire battlefronts. This changing perspective enhances the moody, atmospheric, and foreboding tone. It also allows the world of the vampires and those who fight them to be carefully and intricately built. Overall this leads to the satisfying nature of the novel as a whole.

However, this stylistic choice also makes this dense and intricate story move at a leisurely but compelling pace. One of the most striking things about this debut novel is how perfectly it embodies the story telling techniques of the era in which it is set. This Victorian style adds authenticity to what is a fantasy story. But readers must remember that Gothic novels unravelled at a much more methodical pace than today’s tales, even those of today that invoke the Gothic storytelling style.

While the world building of the Victoria era is realistic, I loved the vampire world building here too. It was all steeped in classic vampire lore, but the specific details on how they survived in the real world and the other side of the story, how the vampire hunters worked to track them and stop them, were both extremely interesting and compelling.

But don’t get me wrong here. It’s not all about the Victorian setting, There is some great vampire action here. These creatures are mean, nasty, and vindictive. There is an epic battle between the warring vampire groups that matches any vampire novel I have ever read. And again, it moves between points of view which was very satisfying.

Overall this is an excellent literary, Gothic novel that has enough about vampires to satisfy horror readers, but enough other frame to attract those looking for a seasonal read. It has its gross and violent moments, but it is nothing today’s average reader does not encounter already in bestselling suspense stories.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Gothic, Vampires,character centered

Readalikes: The Quick’s appeal is best described as Dickens meets Dracula. Both are excellent readalike options, and together they capture the novel’s appeal perfectly.

This novel also reminded me of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, although The Quick is much better in my opinion. I found the protagonist of The Historian whiny and weak. Charlotte is the exact opposite. Also, the vampire parts in The Quick are much better for horror fans.

For people who like the idea of The Quick, but find the 544 page count and leisurely pace a bit too slow, the novels of Matthew Pearl are a much better choice.  Click here for my reviews of some of Pearl’s mysteries.

Finally, 
Here is a great list of books people who liked The Quick also liked on Goodreads.  It includes a book I read and enjoyed this year, The Swan Gondola by Tony Shaffert. Click through to my review to see more on that fantastic Gothic novel.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 25: History of Halloween

So the Halloween celebrations have kicked in full throttle now.

My middle school kid attended an all school,  Halloween costume party last night, a few of my friends had to cancel afternoon plans to make last minute Halloween costume exchanges and/or accessory purchases, and someone told me that last night she had a trick or treater show up on her doorstep.  Okay, that last one was odd, but true.

Halloween is a big deal here in America; it is the second most commercial holiday behind Christmas.  In fact, when I was hosting two Norwegian libraries on Thursday, they asked me to drive around a bit more so they could admire all of the decorations.  They were especially tickled to see so many Halloween decorations in the libraries we visited.

I told them about Halloween in America and how it is a really big deal.  We talked about school parties and costume planning and treats.  They loved it all.  They said Norway is trying to get more into Halloween, but it is not taking off as well as some were hoping.  For sure, they do not have any decorations in their libraries, not because it isn’t allowed, but people would think it was a bit odd.

This got me thinking to how we got to where we are in America when it comes to Halloween.  Then I remembered, that last year Lisa Morton released a fantastic Nonfiction book entitled, Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween.  I had her write me a guest post about it here.

But you may not have time to buy that book and read it in the next 6 days [although it is worth a purchase for next year].  But we are all librarians and, as a group, we want to know WHY we do what we do, especially if candy is involved.

So I would highly suggest clicking here and checking out the video and article by History.com all about the history of Halloween.  From that page you can also find videos about what happens to our brain when we are afraid, history of witches, and even a video on candy corn.

I know many of you have Halloween plans this last weekend before the 31st.  Have a hauntingly great time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 24: Free Horror Webinar for Librarians with ME!



 
 ALA Store

Today's post is to tell you about the FREE webinar I am doing in conjunction with my publisher, ALA Editions on Thursday, October 30th.  Click here for all of the details and to sign up for FREE!

I have reposted the important info with links below.  But here's what you are going to get:

30 minutes of me doing a prepared talk on WHY people love horror with a few author examples.
30 minutes of live questions from any of you asking me about specific books or horror related issues at your library.

Remember, this is sponsored by my publisher, so I am going to be pushing the hundreds of title suggestions available in my book, and on this blog, which is your FREE update to the book.

In fact, to get you excited for signing up and possibly buying the book, click here to get a preview of my slides which includes a coupon on slide 2!

I hope to "see" you there next week. It can be your lunch break! Well, only if you can handle talking horror while eating.  I can, but I know I am weird that way.

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Horror Readers' Advisory for Halloween!
with Becky Spratford
Thursday, October 30, 2014
1:00pm ET | 12:00pm CT
11:00am MT | 10:00am PT 

60 Minutes
Halloween is right around the corner, and the demand for horror books is peaking! In this free webinar, horror expert Becky Spratford will teach you the basics of providing great readers'- advisory services for students and patrons of all ages.
You'll learn how to provide age- and community-appropriate resources for your readers as well as how to avoid potential problem areas. Don't miss this opportunity to learn! Becky Spratford has been a Readers' Advisor for patrons ages 13 and up for over 14 years at the Berwyn Public Library (IL). She has taught at the graduate level and trains librarians all over the world. Spratford runs two popular and critically acclaimed blogs, RA for All (raforall.blogspot.com) and RA for All: Horror (raforallhorror.blogspot.com) and writes content for EBSCO's NoveList database. She is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (ALA Editions, 2012) and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 23: Library Journal’s Reader’s Shelf Horror List

Library Journal posted my horror list yesterday.  You can enjoy it now in print or online.

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Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Reader’s Shelf

It’s Halloween—time to get ready for the hordes of patrons who will begin to haunt the library and are in the mood for a good scare. From the hard-core enthusiast to the more timid bibliophile looking for a taste of terror, this list will help librarians arm themselves with some bloody-good suggestions.
            amity102214 Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Readers Shelf   thenewblack102214 Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Readers Shelf
Josh Malerman’s terrifying debut, Bird Box (Ecco: HarperCollins. 2014. ISBN 9780062259653. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062259677), immerses readers in a claustrophobic world in which the only way to survive an unknown threat is never to open your eyes. A young mother and her two children brave these strange horrors, piloting a boat downriver to a possible place of salvation and keeping their eyes shut. Told both in the present and via flashbacks to four years before when the known world ceased to exist, Malerman’s novel presents a deep and oppressive sense of dread.
On an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles off the mainland, a group of Boy Scouts and their leader embark on a survival excursion in Nick Cutter’s The Troop (Pocket. 2014. ISBN 9781476717722. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476717753). The outing is interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, the Hungry Man, who is completely consumed physically and mentally by hunger. Now the scouts’ fight to stay alive really begins, and they are forced to face monsters both of this world and unearthly. The distress never stops, the panic keeps escalating, and the gore is bountiful in this fluidly shifting plot. However, there is more than just visceral fear at work here; there is also the desperation of these characters knowing that they are trapped, contagious, and doomed.
Haunted house lovers who find popular adult writers a little too intense can try the recent YA offering Amity (EgmontUSA. 2014. ISBN 9781606841563. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9781606843802) by Micol Ostow. It purposely plays off the anxiety and trepidation associated with the infamous town of Amityville, NY, but do not mistake the homage of the title as a sign of a copycat story. Instead, Ostow weaves a distinct and unsettling tale of two families, living in a house called Amity, on two different time lines, ten years apart. As the evil of the house slowly reveals itself, people are corrupted, frightening events take place, and no one is left unscathed. Or is it all in their heads? Once inside Ostow’s dark, distinctive world, it is hard to be sure what is real.
What is a list of Halloween stories without some vampires? Lauren Owen’s debut, The Quick(Random. 2014. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054), introduces James Norbury, a shy young Victorian poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated and secretive Aegolius Club. Owen’s narrative has the leisurely pace of the gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but those who settle in and let the well-drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot sweep them away are in for a great ride. Think Dickens meets Dracula for a sense of what Owen’s textured novel has to offer.
Short stories are often a great bet during the season because they allow the casual horror fan to indulge in snippets of creepy fun. A superb and recent collection is The New Black (Dark Horse. 2014. ISBN 9781940430041. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940430126), edited by Richard Thomas and with an introduction by Bram Stoker Award–winning author Laird Barron. Featuring tense, atmospheric, and twisted stories by acclaimed authors Benjamin Percy, Roxane Gay, Craig Davidson (who published The Troop under the pseudonym Nick Cutter), and more, these neonoir tales merge literary fiction with any combination of dark genres from crime and horror to fantasy and Southern gothic, with touches of the grotesque along the way. Those who are looking to dip their toes into the forbidden depths of chills and thrills should start here for a sampling of the best.
Finally, try one of the traditional titles of horror. The 40th anniversary edition of James Herbert’s iconic The Rats (Pan Macmillan. 2015. ISBN 9781447264521. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9780330469203), which will feature a new foreword by Neil Gaiman, is set to be released in January 2015. But why wait? Most libraries likely already have an older copy of this backlist gem lurking on their shelves. Herbert’s grisly novel takes the ubiquitous, urban menace—rats—and unleashes a more intelligent and predatory version onto the populace of London with gruesomely petrifying results. You think zombies are scary? At least they don’t actually exist. (Right?) Get patrons in on the buzz that will certainly follow Gaiman’s contribution by recommending this disturbing classic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 22: Prizes for Libraries Who Celebrate Halloween Haunts

The Horror Writers Association is running a contest for libraries.  You can win prizes just for using their resources to make you look better.

Back at the beginning of this marathon month, I had this post about the HWA’s Halloween Haunts program.  But to recap, there is at least 1 post every day by a member of the organization talking about horror, halloween, or their work.  There is a wealth of information here, and all of it makes you look more responsive and better prepared to your patrons seeking frightening reads.

So you should already be checking Halloween Haunts at least once a week during this month.

But just in case you were not, I wanted to point out this wonderful opportunity.  See below for details or click here.  You still have time to email your entries to membership@horror.org.

Good luck!




Halloween Haunts: Horror Writers Association Goes to the Library

This year, for the first time, the Horror Writers Association invited libraries to get involved with Halloween Haunts and help promote the event to their patrons. Libraries were asked to post HH announcements to their online sites, in their libraries, or to involve HH in their teen reads and literacy programs–and then submit photos of screenshots of their efforts.
All libraries that participate are entered in a raffle to win one of the following prizes:
  • Grand Prize: $100 for an in-library Halloween party or event or to support in-library literacy or creative writing programs
  • First Prize: $50 for an in-library Halloween party or event or to support in-library literacy or creative writing programs
  • Second Prize: A basket of horror books donated by members of the HWA.
  • Third Prize: An in-library Skype visit from a horror writer for a creative writing discussion and/or reading of scary stories.
Here are the entries received as of October 19. Many thanks to the folks at these libraries for participating in Halloween Haunts and for showing their support for the horror genre and the Horror Writers Association. The winners of the raffle will be announced on November 1. Until then, there’s still time to help spread the word and enter the drawing. Entries may be sent to membership@horror.org.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 21-- Just in Time Horror Reading Links

It is 10 days until Halloween, and while I could have a long, witty and/or analytical  post, I know, from working the adult fiction desk myself, that right now you need quick links and ideas.

So enough intro, here are the goods to help you RIGHT NOW.  Of course if you have time, perusing this blog will also unveil a wealth of info.

If you cannot find a suggestion here, you are truly living in a horror novel.

Good Luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Days of Horror--Day 20: What Do You Need To Survive A Horror Movie?

Today I am running the Monday Discussion on both blogs because it is a good one.

Let me have the person who suggested it set the stage for you:
As Halloween approaches many rituals go into full swing. Costume hunting, pumpkin carving, and of course, scary movie watching. No matter how many times you see the same story, you still get a kick out of it (or still scream at the ghostly scene). While watching these movies I always find myself thinking, you know, if she didn't go into the basement alone she might have made it. Or better yet, if you're gonna go in a dark forest you might want to have fresh batteries in your flashlight first, right?
We are looking for bloggers like you to create a post talking about the things they would want to have if they were stuck in a spooky movie. Whether it's garlic to ward off vampires, a shovel to thump zombies with, or a goofy sidekick who you know you could outrun, we'd love to hear what you'd have in your crate to make it through the entire movie.
What a fun idea from the people at Man Crates.  They even provided a cool graphic which I have embedded below to help get your creative juices flowing.  It is kind of small, so I also uploaded a nice clear pdf that you can read in a larger format by clicking here.

So for today's Monday Discussion... what would you put in your "survive a horror movie" crate?

I'll go first.  I would definitely have extra batteries for everything. The batteries always seem to run out on phones and/or flashlights all of the time in those movies.  In fact, I am going to say 5 extra flashlights and 2 extra cell phones, plus a mess load of extra batteries should do it.  Some granola bars to stave off hunger (they are light to carry and yummy to eat) as well as a wooden spear or bat.  I don't know how to shoot a gun and would probably hurt myself with a knife or sword, but a club or bat made of wood with a sharpened end could do a lot of damage to a wide range of monsters.

Your turn. Leave a comment with what you would put in your Horror Movie Survival Crate.

And thanks to Man Crates for getting in touch.  This will be fun.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 19: True Crime for Horror Fans

Attention Librarians!  Horror readers are no different than your other genre readers. Although they may prefer horror, it is not the only thing they read. In fact, it is our job as Reader’s Advisors to use our knowledge and resources to help our patrons to identify new books they might enjoy if only they knew these books existed.

In my book, I have an entire chapter on “whole collection” options for horror fans.  You can also find posts on these options by using my “not quite horror” tag her on the blog.

But today, I wanted to highlight one of the most common crossover genres for horror fans...True Crime.  Thankfully, they are easy to find at the library since they are all shelved together under the same Dewey number (364.1523), but the quality in that large section of books ranges widely. 

So, here are my favorite lists and resources to suggest some True Crime to your horror fans:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 18: Lots of Becky’s Horror Picks Available With One Click

If you have the October 15, 2014 Library Journal, you will see that I have taken over Neal Wyatt’s Reader’s Shelf Column on the next to last page. I now stage this coup 2x per year (October and April) to suggest horror stories for a public library audience.

I am not allowed to re-post the list here on the blog until it goes live on the website and sometimes they wait until 10/31 to get to that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have many other lists to share with you.

In my permanent page “Becky’s Original Horror Lists,” I have links to the past Reader’s Shelf columns and other lists I have made over the years for the library.

This is the panic point for many librarians during the Halloween season.  We are past the half-way point of the month and you have already given out all of your go-to horror suggestions.  People are going to start coming in faster now, descending upon you wanting a scary book, and your mind is blank....AAAAAAAHHHHH.

Seriously though, that’s why I am am here.  Click on “Becky’s Original Horror Lists” or use my Review Index to find plenty of suggestions to help you fight off the hordes and pacify them with a good read.

Of course, if you have my book, you are on easy street because there are hundreds of annotated suggestions right at your fingertips.  If you need the book now, consider buying the digital copy for your library. You could have it today.

On a final non-horror side note, Neal’s  Reader’s Shelf column whether by her or a guest is an excellent resource to find solid, librarian vetted titles, grouped into interesting categories.  It is not always by genre.  Click here for a rich archive full of suggestions that you can use all year long.

Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 17: Horror Audiobooks-- A Narrator’s Perspective

Back in 2011, I had this post about the merits of horror in audio form and included a great resource for reviews.

For the lazy, the short version of that post is that horror on audio harkens back to childhood times spent telling ghost stories on sleepovers or around campfires.  Horror is as much an emotion as it is a genre and hearing it read only enhances the fear and terror-- those feelings that horror readers crave from their stories.

When I was preparing for my 31 Days of Horror blog-a-thon, Paula Slade, a seasoned actress who had recently narrated the horror novel, The Haunted by Michaelbrent Collings, reached out to me.

She is very passionate about narrating audiobooks, and has quite a bit of experience, but this was her first horror novel.  As Paula told me:
"I was initially drawn to the book's rich use of language, and almost cinematic visualizations...
When I auditioned for The Haunted, I felt it begged for a storyteller approach along with a versatile interpretation of the many characters. And, even though I knew I was up against male narrators (who we all know dominate the Horror genre in audiobooks) that is the approach I took in bringing the author's words to life."
Paula was very moved by her experience and wanted to let people know more about audiobooks and narrating horror as a female.  I told her I thought her mission fit in very nicely with mine.

So today, think about helping your horror listeners at the library with the aid of Paula and me.
  • Click here for all posts on the horror blog labelled audio
  • Click here for the MANY, MANY more posts on RA for All which talk at length about audiobooks in general and their appeal to readers. 
  • Click here to read or listen to an interview with Paula about being a narrator.
  • And, finally, click here to listen to a snippet of The Haunted, read a plot summary, download a copy for yourself, and/or to read listener reviews.
For my part I think The Haunted is a solid haunted house story in the tradition of The Turn of the Screw. Paula’s narration, in my opinion, only improves the story. It is a great choice to add to your horror audio collections, especially because what Paula says above is correct, there really are no good  female narrated horror audiobooks out there, and I know there are people who would want to listen to one. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 16: Review of The Troop

Yesterday I reviewed the brilliant Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Well, today’s review makes for an interesting pairing because Nick Cutter’s The Troop has an equal sense of dread and claustrophobia but is on the exact opposite end of the gore spectrum. [Hint-- look at that red cover] I loved both, but I appreciate that for some library patrons this will matter.

Set on an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles of the mainland of the equally isolated Prince Edward Island, Canada, a troop of boy scouts and their leader have their survival excursion interrupted by the appearance of a stranger who is completely consumed both physically and mentally by hunger.  Once “the Hungry Man” enters their world, their fight to survive-- the disease he carries, each other, and those trying to contain the biological incident-- really begins. Featuring a fluidly shifting narration and monsters both of this world and unearthly, the anxiety of The Troop never stops, the panic keeps intensifying, and the gore is bountiful. But there is more than just visceral horror at work here; there is also the desperation of knowing you are trapped, contagious, and doomed.

The story begins with a narration by “The Hungry Man” himself. We then switch to the island where we see things unfold through the eyes of the troop leader and then the boys themselves. In fact this is where the story telling goes from good to GREAT. The boys, their personalities, their places in the troop pecking order, and their backgrounds all come to influence how they manage this horrific situation, how they choose to take charge, and how they treat one and other.

As the anxiety builds and the situation goes from bad to worse to unimaginably horrific, the pov switches become key.

There is also a great side plot here involving the evil scientist who has created the vector which created The Hungry Man. This is a 100% fatal disease that spreads person to person and violently consumes its victim. As readers we are allowed to follow the trial that takes place in the aftermath of the horror that happens on the island. The result is a winning horror combination of a supernatural and human evil that keep the chills and thrills rolling through this extremely fast paced story.

Besides the gore as a limiter, I also need to mention that there are many child characters here, and this story has a high body count. I am sorry to provide a bit of that spoiler, but I think just saying that previous sentence to readers who are unsure if they would like to read this novel is a good idea.

This is pulp horror at it’s best. It is a throwback to the best of the 1980s but with a 21st Century sensibility. [Read during this time of Ebola at your own risk though.]

As a final aside, it is important to note that Nick Cutter is the pseudonym used by acclaimed, Canadian, literary fiction writer Craig Davidson for his horror novels.

Three Words That Describe This Book: gory, intense sense of dread, isolated setting

Readalikes: Obviously Lord of the Flies is in play here. Many readers will see a connection and might want to revisit the classic Golding novel.

The Ruins by Scott Smith and Castaways by Brian Keene are two of my all time favorites. Both share the isolated setting and high gore level. Click on the titles for more details. Hint/small spoiler, all three books share a very high body count, and while The Troop comes close, The Ruins is still the winner in that category.

Two other fantastic horror novelists who go heavy on the gore but don’t sacrifice the storytelling in its wake are Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum. Laymon in particular was a master of the extremely isolated setting. Cutter has obviously read them and learned from their expertise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 15: Review of Bird Box

Back in the summer when I finished Bird Box, the debut novel by Josh Malerman, I knew I had encountered a special book; not only one of the best I have read this year, but one of the best I have read in awhile.

You could feel it as you were reading. I rarely encounter a story as well crafted, with suspense, interesting characters, and an amazingly creative premise.

And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the library was inhaling and loving this taut and tense novel. From Youth to Adult Services, Circ staff to pages, employees all over the library were talking about how great this novel was.

So what was all the fuss about? Are you sure you can handle it?

Bird Box is a terrifying story set in a world where an unknown threat has killed off almost every person on earth. We don’t know what the threat is though because everyone who sees it kills themselves. So, the only way to protect yourself is to never open your eyes. EVER. Not even a peek people.

What this also means is that everyone who can tell narrate the novel also has never seen the threat, or else they wouldnt be alive. They all just know that they cannot, under any circumstances, ever open their eyes.

The story opens by introducing us to a mother and her two young children who live alone in a house near the river. They are preparing to set out into this world of unknown horrors and pilot a boat down the river to a possible (but not guaranteed) place of salvation, with-- you guessed it-- their eyes firmly shut.

Then, in alternating sections, the reader is taken back to see this young woman on the day it all began, four years before, when the world as we know it ceased to exist. We see the same house full of people and know that in the story’s present they are all gone. We read compulsively both to find out what happened before and also, to see what will happen now. And the best part of the novel is, we know things are going to end badly, but we cannot stop turning the pages.

Oh, and the ending is just about perfect--resolved by no means settled.

The claustrophobia of this story is oppressive, intense and terrifying from the first page, and it only builds from there. There is also no gore here, but that makes the fear you will feel even more intense.

I dare you not to read this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive, dread, anxiety

Readalikes:  This is absolutely my favorite type of book, horror or not, one that is oppressive, terrifying, anxiety driven, and with a constant and intensifying dread hanging over everything. Here are some other books I have read and enjoyed that also fit this profile with links to my reviews for detail. It is important to note that they are not all horror books.

I also recently finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is also a fantastic readalike option for Bird Box for the same reasons. More details in my review of Station Eleven on RA for All soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 14: Get Your Nose Out of a Book and Go Experience Some Horror

Today I have a plea for everyone to go out an experience some of the fun that comes from a good, honest scare. I have mentioned it a thousand times-- but that doesn’t mean I won't again--  understanding the appeal of why your patrons love feeling the fear will help you to serve them better.

If you really can’t get yourself to read a horror story, why not go out an visit a haunted house or take a ghost tour.  This time of year there are many options.

Start here to find a haunted house near you.

If you live in Illinois, I highly recommend the Haunted Illinois Directory. They have a full slate of Halloween activities and coupons available.

I will be following my own advice tonight as I host a group of about 120 librarians as Garret [left] leads us on Lincoln’s Ghost Walk as part of the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference in Springfield, IL.

Speaking of Garret, a big thanks to him and his company, Springfield Walks, for agreeing to lead such a large group right in the middle of their busiest time of year for haunted tours.

I can hardly wait. I know I will be seeing some of you there.

Whether it is tonight or some other time, get out there and experience some terrifying fun first hand.  You might even be able to write it off as work related research.

Monday, October 13, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 13: Horror for Teens [With a Giveaway]

I want to follow yesterday's discussion of horror for kids with a move up the timeline to discuss horror titles for a teen audience.

Again, like yesterday when I sent you to Monster Librarian for more info, I am not the expert here, but like a good librarian, I know where you can find the experts-- Stacked.

Stacked is my first stop for all things YA and this includes Horror.  Click here for there numerous, informative, and insightful posts on everything horror or horror-esque.

So today's 31 Days of Horror assignment is to head over there and see what you should be buying and suggesting for your teen horror readers at your library.

But before you go....A GIVEAWAY!

There is one YA horror title I am actively advocating for this Fall-- Amity by Micol Ostow. Yes, the novel purposely plays off the fear and dread you automatically feel when the infamous horror of a town known as Amityville is invoked, but don’t mistake the homage of the title as a sign of a copycat story to follow. Rather what Ostow weaves is a distinct and unsettling tale of 2 families, living in a house called Amity, on two different timelines, 10 years apart.  As the evil of the home slowly reveals itself, people are corrupted, frightening events take place, and no one is left unscathed.  Or is it all in their heads? Once you step inside of Amity, it is hard to be sure what is real. This is a dark, atmospheric tale that is terrifying without the gore that some popular adult writers tend to use. You can find my full comments on this novel in the October 15th issue of Library Journal.

But while you wait for that to come out, I have an ARC of Amity to give away.

Email me at zombiegrl75[at]gmail[dot]com before 5pm central time on 10/15 to be entered into the drawing.  I will be conducting a couple of giveaways this week, so you need to have “ TEEN GIVEAWAY” in the subject to be eligible.

Good luck.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

31 Days of Horror -- Day 12: Horror for Kids [With a Giveaway]

I know I am pretty focused on horror for an adult audience, but a love of horror as an adult begins in our childhoods. So I cannot ignore our youth, but I do need to admit that I need help when it comes to suggesting horror for kids beyond R.L. Stine and the Scary Stories series [both which rock, but are not the only choices out there.]

Thankfully, there are my friends and colleagues over at Monster Librarian, who like me fight the good fight promoting horror to a library audience.  One of their specialties happens to be scary books for kids.  Click here to get started with their suggestions.

There is one 2014 title for kids that I do know a bit more about though. One Creepy Street: Annica’s Broom is the first children’s book by horror novel writer Lee Jordan. [Click here for more on Jordan.] From the Kirkus review:
"Don’t text and drive—or fly. In his debut picture book, Jordan shows that it’s a lesson a witch is never too young to learn. 
Annica lives on One Creepy Street, where her neighbors are “wizards and lizards and a mean old warlock. / Some were weird and others plain scary, / A few had retired including an evil tooth fairy.” When she turns 13, her mother lets her set off on a new broom all by herself, but warns her to keep her eyes on the road—well, the sky—and her hands off her phone. It’s easy to guess how long young Annica’s resolve lasts on that count. Almost immediately, she crashes out of the sky and finds herself looking into the frightening face of Officer Tate. The one-eyed policeman “gnawed on the [rotten] apple with his jaw set firm, / and between his teeth was crawling one-half of a worm.” Jordan doesn’t shy away from details that young readers will find deliciously creepy. Officer Tate takes Annica to find someone on One Creepy Street who can help her fix her broom. A purplish troll chained to a bridge “snorted and grumped and swatted a nagging horse fly. / The carcass fell into the pan, a new seasoning to try.” But the troll refuses to help her, as does Mort the Mortician and a diabolical fallen elf who delights in breaking limbs off dolls. Annica’s plight prompts the elf toward his own epiphany: He’s sick of being bad and willing to help her out, if it means a chance to go back to the North Pole. In any case, as Officer Tate points out, Annica has learned her lesson. Jordan creates a satisfyingly detailed world on One Creepy Street, filled with characters who could have been easy clichés but are instead fresh and a little bit funny. He keeps the creep factor age-appropriate, while giving gross-out–loving kids exactly what they want. The singsong tone wears thin, and there are places where the meanings of words are stretched a tad too far just to make a rhyme, but the plot and characters move quickly enough to carry the book, and the brightly colored illustrations feature characters with extremely detailed and expressive faces. 
An enjoyable book for young readers ready for mild scares. "

Sounds good, right?  Well,  I have a signed copy of One Creepy Street: Annica’s Broom to giveaway courtesy of it’s author.  It is not an ARC so it can be added to your library’s collection. I will do this as a random drawing, but due to the Columbus Day Holiday for many US Libraries tomorrow, I will give everyone a few days to get their entires in.

Email me at zombiegrl75[at]gmail[dot]com before 5pm central time on 10/14 to be entered into the drawing.  I will be conducting a few giveaways this week, so you need to have "KIDS GIVEAWAY” in the subject to be eligible.

Good luck.

Tomorrow I will tackle Teen titles and have another giveaway!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 11: Short Stories

Today’s post is a reminder about the satisfaction of horror short stories. Here is a link to every post I have tagged short stories.  I am trying not to repeat myself, so use that link for more.

Today I want to highlight 2 new collections that are solid additions to most public library collections.

The first is edited by one of my favorite horror authors, Robert Dunbar [click on his name for posts featuring him on this blog.]  His newest work is a collection he has edited entitled, Dark Forest.  From Goodreads:
Stay out of the woods. 
Something deadly lurks among the shadows, and the trees themselves seethe with menace. No one is safe.These classic tales of the malignant wilderness by master storytellers like Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Ambrose Beirce, and E. Nesbit are annotated and introduced by contemporary talents, all of whom add their unique insights and perspectives. (The anthology also includes the novella WOOD by Robert Dunbar.) 
...We fear darkness. We fear eyes that watch from the foliage. Sometimes we fear the foliage. And perhaps we should. Long before haunted houses existed, haunted forests circled the globe. Homer knew it. The Brothers Grimm knew it. In legend, all the great mythic quests of self-discovery begin with a hero entering a forsaken wood. Some journeys also end there... 
These tales of the evil woods are introduced and annotated by Paul G. Bens, Jr., Ramsey Campbell, Sandy DeLuca, Robert Dunbar, James Everington, Greg F. Gifune, Kevin Lucia, Ronald Malfi, Lisa Mannetti, Elizabeth Massie, and B.E. Scully.
The second work I want to highlight is a collection I first previewed with this guest post by its editor, Richard Thomas.  The New Black is an impressive collection that I will be publicly advocating for in the October 15, 2014 issue of Library Journal.  Here is a preview of some of what I will have to say about this collection:
Short stories are often a great bet during the Halloween season because they offer the casual horror fan snippets of creepy fun. A great recent option is The New Black edited by Richard Thomas with an introduction by Bram Stoker Award winning author Laird Barron. Featuring tense, atmospheric, and twisted stories by acclaimed authors like Benjamin Percy, Roxanne Gay and Craig Davidson , these neo-noir tales merge literary fiction with any combination of dark genre fiction from crime and horror to fantasy and Southern Gothic with touches of the grotesque along the way. Readers who want to dip their toes in the forbidden depths of chills and thrills should start here for the best of today’s dark and twisted tales.
Finally, I want to end this post by reminding you all that the short story is a vibrant format in the horror world.  There are many amazing and wonderful works to be read. If you want to see a list of what the Horror Writers Association and its members deem the most worthy of your attention, click here for their public archive of recommended reads. Organized first by year, and then by format, quality short stories and novellas are well represented in these lists.

Friday, October 10, 2014

31 Days of Horror- Day 10: Mainstream Horror-ish Nonfiction Reading Suggestions

One of my favorite museums in the country is The Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities in Philadelphia. What? never heard of it?  From their website’s “Visit" page:
Disturbingly Informed 
America's finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century "cabinet museum" setting.  
The goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.
This is not a museum for the feint of heart, but their mission is so important.  They provide an unflinching look at how our system of modern medicine evolved.  The short version-- it was not pretty, people died horrific deaths, but lessons were learned and we are all better off for it.

Recently, the first ever biography of the man whose work, innovation, and collection made the museum that bares his name possible was released.  Dr Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keepe Aptowicz is a fascinating, engaging and thought provoking read, especially now during the Halloween season, and especially for nonfiction readers looking for a slightly different season option.

It is also important to note that I have seen an increase in people’s interest in this tough look at the true horrors of the dawn of modern medicine with the success of Cinemax’s fantastic new series, The Knick featuring Clive Owen.

I thought my doctor husband and I were among a small group of weirdoes watching this series, until just this past Tuesday, while cleaning up from the library’s monthly Trivia Night, someone starting talking about The Knick and how great [but gross] it is. Here is more detail on the series:
Set in downtown New York in 1900, 'The Knick' is a new Cinemax drama series from Academy Award and Emmy-winning director Steven Soderbergh. It is centered on the Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who work there, pushing the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Soderbergh directs all 10 episodes of the series' first season.
Academy Award and Emmy nominee Clive Owen stars as Doctor John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon pioneering new methods in the field, despite his secret addiction to cocaine. He leads a team of doctors including his protégé Dr. Everett Gallinger; the young Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr. and Dr. Algernon Edwards, a promising surgeon who's been recently thrust upon him. The lively cast of characters at the hospital also includes Cornelia Robertson, the daughter of its benefactor, Captain August Robertson; surly ambulance driver Tom Cleary; Lucy Elkins; a fresh-faced nurse from the country; the crooked hospital administrator Herman Barrow; and Sister Harriet, a nun who isn't afraid to speak her mind.
Of course, I joined the conversation about the show, and in the process mentioned the Mutter Museum and the new book about Dr. Mutter.  This turned into a larger conversation about other books this person could read. [Yes I was providing horror RA, in a bar, under the official auspices of a library event. It was a dream come true.]

I figure if it came up in a bar, it could happen in a library so I should share it here too. Here are the other books I mentioned as possible readalikes:
I hope these suggestions help you to help some readers.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 9: Resource Worth Your Time: This is Horror

One of the most important charges I have given myself with this blog, is to make librarians aware of the best horror resources available to them.

I keep an archive of my favorites here, but from time to time I highlight some of the very best in a little more detail with a post of their own.  You can use the label link for “resources" to pull all of these up with one click.

Today, I want to tell you about one of my FAVORITE horror portals, This is Horror.

This is Horror, is a UK based operation that considers the world of horror, but with a firm foundation in the written word.  This is important to note because many horror resources are more film or pop culture based.  It is hard to find one that is so well done with a books focus.

They have columns, reviews, sponsor live events, and help promote and sell books.  And their podcast is great! They also provide THE BEST weekly roundup of horror on the web.  Seriously, if you simply read their 5 Must Read Horror Articles weekly, you will have a full picture of what is going on in the world of horror.

So stop reading this blog and go to This is Horror and let them speak for themselves.