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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 31-- Lots of Me Talking to You and a New Celebration of the History of Horror Begins

Happy Halloween! It is finally here. [I lived through another horror blog-a-thon.]

Today I relax and rejoice in the holiday that makes you all want to give horror books and readers the attention they deserve. Now if only you did that all year long. [Hint, hint-- you should, and this blog is the place here I give you the tools to do that.]

But since I have your full attention for 1 more day I wanted to point you to 3 things you can do to celebrate the holiday and brush up on your horror RA skills all at the same time.

The first two involve your ears. I have recent appearances on 2 podcasts where I talk about horror and other library related things.

The first is a brand new podcast called Three Books produced by the Ela Area Public Library. Christen and Becca are bringing book people in to talk about their three favorite books and more. Since they were launching in October and because I've known Becca for years, they asked me to come in and be their first guest. You can click here to listen and subscribe. We talk about my current horror favorites, why the world NEEDS horror, and more.

The second is my 4th [!] appearance on Circulating Ideas:
Circulating Ideas facilitates conversations about the innovative people & ideas allowing libraries to thrive in the 21st century. Brought to you with support from the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science and listeners like you.
In Episode 120, which dropped today,  Steve and I talk about the the current state of horror, but also about the importance of libraries including self published/small press titles in their collections and how to stay on top of genre trends easily, even if you don't like the genre yourself.

After a month of reading my words, I am giving you a chance to learn from me in a different way. If you listen to both of these podcasts, you will quickly get a general overview of what is MOST IMPORTANT about horror right now [at least from the library worker perspective].

I have also added these two new appearances to my podcast appearance archive which is always available on the general blog's About Me page and that blog's Recent Presentations page.

And now, the third thing you need to do to both celebrate Halloween AND brush up on your RA skills-- today also marks the launch of much larger scale project, one that beginning today will be published every month, for free. One that all of you have to read:
Click here for the first chapter
Brian Keene and Cemetery Dance are going on an adventure to produce a definitive history of horror from the beginning of humanity to the present and all of us get to read it for free.

In this first chapter, Keene clearly notes the people [including myself] who have done more academic work on this topic, but he also knows as one of the top horror writers of our time and as a life long fan himself, no one has ever given the genre the respect it deserves. He is going to write the definitive history of one of the oldest and most popular genres in literature and I implore you to follow along.

I promise you will learn about horror, obviously, but you will also learn about readers, why people are drawn to any story, You will learn about writers, why stories are told in a certain way. And, you will learn to put that information together in a way that allows you to connect with your patrons better, no matter what genres they prefer.

Plus, all of the semicolons will be in the correct places [read the chapter and you will get the joke.]

Now go forth and celebrate Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-- The State of Horror 2017

This is Horror has posted their annual State of Horror Address here. Every single one of you should read this because it talks about horror in the mainstream world and how it is doing overall. This is horror as seen through the eyes of your patrons, how they consume horror, and what they have been most interested in. It is the view of horror from above.

This is Horror is one of my favorite overall horror resources in general. They understand the genre in all of its incarnations, and you can trust them.

In this Address trends in horror are also discussed at length both right this minute trends and some suppositions about next year too.

As you can probably guess, the Address notes that the state of horror is very strong- especially in fiction and television. So that leads to my final plea for this haunting season for you-- the library worker:

KEEP YOUR HORROR DISPLAYS UP PAST HALLOWEEN!!!!

This is one of the best things you can do to help your patrons.  Keep these displays up at least 1 week past Halloween because many people let the season slip by without nabbing a scary read, and on Halloween they will realize they forgot. Then a few days later when they finally have time to come in a get something, you will have taken the displays down. 

Leave them up for people who “missed the boat” to still find horror easily. They may be so embarrassed that they forgot that they won’t want to ask for help.

Just wait another week to take the cobwebs and creepy books down. And if your supervisor thinks you are slacking, send them to this post and said Becky commanded you to do this.

See you back here tomorrow for HALLOWEEN!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 29-- Books To Help You To Stop Being Scared of Horror

We are getting close to the end, but before I lose your attention I wanted to make one of my final plugs for Horror in months other than October.

Since librarians as a group are known to be “scared” of horror as this study from RUSA, Library Journal and NoveList found [see graph too], I know many of you are happy to wash your hands of horror after October 31st. Some of you are even my friends!

But hear me out right now.

You shouldn’t be SCARED of horror. You don’t have to enjoy it for yourself, but being “scared” of it is just silly. It’s not going to bite you. Neither are the readers. I like to say-- Horror fans are not monsters, they just like to read about them.

Scared just means you don’t understand it. That’s where today’s post comes in. There are two resources I am assigning you all to read AFTER Halloween to help you understand horror, how it works, why it exists, and what it means. Reading these books will educate you. You may not like horror still, but you won’t be scared of it anymore.

First is a classic and I know it is on the shelf at most of your libraries-- Danse Macabre by Stephen King, originally published in 1981. From Goodreads:
The author whose boundless imagination & storytelling powers have redefined the horror genre, from 1974's Carrie to his newest epic, reflects on the very nature of terror--what scares us & why--in films (both cheesy & choice), tv & radio, &, of course, the horror novel, past & present. Informal, engaging, tremendous fun & tremendously informative, Danse Macabre is an essential tour with the master of horror as your guide; much like his spellbinding works of fiction, you won't be able to put it down.
Danse Macabre is a little bit memoir but it is also a social science look at horror in media. It is fascinating and enlightening. I own a personal dogeared paperback. If you can’t wrap your head around why people like horror, this is the book to read to help you understand.

The second is new-- Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix which I wrote about back in June here. Hendrix has a snarky but well researched writing style. This book is all about the popular horror titles from the 70s and 80s-- all the stuff King writes about in Danse Macabre. He looks at these titles and authors with affection, yes, but also makes a compelling argument as to why these books did, and continue to, matter.

I particularly LOVE the appendix where he wrote interesting, fun, and useful bios for every author he mentions. George R. R. Martin’s is on of my favorites.

Come for the fun covers and the engaging narration, but stay for the educational aspects. Even the biggest fraidy-cat or horror cynic will learn here-- and enjoy the process too.

So now you have your marching orders for after Halloween. Read one, or both of these titles. I promise they will help you to understand horror and its readers in a way you didn’t before. Understanding means your fear will lessen. Less fear means you will try to suggest horror to the appropriate patrons outside of the 10th month of the year.

But first, get back to work. You still have a couple more days to press the flesh and put some scary reads into your horror craving patrons’ hands.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 28-- Lists Worth A Look

As we inch closer and closer to Halloween, it seems like every website wants to share horror recommendations. Here are some that are worth a look both to suggest to readers now and to use for beefing up your collections for future horror seeking patrons:

Friday, October 27, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 27 -- Meet Some Author at the Horror Lounge

Click here to enter if you dare
Over on Lounge Books from 10/25-Halloween, they are hosting Horror authors. The line up is spectacular from masters of the genre to up and coming authors.

And, the lineup is diverse. There are authors from all backgrounds on this list. And there are horror fiction, genre blending author who put fear at the forefront and even nonfiction authors- those who write about horror. Literally, something for everyone.

Below is the list but click through to the horror lounge for more information and links. They conduct an interview with each author where they talk about their own works and their favorite books. You can click through from the author list below to see specific interviews.

This resource will help you to find suggestions for readers in these waning days of the haunting season because by now I know your go-to horror titles are all checkout. And that is scary enough a situation.

MEET THE AUTHORS

GRAHAM MASTERTON

JASON ARNOPP

GRADY HENDRIX

ED GRABIANOWSKI

AK BENEDICT

KARL DRINKWATER

LUKE WALKER

ERIC SCOTT FISCHL

LESLIE S KLINGER

NUZO ONOH

CATHERINE LUNDOFF

AMELIA MANGAN

RUTH FRANKLIN

PAUL KANE

MARIE O'REGAN

SIMON ALKENMAYER

W.J RENEHAN

K.S

EDEN ROYCE

TADE THOMPSON

STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES

LAURA PURCELL

GARY BUDDEN

ALEX BELL

DAVID J. SKAL

ANDY DAVIDSON

JAMES PARSONS

BEN GWALCHMAI

OLI JACOB

TARN RICHARDSON

CATRIONA WARD

CHARLES LAMBERT

Thursday, October 26, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 26-- Diverse Horror Options

Yesterday I talked about Nisi Shawl and her increased popularity. She is just 1 example of how the own voices movement is taking over Horror. There are more diverse options within the genre than ever before, and quite honestly, they are some of the best voices. [For proof, see Nisi Shawl]

We’ve come a long way from the racism and misogyny of Lovecraft. Speaking of, I did an entire book talk on the fact that there is a reemergence of Lovecraft in today’s genre fiction and much of it tackles his bigotry head on.  You can click here to listen to that.

Before we get into own voices horror fiction, I also want to mention that in the world of horror, diversity still means including women.  For many years, men controlled horror both as authors and readers. Well, that’s not exactly true. There were women writing horror. I mean, a woman-- Mary Shelly-- invented the genre and many others wrote horror, but the overwhelming culture of horror, it’s fan boys, the conventions, and lifestyle were dominated by white men. While there are now many female horror writers and readers, many men still think women don’t like horror.

I would like to clarify here that today’s horror authors are almost all supportive of the female writers in their ranks. It is mostly still the bro-readers who have a problem with women. I am not imagining this bias either. Earlier this month SYFY Wire had an article entitled, “Women Love Horror: Why Does This Still Surprise So Many Dudes?"

Okay now on to my suggestions for own voices horror.

Let’s start with my series of posts last year on the emerging trend of African Horror. Click here to read my post about the trend, a post by Nuzo Ohno, an African horror scholar and author, and a review of one of her books.

Another popular subgenre that is not new at all, but is moving into the mainstream thanks to horror legend, Tananarive Due, is Afrofuturism. Here is an overview of Due’s course on the topic. I highly recommend Due’s work for any fan of dark literature. You can find more info about her here by me, and here on her site. Due has been talking about the importance and influence of Afrofuturism for a long time, but one of the reasons it is being talked about now is the emergence of Nnedi Okorafor. You can read this profile of her and her work from the NYT here.

One of the best places to find suggestions of books and authors is from other authors. A few year ago, the Horror Writers Association was appalled at how white and male their slate of Stoker nominees were. Instead of just paying lip service to the problem, they immediately set up a task force of women and POC authors to start regularly suggesting own voices authors from the horror genre. They called this features-- The Seers Table. Now a few years in, these monthly suggestions are piling up and you can see an archive of all the columns by clicking here. You must click on each title to open the entire column.

One of the members of the HWA who worked hard on the Seers Table initiative is Linda Addison an award winning author and poet. Anything by her is excellent, but specifically I want to point out an amazing collection for which she was an editor, Sycorax’s Daughters. It is an anthology of dark fiction and  poetry by black women writers. Click through for details and a list of 28 more authors you should know about.

Stephen Graham Jones is another author you need to know about. Not only do I think he is the leader of the next wave of “the best” horror authors, he also brings a Native American perspective to the genre. I really like this recent interview he gave where he talks at length about his work, “representation,” and why own voices matter. The first time I encountered Jones was hearing someone else read his work out loud and it held me spell bound. I have never looked back.

Finally, don’t forget the voices of those around the world.  There is a wonderful resource, Speculative Fiction in Translation to help you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 25 -- Guest Post by Eric Guignard on Nonfiction About Dark Authors

Today’s guest post, By Eric Guignard, is one of the best I have ever had. First here is more about Eric:
Eric J. Guignard is a writer, editor, and publisher of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize. Outside the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard
Below, Eric writes very persuasively about why horror matters in general, and in particular why today’s practitioners of dark short stories are the authors you most need to know about. But don’t worry, he is going to help you by writing short primers on these authors like Steve Rasnic Tem, Kaaron Warren and Nisi Shawl. In these books, Eric provides his analysis of these living authors AND gives you entire short stories by them in order for you to understand their work in context.

Read what Eric has to say below about horror and it’s place as one of the most important genre of our times AND look into ordering his Primers for you and your patrons. These titles will make for a good read for horror fans who are looking to delve more deeply into the genre and its history, will allow you to understand the genre better, will make for an excellent collection development tool, and finally, will serve as a much needed research tool for students.

I for one am super excited about his planned volume on Nisi Shawl. She is a fantastic writer who is exploding in popularity. We need more critical works about her.

A New Primer Series for Studying Short Story Horror Authors and Why It Matters

by Eric J. Guignard

###
I’ve recently begun a series of “Primer” books, titled EXPLORING DARK SHORT FICTION, which examines introductory literary theory of modern (living) authors who write dark and fantastic short fiction stories. These books are meant for general audiences as just basic light analysis of progressive and outstanding authors who deserve wider recognition, in order to help expand perception of the genre and to promote the short story form.

And here (as I know you’re asking) is why I’m doing it!

I love horror fiction. And you, I presume, by way of reading this blog post, most likely do too. Fiction, in general, invigorates the imagination and inspires creativity and a love for learning, while horror, in particular, is most advantageous in accomplishing these things, albeit with a darker bent and a bad reputation.

Horror should not have this bad reputation. It incites a deeper awareness of one’s surroundings; it soothes stress by providing diversion and an emotional outlet; it creates an adrenaline rush and releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin (good for combating depression and anxiety); it incites empathy for others, allows us to envision things or situations that (probably!) don’t exist, as well as challenges us, and provides adventure, action, and thrills (as it does, most, for me).

And perhaps you’ve heard that all before. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a lot to persuade the public’s general opinion: horror is often disdained. Neglected. Mocked. (insert sad face here.)

Which is unfortunate, as horror fiction can also be literary. It’s an art form, with its own message to tell, and that message can affect people deeply, and it can be interpreted a thousand different ways. Modern horror can be just as poetic and ideological as Walt Whitman, as poignant as John Steinbeck, and as sentimental as Toni Morrison; it can be political, scholarly, satirical, and, quite simply, beautiful, yet with a dark and speculative element attached, which, to me, is the element of excitement I happen to crave. So in my ranking of preference, literary horror, with something “unbelievable made real,” is twice the benefit!

Now, yes, yes, you beg to differ, there is much study done of horror authors. Yet if you were to hear the names of scribblers of the macabre, or read the works in advance of some class discussion, or were to sit in on a panel of horror genre influences, the same two names who are generally given any academic credibility will come up repeatedly ninety percent of the time: Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, and these authors being from generations ago. These names are widely recognized as the champions of poetic and descriptive dark prose, yet Lovecraft perished over eighty years ago, and Poe near a century before that. What they wrote is still compelling today—I’m not saying otherwise—but, so to, are there living authors whose words can shape the boundaries of your imagination, who can invigorate and capture our modern era tastes and sensibilities, who can connect to us in ways not possible by our literary forebears, names such as Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Tananarive Due, Junot Díaz, Ramsey Campbell… I could go on.

Additionally, and though I love novels, I happen to love short stories even more. Short stories are compact and present a message and narrative structure in only the fraction of a novel’s length. In the time it would take me to read the latest by Anne Rice or Dan Simmons, I can devour fifteen to twenty-five short stories! That’s fourteen to twenty-four more points of view, ideas, diverse voices, experimentation, and story lines than I would absorb compared to the novel. Of course, I realize I’m in the minority opinion here, and I know there’s the cost for my preference to the short form: less character rapport, less exposition and backstory, less opportunity for extrapolation, but I’m an idea guy—I like it short and punchy. Blame it on watching episodes of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories, and reading the shorts of O. Henry and Rudyard Kipling as a child.

Also, I just like the fact that I can reproduce the entirety of short stories in these primers, rather than only excerpts of longer works, which doesn’t always provide as comprehensive a picture to their vibrancy and impact.

So, attributes of: Literary writing, AND horror genre, AND short story format AND contemporary authors all combined equals a void in literary theory , a need, if you will, for discussion and promotion.

And that is a void that I’d like to fill.

Consequently that fulfillment begins now, with the subject of Primer #1, Steve Rasnic Tem, who has been penning inventive and affecting tales for over forty years. Steve Rasnic Tem, who has attained a sort of literary célèbre in the genre community, but may not be as widely recognized amongst mass market readers. Steve Rasnic Tem, who just perfectly fit all criteria to kick off this series.

After him, Primer #2 will release in early 2018, a study of Australian author, Kaaron Warren. Then Primer #3 is scheduled for Nisi Shawl, and #4 for Jeffrey Ford.

And besides selecting authors that I just happen to subjectively “like,” I defined a list of criteria in helping to select distinct and diverse voices as per the following. The selected author:

  1. Is still living
  2. Is still actively writing (dependent on #1)
  3. Has a large, influential body of work including dark fiction in short story form that spans at least 25 years
  4. Possesses a body of work, besides novels and other forms, that includes at least 50 short story pieces
  5. Has received at least one major industry fiction writing award
  6. Is someone I have access to
  7. Is willing to write me an original story
I’m sure there are other author names you immediately think of; there are many, many authors who fit all this criteria. The challenge is to find writers that by their greater aggregate will compliment and advance each other—and the genre—by showing the depth of the form, the rich difference in voice and influence that is possible, rather than putting forth a lot of similar styles and backgrounds.

So for each primer itself, I’m hoping to give a wide representation of who the author is, what they’re capable of, and why they’re important, without overwhelming the reader. To that end, I’ve compiled a structure of information for each primer, to include the following:
  • A selection of six short fiction stories that in their entirety span a range of the majority of the author’s professional writing career (i.e. examples from their early stages, mid-stages, and present stages of writing).
  • The stories include both literary and horror (including subtle, psychological, or ‘weird’) or dark fantasy elements (i.e. no science fiction works).
  • Stories would appeal to a wide audience, and are meant for general readership, ages about 12-14 years old and up (i.e. no erotica works).
  • Subject matter in stories represents a range of topics, such as origin stories, dystopian, action, mythology, fairy tale, monster, ghost, etc.
  • Of the six stories, five are reprints, and one is original, written for this Primer
  • Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
  • Author Interview
  • Author Biography
  • Author Bibliography
  • Author Essay
  • Hand-illustrated throughout by artist Michelle Prebich
Ultimately, I hope this series to find some sort of success, to be found interesting and meaningful, to “fill the void”, per se, and to find longevity, not only in the publishing of future volumes, but in the minds of readers, students, and academics alike.

Less I bore you with further qualitative data and reasoning, I wish only to close with the following thought, that in a world of fast-changing tastes and values, there is one constant: Extraordinary writing carries on.

I’d just like to see that the purveyors of this writing be remembered.

To keep up with this series, or to order Primer #1, please visit: http://www.darkmoonbooks.com/Primer_1.html




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-- Reviews by Me

Yesterday's and today's posts could have both been titled, "stop what you are doing and read/order for your collections what Becky is telling you to.” Seriously,  listen to me, I literally wrote the book on this-- how to help you help horror readers.

Today I have 4 more suggestions- plus all of the readlaikes I provide too; that makes 10 recent books for you to buy and suggest to your readers in two days!

The first book is a reminder that Joe Hill’s newest release, Strange Weather, comes out today. I cannot overstate how great this collection of 4 short novels is. Seriously, I expect a lot from him already, and when I read this back in June it blew me away. Here is my starred review from Booklist. with more details from me. This is a collection that should not only be given to horror readers; it is something many readers will enjoy especially fans of King, Gaiman, Mieville, and even Murakami. Yes, Murakami, especially “Aloft.” My experience helping readers is that just about everybody likes one of those authors.

Now on to my three reviews from the first ever print issue of IndiePicks Magazine. You can click here to read today’s post on the general blog about IndiePicks and even get a free copy of our first digital issue, but here on the horror blog, I have just the horror reviews. And like my Booklist reviews, I will add bonus content here on the blog.

And, you can always see my IndiePicks reviews by using the IndiePicks tag here on the horror blog. That tag will be a good quick way to pull up indie press horror that are good for general library collections, but it is not every good horror book. My Horror Review Index is the best place to find good "Horror For Libraries” options.


Full site


Short, Thought-Provoking Scares

In his remarkable, character driven, debut collection of nine horror stories, BEHOLD THE VOID [JournalStone, $18.95, 9781945373497], Philip Fracassi demonstrates that horror can still be thoughtful and lyrical even while it probes our deepest, darkest, most brutal fears. The stories within contain cosmic horror and weird fiction elements and feature an intensity of atmosphere juxtaposed by a restraint in advancing the action, a masterful storytelling skill rarely seen in the genre. Tension and unease build in these stories until they literally burst open. This makes the stories compelling but it is the intimate, familial relationships and the people entangled in them at the heart of these stories that makes them stand out. Take the previously published and already cult hit, “Altar” for example, a story about a brother, sister, and mother on a summer trip to the local pool, a common memory shared by most readers, but Fracassi slowly adds in layers of strangeness and terror, as this ordinary day builds to a horrific conclusion. Or the new and more subtle story, “Fail-Safe” which shows a loving family facing a very difficult decision in this original take on the well-tread monster trope. These are engrossing and detailed stories about flawed people put into extraordinary situations. Do expect to enjoy the ride, but don’t expect any neatly tied up happy endings along the way. As Laird Barron, in the introduction to this collection, sums it up, “Nobody is safe and nothing is sacred.” This is a perfect title to pair with 2016’s critically acclaimed A NATURAL HISTORY OF HELL: STORIES by Jeffrey Ford.

Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal: These stories are strange, but in a good way. Strange because they are beautifully written, yet the dread builds to almost unbearable limits. It is a very cool reading experience for readers who like that sort of thing-- like me! But seriously, all of your domestic suspense readers who don’t mind a speculative element and want the dread kicked up a notch-- these stories are for them.  
I cannot stress enough how these stories are so familiar at their start but then turn terrifying very quickly. It’s like Shirley Jackson times 50. Fracassi is able to tell a story with the style and skill normally seen in “literary” writers, but these are 100% genre tales. He is yet another example of why those who disparage “genre” writers are ignorant buffoons.  
Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, lyrical, atmospheric 
Readalikes: Award winning speculative fiction author Jeffrey Ford is a great readalike author here. And the link in the review goes to my Booklist review of his most recent and now award winning collection. Laird Barron, who wrote the introduction is also a good readalike. Use this link to read more about Barron from me.
I would also suggest this collection to people who have enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado which i just gave a star review in Booklist and is a finalist for the National Book Award. Fracassis book does not have the feminist and LGBTQ frame of Machados, nor is it as experimental in style, but the feel of the stories, how they build, how they are beautifully written, and how they incorporate a menacing speculative element that overtakes you, are very similar. That review also has more readlike options. 
I wouldnt be surprised if this collection was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award [another resource you could use to find readalike options].

The Horrors of Reality TV

SplatterPunk meets satire in the bloody, frightening battle of ancient evil versus reality TV in Daniel I Russell’s ENTERTAINING DEMONS [ApexBook Company, $15.95, 9781937009564]. Molly is not your typical English teenager. She lives alone with her grandfather, her mother is institutionalized, and her father, well he’s been missing most of her life. But that’s just the beginning of her problems.  Molly is also newest star of the popular reality TV show, “PI: Paranormal Investigations, ” but unlike some of the fake paranormal experiences followed by the show, Molly is living a 100% real nightmare on view for the world to see. What begins with strange noises and things that go bump in the night quickly escalates as Molly is being targeted by a very real and dangerous ancient evil, one that has survived millenia by any means necessary. With an alternating point of view between our protagonists and the demons who are descending upon Molly’s small British town, this is a non-stop, edge of your set, bloody thriller. But it is also a darkly humorous and sharp witted send up of modern media, reality TV, and humanity’s wrongly placed attentions. The demons have been observing, interfering with, and even altering human history for far too long to be fooled by this new obsession. Molly, her family, and friends are heroes you can believe in and root for, but the demons have centuries of experience and absolutely no morals. ENTERTAINING DEMONS has all of the violence, gore, and satire of Brian Keene’s classic, CASTAWAYS mixed with a similar frame and storytelling style of Benjamin Percy’s recent, THE DARK NET; both titles that are popular with a public library audience.
Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal:  I need to stress how this book is in equal turns a hilarious and biting satire AND an extreme horror thrill ride. There are graphic scenes of sex and violence, but they are part of the subgenre tropes within which this story is written. So, if you don’t like SplatterPunk, this book is not for you. But it is also not so over the top that libraries should’t carry it. This is a perfect extreme horror title for libraries because it will satisfy fans of the subgenre while also enticing new readers.
Back to the humor-- the satire of modern human existence and specifically the skewering of reality TV is very funny-- again funny with the disclaimer that amidst the humor there is carnage. The demons are VERY evil but they also have a unique take on humanity having been around for millennia.
This is a great title to try if you want to see what all the extreme horror fuss is about. 
Three Words That Describe This Book: Extreme Horror, Satire, Dark Humor
Readalikes: If you use the links to the two readalikes in the review, you will go to my reviews which both have even more readalikes 
Also, SplatterPunk is making a comeback in general, a trend you should be aware of.  One of the best current practitioners of this subgenre is Wrath James White. Speaking of, White, along with the aforementioned Brian Keene,  just founded the SplatterPunk Awards for the Best in Extreme Horror. Click here for details. Once they have a long list,  you can start using that for readalikes too. 
The Devil Inside


When William Peter Blatty published THE EXORCIST in 1971 he started a brand new subgenre of horror literature that, while waxing and waning in popularity over the years, has never completely disappeared. However, very few have lived up to the evil and terror of the original, until now. Jonathan Janz is a horror star on the rise and in EXORCIST FALLS [Sinister Grin, $18.99, 9781944044510], which includes the previously published novella prequel, “Exorcist Road,” Janz puts a 21st Century spin on the demonic possession story and puts his talent for entertaining and frightening through his prose on full display. Chicago is being held hostage by the Sweet Sixteen Killer, who targets, violates, and then brutally murders young women of all races and classes, just as they turn sixteen. Jason Crowder is a young priest in Chicago who is called to the home of a wealthy parishioner after their son begins acting weirdly. He is clearly possessed, but he also knows way too much about the serial murders. In the struggle for his soul, the demon enters Crowder, but that is just where our story begins.What follows is a bloody and graphic tale part demonic possession story, part mystery, and part family drama. An intense first person narration allows for the reader to see Crowder’s struggle with the demon inside him as he tries to maintain moral control of his body while also, at times, allowing the evil to surface if it will help him to catch the human killer. Janz keeps readers turning the pages as they root for Crowder while still being utterly appalled by him. This is the perfect read for people who loved HORNS by Joe Hill, another tale where readers root for a protagonist who is controlled by the devil. And with the popular TV series, “The Exorcist” back for a second season, there will be an increased demand for the demonic possession tale.
Becky’s Bonus Blog Content
Further Appeal:  As I mention in the review, The Exorcist television series is very popular right now, so expect this subgenre of horror to make a comeback. You need to be ready with suggestions for fans of the show who want more possession tales, and this title is an excellent place to start.
The intense first person is very cool here. It keeps you riveted and has you fluctuating between rooting for and being disgusted by the protagonist. That alone keeps you on edge the entire time-- and horror fans want to be on edge.
Also, the thriller aspects of how the story is told will appeal to many readers of that genre as long as they don’t mind the supernatural aspects. The cat and mouse game between Crowder and the killer is very well done.
Three Words That Describe This Book: Demonic Possession, Intense 1st Person, Thriller-esque
Readalikes: Besides the books and TV show listed in the review, ARARAT by Christopher Golden which I reviewed here would be another good recent suggestion.
You can also use this link to see other books I have reviewed which use the devil as a frame. Plus I have an entire chapter on the subject in my book. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 23-- My Annual Library Journal Horror Debuts Column

Earlier this month, my semi-annual take over of Neal Wyatt's Reader's Shelf column in Library Journal went live. Every October they ask me to do horror debuts. Each year I offer up 6 excellent choices for all library collections; and because they are debuts, I am alerting you to authors when they are emerging.

When you read this year's column below, you will notice that the first two are not quite horror, the third straddles the line between dark fantasy and horror, four and five are 100% horror, and six is one of the best debut books I have read in any genre. Here is the direct link to the column, and I have attached it below.

You can find more in depth reviews of Haven and In the Valley of the Sun, with readalike options using the links I have provided or in my Horror Review Index.

Finally, you can see all of my Library Journal columns archived on this page here on the blog, at any time.

First-Time Scares | The Reader’s Shelf

As we creep closer to Halloween, celebrate with some fresh and frightening tales. Stretching across a range of genres and styles and presenting different levels of terror, these debuts will satisfy a variety of readers looking for a scare.
A harrowing apocalyptic thriller presented through chillingly realistic sf, The End of the World Running Club(Sourcebooks Landmark. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9781492656029. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492656036) by Adrian J. Walker became an international best seller. Edgar Hill is never going to win father of the year; when asteroids begin falling, he is busy nursing a hangover. Still, he loves his family and after being separated from them in the chaos, he joins a group of survivors and does the only thing he can: he runs. He runs in an attempt to reunite with his loved ones; in the hopes of surviving; to flee from all his many mistakes; and to live to see an uncertain future. This tale of action and dread set in a devastated landscape showcases the endurance of the human spirit.
Emil Ferris uses the imagery of horror movies and magazines from the 1960s to set an unsettling tone in her historical mystery My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781606999592. pap. $39.99). Ten-year-old Karen Reyes has a tough life—her mother is dying of breast cancer—in a diverse, working-class Chicago neighborhood. With a rich imagination, superior artistic skills, and a questing mind, Karen is on the case when her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor, is murdered. Under­pinning it all is Karen’s realization of her own blossoming homosexuality. Ferris weaves an astounding story through text and image in a moving and original graphic novel.
Emily B. Cataneo’s first collection, Speaking to Skull Kings and Other ­Stories (JournalStone. May 2017. ISBN 9781945373619. pap. $15.95), is brimming with ghosts, haunted books, alternate ­dimensions, and dark fantasy in an assemblage of lyrical pieces best classified as weird fiction. The complex female characters, creepy settings, and magic-filled story lines draw in readers much like the award-winning works of Karen Russell, Jeff VanderMeer, and Kelly Link. Cataneo provides all the chills and anxiety of horror in every turn of the page without the gore many fear they will encounter when first trying the genre.
Violent and haunting, Abode (Bloodshot. Jul. 2017. ISBN 9780998067971. pap. $14.99) by Morgan Sylvia is a good old-­fashioned novel of monsters wreaking havoc. It unfolds in a locale many horror fans know well: an old house in the middle of the woods. As one can expect, bad things start to happen when a new family moves in, but the story gets fresh power in the way the frights are revealed. The opening chapter sets the scene perfectly with an urgent email from someone mysterious, addressing “you” about the harrowing events that have already come, even if “you” cannot fully ­remember them. The unique frame and voice create an extra found footage layer of fear and suspense. Librarians will need to go a bit out of the way to order this indie title, but it is entirely worth it.
Tom Deady won this year’s Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for Haven (Greymore. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9780990632726. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781587675973). It follows a man recently released from jail as he returns to the New England town where he was accused of a killing spree 17 years earlier. The strange murders suddenly ­begin again, but the evidence clearly points to something evil lurking in the forest caves and lakes around town. To learn the truth, a ragtag group of unlikely but sympathetic heroes band together. Shifting narration, breathless action sequences, and unearthed puzzles ratchet up the dread and tell a story reminiscent of the genre’s classics by Stephen King and Peter Straub.
Everyone has a secret, and no one is completely innocent in Andy Davidson’s In the ­Valley of the Sun (Skyhorse. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9781510721104. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510721111). Desperately trying to escape his past, Travis Stillwell suffers an encounter with a pale-skinned girl who leaves him bloodied and weak, unable to tolerate the light of day, and tormented by an overpowering hunger. Widowed motel owner Annabelle Gaskin stumbles upon Travis and offers him a job in exchange for board, and the two lonely souls strike up an awkward friendship, along with her young son. But monsters, both real and imagined, can’t be hidden forever. This evocatively dark yet oddly beautiful debut will have wide audience appeal. The plot and characters play with the mind, and the pacing reflects the story’s harsh landscape—a slow, riveting burn.
The column was contributed by Becky Spratford, who runs the critically acclaimed library training blog RA for All, http://raforall.blogspot.com, and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror. Follow her on twitter @RAforAll