Category Archives: Books

Bart Simpson is correct.

34. When Darkness Calls – Janet E. Gill

As Bart Simpson once said, “All the best bands are affiliated with Satan.” And like most things, the Simpsons writers are correct about this. But, Janet wants her reader to assume that being affiliated with Satan is equivalent to being affiliated with Nazis by casually incorporating the swastika into random situations where they only needed to be present if these teen Satanists were also white supremacists…and considering their group was multiethnic, they were not white supremacists. The not-Nazi religions and groups that used that symbol and slightly different versions of it prior to its co-opting for racist bullshit were not and are not Satanic (it’s just really hard to picture any type of Buddhists caring about Satan, amongst other reasons this made no sense), so it’s being used as a lazy shortcut to these black wearing teens being evil and frankly, saying they’re Satanists who wear Baphomet pendants to school is enough to lazily do that.

This book was essentially Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy, teen edition, but even that ridiculous, debunked, horrorshow of a children’s book warning about teachers and daycare and rabbits (it’s the rabbits that should’ve tipped everyone off, clearly, but maybe also the capes) didn’t equivocate Satanists and white supremacists like shorthand for being seriously evil. Like really, really, really evil, you guys. They smoke pot and encourage this poor new girl who wants to get in her new school’s student government to cheat on her boyfriend, but with Peter Drake and his magical disappearing car, not just Satan. They also force her to go to a heavy metal concert! She wears white and pink to a heavy metal concert! What a rebel, she’s just a Satanist of the individualist type and doesn’t even know it. And then gets fake chicken blood all over her outfit – which, yeah, that’s not cool. I hate it when there’s sticky shit at any concert, because the floor is already sticky, we don’t need more mess and definitely don’t need to endure music we don’t like to fit in and “give us [the awfully pushy Satanists who apparently never saw the Indiana Jones films that make it clear the goals of the WWII Nazis were not to eat chips, smoke pot, worship Satan, listen to shit music, and rule a high school] a chance.” The horror of what one does to be allowed to fundraise and go on the class trip to DC.

Finny, the antichrist of my home, says those teens were always going to peak in high school anyway.

Mixtape:

1. A Witch Stole Sam – Mark Korven
2. Sinners – The Cramps
3. N.I.B. – Black Sabbath
4. I Hear Satan – Dax Riggs
5. Am I Demon – Danzig
6. Louis Cyphre – Burning Tapes
7. I’m the Devil – Electric Six
8. Demons from Hell – Ice Dragon
9. Amaranth – Windhand
10. Kill You – Dethklok
11. Hel Vete – Finntroll
12. Fire Fire (Live) – Motorhead
13. Black Mass – Electric Wizard
14. The Hooves of My Lord – Ice Dragon

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You have died of exposure.

42. Driver’s Dead – Peter Lerangis

Move into a new house and there’s a dead kid in the closet. Geez. At least he’s not literally in the closet, but, learning to drive and navigate a new town is bad enough without all that moaning about his untimely death and whatnot…although maybe if Kirsten wasn’t accepting help from the creepers responsible for said untimely death he might not have as much reason to haunt her closet and fliers and help her find his floppy disk-based diary so she can learn more secrets that will scare her into helping him out with his unfinished business.

Sorry, little Crumples, no one could teach you how to drive in any of the three towns you lived in because you were always too short with no forward vision.

Mixtape:

1. World In My Eyes – Depeche Mode
2. Always Crashing in the Same Car – David Bowie
3. The First Vietnamese War – The Black Angels
4. Phantom of the Motorway – The Mangled Dead
5. Hate Breeders – The Misfits
6. No Class(Live) – Motorhead
7. Bowels of the Beast – The Raveonettes
8. Into the Void – Black Sabbath
9. Mess of Wires – METZ
10. The Wretched – Nine Inch Nails
11. Carrion Flowers – Chelsea Wolfe
12. Way Abandon – Repeated Viewing
13. Surrender – The Duke Spirit
14. Walk Between the Lines – Witchcraft
15. Red Eyes and Tears – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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“Shattering! Shivering! Shocking!”

37. Fan Mail – Nicole Davidson

Acting! Rivalry! Obsession! This was a fun read, if you ignore the descriptions of Randi and a few other things. Chris, the not at all stuck up actress and her plump, plain, supportive best friend Randi (see), get to hang out sometimes – but Chris has always been focused on her career and Randi’s always been able to accept and understand that. Now if only she could get a boyfriend. It’ll be hard now that she’s the lead in a horror film shooting in her hometown. She’s the lead, and her rival with a stage mother from hell isn’t.

And there is this one guy who has a bunch of pictures of her in his locker – pictures he took, pictures he cut out of the newspaper, but he’s not obsessive or anything, he has to wrestling championships to think about. If only those creepily obsessive photographs could lead to something… Well, they will, a misunderstanding of epic proportions and more creepy behavior. I’m in this tree outside your window, Chris, it’s totally normal and I’ll help you find the person trying to scare you with answering machine messages, blood on your mirror, and not drilling holes in that coffin you have to stay in for long enough to hyperventilate.

I’m beginning to find movie sets a very suspect location for teenagers. Some of them just can’t be professional and assume threats are just a PR stunt.

Salem has his best friend the T-Rex to protect him, so, he’d be cool on film. Hire him, the 90s.

Mixtape:

1. Young Pros – Bass Drum of Death
2. Out of Line – The Bravery
3. I Am the Sun – Swans
4. You Don’t Know Me – The Butthole Surfers
5. LA Venice Bitch 80s – Carpenter Brut
6. Venom – Dance with the Dead
7. Posed to Death – The Faint
8. Grey Areas – Electric Six
9. Super Goo – The Cramps
10. Leave Me Alone – The Butthole Surfers
11. Evil La Girls – The Raveonettes
12. Rival – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
13. Turbo Killer – Carpenter Brut
14. High School Roaches – Bass Drum of Death
15. Scrape – Chelsea Wolfe
16. Night Walks – Black Mountain
17. Close Your Eyes – Edward Bear
18. Forever the End – Burning Tapes

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There should be a conversation heart that says, “No.”

11. Be Mine – Jane McFann

You didn’t notice me in class and I like you, therefore I will scare you and people you care about so that you will be vulnerable to me and my obsession. Rude. Why do any men feel entitled to women’s attention at all? It’s not theirs, not even on holidays when you might be able to make them think their boyfriend is creeping into their house to leave anonymous hearts on things.

Horace’s method of hitting on ladypigs makes it impossible not to notice him, he’d just pretend to fall on them from the back of the couch. It was…a little obvious.

Mixtape:

1. In Your House – The Cure
2. You’re Mine – The Black Angels
3. Bedroom Hymns – Florence & The Machine
4. The Sky Is Falling – Queens of the Stone Age
5. I See Through You – Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
6. Eva – Burning Tapes
7. Cut Me Loose – UNKLE
8. My Least Favorite Life – Lera Lynn
9. Save a Prayer – Eagles of Death Metal
10. Heartbeats Acoustic – Dick Valentine
11. Demented Mantra – Ogre & Dallas Campbell
12. Invader – Dance with the Dark
13. Are You Satisfied? – Reignwolf
14. For Blood – Bass Drum of Death
15. Vicious & Disgusting – Burning Tapes

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An overreaction to tacky necklaces.

48. Twisted Summer – Willo Davis Roberts

Mistake one – going to Crystal Lake, I mean, haven’t these people heard about the camp?

Okay, so, location names that now mean something much different than they used to aside – Wait! This was originally published in 1998. She should have known better. Credit rescinded. – this story has more parallels with the concepts raised by Friday the 13th. The girl that got killed last summer had a bad reputation… but apparently everyone thinks she was murdered by some townie’s older brother, who is cool, but a poor townie, so of course he’s a great scapegoat. His name is Jason. I’m kidding. It’s Brody and he went immediately to jail even though he totally didn’t do it. I mean, his name is Brody, he very well could’ve done it, but if he did, main character Cici’s summer won’t be ruined and she won’t get Brody’s younger brother as a boyfriend either. Bummer.

Just so everything’s clear, this book is actually pretty well structured, unlike my review. It’s also got characters that are better developed than the ones in the first novel I read by Willo Davis Roberts, The Tarot Spell, which demonstrated just a giant dearth of female empowerment and so I was very glad this was better. The children deserved better.

“Nobody thought about that association? Really? The ‘Final Friday’ had already come out,” Belvedere knows Jason is a household name for murder-reasons.

 

Mixtape:

1. The Guest at the Window – Pentagram Home Video
2. Chattox – All of Them Witches
3. Little Thing Gone Wild – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
4. Bad People in a Bad Place Doing Bad Things – Repeated Viewing
5. Haydee – Burning Tapes
6. Rain Grey, Dark Sky – Brass Hearse
7. The Weeping Willows – Espectrostatic
8. Flower Phantoms – Blood Ceremony
9. The Dove & the Serpent – Devil Electric
10. Crux – Electric Citizen
11. Architecture for the Night – Harglow
12. Eye of the Storm – Dance with the Dead
13. Rabbit Run – Ogre and Dallas Campbell
14. A Dream about the Lake – Espectrostatic
15. Last Rays of Daylight – Ogre and Dallas Campbell
16. Damned if She Do – The Kills

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You’ll change your mind.

27. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself – Jen Kirkman

For women of a certain age range, especially if they’re dating and hetero, there are some questions that maybe, just maybe, people should stop asking. When are you going to settle down? and When are you going to have kids? being the main two that should never be asked. They are tiresome, they are based in outdated social constructs, and they’re nobody’s business. That’s a major premise of this book, but Jen Kirkman wants to put things a little nicer way. I don’t, so I didn’t there. I’ve read some things about how independent people who don’t want to have families are scaring society and I laugh at those fears while eating more avocado toast. [Side reality note: I’ve never actually had avocado toast and I don’t care if I ever do. Take that, societal expectations.] Mostly, I think it’s a personal choice that isn’t very kind to ask about if one is going to invalidate the woman who was asked if one doesn’t like her answer. If a thirty-year-old woman says, “Kids aren’t for me,” the correct response to that is, “Okay,” NOT “You’ll change your mind.”

Anyhoo, there’s not much to this book. That premise is societally scary and that’s fine but there’s just not a large amount of new ground on this topic here or that’s particularly funny. She got a bit ranty, but was also toned down about it, that’s okay. Woo.

Twiglet says, “No. I won’t.”

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“Using the bodies up as we go”

4. Give Me Your Hand – Megan Abbott

They didn’t have guinea pigs in their lab and for that I am grateful. For once, I didn’t have to read inaccurate depictions of guinea pig behavior so they could be utilized for research by a seemingly accurate group of postdocs. Instead, a clump of dead mice fell from the ceiling with a huge bloody thwack. So gross. Such a way to begin.

To an extent, this story was a little all over the place and at several points didn’t ring true to me- at one point I found myself caring not a bit about what the central secret really was, but I still found it overall to be a solid read. It was the first book I’ve read by Abbott and I can say that I liked it a hell of a lot more than the second one I read- Dare Me. That book felt like it was trying too hard to be edgy. But this one, as someone who has several degrees that aren’t in the hard sciences but has helped a lot of those graduate students in the library and with finding articles, this one was enjoyable because that part rang true.

I do think one of the major bullshits of academia is the cutthroat nature of competing for research placement and funding. Just think what this country would be like if we looked at education funding as truly part of the greater good? Or at education as something that benefits society as a whole and not just something to mock the students for later when they’re trying to pay back their student loans? My generation is lost in my opinion in no small part due to student loan re-payment, but since I’m not fresh out of college, we are forgotten for the fresh new debtors when we could have been contributing much more forcefully to the economy for years. YEARS. More than a decade, even. But, it’s more fun to be completely out of touch and act like only new college students have this problem and isn’t everybody who bought that lie about how going to college would help them get better pay stupid? Happy graduation, everyone!

Who has fourteen toes and will never be used in research? This Horace.

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Important tip: Leaving broken cups in the family mausoleum may remind your relatives that they’re dead if they get up.

23. The Elementals – Michael McDowell

Have I ever mentioned on here that I hate sand? I really, really hate sand. I was unaware that this Southern Gothic brilliance was going to involve so much sand and that made it extra scary for me. However, I also have to say the fact that it got off and running from the start also helped. Weirdo southern family tradition stories are always of interest to me in the same way that British manor family dramas are not, which is weird because both types of stories involve secrets that the servants are aware of and totally not telling and stiff silence in place of helpful information. Oh, that family trauma’s going to show up whether you tell them or not. At least in The Elementals, Odessa eventually came around and did explain the whole “let’s stab people at their funeral” thing early on to thirteen year old India, the My Cousin Rachel of the story except for the whole liberated sex thing (Thankfully! I kept waiting for her and her father’s really close relationship to get blatantly incesty and…so happy that wasn’t a thing. They live in New York City. Far away from their family. He takes photos of her all the time. I blame recent television hit Game of Thrones and way too many recently read books where the incest was a total surprise inclusion for making me worry about this.) and the inheritance thing and the possible poisoner thing.

So there are two families, and they both have Victorian summer houses on a little area at the bottom of Alabama called Beldame where they’re going to hang out after the funeral of the mean matriarch of the Savages dies. Side note, the area they’re going to was amazingly easy for me to picture because the nearest town was Gulf Shores, a place I’ve been several times. They don’t really describe it as more than having a laundromat, but, I can tell you it was quite pleasant in the 1990s for Easter. And the new family patriarch of the Savages is Dauphin, which happens to be the name of an island that’s also nearby. When I was there I was not as troubled by sand as I am now. Anyway, there’s a third house and no one lives in it. No one LIVES in it. And those things in there, creating bodies out of sand and making sure it gets into every possible crevice and nook and cranny and other small places, those are not ghosts. They’re a whole different kind of spirit.

Fun fact: There’s a parrot in this book named Nails. Excellent name.

Murderface will not tell the southern guinea pig family secrets. Pickles might though, if you offer her the right produce, like, any produce.

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“You did it to yourself, just you, you and no one else”

68. You – Caroline Kepnes

Stalk-stalkity-stalk-stalk-stalk. Okay. You reads quite quickly and is basically a great exploration of how not to end up in a relationship, how not to keep a relationship, how not to pursue anyone ever…it’s basically one giant flashing sign that says “DON’T” or like a relationship version of “Good Idea, Bad Idea” from Animaniacs.

Granted, the main character is a total stalker, but sometimes he makes decisions that seem kind of normal – manipulative and sad- but almost normal in this tech-driven age, and so it’s important to note that everything this narrator does is in the world of NO, just in case anyone thinks this book reads like stereo instructions. Sure it seems like a good idea to read things you know someone already likes before they know how hard you poured through their social media stuff to create a false sense of friendliness, but, how about waiting until they introduce it to you? Or just asking them about it instead of making it seem all spur of the moment connection when it’s really just your inner sociopath showing through before your shared laughter leads you to guide them into that cage in the basement? That’s at least a third, mutually agreed upon date thing. At least third. That way you know they suck before you have to worry about whether or not you want to release them from your basement cage. Think of the clean up.

Oh, side note, I watched the series well after originally writing this review and I stand by my Animaniacs comparison and, also, Joe really didn’t think about the clean up. It was all right, it did put a nice amount of emphasis on Ozma of Oz, and that’s my girl, so, I appreciated seeing her book since I don’t recall that aspect of the actual book.

Thaddeus never had to steal Pammy’s phone to learn her whereabouts since they lived in the same room and he whistled at her all the time anyway.

 

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“This is how we do things in the country”

78. The Family Plot – Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest is one of those authors I feel like I should have already read lots by. Boneshaker was a great big deal as I recall and I was super into the idea of Maplecroft because I love some lady murderer stories. I tried to read Maplecroft multiple times but I was just not getting in. Just not. And that made me pretty sad.

Fathom is the only book of hers I managed to get through and I liked it okay…but was not wanting MORE! on any level. However, with The Family Plot, I think I finally found the Priest for me. I absolutely loved it.

Because of the existence of dust and me in the same universe, I will never become a salvager or a picker or the sort of person who finds antiques and cool pieces of house until they end up at a store. So, as abbreviated and possibly inaccurate as the operations of Music City Salvage may be, I don’t care, novel-level accuracy got me wholeheartedly into this story. Main character Dahlia was very relatable for me – she has allergies (not as bad as mine, clearly, or she couldn’t do that work, but they like never get mentioned anywhere and so many people have allergies that do work involving old things), she’s relatively fearless, she recognizes the value (sometimes exact) in antiques, and she knows how to organize disparate elements into a task well-finished. So I was entirely content to follow her through southern-style trying not to lose her shit while the ghosts in the Withrow house got stronger and more insistent and actually scary.

Pere and Ozy know the best way not to lose your shit is to turn away from the photographer and still look cute.

 

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