Friday, November 4, 2016

#Lovecraft Read-Along - The Dunwich Horror (Season of the Witch conclusion) #witchseasoncm


Well, folks, I really dropped the ball on the read-alongs this year. I started reading The Dunwich Horror and got stuck. I hate to say it, but I'm not a fan of this story. Not boding well for my first Lovecraft read. Not that I won't still read more of his. So, I had to bypass reading  Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum and Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch-House. I'll have to pick them up later, or maybe next year.

SPOILER ALERT - DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS STORY

In my reading of various analyses of Lovecraft's work, one thing seems to be said more often than not. His short stories are too long. I would have to agree. I honestly thought Dunwich was never going to end.

What I did like was the whole mystery of what was going on at the Whateley house, and the weirdness of Wilbur with his strange appearance and accelerated growth. And his horrible death when attacked by a dog...the reveal of what he really was...was a shocker.

I also liked the parts regarding the Old Ones and Wilbur's efforts to bring them into this world. What I don't quite understand is what kind of monster is Wilbur's twin. It seems to be some tentacled, octopus type creature. I really don't think it sounds very scary. Is that weird? I know others know a lot more about Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos than I do, and so would understand this more. Apparently, Lovecraft introduced the entity Yog-Sototh as one of the extra-dimensional Old Ones in this story.

Strangely enough, what made things anti-climactic for me was that I knew all along that the creature who was locked up in the house, and that they were expanding the house for, was Wilbur's sibling. So the big reveal at the end just wasn't that big of a deal for me.

What did you think? Is this a Lovecraft favorite for you, or are there others of his you like better?


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Kicking off Season of the Witch featuring #Poe and #Lovecraft Read-Alongs #witchseasoncm


Today's the day! Happy October and Halloween season! For some reason, I'm especially psyched this year. How about you?

Here's a refresher on the Poe and Lovecraft stories we will be reading and the schedule.

Week One - The Mask of the Red Death, Poe - Discussion on October 7/8
Week Two - The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft - Discussion on October  14/15
Week Three - The Pit and the Pendulum, Poe - Discussion on October 21/22
Week Four - The Dreams in the Witch-House, Lovecraft - Discussion on October 28/29

In addition, I'll be reading a TON of scary books this month and sharing reviews. I'm also looking for guest reviews on scary reads, and/or guest posts on favorite spooky topics. Get in touch!

It's going to be a frightfully awesome Autumn!

Don't forget, the FrightFall Read-a-Thon starts Monday. You can sign up here at Seasons of Reading.

I'm also hosting a read-along of Stephen King's Salem's Lot over at my new reading community site, Gather Together and Read. Check it out here.


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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Announcing....The Eighth by Stephanie M. Wytovich #TheEighth


  • Print Length: 135 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Regions Press
After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins-sins who have their own agenda with the Devil—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?


About the author
Stephanie M. Wytovich is an instructor by day and a horror writer by night.

She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is simmering in sin with Dark Regions Press.

Learn more about Stephanie at her website and follow her on twitter @JustAfterSunset.

Praise for The Eighth
"The Eighth is a stellar horror debut from Stephanie Wytovich. An intimate, painful map of personal and literal hells that would make Clive Barker proud."- Christopher Golden, New York Times best-selling author

"Stephanie Wytovich's The Eighth is a savage tale of betrayal, regret, and the dark side of love in its many forms. The poetic imagery she sprinkles throughout balances the brutality with beauty." Chris Marrs, author of Wildwoman and Everything Leads Back to Alice

"A fierce and emotionally intense debut."- Craig DiLouie, author of Suffer the Children

"A brilliant debut from a major new talent, full of darkness, fire, and devilry. Indeed, the sins in this novel are so well realized that I fear just a little for Ms. Wytovich's soul."- Rio Youers, author of Westlake Soul and Point Hollow

“The Eighth is one of the most exciting books to come along in 2016 and one of the best debuts of the last decade or so. Wytovich is at the top of her game and gaining momentum like a runaway freight train, and you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you miss out on this monumental and hugely entertaining read.” – This is Horror

Buy the book
You can pre-order this book through Dark Regions Press website in e-book, trade paperback, and hardcover deluxe signed collector’s edition. They will be shipped in November.

Want to Feature?
If you’re a media site, blogger, or radio/podcast host, and you’d like to feature Stephanie Wytovich or review The Eighth, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.



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Friday, October 28, 2016

Guest Review: Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey #witchseasoncm

Book Cover Photo Credit: TOR

Book Review: Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: TOR
Publication Year: 1991

By Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Mercedes Lackey is mostly known for her high fantasy novels such as the Collegium Chronicles. Her settings are often Medieval-type, magical worlds. However, in her novel, Jinx High, Lackey deviates from her usual high fantasy elements and instead focuses on those of horror and dark fantasy in a modern day urban setting. It’s a deviation she does well.

Jinx High is a story about a witch who hunts down an evil force that is threatening the lives of a several teens. The witch is north-east coast romance writer Diana (“Di”) Tregarde. Di travels to Tulsa OK, the hometown of old college friend and fellow magician Larry Kestrel to teach a series of creative writing lessons in his teenage son Derek’s (“Deke’s”) high school English class. However, when she senses an evil magic that is trying to destroy Deke and several of his schoolmates, her mission goes beyond that of a teaching assignment. The evil force that Di must seek out and defeat? (Warning: potential spoiler ahead.) Deke’s fellow student and girlfriend, Fay Harper.

Published in 1991, Jinx High is probably one of the earliest horror stories to utilize the “monster” as hero--“monster” in that the character is of a type that has traditionally been portrayed as evil, such as a witch, vampire or zombie. So this twist comes at a time that predates the trend that it has become today in horror fiction.

The horror element climaxes in the prom night scene making the novel a tinge reminiscent of Stephen King’s Carrie but is far different from it. Still, the mood of the dark side of adolescence permeates and the black magic definitely enhances it. Yet the novel can hardly be classified as YA. Not only are they’re strong adult concepts and language, but the story is structured around the adult characters more than the teen ones. But even so, the 16-to-18 crowd can probably relate to it since that’s the age range of most of the adolescent characters.

Besides black magic, there are also plenty of monsters that it conjures in this story, such as demons that attack kids and spirits that possess a garage band’s guitars putting a curse on the kids at the prom.

The other element that makes this novel horror is that we are in several of the victims’ heads when they are attacked by the monstrous forces. Yet the story is also a quest to protect a population of students from being taken over by an evil sorceress. Because of this, we shouldn’t be too surprised if Fay is named after Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend who has been portrayed as an evil enchantress. So the novel overlaps with the dark fantasy genre as well. However, interestingly enough, there is a bit of a science fiction element. Computer terms of the time (some that have survived through today) are applied to the magic such as the “construct”, the artificial human that Fay makes and that poses as her “Aunt Emily” but is really her slave.

The characters in Jinx High are well-developed and sympathetic, including Di. This is played out good in her relationship with Deke’s female friend and fellow classmate, Monica Carlin whom Di defends from a horde of demons. Also, Monica looks up to Di as both a model writer and mentoring friend. So the reader gets the sense of security through the interaction between Di and Monica. The story also does a good job balancing out the scenes of the teenagers with those of the adults. We both get the teen culture of the novel’s time period, such as in a scene with a group of kids playing a Nintendo, as well as that of the adults which particularly reflects a nostalgia for the ‘60s hippie culture so popular in the latter half of the ‘80s and through early ‘90s. After all, the kids’ parents are baby boomers.

The few flaws that I had with Jinx High were actually in Di’s character as much as she was among my favorites. For one thing, the story stays in her head too much when she thinks up solutions to challenges. For another thing, her verbal tick, “Jesus Cluny Frog”, though well utilized to distinguish her character, is overused to the point of annoyance on the reader’s part. But these flaws are out-weighed by the strengths mentioned above.

Even though Mercedes Lackey is mostly a storyteller of high fantasy set in medieval-type worlds, her Jinx High is really well-told as a modern day horror story. I recommend it to my fellow readers of dark supernatural fiction. It shows you that an author does not have to regularly write in a particularly genre to write it well.

Amazon/Kindle Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LHCFW5M


Visit Steven at his blog, A Far out Fantastic Site.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

#Poe Read-Along - The Mask of the Red Death #witchseasoncm

Yesterday was the anniversary of Poe's death.
On September 27, Poe left Richmond for New York. He went to Philadelphia and stayed with a friend named James P. Moss. On September 30, he meant to go to New York but supposedly took the wrong train to Baltimore. On October 3, Poe was found at Gunner's Hall, a public house at 44 East Lombard Street, and was taken to the hospital. He lapsed in and out of consciousness but was never able to explain exactly what happened to him. Edgar Allan Poe died in the hospital on Sunday, October 7, 1849. (PoeStories.com)

I was first curious abou the spelling of the title of this story, as I was seeing it spelled online as "Masque" of the Red Death. However, in my unabridged anthology (published by Running Press in 1983), the title is The Mask of the Red Death. I believe it is a play on words on Poe's part. At the beginning of the story, he says, "The scarlet stains...especially on the face of the victim, were the best ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-man." There is a kind of scarlet "mask" that is a dead giveaway of someone with the disease. But then, Prince Prospero also holds a masquerade (masque) within his seclusion. I feel that was Poe's intent...for mask to represent both.

I'll admit to this being one of Poe's stories that was pretty deep so I did some analysis reading about it online. The first thing I read was the symbolism of the seven rooms of seven different colors representing the stages of life, the black room with the scarlet windows representing death. It makes sense and is quite clever, especially when the Red Death makes its appearance, walking from room to room, blue room all the way to finally black. When Prospero and his revelers follow, it is like they are going through life, and then they finally reach death at the hands of the disease.

There has been much analysis of Poe's works and this one is no different. They really dig in deep with the symbolism. For instance, the line "a thief in the night" is from the Bible and many scholars align the Red Death as the apocalyptic Jesus figure and the castle with Prospero and his revelers represents the world. And so, the Red Death brings about the end of the world. Interesting idea.

My final take is that these wealthy people seal themselves away to escape the Red Death, only to succumb to it in the end anyway. The lesson...you can't escape what's inevitable, or what proves to be a virulent disease. I'm quite sure I remember reading about households during the Black Death that sealed themselves off from the rest of the city/town, but ended up contracting and dying from the disease anyway.

A great story, in my opinion, but not overly scary. What did you think about what I discussed above and/or did you like the story?

On a side note, and I'm sure I mentioned this last year, but I'm a huge Vincent Price fan. Price starred in a bunch of films based on Poe's works. This one was no exception.



The Masque of the Red Death/1964
A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the "Red Death" plague that stalks the land.

I'm not sure if I have seen this one or not. If I have, I don't remember it. You can watch it on Amazon Prime for $2.99, or here's the full movie from YouTube. Fun!



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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #Read-Along - Final discussion and thoughts on the film #MissPeregrines


First, let me apologize for the delay in posting this. I had thought to finish the book before seeing the film (I was at the final chapters), but it didn't quite work out that way. Also, my sons are on Fall break so I've been busy getting things done around here (that requires their brute strength. lol) and spending time with them.

So, what a magical book, right? I really enjoyed this final part of the book where we finally learn the truth of Jacob's gift...he can see the Hollows! Not sure I would want that gift though. Yuck.

This book is unique because of the photographs. I really liked that aspect because it gives us a point of reference to what some of the children looked like, and it added to the vintage Gothic feel of the book. I think the photographs also evoked a World War II feel.

I liked the incorporation of the Nazis at the end. Makes sense that they would be involved with the nefarious doings of the Wight. This aspect, to me, gives the book a slant of morality. The correlation between the pursuit and persecution of the peculiar children with the pursuit and persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazis...clever.

Which brings me to the film. There is no part of the above in the film. Not sure why. Maybe because of the current state of things with race relations, etc. in our country and the world. Actually, the movie really is quite different from the book. Tim Burton changed a lot and I found myself wondering if that was truly necessary. Don't get me wrong...the film is pretty good...but the book is better. Who didn't know I would say that? He even flip flopped characters, giving Emma Olive's power of floating and Olive had the power of fire from her hands. Why?


Again, the film was enjoyable enough and definitely worth seeing for the visual elements alone. Also, Asa Butterfield was great as Jacob and Ella Purnell was ethereal as Emma. Of course, Eva Green was fantastic, as she is in pretty much everything she's in.

Definitely see it if you enjoyed the book, keeping in mind that the book is (almost) always better.

Thanks to everyone who read along with me.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jason Parent's #Wrathbone and Other Stories - Review #terrifyingtales


My thoughts
There's nothing quite like a book of really great short stories. And, to be honest, horror short stories are really the only short stories I read. I'm not really a fan of the medium. However, the horror genre just seems to fit with short stories. For those of us who love the genre, the horror short story is like being deliciously frightened, over and over again.

Parent does not disappoint with this collection. Each story plays on an aspect of human nature and that person's demise, or downfall, at the hand of it.

Wrathbone - a story surrounding Abe Lincoln? I'm so there! In his introduction, Kealan Patrick Burke mentions the writing in Wrathbone having similarities to Poe. I couldn't agree more. The slow descent of Wrathbone into madness because of guilt and what can only be described as personal demons brought on by that guilt was truly masterful. I kept thinking of The Tell-Tale Heart as I was reading. Excellent.

The Only Good Lawyer - this story has greed and arrogance at its heart. A lawyer so motivated by the two that he's willing to do whatever it takes to win a case. He meets his match when voodoo comes into play. Chilling.

Dorian's Mirror - Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorites and this story is a unique play on that tale. At the heart of this one...pride and vanity. A model wishes that the mirror would age, but not him. He gets more than he asked for. Be careful about focusing too much on looks. A creepy, cautionary tale.

For the Birds - Okay, this one is more centered on a stupid human mistake, rather than a facet of human nature. Some birds aren't meant to eat meat. I'll leave it at that. Bloody disgusting, yet horrificly satisfying.

Revenge is a Dish - you guessed it. At the heart of this one...the desire for revenge is human nature, perhaps at its worst. Maurice is thrown overboard...in the ocean. My stomach dropped because I just knew the sharks were coming (shark phobia alert). Nope. It didn't go there, sort of. This one is a little tricky becasue technically the outcome is in Maurice's favor. But is it really? You'll see what I mean.

This is a perfect read for the Halloween season, or really any time of year for horror fans. I'm very impressed with Parent's writing. Very well put together and paced, the stories keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting to quickly proceed to the next story to see what's in store. Highly recommended.

About the book
Print Length: 160 pages
Publisher: Comet Press
Publication Date: October 3, 2016

Terror follows those who let it into their hearts.

Wrathbone
Guests of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris attend a showing of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. On that fateful night, a great man falls, but he is not alone. For Henry and Clara, the night is only the beginning of lives wrought with jealousy, madness, and horror.

The Only Good Lawyer
Bradley is a savvy defense attorney with no scruples. Under his representation, many a guilty man has gone free. But when a voodoo priest takes the stand, Bradley soon discovers that he, too, is on trial, and the punishment for guilt may be more than he could bear.

Dorian's Mirror
Dorian loves himself, and why wouldn't he? Every guy wants to be him, and every girl wants to be with him. He would trade all he has to make his looks last forever, but bargaining with the devil may leave him short a soul.

For the Birds
Nev's best friend is his parrot. In fact, it's his only friend… and his only ally when his home is invaded.

Revenge is a Dish
Maurice has landed a dream job, chef for a rich couple on their yacht. The wife has carnal desires for him. Maurice has some carnal desires of his own.

Praise for Wrathbone and Other Stories
“From the eerie opening tale to the grisly closer, and all of the wonderfully mean-spirited tales in-between, Wrathbone is a winner!” — Jeff Strand, author of Dead Clown Barbecue

“Wrathbone and Other Stories is a hard-hitting collection that you can completely immerse yourself in. The title story is a beautifully written period tale of love and tragedy. I finished and realized that I was breathing shallowly because I was genuinely affected that much. A tale that leaves you breathless? Yes, please!” - Mercedes M. Yardley, author of the Bram Stoker Award winner Little Dead Red.

"An elegantly written novella of madness, murder, and demons, Jason Parent's Wrathbone reads like Edgar Allan Poe's take on 'Jacob's Ladder.'" --Adam Howe, author of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo

“Jason Parent is a master of controlling how you perceive the characters and the events in these stories, making sure you read it exactly how he wants you to read it. It’s like mind control. Powerful stuff!” – Nev Murray, Confessions of A Reviewer

Buy the book
Amazon

Add to GoodReads
See More at Comet Press!


About the author
In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it's harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he's back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that's another story.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook, on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him. 



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