Tuesday, April 6, 2021

I Read Horror Year-Round Reading Challenge - First Quarter Check-in #IReadHorror


Can't believe it has been three months already! 

I've managed to check two off my list of 12 books. I'm doing the Chilling level. (Full challenge details here...you can still sign up.)

What I've read so far:

Winter theme, or winter appearance on the cover (snow, ice, etc.)
The Ascent by Ronald Malfi (short review on Goodreads)

Written by a woman
The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman (Review)

I'm currently reading these books for the listed categories:

Historical horror (must be an historical novel written by a contemporary author)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

A body of water (featured in story, on cover, or in title)
Cradle Lake by Ronald Malfi

Hoping to get to Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia this month as well (Woman on cover category) since it is my Spring into Horror Readathon this month. 

So, how's it going for you with the horror reading? Share your progress in the comments (update, links to posts/reviews, etc.). 


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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Erika Mailman's The Witch's Trinity


This book is not technically horror, despite its title. It's more historical horror (is that a genre/subgenre?) in the vein of the film, The Witch (a favorite). However, it's not my historical horror selection for my I Read Horror Year-Round challenge (that would be Kostova's The Historian). Instead, I read this one for the "written by a woman" category. 

As with any book surrounding the witch terrors/trials in European and American history, this book is equally horrifying. I sit there thinking, as I'm reading, I can't believe what people did to these women. Then I think, yes, I can believe it. I'm always quick to blame religious fervor, and yes, that did play a significant part, especially in America. The same goes for my feeling it was more focused on women. However, Mailman did clarify in her author's note that "Secular courts were just as eager, and sometimes more so, to capture and punish witches" and that "in the 1300s men were named as witches as frequently as women were." Interesting. Of course, we know that superstition, fear, and, in the case of this book, severe hunger played large parts in this hysteria, the latter especially holding true for the European witch craze...and that damn book, Malleus Maleficarum. The man who wrote that book was the true evil, in my humble opinion. 

Also, of note, Mailman's own ancestor, Mary Bliss Parsons was accused of witchcraft twice in 1600s Massachusetts. Jealousy and slander are what brought her to the attention of the court for witchcraft, but in the end, she had too many people come to her defense. Definitely an impressive and interesting heritage.

The Witch's Trinity illustrated that you better not grow old in a village wracked with famine in the year 1507...because you will be the first to receive an accusation of witchcraft. The elderly, especially women, past childbearing years and unable to do any hard work, are looked on as a burden. This is the situation Gude found herself in. Aged, she can't do much, she's an extra mouth to feed when there's barely enough for her son's family of four, and her mind is not what it was. She starts having fantastical and horrifying experiences with witches and the devil himself (the devil's book), but it's never quite clear if it's really happening or not. She's not even sure herself. 

The book was riveting. Just under 300 pages so a quick read and I couldn't put it down. I felt pure outrage the entire time I was reading...toward humanity, the church. It made me think of how the less of us are treated in today's society. Sure, no one is being burned at the stake, but the persecutions are still going on, purely because someone is different, or deemed of less use to society. 

Near the end, Gude said two things which really hit home and will stick with me.

"I didn't know what I thought of heaven above us or hell deep below, the fires supposed to be constantly stoked and tended. I was afraid to tell her what I feared: that both places were kingdoms of air. I had been to the churchyard to sit above Hensel's bones and to the spot where Kunne's blackened remnants lay, and when I listened to the earth, it told me they were still down there. And for all the praying I've done in my life, I fear that prayers are bits of grain the birds drop to the winds."

Exactly my sentiments.

"If there comes a day when the food is scarce again, you must equally divide what you have. It is wrong to say that one should eat more than another, or that one deserves nothing. Give it out with the hope that more will come."

If only more people thought like this. The world would be a better place.

The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman
The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friar’s arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought God’s anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. Tierkinddorf is filled with hope. Neighbors wonder aloud who has cursed them and how quickly can she be found? They begin sharing secrets with the friar.

Güde Müller, an elderly woman, has stark and frightening visions—recently she has seen things that defy explanation. None in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wander—certainly she has outlived all but one of her peers in Tierkinddorf. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: She has become an object of scorn and a burden to her son’s wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.

Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.

The Witch’s Trinity beautifully illuminates a dark period of history; it is vividly imagined, elegantly written, haunting, and unforgettable.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Release Day - Clare at Sixteen by Don Roff


Clare at Sixteen s a thrilling read for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), Jeff Linsday’s Dexter Morgan (Dexter series), and Jim Thompson’s Lou Ford (The Killer Inside Me). Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale) is set to play Clare in an adaptation directed by Anna Margarita Albelo.

The small town of Pickman Flats offers a bright sunny place filled with quaint shopping and wine tasting. 

But underneath the town's inviting exterior lies a dark underbelly, a sinister element that lurks in the shadows.

Clare is a devoted vegan who goes to Catholic high school, is fastidious in her manner, and also, well, a killer. The Other Clare takes over at the most inopportune of times. She tries to keep her inner beast at bay, but it's hard when there are so many creeps around who help to unleash it.

What secret lies hidden beneath Pickman Flats? And who is Clare really?

If you want answers, well…there’s only one way to find out—even if it kills you.

Slay Responsibly,
XOXO Clare



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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Movie Review - Saint Maud (2019)

The headline of an article on Daily Beast "Inside the Terrifying 'Saint Maud,' the First Great Horror Movie of 2021." Unfortunately, I have to disagree. "Saint Maud" is an A24 movie and anyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of their movies. The "Blackcoat's Daughter," "It Comes At Night," "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," "The Lighthouse," and three of my most favorite movies, "The Witch," "Hereditary" and "Midsommar." "Saint Maud" definitely fits the style of those movies in some ways (slow burn, creepy moments), but not enough to be called "Terrifying." I was not terrified. Yes, Maud's religious fervor could be construed as terrifying to those of us who do not identify as religious, but that, I believe, is stretching the context of what is scary. Religion has been used to good effect to terrify and disturb (see "The Witch"), but not so much in this movie. The performances are good. Jennifer Ehle as Maud's patient was excellent as always. Morfydd Clark does portray Maud with intensity, but it's not enough to truly be scary. Luckily, the movie is only around 84 minutes, but when the most terrifying part of the movie (more gross than terrifying) is at the very beginning, watching the rest is just a let down.

Review also posted on Jackmeats Flix.


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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cover Reveal - Usher House Rising by Don Roff


The first of a brand new trilogy and a modern retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." This trilogy will entice fans of American Horror Story, Bates Motel, and American Psycho.

Life after her high school graduation sucks for Mads Bland—her foster mother has died, her boyfriend has broken up with her, she can't afford community college, and it seems that she'll work in a grocery store forever.

When a mysterious invitation to Usher House arrives at her door, however, everything changes. Mads soon learns that her real name is Madeline Usher and that she has inherited the crumbling mansion in a remote part of Georgia. What's more, she discovers that she has a twin brother, the quick-witted and devil-may-care Roderick Usher. At first, things seem excellent—Mads meets a beautiful guy, Liam Delaney, who operates his father's farm down the road, she has inherited the remainder of the Usher fortune, and she now has a sprawling home, a place of her own.

However, Mads finds out that she's a pawn in a deadly game—her narcissistic brother is jealous of her romantic relationship with Liam, so he gaslights and imprisons his new-found sister within the haunted confines of the manor. Mads must battle against the inherited insanity that every Usher family member has succumbed to and embrace her hidden strengths that she didn't know she had to survive the madness of Usher House. (Goodreads)

About the author
Don Roff is no stranger to scary and suspenseful fiction. Over the past 12 years, his terrifying yarns have been published under the Scholastic banner with titles like Scary Stories, Werewolf Tales, Dragon Adventures, and Terrifying Tales. In adult fiction, he has written two bestselling works—Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection, published by Chronicle Books/Simon & Schuster UK, as well as the supernatural thriller, Snowblind, published by Brambleberry Books. Snowblind a chilling story about four Army Rangers snowbound in a haunted lodge, is currently in development as a major motion picture starring Karl Urban (Thor: Ragnarok, Star Trek), Ashley Greene (Twilight), and Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant). In addition, his darkly humorous YA novel, CLARE AT 16, will be published in 2019, as well as a major film. His suspense radio series Darkside Drive, on CJSW 90.9 FM radio (now available on iTunes), has completed its second season. He also writes a popular monthly "Monster in the House" screenwriting blog for the Save the Cat website based on Blake Snyder's ubiquitous, blockbuster book. A former US Army Ranger, Don resides in the Pacific Northwest. (Website)

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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Announcing the I Read Horror Year-Round Reading Challenge #IReadHorror


After determining there were no good horror reading challenges (that I could find), I decided to create one of my own. I'm going to host this one here at Castle Macabre, instead of at Gather Together and Read, because...horror. 

I mulled over different ideas for this challenge and finally came up with something I think horror lovers will like. There are 12 categories and 4 levels of participation. 

Here are the categories, or themes. (I created the additional graphic below which can be printed out, if desired.) 
  • Winter theme, or winter appearance on the cover (snow, ice, etc.)
  • Ghosts or spirits
  • Psychological
  • Monster or monsters
  • A body of water (featured in story, on cover, or in title)
  • Really scary book cover
  • Woman on cover
  • Written by a woman
  • Written by a best-selling horror author
  • Written by an indie author
  • Historical horror (must be an historical novel written by a contemporary author. Example: The Historian, Mexican Gothic, Interview with the Vampire
  • Folk horror (Ideas: https://tinyurl.com/yy8jj56a or https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/83087.Folk_Horror_Mystery)


Levels:

Spooky: Read 6 books from 6 categories
Chilling: Read 12 Books from all 12 categories
Frightful: Read 2 books from each category for a total of 24 books
Horrifying: Read 3 books from each category for a total of 36 books

Challenge runs from January 2021 (anything you've read thus far counts) through December 31, 2021. Cross overs with other challenges count. Short stories are allowed if you're reading an entire collection or anthology. Books must be over 100 pages. You do not have to pick your books ahead of time, but you can if you want.

That's it! I hope you will join me.

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