New Vintage Lace: Knits Inspired By the Past by Andrea Jurgrau I’m afraid I do not have as much reading to share with you right now as I did over the summer months, and you may as well know why that is! Since January I have been somewhat leisurely working on a particularly challenging knit, but I realized that the year is growing short and I need to wrap things up, so I have been up to my eyeballs in the charts on pages 124-127 of New Vintage Lace, for the Ghost Orchid shawl pattern. (Last year I knit the Blue Dahlia pattern, and I hope the Ghost Orchid turns out just as nice!) At any rate, this is of no interest to probably 98% of you, but I thought I might share, anyhow.
“S” by Koji Suzuki So apparently this is something like the fifth book in the Ring series, which you’ll no doubt recall focused on a fatal curse, wherein one watches a videotape full of eerie, disjointed imagery, and then the viewer dies within a week’s time. Sadako, the vengeful ghost whose psychic powers created that deadly video tape, continues to harass humanity through four more books, and as the story continues, we find out that the curse is somehow a virus? Causing tumors or pregnancies? So Sadako can be born again and again? I haven’t read books 2-4, but I think that, armed with some wikipedia synopses, I more or less got the gist of it. In “S” we find a new video clip floating about, that of the moments just before, and just after a suicide. It falls into the hands of our main character, who works at a CGI production company, and of course winds up inadvertently viewed by his pregnant lover. We soon find out that it all leads back to Sadako, to whom these two young people are more closely connected than even we could have imagined.
Mr. Higgins Comes Home by Mike Mignola short, cozy, and goofy, this was a somewhat satisfying and wonderfully illustrated story of monsters, monster hunters, and poor Mister Higgins. There is also a fancy dinner party of vampiric debauchery, botched human sacrifice (always worth a laugh!) and a trouble-making goat of the infernal variety.
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters I adore the queer, historically-influenced, marvelously vivid writings of Sarah Waters (see also Fingersmith, which I reviewed in February of 2017 and if you have not already done so, I must insist that you drop everything and read it now) but The Night Watch was one of her books that I had put off reading for a long time, for whatever reason. I finally pulled my copy from my shelf and realized, a little sadly, it was the last book belonging to my mother that I had retrieved from her home after she died, which I had not yet read. I am sure I looked quite pitiful shaking it, upside down, to see if she’d tucked any notes or last remaining sentiments in it for me. Alas, not even a single message scrawled in the margin. I am beginning to doubt if she’d even read it at all. Ah, well. Taking place in London during WWII, it closely follows the affections and misadventures and dramas of four people, starting in 1947, and flashing back to 1944, and then ending at its beginning in 1941 (structured sort of like Irréversible, but not as traumatizing). Such an ending, of course, feels unfinished and leaves one wanting more.
Reddit /nosleep Sometimes I want to read something, but the thought of starting a new book sounds like way too much commitment. Or maybe I just finished an incredible story and I am sad and floundering because I don’t even know what to follow it up with that could possibly compare. Thanks to Sonya, I became familiar with the /nosleep subreddit, a place for “realistic horror stories” and where “everything is true…even if it’s not.” and which is a perfect stop-gap for the “in between” reading that I occasionally crave. Some of my favorites are: “Footsteps” (later published as Penpal, but I hear that the actual book is not as good); “Room 733”; “The Left Right Game“; and “Correspondence“. A lot of “best of” lists will urge you to read Borrasca, but I am here to tell you that the ending is just… gross and you may feel better if you skip that one. I will also tell you that I have never read a book that freaked me out as badly as some of these stories have done; your freaky-tolerance may be stronger than mine, but I am forewarning you, just in case.
World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks – Not pictured above, technically this review belongs in our next installment of Aural Fixation, but I’m afraid I just can’t wait. As I’ve mentioned previously, I listen to audio books while driving back and forth between Portland and Seattle once a month or so, but I seldom listen to fiction. Until now, with the exception of the BBC Radio dramatization of Good Omens (which was delightful), I’ve mostly listened to autobiographies and memoirs. Then I happened upon a Reddit post asking for people’s favorite audio books and the one that was mentioned more often than any other was this, the complete audio version of Max Brooks’ post-apocalyptic horror novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The novel came out way back in 2006, but I never read it, even though I enjoyed Brook’s previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, which turned out to be a lead-up to World War Z. I knew the book told the near-apocalyptic zombie tale through a series of personal accounts from different people, but I’d heard from numerous friends over the years that the books was a surprisingly dry read, so it just lingered on my mental to-read list. Until I heard about this audio book. Redditors raved about the star-studded voice cast and quality of their performances and they weren’t wrong. You know an audio book is good when, after a 3-4 hour drive, you’re actually sorry the drive is over because the book is so thoroughly engrossing. I’ve never said this about a book before, but in this case I strongly recommend the audio version over reading it from the page. It’s all riveting and some of these accounts are impressively chilling. Hearing these different voices with a wide range of accents and ages, coming from all walks of life (civilian/scientist/medical/military, etc) all over the world… This material deserves to be performed like this instead of by your own brain inside your head. Having a different actor voice each part, the way their testimonies are interlinked, the way the events of the outbreak unfolded and were perceived and responded to around the globe is incredibly complex and clever.
TL;DR: If you’ve got 12 hours to kill, enjoy horror fiction, and want said 12 hours to pass in a flash, listen to this book. Then we can talk about the feral child’s chapter, which refuses to stop haunting me.
All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma – When she isn’t working as a General Practitioner in the UK, Priya Sharma writes wonderfully dark, ontological short stories that defy categorization. Her work comfortably falls under the umbrella of weird fiction, but could just as easily be included on horror, fantasy, queer, fairy tale, science fiction, and speculative fiction shelves as well. In an interview with Fiction Unbound, Sharma described her writing as focusing on the topics of longing and grief.
“Longing and grief are an essential component of growing as a human being. We can’t outrun pain. I think they always exist in my work in one form or another. Love too, I hope.”
“We can’t outrun pain.” It’s no wonder I devoured these stories that unflinchingly explore the pains of otherness, love, birth, death, and myriad forms of grief. If you enjoy the writing of Kelly Link or Carmen Maria Machado (for starters), I strongly recommend adding Priya Sharma to your reading list. These liminal tales are as vividly beautiful as they are monstrous and often monstrously beautiful. All the Fabulous Beasts is Sharma’s first short story collection. I’m already hungry for more.
Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu (writer) and Sana Takeda (artist) – How is it that we’re on to the third volume of Monstress and I haven’t mentioned it here yet? Time to remedy this. Monstress is a sweeping work of high fantasy meets cosmic horror and easily one of the most beautiful comics ever. Period. Each page is dazzling. And as for the story… I don’t know where to start. It’s a vast and complex fantasy epic set in a matriarchal world of jaw-droppingly beautiful Art Deco-esque steampunk featuring lots of strong queer characters and themes. It’s a story of war and the trauma it inflicts upon individuals and society alike. It’s a story of Lovecraftian monsters worshipped as gods and the awesome power born of the connection between a teenage girl who’s known nothing but war and one of those ancient and indescribably powerful creatures. It’s a love story, a coming-of-age in impossible times story. Also, there’s a race of cat mages with multiple tails. Also also, as someone who grew up unable to find their name on those racks of mini license plates, sticker packs, or even stupid soda cans, finding an awesome comic wherein the main character bears my name is so delightful it’s sometimes distracting. And it all starts here Monstress Volume 1: Awakening and here Monstress Volume 2: The Blood.
Featured art by hiddenvelvet