The Authors Who Made Me Love Horror

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

So, I love horror. But what made me this way?

Despite what people who don’t like horror novels might assume, it wasn’t a traumatic childhood event, or at least, not exactly. I did begin reading horror at a young age, and each title I picked up drew me farther down the road to becoming the reader I am today.

(As for what set off that initial spark of interest that made me pick up my first scary book, who knows for sure? I’m tempted to blame a mixture of genetics, great trick-or-treating experiences, and exposure to Tim Burton.)

In honor of that journey, here are the authors who had the biggest influence on my discovery of my favorite genre. I also identify what made me love their work, so if you’re struggling to understand a burgeoning young monster kid in your life, maybe this will help.

Alvin Schwartzauthors who 1
Where would I be without Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Not reading horror, that’s for sure. As a child, I didn’t realize that these were urban legends and folklore, and to be honest, I didn’t really care where the stories came from. They were terrifying and timeless, and accompanied by absolutely perfect illustrations by Stephen Gammell, and they scared me out of my wits. This series left an indelible mark on me, and looking at them even now gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I even have a pair of earrings featuring two iconic images from the series.

R. L. Stineauthors who 2
I grew up in the ’90s, a time when R. L. Stine was everywhere. I adored the Goosebumps series and lived for the times when my mom would take me to the bookstore that used to be in the Stones River Mall. I would sit on the floor and make the agonizing decision of which book I would pick to take home. When I aged out of Goosebumps, Fear Street was there waiting for me. Meant for teens, I read them when I was much younger, and I loved the covers as much as the stories. It seems silly and quaint now, but the Fear Street novel Goodnight Kiss is actually the only book I have ever stopped reading because it was too scary for me. I loved R. L. Stine because his books really scared me, featuring monsters and ghosts that felt actually dangerous, and adrenaline-fueled situations. But he also has a sense of humor, using lawn gnomes and ventriloquist dummies as villains. The mixture of laughs and thrills is still greatly appealing to me, as in movies like What We Do in the Shadows and books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism. And of course, I’m excited that he has continued the Fear Street series with You May Now Kill the Bride.

Edgar Allan Poeauthors who 3
I discovered Poe around fifth grade, thanks to “The Raven.” I already knew that I liked poetry thanks to Shel Silverstein, but I had not yet realized that you could write scary poetry, so Poe was a revelation. I also loved his short stories, especially “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” I don’t know if I even realized that I was reading classics; I just loved the dark twists and hypnotic language. A couple of years later I would go on to portray the Red Death in a school production of “The Masque of the Red Death,” which I greatly enjoyed because I got to wear a black cloak and be utterly dramatic.

Anne Riceauthors who 4
Anne Rice is one of the adult authors that I read at a young age. I discovered her through the film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, which I rented from the local video store obsessively. Years later, I started reading the Vampire Chronicles books. My teachers were scandalized. I was in love with Rice’s flowery writing, dripping in angst and innuendo, and with her unforgettable characters. Lestat de Lioncourt is still my favorite fictional vampire. I mean, who wouldn’t admire the bravado and panache of a vampire who decides to break vampiric law and reveal his identity in the grandest possible way: Becoming a rock star?

Stephen Kingauthors who 5
My teachers also weren’t exactly thrilled about my budding love of Stephen King, either. I remember needing to obtain a special permission letter from my mom allowing me to order On Writing from the Scholastic book catalog (remember those?). In middle school I also read my way through Misery, Carrie, and other King classics. I even attempted IT, but stopped because at the time I thought that it was too adult and boring. (That’s the great thing about precocious kids: We test boundaries, but we also know how to set them for ourselves.) King is a consummate storyteller, and I loved his tangents and backstories that he wove into a colorful tapestry of story. He appealed to me as a kid because I saw him as the real deal, a writer who knew his stuff. When I realized that I wanted to become a writer, too, he was the writer I aspired to be.

Christopher Pikeauthors who 6
I discovered Christopher Pike in junior high, and I responded really well to his more sophisticated but still accessible level of horror. One of my most vivid reading memories centers around silent reading time in eighth grade, on a late Spring day. The door was open to let in warm breezes, I was wearing my beloved Ramones T-shirt, and I was totally lost in Whisper of Death. Around that same time, I read all of the Last Vampire series, which is now available in omnibus editions under the title Thirst. They’re sort of like a light version of Anne Rice, featuring an ancient immortal and weird Christopher Pike touches. I’m remembering them as being sort of like Queen of the Damned for kids.

Billy Martin (who published under the name Poppy Z. Brite)authors who 7
By the time high school rolled around, I was an established horror fan, and so I’ll end this list with the author who expanded my horizons and catapulted me firmly and irrevocably into the realm of adult fears. I found the books like Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, Wormwood, and Exquisite Corpse by researching books with goth characters when I was about fourteen. I wanted to read about people who were like me… Or at least, like older and more exciting versions of me, who spent their weekends doing things much more dangerous than writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction. Martin’s books are like if an Anne Rice novel and a Cure album had a baby. I adored their glamorous atmosphere, their characters, and the fact that they were set in the South.

 

3 Dark Fantasy Short Story Collections by Women

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

For a long time I thought that I disliked short stories. Maybe this was the result of only encountering the form in school, where stories were assigned as examples of form or technique, read quickly and squeezed of all their juice and left, at the end of a class discussion, wrung out dry. I spent so much time reading short stories in school that I didn’t seek them out for leisure reading, preferring novels.

But as an adult, I rediscovered the short form and how downright enjoyable stories can be. True, they’re not the full-blown escape of a novel, but they are portals, little interludes into other worlds, and they can do things that novels can’t. Their brevity affords them the freedom to be more poetic and occasionally less logical. They can experiment and confound and beguile. They’re great fun.

Here are three collections of short stories that I love, all of which were written by women. All of them are, more or less, dark fantasy, though each author’s interpretation of the genre reflects different influences, and provides something for very different readers.

her body and other parties

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Recently I wrote about book hangovers, and this is the specific book that inspired that post. Machado’s work blends magical realism, horror, and absurdism to comment on the everyday horrors of existing as a woman: sexual assault, body image issues, sexism. To say that Machado is unafraid to tread into weird territory or to leave readers with lingering questions is an understatement. On occasion I would finish a story and wonder what I had just read, but if you’re okay with open-ended resolutions that will make you keep thinking about the stories after you finish them, you’ll be at home with this collection.
Favorite stories: 
– “Inventory,” which charts an apocalyptic pandemic through a list of the narrator’s lovers.
– “The Husband Stitch,” a feminist retelling of “The Green Ribbon” that name-drops a litany of beloved urban legends.

the poison eaters

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black
Holly Black is one of my most beloved authors. She always delivers a mixture of beauty and darkness that I find irresistible, and she’s among the best writers working within the framework of faerie folklore today. Some of the stories in this collection are more memorable than others, but all of them are enjoyable, and this would be a good introduction to Black’s writing if you’ve never read her before.
Favorite stories:
– “The Night Market,” an atmospheric faerie story that recalls shades of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”
– “The Coat of Stars,” which features a tender and affecting love alongside lush descriptions of fabrics that made me want to dust off my neglected sewing machine.
– “Going Ironside,” which fits into Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, one of my favorite urban fantasy trilogies.

the bloody chamber

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
If you want fairy tales in the Brothers Grimm sense, this book is a must-read. Carter captures the darkness of the original stories that Walt Disney edited out in favor of singing birds and helpful mice, and she adds her own shades of darkness. Female characters in fairy tales often exist in more shadow than might initially be made apparent by the unadorned, matter-of-fact language in which they’re usually written, and Carter delves into those shadows with eagerness and intelligence. Her writing is lyrical, bawdy, and sharp, perfectly tuned to her subject matter, timeless while maintaining an underlying modernity of attitude.
Favorite stories:
– “The Erlking,” a folkloric story about a woman drawn to a wildman in a forest despite the dangers he poses.
– “The Lady of the House of Love,” the profoundly Gothic tale of a vampire Countess living in a moldering Romanian castle on the eve of World War I.

Is It Clutter or a Hoard?

by Marlene Kupsch

Yes, I am referring to the people who collect things–a lot of things–and yet they believe they still do not have enough. Most of us have a Hoarder/Collector in our own families. Their collection may not be as big as the ones you see on the TV show Hoarders that airs on A&E, but they are there. We are told that the reason people hoard is a compulsive need to acquire things that comes from a traumatic experience. Roughly 16 million people in the U. S. are affected by it.

Well, what do we do when we see the signs, whether in ourselves or someone else? I can tell you first-hand that it is frustrating to want to help someone, and they refuse to acknowledge it is even a problem. This is not an easy subject for me or my family. I believe most of us would rather speak about death, and even that is taboo! So, my hope is to give you a few options on reading material so that you can try to understand a bit more.

There are two little fantastic hardcover books, less than 150 pages each, that will help you in the hinting department to your loved one. The Art of D*scard*ng, written with lots of joy by Nagisa Tatsumi, would make a great stocking stuffer! This books gives you the permission your loved one needs to throw it away!

I love to throw things away and I get such euphoria every time I accumulate a bag or two to drive over to the dump. When I get back and see that space empty and clean, I feel like I cleansed my soul. Truthfully!

The other one is The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I like the way Margareta draws little pictures in the book. I think it is her way of trying to lighten the mood and not make you feel like you are being targeted and should be punished for what you have accumulated. She gives you tips on sorting and cleaning, and helps you focus on what is really important. Cleaning used to be a compulsive need for me. Everything had to be in its place, and every dust bunny must be chased into the field, especially if company was planned. Oh dear, then I spent all night the night before making sure everything was spotless. I was unable to sleep till it was. I certainly do not recommend this extreme, either! I lost a lot of time cleaning instead of spending every moment I could with my daughter when she was growing up.

So if you have A&E or Hulu and feel like bingeing some episodes (it becomes addictive) of Hoarders, watching the transformation of the people and the houses they clean, is utterly amazing. Max Paxton, who is one of the cleaning specialists on the show, has written a book called The Secret Lives of Hoarders : True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter. We also have a few more books here in our library catalog that are worth a gander: Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. 

Happy cleaning!

Books vs. Movies

It’s an age-old question: Which is better, the book or the movie?books vs movies blog image

Recently I posed a version of this question to my RCLS colleagues. I wanted to know about their experiences with books that have been adapted for either the large or small screen. Books that were better than movies, movies that were better than books, movies that got them to read books… I wanted to hear about it all.

And they delivered!

Beneath the cut you’ll find reflections from seven different library staff members, each with a slightly different take on the book/movie debate and each with vastly different tastes in media. You’re sure to take away a recommendation of something good to read, watch, or both.

Read More »

Taboo: Death and Grief

by Marlene Kupsch 

I find that when faced with the words death or dying people often tend to shy away or run as fast as they can. Death is not something that can be undone; yes, we all understand that, but it should not take over your life. We must find a way to move forward. Not forget, by any means, but live our lives as best we can. Your loved one would not want you to grieve for the rest of your life.

For me, the best way to get through a difficult situation like this and carry on is to talk about it. With anyone! Always seek professional help if the feelings become too powerful for you to talk through them with your family or friends. There are times were a book is exactly what is needed. That is when the library and the endless supply of reading material becomes a great lifeline. The more we can learn, the less scared we will be! My picks:death 1

Dying to Know… About Death, Funeral Customs, and Final Resting Places by Lila Perl
If you want to know the history on why certain customs or rituals have come to be, Perl is your woman! Why did the custom of putting a headstone on top of the grave start? Did Queen Victoria start the fashion of mourning in black when her husband passed away? When did we start the practice of embalming and why?

death 2One of the newest books that I have had the great fortune of finding is Grief Works by Julia Samuel. The author is a grief psychotherapist, who has written about some of the people she has counseled overthe years and the steps she helped them take to try to move forward with their lives. She has a lot of helpful information throughout the book.

For children, The Saddest Time by Norma Simon is something death 6worth reading to your little ones. This book gives you three different stories on why death might occur. It talks about the ways you might feel and what you could do to help your loved ones or yourself. It explains death in a way that is not overwhelming or scary.

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman is about a nurse who writes letters for the patients under her care in a hospice facility. She promises to post them once the patient death 3passed, but what if she can give the chance for redemption by breaking that rule? Should she let things in her personal life interfere with a promise she made the patient?death 4

There is a series written by Neal Shusterman that makes you wonder about the future and all the advancements of science and technology. What if all diseases were cured? What if the world conquered death? How would we “thin” out the population? Scythe is a young adult novel that I was not able to put down. I was in this world all night long, cover to cover, wondering if I was given the opportunity to become a Scythe, would I want the power? How would it feel to be the person who was given just a few hours left to live? How would I choose the method of death for me?

death 5Last but not least, for those young’uns, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is a must read! The story starts after the family pet has died. The little boy is understandably heartbroken and struggles to come up with all ten good things about his cat that his mother asks him to say at the funeral. Letting go is never easy. Barney was very much loved.

There are so many books and so little time. I could easily turn this into a 100-book-plus list. The important thing is that you can find at least one book that gave you a smile or gave you that “I’m not alone” feeling. Death is no stranger to me. I have gotten that 3 am phone call that you hope you never get, I have sat by the bedside of family members as they have taken their last breaths, I have lost friends and family, young and old. Death does not discriminate, and it is not usually welcomed. You must grieve for each and every one,and sometimes in all different ways. There is no wrong or right way to grieve, and there is no time limit. From all my experiences, as long as you do not stand still for too long, you are on the right path.

Thank you for giving me your time!!

True Crime Books I’m Reading After ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’

by Brittney Reed-Saltzi'll be gone in the dark

After waiting on the holds list for weeks–see, it happens to librarians, too!–a copy of Michelle McNamara’s posthumous true crime blockbuster I’ll Be Gone in the Dark came in for me. It was exactly what I needed: I had been in a reading slump, but I tore through the pages. It would be hyperbole to say that I became as engrossed in McNamara’s writing as she did in the Golden State Killer case, because I’ve never seen anyone so doggedly obsessed with a project. But this book haunted me in a way that I haven’t been haunted by my reading in a long time. My tastes are hard-boiled, yet this book gave me nightmares.

The truth is, I’m a true crime newbie: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is only the second true crime title I’ve ever read, along with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I remember flipping through my mom’s beloved true crime paperbacks as a tween, poring over the glossy photo inserts with a mixture of disgust and fascination, but I never got into the genre.

Well, until now.

Here are the true crime books that I’m planning to read next, despite the havoc they will wreak on my sleep schedule.

the fact of a body

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and A Memoir by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich
Marzano-Lesnevich took a summer job working at a law firm in Louisiana when she encountered the case of Ricky Langley. Her reaction was so visceral and so contradictory to her anti-death penalty stance that she felt compelled to investigate more deeply. After I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I’m ready to follow another DIY sleuth down a dark, obsessive rabbit hole, and The Fact of a Body sounds like just that.

midnight in the garden of good and evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
This book has shimmered in my periphery for a long time. It’s an atmospheric examination not just of a murder, but of a unique town and its equally unique inhabitants: Savannah, Georgia, home to criminals, drag queens, society ladies, and voodoo priestesses, to name only a handful. I share McNamara’s opinion that the most interesting part of a crime isn’t the act itself, but the people it impacts, and I think that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil satisfy this interest.

my friend dahmer

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (available through Hoopla)
When someone’s crimes are as lurid as Jeffrey Dahmer’s, it’s easy to conceive of the perpetrator as an inhuman monster. The thought that they were just a human being taxes the mind and inspires terror, because we don’t want to acknowledge that people are capable of such things. This graphic memoir, written by Dahmer’s former classmate and friend, presents the chilling truth: serial killers are people, and you might know one.

green river running red

Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule
The Green River Killer was another serial murderer who, like the Golden State Killer, amassed a large number of victims and eluded capture for decades, which for me is the most bloodcurdling aspect of the GSK case. I have read reviews that attest to Rule’s focus on the victims, which is something I admire about McNamara’s approach, as well. This book also has the added scare factor of proximity to the killer: Gary Ridgway ended up living within a mile of Rule’s house.

helter skelter

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
It’s hard to look into true crime without encountering Helter Skelter. This classic is massive both in terms of its size and the notoriety of the case it documents: the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders committed by the Manson Family. Readers have described Helter Skelter as engaging to the point of dizzying, packed with twists, aliases, and chilling details aplenty about Charles Manson’s hold on his cult members. I feel like my exploration of the genre would be incomplete without giving this one a try.

2018 Eisner Award Winners Announced!

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

What better reason for a bonus blog post this week than the announcement of the newest batch of Eisner Award winners? The honorees were unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con, and RCLS has several of them available for you to check out!

You can peruse a full list of nominees and winners here.

monstress monstress 2

Best Continuing Series and Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) and Best Cover Artist and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art): 
Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

kindred

Best Adaptation from Another Medium:
Kindred by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

world of wakanda

Best Limited Series: 
Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Alitha E. Martinez

tea dragon society

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12) and Best Webcomic: 
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

my favorite thing is monsters

Best Graphic Album – New and Best Writer/Artist and Best Coloring:
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris

my brother's husband

Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia:
My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1, by Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii