Blog Tour & Book Review: It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan.

Blog Tour & Book Review: It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan.

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for It Will Just be Us by Jo Kaplan, a dark, gothic horror book full of ghosts and ghouls. Thank you to Crooked Lane press for inviting me to be a part of the tour and sending me the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Now before we get into what I think about this bad boy, let’s check out that all important blurb to see what it’s all about: They say there’s a door in Wakefield that never opens… Sam Wakefield’s ancestral home, a decaying mansion built on the edge of a swamp, isn’t a place for children. Its labyrinthine halls, built by her mad ancestors, are filled with echoes of the past: ghosts and memories knotted together as one. In the presence of phantoms, it’s all Sam can do to disentangle past from present in her daily life. But when her pregnant sister Elizabeth moves in after a fight with her husband, something in the house shifts. Already navigating her tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth, Sam is even more unsettled by the appearance of a new ghost: a faceless boy who commits disturbing acts–threatening animals, terrorizing other children, and following Sam into the depths of the house wielding a knife. When it becomes clear the boy is connected to a locked, forgotten room, one which is never entered, Sam realizes this ghost is not like the others. This boy brings doom… As Elizabeth’s due date approaches, Sam must unravel the mysteries of Wakefield before her sister brings new life into a house marked by death. But as the faceless boy grows stronger, Sam will learn that some doors should stay closed–and some secrets are safer locked away forever.

Kaplan’s novel in many ways is a classic style Gothic novel and the influence of like Shirley Jackson is evident throughout. We have a haunted house full of ghosts, a family tragedy plagued by secrets and a history of violence and heartache, a mysterious locked door for a room no one can enter and a malevolent presence that threatens all who inhabit the crumbling expanse of Wakefield. On paper it ticks all the standard boxes for a gothic horror in all the right ways. But what I loved most about this book was the way it used these classic tropes and settings to explore the darkest parts of ourselves for the ghosts that haunt Wakefield are not actual spirits or souls trapped there, but are in fact echos, a simple replaying of past events, good or bad.

Through the death of the protagonists father, we explore mental illness and suicide and the effect of that loss on the remaining family members. The mother of the family finds herself not just haunted with the knowledge of her husband’s death, she does not just picture it in her mind as many haunted by such a tragedy would, she is instead able to relive it over and over again, watching her husband’s death replayed on an infinite time loop, unable to stop him or ask why as a memory is just that and nothing more.

This family are literally watching history repeat itself over and over, the good moments and the bad, from every generation of people who have stepped foot inside the mysterious house they inhabit. And this family history is a particularly black and bloody one to boot. Through these visual images of the past, the reader explores the fact that our pasts and even the pasts of those who came before us, can have a very real impact on our present and in turn our future. The protagonist is an archaeologist. She understands better than anyone the importance of these artefacts, these moments long gone. She attempts to catalogue and record them, for if we cannot understand the past in all of its raw horror, then how can we possibly learn from it? How can we grow from it? How can we avoid the mistakes of those who came before us? During a point in time when our history and the visual representations of that history such as statues and memorials, are becoming more important and meaningful to the current generation, it is very much a book which spoke to me.

Through these same ghosts and the darkness which causes them, the book also explores the concept of fate and destiny. If we are told our future, does that event then occur because it was always meant to be so? Or did it occur simply because we were told it would, drawing us towards that inevitability like a moth to a flame? Would that event have occurred if we had never been given that knowledge in the first place. The ideas of fate and causailty are things which have always fascinated me and I particularly enjoyed the way this book explores them. If history is in fact predetermined then fighting it is useless, we will end how we we end. But if it is not yet set in stone, if the face of our future is blurred and not yet fully formed like the faceless boy who haunts and threatens Sam and her family, is there hope then that this can be changed? It’s a fascinating idea and when combined with the classic horror elements like the haunted house and the ghosts, it only serves to amplify the complexity and the very high and real stakes of attempting to change or bend destiny to our will.

I found myself engrossed from the first page and the book remained engaging throughout. The characters are real, believable, relatable and most importantly as flawed and broken as the house they share. The story is interesting and gripping and it’s full of moments and quotes which cause the reader to pause and ponder on topics beyond the scope of the book itself. My only criticisms would be on the last few chapters of the book when Sam makes some truly questionable decisions. Yes, the reader is aware of why she may make such choices, but it felt very much like those moments watching the female victim of a slasher film run up the stairs instead of out the front door. “No,” we hear ourselves cry, “Not that way!” But alas, we are watching these images play out as they will, unable to interfere or effect them just as Sam and her family have watched the echos of the house they live in so many times over their lives. Whilst this did irk me somewhat, it wasn’t a big enough issue to dampen or reduce my enthusiasm and love for the book as a whole and if anything it merely added to the earlier discussed debates about fate and causality.

I could go on and on about the elements of this book which I loved, these aforementioned topics being at the forefront alongside the style and setting of the book itself, but I would rather let the reader discover these things on their own. I wholeheartedly recommend it to any fans of classic horror and I am keen to read more from the author. Overall it’s a 4.5 out of 5 for me and an excellent read all around. Thank you again to Crooked Press for giving me the opportunity to read this fantastic book and to Jo Kaplan for writing it.

Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.

Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.

Happy Friday my fellow readers. Whatever your plans are for this weekend, I hope you have fun. To get your weekend started right, today’s blog post is another collaboration, this time with the incredibly talented artist Stefani Rabideaux. Stefani primarily works in gouache and graphite creating stunning pieces which hark back to another era. Her Gothic Girls evoke a sense of magic and intrigue, and every one has its own personality, it’s own history and it’s own story to tell. That’s what immediately drew me to her beautiful work, the fact that each image seemed to take me somewhere else, to transport me to another place in time or another world entirely. As you can imagine, when she agreed to collaborate I was over the moon. For this story, I was truly inspired by those girls, by the darkness and light present in each piece, the hint at something behind their smiles, something knowing, perhaps something dangerous? That is how Mother Horror was born (shout out to the incredible Sadie Hartmann aka Mother Horror on Instagram for inspiring the name. You are the true Mother Horror). If you would like to check out more of Stefani’s work, and why wouldn’t you, you can purchase from her Etsy shop or head to her Instagram for daily inspiration.

Continue reading “Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.”

Self Isolation & Quarantine Book List: A List of Cheap & Free Kindle books.

Self Isolation & Quarantine Book List: A List of Cheap & Free Kindle books.

Hello Readers! The world is a pretty scary right now. The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic and as the infection spreads, countries are grinding to a stand still I’m an effort to slow it down and protect those most vulnerable and more and more people everywhere are being forced into quarantine or self isolation to protect themselves and their loved ones. The news is full of nothing else and I know my anxiety is growing daily. With everything that’s going on, I felt so helpless to do anything to alleviate the fear or anxiety even in the smallest way. I’m not a Doctor, or a health care worker, I’m just a blogger…what could I possibly do? Not a lot to be honest, but what I can do is give all of those stuck in quarantine and self isolation some reading material.

Reading is the perfect temporary distraction. It offers escapism at a time when we feel most trapped and it’s a way to maintain some form of normalcy in a crazy situation. I am also conscious that budgets now more than ever will be stretched and that these times will not just be trying psychologically, emotionally and physically but also economically, particularly for those who are self employed. With that in mind I have done two things to try to help in even the tiniest way, the only way I know how.

First of all, I have made my novel Broken Mirrors FREE on Kindle from Wednesday the 18th to Sunday the 21st of March. You can download a copy here: https://amzn.to/35K0H6W

I have also scoured the horror section of the Kindle store, searching for horror books that sound badass and are available for either free or less than £3 (the price of a coffee). I then created a video on my YouTube channel with these books, alongside my own, telling you all about them so you can get a massive reading list in a quick, cheap and easy way. The links for all of the books mentioned is in the video description. I hope you enjoy it and wherever you are, whatever is happening in your life, stay safe!!

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCj6gAjgPxaZ5AGUlj4ALwzw

Interview with the Minds behind The Dark Corner Zine.

Interview with the Minds behind The Dark Corner Zine.

As a lover of all things weird and creepy, I am always excited to find new publications catering for my particular proclivities, so when I discovered Dark Corner Zine I was immediately intrigued. This US based magazine specialises in art and short fiction from the horror and science fiction genres and, well anything weird. With three issues so far and a fourth on the way (more on that later) this zine is still in its infancy but is filled with so much potential. Each edition is an original collection of strange tales and odd art designed to promote the artists and writers, as well as the genre at large. What’s not to like?

When I first found them, I saw they were accepting submissions for Issue 4 so i thought, why the hell not? And through my hat into the ring. When my short story The Monster on the Moor, my take on traditional gothic horror with a twist, was accepted for the issue, I was elated!! As a writer, there is no better feeling than having the validation of your work being accepted for publication and the knowledge that you will be able to reach a new audience.

Cover design by Yogi Howse

So now, this magazine is not only me new obsession but it’s also something I now hold in a special place in my heart and I knew I had to help get the word of this awesome publication out there for all my fellow horror lovers and weirdos to discover. I immediately asked the wonderful people behind the zine if they would allow me to interview them and lucky for us, they said yes!

What exactly is Dark Corner Zine?

The Dark Corner Zine is an independently published magazine located in the Southeast United States, though our audience is spread around the world! We publish exclusively independent artists and writers that create works in the genres of Horror, Science Fiction, and Weird Fiction! Simply put, we exist because there is an incredible community of talented writers and artists in these genres that we believe should have their works published and shared with those that love works in these various genres! The zine’s name is sort of an homage to the Twilight Zone and a reference to a local region called the “Dark Corner”. It’s a mountainous region known for, besides moonshiners, old folklore and legends of the supernatural kind. 

What inspired you to create it?

Cover design by Justin Valliere

Honestly it was out of frustration because many of the publishing firms, especially local ones in our area were only interested in publishing historical fiction or material of a nonfiction variety. There was an opportunity for us to put our own creative talents to use on a project that could be an outlet for those skills while gathering and publishing other talent! As writers and creators, ourselves, we understand the importance of having avenues and outlets to present our creative works in!

Who are some of your favourite horror authors which inspired your love of horror?

Oh! That’s such a difficult question to answer.  The first “horror” book I ever read was a collection of old folktales and urban legends called Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz! Sort of a common work amongst horror aficionados but a required one I’d say. In terms of horror authors that have impacted me as both a creator and writer, I’d have to say William Hjortsberg, Jon Padgett, Fred Chappell, and Thomas Ligotti. Hjortsberg wrote one of the best occult themed detective novels titled Falling Angel. It was made into a 1987 film entitled Angel Heart, but the book has a charm to it along with an ending that is terrifying! Jon Padgett is a rather interesting writer out of New Orleans that writes some of the most foreboding and surreal tales I’ve ever read. Many of his works lean more towards weird fiction, but a few works such as Origami Dreams and The Secret of Ventriloquism linger like a bad dream long after you finish reading them! Fred Chappell’s 1968 release Dagon is a Lovecraft infused Southern Gothic novel that is quite haunting. I can’t go into much detail without ruining it, but I highly recommend it. Ligotti is sort a contemporary master of horror that many of your readers are probably aware of. Any of his collections is worth reading!

If you were creating a reading list for someone new to the genre, what books would you include to whet their appetite (apart from Dark Corner Zine of course)?

Image by Sarah Ann Sweeney

I sort of answered this in the previous question (got ahead of myself), but certainly other books I haven’t mentioned already include Let’s Go Play at the Adams by Mendal Johnson, A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (Id argue with anyone that this is as much of a horror novel as it is a “western”), Cipher by Kathe Koja, The Fisherman by John Langan, and finally The Town That Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey

What are some of your highlights from the Dark Corner issues so far?

Image by Mitch Rogers

Ah! That’s such a tough question. I think each of our team members have their personal favorites. For example, my favorites from issue 2 is between Come See the Twin Bridges Train by A.P. Sessler and The Drift by Cody James. Issue 3 is between The Mirror by Bastian Faulk, and Who You Gonna Call by Jack Darvis. I think every issue has something for everyone though! 

How can people submit to you guys?

We typically do submission periods 3 times a day. Period timeframes vary, but typically its 60-90 days. We’ll launch our next submission period May, 2020! We can be reached by email at thedarkcornerzine@gmail.com

Thanks for checking us out and we hope you enjoy our publication! You can grab your copy of issue four here.

My Horror TBR: The Books Topping my Reading List in the Spring.

My Horror TBR: The Books Topping my Reading List in the Spring.

Hello my fellow book nerds and a very Happy Valentine’s day to you all! I’m not really much of a romantic to be honest, so Valentine’s Day doesn’t make me want to read any soppy, heartfelt chick lit filled with grand romantic gestures and kissing. Instead, my dark soul craves all the horror! Instead of a heart shaped pink card covered in glitter, I want a bloodied human heart torn straight from the chest of my enemies…too much? Well you get the idea! Check out my latest booktube video where I give my upcoming TBR (that’s to be read to all the newbies out there) featuring all the books I’m excited to dive into this Spring. It includes the February and March read for my #gothichorrorreadalong where each month I read a piece of classic gothic horror starting with Dracula by Bram Stoker this month. Won’t you join me? I’ll include a link to my video explaining it below too, along with the list of books for the year.

Happy Viewing, happy reading, Happy Valentine’s Day!!

You can buy all the books I mentioned in the links below:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
https://amzn.to/2uA3Ppb
Miscreations by various
https://amzn.to/2Hk7FoO
The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson
https://amzn.to/2OTtOyu
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
https://amzn.to/31RZf1o
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
https://amzn.to/31Z5voo
The Deep by Alma Katsu
https://amzn.to/2vu1r39

My special edition Frankenstein came from Ethereal Visions Publishing
https://www.evpub.info/

For information on my #gothichorrorreadalong, check out the video below or to keep up to date with all the current information including the dates of our movie adaptation watchalongs starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula on February 28th, follow my Instagram @bookishmarie. Everyone reading a long is using the hashtag so it’s a great way to link in with other gothic horror fans and book nerds!

You can buy all the books on the list at the links below:

February: Dracula by Bram Stoker
https://amzn.to/2S0ZzGB
March: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
https://amzn.to/2O4a1w3
April: We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
https://amzn.to/2GB9GNk
May: A tell tale heart & other stories by Edgar Allan Poe
https://amzn.to/316dI9N
June:  The portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
https://amzn.to/2ScKbaz
July: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
https://amzn.to/2O7ZFeH
August: Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier
https://amzn.to/37CWiUt
September: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
https://amzn.to/2GzuwfP
October: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
https://amzn.to/2GBaf9U
November: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
https://amzn.to/37DuLT7
December: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fenu
https://amzn.to/3aRVLjJ

Top 10 Horror Books to Read in the Dead of Winter.

Top 10 Horror Books to Read in the Dead of Winter.

In my latest YouTube video, I count down ten of the best spooky books to read in the dead of winter. Books that will make you shiver just as much as the cold! If you like the sound of any of the books mentioned in the video, you can grab copies below!! Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

The Shining by Stephen King
https://amzn.to/36PlbvE
Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke
https://amzn.to/35Et72w
Misery by Stephen King
https://amzn.to/35AlZnD
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
https://amzn.to/2S8ggl5
Bone White by Ronald Malfi
https://amzn.to/35Af3Ht
Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
https://amzn.to/2Z1w2zK
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
https://amzn.to/2M9yleQ
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
https://amzn.to/2Q2vKEV
Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
https://amzn.to/36MKa2p
The Terror by Dan Simmons
https://amzn.to/2S7PLwe

Christmas Horror Book Tag: A Booktuber tag video for those with spooky souls!

Christmas Horror Book Tag: A Booktuber tag video for those with spooky souls!

For my latest YouTube video I created my very own booktuber tag, a series of questions as a challenge for other booktubers! But mine is, of course, a little different. I love Christmas and all the fun, family friendly festivities that come with it but I have a dark, horror loving soul that still needs a little creepiness even at the festive season so my book tag is a horror Christmas book tag! I would love if you guys could check it out and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel!

Merry Christmas especially to all the other spooky souls out there!!

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

**Needless to say there are spoilers in this article so steer clear until you’ve watched the new film.**

petsemetary1

As I mentioned in my last post, my book review of Pet Semetary by Stephen King, my friends and I decided to make a little Stephen King book club. Every month or so, we would read one of his books and watch the screen adaptations because, yes, we are massive nerds and yes, we love horror. So we started with this one because a brand new adaptation just hit the big screens and it felt like fate. So we read the book and every one of us loved it, read my previous post for the full review. So far so good. Now, we were going to watch the two adaptations. One from 1989 starring Dale Midkiff and Star Trek Next generation’s Denise Crosby, before venturing to the cinema to see the new release starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and the beloved John Lithgow. They are both based on the same book so they won’t be that dissimilar, right? WRONG! The two films were worlds apart in both quality, performance and horror, so I thought I should write a review, comparing the two films to both the original book and each other. So here we have it, the ultimate showdown…who are you routing for?

Age before beauty, so let’s start with the 1989 adaptation. I had seen this once as a child, many, many moons ago (I won’t say how long because I don’t want to reveal just how old I am) but truthfully I barely remembered it. Not the best sign I suppose, but at least it meant I was going into it with no preconceptions. I can forgive 80s horror movies for their terrible special effects because they give me nostalgic vibes and sometimes, the way the directors and creators have got around issues with budget and technological constraints can sometimes produce what is often scarier and more tense than the all out CGI we have today. What I cannot forgive is terrible acting. Every single actor in this movie, with the exception of Brad Greenquist who played the ill fated Pascow, was beyond wooden. Honestly, it was like they weren’t even trying. The worst culprits were by far the main characters Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff and his wife Rachel, played by Denise Crosby. I’m not sure if they were just phoning it in for the pay cheque or they are honestly just terrible for the roles, but either way it was like watching shop mannequins fumble their way through.

Not a great start, right? But maybe, the script was good? Nope, not particularly. Look, I get that this is a big old book to squeeze into a ninety minute movie, so of course not everything will make it in there but what I have learned over the years is that you can practically throw the original book away as long as the movie captures the books vibe and atmosphere (see Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House for the perfect example of this) but unfortunately this adaptation captured neither. One of the biggest issues with this film may actually be that it stuck TOO CLOSELY to the original book, choosing to go down the same murderous, psycho toddler route. There are two major problems with this: 1) Anyone can overpower a toddler, even a supernatural one and 2) Toddler’s aren’t scary, they are in fact adorable and the one chosen to play Gage in this film, actor Miko Hughes, is particularly cute. No matter how much he attempts to scowl and growl, I find myself cooing and awing at every shot of his chubby cheeks and wide eyes. A scalpel has never been as sweet as when it is being held aloft by this child’s chubby hand. The lesson here is, what works in a book doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. The movie’s exposition is also ridiculously rushed so it feels like a poor adaptation rather than a movie in its own right. Lesson number two, if you can’t fit it all in Lord of the Rings epic trilogy style, then learn to edit.

forest2

One of the other things that really bothered me was the set, specifically the forest beyond the deadfall. In the book, a dark, otherworldly, misty forest is described whereas this film gives us a very pleasant national park perfect for a Boy Scout’s nature trail. It just all felt rather half assed to be honest. But it did get a few things right. As mentioned, the actor playing Pascow, Brad Greenquist, puts on a great performance as the warning spirit and despite the bad guy being the cutest sweetie pie ever, the bit where he slices clean through Judd’s Achilles heel was painful to watch even with 1980s special effects. Overall though, this film fell flat and in my opinion is only really worth watching for nostalgia purposes.

So what of the new film? This film demonstrates in glorious HD how an adaptation should be done. First of all, the actors are great providing believable performances throughout. I’m a massive fan of Jason Clarke, particularly after his performance in the thoroughly recommended Winchester, and he does a great job of playing Louis perfectly depicting his grief. This movie was also smart enough to ditch the whole killer toddler thing instead having the Creed’s older child Ellie die and be brought back. Whilst toddlers are adorable and cannot possibly be considered scary (with the possible exception of my daughter when she is hangry) older children can make creepy little villains…think Samara in The Ring, Children of the Corn or The Omen. The actress playing Ellie, Jete Laurence makes a very convincing little psychopath and provides that much needed horror to the movie. Whilst it isn’t the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it’s pretty well done, with great sets, convincing special effects (without going overboard with CGI as so many modern films tend to do) and great actors.

I particularly loved this movie’s nods

to the previous adaptation, with the truck driver who kills Ellie being distracted by a text from Sheena (the original truck driver is singing along to Sheena is a punk rocker by The Ramones), with Gage running to the road just as he does in the book and the original adaption as a red herring for Ellie’s death and finally, with that Achilles heel moment mentioned above, except in this version Judd kicks the bed away with no psycho child to be found underneath only to be sliced and diced as he descends the stairs. This self referencing is something Stephen King does throughout his own books, with winks and nods to other stories and novels peppered throughout. This movie perfectly captured this on screen. In fact, at one point Ellie explains to Jud who Winston Churchill is and he exclaims he knows well who he is- the actor John Lithgow plays Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown. Again, that little wink to the audience is exactly the type of thing King himself would do.

forest1

This adaptation completely strays from the book in some ways, some good, others not so good. In this adaptation, Louis tries to offload the now psychotic family cat Church by driving him into the middle of nowhere and abandoning him. Of course, he finds his way home and when the very happy and relieved Ellie runs to him, being struck down in the process, it only goes to increase Louis’ feeling of guilt and fault at her death. If he hadn’t tried to get rid of Church, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. I also love that, unlike the book, the cat is fully feral in the new adaptation. His issues as described in the book, his odd zombielike motions, his smell of earth and rot and the fact that he causes unease and general discomfort wherever he goes, is not necessarily easy to translate onto the big screen whereas a cat clawing and snarling works well. The ending is dramatically changed from the book and original movie and this is one I had a bit of a problem with. In this ending, Ellie kills Rachel and drags her to the semetary. She then returns and kills Louis, then proceeds to drag him to the semetary, before the entire now evil, regenerated family complete with psycho cat, now walk towards Gage after burning down Jud’s house. I assume Gage will be next on the hit list, or maybe they’ll wait until he is older, who knows. I wasn’t a fan of this ending. I much prefer the ending of the book, and subsequently the original adaption, with Louis killing his zombie child after he has killed Rachel, before taking Rachel to the semetary and bringing her back to life. It ends with her simply dragging her dirt covered feet inside and saying, “Darling” leaving it up to ourselves to decide what happens to Louis and his remaining child. I understand that the writer of this new adaptation wanted a new ending in order to surprise audiences who are well familiar with the original ones as well as satisfy those new to Stephen King’s work, but sadly it just didn’t pull it off for me. Personally, I would have had Louis kill Ellie, then flee with Gage only to have Rachel stumble out of the forest and stare after them, again leaving it up to the viewer to imagine what is coming next. But that’s just me.

Overall though, the new film is thoroughly entertaining and an enjoyable watch for any horror fan whether you like Stephen King or not. I would recommend it to any horror fan.

But these are just my opinions- what did you think of the old and new adaptations? How would you have ended the new film? Comment and let me know and don’t forget to subscribe so you can keep up to date with all my latest posts.