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By Mandy McGee

I just wanted to let you all know that our staff writer, Morgue Anne, has a youtube channel where she talks about books once a month. Here is the latest one she posted. It is a live google hangout. Watch, Like and subscribe. 

By Morgue Anne

image

Valentines day is fast approaching and…wait, it’s tomorrow? SHITBALLS! Alright, everyone. Don’t panic. We can do this. Even though we’re poor, even though the television tells us we are failures in our relationships if we don’t give/receive a buttload of shiny diamonds. Here’s some heartfelt Valentine’s you can get for less than a roll of quarters. 

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By Mandy McGee

“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”-The Bell Jar

It has been 50 years since Sylvia Plath took her life. I read a bunch of blog posts yesterday about it and it took me back to when I first discovered her work. I was 16, sitting in the library near my house, and I was supposed to be studying for a test. Instead I was looking through the poetry section and sitting on the floor in the middle of the isle, too lazy to go back to my table, I started paging through. The first poem I stopped on was “Firesong,” which became my favourite poem.

"Born green we were
to this flawed garden,
but in speckled thickets, warted as a toad,
spitefully skulks our warden,
fixing his snare
which hauls down buck, cock, trout, till all most fair
is tricked to faulter in split blood.

Now our whole task’s to hack
some angel-shape worth wearing
from his crabbed midden where all’s wrought so awry
that no straight inquiring could unlock
shrewd catch silting our each bright act back
to unmade mud cloaked by sour sky.

Sweet salts warped stem
of weeds we tackle towards way’s rank ending;
scorched by red sun
we heft globed flint, racked in veins’ barbed bindings;
brave love, dream
not of staunching such strict flame, but come,
lean to my wound; burn on, burn on.”

That grabbed me and I couldn’t stop reading. Shortly after starting to read her poems I searched for more of her stuff. I found “The Bell Jar” and it felt like there was actually someone in the world that knew what it was like to be lost and depressed. 

If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

This quote is something I started to live by. I was constantly disappointed by those around me. If I just expected it or accepted that this is what my life is, I would not be disappointed or surprised when bad things happened. 

After reading up more on Path and her life I found the book “Letters Home.” It was like reading about myself. At the time I had been cutting for about 5 years and my thoughts of suicide consumed me. I won’t go into detail (that’s for another day, a different blog) but she made me feel like it was ok to feel that way. I have been battling depression for as long as I can remember; I still have my good days and my very bad days. I learned to live with what she couldn’t. 

If she were alive today I would hope she would grow and learn that it is ok to have those feelings but learn to not let them consume her. 

My second favourite poem is “Edge.”

"The woman is perfected.
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded

Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.

She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.”

By Morgue Anne

Why is the Penis Shaped Like That is probably not a book I would recommend to read on the bus, or any other form of public-transportation, really. Yes, you could point to the “Scientific American” on the spine and reassure everyone giving you funny looks that it is, in fact, a collection of legitimate scientific studies about…weird and fun sex stuff. Or you could buy it for kindle and save yourself the embarrassment of only reading this particular book in the privacy of your own home. Or you could just not give a rat’s ass, because if you’re reading Why is the Penis Shaped Like That then you probably are not someone who’s overly concerned with grandmother’s giving you disapproving glances on the subway.

Let’s be honest - why wouldn’t you want to read a book with this title? If you have any inkling of something resembling a sexuality, you’ve probably had some questions over the years that your high school health class, church group, or grabby uncle just never got around to answering for you, most likely because they didn’t know. Jesse Bering dives into everything from the purpose of the female orgasm to the neurology of people who are sexually attracted to animals and evolution of bodily fluids, leaving no stone unturned in his search for answers. 

Bering does a fantastic job of bringing his own voice to each essay while also staying fairly objective in a celebration of science at it’s best. While most people stop searching for answers as soon as they’re uncomfortable, Bering makes a point to dive even further and look at things from an objective viewpoint. This attitude may frighten a lot of people away, but consider that the more we understand something the better equipped we are to handle instances such as pedophilia. There is a lot of stuff in there discussing “vanilla” sex as well, such as the title essay and a few other pieces concerning male and female genitalia (with one of my personal favorites on the psycho-therapeutic aspects of semen). This is guaranteed to be a fantastic ice-breaker with all the strange information you will gain. I can’t count how many conversations I started with “So I’m reading this book about strange sexual studies…” and then went on to tell someone about foot fetishists. Or female ejaculation. Or the different scientific terms for blow jobs.
This is not a book I recommend to someone without a sense of humor, or anyone who is unable to get past the ‘ew ew ew’ part of their brain and take a look at something that might make them a little uncomfortable. This is for the curious, the scientist inside all of us who takes a look at the world around and wonders “Why?”. If you are still hesitant, consider this - if a gay man can suck it up and write an entire section of his book on vaginas for the sake of being fair and balanced, you can  give Why is the Penis Shaped Like That a chance.

Buy Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human

By Morgue Anne

imageTina Fey may be a genius, and Amy Pohler will get my vote for president every election for the rest of life, but Caitlin Moran is my soul-sister. After reading her second book, Moranthology, I can imagine perfectly the two of us lounging on a couch, bleaching each other’s (copy-written) hair and trading stories about the effects of marijuana on various creatures in the animal kingdom. But only during the commercial breaks, because one simply does not talk during Sherlock. I feel like Caitlin (Yes, I’m calling her by her first name now) wouldn’t judge me for my fuzzy skull pajamas or my weird, crazy ideas about feminism not being just for women. I know, after reading only one of her books, that we would be best friends. That’s how much of herself Caitlin puts into this aptly titled Moranthology. Much like the author herself, Moranthology is quirky, passionate, and unflinchingly honest. Reading really did make me feel like I was sitting on a best friend’s couch, being way too caffeinated and sharing everything from our most embarrassing celebrity interview moments to views on womanhood. Let it be known that Moranthology is one of the few books in existence to actually make me laugh out loud (your move, David Sedaris). Caitlin’s energy jumps off every page and leaps from every word. With short chapters taken from her column in the Times of London, this is the perfect throw-in-your-purse and read it on the bus/in line at the post office/anywhere book. Just make sure you’re somewhere where it’s ok for you to frequently burst out in snorts of laughter, because there will be plenty of that. Just relax and enjoy it, because Caitlin Moran will go down in history as one or the revolutionarys of womanhood in our modern era, the Funny Girl. The women who refuse to out on pants on Sundays, who will never apologize for being ‘one of the dudes’ but will insist that all her dude friends shower regularly. I really, really hope this trend of intelligent, hilarious women takes more hold in our pop culture. God knows we could use a few more minds like my new friend Caitlin’s, and probably a few less like the Kardashians (or whoever’s popular and stupid nowadays). Although something tells me the significant others of the world won’t be too pleased when Caitlin’s “ask them something ridiculously important right as they drift to sleep” trend takes hold.

Buy Moranthology

By Morgue Anne

Well the world didn’t end, but if had or if one day it does you probably don’t want to be caught by the apocalypse with an embarrassing book half finished on your nightstand. You want something that will impress the alien archaeologists  or the angel of death (I hear she’s really hot), or maybe you just want to read something about the end of the world. Regardless of your reason, I have the perfect book for you to read as we usher in the end of days.

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters doesn’t have zombies or John Cusack, it’s not a disaster novel packed with adventure and heart-pounding excitement. This is not a post apocalyptic tale of survival, it’s a fairly accurate (in my opinion) depiction of a pre-apocalyptic culture, one that happens to be our own. The ‘What if’ presented by Winters is simple - What if there was an asteroid headed toward earth that we all knew was going to cause world-shattering destruction in exactly six months, but we didn’t know where exactly on the planet it would land and have no way of stopping it? Sounds terrifying, but before you start strapping on your old football pads and getting ready for Thunderdome, consider the six months of anticipation leading up to pur collective impending doom. Suddenly, this game isn’t about who’s Ish Williams and who’s Adrian Earl of Windsor. It’s about whether you are going to carry on with your life, give up, or go crazy. Ben Winters delivers a small but seriously powerful game changer that flips apocalypse literature on it’s head and gives us visions of a world somehow more frightening than the actual apocalypse - the build up.

While crops rot in the field and people swarm to the nearest church or strip club, there are bound to be those who will continue to carry on in their lives. Hank Palace is the title character not by virtue of being the last man on the job, but the last man on earth to care about his work. While many around him simply go through the motions of life half-heartily (Something we arguably already do), Palace finds himself sucked into a case of suicide that seems like something more. As the mystery unravels, the reader has to question if the world really cares about one more murder when everyone is going to die in a few short months anyway, and there is some relief to be found in the thought that at least one man will remain clinging to the idea of justice and society. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it’s a worthy read for the end of days.

If the world doesn’t end, you can always gift it to someone. But just in case, make sure this is what’s sitting on your nightstand instead of 50 Shades of Grey.

Official site for Ben H. Winters

Buy The Last Policeman: A Novel

Written by Morgue Anne

"It’s Raining Books!” was the tag-line for the 2012 Northwest Book Fest, held in Peter Kirk Park in Kirkland, WA, although those who came found more of a heavy drizzle. While the website boasted an impressive list of authors to appear, when I arrived at the park this past Saturday I was disappointed to find only a small clustering of white tents with authors and small publishers next to another grouping of tables for children’s activities. 

I walked around the event at least twice and spoke to at least one person at each booth, and what I discovered was the same burning passion I have seen time and time again in every artist and maker. That’s when I realized that the Northwest Book Festival wasn’t a disappointment, it just wasn’t fully formed. 

The official book shop was packed with an impressive collection of YA novels, housed just past a large traditional puppet theater with artfully crafted marionettes and hand-puppets. Further still inside the Kirkland Teen Union Building was a stage set with several older women, discussing their varied methods for outlining a story as well as reasons to skip the outline and dive right in. The Book Fair was small in itself, I doubt that many of the authors who came to present made back the $300 they spent for the space, but the heart was there. At one table, four women excitedly told me why they loved Jane Austen and how she had inspired each of their own stories before handing me business cards with QR codes to purchase the kindle editions. A lady just across from them patiently showed me her unique method of creating bookmarks and the countless charms and designs I could potentially use to customize my own. The one purchase I made in the day was from a small printing company who had an impressive collection of local history and knowledge, ranging from true crime to holiday trivia (I picked up a book on Halloween). 

I did not stay long at the event, for the most part because I was able to see everything in such a short time, but I wish I had. In an age where literature is pushed more and more into the digital, it’s important to remember that there are people behind the words we read. Authors toil over their work just as painters do theirs, and so long as the support of the people is wavering, we will continue to see books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey praised while the true gems are hidden away in book fairs no one goes to. 

The downfall of the Northwest Book Festival is also it’s charm - there is no reason not to go to a free event that does not take up a large amount of time and will not only make your life better, but improve an author, a publisher, or even just a fellow reader. Bring your children to the puppet theater, buy a book directly from the person who wrote it, stay a while and listen to a speaker and let yourself be inspired to perhaps create your own work of art on paper (or e-reader screen) to display in the coming years. I will not only continue to support this event I think is so important to our community, next year I will return with as many people as I can find and even suggest it to a few of my author friends (Permuted Press, I’m looking at you) to turn this light drizzle of books into a true Seattle downpour.

Check out more about the bookfest at http://nwbookfest.com/

Written by Morgue Anne

Marie Frances is a local author from Tacoma, Wa who has captivated countless readers with her novel, Nighthawk. Set in the fictional town from which the book takes it’s name, Nighthawk takes us on a journey beyond the every day and into other worlds. In anticipation of her next novel, I sat down with Marie to pick her brain about everything from the struggles of an independent author to the magic and wonder of her own life.

Morgue Anne: How long have you wanted to be an author? If you could have any other career what would it be?
Marie:
I had never really thought much about being an author. I’ve always written stories, movie scripts, video game scripts, poetry… but everyone always likened writing to acting or singing: you can’t make a career out of it. I guess I finally threw all of that “advice” out of my brain and went for it anyway because it’s what I love the most.

If I could get into any career, it’d probably have something to do with the creative processes behind video game design - something along the lines of scriptwriting or character creation. I went to college for that for quite a while. I’m also really interested in mythology and how it relates to archeology and anthropology, but going to college for that sort of thing would cost an intimidating amount of money!

Morgue Anne: What inspired the world of Nighthawk? Is it a real town? Do you have any Native American in you?
Marie:
The world of Nighthawk (and most of the characters and creatures therein) were inspired by dreams I’ve had. I’ve been tormented by pretty horrific nightmares since I can remember, but as I grew older, I realized that many of these disturbing experiences and images can be very creatively inspiring.

Nighthawk was a real town at the turn of the 20th century, but now it’s basically a ghost town. Initially, I was going to create an entirely fictional town in central Washington state because I needed someplace geographically isolated and I didn’t want to worry too much about accurately recreating a real town. But while I was studying a Washington map to decide on the best location for this fake town, I noticed the word “Nighthawk” up by the Canadian border. I’d never heard of it before, so I researched. And researched. And researched. Nighthawk was a pioneer mining town in the Okanogan desert highlands, making it geographically perfect for my needs. It had a rich history, some of which I used in the book. Only a few buildings remain today, housing a handful of locals. Since it’s no longer a town, I was able to take liberties with its layout and population, fictionalizing and rebuilding it as though it had survived the decades.

My dad’s side of the family believes we may have some southern tribal blood in us, but nothing can be substantially proven. My primary motivation for including Native American folkloric elements in Nighthawk was the fact that it seems to be an underrepresented culture in modern fantasy fiction. It’s such a broad, widely varied culture with an amazing multitude of stories and beliefs; it deserves to be in the spotlight. I wanted someone from Europe to be able to pick up my book and read about something new in addition to the more familiar European mythological elements and creatures. Choosing Nighthawk as my location also influenced my decision, because there’s such a strong Native American presence in the area (now as well as historically).

Morgue Anne: Why did you decide to self publish? Do you have plans to go through a traditional publishing house?
Marie:
I self published because it was my only option, and I was indescribably excited at the fact that it was something I could do on my own. I’ve heard the horror stories told by countless authors about their collections of hundreds of rejection letters. I didn’t want to wait for years and years to begin this journey. I already waited too long because I had been told so often that writing was a waste of time and energy – a hobby, not a career. I didn’t want to put everything on hold yet again after finishing my book.

I would love to find a traditional publisher, but I won’t wait around for it. The most difficult part of independent publishing is the fact that I have to do things I’m not qualified to do. These include marketing, promotion, and advertising. In truth, I really don’t know what I’m doing and I have to spend far too much of my time on these tasks. If I could find a decent publisher, it would free my time up so I could do more writing, which is all I really want to do.

Morgue Anne: What troubles and triumphs have you faced as an independent author?
Marie:
It is difficult; it requires research and know-how and – most of all – time. Time that I would rather use for writing, because I’m a writer. Self promotion is also a huge challenge for me, because I don’t have a lot of confidence. I really don’t like having to “talk up” my own writing in order to sell it. That feels shameless and awkward to me, but unfortunately it’s a necessity. It’s also been difficult financially, since I have to pay for promoting, advertising, print runs, etc., out-of-pocket. I also have to do all of the formatting (which can be quite a pain for an ebook).

Those negatives don’t outweigh the positives. The number one triumph has been the fact that people can read my book. It’s publicly available and I didn’t have to wait for someone to decide my fate. That’s an amazing thing! I’ve also had a lot of help from family and friends, which tells me how much support I really have. That’s an amazing thing to experience, as well. And nothing can compare to the elation of knowing you’ve just finished writing an entire book. It’s an accomplishment, especially for someone like me who lives with a neurological sensory disorder that leads to severe anxiety. It’s been a major struggle for me to accomplish even the simplest things in life. I can’t describe how much Nighthawk has helped my self esteem and motivation.

Morgue Anne: What’s on your bookshelf/What are you reading now?
Marie:
I’m currently reading Sabriel by Garth Nix. I admit, I’m guilty of reading books over and over again. Some of my modern favorites are The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, and the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. My shelves are mostly full of older literature, though: William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Robert Frost, H.P. Lovecraft, W.B. Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc. I also have a healthy collection of fairy tales, fables, nursery rhymes, and reference books on mythology and folklore.

Morgue Anne: What’s next for the town of Nighthawk, will the series be one consecutive story or different characters in the same world?
Marie:
The next book takes place in western Washington, but I’ll be returning to the town of Nighthawk in a later book. The series will be consecutive, each featuring the same primary protagonists, and with a variety of secondary protagonists to keep things fresh. There is an overarching storyline that will run its course over the entire series, but each book will feature its own stand-alone story as well, like Nighthawk.

Morgue Anne: Have you had any weird pets that grew, shrank, or had other otherworldly habits? Marie: There has been no growing or shrinking to speak of, but I have always had cats. Anyone who has a cat is familiar with their maddening tendency to stare just over your shoulder or glance up at an empty corner of the room, apparently startled by nothing. My cats sometimes track these “imaginary” visions along the walls and out the door or window. Even without their weird behavior, cats are perfect for tying into the supernatural. They are featured heavily in folklore and quite a few cultures wrote of mythological creatures based on cats. And let’s not forget how important they were to the Egyptians.
I also really love crows, and they are featured in some very interesting Native American tales.

Morgue Anne: What are your writing habits - do you set aside time to work or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
Marie:
I do a little of both. I really try to make myself write as often as I can, but there are times when I sit in front of the laptop and stare out the window at nothing for hours. Sometimes I just can’t put the mental images into words. Usually, if I give it enough thought, I’ll have a useful dream that night and be motivated to write again the next day.

Morgue Anne: Do you believe in other worlds?
Marie:
I absolutely do. Plenty of people will think I’m crazy for believing such a thing, but I feel it’s the height of arrogance to assume we know everything. Curiosity and wonder are natural human behaviors and to stifle them means to stop learning and progressing. Science has made great strides but there is still endless mystery in this universe. As I mentioned in Nighthawk, just because something cannot be proven, does not mean it is automatically disproved. I believe it’s possible that the human imagination contains an ancient spark of truth amidst all of the daydreams and fantasies.

Morgue Anne: Where can we find out more?
Marie:
My website is www.otherworldsociety.com. It contains pertinent links to my related sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, my Wordpress blog, etc.). I’m on Facebook, too (www.facebook.com/otherworldsociety). I don’t post on there as frequently as I used to because I’ve been focused on book 2, but I check it often.
My next book signing will be October 5th at Amanda’s Bookstore in Wenatchee, Washington (it’s listed as an event on my Facebook page). After that, I will be in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Tri Con on October 27th and 28th. Other than that, I’ll just be working on my next book, Wishpool, which should be finished by winter 2012!

Read Morgue Anne’s review of Nighthawk

Buy Nighthawk

Written by Morgue Anne

I am the first to admit that I am not a Christian. I don’t believe bible verses are legitimate arguments for political or social issues, and I probably do more physical labor on the Sabbath than the rest of the days of the week combined. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I am ‘anti-Christian’ by any means - I have a soft spot for Catholic artwork and understand that churches provide a sense of community not often found in this day and age as well as a pretty solid foundation of ethics. Despite all of this, I would go so far as to argue that my lack or belief in any particular God hasn’t interfered in the least with my desire to be a Christ-like. Or as I like to call it, being a good person.

These were the thoughts running through my head when I picked up Kim Meeder’s ‘Fierce Beauty’, a nonfiction written by and for Christian women. In her book, Meeder shares snapshots and experiences from her life and how her personal lord Jesus Christ has helped see her through a number of trying times. Even if Jesus isn’t your saviour, you do have to admire Meeder’s strength as she deals with the sudden violet death of her parents, struggles with an eating disorder, and rescues a number of horrifically abused animals from the brink of death. It’s clear that she is a woman of amazing inner beauty who lives her life to help others.

Far too often, I see people wearing their Christianity as a crown that makes them always right and above all others. This very unbecoming pride is what caused me to turn away from the church in my teenage years, and anyone who has turned on a news program recently knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s easy to look at the lines outside Chik-fil-A or the protests against Planned Parenthood and think that Christians are all evil hate-mongers who get off on their rage, but it’s important to remember that these are merely the loudest and most camera-friendly ones. there still exists the humble servants of God who live the lessons that were actually taught by the Christ of the bible, and practicing the seemingly lost art of loving thy neighbor.

It’s ok to roll your eyes occasionally at the Jesus-y bits of ‘Fierce Beauty’, but don’t try to tell me you aren’t touched by the story of Dakota, a brutally abused dog who survives an injury that would kill almost any other living creature. Or that you’ve never had one of those ‘Everything is falling apart’ days like Meeder shares in her chapter ‘The Race’. With the stories broken into chapters and the whole book coming in at less than 200 pages, you have no excuse not to finish this book, even if it doesn’t quite grab you in the first few pages. Try to remember that ignoring something on the grounds that it doesn’t share the same faith as you is the exact same reason most people dislike Christians. A lot of different faiths throughout the ages have used a pretty basic and agreeable system of moral laws for their foundation, and these messages of love towards all creatures is true no matter what God you say it came from, and glows from every page of ‘Fierce Beauty’. Whether you follow Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or Wheaton’s law, thew are lessons to be learned in Meeder’s stories, not the least of which is the one everyone seems to forget - God is love.

Buy the book: Fierce Beauty: Choosing to Stand for What Matters Most

Written by Morgue Anne

I should start off my review of Jimmy by William Malmborg by saying that this is not for the faint of heart. There are some extreme and graphic scenes of violence that many people will find upsetting and I am sure that more than a few people will start this book and set it down after the first few chapters. Those people will be missing out. Those like Malmborg who understand that everyone’s mind has these dark corners and the purpose of art, particularly fictional writing, is for many to express that in a healthy way will enjoy and hopefully really appreciate this book for what it is. Jimmy is an escape from reality that can be safe, sane, and consensual while still being intensely frightening.

For Jimmy, the title character of Malmborg’s novel, this distinction is not so clear. Trapped in that terrible in-between of adulthood and adolescence, Jimmy is further cursed with an unquenchable desire he simply can’t shake.

Too embarrassed to even talk to anyone, Jimmy dives deeper in the world of online porn. Malmborg does a fantastic job of not harping on pornography and showing that it’s the lack of knowledge and real-world context that does the real damage. As Jimmy’s fetish takes a turn towards obsession, he starts doing more and more to satisfy himself until he can take it no more and kidnaps a girl from his school.
This novel is definitely deeper than it seems at first glance, so don’t disregard this as a shock-value book. It would have been far too easy to turn this into an erotic novel and be a more extreme erotica, and I appreciate that while this is easily one of the most fucked up books I’ve read in a while, it’s also incredibly well written. Jimmy goes on a very real journey and knows that many of the choices he makes on the way to adulthood are wrong even as he can’t stop himself from making them. He is frighteningly real - I was kind of the weird kid, and I know we all knew at least one person in high school who just didn’t fit in with everyone else. The tragedy is, of course, that Jimmy makes such terrible choices and the effect that this has on the people around him, proving that while every teenager makes dumb decisions, they can still scorch the earth around you forever.

This is a different kind of horror that I found exciting and terrifying. Jimmy Hawthorne is the scariest villain of all because he’s a human being. He learns lessons and actually grows on you as a character heartbeats after revolting you. If you are someone who understands that you can be both a monster and a human being, or if you can enjoy a good psychology-meets-true crime, this is your book. If you are not comfortable with the idea of violence, or if maybe you need your violence to be a little more abstract, avoid this. Or better yet, protest it. This is a book deserving of more attention.

Click to purchase Jimmy

Written by Grace Ibrahim

I Am Ocilla written by Diane M. Graham can easily be read in a day at 242 pages. It is the sort of book that when you pick it up you can’t put it down and it melts in your mind like brain candy. The story is good, the characters are loveable, the book is well paced and does not drag on unnecessarily at any point. I am Ocilla tells the story of ten companions who set out at various points in the story to undue a curse that has been the torment of the world for five hundred years.

At the start of the book we meet Tiana, Rowan, and Ash who are on their way to rescue a girl locked in a prison. The girl who is battered, broken, and very near deaths door only knows one thing that she is Ocilla. Once rescued Ocilla and the others set out on a journey that is thick with magic and adventure, it is a journey of self discovery, and perhaps most of all it is a journey of forgiveness and understanding.

Ocilla and her companions travel through each realm starting with the fairy realm then subsequently on to the realms of the Giants, Elves, Gnomes, and Dragons. As they pass through each realm a prophecy must be fulfilled in order to journey on to the next region. At every point there is something that needs healed, some grievance that needs forgiveness, and always a little more of Ocilla’s convoluted past is reveled.

I am Ocilla is laced with Christ allegory’s like many good fantasy books I mention this because it is something I personally like to know going in. However it does not come across as preachy at any point, on the contrary it is gentle and well done. I would encourage you to read the book even if this genre does not generally appeal to you. I am Ocilla is truly a breath of fresh air, is very well written and the story caries you beautifully through this journey of love forgiveness and strength with Ocilla and her companions.

Buy I Am Ocilla

Written by Morgue Anne

Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife by E.E. King is not for people who believe that their religion is ‘the one true faith’. It’s not for people who think that books about religion can’t be funny, and it’s certainly not for people who can’t laugh about something and still take it seriously. If you are one of the few remaining people in the world who has a funny bone remaining in your body, or if your favorite South Park episodes are the ones that tell you the history of Scientology or Mormons than I can’t recommend this book enough.

Dirk Quigby is an average guy. So average, in fact, that it’s almost boring. He has an office job, no girlfriend, no real religious affiliation. He just sort of…is. That is until he accepts an offer from the Devil to travel to all the different afterlives and write a travel guide (Think ‘Handbook for the Recently Deceased’ meets ‘Not for Tourists’). Given a “Press Pass” of sorts implanted into his retinas, Dirk is taken through each of the hundreds of thousands of afterlives – heavens, hells, purgatorys, and worlds that can only be described as “other” – and gives a 5-star rating system for things such as Perks, Food, Drink, Music, Accommodations, and Entry Requirements to each. This is about when his life starts to turn around – being magically sucked into hoses, beer bottles, and hair dryers, Dirk gains a little self confidence, an angel of a girlfriend, and a whole lot of all-expense paid vacations to exotic locals.

It’s clear that E.E. King did a fair bit of research for his novel, and it may trick you into learning a thing or two about other religions. I found it really interesting that Rastafari condemns the drinking of milk, coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks, and will reach no end of amusement telling that to the next crowd of teenagers of obvious Irish decent who proudly wear their red, yellow, and black hats on their heads and carry a starbucks cup in their hand. There’s a lot of other amusing and useful information, and unless you’re a serious scholar you are bound to learn something.

There are moments reading ‘Guide to the Afterlife’ when you wish it was just that – a humorous guide to various afterlives without this whole Dirk Quigby character. But then he grows on you, and you find yourself wondering what he’s going to do next, what will happen with his girlfriend and his boss (who really is the Devil) when he ends up in the next life after death. I still wish the guide entries were longer, but it didn’t take long for me to enjoy the story. By the end (which I won’t give away), everything fell together like a big karmic puzzle from God.

This is a great book for anyone who wants a crash-course in world religions but doesn’t want to be bored about it. E.E. King does a fantastic job making the reader laugh as well as learn, and gives us a guide I think everyone should read in order to help find out what afterlife is right for you.

Purchase Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife: All You Need to Know to Choose the Right Heaven Plus a Five-Star Rating System for Music, Food, Drink, and Accommodations

Written by Grace Ibrahim

“Hysteria” A British Romantic Comedy came out in 2011 was written by Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer, and Howard Gensler, Directed by Tanya Wexler. Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhall, Jonathan Price, Felicity Jones, and Rupert Everett.

“Hysteria” tells the story of the invention of the vibrator. Doctor Mortimer Granville played by Hugh Dancy is a bright young doctor who shows much promise. The problem of course is that forward thinking people of science found it very hard to keep employed in the Victorian medical society, where blood letting was still the normal practice and how much blood you had on your apron and tools was a sign of how great a surgeon you were. Dr. Granville finds himself out of a job at every hospital in London and decided to try to take up an assistant position at a private practice. However with his reputation proceeding him and his long list of failed hospital tenure’s behind him he is hard put to find anyone to take him on. Finally he finds a position with Dr. Robert Dairymple an expert on female hysteria. Taking Doctor Grainville under his wing he teaches him the only known “treatment” for female hysteria vaginal stimulation which was supposed to help put the uterus in proper order. Thus treating the cause of female hysteria.

Dr. Dairymple has two daughters Emily and Charlotte, Emily played by Felicity Jones is the quintessential Victorian lady. Quite, proper, good at running the household, accomplished at piano, and completely unassuming. Conversely Charlotte played by Maggie Gyllenhall is outspoken, political, gregarious and well read in science and medical breakthroughs. She spends all her time at a house for the poor feeding people, treating them, teaching children who wouldn’t other wise get an education, and helping women get out of prostitution. Her father who strongly discourages her outrageous and “immoral” behavior and decides to shut down the poor house she runs.

At first Dr. Granville prefers the thoroughly properly English Emily to her “hysterical “sister Charlotte. However as time progresses our young Dr. Granville develops a problem in his had due to his demanding job of vaginal stimulation. After a customer complains and he looses his job he is desperate to find a way to be able to get back in Dr. Dairymple’s good graces. While playing around with an automatic feather duster invented by his friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe played by Rupert Everett. Dr. Granville finds the vibration that it creates soothes his cramped hand muscles considerably. From this comes the idea that they could build a small electric machine for vaginal stimulation thus providing a faster “treatment” for the women and avoiding hand cramps in the Doctors! Thus the birth of the vibrator!

The story continues with the arrest of Charlotte for trying to protect one of the women who help at the poor house from debt collectors sent by her father. Dr. Granville is asked to take the stand as an expert on hysteria and suggest she be sent to a state hospital for the criminally insane and where she will be sterilized. After much reflection Dr. Granville instead decides to defend her. Still found guilty she is sentenced to a month in prison and obviously Dr. Granville looses his position with Dr. Dairymple.

I will not ruin the ending for you however I will tell you that it really is a great ending! This is a great movie, I suggest watching it with friends so you have other people to laugh with. It the kind of movie you want to talk about your favorite parts and show to other friends. It has easily sailed on to my favorite movies list! I hope that all of you will enjoy it as much as my friend and I did!

Hysteria on IMDB

Written by Morgue Anne

Horror Business by Ryan Bradford is a must for fans of horror. If you are an enthusiast of the genre and this book is not on your shelf (next to John Landis’ Monsters in the Movies and Craig Chenery’s Blood Splatter just in case there’s a reference you don’t get), than you might as well be a mindless zombie.

Named after (I’m assuming) one of the greatest Misfits songs of all time, Horror Business combines elements of a ghost story, zombie flick, and even a good old fashioned slasher with a little tiny bit of noir thrown in for good measure. This gives us as readers a witches brew of pure awesome that will give you a chill up your spine seconds before you bust open your guy laughing.

Rather than the usual adult-writing-as-a-child narrative that often leaves something to be desired, Horror Business feels like you’re being told a story from an old friend. Bradford does a fantastic job with the main character, Jason, giving us someone very relatable – a young child with an obsession. Having a passion instead of lots of friends is something I think many people can relate to in their childhood, especially lifelong horror fans. If not, Bradford does a great job showing us what it was like and gives a crash course in the world of scary films. If you are not a ‘hard core’ horror fan, than I would suggest taking notes on names and movies to look up later. Jason is a hard core horror fan. So much so that him and his brother have been making a slasher film, which is surprisingly well written, in their spare time. Naturally, there is the love interest who comes in to play the female lead for their film as well as bring the boys out to play in the cemetery. If you thought Super 8 was good but just not scary enough, this is your book.

But the most character-fun is had with Brock, Jason’s dog. As always, animals are the messengers of doom, and Brock is no exception. I don’t care how many zombie novels you have read and how desensitized you are to small children being used as frightening imagery, this dog is guaranteed to give you the creeps as it goes through its unholy transformation.

Part of the charm of Horror Business lies in the references to classic horror films. Bradford is careful not to go overboard, but every character is named after someone within the genre (Dario, Jason, etc), so if you spend your Friday nights in the dark watching scary movies, or have a very solid argument for whether Freddy or Jason is the best (It’s Freddy, no question), than you’ll probably thoroughly this book with no questions asked. If someone you love suffers from Horror addiction, I would suggest reading this book as a fun starting point and take notes so you can sound like you know what they’re talking about.

This is not a long book, I read through almost all of it while waiting at the DMV -which while many would argue is enough time to finish a Neil Stephenson novel, but served me just fine for the 136 pages between these covers, which I felt was the perfect length. Bradford doesn’t waste time with any filler material; he leaves things just as they need to be with only the facts essential to the plot built in. All in all, this is a fantastic self-published book. I would probably recommend this as one of those amazing YA novels that everyone should read regardless of age, and while this is definitely a must-have for horror fans, it’s also a fantastic book to give to someone as an introduction to the genre.

Horror Business is for sale by the author through lulu.

Written by Morgue Anne

The Undead Situation by Eloise J Knapp is very similar to the 1949 classic post-apocalyptic novel in that our main character is almost unaffected by the downfall of society. Cyrus V. Sinclair (the V stands for a Variety of Awesome) has been capable of surviving on his own long before the zombie apocalypse, and does just as well after the dead start to rise. He is so stagnant in his life that it takes a while in the book before you even realize this is a male character. This is before Gabe falls into his life while trying to escape from an oncoming horde, and naturally this throws a huge wrench in Cyrus’ bachelor life style. Despite being polar opposites, they decide to venture out together and see if they can find Frank, Cyrus’ only friend and a fellow survivalist who lives in a cabin somewhere in the wild lands of Washington.

The characters of The Undead Situation are admittedly stereotypical in how emotionally cut off they are, but all of the humor in this otherwise serious book is that they are aware of it, and even call each other out in their behavior. Oddly enough, this gives them more dimensions and makes them people that you find yourself either loving or hating, but either way you can’t put it down. If you hate Cyrus and his like-minded friends, you just want to watch them die the worst death imaginable at the hands of the undead. If you are one of those people who thinks of Dexter and Hannibal Lector are sympathetic characters (it’s alright, you’re not alone), then you wait for everyone else to suffer that fate. Our ragtag team travels through various adventures – a town divided by passion for their God, men determined to breed women as animals – without ever really wanting to get involved. Getting involved means being dragged into whatever mess each remaining pocket of society has gotten itself into, which like most zombie novels is a great reflection of our worst societal flaws.

The Undead Situation is unlike other novels of the genre in that Knapp doesn’t try to overwhelm us with disgusting imagery. I love a good priest in a blood-soaked cassock or little girl gleefully gnawing on her ex-playmate as much as the next girl, but after a while I can only take so much of this graphic-for-the-sake-of-shock-value before I just roll my eyes at it. Knapp doesn’t dwell on these images of misery in the end-times, but instead leaves it at what I would say is a reasonable level of over the top violence for such a story, which lets us as the reader enjoy the various feats without feeling as if we’ve already read it a million times before, and means we get to either love or hate our characters as we please.

The absolute cherry on top, however, is Pickles. He is a ferret, and by far the most lovable character in this book. He is the shining example of how it’s the smaller, supporting characters who really bring the novel together, and we see this repeatedly throughout the story. I was pleasantly surprised by this first book and genuinely looking forward to whatever else Eloise J Knapp comes up with. I recommend The Undead Situation for anyone who is a fan of sociopathic characters, post-apocalyptic, and plain old fashioned good story-telling.

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