Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.
The standout read of the month was most definitely Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — a book that has received well deserved praise since it’s publication.
When Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin describing some terrible doom and begging for help, she travels to High Place, a house located deep in the Mexican mountains. The site of once booming silver mining community, High Place and the surrounding community is now run down and giving in to decay. The family themselves are for the most part cold, distant, and strange — and hiding some dark secret.
Mexican Gothic is a masterfully told story, building an unsettling tension into every moment that Noemi is in the house. Noemi herself is also a new favorite heroine. As a debutant accustomed to attending glamorous parties in the city, she’s caught off guard by the remoteness of the house. In addition to the glamour, though, she brings wit, intelligence, and determination. However cold or controlling the family may try to be, she matches them with her own will, not allowing herself to be overcome by them or anything else. A genuinely fantastic book.
I also really loved Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. Initially, I was going to do a video interview because the formatting and visual style of the book was what first drew me in and appealed to me — as it’s laid out like an Ikea catalog, including advertising lingo, an order form, and illustrations of furniture to buy at each chapter head. As such, the book is a satire of the Ikea experience, presenting a fictional furniture superstore, called Orsk (which the book points out is definitely not Ikea). When Orsk employee Amy joins her teammates on a late night assignment to discover who might be breaking into the store, they discover something far more sinister hiding within the building. The story begins with an unsettling mundanity and builds into true horror — and I loved every second of it, reading the novel from beginning to end in a single afternoon (something I haven’t done in ages).
Since my reading has been rather slow of late, I thought I wouldn’t be able to take on a large book, such as Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep — and yet, this was a book I became completely engrossed in. Published decades after The Shinning, the novel follows a grown up, haunted Dan Torrence as he faces his alcoholism and make a new, more settled life for himself. Through this shinning, he meets a young girl who as immense powers. When she’s discovered by a terrifying group of killers who feed on the shinning of children, Dan has to find the strength to fight for and protect her. As I felt watching the movie, Doctor Sleep seems to be more dark fantasy than straight horror. That does’t make it any less of a great read though.
I had a thought of writing a longer post about Doctor Sleep, in particular the book’s adaptation into a film — which had the challenge of being a both an adaptation of the book and a follow up to Kubrick’s rendition of The Shinning (hated by King). That process must have been a fascinating challenge. Maybe I’ll dive into exploring it at some point.
(Note: I’ve started using Bookshop.org affiliate links as an experiment.)
Books Finished This Month:
1. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
2. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Total Books for the Year: 37
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel
Short Stories & Poetry
Shark Attacks in Unlikely Places by Jennifer Crow (The Wondrous Real Mag) —
“Headlines scream that the killer remains
at large, great white cruising off unfamiliar
coastline, as if a remorseful shark
ought to turn itself in, offer restitution
while authorities trot out tired lines
from a seventies creature feature. Unprovoked,”
Cento for Lagahoos by Brandon O’Brien (Uncanny Magazine) —
“Who do we think we’re kidding?
As if the threshold was
the infinitesimal, too—
but spirit does linger.”
My brother and I watched the original Alien movie — one of those films so iconic, scenes and imagery are seared into my brain, even though I’d never actually watched it. The movie stands up phenomenally in regards to storytelling, cinematography, world building, and effects (with only a few awkward moments in which its clear there’s a human in the alien suit). The movie is dark, tense, and terrifying.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Alien (1979)
2. Blade Runner (1982)
3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
4. Justice League (2017)
I have a fascination with chess, though I’ve rarely played it. From my outsider’s point of view, high level chess players are able to master the board with a combination of mathematical analysis, artistic finesse, and determination. As such, I enjoy watching chess movies, with one of my favorites being Searching for Bobby Fisher.
The Queen’s Gambit is an excellent addition to the sub-genre. The limited Netflix series is the story of Beth Harmon, who learns chess from the maintenance man in the basement of the orphanage where she was raised. As she grows from a child prodigy to a troubled young woman, her drive to win carries her from national to international tournaments. Great acting and a solid, well told story. I really enjoyed it.
My main gaming is taken up with AFK Arena, which I discussed last month. At this point, I’m still pretty invested in progressing and there’s enough activities to keep driving me forward. I’m enjoying it — although I think I’m starting to long for some more substantial gaming.
Imaginary Worlds presented a couple of great podcasts. Fantasy in Translation delved into the art of translating works from another — on the one hand looking at works translated from other languages into English and on the other, addressing what happens when works in English are translated into other languages, with some interesting results as the works are adapted to reflect a different cultural context.
Another great episode was Fan Films Go Pro, which looks at how new technology provides fans with the tools to make fan films that rival the original material for the quality of stories they tell. The exploration also allows the filmmakers to explore aspects of the original that might not have been considered otherwise.
Two Writing Excuses episodes that I enjoyed were Crafting Chinese-American Characters and Rebooting a Career. In the first, the hosts speak with Yang Yang Wang (an author, actor, and director) about cultural elements, such as language, food, and other things, that should be considered when writing Chinese-American characters.
In the second, the hosts look and how a writer can go about rebuilding their career when it feels like the metaphorical rug has been swept out from underneath them.
For a bit of light fun, the hosts of the Book Riot Podcast discuss their Adaptation Wish List, the books they most long to see made into movies.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?