Culture Consumption: October 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

The Book of Accidents by Chuck WendigI’ve been following Chuck Wendig’s blog for a long while, and I have loved his wild, cuss-heavy way of discussing writing and the writing life. Now, I’ve finally come around to buying and reading one of his actual books — and I can definitely say I’m a fan.

The Book of Accidents is a richly told horror novel about a family moving to a small town to get away from the violence of the big city — only to quickly experience strange, disturbing events in their new home.  The story draws in a variety of horror tropes — local legends, creepy mines, strange rock formations, ghosts, and others — and yet some how brings all these disparate things into a single cohesive whole. It even uses one of my favorite science fiction tropes, which I won’t mention here, because it’s kind of a spoiler. The short version of all this is that I loved this book and its assortment of characters. I’m looking forwards to reading more from Wendig.

I read two fantastic, but very different poetry collections. The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee is a novel in poems, relating an epic fantasy about a young king trying to defend his kingdom against a number of outside forces, both human and terrifyingly dark. King Xau is a wonderfully mythic figure, one of honor, nobility, and subtle magic  — reminding me of some of the things I love about Arthurian legend from a fictional Chinese perspective. I really loved this tale, which completely captured me with its beautifully clean lines of poetry. I’ve recorded an interview with Lee for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which I hope to edit and have out soon.

Another great collection was Amelia Gorman’s Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, a gorgeous chapbook that pairs botanical illustrations with poems exploring ecological dangers and human nature. Highly recommended.

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Culture Consumption: November 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra KhawIn Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, a group of old thrill-seeking friends decide to host a wedding at haunted Heian-era mansion in Japan. As the night of drinking, food, and old memories and rivalries are consumed, events slowly start to go terribly, terribly wrong. The house is more haunted than they realized, having been built on the bones of a dead bride, who wanders faceless through its halls. KI love the way Khaw draws on historical Japanese folklore to present a wonderfully creepy and unsettling take on the haunted house genre.  A great read for horror fans.

What drew me into Brenna Thummler’s graphic novel Sheets was the gorgeously detailed pastel art work, which is combined with a charming story about a young woman trying to hold it together, going to school and running her family’s laundromat. Meanwhile, on the other side of the reality, a young ghosts slips away from the afterlife to explore the human world, leaving a uncleaned sheets and other havoc in his wake. I love that the author leans into the idea of ghosts wearing sheets because it gives them form. It’s adorable all around.

Sheets by Brenna Thummler

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Culture Consumption: September 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerA friend loaned me a copy of Madeline Miller’s Circe, offering high praise for the book and its feminist take on the ancient Greek myth. Once I opened the first page, I was immediately immersed in the mythological worlds of Ancient Greek gods and goddesses with all their politics and family drama. Reading this book reminded me of how much I loved learning about these myths when I was in school, and I loved the way Miller portrayed Circe and the other gods, illuminating the a sense of magic and power. Some of the gods feel alien and dangerous in how disconnected they are from mortals, while Circe has an inherent sense of humanity in her longing to feel connected with them. I loved the ways in which Miller weaved various classical stories and tales into the text, and I especially enjoyed her feminist take, which presents a more complex view of a powerful woman.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady HendrixAnother great read this month was The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. Inspired by the slasher films of the ’80s, the story takes place years after the women’s confrontations with brutal murderers. These final girls have faced death and fought off their killers, surviving into middle age while carrying ongoing ailments from their injuries and trauma, including anxiety, PTSD, and other issues. Bound by their shared trauma, the women attend support group meetings, a tether that slowly frays as some members attempt to move on. Things get incrementally worse, however, when it appears that someone is out to kill them.

Hendrix is fantastic at creating fast-paced, action packed stories that leave me wanting to consume a book all in one go. I also like that these women are rough-edged, hard, and strong-willed, with all the complexities that comes with having survived terrible events.

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Culture Consumption: August 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again, but here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonTwo of the books I loved this month focus on women finding power through transformation. In Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, a heavily pregnant Vern escapes from a religious compound into the woods, where she gives birth to twins. For a while she lives wild, raising her children as she pleases — all the while they are being hunted. As time passes, Vern begins to grow in strength, experiencing a physical transformation she doesn’t understand.

Sorrowland was described to me as gothic horror, though considering the extent of Vern’s physical changes, it could almost be described as body horror. The book definitely carried some dark elements to it, some terrible and terrifying things — but throughout the darkness, there was also a light showing through in the way Vern grows and learns to claim her own identity and space in the world, finding pleasure in the ways her body changed. The love she has for her children and they for her is wonderful, complex, and beautiful. And her family grows when she finds people with whom she can connect can care for, while receiving the same in return. That carries with it such a powerful light of hope through all the dark times she experiences.

Goddess of Filth by V CastroThe second book was Goddess of Filth by V. Castro, in which a group of friends perform a play seance, laughing and drinking — until their friend Fernanda begins chanting in Nahuatl and appearing to be possessed. As time passes, Fernanda continues to act strangely, “smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty.” With her mother in a moral panic over the changes, Fernanda’s friends try to find a way to help her in any way they can.

I love so many things about this book — first and foremost the way these five friends are wonderful. They support each other, look out for each other, and do what that can for each other.  Another aspect that I loved about is that Fernanda’s possession is not an assault, but more symbiotic. The goddess within her offers wisdom and strength, and Fernanda begins to change, finding strength and confidence in the presence of the goddess. When her friend Lourdes begins to realize this, she works to help Fernanda face this new reality. The story has its terrors, but it is also so beautiful. I’m so glad I read it.

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Culture Consumption: July 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in a little late this month, here are all the books, movies, and podcasts that I’ve enjoyed.

Books

I am a huge fan of Charlie Jane Anders and the stories she writes. Though I haven’t quite read all of her books, I’ve come close, having read her two speculative fiction novels (All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night), and have already preordered her forthcoming short story collection, Even Greater Mistakes, and her book of writing advice, Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. Among the many things I love about her writing is how she shifts her tone and style to best suit the story, while still making it feel entirely her own.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charilie Jane AndersVictories Greater Than Death, her most recent book, represents her first foray into writing for young adults, with a science fiction space adventure. Tina Mains has known for most of her life that she was different. As the clone of a famed alien hero, she has ben disguised as a human and hidden away on Earth. She anxiously awaits the day when the the rescue beacon with

in her chest will activate, calling her back into an interplanetary conflict.

I’m tempted to say that Victories Greater Than Death is like cotton candy, because it feels like such a vibrant creation. For all the danger and destruction faced by Tina and her companions, there’s an underlying sweetness to the way the relationships within this story are built on a foundation of respect and compassion. The crew is presented as a diverse group of humans and aliens (representing a variety of genders and cultural backgrounds), who comes together as a found family.

In addition to the wonderful portrayal of found family, the novel features fast paced and exciting action, along the truly impactful consequences. It’s an excellent read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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