Culture Consumption: July 2020

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

Books

The Good House by Tananarive DueThe Good House by Tananarive Due is an utterly fantastic horror novels. Angela Toussant inherited the Good House from her grandmother, a woman well known in the small Sacajawea, Washington, community for her “healing magic.” When Angela returns with her son for summer vacation, she hopes to draw on some of that magic to heal her broken marriage. Instead, a surprising and violent tragedy strikes, driving her into a deep depression. Years later, she returns with the aim of healing her own emotional wounds, only to instead begin to notice a pattern of tragedies that may all be connected to something restless living within her old family property.

The Good House is multi-layered in nearly every aspect of its depictions — from the characters to the world building to the writing style to the cultural context. Although primarily focused on Angela, the story jumps between timelines and perspectives, providing an added nuance to events. And importantly, the horrors are truly terrifying. Due is a masterful writer, and I’ll definitely be reading more of her work in the future.

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Culture Consumption: June 2020

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

Books

My reading has been rather slow of late — to the extent that I didn’t complete a single book last month. However, I have been reading The Good House by Tananarive Du — an absolutely phenomenal horror novel (at least thus far). The book is on the longer side (a good thing) and I’ve been pacing myself because, as I said, my reading has been slow. I’ll likely finish it this month.

Total Books for the Year: 22

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Good House by Tananarive Due, The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel, From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards and Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow

Movies

If you’re going to make a zombie musical, you need three things — great music, fun zombie gore, and characters you can get behind. Anna and the Apocalypse manages to have all three.

Anna and the Apocalypse

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Culture Consumption: May 2020

Hi, lovelies. Coming in rather late this month, because I’ve been rather overwhelmed. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

house of whispers by nalo hopkinsonNeil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of my all-time favorite comic book series. When I learned that the characters would live on through stories told by different authors, I was both excited and wary. However, with Nalo Hopkinson (who is known for putting a Carribean spin on fantasy and horror), I knew the story would be in good hands. Her take, The House of Whispers is phenomenal, with gorgeous illustrations by DOMO.

When the Dreaming begins to be disturbed by unusual occurrences, it unleashes strange affects upon the worlds — releasing a strange magical pandemic that makes people to believe they are already dead and causing  Erzulie, a deity of voodoo mythology, to crash into the Dreaming. I love all of the characters, all the additions to the world building. I fully appreciate this new perspective. I’ve only read volume one, but I haven’t been this excited about a comic series in a long time. I can’t wait to dive into more.

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching is the story of the Silver family and their house in Dover, England, which has converted to a bed-and-breakfast. The house, however, has a will of its own — and though it loves the women of the family, it has a malice for strangers.

The youngest daughter, Miranda Silver, developed a pica as a child, an eating disorder that causes her to consume non-edible substances, such as chalk and plaster. After experiencing an intense episode as a teenager, she returns home after a period in the hospital, hopeful of pulling her life together.

Oyeyemi tells the story from multiple points of view, with writing style is rich and lyrical, evoking complex emotional structures of family and home.

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Culture Consumption: April 2020

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

Books

Shutter by Courney AlamedaAs I mentioned last month, I was struggling a bit with reading — until I switched away from the book I was struggling with to read Shutter by Courtney Alameda instead. It was the perfect choice.

Shutter is a a fun YA horror novel about teenagers battling ghosts and other evils. Micheline Helsing is one of the last descendants of Van Helsing, who uses a combination of guns, knives, and a uniquely rigged camera to destroy monsters and exorcise ghosts. When she takes on ghost hunt that turns out to be too much to manager, Micheline and her crew of fellow junior agents find themselves all cursed, fated to die if they can’t find a way to break the soul chains that bind them.

The characters are smart and skilled, and yet still young enough to make mistakes. One of the things I appreciate was how the story handled its elements of romance. The affection between Micheline and Ryder comes from years of growing up together and a sense of earned-respect from working side-by-side in the heat of battle. It feels natural and genuine that they would fall for each other — the only obstacle being Micheline’s father and his expectations for the kind of person she should marry in order to continue to the Helsing line. It makes sense in the context of the world in which they exist and feels natural.

On the whole, this book features a nice blend of action, horror, and teenage romance — making for a fun, quick paced read and the perfect escape.

Sealed by Naomi BoothAnother great (though very different) read this month was Sealed by Naomi Booth. Set in rural Australia, Sealed is a psychological body horror novel. Much of the tension is driven by the anxieties of the main character Alice, who is heavily pregnant and her fears about rumors of a bizarre disease that seals people within their own skins. When her obsession with the disease nearly threatens her government job, Alice and her boyfriend Pete (who I find annoying) travel to the countryside in search of solitude and safety. But Alice still sees signs of the disease all around her and she increasingly questions whether they made the right decision.

This book is brilliant in the way it slowly builds uncertainty and tension. The world Alice and Pete inhabits is frightening even without the threat of this new disease, between concerns of poverty, privately controlled social services, and environmental pollution. However, the overshadowing threat of this skin-sealing disease and Alice’s distrust what lies beneath the skin of her pregnant belly amps everything up. It’s a brilliant novel, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from Booth.

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Culture Consumption: March 2020

About halfway through the month, the impact of the novel corona virus became clear, with the Bay Area counties where I live issuing a shelter-in-place order in order to limit the virus’ spread. Everyone I know has been impacted by this. For me, personally, this has meant that I’ve been working from home — with a change in how I interact with media. My reading and podcast listening was down last month, movie watching and gaming was up.

Books

Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn KisteI only completed one book during the month of March — Gwendolyn Kiste’s novella Pretty Marys All in a Row. Each night Resurrection Mary wanders a lonely highway, waiting for a driver to come by and pick her up. Once inside the car, she starts the scares and prepares to feed on their fear. When morning comes she returns home to the other Marys, other urban legends who fill the night with terror — Bloody Mary, Mary Mack, Mari Lwyd, and Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary.

As a family bound together in their ghostly state and need to feed, they gather together and share the scares of the night, supporting each other when the scares are few. But when the scares grow further and further apart, they will have to fight for their own deathly existence.

I loved the idea of bringing together these embodiments of urban legends. They each have their own strong personalities and have created their own powerful bonds with the few people who believe in them. In general, I just love seeing women come together as friends and family, women who stand up and fight for their place and bodies and rights to exist in the world. A fun, quick, smart read.

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