Tues. Oct. 15: HAUNTED NIGHTS #ReaderExpansionChallenge

HAUNTED NIGHTS edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton. NY: Blumhouse/Anchor Books. 2017.

This anthology fell directly into the theme for this month’s Reader Expansion Challenge. All the stories in the volume are built around Halloween.

The book includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Stephen Graham Jones, Jonathan Maberry, Joanna Parypinski, Garth Nix, Kate Jonez, Jeffrey Ford, Kelley Armstrong, S.P, Miskowski, Brian Evenson, Elise Forier Edie, Eric J. Guignard, Paul Kane, Pat Cadigan, John Langan, and John R. Little.

One of the things I love about anthologies is that they expand my reading palette, introducing me to authors whose work I haven’t read before. The only authors in this collection I’d previously read were Seanan McGuire and Jonathan Maberry.

That’s going to change. I have every intention of reading more by every author in this collection.

Each of the stories is unique and imaginative. They are tied to the night of Halloween, but not to each other. Yet the way they’re arranged in the collection flows and builds.

While I enjoyed all the stories, the ones that were my favorites were: Seanan McGuire’s haunted house tale “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds” which opens the volume; “The Turn” by Paul Kane; and “Jack” by Pat Cadigan.

One of the things that interested me in “The Turn” was the situation causing the conflict/terror for the male protagonist by a male author. The very thing that causes that problem is something that, if a woman did not do it, is likely to kill her when she’s walking alone at night. So would a female character meet the same fate? That sense moves the story away from the bones of the plot, and what I felt was the author’s intent, but it was something that struck me as I read it. Which is what excellent writing is supposed to do — make you think long after the piece is finished. Make you expand in new directions, inspired by the author’s imagination.

These stories made me think, made me feel, made me wonder. Which means the book will become an annual (or so) re-read, so I can make fresh discoveries every time. Isn’t that great?

What did you read this month? How did you feel about it?

Next month, for November, we read a book (or collection) built around family. We reconvene on Tuesday, November 19th.

Enjoy!

Reader Expansion Challenge: Outside Genre

Reader Expansion Challenge: Read out of preferred genre

For this first month of the Reader’s Expansion Challenge, I decided to read something in the horror genre. I don’t read horror often. The world is scary enough right now, horrifying enough right now. I also don’t get that cathartic release from horror that so many other people do.

But the whole point of this challenge is to expand.

So I read horror.

About a dozen books in the genre were recommended to me. I chose WE SOLD OUR SOULS by Grady Hendrix, set against the backdrop of the music industry. The design of the book is beautiful, both interior and exterior. Doogie Horner and Quirk Books did a wonderful job.

I started in the entertainment industry working on road crews for rock ‘n roll, and, when I lived in Seattle, that’s when bands like Sound Garden were just starting out. The band in the book is committed to metal. I figured I’d relate to a lot in that book.

The writing is good, the pace is terrific, the protagonist is wonderful. Her ability to think on her feet is terrific. Her passion and trust in the music set her apart from any other character I’ve read in fiction. The different styles used within the book — excerpts from interviews, song lyrics — and the way they weave into the action and drive the narrative are masterful.

I was worried that the book would derail at one point — an unattributed Aleister Crowley quote is given to one of the other major characters. That choice caused the worry that this was actually a right-wing hatchet job posing as a genre novel, and it would go down the evangelical path, meaning I’d have to throw it across the room, for hypocrisy, and taking a cheap way out.

Fortunately, it doesn’t do that.

Instead, the novel goes deeper and even more horrific, almost being too realistic at times, as it raced to the climactic sequence. It weaves current events and treads into a slightly alt future that doesn’t seem too far-fetched, considering our current daily news cycles. I found the ending both satisfying, while still unsettling. (Not cathartic, but that’s me).

Much to my surprise, I really liked the book. I liked it well enough to recommend it, in a general sense, and to a musician pal who I think would enjoy it. I liked it well enough so that I plan to read more by this author.

Yes, there is violence. There is gore. There is both physical and psychological horror (the latter scarier than the former, in my opinion). But it’s a well-crafted story, and my experience with this book makes it more likely I’ll read more horror in the future.

That was my expansion. Please tell me about yours in the comments.

The next Reader Expansion Challenge will be on Tuesday, March 19. The challenge is to read a book written by a woman whose work you’ve never before read.

I thought that would be easy — there are plenty of books written by women whose work I’ve never read out there. But every time I think I’ve come up with one I want to read — turns out I’ve already read something of hers. I just have to keep digging.

Please share what you’ve read and share the challenge with other readers. You can get the entire schedule here, and use the hashtag ReaderExpansionChallenge on social media.

Enjoy!