Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Creepy Books I Need To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Halloween freebie. I’m going to show you some of the creepy/suspenseful/corpse-filled books I want to read.

My Creepy TBR

Age of Blight: Stories – Kristine Ong Muslim

What if the end of man is not caused by some cataclysmic event, but by the nature of humans themselves? In Age of Blight, a young scientist's harsh and unnecessary experiments on monkeys are recorded for posterity; children are replaced by their doppelgangers, which emerge like flowers in their backyards; and two men standing on opposing cliff faces bear witness to each other's terrifying ends.

Agents of Dreamland – CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan

A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman. 
In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible—the Children of the Next Level—and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in. 
A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.

American War – Omar El Akkad

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war—part of the Miraculous Generation–now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

Ararat – Christopher Golden

When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain . . . but they are not alone.

The Arsonist – Stephanie Oakes

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they’ll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen. 
Pepper Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy, serious girl problems, and the most useless seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school. 
And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before. 
When Molly gets a package leading her to Pepper, they’re tasked with solving a decades-old mystery: find out who killed Ava, back in 1989. Using Ava’s diary for clues, Molly and Pepper realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. 
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it's time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, a shipwrecked gentleman named Edward Prendick, stranded on a Pacific island lorded over by the notorious Dr. Moreau, confronts dark secrets, strange creatures, and a reason to run for his life.

The Black Project – Gareth Brooks

Getting yourself a girlfriend is easy, according to Richard. All you need is papier mache, string, soft material, a balloon, some old fashioned bellows, and a good pair of scissors. The difficult bit is keeping her secret. Set in an English suburb in the early 1990s, this is the story of Richard's all-consuming passion for creating 'girls' from household objects. But as his hobby begins to flourish, his real life friendships and family relationships deteriorate.

The Butcher’s Hook – Janet Ellis

Georgian London. Summer 1763. 
Anne Jaccob is coming of age, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor—a great friend of her father’s—and is set up to marry a squeamish snob named Simeon Onions, she begins to realize just how powerless she is in Georgian society. Anne is watchful, cunning, and bored. 
Her savior appears in the form of Fub, the butcher’s boy. Their romance is both a great spur and an excitement. Anne knows she is doomed to a loveless marriage to Onions and she is determined to escape with Fub and be his mistress. But will Fub ultimately be her salvation or damnation? And how far will she go to get what she wants?

The Dumb House – John Burnside

As a child, Luke’s mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals–tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke’s obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke’s own children.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory – Caitlin Doughty

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory – Caitlin Doughty

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Review: I’ve always been fascinated by corpses. I know that probably sounds awful, but I grew up on a steady diet of ghost stories and Stephen King novels. If a story didn’t have any corpses in it, I was very disappointed.

When I read the synopsis of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, I knew that I needed this book. I’ve read a lot about bodies, but I don’t know much about the funeral industry.

The author graduated from college with a degree in medieval history, and the only job she could get with that was “beer wench” at a medieval-themed restaurant. She decides to work at a crematory instead. This book is a collection of darkly humorous anecdotes, observations, death-related history, and insider information about how the funeral industry operates.

You’d expect a book about death to be depressing, but this one isn’t. I actually laughed out loud a few times because the author has a wonderful sense of humor. Her coworkers are funny, too. I guess you need to laugh a lot if you’re going to burn bodies for a living. The humor starts right away. This book has one of the best opening lines ever:

“A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.” – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The book isn’t all funny, though. Working with bodies and grieving families has an impact on the author’s mental health. I love that she’s honest about the difficult parts of her job. It would’ve been easy to make this book humorous and nothing else.

This memoir is more philosophical/psychological than I expected. The author spends a lot of pages talking about modern society’s relationship with death. This stuff is interesting, but not as interesting as the author’s personal anecdotes.

I read the majority of this book in one sitting. It’s an engaging, informative memoir. I recommend it to everybody because it encourages readers to think about topics that they’d often rather ignore.

Fun Facts About Corpses

1. In the past, death was everywhere. Most children died before reaching adulthood. Funerals were held in homes. Churches—which were surrounded by cemeteries—were community meeting places. Nowadays death is hidden. It’s mostly kept in hospitals and nursing homes. People can go their entire lives without seeing a dead body. The author argues that death would be less anxiety-provoking if we understood what happens during the dying process and afterward.

“The fear of death is why we build cathedrals, have children, declare war, and watch cat videos online at three a.m.” – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

2. Fat corpses smell worse than thin corpses. Bacteria love to eat fat and multiply.

3. It requires a lot of effort to make a corpse look “natural.” Spiky bits of plastic are used to keep the eyes shut. Wires are shot into the jaw to keep the mouth closed. There are special kinds of makeup just for dead people. Plastic wrap is wound around the body so that the bloated limbs fit into clothes. None of this is very “natural.”

4. Corpses don’t make hospitals look good. You can’t just roll a corpse down the hallway at a hospital. That’s why hospital workers use fake gurneys to move dead people. To the casual observer, it looks like a regular empty gurney, but the corpse is hidden inside it.

“I had lived my entire life up until I began working at Westwind relatively corpse-free. Now I had access to scores of them—stacked in the crematory freezer. They forced me to face my own death and the deaths of those I loved. No matter how much technology may become our master, it takes only a human corpse to toss the anchor off that boat and pull us back down to the firm knowledge that we are glorified animals that eat and shit and are doomed to die. We are all just future corpses.” – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

5. During the American Civil War, undertakers followed armies around. After a battle, they’d gut the corpses and stuff them with sawdust right on the battlefield. (As long as someone paid them to do it.)

6. The author isn’t a fan of embalming bodies. It’s a standard practice in the funeral industry, but it’s not always necessary. It’s just an extra cost for the dead person’s family. This is why you should make plans for your own corpse. Know what you want done with your body and how much everything should cost. Leave instructions for your family.

“Though you may have never attended a funeral, two of the world's humans die every second. Eight in the time it took you to read that sentence. Now we're at fourteen. If this is too abstract, consider this number: 2.5 million. The 2.5 million people who die in the United States every year.” – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Sunday Post #120

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty.
  • On Tuesday I show you some of the creepy books on my TBR list.
  • On Wednesday I review The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg.
  • On Thursday I wrap up October.

In My Reading Life

Last week was #AutumnReadathon, so I read a ton of short books. I finished The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. Then I reread When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. Then I read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton, et al. Right now, I’m reading All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I tried caramel M&Ms. They mostly taste like sticky regular M&Ms, but I like them.
  2. #AutumnReadathon has been fun. I love going on Twitter and seeing what everybody is reading.
  3. I only have 6 unread books on my TBR shelf right now. I’ve been so good about not buying a zillion books. A few of my unread books are fat bastards, though. It’ll probably take me months to finish them.
  4. I’ve been watching Halloween-themed baking competitions on TV. Halloween and food are two of my favorite things ever.
  5. 500 Bloglovin’ followers!

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Book Cake Tag

I have no idea where this tag started, but I love books, and I love cake, so this seems like a good idea.

Book Cake

Flour: A book that is slow to start off but really picked up as you went along

Snow Falling on Cedars starts off talking about fishing boats. Yawn. The pacing is slow all the way through, but when a corpse gets dredged up, things get much more interesting.

Butter: A book that has a rich plot

I just realized that I don’t read many plot-heavy books. Characters are more important to me. The Love Interest is pretty plot-oriented, though. Who will win the battle of the sexy boys in this satirical YA novel?

Eggs: A book you thought would be bad but turned out to be enjoyable

Why would I read a book I thought would be bad? This question makes no sense. I was skeptical about Most Dangerous because the cover looks serious, and the synopsis makes the book sound educational. It is educational. Educational and brilliant. A must-read for anyone interested in American politics.

Sugar: A very sweet book

"Sweet" isn't a word that can be used to describe the books I read. The sweetest I've read this year would probably be The Upside of Unrequited. Nerd-on-nerd love, people. It’s so adorable it makes me gag.

Chocolate filling: A character with hidden layers

Griff has some secrets . . .

Baking time: A book with a slow-burn romance

Will they get together? Won’t they? Will they ever stop acting like angsty idiots and talk to each other? The world needs to know!

Icing: A book that covers every element you enjoy in a book

Small towns, quirky kids, strange religions, blogs. It needed more snakes. For a book called The Serpent King, it has a depressingly small number of snakes. You’d think the king of serpents would rule a whole kingdom of snakes.

Sprinkles: A book series you can turn to for a pick-me-up

Let’s be real: The answer to this is Harry Potter, but that’s a boring answer. I’m going to say Shades of Magic, even though I still haven’t read the third one. I have a thing for deadly parallel universes.

Cherry on top: Your favorite book of the year so far

I hate cherries, but Most Dangerous for the win!

Do you want to do this tag? Consider yourself tagged.