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Sharon’s Book Pile

I’ve just finished a few books that I really enjoyed and I thought you might like to hear about them. I read a little of everything – mysteries, westerns, psychological thrillers, classical literature, historical fiction, nonfiction (especially about gardening, dogs and home décor), humor and lots of horror. I try to switch things up, so if I read a dark or scary novel, I’ll follow that with something really funny or light. 

Three of the books in Sharon's book pile.

Three of the books in Sharon’s book pile.

At the top of my list is Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. It follows Patricia, a typical housewife in 1990s Charleston, and her book club friends as they encounter a mysterious new neighbor who may or may not be a killer…or something worse. The book starts off laugh-out-loud funny, but quickly turns dark and extremely grisly. While Patricia tries to convince her friends and her dense husband that there’s something terribly wrong with the newcomer, she struggles to live up to the ideal of the perfect wife, mother and hostess. I’m not sure which was scarier, the monster next door or the pressure on our heroine to live up to society’s expectations. You can check it out at WCPL (F HENDRIX) and in our eLibrary via R.E.A.Ds. as an ebook and eaudio.

Book cover for The Animals at Lockwood Manor

The Animals at Lockwood Manor, a novel, by Jane Healey

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey is historical fiction with a really creepy touch of Gothic eeriness. Hetty, a young curator at a London natural history museum, is charged with evacuating the museum’s stuffed mammal collection to Lockwood Manor, a huge Downton Abby-type estate, where they’ll be safe from German bombs during the Blitz. She runs afoul of the ruthless lord of the manor and his equally unpleasant staff, but bonds with the lord’s beautiful and troubled daughter, Lucy. Soon Hetty is fighting to save her precious collection, as one mysterious calamity after another befalls them. Could the estate really be haunted by the terrifying spirit of a woman in white, or does something even more sinister threaten Hetty, Lucy, and the irreplaceable mammals? I loved finding out. I listened to the audiobook through Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. It is also available in print (F HEALEY) and in our eLibrary via Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. as an ebook also.

For a really fun page-turner, check out The Other Woman by Sandi Jones. Emily, a successful young business woman, has met the man of her dreams, Adam. He’s crazy about her too. Things go swimmingly until Adam introduces Emily to his mother, Pammie. For reasons Emily can’t fathom, Pammie detests her at first sight and it’s soon clear she will stop at NOTHING to ruin Emily’s life and keep her from marrying Adam. It’s obvious to Emily that her future mother-in-law is a manipulative sociopath, but to the rest of the world, Pammie is an angelic elderly lady, beloved by everyone. It’s fun to guess what outrageous stunt Pammie will throw at Emily next, and there’s also a great plot twist along the way.  I listened to the audiobook through Tennessee R.E.A.D.S.  It is also available in print (F Jones) and in our eLibrary via Tennessee R.E.A.D.S.. as an ebook.

If you’re looking for something darker and more complex, try A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, whose terrifying novel The Cabin at the End of the World was a recent sensation. A Head Full of Ghosts is narrated by a young woman named Merry as she recounts the bizarre events that befell her family 15 years earlier. When Merry is 8, her older sister Marjorie begins exhibiting strange and extremely disturbing behavior. Mom thinks Marjorie needs therapy, but Dad believes Marjorie is possessed and needs an exorcism. Things get REALLY weird and increasingly tense and scary when the family’s situation becomes the subject of a hit reality TV show. Check out a hard copy at WCPL (F TREMBLAY) or you can listen to the audiobook as I did through Tennessee R.E.A.D.S.  It is also available as an ebook in Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. and Hoopla.

My current reads are Stephen King’s latest, If It Bleeds (Available in print and our eLibrary via Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. as an ebook and eaudio.), and Savage Season (Available in print) by one of my favorite authors, Joe R. Lansdale. I’ll report on those in a week or so and suggest some other interesting books as well. 

Happy reading while you’re safe at home!

Sharon

 

My book pile…

I’m a big fan of anything cross genre, especially if it’s dystopian. Teen fiction is also a big draw for me, and unconventional stories. Lately I’ve interested in reading a lot of creeping psychological horror with sci-fi and fantasy leanings.

house of leaves

My all time favorite of the creeping psychological dread is probably House of Leaves. It uses quite a bit of unconventional writing techniques not often seen outside of poetry anthologies, but isn’t too heavy handed. The main character is piecing together snippets of documents about a fictional movie about a house that doesn’t exist and uses the idea of space and distance in literally maddening ways.

 

the hum and the shiver

If you like a little fae influence, I recommend The Hum and the Shiver. It starts out fairly gumshoe detective, but quickly introduces the reader to a whole hidden world and culture of magic and music and secrets, all set in modern small-town Appalachia where certain people are more than they seem to be.

 

fred vampire accountantFor something a little more light-hearted I’ve been listening to the audiobook version on the Overdrive app of The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant. The whole series is a really hilarious, slightly episodic adventures of Fred, who is a very introverted, rather boring accountant, and also a vampire, as he gathers up a ragtag crew of supernatural misfits as his friends in his new vampire social life. He also saves a bunch of people, somehow. Several times.

~ Amy

HOW MONSTERS ARE BORN

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

There are a lot of scary things in the world, and I’m not talking about the upcoming election. Literature and films are loaded with frightening monstrosities, but I’ll focus on three “classic” creatures – vampires, zombies, and mummies – and examine the origins of these horrors that have terrified folks for centuries.

Vampires

bela_lugosi_as_dracula_75From Bela Lugosi to Gary Oldman and Robert Pattinson, everyone has a favorite movie bloodsucker. But the original vampires of legend weren’t as forlornly romantic as Oldman or as adorable as Pattinson. Ancient versions of the vampire weren’t thought to be humans returned from the grave, but were supernatural entities that didn’t take human form. There are many vampire variations around the world: an Egyptian vampire that was a demon summoned by sorcery, Asian vampires that attacked people and drained their life energy, the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appeared in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and many others.

Belief in vampires surged in the Middle Ages in Europe. Any unfortunate event that befell a person or village with no obvious cause, such as disease or crop failure, could be blamed on a vampire. Villagers combined their belief that something had cursed them with their fear of the dead, and concluded that the recently deceased might be responsible, returning from the grave with evil intent.

“The Vampyre,” the first fully realized vampire story, was written by John Polidori, personal physician to Lord Byron (the haughty Byron often belittled his young employee). In 1816, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin joined Byron and Polidori at Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. Byron suggested that his guests each write a ghost story. Mary’s tale became the novel Frankenstein. One theory is that Polidori, inspired by his resentment of Byron’s arrogant treatment, based his character Lord Ruthven, a charming aristocratic vampire, on the poet. But when Polidori’s story was published in 1819, it was credited to Byron. Polidori tried to prove his authorship, but was accused of misusing Byron’s name.

The most famous appearance of a vampire in literature was Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Like Polidori’s vampire, Dracula appeared as an aristocratic gentleman. It’s often assumed that Stoker’s Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad Dracula, a real-life prince cited as an influence for modern personifications of vampires. Known as Vlad the Impaler because of the gruesome method he used to kill his enemies, he is considered a national hero for the extreme measures he used to defend his Romanian principality in the 15th century. Historians have implied but never proved that Vlad drank the blood of his enemies.

interviewwithavampiremovieposteStoker’s novel was popular in the Victorian age, but it wasn’t until the 20th century film versions that it became iconic. The first adaptation of Stoker’s novel, the silent German film Nosferatu, was controversial because of its departures from Dracula – instead of being charming, Nosferatu was a vile character, and instead of drinking his victim’s blood to create new vampires, he spread rats and plague. The most influential adaptation of Stoker’s work was the 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. His performance inspired future actors who took the role and was a factor in making horror films a viable genre in the U.S. market. In the 1950s and 1960s, Christopher Lee played Dracula in a number of violent adaptations. Since then Count Dracula has been portrayed more times in film and TV than any other horror character. Now vampires are everywhere – in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (depicted on TV in True Blood), the Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the TV series The Strain and Being Human, and countless others.

Zombies

walking-dead-posterThose shambling creatures intent on devouring Rick Grimes and his dwindling band of survivors bear little resemblance to the earliest incarnation of the zombie. The word “zombi” originally didn’t refer to the familiar brain-eating monsters but instead to a West African deity. It later came to suggest the human force leaving the shell of a body, and ultimately a creature human in form but lacking self-awareness, intelligence, and a soul. The notion was imported to Haiti and elsewhere from Africa through the slave trade. In Haiti and the Caribbean, zombies are an element of the voodoo religion and believers take them seriously.

Haitian zombies were said to be people brought back from the dead (and sometimes controlled) through magical means by voodoo priests called bokors, often as an act of punishment. Zombies were supposedly used as slave labor on farms and sugarcane plantations, although none of these zombie-powered plantations was ever discovered. Westerners considered zombies fictional horror film characters until the 1980s when a scientist, Wade Davis, claimed in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow to have solved the mystery of the zombie. The work met much skepticism. Davis asserted that he found the actual powder used by the bokors to create zombies – a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin that could bring on the appearance of death.

poster_-_white_zombie_01Early zombie films, most notably White Zombie in 1932 and I Walked with A Zombie in 1943, acknowledged the zombie’s voodoo roots. George Romero’s 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead introduced the current popular characterization of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature. Romero’s film established common themes in current zombie films – the zombie as a metaphor for societal unrest and alienation; unconventional protagonists (hello, Daryl Dixon); and humans reduced to “survivalist” mentality. Romero’s zombies attack in groups and can be killed with a blow to the head. Recent zombie films – 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and of course, The Walking Dead – feature elements of Romero’s films and ignore the voodoo connection.

Mummies

mummyUnlike vampires and zombies, mummies are not based on myth or legend. They are actual human corpses, preserved by a special method of embalming. Mummies have been found all over the world. But in ancient Egypt the mummification process was honed to a fine art over centuries, with the best prepared and preserved specimens, including Tutankhamen and other pharaohs, dating from around 1560 to 1075 B.C. The technique worked so well that after 3,000 years, we can still tell what the deceased looked like in life.

The elaborate procedure, as much a religious ritual as a technical process, took at least 70 days. The basic method was to remove organs except the heart through a slit in the body’s side. The brain was removed through the nostrils with a hooked instrument. The organs were preserved in jars and placed inside the body. The body was covered in natron, a salt with drying properties. Once the body was dry, sunken areas were filled with linen, sawdust, and other materials to make it to look lifelike. The body was then wrapped in hundreds of yards of linen strips. Finally a shroud was secured to the body and it was buried in a tomb along with objects the person would need in the Afterlife. Throughout the entire process, rituals and prayers had to be performed precisely. Why expend so much time and effort to preserve a body? The Egyptians believed that the mummified body was the home for the soul or spirit, and if the body was destroyed, the spirit might be lost.

mummy_32How did a person so honored turn into the malevolent creature we know from films? Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt at the end of the 18th century sparked a European interest in ancient Egypt that was still strong in Victorian England, where public “unrollings” of mummies were held. In 1903, Bram Stoker published The Jewel of Seven Stars, the first novel featuring mummifies as supernatural antagonists. Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 fueled even more interest. Then came the famous Boris Karloff film, The Mummy. Released in 1932, it was based on the concept of “the pharaoh’s curse” (that anyone who disturbs a tomb would die) and featured the mummy Imhotep as an evil high priest. It set the stage for a slew of mummy films through the 1940s and 1950s.  Imhotep recently reappeared in the 1999 remake of The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns.

Early film depictions of vampires, zombies, and mummies may seem a little dated and not that terrifying compared to the ultraviolence common in today’s horror films. But that might change. In 2014, Universal Pictures announced it would be rebooting its library of “classic” horror films, bringing new life to standard horror characters. The first release in this effort, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, is due to hit theaters in 2017.

Click here for a list of resources at WCPL for further reading and viewing. Read the rest of this entry

WCPL RESOURCES FOR FURTHER READING AND VIEWING: VAMPIRES, ZOMBIES, MUMMIES

VAMPIRE NONFICTION

  • Guiley, Rosemary. The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005. (133.423 GUI)
  • Davison, Carol Margaret, ed. Bram Stocker’s Dracula: Sucking Through the Century, 1897-1997. Toronto: Dundurn, 1997 (823.8 BRA)
  • Stott, Andrew McConnell. The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters. New York: Pegasus , LLC, 2014. (820.9145 STO)
  • Pollard, Tom. Loving Vampires: Our Undead Obsession. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2016 (398.21 POL)

VAMPIRE FILMS AND TV

  • Dracula: The Legacy Collection (DVD DRACULA)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (DVD DRACULA)
  • Dracula 2000 (DVD DRACULA)
  • Dracula Untold (DVD DRACULA)
  • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (DVD ABRAHAM)
  • Vampire Secrets (DVD 398.21 VAM)
  • Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Seasons 1–7 (DVD BUFFY)
  • True Blood, Seasons 1–7 (DVD TRUE)
  • Van Helsing (DVD Van)

ZOMBIE NONFICTION

  • Fonseca, Anthony J., and June Michele Pulliam. Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014. (398.21 ENC)
  • Holder, Geoff. Zombies From History. Stroud: History, 2013. (398.45 HOL)
  • Swain, Frank. How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control. London: Oneworld Publications, 2013. (398.45 SWA)

ZOMBIE FILMS AND TV

  • Maggie (DVD MAGGIE)
  • Night of the Living Dead (DVD NIGHT (at Leiper’s Fork branch))
  • Shaun of the Dead (DVD SHAUN)
  • 20-Horror Movies: Tales of Terror (includes White Zombie) (DVD TWENTY)
  • The Walking Dead, Seasons 1–6 (DVD Walking)
  • World War Z (DVD WORLD)

MUMMY NONFICTION

  • Brier, Bob. Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art. New York: Quill, 1994. (393.3 BRI)
  • David, A. Rosalie, and Rick Archbold. Conversations with Mummies: New Light on the Lives of Ancient Egyptians. New York: Morrow, 2000. (932 DAV)
  • Janot, Francis. The Royal Mummies: Immortality in Ancient Egypt. Vercelli: White Star, 2008. (932 JAN)
  • Mertz, Barbara. Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1978. (932 MER)

MUMMY FILMS AND TV

  • Egypt Eternal: The Quest for Lost Tombs (DVD 932 EGY)
  • The Mummy (Legacy Collection including 1932 film starring Boris Karloff) (DVD MUMMY)
  • The Mummy (1999) (DVD MUMMY)
  • The Mummy Returns (DVD MUMMY)
  • The Pyramid (DVD PYRAMID)
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