Episode 20: Underwater Horror

Check out the newest episode of Books in the Freezer — this topic is particularly fascinating

Books in the Freezer

“The detritus of animal and plant life that had died miles above. It fell steadily through each zone of the ocean, down and down, shredding into flakes, leached of pigment until it became bone white. A snow of death.” – Nick Cutter, The Deep


On this episode we were joined by Erica at the PerksofBooks on YouTube to talk about the kind of horror that’s lurking just under the water’s surface. Let’s talk jurassic sharks, submarine labs and submerged haunted houses!

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Shirley Jackson Awards 2017 Wrap-Up

Done! I challenged myself to read all five nominees for best novel in the Shirley Jackson Awards 2017 within a month and I officially finished them. Here are the links and names of the five novels I read for this challenge:

I enjoyed all these works very much and I’m glad I took on this little project for a few weeks. Looking at some numbers and stats, my instinct says the winner will be The Changeling by Victor LaValle. My personal favourite was The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge. The Bone Mother sent me on an adventure looking at really cool Romanian photographs from a hundred years ago. The Hole was the first Korean book I’ve read in translation, so that was something new for me. Ill Will tested my ability to solve a mystery and interact with text presented in a new and interesting way, and forced me to learn about Satanic cults in the United States. Each one of these books brought something very different to this challenge. Of course, I have been wrong many times before, and all I can say is that I’m very excited to see who they will select as this year’s winner. There’s nothing as pleasant as making wrong predictions on the internet! All I can say is that whoever they choose there is no wrong choice here. The 2017 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Readercon 29, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Quincy, Massachusetts. If you have been following this with me, or reading my reviews for this challenge thank you very much for sticking with me and for your time!


The Night Ocean | Book Review

30901609The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge is the last novel I’m reading for the Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees. I think I accidentally saved the best for last because this was my favourite out of the bunch. What La Farge did with this work is really impressive because he had to work with one of the most controversial figures in Science Fiction history and somehow he examines possibilities without glorifying any of the negatives in H.P. Lovecraft. Only three years ago the figure of Lovecraft was removed by the Locus Fantasy Awards so it’s a difficult topic to work with so shortly after. Reading this novel was like peeling layers and layers on a dark flower and finding something new each time. Like a cubist artist, La Farge holds H.P. Lovecraft and the persona of this mysterious figure, but looks at it from every possible angle, considering each perspective. For one, this story isn’t really about H.P Lovecraft, it’s about a woman who is in love with a man who was passionate about a particular aspect of H.P. Lovecraft’s life. This hierarchy of perspectives creates a distance between all that one may find problematic with Lovecraft. Each character being slightly flawed and a little unreliable still preserves the mystery. Allow me to explain a little of the plot and I will try to be less cryptic. The story follows Marina who is herself a psychiatrist. Her husband Charlie was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons and one day simply vanished. The last thing we know is that he was by the edge of the lake. In trying to find out more about her husband Marina finds that Charlie was doing passionate research work on H.P. Lovecraft, in particular focusing on his sexuality, and if maybe he might have had a homosexual relationship with a young fan by the name of Robert Barlow. His lead was finding a Lovecraft diary also known in this novel as The Erotonomicon (playing on the Necronomicon). It was kind of interesting to consider that at the time H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘clues’ or proof trail of being homosexual might have been hidden by publishers or friends to ‘preserve’ his integrity whilst the racist and xenophobic parts of his biography were unashamedly left in, whereas today it would be exactly the reverse. I am a big fan of acknowledging that no one is good or bad, but a dynamic character with flaws and qualities alike and that the path to rehabilitation and education can help anyone no matter what they said or did in the past. Lovecraft did a lot of good for fantasy and sparked a series of subgenres. He was very unhappy and died in extreme poverty. I have always tried to keep that in mind, and La Farge just reminded me how interesting Lovecraft was and it’s making me want to go read the Necronomicon again.

Because the main narrator is involved in a mystery trying to find out more about her own husband, because Charlie himself is psychologically unstable (which automatically makes him an unreliable narrator), and because the ‘findings’ about Lovecraft have been filtered, hidden, and ‘rumoured’ the whole novel preserves an overall tone of suspense and eerie mystery. Even Charlie’s disappearance is something straight out of a Cthulhu story. No one is one hundred percent reliable, and no one has a definite answer on Lovecraft, which leaves the reader of The Night Ocean alone, left to come up with answers by connecting the dots. Also, Marina trying to understand Charlie, and him explaining Lovecraft to her in flashbacks/memories, and her learning more about him as we go along, we are introduced to bits of biography about Lovecraft, including the parts which make him a controversial figure. Like I said, this novel was very dynamic and it is presented in such a way that reminds me of a cubist painting. It is no small feat, and La Farge has succeeded immensely (in my humble opinion). This was a very difficult task and his writing is absolutely amazing. The way the story is told, the diverse cast of characters, the new parts of Lovecraft’s life to be explored, the incorporation of a female narrator to guide the story forward are just a few aspects of what makes this story so good. I also have to slip in that I was hooked on Charlie the moment he said he procrastinated by watching Lost…something I’m obsessed with. There goes my bias.

Definitely read this book if you love H.P. Lovecraft, mystery, science fiction, the macabre, steampunkish speculative fiction, and gothic atmospheres/settings. I mean…this is a Shirley Jackson Award nominee…so you already know.

Books in the Freezer | Podcast

books-on-the-freezer-image-smallerGiven the amount of time I spend in complete silence at the library, podcasts have become a crucial part of my life. I listened to all of Lore, Welcome to Night Vale, The Black Tapes, Serial, and S-Town. My only wish as an avid Booktube watcher was to one day be able to listen to some of my favourite booktubers without a screen and take them with me in silent places. Wish granted! Stephanie from That’s What She Read and Rachel from The Shades of Orange have teamed up to create one of the most wonderful podcasts I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I subscribed to it when it was only announced, and I’m so happy I stuck by it. They are already 19 scheduled episodes in (with a few bonus ones). The podcast is called Books in the Freezer. There is an episode in Friends where Joey puts all the books that scare him or make him sad in the freezer. Stephanie and Rachel have adopted that concept and took it a step further. The podcast focuses mainly on horror, supernatural/dark fiction, and thrillers. The two readers have an eye for good literature, and skilled writers who can create suspense in just the right way. If a book is really frightening they will label it as a book to “put in the freezer,” however, if the book is just slightly scary and not too haunting, they will label it as “a fridge book,” and if it’s really mild “room temperature.” This scale is absolutely brilliant!

Each week, Books in the Freezer will have a topic like: “Small Towns with Big Secrets” or “Survival Horror.” In the episode both Stephanie and Rachel take turns recommending books on this topic as well as television series, movies, podcasts, or any kind of medium which fits the genre and would enrich a fan’s knowledge of the topic of the week. From time to time Books in the Freezer will have a guest speaker like Olive from A Book Olive, or conduct an interview with an author. If you find ‘horror’ to be a genre you stay away from, or think it would be intimidating, I would still recommend you listen to this podcast. I myself don’t often reach for horror books, but some of these have gotten my attention. There’s more to some books than just elements of fear that make them outstanding, and listening to Stephanie and Rachel discuss those elements at length has really widened my perspective on this genre. As a librarian, I listen to this podcast to educate myself on a genre I don’t know too much about and if you want to keep informed without spending hours upon hours reading these books, then this podcast might be what you need. I have thoroughly enjoyed every episode and each time I come out with at least two books I add to my reading list. You should also be on the lookout for references made about The Office. It’s become the podcast’s ‘easter egg.’ I thought I would review this podcast, not only because I enjoy it so much but I thought I would share this with you in case you are searching for something new, or you want to spend time with two intelligent people discussing literature. I can say it is MOST definitely worth your time! After each episode the list of books discussed is linked in this website.