Books to Read During Black History Month & Women in Horror Month

Since both Black History Month and Women in Horror Month coincide in February, I thought that I’d incorporate both in this blog post. I’ve decided to focus on these two authors because I haven’t seen them on any recent lists and I’ve made similar posts in the past and don’t wish to repeat myself in recommending the same books over and over.

These two novels in particular (but I totally recommend checking out their other books as well!) showcase creepy dread and extraordinary talent.

WHITE IS FOR WITCHING BY HELEN OYEYEMI

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies.

DEVIL INSIDE BY KENYA MOSS-DYME

Kenya Moss-Dyme presents a page-turner about a young woman’s harrowing journey through cancer treatment at the hands of a beguiling nurse who gives her more than the normal care. The tormented patient morphs into something unrecognizable, as the mystery unravels and she unleashes a surprise of her own for the twisted nurse upon her return.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE BLACK FEMALE HORROR AUTHORS? LET ME KNOW!

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Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Some ghosts simply cannot rest….

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Release Date: October 9, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly taking the classic haunted house story and turning it on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.

Grade: C-

Review:

I was truly anticipating this novella sine it has everything that I simply adore in horror, creepy vengeful ghosts, characters that love the macabre, and it was set in Japan, one of my fave countries. The premise of the novella was also intriguing, a girl Cat, reunites with her friends for a wedding that will take place in a haunted Heian-era mansion. And let’s not forget that with such an incredibly frightening book cover, who wouldn’t be expecting to be scared shitless, right?

Now, my issue with the novella is the excessive purple prose that was interjected throughout the whole novella. Some of the writing was beautiful, but some of it was simply too over the top that a lot of times I had to reread to know exactly what was going on, and therein lies the issue, in a horror novella you want the action to be evident, not up to interpretation!

My second issue with the novella was that all of the characters seemed to have had some past romantic connections to one another, and while that isn’t unusual is a group of young friends, it seemed really odd that every single dude had slept with one girl and so everyone had underlying resentment towards one another.

The ending was very B-rated horror movie and maybe I’d enjoy this novella more if it had been a B-rated horror movie (because I enjoy those as mindless entertainment) but what works as a bad horror movie usually doesn’t work for a book and that’s why I couldn’t enjoy it.

I know many reviewers DID enjoy this book and I’m not discouraging others from checking it out, but I must be honest about how I felt about it and for me it’s a pass.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Excerpt: “Of Guys And Dolls” by Stella B. James From Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

True to my word, I leave the closet alone. Despite the various hats that fall on me when I move a hanger, or a random photo box that spills out at my feet, I don’t rearrange anything. I tackle under the bed instead.

With my long hair braided to the side to keep it out of the way, I lay flat on my belly to army crawl half way under and pull everything out. Balled up dresses, scraps of torn paper, an old pair of sneakers, and about five shoe boxes full of cards and letters find their way to freedom.

I leave those alone, wondering why she would stash them instead of throwing them away. I find a bigger box last, one meant for boots maybe, and back away to pull it out.

Opening the top reveals a bunch of weird looking homemade dolls. Thirteen of them total. Each of them looks different, but familiar all the same. I run my fingers over their stiff hair and rough bodies, trying to place the name for these things. Turning them over, I notice they have names stitched to them. The red haired one I’m holding is named Carla.

Carla. Carla. Oh, her friend. I find the scrapbook and match each obituary to a doll. Maybe she made these of them? It’s kind of sweet to preserve their memory in this way. Strange, and sad, but sweet. Only one of them doesn’t have a name yet and it also lacks any personal touches.

“I see you found my dolls.” Katy doesn’t look mad, but not too pleased either.

“They match your friends. Did you make them?”

She shrugs, handing me a coffee. “Kind of. I buy them in the French Quarter and finish them up the way I like.”

“Who is this?” I ask, holding up the plain one.

“Not sure yet. Guess it will have to be a surprise.” She sits down beside me, picking up a random doll.

I try to listen to how she fixes up each one, but I can’t stop the cold chill setting in my bones at her last remark.

It’s the last week of July that Katy finds me at the kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle. Something plops on the paper before me, and I recognize it as one of her dolls. It’s wearing a red dress and has long blonde hair, braided to the side. I finger my own braid as I look down at it.

“Is that me?”

“Sure is. I worked on her all week. Figured it would be a nice surprise since you’re heading back to Baton Rouge next week.”

Her sad tone catches me off guard, and I hold the doll to my chest. “You know I have to go back. I have to get my classroom ready and my apartment’s renovations were finished days ago.”

“I know.” She huffs out in frustration and takes the doll back, smoothing out its silky dress. “I’ll just miss you is all. I’ll keep her safe until you leave.”

Ted slams the door upon arriving home, barking out Katy’s name, and I excuse myself for a walk. I’m not in the mood to hear them fight. I don’t think I can stomach the guilt I’ll feel. I wish Katy would just pack up and leave with me.

I like Ted. He’s a good man.

Just not for her.

***

Get your copy of TAINTED LOVE: WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY today!

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Excerpt: “Chronic Chills” by Hudson Wilding from Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Rumor had it that Oskar Abernathy rehearsed every week after choir practice, so Orchid lingered in the pews one evening after all her friends left. As Edinburgh’s meager light fell through the stained glass windows, Orchid tried to imitate the expression an older woman might take on while meditating on something holy and somber. Soon, the opening notes of “Lacrimosa” jolted her. She squeaked. The music stopped and Oskar rose to look at her from the organ bench at the front of the hall. He was wearing the same surprised expression one might have after seeing a mouse scamper up a curtain.

“Why, hello,” he said, smoothing his hands over the cufflinks on his tweed jacket. His conscientious way of dressing always gave her the impression he was waiting for a surprise visit from The Queen. Orchid could not escape the notion that he had arrived in the 1970s quite by mistake, belonging instead to an earlier time when his delicate complexion and precise mannerisms would have seemed less eccentric.

“You have the most beautiful handkerchiefs,” she told him, her high voice echoing across the large auditorium.

“They’re for my chronic chills,” Oskar replied as if her non sequitur was a completely ordinary attempt at conversation.

She walked closer to him, approximating the hip-sway of one of the older girls in the choir. “Your chronic chills?”

“Here,” he said, reaching out. “Feel my hand.”

She hesitated a moment before approaching the organ. Then she pressed two fingers gently into the skin of his outstretched palm. His fingers enveloped hers like a Venus flytrap closing around an insect at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The biting cold of his flesh shocked her. She’d heard rumors of his strange illness but had always assumed it was just town gossip.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

Only then did his grip relent. “I believe I was the one who interrupted you.”

***

Read this and other chilling tales in Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology! Check out the pre-order giveaway here!

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Flash Fiction: Two Words by Erica Ruhe

Photo by C Technical on Pexels.com

You used to laugh when I wrapped myself around you and tangled you in the sheets to keep you from work. The morning sunlight loved to ripple over your green eyes and sleepy smile. Ignoring the fourth snooze alarm, I’d bury my face in the soft skin of your stomach and hold you tighter. I had two words, two magic words that always made you giggle; two words that always stole a few more moments with you.

“Don’t go.”

You staged a brave pillow protest but I negotiated your surrender with the pinning weight of the comforter.

I remember the time you had to fly back to California for your great grandmother’s birthday. We were still a young a couple, not quite ready for the family introductions but too heady with the feel of each other’s touch to bear the time apart. I hugged your legs as you stood at my apartment door. You fought the grin on your lips. You wriggled your knees against my arms and begged me to end my guilt trip. But I held you ransom.

“Don’t go.”

You smiled down at me and ran your fingers through my hair. Departure time was tight. The cab was downstairs. But I pulled you to the floor, to me. I just needed to steal you for a few more moments, to find that sacred space of skin hidden beneath your scarf. That warm place at the base of your jaw that inebriated me with your scent. I can still feel your laughter in my chest. You loved my thievery. But I stole other moments, too, when you weren’t looking.

When the wind ruined your good hair day, I smoothed it behind your ear. When you scolded me for smudging your lipstick, I kissed it back in place. On that night of our last visit to London, when the heel on your favorite pair of boots caught in the cobblestones, I followed my hand down your calf and freed you from the rain-slicked street.

It was like the city even pleaded, “Don’t go.”

Now I have you tangled in the bed sheets once more. But it’s dark. There’s no smile on your parted mouth. It hurts to smile. I tell you not to worry. Don’t smile for me. Just breathe. You shiver. In this foreign bed, I wrap myself around you. My fingers find their way under the tubes and wires to touch the chill of your hollowed stomach. I want to squeeze tighter but I’m afraid I might break you. You’re so fragile now. And I can’t bear it. Not quite ready for the family goodbyes and too overwhelmed with the ache of holding the last embers of you to bear the coming time apart.

The naked nape of your neck is stripped of essence. Your scent is lost under the cocktail of rubbing alcohol and latex. Pressing my lips against that place where your hairline used to be, I exhale, hoping my breath might light you up again. That maybe, by some miracle, it will warm your spine, smolder through your veins, and reignite the dying star in your chest where your soul used to burn.

Two words try to rise up my swollen throat, but they’re stuck. There’s only the beep of the heart monitor, the gasp of the ventilator. I can’t make that magic work anymore. I try. God, I try. Somehow, I know I’m responsible for this. I must be. What a fool I am, to think I’d never have to pay back all those stolen moments.

I beg the universe for one last heist. Just a few more moments. My lips move against your frigid skin, but I can’t utter the words. They are forbidden to me now.

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Women In Horror: Beloved

beloved

February is one of those months on the calendar that offers a unique and exciting blend of emotions. It’s time to honor and celebrate Black history and culture. Valentine’s Day reminds us of love and relationships (the good, the bad and the ugly…). I also enjoy watching The Oscars to see where the needle of society’s values and elevation of diversity in cinema lands. More recently though, February has become a month to showcase women in horror. With the release of Azzurra Nox’s anthology “Strange Girls”, I thought it befitting to make a cinematic recommendation while adding some horror into today’s post as well.

In ruminating on all this, I was struck by how one film, in particular, incorporates all these themes to absolute perfection; a film that has haunted me with its piercing honesty and emotional depth; a film that effortlessly weaves the themes of slavery and freedom in all its various forms; a film that celebrates the beauty, power and, yes, horror that can manifest from immense love.

Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

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I was living overseas when “Beloved” first came out and it had slipped past my radar for a long time. It was always one of those movies I knew I’d appreciate but didn’t get around to seeing it until just a few years ago. Better late than never though. When I did eventually see this film, it made a huge impact on me and has remained one of the top five best films on my list of favorites. It’s haunted me ever since and completely reframed my standards for what constitutes a good ghost story. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to consume fifty classics this year in books and film. Needless to say, Toni Morrison’s novel is next on that list.

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Incredibly acted and unapologetic, “Beloved” threads a needle through the struggles and triumphs of a mother navigating post-emancipation America while the horrors of her past demand reconciliation – with an ever-increasing insistence for attention. As the climax nears, the thread tightens and cinches together all of these elements into a jagged, heart-shaped tapestry of tenacity, terror, and tenderness. It’s a beautiful and painful portrayal of the multi-faceted nature of love. And it raises the question in all of us…

What would you do for your beloved?

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By: Erica Ruhe

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Women in Horror: Interview with Cristina Vargas

cris

Exclusive collab with:VoyageLA(large inverted)

I love checking out haunts during Halloween and for a few years, I’ve been a scareactor for a haunt at a middle school in Newberry Park, California. Universal Halloween Horror Nights is an awesome experience, and in partnering up with the wonderful folks at Voyage LA for this exclusive collab, I will be showcasing some of the talented people that make up the city of Los Angeles. We catch up with actor Cristina Vargas for a quick Q & A!

Describe your experience working for Universal Halloween Horror Nights. What were some of the pros and cons?

My experience working at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights was overall fun! The pros were being able to scare people and seeing some of their reactions from screaming to running to dropping on the floor. Aside from that, another pro was meeting new people and creating friendships for years to come! The cons were, unfortunately, getting harassed by guests for scaring them and even getting tainted for not being scary to them. One of the rules that guests are supposed to follow is not to touch the Scareactors and that rule gets broken a lot…and scareactors get physically hit by guests. Luckily we have a protocol for that and are able to report those kinds of issues right away.

What sparked your interest in horror?

Ironically, I’m not that into horror, but what sparked my interest was when I was dared by a friend to watch a movie. I believe it was Ring 2 that was playing in the movie theater at the time. I was really scared and still laugh about it till this day!

Do you have a favourite horror movie?

My favorite horror movie is Chucky and the bride. I used to be so scared of Chucky when I was a little kid, but I started watching the movies at an older age and realized Chucky’s not so bad after all!

Editor’s Note: Chucky’s Bride

What acting project are you the proudest of?

The project I am most proud of is the indie film titled “Drug Addiction,” where I play the role of Gabby who comes out as this friendly girl, but later you find she’s not really friendly, but rather a backstabber.

What are some of your future projects? Where can we see you next?

You can catch me on Jenny Lorenzo’s YouTube channel where she creates funny LatinX sketches. I play the role of Lorena, who is one of Maruchi’s best friends. Check out Jenny Lorenzo’s YouTube and stay tuned on when Lorena makes an appearance! I also have a YouTube channel of my own in which I explore different restaurants and try out new food!

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Follow Cristina!

Twitter: @Cristimisty

Instagram: @Cristimisty

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn8USIYraCDCxoMxKX98dyA/featured

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Women In Horror: Top 5 Female Directed Horror Movies

The world of directing is still predominantly male, and so is the horror genre. But more and more women are trying to carve out their space in both directing and horror. Below are some of the best the world of horror has to offer when it comes to female directors. Many times women decide to tackle subjects that many men wouldn’t understand with the same amount of ethos. Women understand trauma, the fear of sexual assault, female friendships, and body horror more than men, and the movies I’ve selected all explore those themes.

RAW – directed by Julia Ducournau

Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats RAW meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.

Honeymoon – directed by Leigh Janiak

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon, where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods. Treadaway (CONTROL) and Leslie (HBO’s GAME OF THRONES) give captivating leading performances as a couple that takes new love to disturbing depths. With romance slowing giving way to terror, writer/director Leigh Janiak puts her unique stamp on this intimate, chilling thriller.

Blue My Mind directed by Lisa Ivana Brühlmann

15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation that calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than she.

M.F.A directed by Natalia Leite

An art student struggling with creativity is violently raped by a fellow classmate. After attempting the traditional routes to cope with her trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker – a decision that has deadly repercussions. Her world is turned upside down as a chilling reality is uncovered: she is one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus. A vigilante is born- retribution is the inspiration she’s been waiting for.

Always Shine directed by Sophia Takal

Two friends, both actresses (Halt and Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis and Masters of Sex’s Caitlin FitzGerald), leave Los Angeles for Big Sur embarking on a weekend getaway to reconnect. Once alone, however, the two women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments bubble to the surface, causing them to lose grasp not just of the true nature of their relationship, but also of their own identities.

What female-directed horror movies are your favourites?

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Excerpts from: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

Strange Girls - High Resolution

In five weeks, Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will drop just in time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. The stories found within this anthology are very diverse. They range from slasher, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, Gothic, mythological, thriller, and speculative. But the common ground is that the girls presented in the anthology are all uniquely strange in their own ways with elements of horror.

If you’re a reviewer on NetGalley, the book is currently there for you to pick up in exchange for a review. For the rest of you, here’s a small sample of what sort of stories you’re bound to come across in the book:

Excerpt from “Tribal Influence” by Erica Ruhe

“Por favor! You don’t understand,” the terrified mother pleaded in Spanish. “My daughter needs special care. Only I can look after her.”
A guard stood stone-faced on the other side of the open chain link gate.
“Ma’am, the child needs to come with me.” He gestured the girl forward. “Vamos, chica.”
“Mama?” The little girl’s dark brown eyes grew wide. Her father stepped in front of his wife and child.
“No!” he demanded. “My daughter is staying with us.”
The overflowing detainment center hummed with apprehension. Confused conversation and the shuffling of feet hung heavy under the musty weight of acrid sweat and fear.
“Por favor, she is a very special girl,” the mother continued. “You must let me stay with her.”
The guard pulled out his baton.
“Sir, step aside. Ma’am—”
“My daughter needs me.” Tears rolled down the mother’s cheeks. “Por favor, let us stay together!”
“Hey!” An impatient supervisor called across the imprisoned throng of immigrants. “What’s the hold up, Sam? We gotta keep these cattle moving!”
“My daughter is not going anywhere,” the father insisted.
“Listen to me!” The guard pointed his baton at the young Guatemalan family. “Escúchame! Tu hija viene conmigo.”
“No, Mama!” the little girl clutched her mother’s neck. “No, Mama! No, no, no!”
The mother began to shake.
“Shh, shh, my love,” she cooed, suddenly sinking to her knees. A strange vacancy filled her face as the blood drained out of her cheeks.
“Mama!” the girl wept.
“Last warning.” The guard pushed the father aside with his baton. “Mueve tu culo.”
“Mama!”
But the father stepped in again, this time turning to his girls.
“Joaquina?” the father asked, tension in his voice. “Joaquina?”
“Enough dicking around!” the guard shoved the father aside. “C’mon!”
He grabbed the mother’s arm but he faltered and gasped.
“Let her go!” the father cried out. “Let her go!”
“What the hell?” the guard yelled, holding up a shaking hand to his face. “What the fuck is happening?”
The mother looked up from her crying child, tears trembling on the rims of her eyelids. She gazed in to the guard’s eyes with an eerie stillness.
“I can’t stop it,” she whispered.
“Sam?” the supervisor called, concerned.
The guard suddenly spasmed, as if stung. He grabbed his heart. Eyes rolled back. Jaw snapped wide. And in the next instant, his terrified scream consumed him.

Excerpt from “Sideshow” by Jude Reid

His tongue is in her mouth again.

Against her back, she can feel the fabric of the tent, the wet canvas smell mixing with the taste of ketchup and soda and Juicy Fruit gum. Her right hand is closed around a guy-rope; her left, for want of anywhere else to put it, is on Richie’s belt. He has taken hold of her right breast and is squeezing it rhythmically and not especially gently. This is your fault, she thinks to herself, eyes closed and mouth open. You didn’t say no.

The tongue retracts back into his mouth, slick, fat and slug-like. She imagines it leaving a trail of thick mucus behind itself, and her stomach lurches at the thought, sending a tide of acid rushing into her mouth. Her own tongue flicks out and runs across her lower lip, as if it were possible to lick away every trace he had left behind.

Excerpt from “The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding” by Sam Lauren

Barb washed her panties in the bathroom sink between classes and the water ran pink. It stained her nails. She scrubbed them with hand soap and course paper towels but they never came clean. Neither did the panties.

It was her first time. Some of us knew how she felt. We didn’t give her advice; we teased her as if we didn’t have folded bits of toilet paper stuffed between our linens and our aching, leaking bodies.

By the fifth day everyone knew. Boys wouldn’t touch her. Girls claimed to smell her from lockers away.

The Bible says a bleeding woman is unclean. We thought it was funny, a myth, a lie told by parents to make kids remain chaste. It didn’t prepare us for Barb.

Two weeks in she killed a plant. We can’t prove it but they both sat by the window, wilting in their own filth. The plant hadn’t changed its dirt. She hadn’t changed her panties. Some say she touched the stem of the flower, turned it toward the light, but others say it died just from being near her.

A month later she was still scrubbing her panties after every bell.

Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology drops February 18, 2020 but is available for pre-order!

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