It's that time of the month again--time for a new monthly theme for the Read & Watch Challenge! This month I wanted to nod to Halloween and the change of seasons (if we ever GET a change of season here in Dallas. So. Hot. Still.) But I also didn't want to make it all about scary books and horror because not everyone reads that. So I thought the word STRANGE could cover a lot of bases.
*If you're not familiar with the challenge, you can find out the details here. Feel free to join in anytime.
So, I have a few recommendations for you and then I'll give you some of my plans for what I'm going to read and watch this month.
What to Read:
First, I'm going to recommend (with caveats) a horror writer that I discovered last year: Grady Hendrix. So his books are like if horror movies from the 80s got mixed up with a Southpark episode. They are gory but also darkly funny and snarky. Having said that, don't read these if you don't like horror or are easily grossed out. They are still horror, even if they have that dark comic edge. But I've enjoyed both of these, and I love the quirky concepts.
I read My Best Friend's Exorcism last week and it was a page-turner. Plus, the presentation of the book itself adds to the experience. The hardcover I have looks like a high school yearbook complete with signatures and cheesy pages with dedications and school clubs and such. Also, each chapter is the name of an 80s song. I'm not sure if all the humor will land if you didn't grow up in the 80s. Like I can remember how there was this rampant fear back then that satanists were stealing kids and doing rituals in the woods near my house. It's weird to think about it now, but people legitimately were worried that kid-stealing satanists were a widespread problem. So there are nods to that time in this book. Also, there's a scene at the end where she invokes a view things during an exorcism (I won't spoil it) that made me laugh out loud and made the whole book worth it. But it is GORY. I was grossed out a number of times. So this isn't going to be for everyone.
This photo is of the hardcover that I have, but the paperback version has one that looks like a crazy VHS tape. Also, it looks like the kindle version has enhanced content.
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
An unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist that blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller
The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
Also, if that one appeals to you, I'll do a shout out for another by Grady Hendrix that I read a few years ago. I did a full review on this one here and have already recommended it. But in case you missed it, it's a horror story set in an IKEA-like store. Who wouldn't think that getting lost in an IKEA at night would be scary? I highly recommend the print copy of this one because it's made to look like an IKEA catalog and has drawings of different furniture that becomes increasingly sinister as the story goes on. :)
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom. It’s “a treat for fans of The Evil Dead or Zombieland, complete with affordable solutions for better living.”—Kirkus Reviews.
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
If you like your strange with a little more science fiction and less horror, you might want to try Dark Matter by Black Crouch. This is a thriller with a science fiction twist. It puts the characters in a lot of strange situations, so this fits the theme perfectly. I did a full review here, but here are the details about the book:
Dark Matter by Black Crouch
A mindbending, relentlessly surprising thriller from the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy.
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
What to Watch:
Okay, y'all, confession: the original IT was one of my favorite movies/mini-series (even though the ending always pissed me off.) I saw it high school and read the book and loved that brand of horror. So I was both excited and nervous when the new one came out because remakes are usually a big disappointment. But I got a chance to see it this week and I have to say, I was impressed. They did a really great job with it and benefitted from the technology advances since the first one. Plus, the child actors did a great job portraying the characters. I also liked that this one just focused on the half of the story that took place when they were kids (they moved it from set in the 60s to the 80s). There will be a second movie I'm guessing to cover the adult portion, but it made it feel less rushed. So if you like a scary movie that's more about psychological horror than jump scares, this is a good choice. For me, this one is all about characterization and caring about the characters, which is often rare in modern horror movies.
What I'll Be Reading:
Sourdough by Robin Sloane
This is one of my Book of the Month picks and I love the sound of this one. Magical bread? Sign me up. :) (Also, if you're interested in checking out Book of the Month, you can get the new John Green book or the new Stephen King and Owen King book for free. My referral link will get you 3 months for 10 dollars a month, which is way cheaper than the new release hardbacks are sold anywhere else.)
About the book:
In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.
Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.
When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?
Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.
Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix
Yes, this one is the very definition of strange and it's another pick by Grady Hendrix, but I'm fascinated by the evolution of book genres and this is all about the rise of horror in the 80s and the history of it. Oddly enough, it's tied to romance (picture those gothic book covers with the woman running in her nightgown away from a big scary house.) So yes, this is a weird pick but I'm looking forward to it. Plus, it has all kinds of photographs of the creepy and weird horror covers of the past.
About the book:
Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.
This is another Book of the Month pick. The premise seems to fit the Strange theme perfectly.
The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
From the Edgar Award-nominated author of Shovel Ready, a blistering new thriller that Dennis Lehane calls “propulsive and meaningful”
For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, the Coen Brothers, and Lost
Imagine a place populated by criminals—people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead.
For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.
What I'll Be Watching
Here's what's on my DVR or in my Netflix/Hulu queue that fit this theme: Channel Zero (season 2), The Handmaid's Tale, The Mist.