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review 2018-06-19 02:55
Michael Blumlein, Keeping House

From Casual Debris.

 

 

Following her appointment as Associate Professor of Classics at the nearby university, a woman, along with her husband and their baby daughter, move into their new home. Rather than taking on the challenges of the shabby, broken down yet affordable house on the block, they settle on the more costly, yet renovated house beside it. What is quickly set up as a ghost story becomes something entirely difficult, relying on the psychological rather than the paranormal to illustrate an intelligent and hard-working woman's mental decline.

The story toys a little with the conventions of haunted house stories, referencing some of its tropes, like unpleasant scents and mirrors that reflect things that don't appear to be present at all, but instead of being a ghost story, it is far more akin to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's excellent psychological tale of deterioration, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892). Like Gilman, "Keeping House" is told through the point of view of a new mother in a new environment who begins to believe that her surroundings are coming alive. Rather than believing someone is living trapped in the wall or its paper, Blumlein's unnamed heroine believes that threatening spirits are trying to infiltrate her home, entering from the adjacent, broken down eyesore of a house she chose not to purchase. To prevent this threat from destroying home and family, she does battle via an obsessive cleaning/cleansing routine.

Though the story can arguably be read ambiguously, there is enough evidence in the text to indicate that the visions and scents stem from the woman's overwrought mind. Possibly following postpartum, as is the case in Gilman, the un-named narrator goes through various extreme mood swings, which eventually culminate in her taking on all aspects of a family provider, and believing there is a threat attempting to pervade the house and harm the order and harmony she is struggling to maintain. She fights back by increasing the need for order and cleanliness to a dangerously obsessive degree.

Our narrator finally snaps as she begins preparations to have sex with her husband. This is the only indication in the story of any form of intimacy between them, hinting that they have not been physical sine conceiving their only child. Like her obsessive cleaning routine, her preparations for sex become ritual-like, and the story hence makes a connection between the couple's intimacy and the invading spirits, at least in the woman's mind. As she fights to prevent threats to invade her home, she is fighting to prevent her husband's invasion of her body. Following this scene we are informed that the husband is grumpy and increasingly absent due to work, though likely he is staying away from his wife in response to her increasing obsessiveness ("You are sick," he tells her), and perhaps also out of basic sexual frustration. The consequence is simply that mother-wife, as in Gilman, becomes increasingly isolated in response to the husband's unsympathetic assessment of her condition.

 
Thematically the story can be read as a modern woman struggling with the pressures of a career and balancing the traditional mother and wife requirements of home. Husband is absent from much of the story as he is struggling at a new job, or so the narrator presumes, and in a sense re-living the postpartum environment as mother is trapped at home with baby. Whatever we wish to read behind the woman's deterioration, it is the process itself that is the focus of the story. Again as with Gilman, our heroine is at the outset of the story already in her isolated state at home, though Blumlein's narrator does have the freedom of escape as she goes to work. The latter portion of the story, however, takes place during the summer, and as a teacher she drops her summer work option and remains at home to battle the demons behind the walls. The ending lacks the pure creepiness of Gilman's final scene, but does give us quietly depressing final act of cutting oneself off entirely from the world that surrounds.
Source: casualdebris.blogspot.com/2018/06/michael-blumlein-keeping-house.html
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text 2018-06-18 23:21
Reading progress update: I've read 230 out of 230 pages.
Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors - Kasey Lansdale,Joe R. Lansdale

sometimes, you just don’t want another quiet, subtle collection of Horror stories. you want monsters, just, running right at you, with only the heroine and maybe a smart-alecky companion standing in between you and that...that thing, that hideous thing!!

 

having mentioned the comic relief (from the sheer terror), some of the chuckle-at-best jokes didn’t do it for me, but I’ve been through that countless times before - cutesy humor that reads like it came off the top of the author’s head as they typed the scene for the rough draft and never upgraded over re-writes. but it’s okay - these are Horror stories, and scary monsters, dire slimy situations, death by claw and maw looming looming looming except for some pluck, candles and a precious chalk (plus gross secret ingredients) circle are the priority. not laughs. I just took my cue from all the monsters; they didn’t laugh and joke much, and drowned out any lame wisecracks with slime, stench, gnashing, crashing, applying pressure to sealed doors so that they start to buckle while creaking deliciously. y’know, the good stuff.

 

so fine, I get it, lesson learned from many Horror stories: sidekicks, given a chance to narrate, love to combine fighting monsters with working on a stand-up routine...and usually you have to put up with it for the whole stretch, because the sidekick with the hit-or-miss humor rarely gets chewed to pieces. and anyway, these tales did work better, I think, than if they had been done ultra-serious. there’s charm and impishness that combines wonderfully with lots of really scary scenarios.

 

thanks to Char for a kickass, energized collection of Horror tales! 

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review 2018-06-18 11:47
JURASSIC, FLORIDA by Hunter Shea
Jurassic, Florida - Hunter Shea

The quiet town of Polo Springs, Florida, (It's where you go to die!), is about to suffer from an invasion the likes of which it has never seen. Hurricanes? No problem! Climate change? No worries! Giant Iguanas? What the..what???

 

That's right, lizards! At first they're cute and remind you of those television commercials. Then, they seem to be larger than your average geckos. Then, they seem like they must be on steroids or something. And then? Then, they are bigger than your car and threatening to destroy your house! Will the people of Polo Springs survive? You'll have to read this novella to find out!

 

Hunter Shea is the man when it comes to fun creature features. That's all there is to it. There's no shame in serving up fine horror cheese, (and this is cheesy, have no doubt), because, let's face it - sometimes we are just in the mood for some chasing and chomping! What creature is doing the dining? Who cares? Who's getting eaten? Perhaps some of us like to substitute certain members of our families or co-workers for the actual characters... what? Who said that? Anyway, pretty much everyone is getting eaten and that's what's fun about it! There's no fake, drippy sentimentality here. Everyone is fair game.

 

Once again, I came away from this creature feature interlude totally entertained and with another story to tell my friends. "I just read this great book about..." 

 

Highly recommended for fans of creature feature FUN!

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!* 

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text 2018-06-17 04:06
Reading progress update: I've read 185 out of 230 pages.
Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors - Kasey Lansdale,Joe R. Lansdale

one story left, and I have to wonder what kind of supernatural aberration will bring this extravaganza of evil to a close! these stories have been a blast, and a welcome alternative to subtle, slow-burn stuff that sometimes ends only with a whimper. these tales don’t whimper...they snarl, spit, and scream.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-16 22:04
The Moor by Sam Haysom
The Moor - Sam Haysom

The Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taking part in a school trip, five teenagers and their teacher set out on a long walk across Rutmoor, thinking it to be a fun experience with friends. What they don’t expect is odd noises in the dead of night, and dead animals placed outside their tents. When tensions and tempers arise, the group soon begins to fall apart, until a dramatic turn leads them to fear for their very lives.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I never thought as I started reading this one, that I’d get so much enjoyment out of it. It took me by surprise; one of those moments that make this hobby so worth it. It all began with clippings from newspapers, written in a way that suggested they were merely pieces of a puzzle. Indeed, that set my mind ablaze with theories that wouldn’t subside throughout the entire book. I loved how it gave me a new perspective over the characters, how they interacted with each other, and in general how they were presented. Haysom was clever enough to give enough of a tease that pulled me in, made me want to know more, and I very much appreciated it. As I believe it, this is a debut novel, yet I wouldn’t have guessed. Many of the pitfalls new authors fall into - such as a lack of sufficient editing and typical horror tropes that are almost painfully overused at this point - were largely absent, giving an almost fresh take.

The atmosphere of Rutmoor, of how utterly miserable and arduous the travel became, it created vivid imagery in my head, and induced a very strong aversion to hiking. I can now say it's not something I want to do ever, in my lifetime. Honestly, the dynamic of the hiking group was a highlight; it had that pinch of realism to it. Each individual offered something unique with their personality, and like any real life circle, they all differed and even clashed together. Sometimes it was ugly, other times sweet, but most of all, their friendships were authentic. My favourite had to be Tom; undoubtedly the most sensible of the lot, followed by Matt and James. Even despite the young age of each, I was still able to relate. Yes, there was some immaturity - pretty much what you'd expect from teens, but it wasn't to the extreme.

The format of the plot struck me as quite different, in that rather than waiting until the end to reveal the big twist, it was just after fifty percent that it came into play. I can’t say it was unexpected - in fact, I had my suspicions much earlier, but I adored it regardless. You see, I much prefer when the direction of the story changes so drastically from my initial assumptions. If it’s done well, like it so wonderfully was in this case, then I feel like I’m kept on my toes, like I don’t have time to even look away. The question of survival played a significant part, as due to the parallel running chapters of present day (2015 to be precise), those that endured the horrors of the moor were made known, thus it was not the matter of who’s going to survive, but how do they survive.

The only thing that I found quite awkward, was the continual switch of past / present tense in the style of writing, however I understand it was used as a tool - to obviously convey the period of time, and perhaps even to alleviate confusion. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a challenge to get used to it.

In conclusion: I considered it a great story, and to be completely truthful, it soared above my expectations. With a slow beginning of character and atmosphere building, the story exploded into a creepfest that kept my attention. My applause goes to Haysom, and his impressive debut novel.

Notable Scene:

The rabbit's body was a mangled pulp of flesh, bone and hair. Its eyeless, earless face stared up at him from the grass. Patches of drying blood lay on the grass around it.
From somewhere behind Gary, a tree branch snapped.


© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/16/the-moor-by-sam-haysom
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