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Land, Literature, and Life: All I Want to Do is Live by Trace Ramsey

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all i want to do is live by trace ramsey

Most of the books I read can be put into two categories: young adult or Stephen King. Every once in a while, though, I’ll branch out, for one reason or another. In this instance, All I Want to Do is Live was a publishing project I chose to back on Hatchfund, a Kickstarter-like project funding site—and of course I went for the bound book copy reward.

All I Want to Do is Live is a collection of essays, creative nonfiction, and poetry. It’s made up considerably of selected pieces from author Trace Ramsey’s zines, some of which appear both in their original zine or chapbook form and in adapted/expanded versions later on in the book.

Part one consists of selected pieces from Ramsey’s nonfiction chapbooks and zines, and Ramsey’s storytelling within these essays is striking. He crafts vivid scenes of rural life in beautiful, horrifying ways, which aren’t likely to be easily forgotten. One notable event is his effort to butcher a roadkill deer he found, the attempt quickly going awry. Among the rich description of solo survival, though, Ramsey makes reference to why he’s doing this—his internal motivations—and he does so without making the piece feel disjointed or awkward. Many pieces in the collection have this back and forth between the internal and external; I couldn’t help noting as I read that Ramsey’s smooth style would make an excellent example for anyone looking to study creative nonfiction.

Among part two, the poetry selections, there are a number of amazing, thoughtful pieces, from the likes of “Baby #1” and “Baby #2” to “Homeless” and “Roaches.” A personal favorite within the section is “Planning,” which examines assumptions surrounding the potential of tragedy and the aftermath. It’s a short piece, but powerful in its brevity. As with much poetry, each piece in the section benefits from a reread and even a read aloud. The language twists in a way that at first can be puzzling—if beautiful—and isn’t that just the way of poetry?

A prominent, recurring theme throughout the collection is Ramsey’s interest in and affection for birds. Their presence seems to permeate nearly every piece, even in a simple passing mention of a bird’s song or their appearance flitting through a scene. I don’t put much credit into the idea that themes, motifs, and the like are always a result of author intention, but I do think that the birds, in general, speak to a variety of habits, ideas, and experiences: The prominence of the rural in Ramsey’s life, the comfort of the familiar in the midst of a struggle, and the constant underlying presence of his depression.

Part three of the collection, essays and flash nonfiction, contains one of the most impactful pieces: “Farthing Street.” This essay focuses on the birth of Ramsey’s second child and the ensuing post-partum depression he experiences, something not often talked about in terms of the father. It connects so many aspects of the collection together to discuss Ramsey’s depression, approaching it medically as necessary (and how that relates to an at times “crunchy” lifestyle, and birth process in particular), and examining how it affects and relates to his status as a new father. It’s a thorough, passionate piece, raw and quiet, yet still powerful, with its closing line the collection’s title in bold, “All I want to do is live.” It’s a piece that made me take a moment, take a deep breath, and hold the book to my chest as I braced myself in recovery.

All I Want to Do is Live is just beautiful, inside and out. From the texture of the tricolor cover to the vulnerability and honesty of the contents within. Trace Ramsey’s collection is a powerful work of art that I’m so proud to support.

July 7, 2017
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The Nocturnal Reader’s Box | June 2017: All Hail the King

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The Nocturnal Reader's Box

Y’all, I could not resist this box, and there was a turn of luck that came in my ordering it. A couple of weeks ago, as I was crossing my fingers in the most recent Nocturnal Readers Box rep search on Instagram (spoiler alert: I was not chosen as a rep), there was the announcement that a few orders had been canceled for the June box and purchases would be temporarily reopened. So naturally I snagged that right up after missing out on the original ordering time frame for this Stephen King-themed book box.

For those who don’t know, The Nocturnal Reader’s Box is a monthly subscription box focusing on the horror, science-fiction, and psychological thriller genres. Each box comes with two books–one new release, one new copy of a previous release–a bookmark, a wearable, and an art print commissioned for that month’s theme, plus a handful other items.

This month’s box included: an exclusive edition of the new Stephen King novella Gwendy’s Button Box, co-authored with Richard Chizmar; a copy of Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub; a bookmark; a The Dark Tower bandana; a “Constant Reader” enamel pin; a “Greetings from Derry, Maine” magnet; It and Carrie stickers; a The Long Walk art print; a Castle Rock/Gwendy’s Button Box limited edition coin; a Creepshow patch; and an exclusive Firestarter tea from Jasmine Pearl Tea Company.

This box was an absolute blast. All the items in it were wonderfully on topic, from the It and Carrie stickers (two of my favorites of his novels) to the Derry, Maine postcard magnet to the Dark Tower bandana. Everything is of excellent quality as well, which is always a pleasure. While I’ve never received a low-quality box from any company I’ve tried thus far, I have gotten some disappointing items before, but that wasn’t the case with this one. The items were such that they should appeal to a variety of King fans, and they’re all something that can find use.

I’m thinking specifically of the bandana, because I don’t generally wear them, so what I actually ended up doing with it was tying it onto my bat purse, which it goes great with aesthetically. I think just because it was something that might not have an obvious use right away for those who don’t usually venture into the land of bandanas doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it. (And honestly, even if you can’t find a use for it, there’s so much else in the box that it’s not a loss.)

I think my only disappointments with the box were the second book and the tea. While I have high hopes for Pork Pie Hat, it’s something like an odd duck in the box since it’s not a Stephen King piece. As for the tea, that’s all about preference. While I’m a huge fan of spicy foods, I’m not a fan of ginger, which is a big flavor in this tea. The tea itself seems to be of great quality, though, with a strong scent and flavor. I simply don’t like ginger. (And I did at least make the effort to try it–it just wasn’t … my cup of tea.)

So was I happy with my first Nocturnal Reader’s Box? Oh, heck yes. So much so that I’ve kept my subscription going for the July box as well (themed “The Feast”), and I’m looking forward to seeing what shows up at my doorstep next month.


Disclaimer: I purchased this box with my own money and have received no compensation for this review. All opinions are one-hundred percent honest and my own.

June 16, 2017
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It’s the End of the World As We Know It: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I don’t read (or know of) a lot of zombie books, and I don’t watch many zombie movies, either. The only time I watch The Walking Dead is when I’m in the room while Dan is watching it. I’m not opposed to the zombie subgenre; it’s just not my usual topic of choice. But when I picked up Rue Morgue a few issues ago to find the cover story was  a piece on a new zombie film–an adaptation of a novel–it piqued my curiosity. Maybe it was the title, The Girl with All the Gifts, or maybe it was the summary that followed, but along with that cover story, something got TGWATG stuck in my head like an inner ear itch you just can’t scratch.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I made my first trip in months to the library. I went armed with a list, and TGWATG sat at the very top.

M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts places readers twenty years into the future, where a fungal virus has spread and turned much of the earth’s population into “hungries,” seemingly mindless creatures that feed on their (uninfected) fellow humans. It’s been discovered that certain infected people–certain children–are partially immune, but the reason remains unknown. When the base at which this anomaly is being studied becomes overrun by a hoard of hungries and junkers (a feral population of humans choosing to live fully off the grid, without the aid or overview of the military), we’re left to follow five of the remaining characters on their way to the command center. Among them is the infected child, Melanie, who shows the greatest potential to save them all.

A sentient zombie in the form of an adolescent girl seemed too good to pass up, and I’m so glad I found TGWATG at the library because I didn’t much want to wait to read this.

The beginning was a bit slow, easing readers into the world of destruction, infection, and military life. I have to admit the first dozen chapters or so felt like a struggle, but a number of bookstagrammers assured me it was worth it, that the action would pick up, and they didn’t let me down.

Nothing terribly new or unexpected occurs in this novel as far as zombie stories go, aside from the explanation for the undead. The reanimated state of zombies has often been portrayed as resulting from a disease, but the disease as fungal isn’t one I remember seeing before now and not to the extent it has been in TGWATG. Carey is thorough in detailing what scientist Caroline Caldwell–a rather sterile, human evil in contrast to the hijacked hungries–knows and we, as a result, also come to learn. And while I find the fact that it’s a fungus and, by extension, how it works fascinating, the chapters from Caldwell’s perspective remained some of the least interesting throughout the book, as Caldwell’s ruminations are bogged down by science and lack of humanity that’s found in the other characters, including the hungry-hating Sergeant Parks. I wouldn’t say this makes the Caldwell chapters bad, however; in fact, their style reflects perfectly on her character.

By far my favorite chapters were from Melanie’s perspective. She has such a wonderful character whom I couldn’t help feeling affection for (though, honestly, I liked everyone but Caldwell). To see the world, even in its dystopian state, through the eyes of a young girl is actually quite sweet, given their circumstances. But Melanie’s characterization gives us so much insight into these partially immune hungries, and while I expect readers will catch onto the looming questions of “Who is human and what does that mean?” much quicker than the adults in the novel, it’s not a consideration without merit in this story.

My biggest beef with the story is actually the subplot of the junkers. They’re mentioned a handful of times, but aside from being a catalyst in the early stages of the novel, they don’t have much part to play. I don’t know if they were truly necessary to the story overall (and as it happens they’re largely absent from the film adaptation with no real loss to the story). While they present an ominous threat, it’s so abstract in comparison to the hungries that they’re forgettable.

Despite the slow start, I enjoyed this novel. It was a little predictable at times–apart from the ending, which I didn’t see coming and just adored in its darkness–but for the most part, it was a thoughtful, frustrating, and heartbreaking look at humanity and what it means to be alive.

June 9, 2017
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Grieving and Guilt: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Last year, one of the only books I read in under twenty-four hours was Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King. I received it in the March OwlCrate and knew nothing about it before it arrived; I hadn’t even heard of it. Even when I read the summary, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. It just didn’t get me super stoked. I’m happy to say, though, that I fell in love with it and anything else that Zentner would write, even if he hasn’t come up with it yet. I was an instant fan.

And in March of this year, his new book, Goodbye Days, was being released and I was hyped. I was ready for it. It had been on my wishlist for months. And once again I wasn’t disappointed, although that didn’t surprise me this time around.

From the time I heard the summary, Goodbye Days had my attention as its subject is something that’s always been important to me. The book follows Carver Briggs after the simultaneous death of his three best friends in a texting-related car accident. Carver, racked with guilt at the possibility that it was his fault, embarks on a series of “goodbye days” both to remember and grieve for his friends while trying to come to terms with his own role in the incident.

This book gave me both the crying feels and the yelling feels. I’ll tell you now that, given everything we learn throughout the book, I don’t think it’s Carver’s fault. As someone who makes it a point to put my phone on silent and stash it in my bag, I have a lot of feelings about these kinds of cases. It’s not just about how everyone feels, though, either reading the novel or existing within it. Eventually, the law becomes involved in Carver’s life after the incident, and things get tense–but in an entertaining way that I wouldn’t trade.

The thing about Goodbye Days, for me, is that Carver’s struggles were so palpable. They were strong enough that when Carver was freaking out, then I was freaking out, even if not as much. Of course, like any writer worth their ilk, Zentner didn’t just tell us that Carver was distraught. There were a number of scenes in which Carver has a panic attack, and at first he doesn’t even know what’s happening to him. Even though I understood and was pretty sure that he wasn’t dying like he thought, the description of each incident was so vivid that I was still scared and heartbroken for him. I think a large portion of that can be attributed to Zentner’s empathetic way of writing, helping us to learn who his characters are and to feel for them through their struggles. He makes us root for them.

I loved reading this book, and I remain a fan of Jeff Zentner for another novel. He’s an author I’ll continue keeping an eye on with great anticipation for what’s to come.

May 12, 2017
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Be My Friend: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, if you do not know, is a series about four girls–Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget–all born within days of each other and who as a result are something like built-in friends from the womb onward. The books specifically follow them through four summers, the first summer being their first time all apart, and just before they’re each set to leave on their own trips, they discover the magic of a thrift store pair of jeans that fits them all despite their various shapes and sizes. Obviously, these magic pants are the key to keeping them together even when they’re apart.

This is a book series I’ve been reading since about the time it started coming out in 2001, and despite my tbr plans for April, I ended up rereading them all once again–even the adult sequel, Sisterhood Everlasting. The books have always tapped into a lot of feelings for me, but this reading was different from the usual experiences throughout my teen years.

I’m a person who stays bitter and holds grudges. Maybe it’s the Aries in me or maybe it’s just a stunt in my emotional growth; either way, I’m getting too old to bother denying that anymore. So while, in the moment, many of my past friendships seemed good, they fell apart, and hindsight shows me that they weren’t what I thought at the time. I find it hard to forget that people have left me for other, better friends (or boyfriends) or that they were emotionally manipulative during our so-called friendship. Even though I should know better, even though I do have some good friends now, it still feels like it must have been my fault. It feels like there’s something wrong with me. It feels like I’m not good enough.

So when I read and reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, even now, ten years older than the girls were that first summer–and only a few years younger than they are in Sisterhood Everlasting–I find myself wavering between living vicariously through the story of their friendship and being envious of it. As a teenager, it was their fraught relationships with boys that made my heart ache, but now it’s their strong relationships with each other.

The bonds between the girls are so strong throughout the series as to seem almost impossible, but I can’t help believing in them despite my own experiences. I’m reaching a point when I start to think I’ll never have a best friend quite like them–which isn’t to say I don’t love the friends I do have. It’s just that, if I’m honest with all of us, they certainly don’t look like the friendship in the books and they don’t feel strong in the same way. Maybe I’m expecting too much from us, though. Maybe the books are an impossible standard. Maybe I’ll never really know.

The series is contemporary YA, which isn’t necessarily en vogue right now unless a horrific illness is involved, but far be it from me to criticize a series lauding female friendships and showing them in such an authentic, positive light just because it’s not the “it” thing to read. The books are also a little dated with the technology mentioned throughout (the newest was released in 2011 after all), but, at least for me, that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. I don’t read them to hear about the iPhone models the girls have.

I read these books for the friendship I just never had: theirs.

May 8, 2017
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Rad Gal Inspiration: Amber Tamblyn

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Amber Tamblyn Poetry Collection

Amber Tamblyn is a force of nature. She is fierce and feminist, passionate and intelligent, a contemporary poet who gives me strength, inspiration, and hope.

I first fell in love with Amber Tamblyn at the age of fourteen, when I saw her portray Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films. I adored the series in middle school, and Tibby was always my favorite character: cynical, a little angsty, but also full of love for her friends. I fell out of touch with what Amber Tamblyn was up to after the movies, only vaguely aware that she was still plenty active–but aware nonetheless. However, it wasn’t until college that she was fully on my radar again, when I discovered that she had written not one but two collections of poetry, her second having just been released. As excited as I was, though, they sat on my Amazon wishlist for years; I only just ordered my copy of Free Stallion, the first of her collections and the last to add to my shelves, last month. Still, from the moment I opened up Dark Sparkler, which I rushed to Barnes & Noble and specially asked if they had in stock shortly before I went to a reading in Boston, I was in love all over again.

Amber wasn’t just the actress to embody cool, punk-ish Tibby to me anymore. She was Amber Tamblyn, awe-inspiring poet. She was doing something that I admired and that I dreamed of doing myself. Finally encountering her work pulled me out of a writing slump of which I hadn’t realized the extent, and in the months following, I wrote and released my first chapbook. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading my way through her work once again and have since started on my second collection. You’d be hard pressed to convince me there wasn’t some correlation between the two.

Her work is intense, and her use of words is striking; she does not mince them. There may be fear there–is anyone truly fearless?–but she doesn’t let it stop her, whether it’s in telling a story of tragedy (as in a number of Dark Sparkler pieces) or making a political statement. While I believe everyone should try their hand at poetry, not everyone has the sense to use the medium quite like she does, with the perfect melding of adroitness, ferocity, and raw honesty. She tells her truth, whatever it is, and it resonates with me in a way that not all other poetry does. I can admire myriad other poets and other work, but that doesn’t mean that it hits me in the gut like hers does.

To be honest, there’s not much else for me to say. Amber Tamblyn’s work is something that makes me want to do better in my writing, to work harder and keep learning, in the hope that someday I can love my own words even a fraction as much as I do hers.

April 24, 2017
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3 Reasons to Unhaul Your Bookshelves

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Pink Bookcase

To tell the truth, it’s not often that I unhaul my books. I’m not into the idea that I’ll pay money for all these books, only to end up giving them away. Plus, I love books, and I feel guilty for not appreciating each and every one of them for the rest of my life.

The “unhaul” was a concept unknown to me until I dove into the rabbit hole of BookTube. Far more often you’ll see a regular book haul–usually monthly–but the unhaul is a rarer beast. (I think all book lovers are low-key hoarders, don’t you?) To first see one was both startling and refreshing because even though used bookshops exist, and even though I’ve gotten rid of some of my own before, those were mostly old college textbooks, and the concept of consciously giving up books that were maybe once loved was pretty unimaginable to me.

I think unless you’re a minimalist–and maybe even if you are–it can be emotionally draining to cull personal items, for any reason. Sometimes I’ll argue against it with Dan or myself, arguing that books can be decoration too or that I might read it again or sometimes that I haven’t actually read it at all yet. Once in a while, though, the necessity of cleaning out the space and letting go begins to form a seed in my brain, and while it can still take a few weeks or months to take the big step, it happens, and I start to feel a little bit better for it.

So if you’re feeling skeptical or anxious about unhauling your beloved books, what are some reasons you should?

You’re sending books to a new home. / Because if they’re sitting on your shelf unread or even without a passing glance in their direction most days, are they really getting all the love they deserve? Unhauling, especially by giving to a used bookstore or donating them to the library, can help your book find a new home and help someone else find an affordable copy of a book they maybe couldn’t have gotten before.

You’re making some pocket change. / A lot of used bookstores–if not all–will pay you for the books you bring in, so if you’d like to try your luck before donating to the library, it’s worth checking to see if your local used shop does this. If not, they might at least offer store credit or even an option between the two, making it worth a shot. If not, there’s also the option of selling used on Amazon, although that won’t clear your shelves quite as quickly.

You’re making room for new books! / When you start clearing out books from your shelves, you’re bound to start noticing gaps in your collection, which you’ll inevitably want to refill right away–which is great! In the process of sending your no-longer-needed books to a new home, you’ll be making way for new books in your own space. Everybody wins!

It can be a challenge to get started with your unhaul, much like the cliche of ripping off a Band-Aid, but just as they can both be painful, they’re also rewarding. So as you’re working on your spring cleaning this year, consider an unhaul. Maybe you don’t need one–but maybe you do.

April 17, 2017
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By now I’d be more surprised if you hadn’t read a review of Angie Thomas’s debut novel than if you had. This book has been a hot topic in the book community, with innumerable readers and reviewers singing its praises–and rightly so. This might just turn into another review in a whole sea of them, but I can’t help sharing how much I loved it.

The Hate U Give is about Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl living two lives: one in her poor neighborhood and one at her prep school. When Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of a childhood friend at the hands of a cop, she comes face to face with the reactions of both communities and her own feelings of guilt, fear, and responsibility.

Undoubtedly this novel is timely; the story it tells and the way Thomas tells it are poignant, heartbreaking, and necessary. She explores the stark contrasts and surprising similarities between Starr’s two worlds and the way they collide right alongside her own frustration and confusion between the two, never quite feeling accepted and never quite knowing where she fits in. One of the most striking–if not surprising–differences is in the reactions of Starr’s two communities to the tragedy she witnesses and how those around her affect her decision whether or not to speak out as a witness.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel was Starr’s family and her relationship with them. I fell in love with every member of her family and their own love for each other, even if she doubted it herself at times. They’re not  perfect and they’re far from the nuclear model, but Thomas uses those things to craft some amazing depth to her characters, examining why they choose to do the things that don’t seem like the best choice, but in actuality feel like their only choice. She also created great variety in the characters she presents to readers, from a willfully ignorant girl who refuses to see her own prejudice to a boy who says dumb things to Starr but acknowledges and learns from his mistakes to a woman who isn’t quite the mother we’re made to think she is, for better or worse.

Honestly, I don’t know how this is her first novel. Angie Thomas shows incredible skill in storytelling. I can only look forward to more beautiful, heartwrenching books like this one from her. If you haven’t read this one yet, I can’t recommend it enough and hope you get the chance and make the choice to do so. The Hate U Give is an important story that the world needed right now, and I think Thomas was an amazing person to share it with us.

April 14, 2017
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National Poetry Month: What It Is + 5 Ways to Celebrate

National Poetry Month Recommendations

National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It’s a celebration of poetry in our culture–personal, local, national, and worldwide–that takes place every April. If you’re someone who’s never been into poetry, then the month likely holds no significance to you, which is fair. Maybe it’s too artsy or maybe you just don’t find it accessible with all its metaphors and other flowery language. But I’m still going to try to change your mind.

I think what can make poetry daunting for many people, myself included, is exactly what makes it beautiful so often. The use of language in poetry is something you don’t always see in other genres, an often otherworldly level of word crafting even when it’s simple. If I had to choose only one genre of writing to call art, it would be poetry. The way poets can paint with their words is so vivid and powerful in even just a few short lines sometimes. There’s heart, passion, and vulnerability in poetry that can at times compare with something like memoir. The difference to me, besides simple structure, is word craft.

If poetry feels like a hurdle, my biggest recommendation would be to read it aloud or to listen to someone else read aloud. Plenty of recordings can be found on YouTube or Spotify, and it seems like there’s a poet for everyone, classic or contemporary, grandiloquent or ghastly.

And on top of reading poetry, there is of course writing poetry, which can also feel challenging if you focus on the language from the start, but if you want to try your hand at it (and I suggest you do), then my suggestion is simple: Don’t think about the language, just write. Chances sare that you’ll put more of your own emotions into it if you start out free writing rather than trying to make it perfect from the first line. (This goes for just about any writing, to be honest.) After you’ve got your base, then you can dress it up–or not. And remember, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.

So now that you’ve realized just how wonderful poetry can be, what are some ways you can celebrate its existence this month (and every month)?

Share a new-to-you poem on Facebook. / Browse through poets.org to find a poet you’ve never heard of and read through a bit of their work. When you find one that really strikes you, share it on Facebook for friends and family to enjoy too.

Write your own poem. / If you’re feeling reluctant about this one, start with a haiku. It’s short, allowing you to get it over with and hopefully come out of it with something that you enjoy. Bonus points if you share it (leave it in a comment on this post even), but there’s no pressure to do so.

Ask your friends for recommendations. / Chances are you have at least one friend who secretly or not-so-secretly enjoys a good poem every once in a while. Put out a call on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or your social media of choice asking friends and followers for recommendations. They might help you find a new favorite, and it’ll give you something to talk about together.

Support a poet. / I mean this one financially. While sharing and discussing are also ways to support a poet, it’s not the most lucrative business, so to actively buy a piece of work is recommended. Browse Etsy or the bookstore to find a poet who stands out to you and buy one of their books, chapbooks, or zines.

Find a poetry reading to attend. / This one might be the most difficult depending on where you live, but maybe you have a local bar that does poetry nights (I do) or maybe there’s an event coming up specifically for National Poetry Month at your library. Browse around and stop by if you find a reading and have the chance to attend.

Poets.org also has a list of thirty ways to celebrate, so you should have no problem diving into it this month.

And if you need a place to start, let me suggest any of Amber Tamblyn’s poetry. I’ve been rereading two of her collections recently as I start work on my next chapbook, and they’re just as breathtaking as the first time I read either of them. Dark Sparkler is my favorite, but Bang Ditto is wonderful as well. She also has a third, Free Stallion, and while I haven’t read it, I think it’s a safe bet that it’s just as exceptional.

What are your feelings on poetry? Do you have a favorite poet or poem you would recommend?
Let me know in the comments!

April 3, 2017
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Chills and Thrills: 9 of My Horror Favorites

Posted in Bookish, Horror, Pop Culture by
favorites of horror

I don’t know if it’s much of a secret that I’m a fan of horror. Am I the biggest fan? Probably not. But I am writing my next issue of Whatsername about it in part, and I do spend a lot of time trying to scare the shit out of myself. My horror fandom doesn’t lie strictly in the obvious–gore and the like, and in fact I’m not much of a fan of gore and torture porn-style horror, though even those have their exceptions–but I’m open to just about anything that could be enveloped by the horror umbrella. My favorite things are ghost stories, the occult, and extraterrestrials (think Close Encounters or Fire in the Sky), but I’ll try just about anything that looks like it’ll keep me up at night. As a result, I’ve racked up a somewhat staggering number of favorites over the years, and I’ve decided to share a few in the hope of connecting with someone–anyone–over our heretofore unknown mutual affection for being terrifyingly entertained.

Some of these favorites are pretty popular, but hey–that means we’re more likely to bond over them, right?

reading

  • Rue Morgue magazine. / This is a relatively recent discovery for me. Last October I did a browse through the entertainment section of Barnes & Noble and spotted Rue Morgue in the racks. The alluring shade of green on the cover of their 19th anniversary issue–a Frankenstein special–caught my eye, and I snatched it up. They specialize in all things horror, from the classics, like Dracula and the just-mentioned Frankenstein, but also new work coming out of the genre, like The Girl With All the Gifts (both the book and film, which I am dreaming of devouring asap), Split, and 2015’s Krampus.
  • Locke & KeyLocke & Key by Joe Hill was my first horror comic series, and there’s a reason I’m still obsessed with it years after my first reading. Not only is the story itself perfectly terrifying, but the art takes everything to an even greater level of scare. Gabriel Rodriguez’s skills are astounding, and I am so happy to have this collection in my bookcase.
  • Basically anything by Stephen King. / Okay, but really–if you know me at all then you know by now how much of a Stephen King fan I am. I’ve still only read a handful of his books relative to his total repertoire, but I’ve got a few favorites already, and I have yet to be disappointed in anything of his. I’ve read Carrie the most times, I assume because it appeals to my young adult/coming-of-age tale sensibilities, even if it’s not strictly described as such. I’d also list It as a favorite because it’s the only one of his novels thus far to truly terrify me.

Honorable mentions:  The Shining. Horns. 20th Century Ghosts. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Afterlife with Archie.

listening

  • Bizarre States podcast. / I’ve been listening to Bizarre States for about two years, and it is hands down my favorite podcast. It’s not always the most organized–no matter how hard Jess and Bowser try–but it’s great entertainment, and they are so genuine in their love for all the weird, spooky shit they talk about each week. Plus, they never fail to have me laughing my ass off in the middle of my Thursday night bubble baths. (They literally have an episode titled, “Can you shit out of your mouth?” So there ya go.)
  • My Favorite Murder podcast. / While this one is relatively more professional than BStates, it’s still kind of a hot mess at times, but that’s part of what we murderinos love about it. Karen and Georgia may take nearly an hour to get to talking about that week’s murders, but it’s another podcast full of authenticity. They make no habit of faking tight-laced professionalism and instead produce the podcast like two friends, just chatting about murder–which is exactly what they are and exactly why I like it.
  • Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls by Murderdolls. / A little different from the other two of this category, this album by horror-punk band Murderdolls is so much hardcore fun. My favorite tracks include “Dead in Hollywood,” which makes reference to an array of classic Hollywood horror icons (Dracula, Norman Bates, and actor Vincent Price, to name a few), “B-Movie Scream Queen,” and “Love at First Fright,” a love letter to The Exorcist’s protagonist Regan. The references have a hilarious creativity to them, and it’s just a fun album to listen to for a horror lover.

Honorable mentions:  NoSleep podcast. The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. History Goes Bump podcast. Welcome to Night Vale. The Horrorpops.

watching

  • House of 1,000 Corpses. / Something of a “modern classic” for me, and my favorite so far of Rob Zombie’s film work. While its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, is a great film as well, it’s a little glossier than House of 1,000 Corpses, and I think half of what makes House so fun is its lack of frills. While it’s not as strictly campy as other horror selections might be (like Bride of Chucky, below), it has some darkly comical moments to it–at least if you have the right twist to your sense of humor. Plus, it has Chris Hardwick and Rainn Wilson, so it can’t be bad.
  • Crimson Peak. / I’m honestly obsessed with this movie. I saw it in the theater with Dan when it came out, and I straight up fell in love with the aesthetics and the beautiful way that it was a ghost story without being only that. I’ve always heard good things about Guillermo del Toro, and while I never doubted any of them, I also had never really experienced them for myself until this film. Now I want to go through every other film he’s ever worked on and thoroughly acquaint myself with his mastery.
  • Bride of Chucky. / While I like the original Child’s Play films well enough, and they’re closer to the serious horror end of the spectrum, I can’t deny my love for the camp that is Bride of Chucky. Jennifer Tilly’s portrayal of Tiffany is a hilarious, sexy, and scary character alongside Chucky, inhabited by the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. I watched this a lot as part of my middle school goth-punk days, and it’s one I still adore for its hilarity and horror.

Honorable mentions:  The Exorcist. Ouija. Fire in the Sky. The Conjuring. Krampus. Poltergeist (1982).

One thing I haven’t gotten into yet is horror video games. For some reason, those scare me more than absolutely anything else–it’s why I’ve never managed to play my way through Resident Evil 4, despite having it for years. I do love watching playthroughs, though, and I’d love to get into the subgenre more in the future.

Are you a fan of the horror genre? Do you have any recommendations?

March 13, 2017
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