Oh My Gourd!

34-1113tm-vector2-2063It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! It’s finally Halloween! Hooray! Halloween is, in case you couldn’t tell, by far my favorite day of the year!

Today, we celebrate; tomorrow, we start planning for next Halloween! Costumes go back in the closet. Decorations go back into boxes (unless you’re like me and just leave the skulls and bats up all year-round).

But, what do you do with all those pumpkins, gourds, and jack-o-lanterns? Never fear! I happen to have a few suggestions.

1. Make a planter or flower pot out of the old pumpkins.

2. Feed the birds.

3. Feed yourself. Have a latte or try some pumpkin lasagna! (I personally wouldn’t try these recipes with any pumpkins I’d carved and left sitting around. But uncarved pumpkins should be fine, provided they haven’t begun to rot.)

4. For those pumpkins that just aren’t suitable to feed to yourself, the birds, or even the plants, there’s still my favorite option – PUNKIN CHUNKIN!

Oh, wait. You say you don’t have a trebuchet or air cannon lying around? No problem! Will County apparently has a catapult and will be happy to fling your pumpkins and gourds on Saturday, November 5 in the parking lot of Lewis University!

So, get chunkin!

Tara’s Top Ten Terrors

‘Tis the Season for all things ghoulish and ghastly! Whether you prefer to turn off the lights and creep under a warm blanket to eat popcorn and catch a freaky flick or curl up with a hot mug of apple cider and lose yourself in a bewitching book, it is an ideal time to embrace and celebrate the Dark half of the year!

I have had a great time getting in touch with my own inner monster while compiling my list of Top Ten Terrors! So, without further ado (and, in no particular order), here they are!

TARA’S TOP TEN TERRORS

coraline1. Coraline’s Fake Mum in Coraline by Neil Gaiman
You might think it’s the button eyes or the overly long, thin fingers that is so freaky about Coraline’s “other mother.” For me, it’s her icky-sticky sweetness and forced cheer. It’s the fact that she looks aaaalmost just like Coraline’s mum, but not quite right. It’s the not-quite-rightness that gets to me. Like, you could almost relax and just pretend everything is normal, except, except, except…

diviners2. Naughty John from The Diviners by Libba Bray
He whistles, refers to himself in the third person, and disembowels young women. Also, he’s been dead for decades. Naughty John, a murderous spirit conjured by a misguided jaunt with a Ouija board checks off all the points on the “How to Terrify Tara” list.

darkness3. Darkness in Legend (1985)
I watched this movie when I was in grade school and Tim Curry’s portrayal of the character called “Darkness” has shaped my idea of evil ever since. Like, if someone uses the word, evil, in a sentence, my brain pulls up his image and plays it on the little projector screen in my skull. (You have one of those too, right? It’s not just me?) He’s dark and decadent and deliciously wicked in so many ways!

slasher4. Emmeline and the March Hare (among others) in Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke
This anthology has a great collection of short stories featuring a ton of killer ladies. (Har har!) My two faves are near the beginning. In the Forest Dark and Deep author Carrie Ryan draws on the story of Alice in Wonderland to give us a villain (heroine?) that is sweet and lovely and utterly unhinged. Cat Winters’ Emmeline is a more traditional ghost tale with a twist that sent literal shivers down my literal spine.

lenore5. Lenore series by Roman Dirge
Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl isn’t frightening exactly. She’s cute.  She’s little.  She’s… oh yeah.  Well, I guess she’s perhaps a bit disturbing… I mean, what would you call a little girl that hangs out with dead things and chops off people’s noses in a game of “Got Your Nose”?  You can read all about her and her cute, little, dead adventures in books like Noogies, Wedgies, Cooties, and Swirlies!

dr-moreau6. Dr. Moreau from The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
This classic sci-fi horror depicting a megalomaniac scientist and his half-man/half-beast experiments is by far the oldest “terror” on my list and also one of the most frequently remade. There are at least four movie adaptations with another one in production. But, I say skip all those knock-offs and go straight for the original – the book! It’s far creepier than any of the films. If you like cheesy, old black-and-white movies, though, try The Island of Lost Souls (1932).

Image result for jack skellington7. Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Poor Jack. He just wants to bring the excitement of a new holiday to Halloween Town. But everything just ends up as a hot mess. I can relate. Plus, with Tim Burton’s stark fantasy imagery and Danny Elfman’s rumbling baritone, the whole movie is just breathtaking!

8. Anna Korlova from Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
Anna Korlova is more than an urban legend. She is a force to be reckoned with. After her own bloody murder, Anna’s ghost takes over the house in which she was killed. Her power and her rage are so strong that the house itself becomes changed. And no one who enters the home ever leaves it. Until Cas Lowood comes to town.

pans-labyrinth9. The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Ok, so this movie is rated R, so talk to a parent or guardian before watching it. It’s also in Spanish, so you’ll have to watch it subtitled if you don’t understand Spanish. But, even if you’ve never seen the movie, The Pale Man (also known as “The Dude with Eyeballs on His Hands”) is an image that will stick with you. Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy film, not a horror, but it has some of the most stunningly disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen.

10. Pennywise from the TV mini-series,It
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Genre Spotlight: Steampunk

steampunk

When you hear the word “Steampunk,” you probably think of gears and goggles and tiny hats. Or, maybe you think: “Steam-huh? What even are you saying to me?”

If you’re NOT familiar with steampunk, keep reading. If you ARE familiar with steampunk, keep reading.

Steampunk does involve quite a lot of gears and goggles and tiny hats, but it is so much more than that. It’s an alternate version of history.

Steampunk generally focuses on the 19th century – frequently Victorian England, but there are sub-genres that focus on the American Wild West, Asian societies, and others. Why the 19th century?  The 1800s were a time of expansion, exploration, enlightenment and science. Steampunk takes the inquisitive, innovative spirit of the period and gives it more to play with. It asks the question: what if 19th century scientists had used the technology they had to create modern inventions like robots, airplanes, and telephones? Thus, you see things like clockwork automatons, steam-powered airships, and“etherographic” communicators.

Also, there are frequently vampires and werewolves and ghosts.  And sometimes octopi.  Essentially, the genre takes the culture of the Steam Age and “punks” it with a healthy dose of science fiction and/or fantasy.

Here are a few Steampunk titles to get you started:

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
Place a hold.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

Etiquette and Espionage
By Gail Carriger
Place a hold.

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)

The Transatlantic Conspiracy
By G. D. Falksen
Place a hold.

The Transatlantic Conspiracy

The Dark Unwinding
By Sharon Cameron
Place a hold.

The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding, #1)

The Girl in the Steel Corset
By Kady Cross
Place a hold.

The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)

And, since I had trouble narrowing down my list, here are a bunch more:

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
The Grace of Kings by Ken liu
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
A Natural History of Dragons: a Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Prudence by Gail Carriger
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Dearly Departed by Lia Habel
Girl Genius by Phil Foglio
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

If you devour all these and find you’re hungry for more, just stop by the Vortex.  We love to recommend books!

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Tara