Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Book Review: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Like a voracious werewolf, Stephen Graham Jones tears into the lycanthropy legend, devours parts and digs into others. The result is a moody coming of age tale, Mongrels. Told by a young boy who has yet to show lycanthrope traits, readers learn of a mobile family group living on the fringes of society. The story has darkly humorous bits mixed throughout the horror and the often poignant explorations of ostracization and acceptance. The story comes in spurts, and I think that’s by design. It’s almost a series of short glimpses into their wacky, nomadic life, with an aunt and uncle who raise the young storyteller from the age of eight until eighteen. These vignettes keep the reading experience sort of chaotic, just like the life of this kind of wacky, dangerous monster family. For an original exploration of the werewolf legend and a glimpse into an non-traditional family with an abundance of love for one another, Mongrels is the book.

Festival of Books in the Alleghenies

I’m attending this weekend’s Festival of Books in the Alleghenies in Ebensburg, PA. The festival begins at 9AM and lasts until 4PM at the Veteran’s Park and promises activities for every age. There will be children’s storytimes, balloon creations, a graphic novel creating class, and glitter tattoos for the younger guests. Everyone will be treated to the live music, and there will be food trucks, vendors, and of course authors! If you’re in the area, please stop by and say, “Hi!”

Novella Review: Gwendy’s Button Box written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

As a fan of magical realism, I was enchanted by Gwendy’s Button Box written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. I understand the two authors collaborated after a long-time internet friendship, with Mr. King reaching out to Mr. Chizmar to finish the story begun many years prior but not finished. The collaboration produced a beautiful and strangely uplifting novella. In it, a middle school girl decides to climb the Suicide Stairway in a park in Castle Rock to lose weight after being teased. At the top, she meets a mysterious man who presents her with a peculiar box. Gwendy suspects the box has tremendous power and decides to keep it safe.

There are some possible triggers, including attempted rape, suicide, and murder, but all are necessary for the story’s advancement, and the overarching tale has the feel of a charming fairy tale. I recommend it.

Book Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group follows a group of women dealing with their survival of Hellish experiences involving killers. They had fought back and survived, but to deal with the emotional and psychological problems resulting thereof, they bond by keeping in touch monthly and sort-of looking out for one another. When one of their number fails to attend, the story begins.

The book is told from one of the final girls’ perspectives, and she, in truth, is not the most likeable person. She is a bit of a recluse and has a ton of issues. (Who wouldn’t, though? I imagine I might be in the same predicament if I endured such an experience.) I will say, though, Grady Hendrix writes women well. 

Although this book is more of a thriller, fans of classic horror will recognize lots of references, such as the intriguing “Dream King” (ie Freddy K.) Hendrix uses humor in his recreations, and this book has some truly lovely twists, too.

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

In The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni retells the ages-old Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. It is a vast tale with wars and gods and a mystical palace lost in a game of chance. The main character is handed over to not one groom but five, all while secretly pining for a different man entirely. A familiarity with the Mahabharata is recommended but not necessary. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the perspectives. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni obviously loves the cultural impact of the story and sets out to right the wrongs. She is a bit heavy-handed with the foreshadowing, though. However, some of the sweeping descriptions transports readers to a land where spices and a magical garden scent the air and war is overseen by the gods themselves.

For this week’s 99 word challenge, Charli Mills wanted pigs to fly.

My drabble below found Biblical inspiration.

Also at Carrot Ranch, Buckaroo D. Avery provided a photo prompt which inspired this week’s second drabble.

Please let me know if you’ve participated. I’d love to read your stories!

Swine Song

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

We lived outside of Gerasene, a land where the Chosen never harried us. 

Or so we thought.

A man swathed in sunlight called to a madman chained in the nearby tombs. “What is your name?” 

The darkness within the madman growled, “Legion.” 

The glowing man sent Legion into our doylt. 

Cold settled into our bones. Acid ate our flesh. Demonic whispers infiltrated our thoughts.

We acted before Legion controlled us as it had the madman of the tombs. 

Together, we leaped from the cliff, truly flew, suspended in our divine act before gravity called us to the primordial sea.

Arlington Cemetery

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Like giants’ teeth, white tombstones jut from grassy gums, wise words carved into their backs serving as memorial tattoos. The land once belonged to the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee who found war to be uncivil in the end. But before the Custis-Lee family owned it, Native tribes called the land their home. Policies put in place to protect the trees surrounding what once was a home and now is a museum were contested and overturned, another upheaval on peaceful property. A corner was once set aside as Freedman’s Village, until the residents chopped the wood for fuel and heat. Who knew trees could cause disharmony in a land where warriors rest?

Book Review: Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson

Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson introduced me to the unflappable and heroic Walt Longmire. This holiday tale finds the sheriff reading Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol when a young woman asks a favor. The pair visit a senior care facility where a man named Pappy Van Winkle resides. This fellow, well into his holiday spirits, and his visitors recall a storm-strewn Christmas eve in 1988 when an imperilled young girl and her mother rely on a WWII vet, a copilot, an officer, and a decommissioned aircraft for their very lives.

This is a fast and wonderful read full of compassion, potential peril, and humor. It conveys an appreciation for history, courage, and humanity’s intrinsic care. Through its story, I learned the reason for Wyoming’s license plate art. The main character is well drawn and admirable, and I enjoyed this little book quite a lot. I understand Craig Johnson wrote (and writes) many other Walt Longmire adventures and look forward to reading them.

Stars in the Sand: A response to this week’s 99 word challenge

Charli Mills issued a new challenge and presented an exceptional and emotional 99 word story of her own. I do hope you’ll take the time to read it! My response is below. I hope you’ll like it.

Stars in the Sand

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Lonely footprints in the sand marked her progress, footprints watered with her tears and the exuberant salt spray. She sniffed sadness with each step as she left her marital home.

The moon danced in the dark ocean’s waves and laughed at the woman’s consternation. This orb’s influence led the sea astray, pulling the waters along lunar whims. Likewise, it diverted the woman’s husband, enhancing his basest instincts. Like a madman, he romanced in moonlight with howls, dances, and gore.

In despair and fear, she fled, unaware with each resultant spray of her passage, she revealed stars in the sand.

Book Review: The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

It’s been many years since I read a translation of the original Beowulf, but it is a bloody, good story that stays with me. It is one of the world’s oldest surviving written tales. 

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley is not a retelling of, but rather a reimagining of, Beowulf. In the Mere Wife, a vet of the War on Terror named Dana returns to her newly gentrified home town after surviving incarceration, torture, a staged assassination, and newly delivered of a mysterious pregnancy. Afraid the good people of the world would not accept her boy, Gren, Dana spirits her son away and resides deep in a mountain. Gren, however, is curious and wants to befriend the boy named Dylan who plays piano in the houses at the base of the mountain in which he lives. Dylan’s mom, a picture-perfect “Karen” with the sniping backing of formidable matrons, protects her son as best she can, enlisting the help of the local officer of the law, Ben Woolf. 

At its heart, the Mere Wife explores prejudice, PTDS, and gentrification. Expectations are examined, too. It is told with women in mind, with maternal protection and interference brought to the forefront.

The language of the book is sometimes staccato, like a machine gun’s rapid report, forcing the reader to experience the unnerving unreality with the novel’s characters. Word repetition harkens to the earlier text. There are lots of clever, double meaning words. And in the end, the question of who the real monsters are remains open for interpretation. 

The Mere Wife is, therefore, a worthwhile reading experience.

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