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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Audio Book Review: “Redemption in Indigo” by Robin Miles

This afternoon, I spent an enjoyable five hours with the kiddos listening to an audiobook narrated by Robin Miles who acted as a  “grio” or an African storyteller. She presented Karen Lord’s charming fairy tale, “Redemption in Indigo,” which pairs humans with spirits and proves “compassion is a great amplifier of empathy.” 

So, before I embark on my review of this excellent book, I’d like to share my love for the Libby app available through the library. All you need is a library card to enjoy audio stories and ebooks. (Well, I use my Kindle app to incorporate the ebooks, but that’s also free.) Since my love for literature is boundless, it’s great to have access to so many amazing works for free! I really, really love it and recommend it, especially during pandemic lockdowns and times without a car to drive to a local library and times when a tight budget will not allow you to even sniff a book store. (Sigh) Anyways, thank heavens for Libby!

On to “Redemption in Indigo.” Karen Lord presents her fable in a conversational way, with asides to the audience such as “Let us move forward in time…” She tells of Paama, a woman with great cooking abilities and common sense who leaves her gluttonous husband after many years. The undying djombi take notice of Paama’s good nature and level head and gift her with the Stick of Chaos. With it, subtle changes in time and chance can be manipulated. However, the “Indigo Lord” wants his power back, and so he tries to persuade Paama to return the Stick of Chaos to him. As a result, many lessons are learned and alliances formed.

Much of this story is concerned with “keeping up appearances,” giving gossips nothing to whisper. There are swaths of humor and subtle messages woven into the fabric of this tale.  It shows redemption is possible for all, if they are willing to learn. Since “tales are inspiration, not a substitute,” it encourages readers to live and learn and collect tales of their own to share. Delightful!

Book Review” “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler

In “Parable of the Sower,” Octavia Butler presents a society in violent disrepair where a teenaged daughter of a preacher envisions a peaceful civilization and redefined religion, if only she can survive to share her dream! As with all of Octavia Butler’s stories, the language is lush, the characters easily and realistically portrayed, and the imagery all-too-imaginable. This is a strangely poignant and applicable apocalypse with believable horrors and hurdles, and it is set not long from now. Indeed, one wonders at the premonitions of authors such as Octavia Butler.

There is a sequel to this work that I’ll have to check out as well.

Book Review: “The Book of Lost Friends” by Lisa Wingate

“The Book of Lost Friends” by Lisa Wingate meanders the way dustmotes float through humid air, taking its time. Considering the subject matter, the pacing makes sense. Chapters begin with a real-life advertisements posted after the emancipation by former slaves searching for lost family and loved ones, heart-breaking reality encapsulated in a few words.

This book is told in dual timelines – post Civil War from the perspective of the emancipated Hanny and the late 1980’s by a new school teacher, Benedetta Silva, with a tough group of students. 

Hanny’s a strong and inspiring woman who battles her way to a sort of justice for herself, her family, and in a strange twist, the daughter of the plantation owner to whom she was once enslaved. 

Benedetta “Benny” “MS. Pooh” has a likeable voice and an endearing optimism. She helps the kids become passionate about an aspect of their schooling through research into their personal histories. 

The tribulations presented to these women makes for an interesting glimpse into an oft-overlooked part of America’s past. After all, how successful were the “lost friends” pleas read from pulpits and presented in black-specific papers? I, for one, hope everyone was reunited, but of course I’m not that naive – only wishful.

Another 99 word story inspired by a Carrot Ranch prompt.

Seriously, gang, if you’re interested in writing and working on honing your craft, you should check out the weekly prompts at https://carrotranch.com . Head buckaroo Charli Mills and the rest of the Rough Writers and ranchers are a supportive bunch, adn writing a 99 word story is an interesting challenge. As always, if you give it a try, let me know so I can ‘hoot and hollar’ your praises. In the meanwhile, here’s my take on the prompt. Charli always says go where the prompt leads. Well, she asked for it…

Garden Club Party

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Fiona covered her eyes. “What are you doing?”

Her brother, Ian, lifted weights. “Getting ready for the party.”

“What party?”

“You know the hot chick across the street?”

Fiona crossed her arms. “The woman who just moved in?”

“Yeah, her. She’s started a garden club.”

“You don’t garden.”

Ian leapt to the chin-up bar. “Thought…” pulled himself up, “I’d try…” chin-up, “Something new.” 

“But where’re your clothes?”

“Read the invitation. Printed right there, ‘Come to the Buff Garden Club Party.’ Now, I’ve got to shower.”

Fiona wondered when he’d notice the name on the mailbox. It read, “The Buffs.”

Book Review: “Shadows in the Witching Glass” by Thomas S. Gunther

Shadows in the Witching Glass by collects 18 of Thomas S. Gunther’s short horror and flash fiction pieces, and the witching glass reflects many fears. Animal mutilation, sacrifices, demon worship, aliens, deranged neighbors, restless spirits, and of course witches inhabit the 268 pages. There’s a lot sexualized, some gore, and many disturbing scenes, as would befit the genre, so this is not something to read to young kiddies. Even butcher kids. Just sayin’.

Book Review: “The Fledgling” by Octavia Butler

Something bad happened to Shori. She woke in a dark place with no memories of herself. As she heals, she finds help – and she discovers she’s a young vampire. And although she looks like an eleven year old girl, she’s really a randy 50 something. So, yeah, the child-sex bothered me… 

While on the road to self discovery and understanding of the bad thing that happened to her to cause her amnesia, Shori learns of the cult-like dynamics and politics of vampirism in the modern age. She also discovers she’s something of an anomaly – Her dark skin and eyes allows her to walk about during the daylight hours. The action builds to a trial in which Shori shows her acumen.

Octavia Butler presents a unique look at vampirism in “Fledgling.”

Book Review: “What Big Teeth” by Rose Szabo

After an “incident” at her boarding school, young Eleanor Zarrin flees to her family’s peculiar home – which bears a superficial resemblance to the Munsters. She wonders why her relatives never expressed interest in her after sending her away to school, and tension reigns. Shifters and spirits, tarot cards and witchcraft, some undefined madness, and an enigmatic lead character who invites danger into their midst people this moody and torpid novel. Told from Eleanor’s perspective,  “What Big Teeth” by Rose Szabo meanders through themes of family responsibility. Because its unique look into a slightly “off” family of would-be monsters is largely gore and bloodless, and since Eleanor (and many of the rest of the misfit cast) read as a bit peevish and younger, I felt comfortable reading it with my mature MG and YA kiddos. Some potential trigger warnings: Animal death (they are  monsters, and they have to eat, after all), homophobia, bullying/abuse, enslavement, and death. So for fans of the “off” and lightly Gothic, and for anyone who’s struggled to fit in, this will be a fun book. 

Book Review: “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Holly Jackson

Although everyone in their little town knows who killed pretty, popular teen Andie Bell years ago. Sal felt such remorse, he killed himself from the guilt.

Only, Pip doesn’t believe Sal killed Andie. She had looked up to Sal for his kindness, intellect, and gentle integrity. 

So, for her senior project, she decides to prove Sal didn’t kill Andie all those years ago. She befriends Sal’s grieving brother and sets off in a brave, systematic, and thorough quest which garnered a lot of attention – and some of it quite threatening.

When matters turn deadly, Pip is faced with a decision. Should she continue, which will put those she cares about in danger, or should she scrap the project?

I enjoyed “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Holly Jackson. This fast-paced and unpredictable  YA novel provided a solid mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a bit of romance. Pip is thoroughly likeable and apparently goes on to further adventures in books beyond this, if my library’s shelves are to be believed. 

Fair warning: This is a murder mystery, and some of the characers are unsavory and do unsavory things – such as threaten, steal, murder, rape, drug, and kidnap – humans and pets. 

But that is to be expected when reading a book with the words “Guide to Murder” in the title, I suppose. 

I intend to read of Pip’s other tales as soon as my TBR pile stoops looming.

For “Halfway to Halloween” this year, I enjoyed Greg Chapman’s novella-length collection of four thematic short stories, and I’m glad I did. 

In the first story, “Daughters of the Veil,” Sera tried to figure out a family secret while dealing with the grief of her twin sister’s suicide and her mother’s declining mental health. However, “The veil is always thinnest on All Hallow’s Eve,” and secrets can slip through.

“Octoberville” was my favorite of the stories. Tom Crane was driving home from a difficult business meeting, unhappy that he inevitably would miss his kid’s trick-or-treating, when something large and mysterious darted in front of his car. He wrecked, and so he walked the two miles to the town of Octoberville where everyone celebrated the holiday. Jack O’lanterns lined the highway, leading to the festive and decorated fiesta where “Beams of moonlight sliced through the wispy miasma like shards of cool glass.”

“Hell is always at its brightest in October…” when demon children celebrate with grisly trick-or-tricks with some infamous historical characters.

The final story is the rather nihilist “The End of Halloween.” Death personified reflects on what remains on the decimated earth. The spirits waiting to break through the veil have noone left to visit, and those who remain have a taste for the god with the sythe. He sadly reflects, “Samhain was meant to remind them of the importance of life, to empower them.”

Despite a few editing errors, this is a solid collection of seasonal tales written by an author with an obvious love for Halloween.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31631558-the-end-of-halloween?ref=bk_bet_in

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