Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black



Book Review: The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates


In recent history, women have been held as alternately paragons of virtue or emotional, fragile beings incapable of defending themselves. 

Joyce Carol Oates turns that notion on its ear with this collection of short stories, The Female of the Species. 

Men have often exploited women, preyed upon their vulnerabilities. Certainly, that happens in many of these short stories. In fact, the first story in the collection proved difficult (almost impossible) for me to read. However, read it I did, and I am glad. 

Oates explores femininity, liberation (sexual, emotional, and financial), parenthood, and individuality in her own unique style. I recognized some of the stories from other sources (Such as “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine”), but it was interesting to revisit them. Certainly, they were thought-provoking and boundary-pushing. Fans of crime fiction should enjoy these nine stories by a modern master.


Book Review: The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Book Review:

The Twisted Ones written by T. Kingfisher (pseudonym of Ursilla Vernon)

Let me begin by saying knocking against a house in the middle of the night is NEVER a woodpecker, no matter how much a character may hope it to be.

That said, The Twisted Ones is told in a humorous first person by “Mouse” as, with the help of her faithful hound Bongo, she cleans out her horrible hoarder grandmother’s house. (How’s that for alliteration?) As she does so, she discovers her step-grandfather’s journal, looks for a lost manuscript, and discovers some creepy secrets. Luckily for her, she also befriends some aging hippies, including the irrepressible and resourceful Foxy.

The Twisted Ones is T. Kingfisher’s (pseudonym for Ursilla Vernon) take on Arthur Machen’s 1904 short story “The White People.” If you’re familiar with Machen’s story, the influence becomes apparent early on in The Twisted Ones. It has a healthy dose of folklore, charming interaction between the heroine and her pooch, a truly great friend, and just enough of the Gothic influences and nods to H.P. Lovecraft to keep horror fans interested. There was an instance of stereotyping that made me a bit cringy (Mouse expresses a supposition that the police officer is uneducated or lacking intelligence simply because he’s from a small town), and the narrator twists her words around to provide a lot of repetition (which was distracting and a bit annoying, though it might have been used to give insight into the stresses Mouse experiences.) However, there were also some wonderful quotes, including: “Monsters are stressful…” and “…maybe it was just perfectly innocent devil worship….” and “Families run on optimistic lies sometimes…” and overall, it was an enjoyable story.

I participated in the Ladies of Horror Readalong of this book and borrowed this book from my local library to do so.

Book Review: Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet edited by Trevor J. Blank and Lynne S. McNeill

Book Review: “Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet” edited by Trevor J. Blank and Lynne S. McNeill

This little non-fiction exploration of the Slender Man mythos packs a LOT of information into its 177 pages. It features nine essays that delve into the success of the modern folk lore that grew up around a Creepy Pasta meme. Well-researched and filled with citations and some photos, “Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet” researches how Slender Man moved from the realm of modern legend and became a part of many young peoples’ beliefs – and how those beliefs caused mischief, lawbreaking, self-harm, and attempted murder.

I do wish the typeface was larger and better spaced, however. (Those with better functioning eyes would probably not find this to be an issue. haha!)

Book Review: Abnormal by A. J. Mullican

Book Review: Abnormal by A. J. Mullican

This “New Adult” dystopian sci-fi story drops action on the reader right away. Diminutive Clare lives in a sort of hiding. “Abnormal” people like her (She’s a telepath) are killed off if their families don’t have enough “credits” in their accounts. Although Clare has a passable network of friends and a fake ID, there’s someone who’s after her – someone with intimate understanding of Clare’s situation and personality.

Clare fights off attackers, an attempted rape, and escapes to a sort of hidden community with the help of a dashing stranger. She seems to use her sexuality as a way to defuse the tensions of living in such a hellish place as “Heaven’s Light” and its time of intolerance and classism. 

Packed with action, violence, and strong world-building, A. J. Mullican’s book hints at a sequel.

Book Review: The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

Book Review: The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

With some delightful turns of phrase, Tim Westover endeavors to transport readers to the little frontier town of Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1822. His “Winter Sisters,” Rebecca, Sarah, and Effie, know mountain magic- or is it intuition and herb lore? They’re at turns revered by the townsfolk for their remedies, and, when instigated by the local clergyman, reviled as witches. 

Lured by a rumor of a rabies outbreak, cock-sure Dr. Aubrey Waycross arrives to introduce science and modern medicine (such as it was in 1822, with its “bleeding” and “blistering” and amputating) to the superstitious citizens hoping to earn the “county seat.” He confronts what he suspects are “Grannies,” but discovers instead three young, wise, potentially magical women. Their treatments are gentler and often more effective than anything Dr. Waycross has learned. 

“If only people could control themselves, half of the world’s curing wouldn’t be needed, nor half the world’s guns.” The story sets up an antagonism between the Winter Sisters and the pastor. When asked why she wouldn’t leave, Rebecca Winter explained, “…in another place, I would not be the same person. I am my roots.” 

Told alternately by Dr. Waycross in the first person and (usually) in the third from the perspective of the Winters, the story includes a bit of romance. “She could talk about manure or the moon, so long as we were talking.” Atmospheric touches, some seriously high-falooting language (I had to consult my dictionary twice!) and research abound. “Every person cast ten foot shadows, so the earth writhed and wriggled with a thousand specters.” However, the story jumps around quite a bit, and some of the story lines “resolve” without a clear picture of what happened. Otherwise, The Winter Sisters provides an atmospheric peek into Georgia’s past.

Book Review: The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune

“The Ill-Kept Oath” is a compelling and complex story set in the 1819 with strong and likable lead characters. Josephine and Prudence are both products of their time and pioneers for feminine strength. Their headstrong ways make them immediately endearing. Duty, love, mystery, and adventure make this a great read. The story mixes the manners and language of times gone by with magic in the best possible way.

I enjoyed the use of correspondence between the cousins. How period perfect!

Fellow fans of Outlander and/or Jane Austin will enjoy this novel.

Although this book stands well on its own, I am looking forward to the sequel and reading how C.C. Aune continues this intriguing and well-crafted tale.


Book Review: A Wizard’s Forge by A.M. Justice

Book Review: A Wizard’s Forge by A.M. Justice

Vic endures a lot before she’s reached her 16th birthday. She loses her way of life and is taken prisoner and is mistreated sexually by her captor. She suffers Stolkholm Syndrome and PTSD, but from this fire is forged a mighty wizard. A.M. Justice blends fantasy, sci-fi, and a decided darkness to create a well-written story that will linger in the reader’s imagination. It’s no wonder Justice has earned several awards for writing. And check out the great cover! Although the book is hefty, it leaves with unfinished issues which leaves the reader wondering when to expect book 2 of The Woern Saga.

Book Review: When Doves Fly by Lauren Gregory

Book Review: When Doves Fly by Lauren Gregory

This complex novel explores the old west with Lily Wright, a naive woman who endures and overcomes real-life horrors in her quest for freedom. Ms. Gregory’s research immerses the reader. I felt Lily’s pain, growth, and set backs and triumphs. A woman alone in the 1800’s endured much. Horrifying dangers stalked the untamed west, including forced prostitution and disfigurement, but a woman fleeing an abusive husband had reason to hide. Lily developed a strength that flew above her circumstances to where no cage, gilded or not, contained her.

Book Review: The Fae Realm written by Van Vuuren Ronel Janse

Book Review: The Fae Realm written by Van Vuuren Ronel Janse

Written in a forthright style using simple language to convey complex subjects, this young adult (ya) book provides insight into Ronel’s interpretation of the fae realm. Introduced first is a new work of fiction by the author followed by research into the various denizens represented in the story. The author draws on such sources as Shakespeare and Keats to enrich the characters created. The result is effectively a field guide for a deeper understanding and appreciation of Ronel’s written world. Readers meet vila, ankou, sirens, gancanagh, caith sith, and other fairy creatures and learn why our ancestors feared them.

The Fae Realm introduced me to several new-to-me otherworldly beings and reminded me of others I’d forgotten. I’m a sucker for folklore and the fae. I also love history and classic literature, so this book is right up my alley.

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