All Hallow’s Read (Day 5) – Fortunately, The Milk

FortunatelyMilk_USJacketToday’s All Hallow’s Read recommendation is for the younger folks in your life, or maybe for the ones who are still young at heart. Give them something to read while they inhale sugar, and run around like loud, crazy hooligans. Or you could just give the book to a kid.

As you know, All Hallow’s Read is the brainchild of Neil Gaiman, the man who suggests that we all give each other books this Halloween, to go along with the always important candy and zombie teeth. In his honour, this is a book suggestion to spread the joy, and the terror, to those too young for books like Nightwhere. (This includes me.)

FortunatelyMilk_UKFortunately, The Milk is the latest book by Mr. Gaiman himself, just released in September. The US version (which I have) is illustrated amazingly, frantically and a bit creepily by Skottie Young, whereas the UK version (which I will pay someone to smuggle overseas for me) contains the beautifully detailed and somewhat more traditional illustrations of Chris Riddell. Gaiman has described this book as his silliest book ever, which he wrote for dads, and in which dads get to do all of the really cool things that they normally get to do on a daily basis. Gaiman has said that this is partly to make up for the oblivious father in The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.

Now I can hear you thinking, “But Kendra, that book doesn’t sound scary at ALL”. But you’re wrong! It is absolutely terrifying. It starts off tragically, with 2 children facing the prospect of breakfast with nothing to put on cereal except orange juice. Their mother has abandoned them to go to a conference, and now they can’t even enjoy their Toastios. Heroically, Dad volunteers to go down to the shop on the corner to get milk. After an agonizing wait, Dad finally returns home, and begins the story of his dangerous and harrowing quest.

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “And I did indeed say a brief hello to Mister Ronson from over the road, who was buying a paper. I walked out of the corner shop, and heard something odd that seemed to be coming from above me. It was a noise like this: thummthumm. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.” “Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Now, if you’re not scared yet, then you are a far braver soul than most, but just wait! That is only the beginning of Dad’s tale… before he opens the spaceship door, and lets the space-time continuum in. What then? Captured by pirates! Rescued by a time-travelling stegosaurus in a balloon! Captured by jungle dwelling people who plan to sacrifice him to the volcano god, Spold! Ponies, piranhas, aliens, and wumpires! And through it all, that crucial question: Can Dad hold on to the milk, and bring it safely back to his hungry children?

So if you think that a child in your life can handle that kind of excitement and terror, then I strongly suggest that you give them Fortunately, The Milk this Halloween. And then you should probably read it too, to prepare yourself to soothe them when they wake from their nightmares of Toastios drowning in orange juice. Just make sure there is plenty of milk in the fridge for breakfast.

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Toronto FanExpo 2013 – Day One

*Sorry for the delay on this one, folks. Colum and Kendra’s coverage will be coming up in the next few days. (mostly Kendra’s, though. Colum is super lazy these days.)Fan-Expo-Canada-994x350For those of you living under a rock or who are… you know… not Canadian, FanExpo is the great white North’s answer to New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and all the rest of them.  Picture the standard cosplay, panels, and celebrities, but with an extra dash of people saying “Excuse me” while drinking a double-double.  While not the only Canadian con, it is most definitely the largest, and this was by far its biggest year yet.

FanExpo began as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo way back in 1994 by Hobby Star Marketing Inc., but has since grown to become the 4-day event that it is now.  No longer just comics and sci-fi/fantasy, you can now find sections dedicated to anime, gaming, horror, and, new this year, sports, all clustered around a ton of vendors designed to joyfully take all your money while you try to figure out why exactly you thought you needed a $500 Death Star throw rug.

Colum and I were on hand for 3 of the 4 days and, in true back-to-school spirit, I put together a guide of what I learned while standing in lines and eating $8 hot-dogs that tasted like cardboard. Continue reading

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of WitchesToday’s lesson: ignore book marketing.  Why is it that as soon as one book becomes super popular, almost every novel released in the months that follow must inevitably be compared to it? (*cough50Shadescough*)  I mean, I get that they’re following trends, and trying to push the book on an existing fan base, but this same tactic will basically ensure that somewhat snobby readers like me will not go near it.  Which, in the case of A Discovery of Witches, would have been a huge loss for me.

The posters for A Discovery of Witches were pretty much everywhere for months, and every single one I saw compared the book to Twilight, with a couple of ads claiming this book was basically a mash-up of Twilight and Harry Potter.  This only succeeded in pissing me off.  Seriously, why would you want to compare a novel to one of the most poorly written books of our time? But I digress, and that is a topic for an entirely different post.  Needless to say, I had no interest in reading what I thought was yet another YA novel about a beautiful young girl, vulnerable but with some sort hidden power, who falls in love with a handsome, brooding vampire.  Buffy already did it best.

But then I read the actual description: Continue reading

Click-Clack The Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman

Happy Hallowe’en!

It’s also All Hallows’ Read, a festival that Neil Gaiman thought up 2 years ago, which proposes that on Hallowe’en, or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books.  In the spirit of such a fun literary holiday, and also in an effort to suck up to my beloved Gaiman by doing everything he tells me to, I have listened to my very first audio book.

I know, I know.  Some people LOVE audio books; they save time, and they’re portable, and blah blah blah.  But they’ve just never been my thing.  I like to feel and smell and see the words, even as they paint a picture in my mind.  It took me ages to come around to e-books, and even then it was only to allow more room in my suitcase for shoes when I travel.  But my main problem with audio books is the voices.  If the narrator has a particular way of speaking (i.e. annoying), or a strange accent, or even if they just have too much POW! BANG! SLAM! during the exciting parts, it completely distracts me from the story.

All that being said, if anyone could have made me listen to (read?) an audio book, it was Neil Gaiman.  He is my absolute favourite author, whether it be novels, graphic novels, short stories or kids books. So, when Neil announced on his blog that he had teamed up with Audible to release a new, unpublished short story, (for free!), I was willing to give it a shot.  Especially considering it’s also narrated by Neil Gaiman, so I can’t be mad about the voice.  As an added incentive, Audible will donate $1 for every download through Halloween to the education charity DonorsChoose.

 “‘What kind of story would you like me to tell you?’ ‘Well,’ he said, thoughtfully, ‘I don’t think it should be too scary, because then when I go up to bed, I will just be thinking about monsters the whole time. But if it isn’t just a little bit scary, then I won’t be interested. And you make up scary stories, don’t you?'” So begins this sweet, witty, deceptive little tale from master storyteller Neil Gaiman. Lock the doors, turn off the lights, and enjoy. (Audible)

As mentioned, this is a short story, which Neil read at the George Mason Award evening, and it will be published in a forthcoming anthology.  The whole thing is only about 12 minutes long, and starts off with a brief introduction about All Hallows’ Read and the charitable donations.  Around the 2 minute mark, we get into the story, which is being told from the point of view of a guy taking care of his girlfriend’s little brother.  The boy requests a bedtime story, one that’s just the right amount of scary, while they walk through the big, old, and very dark house.  The boy specifically asks for a story about Click-Clack the Rattle Bag, because those are the best kinds of stories, and “Click-Clacks are the best monsters ever”.  They’re even scarier than vampires.

As always, Gaiman does an excellent job of setting up the story, and detailing the surroundings in a way that put a vivid picture in your head.  The use of the first person narration, as well as the language and phrasing used by the little boy, manage to inject you into the conversation.  There are a bare minimum of sound effects here, but they are used wisely to mimic a creaky old house.  The story is obviously a more family-friendly kind of scary, but the description of what Click-Clacks “do to people” is icky enough to give kids pause.

All in all, this is a great little story, and a perfect Hallowe’en treat (to go with the mountain of candy I am currently devouring).  I am intrigued by how different it is to hear a story, as opposed to reading it; it was kinda like listening to a spooky story being told around a campfire.

So, in the words of Neil Gaiman: “Go to www.Audible.com/ScareUs to download it if you’re in the US or the rest of the world except the UK and www.Audible.co.uk/ScareUs to download it if you’re in the UK/Commonwealth. And then download the story. As I may have told you already, it’s free — absolutely, utterly, perfectly free.

The Cabin in the Woods

Editor’s Note: Being that the DVD for this little gem is dropping… well… today, we thought it was probably about time we introduce you to Kendra, and finally post the piece she wrote when the damned movie was in theaters. Have at it, Kendra.
– Colum

“This movie is fucking awesome.  Go see it.”

The above was my original review.   I felt that it really got the point across, especially considering that it’s best you know as little as possible about this movie before going in.  But, as it turns out, the powers that be here at Dreadful Tales actually expect more than that.  Well damn.  I think this may be some sort of hazing ritual wherein the newbie gets handed something totally impossible to review, and everyone else sits back to watch them go down in flames.  But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.  I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything major, but honestly, if you’re touchy about that sort of thing, go see it, and then come on back!

For starters, full disclosure: I am a total Whedonite. A Browncoat. I live in the Whedonverse.  Whatever you want to call it, I love Joss Whedon and would totally have his babies.  As such, I was probably predisposed to like this movie.  But I fucking LOVED this movie, and even if you aren’t usually a Whedon fan, you will too.

The Cabin in the Woods was written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) and Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Cloverfield), and was also directed by Goddard.  The premise seems simple enough:

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (IMDb)

This movie was actually shot in 2009, but was shelved until its world premiere at SXSW in March 2012.  Originally, the studio wanted to convert the film to 3D before its release, which Goddard and Whedon strongly opposed (thank the gods!). Following that, MGM delayed the film indefinitely as the studio went bankrupt, and the rights were eventually sold to Lions Gate in 2011.  Personally, I had assumed this film was destined for straight-to-dvd obscurity, until Chris Hemsworth grabbed a hammer (no, not that one) and Whedon suited up to direct The Avengers. Then they got a little more cred with the new studio, and here we are.

So, in the film, we have five friends (played by Kristin Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Fran Kranz and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) who take off in their RV for a cabin located, you know, in the woods.  After ignoring the creepy ramblings of the local gas station owner, they proceed to settle in to their new digs, in typical swimming/drinking/sexytimes fashion.  Partway through the drunken festivities of the first night, they discover a cellar full of creep, and things go downhill from there.  One quick incantation read aloud from an old journal and their idyllic weekend is completely ruined by the appearance of zombies hellbent on killing the gang in blood-splattery ways.

But that’s about as much plot as I want to give away. The best part of this movie is how it manages to surprise you…especially when it goes completely balls-to-the-wall insane.  I really wish I could give away more; I think I could manage to convince anyone who is on the fence to go see this movie tonight, but doing so would probably take away from the overall experience.  Not that the movie is necessarily scary, but it does pack some solid jump-scare moments, along with a decent amount of gore.  I think the 18A rating has finally allowed these writers to throw in all blood and guts that they have been wanting to use for a long while. I am left feeling cheated that Buffy didn’t air on HBO; it would have been extra awesome!

The acting was pretty stellar all around.  The group of friends has an easy, believable camaraderie that made me want to party with them (although, probably not at this particular cabin).  They are obviously covering the necessary stereotypes of the genre, but they manage to add a little more depth: Hemsworth is a little smarter and less douchey than the average jock, Hutchison is funnier than the usual pretty slut, and Williams’s washboard abs are not the mark of a typical nerd.  Whedon has always written both his female leads, and their comic-relief friends, particularly well, and Connolly and Kranz are no exception.  Connolly shows the necessary vulnerability, but also brings in a fierceness that keeps her from being the annoying damsel-in-distress. Kranz’s stoner was definitely my favourite character, and fans of Dollhouse will not be surprised.  Picture Topher, except even less professional, and a way bigger fan of the cush.  Both of these actors put in standout performances. Surprisingly for this type of movie, you aren’t rooting for the death of any of these characters…although, it’s pretty kick-ass once the bear trap starts a-swingin’!

The direction is pretty remarkable, especially considering this is Goddard’s first time behind the camera. The camera work and cinematography are outstanding, perfectly setting the tone for what’s to come.  Obviously the writing is fantastic, full of trademark Whedon wit (including my new absolute favourite euphemism for a boner – husband bulge!).  This film managed to not only be one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in awhile, but also one of the best action flicks, or comedies.  Overall, it was the most fun I have had in a theatre in ages.


So, this movie is fucking awesome.  Go see it.