Anne’s Book Club 09

Bernie Wrightson's FrankensteinFrankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (summary by

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century Gothicism. While staying in the Swiss Alps in 1816 with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others; Mary, then eighteen, began to concoct the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life by electricity. Written in a time of great personal tragedy, it is a subversive and morbid story warning against the dehumanization of art and the corrupting influence of science. Packed with allusions and literary references, it is also one of the best thrillers ever written. Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818. The prototype of the science fiction novel, it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations but retains its original power.

My Thoughts on FRANKENSTEIN:

The first time I read this book I was thirteen. It was the hardback with wood-carvings by Lynd Ward. I remember being inspired by Shelley’s use of “big words” that I had to look up in a dictionary. She was eighteen when she wrote it, which meant, I had time to expand my own vocabulary. I remember the swelling feelings of compassion for Victor’s creature as I read. Somehow, I’ve been rooting for the monsters for a very long time.

I picked up the book again when I was a senior in high school. I received the illustrated version for Christmas. Bernie Wrightson’s artwork was as moving as the text. I spent hours pouring over every minute detail. Having been a comic book fan for as long as I could read, I treasured this version. (And when a classmate knocked a glass of water across the table and ruined my book, I felt the loss in a profound and deep way.)

“It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.”

So much of the text that I didn’t grasp as a thirteen-year-old suddenly became as clear as the black and white illustrations. Bernie’s style is made-up of artists that came before, patched-up into this gorgeous movement of shadow and light — just like Frankenstein’s creature. It’s interesting how many of Lynd Ward’s wood-carvings depict the same moments as Bernie Wrightson’s drawings, as if they both felt the same thing in reading the same words. As Mary admits in her forward, she was inspired by The Iliad, Shakespeare’s Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. I finally believed that words had the power to create/inspire. When we write/paint/sculpt, we’re all Victor Frankenstein.

Finished reading Frankenstein again this week. I’m older. I’m not sure if I’m wiser, but I have more experience now than at thirteen or seventeen. I still feel for the creature though. He murders a number of characters throughout the novel, but I forgive him. I understand why he did it. I don’t know if that makes me monstrous. Both creator and created are social outcasts: the creature for his exterior, the creator for his arrogance at playing God. They’re well matched. But after reading, I’m not entirely sure who is the man and who the creature.

What do you think?

“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Audrey

LoveSongtoCalifornia_JenHickmanEight Percent

At first, the news reported the deaths at the tail end of the “if it bleeds, it leads” segment at the top of the hour. A handful of strange deaths in India. A small village in China. An unknown sickness hurting oil production in Saudi Arabia. All these things happened half a world away. They didn’t affect my life, so I paid them little mind.

By the end of the second month, the news filled with instructions on where to get vaccinations. How to stop spreading the contagion by washing your hands and wearing a mask. In the third month, the pharmaceutical companies gave away free vaccinations. Volunteers roamed homeless shelters and low-income neighborhoods. Sometimes the video clips showed them holding people down against their will and injecting them. God bless America!

They reported high numbers of sick people clogging up emergency rooms. Staff shortages due to illness became a topic of conversation in line at the grocery store. Canned goods and distilled water flew off the shelves. The huge box stores hosted fistfights and gunshots over dried goods. People coughed and sneezed, they left germs on door handles, but by then it was too late. The virus mutated and went airborne. Well, they thought it was a virus. Turns out “they” were wrong, it revealed itself as a prion. No vaccine on earth could stop it.

In the fourth month, the first major worldwide wave of deaths hit. The vaccines did nothing to stop the prion from tearing through the population. It killed the old, the young, and those between. It killed my parents and my three older brothers. It killed their wives, and children. It killed my aunt and cousin. It killed my classmates, my teachers, and my best friend. The bodies piled up at the morgue, but no one was left to bury them.

The talking heads on television called it the worst pandemic since the Spanish Influenza of the early 19th century. They debated if this was the end of humanity. Wave after wave decimated the globe. Even tiny pockets of humans deep in the Amazon didn’t escape unscathed. Globalization, the thing that had brought us together across thousands of miles of ocean and land, had also brought us to our knees.

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Jen’s No Rules Friday

A little bit of poetry on a sleepy Friday morning? Sure.


I once wrote about rain and skeletons. I asked for them back, but you can’t get words back. Fingers twisted and crushed and words became noise and something to hold out of reach, just like a heavy heart. You can’t get words back.

You can’t get time back. You can’t get back the first rose blush of love.

But that’s good, because you don’t want it back.

You want white flags and white doves and a red heart, more alive than hope. A heart dripping something so hot it burns through the floors of doubt in a house made of glass. So loud they can hear it in the street.

Do you want my white flags? Do you want my white doves so full of promise they can’t get to the clouds fast enough? Do you want my red heart?

It’s loud and hot and my doubt is crashing so hard I’m catching shards of shrapnel like shooting stars, and every wish is sitting six hundred miles away painting a red heart onto a white canvas.

I said I’d never give away words again, but you can have them all. No more glass houses, just your arms. Go paint our hearts on your canvas and give me every burning constellation you’ve got in your eyes.

Let’s break every bit of glass in this place if it means making galaxies so bright I can’t think of anything other than kissing you under the stars.




Jen’s Book Club Remix

Last month I reviewed Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Shortly after I was in a theater filling up on popcorn and Sour Patch Kids, waiting for the movie to start.

Now, normally my method of surviving book-to-movie adaptations involves a three step process. Step one is to have low expectations. Then I repeat that step twice. It’s the best method to avoid the up-in-arms aftermath of many books that hit the big screen. This aftermath includes but is not limited to angry eyebrows, screams of “BUT THEY CHANGED EVERYTHING,” and other means of disappointment.

My normal methods did not apply to Divergent’s on-screen adaptation. It was a concise look at the diverse factions of the novel, with a clear story line and much of the content I enjoyed so much in the book. The characters were well depicted by their chosen actors, with Shailene Woodley playing a convincingly shy-to-badass Tris Prior and heartthrob Theo James upholding Four’s rugged yet sensitive esteem. Their relationship was underplayed, allowing the conflict of the factions to take main stage. The heart of the film was found in the societal connections of the Divergent world, and the movie lent itself to the idea of choice and fear that was so prevalent in the novel.

There was no up-in-arms aftermath, and for that I was pleasantly surprised.


“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Julie



Drop your human skin in the crease of the lightning-struck tree, and come with me. We’ll return for it at dawn. Let the fur course over your limbs like water, the rigid nails spring from your digits and the nose on your face sprout to house strong teeth and fine whiskers. You are wild now, and you’re mine.

Come, we’ll dance in the last rays of sun while the moon hangs high overhead. We’ll pump our legs and throw our shoulders forward as we gallop through the undergrowth. The tang of foliage is between our toes. You tear through a bed of ferns, and their juices streak your fur.

Push your nose into the dirt, against my side. Fold your tongue over rough bark, the trees that are our fortress. Leave bits of your coat and scent along the border.

We run the perimeter, noting where the deer raise their young, where the eagles nest after the long winter. Your tail swishes against mine, your ears swivel, tuned to forest sound. A half-smile hangs on your lips, your pink tongue falling to the right.

When the circuit’s done, press your nose behind my skull and take the flesh there, shake it gently, then release. I shoot off like a songbird from a hawk, dappling into the shadows of early night.

Follow me. Open your jaw and pant for pleasure, turn the earth beneath your nails and eat up the ground. I’ll be always a step ahead, a flash of fur, a glint of tooth. On the downslope you’ll charge against me so we roll and kick, grunting and yelping like pups. The streaming moonlight reminds us we only have so long.

When I break free, follow me up the slope. Slow your steps in reverence when I reach the top of the embankment where the trees are thin. Long for my throat as I toss my head back and pour my voice out into the night.

The blood purls in your veins and you step up beside me, your jaw opening in release. We are forest keepers, you and I, and our song is the heat of the earth, the cool of the sky, the clamoring life that pervades all.

When the last note has been swallowed by the hills, whine and pace. Nip my ear, and this time show me your throat. Raise your underbelly to the moon and me so you light up white. Graze my face with your paws and thump your tail.

If I go in for the kill, buck me off and fight me. Become the predator of legend, snarl and eyeshine at midnight. If I turn my head away and gaze into the night, kill a hare and lay it at my feet.

If I run, run with me. Follow me. Match me and push me. Shadow me until my breath steams and my muscles tremble. Then make me yours, as you are mine.


When the moon abates, put on your human skin.


A/N: This 500-word fiction is dedicated to the Blood Moon.

For more great art by Jen Hickman, please visit her website ( Illustration © Copyright, Jen Hickman 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Stay tuned for extra content this week from Jen. Return next Monday for Audrey’s answer to this prompt.

Audrey’s No Rules Friday

“Lie down, children,” calls the monotone voice from the speaking at the front of the classroom. “Testing will begin in 100… 99… 98…”

I find my table. Number 4. Front row. I can’t believe testing day is finally here. I’ve been fighting a nervous smile all morning. I hop onto the cold metal surface making a metallic pop as the table adjusts to my weight. The girl at table 14 clicks her tongue at me scornfully. She climbs onto her table without a sound. I watch as she adjusts her white robe, making sure her knee caps never show.

“87… 86… 85…”

I swing my own legs up and stretch out my toes. My knee caps are showing. When table 14 girl turns to look over her shoulder disparagingly at table 22 boy when his sweat covered hands cause him to slip with a terrific metallic rumble, I quickly pull down my own white robe. I press my fingers to my lips to stop the smile-twitch. I have to do better than table 14 girl.

“68… 67… 66…”

Table 5 boy is facing me with crisp blue eyes. He’s clasping his hands to try and stop the trembling. Today is a big day. We’ve practiced hundreds of times but it’s one thing to pretend and another to actually do it. And we have to pass.

“57… 56… 55…”

Table 78 girl shares a dorm with me. She told me that if we don’t pass, we don’t get a career. I can feel a bubble of panicky giggles building behind my belly-button. I lie down and press a fist hard into my stomach. I can’t laugh now.

“42… 41… 40…”

Not getting a career is just about the worst thing ever. My parents work at BioChem II. I met them 3 months ago. After testing, I can go and live with them instead of table 78 girl. The temperature is being lowered and I can feel my table all down my back and legs.

“30… 29… 28…”

Table 78 girl says that BioChem II is really important and reports directly to the PM. She says I giggle too much to get a career at BioChem II. I punch my traitorous stomach once more before spreading my fingers flat-palmed on the table. The cold helps.

“10… 9… 8…”

It’s so quiet I can make out the erratic breathing of table 5 boy. He needs to calm down.

“4… 3… 2…”

I close my eyes and focus on the voice.

Story continued here!

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

images[1]For Book Club this month, I decided to reread a favorite from my childhood. It was a totally dangerous prospect. I mean, what if it I didn’t like it? If it was just a book I vaguely recalled liking the one time I read it a million years ago and it wasn’t so great, I could have brushed it off. However, I decided to be very brave and reread Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a book that I loved, loved, loved, and read many times as I was growing up (not to mention being slightly obsessed with the TV show Road to Avonlea). If it had been bad, I would have been devastated to my very core. Luckily, it was just as I remembered: perfect!

Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who is sent to aging siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake. They had sent for a boy to help with the farm (it was written in 1908, so the viewpoints on orphans aren’t really pc). Charmed by her unchildlike speeches and abounding imagination, they decide to keep her and bring her up. This novel follows Anne from ages 11-16 (Montgomery wrote 7 other Anne novels that continue her story as she grows-up, marries, and has children). Anne manages to get into trouble a lot, but she is also always striving to do better.

What do I love about this book? So many things. The descriptive language is beautiful and really transports you to Avonlea and Price Edward Island. The Lake of Shining Waters, Lover’s Lane, Birch Path, and Haunted Wood are easy to imagine just as Anne perceived them. The stories were originally published weekly in a Sunday school paper, so the pacing is interesting (in that the chapters feel complete but you want to keep reading just to know what Anne thinks up next) and well done. Anne is a great character. She’s funny, mischievous, truthful. I wanted to be just like her (probably why I spent so many years with red hair). She loves reading and making up tales with her story club. Anne dreams big but accepts life’s challenges.

I want to say so many other things about the book, but it would spoil it. And I don’t want to spoil it. I want you to read it. I want you to give a copy to every little girl you know. This was a series children grew-up with before we were swept away by the wizarding world or into a dystopian disaster. A story Mark Twain called, “the sweetest creation of child life yet written.” And it is.

“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Anne

LoveSongtoCalifornia_JenHickmanLa Terreur

3 November 1793

Paris, France

The bells are ringing in Saint-Germain-des-Prés across the Seine. I pull my shawl tighter with each peal as I try to keep my slippers clean as I walk as quickly down the Rue Honoré. The pale pink shoes are the only nice thing I have on. It wouldn’t do to wear the matching silk gown. Papa would have noticed that slipping out the back gate. I borrowed the dress and shawl from Claire, but her feet were too big and her boots clunked and slipped when I walked. I glance up at the darkening sky.

A shout from a man on a mud-splattered white horse stops me. I nearly ran into its path. I turn and cling to a lamppost and lean my cheek into it, squeezing my eyes shut tight. Maybe this is a bad idea.

I came down to breakfast this morning to find Mama fretting around the house, her handkerchief pressing into her reddened eyes. I followed her to the blue parlor at the back of our townhouse.

“Mama?” I ask, placing a hand on her arm and turning her toward me. Her eyes dancing everywhere but on me. “Mama? What is wrong?”

Papa slams open the front door, thumps hurriedly down the hall, bursts upon us, and heads straight to the cognac on the sideboard. Two glasses later, he turns to us.

“It must be tonight, Mama.” She nods. Her eyes seem to focus as her pupils expand engulfing the blue into black.

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: Curses Part III

Curses Part III

(Part I is here. Part II is here.)

“Halt, demon!” a man yells from behind.

Someone grasps the hood of my robe. It catches my neck, and I’m flung back, hands out, losing the staff. I touch the hard metal of a breastplate, and I channel my curse.

The corridor flares with light. My hair stands upright. The man slumps to the floor, smelling singed. I run.

Ahead is an open door in the wall. I don’t want to go, but this feeling that’s been pulling me along, her, tugs me. The other demon.

More shouts. I dive for the opening, fall for an instant, and catch myself on a rough rail along the wall. Steps go down.

It’s suddenly cold, chilling my skin after the blast. From the door, yells echo, steps resound. But they don’t follow me.

There is a platform at the bottom of the stairs lined in the soft light of candle flames burning low. A sweet, nauseating smell rushes up my nostrils so fast it’s like I’ve been hit between the eyes. My feet crumple under me, just for a second, and I tumble down the remaining stairs.

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Julie’s Book Club: Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves

It had to happen at some point: This week I’m reviewing Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, a very formative book for me. I was a chapter-book reader in elementary school, so that’s probably when I picked up this series.

Craighead George’s Julie series follows a Yupik girl named Miyax/Julie, living in Alaska, who leaves an abusive relationship to try to get to a penpal in San Francisco. She doesn’t make it out of Alaska, but she does find herself in the wilderness developing bonds with a wolf pack. Julie is a survivalist with a knack for communicating with the wolves through body language. They accept her as one of their own, and ultimately she vouches for their safety and survival.

I think this book series helped me decide that I could do anything I set out to do. I would recommend it to any reader, young or old. Craighead George’s writing is nuanced, and she respects the ability of young readers to pick up on subtleties and societal criticism. In the wolf pack and in Julie’s life among humans, she faces obstacles that threaten her life, and the choices she makes effect real change on her path.

When I started reading Julie, I was already a nature appreciator with an interest in animals. These books fully converted me to a wolf lover (I still have some of the drawings on school papers to attest to it). Additionally, the lush descriptions of the tundra were educational and have made me want to visit Alaska (someday!). Craighead George’s deep understanding of wolves and how they communicate also left an impression on me. I may have employed a few of Julie’s communication techniques with the dogs I grew up with. (And who’s to say whether they did or didn’t work?)

If you’re looking for a glimpse of new terrain, a coming-of-age tale, or a quick but deep read, I highly recommend Julie of the Wolves or the entire trilogy.