Alexis’s FRIENDS NYC Fall 2023 Book Club Picks

Alexis’s FRIENDS NYC Fall 2023 Book Club Picks

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Horror is Hot! 

Horror is such a polarizing genre. You either love it or absolutely HATE it. When I tell people I love horror, they sometimes look at me utterly perplexed. But my response -- the real world is way scarier!! It’s hard to pick my favorite horror book, so here is a list of four NEW horror novels that unleashed squeals of fright and delight in me. Also, read a quick interview with the authors of these books about what gets their adrenaline rushing. -Alexis Patterson, @thebrooklynbookworm 

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro

Alexis TheBrooklynBookworm Holding The Haunting of Alejandra.webpThe Haunting of Alejandra Book at Friends NYC

Alexis’s HOT take: Ah, motherhood. I have plenty of friends with children now to know that motherhood is not as picture-perfect as we have been led to believe. Author V. Castro tackles the inescapability of mothering in this fresh new spin on the classic Mexican folklore -- La Llorona. As a mom, you want to nurture a strong family, but what happens when you are too tired to parent? Is Alejandra just exhausted or is she really seeing a dripping wet woman in a white dress lurking in the corners? Is she losing her identity AND her sanity? Is this mom guilt? Doubting yourself is awful and it is initially painful to witness Alejandra’s mental state and debilitating thoughts, but this was a realistic and terrifying setup to see if she can pull herself together to battle a demon. 

Q&A with author V. Castro

Author of The Haunting of Alejandra, V Castro

  • Pronouns: she/her
  • Currently located here: London, UK
  • What inspired you to become a writer? I always loved books and writing. In my late thirties, I felt a void in my life. I began writing as a way to untangle my emotions and thoughts. It took off in ways I never imagined.
  • Where can we find you on the internet and beyond? Instagram and Twitter:  @vlatinalondon, TikTok  @vcastrobooks. &   (All V Castro Merch and designs) 
  • One piece of advice you would give to your 12-year-old self today: You are good and you will always be good enough.
  • What did you do with your first book advance? I’m old and boring, but hope this will inspire other women of ALL AGES – added money to my pension. Financial stability is so important for us to establish as early as possible. 
  • Which sense could you NOT live without? Taste! I love food and wine.
  • Who is an influential muse or major inspiration in your life?  My heritage is a major inspiration because I grew up with so much rich storytelling and interesting  folklore. I also always strive to represent women of color in my writing. We are so often overlooked in genre fiction and it is time for that to change. 
  • What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? The most difficult part is editing! By the time it is that far along, I have read the manuscript so many times. I always have so many ideas going on at once and want to write them all at once. However, deadlines must be meant. 
  • What does selfcare look like to you? Self-care includes hot baths, exercise, good food and wine, and travel. It also changes with what needs tending to physically or emotionally. I believe self-care should always be a priority to show up as the best version of ourselves. 

Dead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano

Alexis TheBrooklynBookworm holding Dead Eleven book at Friends NYC in Brooklyn

Dead Eleven Book Cover - featured in Friends NYC Bookclub in Brooklyn, NY | Selected b Alexis TheBrooklynBookworm

Alexis’s HOT take: Dead Eleven’s cover immediately drew me in because as a 90's kid, I had so many VHS tapes. RIP my Aladdin and Spice World tapes. D11 is a horror suspense story set on a small island where its residents pretend it is 1994 by repeating the same events at the same time like clockwork. I found this book impossible to put down and I was dying to find out what was really behind the things happening on Clifford Island. D11 is packed full of twist after twist, unreliable characters, and paranormal guests. And the mixed media format made it very fun to read!

Q&A with author Jimmy Juliano

Author Jimmy Juliano with dog Nutmeg, holding his book Dead Eleven

  • Pronouns: he/him
  • Currently located here: Wauconda, IL
  • What inspired you to become a writer? I just really enjoy stories. I particularly love the challenge and puzzle aspect of writing a good story, and when everything clicks together–plot points, the second act twist, character arcs, the ending, et cetera–it’s immensely satisfying from a creative standpoint. I’m constantly daydreaming and thinking up new ideas, and I don’t imagine that will ever stop!
  • Where can we find you on the internet and beyond?, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit. Beyond? Hopefully with the fam, on a trail, or Stand-up Paddleboarding in Door County, Wisconsin.
  • One piece of advice you would give to your 12-year-old self today: Don’t worry about what others think of you. Be yourself, and own it.
  • What did you do with your first book advance? I splurged on a Moccamaster coffee brewer! It makes a delicious pot of coffee, every single time. I’ll always prefer a good pourover (Ethiopian beans are my jam!), but if I’m feeling a bit lazy or I’m short on time, the Moccamaster never disappoints. I gave that machine a workout while editing DEAD ELEVEN :)
  • Fashion trend you’re crushing on right now: Retro Nikes! I own two pairs of Air Jordan 1s, one pair of Air Max 90s, and an assortment of mid-top, 80s hoops shoes. It’s fun to match colorways with different outfits. Shoe culture is quite the rabbit hole to get sucked into!
  • What is your spirit animal? I’ll be highly specific here: my dog, Nutmeg. I’d take her everywhere if I could.
  • What are you currently reading? Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s so good! I’m honestly blown away. I implore everyone to pick it up right now.

Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

Alexis TheBrooklynBookworm Holding Nautral Beauty BookNatural Beauty Book cover, sold at Friends NYC in Brooklyn.webp

Alexis’s HOT take: Ling Ling Huang’s skin-crawling horror novel explores the effects of the beauty and wellness industry on self-worth, race, and identity. The premise takes a bit to wrap your head around, but “Natural Beauty” is a wild ride. On the surface, it's about a young first-generation Chinese-American woman whose promising musical career comes to an abrupt end after her parents are in a terrible accident. Forced to find work to support them, she takes a job at Holistik, a world-renowned beauty company, where pretty disturbing things unfold!! Recommended for anyone who enjoys books about the dark side of consumerism and grief.

Q&A with author Ling Ling Huang

Ling Ling Huang, Author of Natural Beauty

  • Pronouns: she/her
  • Currently located here: Portland, OR
  • What inspired you to become a writer? I started writing as a way to try and understand my feelings, especially in relation to other people and music. 
  • Where can we find you on the internet and beyond? @violingsquared on instagram or my website
  • If your favorite artist/ icon (dead or alive) asked you for a book recommendation, who and what would you recommend? Piranesi by Susanna Clarke or Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. I just feel like Beethoven could use more female authors in his afterlife. 
  • One piece of advice you would give to your 12-year-old self today: You’re pretty cool. All the things that you think are disgusting and strange and too tender about you are OK and in the future you will love being a gross little goblin <3 Keep feeling.
  • Which sense could you NOT live without? Anxiety. I’d like to try though
  • What book would you send to space? The Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy by Cixin Liu! Just so they can all know that we’re onto them. 
  • Who is an influential muse or major inspiration in your life? My parents inspire everything I do. They sacrificed so much for me and my brother, yes, but they’re also hilarious. They just got a karaoke machine and they’re both obsessed with Zumba. We’ll be out in public somewhere and my mom will just start doing Zumba moves while walking. 
  • What does self-care look like to you? Self-care looks increasingly like caring for those in my community. Having conversations with loved ones. Taking my dog on a hike. I also love a long walk or curling up with a good book and a bangin’ mug of tea. 
  • What are you currently reading? Black Chameleon: Memory, Womanhood, and Myth by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. The writing is so beautiful, and it’s an incredible hybrid of fables and real life. 

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections of Horror 

It Came From the Closet Book | Sold at Friends NYC in Brooklyn, NY

Alexis TheBrooklynBookworm hold book It Came from the Closet

Published by the @FeministPress

Alexis’s HOT take: I love horror movies! Some of my faves are “The Haunting,” “Carrie,” “Stigmata,” and the Child’s Play franchise. In “It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror,” editor Joe Vallese brings together 25 queer and trans writers to reflect on their connections to horror films. These deeply personal and thought-provoking essays provide readers with enough information about each featured film to compel horror lovers to watch or rewatch these movies through various queer lenses. I found their perspectives and observations intellectually stimulating, interesting, and some heartbreaking. I devoured this entire collection in one weekend and cannot wait to do a movie marathon now. A few of my favorite essays:

  • “The Girl, The Well, The Ring” by Zefyr Lisowski (on The Ring and Pet Sematary)
  • “Imprint” by Joe Vallese (on Grace)
  • “Bad Hombre” by Sarah Fonseca (on Eres tú, papá?)
  • “The Me in the Screen” by Steffan Triplett (on Us)
  • “The Healed Body” by Jude Ellison S. Doyle (on In My Skin)

Q&A with editor Joe Vallese of It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror (Feminist Press)

Joe Vallese Editor, It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror (Feminist Press)

  • Pronouns: he/him
  • Currently located here:  New Jersey (former Boerum Hill and Fort Greene resident, and still very much one in my heart)
  • What inspired you to become a writer? Strangely enough, horror movies. As a little kid, I would watch and rewatch horror movies – because they simultaneously terrified and exhilarated me – and absorb them so much that I could essentially rewrite them as condensed, short stories. In the third grade I had a very supportive teacher who (amazingly, shockingly) allowed me once a week to get up in front of the class and read them. In retrospect, I think I was teaching myself about plot, structure, and character through those exercises, and a way to put myself in conversation with those narratives. 
  • Where can we find you on the internet and beyond? On social media, you can find me on the It Came from the Closet accounts (@homohorror on Twitter/X, and @it_came_from_the_closet on Instagram).
  • If your favorite artist/ icon (dead or alive) asked you for a book recommendation, who and what would you recommend? I’ve been a Tori Amos devotee for the past three decades, and if she asked me for a recommendation, I’d immediately hand her the late, great Amanda Davis’ Wonder When You’ll Miss Me, which is part bildungsroman, part rape revenge fantasy, part road trip novel. Like Amos’ musical style, it defies categorization; I think she’d dig it.
  • Which sense could you NOT live without? Taste, hands down. I’m Italian, so I’m thinking about food from morning til night. (And probably while I sleep.) 
  • How many hours a day do you write? My writing habits change depending on what I am working on, but when I’m in the thick of a project, I find I’m most productive when I sneak in “writing rendezvous” throughout the day – early in the morning before my son is awake, taking breaks between marking student papers, hurrying to write down an idea or an image straight out of the shower. Little piles of language that accumulate over time. 
  • What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? I’m an obsessive self-editor on the sentence level, which can sometimes really slow things to a crawl. But, ultimately, I find that that intensive time spent helps me to better settle into the voice, rhythm, and texture of the thing.
  • What are you currently reading? Spooky season is coming, so I’m gearing up to re-read some horror classics like Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, and William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist.