March Suggested Reading

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

And if I should die before I awake,

I pray the popular attend my wake.

Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is invisible. Even worse: she's dead. And all because she choked on a gummy bear. But being dead doesn't stop Charlotte from wanting to be popular; it just makes her more creative about achieving her goal. If you thought high school was a matter of life or death, wait till you see just how true that is. In this satirical, yet heartfelt novel, Hurley explores the invisibility we all feel at some times and the lengths we'll go to be seen.

Book Page Official Site

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.I am that girl.I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame. Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies.

But now Cassie is dead. Lia’s mother is busy saving other people’s lives.Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way – thin, thinner, thinnest – maybe she’ll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl’s chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

Book page Official Site

Dhampir by Barb Hendee & J. C. Hendee

Magiere and her half-elf partner, Leesil, have the cleverest con in the land. Magiere claims to be a vampire hunter, while Leesil impersonates a vampire, and in a spectacular show of theatrics, she "kills" him--for a hefty sum, of course.

But Magiere's modus hits closer to home than she thinks, for when she faces down a real vampire, she wins. Now fighting her natural calling, Magiere arrives with Leesil in the town of Miiska, where they intend to make an honest living as tavern owners. Unbeknownst to the pair, a group of vampires, led by the nefarious Rashed, resides in Miiska.

When Welstiel Massing, a mysterious older man, confronts Magiere, claiming she is "the one," and she has an almost-deadly encounter with Rashed, Magiere discovers her true nature: she is a dhampir, a part-human, part-vampire warrior whose purpose is to battle vampires. The discovery leads to a pulse-pounding showdown with Rashed and his gang.

Book Page Official Site

Katra: Bringing A New Element To Goth Metal

Katra is a Finnish Goth Metal band, which has a great singer, with a very peculiar voice. While most Goth Metal frontwomen have delicate soprano voices, her voice is lower and melodious. The band was formed in 2006, and represented Finland in Eurovision 2007. They have only 2 albuns released to date, and there's not a bad song in any of them.

About the band's music, the singer Katra said: "Every song is a bit blue, but in the end the message is that there’s still hope. For example: I wrote Swear as a note to myself; Keep on your dreams and don’t let your life go to waste, though sometimes you may lose yourself." [1]

Though their second album is a kind of remake of their first one, but in English instead of Finnish, there's one song in Finnish, which is a cover of a Spanish song (globalization can also be great...).

Here's what Katra has to tell about it: "Kuunpoika is a cover song of Mecano's "Hijo Dela luna"... When we were looking for a cover song to play at the gigs, I heard that song in Finnish by Tuula Amberla. Both melody and lyrics made a huge impression, so I suggested that song to guys. They liked it too, so we have been playing it at gigs since then. It is one of our favorite songs at live, so I wanted it also in our album. I can't sing Spanish and there are no translations of that song in English. It would have taken too long time to apply the rights to write it in English. So I just sang it in the language in which it had already been translated - in Finnish. " [2]

Here are two videos of Katra. For more information, check out their site.

Katra's official site


Social Phobia: Turning One's Back To Life

Goths are often considered by "normal" people like being depressive, haughty and taciturn. Of course, that isn't true, but there are many Goths, just like people who are of other subcultures, who feel better away from most social interactions, and even those who suffer from more acute cases like social anxiety disorder.

Social Phobia becomes a problem when it interferes with the things you want or need to do, like studying, working, developing and keeping relationships, experiencing real life with all its positive and negative aspects.

In Japan, for instance, they have such a great number of people who withdrawl from social life, that they have a name for them, hikikomori, who shut themselves in their bedrooms, sometimes even refusing to talk to their parents, often for years.

A New York Times article has sad accounts of such people, like the story of Y.S.:

"After years of being bullied at school and having no friends, Y.S., who asked to be identified by his initials, retreated to his room at age 14, and proceeded to watch TV, surf the Internet and build model cars - for 13 years. When he finally left his room one April afternoon last year, he had spent half of his life as a shut-in."

So Kawakami asked him to write a letter about himself... he told her his birth date and that he loved making plastic model cars. He wrote: "I don't think the situation is good, but I don't know how to solve it. This might be a chance to change it. But I don't know if I can do it."

When Kawakami asked him to create a car for some children at a day-care center, two weeks later he gave her one, meticulously detailed and painted. "He seemed so pleased," she said. "It was as if he'd never been asked to do something for someone else before. He was sitting in his room all day where nothing was expected of him, and he did nothing to show his value."

And Takeshi, who spent 4 years in his room, told the reporter:

"Don't laugh, but musicians really helped me, especially Radiohead," he told me through an interpreter, before scribbling some lyrics in English in my notebook. "That's what encouraged me to leave my room."...

After Takeshi spent four years in his childhood bedroom, he was finally motivated to leave, he said, by his frustration with himself and by the Radiohead lyrics: "This is my final fit, my final bellyache." Then he said: "It's not hopeful, but I learned that the world is not such a good place, and regardless we have to move on. That caught my heart."

Sometimes change takes a long time to happen to the hikikomori, as the NY Times article reports:

...about 30 percent... won't leave their rooms and another 10 percent of those who do join the program (that helps hikikomori re-enter society) eventually return to the hikikomori life. "We usually limit our visits to a year, but if we see progress, we'll keep coming back," a counselor said.

One rental sister visited a 17-year-old for more than 18 months before he finally joined the program. And in one of the most extreme cases, Takeshi Watanabe of the Tokyo Mental Health Academy counseled a hikikomori for 10 years - 500 visits - until he persuaded him to leave home. He has since graduated from a university, works part time and last summer vacationed in Spain.

Some interesting facts about the social anxiety disorder are:

Social phobia can be generalized, when a person avoids most social situations, or specific, when a person is excessively anxious in certain types of social situations, like starting a conversation with a stranger.

There are several factors that can cause it. Those considered more important are the genetic makeup, the chemical processes of the brain and life experiences, when after experiencing situations in which we are singled out in a negative way, or have bad social experiences, we can develop negative opinions about them, and start having social anxiety.

There are several means to treat this disorder, from medications and therapies to social skills training. Experts advise that those who think they may suffer from it, look for the help of a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The following sites are worth visiting for more information:




Catlin Harrison: Unexpectedly Surreal

Catlin Harrison is a British illustrator and photographer, who lives in London, and does some amazing illustrations with composites of dozens of flowers to form a figure, or distorted images. Her pictures are very creative, reminiscent of the works of the renaissant painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo and of the surrealists.

Catlin uses Photoshop to put up the images together, and they take a long time to finish, because sometimes she works with over 60 scans.

About her style, she said that she's "very interested in the way of representing and expressing ideas about the human being, but as time passes, the images become stranger."

She gives some advice to fledgling artists: "Be prepared to work like crazy and try a little of everything, because every artist, illustrator and design must be seen by the largest number of people possible. And don't think there's only one way - there are many possible ways. You never know who will see it either. Don't limit yourself thinking that your work doesn't fit anywhere, experiment with absolutely everything - which of course takes a long time!"

I've chosen three of Catlin Harrison's works. Visit her site for more:

Catlin Harrison official site

Qntal: Neofolk With An Electronic Beat

Qntal is German Neofolk band, with both Gothic and Industrial influences, that has been around since 1991. Their singer Syrah (Sigrid Hausen) has a very beautiful voice, and the songs are entrancing with their medieval sounds and electronic beats, similar to another great German group, Faun.

About their music, the instrumentist Michael Popp said that it "does have a serious element to it, but I don't think of it as educating anyone. I think that could be a result of our German education and of our classical training. I personally never listen to any kind of "normal" pop music. I hate MTV and things like that… but I love experimental underground music: the weirder, the better."

While Popp plays several medieval and eastern woodwind and string instruments, Qntal's other member, Fil (Philipp Groth) plays guitar and keyboards.

Curiosities: Qntal's strange name is a made-up word that appeared in a dream Syrah had, and the band's albums are all numbered instead of named, because according to Popp "Qntal is in a permanent state of flow. The CDs are just snapshots of our work at a particular moment in time. They are not the most important thing for us. You can imagine what our record company thinks about this opinion." [1]

Below is one of their videos. Visit their site and Myspace for more information.

site: Official Site MySpace Profile


Dehong He: Breath-Taking Fantasy Art

Dehong He is a very talented Chinese illustrator, who works with concept art for games.

His style is very clean and realistic, full of intricate details and often based on Chinese folklore.

About his choice for fantasy imagery, Dehong He said that it "gives me the biggest possible stage to work with. It’s as if you’re God, you can create a new world."

Dehong He's ability impressed his parents when he was very young, and when he was a fine art student at university, he started working with comics and a year after finishing college, he moved on to work as a concept artist for games.

About his work process, Dehong He says that he puts "my work’s quality and the themes which I express first. Style comes second. With the passage of time, I think, my own style will emerge naturally." [1]

Below is a selection of his artwork. Visit his site for more.

Official site: http://www.hdhcg.com/

February Suggested Reading

Here is February's list of gothic and fantasy novels. Enjoy!
Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover

In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can't always play by the rules. Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn't quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it's all hers - and vaster than she ever imagined.

And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.

Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric's heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means - magical or mundane - so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.

Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions - Aubrey, Eric's devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities - Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable.

And if she hopes to survive, she'll have to learn the new rules fast - or break them completely....

Barnes & Noble Page MLN Hanover Site

Zandru's Forge by Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross

Zandru's Forge is the 3rd book written by Deborah J. Ross, who is the writer chosen by Marion Zimmer Bradley to continue her Darkover literary legacy.

This novel tells the story of how two of the most important characters in the Darkover world met, King Carolin Hastur and Varzil Ridenow, developed their friendship, and took the first steps towards establishing The Compact, which was the pact that abolished the use of long-distance and psychic weapons from the world.

The story begins when they are teenagers, and Varzil goes to Arillin Tower, one of the main institutions for the study of psychic powers in the planet, to ask admitance. Carolin is instrumental in helping him to join the tower. As for Varzil, he ends up becoming Carolin's protector, as the then Prince is often threatened by an occult enemy.

As the years pass, the oppressed populace grows restless, and when King Felix dies, his throne that should have gone to Carolin is usurped by his cousin Rakhal, who begins a war to increase his lands, and persecute his cousin and all those who support him.

Carolin goes into exile, but in the end has to fight his cousin to end his reign of terror, but though Rakhal uses the most deadly psychic weapons against him, Carolin will have to fight it only with the strength of his army, his own intellect and non-offensive psychic powers.

This story discusses ethics, the right and wrong when facing a death threat, and the morals of war.

For those who are acquainted with the series, you'll find here several elements from Hawkmistress, which is one of the original books of the Darkover series. Deborah is a very good writer who does the series justice.

Zandru's Forge is the 2nd book in the Clingfire Trilogy, which ends in the book A Flame in Hali.

Amazon.com Page Marion Zimmer Bradley Deborah J. Ross

Circle Of The Moon by Barbara Hambly

In Hambly's mystical sequel to The Sisters of the Raven, the Crafty Women of Yellow City continue to hone their new-found healing and magical powers while the men of this patriarchal society adjust to the loss of their own wizardly abilities.

Set against a desert landscape that evokes Egyptian myth, Hambly's tale unwinds like a skein of multi-colored silk, illustrating her talent for well-drawn characters and fantasy rooted in many cultures. Young Raeshaldis, a powerful Sun Mage-in-training, has received a psychic dream plea for help from a Crafty woman on a faraway island.

Raeshaldis rushes to help, but another crisis in Yellow City complicates matters-a deadly green mist referred to as the Eater of Dreams has been released from grave amulets stolen by tomb robbers.

The mist kills many, infects Summerchild (Shaldis's fellow Raven Sister and King Oryn's beloved concubine), and enthralls Raeshaldis' tyrannical grandfather. Hambly nimbly brings the Yellow City and the faraway healing crises together, and she works in a surprise about the teyns, animal "slaves" to the humans, suggesting a sequel.

Amazon.com Page Barbara Hambly

Lyriel: Much More Than Folk Metal

Lyriel is a German Folk Metal band, formed in 2003, that mixes celtic, gothic, medieval and classic elements in their sound. Their style is very sophisticated, with complex melodies and beat.

When asked if the diversity of styles in Lyriel's music was intentional, the guitarist, Oliver Thierjung, answered that "that’s just how it turned out. It is sometimes not easy to find music that contains all our musical taste. We try to find a way and solution that is based on this concept. But we try also to develop our own kind of music and style. This is the idea behind Lyriel."

About the most important element in their creative process, Oliver said that it is "to find a new concept for every release, based on our style. Otherwise we try to find an enhancement for our style and music. The possibilities and ideas are unlimited, unlike the time." [1]

Lyriel's other members are: Jessica Thierjung (vocals), Sven Engelmann (bass), Martin Ahman (keyboard), Linda Laukamp (cello), Claudia Schäfer (violin).

Their latest album Paranoid Circus was released at the end of 2009.

Watch below two videos of their live performance.

Official Site  | Myspace Profile