Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blog: Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell

While browsing through a bookstore a year and a half ago I had the delight of discovering author Grady Hendrix, who's book My Best Friend's Exorcism was both a delightful look at high school in the eighties and a really effective horror novel focusing on demonic possession. Last year I read his earlier work Horrorstör which, although not quite as good as exorcism was still a fun read and had some really great moments of tension as his characters worked their way through a haunted IKEA-style store. In some ways it reminded me of China Mieville's 2005 short story "The Ball Room", both in subject matter and high tension.

Then last year I found Hendrix's nonfiction work Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction and was simply blown away. The book covers the boom of Horror paperbacks that started in the late sixties with Rosemary's Baby and ended in 1988 with Silence of the Lambs (which re branded Horror as Thriller).

The book includes everything from monsters and Satan through to V.C. Andrews and apocalypses, and although Stephen King and Anne Rice (who dominate the Horror section in any bookstore), the book is a treasure trove of the crazy stories that were published over these two decades and as a long-time horror fan I wasn't sure if I was more delighted when Hendrix examined books I loved or introduced me to titles (and series) I had never heard of before.

A really fascinating read and the cover art of these stories is well displayed and makes for a great book to dig into or just browse through.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review: Wildings vol. 1: Under My Skin

Charles de Lint's most recent series moves away from Newford and into a small coastal town in California called Santa Feliz.  Under My Skin follows Josh Saunders, a young man simply trying to make his way through high school when one day he transforms into a wildcat during a fight with his stepfather.

Over the last six months this strange phenomena has been plaguing the town and a heightened police presence is in effect with a threat of a potential quarantine just around the corner.  Called Wildlings, these effected teens seem to have the ability to change shape and no one seems to be aware of their purpose beyond being a potential threat.

As with similar stories about the secret lives of teens (the X-Men immediately spring to mind), Josh has to quickly disguise his new abilities and attempt to make sense of the strange new society he is quickly becoming part of, with new friends and foes appearing in his life while one of his best friends may be hiding something herself.

As a YA book it was a lot of fun, and has me interested to see where the author will go with this action/adventure story about a young man in over his head that combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, and a little horror.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Movie Review: Insidious: The Last Key

My first theatre film of 2018 was Insidious: The Last Key and in the end I had some mixed feelings about it.

The Good: Lin Shaye's performance as parapsychologist Elise Rainer is consistently the best part of these films.  Honestly, I'm thrilled to see any franchise with a female lead older than 40, regardless of genre and her brave, yet troubled character makes each film the franchise much more emotionally involved than I have any right to expect.

In addition, although yes, the film does have a few jump scares and fake outs, (the lack of which were a huge part of why I loved the first film in the series), much of the best stuff happens on the astral plane (called "the further" in the film series), and that exploration is a really interesting journey that I don't see very often in haunted house films.

The Bad: The film suffers from working as a joining piece, stretching in between the events of Insidious Chapter 3 and the first film in the series.  In many ways there are sequences in this film that I wish had been done different (specifically one taking place in the further and an early sequence with a six or seven year old Elise) but I'll shy away from specifics to avoid spoilers.

In the end the film is a functional conclusion to the series and was a fun filmgoing experience, but would not be for newcomers and suffers from a need to reinforce the franchise, rather than telling its own story.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Game Review: Heavy Rain

One of my favourite things about the winter break is the ability to catch up on some long awaiting books, movies, and games that I've been meaning to get around to for a long time.

Case in Point, Heavy Rain a thriller designed for the Playstation 3 and released in 2010, which follows multiple leads over the course of a week in the search for a missing boy and the serial killer who has captured him.

Throughout the game you play the boys father, a journalist, an FBI agent, and a Private Detective, all racing to solve the crime before the young boy dies.

What I loved about the game was the whole "choices have consequences" aspect, wherein main characters can die or make decisions that dramatically effect the later chapters of the game.

What I actively disliked about the game was the way that Madison Paige (the jounralist), the games only female protagonist, was largely involved to nurse the other characters or act simply as a sex object.  I'm all for sexuality in games and stories, but it would have been great if she had had anything more to do than the very basic traditional female roles given to her in the story.

Of course my favourite aspect of the game was the fact that the main character, Ethan Mars (the missing boy's father) spends much of the game solving horrible Saw-style puzzles to get clues as to where his son might be, and each successful trial gives him more letters in a hangman-style game which he has on his phone, spelling out the final address.  After one trial, I'm pretty sure he could have taking the partial clue to his local library and solved everything on day two (of seven).

Overall a fun game, but the follow up Beyond: Two Souls was much better, and I won't be keeping this one having finished it.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year's 2018

Happy New Year's All!

Although I'm a day late (lots of sleeping in on New Year's Day), I wanted to take the time to thank all the good folks who stop by and read here.

Thanks Everyone!

Your old pal Bookmonkey!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Review: The Little book of Lykke

Following up on his 2016 book The Little book of HYGGE, Meik Wiking's The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World's Happiest People is a delightfully brief dip into the factors that bring individuals, families and society happiness in life.  

Focusing on six areas: Togetherness, Money, Health, Freedom, Trust, and Kindness, the book works as a great "get back to basics" examination on what actually succeeds at bringing happiness to people, along with a fairly fun introduction to Danish world-view and some really neat examples of really great creative non-fiction.

A fun, beautifully put-together little book, it works as both a great companion to Wiking's first book or simply as a great read all on it's own.

All in all an excellent book to end 2017 on.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: The Walking Dead: Return to Woodsbury

Jay Bonansinga's latest (and eighth) entry into The Walking Dead novel series, Return to Woodsbury, continues the saga of Lilly Caul, the long-suffering saviour of one of the most unforgettable towns in Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic and television series, Woodsbury.

Although there were a number of problems I had with this novel (including the introduction and casual killing of a character for little reason past shock value), I've got to admit that I find Lilly compelling as a protagonist and the work Bonansinga puts in to her drive, her planning, and her grace under pressure keep these books moving along at a nice pace.

Certainly not a good place to start for newcomers to the series or the genre, the book is still a fun read, but I'd say the series largely falls to the law of diminishing returns.