Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mini book review: Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three by Clive Barker

I thought I was a Clive Barker fan but as it turns out, I haven't consumed enough of his output to count.  Sure, I've seen and quite liked Hellraiser (and Nightbreed is on my list of to-sees).  But I also thought I'd read some of his books and, scanning his bibliography, I guess I was wrong about that.  Because I thought I was a fan, I was surprised whenI didn't like his short story collection, Books of Blood, better.  I do like horror shorts a lot and thankfully, this collection has a lot to indulge in.  I found a few stories that I did like: the battle of wills in "The Yattering and Jack," the theatre's immortality in "Sex, Death and Starshine,"  "Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament," when movies take form in "Son of Celluloid," the worst island in the world in "Scape-Goats."  Again, however, many of the characters felt thin and I had difficulty connecting with the little worlds created in each story - which, again, I don't have any trouble with in the short stories of King, Hill and Gaiman.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mini book review: The Outsider by Stephen King

When well-liked youth coach Terry Maitland is arrested for a sadistic and gruesome murder, his community is shaken to its foundation.  When Maitland's family and friends prove that he was literally in two places at the exact time of the murder, lead Detective Ralph Anderson doesn't know what to think.  And when things get weirder - like supernaturally so - Anderson has to put his faith in evidence and police procedure aside and put his faith in things he cannot see. 

The Outsider by Stephen King is a middling King novel, not his best but not his worst.  The crimes committed are terrible but the villain himself is not super-scary.  It has the return of Holly Gibney, a main character from the Bill Hodges trilogy of Mr. Mercedes / Finders Keepers / End of Watch, who uses her expertise in the world of the weird to help Ralph Anderson, while Anderson helps her re-engage with the world after Bill Hodges's death. The Outsider doesn't have the depth of characterization of those Bill Hodges books, though - for the first part of the book, I assumed Terry Maitland was going to be main character, not Detective Anderson, and I was a little surprise when the focus switched.  This novel does have some nice call-backs to the Hodges books, however, and it was nice to see Holly again.  Maybe I should re-read that trilogy.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Mini book review: We Are Where the Nightmares Go and other stories by C. Robert Cargill

It's not even September yet so it's far too soon for horror movies.  I have, however, been in the mood for some horror books, inspired by NPR's recent article.  I am particularly fond of horror short stories (Stephen King, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman when he's feeling especially macabre) and thus first pounced upon C. Robert Cargill's We Are Where the Nightmares Go and other stories when it became available at the library.  To be honest, I didn't love it.  I thought the stories were pretty uneven and the prose didn't readily pull me in (as does the prose of Messrs. King, Hill and Gaiman).  I did enjoy several individual stories:  the title story, "We Are Where the Nightmares Go," which has doors to other worlds, bad clowns and lost children; "The Town That Wasn't Anymore," about an Appalachian town that is dying away, not just because the mining is tapped out but because the town's dead just won't stay dead; and, most wonderfully, "Hell Creek" which is about ZOMBIE DINOSAURS.  I mean, who doesn't love zombie dinosaurs?  Bad people, that's who.

We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Now what?

I finished all the Netflix episodes of The Great British Baking Show and now I am sad that there aren't any more for me to watch.  What do I watch now?

  • I'm still working my way through Dark Angel on Netflix DVD.  It still isn't very good (Jessica Alba can't act for anything, bless her heart) but I'm becoming fond of it despite myself.
  • Still on S6 of Supernatural.  SPOILER: Sam just got his soul back.
  • Watched S2 of Luke Cage.  I even didn't find Danny Rand annoying in his episode - that episode did sort of seem like it came from a different show, however.  Wish there had been more Rosario Dawson and Bushmaster sort of just fizzled out at the end.  Generally good stuff, though.
  • I discovered eleven seasons of Cheers on Netflix so Mr. Mouse and I have something we can watch together.  It is amazing how many of those earliest episodes he nearly has memorized.
  • In books: have worked my way up to L is for Lawless in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone detective series.  When Grafton died last December, I decided I'd run the series.  I know I've read many of them already but it's been so long ago that I don't remember any of them.  Grafton only made it up to Y so I only have thirteen books to go.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Late to the game: The Great British Baking Show

Who else knows about this show?  And why wasn't I told sooner? 

The outside world is just awful - and getting awfuller - and to escape, I retreat into my Netflix account.  Usually I tend towards genre stuff but even Supernatural and Ash Vs. Evil Dead have been too grim for me lately.  I churned through The Good Place and the Queer Eye reboot, both of which worked at being both entertaining, warm and light enough to keep the dismals away.  But there aren't very many episodes of either show and once done, I needed something else.

Enter The Great British Baking Show.  There are only three seasons/series on Netflix, I believe, and I have already gotten through S1.  But I just love it.  All the home baker contestants are supportive of each other (as soon as they work through their initial nerves), the judges manage to find something positive to say about almost every bake and although the hosts are silly, they too are very supportive when a contestant starts to freak out.  It is lovely, civilized (everyone has cups of tea during down-time), inconsequential but engaging enough to keep me entertained and distracted.  I understand that there has been a bit of a recent shake-up with the original show's cast but I don't care.  I have nearly two seasons left to watch and I plan to enjoy every moment.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Mini book review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Sleeping Beauties is a 2017 collaboration between horror master Stephen King and his son.  No, not Joe Hill, pretty famous in his own right, but Owen King, who still relies on the family name.  This ponderous book follows what happens in small town Appalachia - standing in for the world - when a pandemic brings down all the women.  When a female human falls asleep, she does not wake up and becomes wrapped in a cocoon.  When the men try to take the cocoons off, the sleepers attack, violently and mindlessly - so it's better to leave them wrapped up.  A very few women stave off sleep - the insomniacs, or those with access to amphetamines or cocaine - but for the most part, the men of the world are adrift.  And that does not go well.  Oh!  And there's a supernatural woman - goddess or witch, perhaps - who has ushered in this state of things.  Some of the men want to protect her.  Some of the men don't.

I'm sounding pretty flip here but I did like Sleeping Beauties reasonably well.  It reads largely like a Stephen King book (so I wonder how much collaboration the co-authors did), with its detailed, intricate world-building and knowledge of small town life.  It's also a fairly political novel: King is liberal and it is clearly pro-feminist, as well numerous digs at the current administration.  Lots of the characters (and there are LOTS of characters) are pretty thinly sketched, including Evie, the goddess/witch, and one would think that she would be more developed, being so intrinsic to the story and all.  I wouldn't put it up with King's best works by a long shot but would put it lower-middle of the pack.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I don't know about you all, but the last several weeks (year+) have been rough.  I've really needed to escape from this country's current events each evening, trying to bury my head in streaming television sand. 

I just started S6 of Supernatural and I must admit that I dozed off now and again towards the end of S5.  Just like with The X-Files, I prefer monster-of-the-week episodes to mythology-arc ones and the back half of S5 was rather light on standalones. I also plowed through the newest Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episodes: reliably weird and funny (especially Titus), although the show is hitting its hot button topics a little harder this time.  I've also seen the first two episodes of Cloak and Dagger (on Freeform): I like it, but they need to get their two leads together.  I may have to check out the comics source material.

To change genres entirely, I'm nearly through S1 of the Queer Eye reboot and I just love it, am in tears nearly every episode.  The guys bring kindness, hope and support with them and we just need so much of that right now.

Finally, I'm revisiting Dark Angel on DVD, Jessica Alba's debut vehicle.  To be honest, the show hasn't aged that well since 2000, although there is a marked improvement from the pilot to the next couple of episodes.  Still, when you're in need of a kickass sci-fi heroine in black leather, you take what you can get.

And best of all, Luke Cage S2 coming very soon - woohoo!!!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A few thoughts on Supernatural

To be completely honest, I haven't been missing television at all (although this poor little blog certainly has) in the wake of having given up cable.  I think of all the shows I used to DVR (Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, iZombie, Legion, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Gotham, The Walking Dead, RuPaul's Drag Race, Better Call Saul, Fargo, Last Man on Earth (R.I.P.), Preacher ... and I'm sure there are more but I can't remember them now) and I really don't miss any of them.  Maybe Drag Race and Preacher.  And Legion.

Not even those, really.  Not too much - because I've been plowing through Supernatural as fast as I can at 2-3 episodes a night after Mr. Mouse goes to bed.  In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't start watching it right when it first aired: two years after Buffy ended, surely I needed to get a supernatural show to fill the gap.  I didn't, though, for whatever reason, and I am surely enjoying it now, having just started S5.  It's definitely testosterone-heavy (all the cool girls, be they good or evil, do seem to get killed off) but Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as the brothers Winchester are charming as hell, and there is definitely a subversive sense of humor running through the show's veins.  I can't believe it is the longest running genre television show - just renewed for its fourteenth season!  What that means for me, however, is that I've got a lot of episodes ahead of me and that makes me happy.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A few thoughts on Shutter Island

Leo DiCaprio does a passable Boston accent, I guess, having immersed himself in it for both The Departed and Shutter Island, both Martin Scorsese films.  I haven't seen The Departed  yet but I just watched SI last night.  It's a long movie, and I confess to nodding off every now and again - perhaps I shouldn't have started it so late - but as psychological horror flicks go, it holds its own.

The movie takes place in the 1950s.  DiCaprio is Teddy Daniels, a federal marshal, sent out to Shutter Island, an inescapable island facility for the criminally insane, off the coast of Boston.  A new partner (Mark Ruffalo) goes with him as they've been tasked to find out how an inmate, a woman who drowned her three children, could have disappeared from her locked room.  There is literally no way she could have escaped and yet she is gone.  Things get weirder and more intense as Daniels starts to learn about government conspiracies and illegal human experimentation, and starts having flashbacks to his time in the army, liberating Dachau in WWII. 

I'm not a huge DiCaprio fan but he does a great job here, arcing from capable to defensive to slowly unraveling.  I guessed the twist in general terms but the movie stayed interesting and makes me want to read the Dennis Lehane book from which it was adapted. 

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A few thoughts on Night Stalker

The 2005 television series Night Stalker is a curious little beastie, with ten filmed episodes, only six of which aired originally.  It was a revisit of the classic Kolchak: The Night Stalker, from 1974 and starring Darren McGavin (the dad from A Christmas Story).

The reboot starred Stuart Townsend as Carl Kolchak and Gabrielle Union (impossibly beautiful) as Perri Reed, both reporters for a Los Angeles newspaper (impossibly quaint, watching in 2018).  Kolchak is fixated on unusual/supernatural cases, trying to explain his wife's murder.  Reed is a skeptic but gets drawn in and has to admit that there's some pretty strange stuff going on out there.  It's like X-Files-lite, but due to the early cancellation, the cast never really had a chance to develop much chemistry.

I liked it - weird and supernatural are my jam, of course - and it's certainly not a huge time commitment.  The most challenging part of Night Stalker is just finding it - currently on DVD from Netflix, dunno where else.
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