Living the Good Life, Episode 28 (April 7, 2017): Lotta readan!

Ah, another relaxing week. As usual, the lowdown:


WATCHAN:

Watched the new Ghost in the Shell live action movie with Scarlett Johansen. It was actually better than I was expecting…I thought it’d be terrible, but the music was better than the ridiculous “remix” of the 1995 theme I’d been expecting from the trailers, and the action was okay. I particularly liked the spider tank at the end…it looked kinda dumb from pictures and art I saw, but in motion it was actually pretty cool.

That said, the movie as a whole was mediocre and forgettable. I thought the acting was pretty poor, definitely not one of ScarJo’s better performances, and the doctor lady wasn’t convincing at all, I had to stop myself from chuckling every time I saw her. Additionally, the script left a lot to be desired, they really hit you over the head with “philosophical” themes. Combined with the aforementioned acting, and the movie was unintentionally funny a few times: “Yoo ah naht a robut. Yoo haff a ghust, a sohl.” XD

Ah, well. :p

PLAYAN:

Got a season pass for the Dark Souls III DLC, which consists of Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City. Beat Ashes of Ariandel recently and I’m working through Ringed City. See some vids:

 

TIMAN:

Playan so much Dark Souls I didn’t do much work this week! ;_; Well, I’ll get back to it when I’m done with the Ringed City 😀

READAN:

Mark Lukens, “The Devil’s Island.”

Probably my favorite out of the batch of Kindle horror novels I bought recently. Essentially, a rich, eccentric billionaire Nick has bought a reputedly haunted mansion on a cursed island in the Caribbean. He has cobbled together a team consisting of a skeptic, scientist, psychic, and our protagonist, a retired ghost-hunter named Shane, to film a “documentary” about the scary stuff that happened there. However, it soon becomes apparent that the terrible tales surrounding this place are more than legends–and that Nick is searching for something stranger than a hit ghost-hunting documentary. Does Nick want treasure, or something darker? Shane and his friends must fight to survive, struggling against both their employer’s machinations and the evil, supernatural force sleeping beneath the “Devil’s Island!”

As with Lukens’ other books, the writing is solid though not exceptional, and all the characters reasonable well-drawn but not memorable. The protagonist is likable, and none of the other characters really grated on me, but none of them stuck in my mind. The great strength of this story is how it builds up and gets scarier with every page, making it one of the most gripping haunted-house tales I’ve read in a while, We start off immediately with almost no-one being willing to take our heroes to the cursed island, then we find out why when the billionaire reveals the terrible history behind the house and why everyone feared it, which takes us into the terrifying finale where Nick reveals what he was really looking for, but then comes face to face with the terrible presence actually sleeping below the house. It all did a wonderful job keeping me glued to the screen of my tablet reader. My only critique is that the big reveal at the end was a little confusing. It was obvious enough what the billionaire, Nick, was after, but the nature of the supernatural evil was left ambiguous, and not in a good way, I kind of had trouble following what was going on in the climactic confrontation. But that’s a small critique, I would give this 4.5 stars if I could.

Hunter Shea, “The Dig.”

This is a very short story (much shorter than the other Hunter Shea novels I’ve reviewed) about an archaeological dig in Mongolia that uncovers a mysterious underground complex home to, you guessed it, an ancient supernatural presence. There’s not much to say about this one other than I’m happy with my purchase–99 cents for a brief scare ain’t too bad. I was also impressed by the research Shea did into both the mythological figure at the heart of the story along with the religious conflicts in this region of Asia, which are important to the plot. While the writing may not be Stephen King quality, I was very happy with the value I received for my purchase, so I give this 5 stars!

Christoper Coleman, “They Came With the Snow.”

This is a short novella that seems similar in some ways to Ronald Malfi’s “Snow,” and it shares general similarities with post-apocalyptic fiction, especially ones involving, well, snow, that also revolve around a strange catastrophe befalling the world and populating it with hostile creatures.

Essentially, an American college professor and the woman he’s having an affair with are holed up inside, some time after a mysterious explosion blanketed their world with snow, and also brought along strange, snow-white-skinned creatures wandering around outside, humanoid in shape but scuttling around like crabs. Were they aliens? Mutants? Something else? Our protagonists have no idea, and they don’t even know if this snow has covered the whole world or just their area, but they’re running out of food and they know they have to leave soon. This story covers their journey, as well as the answers to these mysteries that they manage to find!

This wasn’t terrible for the price. The characters were surprisingly compelling. However, the writing never rose above competent, IMO, and there are some awkward phrases here and there. Also, the revelations at the end seemed kind of ham-handed–no spoilers, but IMO the author did a bit more telling than showing, I think he might have been better served to have the story come out through slow discoveries rather than dialogue. Anything more than that would be a spoiler, though! But I liked this, so I’ll give it 4 stars–you can give it three if you’re not as generous. For some reason, though, I can’t find this on Amazon any more…when I left this review and clicked on the book’s title, it gave me an error! Weird…

Jeff Strand and James Moore, “The Haunted Forest Tour.”

Oh man, this was a fun ride! It starts off with a really weird yet intriguing premise: A forest just popping up out of nowhere in the middle of a small town, trees bursting out of the ground (causing mass destruction and killing people). The story then cuts forward a few years later, when the forest has become something of a tourist attraction: As it happens, trees weren’t the only thing that suddenly appeared, there’s a whole new ecosystem in that mysterious forest…consisting of ogres, harpies, demons, and even more exotic and dangerous creatures. A company has started offering chaperoned tours of the area held via heavily-armored cars running on rails around the perimeter of the forest, where people can gawk at the terrifying monsters–in absolute safety. Of course, when our motley protagonists (namely a white-collar guy named Christopher who hates his job, a kid, a likable old dude, and a couple) decide on one of these “Haunted Forest Tours,” something just has to go wrong and all hell breaks loose :p

Like I said, this was really entertaining. Just a good old splatterfest with a ton of gore, action, and people dying in suitably horrible ways :p The biggest strength of this story, IMO, was the awesome monster design–Strand and Moore definitely have amazing imaginations! There are all kinds of creepy crawlies, not just typical ogres, not even typical scary lizard beasts, but mold creatures, a demon that looks like a mass of snakes, freakish things that dwell in trees, and many more! There’s also an antagonist who we find out is responsible for all this chaos–I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say he’s the “sadistic smart-aleck” type of villain, the sort I’ve seen in plenty of other horror and fantasy novels. Not too many points for originality there, but with such a fun ride I can’t complain too much. The same applies to other aspects of the book–the characters are okay, likable enough, but not really memorable, and the writing is generally pretty good but not exemplary, but no big deal, because the story is so entertaining. This earns 5 stars 😀

David Haynes, “Black Pine Creek.”

Very solid, gory horror novel, worth 4 stars. Essentially, a down-on-his-luck gold miner finds a job he can’t refuse, one that could potentially get him back on his feet. He manages to get together a good team (including his estranged daughter, none too happy to see him) to set off for Black Pine Creek in Alaska, where they suspect they’ll have a very good haul. They’re pleased to find a previous mining crew left a lot of good equipment there…but less pleased when they find a bloody body. And soon after, our protagonists and his companions are fighting for their lives against their own greed and cabin fever, along with the supernatural beastie that lurks out there in the cold woods, stoking their darkest desires!

This was an excellent read. The depiction of gold mining seems very true to life, and the protagonist is quite compelling–he’s a good man, but the conflict between him and his daughter gives him a degree of depth I’ve not seen in my other recently reviewed stories. My only critique would be that a bit more background on the nature of the supernatural antagonist might have been nice. No spoilers, but I was kind of expecting it to tie in with a specific event in Black Pine Creek’s past or something like that, but all the story tells us is a bit about its background in indigenous people’s folklore, without any explanation for why it’s targeting our miners (and, judging by the beginning of the book, previous ones) specifically. I’d give it 4.8 stars, rounded up to 5, for getting my money’s worth.

Derik Cavignano, “Colony of the Lost.”

Another cheap Kindle horror novel I bought on a whim, this book centers on an unlikely trio–an alcoholic high school teacher, a smart-mouthed high school boy, and an innocent elementary-school girl–as they fight an ancient evil which destroyed a settlement in the 1600s their town is built on today, and threatens to do the same again.

Eh…”Okay” would be the word I’d best use to describe this. None of the characters really appealed to me at first, and while I grew to like them by the end, the protagonists aren’t really especially deep or original–there really isn’t too much to them aside from alcoholic guy, smartaleck kid, and innocent little girl archetypes many other horror novels feature. The beastly antagonist? Scary enough, with mind-control powers and a vague but frightening physical appearance, but again, not especially striking. The nature of its powers is somewhat more interesting–I won’t spoil too much for anyone, but suffice it to say it involves other dimensions–but still not especially original; I reviewed a Mark Lukens book recently that also had a supernatural antagonist revealed to come from another world as well.

Despite the fact that this book isn’t the most original thing in the world, I gave it 4 stars ’cause I still had fun reading it. Enough gore to keep me satisfied, some exciting shooting scenes, and the final confrontation with the bad guy did manage to keep me on the edge of the seat. The book has a fairly happy ending that some might find saccharine, but I kinda like that sorta thing so I was happy with it. If you’re looking for something more original, or like your horror with grim endings, you can consider this a 3 star review, but it’s a 4 for me.

 

WRITAN:

Not much aside from those Amazon.com reviews XD

EATAN:

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So, yep, more good times. I’d like to say it’s all good, but…just yesterday I heard that Syria’s getting bombed again. 😦 I know it’s silly, but I kinda feel bad about enjoying myself when so many people are suffering…I mean, of course I’d been aware of that for the past several weeks, but man, this really brings it home. And my country may be involving itself in another war, too. Rrrgh…I’ll try to keep myself happy, as nobody anywhere in the world will benefit if I stress myself out or get disconsolate, so don’t think these entries will stop. But yeah, current events are weighing heavily on my mind. Maybe there’s some stuff I can do to help…donate to refugee organizations or something? I’ll see.

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