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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: A Bloodline of Kings

Thomas Sundell's A Bloodline of Kings follows Phillip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great from birth through his famous son's birth. An interesting side note, the very first thing you see when you open the book is an inverted map of Ancient Greece with Macedon at the top and the islands at the bottom. This is done "...to illustrate the point of view of the Makedones. Their world centers on the Aegean Sea and the strongest cultural influence is from the heartlands of the Hellenes". Part of what I loved about this is the fact that most of us are very aware, at least in a broad sense, of the story of Alexander the Great, but this is coming from a different perspective, and even the maps in the end pages prepare you for this.

Phillip (spelled Phillipos throughout the novel), is shown from birth through his childhood as an incredibly smart young man raised as support for the rightful king of Macedonia. The fourth child in his family, Phillip seems destined to be forever used as a pawn in his older siblings plans for rule. In many ways similar to Robert Grave's I, Claudius, the royal family of Macedon is seen as filled with potential conspirators, rulers, spies and others all bent on the crown, and it is only through Phillip's ability to navigate his world that he ends up in a position to rule.

The novel is told in present tense and switches often from character to character (including all of Phillip's siblings, wives, and many other friends and foes). Considering he is often viewed as the precursor to the greatness of his son, it is fascinating to see the story of just how fractured Macedonia was when he came into power and the shape he moved it into before the birth of his son.

A fascinating read, and one I hope someday will be followed by a sequel.