still is the written word

Category: reviews (Page 1 of 2)

Dirge (Ex Mortis book 3)

Well, yet another twist involving another non-physical realm of existence. The good news? Evil doesn’t die at the end, although we do lose some people getting there.

This is by far the darkest book of the series. I suspect some readers will find the ending depressing, or perhaps less like an ending and more like the slow disappearance of a song that repeats the chorus line over and over, as the volum drops to zero.

Dirge would not feel out of place among post WWI poets, evoking as it does a sense of ending via slow collapse, rather than sudden or violent. It’s a bit like reading Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”

I spent the entire book expecting a right turn back into the spirit of the trilogy. Instead, the book takes a sharp left and you fall out of it, sitting dazed by the side of the road.

If you enjoyed the first two books, you will enjoy this one as well. Just do not expect a nice bit of closure like Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet. Instead, imagine the curtain coming down before he shows up, while the bodies lie dead and bleeding, and open-mouthed spectators stand silently in shock.

You can find Hoffman’s books on Amazon, or, spend a couple more bucks and get an actual book at the author’s website.

See my review for book 2, Full Moon on the Bayou.

See my review for book 1, Death Cramps My Style.

Full Moon on the Bayou (Ex Mortis book 2)

Very rarely does a sequel come a long to best its progenitor. Why? Well, it seems to me one reason is a lot of sequels try to ride the coat-tails of the original. But then you descend into a kind of formulaic presentation where you’ve basically already read the story, just some of the names and locations and minor details have changed.

No, the best sequels are the ones that stay familiar, but bring in a whole new hook to keep things fresh. I’m thinking Alien to Aliens, from helpless humans to humans fighting back, or Terminator to Terminator II, where the evil machine is now the hero, fighting against an even worse machine.

Those fears of a reuse of old ideas you can put away when you pick up Kristopher Hoffman’s 2nd book in the Ex Mortis series. Full Moon on the Bayou takes those same characters from the previous adventure, Death Cramps My Style, and lands them smack dab in the middle of a war between vampires (think Al Capone with teeth) and werewolves (think dreadlock hippies with fangs). And if Evil wants some peace and quiet in his life, to keep his bar from being destroyed, and his friends alive, he has to find a way to get them to knock it off.

If you have read book one and enjoyed it, I think you’ll love book two.

You can find Hoffman’s books on his website.

Death Cramps My Style (Ex Mortis book 1)

I can’t say much about the story of Death Cramps My Style, by Kristopher Hoffman, without spoiling the fun. Let’s just say that some down-to-earth characters, Evil, Feral, and Timber who think the supernatural is nonsense, find out they were premature in their judgement.

The characters are quirky, but believable, and I found myself caring about them despite their flaws. The dialogue is natural and organic, with an original storyline that is a sort of an alternative ending twist on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

If you decide to dive in and read, I’m certain you won’t regret it. Death Cramps My Style is the first in a trilogy of stories featuring these characters, and I for one will be reading the next two.

You can find Hoffman’s books on Amazon, or, if you’d rather not hand over most of the money to a billionaire and not the author, spend a couple more bucks and get an actual book at the author’s website.

See my review for book 2, Full Moon on the Bayou.

I will link to book #3 here after I’ve read it and posted a review….

Holiday Cheer for A Misread Bible Christmas!

You know Python and Carrey and Mercer and Carlin,
you know Seinfeld and Benny and Pryor and Beaverton,
But do you recall
The most famous comic of all?
Misread the Red-Nosed comic
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.
All of the other writers
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Misread
Join in any comic games
Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Kim Aaron came to say,
Misread with your nose so bright,
Won’t you sign your book tonight
Then how all the comics loved him,
As they shouted out with glee,
Misread the red-nose writer
You’ll go down in history

Merry Misread Christmas, Merry Misread Christmas, one and all!

Get A Misread Bible:Christmas on Amazon

Check out my review of Eldridge’s first misread, The MisreadBible: Genesis.

Misread But No Misgivings

Sensitive about your Christianity? I have two action items:

  1. don’t read this review
  2. don’t buy this book

I’ll wait a moment so the sensitive can leave.

I’ve read the Bible. Have you? IKR? Booooring! The silliness is a bit amusing, and the obvious contradictions stick out and might cause a chuckle. But did you know there is so much more absurd going on underneath that you might not catch?

Well now you can. J. R. Eldridge has rewritten the first few books of the Old Testament where the silly is brought right up to the surface, along with some tart language to get you clutching your pearls.

I didn’t put the book down, except briefly to head off starvation. If you like British humor and to chuckle at ancient mythology, this book is for you.

I was not endorsed or offered anything to write this review. I paid for my copy and so should you. The funny is worth way more than the couple dollars.

You can find Eldridge’s book on Amazon:

Also, check out my review of Eldridge’s next book, A Misread Bible: Christmas.

movie review: Withnail and I

Handmade films are a special lot.

Every time I watch this film, I feel like I’ve lost a best friend. I waver like a photon, unable to decide if I’m a wave (Withnail) or a particle (I). In the end, the rain decides for me.

Watch this film, for the Shakespeare alone!

I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2

TV review: The Twilight Zone “Replay”

I am a fan of the original version of The Twilight Zone. So this new version faces serious competition. “Replay” is the first episode I watched, and I found it an excellent addition to the franchise.

I am old and white and full of privilege. And although I am sympathetic with the plight of African Americans and people of colour in a largely racist society, I can’t say with honesty that I am empathetic. That is to say, while I can be upset with the injustices and abuse they face, I cannot feel how they feel. I’ve never faced racism so I cannot understand it from their perspective.

But “Replay” helped me see with a new pair of eyes. The absolutely claustrophobic Officer Lasky, this ever-present, almost-a-haunting that never goes away. No matter what Nina and Dorian try, Lasky finds them and hurts them. But Lasky is not a monster. He is ordinary, which makes him all that more terrifying. An ordinary symbol of authority is never more than a glance away from becoming an expression of privilege and racism.

Each repeat, Lasky is there. Each repeat he does not know them, and yet Nina knows him. Knows what he is capable of. Knows what he will inevitably do. What a world that must be, to see this, not possibility, but eventuality, shivering like a mirage between the every day moments of life.

As I said, this is the only episode of the reboot I’ve watched so far. But “Replay” can stand with any Twilight Zone episode as an equal. I try to be a progressive and decent human being. “Replay” showed me a world, however briefly, that exists for some people. A world I will never have to fear or experience. I understood this world existed intellectually, but now some great social art has helped me to feel this world, if only diluted and for a few minutes. I can’t imagine having to live with this every day. My hope is “Replay” will make others feel the way it made me feel, and maybe, in its own small way, work towards making this world a thing of the past.

movie review: I Kill Giants

Broken does not mean I cannot see beauty. Shattered does not mean blindness. I Kill Giants is a hell of a movie. You should watch it. It is a lie, but a necessary one, I suppose. If you come away feeling it is a movie for kids… you have my sympathy.

Great right up until the end. But of course the Giant is lying when it says to Barbara: “You will be okay.” How do I know its a lie? Well, to state the completely obvious, Barbara is going to die too. Along with her sister, brother, friends, and everyone else. The lie is necessary to keep us all roaming about doing mostly meaningless stuff, rather than spending time contemplating what a life should mean in the context of it’s inevitable end.

A Monster Calls

Lots of people complain that I Kill Giants is a copy of this earlier movie. I would agree the theme is similar, a child dealing with the loss of a parent to illness, but really the movies are worlds apart, and I Kill Giants is superior.

In A Monster Calls the audience is treated like cattle. The creators figure their audience is as stupid as cows, so they put rings in their noses and lead them around the movie, carefully pointing out what is going on and why, and what they’re supposed to think and feel as they go along. Some people need this in their movies. If they don’t get it, they often get cross.

In the end the movie does not hold up, as it is literally dripping with impossibilities and nonsense. For example, if the monster is in Conor’s head, I have to say wow, that kid is a freaking genius. Where does a 12 year old come up with such powerful and complex ideas about the meaning of life and death, and our place in the world? (the answer is, of course, 12-year olds don’t, but adult script writers do). And in the end, we discover the monster was telling stories from Conor’s mother’s art book, which Conor has never seen. Ooops, there goes the reality factor. Seems a bunch of magic or something has been going on somewhere in the background. Too bad none of that magic could be used to save mom. After all, if reality isn’t reality, I’d much rather have my mother back than know the monster who was teaching me might have been real, met with my mother when she was a kid, and passed on her stories to me for some reason. I’d be pretty pissed if I knew this monster could warp reality, but instead of saving my mom from cancer it decided to tell me stories of dubious value.

And the fucking violins. By the end of the movie I was ready to shove a bow up someone’s ass.

In I Kill Giants there is none of this. Reality rules from start to finish. The magical events are entirely in the mind of a 12 year old girl who will not or cannot accept the inevitable death of her mother to disease. You are not led around by a ring in your nose and told what to think and what to feel from minute to minute. It is instead confusing and difficult to figure out what is going on, much like life (see what they did there? It’s called “art”). Like a 12 year old escaping into fantasy, we are not sure how much of this magical world exists. This is especially true when Barbara’s friend comes upstairs with a glass of water and sees the cause of it all, dropping her glass and making for one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, as Barbara, so out of sorts by what that space represents, literally walks barefoot through broken glass to shut the terrible room’s door and protect herself from what’s inside.

The giant, Titan, acknowledges the truth Barbara finally figures out for herself. There will be no salvation for her mother. The giant did not come for her mother, but instead has come for her. And like so many monsters, the death and destruction it represents is metaphorical, as a 12 year old mind is finally able to grasp the truth.

Of course, the old fiction is repeated at the end of both movies: everything will be alright. This is fluff for a vulnerable audience. This fiction is needed so we will get up tomorrow and live our mostly pointless lives, pretending words like growth and capitalism aren’t monsters emerging from the sea to destroy us.

Aww, poor little critics: Dark River review

Poor little critics sitting in their circle-jerk crying “where’s the plot?”

Let me tell you something. Ghosts are made up bullshit, but hauntings are real. More real than reality. I’ve seen dead people that I’ve lost in trauma, though nothing like Alice, the main character of Dark River, and that would be because I was never raped by said haunting when it was alive. But I’ve known someone who was, and the effects of this kind of trauma can’t be overstated.

Alice comes home when her father/rapist is dead. Critics whine in their little bitty voices “but why she comes home we don’t know.” Yes we do, buttercups, she comes home because he’s dead, and the land she earned with the price of her (literal) body and (metaphorical) soul is now hers. But even dead his power controls her life. This is the reality of a child raped by a parent.

“Oh, but where’s the plot,” the critics whine. Abuse is the plot, you dullards. Why do you even watch movies? Go watch Friends or something.

Look at what the abuse has done. Alice is ruined. She’ll never have a life. Look at her brother, Joe, wracked with guilt and shame and anger at Alice because he can’t understand her behaviour. He’ll never have a life, although his final act of redemption to finally protect his sister seems to have saved some of his humanity in the end.

Where is the plot in a life that cannot include human intimacy, because it has been stolen from you when you were most vulnerable, by the very person who was supposed to protect and nurture it? Alice recoils from intimacy. From the moment a friend tries to comfort her when learning of her father’s death, to the emptiness of desperate one-night stands in the cabs of lorries, Alice exists in a world where human touch, human intimacy, love, affection, and gentleness have been taken from her. What the fuck is left?

Maybe they should have had someone at the end, just before the credits, telling us (and lying) everything was going to be alright. Just so the critics could have a little plot.

Everything’s not going to be alright. Not for Alice. Not ever.

The End.

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