BOOK REVIEW: Rotters by Daniel Kraus

8572163Title: Rotters

Author: Daniel Kraus

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 18 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Young Adult

Read Start Date: June 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey’s life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.

Everything changes when Joey’s mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey’s father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey’s life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.

My Review: I had never heard of this book before, and I only started to read it because it was available as an audiobook from my library. From the subject matter, I wasn’t expecting it to be another young adult book (I seem to have read a lot lately), but after about 2 hours in, my first impressions are overall positive.

Essentially, Joey Crouch (nicknamed, of course, by the other kids as “crotch”) goes to live with his dad, the “garbage man” in a rural town of Iowa. Joey starts to be bullied because of his name, and his dad’s profession. At this point in the book, I really feel bad for him — but I am also a bit confused as to why he doesn’t seem to have any emotions about the tragic death of his mother. Her death doesn’t really seem to play into the story at all, except to give the reason / excuse for why Joey had to start living with his dad.

I am about 1/3 of the way through now, and my second impression is a little worse than the first. I am not sure why the author chose to have EVERYONE against the protagonist. He has conflict with his peers, his teachers, his father — there is not one good relationship. And yet, the author does not reflect this in the personality of Joey. Wouldn’t he be angry? Sad? Depressed? Overall, I am getting a lack of emotions from this book; like the characters are simply existing in the world, but not feeling anything. Even when the father takes him grave robbing for the first time, yes he gets physically sick, but there is still no emotion there. It’s only an action, and rather an inexplicable one, as the sickness comes on the morning after.

If I was supposed to feel sorry for Joey, I just didn’t. All of the emotions in this book were said, but not felt — if that makes any sense at all. It’s like, I can say I feel sad, but if I don’t act sad, who will believe me?

I wanted to like this book, I really did — but I just didn’t. It had glowing reviews on Goodreads, so I don’t know what I seem to be missing. The writing seemed to be decent enough, so maybe I will give Daniel Kraus another chance in the future.

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Cabin Fever

225794-cabin-fever-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Cabin Fever 

Year: 2016

Genre: Horror

My Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Watch Time: 99 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: None

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdYOU CAN’T RUN FROM WHAT’S INSIDE. In this grisly remake of the 2002 horror hit, five college chums rent an isolated woodland cabin for a party. But their fun quickly ends when the group is exposed to a hideous flesh-eating virus, and survival becomes the name of the game.

My ReviewAfter the first 15 minutes: Like in the 2002 version, the beginning takes place at a gas station with some weird hillbillies. Already in the first few minutes, I could tell that this movie was going to worse than the 2002 version.

Overall impressions: Really stupid — but I guess that is to be expected from a B horror movie. Essentially, this is the exact same script as the first movie — not sure why? Super boring and unoriginal. The deputy is really ridiculous and has super stupid dialogue about partying. I don’t remember if this was also in the first film (probably was). Basically, this was a worse version of the original. There are similar scenes, but redone terribly. If you liked the first movie, I would doubt that you will like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Golem

461856-the-golem-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: The Golem

Year: 2018

Genre: Horror

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Watch Time: 95 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: I did not recognize any of the actors.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdAN ANCIENT LEGEND REBORN. A re-imagining of the old mystical folklore that follows a woman and a tight-knit Jewish community that is besieged by foreign invaders. She conjures a dangerous creature to protect them but it may be more evil than she ever imagined.

My ReviewAfter the first 15 minutes: The movie opens with the story of the Golem, whereby a rabbi cannot control the monster and it ends up killing everyone. A young girl witnesses these events and runs from the temple. The movie then progresses into the future, to 1673 Lithuania where a couple (Hannah and Ben) is trying to conceive. It has been 7 years without any baby. They live in an isolated Jewish village, which is soon besieged by their Christian neighbors.

Overall impressions: This movie is full of themes of loss and regret — the couple I mentioned before lost their only son in a tragic accident. Hannah is severely depressed, and cannot imagine ever having a child again — she studies the Torah day and night to find a reason why God has taken their son from them. Que the Christian invaders, who blame the Jewish villagers for the plague. Their leader brings his dying daughter and threatens the villagers with death if she dies. The village healer takes the girl in an effort to heal here.

Amidst all this, Hannah awakens a Golem to save the town, but his awakening is a double edged sword which brings more than just salvation.

This movie is not scary, although a horror film. I read a lot of reviews of people who didn’t like this movie because the golem was a boy child instead of some gross, gigantic mud monster. For me though, the fact that the golem was a child, really tied into the loss of Hannah of her own child, and added to the movie.

I think that it is worth the watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The 3rd Eye

410955-the-3rd-eye-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: The Third Eye

Year: 2017

Genre: Horror, Thriller

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Watch Time: 107 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: June 24, 2019

Recognized Actors: This was an Indonesian movie, so I did not recognize any actors.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdBELIEVING IS SEEING. When her little sister claims she sees the dead, Alia consults a psychic, who opens her own eyes to the vengeful ghosts haunting their childhood home.

My Review: After the first 15 minutes: The movie starts in the year 2005 and within the first few minutes the little girl already sees the first ghost. It is also a bit strange because the actress playing the sister (Alia) seems to be the same age as the parents. The story then jumps to 2017, where we learn that the parents were only 30 in 2005, which means I guess that they had the oldest daughter at 15. Maybe this is normal, but it was honestly my first observation of the movie. After the death of their parents, the sisters return to their childhood home (they had moved since the ghostly events).

Overall impressions: The movie had really bad computer graphics. Why were the ghosts always bloody? Does this automatically mean that they are “scary”? Because it didn’t feel that way. I wasn’t scared. The blood did not seem to have any relation to the way that they died and just seemed like a cheap trick.

This movie was just as hokey as the Evil Dead, but wasn’t as good. I’ve seen a lot of Asian horror movies, and this definitely was not the best; however, I watched it on the plane back to the States from Austria, and it was at least entertaining (since I was laughing at the really horrible CG). I gave it 3 stars because I didn’t dislike the movie per se, I just didn’t think it was great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

389637-extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Year: 2019

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 50 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 4, 2019

Recognized Actors: Zac Efron plays the infamous Ted Bundy. Efron’s performance in this movie is fantastic and I was very impressed. I have only ever seen Efron play the dumb jock, or other unserious roles. In this movie Efron breaks from his former characters and really shows that he has true potential as a versatile actor.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdTHE STORY BEHIND AMERICA’S MOST NOTORIOUS SERIAL KILLER. A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother reluctantly tips the attention of a widespread manhunt toward her longtime boyfriend, Ted Bundy.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: All around really good start to the movie! The scenes where Kloepfer meets and falls in love with Bundy were so well done that I forgot for just a moment that Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in recent times. The interplay of the scenes where Bundy is acting as a family man and the news reports of his heinous crimes is artfully done and spine chilling. At the end of the 15 minutes, the story begins to dive into the beginning of Bundy’s downfall; arrested for the kidnapping of a woman in Utah, Bundy arrives back in Seattle spinning a tall tale that he is being set up; and Kloepfer buys it…for the moment.

I am giving this movie 5 stars because it was just so well done. I watch a lot of true crime shows / movies, and this one is on par with Monster, the movie about America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos  (played by Charlize Theron). The thing that I like about this movie, is that it really portrayed Bundy in the way most people thought of him at the time. I could feel myself feeling sorry for him at some points…and then I remembered what he did. I really have to congratulate Zac Efron on a really good job. I have seen Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix, and I think Efron portrayed Bundy down to the letter.

If you like true crime, and want to never trust a stranger again, you must watch this movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Slender Man

371792-slender-man-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Slender Man

Year: 2018

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 33 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: The only actor I recognized was Jaz Sinclair. I recognized her from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which is a really good show that I would recommend).

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdCAN YOU SEE HIM? In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, his latest victim.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: So far the movie seems to be very similar to the plot of The Ring, i.e., watch a video and within seven days something terrible happens to you. All that is missing is the phone call with Samara’s creepy voice whispering “Seven days”. I have failed to jump or be scared in anyway so far, although there is some tension beginning to build.

As the movie progressed, the “attempted” scares were obvious, and you knew that they were coming. Music would build up and then there was a music explosion at the point where you are supposed to be scared, etc. This style of scare tactic plagues most modern horror movies, and in my opinion detracts from the scare affect. Most of the time it was hard to see the Slender Man himself or the scenes of the movie that took place in the dark, but this might have had something to do with watching it on the ipad during the daytime.

Will this movie win any awards? Of course not, but it’s not supposed to. The goal of this movie is to entertain, and it certainly entertained me.

Despite the fact that the ending was totally lame “ya know?”, I still give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

36381091Title: The Cabin at the End of the World

Author: Paul Tremblay

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 31 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Read Start Date: March 23, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

Reviewer’s note: I really loved that the family in this book was a modern style family with two dads and an adoptive daughter. I think that this is not done enough in mainstream literature.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”.

Reviewer’s note: If it wasn’t obvious enough that something weird was happening (like why would this guy be talking to this young girl?) when Leonard said that line I was thinking “uh oh”. My first thought was some weird paranormal stuff was about to go down like in that movie Sinister.

Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Reviewer’s note: unexpected twist there. Maybe less Sinister, and more The Cabin in the Woods?

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

Reviewer’s note: That last paragraph is a bit hyped. I didn’t feel the tension at all. I was a little disappointed actually.

My Review: Where to start with this book? Okay, so first I should say that I don’t know whether I liked or disliked this book, which is why I gave it 3 stars, as it came somewhere in between. It was an interesting premise, but I think that the author could have done more with it. Having less than 10 hours of listening time (272 pages), there really wasn’t much room for character building. I can’t say that I really felt anything for any of the characters, even little Wen. This was ultimately disappointing. In a horror story, who doesn’t want to feel at least some empathy toward the characters?

However, I didn’t dislike any of the characters either. As I mentioned above, I liked how the family had two dads and an adoptive daughter.

Since the book was so short, and since the author tried to give time to the back story of each character, it felt more like a summary of their lives than character development. For an example, it turned out (maybe — it was never really proven or not) that one of the strangers was possibly a guy that one of Wen’s dads had beaten up in a bar years earlier. I didn’t really think that this added anything to the story, other than a side comment that maybe these people were “gay bashers” and were therefore just lying about the whole apocalypse thing.

On the other hand, was character development really so important to the story? Could it have been rather that the story itself was more the focus?

I am also currently reading a book by Stephen King and Owen King called Sleeping Beauties. Similarly, it is about the end of the world, so to speak — but it is more than 700 pages long. I am not saying that you need 700 pages to truly develop a character or story, but it might have been nice if Tremblay had allotted a few more pages to the task.

I finished The Cabin at the End of the World in two days because I listened to it over the weekend, and I tend to listen to audiobooks a lot on the weekends. Had this been a paperback book, or had I started the audiobook on a Monday, I am not sure whether I would have been able to finish it in so short of a time, so I cannot say that the pace at which I read the book is any indication of the likeability of the book.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book. I typically like books that fall within the horror genre, and I don’t ever expect to be scared, but I do expect some sort of feeling that what I am reading is disturbing or creepy. Even if the story was more the intended focus than the characters for me, I would have liked to have liked the characters more, especially in light of what happened to them in the book.

This book reminded me a bit of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, except that I liked The Road a lot more. Let’s face it, cannibals (especially as vivid as McCarthy’s descriptions were of them) are always super disturbing, and are always going to beat out weird kidnappers / slashers in that department.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so it is really hard to give further examples of how the story fell a little short of expectations.

Have you read The Cabin at the End of the World? What did you think?

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Parasite by Mira Grant

13641105Title: Parasite

Author: Mira Grant

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 6 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.”

My Review: The main character, Sally Mitchell “Sal” awoke from a coma without any memories of her life before the accident. Her life was saved by the tapeworm living in her intestines. The book starts six years after she woke up. Her relationships are complicated, due to the fact that she was not a very nice person before the accident. Everyone in her life of course remembers this person, but she herself does not. Although Sal is an adult, she is often treated like a child by her parents (Sal’s Dad is the head of USAMRID), and her doctors at SymboGen see her as an anomaly and therefore study her and monitor her every move. In fact, the only person in Sal’s life who treats her with any normalcy is her boyfriend, Nathan (a parasitologist at the hospital).

Despite the coma and memory loss, Sal seems to be living a pretty average life, that is, until things start to get strange. People start developing a “sleeping sickness” and the infection is spreading. It is not known until the end how Sal fits into this sickness, and I won’t spoil it for you.

When I first started to read this book, I had been expecting something a bit more “apocalyptic”– so I was a little bit disappointed when it wasn’t; but, maybe this comes in the next 2 books?

I was also surprised to find out that this wasn’t a Young Adult book, because it certainly read like one. Other than the occasional swear word, the language of this book was super easy. The romantic relationships were PG all the way, and despite the family drama, other relationships in the book were rather uncomplicated and one-dimensional. The characters were interesting, when they were not totally unrealistic.

SPOILER ALERT: One of the characters that I did not like at all was Tansy. Tansy was a human who had been taken over by the tapeworm — so basically, Tansy was a tapeworm wearing a human shell. The only problem with Tansy was that her character was supposed to be crazy, and I guess the only way to illustrate this was to have her act like an unhinged Rambo who sometimes had cringe worthy one-liners? I think that the author could have developed the characters better. I also did not understand why the description of the characters was necessary — did the fact that Tansy have pink streaks in her hair make her seem more “crazy”? Otherwise, it just seems like these descriptions were just fillers without any real motivation.

This book was entertaining; I listened to the audiobook while running / walking. If you are looking to be entertained, you should give it a go. I would just caution to manage expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Outsider by Stephen King

36124936

Title: The Outsider

Author: Stephen King

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 49 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Link: Goodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”

My Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, and I have really struggled with this review. On the one hand I liked it, but on the other hand I was not that impressed. I have some spoilers in this review, but i cannot give my full opinion without giving away some of the story. The beginning of the book starts out like any other murder mystery / crime novel. As with all of his books, King’s writing is impeccable, and the characters are well-developed.

The issue I have is with the supernatural monster, who turned out to be the real killer. In a nutshell, this monster was a shape shifter that was capable of becoming other people, even down to the DNA level. This is how he would perpetrate the crimes, and the humans from whom the monster had stolen the DNA (like Terry Maitland) would get the blame. The monster fed on children and thrived on the grief the killings caused the family members. It had white blood filled with worms, and it would use the worms to infect humans so that it could control them to do its bidding.

After Detective Anderson (and his team) figure out that the real killer is some sort of monster, they track it down to a cave system and ultimately destroy it.

Elements of this story heavily reminded me of It (also by Stephen King) and the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro — which is why, for me, the story did not really feel all that original. It reminded me of It because the monster went after children, hibernated after feedings, and lived underground in an abandoned mine. It reminded me of The Strain series because of the worms and the white blood (in The Strain, the vampires made new vampires by infecting humans with worms, and said vampires had white blood).

I was on a business trip in Japan while reading this book, and was severely jet lagged for most of the week. Since this book received very high reviews in general, maybe the jet lag prevented me from really appreciating the story, as every time I read the book, I was very tired. In any event, since Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, I would still recommend to read this book.