Loot Crate Lvl Up Accessories: March 2016

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It’s time for an unboxing! Loot Crate passed out a coupon for their Lvl Up Accessories this time around, and I took advantage of it. So what was inside? SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Movie Review: Body Bags (1993)

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Let’s talk about this forgotten gem of a movie, Body Bags. So what is it exactly? From what I can gather, it was meant to be an anthology horror series made by Showtime in the same vein as Tales from the Crypt. Somewhere along the way, Showtime decided they didn’t want it, so the three episodes they’d already filmed became this movie. At least one of the segments was directed by John Carpenter, another by Tobe Hooper, and the third I just don’t know. And who did what, I also don’t really know. Getting solid information about the production process of this has proven challenging. What I have may not even be accurate, as Wikipedia is asking for citations.

What makes this a gem? I don’t know how to emphasize this without using bold caps: EVERYONE IS IN THIS THING. John Carpenter plays the Cryptkeeper-esque character who stitches the segments together, and he’s clearly having the time of his life and is a joy to watch. Wes Craven shows up as a clearly drunk man hitting on a young woman. Sam Raimi is a dead guy. Roger Corman is a doctor. John Agar is yet another doctor. Debbie Harry is a nurse. Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold show up as medical examiners. And that’s just the cutsie-wootsie stuff that will have genre fans giggling and pointing at their screen. The segments include acting talent from Robert Caradine, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, David Warner, and Mark Freaking Hamill. Oh, and Twiggy. Even Twiggy is in this!

Very much the kind of movie for movie nerds. Check.

But it is good? I can hear you asking. The first segment, “The Gas Station” is probably the best story the movie tells. It’s slightly by the numbers, following the typical slasher formula, but it’s tense. So tense that by the time we reach a pointless jump scare, I thought my heart was going to come flying out of my ass. Not without its horror merits, obviously. I can recommend it for that half hour of movie alone.

The second segment, “Hair” starring Stacy Keach, is the weakest. That’s the way of these sorts of movies. Sandwich the two stronger stories around the weaker so they have to stay on for the third. It wasn’t a total washout, but mostly it felt like padding until it got to the twist ending. Said twist was very Twilight Zone, so if that sort of thing bugs you, it will here, too. It was also a little on the silly side, so a breather between the more gruesome tales.

The last segment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill, is somewhere between the first two in quality. It gets a big thumbs up for Hamill’s performance. The man is a chameleon, especially where his voice is concerned, and it’s fun to watch him transform. BUT. You know that horror story we’ve heard a million times about someone getting an organ transplant, and the organ was from a killer, and it turns the nice guy bad? Yeah, that. So done to death. So tired of seeing it. Great Hamill, meh story.

For the anthology lovers among us, it is worth checking out. Even if all you get out of it is one, strong slasher story and John Carpenter being an absolutely beautiful ham for the camera.

Upcoming Releases

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Let’s talk about some books that are to be released in the coming months that I’m super jazzed for.

April 5 : Burning by Danielle Rollins – Danielle Rollins is Danielle Vega writing under a different name. You may recognize her as the author of The Merciless if you run in either horror or YA circles. It was a really good book that I enjoyed, so she’s on my radar now. I’m not as excited for this one as another by her that will show up later on the list, but it does still sound like something I’d enjoy.

April 26 : Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie – This is a short story collection set in his First Law universe. I still have a couple of books to read before I’d be comfortable jumping into this one, because spoilers, but I am still very excited. The Glokta story alone has made me a hyper fangirl.

May 17 : My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – Last year, I read Horrorstor by Hendrix, and I loved it. Much more than I thought I would. It was fun and frightening with enough quirkiness to make it a good haunted house story rather than a cliche one. Considering I know now that he’s someone who takes things in a fun, wild direction, this sounds great.

May 17 : The Fireman by Joe Hill – And on the same day! I’m always hyped for new Joe Hill. This no exception. Also, please click that link and read the summary. Does that not sound nuts? So intensely excited.

June 7 : End of Watch by Stephen King – And then, as if they planned it, Joe’s dad’s new book comes out. This is the third in a series, so I’m not saying a word. I’ll just say that some tidbits in the second book make this third one a very awesome prospect.

June 21 : Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay – A Head Full of Ghosts by the same author was getting some good hype last year, and it was earned, I feel. Not a perfect book, but I could see his potential as someone who could grow into his writing style and preferred storytelling. I’m interested to see what he does here, in that case.

July 5 : The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores by Danielle VegaThis is the one I was talking about above. The first book left a lot of room for a sequel, and I’m dying to know where she takes it.

What books are you looking forward to? Do any of these tickle your fancy? Let me know in the comments.

Book Haul: February 2016

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Behold my February 2016 book haul!

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February is my birthday month, so I did manage to get quite a few things, partly in gifts from friends and family and partly in treating my shelf (ehehehehe) a little. If any of these look interesting and you want to know more, feel free to reference the list of links below.

I’m of course looking forward to all these a great deal, and some I’ve already read because I just couldn’t stand the wait. Also, many of these were found at fantastic prices, because I tend to scour thrift stores and used book stores for the best deals.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega
Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Indignities of the Flesh by Bentley Little
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
number9dream by David Mitchell
Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer
Reasons She Goes To The Woods by Deborah Kay Davies
At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

The X-Files Season 10 Review

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I’m taking on quite a vast subject talking about season 10 of The X-Files. There’s so much to say about it, so much that ties into the old series and looks to the future. The easiest place to start is to say it had its ups and downs. Chris Carter struck gold with The X-Files, and he’s been trying to do it again ever since. Does he still have what it takes to run a show like this? Yes and no. Running the show, he surely does. Writing the scripts, I’m not convinced.

The show’s premiere was crammed with info, moved at too quick a pace, and felt a bit weak. But by the time we get to the show’s finale, it does pay off. Does that make a weak beginning worth it? I can’t answer that, but I will say by the time it was done, I wanted more. Of course, Carter is the king of the cliffhanger, so that’s part of why anyone would feel that way. We simply can’t leave it there. He does a lot with the less-than-two-hours TV that is “My Struggle” parts one and two, but I look forward to a smoother ride later on.

Admittedly, he had a lot of ground to cover, a lot of simplifying to do, and unlike other fans, that definitely didn’t bother me. I was glad to be relieved of most of the mythology so that I could enjoy the show with a clear head. Could the transition have been better handled? Sure. I do agree with that sentiment.

Now what about the in between? The episodes handled by old mainstays (James Wong, Darin Morgan, and Glen Morgan) were certainly the strongest. That felt like classic X-Files with updated characters with a vast history, and it played so well. In a way, that premiere episode was the show trying to get its sea legs. The rest was it hitting its stride. That’s the shame in only have six episodes in all. By the time it does that, we’re winding down again.

Of all the episodes, “Babylon” is probably the weakest. Talk about not knowing what type of story you want. A gag-filled episode about terrorism? That was a misstep. It had its moments, but it was all over the place tonally. Even saying that, I probably enjoyed it more than “My Struggle I”. Because it didn’t feel as shaky overall, but it’s not an episode I could see myself rewatching.

I imagine people want to know what I thought of Monica Reyes’s return, and I can do that while sparing you spoilers entirely. I never was on board with Doggett and Reyes. I know both of them, especially her, have a loyal following, but that’s where the show’s later seasons lost me. Many fans felt betrayed by how Carter handled her here, but my reaction was pretty neutral. I’m more concerned with Einstein and Miller. Why do we have thinly veiled Mulder and Scully clones just hanging around? I don’t want yet another set of replacements, Carter.

This season overall was a success. Even the weak moments can’t hurt it, because what we’re really here for is clear. To see Mulder and Scully reunite with all their personal history and attempt to save the world. To watch their personal journeys blossom even further, and that emotional impact was there for anyone who is a fan. We’re reminded that these two people have a child together, that their impact on this conspiracy always has been and always will be substantial, and that their friendship, through breakups and whatever else they endure, is very strong. As the center of the story, they bring everything you need to enjoy this show all over again.

 

Quill’s February Reading Wrap-Up

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Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (My Rating: 5/5) This one has the distinction of being my favorite read this month. It was a very emotional story regarding bullying, but it maybe doesn’t go to the places you expect. It’s poignant and truthful, and I related to it more deeply than any bullying-centric story I’ve ever read, but it’s not preachy or full of moral anvils to be dropped on your head. It’s lyrically written and incredibly subtle. It’s a new favorite for me, and it’s got me raring to pursue more of Atwood’s work.

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison (My Rating: 4/5) Here’s a slightly controversial one. If there are readers out there that hate this book, I’d totally understand. We follow two characters, one who has lived a life of privilege and one who hasn’t, and their love affair. Things go sour to say the least. Just how they go sour might really put some people off. For my part, I found the dynamics among all the characters and their various levels of privilege to be fascinating even when it was ugly. Just don’t go into this expecting high romance, because that it is surely not.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (My Rating: 3/5) I wanted to like this so much more, and there is a lot to like here. The main character, Charlie, goes through such a dramatic transition, and it’s expressed so well through the writing style. The plight of disabled people that this showcases makes it a very important read. And yet I never felt 100% engaged with this book. Something kept me at arm’s length. I think in part it was that I expected more science from this SF tale when it was really more about people. And even when it did focus in on the characters, I felt numb to it more than involved. Still, it’s a classic that I recommend everyone at least try.

The Wilds by Julia Elliott (My Rating: 4/5) This is a short story collection that bends genre all over the place. Full to brimming with a Southern Gothic aesthetic, it showcases horror, fantasy, science fiction, and does it all with a quirky flair. Chances are you’ve never read anything like it. My nitpicks would be that Elliott’s feelings about the South confused me. It was hard to determine if she was proud or ashamed of her origins there, if she was making fun of Southerners or making fun of the people who make fun of them. Either way, this was a great debut, and I look forward to more from her.

Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick (My Rating: 5/5) I love Dick. WAIT. I love Philip K. Dick. Sorry, I had to go there. In any case, his books are always such an incredibly wild ride, and this was no exception. It twists, it turns, it thrills and chills. It’s full of his usual creativity and insight. I will always recommend him, because every book I read by him wows me.

Indignities of the Flesh by Bentley Little (My Rating: 5/5) Sometimes you just need to have some fun. This horror story collection is just that: straight up frightful fun. Little can always be counted on to deliver that. It starts with a story about an evil rodeo clown and just barrels on through, leaving you not knowing whether to laugh or cringe. Love it. Also, just from a totally shallow standpoint, this book is a thing of beauty. I’m proud to own it for that alone.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega (My Rating: 4/5) If you’re a fan of the 90s film The Craft, read this. That idea of the Mean Girls getting into occult stuff and taking it too far is simply delightful to read. But don’t think this is some silly romp, because Vega brings the violence and the shocks. After I finished it, I found out a sequel is due this summer, and I can’t wait.

Reasons She Goes To The Woods by Deborah Kay Davies (My Rating: 5/5) I love when my dark fiction is literary. If you do, too, then here’s the perfect book. It’s written beautifully, downright poetic, about a little girl who… isn’t very nice. It’s hypnotizing and great for readers who like to peek into dark minds. Also, while the way it’s written is experimental, it’s perfectly balanced so it’s engaging and not distracting.

Mind Fields by Harlan Ellison and Jacek Yerka (My Rating: 5/5) Yerka provided the surreal art, and Ellison provided a story for each, beautiful piece. I love experiments like this, to see how artwork can spark the idea of a story in an author. Ellison was the perfect person for something like this. He’s prolific and creative, and both those things suited this perfectly. It’s short, and it would’ve been a quicker read if I could’ve stopped staring. So much pretty.

Insomnia by Stephen King (My Rating: 3/5) I hated to end the month on a low point but… yeah. Not his best. It was overly long, full of useless details that didn’t lend to anything except the length of the book, and the plot was full of conveniences and deus ex machina. All to introduce a character that would eventually play a part in The Dark Tower, and it’s not even the part he was promised to play. There were things I liked here, obviously, because I didn’t give it one star. But it was vastly disappointing. Any book that long shouldn’t be a waste of time the way this felt.