Reviewing the Pages: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down.

Oh Harry. Angsty, teenage Harry. I forgot how bad your mood swings get in this book. Order of the Phoenix is the book that really sets the stage for the rest of the series. We now know that there is an end game for the fight for good versus evil, and that there is nothing that will stop evil from conquering good.

There are some scenes in this that could have greatly enhanced the film more, as good as the film is. Mainly scenes involving McGonagall. Her interactions involving Umbridge, particularly the one in her office as she is trying to advise Harry about his future schooling plans. In fact, McGonagall was quite sassy when it came to her inactions with Umbridge, which made me adore her much more than any other point in the story.

There are a lot of themes here that this installment touches upon, from loss to puberty; politics in schools to discrimination. All are handled well, and some topics are so deep that this book only scratches the surface. I can’t tell you to jump into a series while we’re this deep into it, but if you haven’t made it this far into the series, I highly recommend it. Just make sure you can put up with a lot of teenage angst.

Ok.  Not much to spoil here.  All things considered.  If you haven’t read this book, either you aren’t into this series, or you’re getting to this point.

Harry was quite a loathsome character in this book, going rapidly from angry to not in a matter of a paragraph; the constant lashing out at those who are the closest to him was rather irritating.  Not nearly as infuriating as Umbridge.  Her character’s devolvement from one who is willing to do the Ministry’s bidding to flat our psychopath (or is it sociopath, I can never remember the distinction).  Either way, it’s the little things here and there that really make Umbridge stand out as a character here.

One scene that I really want to point out is the very end, as Dumbledore is talking to a grief-stricken Harry.  As Harry’s rage increases, not only at Dumbledore, but the entire world, Dumbledore seems to slowly, and quietly break down.  And that speaks volumes.  A man, who tried to help Harry as best as he could, could only watch as the boy that he had been watching over since he was really little go through this heart-breaking event.  The tear that Harry notices at the very end speaks volumes.

Really, I could go on and on about this book, but if you haven’t done so, or haven’t visited this year in a long while, should do so.  Dive back into the magic.

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard: Diving Back into Horror

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another video game review.  Now, I haven’t done very many of these.  Well, technically this is my third one.  But, I don’t beat very many games.  Instead, I play through one and skip over to the next one.  And so on and so on, leaving a plethora of unfinished games in my wake.  One of these days, when I can start being a LPer/streamer, I’ll have to go back and finish a lot of those games.

But, in the meanwhile, we’ve got this game.  Since the first whispers about the game at E3 2015 with KITCHEN, and later updates a year later with the demo known as Beginning Hour, which to my knowledge is the first demo to get updated as time progressed.  And boy were there secrets in there.  But, enough about Beginning Hour.  Let’s get right into the game that I finally finished.

If you haven’t played this game before, and are wanting to experience this game for yourself, be warned because there be…

Ok.  So, since playing Layers of Fear, I’ve been really into the first-person exploratory style of games.  Both in terms of horror, and what people like to call walking simulators.  Either way.  I really love that style of game.  I love being able to go out and explore the world.  And yes, this game is a little bit linear.  But, up until a certain point, you can backtrack to retrieve things that you weren’t able to in the past.  Different items like the grenade launcher, more ammo, and secret in-game items that one would find along the way.  But that’s ok.  Yes.  I, a man who loves open world exploration, find that it is ok that we have a mostly linear game.  It works out well here.

Like some of the other Resident Evil games that I’ve played (which, isn’t a lot, considering I won’t touch 4-6), inventory management is vital to your survival in this game.  Towards the end, I was debating over which weaponry I wanted to take with me, so that I could have a chance of surviving the end game (more on that in a minute). Each weapon has their own advantages and disadvantages, and using the wrong one in a certain scenario could spell disasterous for Ethan.  I did find myself constantly switching between weapons, not only as a way to save ammo on the shotgun, but also to better use my environment to my advantage.  Taking on multiple Molded is a lot easier with the handgun rather than the shotgun.  But remote bombs would better if you could cluster them up.  And the Grenade Launcher would be just as good, but better not to run out of ammo for it.  Oh, can’t forget about health packs.  Should I fashion first aid kits with this chem fluid I’ve found, or should I go for some ammo.  In my case, I did go for health packs.  By the end boss, I had plenty of ammo to burn through.

But, let’s get right into why I’ve got the spoiler tag up above.  The ending.  After injecting Eveline with that serum that you created, she become mega-mold monster and attacks.  Then, Umbrella swoops in, drops down a very powerful weapon, and you defeat Eveline.  The kicker.  After Eveline crumbles, and Redfield address Ethan, Ethan says something along the lines of “about time you guys showed up.” Does Ethan work for Umbrella? Or did Ethan contact Umbrella before he left for the Bakers? There are so many questions that don’t have answers.  And like an impatient child, I want them.  And speaking of the final fight, since I’m here…it didn’t seem very involved.  You were locked up in the attic with Eveline to start, and all you could do is fire.  You couldn’t hide.  You couldn’t have any strategy.  You were just firing away.  And that kinda soured on me a bit.  After all, there were some loose plot ends that we had to work with.  Like Lucas. We don’t see Lucas again after surviving the Happy Birthday trap area, but we don’t hear from him again.  One would figure that he’d stick around to be a thorn in one’s side after killing off his parents.  But, is there something in store for Lucas? I don’t really know, and I’m interested to see where the developers are going to go from here.

Now, I’m still in the process of trying to get my DLC to work (at this time, I went to play “Banned Footage”, and the game kept crashing on me.  So, I decided I’d try to uninstall and re-install the game.  Maybe I’ll get some answers there.  For those of you who really like first-person survival horror games, and want to try a new foray into the Resident Evil series, then you should totally check this one out, and prepare to jump out of your seats.

Reviewing the Pages: Lovecraft’s Monsters

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This deliciously creepy and loving tribute to the master of modern horror features riveting illustrated stories of his wicked progeny.

In the century since the master of horror, H. P. Lovecraft, published his first story, the monstrosities that crawled out of his brain have become legend: the massive, tentacled Cthulhu, who lurks beneath the sea waiting for his moment to rise; the demon Sultan Azathoth, who lies babbling at the center of the universe, mad beyond imagining; the Deep Ones, who come to shore to breed with mortal men; and the unspeakably-evil Hastur, whose very name brings death. These creatures have been the nightmarish fuel for generations of horror writers, and the inspiration for some of their greatest works.

This impressive anthology celebrates Lovecraft’s most famous beasts in all their grotesque glory, with each story a gripping new take on a classic mythos creature and affectionately accompanied by an illuminating illustration. Within these accursed pages something unnatural slouches from the sea into an all-night diner to meet the foolish young woman waiting for him, while the Hounds of Tindalos struggle to survive trapped in human bodies, haunting pool halls for men they can lure into the dark. Strange, haunting, and undeniably monstrous, this is Lovecraft as you have never seen him before.

Contents

“Only the End of the World Again” by Neil Gaiman
“The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale
“Love is Forbidden, We Croak & Howl” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“Bulldozer” by Laird Barron
“A Quarter to Three” by Kim Newman
“Inelastic Collisions” by Elizabeth Bear
“That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas
“Red Goat Black Goat” by Nadia Bulkin
“Jar of Salts” and “Haruspicy” by Gemma Files
“Black is the Pit From Pole to Pole” by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley
“I’ve Come to Speak with You Again” by Karl Edward Wagner
“The Sect of the Idiot” by Thomas Ligotti
“The Dappled Things” by William Browning Spencer
“The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge
“Remnants” by Fred Chappell
“Waiting at the Cross Roads” by Steve Rasnic Tem
“Children of the Fang” by John Langan

Creatures. Gods. And at the very depths of it all; horror. Fear. What comes out of the deep or the dark. The unknown. And the alien. That’s what, at least my understanding of it is, is at the heart of the Cthulhu Mythos. And this collection of short stories covers a wide variety of creatures and Gods in the mythos. From poems to longer short stories, this tale has something for just about everyone in it. Whether you like tales about people transforming into creatures; tales of dread that will make you question everything in it; or tales that take both real and well-established fictional characters and throw them Lovecraft’s world. If you are a fan of these sorts of stories, I implore you to dive right on in. But be forewarned, a fair amount of knowledge of the creatures and Gods within the Mythos will come in handy here

I do find it really hard to talk about Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos…only because I don’t fully know what to say.  After all, there is so much to cover, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface as to what exactly is out there in terms of literature.  But, I did these stories and poems.  They took on a small aspect of the Mythos, and fleshed it out in a manner that gave that particular piece some spotlight.  Especially some of the creatures that I have yet to come across.  Like the Hounds of Tindalos, the King in Yellow, and the Serpent People, which, by some strange coincidence, are all not original Lovecraft creations, but instead are a part of what I can imagine are in the innermost ring of the Mythos.  I do suggest to anyone that loves the Mythos to dive into this collection.  There is a story in here for everyone, and who knows, maybe you’ll just find yourself ensnared in the tendrils of Cthulhu.  If I do see you here, don’t be afraid to wave.  It’ll be nice to see a friendly, humanoid face.

Reviewing the Pages: White Rabbit Society Part One

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Andrew is fifteen years old. He’s been sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer while his parents finish their divorce, but the summer’s up and he’s still stuck up in Wisconsin. And his best and only friend is a monster.

Shadow lives under a gazebo in the park. She has a body made of spare parts, she seems to be omnipotent, and she likes to play chess. Andrew doesn’t tell anybody about Shadow. Nobody listens to him anyway.

Andrew’s Uncle Paul comes to town. Andrew didn’t know he had an Uncle Paul. Paul knows about Shadow. Paul knows lots of things. Some of them are things he shouldn’t know; some of them are things no one should know. And he’s interested in teaching.

Unfortunately, Paul isn’t stopping by just to say hello. He’s being pursued, by people interested in his secrets. People interested in Shadow. And soon, people interested in Andrew.

First off…let me say that I am SO confused. There’s not much of a “society” here that we come to know and understand. It’s a loose organization of people that have fallen down this rabbit hole of very dark magic. There are no real alliances at all; just people who band together for a very short period of time in order to further their own agenda. And in the middle of it all right now; a young teenager named Andrew.

The book does a very good job of not telling what is going on. We go back and forth between flashbacks that I’m not sure who they belong to half the time, and the present day. There are so many unexplained things that I constantly had to stop and go “where did that come from?” However, there are enough things that are explained to not make this story a completely confusing read.

For those of you who like tales with a lot of mystery and intrigue, as well as a fair amount of dark magic, then check this read out.

Alright.  So, part of the reason why I’m so confused is that we have characters that are constantly dying and getting resurrected, and multiple characters that come in and out so fast that I don’t know what side they are on.  For instance, Jeremiah, a character who pops up in the middle of the book, dies at one point, then pops back in towards the end of the read.  At one point, Paul apparently got shot by Anna, and then pops back up just a page later.  Makes me so confused.  Yes, I know there’s a “nine-lives spell” that requires a sacrifice of a toe every time, but still.

SO

FREAKING

CONFUSED

Anyway.  There’s a brief point at the end where Josh takes off on his own.  Is he going to be another antagonist in the next part? Or is he just going to disappear into the depths of Chicago?

The one clear thing in this world is the magic, and the motivation that some people have to be possess that magic.  It makes things difficult to be sure, to figure out who’s aligned with who…and that includes the creatures.  Except for Shadow.  Shadow is a different sort of creature.  She seems like she had a goal in mind…which ended up her being made into a (imperfect) human.  But, Shadow doesn’t really play that big of a part here.  Just part of the…package deal? that everyone wants a part of.

Again, if you are into a tale of mystery with a fair amount of dark magic, then you should totally check this out.  And yes, this isn’t so mysterious, but it will certainly leave you confused.

Reviewing the Pages: The Shining

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What of the penetrating cold terror of an old hotel, a haunted place of seductive evil with a malevolent will of its own—and a five-year-old boy of innocent beauty whose mind mirrors the nightmarish secrets of its past?

Behind every door of the Overlook’s 110 empty rooms there is a chamber of horror. Little Danny knows of these things because he has the terrible power—The Shining

I forgot how tiny the font is in the edition I read. But, 8 point font aside, The Shining is a book that you have to read to experience the terror. Of a family that started out on a bit of a rocky point; a man who has his inner demons to battle, and a kid with some sort of psychic ability (undefined, but a bit of mind-reading and precognitive aspects). To top it all off, there’s a malevolent force that wants that ability for itself, and it all takes place in the middle of nowhere in a snowy Colorado winter.

To me, that’s where all the horror lies. The scenery. The vast…aloneness in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. If we took this tale somewhere else, it wouldn’t have that exact same impact. Stephen King does a marvelous job of letting the atmosphere sink into the horror, and catches you when you let your guard down.

Now, having read this book again, I can see why King despises Kubrick’s movie so much. While I do like Kubrick’s film; this book is much better because it draws out the suspense a little bit; drawing you in until the very, very end.

So, how’s everyone doing? Sorry that I haven’t been here for a while.  I was originally going to read The Blood Lives: In The Blood to start out, but quickly realized that the electronic version I have…is just a preview.  Which irked me.  Because I read the preview.  And I wanted more.  So I skipped over that, and went to this book.  And then I couldn’t find my copy of this book.  I looked through my entire Stephen King collection shelf at least a half-dozen times; pulling books off and putting them back on the shelf.  I even checked some other spots just in case I happened to rearrange it wrong; I even went through some of the boxes I moved with to see if I happened to leave it in there.  Nothing.  So, I did the next best thing.  I finally went and got myself a library card, and checked this book out.

So, rant about getting to read this book aside, I forgot how much I liked this book until I dove into the pages.  I said it above in my Goodreads review, but I do like that King stretched out some of the suspense.  We see the slow (yet, quick) descent into insanity that the hotel brings upon him.  Which, speaking of, the time frame that the bulk of this book takes place is incredibly short.  It takes about four months from the time they get “locked” in to the time the Overlook explodes.  But, it feels so much longer than that.  And I love it.

For those of you who like King’s work, Kubrick’s version, or suspenseful horror that will stick around for quite some time, then you should check out this story.  Just…make sure you find a version with large font.

Reviewing the Pages: The Undead Pool

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Superheroes battle the living dead in this hilarious spoof on the comic book universe!

The Undead Pool is a humorous and demented origin story of former mercenary Mace Murdock, who after being subjected to an experiment from the evil clown Zarathustra that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and the hunger for human brains, adopts the alter ego The Undead Pool. Armed with his new abilities and a twisted sense of humor, he joins forces with superheroes Stable, Psychotic Menacing Schoolgirl and Tigernaut to battle Zarathustra and his zombie clown army. The comedy never ends in this science fiction and horror parody of every superhero and supervillain that comic book enthusiasts love and hate.

Well, I’m giving this more a 1.5 star rating. Let’s be honest, I didn’t like this book. I was expecting something a little…different. Not a rehash of “Deadpool” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. There’s just….not enough originality in here for me. And all of the pop-culture references. Sure, I enjoyed some of them. Especially the wrestling ones (I’m a wrestling fan after all). BUT, there’s just TOO FREAKING MANY to really get me to enjoy this read. It was far too…cluttered. Another thing that I had an issue with was with the spacing. It looked like the paragraphs were too far indented on my Kindle, and there were some weird gaps in the middle of a sentence. Now, I’m sure that there are going to be some people who would enjoy this read, but this wasn’t for me. But it very well may be just the right fit for you; if you enjoy gore-drenched parodies and the type of humor that a character like Deadpool (and subsequently, Undead Pool) provides.

There’s not much more that I want to add about this.  If you have seen both movies I listed above, then you know where the plot of this book goes.  Well, technically it’s two books.  Though, the first half does deviate quite a bit, going into some convoluted plot about killing Trump and putting his brain in a chimpanzee (then going back in time and Undead Pool eating Trump’s brain.  I’m not a Trump supporter, but seriously?).

The less I say about this read (and it’s tippie-toes), the better.

Reviewing the Pages: The Strain

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In one week, Manhattan will be gone.

In one month, the country. In two months . . . the world.

At New York’s JFK Airport an arriving Boeing 777 taxiing along a runway suddenly stops dead. All the shades have been drawn, all communication channels have mysteriously gone quiet. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid-response team investigating biological threats, boards the darkened plane . . . and what he finds makes his blood run cold.

A terrifying contagion has come to the unsuspecting city, an unstoppable plague that will spread like an all-consuming wildfire—lethal, merciless, hungry . . . vampiric.

And in a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem an aged Holocaust survivor knows that the war he has been dreading his entire life is finally here . . .

Hogan and del Toro take vampires in a whole new direction with a great tale of the beginnings of a vampire apocalypse. They even go so far as to take the established tropes of vampires and disprove them in this world through Setrakian’s knowledge of the strigoi. It starts out simply enough with a plane that just suddenly…stops, and quickly escalates.

One of the small problems I have with this book is the dismissal of what really went on with the plane. Sure, it’s a small part of the story that doesn’t really have any impact on the plot. But, are we just supposed to forget that an entire plane just went dark without any warning. Some of the loose ends can be a bit jarring, but as this is the first book in the trilogy, some of the overarching plot points just get started but should get resolved at the very end.

This book also gives us a wonderful insight into the minds of rats. Yes. I did say rats. There are a lot of comparisons to rats in this story, and it’s quite a nice way to include something from the real-world into this dystopian world. For those who like vampires, but want something a little different from their cross-fearing stereotype (or to wash the taste of sparkles out of their mouth), then this tale is for you.

So, vampires that have a very different physiology than anything that I’ve seen (at least in terms of vampires anyway).  There’s a creature that their stinger tongues remind me of, but I can’t remember what it is for the life of me now (if someone could let me know just what that is, I greatly appreciate it).

So, I listed one of my minor grievances with the tale above, but here’s another.  Dr. Goodweather takes an interesting evolution.  From hard-lined scientist to unbeliever, to later vampire killer; it all seems unbelieveable.  Especially after his first kill.  It felt like he should have a little more remorse than he did, but..he didn’t? Seemed a little too forced for me.  Granted, his actions toward the end of the book; with him wanting to find and kill the Master for taking Kelly is understandable.  But, there is some suspension of belief that has to happen here to make me want to follow Eph around and like him.

Meanwhile, the other stories that we follow, from the survivors that we follow that turn in different ways, to the interludes of Abraham’s past are nice changes of pace from the main tale.  Granted, each of them weave their way into the main story so by the end of it all, we get a lot of plot lines that do get closed up, but not all the way.  I really like Fet though.  His character just seems very likeable to me.  I couldn’t tell you why though.

As I said before, I would recommend this book to anyone who like vampires, and want something with a different taste to it.  I’ll be ready to dive into the second book in this series, and get further into the vampire apocalypse.