Reviewing the Pages: I Died Yesterday

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Revenge. Respect. Regret.

Sometimes doing the ‘right’ thing brings out the wrong in people.

I Died Yesterday – A evening with an old friend becomes a morning after that lasts for ever.
Chopper – A young man’s pursuit of his dream unearths a nightmare.
A Decision at Dusk – If you could bring someone back from the dead, would you use the power to help or hurt?
Sunflower – When the establishment fights back, they break more than the rules.
A View – Some noises are best left uninvestigated.

These stories are not happy, but they leave their mark. Some are set in our world; some are set in an alternate world (that of the Lords of Misrule series). This anthology combines dark humour, psychological terror, horror, and a splash of brightly coloured gore. It packs an emotional punch made even more harrowing by the paper-thin divide between reality and fiction.

Five uniquely individual short stories; each one uniquely crafted to bring a different sort of horror to the reader. As the author mentions, two of the short stories are not of our world, and I felt that those are the “weakest” of these five stories. I only say that they are the “weakest” because I don’t know the world that they are based in. However, they are not bad stories at all. Some of the references and things in those stories are lost on this reader, which I may have to remedy one of these days. But, other than that, the three stories based in this world are incredibly horrifying. Sometimes you can see the twist coming; but other times you won’t see it until it’s right on top of you. And it’s exciting. I would highly recommend this short story collection. Borrowing this from R.L. Stine: “Reader beware, you’re in for a scare.”

Wow.  That first story man.  That was BRUTAL.  At the very beginning of “I Died Yesterday”, you would have thought that the MC of the story was the one that died.  But then, it changes.  Quickly.  The MC is very unreliable, and even though you can figure out the ending, it’s the way that Graham gets to it is suspenseful.

The second short story, “Chopper” was much more confusing, and wasn’t as…enjoyable…as the first (not that the first story’s subject material was enjoyable, but it was a good story).  Our narrator here is not as unreliable as the first one, but isn’t all there with his imagination running wild.  I was excited about the twist that I wasn’t expecting to come out of this, which made the ending that much more interesting.

“A Decision at Dusk” gives us a unique perspective into necromancy, even if the story doesn’t flat out say it.  I like the premise that this druid is battling with resurrecting her brother vs the happiness of her niece, while also flaunting that she does this again and again to the man that killed her brother.  Though, the jaunt down to the village at the end gave me something to think about.  One little line made me pause…and think.  Is there more to Mia than we thought? Is that why the rumor about arms most prevalent? Another excellent story here.

“Sunflowers” is another horrifying tale.  This time, I’m unsure on just who to blame here.  The MC seems to have gotten herself into this mess by sticking her nose into business that doesn’t belong.  That leads her to getting kidnapped, tortured, and maybe even raped? I’m not sure about that last bit.  But, the unspeakable horror comes at the very end.  I was wondering where all this was going with the mentions about her brother.  Another hair raising story.  Just don’t take this one lightly.

“A View” is a read that reminds me of something that I think about constantly, and talk to people about on a regular basis.  If a character doesn’t do this particular action, would we actually have a story? This is one of those cases.  If our MC, with a very distinctive body…modification, wouldn’t have tried to satisfy his curiosity, would the ending of the story be different.  There are so many questions that I have that I want answered, and I’m not going to find them in these pages.

Reviewing the Pages: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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The war against Voldemort is not going well: even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of The Daily Prophet looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet …

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate, and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it’s the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Harry struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry’s life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes.

With Dumbledore’s guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort, and thereby attempts to find what may be his only vulnerability.

Probably the darkest entry in the series, Half-Blood Prince is a gritty look into the darkest times of the Wizarding world. With Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters finally out and wreaking havoc again in this edition, the now sixteen year old Harry struggles with balancing post-OWLs schooling with Quiddich, friends, extra lessons and his own blossoming internal feelings. The description of the “monster” within Harry in terms of his feeling for Ginny is accurate.

This book will pull at your heartstrings, as it caused me to tear up at the very end, even after having read this book at least once or twice. That’s how you know that a book is good. It gets deep inside of your soul, and never lets go. Rowling is a masterful storyteller, and while there are some moments that will irritate you, it works to get you invested in the story.

If you haven’t gotten into this series by now, this would be a BAD book to jump into. Go read the others first before coming back to this one. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

For those of you who haven’t read this yet, than this ENTIRE review series has been a spoiler, and with that, I’m sorry.  That being said, the actual death of Dumbledore didn’t move me to tear up.  What did was Fawkes’ lament afterwards.  The sorrowful song that I imagined in my head would have probably caused me to cry if I would have heard it in person.

Also, the end of this book sets the stage for the final book.  Throughout the entire thing, we keep getting mentions that Harry is the ‘Chosen One’ to take down Voldemort, once and for all, or fail trying.  We also get an incredible amount of backstory through moments in the Pensieve along with corresponding tales from Dumbledore.  It makes the inhuman monster human, almost.

Harry continues to frustrate me with his single-track mind once he finally sets his mind to it.  This time, it’s trying to catch Malfoy in the act of doing something…Dark.  Yes, I did just use the term “dark” in that way.   ‘Cause that’s what Harry keeps going on and on about.  That Malfoy is up to no good and Harry REALLY wants to catch Malfoy in the act, to prove himself right to others for a change.

However, the other major story here is love, and how it does take awhile to blossom.  In this case, it’s both Ron and Hermione going on their separate journeys in possibly finding love.  While it’s clear to the reader that Hermione does like Ron in more than just a friend way, Ron’s a bit more thick-headed about it.  Then again, when hasn’t he been thick headed about Hermione? Then, there’s Harry and Ginny finally getting together.  While Ginny has always been infatuated with Harry, Harry has only now found feelings for Ginny.  As I said in my Goodreads review, the description of Harry’s monster within is surprisingly accurate.  Love feels that way sometimes.

I hope that you have continued to enjoy these books well after you have read them the first time.  I’m loving the dive back into the series, and I’m anxiously awaiting diving into Deathly Hallows.  If you’re reading through the series folks, and are starting this book, then you might want some tissues…you’re gonna need them.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix: A Great Way to Give Us Backstory

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of my video game reviews.  This round, we’re looking at:

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And as previously stated throughout these reviews:

Seriously.  Take my warning here.  If you don’t want this game spoiled for you AT ALL…turn back now.

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Alright.  So I’m going to do things a little differently this time around.  See, this game is broken up into different sections, following around each of the three main characters until the final clash comes around.  So, as I complete each section, I will put when I completed that section, and my reviews about the character’s story.  So, let’s start off with…

Terra.  For the record, I cleared this section on June 8, 2017.  And what a section to start out with.  When initially given the option to choose between the three characters, I was perplexed as to who I would start with.  After doing some research, I found that the game sequence told us to start with Terra.  Which is fine with me.  See, Terra is a “strength” character.  Which means that his attacks are usually physical based.  Granted, I did load up his Command Deck with a whole bunch of magic attacks.  Oops.

Anyway, the main gist of Terra’s story is that he’s trying to figure out what he wants to do with the darkness in his heart.  Is he going to succumb to it, or will he fight it and become a strong warrior.  And fight it, he does.  Throughout the story, with each event that comes along, something gets revealed to him that makes him certain of the direction that he chooses.  Which is his friends.  A noble thing to be sure.  But, it doesn’t work out for him in the end.  In fact, it works against him as he ends up letting the darkness take over.  Which doesn’t bode well because we get the formation of the younger Xehanort in the end as Xehanort possesses Terra. We get left on a bit of a cliffhanger though.  We beat this younger Xehanort (as we fight Xehanort in our mind wearing our traveling armor), and at the end, Terra (at least, we assume it is) in his armor kneels underneath the evaporating light of Kingdom Hearts.  We will have to wait to see where the story goes from here.

Next up is:

Ventus.  He certainly…looks familiar.  For the record, I cleared this section June 12, 2017.  Ventus is the speed user of the trio, with rapid attacks and quick movements.  There is so much to Ventus’ story, and a lot of that is crucial to the main plotline of the series. To keep it short, Ventus was once the apprentice of Master Xehanort.  Xehanort disapproved of Ventus’ progress, so he used his Keyblade to separate the darkness from Ventus; which became the boy in darkness, Vanitas.

Look familiar? Anyway.  Most of Ven’s story revolves around finding his friends, mainly Terra.  Along the way, he makes a lot of friends, and also spurs back the dark Vanitas along the way.  In the end, Ven fights off Vanitas, who has somehow managed to forge a very unique looking blade (possibly the chi-blade), and fights Ventus in a very unique arena that is very familiar to long time Kingdom Hearts players.  After the fight, both Ventus and Vanitas vanish from their battlefield, but are they still around? Much like Terra’s story end, it ends us off on a cliffhanger.  Do we have another combined character like Terra-Xehanort? Or did they both completely vanish? And how does this face get to become Roxas?

Last solo story belongs to:

Aqua.  For the record, I cleared Aqua’s story June 17, 2017.  Aqua is the magic user of the three teams, and it took me a bit to get used to her fighting style at first.  With her low strength stat, it’s a little more critical to plan her attacks using the command deck because her keyblade strikes are much more ineffective than Terra’s or Ven’s.  That being said, Aqua’s story is one of tying up loose ends, so to speak.  That is, if you’ve played through it through the recommended manner (which, is another good thing about this game, you don’t have to play through this game in the order recommended by the developer).  And to answer my earlier question, Ven and Vanitas did fuse together, only to be…unfused by Aqua.  Most of Aqua’s story happens after both of the guys arriving on the separate worlds (minus Radiant Garden, Deep Space and Keyblade Graveyard).  Oh, and Aqua is the only Keyblade “master” between the three of them, after passing the mastery exam at the beginning of the game.  Along the way, she’s looking for her friends.  First on orders form Master Eraqus, and then just for herself, as she’s worried about them and wants to make sure that they are ok.  Her kindness and compassion may just be the saving grace for our trio…or will it?

It’s time for the FINAL BATTLE!

First off, before I forget, in order to get the final battle, you have to find all of Xehanort’s reports.  There’s one that you’ll miss if you skip the Mirage Arena.  Anyway, we get a interesting cutscene where we get the locking of The Land of Departure, transforming it into Castle Oblivion.  After that cutscene, it’s back to Radiant Garden for the final battle against Terra-Xehanort, and the Guardian.  And as soon as the battle is over, Aqua dives into the darkness after Terra, and sacrifices her light for him.

And, during the course of all three stories, we get various scenes with the main trio of Kingdom Hearts: Sora, Riku and Kairi.  Throughout each of these different stories, each of the three characters get some recognition in their own way, whether it’s with Riku and Terra; Sora and Ven; and Aqua and her interaction with Kairi.

Now, I’ve finished all of the playable games within the 1.5+2.5 ReMix.  I’ve got 2.8 on order, which includes a new-to-the-universe game sequence that involves Aqua that I can’t wait to play.  But, until then, it’s on to the next game.  Until the next review, book or otherwise, I am the Baumeister, and I have been, obediently yours.

Reviewing the Pages: Devil in the Countryside

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Devil in the Countryside is a story about the most famous werewolf investigation in history, brimming with intrigue and war, love and betrayal, and long-kept vendettas.

It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorizing the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs.

In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.

Based on historical events, this book gives us a look into what may have been happening in Bedburg leading up to the events of the trial. I liked the four different points of view in this story, with each of them giving a slightly different point of view to look upon, even if Dieter and Sybil’s become kind of interchangeable towards the end of the book.

Mr. Barclay does a wonderful job of setting up the atmosphere and setting for this story. Keeping true to the religious and political turmoil of the times, he weaves them in wonderfully with the story of trying to catch the Werewolf. There are times where I forgot that it was the late 1500s, and I could see some of these conversations and scenes come up during a read in the modern day.

Be warned fellow reader, there are some heavy themes alluded to in here. While the details are not alluded to within the pages, one only has to read between the lines to figure out what is going on. I highly recommend diving into this read when you get a chance reader. Step back into the past, and chase down the Werewolf yourself.

Well, there’s a lot going on in this book.  Yes, most of this read is fictionalized.  But, the author had to do so with the lack of information on the subject.  It’s not like there is a surviving diary or journal from someone back then.  But, then that would have been too easy.  Cory Barclay does a wonderful job of weaving all of the known factors of the time period for that region into the fictional aspects that he had to create in order to tell this wonderful tale.

The biggest problem that I came across while reading this was at the end, where we got a merging of points of view of sorts between Dieter and Sybil.  I wish that they could have been separated out a bit, by keeping feelings of the event that was happening relegated to that character.  But that’s my only negative criticism of the book.  The characters that I hated, or mistrusted, were written that way for a reason.  Even the motivations of the characters were realistic, and something that wouldn’t be out of place in that time period.

As to the themes that I alluded to in my Goodreads post? They’re there.  While most of the violent acts are brought up after the fact or presented as they are happening, they are there in their gory detail.  There are also some more sensitive topics that get brought to light, including rape and abuse.  I do request that you heed my warning: do not go into this read lightly.  While I highly recommend it, know your limits fellow reader.  Yes, all of those are light, and most of the story is steeped in political and religious turmoil, the underlying darkness is there.  Don’t let the darkness sway you from reading this book, fellow reader.  Enjoy the read and let the mystery suck you in.

Reviewing the Pages: Opening Atlantis

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Atlantis lies between Europe and the East Coast of Terranova. For many years, this land of opportunity lured dreamers from around the globe with its natural resources, offering a new beginning for those willing to brave the wonders of the unexplored territory.

It is a new world indeed: ripe for discovery, for plunder, and eventually for colonization?but will its settlers destroy the very wonders they had journeyed to Atlantis to find?

Opening Atlantis is an intriguing book that pretty much takes a reimagining of the settlement of the Americas and throws it on this island. All for a third of a boatload of cod. Either way, this book covers a whole lot of ground, picking up three specific time periods primarily following the Radcliffe family as they first sail over from England, then defend their new home. I do like that we do get some of those historic themes like slavery and nationalistic loyalty, but some of the individual character motivations leave a lot to be desired.

For those of you who like reading alternative history, with a little bit of speculative ideas thrown in, then you should check out this read. Just be sure to be in the mindset to do so, or else the read will be slow going.

Ok.  This book is divided up into three sections.  The first one take place in the 1400s, where we first start getting settlers on Atlantis.  The biggest struggle that they have is the sudden arrival of a Duke, which kills the English settler’s patriarch, and sets up a minor war.  The second section takes place in the 1600s, and it’s a small war between “family” (using that term loosely here as they are distant cousins), and the last one takes place in 1700s, where we get a war before different nationalities.  And this section is where my problem lies.

Yes, I get that is more speculative than alternative, but still.  This is more or less taking the overarching themes of the development of the United States, and throwing them into this new and uncharted world.  But we get one of the strangest characters in Roland Kersauzon, a descendant of the original Kersauzon that settled their part of Atlantis.  He doesn’t like the English because he thought that his ancestor was a fool for trading the location of Atlantis to the English for a massive amount of fish? Doesn’t quite sit well with me for that.  I could see that of a great-grandson that has a wild hair up his butt…but for someone 300 years down the line? Feels kinda forced to me.

All criticism aside, this is a story that those who are interested in alternative/speculative history should check out.  I had a hard time getting into the book, and even though that might have been burnout talking, there were some days where I didn’t want to read this book because I just wasn’t into it.  But, it might be for you.  Just don’t get seasick along the way over.

Kingdom Hearts II: (Over)Reaction Time

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another video game review.  Since Opening Atlantis is taking far longer to read than I expected it to take, I figured I’d grace your screen with another Kingdom Hearts franchise game review.  And for those of you who haven’t made it this far into the series,

Now, I’ve off and on played through this game, but I cannot remember for the life of me if I had beaten the final boss.  That doesn’t mean much, considering just how many games that I’ve played over the course of my life, and just how long it has been since I first played this game all the way through, as the original PS2 release.

That being said, there’s a lot that has changed since the addition of all the extra content in Final Mix.  From the Absent Silhouettes, to the Mushroom XIII, to even the Cavern of Remembrance, which I have still yet to complete, this game has a LOT going on, that sometimes it can be too much to do.  Then, there’s the reaction commands.  While I do think that it can certainly turn the tide of battle, it also does a lot of harm.  Unlike the first game, where there were no reaction commands, and all of the battles turn into a hack and slack attempt at defeating bosses, it feels like this game relies too much on them; to the point where the final fight with Xemnas is over-saturated with them, and there’s not a lot of Keyblade strikes.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE this game.  There is the constant theme of love (seriously now, can Sora and Kairi just kiss already), and the constant battle between light and dark that is prevalent between our core group of travelers, the Heartless and Organization XIII.  Though, I always felt the mid-game explanation of using the Keyblade to power up Kingdom Hearts kinda went by the wayside though.  I think there should have been more hesitation on Sora’s part there.

However, I do love the update to the series with this game, and the expansion of the series as a whole with this game (referring to the Final Mix).  I’m really, really getting hyped for the last numbered game in this “series” (since I do have a feeling that it may live on with a whole new storyline after III).  You should totally put all the time you can into this game to collect all of the puzzle pieces, treasure chest, and unearth every last secret going into the rest of the series.  Speaking of, I’m going to dive right on into Birth by Sleep, the last playable game in the 1.5+2.5 ReMix pack on the PS4.

That’s all I’ve got for you now folks.  Thanks for reading.  As always, I am the Baumeister, and I have been, obediently yours.

Reviewing the Pages: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

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“Something borrowed, something blue. Something terrible will happen to you.”

It’s a bad neighborhood in Detroit, the kind of place where abandoned houses get stripped, then taken over by squatters, then burned. But it’s about to get worse.

Across the street is a white van with those words spray-painted on the side in blue. It pulled up in the middle of the night without a sound. The windows are solid black glass. And it’s watching you…

I’ll be honest. I usually steer clear of novellas. Not because I don’t like the story, but because I usually don’t want the read to end within 20 minutes or so. Which is about how long it took me to read this one. BUT, this read. This read kept me engaged, and wanting to know more about…whatever it was. I loved the voice of the narrator; just the perfect mix of sanity and paranoia combined other odd musings that give life to this character.

If you like bite-size reads that will give you some chills, then this read is for you.

So, there’s really not much here that I want to talk about because I do actually want you to go out and read it.  But, I do want to say that I really do enjoy the way the narrator was written.  I wouldn’t have been sure that the character I was reading was a senior citizen if the book didn’t tell me that he was one.  It’s not often that I read about a MC/narrator that is well advanced in years.  And if I have read one like that, I don’t remember much about the book.  But, I really implore you to go out and check this read out.  Yes, I finished it in 20-25 minutes, but that shouldn’t deter you from this read.