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: 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.

Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories: Cards are Difficult Man

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another video game review.  As the image above alludes to, I’m reviewing:

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As I continue on through my playthrough Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX in order of the playable games available (not including the two games that are included, but are movie only (358/2 days and Re:coded).  By the way, if you haven’t played this game yet, beware, because there are

and you have been warned.  So, let’s get started.

First off, like Kingdom Hearts I, it has been a very long time since I’ve played both parts of this game.  Yes, I did say both parts.  ‘Cause you see, this game gives us two different game modes.  The first mode sees you play through your memories as Sora, exploring each of the previous game worlds (minus Deep Jungle and The End of the World), and relieving the events of those worlds for the player, but ending up making Sora forget it all.  The storyline itself is full of very heavy theme involving memory and loss.  One could very well dissect this story and apply it to the real world with brain disorders.  But, that’s a topic for another time.

Once you defeat Sora’s story, you then unlock Reverse/Rebirth, which lets you play through as Riku, who is fighting the darkness that Ansem unleashed inside his heart.  Riku’s story is much simpler, by just going through the various worlds and fighting the various bosses to move on until we make it to the more relevant parts of his story.  In the end, Riku defeats Ansem, and we get the setup for Riku’s side of KHII.  Also, before I forget.  Why does Riku keep on having to point out that people smell different? Are we supposed to think that Riku is part dog? Or does it have something to do with him getting overwhelmed by the darkness in the first game, and that being able to distinguish people by their smells is just a side effect of that? I’d really like to know that one.

This game has a very…unique view on battling by implementing a card deck with different cards (three types: Keyblades in red; magic in blue; items in green); and it’s up to the player to strategize by using combinations of the different card types, as well as sleights that you can learn by leveling up or find in treasure chests throughout the worlds.  Each player can fight as they see fit with the cards that they end up finding, but even then, combat can be hard at times.  In Sora’s story especially, there were a couple of bosses that I would come back the next day to beat just because I wasn’t using the right strategy.  In Riku’s story, however, things are different.  Riku’s deck is set in each world, and it’s up to the player to use his deck in the best way possible with Riku’s dark side, which has all the sleights.  I found Riku’s side both easier and harder to deal with than Sora’s.  Easier, because there wasn’t the constant shuffling around of the deck to make it stronger (or having to take out all the fire-based cards to prevent Axel healing himself with every strike); but it was also harder because there are a couple of worlds where you only have 10 attack cards, and you have to maximize strategy rather than brute force through it.  As I told Beth at one point, I died…to myself.  Long story there that I don’t think I can adequately explain.

However, despite the wonky combat, I urge you to not skip this game.  This game is VITAL in bridging the gap between I and II (how did Sora get in that pod?), it introduces us to Twilight Town; and it gives us the first major introduction to Organization XIII, which, as a whole, is the big bad in II.  As much as I struggled on some of the Organization members in battle, and frustrated as to deck building; this game will make you strategize, but also give you a deeper appreciation for the story.

Now, I’m onwards to Kingdom Hearts II, and one step closer to getting ready for Kingdom Hearts III, whenever they FINALLY release the stinking game.

It’s been TWELVE years Square Enix! Enough with the waiting!! I am the Baumeister, and I have been, obediently yours.

Reviewing the Pages: The Graveyard Apartment

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A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.

One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Known in particular for her hybrid works that blend these styles with elements of romance, The Graveyard Apartment is arguably Koike’s masterpiece. Originally published in Japan in 1986, Koike’s novel is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow in to, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil and that longer they stay, the more trapped they become.

This tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.

I saw this book somewhere, whether it was on Goodreads or through a website that did book lists, and were like “this is a horror book that you should read”. And I decided to go pick it up. Cause an apartment building in the middle of a graveyard is sure to leave us full of laughter and joy. Which, this book doesn’t have. At all. Sure, there are some snarky moments given by Teppei, but for the most part, there seemed to be too many aside and thoughts that should have been said. Which, may be the Japanese way. I’m not entirely sure.

Now, there are some minor cultural hiccups, like the mentioning of the Golden Week, and a couple other customs that us Westerners don’t come across in our daily life. But that’s perfect. I most certainly enjoyed the small peek into Japanese life that we got in this book, especially with the time period that it was happening in (which was 30 years ago. Makes me feel old just thinking about it).

As far as the horror, I felt like I was reading a horror movie. I think I’ve said that before in a review, but it really felt that way here. I also felt like there wasn’t a real motivation for the ghosts. I’m not entirely sure if there was an explanation given, other than some of the larger story points.

However, if you are a fan of ghost stories, and want to experience a different setting than one in your native home land, than you should check this read out.

Ok.  As I said above, this reminds me of a horror movie.  Well, I was specifically thinking of Annabelle, but with ghosts instead of a creepy possessed doll.

Anyway, I really missed out on the motivation here.  Sure, our setting primarily takes place in an apartment complex that was built on a Buddhist graveyard, and that the spirits were not happy that there were living people living in their final resting spot.  That’s about it.  I would have much rather had this attack happen because of Reiko finally getting enough energy to start haunting the holy heck out of the family.

I did appreciate this read, just wasn’t so keen on the lack of the motivation of the haunting and the general portrayal of the characters, especially the brothers.  Yes, I know brothers can fight and get jealous of each other, but it just didn’t seem to work for me here.  However, I do urge you to check this read out, and enjoy it.