Monsterland by James Crowley #BookReview

Title: Monsterland | Author: James Crowley | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | Pub. Date: 2017-8-15 | Pages: 384 | ISBN13: 9780399175893 | Genre: Children’s Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: Drowning death mentioned | Rating: 4.4 out of 5 | Source: Library


In a middle grade adventure full of humor, heart and cinematic storytelling, a boy takes off on a once-in-a-lifetime journey through a mysterious land, with the help of some monster friends

It’s Halloween, and everyone in Charlie’s small town is excited for this year’s festivities. Charlie’s grandfather, Old Joe, is famous for his holiday haunts, and his pumpkin patch is the center of the town’s zealous celebrations. But for Charlie, Halloween’s just one more reminder that his cousin Billy isn’t around anymore. Charlie plans to keep to himself this year, hanging out in the haunted barn with his trusty dog Ringo.

But when Charlie runs into some neighborhood bullies who are after his candy, he heads off into the woods to escape. He quickly gets lost, but spots a kid who he thinks is Billy. As Charlie chases after him deeper and deeper into the woods, he finds himself entering Monsterland—a mysterious place where werewolves live amongst trolls and goblins. Here he meets the Prime Minister, a vampire who tells Charlie he may be able to see his cousin again in this strange new land. Accompanied by a hulking monster chaperone, Charlie’s determined to find out just what happened to his cousin, and sets off to explore the secrets hiding in this uncharted territory.

Book cover for Monsterland

Monsterland Review

This was a good book. Not one that you can rave about, because it doesn’t inspire that sort of passion, but a good, solid book. Monsterland is a curl up with a cup of cocoa and sink into the pages book. The fact that it’s meant for middle-graders doesn’t make a whit of difference. Crowley’s writing wrapped me up in the story, calmed me down, and enabled me to just focus on it. I read it over the course of a few days because I’ve been ill, and loved each dip into it.

I don’t think I can adequately review Monsterland. It’s a story about a child coming to terms with their grief over a lost loved one. It teaches kids that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to mourn. But that people that they love never really leave them. It’s gentle lessons and comfort couched in adventures. It’s not just about grief. It’s also about judging books by their covers, the value of friendship, learning that people really do care about you, and more. It’s the type of story that teaches you that you are not ever alone.

Monsterland is simply written, well-paced, and has enough action in it to keep a little thrill-seeker happy. There’s battles and some death, but not a lot of blood. It does have a very ‘film’ feel to it. I could easily see this book being made into an absolutely beautiful kids movie. I would happily pay to see it on screen. I would love to see Franklin’s fight scenes, the Prime Minister confronted the Mumiyans, and, well, the whole ending really. It would be gorgeous.

It also has a surprise in store for you at the end. It’s not something younger readers would pick up on, I think, but I definitely was expecting Monsterland to end a bit differently than it did. I would have been content with that ending, but I was happy with the one that Crowley gave us as well.

This is a wonderful book. It definitely wasn’t even close to the spooky read I was expecting, but it was a completely fulfilling read. Sometimes even adults need a beautiful story of hope, acceptance, and friendship.

Purchase on Amazon.

Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #38

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

09/23/2017 – 09/29/2017

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

Even though it doesn’t feel much like fall with the temperature in the nineties we have some wholesome fall goodies for you. And by wholesome we mean undead, drooling and gooey goodies.




SarcophagusStephen Dedman

While on an archaeological dig Hubbert finds a skull in what was the belly of a raptor. No big deal. It could be a hoax. But Hubbert has a vindictive ex-wife who just won the Nobel Prize for proving that time travel is possible.

It’s a good story but it makes me wonder how, after finding his skull, she figures out how to trick Hubbert into the time machine.

ScanningRichard Gilliam

Marvin Duran knows how to save his company money by changing prices and screwing his employees out of their hard-earned bonuses. Unfortunately for him, one of his employees takes drastic measures and Marvin finds himself waiting to be born again. Surely it’ll be fair, won’t it?

I liked this one a lot because who hasn’t been screwed over by a store or employer?

Scarecrow’s DiscoveryJeff Strand

Ray is sick of ‘those darn kids’ tearing his scarecrows apart each night. So he dresses up like a scarecrow to scare the heck out of them, figuring it will scare them off for good. Too bad these aren’t ordinary children and the scarecrow mutilations are just ‘practice’.

I liked it even though it was a little obvious how Ray would end up. dressing up as a scarecrow never ends well.

ScreamerGordon R. Ross

Gerald the ventriloquist was a stiff person, alive and dead. Sam the mortician is his only friend. So when Gerald dies it’s only natural that Sam take care of the arrangements. So Sam buries Gerald and throws the dummy on the fire. Or is it the other way around?

A good story with a nice twist at the end. It makes you wonder if he ‘knew’ which was which but ignored it for the money left to him by Gerald. After all, I would think a mortician should know the difference between a dummy and a person.

The Second Time AroundAdam-Troy Castro

Frankenstein has built a new monster, a better monster. One with the face of a poet and an angel. Igor even made sure to get a brain marked ‘normal’ this time from the lab next door. Unfortunately for him ‘Lab’ is short for Labrador.

A pretty good story with a pretty funny and cute twist at the end.

The Second VialLawrence Schimel

Wendy is in the doctor’s office to get her physical so she can get insured. Even though they need ‘just a little vial’ of blood they take two vials. Wendy doesn’t ask what the second vial is for, who ever does. Although it’s a little odd that they’re having her sign a contract in red ink…

I found this one funny but I have to wonder about someone who signs a contract without looking at it.

The Secret of BeesTim Waggoner

When David was little and was stung by a bee his father taught him the secret of bees: Don’t run and don’t show fear. If you can do that then bees (and other animals) will leave you alone. So naturally when David meets a monster on a hiking trail he decides to give it a try.

At the end David thinks that his dad is an idiot but to me David’s not exactly the sharpest tool either. The secret might work in theory with regular animals but I don’t think I’d try it out on monsters.

Favorite of the Week:
I really liked The Second Vial by Lawrence Schimel. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good deal with the devil story.

Thanks for joining us and come back next week for another round of titillating tales!

REALIVE Movie Review (Sci-Fi Drama)

REALIVE MovieREALIVE Synopsis: Marc (Tom Hughes) is diagnosed with a disease and is given one year left to live. Unable to accept his own end, he decides to freeze his body. Sixty years later, in the year 2084, he becomes the first man to be revived in history. It is then he discovers that the love of his life, Naomi (Oona Chaplin), has accompanied him this entire time in a way that he’d never expected.

Starring: Tom HughesCharlotte Le BonOona Chaplin

Tagline: Immortality is only a matter of time.

Release Date: September 29th, 2017 | Runtime: 1 hour 52 Minutes | Coolthulhus Earned: 5





REALIVE was thought-provoking, deeply moving, and delicately handles sensitive subjects with a deftness one doesn’t typically expect from a Syfy film. I was hooked basically from the very beginning. The conversation between the doctor and Marc/Lazarus was so very well done. It was grave and serious without being overly dramatic. I like how the guy asks “Why?” and the doctor is just kind of flatly states “It’s cancer.” Not to be morbid, but that was probably one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The expression on the doctor’s face says so much even as he just says “It’s cancer.” Actually, the whole way they portray Marc dealing with this diagnosis in the beginning all feels very real and true as well. Enough so that it put a hitch in my throat watching it.

The cinematography in REALIVE was nice. The movie is filmed in two timelines. Before re-animation and after re-animation. The ‘before’ is done in soft, warm colors with movement and laughter and light. The ‘after’ in cold blues and sharp lines. The facility in the future is conveyed as state of the art and, er, ‘futuristic’ without being over the top. Its crisp, stark, and rather effective even without a bunch of wires and monitoring equipment everywhere.

To be honest, I had no real desire to watch REALIVE. From the stills and the trailer, I thought ‘eh, not my type of movie’ and didn’t give it a second thought. But then I was offered a chance to do an interview with one of the actors, so I decided to give it a go. REALIVE really isn’t my type of movie. I prefer blood, guts, and shoot-em-ups. Spaceships, aliens, and planetary exploration. I don’t do feels or thought-provoking flicks as a general rule of thumb. I appreciate that they’re around for the people who like ’em, but they just don’t get my motor running. This is, I thought as I was starting it up, the type of movie where I’m going to end up picking a book up halfway through it. Sweet baby Cthulhu, I was wrong.

One of my favorite things about the movie was how it handled the subject of cryogenics and reanimation. This isn’t one of those movies where it’s like “Yes, you are alive again and everything is perfect” It was one that actually looked seriously at how reanimation would actually work. While I don’t want to give anything away, let’s just say that this is the most believable approach to reviving someone from cryostasis that I’ve ever read or seen. From the actual reanimation itself to the body’s adjustments afterwards.

The love story is also well-handled in REALIVE. It isn’t typical, and it isn’t super-mushy. It’s got an element of star-crossed lovers to it, but not quite that bad. It was there, but it wasn’t what the story was all about (to me, at least.)

The ending of the movie was deftly handled as well. It was one of those deals where you were pretty sure you knew how things were going to end up once you were past the halfway point, but you still couldn’t look away.

Overall, REALIVE was a fantastically done movie. It put tears in my eyes. That’s a fairly difficult thing to do. From the script to the editing, there’s very little I would have changed. (Literally, there’s like one scene involving two of the doctors that was a bit much. That’s it.) I’m happy that I decided to watch it, and definitely highly recommend it to all my fellow sci-fi lovers out there.


This is Sci-Fi, Issue 20: Blade Runner 2049, REALIVE, and Peter Clines


The banner for the bi-weekly This is Sci-Fi post on Sci-Fi & Scary

This is Sci-Fi, Issue 20 is a sampling of science fiction news across the mediums. From movies to books, to real life, and any bits in between that I can think of to list. This is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s happening, but it should whet your appetite!

This is Sci-Fi’s Weekly Quote

“My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fibre and that I am therefore excused from saving universes.”
― Douglas AdamsLife, the Universe and Everything

Science Fiction Movies


New Science Fiction Releases (September 29th)



Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.

Starring: Ellen PageDiego LunaNina Dobrev



Marc (Tom Hughes) is diagnosed with a disease and is given one year left to live. Unable to accept his own end, he decides to freeze his body. Sixty years later, in the year 2084, he becomes the first man to be revived in history. It is then he discovers that the love of his life, Naomi (Oona Chaplin), has accompanied him this entire time in a way that he’d never expected.

Starring: Tom HughesCharlotte Le BonOona Chaplin


Coming Soon

Blade Runner 2049


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Science Fiction Books


Featured New Science Fiction Release

Paradox Bound Book Cover

Paradox Bound – Peter Clines – September 26th, 2017

An ingenious, irresistible new time-travel thriller from the author of The Fold and the Ex-Heroes series

Eli’s willing to admit it: he’s a little obsessed with the mysterious woman he met years ago. Okay, maybe a lot obsessed. But come on, how often do you meet someone who’s driving a hundred-year-old car, clad in Revolutionary-War era clothes, wielding an oddly modified flintlock rifle—someone who pauses just long enough to reveal strange things about you and your world before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires?

So when the traveler finally reappears in his life, Eli is determined that this time he’s not going to let her go without getting some answers. But his determination soon leads him into a strange, dangerous world and a chase not just across the country but through a hundred years of history—with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.

Other New Science Fiction Releases

Provenance by Ann Lecki

The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod


Goodreads Giveaways

Cheerleaders from Planet X EngiNerds ExtraOrdinary



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Science Fiction Trivia

I’ve always been intrigued by Kirlian Photography. When it was first discovered it was thought that the process was ‘photographing’ auras. It was theorized from this that it could potentially be used to treat illnesses based on the aura of energy produced. I don’t really know if that could work medically for treatment but perhaps diagnosis. I have no science in me but it seems like if you were sick then the natural energy you produce would change colors or intensity. Again, I have no science to back me up on this but it seems semi-logical to me.

It’s now being used in all different capacities such as parapsychology, art and real science. I (for obvious reasons) don’t really buy the whole spiritual aura part of it but it is still pretty damn interesting. Unless coins are actually sentient and do have auras of their own. Hmm. This might be the basis of a good sci-fi thriller.

“Need a Quarter for the vending machine? Only if you want death flavored soda in return!”


Small Sci-Fi and Scary Divider

Science Fiction on the Web

Sci-Fi Celebrities Reveal How They Got Their Start In These Cute Syfy Clips from

The NYTimes asks the experrts “Is Climate-Themed Fiction All Too Real?

Want to read a review of Star Trek: Discovery? LAReviewofBooks has an interesting one.

DenofGeeks reports on SYFY’s Genre Giant Supervisory Council.

And finally, WIRED takes you behind the scenes of Blade Runner 2049.

Paperbacks from Hell – Grady Hendrix #BookReview

Title: Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s | Author: Grady Hendrix | Publisher: Quirk Books | Pub. Date: 09/19/2017 | Pages: 256 | ISBN13: 9781594749810 | Genre: Non-Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Self-Purchased

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the ’70s and ’80s

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

Paperbacks from Hell Review

I have to admit it. When I ordered Paperbacks from Hell I wasn’t really expecting too much. In fact, I thought at first that it was a bit over-priced. I figured it would be a bunch of pretty pictures of book covers with some light captioning but that was about it. I was very, very wrong. The book itself is well put together, inside and out. I would definitely recommend getting the paperback copy. The e-book might be just as pretty but I can’t see it having the same lay-out or feel to it. The pages are thick and the pictures reproduced are gorgeous.

The text that goes along with the pictures is funny and informative. If I had to compare it to something then Stephen King’s Danse Macabre would be the closest comparison. But while Danse Macabre got bogged down occasionally in dryness Paperbacks from Hell never does. 

With headings like ‘Parenting the Homicidal Child’ (first make sure you’re not dating Satan) and phrases like “Before Anne Rice, vampires killed humans. Now they got in touch with their sensitive sides while muffin-spelunking inside of them.” (page 153) this book left me actually laughing out loud. That’s no easy trick, I haven’t laughed at a book (in a good way) in quite a while.

I sincerely hope that Grady Hendrix follows up his book with a journey through the nineties and on. While some plots may not be quite so creatively insane there are some out there and some cover art that deserves showcasing. I was also very pleased to see some ‘forgotten’ favorites of mine in there.

If you’re looking for a quick, funny overview of the crazy days of the horror industry then I can’t recommend this book enough. I wanted to rip through Paperbacks from Hell but also take my time enjoying the crazy, beautiful covers of the ’70s and ’80s.

Paperbacks from Hell is a funny romp through the craziness that defined two decades and never leaves you bored. The commentary from Grady Hendrix (Horrorstor) will never leave you bored.

Check it out on Amazon

Cens***d: Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics


As I’m sure you’re all aware, this is the week of the Banned Books. I believe books get the bigger spotlight because it’s been a lengthy and uphill battle. Even today. Video game censorship and its effect on players is still being hotly and publicly waged. So what does that leave? Music.

I think it’s interesting that while movies and television shows face light criticism on their content, books and music still face strong critique. They are both primarily non-visual mediums but they get hit the hardest. Parents want books removed because of ‘violence’ yet will take their impressionable youngsters to the newest Justice League or Avengers movie. Radio stations will refuse to play certain songs because of a variety of reasons. Most of them ridiculous. From their political content to suggestive lyrics the ‘reasons’ run a gamut of ridiculousness.

One thing I will say for music censorship – it transcends race, religion and genre. It’s been spread far and wide up and down the spectrum. Country, gangsta rap, Elvis…it’s all in there.

One of the first recorded instances of music censorship was back in the 1700’s and was essentially a protest song against the King at the time (England, not Elvis). Turns out he was not amused. However, and this is especially impressive considering that the Constitution wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s brain at the time, it was considered ‘the truth’ as it was written in a newspaper. Thus, it was considered a fact.

In 1934 the FCC was formed. It was supposed to be an oversight commission but they just couldn’t wait to jump in the fun pool of censorship themselves.

Since then songs and singers have been censored for lewdness, suggestiveness, Satanism and violence. A few famous instances were on the Ed Sullivan Show. When Elvis appeared on the show he was filmed only from the waist up to prevent the famous Elvis Pelvis from corrupting the ardent female fans. Bob Dylan chose not to perform when asked to replace his song ‘Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues’ with another song less political in nature. The Rolling Stones were asked to perform after changing a line in ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’. They complied, changing the line in question from “Let’s spend the night together” to “Let’s spend some time together”. They complied but to this day Mick Jagger declares that he “mm-mmm’ed” the line. Despite clear evidence to the contrary. One of the biggies was The Doors’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. They had agreed to play ‘Light My Fire’ with the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” amended to something not quite so stoned sounding. The Doors played the actual line and were never invited back. Oddly enough, the only group to receive fallout after the show was The Doors. They were refused bookings. The police would show up at venues with blank warrants “just in case”. It didn’t seem to hurt their popularity with their fans, however.

Record burning, just like book burning, seems to be a popular method of showing displeasure with a band. Although it would probably stink a lot more than books. Iron Maiden wrote their song ‘Holy Smoke’ as a slightly tongue in cheek jab at self-righteous, hypocritical church groups and televangelists that seems to take pleasure in a good vinyl bonfire. Bruce Dickinson had the best response to this ever (as quoted from Classic Albums): “They have to buy the records to burn them.” Usually the very public outcries are met with “I have got to read/watch/listen to/play that!!”

In 1985 the Parental Advisory: Explicit Content label was created. Some fought against it, seeing it as a form of censorship as some stores would refuse to stock albums and CD’s with this sticker. There are also usually ‘clean’ versions available. I actually have no problem with it as to me it’s a warning and you have the choice to purchase whichever version you wish. Back in the day it was a bit harder but record stores would generally order the requested version. I don’t see it as censored material as it provides options for listeners to choose to listen to music enjoy with less profanity or sexual terms. Listeners aren’t restricted to one form over another. In fact it gives a bit more leeway than movies, television, video games and movies as there are no alternate versions available for them.

Most of the censorship that bands have faced was decreased radio play, cancelled bookings, protests by church groups and lawsuits. Just a warning, it gets a little dark in the next three paragraphs. I’ll be referencing suicide, rape, murder, and necrophilia but not in detail. If this will bother you feel free to skip down to the fourth paragraph. I honestly wouldn’t mention it if I didn’t think it was necessary to make my point.

In 1986 Ozzy Osbourne was sued by parents after their son committed suicide after allegedly listening to the song ‘Suicide Solution’, claiming that the song led to their son’s death. The case was thrown out before it reached trial with the plaintiffs being unable to prove that the song contributed to their son’s death.

In 1996 a fifteen year old girl was raped, murdered and violated after death by two acquaintances who claimed they had killed her as part of a Satanic ritual. Despite the case being similar to other sexually motivated crimes the parents of the girl believed that Slayer songs were to blame for their daughter’s death. The case was thrown out with the judge saying “There’s not a legal position that could be taken that would make Slayer responsible for the girl’s death. Where do you draw the line? You might as well start looking through the library at every book on the shelf.” This didn’t stop the parents who filed a lawsuit alleging that Slayer had “knowingly distributed harmful material to minors”. The judge threw this case out as well.

The most public of the lawsuits and the only one to actually make it to trial was a lawsuit alleging that Judas Priest was directly responsible for two young men (ages nineteen and twenty) who attempted suicide after listening to a Judas Priest song. The first young man was successful but the other survived the attempt with massive facial injuries. He overdosed on methadone before the case went to trial but had written his mother a letter claiming that it felt as though he had been programmed and didn’t want to do it but something was making him. The case gained traction because the plaintiffs claimed that Judas Priest had inserted subliminal messages into their songs urging “do it”. Before the trial began the judge ruled that subliminal messages was not clear and articulate speech and was not covered under the protection of the First Amendment. The judge ruled in favor of Judas Priest.

Why do I bring these up? Because they are clear examples of censorship in a form that is both insidious and frightening. It doesn’t look like censorship but that’s exactly what it is. Hiding behind abnegation of personal and moral responsibility to place blame where it does not belong. Books and movies have also faced this same form of criticism/censorship.

Song lyrics, books, movies and games may deal with extremely dark subjects. Does that mean they shouldn’t be read? Shouldn’t be heard? People who don’t watch, listen to or read horror are usually confused as to why fans like it. I can’t answer for everybody but sometimes you read something and it hits home. That author has taken what you’re feeling and put it into words. And now you know that someone else has gone through what you have. Someone else at least has the imagination and empathy enough to feel what others are feeling. And you know you’re not alone. It’s the same with music. Someone else has felt those feelings and put them to music. Be it love, rage, disillusionment or sadness. It’ there. For the length of a book or a song you are in complete sympathy with them. Why would anyone want to silence that?

Asylum by Madeleine Roux #BookReview

Title: Asylum | Series: Asylum #1 | Author: Madeleine Roux | Publisher: HarperTeen | Pub. Date: 2013-8-20 | Pages: 317 | ISBN13: 9780062220967 | Genre: YA Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased


Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

Book cover for Asylum

Asylum Review

I think I’m done with photo-novels. I’m obviously not meant for them. I liked Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children well enough (at first at least), and the pictures portion of it was a novel idea (pardon the pun) but ultimately just felt forced. However, I was willing to give it another shot, especially when I heard about Asylum. The synopsis was fascinating, and I loved the front cover. Plus, I’d heard lots of good things. And, given that I can appreciate a good YA horror ever now and then, it was worth the cost (I thought).

Unfortunately, Madeleine Roux’s Asylum was almost impossible for me to finish. While it started off strong, by halfway through, I was telling myself “Come on, you paid for this. You need to finish it.” That thought kept me pushing on long past the point I would have laid it aside otherwise. But my opinion of this book wavered between ‘utterly bored’ and ‘mild to moderate distaste’. The characters annoyed me. The story felt like it plodded along. The only thing that kept me from abandoning it in the end even though I didn’t particularly like Dan, I was curious about the changes the author was showing in him. When I finally turned the last page, though, I just sighed and wrinkled my nose.

The ‘haunting found photographs’ aren’t really haunting, either. I mean, some of them are mildly creepy. Kind of. A little. If you tilt your head and narrow your eyes just right. (Or maybe I’ve just read and watched too much horror. I’m fully willing to admit that’s entirely possible.) I found nearly all of them to be average ‘random’ photographs that felt about as real as found footage films, ya know?

Overall, I wasn’t a fan of Asylum. I can’t even recommend it as ‘horror lite’ for beginners. If you’re looking for something creepy in the YA territory, try Beneath Claire’s House by Corey J. Popp or Shutter by Courtney Alameda instead.

Check it out on Amazon.

Flyby Five: Our Favorite Challenged or Banned Books

Flyby Five Banner

This Flyby Five is just a quick list of our favorite challenged or banned books, along with quotes that illustrate some of why we love them so very much.

Flyby Five, where we abandon all sense of seriousness and do silly lists about whatever pops into our heads. This segment will be posted every Wednesday we feel like posting it. This is not a serious list, nor is it a “Top 5” list. And there is every possible chance that some of these lists or the language in these lists may not be PG-13 friendly. You have been warned. -L&G

Our Favorite Challenged or Banned Books

Book cover for Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Yes, we’re mentioning Fahrenheit 451 again. Yes, we mention it a lot. We do it for a reason.

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Yes, you’ve seen Ender’s Game mentioned on this site probably more than you’ve seen Fahrenheit 451 mentioned. Can’t help it. A good book is a good book is a good book.

“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.”
― Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game

“Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.”
― Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game

“I’ve lived too long with pain. I won’t know who I am without it.”
― Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot is a science fiction must-read in my opinion. I know not everyone’s a huge fan, but I think there’s comfort to be found in it.

“And his idea of solid comfort was to be left in utter solitude for two or three hours.”
― Isaac AsimovI, Robot

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
― Isaac AsimovI, Robot

“You are the only one responsible for your own wants.”
― Isaac AsimovI, Robot

Different Seasons – Stephen King

Different Seasons has four stories in it. All of them are fantastic. I also find it ironic that it’s challenged for a prison rape scene while ‘Orange is the New Black’ is hailed as a masterpiece and most likely watched by parents who think their kids aren’t paying attention. Here’s a hint. They probably are.

“I don’t have to judge a man by rumours when I can judge him for myself”
– Stephen King, Different Seasons, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

“The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them. It’s hard to make strangers care about the good things in your life.”
– Stephen King, Different Seasons, The Body

“Get busy living, or get busy dying”
– Stephen King, Different Seasons, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz

I read the Scary Stories series of books in second grade. I am a fully functioning adult to this day. The only thing I’ll say about it is that it’s more accurate in the writer’s credit. As I grew older I realized that these were actually urban legends and folk tales. Not exactly original material by the author. The horror list may seem scanty but that actually speaks volumes in itself doesn’t it? It strikes me that horror isn’t allowed near enough schools half the time to even be rated on its own merits.


Banned Books Week 2017

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Challenged or Banned artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Always Gray in Winter by Mark J. Engels #BookReview

Title: Always Gray in Winter | Series: A Shift of Season #1 | Author: Mark J. Engels | Publisher: Thurston Howl Publications | Pub. Date: 2017-8-10 | Pages: 184 | ISBN13: 9781945247194 | Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3.4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the author for review consideration.

Always Gray in Winter

A distant daughter. A peculiar device. A family lineage full of secrets. When werecat Pawlina Katczynski finally resurfaces, her location previously unknown to anyone close to her, the reunion is short of welcomed. Instead, she finds herself thrust tooth and nail—tooth and claw—into a feud between opposing werecat clans as her family and their enemies reignite a battle that has raged for years. Always Gray in Winter invites the reader to join the feud and see if blood is truly thicker than water… 

Book cover for Always Gray in Winter

Always Gray in Winter Review

So… werecats. I don’t normally do werecats, werewolves, were-anything, really. Hasn’t been my thing for several years. But when Always Gray in Winter was submitted for review, I said I’d give it a try. I figured it would be a nice way to change things up a bit. It definitely changed things up a bit, and was an interesting experience.

Always Gray in Winter is a pleasant 184 pages. It feels like it was less than that. I was honestly surprised at the page count when I flipped through the paperback. This is a slim volume is perfect for carrying with you when you need a book to ward off people who want you to be sociable. It’s nice to come across a book now and then that doesn’t seem to be aiming for 350+ pages. (Rare anymore, right?) The cover might have some anthro fans coming up to try to chat you up, though. It’s jam-packed with thrilling action in the form of possibly deadly encounters and narrow escapes. The two main nationalities of the characters ‘at war’ in the book are North Korean and Polish, which is a combination I’ve never come across in the fiction I read before.

I liked Always Gray in Winter, but I had two main problems with it. One was that there were a lot of characters introduced quickly, with no real time to leave an impression before moving on to someone else. Sometimes it was several chapters before some of them were brought up again. With that being said, I did find myself really liking some of the characters. Tommy was definitely my favorite, but I liked grandpa Niko and most of the non-essential family cast as well. I think I was supposed to care for Pawly as she’s clearly supposed to be the primary character, but I didn’t. She just didn’t feel as ‘real’ as some of the other characters did, so I had trouble connecting with her.

The other was that the transitions between past and present were a bit jarring and I found myself flipping back and forth several times to make sure I had my facts straight. The characters I eventually got straightened out in my head by the halfway point, but I still wasn’t clear on a lot of the stuff by the end of the book. These two things really kept me off balance for a large portion of the slim book, and while sometimes that’s a good thing, in this case it was not. At least not in my opinion. I know some people like non-linear story-telling. I’m not a huge fan of it.

I liked how Mark J. Engels incorporated some of the ‘realities’ of transforming back and forth between a furred form and human form. There’s a scene where one of the characters thinks to herself that she was ‘shedding like a roomful of f*cking Persians‘ from her change that had me grinning. The characters transitions weren’t as disgusting as they’re sometimes displayed in books and movies, but anyone who has cats can speak to the particular gross-out factor wet hairballs have. I also appreciated that one of the character’s reactions when he found out that someone he cared about could transform into a cat didn’t leap right into weird furry wet dreams. Instead he had the reaction I think most of us would have.

Always Gray in Winter is a little rough around the edges, but it’s still a good read for the audience it targets. It’s terrestrial sci-fi that feels like it’s based in the here and now. Engels has a clear idea of what he’s doing with the story. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, I can say pretty confidently that I think we will see each successive entry into the series get stronger and more well-polished. I think the saga of this particular werecat family is one worth paying attention to in the future if you’re a fan of anthromorphic tales.

Purchase on Amazon

Twilight Zone Tuesday – The Man in the Bottle

The Man in the Bottle

Arthur Castle – Luther Adler
Edna Castle – Vivi Janiss
Genie – Joseph Ruskin
Mrs. Gumley – Lisa Golm
IRS Man – Olan Soule
Narrator – Rod Serling

Really, genie stories should just automatically come with a subheading of “Doesn’t matter what you wish for, you’re screwed”.

We’re in what’s usually called a junk shop but this one has some pretty cool stuff. The owner (Arthur) is going through a rather large stack of bills. He grabs the top one and asks his wife, Edna, how far behind the gas and electric is. She says it’s four months behind so they had better pay that one. So they go through bills about how I do.

Arthur murmurs to himself that it’s one they can’t pay and sets it aside. Hey man, you’re lucky they gave you four months. If that were now you’d already be in the dark with no heat.

The bell rings and he looks up hopefully. A little, older lady is sneaking in. Arthur is very studiously working at his bills and tries not to look up. He asks her how she’s doing. She makes some awkward small talk as she’s trying to get up the courage to ask something. She places a wine bottle on the counter and says she’s brought an heirloom today, hand-blown glass and been in the family for years. Arthur tells her it’s a plain old wine bottle and worth nothing. She is upset but says she could let it go for a dollar. Arthur tells her if he had a dollar he’d just give it to her but they’re broke, too.

Arthur hates to see an older lady upset so he goes to the cash register and gives her a dollar. He says he wishes he could make it more and gives it to her. He sounds sincere, not the smarmy “I wish I could give you more and I’m going to sell it for a thousand” voice. She thanks him and blesses him. At the door she stops and says that it’s not really an heirloom, she found it in an ashcan. Will he please forgive her for lying?

He says it’s ok and who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be worth something. He’s very nice. Mrs. Gumley scurries out the door. Edna comes downstairs and Arthur tries to play it casual, leaning on the register to hide the fact that the $1 sign is down. Edna picks up the wine bottle and sarcastically says it’s gorgeous. Edna looks at the ‘No Sale’ sign and then at Arthur. Arthur says that Mrs. Gumley needed to eat, too. And that maybe a man could only scrape the bottom of the barrel for so long without it breaking him. His grandfather owned the shop and it broke his heart, his father owned it and it killed him, too. Personally I think it’s a pretty cool shop and I’d love to go there.

In the middle of saying that the place is making them old by always having to be hand-to-mouth, he picks up a stack of bills and shakes them, knocking over the bottle. The cork pops out but the bottle doesn’t break. Edna and Arthur back away as the bottle starts to steam and smoke.

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, gentle and infinitely patient people whose lives have been a hope chest with a rusty lock and a lost set of keys. But in just a moment that hope chest will be opened and an improbable phantom will try to bedeck the drabness of these two people’s failure-laden lives with the gold and priceless stones of fulfillment. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, standing on the outskirts and about to enter The Twilight Zone.

The bottle is still pouring out smoke. When the smoke clears a dapper looking gentleman is standing in their store, asking “How do you do?” Arthur and Edna stand there staring at him, stunned. He says he doesn’t want to go into any lengthy explanations but he’s a genie, there to offer them four wishes with a guaranteed performance. Arthur and Edna just look at each other. Edna thinks they’re going crazy. Arthur says that maybe the guy is a hypnotist or something. The Genie says he’s nothing of the sort. He’s there to grant the owner four wishes. Then he goes back inside his bottle for a century and a day until the new owner releases him.

He tells them the Arthur and Edna need to start deciding on their four wishes, keeping in mind that each wish is irrevocable. Once it’s made it is fulfilled and once it’s fulfilled it’s a matter of record and can only be altered by another wish. As he’s speaking he flips their open sign to “Closed” and pulls down the blind. Which is a little creepy. It looks like he’s preparing to murder them. He asks Arthur if that’s clear. Arthur thinks that maybe they’d better call the police. The Genie tells Arthur to wish for them. He can bring Scotland Yard, the FBI or every bobby in the city of London. Is that what they wish for?

For being stuck in a bottle for a century and a day the Genie is awfully anxious for them to get on with the wishing. Although, who knows? Maybe he’s got an awesome life inside the bottle and wants to get back to it. Arthur replies no, they wouldn’t wish for the police. Edna asks if Arthur is crazy, does he actually believe the guy? To which I would reply, “What have you got to lose?”

Arthur says, for the sake of argument, that it is true he would like the broken glass in the display case to be fixed. The Genie looks at it and asks if Arthur would like to make it official. Arthur hesitantly says yes, he wishes the case were fixed. The Genie waves his hand at it and *poof* it’s fixed. Arthur and Edna are amazed. The Genie tells Arthur that he has three wishes left.

Arthur is all excited now but Edna’s freaked out. Arthur asks what she wants and she says she wants nothing. Arthur finally decides on money. He wants a million dollars in cash right here on the floor in $5’s and $10’s. I get the money wish but why fives and tens? The Genie lights a smoke and says, done. A million dollars. Money immediately begins to pour down from the ceiling. Someone is laughing hysterically but it sounds creepy so I’m honestly not sure if it’s the Genie laughing or Arthur.

The next shot shows the neighborhood in to help celebrate their good fortune. Arthur gives one guy a stack of  money and tells him to pay off his mortgage so he can start living again. He gives another lady a stack and tells her to take that vacation and bring back a boyfriend. They give a bunch to Mrs. Gumley and the neighborhood Reverend as well. And, to give all of them credit, they don’t act greedy and Arthur and Edna seem genuinely pleased to be able to help. Not doing it in a snobby, lordly way. See, they are truly nice people. Which is almost enough on its own to qualify them for the Twilight Zone. Instead of giving it to charities to qualify them for a tax break, they’re just giving it to people they know it could help and they can see how much it helps.

After everyone leaves there’s only one guy left. And to give Arthur credit he’s ready to hand over a bunch of money to this guy even though he doesn’t even know him. The guy says thank you, but no. He gives Arthur his card. He tells them their taxes, including state, comes to $942,640.00. Which, holy crap, seems like a lot to me. I could be wrong but that seems like almost 90%. Can that be right? And once, just once, can’t people just keep the damn money? Every freaking time in almost every show they never get to keep the money no matter how honestly they got it or worked for it. It’s annoying.

After they count up what the IRS says they owe them they’re left with $5.00. They gave away nearly $60,000.00 to the neighborhood. I’d also like to point out, though, that it never seems to cross their minds to ask for any of it back even though they’re only left with $5.00 and a stack of bills they haven’t paid yet.

The Genie pops up on the stairs to tell Arthur that he warned him to reflect carefully on his wish. Genies are always so damn smug aren’t they? t least it’s not the Djinn from Wishmaster. That’s a plus.

The Genie says if Arthur had made a wish that took into account the taxes involved then it would be quite another thing. Arthur looks like he’s going to do just that but Edna stops him. Why? That seems like a logical wish. Arthur considers the usual wishing for more wishes but the Genie says that’s out. Of course it is. The Genie says that he doesn’t want Arthur to even try for fear of the consequences. Arthur asks what consequences? He starts yelling at Edna, saying she’s no help. She asks, reasonably enough, why he’s yelling. He starts freaking out until she yells his name, sharply. This stops him short and he wonders what’s happening to him. The Genie replies that their emotions seem to follow a typical pattern. Great excitement, great emotionalism (is that even a word?) but only a modicum of happiness. Now, speaking for myself in their situation, I would ask for the bills to be paid and for the shop to be well-known among the city as a good place to shop. Although I’m sure the Genie could screw that up, too.

Arthur asks the Genie what they can wish for “without tricks”. The Genie takes great offense to that and says that there are no “tricks”. Just normal consequences that go with any windfall. The Genie says that whatever they wish for they have to be prepared for the consequences, This gets Arthur thinking of something dead sure and without consequences. Good luck with that one. Arthur decides to wish for power. Wow. That’s original.

The Genie asks what kind of power he’d like? To be the president of a corporation? Edna says he could go bankrupt. Mayor of a city? He could get voted out of office. Arthur says he’s got it. Ruler of a country. Why do I see this not ending well? Arthur says he wants to be head of a whole country and can’t be voted out of office. The Genie, grinning, asks if he’d like to be more specific than that. Arthur wants to be the head of a foreign country that can’t be voted out of office but it must be a contemporary country. Contemporary as in, in this century. The genie agrees. Arthur asks about the consequences. The Genie sidesteps answering directly and says there are consequences to any wish. Edna is suddenly on board. Ok, I can see way more going wrong with this wish than the money one. Arthur tells the Genie to do his thing. The Genie says “as you wish” and starts laughing very creepily. Oh, yeah, I’m sure this will turn out well.

We are taken to a bunker where someone is crying with his head down on a desk and an officer is yelling at him to stop being a baby…it’s just a mass suicide. The guy raises his head and…Arthur is Hitler. A soldier brings in a little bottle of presumably poison. And, since I know my history, it’s probably cyanide. However, I don’t see a gun. And shouldn’t Edna be Eva? Arthur looks like he’s seriously considering taking the poison. Instead he wishes he were back where it all began and throws the bottle down.

It transitions into the wine bottle shattering on the floor of their store. The store is darker and Edna is sitting behind the counter, asking Arthur what’s wrong? He looks funny. Arthur says he had his wish fulfilled, number four. Edna doesn’t seem to remember any of it. Which I guess makes sense if she wasn’t the person who ‘owned’ the wishes. So does this mean their neighbors got their money taken away? That’s a bummer. He says that all of the wishes ended the same way. In a word…sucky. So, I’m curious. With the bottle being broke did the Genie get killed? Or just go on to inhabit another random bottle?

Arthur looks around and says to Edna  that the place doesn’t look half bad. Actually, she must remember. She says they came out of it ahead at least. Arthur wants to know what she means. She points to the display case where the crack is still mended. So it’s not a total loss. They giggle together a bit and kiss each other. Then Arthur hits the display case with the end of the broom and it’s cracked again in exactly the same way. They look at each other for a second and Edna cracks up. I’ve been there. It’s either laugh, cry or tear your hair out so I prefer to laugh (after letting out a hearty swear word).

A word to the wise, now, to the garbage collectors of the world, the curio seekers, to the antique buffs – to everyone who would try to coax out a miracle from unlikely places. Check that bottle you’re taking back for a 2-cent deposit. A genie, say might be your own. Case in point, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, fresh from the briefest of trips into The Twilight Zone.

Genie ones always kind of tick me off. Nobody ever gets to keep what they get and nobody ever wishes correctly. I know they’re usually illustrating the whole you can’t get something for nothing and be happy with what you have but still. Having money obviously didn’t turn them into assholes so why not let them keep it. Not to mention the taxes estimate seemed insanely high.

If anyone feels like they recognize Edna she also played in the Twilight Zone episode: The Fever.

Thank you for joining us this week and be sure to come back next week for one of my favorite episodes: Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room.