Thursday, September 14, 2017

Zombie Tunes Part 2

More songs to nom brains to!

* Vicarious by Tool

This song has a lot of horror imagery with mentions of supernatural creatures like vampires and zombies. The post-apocalyptic imagery is definitely zombie tinged with living while the world dies and devouring to survive. Be prepared for a bleak view of the world with Tool's signature meter changing melodies that keep the song feeling just a little off kilter.

* Zombies, March! by GWAR

This song is from the point of view of the Zombie king who controls the zombies and uses them as slaves and an army. He also bemoans his own blight of unending hunger and not so intelligent soldiers. The video goes between a Night of the Living Dead type black and white film with a modern twist and GWAR singing in their over the top costumes. The zombie parts have some fun twists like a woman screaming at one zombie, waiting to be eaten, and then a whole crowd come and steal his meal. The zombies eventually come into the set and eat all of the rude producers and agents in. The song and video have a great sense of humor.

* She Was a Teenage Zombie by Murderdolls

It's just another story of boy meets undead girl and falls in love with her. I'm not a huge fan of the singing, but the lyrics, story, and beat are fun. The scene they set is delightfully funny and surreal with this guy taking her on a date like she's a normal girl. It's subversive and uses fun puns like drop dead gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Upcoming Zombies Sneaking Up Behind You Part 2

More zombie books coming your way!

* Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World by Dahlia Schweitzer

This nonfiction book looks at the trend of viruses and post-apocalyptic narratives in context of the current events, government and media rhetoric, and the way Americans see the world. Schweitzer identifies three different types of story that reflect our society's anxiety about terrorism, pandemics, and the end of civilization. I'm very interested in what she has to say about how these stories reflect us, especially in regard to paranoia and xenophobia. She's going to tackle both movies, TV, and books like The Walking Dead, 24, and 28 Days Later. This book is set to be released February 8, 2018.

* Devils Unto Dust by Emma Burquist

The story starts a decade after the Civil War. A zombie virus has spread across the Texas desert, causing it to be quarantined from the rest of the country. Teenage Willie has kept herself and her sisters safe even after her mother turned contracted the disease. Her deadbeat father steals from a zombie hunter and she's forced to traverse the desert to find him. It seems to have True Grit vibes mixed with zombies and I can't wait for it. This one comes out April 10, 2018.

* Blood Capital by Robert Batten

The zombie virus rears its ugly head in the 21st century, uncureable and quickly spreading. Vampires act to preserve their food supply and humans flock to them in huge numbers without thinking of the repercussions. Generations later, both vampires and humans struggle under corporate rule. A scientist finally discovers the cure to the zombie virus and tries to hide it after so many of her previous discoveries were twisted and used to harm. This book sounds crazy with vampires, humans, zombies, evil corporations, and intrigue. It comes out April 10. 2018 and has no book cover released as of yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart

Vitus Adamson just killed his brother Jamie and now inhabits his nephew's body. Of course, he ended up in jail for murder and sees no way of ever getting out in his shiny new body. Lionel, Jamie's business associate, rescues Vitus from jail only because Jamie was involved in many off the books, risky projects that now need cleaning up. Although everyone around him seems helpful, one or all of them could be out to backstab him, including Lionel or the enigmatic and silent Elvedina. His addiction to drugs doesn't help his mental state and maybe his paranoia is only delusion.

Vitus has a much different experience than most. He spent the last 10 years as a zombie, kept coherent and intelligent by a drug called atroxopine. Without it, he would have been a flesh eating monster. As a human, every sensation and emotion is brand new. Pain doesn't even feel so bad in comparison to the numbness felt for so many years. He finds emotions in particular hard to deal with since it's been so long since he's felt any sort of emotion to the awful acts he committed. He looks back to his zombie life and sees a false bravery and callousness since he had no capacity to feel otherwise. In addition to reacclimating to human life, he has to get used to a body that isn't his. The height, weight, balance, skin quality, health, and reflexes are all different and he's pretty clumsy as a result.

The other characters are different than I expected to see in a zombie story. Elvedina is my favorite character by far, a silent, menacing woman with hidden depth and goals. Constantly vigilant, she patrols the house at all hours and fights with insane precision. Very few characters can be so memorable without saying anything. Another interesting character is Niko, Vitus' ex-girlfriend. She works as a mortician and was drawn to him as an unfeeling zombie. After he murdered his brother in front of her, she remains uninterested in him as a human. Her appearance in the novel is short, but I wish I could have seen more of her.

The work that Jamie was entrenched in has to do with killing people in their sleep. Poison is suspected, but their tox screens are clear, leading Vitus on a journey that takes him to concepts he never thought were real. The story gets much more mystical than I expected. The last quarter of the book was a mystery to me because I didn't realize this was the second installment in a series. I never read the first book and I wish the book jacket was a little clearer about that. I will probably revisit this rating and adjust accordingly whenever I read the first book, which seems to feature zombie Vitus. I'm excited to compare the character in both states and see what happened before this story.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seoul Station

* spoilers *

Seoul Station is the animated prequel to Train to Busan that details how the infection started and spread. Patient zero is a homeless man who sleeps in the train station. His friend tries to get him help from multiple places, but is always soundly refused. The homeless are always seen negatively, as an inconvenience at best and vermin at worst. The train authorities hear the commotion and threaten to kick out all of the homeless because of the noise instead of seeing what's wrong. The man's friend, whose behavior is erratic, approaches the police, who threaten him with incarceration, and a free clinic. The nurses are sympathetic, but it's the other homeless who drive the man away, not willing to give up their warm beds for a night outside even though they are recovered. The man ends up dying alone on the street due to the callous treatment of authorities and other homeless people alike and he becomes the first zombie.

At the same time, a young woman named Hye-sun is being exploited by her scumbag boyfriend Ki-woong. She recently ran away from a brothel to be with him, but he's quick to try to pimp her out when he runs short of money. He assumes her past as a sex worker and her dependence on him allows him to take ownership of her. Ki-woong is one of the most odious characters I've seen and almost every scene with him made my skin crawl. After a huge fight where he tries to guilt her, Hye-sun storms out of the house and becomes entrenched in the growing zombie outbreak situation. Hye-sun, as a runaway and past sex worker, is seen by the general public through the same lens as the homeless: as disposable, as an inconvenience, and as possessing no power. Ki-woong and Hye-sun's father Suk-gyu follow her around the city, trying to find her.

The zombies are the country's lowest and most vulnerable people rising up against those who suppress them, ignore them, and keep them poor. So many people asked one another what district they were from, choosing to value them on the place they grew up over who they are as a person. It's as if they don't even see the other person until they have that information. The zombie plague spreads farther than it should have because the homeless were the only ones aware of it for some time. The police completely ignored their concerns and their obvious terror at being attacked. The homeless also see threats in each other sometimes over the zombies and that doesn't help things either. The city is overrun pretty quickly, although a pocket of survivors are fighting them off. The police come in to keep the humans inside the quarantined area instead of saving them. Again, this is a callous choice that proves to hurt them more than help them, similar to how they have treated the problem of homelessness: allowing the numbers to grow without any attempt at aid.

Hye-sun's journey to try to find safety lasts through most of the film. Her "father" turns out to be the pimp she recently ran away from looking to force her back into sex slavery. The hero we have been following almost the entire movie is actually an abusive misogynist. He holds on to his goal even as the world falls apart around him. Early in her adventures, Hye-sun was scratched on the ankle by a zombie and succumbs to the disease as Suk-gyu tries to rape her. She savagely attacks him right. It's satisfying, but also sad. These vulnerable and ignored people only have power as the undead. The zombie plague doesn't discriminate or ask where you're from. It's the great equalizer that affects everyone equally and makes everyone the same. The end of the film shows the zombies spreading outside the quarantined area.

Seoul Station is a much more bleak movie than Train to Busan. It shows the flaws in society and how those flaws will affect society. I enjoy Train to Busan more because it's surprisingly emotional and the characters are well drawn. This film has the same emotional quality, but sympathetic characters are few. I only had a few problems with it. While I understood her emotional state, I grew frustrated with Hye-sun blaming herself for Ki-woong's behavior and her wish to be back with him despite his abusive ways. The zombie also didn't have the unique twitchy movement that they had in the sequel. I'm not sure if that decision came later, but it set those zombies apart from others. While Train to Busan is hopeful at its core, Seoul Station simply shows harsh realities with no survivors at the end.  

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Returned

In a small French village, people's lives go on as usual although many of them have experienced tragedies and trauma. All of their lives are overshadowed by someone who has died, whether they know it or not. When the dead come back exactly as they died, the sleepy town is thrown into chaos. If that weren't enough, brutal murders occur, eerily similar to unsolved cases of years ago. The town's scars are reopened and raw. Only time will tell who will be strong enough to continue, who will die, and if the dead are here to stay.

When the novel opens, the cast of characters are stuck in some aspect of their lives or on the cusp of moving on. Jerome is separated from his wife Claire because both of them never recovered from her daughter's death. Jerome pushed everyone away and now lives alone, clinging to a psychic for solace. Claire is with sanctimonious, creepy Pierre. Their remaining daughter Lena throws herself into drink and drugs to forget. Adele is about to get married when her previous lover died on the day they were supposed to be married. Julie throws herself into work and rejects her former girlfriend after being attacked years ago. Toni continues to be haunted by his past choices and his mother's judgment for them. While their day to day lives are fairly normal, their pasts are with them every single day.

When they return, the dead appear exactly before they died and have no memory of what happened. Outwardly, they appear completely normal and coherent. Inability to sleep and an insatiable hunger plague them. Each of the main characters are visited by a zombie who causes secrets to resurface and their entire lives to change. Each person reacts to them differently. Claire sees the return of her daughter Camille as a gift from god while Pierre sees it as the beginning of the end times. Adele sees the return of her late fiance Simon as a psychological vision because she is remarrying. Julie protects little Victor even though she's never seen him before and sees him as abused and broken as she views herself. Toni falls back into old habits with his unstable brother Serge. One man, Michel, sets his house on fire and kills himself. The dead mean something different to everyone and all transform their lives for better or worse.

While much of the story is a drama between characters, some chilling imagery and eerie events take place. When Camille comes home, a torn up rabbit is found in the garbage and all of the photos with her in them are torn to shreds. A few murders are found with signs that parts of the victims were eaten, mirroring those of years ago. Around the underwater city, animals were so scared that they would rather drown themselves than face whatever scared them. Overall, I wish there was much more horror in this book. So much of it was slow and quiet, focusing on the character's relationships and secrets, but I was truly expecting a huge horrific ending that never came.

The Returned is the heartbreaking story of the dead returning to life, opening old wounds and uncovering buried secrets for the living. Although the story undeniably has flaws and some revelations that come out of nowhere, the book was enjoyable. The anticlimactic ending really through me off and it felt like there was something missing. This book was based on the French television show Les Revenants which was remade into an American TV show The Returned. Although the French show is pretty much universally acclaimed and the American show was cancelled, I will check both out to see the comparisons between each other and the book.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What We Become

The suburbs of Sorgenfri are idyllic with large houses and happy families. One such happy family consists of parents Dino and Pernille, teenage son Gustav, and daughter Maj. Suburban perfection is ruined when an infected person kills their wife. Suddenly, the entire neighborhood is under quarantine, not allowed to leave their houses and given measly rations of food and water each week. Gustav feels he must do something to change the situation, but the far reaching effects of his action may not be what he expects.

What We Become starts with suburban bliss. The families in Sorgenfri are happy and rich. The dissatisfaction of such idyll is embodied in their teenagers, namely Gustav and his neighbor Sonja. They both hold disdain for family events and would rather be doing something illicit like drinking. Gustav, the more volatile of the two, doesn't hesitate to curse at his complacent parents and storm off when the whim takes him. His parents also shelter Maj whenever possible from even the most tiny of negative things, which I found completely bizarre. They may want to protect her, but the realities of the world will get to her eventually. She'll also probably be even more traumatized than if her parents guided her through them and gave her tools to cope and reason through things.

Once the plague gets started and the military comes in, no one knows what to do. Normalcy completely breaks down, seen when someone is struck by a car in broad daylight, but police and emergency services drive right by without a second glance. No one has experienced something like this before, so the casual brutality and complete control of the military is alien to them. If they don't comply even with a small act, death is the punishment because the authorities won't take any chances. Each family is sealed into their home with opaque house wrappings and given rations once a week. Everyone is in complete ignorance of what's going on. There is no cure, no treatment, and no answers whatsoever.

Gustav is an idiot teenager from the beginning of the movie. I don't like him at all and grew a bit frustrated with his central role in the film until I saw the bigger picture. At the start of the movie, he spies on Sonja with the largest binoculars possible and she seems flattered by this attack on her privacy. He disrespects his parents with little reaction and sets of fireworks just because. After the plague comes, Gustav thinks it's a great idea to snoop around the military operations and causes a huge catastrophe that cuts them off from food and releases zombies everywhere. Because of the huge repercussions of Gustav's actions and the fate of Maj at the end of the film, I feel the film is about the dangers of ignorance and being overprotective. Their children are woefully unprepared for real life let alone a zombie apocalypse because Gustav is allowed to do anything and Maj is practically wrapped in bubble wrap.

Fear comes from many sources. The zombie action is similar to Night of the Living Dead. There are a lot of haunting images like the zombies coming through the plastic wrap surrounding the houses, a dead baby in a crib surrounded by flies, and a zombie attacking his wife then sitting down to watch TV as if nothing happened. Zombie bites transmit the disease and someone slowly turns this way. I don't see a lot of zombies movies that have a big military presence, so that danger coupled with the zombie plague made for much heightened tension and fear. The danger of these humans was almost equal to the zombies. The general public is held in complete ignorance, similar to Gustav and Maj, so people have no idea how the disease is transmitted or what signs to look for that someone is infected. They can't protect themselves or their families because they weren't given the knowledge.

What We Become is a Danish zombie film completely worthy of your time. I watched it one day on a whim on Netflix and it was a lot deeper and better than I expected. Some of it will feel familiar because it employs a lot of zombie genre tropes, but I feel it has a different perspective than most American zombie media. There aren't a lot of likeable characters, but that's by design of the larger themes and ideas. The ending is incredibly bleak and doesn't shy away from harsh realities. I would definitely recommend it.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Burning World

R and Julie are building their life together and living outside of the walls of their sanctuary to show that the healing dead are not to be feared. They have their problems and R seems to be stuck in his healing. He remains numb and fears intimacy with Julie. While all this is going on, the Axiom, a company represented by almost identical unnerving people in suits and ties, arrives at their home and destroys it with their leader. Homeless and stranded, R, Julie, and other survivors traverse the post-apocalyptic world in search of answers.

R and Julie aren't living their happily every after after the end of Warm Bodies. R in particular seems to be stuck. While other zombies are returning to fully to humanity, R remains numb and only half living even though he was the first and the catalyst for the others. None of his memories have come back and he still can't remember his own name. He wants to blend in and simply can't because of his state. This is also the complete opposite of what triggered the change in the first book, so it's a little weird to see this fearful and worried version of R. Through the book, R follows Julie and their group, realizing that he's resisting looking at his past which has frozen his progress. It's not a pretty picture, but he must look at his past to move forward.

There are still mindless zombies in this world that are still dangerous. It's interesting how the perspective of them is different since they all could become human if they had the right interaction. Nora runs a hospital for the undead and helps them transfer over to human. She discovers the Gleam, which appears in her patients eyes once in a while and heals them little by little. This power that healed so many only heals the rot from being undead. Any injuries or wounds are still there and are often fatal, letting the person have a few moments of humanity before they die for good. While Nora works to make sure as many people as possible are saved, others want to keep zombies as mindless shamblers.

The Axiom group is one of my favorite parts of the novel. They are a company populated with interchangeable people only recognizable by the color of tie they wear. Their faces, smiles, words, and demeanor are exactly the same, an apt parody of corporate America. They come into large groups of people, kill off their leaders, and move in purporting to peddle security when they simply want control. The newly living or people transitioning in the middle of living and dead are considered variables and threats to be destroyed or commodities to be used instead of hope for a new world.

The Burning World is a solid and unexpected follow up to Warm Bodies. Some chapters were narrated by "We" and seemed a bit too out there and esoteric compared to the rest of the story. These also feature the adventures of a boy between living and dead with golden Gleaming eyes. I hope he fits into the story better in the next book because it seemed to belong to a different book entirely. The only criticism I have for the book is that, as the second installment, sets up a lot of things for the finale that won't be resolved just yet. I eagerly await the last book in this enjoyable series.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Zombie Tunes Part 1

Tunes to nom brains to!

* Zombies by Lacuna Coil

This song is a little different than the usual zombie song. Zombies are the downtrodden and ignored that can unite to rise up as one. It's nice to see a song that personifies zombies. Lacuna Coil sets itself apart from other metal bands with the contrast between Cristina Scabbia's beautiful high voice and Andrea Ferro's much rougher and deeper voice that is sometimes almost a gutteral scream.

* Dead and Bloated by Stone Temple Pilots

This is another song from the point of view of a disgusting, rotted zombie. The melody has an almost country lilt that highlights the humor of the ironic lyrics. It seems to be about some kind of betrayal that other people are dismiss as being part of life. This one's a fun listen even though the subject is morbid.

* Carrion Flowers by Chelsea Wolf

Carrion flowers refers to those bizarre flowers that smell like corpses, but this song also uses it to refer to zombies. They are definitely creatures of habit, mindlessly eating and attacking, and grow from repeated crimes as the dead rise from killings or from the crimes of society that caused it. Slow and relentless, they are after you. The unique style features her ethereal soprano vocals over electronic music that evoke heavy metal. I found Chelsea Wolfe looking for zombie songs, but I'll definitely check out some of her other songs.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Upcoming Zombies Sneaking Up Behind You Part 1

These zombie books are almost here!

* Nanoshock by K.C. Alexander

The sequel to K.C. Alexander's Necrotech, second in the SINless series, is called Nanoshock. Riko's cred is still in the toilet and she's fair game for anyone to try to take down despite her new position. She's still trying to fill in the gaps in her memory and will have to push a lot of boundaries and break a lot of rules to do it. I am excitedly awaiting Riko's return and I predict this book will be better than the first since most of the world building will already be established. Nanoshock comes out November 7th.

* Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation sounds amazing. The dead started to walk after the battle of Gettysburg, throwing the Civil War by the wayside as this threat is much more immediate. Legislature goes through to allow Native Americans and African Americans to go to combat school to fight the undead scourge. Jane McKeene is almost done with one such combat school when she's entrenched in a conspiracy that has her fighting for her life. I assume it has something to do with the eastern states wanting to return the country back to its "glory days," but I'm not sure. I can't wait to read this, but it won't release until Aprl 3, 2018.

* Cotton Crossing by Lilith Saintcrow

Cotton Crossing is a small town that no one ever leaves. Ginny Mills plans to move back to a bigger city when she gets some experience in the library system, but her plans go awry when the power goes out and the woods are full of bizarre creatures. She and Lee Quartine, the guy who has a crush on her, unite with a band of survivors against huge odds to try and survive. Lilith Saintcrow is one of my favorite writers and I never thought she would write a zombie book. Cotton Crossing is out in paperback and will be released as an ebook September 19th.

What are you most anticipated zombie reads?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Rezort

* spoilers *

It's after the zombie war and life has returned to normal. Zombies are destroyed everywhere except in a luxury Rezort located on a remote island where rich people pay thousands to hunt zombies for entertainment. A group of strangers go together on essentially a guided hunting safari until security fails and the zombies are set free to roam the island. Can this group comprised of mostly civilians survive real encounters with the walking dead?

The zombie war claimed the lives of 2 billion people, but the world seems to have been rebuild. The Rezort was created when an island was found populated by zombies. Instead of calling authorities to get rid of it, Valerie Wilton saw an opportunity to have guests pay tons for the controlled experience of hunting the undead on the Rezort. The public is concerned about zombies escaping and creating another zombie war, but precautions are put in place so the island will be obliterated if it's ever compromised. Wilton's speech at the beginning of the film talks about providing people the opportunity for revenge for their experiences and the people they've lost. It's an effective speech, but I'm sure her motivations are purely monetary. The Rezort is worth the price as everything is luxurious, branded consistently, and safe when everything works.

The cast of characters have very different motivations for being there. Melanie with her boyfriend Lewis plans to get over the trauma of seeing her father turn into a zombie in front of her during the zombie war. Veteran Archer is quiet, but shoots with deadly accuracy and makes the correct choices under pressure. Jack and Alfie are obnoxious teenage gamers who are much better in first person shooters than they are in real life. Sadie rounds out the group as uninterested in shooting zombies, but attended to spite her ex-fiance who dumped her before their wedding. She isn't what she seems and introduces a virus into the Rezort's system, causing it to fail and release the zombies. Her interests lie in activism, working for a group that believes zombies should be respected as people.

The zombies in this world are the typical slow shuffley type, but they seem to have a gleam of intelligence. They can't speak or anything like that, but they can recognize individual people and even show some emotion. As usual, they are driven by hunger for human flesh and won't let anything come between them and their meal. One big question about the island and its zombies is how are there enough for people to keep killing indefinitely? The answer is revealed as a charitable refugee program used as a front to lure refugees, make them zombies, and age their skin and clothes to make them match the rest of the zombies. This one aspect elevates the film to social commentary in my eyes especially with the current conservative opinions of refugees. There's a particularly satisfying set of scenes between Valerie Wilton and the zombies. She teases a specific zombie by staying just out of reach for a bite. Later on, that same zombie bypasses Melanie to tear into Valerie due to its treatment as human and as a zombie.

I expected a cheesy good time akin to Zoombies and Jurassic Park, but I found an unexpectedly enjoyable film. Some of the characters are well developed enought that I actually care if they die. The refugee aspect is timely and well done to show how monstrous it is to treat refugees as if they aren't human and condemning them to die in their war torn countries. It also means, in context of the film, that the zombie war has made human life expendable. Even the production value was much higher than expected with more reliance on practical effects over CGI. The ending has zombies invading from the ocean, not fully destroyed by the firebomb, of course leaving it open for a sequel that I would gladly watch. The Rezort is a much better zombie movie than I expected that actually had some moral complexity, compelling characters, and social commentary.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Monday, September 4, 2017


Riko wakes up in a lab with no memory of how she got there. She manages to fight her way out, witness her lover Nanjali's death, and pass out outside the building. Then, she wakes up in police custody. When she finally makes her way home, she finds the reputation she painstakingly built over her years as a mercenary is completely shot. Her crew acts like she betrayed them when they previously trusted each other. Her memory loss actually spans months rather than hours like she thought. Riko has no memory of any wrongdoing, but she wants to make it right, regain her reputationm and figure out what truly happened to her girlfriend.

Necrotech is not like a lot of other science fiction or horror novels. The world is what might happen if we keep going like we are. Entire swathes of the United States are uninhabitable due to electromagnetic radiation from the sun and the extreme levels of pollution. Water is so precious that showers are mostly placed with radiation blasts to kill off anything harmful. The areas that have sun shields are incredibly packed with people that each level has its own rules and politics separate from the others. Technology has gone cybernetic as everyone who is born is implanted with nanotechnology to maintain their health. Broken bones are a minor inconvenience quickly fixed and cancer isn't even a possibility. A SIN or social ID number is carved into the brain to track and hook people into the grid that assaults the user with constant obnoxious ads, bright colors, and loud noise. The SINless or saints have had this removed to keep from being tracked and operate outside of society both physically and digitally. Although I found some of it a bit hard to follow, the world is well established and fascinating, taking technology and environmental ramifications further than I've seen.

The zombies represent the dark side of this technological world. The nanos are meant to heal, but if they are too overworked and stressed, it can lead to nanoshock, which is when the nanos reproduce faster than they die off. This overwhelms the system and leads to possible corruption, which is when the nanos inadvertantly kill the person and power their corpse. These are called necrotech and prove to be incredibly dangerous even in small numbers. Corruption can also occur with newly integrated tech, faulty tech, or too much tech. Nectrotech only have the need to kill. Their skin and fluids typically turn black with necrosis and their bodies convulse uncontrollably. They have strength and speed with the inability to feel pain and breathe. Unless the base of the skull is destroyed, they will keep coming with whatever parts they still have. Nanjali is anomalous as a necro that appeared to be her normal self despite some physical symptoms, but the reason wasn't discovered in this installment.

Riko is a saint and works as a splatter specialist, essentially killing, maiming, or hurting for money, with a cybernetic arm. Her entire world came crashing down when she woke up with a huge hole in her memory, PTSD, and a wrecked reputation. Reputation is everything for her as a saint and her livelihood is essentially gone if no one will associate with her anymore. She'll do anything to find out what happened and restore her rep. I enjoyed Riko's curse laced narrative because she's brash, direct, and capable. Her emotions can get in the way, but she can look past them to see what's practical. Riko won't apologize for her actions and doesn't take anyone's shit. Her softer side isn't seen as much, but it's there, leading her charge to find out what happened to Nanjali. It's refreshing to see a character like Riko with her confidence, power, anger, and sexuality. Bisexual characters aren't often seen at all in media and it's good to see representation that validates her feelings for all of her partners.

Necrotech is quite the thrillride. It has action, intrigue, fight scenes, futuristic technology, an environmentally devastated world, and kickass Riko in the middle of it all. The action scenes are particuarly insane because of the nanos. People can take a lot more damage and many are seen pushing through fatal injuries, bone breaks, and other extreme injuries. I have two points of criticism. Too much of the middle was Riko playing through the same scenario of getting angry, fighting, and eventually unhappily compromising. Secondly, not a lot is resolved at the end because it's setting up to be a series. A few things being tied up or discovered wouldn't have left the ending so up in the air. Other than that, if you want an irreverant hero with colorful language and crazy skills, look no further.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, September 3, 2017

iZombie Season 2

The second season of iZombie has a lot of twists and turns plus it keeps the show moving forward and the characters changing. Liv Moore continues using the visions she gets from brains to solve murders every episode. The brains she eats are prepared in much more creative and delectable looking ways like Her behavior changes drastically to fit the person's brain and visions are usually triggered when she sees or does something similar to the dead person. The most hilarious instances are Old Man Liv and Frat Boy Bro Liv. She decides once and for all that her relationship with Major can't work and finds new love in Drake, a mysterious zombie with a double life. In some episodes, Liv is a little to zealous and uncaring about protocol and stealth, so she learns the hard way that being cautious can be better.

The character that really grows this season is Major Lilywhite. I found him pretty insufferable last season and he doesn't improve at the beginning hooked on drugs and refusing help. Once he cleans up his act, he works as a trainer at Max Rager, the company headed by the new villain Vaughn du Clark. Vaughn forces Major to kill zombies on his list or he will kill Liv. Instead of murdering people, he sedates them and puts them in a deep freeze to be thawed out when it's safe. I gained a lot of respect for his character doing the best he can in a horrible situation and not becoming a murderer. One new ability of his, created when he was cured, is getting goosebumps when zombies are around, making his Chaos Killer (as he is dubbed by the media) duties easier. I hope Major improves in the next season as well.

This season has a few people being cured and then reverting back to being a zombie due to Ravi's experimental cures. It gets a little old after a while, but Liv is never cured, mostly because other people are in a more urgent state than her and the show wouldn't really be the same if she weren't a zombie. The newest cure causes memory loss, resulting in a much more tolerable and nice Blaine, a refreshing change from his Barney Stinson-esque stint running a funeral home while selling brains and dealing drugs out of it. So, after the his legal troubles, Major has to decide if he values being human over having his memories.

Max Rager and its CEO Vaughn du Clark are the main villains of the season. I really enjoyed his weird macho but affable version of evil. The company doesn't care that it created zombies and only wants to destory them to save themselves from being blamed or having to shut down production. Zombies are experimented upon in the underground labs of Max Rager, causing full blown zombie apocalypse situation where zombies are in full mindless rage hunger mode and can't be brought out of it. The ending is a huge game changer as Vivian Stoll bought Max Rager in order to save zombies and make Seattle into a safe have for them. She unfortunately seems to an absolutist view which could prove bad for Liv and company next season.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Return of the Living Dead

Freddy just got a new job working at a medical supply warehouse. While his boss Frank shows him around, they look at the military drums full of the remains of a failed experiment. Frank kicks a drum to show how solid it is, but it springs a leak, spewing a mystery substance everywhere including all over Freddy and Frank. Frank wants to try to cover it up so he won't get in trouble or lose his job and they keep arguing back and forth until it becomes clear that all the cadavers come alive. They try to incinerate one of the living corpses after conventional means doesn't destroy it, but they just spread the substance to a nearby cemetery. Now a huge horde of zombies is roaming the city,  eating anyone that crosses their path.

This film is a kind of sequel to Night of the Living Dead. Return of the Living Dead acknowledges the existence of the previous film, but claims facts had to be changed so the government wouldn't block its production. Zombies reanimate because of toxic gas from a failed military experiment. They can speak when fed and have the ability to run, the first to do either of these things. Each zombie feels unimaginable pain that is only sated temporarily by brains. Destroying their brain or any other part of their body doesn't destroy them. Only incineration is effective, but the smoke contains the gas that will animate even more dead. I don't mind the new zombie rules, but I do mind practically indestructible zombies with no real solution.

I only just found out that there are two series of film that offshoot from Night of the Living Dead. One is George A. Romero's "of the Dead" series that are much more serious and keep consistent with the rules of the original film. The other series is John A. Russo's "of the Living Dead" and follows these new rules. It's much more comedic and zany with over the top characters. Besides the two warehouse workers, the film follows a group of teenage punks who curse constantly, rage against their boring lives, and strip naked to dance in cemeteries. These characters are the type you want to see eaten by zombies because of how annoying they are. They were all one dimensional caricatures of punk types plus two preppy outliers. I felt no sympathy for them at all.

Return of the Living Dead is a fun ride with a different type of zombie, a lighter tone, and shallower characters than the original film it's based on, Night of the Living Dead. I much prefer Romero's films and the more serious tone with his spot on social commentary. This film is fun and much different than most zombie films. The effects are usually pretty impressive with some moments of obvious badness. I enjoyed the film even with its flaws and I wouldn't mind seeing the next one in the series.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 1, 2017

September Zombies 2017!

It's that time of year again! Zombies everywhere! I know many are burned out by the influx of zombie stories, but I am frolicking among the undead. All of them are not great, but I love many of these stories. I only recently realized that my love for zombies started with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which I watched in high school on Halloween. I was completely enthralled in the story. The sight of the zombies tearing through flesh around the burned pickup truck haunted me. Plus zombies were the very reason I started this blog. There will always be a place on my shelves and in my heart for more zombie stories. Look out for flesheating fun here every day in September!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now I Rise

Lada Dracul was supposed to be the prince of Wallachia, but she finds herself with no powerful allies and no throne with only backstabbing enemies. She has to depend on herself and just her small caravan of loyal men because everyone else proves to be easily swayed. Radu, Lada's brother, is commanded by Mehmed to become a double agent in Constantinople, the city Mehmed must have according to prophecy. Although he longs to stay by Mehmed's side, he outwardly denounces the sultan and joins the Christian city with his wife. Both sibling faces practically insurmountable tasks and must decide how much they are willing to compromise or sacrifice to get what they want.

I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but Kiersten White's writing has sucked me into this world of political intrigue and strife in the 1400's. Lada and Radu are well drawn characters that I root for although their goals are at odds. Lada is still a force of nature even though she's at her lowest point. Her rage is considerable and her vengeance is brutal. I love how White balances Lada's character. She's capable of much violence and strength, but she's still a teenage girl figuring out herself and her emotions. The appearance of her childhood nurse embarrasses her in front of her men and it's a humanizing moment that puts the story in perspective. Lada also still loves Mehmed, but recognizes that Mehmed doesn't value her dreams or accomplishments. She would have to give up everything to be with him and she isn't willing to do that. The moment when she realizes that he wants her to be queen is the moment he exposes himself as being like all the other nobles, only viewing her as a decorative broodmare instead of what she is.

Lada finds herself in the political realm and faced with difficult decisions. When opportunities arise, she must choose to follow people who wronged her family in the past or hold on to that grudge at the expense of her dream. The best thing about her is her love for Wallachia. Although she has many ambitions for herself, her ultimate goal is to save and elevate her country and its people. Along her journey, peasants are saved from starvation and murder. Many of them march with her because of the change she could bring to their lives. Lada must also decide if she will follow the deeply flawed political system that has allowed for so much greed, exploitation of the poor, and the decline of Wallachia or if she will blaze her own bloody path. Without Radu, Lada is forced navigate the niceties of court on her own, where she is lost. She does learn a considerable amount, such as the true weakness in other countries. Every experience, no matter how bad, teaches her how to make the right decisions for her future rule of Wallachia.

Radu, on the other hand, has to compromise his own integrity to be what Mehmed wants him to be. Still smitten with Mehmed, Radu would do anything he asked and discovers that the whole Christian vs. Muslim situation isn't as cut and dry as he would like it to be. While in Constantinople, he discovers the truth of the city: the overwhelming amount poor, the religious fanaticism, and the weathered, almost dilapidated state of the city. Radu is present when the siege starts on the city and works at the side of the people there, forming friendships and bonds, while he simultaneously sabotages their efforts for Mehmed. He and Cyprian form a friendly relationship that runs deeper. I was so excited for Radu to have a romance that isn't completely manipulative and one sided. However, it complicates things when he sympathizes with the people Mehmed seeks to destroy. He witnesses harrowing events and experiences the horror of war first hand. Eventually, Radu must decide if his newfound relationships are enough to turn against Mehmed. Mehmed's perfection started to wear away before Radu even left when he murdered envoys from Constantinople. Radu rationalized it at the time, but he is slowly seeing how disposable lives are to his love.

Now I Rise is even better than And I Darken. The story takes off much faster and I had a hard time putting it down. Both siblings are fighting their own very different wars and White manages to make both of them sympathetic and easy to relate to. The minor characters shine as well, especially Radu's wife Nazira and Hunyadi. Nazira is so clever and skilled that it's crazy. Her love for her wife and her friendship for Radu are shown through her devotion and care. Hunyadi, the man who murdered Lada's father, proves to be a father figure for her who is much better than her own father. She relates to much more than she expected. The end was epic, especially Lada's last letter to Mehmed, and I can't wait for the next book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Mini-Reviews: One Dark Throne and Invictus

* One Dark Throne

Katherine has ascended from being the weakest potential queen to the strongest. Arsinoe found out that her power lies in poison. Mirabella faces the most opposition as the one having the most power. All three sisters vie for a throne because of toxic traditions that call for the death of two of the triplets only to repeat again with their own children when their reign is over.

There's something about this series that I'm reluctant to read it at first, but before I know it I'm halfway through the book in one sitting. The story just grabs me even though there are a lot of plots and main characters to follow. I grew to hate Katherine in this book because she's the only one gunning to kill her sisters, trying to game the system, and pretending to be a poisoner when she's not. I felt for her last book, but my sympathy is gone now Arsinoe makes some pretty terrible decisions this book. Her core is still that strong, practical woman we saw in the previous book who completely expects to die in this fight. Mirabella gets caught up in misunderstandings, but she's the most steadfastly good person in the book. I like all three sisters in their own way. Some are making frustrating decisions and turning against each other, but all the sisters are sympathetic.

The action seems to move much faster since the world has already been established. The sisters' past is seen in more detail as they meet someone they haven't seen since they were taken from the Black Cottage. It puts their reality more into perspective and shows how the traditions of their society have harmed them. The only lacking parts are in the side characters like Jules and Joseph. I didn't really care for their relationship or the overprotective way Jules treats Arsinoe. I will read the series to the end, but it does take me a little while to get into the story.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

* Invictus

Farway Gaius McCarthy has a bit of reputation because he was born outside of time. His mother (from the 2300's) recorded history and fell in love with a Roman gladiator in 95 AD, which of course is forbidden. Facts are fudged so Farway's parentage doesn't come into question. His dream is to travel through history like his mother, who never returned from one of her assignments. Farway's whole world comes crashing down when he fails his final exam and is forever barred from his dream. A less savory man offers him a job to illicitly travel through time to obtain lost artifacts, but it all goes wrong when the girl who sabotaged his test holds one of those artifacts hostage to join their crew. Who is she and what does she want?

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. I love the idea of a world where time travel exists and it's an actual job to go back in time, blend in, and record key events for both historical record and public enjoyment. Even on illicit trips to the past, it's important to have a good engineer to do all the calculations and a good historian who will know what fashion, materials, and language would be commonplace for the time. I wish we could have seen a little more what a typical day in that world would have been, but more time is spent in other times.

Farway and his crew really drew me into the story. While Farway is a bit conceited and annoying, his romances with Priya is adorable and keeps him grounded. Priya is the medic onboard. Her steadfast nature balances out the more flighty and wild people on the crew and I liked her best. I do find it a little annoying that they are already in love when they start so we don't get to see how it developed. Another unspoken romance blossoms between carefree, colorful Imogen and by the numbers Gram. To round out the crew, they have a red panda generally being adorable and getting into mischief. The crew dynamic is balanced and they are really more family than friends.

The second half of the book revealed the mysterious girl's identity and introduced a whole disparate concept to the story that I didn't enjoy as much as everything else. The story was exciting and the characters grew and changed, but that concept just didn't really mesh with everything else for me. I rode out the story and generally enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn't read another book if it were a series. I would definitely read more from the author, but maybe not a science fiction based book.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

All the Crooked Saints

It's the 1960's and Bicho Raro, Colorado is the home of the Soria family, who perform miracles for visiting pilgrims seeking to solve their problems. The miracle process takes place in two steps and many pilgrims are stuck in between them, seeing no way to move on. The family has their own problems while trying to provide housing and food to the pilgrims with bizarre afflictions. Their personal and professional lives are at a stand still and they are fast losing hope, but three cousins, analytical Beatriz, Daniel the Saint of Bicho Raro, and Joaquin AKA rogue DJ Diablo Diablo, hold the potential to make a miracle of their own.

All the Crooked Saints is a book that immersed me in its world from its vibrant cast of characters to the nonchalant magic to the unique cadence of Stiefvater's charming writing. When each character is introduced, the thing they want and the thing they fear are always stated planely. It gets to the heart of the character quickly. The main three cousins are as close as siblings but very different from each other. Beatriz considers herself devoid of emotion because she shares her father's clinical nature and subdued affect. Daniel feels tremendous pressure as the Saint and has been ignoring his emotions for a while. Joaquin is the most wild of the bunch and sets up his rogue radio station on his own, but keeps his illicit dream from everyone else. Beatriz's parents are at a standstill because both process their emotions differently in a way that pushes the other away. They are all cut off in some way, much like their charges.

The pilgrims have come to solve a problem they have not been able to do themselves. The first step of the miracle is the physical manifestation of their darkness. For one woman named Marisita, it's being covered in butterflies and crying so much that they can't fly away. For another, it's being a literal giant, always under scrutiny by others. For another, it's a snake binding her to her sister that only tightens if they try to get away. The family isn't allowed to directly help with their problems or their own darkness will take them over, even worse, which leaves a great many staying in at the house for months. The Soria's don't ever even talk to them, ceasing to even see them as people after a while. The problem comes in when Daniel tries to help Marisita and then is consumed by his own darkness. The way the Soria's have traditionally done things hasn't worked and is finally breaking down, giving the cousins an opportunity to find a new way.

I absolutely love this book. The writing puts magic in the real world as if it's always been there and definitely shows the influence of magical realism. Each character gives us a glimpse into their past without bogging down the plot at all. I loved viewing the world through each characters eyes and seeing beauty in something I ordinarily would not. For instance, Pete falls in love with the desert when I think it's kind of a boring, torturous place to be. I wish this book weren't a stand alone so I could return to the world, but I can see that the story is nicely finished. There is controversy around All the Crooked Saints as Maggie Stiefvater is a white author writing about Mexican culture. I don't see insensitivity or inaccuracies in the book. I felt that there were differing and dynamic views of the characters. People should read the book before labelling it problematic or giving it a low rating. All the Crooked Saints is a beautiful, whimsical novel that shows the importance of communication, connection, and relationships.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, August 28, 2017

Halloween Arrives Early: Adventures in Hollywood Part 3

The last part of the adventure!

* Vincent Price's star

I passed by Vincent Price's star on the Walk of Fame. It reminded me to watch more of his movies during October because I've only seen a few despite how many he has been in and how influential he was as an actor.

* The Beetle House

The Beetle House is a pop-up bar and restaurant celebrating all things Tim Burton. It's booked up through it's run, but walk-ins are welcome in the bar. We only stayed a few minutes to look at the decor, but it was impressive nonetheless. Lots of well done fanart hung on the walls, which are also for sale. It's definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Halloween Arrives Early: Adventures in Hollywood Part 2

More macabre adventures in Hollywood!

* The Museum of Death

I've been meaning to go to the Museum of Death for a while and it's a bit of a mystery because pictures of the inside are not allowed. Although it's rather small, the building is chock full of so many random things about death. The first room is dedicated to serial killer art and correspondence as well as merchandise such as trading cards and plushies and some of their belongings like Pogo the Clown's shoes. Some pieces are as depraved as you would expect, but John Wayne Gacy's were childlike and bright, mostly of himself as Pogo. A room is dedicated to local murders, such as the Manson murders, the Black Dahlia, the Simpson murders, along with other lesser known ones. The amount is shockingly high. Most entries have crime scene photos, evidence, or other related artifacts, like the swastika quilt made by the Manson family.

Both authentic and replicas of execution devices are displayed, such as Kevorkian's and an electric chair. The electric chair is shown with the unwashed clothing of someone killed in it. (Ew.) The mummified severed head of the Bluebeard of France, Henri Desire Landru, whose crimes echo those of Belle Gunness, rests in a glass case. A macabre replica of the Heaven's Gate Cult suicide is displayed (including artifacts from the event) with the countless newspaper headlines and information around it. A small display case was dedicated to the Jonestown Massacre with pictures and newspapers headlines. Random giant photos of rotting hands and cross-sections of brains are shown with no explanation. A placard would have been nice. There's a small nook dedicated to cannibalism, but it was disappointingly small. A poster of Cannibal the Musical (which had practically none in it) took up most of the space and it was void of recent events.

One room was dedicated to funerary practices of different cultures, embalming and preparation techniques and equipment, a collection of mortuary advertisement fans, advertisements for less conventional choices for the body after death, and death photography of the Victorian era. I found this room particularly fascinating because it's interesting to see how people in different cultures and time treated death. An instructional video on how to embalm a corpse plays in the background. An impressive collection of human and animal skulls are displayed that even include elephant and hippo skulls. A room is dedicated to taxidermy and even includes some pets of famous people like Jayne Mansfield. A small hallway is dedicated to celebrity deaths such as James Dean.

The Museum of Death is a collection of interesting, macabre, and gruesome things. Overall, I enjoyed the experience. A couple of things did bother me. First, much of the hallways and in many of the rooms have graphic crime scene photos from many different eras. I was not expecting so much of it and it's the hardest part of the place to handle. I also feel it's exploiting the victims in the photos. My second problem is the size of the place. Every surface has something on it and all the walls are crowded with pictures, placards, letters, artifacts, etc. It's hard to see everything especially when trying to dodge other patrons. Getting a larger building and spacing things out would help. Third, the smell of some rooms wasn't pleasant, probably due to their macabre origins, and only some of the rooms were air conditioned. If you plan to go, avoid the summer. Even with these issues, the Museum of Death is worth the price of admission if you have a strong constitution.

More to come!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Halloween Arrives Early: Adventures in Hollywood Part 1

I trekked to LA with a friend and experienced some spooky things to jumpstart my Halloween season.

* The It Experience

The It Experience is a free haunt on the corner of Hollywood and Vine to promote the new film. The outside is magnificent as if it was ripped right out of the pages of the novel. I made a reservation when it was a first announced and I'm glad I did since the walk-in line stretched around the building and down the street. It now has expanded hours form 11am to 11pm daily until September 10th.

Anyway, now to the actual experience. Georgie leads groups of 7 (our own Loser's Club) throughout the house, urging us in frightened whispers to stay together and not wander off. Our Georgie really roleplayed well and acted like a scared kid for the duration, which helped the atmosphere. The house is creepy with cobwebs and random, dusty artifacts everywhere. Noises from scares in other rooms can be heard as a small preview of what's to come. Pennywise's voice provides the first jumpscare behind a closed door that made me jump. Maps of Maine and other It easter eggs litter the walls. This haunt does something that most don't: it forces you to stay in the room for longer than the times it takes to walk through it. The first room was the scariest to me. Clown statues stood all over with a small coffin in the middle of the room. An eerie music box tune plays and the door opens (with a jumpscare) but nothing's in it. The clown has been in the room the whole time and he reveals himself after some suspense.

The next room shows a TV show taken over by Pennywise with a wholesome host surrounded by children chanting "kill them all." On the back wall, the projection scene from the trailer is recreated as we see the family pictures of Bill and George until Pennywise is revealed. Going to the next room has flickering lights and disembodied hands grabbing at you through a wall. Unfortunately, the hands looked pretty cheesy and fake, but the thought was cool. The next room has three doors to choose from labeled not scary at all, scary, and very scary with Close to You playing in an eerie music box tune and flashing lights come from behind the doors. The walls are papered with missing children signs. The first has a creepy animatronic clown and the second has a real clown jump out. We are led through the final door into a bathroom with guts in a bathtub and skittering cockroaches. (Presumably) Beverly stands in front of a sink screaming as it spews blood, an exact scene from the book. It ends with It in the sewers in one last jumpscare that's broadcasted a little too early and perhaps a little too clearly lit for an animatronic.

Overall, The It Experience is a good haunt that uses the suspense of being in the rooms for an extended period of time to heighten fear. The Georgie actor I saw was excellent, but I saw some videos of other less impressive ones. I love the music that played throughout and I hope it's from the film's score. Pennywise's voice was everywhere, unifying the maze even though a lot of it was just about fear of clowns. My biggest disappointment was that so many of the scares were completely unrelated to the story of It. Other than that, it's totally worth going to especially as a free event.

More to come!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Mini-Reviews: A Good Idea and A Poison Dark and Drowning

* A Good Idea

Finley moved away from her best friend Betty in a small town in Maine to go to college in Manhattan, but their friendship stayed intact. They called, texted, and visited during the summer to keep ties. Then Betty goes missing, presumed by most to have committed suicide. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admitted to drowning her, but the confession is thrown out as coercion. Finley returns to the sleepy town to figure out what exactly happened to her friend.

A Good Idea addresses a lot of issues with teenage girls, friendships, misogyny, and the privilege of the rich. First, the town dismisses Betty's possible murder because she was promiscuous and exhibited erratic behavior beforehand as if it absolves anyone else of wrongdoing. The general attitude is that she brought it on herself or they just want to forget anything bad happened. Betty is a complex, flawed character who is not always likeable. She is dramatic with a vintage style and a bold aspiring actress. Finley remembers the irksome parts of her in addition to the parts she loved. Finley makes a huge amount of mistakes on the journey to solve her friend's disappearance/probable murder. Rash decisions include setting fires and slashing tires, but it still serves to remind the town that something happened and no one is doing anything about it.

On the opposing side, Calder is the hotheaded son of the mayor who always gets his way. After Betty cheated on him, he made sure she would never act in high school no matter how good she was, cutting off the one thing that made her happy. Despite all of his privilege, he still acted like a victim and had the support of the community, both enraging things. Another creepy guy is Owen, much older than the teens but that doesn't stop him from having sex with them. I don't know if I'm supposed to like him, but he very much needs to leave these kids alone. I prefered Serena, Finley's kind of girlfriend. I also appreciated the portrayal of bisexuality that's rare to see. The writing was serviceable, but I wouldn't read the book again. The revelations lose their edge once you already know what it is.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

* A Poison Dark and Drowning

Although she knows she isn't the chosen one, Henrietta must play the role so that others won't despair and to save her best friend Rook, who would be turned away as his dark powers keep growing. Rhlem starts a campaign of horror and blood with the promise it will stop if Henrietta is turned over to him. Now that the shield is no longer active, the sorcerers are fighting a losing battle to save England and its surrouding countries from the threat of Rhlem and his cadre of giant monster and minions.

I didn't like A Shadow Bright and Burning very much, but I decided to give the sequel a try. I found many of the same problems with it. While the monster are horrific and impressive, the horror is always pulled back to make it more palatable. Some of the other ones are seen in more detail like Nemneris, who makes underwater webs and ensnares ships to eat sailors. Rhlem leaves notes to turn over Henrietta, but it comes off as super cheesy and juvenile. If he can meet people in their dreams, why not do that instead? Much more creepy and effective instead of Wicked Witch of the West-like. In terms of world building, the fae world still seems tacked on and at odds with the rest of the mythology instead of an intrinsic part of the world.

Henrietta and Blackwood are so much worse in this installment. She never listens to anyone and twists everything to get her way. Blackwood is as vindictive, childish, uptight, and misogynistic as ever. I don't even know why he's there to be honest except to annoy everyone. There's not much to root for here except Henrietta's new witch friend Maria who I would have loved to see last book. As interesting as she is, she's relegated to the background and just seems like Merida from Brave. Rook's situation plays out incredibly predictably and I have no sympathy for Henrietta at all.

More is discovered about the origins of the monsters, but it's accompanied by lazy deus ex machina type weapons to fight them. There's a random revelation about Rhlem that made me roll my eyes. It wasn't even unique in any way. I always have hope for this series' potential and it always disappoints me. I most likely won't read the next installment.

My rating: 1.5/5 fishmuffins