Favorite Books and Movies Consumed in 2018

2018 was a great year for me. I read 76 books, watched a ton of movies, and wrote some. I didn’t write as much as I would have liked, but I did have success on the publishing end of things. Locker Arms was released, I signed a contract for a second novel with the same publisher, and I got halfway through that novel. I also did my corrections for Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast, which will be out sometime this year from JournalStone. I’ve also basically left social media, although I still post books and movies as well as publishing updates on there. Life is better without likes, scrolling, and internet politics.
My ten favorite books read in 2018:
• The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. This is a seriously fantastic, timeless novel.
• The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel.
• Final Harvest: An American Tragedy by Andrew H. Malcolm. Damn, this was a SAD book. Severe economic hardship, insanity, and class all collide to make an unforgettable true crime novel.
• Succulent Prey by Wrath James White. Quite possibly the most “extreme” horror novel I’ve read.
• Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Yes, this was my first time reading this ‘un.
• Communion by Whitley Strieber.
• Cherub by David C. Hayes. Another fantastic, extreme-ish horror book.
• Toy Cemetery by William W. Johonstone. The wildest thing I’ve read of his.
• Sweetheart, Sweetheart by Bernard Taylor. This isn’t just a horror classic. It’s a classic-classic. I might be biased sense I love ghost stories, though.
• The Haunting by Ruby Jean Jensen.
A couple of my favorite movies:
• The Autopsy of Jane Doe
• Black Christmas (original)
• Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
• Summer of 84
• Badlands
• Blue Shark Hash
• Endgame (Alex Jones)
• Starry Eyes
• Hereditary
• Jug Face
• Hell Fest
• Uncle John
• Dance of the Dead
• Broken (Dimension Extreme)
I, of course, read and watched more, but the things on here are the ones I felt the most compelled to mention. Let’s hope 2019 brings as many cool things my way…

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Update 12/12/18

Well, this year has been a great one! Closer to the new year, I hope to put together a list of the BEST books and movies I got to, but it won’t be easy. I also plan on linking all the articles I wrote for Silent Motorist Media (those are the reason I’ve not had much new stuff here).

As far as new books go…I’m halfway through a new horror novel, which will come out from Kensington Gore sometime (depends on when I finish it, of course). Also, my novella Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast is still in the editing phase at JournalStone, although it’s in a later phase.

Thank ya all!

September Reviews…October Awaits

October will be here soon, so I’m pretty psyched. I’ve been trying to amp up my reading and watching lately, and have managed to get reviews published by Silent Motorist Media. Also, work on my new novel is going well. It should be done and sent off to the publisher before the year’s end.

Anyway, here are some new book reviews. I’m leaving out six or seven books I’ve read since the last time I reviewed in bulk last month, but this is a pretty good overview:

a

Weird Wild West by Carter Rydyr and Ethan Somerville~~A super-imaginative, action-packed romp through a fantasy/steampunk version of the wild west. 3/5 for me. If you’re looking for pure escapism, you could certainly do a lot worse; this is definitely one of the most imaginative escapist pieces I’ve read. It concerns a zombie gunslinger tracking down the bastard who killed him. Describing the plot is hard, since it’s constantly barreling forward and changing every five seconds…which is both exhausting and exhilarating…but I think that suffices for the first part. As a whole, the characters were fun, but they weren’t easy to empathize with, given the super-fast, action-driven pace and humorous tone. There also wasn’t much in the way of themes or meaning, but, again, this novel was meant for escapism. The whole thing was like a fun, bloody, hilarious cartoon, full of exaggerated western heroes and villains, strange landscapes, and even stranger creatures.

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I Died in a Bed of Roses by Kevin Strange~~3.5/5. Pretty much every bizarro/horror story is likened to a B-movie in book form,  but this one hits the nail on the head. It’s the tale of a horror filmmaker who’s been banished from the horror community because he sent dick pics to an actress. He ends up in the midst of some monsters, including one seductive lady-monster, and splatter-comedy ensues. It’s a fun, short read that addresses some interesting topics that typically aren’t addressed in horror, despite horror arguably being the most exploitative genre. Kevin’s definitely not afraid of being un-PC in his attempts to challenge things he feels needs to be challenged, so this novella comes highly recommended for two types of readers: those wanting funny horror fiction, and/or those wanting lit that goes outside the box to places and themes that are actually different.

aaa

Final Harvest by Andrew Malcom~~3.5/5. This is a fantastic true crime story that was severely depressing, but totally engrossing. I feel like I lived with these people throughout their lives, which, of course, ended in tragedy. It’s about a case that happened in a tiny farming town called Ruthton. Two bankers were lured out to a foreclosed farm by the estranged farmer and his son; both bankers were then shot to death. Every angle of the story is explored. Sad depictions of farm life being eroded by a changing economy meet depictions of possible mental problems, hate, and blood lust. It’s the tale of a tragedy that should never be forgotten. The only real problem I have with this title is that it’s drawn out way too long. It’s a classic case of a book thickened beyond its means so as to sell more copies to people who think bigger books give them more bang for their buck.

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Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix~~3/5. I’ve been an avid reader and collector of mass-market paperbacks from the horror boom since high school. I’ve got well over a hundred titles…possibly a couple hundred (I haven’t counted)…so I can claim that I was on the train before it was cool. However, to those new to stuff from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I recommend going to your local used bookstore and obtaining/reading a ton of old horror paperbacks before reading this. Hendrix does a fine job covering the boom, but his tone is a bit condescending at times; he writes off entire sub-genres that popped up during the boom as jokes. While his humor is warranted in a lot of cases, I believe these books need to be read before written off. I’m in no way saying every novel he makes fun of is a masterpiece, but if you go into this book without having already read widely in the genre, you may get some unfair impressions. That being said…if you’ve already read a lot of this stuff, you’ll find this book to be a treasure trove of information, as well as a collection of great covers. From asides on the people who ran Zebra Books to info on a court hearing that affected the fiction-market irreparably, a lot of new work is brought to the table that is necessary to understanding the clockworks that ran the horror boom. Plus, no matter how many of these books you’ve read, you’re bound to add titles to your TBR list after reading this.

Sadly, I haven’t watched any movies recently that have wowed me recently, save for Slash (2002), which was I reviewed elsewhere.

Thanks for reading, and buy all of the books I just reviewed. They’re all worthy of your hard-earned money.

Yet Another Article Published Elsewhere

Probably seems like I’ve been absent from writing, but I haven’t. My new novel for KGHH Publishing is going along nicely. I also should have a new book out soon from JournalStone…hopefully. Looking like the imprint I signed a contract with is on a hiatus, considering the editor resigned. I def wish him the best, however. He’s a cool dude. Anyway, regarding this blog, I should have some more bulk reviews soon, but in the meantime, here’s a review I did for Silent Motorist Media. I reviewed Slash (2002). It’s a beautiful scarecrow flick.

Films That Fell Through the Cracks: Slash (2002)

August Book and Movie Bulk Review!!!

August is a hot month. Too hot. School will be starting up soon (I’m an accounting student at ETSU). But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading a ton of books and watching a ton of movies and posting about them here.

Below is a collection of some of the stuff I’ve been into.

Movies in Bulk:

  • Demon House: If you’re like me, you’re a nut when it comes to all things paranormal (including ghosts, aliens, conspiracy theories, etc.). Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel…which I always thought to be an odd outlet for this sort of thing…may very well be the most popular, mainstream take on the paranormal world. It’s a reality show centered around hunting ghosts using various scientific apparatuses. Everything from cameras capturing “orbs” to tape-recorders capturing voices is included. I, personally, can attest to the validity of the latter, having captured…and heard with my ears…phantom voices seemingly coming from no person present. When I heard there was going to be a full-length movie about the crew’s most dangerous ghost hunt, which centered around them BUYING the house of a family that had been tormented by demons, I was psyched…too psyched. There was no way the movie could have possibly met my expectations…and it didn’t. I was seriously disappointed with Demon House. It’s pretty sad when any forty-five minute television episode is better than THE movie. I don’t like giving spoilers in these mini-reviews, but I will for this one: as far as I’m concerned (and this can be debated), the whole case of “demon possession” was proven false in the middle of the film when the honesty of the afflicted family was put under a microscope; too many red flags presented themselves, and the Ghost Adventure crew’s leader, Zak Bagans, seemed undersold on the whole thing. However, he had too much invested into the case already. I believe the anti-climactic ending was fabricated to make the whole thing worth it. I mean, he bought a fucking HOUSE for this documentary. Granted he’s rich and the house wasn’t nice…but still. I simply couldn’t buy the shift from “these people were wanting money” to “holy hell I just saw the demon, got possessed, and now my vision is screwed up! Now it’s time to destroy the house and release this documentary to select theaters!”
  • Stepfather series (1-3): The first film in this series is a classic. Everyone knows the basic premise: a family’s new stepfather turns out to be a serial-killing loon who murders all his new families when they don’t live up to his idyllic, all-American expectations. Pretty awesome…until the same thing keeps happening…and happening…and happening. In short, the first movie was awesome. The second movie, which concerns the same psycho-dad who somehow survived getting a butcher knife shoved through his chest, was okay, but mainly because it was directed by Jeff Burr; it was pretty much a repeat, and even ended in a similar fashion: he got stabbed in the chest again! The third movie, however, was plain awful…save for, as one Twitter-peep I follow pointed out, the complete feeling of utter 90s-ishness; in this one, the stepdad survives again, gets plastic surgery, turns into an entirely different actor, and, at the bitter end, gets shoved into a woodchipper. I suppose it’s harder to miraculously survive something like that!
  • Prom Night series (1,2, and 4; 3 wasn’t on Prime, and I’m not about to pay that much for a DVD): Another classic series. The first one is, seriously, one of my favorite slashers. How can you not love a movie about a skinny Collector-looking dude killing a bunch of high school kids? The second one was also awesome, however it went in a COMPLETLEY different direction and featured, refreshingly, a female horror villain who wasn’t: a). a nun, b). a possessed doll in a frilly dress (which would technically be genderless, but still), c). a grieving widow who wears all black all the time, or d). Chucky’s wife. That simple fact didn’t make this film perfect, but I can honestly say I enjoyed this one more than the first movie…which places me in the minority, to say the least. It was a goofy ghost-story set in a high school. Seriously: what else could you want? It could have been gorier, yes. It also could have connected to the first one in more ways than sharing the same setting. I really just look at this one as its own original flick, though, considering it has its own connecting sequel. So, don’t view this as Prom Night 2: just call it Mary Lou…the same thing goes for Prom Night 4, but call it Prom Night: Bore!
  • Shark Attack series (1-3): These films stand out in the shark-movie subgenre. I remember the second and third ones well from my video-store days. The first one, shamefully, not at all, but it’s the best. It’s honestly hard to review them, because there’s not much to say. They’re very fun; they’re well-made; the special-effects are bad, but they work. Basically, these movies are holy grails from the early 2000s. They just have that look about them. A big plus for this franchise is that, although these are unapologetic b-movies full of melodrama, their stories actually have MOVEMENT, unlike a ton of shark movies that all seem to take place in one small area and just concern people trying not to get eaten by sharks. Most shark movies are simply man-surviving-nature stories, whereas the Shark Attack films have more going on. Sadly, this results in less shark-attack deaths…especially for the first one…but it makes for more engrossing films. In short, these films are light on gore, heavy on sharks, and rich in entertainment value. Also, if you don’t feel like watching all three of them, at least give the third one a chance. It’s a standalone megalodon film that was actually pretty heavily “memed” because of its outlandishness and an…interesting pick-up line that was originally sort of a blooper/joke, but was kept in the final cut.
  • Blue Shark Hash: This was a pleasant surprise. Basically, it’s a completely forgotten rom-com from the early 2000s that concerns a couple getting trapped in a time-warp in the Bermuda Triangle. The majority of the film takes place at an old resort, and it’s more like a funny Twilight Zone episode than anything, but it’s an entertaining-enough love story, and it has that blue-tinted, early-2000s look ALL OVER IT. In fact, this is the most early-2000s-ish movie I’ve ever seen. Now, you may be wondering why I watched this…I tell ya: it was included in the shark-movie category on Amazon Prime! Seriously: it was right there with the Shark Attack movies, Sharks in Venice, Two-Headed Shark Attack, etc…and there wasn’t a single live shark in this film! Nevertheless, I highly recommend it.
  • Back to School: A stupid…but admittedly funny…comedy about a middle-aged millionaire enrolling in college with his son. The millionaire in question is definitely an anti-elitist who scoffs at class; he worked hard for what he got, and thus retains an air…a very forceful air, at that…of individuality. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the movie was making fun of that type of attitude. I mean, smug, groupthink-poisoned, uniformly super-liberal elitists annoy me, too, but this brand of anti-elitism felt forced and kind of self-aware. That being said: this 80s comedy is allegorical for our times. From a stereotypical “Chad” (look it up) character being named Chas, to a modern-day “woke” SJW character played by fucking Robert Downey Jr., to a rich person who’s anti-establishment, but keeps winning (like Trump)…it’s all there.
  • Shaper of Water: There’s no need to summarize this film. Everyone knows the premise. As for my thoughts…I was cold after this movie. It did nothing for me. It shoves the typical politics down your throat while taking itself way too seriously. The visual beauty of this film was a problem, because it was in direct contrast with the unconvincing…and super-simple, anti-profound…story. I’m not saying dumb movies can’t be shot well, but this movie was presented as a high-brow artsy movie when it simply wasn’t.
  • What we Do in the Shadows: This movie is hilarious. It’s a fake documentary about a group of vampires living in a flat together. The comedy never lets up, but, overall, the movie is pretty shallow. It’s okay for a few laughs, but not much else.

Books in Bulk:

  • The Fast Red Road by Stephen Graham Jones: SGJ is certainly a cool fella, and he gives awesome interviews. He’s also amazingly prolific. Oh yeah: he’s also a super-giant, outspoken fan of all things genre (particularly spooky stuff). He’s known in modern-day horror circles for his inventive stories that don’t play it safe. They make you think, blend elements, and display a unique voice. I can attest to this: I’ve read several works by him. However, this…his first published novel…left me worse than cold, like Shape of Water: it left me annoyed. I’ve only read a handful of books I consider to be genuine wastes of time, and this is one of them. The story concerns a Native American man named Pidgin who’s returning to his hometown in New Mexico to bury his father…sort of. His father happened to be part of a tribe of Indian outlaws who meddled in information-hording and something to do with government conspiracies and Philadelphia-project stuff and coyotes…sort of. Also, nearly each member of this clan had super-powers and was very wise…sort of. The fact of the matter is, the writing style was so cryptic, and the plot was SO liquid, that not much sense could be made of anything. I gather this was probably the point…and I respect that (sort of)…but it made for a very boring, tedious reading experience that simply didn’t pay off. Now, I’m no stranger to reading “hard” novels. I’ve read everything from Faulkner and Melville to some surrealist stuff. Usually, hard-to-read stuff gets into your head, makes you think, and forces you to immerse yourself in the text. Sadly, this one failed to have that effect on me. It came off as pretentious. It tried too hard not to make sense. I fought my urge to give up when I had thirty pages left. Maybe I should’ve given in? Perhaps other readers may find pleasure in this. Admittedly, it was cool at times, but the annoying, impossible-to-follow times made up the majority. I’m not knocking on SGJ, however: I like his later stuff. Maybe the problems I found with this book only exist in his earlier writings?
  • Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne: This author is also no stranger to the modern genre scene. He’s both a crime/bizarro writer and the founder of a popular press (which actually published SGJ). I LOVED this book. Even now, I still find myself thinking about the down-on-their-luck, small-town fuck-ups that populate the story’s landscape. I don’t want to say more about the plot, aside from that it felt like both a working-class crime novel and a slacker-comedy at times, despite being tremendously dark overall. Another thing to add: this is the only example of a book written in a minimalistic style that seriously won me over, both writing-wise and story-wise.
  • Weekly Furapy by Cathy Colborn: I can’t recommend this book enough. Colborn is probably well on her way to being an indie book star. This novella is strange, funny, touching, and well-written. Best way to describe it: bastard lovechild of a YA literary book and a weirder-than-usual romantic comedy that focuses more on the comedy, less on the romance. Now, on the YA part: neither of the main characters are in the YA age group, but they’re so bad at life…and so insecure…they may as well be teenagers! This dynamic makes for a humorous novella that’s all about coming to terms with your flaws, embracing Bigfoot costumes (motherfucker is real, I tell ya), and getting brutal revenge. Again, I don’t want to give you a set premise: go into this book without reading the back cover. It’s so short, you can probably read it in one sitting.
  • The Gringo by Lee Floren: the second novel in a two-book edition of westerns by one of the pulp Western era’s most published authors. This one wasn’t as good as North to Powder River, which was essentially a slacker-comedy western…and if that doesn’t sound awesome to you, you’re weird…but it was entertaining nonetheless. It concerns a man who bought land out west, moved there from the east, and found that people were already using his land. Said man is, like 99% of western heroes, a total testosterone-head badass, so he decides to wage war with the people on his property. Like I said: it was fun and entertaining, but it was VERY generic, whereas the other book in the collection was, in my opinion, a forgotten western classic. As Les Claypool from Primus would say: “They Can’t All be Zingers!” (that’s actually an album title).

Review of my book

The first YouTube review of Locker Arms came in today! Thought I’d share it here real quick before I upload my next…and probably biggest…round of movie and book reviews. Some things I’ll be touching on: the Shark Attack franchise, Shape of Water (insert frown face), and some awesome…and not so awesome…books by some of the indie world’s most beloved authors.