Sunday, 29 November 2020

Tiffany D Jackson's 'Monday's Not Coming' | Audiobook Review ★★★☆☆

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson | Audiobook Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

My first thought on finishing Tiffany D Jackson's Monday's Not Coming was joy, "so glad it's over" to be precise. There are four primary reasons for this, three of which drive my three-star review.

Monday's Not Coming is about two best friends Claudia and Monday, how Monday comes from a severely abusive home and how Claudia is seemingly the only person who cares when Monday doesn't return to school after the summer holidays.

It is one of the most ugly, devastating stories I've read, similar in theme and tone to Courtney Summers's Sadie, which I voted as my favourite book of 2019. The storytelling was also slightly similar but whereas Sadie utilised two timelines, Monday's Not Coming uses a very messy and convoluted four storylines. This shouldn't have been a problem but I listened to the novel on audiobook and have to admit that it would have been far better to read in written form to try anchor the various timelines.

I'm a great fan of audiobooks and Imani Parks did an exceptional job of bringing Claudia's voice to life but ultimately ten hours of audio was too long for this novel and I committed the cardinal audiobook-lover's sin of listening to the book at 1.25x speed. I just wanted it to be over.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson | Audiobook Cover | Superior Young Adult FictionA lengthy audio narration and dark themes wouldn't have impacted my rating but the confusing timelines certainly did. What ultimately moved my rating from four to three stars was a very clumsy PTSD and amnesia twist. It was a twist-too-far to an already complicated story, a twist I felt was unnecessary to the outcome of the novel or the core themes of the novel itself.

I also didn't feel that it was particularly authentic; this is strictly my own experience but I actually did experience partial-amnesia following a bank robbery (20 years ago) and every part of my mind was screaming "it doesn't work like that" as I read this book. What Jackson is describing is a rare fugue state that would likely have required hospitalisation or at the least permanent adult supervision.

Ultimately, I give Monday's Not Coming an okay three out of five stars. What saved this from being a two-star review was Monday's story. Like Sadie, this is a story that will haunt me for some time after I've finished it.

★★★☆☆

Support local bookshops and buy Monday's Not Coming at Bookshop.org. You can also visit the Addicted to Media YA Fiction Bookshop to see my recommendations (note: both these links are affiliate links; I will receive a small commission if you purchase using these links at no extra cost to you).

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Friday, 27 November 2020

New Music Friday: Royal Blood - "Trouble's Coming" (Purple Disco Machine Remix)

Royal Blood | Trouble's Coming | Single Review

I don't discover new music anymore. In Before World, I went to festivals, diligently researching all the new (to me) artists before the day. Concerts were great opportunities too, with support bands or at least some killer tunes from the DJ beforehand. It was even better when I worked in London. Billboards, posters, CDs in-store, my weekly album-a-day playlists to decide what made it to my permanent collection; the sources of new music were endless and I could have easily written annual top-ten album lists if I wasn't perpetually lazy.

Life is different now in every way. I've gone from 90 minute commutes (each way) five years ago to half an hour of total commuting to rolling out of bed and sitting at my desk within ten minutes now. Which means that with the exception of prog-house albums for running to, I've discovered exactly one new (to me) artist in 2020.

It's as dire as it sounds.

That doesn't mean I haven't listened to any alternative or indie music this year, I've just relied on tired old playlists of my favourite tracks when I'm actually a full-album listener at heart. I'm also a big resolution-setter and I usually start resolutions in autumn, not January, so my new resolution is to discover as many new artists as possible, preferably one a week but I'll allow for the occasional love affairs where I play an album on repeat for six weeks.

Royal Blood

My first discovery is Royal Blood who've been around since 2011. I discovered them a couple of weeks ago when they released the Purple Disco Machine Remix of "Trouble's Coming". I immediately liked what I was hearing, it reminded me of the remixes Klaxons used to release and that is a good thing. Klaxons was my favourite band for years and I've never been reminded of them before.

I took a listen to How Did We Get So Dark? (2017). The album gave me a Muse and Kings of Leon vibe. I'm not the biggest Kings of Leon fan strangely enough, strictly hits only, but I knew straight away that this album is a keeper. My favourite tracks are "Lights Out" and "Hook, Line & Sinker" which were released as singles but honestly, this is an album I can listen to whole and I was always a little disappointed when it ended.

Which lead me neatly to their self-titled debut album Royal Blood (2014). This album is brilliant throughout, especially the first three tracks from the explosive opening track "Out of the Black" through "Come on Over" to "Figure It Out".

The best thing is that both albums are short at around 30 minutes, so I've just been listening to both of them over and over.

I'm was hoping that "Trouble's Coming" meant that a new album was on the way and Loudwire confirmed it'll land in Spring 2021. Fabulous news indeed.

I'm very happy with my first discovery. Onwards and upwards to the next one!

"Trouble's Coming Official Video

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Monday, 23 November 2020

Darren Shan's 'Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan' ★★★★★

Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan | Book Review | Superior YA Fiction

Archibald Lox should have returned home to his foster parents after his adventures in the Merge in Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds. When we meet him again in Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan, he escapes those pursuing him in New York, steps onto a vine and is suddenly in the bell tower of Big Ben. There he meets another locksmith like himself, skilled in the art of opening impossible locks, and his adventure should have ended there.

Unfortunately, Winston-the-locksmith confesses to Archie that he is too old and weary to assist Inez on her quest and that the entire realm might fail as a result. Archie knows that he has no choice but to join Inez on the Pineapple Island and intriguingly, Winston believes Archie might just have the skills to unlock the most difficult lock of all.

That is why Archie and Inez find themselves in the realm of Suanpan, an impossibly massive world of domes and gamblers where the friends must risk everything in order to succeed in a game of wits and chance against the empress.

Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan | Book Cover | Superior YA FictionArchibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan is non-stop adventure from the very first page and once again transports readers to magical realms beyond their wildest imaginations. The world of Suanpan is wickedly Kafkaesque and the maniacal empress makes for a very dastardly foe as Archie and his friends come to terms with how real and dangerous their predicament is.

The second book of Volume One of Darren Shan's Archibald Lox series, Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan is another short yet incredibly readable book which will appeal to even the most reluctant young readers.

I give Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan a superb five out of five stars and am so pleased I've finally written this review so that I can start reading Archibald Lox and the Vote of Alignment, the final book in Volume One. If you're looking for a slightly longer read, all three books in Volume One are now available in one book, Archibald Lox Volume 1: The Missing Princess (affiliate link, if you buy using this link, I'll get a small commission).

★★★★★

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Sunday, 8 November 2020

Horror Film Review: Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula ★★★★★

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula | Horror Film Review

There's a little sliver of doubt that takes root when, on finishing a film you absolutely adored, you go online to see what other people thought and realise you're utterly alone. I'm really surprised by the hatred towards Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula because, with the exception of one scene that I found a bit too melodramatic, I loved every minute of it.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula takes place four years after the zombie virus that decimated South Korea. A guilt-ridden former marine captain Jung-seok (Dong-Won Gang) escaped the horrors on one of the last boats out of South Korea and now lives in Hong Kong where he tries his best to avoid his dead sister's husband Chul-min (Do-Yoon Kim). Avoidance becomes impossible when Jung-seok and Chul-min are recruited to sail back through the blockade to Incheon to retrieve a truck containing $20 million. Accompanied by two other Koreans, the team enters Incheon on a mission that seems far too easy to be true and of course it is.

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula | Horror Film Review

It was at about this point that the magic starts.

Suddenly alone and believing he's the sole survivor of the team, Jung-seok is surrounded by zombies and very evil men. He is rescued by teenage lady-driver Jooni (Re Lee) and launched into the devastated, post-apocalyptic urban wasteland that Incheon has become. The scene where Jooni tears through the streets is some of the best driving I've seen in years, second only to her baby-driver sister Yu-Jin (Ye-Won Lee) who has to take over when Jooni gets them trapped.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing across town in an urban warlord's kingdom, conveniently located in an old shopping centre complete with escalators, a natural gladiator's arena and throne room in an old travel shop. While the warlord Captain Seo (Gyo-hwan Koo) plots his glory and his minions place their bets, his own Sergeant Hwang (Min-Jae Kim) is plotting to steal it all out from underneath him.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is an exhilarating ride with non-stop action set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with teenage heroes and shockingly believable villains. It reminded me a lot of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, my favourite film of all time and it's no surprise that I liked it so much. I get why people are disappointed, it's a very different film to Train to Busan with a definite blockbuster feel to it but it ticked so many boxes for me.

As a fan of all things derelict and abandoned, I appreciated the visualisation of devastated Incheon, a city where it's only safe to come out after dark. The zombies themselves are impressive, from the first twitches and signs of fever, followed by the turning and rigour-lead animation. And they are fast too. The Walking Dead is my favourite show but the dead are shamefully slow; I much prefer speedy zombies in this franchise and shows like Black Summer.

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula | Horror Film Review

Relationships and loyalty are key in Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, as is the notion of the crippling effects of fear and trauma, leading inevitably to death or redemption. I had no idea what to expect as that boat departed Hong Kong for the blockade but was thrilled by a full house of cinematic enjoyment - fear and exhilaration, story and emotions, heaps of gore and a killer set, a lot of humour and tons of tears, and some very interesting moral choices. Yes, there was one scene right at the end which made me roll my eyes at the sappiness of it all, but overall it was brilliant.

I suspect it's going to be the Marmite of the Busan franchise but I give Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula a superb five out of five stars and recommend to all fans of the zombie apocalypse.

★★★★★

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula will be available on digital from 23 November and DVD and Blu-Ray from 30 November, for which pre-orders are now live here (affiliate link) and will also include the limited edition HMV Exclusive First Edition and Train to Busan Trilogy Blu-ray Boxset. All formats will come with the Peninsula: Making Of featurettes – The Action; The Characters; The Director; and The Sequel.

A limited edition Peninsula Blu-ray SteelBook will also be released alongside a brand new Zavvi exclusive double Blu-ray SteelBook for Train to Busan & Seoul Station. Both feature original exclusive artwork by Sam Gilbey.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Trailer

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Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Horror Film Review: The Unfamiliar (2020) ★★★☆☆

Jemima West is Izzy Cormack | The Unfamiliar (2020) | Horror Film Review

British Army doctor Izzy Cormack (Jemima West) returns home from a particularly brutal war to find that nothing makes sense anymore at home. She begins to suspect she has PTSD following a series of increasingly disturbing events but a charlatan manages to convince her that something supernatural is afoot.

Realising that his wife is slowly unravelling, Ethan Cormack (Christopher Dane) convinces Izzy that they should take a much-needed break in Hawaii. Unfortunately, events take a darker turn there as Izzy's disturbing visions continue and Ethan's history as an anthropologist catches up with the Cormack family.

The Unfamiliar is written and directed by Henk Pretorius, whose work I first encountered on Fanie Fourie's Lobola, a quirky South African romantic comedy.

The Unfamiliar is a very different film with tons of jump scares, very dark imagery and an exploration of Hawaiian mythology. The imagery, use of colour, props and scenery are all excellent and there are loads of scream-out-loud moments.

Jemima West is Izzy Cormack and Harry McMillan-Hunt is Tommy Cormack | The Unfamiliar (2020) | Horror Film Review

My only complaint is that The Unfamiliar tried to do too much. There is a lot crammed into this 89 minute film, so much so that it could easily be split into three films (for each of the three acts), each with its own unique plot. Charlatans, body snatchers, voodoo, revenge against anthropological raiders and possession, The Unfamiliar has got it all and its a pity because I think it could have been quite compelling with a little more focus.

Despite that small complaint, I give The Unfamiliar an okay three out of five stars.

★★★☆☆

The Unfamiliar Trailer

The Unfamiliar is available on digital and VOD and is released through Vertical Entertainment in North America and Lionsgate UK in the United Kingdom.

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Monday, 26 October 2020

Horror Film Review: Every Time I Die (2019) ★★★★★

Every Time I Die (2019) | Poster | Horror Film Review

Something's not right with Sam (Drew Fonteiro) and it's been that way for a long time. He suffers from blackouts that range from embarrassing to downright terrifying and he can't seem to shake a constant feeling of otherness. There are a million reasons not to go when his best friend Jay (Marc Menchaca) invites him to a weekend at the lake house but he goes anyway. As Sam's grip on reality loosens, he begins to question who he is and that is just the beginning of his problems for someone will die at the lake house and they will do what they can to warn the others.

Directed by Robi Michael, Every Time I Die features near-death experiences, out of body consciousness and an uneasy examination of the power of suggestion versus the paranormal.

I'm surprised that Every Time I Die isn't officially billed as a horror (it's billed instead as a sci-fi thriller). There were several seriously scary and chilling moments in the film, especially from the killer's point of view as it dawns on him what is actually going on. The backstory and final reveal were also full of fear, tragedy and trauma, making this entire film an effective metaphor for severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Set to Ran Bagno's evocative score, Sam's story and the gradual unravelling of his identity is told through a series of haunting flashbacks, piecing together the true nature of his trauma throughout the film.

Every Time I Die is a film that demands your full attention. It's confusing and subtle in the beginning, featuring identical sisters Poppy and Mia (twins Michelle and Melissa Macedo) to add a level of complexity to an already labyrinthine plot. 'Blink and you'll miss it' is the feeling of this film and not a single word or scene is wasted or spared of meaning or intention.

Every Time I Die |Horror Film Review

The performances in Every Time I Die are superb but special mention must go to Drew Fonteiro. It's rare that a performance gets under your skin but Sam's pain emanated viscerally from the screen, such that I found myself thinking about him for hours afterward.

I give Every Time I Die a superb five out of five stars. I definitely call this one as a horror; it reminds me of the dread that Flatliners (1990) evoked, of that dull, terrifying fear of the other side. Definitely recommend this one.

★★★★★

Every Time I Die Trailer

Every Time I Die is available on Sky Store, AppleTv, Google Play, Rakuten and Amazon now.

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Saturday, 17 October 2020

Horror Film Review: Revenge Ride (2020) ★★★★★ (Grimmfest Festival 2020)

I like Pollyanna McIntosh. There's no specific basis for this, except for Pollyanna's all-round awesomeness and her criminally short stint as Jadis in The Walking Dead but I like her a lot. I quite like Serinda Swan too and that was enough to make me want to catch Revenge Ride at Grimmfest 2020 - Online Edition.

CW: sexual assault

Pollyanna McIntosh is Trigga and Serinda Swan is Maggie | Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film Review

It's a tale as old as time, a naive woman goes on a date with a man she barely knows and it all goes wrong for her. Revenge Ride opens with Maggie (Serinda Swan) falling victim to a vicious sexual assault, which leads her to join Trigga's all-female Dark Moon biker gang.

Pollyanna McIntosh plays Trigga and I'm pleased to say that she has infinitely more and better dialogue than Jadis in The Walking Dead.

When Maggie's cousin Mary (Vanessa Dubasso) is drugged and assaulted at a frat party, Maggie tells the Dark Moons and they swear bloody vengeance. The only problem is that their marks will not be easily defeated.

Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film ReviewDirected by Melanie Aitkenhead (Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?) and based on her 2017 short Blood Ride, Revenge Ride is a deeply satisfying revenge film. It's showing at Grimmfest but I wouldn't say it's scary, more thrilling and a damning indictment of how little we often have in common with the social circles we fall in to through mutual victimhood.

I genuinely cannot understand why the film is fairing so badly on IMDb. The performances are good all round and each character's motivation is explored as well as the perpetrators' privilege and sense of entitlement. It's also got a killer soundtrack, which always pleases me, and fantastic lesbian representation.

I give Revenge Ride a superb five out of five stars; great plot and performances always please me in the horror genre, plus it was a lot of fun. If life has you feeling a little powerless at the moment, I highly recommend this thoroughly gratifying little revenge flick.

★★★★★

Serinda Swan is Maggie | Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film Review

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