Posts Tagged ‘review’

Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.

Earlier today, someone in a movie-themed Facebook group I belong to asked when the last time other members were carded before going to see an R-rated movie (if you don’t know, in the US anyone under 17 can’t see an R-rated movie without an accompanying adult). I laughed and commented that I didn’t start seeing R-rated films in theaters until I was in college, and my student ID came with the assumption that I was already over 17. So unless you count my Student ID as being carded, I never got carded at a theater.

This made me realize something: when I told people offline about my history with going to the movies, they always react with amazement. Sometimes, given how many people still turned out to see movies in the theaters before the pandemic, it amazes me, such as the carded story. And then I realized I never told that story to my blogging audience, who would probably appreciate it the most.

So since this weekend is upon us, let me tell you about my odd history of going to the movies, and why I will likely start going again once it’s safer to do so.

First thing you should know is, until I was off at college, the most I got to go to the movies was a few times a year. It was a treat for me. There are probably several reasons for this. My parents were raising four kids and holding down full-time jobs that didn’t always hold to the normal nine-to-five. We had plenty of free movies from the libraries we patronized, as well as from video stores when those were popular and later streaming services like Netflix. Any theater I would want to go to would require a ride, which wasn’t always on hand). And perhaps I just didn’t beg enough to go see movies I was interested in, though I’m not sure how effective asking repeatedly would’ve been.

Still, we did go to see every Harry Potter movie in theaters when they came out. I did on occasion get to see the new superhero film or book adaptation or whatever when I wanted, especially for birthday parties or if I was invited out by friends, or once or twice my folks had something to do nearby and knew I would be bored senseless if I was dragged along (one time I was even dropped off to watch an action film while my sisters went to see something that was more their speed. I was really happy about that arrangement). And of course, having two sisters who were five and seven years younger than me, I got to see a lot more kids films than I care to admit.

That being said, I did miss out on seeing a lot of films I really wanted to see in theaters. And occasionally, I did feel like I was missing out. When Paranormal Activity came out, and everyone was raving about it, how it was a revolution in horror movies (and for a while, it was), I was sad because I knew I wouldn’t see it in theaters. There was no way in hell I could get my folks to agree to take me to see it, and I would need them. After all, I was only sixteen at the time.

Then college came around, and the nearest theater was only a twenty minute walk from the dorms and later the apartment where I lived. I started going regularly, paying attention to releases. And at some point, I realized that not only was going opening weekend a rush, but it was something I’d been waiting to do my whole life. I was addicted.

Wish I could hop on the TARDIS right now. Then I could see all the movies on opening weekend I want to. Even the ones that have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Even after I moved away from campus, I would go out of my way to see new movies. And then when I moved into my current apartment and learned there was another theater even closer than the ones I went to previously, I went there, taking two buses and nearly two hours to get one way and the other, no matter the weather. And when I got my car? Hoo-boy, did life get good! Now, every movie was only a twenty-minute drive away, no matter the theater I had to go to. It was a blast.

It’s been four months since I’ve been able to sit in a theater, when I saw The Invisible Man (and found it to be average). I miss it. Yeah, occasionally you have to deal with high ticket and food prices, other patrons checking their phones or bringing their babies or otherwise being noisy. And occasionally, when you ask those people to not be so distracting, they threaten you with violence (happened to me once, I did not appreciate it).

But I also enjoy sitting with like-minded viewers right before a big horror or superhero film, that rush of emotions when something amazing or terrifying or heartwarming happens, and the thoughts going through my head as I write my review in my head. I miss the experience that goes with seeing a film opening weekend.

So when it’s safe to do so, I hope to go again, and experience all that again. In fact, I probably will. It’s hard to keep me from a good horror film or superhero film anyway (and I have the eyewitness accounts and court trials to prove it).

Do you miss going to the movies, Followers of Fear? Will you go when the theaters reopen again? 

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than a few times that I make sure to write down my ideas on Word documents. This way I don’t forget them. I have a few separate lists to store these ideas, depending on the kind of idea it is. One list is just for ideas that will likely be short stories or novelettes (assuming they don’t end up evolving into something longer). And today, I had three new ideas for stories, which I made sure to put on that list. This brings that list up to a thousand ideas.

You read that right. A thousand ideas. Some good, some bad. Some are very short, and others will end up longer than most novelettes. Some are horror or dark fantasy, others are science fiction or regular fantasy, or some other form of speculative fiction. A few are erotica, because as I said in that video yesterday, I think there’s an art to writing a story where the story is told through sex. It’s something I might want to try someday.

I’m not stating this to brag. I’m just stating a fact. And you know what? I’ll never write most of them. There’s just never enough time.

It’s the sad truth of writing. We creatives have many ideas over the course of our lives. But rarely, especially in the world of writing fiction, do we get to tell all of them. Hell, I doubt even big names authors like King get to work on all the ideas he has. But it’s especially hard for those of us smaller names. We work day jobs, pay bills, run errands, eat, socialize, try to stay healthy, and try to sleep enough to function the next day. And in-between all that, we carve out time to write.

I said a lot of this when I had my five-hundredth idea, almost exactly five years ago today (what a coincidence). In fact, I’ll say again what I said in that post (which you can click here to read): Time’s a quick bastard. And it’s all we can do to keep it with us so we can get the best of your work down on paper. And maybe then edited and perhaps even published.

There’s enough time in the day for this.

And how can you tell from the trove of your ideas which ones are worth spending time on? Hard to say. Usually I can tell from the idea phase, but occasionally I write a first draft and I realize this story is crap, why did I ever try to write it? I guess the best thing to do is just to go with your gut. If you’re really passionate about a story, it’ll show in the writing and in the story, and you’ll be able to work on it over and over again, until you’re able to share it with others (hopefully, anyway).

Well, I’m going to get back to an idea I think might be worth working on. I just wanted to talk about some of the things that went through my mind as I started nearing a thousand ideas. And I wanted to talk about something other than Rose for once.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is the last day to buy the ebook version of Rose at a discount price (I couldn’t help myself). So if you want to check out the Kafkaesque fantasy-horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), now’s a good time to do so. I’ll include the links below, including for the paperback and audio book. And if you end up checking out the book, leave a review and let me know what you thought of it. Helps me out in the long run, and it’s nice to hear what you think.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Today is a very special occasion. Yes, it’s Father’s Day, and I’ve already put something out on Facebook about that. But on a personal level, it’s important to me because one year ago today, on June 21st, 2019, my novel Rose was released. It was my first novel with a publisher, and a story I spent more time on than I had any other story, so it was a huge deal seeing it come out.

And since then, quite a lot has happened. Reviews, the audio version, readings and book events, COVID-19, and so much more. And today, June 21st, 2020, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of the book.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose follows Rose Taggert, a young woman who undergoes a stunning transformation into a human/plant hybrid. As those around her react to her transformation, some aren’t all they seem to be, leading to a desperate fight for survival. It’s a dark, Kafkaesque fantasy-horror story, and it’s been well-received by readers, averaging a 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon (and that’s just the US site).

Obviously, I’m doing quite a bit to celebrate the one-year anniversary (besides breaking out the beer, I mean). First off, there’s a sale for Rose going on right now, and I’ll get into that more in a bit. But also, as many of you know, I invited readers to submit questions for a Q&A I would be filming and posting to YouTube. I filmed that video a few days ago, and it premiered this morning (which I slept through despite my best efforts. God, I was tired). If you would like to check out the video, I’ve embedded it down below.

 

What did you think? I did a few new things with this video, including adding background music at certain parts and filming the video in small sections so as to make filming and editing a bit easier.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose. As I said, and as this nifty little banner from Castrum Press, Rose‘s publisher, makes clear, the book is on sale. Specifically, the e-book is on sale through Tuesday. So if you would like to download the e-book, now’s a really good time to do it. Of course you can always check out the paperback and audio formats, those are still available as well.

And if you do end up reading Rose, please leave a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run by encouraging new readers to maybe check out the book.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll leave links down below for those who want to check out Rose. In the meantime, I’ll hopefully have a few posts out later this week not related to Rose but still just as interesting. Until then, happy reading, stay safe, and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Yes, it’s another Rose post. And guess what? You haven’t seen the last one of these this month!

Anyway, as you can tell by the lovely banner up above that Castrum Press has provided, the ebook version of Rose is on sale right now. Specifically, it’s on sale between today, June 19th, and Tuesday, June 23rd. Only 99 cents here in the US, and 99 pence over in the United Kingdom. And yes, this is in honor of Rose‘s one-year publishing anniversary on Sunday. How did you guess?

Anyway, this is a great opportunity to check out Rose if you haven’t already, and you enjoy reading ebooks. And even if you don’t, I’ll include links below so you can check out other formats and maybe read some reviews. And if you do end up reading Rose, please leave a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. Not to mention, your reviews tell other people whether or not they should read the book. Now that’s power!

As for the YouTube Q&A, that’s all set to go this Sunday morning at 11 AM Eastern Standard Time (unless I screwed up setting the premiere time, which is always a possibility). I’ll be sure to post it here so you all can see it when it comes out. In the meantime though, there’s a good chance of a blog post between now and then from me, so keep an eye out for it.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hope you enjoy reading Rose. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

I promise, this is the last reminder post. Please get your finger away from the unsubscribe button and tell your partners to please put away the torches and pitchforks. It’ll take a lot more than that to get rid of me, anyway.

As I’ve been telling people for about a month now, the one-year publishing anniversary of my novel Rose is only five days away, on June 21st. The novel, for those of you who haven’t read it, is a Kafkaesque fantasy-horror about a young woman who finds herself transformed into a plant/human hybrid. As people in her life react to the changes, she finds out one or two of them aren’t who they seem to be, leading to a desperate fight for survival.

And you thought your life was tough!

Anyway, since the anniversary is just a few days away, I thought it would be fun to do a Q&A on my YouTube channel. And guess what? You, the Followers of Fear, get to submit the questions!

Just send an email to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions, and your questions may end up in the video. HOWEVER, you have to send them in by noon tomorrow, June 17th. Otherwise, your questions won’t make it into the video. Sorry, just the way it is.

But guess what else? If you submit questions and you’re from the US or UK, you may be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book! I’d submit just for that, if I wasn’t running the damn thing.

I look forward to receiving those emails. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say when the actual video comes out. Look forward to it!

And in the meantime, if you haven’t read Rose yet and that summary and cover up above got you interested, I’ll include links down below. Or you can buy a signed copy from me by sending me an email. And if you do read the book, leave me a review and let me know. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time (whenever that is), pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Don’t worry, this is only the second-to-last post to remind you this is on the way. I promise.

Many of you already know this, but the one year anniversary of my fantasy-horror novel Rose being published is on June 21st. If you’re unfamiliar with Rose, it’s the terrifying, Kafkaesque horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). And with the one year anniversary just around the corner, I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. That’s why I’m hosting a Q&A on my YouTube channel. And guess what? You, the Followers of Fear, get to submit the questions! That’s right, you!

All you have to do is send an email to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions. Send it in before noon on Wednesday, June 17th, and your questions will end up in the video.

Not only that, but if you’re from the US or the UK, you may be eligible to win a download code for the Rose audio book! Doesn’t that sound like reason enough to enter?

Anyway, you guys have a week, so better start thinking about what you want to ask. I have a busy day ahead of me, so I’ll check in with you all later.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t read Rose yet but the above description and that beautiful cover makes you want to, I’ll post the links below. Or you can buy a signed copy from yours truly by sending me an email. And if you do read the book, please let me know what you think in a review. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

I normally don’t review non-horror media on this blog. I stopped doing that at some point in college, when I decided to focus more to better appeal to my audience (I’ll do an anime recommendation post every now and then, but only because that stuff helps my craft). That being said, I feel compelled to review this film for a number of reasons:

One, this is an anime movie about Anne Frank. Yeah, you read that right, an anime movie about Anne Frank. Second, it was released free of charge to watch on YouTube last month, and so far as I can tell, this was done legally by its American distributor, not by a random person hoping to make a quick buck off ad revenue or who feels media should be free on an accessible platform. And three, even my parents, neither of whom are anime fans, are curious about this film! Given all that, I decided to watch it and see if it’s any good. And given what I saw, I felt a review on the blog was necessary.

Anne no Nikki, or Anne Frank’s Diary, follows the life of Anne Frank as she, her family, and four others go into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland in a tiny apartment above her father’s former workplace. Based on the diary she kept during the war (something people who complain that the lockdown and social distancing restrictions are too onerous need to reread), the film starts right before her family goes into hiding, and ends right as they are discovered and sent off to the camps.

This film…is a bit of a hot mess.

For starters, let’s talk about the animation. While the backgrounds are lovely enough to make me nostalgic enough for the short period of time I lived in Europe, the characters look flat, grey and unrealized. I think the animators were going for realism rather than stereotypical anime style character designs. However, when you compare it to the characters of Perfect Blue two years after this was released, or films like My Neighbor Totoro or Grave of the Fireflies, both released in 1988, and all three aiming for realism in the character design, it just pales in comparison.*

And at times, the movement is really weird, like they had to cut frames or the characters’ mouths don’t match what’s being said. It’s hard to believe this film was animated by Studio Madhouse, responsible for some of the best anime ever made, including the above-mentioned Perfect Blue, one of my favorite films ever, and my personal favorite anime, the isekai fantasy epic Overlord. What the hell?!

How the hell did the studio that produced Perfect Blue (lower) produce Anne no Nikki (upper) two years prior?

As for the plot, you have to wonder about a lot of decisions. Trying to fit this story into ninety minutes, a lot of material is skipped over, truncated or changed. Much of what allowed us to get to know and love Anne is rushed through, and perhaps a little too much time is spent on Anne’s romance with Peter.

I think the film’s worst sin, however, is that it doesn’t carry the message of Anne’s diary very well. While making us experience the darkest moments of Nazi occupation and living in hiding, Anne is still able to show us how life can go on and even be filled with hope for the future and human kindness. The film tries, but it can’t bring about that message. At least not in a way that feels authentic and powerful.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Anne Frank’s Diary a 1.7. If you want to experience the story of Anne Frank–I mean really experience it–read the actual book. Watch one of the film adaptations (I hear the 1959 one is really good), or see if there are any recordings of the play available to stream (I saw it several years ago and highly recommend it).

Just don’t watch this movie. It was released on YouTube for free because the distributor knew they could make more money from YouTube ad revenue than if they put it on DVD/Blu-Ray or to rent on another site. I’m convinced of that after wasting my evening with it.

This has been Rami Ungar, wishing I had watched something else instead. Good night!

 

*For non-anime fans, think of a beautifully drawn Disney character, and then compare it to a character from a Saturday morning cartoon with a low budget. It’s close to that.

And I’m back to this again. But then again, consistency and visibility are the keys to marketing. I think.

So if you’re unaware, my novel Rose was published nearly a year ago, on June 21st, 2019. The story is a fantasy-horror novel that follows a young woman who wakes up in a greenhouse, only to turn into a plant creature. As those in her life react to the change, some of them are not who they seem to be, leading to a horrific fight for survival.

It’s weird, it’s scary, and it’s one-hundred percent me.

As I said, the one-year anniversary of Rose‘s publication is June 21st. As that’s a big milestone with any book, let alone with my first novel with a publisher, I’m doing something special to celebrate: a Q&A on YouTube, with the questions submitted by you readers! You can send up to two questions to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name and where you’re from. And if you’re from the US or UK, you could be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book!

Just get your questions in before June 17th, 2020 at 12:00 PM and your questions will be included in the Q&A.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to receiving your questions, especially since I’m still taking a break from writing after finishing The Pure World Comes, and could always use something else to capture my attention.

Also, if you’re interesting in reading Rose, I’ll include links down below. Or you can send me an email for a signed copy sent directly from me to you. And if you do read the book, leave me a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love getting feedback, and it helps me out as an author in the long run.

Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you find a sword with a blade the color of the night sky, let me know. It’s probably cursed, and I could use a weapon like that.

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Yes, I’m doing this annoying thing again. That thing where I remind you that something is coming up in the next couple of weeks or days in the hopes you get excited. Most likely, you’re actually annoyed by this, but then again, you signed up for this blog, didn’t you?

Anyway, as you all know by now, the one year publishing anniversary of Rose is in less than a month, and I’ll be doing a Q&A on YouTube. And guess who gets to contribute the questions? You! That’s right, you! Send in up to two questions in an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with your name and where you’re from, and your quesiton might just show up in the Q&A. And if you submit and are from the United States or United Kingdom, you may be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book!

So get those questions in before noon June 17th, 2020. The video will premiere the morning of June 21st, 2020. I look forward to receiving your questions.

And don’t forget, I’m still selling signed copies of Rose directly to you readers. If you’re interested, send an email to the same address above and we can discuss what is needed. Or you can get a copy through the links below. Please do check it out. Rose is a fantasy-horror novel about a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems!). In the year or so since it’s come out, I’ve gotten some really positive feedback on the story, and I’m hoping year number two will produce great results as well. So if you do decide to read Rose, I hope you enjoy it and let me know one way or another what you think.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon, but until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible