Cryptid Creatures & The Others – Podcast Reviews

Holy buckets, 2 reviews in 2 days?!

Yep, looks like it!

While we’re on the subject of podcasts, I’d like to direct your attention to the Cryptid Creatures podcast, which is written, produced, and recorded by the multi-talented Jesse Haynes.

Cryptid Creatures is a 12-episode podcast (thus far) with each episode featuring a different American mythological (or ARE they mythological???) being.

Ranging from lesser-known creatures such as the Ozark Howler to the more widely famous Bigfoot, Haynes has definitely done his research on each creature, finding actual reports of sightings. My favorite of these reports comes from episode 11 – the Mothman. It literally gave me chills, although my favorite episode of all is episode 7 – there’s nothing more chilling than true tales of what one human being will do to another.

Season 2 promises to go international, so I’m looking forward to seeing which creatures are covered in future episodes. (I’m looking at you, chupacabra!)

Final rating on Cryptid Creatures: 4 Sporks

Next we have Haynes’ 2nd podcast, The Others

With the very first episode freshly dropped as of the time this review is being posted, The Others is an audio drama written and produced by Haynes and voiced by Ron Taylor.

When Aaron Winchell’s plane goes down and he is washed ashore on an uninhabited island, the quest for survival begins. The strange island offers challenges for a man on his own… and then even more challenges for a man who realizes he might not be alone, after all.

Sounds spooky, doesn’t it?

While I can’t judge the podcast on a whole based solely on 1 episode, I can say that episode 1 definitely left me awaiting episode 2. I hit the Subscribe button, and I think you should too.

Rating for The Others (thus far): 4 Sporks

You can find Cryptid Creatures online at http://www.cryptidcreaturespodcast.com, The Others online at http://www.theotherspodcast.com, or follow each podcast on Twitter at @cryptcreatures & @theotherspod, and subscribe via either iTunes or Android. For more information on Jesse Haynes, check out his website at http://www.jessehaynesauthor.com. (Yep, he’s a Young Adult author too, but that, dear readers, is a review for another day.)

The Alexandria Archives – Podcast Review

Pop in your earbuds and crank it up to 11, readers, because today we’re reviewing our first podcast – The Alexandria Archives, written & produced by Nicole Jorge, Aaron Redacted, and Uri Sacharow.

Self-billed as “The South’s answer to Miskatonic University”, the Alexandria Archives is a weekly podcast done in the form of a midnight radio show broadcast from the fictional Alexandria University – home of the Wendigos – and hosted by Morning Wood (voice of co-creator Nicole Jorge). Each episode begins with Morning Wood taking a few callers (all with their own special brand of crazy) or having a special guest in the studio.

(My personal favorite of these callers is a semi-regular named Gore. I won’t tell you why he’s my favorite, but luckily for you, he shows up in the very first episode.)

After taking a few callers, Morning Wood introduces a tale from the Alexandria Archives themselves – each ranging from the spookily macabre to the disturbingly macabre. (I’m side-eyeing you, episode 2.) While some of the stories from the Archives are better than others, the podcast overall is definitely worth hitting the Subscribe button.

If you’re a fan of horror podcasts such as Welcome to Night Vale, Lore, Limetown, or The Black Tapes, or are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft (ESPECIALLY The Re-Animator), then this one’s for you.

Final rating: 4 Sporks

You can find the Alexandria Archives online at http://www.alexandriaarchives.com, follow it on Twitter at @whausignal and @Whaumorningwood, and subscribe on on ITunes and in the Google Play store.

Ia, Ia, Wendigos!

My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin – Book Review

​Buenos Dias from sunny Progreso, Mexico, folks!

As part of my amazing job, I get the pleasure and privilege of selecting middle grade & young adult books to be featured at the Louisiana Book Festival every year. This past January,  while researching recently published and upcoming books for the 2016 LBF, I ran across a book called My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin. Intrigued by the description, I added it to my list of books to check out.

A wonderful, moving story about being true to yourself, My Seventh Grade Life in Tights is about a boy named Dillon who is part of a dance crew called the Dizzee Freeks.  Unlike his two friends in his crew who have been classically trained in dance, Dilion has had no formal training. His dance style is what’s known among his friends as ‘ninja freestyle’, featuring a series of kicks and punches. (I can’t help but imagine he looks a bit like he’s having a seizure when he dances.)  Dillon is desperate to learn how to ‘properly’ dance so he discovers an opportunity to earn a scholarship to a prestigious dance academy. There’s just one small hitch – dance studios are for sell-outs, at least, according to the rest of his crew.  

Through an ingenious plan (cause you know those always work), Dillon’s crew hatches a plan for Dillon to try out for the scholarship, win, then tell the studio to stick their scholarship where the sun doesn’t shine.

Well you know that’s going to go off without a hitch, right? 😉

Very well-written and perfectly paced, My Seventh Grade Life in Tights  is an encouraging story about ‘finding the moves that fit’.  With a diverse set of characters (yay for diversity!), all with their own struggles and issues, this book will dance its way into the hearts of both kids and adults alike.

Final rating: 5 Sporks

PS: Stay tuned for another author interview!

Deadpool – Review

Greetings from onboard the beautiful Carnival Triumph, readers! By the time you read this I’ll be back in the US, but I’m currently on a much-needed cruise vacation to Cozumel & Progreso, Mexico.  It’s a beautifully warm evening out on the Lido deck, with  Avengers: Age of Ultron  just having wrapped up and X-Men: Apocalypse starting in about 45 minutes – just enough time to grab a drink and settle myself into a chair to write a quick review.

Today’s review was originally going to be about Doctor Strange, which I saw in theaters a few weeks ago, but last night I saw Deadpool for the first time at the Seaside Theater on the Lido deck of the ship, and I can’t not talk about this movie.  I know, I know, I’ve been living under a rock if I hadn’t seen Deadpool until now, but in my defense, I did buy it on Black Friday with the full intention of watching it as soon as it came in.

Firstly, the opening credits – best. Opening. Credits. EVER. In lieu of traditional credits that list the director, actors, producers, writers, etc, the credits are completely smart-assy. Starring “God’s Perfect Idiot”, “A Hot Chick”, and “A British Villain”, Produced by “Asshats”, and written by “The Real Heroes Here” are just a few examples from the hilarious opening credits. It really sets the tone of the film.

The film opens with Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds reprising his role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in a taxi on his way to confront a man named Francis.  After a (really quite awesome) fight scene, Deadpool stops the film in order to give us his origin story.

Just when things are going right in his life, mercenary Wade Wilson finds out he has stage 4, untreatable cancer.  In desperation, he agrees to become part of an experiment in order to unlock his recessive mutant genes to give him superpowers, in turn curing his cancer and allowing him to live his life with his fiancee’ (played by Morena Baccarin).

We find out later that unlike in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool wasn’t created as a government experiment – the facility that was creating mutants was selling the newly-created mutants to the highest unscrupulous bidder, essentially selling them into slavery. After being mutated, which leaves him horribly disfigured, then getting told the entire nefarious plan by Francis – who goes by Ajax – Wade manages to escape and spends the next year tracking Francis’ entire organization, which leads up to the big showdown finale.

There’s a cameo from Colossus and another X-men trainee I’ve honestly never heard of, a ton of fourth-wall breaking, with Deadpool talking directly to the audience, making in-jokes and references to other Marvel films, and even making a joke about the atrociousness that was The Green Lantern. (I’m glad Reynolds is able to laugh about it now, ‘cause no one was laughing during The Green Lantern.)

The nudity is gratuitous – we’re given more than just a glimpse of Ryan Reynold’s spectacularly sculpted rear, along with female frontal nudity, multiple sex scenes, more F-bombs than I was able to count, and a fair share of adult jokes.

Deadpool definitely earns its R rating – this isn’t your teenage cousin’s Marvel superhero movie, but it’s done well, which proves that Marvel definitely can release edgier films.

Final rating: 4 sporks

Slither (2006) – Movie Review

​At a friend’s suggestion, I recently watched 2006’s Slither, starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rooker. I’d never heard of Slither until my friend had suggested it (although I really like Nathan Fillion), so before viewing I thought it was about snakes or something.

I was wrong.

Basically Critters meets Alien meets Night of the Living Dead, Slither is about a small town that gets taken over by aliens. It all starts when Grant Grant (Rooker) runs across a meteorite that has landed in the woods.  (And yes, the character’s name is actually Grant Grant. His parents were either lazy or cruel.) Because curiosity killed the cat (and in this case also the dog, the cow, the deer, the sheep, etc.) he decides to check out the hatched egg-looking meteorite and gets jabbed in the chest by a barb and taken over by an alien parasite, eventually turning him into King Koopa from the Super Mario Bros movie. (Seriously, that’s what he reminded me of toward the end there.) He ‘infects’ a woman that he had run into at a bar the night he was taken over and basically turns her into a giant slug-like alien baby factory.  The alien slug babies start to infect the townsfolk by squirming their way into their mouths, taking over their brains and turning them into zombie-like creatures – leaving only Grant’s wife, Starla (Banks), Police Chief Bill Pardy (Fillion), and a teenage townie named Kylie to battle the collective – because apparently they all have Grant’s memories, so if you kill the Grant monster, the rest of them will follow suit. The big climactic scene had some sort of weird assimilation/orgy thing going on, so that plot point actually did kind of made sense rather than feeling like a cop-out.

There were a few points thoughout where I had to go, “REALLY? Come on, now!” but otherwise it was highly entertaining with just the right amount of ‘ew’/creep factor.

Final rating: 4 Sporks

Any thoughts? Sound off in the comments below!

The Serpent King & Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner – Book Reviews

For our first official review, I’m reviewing some of my favorite books of all time (seriously, EVERYONE needs to read these books).

As one of the (many) perks of my job, I get to read a lot of really great books, which leads me to get to meet some amazing authors – one of whom is Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2016) and the upcoming Goodbye Days (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017).

I first ran across The Serpent King at the beginning of 2016 while researching YA authors to invite to my state’s yearly book festival. Intrigued by the cover (’cause aren’t those covers GORGEOUS?) I checked out the reviews and upon making a decision to invite the author to be featured at the Festival, I also decided to purchase myself a copy to read.

Am I ever glad I did.

From the first page I was sucked into the world of three small-town Tennessee teens – Dill, the son of a disgraced snake-handling preacher (his father’s in prison on some very creepy charges), Lydia, the upper-middle class fashion blogger, and Travis, the fantasy series-reading, dragon necklace-wearing gentle giant. All very different teenagers but best friends yet the same, they are just trying to survive their senior year of high school.

I picked up The Serpent King knowing zero about the author. After finishing, though, I read his author bio and was not surprised to find out that he is also a musician. Jeff’s writing is so lyrical that it is almost serpentine in and of itself with the way it ebbs and flows. Not only do I care so deeply about the characters (I seriously just want to adopt Dill and protect him from all the awfulness he has to endure) but the writing is also so fantastic that it has spanned generations. Everyone I have recommended it to from teenagers to the ages of 90+ has loved this book.

(Which reminds me – if you ever get the chance to listen to the audiobook (narrated by 3 seriously talented folks – Michael Crouch (Dill), Ariadne Meyers (Lydia), and Ethan Sawyer (Travis), do so. You won’t regret it.)

Jeff is one of those rare talents that only come along once every so often, and Dill, Lydia, and Travis will always have a special place in my heart as some of my favorite YA characters ever created –

– so imagine my delight when I found out that Jeff had another book coming out.

Goodbye Days, releasing March 7, 2017, is the story of Carver Briggs, a Nashville teen who has lost his 3 best friends in a car accident – one that was caused while the friend who was driving was replying to a text that Carver had just sent.

Where are you guys? Text me back.

In order to process through his grief over the course of the year, Carver embarks on a series of “Goodbye Days” with the families of his deceased friends. There’s also some other stuff that happens, but… spoilers. 🙂

I’ve been one of the lucky ones who has gotten a chance to read Goodbye Days early, and it is truly a masterful follow-up to The Serpent King. While not a sequel, one of the characters from The Serpent King makes an appearance in Goodbye Days – so read TSK first or else you’ll hit a pretty major spoiler.

Fair warning as well when reading both The Serpent KingGoodbye Days – have tissues handy. LOTS AND LOTS of tissues.  In fact, Jeff, you might want to buy stock in Kleenex since your readers will be using so many.

Final rating: 5 shiny new sporks each.

Even though we had been Tweeting and emailing back & forth during the months leading up to the Festival, I was fortunate enough to have gotten to actually meet Jeff in person at the Festival and hang out with him and get to know him a little afterwards as well.  Jeff is a super genuine guy who truly cares about his readers, so stay tuned for an interview with him!