Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Rapid Review: Weyward by Emilia Hart


Weyward by Emilia Hart 🕸️

This stunning debut features the interwoven stories of three generations of women who must find their inner strength and courage to battle a world of domineering men and difficult times. 

In 1619, Altha is about to face a murder trial for a crime she didn’t commit. Branded a witch, she expects to hang due to the feelings of the townsfolk about her and her late mother, who have helped and healed many with their tinctures and “potions” made from the flowers and herbs in their garden. 

During wartime 1942, sixteen year old Violet has been essentially hidden away in her family’s cold and dank estate by her iron-handed father, who claims Violet’s affection for insects and nature in general hearkens back to her own mother, a strange and mystical woman.  When Violet meets handsome cousin Frederick, things are set in motion to which there is no easy out. 

And in 2019, Kate is pregnant and on the run from an abusive and possessive boyfriend. She makes her escape to a faraway cottage recently bequeathed to her from a long lost aunt. Here at Weyward, she learns the gifts of the earth, and proves to herself that she is worthy and certainly does not need a man to make her life complete.  But will her past catch up to her? 

This book was so wonderful, I couldn’t put it down. I loved all three women and couldn’t wait for them to learn the lessons needed to kick to the curb the men who were making their lives miserable.  Full of feminism and magical realism, Weyward was a captivating treasure, a gift to be discovered and absorbed. 

And can we just give this book the Cover of the Year award right now?? 

Highly recommended!! 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Rapid Review: THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth

                      The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Pippa and Gabe fell in love at first site and are now happily married with two daughters. They move to a beautiful house unfortunately located near a popular suicide location called The Drop—a cliff where the sad and desperate walk off to their imminent death. (Why anyone would move into a location like this when you have young children is beyond me but okay, let’s suspend our disbelief.)  

When Gabe talks someone on the ledge down and then does it a half dozen more times he’s basically hailed as the suicide whisperer. What a hero!! 

But one day, he’s unable to help a woman and she jumps (falls?) to her death.  

But when it’s discovered that Gabe knew the woman, the mystery of whether or not she jumped or was pushed begins to unravel Gabe and Pippa’s idyllic marriage—and soon the jumper and her wealthy husband start to figure into the mystery so prominently that the twists coming at the reader are so unpredictable that you’re not sure how the pieces could possibly all fit together for a straightforward ending. 

I really enjoyed this novel or domestic suspense. It’s told from multiple viewpoints and timelines which works exceptionally well here.  Not knowing who to trust, what skeletons are in whose closet and just what happened on that cliff make it a fast-paced and intriguing read.  All the secrets and lies are eventually revealed and the ending was a little shocking and yet perfectly revelatory. 

Will definitely look for more from Hepworth!! 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Hellraiser 2022 - Review

Over the last 35 years, Hellraiser has become a household name and a behemoth in the horror genre. Even if someone doesn't recognize the title of the film, all you have to say is, “the guy with all the nails in his head”, and they immediately know what you are talking about. 

It began as a novella by Clive Barker, an absolutely legendary horror author whose work combines the grotesque and the horrific with beautiful sensuality, woven seamlessly together. The novella was called The Hellbound Heart, and it was published in 1986. A year later Clive Barker, himself, directed the film adaptation of the story into the iconic picture we have all come to know as Hellraiser. It became a classic in no time, with the instantly recognizable villain of the film, Pinhead (aptly named for the nails that jut in all directions from his pasty white skull), donning the cover of 9 additional sequels (although Clive Barker only directed the original film) and now, a remake. 

The film begins establishing some loose exposition to introduce the Lament Configuration, which is the name for the puzzle box featured in all the Hellraiser movies–sort of a main character, in itself. 

This puzzle box (think of it as a demonic rubix cube) is sought out by those who have attained every natural high–be it by drugs, sex, or money–and are seeking a new dimension of pleasure.

 In the 2022 Hellraiser, the puzzle box is acquired by Roland Voight: some ultra-wealthy, mansion-owning, orgy-hosting… guy. We really don't get to know anything about him in the short pre-title exposition, other than he's super wealthy, he owns a mansion, hosts orgies, and he has acquired the puzzle box through some mysterious connection. And he has no problem giving the Lament Configuration exactly what it wants–blood sacrifice. 

With that, we now switch to what will become the main characters for the rest of the film: recovering addict twenty-something Riley, her protective brother and roommate Matt and his boyfriend Colin, and Riley's sketchy “boyfriend” (this is a loose term), Trevor, who her brother strongly disapproves of. Mostly because Trevor is an active addict and obvious low-life. 

When Riley complains of being “sick of being broke”, Trevor casually suggests they rob a warehouse, to which Riley has zero questions or concerns, so off they go. After breaking into a teeny tiny safe that is the sole item in a walk-in shipping container, they find, within, a wooden box. And you know what’s in the box, right? Another box! The puzzle box… 

Now to the review. Comparisons between the new and original film may be made. How can they not be? It is a remake, after all, of a classic and near-perfect film. I won’t say I’m wholly against remakes, but in cases such as these I can’t help but wonder “why”? Is it just a cash grab to profit off a popular film? Is it a way to gain a new generational audience by “updating” the film to a current day setting with current vernacular, music, fashion, etc? And if the latter is the case, then why? Why do films need to be updated? Do we think that the cycles of generations won’t have an interest or appreciation in older films? And on top of that, by making it so obviously “modern”, you are just going to age the film down the line. By commercially stylizing it, you are just putting a timestamp on precisely when the film was made; and with no deeper creative choices driving that, most likely in a decade from now the film will just look tacky.

 The runtime is just over two hours. I’m more partial to a cool 90 minute feature, especially since this film felt extremely drawn out. I actually watched the first hour of the movie sometime in November and didn’t finish it until nearly 3 months later. 

One of my complaints was that it took WAY too long to get a decent look at the cenobites (the demons that dole out the punishments and “rewards” of those who solve the puzzle box). Personally, I’m of the feeling that if I am watching a film with monsters, I don’t want to play the game of hide and seek, building up with a glimpse here and there. I want to see the fucking monsters.

 I was most excited to see the designs they chose for the cenobites, but most scenes of them are overly dark and it’s nearly impossible to make them out. Apparently the film chose to use mostly practical effects over CGI, which is my personal preference when, well, practical–but I felt it wasn’t really properly showcased due to low lighting and heavy use of filters. The only one we do get a decent eyeful of is the main cenobite, leader of the pack, she who would be Pinhead. 

Pinhead (who is still clearly donning pins in the head) is now credited as “the Priest”. Up until this point Pinhead has been played by a man (Doug Bradley in the first 7 films). In 2022 Hellraiser, “the Priest” is now played by Jamie Clayton and appears more feminized, but still androgynous. I was a little underwhelmed by the portrayal of the priest, I found the character to be a bit dull and lifeless, and I would have liked to appreciate the full costume she is donning which required roughly 4 hours of make-up. I don’t place blame on actress Jamie Clayton, though. She doesn’t run the set lighting and she didn’t write the script, and after watching and reading several interviews with her she expressed being genuinely excited and honored to have been given this role and even has the blessing of original Pinhead, Doug Bradley, himself. 

I know that the nature of media in this day and age—in this case, movies—is to remake, reboot, and reimagine; but in my opinion it’d be a lot more interesting to use the time, energy, and resources to craft an entirely new film, and instead allow people to seek out or revisit the original film.


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Rapid Review: The Last Party


THE LAST PARTY by Clare Mackintosh

Ffion Morgan and Leo Brady are two cops—the former from Wales, the latter from England—who are thrown together to solve a murder on the border of the two countries. 

 Rhys Lloyd, a local celebrity with a partial ownership of a lakeside resort area, has invited both the ritzy and townies alike to his New Year’s Eve party.  It doesn’t turn out to much of a fun party when he ends up dead in the lake, though.  

Ffion and Leo are on the task, after having spent a casual, no-strings-attached night together previous to the investigation. This makes for an awkward introduction but the two quickly find a bantering groove whilst they finagle through the boatload of possible suspects, because Lloyd was someone with a lot of enemies.

Part police procedural, part mystery, The Last Party dishes up a lot of drama, from estranged families to secret affairs to a bit of murderous intent.  It took me a while to get comfortable with this one, it’s a lengthy novel with a lot of moving parts.  It seemed like there were just scores of characters and an even longer list of multiple viewpoints. It was a bit much, at least till partway through. But I will admit wholeheartedly that the last third of the book had me riveted, I read late into the night to finish it and was sad when it was over.  

Ffion and Leo are really great and well written characters, with believable and sometimes heartbreaking flaws. Both seem to have issues in their private lives and getting to the bottom of those problems together really makes them a strong pairing. I’ll be anxious to see if Mackintosh continues with both characters in her next book in the series, as they do seem stronger as a team. 

This book had a bit of a Scandinavian feel to it, with a lot of story and many twists and turns.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely pick up the next in the series, due in July.