Hemlock Grove S1E1 Jellyfish in the Sky (5 stars)

There will be spoilers in this review, please be forewarned before reading more.

This episode is described with the following info on Netflix:
A teenager is murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove. Evidence points to an animal attack, but suspicions soon fall on Peter, the newly arrived gypsy.

I grew up in the 80’s with Reading Rainbow and I can’t help but hear the theme song when I read “Jellyfish in the Sky.” My brain automatically fills in afterwards “I can fly twice as high…” That may be a short in my wiring, but it’s a true fact. After talking about that with my boyfriend I realize it’s because part of the real song has the words “Butterfly in the Sky” and then “I can fly twice as high…” So, not a short, just something I have heard enough times that I can’t forget it.

To be fair I have already seen the first season, but I can still remember the first time I saw the title on Netflix. I thought about how hemlock is poisonous and was instantly interested to read more about the show. I’m dark and into weird things, it’s not out of character at all for me that this was a point of interest. Seeing in the first episode description that there would be gypsies and the hint of something supernatural, well that was enough for me to say “I don’t mind if I do.”

Within the first couple of seconds of the show starting it is instantly weird, arousing, and then unsettling. The transaction with what must be a hooker was awkward after it was hot because she isn’t into what he likes (blood play) and knows his name. You can’t tell yet but it seems like a small town.

The attack happens not too far into the episode, but to be fair without commercials it is only 45 min so it had to happen somewhat early or there wouldn’t be a lot of time to explore what happened.

It is terrifying, believable, and gut wrenching. Let me just say I have watched my fair share of horror movies and tv shows and this was more terrifying by not being able to see what was attacking the victim then it would have been if I could see it. It was done so well that you can tell some money changed hands to produce this. I was pleased to know that this wasn’t going to be a let down by introducing terrible cg or bad props. I can say with authority, of course only with the knowledge of the entire first season under my belt, that even when there is cg it is smooth and entertaining and not hooky. Thank goodness because I would have been very sad to see a great idea die due to funding issues as so often happens with horror and Sci Fi movies and tv shows.

The gypsy’s enter the picture and it turns out to be some random unknown male actor, he may have done a few things (I didn’t check), but to me he was new and totally alluring. He is hairy, sexy, and mysterious. I felt bad for not checking if I have seen him before so I checked and I have seen a straight to video (at least I think it was straight to video so don’t quote me) movie called The Howling: Reborn. His face was unfamiliar, but still very much enjoyable and completely believable as a gypsy – at least in the way that Hollywood portrays them.

The mom happens to be one of my favorite actors who for all the things she has been in will always be known to me for her role in Mystic Pizza. By the way if you like small town movies that is a great one, it really captures the feel of how small small town life is. She has always felt like a free spirit, hippy, gypsy type to me so she was cast very well in the role of the mother to Peter.

Jellyfish in the Sky turns out to be about a dream Peter has. And enter the creepy, but completely awesome, Harriet the Spy character. We learn about Uncle Vince who died from alcohol poisoning. And Harriet the Spy just keeps getting more awesome with her questions.

“Are you a werewolf?” Really? Because the index and middle finger are the same?! “Are you a retard?” Is the retort.

Ok some of this is lost in my sharing of it because without watching this you cannot understand, or enjoy, the banter between these two characters. Trust me when I say it is flawless and magical.

Back to the weirdo who paid for sex, and we find out his mom is Famke Janssen whom I always associate with the X Men movies. I have seen a great many of the movies and TV shows she has been in, but the ones that stick are X Men movies. She is too skinny, but still manages to be breathtakingly sexy. She is for lack of better words very classy. This also was a very well cast role because Famke seems like a cold hearted rich bitch. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way towards her as a person, although it seems like it. I just mean that she embodies the role perfectly.

Weirdo is angrily fitted for a suit, hooray. And then his mom spoils him with renting the local theme park Pennsylvania. Can someone say “buying your love?” Also, feels like a hint to Vampires with the name.

Enter the girl whom is his cousin. There is a distinct feel of not having a normal relationship between cousins. I don’t say that because I have seen the show, I say that because they have every appearance of being on a date instead of two teenagers who are related and enjoying a theme park that was rented out for solely their entertainment. I don’t like waiting in lines either, but I can only imagine how weird it would be to be the only patrons surrounded by workers at a theme park. All of the noise and excitement of other patrons really adds something that would be obviously missing. I can remember being in line and hearing the enjoyment (or terror) others were having from riding the ride I was waiting for, or one close enough that I could see and hear. That effected how much I wanted to ride said ride. Without that it would feel dead and boring. Probably mostly creepy. Music can even lose the impact it would have otherwise have had when it was just background instead of the only thing you can hear.

Now for the “meeting” between Peter the gypsy and the weirdo. They don’t so much meet as stare at each other and try to assess their competition like animals. It’s awkward and feels like a hint as to future dealings between the two. It also feels just short of smelling each other. It’s hard to say if they like each other or not, but I can say the tension is palpable.

Harriet the Spy re-enters the picture and is cutely referred to as “Hemingway” which for an aspiring author is quite the complement. She doesn’t see it this way, which is a shame, but gives her more depth because she has yet to embrace who she is. It’s a teenager thing, even when you are good at something and love it with every fiber of your being you still worry others might think you aren’t cool. It takes a while to learn that coolness is something that may be out of reach forever for some of us. So save some time and heartache and just be yourself. It is a struggle trying to hide who you are that frankly isn’t worth the time spent doing it.

Now we meet the girl who I can’t help but refer to as Frankenstein. Which is also backed up by how the other characters react to her, not because I want to spoil anything we may or may not learn later about her. She turns out to be weirdo’s sister and one of my favorite characters. There are a lot of great characters in this show, but she is one who instantly commands me to like her. Lights flicker as she walks, her hands are bandaged, her hair covers her face, and she is uncommonly large. Not fat, but tall and very large in her frame. Add all of those items together and she is an immediate target for cruelty. And even though she could literally kill anyone with her bare hands (or so it would seem with her size) she is timid and resigned to her fate of being a freak. This makes me sad because it feels like she doesn’t really get to live, rather she just passes from one place to another hoping to not be noticed but knowing it will never happen.

Peter tells his mom that the weirdo is a Lupier and doesn’t know it. I admit I had to look this up and found that it does in fact refer to a vampire.

Ok, so we see that we have a modern setting and references to things that were born, invented, or at the very least very popular in classical literature. For example: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Bram Stokers Dracula (Vampires) and although I don’t have a reference that comes to mind… Werewolves. It feels very much like watching a YA version of Grimm. That could have been carried out really well or very poorly. Thankfully it is fucking spectacular in my opinion.

I find all of these supernatural things to be fascinating and scary. Almost like learning about them could be dangerous. Granted I don’t expect to ever meet a person who can become a wolf, a person who “wants to suck my blood,” or one who was resurrected with electricity – but the mere thought that perhaps, even if only in our imaginations, these things could be real, is satisfying. Life outside the imagination is boring and stale. These things offer escape and are just plain fun to read about or watch. That is as long as it doesn’t feel overdone. There is definitely a point with these subjects where personally my bullshit meter goes off the charts and I lose interest.

This show never made that alarm go off and I loved every minute of it. I’m not even ashamed to say that like I am about the first and second movie for the Twilight books. I went to each of those and was completely caught up in the absolutely unbelievable romance. I wanted it to be true that love could be so breath taking and powerful, but in my own experience it’s pretty normal and not earth shattering, which is why I am embarrassed and angry that I liked an unrealistic view of love. I worry that it will set young girls up for a lot of pain because the movies show us how we all would like love to be, but through experience / the hard way, we have to learn it is not at all like it is portrayed.

Hemlock Grove does a really good job of keeping it real as far as showing that life is messy and intertwined and our desires don’t always make sense nor are they always placed on the right person. That is very true to life and love.

It freaking rips through you and catches you unaware. It’s the worst when you desperately feel it for someone and they don’t even know you exist. This feeling of being hopelessly in love and not understanding it and sometimes not being able to share it doesn’t go away with age. It’s not a passing feeling to be angry that you can’t always have what or who you want. That’s just life. It doesn’t make it easier knowing that, but the best part about life is time makes the hurt dull around the edges until something or someone takes our fancy once again and begins the cycle anew.

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Our Souls to Keep by Gary A. Caruso (4 Stars)

I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own.

When I first started reading this book I didn’t like the cover. I kept missing part of the image that is there because my eyes were drawn to the swirl tattoo on the hand at the bottom of the cover. I stared at the cover right after finishing the book and saw what I was missing. There are two hands reaching for each other, one from above and one from below. For some reason I couldn’t see the hand from above.

I kept thinking while reading the book how weird it was that all the cover showed was a hand reaching up. It’s young adult and contains a love story so my brain kept thinking why only one hand on the cover? I also kept thinking I really want to see what the main characters look like. But in the end once I finally saw that there were two hands desperately reaching for each other it made complete sense.

Missing an important part of the cover isn’t so different from my own life. I can look anywhere and see what is being touched by and corrupted by the hand from below but it takes a longer look to see what is touched by the hand from above. I don’t mean that in the way of trying to think positive. I mean it in the way of it’s easy to look only at the surface of anything and see the flaws, but it takes patience and time to look deeper and see the beauty.

This story was furiously paced and filled with one emergency after another. It was strongly religious without being preachy or trying to push one side more than the other. I think when something is too in your face and seems like propaganda the real message can be lost, which isn’t the case with this story. I would not have wanted to read it if it was. I am still struggling with figuring out what I believe and I don’t want to curl up and relax with a book that crams one side of the coin down my throat.

It isn’t perfect, but I’ve learned that even the most seasoned writers have errors. That is distressing for me, but at the same time it adds the an unintended human element as if to say “I’m brilliant, but I make mistakes too.”

I enjoyed the story from beginning to end. Some of it was wildly unbelievable and some so wild I wished it was true. That is the fun in writing (and reading) a work of fiction, anything can happen regardless of if it follows the laws of nature as we understand them to be.

For as long as we know it there has been a battle raging between heaven and hell. We can’t see it, but on most days it sure seems like you can feel it. At one point there might have been peace, before Satan was cast out of Heaven that is. This story combines that rift along with the element of humans living between and being the picking grounds for both Heaven and Hell.

It is believable in the sense that what if something happened and we could somehow magically see past the veil that is between what we can see on our normal plane of existence AND what is beyond it. For example, there is much talk of Angels and Demons and souls. Some people even claim to have been able to see them when in a near death situation. But what if you were just walking along and suddenly could see it all?

I don’t think we could mentally process it, but this book doesn’t let you take the time to think about that. It pulls you in behind the veil and shoves you on the path of the story with no time to think about how it isn’t possible. It just is.

As an added fun fact, if anyone has seen the tv show Reaper, I envisioned the Satan in this story to be like Satan in that show. That might not do anything for you, but it tickled me.

I don’t want to spoil any specifics about what happens or just repeat what you can read from the blurb about the book. What I can say is if you are looking for an interesting take on how close we could possibly be to the other side of the veil without knowing it, this is a really great story to explore that with. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys horror or suspense, light romance, humor, teenage angst, and some crazy twists. I hope there is a sequel because I would most definitely read it.

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Confessions of a red neck zombie killing psycho by L.R. Currell (3 Stars)

Crazy Back in them Hills (holler) Action (don’t mean incest).

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The grammar was not good, but the story was absolutely worth the time I spent reading it. I would not have read past the errors if it was boring. Be prepared for this to not be perfectly polished.

That being said I enjoyed reading this twisted little tale which included rednecks reminiscent of characters straight out of House of 1000 corpses. By that I mean crazy, dirty, and ready to mess (I really mean and expletive and not “mess”) things up.

Three zombie killing machine travelers run out of some supplies and conveniently run into two brothers that are not quite right. This is plausible because if you are continually using ammo it’s going to run out at some point. And although we might not want to think about it there are hidden areas everywhere (seriously everywhere) with folks who own land and do what they please on it.

The story examines the psychological horror of being on the inside of a home where the owners are there physically, but their minds have left them.

The action scenes are bone crunching and bloody. Sometimes they are slightly unbelievable and hard to follow, but even then still enjoyable. At one point I thought – I don’t think that could happen, but I liked reading it anyway. That makes for a good story. If I can say to myself “no way, eh who cares let’s see what happens next…” that is a success.

The story has a very abrupt ending, but I suppose the purpose of that if to make you ready to look for book 2. After looking at what book 2 is I am pretty sure I want to check it out. Come on, a zombie horse? It could happen.

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Milk-Blood by Mark Mathews (4 stars)

A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for my honest review.

I can imagine that this book would possibly not be as entertaining to someone who lives in and is one with the ghetto. I live in what is pretty close to a ghetto, but I am far from being able to call myself part of it. I am not sure if that is something anyone would want to be able to do or not, but it is what it is. That being said, I live my life seeing things without being on the inside.

Reading this novel took me to the inside, all the way into the head of what may or may not be an imaginary child. Some details may have been changed to protect the innocent, but the effect of the story being believable to a fault is there. It’s not a perfect tale but it is by far a very entertaining one.

I could speculate with you on if any of it was supposed to a metaphor for something else, or what was really intended to be conveyed… But in the end what really matters is this was enjoyable to read regardless of the intent.

I can’t get through the beginning scenes of Trainspotting, but with this book I was so enraptured in what it could possibly be like to be addicted to Heroine that I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t plan on finding out what this is really like, ever, so this was a safe and intriguing way to learn more. It could be way off base, but I didn’t care, the writing was solid and enjoyable. If you can get into a story regardless of where it’s going simply because it is a pleasure to read, then why not?

I cared what was going to happen, I was sucked in and buttered up for the punch. I absolutely love reading a story that I can do nothing but keep reading in order to find out what happens next. There is little foreshadowing to prepare you for what will happen which for some might be maddening, but for more is just fine.

The story follows the birth and life of a poor ghetto child. It explores what it can be like to really know how to just barely get by. That was upsetting for me, but not completely foreign. It also added a good element of psychological horror. The reason being is it is so easy to understand how things can turn into a cluster when you are already starting from rock bottom.

It is violent, gruesome, imaginative and awesome. Not entirely sane, but that is not a requirement for entertainment. I really don’t want to spoil any of the twists and turns. Either you are already intrigued and are going to find this book and read it, or my review gave enough info to advise you to pass it up. To each their own.

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Vampire World by Rich Douglas (3.5 stars)

I received a free copy of Vampire World from the author Rich Douglas in exchange for an honest review.

This book is perfectly set as young adult. For some reason I didn’t realize it was going to be young adult based on the cover art or the description. That’s what I get for judging a book by its cover! There are two covers available that I could see. One looks like a book about bondage that might rival 50 shades of grey. Not because the model is tied up, but because she is gothed out and has a look like she wants to devour your soul while mating with you. (Intense and not ya at all, I recommend against this version just for the picture. It’s hot, but out of place.)

The other cover is of a pretty young girl who looks to be in a old style church or crypt. This picture embodies the story well. It captures the sweet (not overly in your face sexy) side of goth. It fits well with the story that is told.

The author came up with some disgustingly creative food that was believable for a vampire diet. Although I think adding an element of hunting and eating live food would have been a nice addition to the story.

This book read like a nancy drew mystery that had some elements of inspector gadget. What I mean by that is the mystery of the unknown with dark passage ways and hidden dangers and secret messages I expected to have the disclaimer of “this message will self-destruct in 4 seconds…”

I struggled with the length, but it was obvious that a lot of effort was put into describing life as it is lived in Vampire World. I didn’t like the cliche of the last names used (I.e. Mr. FangCut or Mrs. BiteMore) but it is young adult so that comes with the territory.I am torn as to if I would read more books in this series, if it does progress to a series.

The main character overshadowed the other characters and although I really wanted to like her I didn’t. It’s not because she wasn’t a believable character, on the contrary she was absolutely believable as the type of girl I would not be friends with. I really didn’t like her name and that spoiled her a little for me.

Names say a lot about the person who gave the name. Janice is a very old style name that isn’t used as often anymore. At least in my opinion. It’s not quite as outdated as Myrtle or Harriet, or god forbid Beatrice, but it’s just unpopular enough to sound out of place.

That being said she was a very good living breathing (so to speak) model of a popular chick figuring out how life works. Not too bright, but just smart enough to cause trouble. Especially when it comes to using herself to get what she wants. Having that kind of power and first learning you have it is intoxicating. This book explores that well. It still keeps the subject matter pg enough that I wouldn’t feel like a perv recommending this book to an actual young adult.

The good part is that although I didn’t like the main character I did like the attempt to take a vampire story down a different path of possibility. I cared to find out what the mystery was, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer. I knew some of it, but some was entertainingly different than I expected.

Talk a walk on the wild side and see what you think of this homage of how vampire life could be now or in the not so distant future. That is if you believe in Vampires. I don’t, but I am still fascinated by the idea of the weird and supernatural.

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The Ritual by Adam Nevill (4 stars)

For fans of H.P. Lovecraft I highly recommend this diamond in the rough. It combines all the needed elements to delight your ghoulish desires. It starts a little slow, hits what seems like a point of no return / where is this story going? moment in the middle and finishes strong. The ending is left open to your imagination, which is not my favorite way for books to end, but it worked with the style it was written in.

Four friends from different walks of life meet to take a holiday backpacking in the woods. Two of the four are desperately out of shape. The original hiking plan was made for true outdoorsmen, and when they find they aren’t up to it they take a shortcut. That can’t possibly go wrong! Oh but it can, and how…

Even though I know what happens I would read this book again. I truly enjoyed the authors style of writing and will recommend this book as well as look for more by him.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10239382

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White Coat and Sneakers by Hillary Chollet, M.D. (3 Stars)

This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review by Smith Publicity. The opinions below are my own. Spoiler alert: If you do not want to know specifics about the book please read the book and not my review.

This book starts out a little slow and there are some parts that read like an English paper (what is going to happen, it’s happening, it happened). However, the main style of writing that follows and surrounds these things is comfortable and enjoyable and well worth reading.

I do prefer a more fast paced book, but that would have been completely out of place in the setting of this book. The story is mostly set in the French quarter of New Orleans, which is nothing if not inviting and moves to the beat of it’s own drum. I wouldn’t ask for it to be any different.

This story was inspirational, heartfelt, and imaginative. Most of the story is autobiographical, but it also has an interesting twist of rewriting history to include time travel, an afterlife encounter and technically a possession.The main thrust of the story is religious and has a powerful message.

I’m not a giant fan of sports and some of the play by play was boring to me, but at the same time it didn’t overshadow the main thread of the story, it just was part of it.

I would recommend this to someone who enjoys a story that encourages team work, community, and hope.

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