Review: Monster Hunters by Tea Krulos

23398567

Do ghosts exist? What about Bigfoot or Skinwalkers? And how will we ever know? Journalist Tea Krulos spent more than a year traveling nationwide to meet individuals who have made it their life’s passion to hunt down evidence of entities that they believe exist but that others might shrug off as nothing more than myths, fairy tales, or the products of overactive imaginations. Without taking sides in the debate, Krulos joins these believers in the field, exploring haunted houses, trekking through creepy forests, and scanning skies and lakes as they collect data on the unknown poltergeists, chupacabras, Skunk Apes (Bigfoot’s stinky cousins), and West Virginia’s Mothman. Along the way, he meets a diverse cast of characters—true believers, skeptics, and hoaxers—from the credible to the quirky, and has a couple of hair-raising encounters that make him second-guess his own beliefs.

Not your normal book about cryptids as Krulos focuses not so much on the monsters as the people hunting them. More a fascinating study in psychology than anything else, a variety of personalities and motivations pop up among the various groups Krulos involved himself with. Heroes, villains, believers and skeptics all throw in their two cents to form a patchwork of people involved in debunking, proving and just having fun with the supernatural. Probably the most fascinating is the infighting even among different groups dedicated to proving the same thing. Very readable, the only complaint maybe being that the author focused quite a bit on the PIM group, it becomes highly entertaining to see the variety of people searching for monsters.

4 out of 5

Advertisements

Review: Savage Pastimes by Harold Schechter

9780312282769

Does violence in movies, on television and in comic strips and cartoons rot our children’s brains and make zombies-or worse, criminals-of adults at the fringes? In this cogent, well-researched book, American pop-culture expert Harold Schechter argues that exactly the opposite is true: a basic human need is given an outlet through violent images in popular media.

Moving from an exploration of early broadsheet engravings showing torture and the atrocities of war, to the depictions of crime in “penny dreadfuls,” to scenes of violence in today’s movies and video games, Schechter not only traces the history of disturbing images but details the outrage that has inevitably accompanied them. By the twentieth century, the culture vultures were out in full force, demonizing comic books and setting up a pattern of equating testosterone-fueled entertainment with aggression. According to Schechter, nothing could be further from the truth. He also blasts those who bemoan the alleged increased violence in media today, and who conveniently scapegoat popular entertainment for a variety of cultural ills, including increased crime and real-life violence. Though American pop culture is far more technologically sophisticated today, Schechter shows that it is far less brutal than the entertainments of previous generations.

Savage Pastimes is a rich, eye-opening brief history that will make you rethink your assumptions about what we watch and how it affects us all.

This book was absolutely fascinating. Schechter puts a lot of work in bringing the evidence forward that proves his point that violence in entertainment is no new phenomenon and if anything we as a culture are getting LESS violent rather than more. And his evidence is compelling. With an eye at showing that we’ve moved from actual violence to simulated violence, Schechter proves that every generation has looked at the previous with a nostalgic eye while condemning the current generation as the most violent and corrupted. The book is thoroughly readable and well researched and reads just as quickly as any popular fiction.

4 out of 5

Review: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Rook-by-sharon-cameron-e1427669481624

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel as a dystopian version of the story, I had really high hopes for this book. The Scarlet Pimpernel is my absolute favorite book since I read it in middle school for the first time. It’s the genesis of the hero with a secret identity; a proto-Batman. This novel turns Sophia into the masked hero saving people from this futuristic version of the French Revolution. While she’s a fairly fitting replacement for Percival Blakeney, the novel drags in the middle after a fast start and breakneck ending. Another issue is the side character of Spear, whose childish behavior as best friend and rejected lover of Sophie is completely overlooked by her. You’d just expect her to catch on about how badly Spear was taking being spurned and be a bit less forgiving of some of his actions.

Maybe the problem was the fact that I love The Scarlet Pimpernel so much anything less than it falls short. Rook is definitely readable and I didn’t dislike it, it simply didn’t become a favorite. It’s light and enjoyable and I found it a pretty fast read. Rene is a charming match for Sophie and has some of the best dialogue in the book. It’s a pleasant afternoon read of a book that isn’t bad, but isn’t really earth shattering either.

3 out of 5

Giving Up the Ghost (Town)

10-of-the-Best-Ghost-Towns-of-the-West-Photo3

I love a good abandoned structure. The creepier looking the better. Something about the post-apocalyptic vibe of places that the dominant species has just abandoned is both unsettling and oddly fascinating. So allow me to bring to your attention some of the most interesting ghost towns I’ve come across on the internet.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Probably the most striking ghost town if only because of speed at which it had to be abandoned. If you want something that really does look like it’s from the apocalypse, Pripyat is your town. Abandoned when Chernobyl melted down, toys are still on floors and books are still on desks. The whole city is simply frozen as it was the day the disaster happened.

Pripyat

Bodie, California

The quintessential ghost town by American standards, Bodie was founded on gold mining and abandoned when that fickle trade dried up. Now a historic park, people are welcome to wander the streets of the ghost town (which housed 65 saloons in one mile).

Bodie

Hashima Island, Japan

Originally built around coal mining, Hashima Island (also known as Ghost Island and Battleship Island) was once a thriving community with many impressive hi-rise buildings. Recently it’s seen a bit of a revival as a tourist destination.

Hashima Island

Kowloon Walled City, China

Once the densest place on earth (33,000 people were living in one city block), a loophole in whole actually owned the area allowed residents to build their dwellings in any manner the liked, ignoring safety codes and seemingly reason. The aesthetic ended up being something that even after the city was demolished 20 years ago has inspired movie makers and comic book writers with its imposing uniqueness.

Kowloon Walled City

Kolmanskop, Namibia

A former diamond mining town, Kolmanskop is what happens when the desert is allowed to reclaim something. Sand has slowly taken over most signs of human life, but what remains is strikingly beautiful.

Komanskop

Centralia, Pennsylvania

The city that inspired a video game and movie, Centralia was just a normal town until a mining fire lit the coal under the ground into an inferno that no one has been able to put out. Smoke pours out of cracks in the ground and the population has moved on, but the town continues to attract attention with its otherworldly aura.

Centralia

For a fast paced Western YA novel that involves some mining towns BEFORE they were abandoned and a determined heroine out for blood, try Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road