A Court of Thorns and Roses Review

A Court of Thorns and Roses Review

by Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Print Length: 419 pages

Release Year: 2015

Genre: YA Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.24

Available at Amazon, B&N, or your local library/Libby

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. (Goodreads)

First of all, the newest editions of the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy are utterly beautiful. The old editions were also beautiful, but I find the more minimalistic approach more eye catching and visually stunning. Kudos to the artist, whose line work is delicate and perfectly detailed. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses is an interesting series. The first book, from which the series gets its name, is particularly interesting and introduces us to Maas’s interpretation of fairies. The story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a sinister twist. The book, for the most part is a relatively faithful retelling, but as the climax approaches things take an absolutely horrifying turn; making this story an intensely entertaining ride. 

The book is not without its flaws. The writing tends to border on cliche at times (like with Feyre, our protagonist, letting go a breath she did not know she was holding oh my!) and the fantastical elements of the book occasionally taking the backseat to the romance. Ultimately, the flaws are not hard to disregard though, as the overall story is quite engrossing and an easy read.

Being the start of a much grander story, A Court of Thorns and Roses does a good job setting up the books to follow. A Court of Thorns and Roses, at this point, might as well be required reading for fans of YA fantasy.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

All Systems Red Review (Mild-Spoilers)

All Systems Red Review (Mild-Spoilers)

by Martha Wells

Publisher: Tor.com

Print Length: 144 pages

Release Year: 2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Available at Amazon, B&N

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth. (Goodreads)

This book is a hilariously entertaining sci-fi adventure written from the point of view of a “murderbot.” Yes, you read that right, a murderbot. 

There is a diverse ensemble of characters in this book, but the author made the utterly genius decision to write it in the point of view of a sentient robot, who– in the past– murdered a large group of people. It’s a fascinating, and hilarious, examination of the robots perception of itself and those around it as it is recommissioned and assigned to work security for a research team. Seeing itself as a danger to humans, it hacks itself to achieve full sentience, which gives it a perspective of the world unique to itself. There’s a fascinating examination of what it means to exist and to be sentient, as the expedition is turned upside down by an largely unknown threat. What is known, security robots are attacking people. We watch as the robot goes through an existential crisis, knowing what it should do, in relation to what it wants to do, and the reason it should do these things. 

If you want a short read, All Systems Red, is for you; as it’s easy to read as a stand-alone novella. If you’re a fan of longer science fiction adventures, the novella has been expanded into a much larger series of books, all of which I am looking forward to reading in the future. All Systems Red is only a small glimpse into this world and its inhabitants, and it’s evident that there are many more stories to explore.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Girl with Three Eyes Review

Girl with Three Eyes Review

by Priya Ardis

Publisher: Vulcan Ink

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Special thanks to NetGalley and Vulcan Ink for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

She would hate her third eye less if it actually gave her special powers.

When her secret is threatened, she may be the only one who can save the kingdom.

Sixteen-year-old Kira puts on a show about having empathic abilities, but she miraculously wakes a highborn boy from a coma after a near-fatal accident on mountainous slopes. When his father threatens to expose her “magic” to the queen, she attends the kingdom’s most elite academy as a bodyguard.

Soon, she’s immersed in a strange new life—one of being a simple student trying out for the school’s skyboarding team. Her fake life becomes the life she’s always wanted, but Kira cannot escape who she truly is. Nothing in the court of the Raj is as it seems…

Will she risk her freedom to unmask a killer before the crown falls?

This book wasn’t my cup of tea, but– in saying that– it wasn’t so bad as to prevent me from finishing it. 

The book pulled me in primarily with its eye-catching cover and intriguing title. The book follows through with an interesting mystery better executed than most. With world-building that is done well for what is a relatively short book. Futuristic elements of this world aren’t hard to understand because they aren’t too different from technologies we have now, and the aspects of the world completely new to us (like the fictional sport of skyboarding) is presented with an appropriate amount of detail. 

On the other hand, the fantastical aspects of this book tend to fall short. With the protagonist’s, Kira Shine, abilities seeming inconsistent at times. Inconsistency doesn’t only happen with this aspect of a single character, but is an issue prevent amongst many of them. For me the only character that seemed continuously consistent was Sarita, Kira’s best friend. Otherwise, it seemed as though characters changed to benefit the plot rather than organically. For readers who enjoy plot-driven stories this may not be a problem, but as a fan of character-driven stories it was definitely a detractor. 

I don’t know if I’d recommend this book, at least not to people around my age or even slightly younger. Though written for young adults the book seemed to read a bit younger, more for middle-grade aged kids. I think someone in that age group would enjoy this book more than the older audiences. That being said, if you’re a fan of mysteries with fantastical and futuristic elements, I wouldn’t discourage you from reading this book, even though it’s not my first choice.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating:

Edge of Seventeen (2016) Review

Edge of Seventeen (2016) Review
via Movieclip Trailer (YouTube)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Written by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 44m

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Available at: Netflix

When Nadine’s best (and only) friend starts dating her detested older brother, the teenage cynic’s life becomes even more unbearable. (Netflix)

I try my best to be as objective as possible when reviewing books and films, but sometimes my subjective opinions make it hard for me to do so. This is one of those time where I found myself struggling. Technically this is a very good film, and I definitely see why it has performed so well, but personally, I’m not the biggest fan.

My grievances come from the fact that I can’t relate to the main character, Nadine (Steinfeld). I find her to be an annoying and self-centred teen with often times toxic behaviour. For most of the movie, she was her own worst enemy— which I realize is an aspect of the plot but still. Her mother definitely doesn’t help, and honestly, I think she’s just the worst. When it comes to the supporting characters, I don’t have much to complain about though. The highlight characters of the film (for me) being Mr. Burner (Harrelson) and Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto).

When it comes to plot this is your classic coming of age story and shows not only the main character but those closest to her, growing in some way. This was definitely a good part of the film. I admit, in the end, I found Nadine had really learned a lesson and therefore liked her much more. The only shortcoming would be the way the mother changes, which seems more abrupt than anything.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man Review

Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man Review

by Steve Alpert

Publisher: Stone Bridge Press

Print Length: 296 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Memoir

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.68

Available at Amazon.

This highly entertaining business memoir describes what it was like to work for Japan’s premiere animation studio, Studio Ghibli, and its reigning genius Hayao Miyazaki. Steve Alpert, a Japanese-speaking American, was the “resident foreigner” in the offices of Ghibli and its parent Tokuma Shoten and played a central role when Miyazaki’s films were starting to take off in international markets. Alpert describes hauling heavy film canisters of Princess Mononoke to Russia and California, experiencing a screaming Harvey Weinstein, dealing with Disney marketers, and then triumphantly attending glittering galas celebrating the Oscar-winning Spirited Away.

His one-of-a-kind portraits of Miyazaki and long-time producer Toshio Suzuki, and of sly, gruff, and brilliant businessman Yasuyoshi Tokuma, capture the hard work and artistry that have made Ghibli films synonymous with cinematic excellence. And as the lone gaijin in a demanding company run by some of the most famous and influential people in modern Japan, Steve Alpert tackles his own challenges of language and culture. No one else could have written this book. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Netgalley and Stone Bridge Press for providing me with an eARC of this novel. 

I am a big fan of movies. Of course, I review them and try to watch a new one everyday. Studio Ghibli is one of those animation houses that if it is even somehow associated with a film, I’m going to watch said film. Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man can immediately be deemed essential reading for fans of both Studio Ghibli and film in general. 

The novel is told primarily through a series of anecdotes which provide a rare view into the inner workings of the Japanese film industry in the ‘90s. The author, being a gaijin (or foreigner), allows him to provide an understandable view of the differences in industry for a western audience. As a reader, you learn a lot about the business end of bringing Japanese films to the Western world, and the many hurdles the companies involved have to go through to ensure the success of the film. We also see an unadulterated view of the reality of working in a Japanese company in the ‘90s, which differs greatly from one might expect. 

In mentioning the unadulterated view of working in Japan during this particular decade, I want to note that there are problematic aspects to the story. I understand how these aspects can detract from the story for some, because at times there are things that are hard to read. Whether it affects your reading or not, it’s important to address that there are things in this book that may not have been necessary to add.

Subjective Rating

Objective Review

Final Rating

The Betrothed Review

The Betrothed Review

by Kiera Cass

Publisher: HarperCollins

Print Length: 318 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.02

Available at: Amazon

When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine. (Goodreads)

This book. Oh boy… I am conflicted. 

I was excited when I heard about this book as a fan of the Selection series. I didn’t wait long to buy it, nor did I let it sit on my shelf long without being read. Much like my experiences with her other books, I was able to read this one in a single sitting. I’ve never been one to consider this a bad thing; some of my most favourite books are ones that can be read in a single sitting. The writing is easy to understand and subsequently easy to follow. For me, the only issue was reading the names of the countries, primarily the main setting of Coroa; which I continually read as “Corea.” This is a common issue I have with fictional names, but in the instance I found it relatively impossible to ignore. It would occasionally pull my out of the story– well, that amongst other things. 

To be honest, story doesn’t seem like the best word to describe this book. The book uses the majority of its length setting up the relationship between our protagonist Hollis and the king Jameson, only for it to shortly be forgotten in favour of the more dramatic forbidden romance between her and the exiled Isolten Silas. Almost as soon as that romance begins it ends with little actual detail regarding their relationship (which is practically non-existent and baseless). This felt like a slap in the face, having been promised a romance and to get very little between the end-game couple. This negatively affected their relationship as it seemed to be based on very little and disingenuous “insta-love.” It detracted from what was intended to be a shocking and powerful climax. At the end of the day, the story of Hollis’s rise to the royalty seemed much more interesting. 

I am thoroughly bothered by how hard Hollis was made to work to be a good queen and all her (albeit mild) political and diplomatic accomplishments, only to throw this away shortly after for the sake of idealistic romance. The story began with a relatively realistic view of royalty and barely managed to end with any sort of substance. 

There are parts of me that enjoyed sections of the story. Primarily whenever the protagonist showed some sort of agency; but for the most part she seemed to follow in the Selection’s protagonist shoes as an unintentional self-insert type of character rather than an actual person (also, America was a more developed character in some ways).

Ah– I don’t know… Part of me is considering reading the next book, based solely on the fact that I’m curious as to how the author is going to conclude this duology. The only thing I know with certainty is that I am not going to purchase the book.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

A Girl From Nowhere Review

A Girl From Nowhere Review

by James Maxwell

Publisher: 47North

Print Length: 445 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.81

Available on Amazon

Surrounded by fire, a girl with mysterious powers and a young warrior search for safety.

Life in the wasteland is a constant struggle. No one knows it better than Taimin. Crippled, and with only his indomitable aunt to protect him, Taimin must learn to survive in a world scorched by two suns and frequented by raiders.

But when Taimin discovers his homestead ransacked and his aunt killed, he sets off with one mission: to seek revenge against those who stole everything. With nowhere to call home, his hunt soon takes a turn when he meets a mystic, Selena, who convinces him to join her search for the fabled white city. Taimin and Selena both need refuge, and the white city is a place where Taimin may find someone to heal his childhood injury.

As they avoid relentless danger, Taimin and Selena attempt to reach the one place that promises salvation. And they can only hope that the city is the haven they need it to be… (Goodreads)

I didn’t quite know what to expect when going into this book because I honestly bought it solely based off of the cover and don’t think I read the synopsis. I don’t regret it though, seeing that I enjoyed it more than I thought. 

The story is more plot driven than character driven, which I find worked well for this story (I have no particular preference for either). The characters learn things and do change but the main point of the story is the journey, and the characters could easily be replaced with other people (with similar circumstances). I was honestly surprised at how much happened in the story, cause it was a lot. But even though there was so much happening it wasn’t hard to follow, and it didn’t become overwhelming. There were points where it detracted from the story, in that I expected it to end, knowing that this is the first part of a trilogy; but it didn’t. The story it sets out to tell from the beginning is followed through to the end, and thoroughly concluded, while the last couple of chapters sets up the next book quite well. Additionally, I am exceptionally curious about the events of the next book, because of the well-done world building.

The primary issue that’s prevalent throughout the story is the author definitely has a tendency to tell rather than show. There are a lot of times where it would have elevated the story, but it seemed the author settled. When “showing” actually happened, it was for smaller arguably irrelevant things. Regardless, the story was saved with an interesting premise and good world-building. I am legitimately curious about what’s going to happen in the second book.

Subjective Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating:

Beastars Season 1 Review

Beastars Season 1 Review
In a world where beasts of all kinds coexist, a gentle wolf awakens to his own predatory urges as his school deals with a murder within its midst. (Netflix)

Now streaming on Netflix. Rated TV-MA.

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but a few months ago an interesting video showed up on my YouTube recommended list. It was called something along the lines of “Dwarf Rabbit Spends Night in Love Hotel with Grey Wolf.” Obviously curious I clicked it, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I would later learn it was a scene from a series called Beastars, and that was really all I needed to have an interest in this series. Though, from that video alone, you don’t really get a good representation of what the series really is about. 

With knowledge only from that random video, I went into this series thinking of it as some sort of weird R-rated version of Zootopia. I expected to be weirded out, and not really enjoy it. Of course, this isn’t the case as I find the series extremely enjoyable and honestly somewhat of an allegorical masterpiece. 

It’s not a very long series to begin with: only one season on Netflix (at the moment.) I was able to watch it in two sittings. While my schedule allows for easy binge-watching; with only 12 30-minutes episodes one can get through this series quickly regardless. 

The story is set up to be interesting from the get-go, but I will warn you that some of the questions raised early on won’t be answered by the end of the season. We can only hope future seasons remedy this, but for now you have to live with knowing that you may not be completely satisfied with some of the subplots set up. In particular the murder mystery, which is essentially the first subplot opened in the series. But even though it isn’t brought to a clean conclusion it does work as a good introduction to the political and societal climate of this alternate universe of anthropomorphic animals.

The series has a cast of interesting and well-developed characters. Not only are we introduced to characters who are interesting on their own, we slowly find they’re well-thought out allegorical symbols that provide a surprisingly deep commentary on society as well as give the characters actions and thoughts an added level of realism and relatability. An easy example of this can be seen in the character of Louis/Rouis (for the sake of continuity I’m going to refer to the character solely as Louis from here on out, for no particular reason.) Louis is a buck, who throughout the story is striving to become the school’s titular “beastar,” which is essentially a school representative and a highly sought after position. He is presented as a menacing character, predatorial regardless of his status as “prey”. But not only is he aggressive, he’s diplomatic and strives to be an example for all students. This is a fascinating commentary on society, where aggressiveness is a quality important in leaders along with strong diplomatic abilities. What makes this commentary work so well and be so obvious comes from the author’s decision in making Louis a buck. An animal, that for all intents and purposes is “prey,” but is also known for being territorial, aggressive and capable of powerful predator-like violence. Throughout the series you notice symbolism used in this manner, and it only enhances the story. 

World-building is also done well in the series, but is primarily for the advancement of the plot. The story, for the most part is character driven, so added details about the world only make the story that much better. And, honestly, the world is very much like ours, primary differences are explored and showcased throughout the series. 

In addition the visual storytelling is also notable. With exceptional use of computer generated animation, this show is visually stunning and an experience in many ways. It is a true example of the enginuity of modern day animators and the continuing potential of CG animation in animated television series. And of course, one must mention the claymation opening that can only be described as beautiful, eerie, and charming.

If you are a fan of animation I would definitely recommend this story, and discourage those from dismissing this story as some “weird furry stuff.” This is an honestly interesting story with a lot of nuance and potential. I look forward to future seasons, and hope to soon get the opportunity to look further into the manga source material.

Subjective Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating:

Howl’s Moving Castle Review

Howl’s Moving Castle Review

by Dianna Wynne Jones

Publisher: Greenwillow Books; HarperCollins

Print Length: 448 pages

Release Year: 1986

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.28

Available at: Amazon, B&N

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. (Goodreads)

When I first read this book, I’m quite sure that I was the target age group, but I honestly can’t remember. What I can remember is: that since then, it has been one of my most favourite books. 

I reread it recently to comfort myself while being quite ill. I wanted to read something I’ve not only read before, but something that reads quite easily. Howl’s is one of those books I can read in one sitting, not only because it’s not very long but because I find it utterly engaging. 

The late Mrs. Jones’s writing is both fantastical and full of whimsy. No wonder Hiyao Miyazaki took on this story to adapt into one of his acclaimed films. The characters are well developed, in a way not often seen in children’s books. And though the writing style seems to tend to tell more than show, there is still plenty to see in between the lines. Which is a fascinating thing, considering this is a children’s book. It tells you quite a bit, yes, but also shows you enough to teach young readers what to look for while reading. As an adult the telling can be annoying at times, but the details you find in the cracks makes it all worthwhile. 

You can’t read this book and not fall in love with the titular Howl, as well as the protagonist Sophie. They’re both charming in very different ways, and practically every moment spent with them laughs are to follow. Even secondary characters such as Micheal and Calcifer are memorable. Who can forget not to bully Calcifer, or “may all your bacon burn!”

If you’ve seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book. While they are quite different at times the themes are the same and so is the sense of whimsy. Howl’s Moving Castle is a true classic in children’s story telling, and deserves all the attention our beloved Howl demands

Subjecting Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating:

Pizzaiolo! Review

Developer: Geisha Tokyo Inc.

Age Rating: 9+

Size: 256.9MB

Category: Simulation

Availability: iOS (free)

This is one of those games you download after seeing the add over and over, until you finally decide what the hell! And give in. 

Now is this game worth it? Not really. 

Visually, it’s okay. Not the best, but not so horrible that it detracts from the game. It has this sort of thrown together look a lot of apps like this tend to have. Like time was taken to make sure it’s presentable, but not much more. In addiction, the visuals don’t really add to the gameplay. Dare I say, it may even detract from it at times. 

Now, when it comes to actual gameplay there’s nothing really to write home about. You make pizza. That’s about it. There honestly really isn’t even much of a challenge to it, in that you can get away with randomly swiping around the screen and still doing reasonably well in the game. 

The main detractor from this game is that it is covered in ads, to the point where it’s less of a pizza making simulator and more of an ad-viewing platform. Additionally, the option to remove ads is not existent, making it evident the intent behind the lackluster gameplay. 

Honestly, if you see an ad for this game, I’d recommend you keep scrolling. Unless you feel like spending more time looking at ads.

Subjective Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating: