Fangs Review

Fangs Review

By Sarah Andersen

Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing

Print Length: 112 pages

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Romance

Release Date September 1, 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to NetGalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing for providing me with an ARC.

Vamp is three hundred years old but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets a charming werewolf. FANGS chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different. (Goodreads)

A cute collection of short comics by Sarah Anderson is bound to be great, and Fangs is no exception. The comics follow the heart-warming and adorable relationship between a vampire and a werewolf and gives us glimpses into their quirky lives as well. The writing is precise and the illustrations are cute. Anderson manages to put a humorous twist on the sub-genre of supernatural romance that is deliciously dark and will make your heart squeal. If you can’t wait for Halloween this book is definitely for you!

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Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

Cemetery Boys OwnVoices Reflection

By Aiden Thomas 

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre: Young-Adult Paranormal Romance

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

As a reviewer, I consume a lot of content, especially books. I’m not very picky and like to diversity my reading with a large variety of genres, authors and subject matters. But even in doing so, I’ve found it difficult to find books I can see myself in The closest I’ve ever gotten was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I first read my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time I read a book with queer Latinx characters, and it was the first time I truly related to a character on such a deep cultural level. Ari and Dante will forever hold a special place in my heart, a place I hope they will share with Yadriel and Julian. 

When I first heard about Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys I was immediately excited at the prospect of reading it. Not only because it will give me an opportunity to enjoy a book that highlights my Latin heritage, but because of it’s positive representation of Brujeria. 

If my more traditional family members knew me for who I truly am, they’d likely disown me for two reasons: the first being that I am queer; the second being the fact that I spiritually identify as an eclectic witch. In they’re very traditional Catholic eyes any form of brujeria is cursed. To see a Latinx novel include it and not have it portray as this horribly bad thing is exceptionally comforting and exciting. And, to be honest, I don’t know much about things like Dia de los Muertos, nor traditional brujeria of the Latin world. The chance that I may learn some about those things, even a little, is so invigorating!

What I am mostly looking forward to is the connection this book will provide me with my culture. I am often burdened by it: the sad truth of being a light-skinned Latina is that it puts me in a place of privilege that has often lead to a cultural disconnect caused by colourism. I often find myself not feeling like I’m a true Latina, but at the same time, I’m not (fully) white. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere really. Throughout my life, I’ve been left out of things because of how I look and what I believe. As a result, books like Cemetery Boys are invaluable to me, as they allow me to connect with my culture without barriers and allow me to learn and experience things I’ve missed out on. These books allow me to feel free and safe as I explore my cultural identity and help me understand what it means to be a member of the Latinx community without fear of being excluded over such stupid things as skin colour and lack of fluency in my native tongue. I’ve spent too long feeling like I’m on the outside, that I’m somehow “other,” but books like this remind me that I’m not alone. 

I can’t wait to read Cemetery Boys, and am patiently waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. If you are interested in reading this book, it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, Kobo, and Google. And a special thanks to Aiden Thomas for writing this wonderful book, and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Review

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019) Review

Directed by: Rob Letterman

Written by: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit

Starring: Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton

Rated: PG

Run-Time: 1h44m

Genre: Action, Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes:  65%

Availability: HBO Max

In a world where people collect Pokemon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective. (IMDb)

This review was originally published on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

Now, I am a pokemon baby. I grew up during the height of pokemon popularity, and therefore I have an unwavering appreciation and affection for the fictional creatures. And because I am definitely not the only one, I can’t realistically review this as a “children’s movie.” Because most of the children in the theatre were probably dragged there by there parents, who are my age. This is an adult movie, made for those who were around when Ash first started training to be a pokemon trainer. You can not argue with me, because we all know I’m right. 

Subjectively, I utterly enjoyed this movie. With every live-action pokemon came the overwhelming jealousy of living in a pokemon-less world where my dog is the closest thing I’ll ever get to a real Eevee. The still-alive child in me was excited at the sight of classics, such as the titular Pikachu, Charizard, Bulbasaur, and the all-powerful Mewtwo. Little nods to the OG fans, like the Jigglypuff in the diner made me smile ear-to-ear; and the all-too-familiar“pika-pika” melted my fragile heart. If you are like me, born of the Pokemon generation, stop reading this review and just go see the damn movie. You won’t regret it. 

Like, most people, I was taken aback my Pikachu talking with the overly-familiar vernacular of Deadpool, but once I was actually in the theatre I understood the pure genius behind it. After all, this isn’t a kid’s movie, it’s an adult movie (I will fight you if you still disagree). And for those who are likely going to force their children into the theatre with them, no worries. Pikachu just sounds like Deadpool with none of the colourful language. Additionally, the film does a good job of world-building without boring us poke-gen kids out of our minds. 

The more objective film-reviewer in me still can’t really criticize this film, because in general films marketed toward children are hard to criticise heavily. Most of the negative aspects of the film can be brought down to the fact that it’s meant for “children” and therefore the same level of writing is not needed when it comes to plot and characters. Because, to be entirely honest, I can’t remember the name of the protagonist without looking it up. And this maybe because I was too preoccupied looking at all the pokemon, but still. The plot is nothing to write home about, a pretty cliche storyline with a twist that can be seen from a mile away, and none of the actors are going to win an Oscar for this film. The main redeemable quality is the CGI, which is well done throughout the film. Though the designers took some creative liberties to make the pokemon come to life in this live-action world, they are still recognizable as exactly what they are. Textures, such as fur and skin, are rendered beautifully, and the film’s lighting allows the CGI to really shine. It’s a respectable adaption of a beloved franchise, that makes up for what it lacks in writing with its sheer entertainment value.

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Green Skin: Dungeon Masters Review

Developer: SuperPlanet corp.

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 277.9 MB

Price Range: Free with in-app purchases

Available on iOS and Android

I found this game one day when I was exploring deep in the app store with the hopes of finding a hidden gem. I’m always sceptical, and during the tutorial, I didn’t know what to think about this game; but after playing it for a while I realized it was exactly what I was looking for and more. 

The gameplay and user-interface are both easy to learn and navigate. And while thee game, like any RPG, has a fair amount of strategy it’s not the kind that will leave you scratching your head or frying your brain to figure out the best course of action. 

Also, like many modern RPG’s, this game runs on a gachpa system for acquiring heroes. While most games you strive to have the highest star ranked characters, this game allows you to reasonably advance with almost any character if you play your cards right. Of course, that’s not going to stop you from trying to acquire all the five-star heroes. And you can get quite a few without spending real-life money, which in my opinion is quite amazing.

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Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Review

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Review

Directed by: Kimberly Peirce

Written by: Kimberly Peirce

Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 58m

Genre: Biography, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska. (IMDb)

Boys Don’t Cry is one of those fantastic films that you can only watch once. It’s also one of those fantastic films, that while they are great, they don’t hold up to modern ideals and would likely suffer in the modern market for one reason or another.

Hilary Swank plays a transgender man trying to live his life in Nebraska. Swank really shines in this role, portraying the struggle a struggle to fit in as well as real terror in the horribly true* events that unfold. Her dedication to the character only elevating the film. If the film were released today, I’m not entirely sure Swank could have maintained her role as Teena, being a cis-gendered woman. But when taking into the consideration the events of this film and the story of its production– and my self being cis-gendered– I do not feel it is my place to discuss the representation in this film at length. All I feel comfortable saying that the presentation of a transgendered individual and the depiction of their often horrific struggles this film may have been ahead of its time; and puts forth the violent and heartwrenching truth that still burdens us today. 

For many, this film may be an impossible watch. Its thrusts it’s viewers into the harsh reality of this world and how it treats members of the LBGT+ community. You know something is going to go horribly wrong, foreshadowing shown in things as simple as the lighting. 

I’m hesitant to recommend this film even though I’ve described it as “fantastic” and “great.” As I said, for some this movie will be impossible to sit all the way through; for others, it will be a hard ride. It truly is one of those films you watch once, and it stays with you forever. If you decided to watch this film do so at your own discretion, as trigger warning include, violence, a depiction of sexual assault, and death. 

The violence depicted in Boys Don’t Cry continues today, and the only way to stop it is through action. I have provided likes below for three organizations that work to provide protection and support for the transgender community. Additionally, I have included an article discussing violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community, which includes names of victims of said violence. Shall we mourn the loss of these individuals, educate ourselves on their struggles, and work to end this violence. 

National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

Trans Lifeline

Violence Against the Transgender and the Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020 (article)

*There is debate regarding the accuracy of the film in relation to real-life events. Regardless, the events depicted are very much real possibilities many face on a daily basis.

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Kind of a Big Deal Review

Kind of a Big Deal Review

By Shannon Hale

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Print Length: 304 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan/Roaring Brook Press for providing me with an ARC.

Josie Pie was born to be a star. So she dropped out of high school to pursue her Broadway dreams, but after months of failed auditions, she finds herself broke, beaten-down . . . and nannying in Missoula, Montana. Lonely and directionless, Josie checks out the local bookstore, looking for the ultimate escape.

And escape she does. Literally. She falls into the plots of her books, including a bodice ripper, a dystopian thriller, a YA romance, and more, all filled with swoony co-stars who just make her yearn to repair things with the boyfriend she left behind in NYC.

As her reality begins to unravel, what starts as a welcome break from her lackluster life soon begins to feel like a stifling nightmare—but is it too late for Josie to get back to the real world? (Goodreads)

Kind of A Big Deal is a short entertaining read that plays on the idea of books being a getaway for faraway fantastical worlds. It’s a fun concept that I’m sure every reader has daydreamed about but in a book form. Though, from my point of view, this story probably would have benefitted from being released in another form, such as a television series or film. In the form of a book, the effect of being transported into all these different stories fall short as the author doesn’t do the best job distinguishing the transitions even with the use of chapter breaks. 

Overall, the writing is lacklustre. The style of writing is stagnant throughout the book, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that some of the sections are meant to be from other fictional books. The writing is simple, which is good for a quick read but not much else. 

Honestly, for me, this book is one of those you pick up for a short bit of fun. It’s a way to break up the monotony of ones TBR with a quick and relatively lighthearted contemporary that can be read in one sitting. Will you read it more than once? Likely not. Will you regret reading it? Probably not.

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Ironspark Review

Ironspark Review

By C.M. McGuire

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Print Length: 336 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan/Swoon Reads for providing me with an ARC.

For the past nine years, ever since a bunch of those evil Tinkerbells abducted her mother, cursed her father, and forced her family into hiding, Bryn has devoted herself to learning everything she can about killing the Fae. Now it’s time to put those lessons to use.

Then the Court Fae finally show up, and Bryn realizes she can’t handle this on her own. Thankfully, three friends offer to help: Gwen, a kindhearted water witch; Dom, a new foster kid pulled into her world; and Jasika, a schoolmate with her own grudge against the Fae.

But trust is hard-won, and what little Bryn has gained is put to the test when she uncovers a book of Fae magic that belonged to her mother. With the Fae threat mounting every day, Bryn must choose between faith in her friends and power from a magic that could threaten her very humanity. (Goodreads)

Ironspark is a fun adventure story with action at every turn. It’s a refreshing addition to the fae-centric fantasy sub-genre of YA, with it being heavily inspired by the more traditional fairy lore. It includes some creatures we don’t often read about in modern YA fantasy, primarily due to the fact that they aren’t the ethereal beauties that are unseelie fae nor are they the complete terrors lurking in the deep forest. Additionally the depiction of magic is evidently inspired by real-life practices and the fantastical depiction we often get.  

For romance lovers, this book promises a queer love triangle, and while it delivers the romance often takes the backseat to the action. Which is a bit refreshing in itself as romance tends to overshadow the overarching plot. As a result, though, the romance tends to feel less real, but this book isn’t meant to be a romance; hence in my opinion it’s action focused tendencies are warrented. Additionally, this book includes a rarely represented group, with the character Dom being canonically asexual. The way his asexuality is decribed in the book is probably one of the more realistic versions I’ve ever read and therefore am grateful for. 

The book ends in such a way as to set up a sequel with the potential to have an even more riveting adventure, this time in the fae-lands. I’m interested to see more of this author’s depiction of the fairy world because of their already quite traditional rendition of the fae-folk.

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White Stag Review

White Stag Review

By Kara Barbieri

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 368 pages

Release Year: 2019

Genre: New Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.70

Available on Amazon, B&N, and be sure to check your local library/Libby

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling. (Goodreads)

This review was previously published on my personal website crystinaluna.com

Considering I am not super acquainted with fantasy it probably isn’t surprising that I found the concept of this book considerably unique and subsequently interesting. And though I must admit I don’t think the writing is the best, what it achieved is admirable. Aspects of the story aren’t outright told and action scenes are handled well and are easy to follow. 

Arguably, poor writing can be excused due to the fact that this is the writer’s debut novel. And by no means is the writing horrible, it just shows that this writer still has some growth ahead of them and honestly don’t we all? My main problems with the story come from the characters and the fact that they often come off as two dimensional with very basic motivations. The romantic subplot comes off as undeniably forced and is unnecessary to the story. The romantic subplot could have been reduced to a platonic relationship and the dynamic between the characters would have remained largely unchanged.  

For a debut novel, this book is surprisingly well-done. The author definitely has talent, though she definitely has room for growth (which makes me all the more excited for her future works. In the end, I gave this book a primarily subjective rating heavily due to my relatively low expectations with not only book but the genre. In the end, I was left with an appreciation for higher fantasy I did not prior have. Though I am curious about how my opinion will change as I become more acquainted with similar storylines.

After Re-reading in 2020

My general opinions of this book haven’t really changed, even now that I am much more acquainted with fantasy than I was a year ago. I’m looking forward to the upcoming sequel.

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Bone Crier’s Moon Review

Bone Crier’s Moon Review

By Kathryn Purdie

Publisher: Kathrine Tegen Books

Print Length: 480 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.79

Available on Amazon and B&N, or check your local library/Libby

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die. (Goodreads)

For me, this was one of those books that you by not because you know what it’s about and curious about it, but because the title is cool and the cover is gorgeous. As I’m starting to do more and more, I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and I don’t regret it whatsoever. I ended deeply enjoying this book, and can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. 

This book plays on the whole enemies to lover trope in an interesting way. Setting up a predictable circumstance only for it twist in another direction as the book comes to a close. I found myself so emotionally involved in what was going on that every twist and turn was made so much more exciting (even in retrospect I should have seen so many of them coming). 

The book includes such interesting mythologies and a magic system unique to itself. There is definitely a trigger warning for those sensitive to the literary deception of animal sacrifices, but I personally believe the author handled it quite tastefully. The system of belief is what really makes this book shine as it is quite unique and refreshing, though at times a little underdeveloped. It being underdeveloped may likely be a result of the characters own lack of understanding regarding it though, something I hope to see remedied in the sequel. 

The female relationships depicted in the book was quite refreshing with its depiction of sisterhood and familial bonds. The only thing I would ask to see is this series tackle romantic relationships between two of the women, rather than all the women being depicted as heteronormitive. 

For fans of young adult fantasy who want to get there hands on something new and entertaining and absolutely full of angst I recommend this book. Let me warn you though, the book is going to play with your emotions. Whether it be an annoyance with the characters or relating to them; it’s an emotional ride.

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Dragon Heroes Tactics Review

Developer: Perple Lab, Inc. 

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 374.1

Price Range: Free with in-app purchases

Available on iOS and Android

Dragon Heroes Tactics is a refreshing RPG style strategy game. The game is exceptionally easy to learn as it’s gameplay is evidently based off of chess. The graphics are above-average and the overall user interface is very intuitive. My only complaint with this game is that it occasionally crashes, but with short loading times this isn’t the problem it is with some other titles. 

This game does offer in-app purchases but it is entirely unnecessary. Gameplay and advancing through the game is easy, and if you are a fan of grinding and farming in games such as this game can satiate that craving. This game is entirely worth a try.

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