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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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The Night Circus Review

The Night Circus Review

By Erin Morgenstern 

Release Year: 2011

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.04

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. (Goodreads)

Coming into 2019 I had made a point to put many fantasy books on my reading list for the year, the result of me truly discovering the genre in 2016. Up until last year I’ve never really read very many books that are considered fantasy, at least none more advanced that the middle grade books I occasionally read while in elementary school. As a result I found myself on a quest for notable fantasy books to introduce me the genre the right way. I must say, The Night Circus did not disappoint.

I was lucky enough to find a copy at a local indie store, that is sadly in the process of closing as I write this. I hadn’t intended to buy the book considering that I try not to buy physical books unless I’ve already read them and like them enough to read them again. Of course, I bought the book, and I don’t regret it one bit. 

The book has a very interesting concept and is subsequently enchanting in its presentation. I’ve never been a big fan of circuses, my only experience with them being Barnum and Bailey’s when I was an exceptionally young age (too young to really understand how horrible the shows were from an ethical stand-point). If such a circus as the one in the book existed I imagine many people would love circuses so much more and they’d not only be much different but they’d still be around.

Something that I really look at when reading fantasy books is the magic system (if one is present in some form). This plot of this story is very well centered around magic, which is described well throughout the book. The only thing is that the system seems to be very soft, which in upon itself is not a bad thing, but something I generally don’t prefer. The implementation of a soft magic system makes sense to an extent when it comes to this book considering there is an air of mystery surrounding magic within the plot. Nevertheless, there were times I felt it detracted from the story and even a little bit more explanation would have probably alleviated this issue. 

The book is overall well written with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions of their world. Regardless of this, there were still a few scenes that I found seemed ultimately unnecessary to the overarching plot. None of which were particularly severe, but notice enough for me to take note of them. Of course, as I writer I understand this sentiment is entirely subjective so I don’t hold this to hard against the book. 

I think the only thing I truly took issue with in this book was the romantic subplot. I realize that, especially in YA, a romantic subplot of some sort is very important, but at times I found the one included in this book not particular interesting. I was not invested in whether or not the characters got together in the end and I can definitely imagine the writer achieving a similar ending with a platonic relationship.

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I Am Mother (2019) Review

I Am Mother (2019) Review

Directed by Grant Sputore

Written by Micheal Lloyd Green, Grant Sputore

Staring Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank

Rated: TV-14

Run-time: 1h53m

Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi 

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

The film is available on Netflix.

I watched the trailer for this film almost as soon as it came out, as I do with most films. The title and thumbnail did little to reveal the true nature of the film and I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I actually watched the video. The trailer does a good job of showing the viewer that this film definitely has a mysterious aspect to it. The only downside I might add is that it also manages to present the film as a classic AI-takes-over sort of film. The concept itself is not cliche, but at this point it becoming so due to the over-saturation of stories regarding the techpocalypse. As a result I’ve watched many movies that fall under this sub-genre but this film is an interesting presentation of these concepts. 

This film presents expository information in a very interesting way that at face value seem more simple and unimportant; to later reveal it really is very important to the plot as it unfolds. Things such as time is measured in days, rather than years, this proves to be a key in what is considered the big reveal. This decision is ingenious because when you see that it’s been 13,867 days since the infamous “extinction event” you are not immediately aware of exactly how long that is because we’re used to being presented this information in a more understandable year-based timeframe.

There are a lot of admirable aspects of this film. The acting is good, the visual storytelling is very good and the use of practical effects is present (which itself is amazing). Times like this I find myself a little disappointed that Netflix originals generally don’t include behind-the-scenes featurettes because God! I would love to see how they implemented the practical effects in the production to achieve such smooth yet robotic movements. (From what I currently understand the character of “Mother” was an actor in a suit, but I still like to know the process of learning how to move in the suit and imitate mechanical movements in such a believable manner.)

I also very much enjoyed the story this film is trying to tell. There is a level of moral greyness and ambiguity at times that makes the actions of the characters more unnerving. In the end, some details are left open, but not to the detriment of the film. In the end you leave with more questions that you started with, but in a good way.

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