To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.

Big Gods Don’t Cry: Reviewing The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book Four of the Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hey everybody! I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth yet. Granted, I’m still super busy but I have my weekends back for some relaxation, which includes catching up on my books. In case you have forgotten, I am still a fan of Rick Riordan and all of his series. I actually saw The Lightning Thief: The Musical earlier this year and loved the hell out of it. Now, it’s time to talk about the latest book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Tyrant’s Tomb.

Yes, Apollo is still teenaged boy with unfortunate name of Lester. Yes, he is still miserable. Thanks for asking. To make things worst, it turns out his mortal birthday also happens to be the day that Caligula and Commodus are planning to attack Camp Jupiter, home of the Roman demigods. On top of all of that, an evil undead king is planning on attacking once the blood moon rises. And if you think it couldn’t get worse, Apollo also must figure out how to cure the poison inflicted on him by ghoul. With all of that being said, he must team up with Meg, Frank, Hazel, and Reyna (and a few other unlikely friends) to save Camp Jupiter or (hopefully not) die trying.

I’m still surprised by how much I am enjoying this series. I really didn’t think that I would be delving back into the world of YA novels. Riordan has proven to have staying power, though. I guess the connection I make with this novel is the fact the main character (Apollo/Lester) is technically an adult who then has to deal with the struggles of teen angst as well as deal with adult issues. He still makes for an enjoyable main character to follow. This novel had a slightly more emotional angle to it as we have Apollo facing his past actions and coping with that guilt, which is kind of a heavy topic for a YA novel. I did enjoy that aspect of it, though. Riordan still keeps a nice sarcastic tone throughout the novel that never feels like it is too much or inappropriate. There was plenty of action and adventure to be had that every Riordan novel gives you. Go ahead and read The Trials of Apollo. I’m looking forward to the next novel. Also, I might go see The Lightning Thief on Broadway in the near future.

At Night, We Shine: Reviewing Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Hi everyone! I’m glad to be back and to have finally finished another book. Along with all of my important adult jobs, I’ve also been busy in the world of ebooks. I have finally caved and started using my Kindle. I’ve been one of “those” stubborn people who have adamantly refused to use any sort of electronic book, but I have a hard time saying no to cheap books. Let’s get on to reviewing yet another book by one of my all time favorite authors.

Tristran Thorn is a young man who will do anything for the love of his life, Victoria Forester. When they see a star fall to Earth, he promises her to retrieve the star in exchange for her love. Tristran then embarks on a perilous journey through lands far beyond the Wall. He must race against unknown dangers to save the star and learn that his world was not what he once thought it was.

I can best describe this novel as a fairy tale for adults. Gaiman combines the classic language and structure of a childhood fairy tale and his signature fantastical writing. It is a more upbeat story with a nice, romantic ending. The story definitely reminds me quite a lot of The Princess Bride, with its quirky characters and how it embraces many fairy tale tropes. The story is nicely paced, as well as straightforward. It has some “adult” moments, but nothing extreme or overly graphic. The novel is a fun mix of romance, magic, and adventure. I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling nostalgic. I am biased when I say this but, I love Gaiman’s Stardust.

On another note, if any of you think that this novel sounds familiar, it is because a movie of the same name based on the novel came out a while ago. I saw it in the theaters as a kid and loved it then. It’s available on Netflix, if you are interested. It’s not a great movie, but it is a fun movie. It has a great cast that includes: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I hope some of you remember this because I’ll be disappointed if no one else remembers this movie.

I too have an opinion on the final season of Game of Thrones

Hi everybody! Sorry but not sorry that it has been so long since I have last posted anything. I now have two jobs so, I hope you understand I have make that paper. I’m sure many of you on this website are fans of Game of Thrones. I read the books in high school around the time that the show started. It’s safe to say that I have been invested in the series as a whole for a while. This final season, which should have been incredibly epic and satisfying, has been anything but that. Before I go any farther, I do want to say that this is no shade towards the actors or the actual filming, as both are still great. I want to talk about the writing and some weird decisions that the writers seem to have made. BIG SPOILER WARNING! If you are not caught up, you may exit now. If you don’t care about spoilers and/or the show, then you may proceed.

The Character Development: Who needs consistency in their characters’ development, right? Honestly, this is my biggest gripe with the show currently, even though there is only one episode left. It’s really disheartening to see some of my favorite characters grow so much, only to be stopped for the plot. For an example, I shall direct you to Tyrion and Jaime Lannister. In my humble opinion, they have had some of the best personal development in this show. The Lannister brothers have fought so hard against their sister and we were all so proud when they finally broke away from Cersei. What happens next? Tyrion somehow becomes very convinced that she’s going to willingly surrender, even after we watched her blow up the Sept just to keep her crown. Jaime, even after he finally gets together with Brienne, decides to run back to Cersei for no reason other than he feels guilty. I’m sorry but what? You keep expecting for some sort of turn around but, then it doesn’t happen. They aren’t the only victims of this, though. Jon Snow and Daenerys aren’t much better off. Cersei even ended up being a bit of a letdown.

The Pacing: With a short run, the episodes can’t be too jam packed in order to draw out the suspense. I do normally love that but, in this case, the pacing of the show has just been off. From the battle with the Night King to the battle in Kings Landing everything feel like it should be in a different order. I don’t know how to explain it any better. Maybe some you know what I am trying to get at. I just feel like everything could be rearranged in a better order to make the story feel more cohesive. Honestly, I think that the battle for Kings Landing should have happened in the middle and the battle with the Night King should have happened at the end. I also think that the character deaths have been put in weird places as well.

The Treatment of Women: Let’s put on our feminist lens for just a moment. For starters, none of the episodes have been directed by or written by women. I’m going to call that a red flag. The female characters have not always been treated well in the show but, we have seen them bounce back and become triumphant. Unfortunately, these strong female characters have been devolved to pure emotion. Now, I’m not saying that female characters have to be perfect and strong all the time, but they do have to have development that sticks. In this season, it seems like all of that amazing characterization has been thrown out the window. (See character development above). The only female character whose development has stuck is Arya. (Honestly, she is my favorite this season). It seems like they’re going back to favoring the male characters.

The Forgotten Lore: As you all know, the show contains forms of magic that have been explored throughout the various seasons. They have helped to compose various plot points as well. Some of the biggest forms of magic have been in prophecies. Azor Ahai (aka The Prince who was Promised) and the Valonqar (Cersei’s prophecy) were huge points in the books and they were brought up in the show. It seems, however, that they have been tossed aside as well. I really liked the magical aspect of the show and I wish we could have explored it further. (By the way, I’m going to leave it to you to look up those prophecies. It leads into a lot of fan theories.)

Those were my gripes. Let me know in the comments if you have any other grievances that I may have forgotten.

To Be, Rather than to Seem: Reviewing The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Hi everyone! This review took a while because I’m easily distracted. I had actually read this book a while back, but had since forgotten the details of the novel. In fact, most of the books I review for this blog are books that I have read previously, but I wanted to share them with you all. With that being said, here is my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. It is a magical experience for all those who enter through its gates. They call it Le Cirque des Reves and it appears at random and opens only at night. Little do the guests know of the fierce competition behind the scenes. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair have been training their whole lives for a mysterious game of magic with only one winner. When the two young illusionists fall in love with each other, it leads to dangerous consequences that leave the circus and its performers in peril.

Morgentern’s novel is an elaborate and magical read. The writing is layered and atmospheric. It is certainly an immersive read as it alternates between perspectives, even sometimes shifting the writing style a little to accommodate the characters in the scene. The story can be a bit vague at times, but it is part of the experience. It does pay off at the end of the novel. I particularly enjoyed how the rich details and symbolism tie into the themes of the story, such as the elaborate clocks or the various circus tents that Morgenstern puts great care into describing. The novel has an overall romantic feel, and I don’t just mean that in the sense of there is a love story. I remembered why I enjoyed this novel in the first place. If you want something with magic, romance, and danger, then I would go ahead and recommend picking up The Night Circus.

I saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and I have some thoughts

Hi everyone! Originally, I was going to make this post about my favorites of 2018 but I ended up seeing the newest movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise tonight. In my previous post about having “too much story,” I admitted that I was hesitant about this movie and if it was messing with the original lore too much. You all know that I am a die hard Harry Potter fan, who also enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Let me tell you what I thought. Spoilers Ahead!

I wanted to start by talking about the thing I liked about this movie. First, I loved seeing Newt again. I really enjoy his atypical characteristics. Eddie Redmayne is charming as anything and it comes through again. In addition to Newt, I also enjoyed seeing him and Jacob back together for adventures. I can’t go any further without mentioning how I loved seeing Newt and Tina together. (I really ship it.) As for the story, I did enjoy seeing the lore of Grindelwald come to life as that was a very important part of what led to Voldemort’s rise to power. Along with that, seeing Dumbledore before in his teacher days was one of the best parts of the movies. There was some really good world building and great character development. I can’t completely say the movie didn’t have some great elements. 

Let’s get to what I didn’t like. First, I’m still not happy about Johnny Depp being casted. He did a fine job in the movie but they should have replaced him with someone less controversial. I shouldn’t feel guilty supporting this movie. There was definitely some muddling of the lore that seemed to appear out of nowhere and with no preface. With the reveal of Credence possibly being a Dumbledore and not a Lestrange, I found myself a bit baffled. I know it’s mostly for sequel bait but it’s still a weird reveal. Along with the whole familial confusion, there was also infanticide! I was not expecting to see babies being murdered and I was disturbed as any other person should be. My biggest gripe, beyond all of that, is that there were not enough beasts in the movie. I wanted to know if Newt had made any progress in helping people learn to understand magical beasts but that was completely thrown away for the Grindelwald plot. The actual beasts are what drove the first movie and I really enjoyed seeing all of that. The charm of the first movie just got lost in this one. Only Newt, Tina, and Jacob were the driving forces of what made the first movie so enjoyable. 

In conclusion, I don’t think this movie gave “too much” story. Instead, I thought it told the wrong story. It wasn’t a badly written story by any means. It was just too much of a turn from what the first movie delivered. The plot twists felt as though they were mostly there for shock and sequel bait as opposed to story building. Now, I am aware that this is JK Rowling’s world and she can do whatever she wants with it. There, however, has to be some consistency. I understand we can’t know everything about the Wizarding World. I am just saying, though, that the world building felt lost in the epic-ness of the movie. I’m not hating on this movie by any means. I would definitely watch it again. I’m just intrigued as to where the story is going to go from here. 

Where the World Ends is Where You Must Begin: Reviewing The Gunslinger (Book One of The Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King

Hi everyone! It’s time for me to stop padding this blog with random posts and start giving you some actual book reviews. I was grateful to receive the entire Dark Tower series from my aunt not too long ago. I have mentioned in the past that it has been awhile since I have read a series. I’m also a Stephen King fan so this was all very serendipitous. Now, here are my thoughts on The Gunslinger. 

The mysterious man called the Gunslinger is on the hunt for the equally enigmatic Man in Black. As he travels across the desert, the Gunslinger must survive many magical obstacles in his path as well as protect Jake, a kid from Earth in order to reach his arch nemesis. King’s mix of epic fantasy and classical Western tales provides a surreal backdrop for the thrilling and dark tale of the Gunslinger and his quest.

As you have probably seen, I have reviewed King’s horror novels in the past but I have not read one of his non-horror novels yet. The Gunslinger had a surreal and gritty atmosphere that brings together all of the classic elements of a Western story with the kind of fantasy I’ve read in Lord of the Rings. The story is certainly not structured in any traditional way. It took me a bit to realize that as the story simply flows together and isn’t broken up by so many chapters. The Gunslinger is actually a quick read but the story makes you pay attention to detail as King certainly follows the “show don’t tell” rule of story telling. I finished this book feeling intrigued. King does inject his usual gory form of story telling into this novel, so you have been warned if you are sensitive to violence. At times, the writing did carry a certain sexual overtone that made me a little uncomfortable. It wasn’t enough to deter me but, again, you may not enjoy this if you are sensitive to this kind of content. In the end, I found myself very intrigued by The Gunslinger. I love the mashup of two very different genres and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. I’ll go ahead and recommend this novel to fans of fantasy novels. The Gunslinger is an epic exercise in pushing the limits of action and fantasy.

Note: I know the movie adaptation came out a year ago or so. I haven’t seen it but let me know if you think it is worth watching. I would like to know.

We Fought. We Persevered. We Rose.: Reviewing Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Hello everyone! It’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything. I wanted to wait to completely finish this novel before talking about it but, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you my thoughts about it. I’ve had to put this book on hold more than once due to graduation and now work. Anyways, I am incredibly excited to tell you all about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Zelie Adebola was just a child when the king targeted the maji and wiped out all of the magic in Orisha. Zelie lost her mother and was forced to hide her powers from the world. Now, years later, Zelie has the chance to bring back magic with the help of the rebellious Princess Amari. With her brother and Amari at her side, Zelie must race against the bloodthirsty king and ruthless prince in order to bring back magic to Orisha.

There has been a lot of hype about this novel and it has even been promoted by Jimmy Fallon. I am pleased to say that Adeyemi’s debut book lives up to the hype. It has a wonderful balance of world building and character building. It has a very Game of Thrones vibe as the narrative is a similar style with the chapters alternating the characters’ points of view. It also carries the same adventurous spirit as Harry Potter. This book is a journey in every sense and it is a great YA novel as it deviates from so many of the tropes in YA fantasy/adventure novels. Fans of mythology will also enjoy this as it is based in African folklore and mythology. I haven’t read many (if any) fantasy novels that weren’t told from a Western perspective so this novel is particularly unique in that sense. I highly recommend Children of Blood and Bone to anyone looking to an exciting YA novel that you don’t want to put down.

Note: I know that Adeyemi had released that title for the next novel in this series and that she is in talks for a movie adaptation.

Monsters, Fathoms, and Witchcraft: Reviewing The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I’m surprised it took me as long as I did to get to reading this book. In a moment of weakness that I experience whenever I am in a bookstore, I decided to add yet another Neil Gaiman book to my growing collections. What can I say? I’m guilty of being a Neil Gaiman fan. I will now tell you about The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

When a middle aged man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he finds himself drawn back to an old farm where his friend, Lettie Hempstock, lived. As he stands by Lettie’s “ocean” (that was really a pond) behind her farmhouse, he remembers a frightening, magical, and fantastical time in his life that no small boy could have even imagined. The Ocean at the End of Lane follows the journey of children trying to make sense of a strange world where adults aren’t always right and magic inhabits the forest.

You are all aware of my bias as I am a Neil Gaiman fan but, regardless, this novel is a delicate and dark look at childhood and the struggles that come with it. Gaiman takes his signature dark storytelling and turns it into a fairy tale that is surprisingly relatable. It’s a quick read too, at only 273 pages but Gaiman makes every last page count. This coming-of-age story presents the reader with a new outlook on adulthood, humanity, bravery, and kindness. The Ocean at the End of the Lane takes you a whirlwind journey through the magic world that we grow out of.

As Above, So Below: Reviewing Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I bet that you’ve been waiting for me to talk about how much I love Neil Gaiman’s novels. Well, I’m back to tell you about another one of his novels. I meant to write about this one a while ago but I forgot. I have since re-read the book and will now share with you my thoughts on the strange world of Neverwhere. 

Richard Mayhew was doing pretty well for himself with a nice job and wonderful fiancee  in London. All of that changed when he stumbled across a dying girl on the sidewalk. Soon, Richard finds himself trapped in the bizarre and macabre world of London Below where he must fight to get his life back and reach the surface against all odds.

Neil Gaiman is the master of creating vivid settings and characters with just his words. Neverwhere is a wild and wonderful take on the classic “Alice in Wonderland”-type story. Gaiman’s wicked sense of humor shines through in this whimsical novel. Neverwhere is a testament to Gaiman’s world-building abilities. If you are looking for a thrilling and special tale, then I recommend Neverwhere in order to escape from this world to one below.