Saturday, June 29, 2019

Review: Hitched series by G.K. DeRosa (Books #1-4)

Hitched is a new series by G.K. DeRosa. As of today, there are four books in the series featuring the protagonist, Kimmie-Jayne Starr.

The Bachelorette is the first novel in the Hitched series. One innocent human girl. Twenty-five supernatural bachelors. Six weeks to choose the one. When aspiring actress Kimmie-Jayne Starr discovers she been snagged the starring role on the next huge reality TV show, Hitched, she thinks all her dreams have finally come true. But as soon as she lands on the beautiful island of Mystic Cove, something feels wrong. Sure, the twenty-five bachelors are heart-stoppingly handsome, but she’s certain they’re all hiding something—something supernatural. As she gets to know the guys, protecting her heart proves impossible when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to more than just one. As a string of strange accidents on set grow deadlier, Kimmie-Jayne realizes there’s much more to this dating show than she ever could’ve imagined. If she can’t figure out who’s behind these incidents, she’ll end up risking more than just her heart.

The Top Ten is the second novel in the Hitched series. A Fae prince, a guardian angel, twin dragon shifters, a vampire… And that’s only the beginning. Now that the truth is out about the supernaturals, things are starting to get interesting. With ten bachelors remaining, Kimmie-Jayne needs to get her head in the game. But with a murder investigation underway on set, listening to her heart only complicates matters. To make things worse, the mysterious accidents that were supposed to end with the big supernatural reveal are back with a vengeance. With more twists and secrets being revealed everyday, is there anyone she can really trust?

The Top Five is the third novel in the Hitched series. Five bachelors left. Four mystical families to meet and territories to explore. Four chances to avoid a supernatural war. Kimmie-Jayne thought discovering the bachelors were supernatural was tough, until she finds out she has to spend the week with their families. Now she’s whisked off to meet four of the most powerful families of Azar. If she can survive dragon lords, daunting angels, the intrigue of Fae court, and the Underworld, she’ll end up with the man of her dreams. Or so she hopes. But nothing is as it seems in each of these households, and perils loom in every corner of the vast estates. Will the men she loves be able to protect her or will the supernatural world prove too much for her as she struggles to choose the final two?

The One is the fourth novel in the Hitched series. The time has come for to pick The One. With one bachelor missing and chaos in her heart, Kimmie-Jayne must find the strength to choose the final two. Once that terrible decision is made, she’s sure things will be easier. But she’s wrong. When jealousy flares within the manor, the producers have no choice but to sequester the final two bachelors. As Kimmie-Jayne battles her fracturing heart, torn between two men, news of a surprise visit home sends her hopes soaring. But it’s short-lived. Disaster hits while she’s at home, leading Kimmie-Jayne to make a startling discovery about her past—one that changes everything... Will Kimmie-Jayne finally get her happily ever after?

As a huge HUGE fan of G.K. DeRosa's previous two novel series, The Vampire Prophecy and The Angel and Vampire War, I looked forward to this series, which is loosely based on the U.S. reality television show, The Bachelorette. Kimmie-Jayne Starr has dreams -- she's an aspiring, yet struggling, actress from a working-class family in the heartland who wants to make it big in Hollywood. She's in her 20s, starting her young adult life in a new country and meeting new people. The idea that she landed on a reality show as the main lead does sound too good to be true. However, the shock and awe of the set turns dangerous for Kimmie-Jayne as people close to her turn missing or end up dead! She must learn how to navigate the beauty of Mystic Cove while keeping her alive.

Overall, Hitched was a fun read if you're into a blend of fantasy and reality TV. I wanted to like this series. But the ending felt very predictable. (Or more like my favorite bachelor did not win Kimmie-Jayne's heart). As a result, the entire concept of the series felt underwhelming to me and might disappoint readers if they attach themselves to a certain bachelor. Although I was less impressed with the ending, there is a new spin-off series, Darkblood Academy, for readers interested in learning more about the aftermath of Hitched. In recent years, I have noticed that spin-off series are becoming more popular to keep the momentum going for fans of particular series. Nonetheless, Hitched is appropriate for young adults over 17 and contains mild violence. It is NOT a reverse harem series, even though the two men on the fourth book cover are ridiculously gorgeous. I recommend the series.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: Broken Throne (A Short Story Collection) by Victoria Aveyard

Broken Throne (2019) by Victoria Aveyard is a short story collection based on the Red Queen series. It contains six short stories (four of which have never been published), maps, and notes that serve as an add-on supplement to the four-novel series. From the back cover:
Return once more to the deadly and dazzling world of Red Queen in Broken Throne, a beautifully designed, must-have companion to the chart-topping series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Aveyard....Broken Throne features three brand-new novellas, alongside two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song- as well as never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content. Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed.

I had high hopes for this series. I became a fan after enjoying the first novel, Red Queen, and decided to see how the plot will play out to the end. The series is part of the dystopian genre, so I knew that the plot would be dark, violent, and psychological. But I did expect to read a happy ending for the main characters, Mare and Cal. Despite the persistent threat of war and conflict in the background, I was rooting for them to get together and finally admit their feelings for one another. In each short story, just when the suspense thickens, it ends with uncertainty--there are more questions than answers. This is an ongoing problem that I noticed from Aveyard's writing. I wanted Mare, the protagonist, to become the hero that would save the divided nations--and find true love with her prince. Instead of a fairy tale ending in Fire Light, reader must endure the angst of watching a teen drama -- avoiding each other, not admitting their feelings directly, and so forth. Near the end of the book, the readers get a few pages that fast forward to the aftermath of the Nortan Civil War. We do not know if Mare and Cal's children became Reds, Silvers, or newbloods -- Aveyard doesn't say, which disappoints me.

I also liked the maps and notes that explained what led to the post-apocalyptic United States. After reading this section, I realized this dystopian world takes place a thousand years later. While I did not care for the ideological insertions such as climate change or nuclear energy, this collection does attempt to elaborate on the background that was not clearly mentioned in the previous four novels. Furthermore, this collection includes two short stories--Queen Song on Cal's mother, Coriane Jacobs, and Steel Scars, on Captain Farley--that have been previously published and act as prequels. I skipped them because they were published in another short collection, Cruel Crown. There was one short story, World Behind, that takes place during the four novels in the Disputed Lands that seemed redundant because it didn't add anything to the plot. While this region may be a safe haven for Reds fleeing the kingdoms, it was random and forgettable -- another waste of pages. The collection would have been better spent on two additional short stories that could have given readers, for example, a sneak peak on Julian and Sara's anticipated wedding.

The best short story in this collection was Iron Heart, which focused on the point of view from Evangeline and Elaine. It was full of its indecisive moments, but it brought closure to Evangeline who was raised to be a queen but must chart a different path. It felt realistic--she got what she desired and was able to live the life she always wanted with her lover, Elaine, who surprisingly is the logical voice of the two. In conclusion, I feel conflicted about this series because. I encourage Aveyard to produce a spin-off series that takes place twenty years later on the children like Kiera Cass's Selection series, especially The Heir and The Crown. In my opinion, readers would enjoy learning more about Mare and Cal's children and Marie's niece, Clara. I think that would bring complete closure that this series deserves than what readers got now. It is quite a huge investment -- each novel averaged more than 400 pages only to arrive to a mediocre ending. Overall, I only recommend this series as a library copy--I would not buy this series because the ending did not meet my expectations .

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: The Legacy Series (Books #1-4)

I am Levy Michaels. Once my kind were the hunters—now we are the hunted.

The Legacy series by Mckenzie Hunter contains four books: Double-Sided Magic, Obsidian Magic, Renegade Magic, and Rogue Magic.

Double-Sided Magic is the first novel in the Legacy series. Supernaturals have become public to the world, but Levy Michaels has to remain hidden and pretend to be human because of the type of magic she possesses. Levy is a Legacy, one of the most powerful beings on the planet. It sounds like the title that should come with reverence, but it actually comes with a death sentence.

Levy has so far stayed under the radar--living a simple life with a simple job and a human roommate. You might ask, what could possibly go wrong in this scenario? Everything’s going fine until a dangerous and enchanted dagger that was once in Levy's possession is stolen. Then she wakes up next to a dead shapeshifter, fae, and mage, without any memory of the past twenty-four hours. Considered guilty of murder by most of the magical community and humans, Levy must work with Gareth, the sexy and dangerous leader of the Supernatural Guild. If he’s as good as rumored, it’s only a matter of time until he discovers the truth about her Legacy power.

Obsidian Magic is the second novel in the Legacy series. levy is a Legacy, a secret that she had originally planned to keep to her grave. She has revealed her identity to Gareth, the enigmatic leader of the Supernatural Guild. The next question is, can Levy trust Gareth with such dangerous information? But that becomes the least of Levy's worries. When mysterious deaths occur as a result of magic that mimics a Legacy, Levy no longer has to worry about Gareth exposing her. Another Legacy is causing the chaos, and Levy is forced to hunt her own kind.

Renegade Magic is the third novel in the Legacy series. Levy's identity as a Legacy has been exposed, and there's nothing that she can do about it but deal with the aftermath. As a result, the city is in chaos and she has more enemies than allies. Even the allies quickly become betrayers. Just when things couldn't get any worse, a former arch-nemesis resurfaces and is ready for everyone to pay.

Meanwhile, a supernatural assassin has been brought in to kill all the Legacy—and he’s good at his job. One by one we are being killed off. Gareth, my only true ally, has his own problems dealing with another group that is set on eliminating the world of supernaturals. The stakes are high, and Levy and Gareth must avoid a xenophobic destruction. Their survival depends on it.

Rogue Magic is the fourth novel in the Legacy series. Levy's best friend has been abducted by a madman who seems to have returned from the dead with the sole purpose of seeking revenge. Worse, her best friend is essential to finding a cure that has the potential to destroy the supernatural community. On top of that, there's a war emerging between humans and supernaturals. The Legacy were responsible for the first supernatural war, and now Levy is tasked with preventing the second war. See what lies ahead for Levy and Gareth in this thrilling finale.

This was my first book series by shapeshifter author Mackenzie Hunter. It had everything that I like -- vampires, fae, shifters, magic, romance, and mystery. I started this series with an open mind, and it exceeded my expectations. Levy, an orphan from the first supernatural world, must learn to blend in human society so that her identity as Legacy stays hidden. The Legacy are so despised that they are hunted so that their power can never again destroy human lives. But Levy isn't the destructive type -- she actually wants to help people and stay out of trouble. Nonetheless, trouble comes her way with mysterious supernatural deaths and another figure who can't seem to let her go. She must do everything within her power to protect the lives of those dear to her while avoiding near-death experiences. Gareth and Levy make such a wonderful team and couple, and I hope to learn more about them in short stories or spinoff series if Hunter decides to create a spin-off series. I highly recommend this series.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: Nausicaa - Princess of the Valley of the Wind (2005)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (2005) is a Japanese dystopian fantasy animated film directed by Academy Award winner Hayao Miyazaki. It was initially released in Japan in 1984, and an English dub version was later released in 2005. The English dub version features voices of of Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos and Shia LaBeouf.

After an apocalyptic conflict has devastated much of the planet's ecosystem in the future, the few surviving humans live in scattered, semi-hospitable environments within what has become the Toxic Forest. The world is devastated by atmospheric poisons and swarming with giant insects. Princess Nausicaä lives in the peaceful Valley of the Wind and can communicate with the massive insects that populate the dangerous jungle. Under the guidance of the pensive veteran warrior, Lord Yupa, the courageous Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their ravaged planet.

First, I had never heard of Nausicaa. Since this film was part of the Studio Ghibli classics, I had to see what made this film so spectacular. Overall, I thought the storyline were breathtaking and uplifting. Princess Nausicaä exceeded my expectations of a female protagonist who was not only a warrior but also a pacifist. This film was also ahead of its time -- there would not be similar films on the big screen such as The Hunger Games and Divergent until two decades later. Despite being produced in the 1980s, the art design looked beautifully well done. Anime fans and families will enjoy this classic animated film -- this is a must see. Stay tuned for more Studio Ghibli reviews this summer.

Watch the official English dub trailer below:

Monday, May 27, 2019

Review: King's Cage, War Storm (Red Queen #3-4)

Allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

The Red Queen series is a quartet of books, including two novellas, by Victoria Aveyard. This post contains reviews on the next two books: King's Cage and War Storm.

King's Cage is the third book in the Red Queen series. Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner. As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back. When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

War's Storm is the final book in the Red Queen series. Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head. But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path. War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced? As the saying goes, victory comes with a price.

I enjoyed the previous two installments so much (this is a much darker version of The Hunger Games) that I was curious to see how it would end. I literally binged on the last two books to figure out how the story will play out. I was rooting for Mare and Cal to reunite and maybe work together to bring democracy to the lands. Each book nearly averaged 500 pages, so you get a ton of action, suspense, and romance in this dystopian world of post-United States. Unfortunately, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the ending. I won't spoil the plot, but I thought there would be a more happily-ever-after situation. While the series concluded as expected, part of the story felt incomplete as well. So what happens next? Aveyard left readers on a cliffhanger on how Silvers and Reds (and newbloods) will interact going forward. The war is over, but what does this mean for the main cast? While i am glad to pick up on this series, I am a bit disappointed that the ending left many questions unanswered. Stay tuned for the anthology of short stories that explain what happens after the ending of War Storm, Broken Throne.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: Grave Destiny (Grave Witch #6)

Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, and that makes her a dangerous enemy for anyone with something to hide.

Grave Destiny, by Kaylana Price, is the sixth novel in the Grave Witch series. From the back cover:
Alex is still trying to come to terms with her changing powers and her growing ties to Faerie when a case she’d rather avoid falls right into her lap. A fae prince desperately needs Alex to investigate a politically sensitive murder. She reluctantly agrees to the case, taking FIB agent Falin Andrews along as her backup.

But as Alex begins to delve into the mystery, she realizes that the intricate web of alliances and intrigue in the Faerie courts is strained to its limits. War is about to break out, one that threatens to spill over into the mortal realm. This murder is tied right to the center of centuries-old arcane unrest, and if Alex isn’t careful she may follow the twisting path ahead of her right into her grave end.

Kalyana Price has done it again with her superb storytelling skills. This was one of the most amazing novels i have read in the Grave Witch series. Alex has matured a lot from her simple days as a grave witch and small business owner. She is now an independent fae who also happens to have planeweaving abilities! Over time, I have grown to adore Alex's witty and honest humor -- even if she had to adjust her language as she grows into her fae powers. Alex's life becomes more complex as she learns the truth about her fae origins, and being pulled into dangerous cases that go beyond simply raising shades of the dead. In this novel, this new case is nothing like she has dealt with before. As she is pulled deeper into Faerie politics, she learns more about her fae ancestry, the other seasonal kingdoms in Faerie, and hidden secrets about Alex's past--including a debt that must be paid. There is a lot of world-building that Price includes an overview of the structure and function of Faerie realm, but she does it in a seamless way that doesn't overwhelm her readers. Her tenuous romantic relationship with Falin, the Winter Queen's Knight, is tested when their feelings for each reveal themselves. Although this book feels like the conclusion of Alex's adventures, I am happy to report that there will be a seventh - and final -- book in the series. It is expected to be released in late 2020 or early 2021.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Grave Witch series!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Summer Update: Weekly Blog Posts Beginning June 2019

Starting in June 2019, I will publish blog posts weekly. This summer will be busy for me as I go on vacation and shift my focus to completing projects in my personal life. It will also give me a chance to catch up on other book series that are on my to-read list. I will return to publishing two blogs a week in September 2019. If you have suggestions on new titles--whether anime, TV shows, or books--that I should consider, please leave a comment!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New TV Series based on All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Great news for All Souls Trilogy fans! A Discovery of Witches has been adapted into a television series! The first season premiered in September 2018. So far, the first season contains eight episodes. The show premieres on Sky One (UK) and AMC (USA). From Digital Spy:
Seven years later and a TV series inspired by the book has finally materialised. Filmed in Wales, but also on-location in Oxford, Venice and New York, Sky One's A Discovery of Witches stars Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) and Matthew Goode (The Crown) in the lead roles of a witch and a vampire who find themselves inexorably drawn together.
Here is the plot in case you have not heard of the book series:
Reluctant witch/historian Diana Bishop discovers a bewitched manuscript in the Bodleian library. As she attempts to unravel the secrets this book holds about magical creatures, she is forced back into the world of magic, full of vampires, daemons, witches and forbidden love. Forming an unlikely alliance, geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont helps Diana to attempt to protect the book and solve the riddles within, while at the same time dodging threats from the magical creature world.
Finally, fans of All Souls Trilogy finally have a TV adaptation of this best-selling fantasy series. I highly recommend the book series before diving into the television series. It is such a great book. Check out the trailer below:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: Howl's Moving Castle (2012)

Note: This review is about the English dub release.

Howl's Moving Castle is a Japanese animated film by critically-acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. Here is an abstract:
Sophie (Emily Mortimer) has an uneventful life at her late father's hat shop, but all that changes when she befriends wizard Howl (Christian Bale), who lives in a magical flying castle. However, the evil Witch of Waste (Lauren Bacall) takes issue with their budding relationship and casts a spell on young Sophie, which ages her prematurely. Now Howl must use all his magical talents to battle the jealous hag and return Sophie to her former youth and beauty.

I watched this film as part of the annual Studio Ghibli Fest at the local AMC Theatres. I loved Miyazaki's ground-breaking visuals and masterful storytelling. This is the same director who won an Academy Award for the film, Spirited Away.  This is not your ordinary cartoon for children; this Japanese animated work is a treasured masterpiece for all ages. The story's background reminded me of Victorian England at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It felt both magical and suspenseful, something that is often missed in 3-D animated films. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see an A-list cast (e.g. Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall) with famous Hollywood names in this film. I expect it from a Disney or Dreamworks production but not in a Japanese animated film. I also believe the plot itself with English-language names and places made for a smoother transition to North American audiences than most Japanese anime with Japanese-language characters. It brings me hope that maybe Japanese anime is gradually moving towards acceptance rather than a niche audience in North America. The recent Alita: Battle Angel (2019) is another example of Japanese anime gradually making its prime-time theatrical debut on American movie screens. I look forward to watching future Studio Ghibli Fest films!

Watch the English-language trailer below:

Monday, May 6, 2019

Viz Media: Sailor Moon Stars home video to debut in June 2019

I saw fantastic news on Twitter this week. Viz Media will officially release the first volume of Sailor Moon Stars in English for home video in June 2019!

Originally, DiC Productions and Cloverway (who owned the rights at the time) released the English-language adaptation of Sailor Moon  through season 4. As a result, Sailor Moon fans had to turn to the Japanese version with English subtitles (episodes 167 to 183) to watch the final season. From what I heard over the years, Season 5 contained visual content that was considered too inappropriate for children to watch on television in the 1990s. The English-adaptation in the 1990s contained heavy censorship (especially DiC episodes) to meet federal rules for TV programming to children. While I enjoyed Sailor Moon as a child in the 1990s, I can see how this decision to censor and remove episodes was met with disdain among fans in my adult years.

Sailor Moon fans in North America can rejoice because we will have a complete collection in English dub! Viz Media has been faithful in restoring the Sailor Moon anime series to the original Japanese release -- that means no censorship or removal of content in the episodes. It may have taken nearly two decades for this project to prevail, but the timing couldn't be better. I cannot wait to watch it myself. You may pre-order the home video set on RightStuf. Here is a synopsis:
Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians are about to face their greatest challenge yet — high school! But as the girls take their next big step in life and Chibi-Usa prepares to return to the future, a mysterious force frees the evil Queen Nehalennia! While the struggle to contain her old enemy will be difficult, it may be Mamoru's year of studying abroad that hurts Usagi the most. But there's even more to take Usagi's mind off of long-distance love with the arrival of the villainous Sailor Anima Mates and the heroic Sailor Star Lights! Who could be behind this new wave of evil? And why are the Star Lights resistant to working with Sailor Moon? Usagi has her hands full, but she'll always make time to write a love letter to her beloved Mamo.
Pre-order today! Now for 90s nostalgia -- here's the video for the opening theme of the final season of Sailor Moon!

Review: Vampire Royals (Books #1-3)

A royal wedding is coming, but which contestant will be the bride?

Vampire Royals is a new teen paranormal romance series by Leigh Walker. The first three books include The Pageant, The Gala, and The Finale.

The Pageant is the first book in the Vampire Royals series. In a dystopian future, young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant. Gwyneth West's social-climbing mother wants her to compete, but Gwyn isn't so sure... The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you're lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. And then there's the prize... Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince, will propose to the winner. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and governs the new settlements. The Royal Family is mysterious.. Rumor has it they avoid the sun. Rumor has it they're immortal. When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants. But even if she wins...can she survive a vampire fiancé?

The Gala is the second book in the Vampire Royals series. The pageant is four weeks long, and 20 contestants vie for the Crown Prince's attention. The Pageant is almost over, and Gwyneth West knows she can win—except the prince is a vampire, and some of the other contestants are turning out to be quite beastly. Struggling to hold onto her position in the palace, Gwyn knows her vampire prince could slip through her fingers in an instant. And when human rebels threaten to storm the vampire royals once more, Gwyn finds herself caught between two worlds: her people, and the vampire she loves.

The Finale is the third book in the Vampire Royals series. Gwyneth West is a finalist in The Pageant, the dating competition that’s gripping the settlements. Down to the final week, the dashing Prince Dallas Black will choose one young woman as his fiancé. One small issue: Gwyneth’s a human and the prince is a vampire. What’s worse? Gwyneth’s family are sworn rebels, out to take back the settlements and overthrow the crown. What’s worse than that? Gwyn’s own rebel brother is a prisoner in the castle dungeons, but the king and queen don’t know his true identity. Gwyneth and Dallas want to show the settlements that vampires and humans can live together in peace. But as their differences threaten to tear them apart, Gwyneth discovers her love puts the prince at risk. How do you choose between love and duty?

Leigh Walker's Vampire Royals series is literally The Selection meets Twilight. I liked Gwyn as a character as she is torn between duty for her family and love as she falls for Dallas. The pacing was good, and the Gwyn became a formidable protagonist. This is not an easy task given her circumstances. Gwyn and Dallas also turned out to have good chemistry together, which is important because their relationship evolved naturally--it didn't feel forced despite the competition being about finding a future wife for the Crown Prince. Walker also added humorous elements to keep the story interesting (who knew I would be rooting for Eve to support Gwyn?). Overall, Vampire Royals was a good teen paranormal romance series that actually felt like an improvement over the original The Selection series. I look forward to future books by this new author. I also recommend the two subsequent books in the series that focus on one of the contestants in the pageant: Blake Kensington. Find out what adventures lie ahead for as she accepts the position of Goodwill Ambassador of the North.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire (The Great Library Books #1-2)

In an exhilarating new series, Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.

Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, is the first novel in the Great Library series. Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library of Alexandria is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Great Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly--but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell of England believes in the value of the Great Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Great Library’s service. When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a mechanical device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life. And soon both heretics and books will burn...

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine, is the second novel in the Great Library series. Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Great Library’s deadly automata -- alchemy-driven robotic guardians who ruthlessly eliminate threats--and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London. But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Great Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control.

Since I enjoyed reading Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series, I was delighted to hear about this new dystopian series. The Great Library has immense power over the distribution of knowledge in the world. Books are precious like currency, and the wrong information can get someone branded as a heretic and executed for treason. The Great Library acts as an authoritarian government where free speech is expressly forbidden. Those who possess powerful alchemical powers are locked away as slaves to do the Great Library's bidding. Any innovations that threaten to weaken or topple the Great Library's power are hidden away so that the world can never challenge its authority. The protagonist, Jess Brightwell, is an inquisitive and street-smart teen boy who loves reading but knows how to defend himself given his experience as a thief for his family's black market business. But Jess will learn that the Great Library isn't as merciful to those who challenge the status quo. As for age range, these books are definitely for teens (arguably 18 and over for the amount of violence and political machinations alone). The plot will test the teens' friendships and survival in the darkness where any possession of secrets could cost their lives.

Stay tuned for the next review on The Great Library series, Ash and Quill (Book 3) and Smoke and Iron (Book 4).

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review: Teen Wolf (2011-2017)

Teen Wolf is a teen horror drama. It is an adaptation of the 1985 comedy film starring Michael J. Fox. The MTV-produced television series contained six seasons.

Always an outsider and often unnoticed, Scott McCall yearns to be recognized in some small way that takes him out of his typical state of high school anonymity. When his best friend Stiles convinces him to go into the woods one night to join a police search for a dead body, Scott encounters a creature in the darkness. Narrowly escaping an attack with a vicious bite in his side, the next day brings strange surprises for Scott at school and his life will never be the same.

Unlike the 1985 original film, this adaptation focuses more on contemporary, angst-driven teen life grounded in real-world issues. Bitten Scott Mcall is young student learning to adapt to his newfound lycanthropy, which, like all maturation processes, requires some getting used to: he possesses incredible speed and strength but also a hair-trigger tendency to transform at the worst possible times. There's also a new girl who catches his eye and another, more dangerous werewolf on the loose with a posse of hunters on its trail. Overall, I highly recommend this series since it does an excellent job tying in supernatural legends in a realistic American high school context. At six seasons, it had a pretty good run. There are so few werewolf television series that deliver both charm and suspense. I am happy that I watched the series while it premiered on MTV, which has shifted from being solely video games into producing quality television shows for teens and young adults.

Check out the trailer below:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: Hiiro no Kakera - The Tamayori Princess Saga (2012)

Hiiro no Kakera - The Tamayori Princess Saga (2012) is a Japanese fantasy anime. It contains 26 episodes.

Tamaki Kasuga, a first-year transfer student, is the next Tamayori Princess after her grandmother, Shizuki. She is very connected with, and can sense through, her body whenever something happens to the Onikirimaru seals. When she first comes to the rural village, she has no idea what was going on. She is completely unaware of her role as the Tamayori Princess. Things start to get weird when mysterious dark forces and a gang of misfits called the Logos come after her. Luckily for Tamaki, she is suddenly surrounded by five handsome young men that come to her rescue and now act as her guardians. Because being a princess isn't easy, and she'll need all the help she can get.

I discovered this anime on Anime News Network when I was searching for similar fantasy anime to Fushigi Yugi. Tamayori Princess takes place in contemporary Japan with frequent references to Japanese mythology. The historical background was interesting because it used ancient Japanese art to portray the monsters that the original Tamayori Princess used to lock up the ancient evil. At times, however, I thought the pacing was awkward because I couldn't understand the importance of the priestess' role in preserving the artifacts. The romance part of the plot also felt forced towards the end because the direction of the story didn't imply forbidden love between a priestess and a demon. The anime quality is surprisingly superb, making some of the scenes look live-action. The soundtrack music is quite good, reminding me of another anime, AIR (2004). Overall, this is a good series worth binging on a rainy day, but the plot is quite forgettable.

Opening song #1: Hey! (Nee) - Fujita Maiko

Opening song #2: "Takanaru" by Maiko Fujita

Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Rite of the Vampires Saga series (Books #1-3)

A young woman with a secret. A man with a death sentence. And a terrible fate that threatens to destroy them both ...

This post is a review of the Rite of the Vampires trilogy by Juliana Haygert. It contains three books: The Vampire Heir, The Witch Queen, and the Immortal Vow.

The Vampire Heir is the first novel in the Rite of the Vampire series. Thea, a young female witch on a secret mission, enters the secretive castle DuMoir. She knows it's suicide but she worked so hard to receive an invitation. The guests around her seem excited by the exclusive tour around the estate and the ending ball that concludes it. But Thea knows better: Tragedy strikes the castle and chaos arise. Desperate to survive, a brooding vampire prince rescues Thea and her companion. Drake has no idea why he feels attracted to Thea but he takes her under his protection. Meanwhile, Thea uses this opportunity to hide a dark secret. But could the growing feelings between Drake and Thea could destroy everything they hold dear ...

The Witch Queen is the second novel in the Rite of the Vampire series. Thea has returned to her coven after Drake had left her. But before Thea could change her mind and follow him, Princess Morda of the Silverblood found her. She is now back in her coven, viewed as a heroine for having succeeded in her suicide mission. But she doesn't feel like a heroine. Meanwhile, the enemy covens grow restless and since her coven is the only one without a Witch Queen, they're at a disadvantage. But Princess Morda has a plan for that. Despite her longing for Drake, who has his own problems to deal with back at castle DuMoir, things are becoming tense. A war is coming and Thea has a part to play.

The Immortal Vow is the third and final novel in the Rite of the Vampire series. Thea reunites with Drake as they find a new home to hide. Together, they are safe and happy but their comfort is only temporary. Drake and Thea know that to reach the peace they seek, to be really free of the past, they need to return and fight back. They need to put an end to this chaos and madness. They need to face the vampires, the witches, the werewolves--and they need to win. But since fleeing the last battle, Thea has been sick and it’s only getting worse. If they can’t find a way of saving Thea, she will die soon.

Rite World: Rite of the Vampire Saga is a stunning new adult fantasy featuring a dark and mysterious vampire prince and a strong witch heroine. Fans of A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest and All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness will become addicted to this series! It was a very entertaining, captivating and sexy plot. Thea is a courageous witch who enters the enemy's lair, Castle DuMoir, to investigate the missing humans. Little does she know that she and the other guests are the main entree on the menu. With a stroke of luck, she survives the horror with the protection of a vampire prince whom she loathes but needs to rely on for the sake of her secret mission. However, the two grow closer as clues reveal that their leaders have not been honest and seek power for their own gain. Drake and Thea appear as polar opposites, but their growing feelings for one another are the key to fulfilling a prophecy that will unite all supernaturals.

Stay tuned for the spin-off series, Rite World: Rite of the Warlock!