Thursday, March 28, 2019

Review: Dragon Bites (Stormwalker #6)

Maya and Janet are just trying to have a girls’ weekend in Vegas. Kick back, take in some shows. Then Gabrielle decides to tag along.

Dragon Bites, by Allyson James, is the sixth novel in the Stormwalker series. The ladies -- Maya, Janet, and Gabrielle -- are heading to Las Vegas from Arizona to have some fun. Casinos, clubs, nothing strange could happen on the strip. As long as Gabrielle keeps her Beneath powers under control, right? However, Janet notices Mick, her dragon fiance, walking the halls of the casino hotel where they're staying. But Mick isn't supposed to be in Las Vegas. Then everything comes tumbling down: A dragon slayer after Mick, gladiatorial games from hell, and a Vegas hotel full of trapped demons. When Gabrielle and Janet charge in to assist, they don’t realize that they're awakening an ancient and terrible evil … This evil is now after Gabrielle and her all-powerful magic, and it’s going to take Janet, Mick, Colby, and the rest of the dragons to keep Gabrielle safe.

This was the first book in the series that focused explicitly on a side character, Gabriella. The previous books focused on Janet and Mick as the main characters. Finally, fans got to see the character development of Gabriella and how much she has improved since her debut in Dreamwalker. I was disappointed that Dragon Bites was much shorter (288 pages) than the previous novels. (averaging over 300 pages). Still, the plot felt rushed with action scenes but not much substance on where the villain came from or the mystery behind the Beneath world. I would have liked for these themes to be explored in the novel. Nonetheless, I was delighted to read that Gabrielle found her own purpose and no longer lives under Janet's shadow. Allyson James stated that she plans to focus on other side characters in future books using multiple points of view. This is a writing style that is becoming more common in young adult paranormal series. There is a bonus feature in the back of the book that explains how Allyson James got the inspiration to write this series which was very touching. Stay tuned for the next novel in the Stormwalker series.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Review: The Vampire Prophecy (Books #1-3)

The Vampire Prophecy series was written by G.K. DeRosa and J.N. Colon. It contains three novels: Dark Fate, Dark Divide, and Dark Oblivion.

Dark Fate is the first novel in the Vampire Prophecy.Would you risk it all for love? A high-ranking official’s daughter, Solaris is wild and reckless, a daredevil with no regard for authority. For icy Kaige, the nocturne prince of Draconis, life is discipline and self-control. A prophecy split their worlds in two—a decree issued outlawing all human and vampire contact. Death is the consequence for crossing the dark divide between Imera and Draconis. When their worlds collide, a dangerous and forbidden string of events unfold. Bound together by blood and secrets, they make a startling discovery that could shatter the precarious balance of New Isos. Haunted by the words of the prophecy, Solaris and Kaige attempt to unravel the mystery they’ve stumbled upon, but every moment spent together threatens the very existence of each race. Can Solaris and Kaige discover the truth without triggering the century old prophecy and destroying both their worlds?

Dark Divide is the second novel in the Vampire Prophecy series. Secrets have a way of coming out. Divided by the dark wasteland between worlds, Kaige and Solaris deal with the consequences of their blood bond and the dangerous secrets they share. Their attempt at normalcy is quickly interrupted when Solaris stumbles upon a gruesome discovery in Imera, one The Collective would kill to keep quiet. Kaige risks everything to save her, realizing becoming king is the only option. With Solaris in hiding, their forbidden feelings spiral out of control. As Kaige struggles to protect her, they learn the truth behind Draconis’s darkest secret. As it turns out, the prophecy isn’t the only thing threatening all of New Isos. Enemies span both sides of the divide, and they’re rapidly closing in on the star-crossed pair. Can Kaige and Solaris find a way to stop the hidden horrors within their worlds before the truth gets them killed?

Dark Oblivion is the third novel in the Vampire Prophecy series.There’s no stopping a prophecy. Solaris and Kaige can no longer deny their feelings. And their world is about to pay the ultimate price. Death is quickly spreading through Imera, endangering all the inhabitants of Draconis in the process. Synth is running out, and the nocturnes are becoming dangerously restless. When rations dip too low for the taranoi, a rebellion erupts and not everyone makes it out alive. The forbidden couple’s secrets are exposed, making neither world safe for the star-crossed pair. As their enemies draw ever closer, Kaige and Solaris take refuge in the ominous Shadow Lands. There they stumble upon a pivotal discovery that could change everything. Can Kaige and Solaris stop the disease ravaging the humans and save the nocturnes or will they all perish as the prophecy foretold?

The Vampire Prophecy was my first novel series by the duo authors. I absolutely adored this series that I could not put it down. The plot was engaging, intense, and grabbed the reader's attention. There was never a dull moment with the main characters. The plot was a nice example of polar opposites finding attraction to one another and using their love to save humanity from extension. Even their depictions were symbolic -- Solaris representing humanity (the light) and Kaige representing vampires (the dark). I highly recommend this series!

Stay tuned for new series by both authors: Hitched by G.K. DeRosa and the Hidden Conduit series by J.N. Conlon.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Blood-C: The Last Dark (2012)

Blood-C: The Last Dark (2012) is a Japanese animated film adapted from the Blood series. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. A summary of the film is provided below:

Tokyo, Winter. Despite the use of the Youth Ordinance Bill to enforce curfews for minors and regulate the use of the Internet, young people continue to fight for their own freedom through underground methods. One such group calls themselves Surat. They have decided to take on Fumito Nanahara, a man who has great influence on the political world, and basically controls Tokyo with an iron fist. While using the Internet as a weapon to discover more information about Fumito, they learn about "Tower", the secret organization behind Fumito which engages in human experimentation. When members of Surat attempt to set up an ambush in the subway to expose the truth behind "Tower", mysterious creatures suddenly appear and attack the passengers. During this crisis, Saya appears - a young girl who uses a Japanese blade to slay the Old Ones. The same Saya who lost everything dear to her in that horrifying incident in Ukishima Province. What sort of "experiment" is Fumito and "Tower" trying to conduct using the Old Ones? And can Saya finally deliver vengeance to Fumito? Now, the final battle begins...
Blood-C starts off from the cult classic, Blood: The Last Vampire movie and the well-received Blood+ anime series. IG and CLAMP wanted to give this series a new look. The finished product? Nothing but bitter disappointment about how a great piece, Blood: The Last Vampire, could be turned into this. The characters are bland with abysmal storytelling and action/gore scenes that look more comical than disturbing as you would expect in a horror genre. There is no emotional attachment to any of the struggles they go through, and we only 'care' because the movie tells us to. The animation is mixed, but overall it is fairly negative. Much similar to the series Blood-C, the majority of art enjoyment comes from the monster design - and while a lot of what appeared is clearly rehashed from Blood+ and the entire Blood series. The plot itself made no real sense. The concept was clear, but there is not even understanding of the events that transpire and why we should be interested in them.

Overall, I do not recommend this new adaptation of the Blood series unless you are looking to ease the boredom. It's unfortunate because I enjoyed CLAMP's work with Tsubasa Chronicle and xxxHoLic. Not even Fumito could save this disappointing plot. Stick with the original cult classic and Blood+ series. At least Blood+ has a memorable original soundtrack. See the trailer below:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review: American Remake of "Being Human" (2011-2014)

Three twenty-somethings share a house and try to live a normal life despite being a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire. 
I recently discovered that there is an American remake (2011-2014) of the UK version of "Being Human." It originally aired on the Syfy  channel for three seasons. I have not watched the series, but from the positive reviews that I have observed, I may check it out. I briefly watched the British version years ago, and the humor was more on the dry and cynical side than what Americans may be accustomed to. I hope that the American version has better acting and a more entertaining plot. It is now available for purchase on DVD.

After watching the entire first season, I must say that I was impressed with the acting and direction of the remake. While some fans will always stay true to the original British TV show, I believe the American remake addresses some of the weaknesses of the original plot and gives the audience more character development.

Check out the trailer below:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)

Sexy and ruthless vampire Ian finally meets his match!

Shades of Wicked, by Jeaniene Frost, is the first novel in the Night Rebel series. It is part of the Night Huntress World universe (featuring Cat and Bones), and the story takes place after the Night Prince series (featuring Vlad). Finally, much to fans' delight, we get to an entire series focusing on Ian, a vampire who insists on living life on the edge shamelessly. In some respects, he doesn't like rules imposed upon him. But his world will turn upside down with Law Guardian Veritas enters his life and expects him to go against his street credibility. Both have one enemy in common, and they must work together against the clock to defeat an ancient evil who would gladly devour both their souls. Here's an excerpt below:

The Rule Breaker...Master vampire Ian is unrepentant, shameless…and every shade of wicked. He’s made one too many enemies in his two centuries of existence, including Dagon, a demon who now lays claim to his soul. Ian’s only chance to escape Dagon is to join forces with a Law Guardian, but he's never been able to abide by the rules for long.

The Law Maker...Veritas’ normal role is police, judge, and jury to reprobates like Ian. But she has her own ax to grind with Dagon, so if she can use Ian as bait...well, all’s fair in law and war. As they scour supernatural hotspots to perfect their trap, Veritas soon realizes Ian’s carefully cultivated, devil-may-care roguish image hides something much more powerful. And Ian discovers Veritas has shocking secrets of her own. As they’re drawn to each other with a passion as intense as their peril, either love or justice will prevail. But each will have devastating consequences.

And here is the rest of it.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Night Rebel series, Wicked Bite.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: Devils' Line (2018)

Devils' Line (2018) is a Japanese dark fantasy anime series. The first season contains 12 episodes.

Humans lives in a world populated by vampires, also known as devils. Few people know about the existence of bloodsuckers. Tsukasa Taira, a college student, is rescued from an attack by a devil, one of many vampires that can blend in among the human population. Yuuki Anzai, her savior, is a half-devil who exploits his supernatural gifts as a member of a shadowy police task force that specializes in devil-related crime in Tokyo. As Yuuki continues to keep guard over Tsukasa, the two quickly forge a tentative romantic bond—one that Anzai fears will test his iron-clad rule of never drinking human blood.

This is your classic forbidden love plot. Humans and vampires (called devils in the anime) are not supposed to be together. But I love how both Tsuakasa and Yuki developed their feelings for each other throughout the series. Awkward at first not forcing their feelings. Most importantly, it had the right amount of romance -- the circumstances that led to their meeting, the times they start more spending time together -- to make their relationship seem natural. I liked Tsukasa's adorable and honest personality -- she speaks her mind which amuses Yuki. But then a sexual assault eventually forces him to acknowledge his true feelings for Tsukasa. The audience also see how Yuki struggles with the vampirism in his body by distancing himself (so he assumes) to protect the girl he has fallen for.

Furthermore, I love how this vampire romance theme was executed in a way that you could empathize with the ordeals of the main characters. They were not simply monsters; they all had a backstory and human feelings. Despite their supernatural strength, agility, and bloodlust, the vampires in the anime lived like humans and endured everyday human situations. They are not allergic to sunlight; they try to co-exist with society.

Overall, Devils' Line was gory, romantic, and hot. Not to mention that the anime was aimed towards an adult audience (the protagonist, Tsukasa, is a college student). It was so refreshing to find an anime series targeted at young adults (age 21+ crowd). Another unique aspect about this show is the episodes were called lines. My major critique is the pacing -- the anime tries to introduce too many characters so fast that I could barely remember half of the people's names by the last episode (this is especially true in the dubbed version if your familiarity with Japanese is rudimentary).

Besides Attack on Titan and Code: Realize, most current anime shows have not been mystifying enough to captivate me. Devil's Line caught my attention during a web search, and I was glad to watch it. If you are a fan of action-oriented shows like Darker than Black and films like Blade, then you would like this dark take on vampires in human society. There is a 13th episode released as an original anime DVD ("Devil's Line: Anytime, ANywhere") that was released back in August 2018. The OAD's continues after the 12th and final episode in the TV series. It featured Anzai and Tsukasa and deal with the relationship between Anzai's parents Tamaki and Midori. It is so worth watching to get the full backstory on Yuki's parents.

Overall, I highly recommend this anime for adults over the age of 18 (mature content is advised). In fact, I enjoyed the show so much that I have started reading the manga -- something that is very rare for me. The show had that kind of effect on me -- I hope that there are more OADs about Tsukasa and Yuki. In the meantime, I will continue to follow the series in the manga.

Check out the trailer below:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

English Rendition of Neon Genesis Evangelion's Opening Song, Cruel Angel Thesis

I stumbled upon this English version of the song, "Cruel Angel Thesis," from the 1990s Japanese anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996). This song bought back so many memories of my days in high school browsing for anime in the now defunct Blockbuster Videos in my neighborhood! What a timeless era when, in my opinion, anime captivated young adult audiences. The 1990s was the heyday of Japanese anime (think Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, Pokemon, Fushigi Yuugi, Blue Seed, Slayers, and much more). I had no idea that singer AmeLee made an English cover of this classic opening song. It totally rocks! Check it out below:


Below is a synopsis of the anime from Anime News Network:
At the age of 14 Shinji Ikari is summoned by his father to the city of Neo Tokyo-3 after several years of separation. There he unwillingly accepts the task of becoming the pilot of a giant robot by the name EVA01 and protect the world from the enigmatic invaders known as "angels." Even though he repeatedly questions why he has accepted this mission from his estranged and cold father, his doing so helps him to gradually accept himself. However, why exactly are the angels attacking and what are his father’s true intentions are yet to be unraveled.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Dark World series (Books #1-5)

The Dark World series was written by Michelle Madow. The bundle contains five novels: The Vampire Wish, The Vampire Prince, The Vampire Trick, The Vampire Fate, and The Vampire War.

The Vampire Wish, by Michelle Madow, is the first novel in the Dark World series. Annika never thought of herself as weak--until vampires murdered her parents and kidnapped her to their hidden kingdom of the Vale. As a brand new blood slave, Annika must survive her dangerous new circumstances--or face death from the wolves prowling the Vale's enchanted walls. But sparks fly when she meets the vampire prince Jacen, and while she hates the thought of falling for the enemy, her connection with the mysterious prince could be the key to her freedom. If she becomes a vampire, she'll finally have the strength she needs to escape the Vale.

The Vampire Prince, by Michelle Madow, is the second novel in the Dark World series. Everything has been taken from Annika — her family, her friends, and even her freedom — by the vampires who enslaved her in the hidden kingdom of The Vale. But now she possesses a magical ring that contains Geneva, the most powerful witch in the world, and she’s ready for revenge. When Prince Jacen invites vampire princesses from all over the world to the palace to compete for his hand in marriage, Annika finds her chance. By commanding Geneva to turn her into a vampire princess, she can try to win the cold heart of the prince who betrayed her and left her for dead. Can she keep the emotions she used to feel for Jacen in check? Because if her deception works and she becomes his bride, she’ll have full access to the palace--and she can destroy The Vale from the inside.

The Vampire Trick, by Michelle Madow, is the third novel in the Dark World series. Annika’s life was flipped upside down when she was kidnapped by vampires to become a blood slave in their hidden kingdom of the Vale. Now, the powerful witch Geneva has disguised her as a vampire princess, and Annika’s living in the palace to compete for Prince Jacen’s hand in marriage. But her quest to become his bride is just a facade. Her real goal is to kill the vampire queen Laila so the kingdom crumbles and she can set the human blood slaves free. When rebellious wolves attack the town, they leave a trail of vampire corpses in their wake, declaring war upon the Vale. But the wolves didn’t act alone. Someone on the inside is helping them, making everyone a suspect. And one major player won’t make it out alive.

Note: In the interest of not wanting to spoil the series ending, I did not include summaries for Vampire Fate and Vampire War.

The Dark World series is full of magic, romance, adventure, and twists you'll never see coming. I started this series after I enjoyed reading  Madow's previously published YA fantasy series, The Elementals (review is forthcoming). Annika was a likeable protagonist that you felt sympathy because she had been thrown into another world isolated from human civilization. Trying to make the best of the situation in her new role as a human servant, she teams up with a powerful witch to grant her access to the royal family so that she can get her revenge and to escape the kingdom. But her capture, she will later realize, was not some random incident but part of her destiny that will have a ripple effect on the entire supernatural community. I liked Annika's determination and resilience against such odds. And she never thought that she would find love in of all places. This series will take you on a wild ride of surprises and adventures. Madow is becoming one of my favorite fantasy authors. I highly recommend this series. If you want to learn about Jacey's past before he became a vampire prince, check out the novella, The Vampire Rules.

Want to learn what happens after the Vampire War? Stay tuned for the next spin-off series by Michelle Madow, The Angel Trials.