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!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Shearwater - A Mermaid Romance (2017)

An ancient civilization, brooding under the ocean depths. A forgotten race of witches, with dwindling supplies of magic. And I’m the spark that will consume them both.

Shearwater: A Mermaid Romance (2017), by D.S. Murphy, is a teen paranormal novel. Upon the tragic accident of her parents, 15-year old Clara Clark moved to Ireland to reunite with the grandfather that she never knew. Once there, she learns that her late mother's past was full of secrets that start to endanger her own life. From Goodreads:
Death followed me to Ireland. First my parents’ accident, then a string of vicious murders. As I start to unravel my mother’s secret past, I’m drawn into the orbit of Sebastian, a mysterious stranger with impossible abilities, and Ethan, the arrogant hottie locals whisper plays with dark magic.

When I start developing powers of my own, I don’t know who I am, or where I belong... but if I can’t figure out who is after me or the real reason my mother fled Ireland, more people are going to die. And it won’t stop until the human race is destroyed.
MERMAIDS ARE REAL. And they're going to kill us all.

Shearwater was a pleasant surprise in my recommended books list on Amazon. It was everything I could hope for--The Little Mermaid with a dark fantasy twist. I loved reading The Little Mermaid as a child, and I was elated to see this alternate rendition on the classic fairy-tale. The book blends Irish mythology and supernatural folklore. Clara, Sebastian and Ethan must take it upon themselves to fight tyrannical mermaids who want nothing more than to destroy the human race. Secrets are revealed, and blood is spilled. Meanwhile, Clara's transformation is key to unraveling the mystery that led to the deaths of her mother and grandmother. I have no idea if there will be a sequel, but I hope that D.S. Murphy publishes a second book soon. I may actually become a fan of his work!

Stay tuned for future updates on the Ocean Depths series.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: Red Queen Books #1-2 (Red Queen, Glass Sword)

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities...If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

The Red Queen series is a quartet of books, including two novellas, by Victoria Aveyard. This post contains reviews on the first two books: Red Queen and Glass Sword.

Red Queen is the first novel in the Red Queen series. Here is the synopsis:
This is a world divided by blood - red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare's potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Glass Sword is the second novel in the Red Queen series. Here is the synopsis:
Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
I stumbled upon this series through an Amazon recommendation. I had heard of the series over the years, but never had the time to start on it until this month. I will say this is the next best series since The Hunger Games. Through a twist of fate, Mare Barrow finds herself taken her from her poverty-stricken Red community to a luxurious Silver world. Despite the glamour and magical abilities, Mare quickly finds herself surrounded by families where glory and power reign supremely--and the weak and less powerful succumb. Seeking to escape this life of treachery and deceit, it will take a Silver prince, who has fallen in love with her, to escape this maddening world.

I love the world-building in this series as it takes place in a distant future where mankind has fallen to a powerful elite whose blood--Silver blood and magical abilities--makes them unique and superior to the majority red-blooded humans. But as Mare will find out, a new race of humans is emerging that will challenge and destroy everything that the Silvers had built to control the kingdoms. Meanwhile, readers must not forget that Mare is just like any teenager. Unable to return to her old life as a poor girl in the Stilts, she struggles with controlling her emotions, leading the mission to protect others like her from the royal family, and accepting her own romantic feelings for the Silver prince who protected her throughout this dangerous journey.

This series is not for the faint of heart. The books have been averaging 450 pages -- which is a lot for a young adult genre. Readers will encounter victories and setbacks, and the characters will face sacrifices and even death. So far, I recommend the series.

Stay tuned for my next reviews on this exhilarating series, Cruel Crown (prequel novellas that take place before Red Queen), King's Cage, and War Storm.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: Code:Realize − Guardian of Rebirth (2017)

Code: Realize − Guardian of Rebirth (2017) is a Japanese anime series that takes place in an alternative world of 19th century London, England. This series has 12 episodes plus an OVA.

Cardia Beckford, a young girl living in old London, is feared and branded as a monster due to the possession of a virulent poison in her body that melts away at anything. Confined alone in her family mansion by her father, she is captured by the British Army but rescued by Arséne Lupin, a handsome thief from French origin, and his friend Impey Barbicane, who is a whiz at engineering.

Riding off to their mansion hideout in the forest, she is introduced to Victor Frankenstein, a genius alchemist and scientist who acts together with Impey and Arsené. There, Cardia learns that her father, Isaac, was an inventor who created many amazing inventions, one of which, the Horologrium, is embedded inside her and currently functions as her heart. It is that reason that Cardia possesses that certain poison, which she uses gloves and specially altered clothes to suppress. As Isaac is involved in a terrorist plot along with a secret organization known only as Twilight, many out there wish to capture her for the Horologium.

Code: Realize was an adorable, romantic anime show set in an alternative world of Victorian England. The world-building was both historical and futuristic (paying homage to the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century), which I found very unique and creative. Cardia and Arsene made a cute couple, but compared to other anime shows like Sailor Moon, Maid-Sama and even Devil's Line, their relationship will be easily forgotten because it felt more forced than natural in its build-up. But I'm glad Cardia deviated from the frail princess trope by wanting to be helpful in any way to the men. The team also includes names of famous characters written by English authors (Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Dracula, etc.) that will make the audience want to consider these classics. This is a good show worthy of binge-watching. I recommend it!

Opening theme: "kalmia" by Mia REGINA

Ending theme:"twinkle" by Saori Hayami