About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.

TV Review: Loki, Season 1

When it comes to Marvel, the audience falls into three distinct groups, those who obsess over all things Marvel and can cite all sorts of interesting facts. Those who watch the movies when opportunity arises and enjoy them for their entertainment value. And, well, everyone else. I fall solidly into the second group. If an opportunity comes up to watch a Marvel movie, I do it and usually enjoy it. I know I’m not watching them in order and am probably not getting all the references, but that aside, they are still pretty entertaining on their own.

Loki, a Disney/Marvel Studios creation, gives a new story and new challenges to everyone’s favorite character, Loki. So, yeah, when the opportunity came up to watch it with one of my kiddos, I was looking forward to being entertained.

Photo credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

The Story

In this timeline, Loki escapes the Battle of New York at the end of Avengers: End game using the Tesseract. This creates a breech in time and the Time Variance Authority (TVA) capture him and take him to be processed for his crimes against time. He’s given the choice, be erased from the timeline to fix the error he caused, or help fix the timeline against something much worse.

And, what could be worse than Loki’s from other timelines running amok? Loki discovers that the criminal he’s been charged to track down and eliminate is none other than an alternate version of himself, or variant, from another timeline. Loki uses his intuition paired with the TVA’s massive store of information to discover a pattern and plan where he believes this variant Loki will strike next.

When Loki finds the variant, he’s surprised to learn it’s a woman and is intrigued by her story and how it all ties in with the TVA. There’s far more to this organization than meets the eye. Loki betrays the agent he’s been assigned to in order to follow her as she jumps into another timeline.

The two of them learn truths that don’t align with what they’ve been told and feel compelled to answer one critical question: Who is behind the TVA and why? What are they hiding?

Loki and variant Loki, Sylvie

My Review

I’m all for an adventure flick, especially if it’s got a fantastic actor at the helm, such as Tom Hiddleston. This one delivers on plenty of action, amazing sets, and a complicated story line that only a time travel trope can create. Hiddleston has this amazing knack of projecting vulnerability one minute and something entirely different the next, which is why he’s so incredible to watch.

While there’s a lot of awesome going on with the show, I find that it tends to lag far more often than what I’d expect from a superhero spinoff. I understand why, it’s tough to set up these elaborate time loop story lines without including some serious exposition here and there. But, even when we’ve got the idea, there seems to be an abundance of dramatic pausing for sheer drama’s sake.

I also super appreciate the addition of Owen Wilson to the cast, in the role of Mobius, as he provides a perfect counterpoint to Hiddleston. He’s a different flavor of sincere without all the broody intensity. It totally works.

Hiddleston and Wilson

Recommendations

As this is a Marvel/Disney production, it’s pretty clean. There’s the necessary superhero intensity and drama, but as for everything else, there’s minimal offensive language, excessive violence, or innuendo. I was very comfortable watching it with my teen. Because of it’s complexity, I would recommend it for 12 and up just so it can be enjoyed without being too confusing.

I rate Loki 4/5 for being excellent (but slow at times).


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of Amazon’s Cinderella today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I was craving a good steampunk read not too long ago and this one came recommended by an entire hoard of fellow authors. I’d read Westerfeld’s other books and enjoyed them, so this was an excellent choice.

The Story

This is a story of two very different children on very different sides of an alternate history of the first world war. Prince Aleksander is the would-be heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne. Deryn Sharp is a commoner pretending to be a boy so that she can be part of the British Air Service. They both have identities that must remain hidden for their own protection.

As the war grows in intensity, they both find themselves caught in difficult circumstances. Alek has become a target due to his ties to the Empire and has fled the country in a Clanker war machine. Deryn’s fantastical Darwinist airship has been shot down on a frozen glacier. It’s only by trusting each other and working past their differences that either of them will be able to survive.

My Review

When it comes to worldbuilding, Westerfeld always delivers. Working in alternate history is a challenge as there needs to be some reverence for the source material while creating a different reality populated with fantastical ideas and larger than life machines. I loved the idea that this wasn’t just a war of country vs country, but also those who relied on mechanical devices vs those who turned to the natural world for their solutions.

I also did appreciate the effort taken in the details of these two different worlds and how it shaped the main characters springing from each of them. Alek, who’s grown up with Clanker machines, tends to be practical and mechanically minded. Deryn, on the other hand, is accustomed to Darwinist creations and is a bit of a dreamer. She also has a knack for understanding the animals around her.

Is the book perfect, no – but what book is? Alek comes across as strangely childish and is also treated like a little kid off and on throughout the story. No one trusts his judgement, and he is second guessed more often than not. Deryn, in contrast, is the lowest rank and least experienced person on the ship. She is the youngest and the smallest, and yet she commands an unusual respect among those of the crew. I can see what Westerfeld was trying to do by making them foils of each other, all while making them distinct and interesting, but this seems like a bit of a stretch. The book also drags at times and ends in a place that isn’t as satisfying as it should be. Yes, I know there’s a sequel, but there needed to be a better resolution to a few more of the outstanding conflicts to make it feel finished.

Recommendations

This is the perfect book for 5th grade and those who don’t mind the writing to sound young. There’s plenty of danger, action, and tomfoolery to keep things moving and no squishy lovey bits to distract. Alek and Deryn become friends, and I imagine there will be more in that relationship later, but for now the story is about as romantic as a potato.

There are an assortment of interesting alternate swears, I think bum rag is a new favorite of mine, so the book reads squeaky clean in that regard. As for the violence, it is situation appropriate and the mention of blood is minimal.

I rate Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld 4/5, a solid good read that needed more resolution.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of Amazon’s Cinderella today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Movie Review: Amazon’s Cinderella

If there’s one fairy tale that’s been done to death, it’s Cinderella. So, when Amazon announced their new pop musical version of the story, I wasn’t super excited. Through the grapevine I’d heard rumor that it wasn’t all that good, but I was intrigued.

Armed with a bowl of popcorn and my favorite snarky movie buddie, hubby dearest, we tackled the beast.

The Story

The basic Cinderella story is actually a bit of an insult. It assigns a woman’s worth to the wealth and prestige of the man she manages to marry. Cinderella herself is stuck in a miserable situation as an orphaned daughter stuck living with a step mother. This puts her last in line for any sort of beneficial marriage arrangement as her step mother’s other two daughters would have the first pick of suitors. Her rags to riches story is wish fulfillment for anyone who has felt stuck in their situation.

Amazon’s 2021 Cinderella twists that narrative and finally gives Cinderella dreams and goals of her own that don’t revolve around managing her father’s household or bagging a man. The Ella in this film wants to start her own business as a dress maker in a culture where women aren’t allowed to do much of anything.

The prince received a motivational makeover as well. In this version, he has no interest in finding a woman to marry and would rather live a life of his choosing with his friends. This changes when he meets Ella while in disguise and admires her drive. He invites her to the ball stating that it would be a great place to find people to buy her dresses, which is the only reason she ends up wanting to go – not because of the possibility of meeting the prince.

In previous versions of Cinderella, there’s been a trend of seeing who could make the stepmother and one of the stepsisters the most cruel, while the other stepsister is sympathetic to Ella. In this version, that cruelty is toned down to a mild frustration. The stepmother does put her daughters first and tends to ignore Cinderella. There are only a few instances where she could be called mean, and they’re pretty tame. After everything, she ends up being the character most sympathetic to Ella’s situation.

We also see far more interesting character development between the king and queen, who in previous versions of Cinderella only had one conflict – that of who their only son was going to marry to secure the future of their kingdom. In this version, they’ve added a younger sister, who has far greater political aspirations than the prince, and also put the relationship between king and queen itself in rocky territory.

With all these different focuses in the story, it dilutes the Ella story and adds in a whole lot more to consider. While this made it more interesting, it made it harder to just sit back and enjoy.

Have no fear, there is a charming happy ending that’s a twist on the original.

Meet the step family

My Review

To describe this film best, take Disney’s original animated Cinderella, the Greatest Showman, and Hamilton – and throw them in a blender. Amazon’s Cinderella is a celebration of pop music stuck in Edwardian England. More than the music, there are all sorts of weird anachronisms that pop up, like zippers on clothing and one shot that included an angle grinder. For me, that was super distracting.

That said, the music and dancing were the best part of the film hands down. Visual candy.

As for everything else, I liked how they updated Ella’s character so that she wanted something other than bettering her domestic situation. However, all the other additions for all the other characters, while cute, complicated the story enough where it took away from the experience.

Camila Cabello and Billy Porter star in CINDERELLA Photo: Kerry Brown � 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

Recommendations

While this won’t be my favorite Cinderella iteration (Ever After still wins) it’s still a solid, entertaining show. It’s family friendly, minus a single potty joke. I swear James Corden can’t help it. I imagine viewers of all ages would enjoy it, as there’s enough eye candy to make up for any slower talking portions. That, and the all star cast, including Camilla Cabello, Idina Menzel, and Minnie Driver, knocked their performances out of the park.

I give Amazon’s Cinderella 3/5 – a solid watch, entertaining, but with a few flaws that draw away from the experience.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of Amazon’s Cinderella today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

FanX Salt Lake 2021

After a year of tumult and avoiding crowds, or to be honest, avoiding people in general, being back at FanX was a welcome step back to normalcy. That said, it was really weird to interact with so many friends and strangers in person after so long of not feeling safe to do so. I was pleased that the majority of attendees chose to respect the mask rule as I know it helped keep us all safer.

This year was a number of firsts for me, which made my FanX experience that much more exciting. I wasn’t until recently that I was able to join the panelist group, thanks to a dear friend who advocated for me. Before that, I’d always bought a ticket and spent my time attending panels in the audience, walking the vendor floor, and finding friends who were actually working the con. Throw in an occasional cosplay, and that was the extent of my experience.

The Booth

In previous years, I’ve never committed to selling my books at any particular booth, mainly because I didn’t really have that many books to sell. Way back in 2019, which feels like forever ago, I got to sign books with my favorite indie bookstore, The Printed Garden. And while it doesn’t hold a candle to the work of running a booth, it was the perfect way to stick my toe in the water.

This year I buddied up with two fabulous authors, Candace J Thomas and C. M. Adler, as well as one amazing artist, Julie Gallegos to make up the Local Fantasy Author Booth #1236. All I can say is, what a learning experience. I got a much greater appreciation for booth design, inventory management, and patron interaction than I ever expected.

Moderating my first panel

It’s one thing to be invited to talk about different topics, it’s quite another to guide the conversation. This year I participated in three fascinating panels, Spirited Away, Flash Gordon, and The Witcher.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Japan release of Spirited Away, so I thought it would be a great year to celebrate. As the panel was my idea, they let me moderate which is something I’ve done a bunch in other smaller venues, but nothing as big as FanX. My fellow panelists were terrific and the discussion ranged from thematic elements of the show to how Miyazaki ties his creations to folklore and culture, to my favorite question – which character each of the panelists felt represented them the best.

The other panels were also great fun. For Flash Gordon the moderator brought some slides that compared the Sam J Jones movie to the original Buster Keaton series. We then talked about our favorite scenes – definitely the tree spider scene – and also brought up all sorts of interesting trivia, like how the role of Flash was originally offered to Kurt Russell.

As for the Witcher panel, I got to let my inner geek shine as only myself and one other panelist had read the novels and many of the questions had a lot to do with how the different medias compared with each other.

Selling out of my book!

As authors, nothing makes us happier than connecting with people who love the subjects and genres we write about. Selling my fantasy series at FanX was a dream come true. I’ve never been in a situation where people would walk by and see the books we offered and say, “I want that” and then buy it. Talk about feeling validated.

Again, this whole event was a learning experience. Part of that learning was all about how many of a title I should ideally bring. Had I brought more, I could have easily sold more. I don’t feel bad. As a first time, I consider the whole experience a raging success.

My one regret

Most years I spend far more time roaming around and seeing the other tables and booths. That said, most years I have my amazing hubby to keep me company as we look at all the cool cosplays and things for sale. While he came this year to visit, I was too overwhelmed at all the newness of working the booth to spend much time with him. When I did take a minute to wander around, it wasn’t the same.

Next year for sure I will make the time to roam the conference and see all the amazing stuff with hubby dearest and perhaps pick up a few more sparkly goodies along the way.

TV Review: The Witcher: The Nightmare of the Wolf

I might have mentioned my teeny tiny obsession with the Witcher universe, I’ve read all the books, watched all the shows, and finally am playing Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (with the bonus Blood and Wine expansion…). I wasn’t joking. Obsession level fan girl.

And … get this – FanX Salt Lake has invited me to be on this weekend’s Witcher panel. There’s so much squee here, I just might die.

So, the timing of the release of “The Nightmare of the Wolf” a few weeks ago is completely perfect.

Sorceress Tetra and Vesemir. No, they aren’t a thing.

The Story

The Netflix series “The Witcher” covers the story of the Witcher Geralt of Rivia and the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg. “Nightmare of the Wolf” steps back in time to the life of Geralt’s mentor and father figure, Vesemir.

The show switches back and forth between two significant parts of Vesemir’s life. One, of when he was a child wanting adventure and anything more then living the life of a lowly servant. The other, when he’s an experienced Witcher facing a problem that brings back part of a lost part of his past.

As with most Witcher stories, there’s a lot going on in here. A foul plot is afoot to wipe out the Witchers at Kaer Morhen, orchestrated by the Sorceress Tetra. She uses her control over monsters to convince the court that somehow the Witchers themselves are responsible for the creation of said monsters. Adult Vesemir uncovers part of this plot and works to figure out the truth.

As a child, Vesemir had a close friend named Illyana who he was separated from when he chose to be a Witcher. Over the intervening years, Illyana married into power and prestige. She uses her position to argue at court against those of her town from turning against the Witchers, who most see as a blight on society. She gets caught up in Tetra’s plot as she tries to protect Vesemir, who she still has feelings for.

All of this culminates into a massive showdown between Tetra’s monsters and mob against the Witchers of Kaer Morhen. It’s an unfair fight from the beginning, as Tetra can summon thousands of deadly monsters at will. Vesemir is torn between his loyalty to the Witchers against the truths he’s uncovered and must choose which side to take.

A different style of Wolf medallion than we’ve seen before.

My Review

First, know that I’m a biased watcher. That said, this was a great addition to the Witcher Universe. While there are parts of the story that do step away from cannon, namely the details surrounding the sacking of Kaer Morhen, from what we know of Vesemir’s past, this story fills in a part of the history that we haven’t seen much of in previous works.

The best part of the whole thing is Vesemir’s character arc. He starts as a petulant youth who craves adventure over all else and only cares about Illyana, then becomes an arrogant Witcher who, after Illyana’s rejection, doesn’t care about anyone, and in the end after enduring a bitter loss, learns that not only are there are people worth caring for in the world, but it’s up to him to ensure they have a future. Yes, I’m talking about none other than Geralt, Eskel, and Lambert.

There’s a bit of everything in this story. We’ve got plenty of action and magic, but we also have a generous amount of heart – something I love seeing.

Young Vesemir and Illyana

Recommendations

For those of you who loved Castlevania and/or already like the Witcher universe, this is a perfect pick. The art style matches that of Castlevania, which I might have already fangirled about in previous posts.

That said, true to the nature of the story, this is a gory, violent show with plenty of intense fighting and images that might be disturbing to some viewers. Beyond that, there’s some profanity, brief moments of nudity (mostly butts and possibly a boob), and consumption of alcohol as well as alchemical potions that turn the Witcher’s eyes completely black.

Proceed at your own risk. I recommend this one for at least 16+ and those they let play.

I rate Nightmare of the Wolf 5/5 for being a perfect edition to the Witcher universe.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

TV Review: Castlevania, Season 4

It’s always sad to come to the end of a story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Season 4 of Castlevania takes us to the end of each of the storylines created in the previous seasons with fabulous success.

Through the previous seasons we saw the rise of Trevor and Sypha’s partnership as they grow from rivals to friends to more than friends. We saw the growth of Alucard’s humanity and desire to undo the evil unleashed by his father. We saw the rise and fall of two of Dracula’s necromancers as well as the rise and fall of the four vampire sisters. Add to that the late insertion of St. Germain into the story to put in place the concept of the infinite corridor, and season 4 had a lot of work to do to give each of these stories a worthwhile ending.

Our three heroes back together at last.

Season 4 Synopsis

There’s a lot going on as we enter season 4 so definitely don’t start watching the series here or you’ll be completely lost.

The big forces at work here are those trying to bring Dracula back, those trying to keep that from happening, and the vampire sisters who wish to become the new queens of all the vampires and fulfill Dracula’s dream of enslaving all humans and making them breeding stock to feed the vampires of the world.

Trevor and Sypha end up in Târgoviște, the village that started this whole mess by burning Dracula’s wife at stake back in season 1. They find the night creatures still tormenting the survivors and a small force trying to keep them back and the people safe. Once they’ve proven their worth to the head of this force, the discover the underground secret court that the fighters at Târgoviște were trying to protect. Through a series of events involving lots of fighting and the recovery of a special weapon, Trevor and Sypha pass through a mirror portal and find themselves back at Dracula’s castle where Alucard is engaged in his own battle.

Despite Alucard’s reluctance to trustpeople, he finds himself in a position to prove what he’s always said, that he wishes to undo the evil of his father. A nearby town which has been overrun by monsters enlists his aid. To keep them safe, he allows them to come stay in his ample castle, a crucial move as the night creatures are organizing into an army to fight against them.

Then we shift to the vampire queens and their armies and the necromancers who want to bring them down. Carmilla, the most ambitious of the queens, continues in her mad desire to reach further than needed for survival until she takes over the entire world in her greed. The necromancers work to take her down from within.

It all gets very exciting near the end with plenty of monster fighting, final decisions, and self-sacrifice.

Trevor vs Death. Did I mention self-sacrifice?

My Review

I knew this was the last season going in, so I had a bucketload of hopes and theories. I’m glad to say that most of the endings fell into the surprising, but inevitable, category as those are my favorite. And, for the characters I’d come to like, they got endings that made sense, and in several instances, made my heart happy.

My biggest worry was that they’d end the season on a question, as if they were hoping for another season. There’s nothing worse than feeling that there wasn’t a satisfying conclusion to a big problem. There is room for a spin off, which if the rumor mills are to be believed, are most definitely in the works.

In the end, this is a story of courage, grit, and determination. Each main character showed what could be accomplished if they simply did not give up.

Hector and Lenore. A surprising power couple.

Recommendations

As with the previous seasons, this is a show for older teens and adults only. The violence and gore are over the top and the story lines tend to be complicated. While in season 4 we don’t see any of the sexuality of season 3, we do see a handful of surprisingly caring relationships progress.

I give Castlevania, Season 4 (and the whole series) 5/5 for an amazing story, fantastic art, and great character creation.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of Castlevania, season 4 today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars is yet another book recommended to me by my fabulous fantasy fans on Facebook. You can totally join and hang out there with us, we’re pretty cool. It goes to show how important book recommendations are to authors. Psst … if you’ve read my books and liked them, please recommend them! I would be much obliged. Cheers!

While I don’t read a lot of literary or historical fiction, I’ve enjoyed the ones that have made it on my list. Some of my all time favorite reads are on this list such as The Book Thief and The Glass Castle. I’m happy to add The Giver of Stars to this growing list, it is a lovely read.

The Story

Alice Wright is a proper British girl who doesn’t quite fit in at home and ends up marrying an exotic American man and moving west to definitely not fit in there as well. Her new home is inhospitable to say the least, mostly due to the ever disapproving presence of her new father-in-law who has plenty of opinions on what’s proper for a woman.

Her hubby’s not much better, seeing as his first reaction in any situation is to see which way his daddy leans, then agreeing. When Alice sees an opportunity that will get her out of the house and allow her to be useful in the community, she grabs it and doesn’t look back. Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library initiative has created a need for able young women to take books to the people living too far to come to a local library. These packhorse librarians not only provide books, but for some, they are the only connection for these families to the rest of the world.

Alice works closely with Margery, a woman whose family has a muddy past in the community. She’s everything that Alice wants to be, self-sufficient, smart, and most importantly, happy. The two make friends, along with the other librarians, giving Alice the sense of belonging to a community that she’s always wanted.

With every good, there comes a bad. There are those in town, including Alice’s ridiculous father-in-law, who oppose the packhorse library and believe it’s spreading indecency and immoral content to the good people of Kentucky. The weather and the terrain itself is a constant challenge. And of course, there’s the matter of Alice’s heart. She and her American husband just can’t see eye-to-eye.

The Giver of Stars is a story of friendship, grit, and determination and based on true events in America’s past.

My Review

A story with great characterization, fascinating history, and some well-deserved personal angst? I’m sold. The structure of the story itself is a bit different than what’s expected, and the way it’s handled makes the reading experience that much better. Alice’s main problem is how she can find happiness in this new world and with her spouse. Her solution to part of the problem is the packhorse library, therefore every threat to its continued functioning, is a threat to Alice. Which is why having a murder mystery appear in the third act doesn’t feel as out of place as it should have.

I loved the use of different quotes at the beginning of each chapter set the tone, and especially loved how the poem “The Giver of Stars” is used as a turning point for Alice to help her have the courage to make hard decisions and stand up for herself.

I also loved the amazing inclusive friendship of the packhorse librarians and how they watch out for each other.

Recommendations

While this is an objectively clean read, one of the storylines has to do with marital intimacy within a society that isn’t allowed to talk about such matters. It’s handled with tact and admirable respect, but it’s something that wouldn’t be appreciated or understood by younger readers. For that, I’d recommend a reading age of high school and up.

The other sensitive storyline is that of treatment of the coal miners and black population during the depression era. The book gives an accurate an unbiased look at what life was like, and should be appreciated for shedding light on the truth. However, for readers who are uncomfortable with gross unfairness, consider yourself warned.

I give The Giver of Stars 5/5 stars for an endearing and authentic look at an interesting period of time. And I might have cried a teeny tiny bit.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyestoday on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The other week I asked my amazing Facebook groupies what was the last book that made them cry – possibly because I just read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and it’s kind of tragic. One of my groupies shared that The House on the Cerulean Sea made them cry in a good way, so I did what any literary aficionado would do, I added it to my library wish list.

The Story

Linus Baker works a boring job in a grey rainy town and likes it. He likes the precision of the work, meeting expectations, and reading the massive tome of rules and regulations just for fun. His job? Case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth where he monitors and reports on the well-being of government-sanctioned orphanages.

It is this supreme diligence and attention to detail that gets him assigned to a special case, that of spending a month to observe and report on the Marsyas Island Orphanage, home of six extremely dangerous magical children.

Linus is … not thrilled.

The island is full of all sorts of secrets, ranging from the abilities of the children, one of which is literally Lucifer, and that of their caretaker Arthur Parnassus. As the month slips by, Arthur discovers that he’s been wrong about quite a few things in his life and allows himself to grow close to both the children and Arthur.

With all that he sees, he must report to Extremely Upper Management his findings and make the hardest decision of all – if this unique orphanage should be allowed to stay open.

My Review

I have a confession to make. Because I knew this made my friend cry, I spent the entire book worried that something completely terrible was going to happen. Spoiler alert – there is a happy ending, so all my worry was for nothing. That said, the depth of that worry is very telling. Klune made me care about each of the carefully crafted characters and the thought of something awful happening to any of them horrified me.

This book is an exploration of what happens when kindness wins over fear. Each character is different in their own unique way ranging from what brings them joy to the people they choose to love. Klune believes that “it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.” The House in the Cerulean Sea does this in a tasteful and whimsical way that emphasizes that it’s the heart that matters most.

Recommendations

The House in the Cerulean Sea is written using simple straightforward language which makes its message easy to grasp and understand. There’s no layers of complexity or multiple storylines to track. We follow Linus from beginning to end and watch as the kindness and uniqueness of those living at the Marsyas Island Orphanage changes him and his observations of the world. There’s no violence, foul language, or intimate situations. While there is a sweet very slow burning romance threaded through the story, it’s secondary to the story’s focus on caring and learning more about these magical children.

I’d recommend this for middle school students and up.

I give The House in the Cerulean Sea 5/5 stars for being charming, well voiced, and an important message that the world needs.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of the House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

After about a million (no, not really. I wish!) of you told me that I had to read this book, I finally snatched it up last week and consumed it whole. I might have mentioned before how much I like books that excel at beautiful language, where the images and ideas are presented in beautiful metaphor, this one scratches that itch, and then some.

The Story

Addie LaRue didn’t want to get married. She wanted to be free. On the evening of her marriage, she runs into the woods to plead to the gods to save her from her fate. But, Addie breaks the rules, and as the day sinks into night, she is still praying – and the god of darkness answers.

The price of her freedom? Everyone she encounters forgets she exists when they part company. She can’t leave any mark of her existence with her own hands. Each pencil stroke fades before a sentence can be written. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also cursed to live forever until she agrees to surrender her soul to the night god.

It all changes when she meets Henry 300 years later – and he remembers.

My Review

First, this story is not only beautiful, but it’s also fascinating. The reader jumps to key places in the time line as we watch both the present and the past unfold. The present showing the reader who Addie has become over her long life, and the past to show us how she got there.

So when we hit that moment where someone remembers her after so much hardship and trial, it’s so incredibly meaningful. But, like in all stories, there is a catch. The god of the night hasn’t made a mistake when he allowed the two of them to meet.

I think the most interesting part of this book is Addie’s need to leave her mark and how she’s figured out how to do it through the art and music of other people. She’s learned that she can influence creative minds to capture her ideas and make them into reality. She lives through them and because she’s fated to live as long as she wishes, she can see what happens to this art.

As with all wonderful books, this one has a lesson at its heart. It encourages the reader to do the most they can with the life they’ve been given.

Recommendations

While the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is both transportive and beautiful, it’s also definitely an adult read and the highschoolers they let play. There’s mild elements of danger, mild swearing, and plenty of adults in adult relationships. The story is also nonlinear which makes it a more complicated read and sometimes the different pieces don’t come together immediately. What this means for some is that it will read slow for a while as all the different pieces start to come together.

But, it’s a whole different kind of magical, and I loved it.

I give The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue 5/5 stars


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

TV Review: Castlevania, Season 3

I’ve almost caught up to the current season! Woot. At this pace, they’ll put out season five before I get through season four. Not a bad thing at all. Lately, I’ve been using episodes of Castlevania as small rewards for completing edits on scenes of my next book. Motivation takes all forms, and this was compelling enough to get me moving forward.

In season 1 of Castlevania, we got an introduction to the world and key players as well as the main conflict. In season 2, we dove headfirst into each of these players, getting to know their backstories and what drives them.

Alucard with Taka and Sumi who are apparently super cuddly when they aren’t vicious assassins

Season 3 Synopsis

After the giant battle and Dracula’s defeat our cast breaks into four storylines; Alucard, Hector, Issac, and Trevor and Sypha as a team.

Alucard stays alone at where Dracula’s castle ended up parked, right next to the destroyed Belmont Estate. He misses Trevor and Sypha but believes he’s better off alone, although he fears he might go insane. Everything changes when he’s visited by two vampire hunters, Taka and Sumi. He chooses to trust them, as they are escaped prisoners of one of Dracula’s council members, Chō. He agrees to teach them with the hope that they can return to best the next vampire to take Chō’s place. Things go well, until they suddenly don’t and it breaks Alucard’s trust in people once more.

Meanwhile, the two necromancers Hector and Issac are having opposite adventures. Hector is in captivity under the wiles of the Council of Sisters, four vampire women intent on filling the power gap left by Dracula’s death. They need him to create more night creatures for them to build an army. One of the sisters, Carmilla, uses a potent mix of kindness and cruelty to entrap him to do their will. It’s kind of messed up.

Isaac, on the other hand, walks free and is assembling his own army as he makes his way toward Hector in Styria to exact his revenge. He travels across the land, passing through cities and leaving corpses in his wake. He ends up in a town in control of “the Magician” who has enslaved tens of thousands of people with his magic to build up a great city to himself. If Issac defeats the Magician and his minions, he gets access to a massive transmission mirror that will move him and his army to Styria.

Finally, we get to Trevor and Sypha. They find themselves in the small town of Lindenfeld where the local priory are sympathetic to Dracula’s cause. They also meet Saint German, who recognizes Trevor as a Belmont. They begrudgingly offer to work together and unfold what’s really happening within the priory only to find that the church is built over a portal to hell and they are keeping a monster in the basement. Good times. All of this crashes together when the priests strike out at the town using alchemical symbols to murder it’s inhabitants to give the monster the power it needs to open the portal. Trevor and Sypha must prevent the Priest Sala from completing the process and prevent Dracula from returning.

Carmilla and Hector, who finally gets some clothes mid season

My Review

Season 3 of Castlevania returns the viewer to learning about the world once more as everything shifts in new directions. The board is being set and the players put in position for moves that are both tactical and necessary to reach the next big climax which I’m guessing will come at the end of season 4. While this is what’s required to stoke the fire for the next big thing, it returns the viewers back to the overwhelm of the world and stakes not being completely understood like we had in season 1.

Four story lines scattered across 12 episodes tends to do that. This time, each of the four story lines carry close to the same weight as that of our main characters, which also makes it hard to choose who to cheer for. I’m still totally team Trevor but Hector is also starting to grow on me.

As each of the stories amp up the tension, we see a fair amount of violence, but we also see more cruelty in several different forms. This is more than indiscriminate killing, it’s intentional foul play. And, at the climax of the season, we also find ourselves in two very manipulative trysts.

I’m eager to see where each of these story lines go and how they all collide together, because they most definitely will.

Yep, Trevor and Sypha are still all sorts of adorable when they aren’t kicking butt.

Recommendations

Still not a kids show, like at all. I feel like a broken record at this point, but this one’s for adults and perhaps the high schoolers they let play. Violence is still the biggest offender, but there are also adult situations (including nudity), some cursing, and plenty of good vs evil where it’s not clear who to root for.

I give Castlevania, season 3, 4/5 stars for branching out a little too far and diluting the main conflict, but still being amazing.


Thank you for joining me as I shared my review of Castlevania, season 3 today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, joining my Facebook group, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.