Tag Archives: romance

Wisdom’s Kiss

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

My rating: 4 of 5

You might say that there were many different things–different people’s lives interacting–that ultimately contributed to the debacle that later became known as Wisdom’s Kiss. The Princess Wisdom (better known as Dizzy) herself, for one, what with her tendency to belie her name and throw herself headlong into drama and adventure. The Duke Roger whom she was to wed, as well, although he was truly a pawn in the hands of his overbearing and scheming mother. Then there was the dowager queen Benevolence, Dizzy’s grandmother, who with her far-too-intelligent cat Escoffier discovered the schemes of said Duchess. Less immediately obvious, yet equally influential, were the presence of Trudy, a young kitchen maid with second sight; Tips, her childhood sweetheart; Felis el Gato, Tips’ mentor and a grand performer; and the Emperor of the whole land himself. But it was the interweaving of these individual lives that allowed even the possibility of such an event, one that would shape the course of the land for generations to come.

I’ve enjoyed Murdock’s writing before in her story Princess BenWisdom’s Kiss actually ties in with this earlier novel, although it is certainly not necessary to read the one to enjoy the other. They’re more loosely connected tales rather than anything like a series. Wisdom’s Kiss is really fascinating in the way it’s written. You don’t really get any straight-up narrative, although the sections taken from Trudy’s memoirs read essentially like a regular novel. But for the most part, the story is told in letters and diary entries and, yes, even articles taken from an encyclopedia. It’s honestly enough to be a bit hard to piece together where the story is really going at times, although everything comes together nicely by the end. And I did enjoy the different perspectives and the way the different characters’ personalities came through from the different sources. It was interesting–and something I haven’t seen done much–to see the same character from multiple different perspectives, including their own; it gives a different appreciation for the individual. As for the writing style itself, I’ve heard the author’s writing described in the past as “frothy,” and I can’t honestly think of a better word to describe it. There’s a lightness and wit to it, even in the sections where things seem dark and awful–but in this particular story, there’s also a busyness and a constant activity from all sides that I might almost better compare to the fizz you get when you first open a soda. I think that this is one of those stories that would tend be polarizing; you would either love all the novelty and the different perspectives or it would drive you mad trying to keep up and make sense of it all. Personally, however, I enjoyed Wisdom’s Kiss and look forward to reading more by this author.

Note: It’s implied at the end of the story that this is a retelling of Puss in Boots . . . and I guess it sort of it, but I would never have caught it if it hadn’t been mentioned directly. For what that’s worth.

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Psych: The Movie (2017)

USA Network

Sequel to Psych

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Shawn and Gus have properly settled in to life in San Francisco (having been there for three years already). They’ve opened a new office in Chinatown, which Shawn has cleverly (in his own opinion) named psychphrancisco. Yeah, not the most successful psychic detective agency ever, but whatever; Gus has a full-time job to help support their rent and such when they don’t have cases. Oh yeah, and Shawn and Juliet still aren’t married . . . which may actually have something to do with why Shawn is snooping around shady areas of town wearing Gus’s Hagrid costume. Looking for a stolen ring perhaps? But it quickly becomes clear that the gang have more important (or at least more immediate) issues to handle when Juliet becomes the target of a mystery killer–one that will require all their combined skills to bring to justice.

The best way to describe Psych: The Movie is that it’s an extended episode of the show. So if you like the show, you’ll probably like the movie and vice versa. I have to say, it’s fun to see the gang back together again. The Shawn/Gus dynamic is going strong. I honestly think they sat down and figured out how they could cram as many of the classic running gags for the series into one episode as possible–and include some new plays off the old bits as well. As such, the movie is funny. Very funny in a goofy Psych kind of way. And did I mention random? Because it’s definitely random, right from the get go. On the negative side, I really, really wish we had gotten more of Lassiter than a video call offering support. I miss having him be a part of the gang–if for no other reason than that no one else is as good at picking on Shawn. But we did get a good cast, including Shawn, Gus, Jules, Chief Vick, Shawn’s dad, and (randomly but welcomely) Woody. The villains were kind of annoying more than actually menacing (other than the whole kidnapping thing), and the main plot didn’t really stand out to me. But let’s be honest, how many of us watch Psych for the plot, anyhow? We do get some cute Shules action here–including some resolution to the end of the TV series. Yay! So yeah, basically if you like the show, I would recommend the movie.

Written by Steve Franks & James Roday/Directed by Steve Franks/Starring James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, & Corbin Bernsen

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Rainy Days (Miraculous Ladybug Fanfic)

Author: TheLastPilot

FanFiction ID: 11588623

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

Cat Noir adores Ladybug, has fallen for her utterly, but the truth is that he barely knows her, doesn’t know her true identity and all the tiny personal details that go along with that at all. Meanwhile, Adrien (Cat Noir’s true identity) finds himself fascinated and troubled by the quiet, sweet girl at school who can’t seem to bring herself to even talk to him, even though she’s clearly smart, funny, and even courageous when around other classmates. Perhaps these rainy days (both literally and metaphorically) will give Adrien and Marinette the chance to get to know each other, to become friends even if they can’t become boyfriend and girlfriend as Marinette would like. Secret identities have a way of getting in the way of relationships. Yet in spite of that, the two find themselves drawn to each other, both in their true identities and in their superhero alter egos. Talk about confusion! Maybe one of these rainy days, they’ll trust each other enough disclose some of those secrets.

Rainy Days is exactly what I wanted in a Miraculous fanfic! The writing is well done, balancing the different perspectives well and including the kind of details that give the story body and depth. The story is adorable and sweet, but with enough conflict and tension to be interesting–properly flangsty (fluffy and angsty). You’ve got a touch of the typical plotlines–rampaging akumatized classmates and the like–which gives the story the proper context and flavor, but the focus of the story isn’t really on that. It’s primarily a story about a budding, beautiful friendship that gradually grows into the potential for something more. The slow-burn growth of Marinette and Adrien’s relationship is a beautiful thing; major kudos to the author for doing this remarkably well. Again, the little details make a huge difference here. At times, the story feels almost like a character study of the main characters, each from the other’s perspective. And can I just say how much I love the way the reveal was handled?! Also, props to the author for managing to craft a story that would appeal to the older viewers of the show while keeping it clean enough for all but the youngest viewers–technically it’s rated T, and there’s a few mild bits of language and a touch of whumpish action right towards the end, but it’s all pretty much PG at the worst. Seriously, Rainy Days is a clean, adorable friendship/romance story that fulfills basically everything I want from a Miraculous fic; highly recommended.

Note: You can find Rainy Days at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11588623/1/Rainy-Days.

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Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir (2015- Cartoon)

Zagtoon with Method Animation, Toei Animation, SAMG Animation, AB Droits Audiovisuels, SK Broadband, & De Agostini Editore

Status: Ongoing (2 Seasons, 34 episodes)

My rating: 4 of 5

In present-day Paris, Marinette deals with the same things most students do–friends, schoolwork, crushing on the cutest boy in the school. Not that Adrien seems to even notice her particularly, although it would help if she could actually talk to him without tripping all over herself and looking like an idiot. But that’s not all she deals with, because you see, Marinette has a secret alter-ego–the superhero Ladybug, sworn protector of Paris along with her partner Cat Noir.

Miraculous Ladybug was a fun, unexpected find for me, something I’ve heard other people mention but didn’t have high expectations for myself. It’s a French kids’ CGI adventure show, and it’s pretty random for something like that to even cross the radar in the States anyhow. Not surprising, though, considering that this show is actually quite good. It pulls from a lot of different sources, giving it a unique flavor–kind of a mix of mahou shojou and your more traditional superhero stories, but also a cute slice-of-life story. The CG can feel a bit stilted at times, but overall the animation is excellent if not my ideal style; it still has some cute anime influences, which is fun. This story is solidly a kids’ show. It’s clean–astonishingly so, in fact. It has the repetition, the set episode pattern, to make it ideal for a younger audience (although that very thing may get kind of annoying for older viewers). By the end of each episode, everything is cleaned up and put back right, and the city views Ladybug and Cat Noir as proper heroes. Moreover, the show teaches important life lessons like responsibility, honesty, and courage. All of which make this an excellent show for children, but there is actually something there for older viewers, too. Because behind the masks and the cheesy villains and all, you’ve got some awesome characters who show growth over time. You’ve got diversity. You’ve got an adorable slow-burn romance. You’ve got real, developed friendships and Marinette has an awesome, supportive family. So there’s more than meets the eye in this cute kids’ show. I’m looking forward to seeing where Miraculous Ladybug goes in the future (I’ve only seen season 1 so far), although I’m dying for some development and a reveal between Adrien and Marinette. We’ll see if/when that ever comes.

Created by Thomas Astruc/Written by Thomas Astruc & Sébastien Thibaudeau/Directed by Thomas Astruc, Christelle Abgrall, Wilifried Pain, & Jun Violet/Music by Jeremy Zag, Noam Kaniel, & Alain Garcia/Voiced (in English) by Cristina Vee, Bryce Papenbrook, Keith Silverstein, Mela Lee, Max Mittelman, & Carrie Keranen

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Squire

Author: Tamora Pierce

Protector of the Small, vol. 3

My rating: 4 of 5

Kel has surpassed numerous challenges–including lots of people not accepting a girl in the role of knight-in-training–and has finally become a squire. Or at least, she will be if any knight will take The Girl on as his squire. To her surprise and delight, Lord Raoul sees her potential and breaks his usual habits, taking her on to train. His unconventionality, gruffness, and practicality promise to make her four years as his squire both interesting and challenging. . . . Who knows, they may even be fun at times. Not that there won’t be plenty of challenges for her to face before achieving her knighthood–an ornery baby griffin, any number of stuffy individuals who challenge her capability, a huge royal progress across the country complete with parties and social expectations, boys. But of course, Kel will face them all with the clear-headed determination that has stood her in good stead so far.

I adore Tamora Pierce’s books, and Squire is an excellent example of her writing. The characters are fabulous. Kel continues to grow as a person in this book, and I love the way her character builds with every small choice she faces. I have to applaud Pierce for writing someone so vastly different from most of her other Tortallan heroines as well; Kel’s really distinct from, say, Alanna or Daine. Which actually makes it really interesting to get to see them in the same story, interacting with each other. There are plenty of other excellent character here as well, the most developed and fun to read probably being Raoul (whom I already like from Alanna’s story, but we get a different perspective on him here, which is fun). And the animal characters are just soooo good! The writing style, as always, is very comfortable and easy to read, although I am again impressed by how unconventional Pierce’s writing seems at times in the way it homes in on small jewels of events then pans out for broad, sweeping passages of time. It’s different, but it works–brilliantly, even. I do feel the need to highlight that, while the earlier books in this quartet could easily be considered children’s fiction (First Test, in particular), Squire sits solidly in the YA genre, with Kel facing some pretty big, adult stuff like death and sex–not so much kids’ stuff. So fair warning that, while still quite clean and fairly discreet, this is probably not the ideal book to give to your ten-year-old. Still, for a YA and older audience, Squire is an incredible story, especially for those who love a good fantasy.

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Gods of the Mountain

Author: Christopher Keene

A Cycle of Blades, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

Summary from Goodreads:

““If that’s true, he’s returned from the grave, and you better believe he’s got something in store for this city.”

Accused of murder, Faulk is on the run after his chance at redemption went horribly wrong. He finds himself allied with the mysterious Yuweh, a woman sent by her gods to capture an assassin who is spreading forbidden magic.

Journeying across a land where all magic, cultures, and wars are dictated by its cycles in nature, they uncover a plot that threatens to destroy everything they hold dear. Faulk and Yuweh must reconcile their clashing cultures to prevent the chaos from repeating…

…as another attempts to use it for his benefit.”

Having greatly enjoyed the first two volumes of Keene’s Dream State Saga, it was with great anticipation that I approached his newest work, Gods of the Mountain–and I was not disappointed. While the Dream State books are of the LitRPG genre, having more almost of a light novel flavor, this new book is more of a high fantasy/dark fantasy, so it’s definitely a different style, and I think the author does a great job of expressing that and adapting to the genre styles while staying true to his own personal storytelling voice. One of the ways in which this is most true–and one the things I most loved about this book–is the magic system and the way the reader is introduced to it. I feel like the magic in this story is quite unique and well imagined; it’s different enough that I wasn’t just like “oh, there’s the magic, let’s get on with the story,” but was rather actually interested in the mechanics of the system. And we get a good explanation of it through the eyes of a character who is first introduced to the magic himself, getting to learn about how it works alongside him. The worldbuilding and the complexities of the political situation are also quite well done; in fact, I’m reminded of V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic books in that regard. Keene does a great job of displaying an overthrown country, with conquering overlords but also with rebellious former soldiers still around and unsettled at the situation. Moreover, throwing in the complications of an isolated mountain theocracy dominated by tradition and taboo adds an extra layer of complication, especially when these worlds collide forcibly. There’s some interesting commentary on religion there for those who fancy venturing into those waters. The plot was intense, with lots of twists and surprises, and the pacing worked well–not particularly fast or slow, but steady, which honestly works best for a book of this length. As for the characters, they were probably what I liked least; not that they were uninteresting or poorly written–quite the opposite–but simply because I didn’t find any of them particularly likeable. Surprisingly, that didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the story, though. I would still certainly consider Gods of the Mountain to be a solid read, one that I enjoyed and that I would recommend.

NOTE: I received a free review copy of Gods of the Mountain from the author in exchange for an unbiased review, which in no way affects the contents of this post.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Humble MangaGamer and Friends Bundle

Just an FYI, for those of you who enjoy visual novels, Humble Bundle currently has a pretty nice bundle of them for a decent price ($10 for the entire thing). Looks like it’s got some variety–horror, tourism, looks like some slightly ecchi idol ones, and even one that looks like a nostalgic/romantic shoujo ai one. Honestly, I’m not at all familiar with most of these games, so I can’t vouch for how good they are, though some definitely look interesting. Probably the biggest selling point of this bundle is its inclusion of the first five Higurashi When They Cry sound novels–which, frankly, is enough to be worth buying this bundle in its own right. Because, let’s face it, those games are classic.

If you’re interested, you can find more information at https://www.humblebundle.com/games/mangagamer-and-friends-bundle.

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