Book Review: “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1)A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely love retellings of “Beauty and the Beast,” especially ones that keep the same general feel of the original story but deviate from the plot a bit to make it more unique. Brigid Kemmerer did just that when writing “A Curse So Dark and Lonely,” which is the first novel in a series called “Cursebreakers.” Though the basic idea of “Beauty and the Beast” is present in this novel, there is enough of a difference to keep it fresh and interesting.

Harper is a young woman living in modern day Washington D.C. with her brother and dying mother. Her father left her family with massive debts and loan sharks nipping at their heels. To produce enough money to both live off of and attempt to pay off her father’s broken promises, Harper’s brother, Jake, as turned to a life of crime. She aids him however she can, but she is constantly treated like glass because of her Cerebral Palsy.

One day, while she is playing the role of lookout, she witnesses a man attempt to kidnap a woman. Harper springs into action without thinking beyond saving the woman, and is almost instantly transported to the realm of Emberfall. This is a Kingdom that runs parallel to the Earth she knows. It is full of magic, war, and a handsome (but arrogant) prince named Rhen.

Rhen turned away the wrong woman over three hundred seasons ago, and is now cursed to relive the same three months in Autumn. At the end of the season, he transforms against his will into a terrible monster that takes a different form every time. His only companion is Grey, his personal guard. The only way to break the curse and save Emberfall from an oncoming war is for someone to fall in love with Rhen.

Harper is the last person that Rhen had ever thought he would fall for. She is brash and violent, like an animal trapped in a cage. She is smart and not traditionally beautiful. Many think her broken for her Cerebral Palsy. While the other women he courted were wooed by his status as the crown prince and by his wealth, she sees a different side of Rhen. And, slowly, the two begin to trust each other–at least enough to decide on how to save Emberfall, should the curse remain.

I absolutely enjoyed this novel. The characters were very well written. The chapters switch back and forth between points of view; sometimes, Harper tells the story. Sometimes, it’s Rhen. This continues, a back and forth, through out the story, though the last few chapters deviate from the pattern a bit. Because of this, Rhen and Harper’s characters are extremely fleshed out. We, as the reader, get to see their inner thoughts and emotions during the tale. Grey is also present, though his character is explored in a slower manner.

At first, I was not happy with Rhen. He was arrogant and mostly an ass. It wasn’t until the middle and later chapters that the author allows him to bring his guard down. The closer to the end, he seems more human. Harper’s character was solid through out the novel.

Overall, a solid read with few issues. I would recommend “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” to anyone interested in fantasy novels and fairy tale retellings. A word of warning, however; it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I am desperately waiting for my next paycheck so I can afford the sequel.

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Nintendo Switch (?)

I have decided something.

To celebrate getting a job and my first paycheck (if everything works out, of course), I will be purchasing a Nintendo Switch for our household. This is after paying our bills and rent, obviously. If my job hunt goes as planned, I should be hired within the next month or so. By then, we’ll have the money and everything to be able to support ourselves better.

Not only will we be purchasing a Switch, but some games and controllers as well. I’d also like to take Covey out to eat somewhere fancy.

Anyway, after deciding this, I’ve been on the hunt for currently released and soon-to-be released games for the system. There are a bunch that I am interested in. For example, two of my favorite game franchises came together in 2015 to create a little game called “Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE” for the Nintendo WiiU system. It’s being rereleased tomorrow for the Switch. I’m super excited to play it, if and when we purchase our own system. There’s also the updated version of “The World Ends With You,” which was totally my jam for the longest time when it came out originally for the Nintendo DS back in my college days.

Some other games I’d like to pick up for myself are Pokemon Sword/Shield (I think I would prefer Shield, just because that’s my personal weapon/defense item of choice); Animal Crossing: New Horizons; Fire Emblem: Three Houses; Octopath Traveler; and Fire Emblem: Warriors. I’m sure there’s going to be a bunch more, and I’m certain I haven’t listed all of the ones I am thinking of at the moment.

I’m just excited, I guess.

ACNHFE3HFEWoctopath-traveler-1---button-fin-1555004042639Tokyo-Mirage-Sessions-FE-Encore_09-04-19TWEWYfinal

…Then there’s the games for Covey. She’s more of an old-school RPG lover. She’s in love with a lot of The Legend of Zelda games; she’s super excited to play Breath of the Wild. She might like the new Pokemon, too. Other than that, I’m not really sure what she’s going to find to like, but I know she really, really wants a Switch as much as I do–perhaps even more. Covey has a bit more brand-loyalty to Nintendo than I do. I’m more of a Sony PlayStation person, because that’s what I grew up playing for the most part.

On the other hand, she grew up playing old school Nintendo consoles, so games like Kirby and The Legend of Zelda are near-and-dear to her heart.

I Finally Got My Flu Shot

Yesterday, Covey and I got our flu shots. This morning, I woke up with a minor cold. We are both super tired, though right at the moment I do feel a bit better. My nose is a little stuff, and a bit of my throat is sore. Other than that, I think I’m okay. The injection site is a little red and warm. It hurts when I touch it, too. According to what I’ve read online, that’s normal though.

I have been winning books from Goodreads’ giveaways like crazy. I just won three more in the last two days! At this rate, there is going to be no way for me to keep up with them. I just have to read more, I guess.

Lately I have been super excited and motivated to better myself and my wife’s lives. With some hard work and a little bit of luck, I should be able to land a decently paying job within the next two to three months. If nothing comes of it, I will be very disappointed, but I will not give up. This is a new year, and a new Devyn! Even though that’s sort of cliche, I truly believe this year–2020–will be one of the best years of my life.

This year, I want to get back into anime and manga. It was something that I really enjoyed when I was younger. Recently, I just sort of fell out of it. There are so many things that I love and enjoy that I have just…let fall to the wayside. I have to stop. I have to be better, and get better. I have to find that passion again.

Ugh. I feel like I should write more. I feel like there should be more here. But this is it for now.

Crafts and Reading

I made myself a traveler’s notebook! It has a fabric cover and self-made inserts. The inserts were made with graph paper and some pieces of an old calendar. To make them, I followed Sea Lemon’s tutorials on YouTube. The art used for the covers of the inserts were done by Nene Thomas.

Anyway, I really am proud of my little journal. It’s nice to know that I can reuse the cover as many times as I need to/want to, and I just have to make new inserts when the old ones are full. Different covers will be cool, too! I finally have a use for all of my old art calendars. There are still pages in the Dragon Witches one that I can use, and this year’s calendar as well!

Yes. I am anime/Vocaloid trash, so my wife bought me a Hatsune Miku calendar. She’s getting a Bob’s Burgers calendar for herself at some point. I think she’s waiting for them to come back into stock?

At the moment, I am reading “A Curse So Dark and Lonely.” It’s pretty good so far. I haven’t read too much of it as I have been super busy–appointments and dealing with what’s going on with my grandfather. I’ll explain that later. For now, I’m sort of on a reading kick. That’s awesome! I’ve read three books so far this year, and it’s only the ninth day of 2020. The only thing I’m afraid of is getting burnt out super early in the year.

I was discussing an idea I had a few days ago with Covey. For the last few years, I’ve been meaning to take February and make it a manga/comic reading month. Just…read a manga volume or a trade-paperback a day. Covey suggested making it March instead of February, so that I can call it something like ‘March Manga Madness’ or something like that. March also has a few more days than February does, so I would be able to sneak in a few extra volumes. It would help my reading goals for the year, certainly.

Getting back to what’s going on, family-wise…My grandfather is in the hospital. He had a surgery for his back, which when splendidly. He was having trouble going to the bathroom, though. His doctors and nurses gave him some laxative. Once that started to work, he had to go use the toilet, of course.

To make a long story short…he ended up falling. He broke his ankle in two places. Now, there is a big thing going on at the moment, trying to figure out whose fault it is that he fell, but I’m not going to discuss that here. I’m just upset that he’s injured. He had to go in for a second surgery, this one on the breaks. Because he’s so old, the bone is very soft apparently, and will not heal back together properly. Ugh. I don’t know if he’ll be able to walk again?

It’s super upsetting. We saw him last night, and he’s a mess. He’s in pain. He’s convinced he’s going to die. I don’t know what to do! I don’t. It sucks. I feel like I should be able to do something, but I can’t.

Book Review: “At the Touch of Death” by Gina Carra

At the Touch of DeathAt the Touch of Death by Gina Carra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: I received a free Kindle copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways. The review that follows is of my own opinion and completely honest.

“At the Touch of Death” was a surprising little novel. I thought it would be a sort of shallow, fun retelling of the Greek myth about Hades, Lord of the Dead, and his wife, Persephone. What I read was fun, yes. It was anything but shallow.

Author Gina Carra turned the original myth on its head. First of all, many of the characters are gender-bent versions of their legendary counterparts. For example, one of the main characters, Hades, is female instead of the male version that dominates the Greek myths. The same is done to Heracles and Demeter. There may have been others, but those were the ones that stood out the most to me.

Next, instead of kidnapping Persephone to wed her, Hades accidentally connects the young Goddess to her when she is struck by an arrow shot by Eros, the God of Love. This pulls Persephone and Hades into the Underworld. The Lord of Death is only able to leave on full moon days, so once a month. As long as Hades is trapped in the Underworld, so is Persephone.

What follows is simply amazing. Carra takes a myth and makes it human. That might seem odd, considering it deals with immortal Gods and Goddesses, but each of the Gods in the story are almost perfectly human. Each has his or her own flaws and strengths. Each character is deliciously complex. For example–Hades is depicted as emotionally strong and wolf-like, but when one gets to know her, she is very much a cute little puppy. She also suffers from social anxiety, so being in a space with more than two or three people is extremely difficult for her.

Persephone, on the other hand, is bubbly and loving, but because of a major plot point that happened when she was younger, she can be reserved and suffers a bit from PTSD (at least, that’s what it felt like–she suffers from nightmares and horrible thoughts when thinking of or confronted with said trauma).

The novel is very much about relationships as well. From true, fated love to flings to figuring out one’s sexuality and beyond, each of the characters featured in the novel (save for Zeus, who is an ass no matter how you look at it, and perhaps Styx) has some sort of relationship issue to deal with. Persephone and Hades are the main characters in the novel, but the supporting cast is amazingly well written also, and their relationship woes are just as valid, beautiful, and heartfelt.

Unfortunately, there were a few issues that I had when reading through “At the Touch of Death.” Sometimes, the author used the same words or names far too many times in the same paragraph. It did not stop my overall enjoyment of the story, but it did tend to pull me out of the moment sometimes. Also, though I liked all of the usage of flowers and their language, I felt that footnotes were not the best way to inform the reader of the meaning of each of the flowers. Perhaps leaving the meaning vague, or letting the reader research for themselves.

At any rate, “At the Touch of Death” was a delightful, thought provoking story about love and different relationships. It was so very human and touching. I loved it, and I plan on looking into the author’s other works (if and when they exist).

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Manga Review: “Valkyrie Drive BHIKKHUNISM” by INU (in collaboration with VALKYRIE DRIVE PROJECT)

Valkyrie Drive BHIKKHUNISMValkyrie Drive BHIKKHUNISM by Inu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We all have our own guilty pleasures, don’t we?

Valkyrie Drive is a group of projects with the same basic idea–young women who can turn into weapons. In each series (there’s an anime, a video game for the PS Vita, and there was a mobile game; however, that is no longer playable), a group of young women (sometimes teens) are infected with the Valkyrie Virus, otherwise known as the V Virus. This puts them into one of two groups–either they turn into a weapon when they are aroused, or they are able to wield another female when she is in her weapon form.

In this world, there are three islands where these women are sent–Mermaid, Bhikkhuni, and Siren. On these islands, they are placed into pseudo schools and cities to live, train, and gather data on the virus.

“Valkyrie Drive BHIKKHUNISM” is a collection of stories put into manga form concerning the characters of the PS Vita version of this world. It focuses on twin sisters, Rinka and Ranka, as well as other characters from that island. Each chapter focuses on a different character or pair of characters, exploring their relationships and a little of their lives prior to being sent to the island.

The art in this manga is decent. It’s rather true to the game; however, some of the representations of the characters are very hard to tell apart from one another. When there is a lot of action on the page, it is difficult to tell who is who in some panels.

Otherwise, I was pleased to discover that “BHIKKHUNISM” focused more on the relationships of the characters rather than just the arousal part of the plot. Yes, the women need to be turned on in order to transform and fight. I have to admit, for me, this portion of the story is a little iffy. I get that the idea is that the pairs are supposed to trust each other, but two of the characters are twins. They are almost always paired together, and thus…it’s incest. Sometimes, there is too much focus on the breasts and other parts of the female body, and everyone sort of seems like they don’t mind being used sexually as long as they get the job done.

In short, the basic story is problematic, but the character development okay and the ‘women into weapons’ idea is unique. I wouldn’t mind a PG-13 version of this world, but for now, Valkyrie Drive remains my guilty pleasure.

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Book Review: “The Witch and the Guillotine” by Daniel Sugar

The Witch and the GuillotineThe Witch and the Guillotine by Daniel Sugar
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Note: I received a Kindle copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways. The review below is my honest opinion.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right away–this was a horrible book. It was written in a way that made it seem it was supposed to be aimed at middle-grade or younger readers, yet the topic and plot are more aimed at YA or adult readers. The language in “The Witch and the Guillotine” was just bad. There was very little about the story or writing that was redeemable.

Lilly Parris is a witch living in Paris, France during the French Revolution. This is after she survived the Salem Witch Trials in Boston.

Sadly, that’s it. That’s the story.

There is more, of course, but it could have all been summed up simply as: “Mary-Sue witch Lilly Parris was once almost burned at the stake; now she’s in France. She’s friends with the King. Everyone loves her. But oh no! Ghosts from her past are about to ruin everything! Did I mention she’s an extremely strong lesbian who takes on multiple, armed men at a time? Also–she can fly!”

First of all, I have a huge gripe with the fact that Lilly ‘survived being burned at the stake’ during the Salem Witch Trials. True, I did not read the previous book in this series, as I did not realize this was a sequel when I applied for the giveaway. However! People were hanged and pressed in Salem during the trials; at no point was anyone burnt alive. In European countries, yes, those accused of witchcraft were often sent to face the flames, but even then, most of them were hanged or had their heads cut off prior to their bodies being burned–this is supposedly to prevent after-death shenanigans.

Secondly, let’s discuss Lilly for a moment. I absolutely despise this character. Everything she did was only to show how ‘good’ and ‘just’ she was. At first, she acted like she was misunderstood, and ran away from her grandmother, Rose (who was also a powerful witch). Almost immediately, she was called on by the King of France, and soon after becomes one of his best friends. Everyone loves her, save for the villains. She seems to be all powerful, save for when it wasn’t convenient to the plot. In the end, her grandmother and friends have to rush in to save Lilly, and instantly, everything is good and fine.

Then there is the character of Susan, Lilly’s lover. She literally just exists for Lilly to make love to. That’s it. She had maybe three lines in the entire story, despite being ‘so important’ to the main character. It’s sickening.

In the end, I am glad I received a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways. It was a laugh, at least. I honestly felt like I was reading the script of a poorly-written B-movie from the 1980’s–the kind of movie that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would riff on.

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