Review of “Frightfully Ever After” by Nick Dewolf

Review of "Frightfully Ever After" by Nick DeWolf

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The world can be a dark and scary place, especially when all the fairy tales are true. Trolls, goblins, witches, and princesses: all real. Fairy godmothers, and the Woodsman, and even the Big Bad Wolf are very real as Anastasia is about to learn. It is hard enough for a normal person to survive a world full of normal evils. How are they supposed to survive when what they thought was just fantasy is true? Luckily for Ana, she isn’t normal either.

Grimm Inc. is a modern-day company that keeps fairytale creatures productive. The world is running out of princesses to save, so Gayle and Mary, two fairy godmothers who need to keep working, are assigned to help Anastasia. However, Woods (The Woodsman and big boss at Grimm Inc) and Fee (an actual fairy just doing his part to help the good fight) have some pretty big concerns.

Anastasia is a tough, street-smart woman who has no problem using her sexuality to get her through sticky spots. She was essentially sold to Saber, a ruthless gang leader, to pay her parent’s debt. When Ana sees a chance to get away from Saber, she plans it out carefully. She will steal a huge shipment of drugs Saber is going to receive from the Turks and fence it herself. Then she will use the money to pay off Saber and make her escape before he realizes she paid him with his own money. Ana’s best-laid plans are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of two little old ladies who insist they are there to help her get her dreams. When their interruption almost costs Ana everything, she has no choice but to let them help her. What none of them realize is the power that resides inside of Ana can make good men bad and bad men worse.

I very much enjoyed this book. It took twists and turns that I never expected it to take. I enjoy all manner of fairy tales and this was a unique take. Gayle and Mary were hilarious and then terrifying; I thought they would be my favorite part of the book and at many times they were. I actually did not much like Anastasia, however. I feel like the book has a kind of noir feel to it, very much the gangster and the bombshell, but Ana was a bit too much of the trollop for me. So though the author wrote her as strong and fearless, her actions and behaviors often didn’t make sense to me.

The flashback scenes to Mary, Gayle and Wood’s pasts were fantastic and help the reader understand the evolution of the story to the present time. I wish there had been more scenes giving a glimpse inside of Grimm Inc. And I would love to know more about Fee’s backstory. Perhaps the author will write another book around this world.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Fray” by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

Fray by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

A review by Courtney.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy was the first Joss Whedon show that had me falling down the rabbit hole that is the Joss Whedon fandom. So when I found out that he had written another comic book about a slayer that wasn’t Buffy, I was little hesitant. I had previously started Buffy Season 8, which is in comic book form and is fantastic, but I was still just a little worried that maybe this would be too much slayer or not different enough or just not something enough. But it was written by Joss and one of my missions in life is to consume everything he’s been a part of because it’s amazing; so I finally picked Fray up and gave it a chance.

Fray starts 200 years in the future after the last slayer has disappeared with the rest of the demons, after an epic battle upon which they also disappeared into another dimension never to be seen again. We meet Melaka Fray, known as “Mel” or “Fray” throughout most of the book. Mel believes that she is just very strong and that she knows how to take falls and position her body to take the least amount of pain and that that is how she survives everything that happens to her. She works as a thief for a fish monster, who is as creepy as you would imagine. The thing that haunts Mel the most is losing her twin brother to a vampire while on a job from her boss. The vampire threw Mel off of a roof and proceeded to kill her brother. Her sister holds her responsible for their brother’s death and that may be why Mel goes out of her way to protect and stand up for her tiny neighbor girl. A demon comes into Mel’s life and forces her to face the facts that she is a slayer and she needs to embrace her destiny in the coming war.

This comic book definitely has a Joss Whedon feel; there are surprising deaths and twists that I didn’t expect and had me gasping for breath at times. I appreciated that Joss went out of his way to make his leading female character look like an actual human girl. Fray’s curves are not exaggerated and neither are anyone else’s; it was refreshing to see actual people in a comic book. As a Whedon fan, I was not disappointed in this comic.

 I would recommend this comic book to people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and those who like strong female leads in their literature. I rate it five out of five stars, but I do add the following disclaimer that after you finish reading this, you will want more and at the moment Whedon has not written anything that follows this.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “The Crown’s Game” by Evelyn Skye

A review by Amanda.

Vika and Nikolai do not know that the other exists, but they have been training for the same job for most of their young lives. They are enchanters living in Russia, and each expects to one day serve as the Imperial Enchanter for the tsar. Their magic is a nature-based gift shared among all who have magical talent, drawn from one communal source. In order for the Imperial Enchanter to do their job well, he or she will need to draw on more than their fair share of the magic to become the most powerful magic user in the realm. Vika and Nikolai will have to compete in the Crown’s Game to prove which one is the most powerful and thus the most deserving of working for the tsar. The catch? Whoever loses the duel must die, no exceptions. Upon their death, the magic will return to the well for the newly appointed Imperial Enchanter to access when needed.

Enchanters engaged in the Crown’s Game are expected to be cold and ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to win. Nikolai is an orphan, sold to his ambitious magical mentor as a child. His best friend is Pasha, the eldest son of the tsar, and next in line to the throne. Nikolai will do whatever he can to elevate his status above the poverty line, to have freedom and security. Vika has been trained in secret by her father. She loves the power that her magic gives her and has the ambition to back it up. She chafes at the limits her father has given her, impatient to put her abilities to work for the good of Russia. Neither Nikolai or Vika knows what’s truly in store for them, and neither expects to feel anything besides animosity for the other.

The Crown’s Game entwined historical events with magical storytelling in a beautiful fashion. Nikolai, Vika, and Pasha all felt extraordinarily real, like people one might have met before. The reader was given enough insight into each character’s mind to understand their individual motivations, as well as how and why they perceived each other in certain ways. The explanation of magic’s existence was simple and practical, as was the reason for the necessity of death in the Game. Romance occurred organically and added a layer of complexity and tension to the otherwise straightforward plot. The descriptions of St Petersburg and other cities draw the reader in and offer a sense of familiarity. I sincerely hope that this book is merely the first in a captivating series with these people and places.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: East Blue Vol. 1-12” by Eiichiro Oda


A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why I’m breaking the manga down into story arcs for the review.

Luffy D. Monkey ate the Gomu (Rubber) Gomu Fruit as a child. The good news is now his entire body is rubber. The bad news is that he sinks like a hammer whenever he is in water. Luffy has a dream to be the future Pirate King and he is just getting his crew together. This story arc covers the gathering of the first five crew members and a ship to sail them onto the Grand Line.

Pirate Hunter Zoro Roronoa, creator of the Santoryuu (Three Sword Style) is the first to be recruited. Then they meet Nami, a cat burglar and talented navigator who hates pirates. Next, they collect Captain Usopp, an accomplished liar and sharpshooter, and their new ship The Merry Go. Finally, they collect Sanji, the chef and “ladies man.” Together they will face Marines, both upstanding and corrupt, other pirates, and Fish Men(an amphibious race of fish/human hybrids).

This is a ridiculous world, full of ridiculous people and ridiculous situations. This is exactly what Eiichiro Oda wanted when he started this epic tale. There is a lot of slapstick humor, tons of puns, and some truly satisfying sucker punches. Paired with the hilarity are moments of profound tragedy. Each crew member has experienced pain and loss, which helps to shape them into the wonderful crew of the future Pirate King that they are. I laughed and cried many times while reading this story arc.

Translation-wise, this is rough. I cringe when I read lines like “Gum Gum Pistol.” I really wish that they had stayed with “Gomu Gomu” or changed it to “Rubber Rubber.” The way they went about it feels half-assed and I don’t appreciate it. Later in the series, it gets better. But for these twelve volumes it’s pretty bad.

The artwork is ridiculous in a good way. Everyone seems to have skinny necks, big heads, and prominent eyes and ears. This does not detract from the story. Because it was created to be ridiculous, I feel that the odd proportions add an extra layer of fun to the story. It’s not always pretty, but it’s effective.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Review of Murder & The Monkey Band (A High Desert Cozy Mystery Series Book 1)” by Dianne Harman.

Murder and The Monkey Band, High Desert Cozy Mystery Series by Dianna Harman A review by Vanessa.

Marty is a recently divorced antique appraiser who has moved into her psychic sister’s compound in High Desert California. When her boss refers her to appraise the estate of a recently murdered woman, she finds herself caught up in a murder mystery. The woman, Pam, owned a collection of antiques and art that might just be worth killing for. A collector has been after her for years. Pam’s son is an entrepreneur with nothing but bad luck in business who needs the cash. Her housekeeper has a sick kid at home and might just be persuaded to take a bribe.  And Pam’s recently deceased husband’s best friend has been in love with her forever and may be bad at taking no for an answer. With a handsome detective who is just as interested in Marty as he is in solving the case, and her psychic sister along for the ride, Marty might just have a hand in solving the case.

Harman’s setting for this book is both beautiful and interesting in its simple stark desert backdrop. Her descriptions of the surroundings make me want to visit the area in California that plays home to this book’s characters. Unfortunately that is my most positive note about this novel. It seemed like the murder mystery equivalent of easy-listening. Like that Sunday afternoon made-for-TV movie where everything is always just a little predictable and a bit one dimensional. Sometimes you want something like that, but in the genre of murder-mystery it just doesn’t fit. The details about the art and antiques were very interesting; more interesting than the characters themselves.

The character’s interactions with each other just seemed unnatural. Things are over-explained in dialogue, and it felt like all of the characters only existed to further the storyline. Their motivations were often very predictable and less than engaging. The romantic aspect between the characters presents itself in a clumsy, awkward and rather eye-rolling manner. The reading experience could not be described as anything more than quietly pleasant, which in general is not what I look for in a murder mystery. The psychic sister character has the potential to be an interesting and dynamic character, but even she turns out to be more in shades of gray without adding any real life or color to the story. Overall it wasn’t terrible, but it was sorely lacking in the “mystery” department. Even the final action was announced ahead of time by one of the characters, leaving no mystery left for the reader. In the end this book was like a beautiful picture frame where the picture inside was just too unfocused. There was too much detail where it wasn’t necessary and not enough where it really mattered.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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